Thursday, February 18, 2010


Operative: So what do you do for a living?

Mike Magnuson: I avoid dying.

Operative: What does that mean?

Mike Magnuson: Look, why don’t you ask me something else? Why don’t you ask me if I’m happy?

Operative: Okay then. Are you happy?

Mike Magnuson: That’s a ridiculous question.

Operative: Well. Are you?

Mike Magnuson: I’ve got a number of reasons not to be. I’m 46 years old. If a person at 46 years of age is completely happy, completely without regret, completely positive about everything, my guess is we’re looking at a stupid person.

Operative: Does this mean you’re not a stupid person?

Mike Magnuson: There are certainly degrees of stupid, many of which I attain, which is to stay I’m a top-flight idiot just like most people, but I’m talking about stupid in the par-excellence way, as in the most advanced form of stupid: people of the sort who always say everything’s wonderful and have the fake smile and read Ayn Rand novels in the belief that Ayn Rand has actually written good literature.

Operative: Why does Ayn Rand come to mind?

Mike Magnuson. I should have said Virginia Woolf. I read Virginia Woolf and am filled with a strong desire to get myself a tropical fishtank rig and stare at the fish for the rest of my life instead of reading. Because there ain’t no question that staring at tropical fish is more interesting than reading Virginia Woolf.

Operative: You realize many people could take offense at that?

Mike Magnuson: Fuck em. Okay. I’ll take that back. If people like whatever they like, that’s cool with me. There are other things to worry about than people’s taste in books. Like yesterday, I was riding my bike on the L.A. River trail and saw a police helicopter circling a mile or so up, and I could hear sirens, a lot of them, converging in that direction. Needless to say, I stomped on my pedals and tried to get to the action as quickly as I could. They were across the river – maybe a dozen squads and some unmarked cars – and easily 50 officers – and it looked like they had somebody trapped in a house and were trying to flush this person out into the open. Officers were surrounding the property, hiding behind trees, with their weapons drawn, and in front, it looked like some officers were attempting to bash in the front door of the house without the same success that officers have on TV cop shows. It went on like this. The cops in front bashed the door. The cops in back were ready with the weapons. Finally, the cops in front made their way in. I didn’t hear shots, nor did I see the cops emerge with whoever they were after. The helicopter flew away. The officers holstered their weapons. And I got back on my bike and kept riding.

Operative: Wow. That’s Los Angeles for you.

Mike Magnuson: I guess so.

Operative: But what does that have to do with Virginia Woolf?

Mike Magnuson: Not one goddam thing.

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