—Actual readers' questions, as once seen on fluidgroove.net—

 

Announcing: Straight To Hal

©2017 Hal Padgett

 

Unless you’ve a fetish for intense, self-inflicted pain, don’t bother pinching yourself—you have indeed gone Straight To Hal. If you doubt my word, kindly check out the apocalyptic weenie roast blazing behind my head. [A reference to the Straight To Hal logo as seen on fluidgroove.net.]

 

And so it’s damn the segues and full speed ahead as I explain why I was here awaiting your arrival: I was offered the opportunity to host and write a column for fluidgroove.net. The format would be similar to if not a complete rip-off of “Dear Abby.” I rashly accepted. But all I’ve done since—up until these last desperate seconds—is to sit at my computer and stare at years of potato chip crumb accumulation and gummy wine spillage on and within my keyboard.

 

I should also mention that a work-week’s worth of acute sleep deprivation hasn’t help matters. Why, just the other day at the hospital I was slumped over my calculator, in a near-REM state, sinking into quicksand bogs of psychedelic absurdity: “I can’t total those medical procedure codes because Kelly Slater doesn’t like chocolate.”

 

There was another mad dream as well, one in which my 10-key calculator skills were severely compromised when I suddenly found myself the only nude attendee at a lavish and heavily populated cocktail party.

 

What the—, you ask? And rightly so. But I couldn’t have made that up if I’d tried. Unfortunately, I’m now incapable of making up anything. I am at the threshold of eternal internet iconoclast super-stardom, yet I’m choking like a monkey on a chicken bone.

 

But please don’t leave just yet. I’m not very funny today, but this is: I recently watched The American Experience onPBS. The episode traced Jimmy Carter’s rise and fall from political power. One segment focused on the media’s vulturous assault on Plains, Georgia, right after Jimmy won the DNP nomination. A reporter arranged an interview with Miz Lillian, and when the two met, she smiled warmly and said how wonderful it was to meet him. During the course of the interview, the reporter asked Miz Lillian if it was true that her son Jimmy had never told a lie. She replied that her son told “white lies” all the time. When the reporter asked her to give an example of a white lie, she said, “Do you remember just a little while ago, when I smiled at you, and said how wonderful it was to meet you? Well, that was a white lie.”

 

Thanks for visiting Straight To Hal. Y’all come back, because in the long run, my self-destruction could be epic. And send me some questions! That is the whole point.

 

THE CRYING GAME REDUX

 

After announcing the launching of Straight To Hal, the response has been overwhelming! Am I man enough for this? Let’s find out by tackling some readers’ e-mail questions . . .

 

From STEVE: What does it sounds like when doves cry? Somehow I don’t think it sounds like a pop rock riff played on a synthesizer.

 

To Steve: Dig if u will this answer: I’ll venture a guess that the sound of a dove’s cry is a prolonged “coo” dripping with either self-pity or genuine grief—it’s all about context. Whether or not a dove becomes lachrymose at such moments is a question for veterinarians.

 

As far as pop rock riffs played on synthesizers go: I took a shine to Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” (can’t deny a catchy hook) and even went so far as to buy the 8-track version of They Only Come Out At Night. It was my way of doing a small part to insure that Edgar would have the financial wherewithal to replenish personal specialty essentials like zinc oxide and wide-brimmed hats. I’ve felt better about myself ever since.

 

Dig if u will this question: What does it sound like when quails sigh? Who knows? Everything happened so fast. The quails were flushed from the scrub brush. Then the bald old man with wire-rimmed glasses and an unhappy face wheeled around in panic. A shot was fired. His companion went down. The unscathed birds didn’t stick around for interviews. It was a bad day to be Vice President of the United States.

 

Dig if u will one more question: What does it sound like when Quayle sighs? I’d say it sounds like “p-o-t-a-t-o . . . e.” It was a bad day to be Vice President of the United States.

 

From WILL: What is the meaning of life?

 

Dear Will: I’ve answered this question many times by citing Conan the Barbarian: “To crush your enemies; to see them driven before you; and to hear the lamentations of their women.”

 

After all these years I still agree with points 1 and 2. Mass slaughter and flagrant disregard for the articles of the Geneva Convention never seem to lose their luster as glittering guidelines for survival on the most dangerous planet in the known universe. But listening to a woman bawl her eyes out has never appealed to me—specifically insane ululation en masse. There’s no dealing with it; seemingly no end to it. Pray ye that these wailing grievers are being whisked away to reeducation camps at breakneck speed.

 

Traditional American/northern European feminine crying is a differ-ent matter. You can offer the sad sufferer a hug, a glass of wine, a tissue (or an entire roll of 2-ply Bounty quicker-picker-uppers if things are particularly bad). A kind word can be interjected.

 

So there you have it—two different approaches to life, each the other’s political and emotional opposite. Which will you choose? The hubristic croaking of a barbarian? Or the Zen-like simplicity of my soul man and fellow Virgo, Otis Redding, who urged us all to try a little tenderness.

 

As for me, I’ve always favored the sample platter over an iron-clad commitment to a single entree. Life is large, Will, with plenty of room for both broadsword and lover’s tongue.

 

GOOSESTEPPIN’ TO THE TOILET BOWL

 

From AUSTIN: What do people in China call their good plates?

 

Dear Austin: Does your question come with a heel click and a stiff right-armed salute? Or maybe you’re just high from sucking dry several complementary steins of V-2 rocket fuel at a Sarah Palin retro-Nuremburg pep rally. Say it ain’t so, goosesteppin’ Joe. Your level of ethnic insensitivity is higher than a Luftwaffe bomb run over the Liverpool shipyard. But I would hate to find myself suddenly strangled with piano wire then hung by a meat hook, so—love ya, babe. Mean it.

 

DAIN BRAMAGE & HELLO, MR. SPACEMAN

 

Hello out there. It’s been a while. Many of you who read my last offering might’ve thought that I was still stuck up in the clouds with the Luftwaffe over Liverpool, admiring the splendor of my own shadow racing across the shimmering Mersey below. Not quite. You should’ve imagined me as Marion Crane, wrapped in a shower curtain and stuffed in the trunk of my Ford as it ker-ploop’d beneath the goop of the bog just down the road from the Bates Motel.

 

What did me in was a reader’s question pertaining to sex. I was ill prepared for its staggering one-two punch of thinly veiled vulgarity and mind boggling complexity. But I refused to hack out some 750-word skeletal structure just for a greasy flesh of filthy jokes.

 

I began to troll for ideas by projecting myself into some of the raunchy carnal scenarios envisioned by the question’s seriously disturbed author. The resulting side effect was that I became as horny as I’ve ever been in my life. And let me tell you—there’s no greater distraction from responsibility than unrequited lust.

 

My mind was grits. Days passed. About eight or nine different opening paragraphs were conceived, typed, then deleted. So I decided to just flush the question down the john. Why the hell didn't I think of that earlier? Now, for some easier readers’ questions:

 

From WILSON: How do I overcome a little brain damage and not look like an idiot around my peers and friends?

 

Dear Wilson: I’m not a neurological researcher and I’ve not recently patronized Holiday Inn Express, so I have to go with my gut and say that when it comes to brain damage—if you’re soliciting my medical advice, you truly are brain damaged. But here’s a great tip: To prevent further damage to your brain, you should politely decline any invitation to be the designated swimming legs in the Kama Sutra position “The Crab.” It’s bad enough that all your blood would rush to your head. But if alcohol is involved, you might suddenly find your skull is a 12” demolition bit because your crazy partner decided “The Crab” would offer a better orgasm as “The Jackhammer.”

 

Remember (if you can) to keep sex simple: your lingamher yoni; pair of tongs.

 

From JOE: Mr. Hal, with the negative extraterrestrials in the fourth dimension slowly losing their grip on our human intelligence, and with kindness taking over, which is powered by the positive extraterrestrials, how will the human race look and live once the new age of Aquarius arrives?

 

Dear MISTER Joe: I feel with unflinching certainty (please stop me if you’ve heard this one before) that the newly restored kindness and intelligence will be juiced up by the billions of naturally occurring sub-atomic collisions during the dicey transfer process between the NET’s and the PET’s. So—provided the collisions don’t trigger an earthvaporizing mega-gigaton event—the human beings no doubt will enjoy pleasant changes in their outer appearances.

 

With a greater capacity for wisdom, patience, and oldfashioned good manners, we can all say goodbye and good riddance to the red of face; the ink-smeared eater of words; the ghastly sight of feather-lipped eaters of crow; and the pitiful visage dripping with yolk. Life will be bliss because panties will no longer wad; nary an ass or neck shall suffer pain derived from the irritating actions of a persis-tent nuisance; and n’er shall the urine of a contentious acquaint-ance befoul your cornflakes.

 

FROM VIRGINITY TO VELLEITY TO VULGARITY

 

From PAT: If given the opportunity would you rather make love to a vile mythical beast knowing it would be the most amazing lay of your life? Or choose whatever female you desire knowing the ensuing sex would be lackluster at best?

 

Dear Pat: Lame is as lame does. I’ll take my chances with lackluster as I sprawl across satin sheets with the boring likes of Ashley Judd, Gretchen Mol and Elizabeth Hurley. The vile mythical Succubus has had her way with me already, several times, decades ago, at the onset of puberty. She always came at night, as I slept, so that I could not view her hideousness, and so that I would have no say-so in the matter. I recall always awaking to both an immense feeling of satisfaction and an inexplicable mess.

 

To Sheeva the Shokan and Medusa the Gorgon, I politely say no thanks. I’d much prefer to spend a quiet evening with Mrs. Bates down in the cellar. The single bare bulb would provide light aplenty for me to pour through back issues of Playboy, as Mrs. Bates sat silently and continued to slow-rot. I’m not a deep breather by nature, so any lingering reek could be rationalized as overly ripe yams.

 

I wish things had been a tad more lame and considerably less vile the night I lost my virginity, and that I’d lost it to a virgin, she and I gently pilfering each other’s innocence. Instead, I gave it up to an eighteen-year-old man-eater who’d probably surrendered hers years before to a leathery forty-year-old creep with a pencil mustache, sharkskin suit and pink ragtop Caddy.

 

On that special night of loss, the splendor of a full moon was lost on me down below as I writhed on a gummy blanket that took to sand the way fly paper took to flies, while the man-eater’s impatient huffing and militant hands nipped ecstasy in the bud. But it was mercifully over before too long, and in retrospect it wasn’t all that bad. It sure beat cruising around McDonald’s parking lot with a car full of guys. This I know, because that’s exactly what I was doing two hours later—enjoying a victory lap beneath the glow of the Golden Arches, bragging about my recent and sudden trans-formation from virgin to lady’s man as I sucked down a McMilkshake and scraped the ketchup off my double cheeseburger, all the while wishing I was back on the gummy blanket with my man-eater, who at that very moment was probably honoring a pre-arranged assignation with a shifty stranger behind the bowling alley.

 

GLORY HOLE-LELUJAH

 

From TYLER: I want you to answer the age old question that plagues men. The one thing that controls our entire society. The real reason we have wars and anti-gay marriage bans and religion and wives. The reason our economy is failing. Does it make you gay to go to a gloryhole?

 

Dear Tyler: To avoid bogging down in a swamp of semantics, with no viable exit strategy, let’s assume that you intended the phrase “make you gay” to be interchangeable with “indicate that you’re gay,” rather than suggesting a sudden transformative experience—a la Saul of Tarsus during his fateful ride from Jerusalem to Damascus.

 

Proceeding under this rule of engagement, my answer to your question is absolutely not. I fail to understand how visiting a gloryhole—the last hope of any sort of sex life for hermaphrodites with abscessed teeth, or the manic-depressed with their unappealing quirks and limited conversational skills—makes you gay. Going to a gloryhole might make you sad, lonely, and desperate, and most likely makes you a fanatic of early John Waters films: a creepy, celluloid world of slick hair, pencil mustaches, long fingernails, and seemingly elastic people who could bend and stretch to pleasure themselves in ways that made me want to vomit the first time—which was also the last time—I saw Pink Flamingos. Hell, it was all I could do to sit through Behind the Green Door for the eighth time.

 

By contrast, if you’re dropping your drawers for some anonymous creep of unspecified gender and/or unspecified species on the other side of the sheetrock—the fact that you’re wearing the blackest and most badass #3 Dale Earnhardt t-shirt with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Greatest Hits blasting away on your Walkman doesn’t necessarily make you not gay. It only makes you willing to go to great lengths to unintentionally present yourself as an idiot. I emphasize these obvious truths because you seemed confused in your Straight To Hal question, with your suggestion that homosexuality was defined by sexual depravity, rather than the fact that it only means having a sexual preference for members of one’s own gender. (It’s a small world after all. Learn to share.)

 

A simple way to determine if you’re gay or not is to browse through issues of People or Us, then ask yourself WHO makes your pants tighter—Brad or Angelina? The answer will determine your sexuality. Next, take an honest look at yourself in the mirror. If your face is not an insanely hideous miscarriage of nature, by all means try to cultivate a few basic social skills, because there’s a reasonable chance that you could one day, for free, have sex in a bed—with John or Jane, it does not matter as long as you’re happy.

 

HOW HIGH THE MOON; HOW LOW THE GUTTER

 

From MARTHA: According to Mama Cass’ words, the darkest hour is just before dawn. But that hardly seems right. I mean if dawn is approaching, surely the darkest hour would not be just before dawn, things moving slowly as they do with those kinds of things. Don’t you think the darkest hour is sometime after dusk but way before dawn?

 

Dear Martha: Reowrrr, pussycat. In the rush to prove your expertise in earth-sun geometry, your claws ripped a sacred pop metaphor to shreads, then swatted it aside as though it were a mouse. Okay, you’re an expert already. And given that you’ve answered your own question, I’m feeling quite unnecessary now—like a fine stud of a man whose woman has coldly cast him aside in favor of a vibrator. Donovan wasn’t kidding when he sang “electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase.”

 

And if we're going to get picky, is How High the Moon really a valid question? Maybe a better question is how high was Nancy Hamilton when she wrote that silly song? Pretty high I would imagine—given all the blow and weed circulating in those secretive little jazz circles.

 

GLIDDY GLUB GLOOPY (CAT’S IN THE CRADLE)

 

From LUCY FUR: my ‘cat’s in the cradle’ song limit per day = 1, if that. I swear.

 

Dear Lucy Fur: If you’re listening to “Cat’s In the Cradle” on a regular basis, my guess is that you’re living a lie under that unruffled hair and June Cleaver mask that smiles blankly at the burning biscuits you were baking for Wally and The Beave’.

 

I’m not trying to shame you, Lucy Fur. My aim is to wind you up and set you in motion to the hypnotic sway of a man and his music—Bobby Goldsboro. Believe me—were you to fire up a little Bobby on your iPod now, you’d probably swill tequila then tango madly, helpless in unseen loving arms.

 

Any of Bobby’s songs will set you free. Take “Honey.” It rocks. Not with a thundering drum beat and NASCAR tempo, but with a slow, eerie lyricism of unmitigated tragedy. You’ll cry then thirst for sex. In “Come Back Home,” Jesus is begged to come back down and undo mankind’s latest mess. The notion that Jesus would even consider doing that all over again will make you laugh then thirst for

sex. Had Bobby written a song about abject boredom, it would probably make you thirst for sex. He’s that good.

 

On the other hand, “Cat’s In the Cradle” drowns in the very mush it exudes. Had Harry Chapin opted to purge his volatile adult emotions with volatile adult lyrics instead of intellectually lazy Mother Goose-like metaphors and petty whining, then perhaps his music would have survived him.

 

Lucy Fur, I urge you to let your most recent “Cat’s In the Cradle” listen be your final one. And if the Goldsboro songs prove overwhelming at first, then ease into your liberation by giving Oliver’s slightly tamer “Good Morning Starshine” a listen; surrender to the relentless primal ferocity of “gliddy- glub-gloopy, nibby-nabby-noopy, la-la la-lo, sabba-sibbisabba, nooby-aba-nab—” I think you get the picture.

 

I promise you you’ll be singing it at the top of your lungs when you throw off your apron, and whatever else you feel like throwing off. Feel free to throw some of it my way.