Tuesday, June 06, 2006

save the internet from our government

Congress is currently pushing a law that would end the free and open Internet as we know it. Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress hard against Network Neutrality, the Internet's First Amendment and the key to Internet freedom. Network Neutrality prevents AT&T and Verizon from choosing which websites open most easily for you based on which site pays AT&T or Verizon more. Network Neutrality would insure that Amazon doesn't have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to work more properly on your computer.

Grammy-nominated musician Moby made a goofy, yet poignant new video about the very real attack on Internet freedom that is happening this week in Congress. Watch the video.

Learn more and sign a petition telling congress that your Internet is not for sale to the highest bidder.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

april snow

It's April 5th and it's snowing in New York City. Big, thick, pillow-fight flakes against a piss-yellow sky that would have sent me scurrying into the storm cellar if I were back in Kansas City.

This morning has been an ass-backward morning on several fronts. While shaving, I cut the mole next to my nostril, which did not stop bleeding for about 20 minutes. On the way to the subway I stopped in Starbucks and the girl did not put the lid on my coffee cup correctly. I didn't realize this until I was halfway down the side walk, coffee stains dotting my pant leg from the knee down. Then, as I hurried down the subway station steps, I discovered a train with its doors open waiting at the platform, and I dashed through the turnstile and onto the train as its doors closed, only to find I was on the wrong train.

Nothing is quite working right, stopping me in the middle of normal daily functions and forcing me to pay attention to things that I otherwise wouldn't even think about.

When the snow started to fall, instinctively I reached for the phone to call my Dad to tell him about it. But I caught myself before I picked up the receiver, suddenly aware of one more thing I would usually take for granted.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

fly swatter

I want a fly swatter today. My boss is buzzing around my desk with stupid questions about printing PDF files, emailing TIFFs and a whole bunch of other shit that has nothing to do with my job or the state of my soul. More than once I've wanted to pick up a book or a newspaper and bean her.

Projects come across my desk. Lists of courses. Deadlines. Text changes that are important to the administration.

I accept them with a smile and a "no problem." But inside I'm weary. My heart takes short halting breaths and I think to myself, "I don't care. I can't care at all."

This is all to be expected. I'm very willing to cut myself a break. Just wondering why my buzzing boss doesn't get it.

P.S. Thanks to everyone, both in Blogger and LiveJournal, for your kind words to yesterday's post. They all mean more than you might realize.

Monday, April 03, 2006

in memoriam - my dad

In loving memory of my Dad
April 25, 1916 to March 24, 2006

Thanks to many who wrote with concern after my previous post at the time of my father's congestive heart failure a few weeks ago.

My sweat old Dad died in his sleep in the wee hours of Friday, March 24th (typical of my father who wouldn't want anyone to fuss over him or have to hurry across town to his bedside).

I gave the eulogy at his wake, which was an incredible honor that I am grateful to have been entrusted with and yet I am heart broken to have made it all. There are stories that I will post about the wake and the prunish priest that I came head to head with at the church and my Dad's sense of humor and the touching ride to the cemetery... but these will have to wait.

I'm back in the surreal world of work and responsibilities and useless tasks and people biting their nails over web lists and meeting dates and traffic and contractors and my heart is back in Kansas City looking for where it might find the one it lost.

I will stumble back into posting here in my blog as the days roll forward.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

dad's heart

Many of you are aware that I've been dealing with my dad's health issues for sometime now. He's a month away from turning 90-years-old, he has Alzheimer's, his knees have given out, his eyesight and hearing are failing, he has type 2 diabetes and he was recently diagnosed with skin cancer.

Last night he was rushed to the emergency room with congestive heart failure, a condition that would have killed him years ago, but now they treat it with medications that flush the congestion out. So he's been filling catheter bags all night.

My sisters tell me that, despite all that, my dad is in his usual humorous spirits, doing his George-Burns-style shtick with the nurses. I swear, the man could be in excruciating pain and half conscious and he would still be joking, which at this point I will take. As I've said before, as long as he's joking I still have an important part of him with me.

Anyway, as you can imagine I'm distracted as hell by this today, trying to complete some pressing projects at work and searching for any kind of cheap flight back home to Kansas City this weekend, which are all in the $900 range. So if there aren't any posts from me for the next few days, you'll understand why. When things calm down I'll report more.

But in the meantime, here are a few older posts about my dad:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

street hazards - fresh direct

In the race for most dangerous vehicles on the streets of New York, moving into third place behind taxis and take-out delivery bicyclists is Fresh Direct trucks. This morning I was almost clipped by one that was trying to beat the light to make a turn. The company must pressure its drivers to make as many deliveries as swiftly as possible per hour, because I see these trucks flying, careening and darting around narrow residential streets in the City as if they were on the open road. I am surprised we don't hear of fatal accidents on the news on a regular basis.

Monday, March 13, 2006

where's six feet under when you need it? - texting in traffic

Six Feet Under ended too soon, if only because there are so many more opening minutes out there in the world. (For those of you who have never seen the show, someone always died in the opening minutes of the show. The writers got more and more --and sometimes overly-- creative each week coming up with a quirky kind of death, an interesting set up or a goofy twist to keep the viewer guessing.)

Since last Friday's commute home I have witnessed three different instances of people text messaging in dangerous situations: a guy in Chelsea texting as he crossed a very busy 8th Avenue, a girl texting on the steps up out of the subway station during rush hour (dangerous if only because the angry mob behind her on the steps nearly dragged her up to street level and lynched her), and worst of all, on the New York Thruway, yes, a driver texting as she was driving!

Wouldn't you be pissed off if you were assigned to be guardian angel to one of these idiots? I see would-be dead people all the time in the City, wondering how they've lived into adulthood. In fact, there is plenty of material all around me for this to become a recurring post.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

fuzzy memories - mugsy

I've mentioned before that my early years of high school and in Jesuit seminary were very closeted and I spent quite a bit of time watching and pining for handsome hairy chested men who were unavailable to me.

Rick "Mugsy" MacDermott was one of these men. A thick, furry, working class Baltimore Irishman living in a religious community with a dozen uptight, neat Missouri valley seminarians, Mugsy took pride in being the fly in the ointment, the turd in the punch bowl. He'd walk down the hall shirtless, bare feet landing hard on the tile floor with a "thwap," balls swinging in his boxers, scratching his ass, farting, and laughing raucously at his own jokes. His torso was long, his waist low, situated firmly on top of thick tree-trunk legs. His chest was naturally muscular and covered with a dark coat of fur leading down to a thick, curly "happy trail." Even when he shaved his big jaw in the morning, he had a gruff by mid-afternoon. Without exaggeration, his bedroom looked like the aftermath of a tornado.

The thing was Mugsy truly was a loveable oaf. His heart was stationed squarely in the right place. He chose work assignments that put him in the heart of people in need, volunteered extra long hours, played guitar at parties (at a time when playing guitar at parties was really cool), and showed up for other peoples projects even if they didn't mean that much to him. His laugh and his warmth were infectious.

So I had a mini crush on him. I had bigger crushes on other guys, but Mugsy's look and personality really drew me in. I had always hoped for a peek at Mugsy in the shower, but it never happened. I do remember, however, many a night sitting on the toilet before bedtime, hearing his bare feet "thwap-thwap" down the hall into the restroom, past my stall and over to the urinals and then the blast of his piss stream. It sounded like it had tremendous power behind it; more than anyone else's I've heard--like a fire hose. I'm surprised it didn't chip the porcelain. And my imagination went wild. I had no other knowledge than that, from which to imagine what was swinging in those boxers whenever he padded down the hall, but that was enough.

Once, during a community meeting Mugsy sat across the coffee table from me with his massive hairy legs up on the table. I was distracted through the whole meeting by the sight, overwhelmed by the feelings I was hiding from everyone (or thought I was hiding from everyone).

But as the meeting ended, I pulled up some courage and made him an offer.

"Mugsy," I said, "you've gotta let me do a drawing your legs."

I was known for my drawing and painting skills, so this was not such an odd request, just one I had not made of Mugsy before. To my surprise he was flattered and happy to oblige.

I got a couple of really nice drawings out of it.

And as for Mugs, from what I hear he's still a Jesuit, teaching high school, while most of the rest of us that were in studies with him have gone off our separate ways. And I still have the drawings of his legs, somewhere in storage.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

i can do that for you, finale

Got a call from our lawyer yesterday.

After reading over our response and counter claim to our former contractor's summons, our former contractor's lawyer called ours and said, not that they wanted to settle, but that they wanted to drop the case completely, vacate the mechanic's lien, and leave with their tails between their legs.

I am shocked that it's over like that. And I'm relieved.

Our lawyer asked this morning if Bob and I celebrated last night. But we really didn't. We're the kind of guys who feel the bittersweet nature of a moment, even when we've won. I'm happy we're not giving another penny to someone who lied to us, cheated us, couldn't make things right when they were going terribly wrong and cost us thousands more to make up for her errors. On the other had, I don't wish her harm. I just want her to go away and stay away. I want to be assured that it's over with, and I want someone to tell her that she really shouldn't ever do this again.

And I won't feel completely relieved until everything is signed, filed and finished. I've seen too many movies where the villains pop back up when we think they're dead.

But am I grateful, yes. And am I feeling hopeful about all of this, yes! Coming home from work last night, as I walked up to the apartment door and put the key in the lock, I felt a lot more like the place was my own.

Monday, March 06, 2006

dame tatum o'neal

I'm nearly as shocked as the next guy about a few of last night's Oscars. And until the chatter quiets about who deserved what and whether or not Crash was really the best picture of the year, I can't help but wonder about the value of winning an Academy Award anyway. After all isn't it only the buffs who can name the best picture by year or know that a certain actress won the year after she really deserved it for a previous film? Aren't there some great actors and directors who have never won?

Well, just watching movie previews over the past several years I think I can come up with an answer, at least the answer that Hollywood marketers would give. Once an actor or actress or director has won one of those little gold statuettes they have a new title permanently attached to their name: "Academy Award Winner." Whether they are being introduced in a movie trailer, a red-carpet entrance or a late-night talk show, after winning, the formal title "Academy Award Winner" precedes their name.

It is the closest thing American culture has to knighting our heroes and heroines. Instead of Sir Elton John, we now have Academy Award Winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Her majesty's subjects have Dame Judi Dench, we have Academy Award Winner Reese Witherspoon. Even in the unlikely event that he would never make another movie, from here on out, we will never again hear George Clooney's name without "Academy Award Winner" as its prefix. Even Tatum O'Neal and Kim Basinger are introduced with this title. I'm thinking it needs to be added to all paper or online forms, as in:

Select one:

  • Mr.
  • Mrs.
  • Ms.
  • Dr.
  • Rev.
  • Rabbi
  • Academy Award Winner
  • other: _______________

And despite the debate of the last few years about the Golden Globe and film festival awards stealing some of Oscars importance, you tell me how much mileage "Golden Globe Winner Paul Hogan" should get. Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep won't be selecting "other" and writing in Golden Globe Winner since they already have been knighted with the coveted "AAW" title. And as for those who have won the Golden Globe but not the Oscar, not even Jim Carrey would throw that one around, certain that the reader would sneer, "oh, yeah, right sure."

No, the movie trailers get longer and longer all the time, just to allow time enough for "Academy Award Winner" and even "Academy Award Nominee" to be recited in front of each of the actors names. Seemingly, the more knighted actors in the cast, the more serious a film it must be. And as a new freshman class of recipients was added last night, while the ball gowns were still hanging over the back of powder room chairs, the movie ads already began to toss the titles around, not only for the movies that these actors won for, but their next one and the next.

Friday, March 03, 2006

take two porn videos and call me in the morning

(Warning: depending on your relationship to me this post may border on "TMI.")

My doctor gave me a scare on Wednesday, telling me he had cleared his schedule for two p.m. on Thursday for me to come in for ultrasound on my prostate. Needless to say I didn't sleep well Wednesday night. He doesn't communicate well and didn't explain why he was suddenly giving my prostate so much attention. In fact, this was a change from my usual experience with him. For the past three or four years my last-minute appointments have been relegated to the attention of his physician's assistants and I have had to wait weeks for him to see me for scheduled check ups. But suddenly on Wednesday he wanted to see me himself, A.S.A.P, and I had nightmares of chemotherapy, prostatectomy or orchiectomy (words that aren't naturally part of my vocabulary).

As it turned out, my prostate is just a little enlarged (the official term is benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH) and the only reason he had cleared his schedule so quickly was because I had given him shit last week during my annual physical about how hard it was for me to get an appointment with him instead of with one of his staff members. I almost slugged him.

At any rate, the treatment options that he described are simple to choose from:

  • take PROSCAR and risk impotence, loss of sexual desire, decreased ejaculation and breast enlargement and/or tenderness, breast lumps and nipple discharge. Oh and quite possibly pregnant woman would not be allowed to shake hands with me.
  • change my diet, and follow a stringent nutritional regime.
  • masturbate more frequently.

Hmm. Let's see. What should I do? That's a hard one. And where do I get the prescription filled for that third option?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

smudge wednesday

I had completely forgotten that yesterday was Ash Wednesday until my commute home last evening. But then there they were, the brigade of smudged foreheads, marching through the streets of New York with big sooty thumb prints smeared above their brows. And once again I was amazed to see them, as I have been each year.

From my very first year in New York, when I was working as a priest at Francis Xavier parish in Chelsea, I have suspected that the Ash Wednesday ashes themselves mean far more to most New York Catholics than any thing else about the season of Lent. In fact, New Yorkers go about Ash Wednesday like no other Catholics in all of North America. What seems like every New York Catholic, practicing or peripheral, comes out to get ashes on Ash Wednesday without exception or excuse. It does not matter whether they stay for the whole service, or faithfully fast and abstain from meat (which is the only requirement for the day), or even plan to give-up something for the rest of Lent. They may not intend to so much as step foot inside a church again until Easter. None of this matters; the ashes alone are important. They will lose a whole hour of their pay check or hire a baby sitter just to be there, even for five minutes, so that they can get and wear those ashes proudly up and down the avenues, on the subway, at school, or at work.

Who knows why wearing the ashes is so important. They don't seem to ask that question of themselves; not even if they listen attentively to the scripture passage that is read just before they receive the ashes, in which, ironically enough, Jesus sternly warns them not to go around with ashes on their heads "the way the hypocrites do."

Having grown up in the Midwest where only the Catholics that wanted to would show up on Ash Wednesday voluntarily, and then wiped the ashes off their heads in the parking lot, I am perplexed by New Yorkers. I'm especially confused by why Catholics who are barely holding onto any other parts of their faith choose to go out of their way to get these ashes and walk around with them on their faces all day.

Maybe, as a once-a-year phenomenon, the ashes themselves have never worn out their welcome as did the repeated catechism lessons or early morning communions that so many parochial school children were forced to endure on a regular basis in the past. Maybe like Christmas and Good Friday the ashes have managed to retain some mystical symbolism from childhood, and so grown-up Catholics are drawn to them as much out of nostalgia as duty.

Or perhaps it is ignorance. Perhaps, a vast multitude of unenlightened believers shuffle in each year to submit themselves to this caste-marking totally by wrote or out of fear. Perhaps they even imagine it to be a grievously serious sin not to leave the ashes on all day, and in turn, spend each hour right up to bedtime agonizing over whether they should stay awake until midnight to wash their faces or wait until morning.

And then again, it might possibly be a social thing. Some might fear facing their parents or running into friends on the street without the stamp that verifies they have faithfully done their Christian duty for the day.

But most likely, it is simply a New York thing. Most likely of all, the ashes provide these New Yorkers a way to show that they are good Catholics in a city where people wear their ethnic and religious pride, not just on their sleeves, but directly into one another's faces. And, therefore, by wearing them in public, they feel as if they have linked themselves to a group identity and proclaimed its far-reaching presence to everyone else in one united gesture.

Whatever the reason, my most striking Ash Wednesday memory happened in my first year in New York. I was setting up for the noon service at Francis Xavier and already feeling frustrated with mayhem that had already occurred before the day was even half over. Suddenly I heard the insistent click-clack of heals tromping down the center aisle. A woman dressed for office work and clutching her shoulder bag to her side came rushing toward the altar with the determination of a mounted police officer, her tall mound of curly black hair bouncing to the rhythm of her stride. When she reached the altar, she asked if I could give her ashes right there and then because she could not stay for the service.

"Oh, I'm sorry," I spoke to her as gently as I had when explaining the situation to everyone else throughout the morning. "We have to stick to a schedule. We can only distribute ashes during the service or there will be a steady line from now 'til we lock the doors tonight. Services or no services."

As I was speaking to the woman, I noticed some of the people in the pews itching to line up behind her if I so much as reached for one of the four little glass bowls of ashes that sat on a table near the podium.

"But Fatha', I can't stay," the woman pleaded, her heavy New York accent as thick as her curly mane. "My lunch break's nearly ova'! I have 'a be back in ten minutes!"

"I'm sorry," I replied feeling trapped. "There's nothing I can do. If I give ashes to just one person now, we won't be able to start the noon service."

"But Fatha'," the woman bit her nail and stared over at the table of bowls, "what am I gonna' do?"

"Look," I sighed barely containing my exasperation, "if you want to, you can go on over to one of those little bowls and take some ashes for yourself."

She responded simply by staring at me in horror.

"I'm sorry, that's all I can offer you right now," I added as calmly as possible.

"But Fatha'," she whispered, "would it be the same thing?"

"I'm afraid so," I whispered in reply.

The poor woman took a step back, clearly unable to fathom my offer. In the end, she did exactly as I expected. She went to a seat in the church and waited for the service. The image of her own thumb in the ash bowl or her head without ashes was apparently far more terrifying than the wrath of her boss.

star gazing part 2 - score!

Last night at the bodega near our home, Bob found himself near the end of a long check out line behind almost a dozen NYU students, each with their arms full of those "fresh-squeezed" orange juice bottles, fruits and veggies and other munchies. Behind us was a woman, somewhere in her late 50s, blond hair falling loosely, haphazardly around her face, no makeup, and wearing glasses. I was more concern about not making her feel like I was cutting in line when I caught up with Bob, than anything else about her. In fact I stepped over near the door and waited while Bob moved slowly closer to the counter.

I looked back at the woman behind Bob and thought she looked something like Jessica Lange, though age and lack of make up were playing their part to foil my attempts at quick glances. Then finally a very handsome middle-aged man with a ski-goggle tan stepped up behind her. It was indeed Sam Shepard, no camouflage, no question about it.

I looked away, counted to ten, then slowly made my way back over to Bob who was finally at the cashier's counter. I whispered, "You have to pay very close attention to what I am about to say. Standing behind you in line is one of your favorite woman in the whole world and her handsome husband: Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard." (Of course I should have said "common-law husband," but he got my point.)

He nodded as if I had told him to get extra quarters for the laundry, and waited to look back until he had stepped over to the door to put on his gloves.

So, I have now seen two of my all-time-favorite actresses within a few blocks of my home, Meryl Streep and now Jessica, and I haven't said a word. The impulse to speak to these people is overwhelming, but I don't want to disturb their lives. Years ago I saw another Jessica and her equally famous husband, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, on 6th Avenue in Midtown. I actually walked up to them and said, "Thank you for your work." They were polite and appreciative and I exited quickly. I've also described my exchange with Ed Harris in a previous blog post. But recently I have felt like I should hold back. Possibly a good impulse, but why did it have to happen with Jessica and Meryl?

Bob and I walked home like giddy school girls, debating whether or not I should have spoken up, practicing what we would have said, politely, inconspicuously: "Excuse me, I don't want to intrude, but I think you are one of the finest actresses of our generation and I want to thank you for your work." We repeated it as if we wanted it to come effortlessly next time we spotted a star, which will probably be the likes of Kathy Griffin or Clay Aikens, and the parts about the "finest actress of our generation" and "thank you for your work" will fall out kind of ridiculously.

Hopefully, I'll simply have some wit and grace about me, and judge wisely to keep my mouth shut if it's appropriate.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

a punker chick on astor place

Last evening as I came up out of the Astor Place subway station a young punker girl was begging off the exiting subway riders.

"Can I bother you for 10 cents?" she asked in a clear sweet voice.

It went through my mind to reply "save your change, you're already bothering me for free." But I don't particularly like the idea of teasing anyone who is begging, even if she is clearly less in need than others. So, I kept my mouth shut and walked toward the corner.

As I waited at the light, however, I began to feel guilty (as only a good Catholic boy can) for the smart ass comment that had never even left my head. I rumbled through about 75 cents worth of change in my pocket, stepped back over to her and emptied all of the change into her cup. Her sweet needy expression changed immediately. She growled at me like a mad dog, then purred, then laughed maniacally. I rolled my eyes and walked away.

It's been sixteen years since I first encountered the loser neo-punker kids that have hung out around St. Mark's Place in the East Village for over three decades. Even when I first arrived in the late 1980s they felt like an anachronism, dressed to the smallest detail in punker-gear that had not changed in the slightest from that of their predecessors from the 1970s. Never mind that the kids in the late '80s were babies when the punker movement started and that the kids on St. Mark's today were babies in the late '80s. The gear and attitude are identical. They are way too closely related to the Goths, Renaissance Faire participants, Trekkers, and Rocky Horror Picture Show crowd than they would ever admit. They're the branch of the Society for Creative Anachronisms that don't have day jobs.

Begging has always been a part of their modus vivendi. In my early East Village years there was a punker girl with an albino rat under her coat who begged on St. Marks, sometimes by herself, sometimes with a skinny pale mohawked boy or two. The girl would politely ask passers by for change, and if they refused, she would thrust her pet rat into their faces and growl, "then do you want to kiss my rat." Tourists would scream. Natives would wince and walk around her, dully annoyed. Either way she had the affect she had intended.

Today the East Village is far more developed. Most of the students living in the area have trust funds paying their $3000 to $4000 a month rent. Second-generation yuppies push giant strollers down narrow sidewalks that once were full of artists, druggies, and "fencers" (dealers in stolen goods). And fewer of the original ethnic markets and head shops are still holding their own against the franchises. But these young punker wannabees are nevertheless drawn back to the area, and despite that they are as annoying as a junior high student who has only recently discovered black nail polish and angst, I kind of like that they are there. I'm just going to have to get my game face back on.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

satan's handiwork

The hand of Satan is alive and well in Senator Rick Santorum's commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Bob and I personally witnessed the expanse of his power over the Presidents' Day weekend. Apparently, while Santorum was off divining homosexuality and natural disasters, Satan was undermining human goodness by far less predictable means. Driving through the suburbs, country roads and antique malls of Eastern Pennsylvania we saw with our own eyes the following insidious tools used by the Prince of Darkness to destroy our American culture and way of life:

  • Suburban Housing Communities: a multitude of identical houses, with identical off-white siding, punctuate what once were pastoral hillsides, in tight, treeless rows like giant tomb stones. Apparently, Satan does not want individuality or creativity, and is stipulating the sameness through developers and community boards. Most Demonic Feature: giant two-car garage doors looming forward from the front exterior of each home nearly obliterating any other recognizable front entrance feature of the house.

  • The Cell Phone and the Automobile: Satan has sent the cell phone to make traffic even more deadly. Every bad driver we encountered, from the slow poke in the passing lane to the idiot pulling into traffic without a glance in the mirror, was on his or her cell phone. Most Demonic Feature: hands-free headsets. This is Satan coming as an "angle of light," convincing drivers that not using their hands to talk on the phone frees up their brains as well.

  • Strip-Mall Cuisine: it is damn near impossible to find an old-time dinner these days, much less a restaurant that doesn't think of wings as a salad and fries as a side vegetable. Most Demonic Features: the endless repetition of Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesdays, Red Lobster, TGI Fridays, Dunkin Donuts and any Chinese restaurant with "Buffet" in its name.

  • Post-eBay Antique Malls: there is nothing there there. Senior citizens have found a way to avoid the high cost of self-storage units by simply dumping everything they don't want in antique malls. The malls are now full of nothing more than discolored afghans, dinged up wagon-wheel coffee tables, church or bank calendars from the early 1990s and hand-painted garden art (e.g. the wooden jigsaw cutouts of the woman bending over or pipe-smoking yokels leaning on the porch rail). Most Demonic Feature: those scary dressed up porcelain dolls that these old folks bought in five easy payments from a Reader's Digest advertisement.

  • Wal-Mart: Entire hillsides have been deforested, not just for the Wal-Mart itself, but its parking lot the size of a small town and the symbiotic clingers, like dollar stores, car washes and fast-food restaurants that ring the lot. Most Demonic Feature: the small road that connects the Wal-Mart lot to a similar giant parking lot for Home Depot, ringed by a small video store, gas station and a one-hour photo hut.