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I WAS ALWAYS CHASING CIGARETTES AROUND and grabbing them by the butt. The ashtray before me heaped with gray dust and leafy tubes of cotton. The barbecued tobacco stained my fingers and turned them into cobs of corn. And where was that big, bearded guy with the vial of Ketamine?

The lights behind the hardwood bar were lights in an underground subway station. Homunculi in suits and hats went up and down stairs from the taps to the olive tray. Metal plates, with holes to drain the liquid from overflowing pint glasses, served as platforms. That's where the little people boarded their trains. What was in that vial?

On the television above the bar -- above the miniature subway station-- was a woman trimming the buds off of a rose bush. She wasn't pruning back unruly leaves; instead she took the rusty macaw's beak of the shears and nipped right into the soft flesh of the petals. The brown metal slipped through the maroon skin, and a breeze pulled the remnants off in wisps.

The hallway rug caught my attention as it skittered into the women's restroom. I glanced around the bar and found a familiar face. "You ready for another one?" the oldster of ambiguous gender asked, pointing to my empty cocktail glass.

"No. No, thanks. I'm kind of screwed up, now," I answered. "Have you seen that guy -- my friend I came in with?" This question only elicited a contorted face from the bartender. "Never mind. What time is it?"

"Quarter till eight," he/she answered.

"Damn, I was supposed to pick my truck up from the tire shop and drive to breakfast an hour ago," I mumbled.

"No, dude," said a beard in a silver jumpsuit, sitting one seat to my left. "It's almost eight at night," he croaked from behind glittery sunglasses. Had he been there the whole time?

"Give me another shot of K, and let's get out of here," I said. "The retired day-boozers look like they're about to riot," I said, eyeing the crowd of regulars who made that bar their home. They were huddled back in a corner, eyeing us. "Have we been in here for 14 hours?"

"I guess we have. The club closed at 4:00, and you said you had to take your truck to that tire shop across the street, but we stopped in for a drink at 6:00 -- that's when this place opened. So, yeah. We've been here since then." His voice pitched and rolled as he simultaneously talked and exhaled cigarette smoke.

"All right, let's go. Too much TV will rot your brain."

WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK

Thursday, March 3 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

ABC 10, 7:00 p.m.

Not me. I'd rather scrape out a living as head B.O.-sniffer to Dennis Franz than fight for legroom with Regis Philbin's ego, even for an hour. People wonder why Kathy Lee was a raging bitch, but I wonder why she didn't snap sooner.

Survivor: Palau

CBS 8, 8:00 p.m.

I realized last Thursday that I would be a terrible Survivor. When it came time to vote, I would place potential candidates in two categories: those who have boobs, and those who don't -- with top rank in the former category given by bra size. I would work my way up through the men until they were all gone, and then start with the A-cuppers. It's not fair, folks, but that's how my mind works.

Friday, March 4

The Smashing Machine on DVD HBO Documentary, 2002

I've been terrorizing my roommate Renee with this for a while. I've threatened to tie her to the sofa and make her sit through the blood, gore, and basest acts of human nature portrayed in this film about ultimate fighting. "Look," I've told her. "If I had to sit through Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter: The Musical, then you can watch Mark Kerr get his nose smashed in and inject himself with morphine."

Saturday, March 5 The Blues Brothers (1980)

AMC 57, 5:30 p.m.

I watched The Blues Brothers over 70 times between the seventh and tenth grade. One night when I was 19, I sang "Soul Man" while wearing-my-ass-on-backwards-drunk in a bar in Yokosuka, Japan. I initially stomped up on stage to locate my friend Jake, who was absent from our group. While I was yelling, "Jake! Jake! Let's go, we're leaving!" into the singer's microphone, the drummer counted out four clicks, and the band started to play. The lights blinded me, and the mic screeched with feedback, but I still recognized the song. I hit the beginning, "COMIN' TO YA! ON A DUSTY ROAD! GOOD LOVIN', I GOT A TRUCKLOAD!" with perfect timing, sang it all the way through, and when it was over I shook hands with the band and stumbled off stage.

Monday, March 7 The View

ABC 10, 10:00 a.m.

To counter the notion that women can't do anything except sit around the living room, gossip, and talk about shopping, Barbara Walters created a show by women, about women, and for women. The premise: five women sitting around in a living room, gossiping, and talking about pillows, nails, hair, and purses. Ah, progress.

Booty Call (1997)

FX 68, 4:00 p.m.

Hollywood phones another one in. This movie ranks right up there with Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Mannequin: On the Move. The whole thing amounts to an hour of safe-sex instruction that is so literal that the producers of any after-school special would be ashamed to claim it as their own. It includes such thrilling dialogue as, "Dental Dam prevents the spread of disease," and "Lambskin condoms are porous, unlike latex." Whoopee!

Blind Date

WB 5, 11:30 a.m.

Dating in this modern age can be tough. What with the complexity of the Internet, axe-murderers, and spray-on hair paste, it can be downright impossible. Here's a tip for anxious daters: to alleviate the pressure of meeting someone new, involve a camera crew.

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