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Dining With Elvis: Forbidden Island–a.k.a Too Much Monkey Business

      As you know, Elvis Presley is alive and well and lives in a room in my house. While in public, I call him by his Graceland codename of “Alan” so as not to raise suspicion. This way we can come and go largely unnoticed. His appearance is not one of caricature. He’s now 75 years old, and has short, thick silver-gray hair, and is in fairly good shape. He tries to keep a low profile, but every now and again Elvis hankers for the days of yesteryear.

        A couple of weeks ago (August 16th) I took him to a party at a tiki bar in Alameda that held a celebration in honor of the anniversary of his “death.”

       We arrived at Forbidden Island and the joint was packed. Clips from some of his movies played on the televisions and on the big screen in the back of the bar. A man in a fez greeted us warmly. He was known as “Will the Thrill,” and known in Bay Area circles as a writer and an emcee for social events that are eclectic in nature. He was known to me, because I’d heard that Will believed Elvis Presley was still alive. I would have to be careful around this guy. If he suspected that I had “The King” in tow, things could get stickier than a tiki bar cocktail tray at closing time.

       Elvis looked around the bar. “Man, these people still give a damned, huh?”

       “Of, course, Alan,” I said. I leaned in and whispered, “But if people knew you were still alive they’d crucify you all over again. Not to mention you’d spend the rest of your life in jail…and a real one, not like one in some dumb movie.” I gestured to the screen showing a clip from “Jailhouse Rock.”

       “You take that back; that was one of the better ones,” he snarled. We sat down and drank $6 Mai Tais. Elvis turned down the chance to order some deep-fried appetizers, saying, “Nah, I don’t eat that crap no more.” We watched the screen with the enthralled audience. A montage of images from Elvis’s life poured from the projector, and I thought I saw his eyes well up as a picture of himself with his dead mother flashed across the screen. “Get me another damned cocktail, something different,” he choked out quietly.

      I went to the bar to give him a moment alone, and ordered him a drink called “The King.” It was a rum, banana, and peanut butter concoction especially created for the occasion.

      While I was at the bar, the real “King” had recovered his composure and was chatting up some girls who were easily half his age. They smiled politely and laughed at his jokes. Just as I arrived at the table one of the women said. “You seem awfully familiar. Have we met?” I interrupted in my thickest English accent (before Elvis could answer). “Leave it out, Dad, you’re not trying to convince these birds you’re a bloody American again are you? Bleedin’ hell, give him a rum drink and he thinks he’s a Yankee Doodle Wanker from Tennesse or somethin’.”

      I smartly pulled him away from the table back to our spot. “Hey, man, I thought I was going to get some action there. I told the blonde that I could swivel my hips just like Elvis,” he muttered.

“You mean ‘hip replacements,’ right?” I laughed, and he scowled and cussed me out quietly.

      The host, Will the Thrill, picked up a microphone and announced that there would be Elvis trivia for prizes. All right, I thought, we’re going to do okay here. Some people around us got the easy ones. I’d told Elvis to sit tight and hold out for the grand prize. Will and his wife (Monica The Tiki Goddess) deliberated over what the final question might be, and then it came.

      “What was the name of Elvis’s pet monkey?” There was a silence cast across the room as it was apparent that these alleged Elvis “fans” were shocked to hear that he owned a monkey. Elvis slowly raised his hand.

     “Yes, you sir, what’s the answer?” asked Monica the Tiki Goddess.

     “Scatter!” drawled Elvis as if barking a command.

     “Correct and what is your name, sir?”

      “My name is El…I mean…Alan. My name is Alan.” The women at the next table looked over towards him and cheered and applauded. I smiled. “Well done, Dad, we won!” I said animatedly for their benefit. I gave him a big hug and he whispered in my ear. “Do you think the grand prize is a ‘57 Cadillac?”

      As I feared he might, the still be-fezzed Will the Thrill angled for a better view of Elvis and was looking like he wanted to find out more about the gray-haired Southerner by my side. I grabbed Elvis’s arm, thanked the bartenders, and made for the door quicker than a pig that had accidentally wandered into the middle of a Luau. It was a necessary maneuver, I sensed the rum might loosen the king’s lips and, God forbid, his artificial hips.

A Matter of Etiquette

   A year or so ago I was at a bar on a date and I needed to use the restroom. There was only one bathroom and it was occupied. A young, blonde woman stood behind me in the short line, which consisted of me and her. To fill the silence I made a joke: “If it smells in there when I come out, it’s because of the guy who’s in there now.”

  It was an attempt to turn a slightly uncomfortable moment into a light-hearted moment. Read more

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Take A Bath With The Bay Area Brit

I get remarkable things accomplished in the bathtub. Admittedly I’m not learning to speak Swahili, baking a truffle soufflé, or taking the test one needs for a license to fly the Space Shuttle. (Imagine flashing that to a Highway Patrol Officer when caught speeding.) No, my accomplishments are kind of boring comparatively, but are important to my daily existence. I’m talking about plucking something from the air and turning it into something that might briefly entertain someone.

The most common question asked of artists (of all kind) is a variation of this: “Where do you get your ideas?” My answer to this strange question is always this, “My inspiration comes when I’m in a bathtub.”

Most of my writing and cartoon ideas evolve while I’m soaking in hot water. The reason is super-obvious…and no it’s not because I’m a Human Bean. It’s because there are usually far fewer distractions in the tub…unless of course one is not alone. (Pass the soap.)

When my mind is in that place of calm and tranquility, anything can happen. This is how I write: I think randomly, and without censoring myself I write down everything that I think is funny. On one page in one of my notebooks I found these examples.

Two light bulbs playing Scrabble…one of them comes up with a triple word score and a smaller illuminated light bulb shows up above his head.  (cute kinda funny)

Two friends at an Alien Abductees Support Group fear the worst and forlornly look to the sky when they notice their friend Bob is not at the meeting.   (pretty funny)

A lonely child writes false names and well wishes on the cast of his broken leg to ease his misery.  (funny and sad)

From my dampened notebooks you’ll find the seed of an idea scrawled in black, barely legible smudges that suggests that Purgatory is hilariously bureaucratic for an afterlife station. You’ll also find notes for an idea about a germophobic teenager that discovers his grandmother’s four previous husbands died mysteriously. Both of these rambling, inky smears turned into 320 page novels.

I’ve written over a hundred or so short stories and blogs. I’ve dreamed up a couple of thousand cartoons and have three or four more book ideas with anywhere between 3 and 200 pages written (not including the two sequels to the two books I’ve mentioned.) I also co-wrote a third book (a “How to” spoof which in its current incarnation is an iPhone application created by my co-writer.) All of these weird thoughts and ideas (for better or worse) might never have existed if it wasn’t for the bathtub…and of course my avoidance of distractions.

Distractions are the enemy, oh yes. At all cost I try to avoid distractions.

I have over eighty notebooks that have been steam-wrinkled (much as I have been) by spending hour upon hour, day upon day, week upon week—dare I say month upon month—in the bath. All of these notebooks are packed with sketches, jokes, or story ideas. Some pages are funny and clever. A large percentage of them are mediocre, and some are wretchedly awful and tasteless. Even more are completely unfunny bits that just don’t work. Most of the contents of these books will never see the light of day.

But I try hard to come up with the next great idea, joke, story, or cartoon. However, I cannot do it if I’m distracted.

Yep, some men are the strong silent types. Not me. I’m the kind of guy that figures if he keeps talking and making jokes, eventually, even if it’s by accident, he’s going to say something funny or clever. It’s the infinite number of monkeys taking an infinite number of baths theory.

So yes, the bathtub is my fortress of solitude, where, for me, all the good things that make me happy start to come alive. Guess where I wrote this?

I had no choice.

Something was causing a massive distraction in my office. Distractions are the enemy, even when they’re really, really cute.

I Speak American Real Good

Most British kids grow up watching American TV and films. As a consequence, we learned to imitate the actors and movie stars we watched. As a twelve year-old I could do a pretty mean Clint Eastwood; I had the squint too. Unfortunately I was about as intimidating as a geriatric goldfish.

However, if I spoke with a genuine American accent in this country, maybe I’d be taken more seriously when conversing with strangers. I cannot do it though, an American accent is just not my default setting.

My job dictates that I talk to a lot of strangers every day, and I’m often engaged to discuss many topics of interest. When I’m asked a question, it doesn’t take long before the more intelligent of the American species can pinpoint that I speak differently from them. More often than not, they’ll notice my manner of speech right as I’m about to deliver the punchline to a joke, or finish making a socio-political comment. That’s when I’ll be interrupted by the question.

“Where’s that accent from?”

I will be temporarily thrown off from my point and look at the person and say something like, “England, but in answer to your question about Cheney’s foreign policy…” Then I’m interrupted again.

“Oh, we just love England.”

It never fails. My point (if there was one) has evaporated faster than vulture piss under the Sahara’s Desert’s midday sun. My point is I feel objectified, in as much as I’m made to feel that I couldn’t possibly have anything interesting to say because my accent is “cute” to the American ear.

You might be thinking, “So what? You’re lucky that there’s something about you that Americans find different/interesting/attractive.” Or you might be thinking, “Well maybe you were boring them to tears and they were just looking for a way to stop you from talking.” I happen to think that’s completely impossible. I have nothing but interesting opinions and hilarious jokes….ahem.

I’m also often asked if I can talk with an American accent? The answer to this, of course, is yes. The follow-up is usually one of two questions:

“Okay, can I hear it then?”

or

“Well then why don’t you speak like that all the time?”

This is then almost always followed with, “Why would you speak like you do when you can talk normally?”

At which I point I’ll make a sarcastic comment or give them my look of indignation…you know the one. If you don’t know the one, just strike up a conversation with a woman, and just as she’s about to give you her opinion of Atheism versus Agnosticism, say something like:

“Hey, lady, you have great tits–are they real?”

See what happens next, and then think of me.

The Return Of The Bay Area Brit

     Well, well, well. You might wonder where The Bay Area Brit has been since I last updated three months ago? If you haven’t been wondering, then piss off. You don’t deserve to hear my tale of mystery, intrigue, and dare I say it…merrrderrr!

     Have I been trying to restore British credibility by single-handedly stopping billions of gallons of oil gush into the Gulf?
Nope.

     Am I recovering from my amazing performance in the World Cup Final where I scored seven goals against Brazil? All the while managing to stay out of the crosshairs of a team of Israeli snipers camped in the stands following orders to carry out my assassination?
Nope.

            Some writers from across the pond are completely capable of writing great works in spite of their lifelong disabilities: Wheelchair bound supergenius/Dalek, Stephen Hawking, for one. Lord Byron, whose epilepsy and bouts of severe depression were likely a far worse distraction to his art than his affinity for the green pastis known as absinthe. Lastly, Christy Brown, the Irishman with Cerebral Palsy wrote his autobiography with nowt but his left foot. Man that big toe could spin a yarn.

       Sadly, I am not one of these types of writers. I need to be well-rested, my coffee has to be hot, the cushion on my chair just fluffed up so, and the aches, pains, and stresses of daily life must be kept within a distance of a three hundred yards of me as per the restraining order.

      And so specifically what ailed you, Mr. Bay Area Brit?

      Apparently my immune system couldn’t decide which 19th Century British disease it wished to eventually perish at the hands of; and so, like an annoyingly indecisive customer at a crowded bar, it asked for a taste of a few different diseases so that it would eventually make the right choice.

       It all started with an episode of The Scunthorpian Fits, quickly followed by The St. Vitus Dance. After that I was hobbled by The Gout and then The Gangrene, (a side-effect brought about by the amputation of both of my feet in accordance with my doctor’s wishes). I of course don’t have a doctor, and so I crawled to a carpenter, who took them both off at the ankles with a hacksaw for a meager ten dollars, so long as he could keep the size elevens as souvenirs. I believe he said he was looking for bookends for his collection of hardbacks on podiatry and foot-fetishism. I agreed to let him have the feet, distracted by the thought of all the money I would save by never having to again purchase shoes, and the time I would save by clipping only ten nails on my body every other week instead of twenty. Genius!
However, the gangrene sent me into a pitch of the chills, which swiftly swung towards a boiling fever, made worse by a bout of The Pox: of both the French Guyanan and the Chik’n variety. As you know, The Bay Area Brit is a vegetarian and would never succumb to the real Chicken Pox…just a gluten-soy-like substitute, which the leeches (that I’d purchased to get rid of The Scurvy) enjoyed thoroughly.

     All in all it was a dramatic and long-suffering few months. The full-body bandages are now off, and I no longer resemble an Egyptian mummy, or daddy, as the case may be. In short: I’m back.

     And there was much rejoicing.

     The Bay Area Brit will now be updated once a week every Monday.

     Frankly, not many of you have the attention span to keep up with the three or four blog updates that I was churning out every week, and since I’m not getting paid for entertaining you, it’s just better that way. Besides, The Leprosy has slowed down my typing speed to that of a Valium-riddled sloth’s post-dinner swim across a river of molasses.

      Thanks to everyone who asked for more of The Bay Area Brit, your love and continuing support is greatly appreciated.

      See you soon.