Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars

The deodorant at the local Walgreen’s is in aisle seven. I reached for the Speed Stick. When I was twelve years old, I asserted my need for deodorant like the bigger guys used, and my mother purchased a green Speed Stick for me. I’ve seen no need to reconsider my mother’s original deodorant choice since then.

But then, my eye was caught by the deodorant immediately to the left of the Speed Stick. It was in a funky black container. Black is the color of power and manliness; it is not the color of marshmallows or back fat. Black is the color of coffee, except when there’s cream or something in it, which there is not, in any coffee that is drunk by me. Black. And there was a funky sharp logo on the deodorant, kind of blue with a lot of edges on it. As though you’d cut your armpit on it if you tried to use it under your arms. The name of the deodorant was: Axe. Cool, I thought. This deodorant is dangerous. A fireman could break a door down with this deodorant.

I compared the price of my old standby Speed Stick (three dollars ninety-nine) versus the new black spiky blue deodorant (four fifty-nine). Darn, I thought. As cool and black with the blue spiky logo on it as this new deodorant is, my old friend Speed Stick, which I know and respect so much since my mother bought it for me when I was twelve, would save me sixty cents. Speed Stick is the more fiscally responsible solution. I shall not change my deodorant.

And then, I remembered the commercials for Axe. You do too. They describe in medical detail the Axe Effect: if you wear this new deodorant Axe, random women on the street will molest you. This process of random molestation operates based on a series of chemicals, many of which are called pheromones. Pheromones are a type of chemical which is composed of molecules. All living things are composed of molecules generally, and many living things react in specific ways when exposed to molecules. Pheromones are used by some animals such as moths and jaguars to find mates in the wild. There are a number of double-blind scientific studies investigating these points. Groundbreaking work is being done. Anyway, there are new deodorants which take advantage of these so-called molecules in ways that make women want to wander up and rape you. There are, for example, commercials of the guy who wears the Axe deodorant and he carries around a little number clicky counter thing, and when he gets checked out by a random chick on the street, he clicks the clicky, and by the end of the commercial he had like 104 women and 1 guy checking him out. I understand the commercial was filmed by employing actors, but apparently the commercial premise is based on a series of double-blind studies at prestigious universities, such as Harvard. I went to Harvard.

I reconsidered, looking at my old deodorant. True, the Axe was sixty cents more than the Speed Stick. But, what is the cost of scientific advancement? Can it be counted in cents, or dollars even? Can the future of pheromones be conclusively excluded from modern society based entirely on the financial implications? Should we even try to stop molecules?

I purchased the Axe deodorant. I paid four fifty-nine for it. When I opened it and smelled it, it smelled spicy, clean and fresh, like a mass-market pheromone-enhanced deodorant ought to smell. I was a little worried, when I applied it to my own underarm area, that the Axe effect might apply recursively to myself, and I might be suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to make out with myself. While I occasionally do make out with myself, I am able to schedule these things in advance on weekends, and it would have been inconvenient and time-consuming before work to be thusly compelled. Fortunately, the designers of the Axe pheromone system have taken this conundrum into account, and I felt no unnatural urges to self-abuse during the deodorant application process.

At the Sega office I wandered about, getting my usual vending-machine Diet Pepsi, waving discreetly at the receptionist, nodding politely at the marketing chick clique. They greeted me with measured low-wattage smiles. I found this reaction, or perhaps I should say lack of reaction, puzzling. Perhaps the so-called Axe effect required some further interaction with the molecules in my own body. I did not recall what the Axe packaging indicated was the expected time for the Axe effect to “kick in” as they say. No matter, I thought, in the name of scientific advancement, I am fully prepared to wait.

A few hours later, trying to look busy on my laptop, babes wandered by my cubicle, all without paying any particular attention to me. Later, one of them did actually say “Are you in or out?” but that was because I was blocking the elevator door inadvertently with my body. Perhaps we had a moment, as she pressed the Ground floor button on the elevator. What was she trying to say to me, by pressing the G button? That she desired a grounded relationship? That she wanted a man who pressed upon her G spot? It was difficult to analyze the dynamics of the situation entirely, what with the elevator doors crushing my shoulder blades.

After the aspirin had kicked in, I retired to my cubicle to reassess. My temper was subdued. The performance of the molecules in the Axe deodorant product that day had been, all in all, somewhat lackadaisical.

I sat there, gazing at the sprinklers and fluorescent lights on the ceiling. And as I gazed, ever so slowly, a subtle, unsettling realization came upon me. I realized that the Axe company does not actually warrant the performance of the molecules. In truth, now that I had the time to consider the matter rightly and in detail, I realized that nowhere in the print ads, Web ads, or TV ads did the Axe company actually promise that the Axe effect would be consistent in my case with the results of the double-blind controlled studies, at Harvard and other prestigious places.

As I thought longer, my mood became blacker. The final, horrible realization came upon me: The Axe effect can only charitably be called an exaggeration. Perhaps the term “lie” is too strong; after all, I do believe I definitely shared a moment with that woman as she was pushing the elevator button and telling me to step away from her. And yet, in retrospect I feel that the Axe corporation truly must be held accountable for the performance of the pheromones and other molecules in their product.

I am sadder and wiser now. And yet the forward march of scientific studies in the study of molecules continues marching forward. All things are possible for those who have the patience to wait.

Update: My wife heard me read the aforementioned story, and said, “I dunno, sweetie. Not your usual writing style. Flabby, overly verbose, not very funny. Kind of the same joke over and over.” I responded that people who are currently living in glass houses ought not throw stones so much at one another repeatedly.

Should I dye my hair pink and care what y’all think?

Ambassador’s Day is world-premiering October 6 at 6:30 p.m. This one will be worth hauling your butt up to Mill Valley for: it’s a sci-fi seriocomic romp from the brilliantly sick mind of Dave Kellum. Tons of special effects and it looks absolutely incredible.

Also, Virago informs me that they’ve picked up The Death of Ayn Rand for a full production. Virago will be presenting it in June of next year. It will likely be the first play presented in Alameda’s Rhythmix space, a totally new 200-seat theater that will be built by the first half of next year.

Destiny is a rising sun

Hi N,

Thanks for the call. With regard to your contract changes:

Section 4. Deleted 4. and renumbered the contract points per your request.

Section 5. The computer services and tools clause only covers items that you need me to purchase as a condition of the work. I presume you’re going to let me use your dev equipment, software and PCs. Home-use equipment is my cost, unless you specifically instruct me to buy it.

I would like to consider this document final. I would like to ask you to please print 2 copies of the enclosed, sign them both, and send them to me. I’ll countersign and return an original to you.

The wife and I spent Saturday and Sunday driving around the OC looking for houses. Huntington Beach is high on our list.

Thanks for everything, N.

U don’t need experience 2 turn me out

C shuttles the boxy truck through the wide streets of Newport Beach. “Y’know, it’s whatever you want. We’ve got everything. Every possible cuisine. Chinese, Italian, Mexican, sushi, whatever. Really.”

B scratches his neck. “Man, I don’t remember the last time I had good Mexican. Man, if I can’t microwave it from frozen, I’m probably not eating it,” he grunts. Everyone laughs too loudly.

A smiles widely at me. “You like Newport Beach?”

An awkward beat while I think.

B says, “Yeah, it?s got everything around here, not just fast food. Chinese, Korean, Mexican, Italian? Korean? really, whatever you want.”

“Is there anything to do around here on the weekends?” I ask.

Another awkward beat. C says, “Well, Orange County?s really safe around here. Lot of nice malls and things. It?s not all strip malls, when you get into the Newport Beach area.”

“Yeah, you definitely want to live here,” says B. “Huntington Beach, Irvine, all good places.”

“Mexican,” says A, and we pile out of the truck and into a spiffy-looking Mexican restaurant.

“We?re always looking for a really good lunch,” says C. “Hard to depend on.

“Our luck changes, based on who?s in the kitchen,” says A. “Restaurants, like everything else… It?s all about who you know.”

“Yeah,” says B. “Sometimes we order in. Ordering in, usually, well, you know, it kinda sucks.” Everyone laughs too loudly.

“Do you guys eat at this place often?” I ask.

“No,” says A. “We take guests here.”

“And interviews,” says B. Everybody laughs too loudly.

A holds the door open, and we all step inside. As my eyes adjust to the light, I see a brown-haired tousled waitress bussing the tables. Odd, I thought, she looks like Heather Hemingway, but her hair color is wrong.

The waitress comes over to seat us. Her face lights up, and suddenly I realize who she is. I grab the waitress and swing her around, giving her a big kiss. A, B and C freeze, embarrassed.

“John Byrd!” Heather tells me. “You didn’t tell me you were coming to my restaurant!”

“I had no idea where you worked. But if you can get us a really nice lunch, these guys will probably offer me a job,” I told her.

“Your table is this way, sir,” she said, winking at me.