One of my favorite posts from the past, Why Your Cat Hates You, is visiting the blog of author Larry Merris today. My cat Snowball, who dictated the post, celebrated by wallowing on my lap to have her belly scratched and then biting me on the thumb. So, a banner day all around! Larry said that some of his readers are cat people, so I hope they’ll drop by here each week for our celebrations of the human spirit and character assassinations.

Please go check out the post on Larry’s blog. Spelling errors might have crept in during the move to his blog, or even foreign words. He writes about foreign countries, so it’s not as outlandish as you might think. Keep both of us honest.

Larry is the author of The Red Serpent, a historical thriller that you should look into if you enjoy nail-biting rides through danger and ancient knowledge. That wasn’t the absolute the best description. For the absolute best description you should check out the book on Larry’s website. It contains a cool book trailer, and if nothing else catches your attention, this cover should:

The Red Serpent by Larry Merris
The Red Serpent by Larry Merris

You can expect the sequel, The Parable Effect, later in 2013.

Larry, thank you for allowing me to visit your blog and your readers!

I drive the cockroach of cars. I don’t mean that it’s nasty, or ugly, or crawls up your nose while you sleep. In fact, it’s rather tidy and smells no worse than transmission fluid and a few escaped french fries. I mean that it will still be zipping down to the drugstore and the dry cleaner many years after I and everyone I know are dead.

I’d like to pause here and mention that my dry cleaner is next door to a fine retail establishment named “Condoms to Go.” I’ve never gone inside to ask about their business model, or why they need to specify that when you buy a condom you must take it out of the store with you. There’s probably a horrible story behind that, and I’m not brave enough to listen to it.

Now, back to my immortal cockroach-car. When cars want to live practically forever, they come to my house. The same is true of cats, by the way. Until last year, I had owned just two passenger cars over the past 30 years. My wife had owned just two cars over the past 20 years, which makes her a money-wasting party girl and the reason we can’t have nice things.

We drive our cars a long time. We drive them until we could hand the keys to a starving crack addict in Guadalajara, and he’d walk away shaking his head. So when we bought a car last year it was an event we’ve experienced only three times since we met. My happy little Toyota sprang one too many oil leaks, and the repair bill would have been scathing. Since the Blue Book value of my ancient vehicle wouldn’t have bought an iPad (even without 3G), I gave it to charity and moved on.

We hunted for cars. We found a car. We negotiated for the car, which is another story, but I did get to fling metaphorical poo at the salesman, which was fun. We brought the nice car home and parked it in my wife’s spot in the garage—because now I would be driving her old car. The cockroach-car. The Honda that had traveled 265,000 miles and was going strong. It could have driven around the world ten times. It could have driven across the USA 88 times. It could have driven to Condoms to Go over a million times.

The cockroach-car has endured because my wife has nurtured it in a way that I don’t get unless my fever is over 103 degrees. For example, cheap gasoline may be okay for the peasants, but not for the cockroach-car. My wife adhered to a complex maintenance schedule. Every 5,000 miles she visited one of three auto shops, each with different capabilities. That’s the kind of attention and determination that produces a cockroach-car that will last forever.

When I inherited the cockroach-car, I also inherited its maintenance log. I was impressed. I’ve even entered a couple of oil changes into the log since then, and I’m following her maintenance schedule to the extent to which I’m capable of understanding its nuances. But I had no idea how rudimentary it was until yesterday, when my wife showed me the new log she’s created for her new car. See for yourself:

Auto Log

I was even more impressed with the new log, especially with the color coding. I counted nine colors, if you include black. That’s a different color for each 12 words in the log. The only flaw is the most recent maintenance on January 19, for which the exact mileage was left unrecorded—it’s written as “51,??? Miles.” This defect exists only because I was the one who took the car in for that maintenance, and like an inattentive child I forgot to write down the mileage. Apart from that omission, the log is perfect.

My wife is known to be an organized person. I am not. As an example, her closet has special hangers, and dividers on the shelves, and bins on the floor for things like her jammies. She won’t add a thing to her closet unless she gets rid of a thing, otherwise the clockwork perfection of the environment might be flung out of balance. My closet looks like I threw clothes in a cement mixer and ran it for five minutes. Therefore, I indulged in some gentle teasing about her rather compulsive, though effective, organizational paradigm for her maintenance log.

When my teasing was done, my wife looked at me from across the couch for a moment without saying anything. Then she stood and left the room. A minute later she returned with a piece of paper from my office. She handed it to me and sat down to continue watching Downton Abbey, still without speaking. I saw that she’d given me a page from a lesson plan I’ve been working on for an acting class. It looks like this:

GT Page 2

Okay, I guess I have some organizational obsession in certain areas too. I don’t have enough to avoid general slovenliness, but I have too much to poke fun at people who really are organized. Fine, then. I’m just going to shut up, shuffle clothes around in my closet to no purpose, and have fun driving my cockroach-car.

A photo of the Literal Cockroach-Car…

A literal cockroach car exists, and I really wanted to show you a picture of it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one that could be freely used, and I’m against ripping off an artist’s work without his or her permission. However, Carl Carruthers has a fantastic photo of the Real Live Cockroach Car that you can enjoy by visiting his site at

The problem with real life is that there are no close-ups. We don’t have camera angles that show us which job we should take, nor key lights that shine on the eyes of the woman we’re supposed to marry. We may lie in bed at night thinking we’ve done pretty well anyway, and that these are the good times in our life, so we’d better appreciate them. But we don’t get a crescendo from a John Williams musical score to tell us when we tip across the best point in life. We’ll look around later to realize that the best time has passed, and we’ll wonder when the hell that happened.

If only Billy Wilder were directing my life, then I’d get some cues about what’s going on. I’d settle for Kevin Smith, or maybe Ron Howard. None of them signed on for the project though, so I have to bumble my way through it.

However, the movies haven’t abandoned me altogether. I’ve watched more movies than most people have eaten sandwiches, and I’ve absorbed quite a lot of life lessons from films. This afternoon I reclined in front of the fire to gather my thoughts, and as I ate a bag of Snyder’s pretzels I documented the nucleus of wisdom that the movies have taught me. I now bring it to you, packaged into seven convenient bundles.


You can get hit by a car and sprint away unhurt as long as you bounce off the windshield.

Any piece of furniture can stop any bullet, even a couch made of foam rubber and sticks.

You can run around in a burning house for several minutes and be okay as long as you breathe through your shirt sleeve.

If you jump through a glass window, you’ll get three or four tidy cuts rather than a deluge of blood from severed veins and arteries.

Social Conventions

You’ll probably be left at the altar sometime in your life. Your best man or maid of honor will be the one who screws you over.

If you act like a rude, selfish, condescending pig, then the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen will fall in love with you.

It’s okay for a guy to cry, but only if he’s four feet tall and hiking to a volcano.


You can get away from any predator by climbing a tree.

Even thugs and homeless people have perfect teeth and are better-looking than anyone you know personally.

A dying person will always be able to say some final words before he expires.


There are tons of disgraced ex-cops on the streets, but if you have a ten-minute firefight with explosions in downtown, no cops will show up. Also there are more hit men in the world than there are convenience stores.

Half the people in the world have super powers or vast wealth. Another fourth are wizards, hobbits, elves, vampires, or zombie-fighters. The rest of them are pirates, secret agents, or Russell Crowe.


Bad people are such awful shots they can fire a thousand rounds without hitting anything. A good person can lean out a sports car window with a pistol and hit a moving target a hundred yards away.

All governmental agencies and corporations are evil, and any of them can be thwarted by a single ex-CIA agent or sniper with a three-day beard.

General Probability

You’re more likely to switch bodies with someone or go back to a younger version of yourself than you are to be seriously injured when your car flips half a dozen times.

Helicopters will be shot down by small arms fire 100% of the time.

If you’re someone’s best friend, there’s a fifty-fifty chance you’ll be dead soon. If you’re someone’s mentor, you’re definitely about to die.

Practical Advice

Stay away from telephones, unidentified video tapes, saws, and rings. Just stay away.

When someone asks if you’re a god, say yes. When someone asks if you’re alone in the house, say no.

What invaluable lessons have the movies taught you?

In Jailhouse Rock Elvis Presley taught me that prison isn't so bad if you can sing in a rock and roll band, everyone treats you like a movie star, and pretty girls fall in love with you.
In Jailhouse Rock, Elvis Presley taught me that prison isn’t so bad if you can sing in a rock and roll band, everyone treats you like a movie star, and pretty girls fall in love with you.

I have read that when men are dying they call for their mothers. I can’t swear that’s true, but I can say that some women call for their mothers. At least my mother called for hers when she was dying, not caring that her mother had been dead 50 years.

After my mother died I distributed a dozen copies of her death certificate to interested parties like bankers, and claims adjusters, and government bureaucrats. Each time I picked up a copy I saw her cause of death, which was “necrosis.” That means her body tissue died, which seems a little obvious, I suppose. It’s something a doctor can write on a death certificate that sounds better than, “I have no fucking idea.”

In the days before my mother died, her doctors talked about transferring her to another hospital, and they almost came right out and said it was because they weren’t as smart as the doctors over there. I’d have been impressed by their near-honesty if they’d suggested it a month earlier, when it might have done some good.

But they didn’t transfer her. Instead they brought in a carnival of specialists who each said the problem wasn’t in his specialty and then handed things over to the next specialist. That went on for several weeks while parts of her body proceeded to die. I probably don’t need to explain that it hurt. Her doctor dangled her deeper and deeper into the ocean of painkillers, until she was taking enough morphine to vaporize a spider monkey.

The day at last came when morphine was no more effective than Mountain Dew. The doctor decided to tie a heavier weight onto her, one that would drag her deeper into painlessness, and the nurse brought the pill to make it happen. It transformed pain from a shark that was biting her in half into a shark that was rolling her around in its jaws to savor her. That was about as good as it was going to get.

My mother fell unconscious that night. On the continuum of becoming unconscious, she didn’t slip into it, nor did she drop into it. She did the equivalent of falling on her face into unconsciousness. The new painkiller had been a poor choice. My mother lacked the full complement of working kidneys, and this drug considered dialysis nothing more than a veiled suggestion to leave her body in a timely way. As the nurses gave her more doses, the stuff packed her body like it was Labor Day at the beach. Instead of just reprimanding the shark it started draining the ocean.

The doctor employed some vigorous and red-faced medical gymnastics, which brought her back to consciousness a day or so later. That should have been a good thing. But since the doctor had almost killed the shit out of her with the better-than-morphine medication, he was afraid that any other painkillers would shove her right into unconsciousness, breathlessness, and lifelessness. So, he refused to give her any painkillers. Not even aspirin. It was the ultimate cold turkey.

Over the next two days my mother rarely responded to anything we said. Maybe she wasn’t too aware of us. If so, I hope she wasn’t too aware of herself, either. She cried for help throughout the sleepless days and nights, which is worth remaining unaware of, if you ask me. She called for her mother a lot, who was dead and couldn’t help her. She often called for my father, who was there holding her hand, but he couldn’t help her either. A little hand holding isn’t much help when your body is dying and you have to participate in such an intimate way.

I guarantee that two days can seem like a long time. I feel silly now bitching about weekends being too short.

At the end of two days we could see that things were not going to get better. My father insisted that the doctor at least give her morphine, and he did. She went to sleep. She died the next day.

Looking back, I recall sitting there when the nurses first brought in the ill-behaved painkiller. I looked it up online before they gave it to her. I looked up every medication because I’d learned not to trust doctors any farther than I can fling a chimpanzee that’s flinging its own poop. I didn’t see anything that concerned me, other than the usual giant list of horrific side effects, so I didn’t object.

After my mother died, I looked that drug up again for some reason. At the very bottom of the page, under pharmacokinetics, an unambiguous statement warned never to give the stuff to renal patients or people on dialysis. I hadn’t checked that far. I’d allowed my vigilance to wander away.

It’s crazy that it falls to the vigilance of an untrained dope like me to catch unruly medications, but it does, and I knew it. Growing up with my mother encouraged vigilance. You didn’t want to get caught not paying attention at the wrong time. I find it ironic that the quality she unintentionally ground into me is the quality that failed at the end.

Like so many people today, I will soon be looking for a job. I haven’t hunted a job since before Y2K. For young people, that was midnight January 1, 2000, when we all expected airplanes to fall out of the sky and every single machine in every hospital in the world to stop working at midnight. Anyway, it was a long time ago, and my job pursuit skills have atrophied.

It doesn’t help that my main professional skills are being sarcastic, predicting disaster, and drinking Diet Coke all day. Oh, and saying, “No.” I can say no to orphans and puppies and people who want us to do stupid stuff for free. I have no problem with that.

Now that I’m sneaking back into the job market, I have to deal with one of the dumbest things humans ever invented—the resume. I understand its theoretical purpose. I’ve read hundreds of resumes. If I want to hire someone, I can’t talk to every person who applies for the job. I have to weed them out somehow. Thus, they send resumes, and I interview the ones who sent me a cool resume.

I’m sure you see the flaw here. I don’t necessarily interview the people who would be good at the job. I interview the people who are good at writing resumes. I can’t tell the difference, because the key to a good resume is being accurate in every detail, but presenting things in a way that will make your future employer want to talk to you more than they want to eat leftover cookies in the break room.

It can confuse things, or even be misleading. To show you what I mean, think about the villain from the Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R. Tolkien. His name is Sauron, and if you’ve never heard of him or read the books, don’t worry about it. Everything I’m about to say makes sense even if you haven’t read Tolkien’s thousand or so pages.

Anyway, let’s just say that at the end of the books Sauron is out of a job. If he still had a material body and wanted to get a new job in corporate America, he’d need a resume. Here’s an example of how a resume coach might take his basic information and craft it into an interview-landing resume.

GOALS – Sauron begins with his career goal.

Career Goal: Dark Lord of a Malevolent Empire Dedicated to Bringing Misery and Destruction to Everyone Everywhere

This is a bit too specific. He’d cast a wider net by generalizing while still being clear about what he wants.

Career Goal: Executive Leadership Position in an Aggressive, Goal-Driven, World-Class Organization

CORE SKILLS – It’s often wise to list your core skills so that they stand out from your work history. Sauron’s skills show a lot of promise. With the exception of a few details, he’s in the sweet spot for a corporate executive position. However, the unvarnished description fails to include the kind of key words that hiring managers look for when plucking good resumes from the mass of mediocre ones. My proposed rewording appears just beneath each core skill.

Core Skills:

  • Plotting the Destruction of All Goodness and Light
    • Long Range Strategic Planning
  • Tyrannizing the Land of Mordor Until It’s the Apotheosis of Depravity and Evil
    • Organizational Transformation
  • Forging Wretched Scum into an Unstoppable Army Capable of Slaughtering All My Enemies
    • Workforce Planning and Development
  • Imbuing Undead Monsters With the Powers of Sorcery
    • Professional Growth of High-Potential Employees
  • Crafting Magical Rings With Which to Enslave Inferior Creatures
    • Innovative Product Development
  • Showing No Mercy
    • Aggressive Negotiation

WORK HISTORY – Work history can be a tricky area. Fortunately, Sauron was a high achiever. The strict details of Sauron’s most recent jobs show strong capabilities, but companies need to see how those capabilities relate to their organizational challenges. A slight re-casting is in order.

Dark Lord of Mordor, 2942 through the End of the Third Age

  • Fortified Mordor into a virtually impregnable stronghold
    • Identified and mitigated the organization’s strategic vulnerabilities
  • Fielded mighty armies of foul creatures
    • Mobilized a multi-national workforce to execute company directives
  • Killed thousands upon thousands of pathetic humans
    • Carried out a successful campaign to deny competitors critical resources
  • Subjugated various ghastly tribes
    • Executed hostile takeovers of smaller organizations with complementary capabilities
  • Poisoned the minds of arrogant sorcerers and kings
    • Led a successful disinformation and PR campaign against key competitors

Necromancer of Dol Guldur, 1050 – 2942

  • Brought undead monsters back into existence
    • Recruited key personnel critical to future organizational success
  • Destroyed the city of Minas Ithil
    • Achieved 100% market share in an important geographical area
  • Remained undetected by wizards for almost 800 years
    • Implemented a successful corporate counter-espionage program
  • Escaped to Mordor as planned when attacked by nosy wizards and elves
    • Developed a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that ensured uninterrupted operations when an actual disaster occurred

WORK HISTORY CHALLENGES – Now Sauron reaches one of the most difficult problems in resume writing—how to deal with a gap in employment history. This doesn’t show the kind of drive that a corporate employer is looking for, and a little spin is required here.

Shapeless and Dormant Evil, Beginning of Third Age – 1050

  • Floated insubstantial while followers continued to perpetrate evil in the name of Sauron
    • Volunteered without compensation to provide inspiration and moral support to those advancing industry goals

LENGTHY WORK HISTORY – When a job-seeker has a long work history it’s a bad idea to show every job in detail. Since Sauron has existed since the beginning of time, his work history is longer than most. An abbreviated explanation of his prior work is still a little too specific, so generalization is in order.

Mighty and Powerful Lord of Evil, First Age and Second Age

  • Titles included “The Dread Abomination,” “The Abhorred,” “The Nameless Enemy,” “Ring Maker,” and “Base Master of Treachery.”
    • Worked in various positions of increasing responsibility
  • Notable achievements included:  
    • Served as lieutenant to the world’s ultimate evil being  
      • Served as second-in-command to the chief executive of the industry-leading organization
    • Served and then betrayed the gods  
      • Secured intellectual property and then spun off into an independent operation  
    • Created the Rings of Power
      • Developed unique and market-changing products

I won’t go on with Education, Special Awards, Publications, and so forth. You get the idea.

So as I sit down to write my resume, I’ll keep all this in mind. If it’s possible to create a compelling resume for The Dread Abomination, it should be possible to create one for a sarcastic, soda-swilling doomsayer. Who’s good at saying no.

Sauron at the company party. He looks about as comfortable as everybody else.

Photo from B.S. Lambalgen