Apr 29, 2005

Some yippee-skippee once said:

"Time is the fire in which we all burn."

I think I'm starting to understand why my father used to get up at 4 am every morning without fail. I used to think it was just his military training, and age, but the more I think about it, and the longer I live, the more I see that it's just a function of having not enough time to do the things you feel like doing.

Tempus. Time. Ah, sweet Time. I wonder sometimes what I leave behind that will "stand the test of Time." I listen to classical music during the day, when I'm at my desk doing paperwork or whatever. I love to listen to those soaring pieces, and it always makes me think--what music could possibly have that sort of staying power now. Somehow I don't see many Bubblegum Pop songs lasting 150 years. I don't imagine 50 Cent's birthday being celebrated with huge festivals when he turns 200. Performers simply don't seem to have that sort of power anymore.

I love the blues, too. The blues, as we all know, is just a good man feelin' bad. We all feel bad, we've all had the blues before, so that music resonates in our very spirits. I can see the blues lasting longer than most anything else, because of that resonance, that part of it that speaks to our inner natures. And one of the things that most appeals to me about the blues? Even if Brittney Spears were to suddenly have a drastic career change and become a blues singer she'd never make it--even if you've killed a man in Memphis you can't sing the blues if your name is "Brittney."

I really like listening to old Jazz, too. Like Patrick Star says, "I don't get Jazz," when it's the very cutting-edge stuff, all full of dissonance and noise. I guess I need a little more solid grounding in rythymn than all that hooting and hollering. The old Jazz, tho. The Dave Brubeck Quartet--that's Jazz. Music performed by guys in suits and pork-pie hats, with crew cuts, smoking a lot. If you want an instant introduction to good Jazz, listen to "Take Five." It'll make a believer out of you.

A good three-piece horn section is utterly marvelous. "And then the horns kicked in." Chicago would never have gotten as far as they did if they had left the brass section out of their music. Same for Gerry Rafferty. I won't talk about Herb Alpert And The Tijuanna Brass, but you get the drift. That sharp edge to all the soft muted edges of drums and strings--it seems to give the wasp it's sting.

And before any of you suddenly tune out, no, I'm not about to add a tinny little MP3 to my page. No, I care about you guys far more than all that. I sincerely promise you, on the respect that I hold for each and every one of you, even the ones I don't know, that if I were to go that route I'd post my home address and my cel phone number here, so that each and every one of you could come down here and line up one behind the other so you could all kick me in the head until I bleat.

Apr 28, 2005

What's wrong with old things?

And I don't mean Great Aunt Gertie, either.

If you've read this blog for more than a week you know that I'm in the process of restoring a 1971 GMC Sierra pickup. Have been for years now, and it's a labor of love, because the market for those trucks is not exactly exploding at the seams, but hey, she's mine, I'm proud of her.

My brother restores 65-66 Mustangs. They're HIS passion, he's got three in the works right now, one complete, one getting there, and a third that's just a rolling chassis, but they're all destined for OEM greatness.

I love fountain pens. To me there's nothing quite as nice as writing with a fountain pen. Gel pens are all right, ballpoints are bland as milk, pencils are good for drawing, but if you want to write with style and character, toss that rollerball and get you a good fountain pen. And I don't mean one of those disposable ones, either. A disposable fountain pen makes as much sense as putting a Dutch door on a Boeing 747. Fountain pens are from the dawn of time, when things were made to last, when something like a pen was an investment, not something that you bought at the Wal-Mart for a buck a dozen. You refill them, but the refills don't come as long pale white tubes with black ink in them; you had to keep a bottle of liquid ink somewhere in your desk drawer, so that when the time came you got out your bottle, uncapped it, and inside your pen was a very clever reservoir, operated by a twist end or a lever, and you simply drew up a load of ink into the chamber and you were off to the races again, after you cleaned the nib of the pen and put the bottle away.

It made you slow down. So does a truck with no power steering nor power brakes, nor A/C for that matter. So does wearing a fedora when you go out, as does having a long-case clock that requires a key to wind it's dual springs every few days. It all makes you take a little more time, and there's nothing wrong with that, in my book.

So what is all this about? I've got another restoration project, that's what. My grandfather, dead long before I was born, left behind a yard swing that he built out of parts of two old Model T trucks. When I grew up around it, it looked a lot like
THIS. My apologies for the pop-up ads around it, it's just that I've got a lot of pics of it, and those guys do storage and hosting for free. You can even see Rita's front end sticking out of the garage there.

So what we're doing here is restoring her back to what she used to look like, which is THIS. I've enlisted the help of my brother and a very good friend to come out Saturday and take her down to her component pieces, there to be sandblasted and painted, and I'm going to handle the woodworking side of it, as I am very fortunate enough to have enough of the wood left on there, as well as pictures, to show me exactly how the original was put together. I've even got two of the three original curved bases that made the seat's curve, so she'll even have the original dimensions on the seat and back.

I know the picture is not the best, it's a picture of a picture taken circa 1940, but you get the idea. The folks there are my mother and my aunts and uncles, and I think old boy in the middle is someone's boyfriend who didn't last. I could be wrong, my source of information about these people is still asleep at her house. *grin* The thing is, I'm going to start yet another blog (to match the hole in my head) to sort of keep track of where it's been and where it's going. It's not up yet, I'm still deciding on a photoblog vs a regular one, and I'm still not crazy about all the links that come up with imagevenue, but we'll see what happens. I'll post the link here when it's up and running, and you can know more than ANYONE ever wanted to know about restoring a 1940's era swing made from bits of two old Model T trucks.

And what does Dennis Gage on My Classic Car always say? "Don't crush 'em, restore 'em." You go, boy.

Apr 27, 2005

You know

sometimes I sit down here and my head is full to bursting with things to say, present, joke about, what have you.

And then there are times when I haven't spent the entire night thinking of what I want to put up here in the mornings. It's a strange process for me--sometimes in the middle of the day, sometimes late in the evening, and sometimes the morning of the post, standing in front of the toilet or the mirror, some idea will come to me, some notion or turn of phrase will tickle me mentally, and I'll start developing the idea in my head, just as I would post it here. I have written most of these posts in my head nearly complete long before they get on the screen and up to the server.

I find my painting is the same way. I will have an idea for a painting rattling around in my head sometimes for years before I ever get to the canvas and easel, much less before I start sniffing the turps jar. I think Stephen King said in one of his book forewords that he would get an idea for a story which he would then put in a mental filing cabinet, where it would rest, mature, grow, or be left, and as he felt like it he could take it back out, dust it off, make changes if he felt the need to, and either put it back or bring it out into the public eye. It's an interesting metaphor for how a mind creates, and I've always liked it.

I feel sort of the same way myself--my ideas for paintings and such usually ride around in the hot, cramped, dusty confines of my brain locker, being painted, repainted, stripped and restarted and in general going through all the pains and permutations of birth before (if ever) they finally see the first penciled cartoon sketch on a blank canvas. In that time I have tried and rejected every variation I can think of, compared my relative skill to the 'finished product' I have in my head, and then finally either discarded, stored again, or selected the painting that I'm then going to create. Again.

No sketchbook and handful of pencils for me, thanks, I've got my meat computer.

The funny thing is that while I can do this with my paintings and such, most of the other creative things I do haven't the least idea what it means to be left for a time and polished and matured like a stone rolling in the surf. Most of my woodworking projects spring to mind while I'm standing out there in front of the table saw thinking "Lessee how much sawdust I can make from all THESE boards." My photography is much the same way, but more so, based on happenstance and occasion. The new picture of the moment up there, the garden spider, was taken years and years ago at my old house, beside my barn. That red background is my old barn wall, and this beauty's web stretched a good four feet from the wall to a crepe myrtle tree on the right.

I was walking out to check on my Midas Touch roses when I saw her hanging there in mid-air. A quick walk-around showed me that not only was she quite the biggest writing spider I had ever seen (she measured a good 4" spread across her legs,) but she had just moulted. That's her old skin hanging in the bottom corner of the picture, still stuck in her web. I raced into the house for the digital, because honestly I didn't trust myself to have colour film in the 35mm manual (it's usually B&W only) and I really wanted to catch these as soon as I could in colour, because I knew it was a very transitory time. I snapped about two dozen pictures, and the spider was as patient as...well, a spider. When I returned the next morning to take pictures with the dew on her web, she was gone, as was her shed skin. I don't know if she had cut it down herself or if circumstances had acted on her in some other way, but I still feel that having a 6'2" lump of pink walking all around and under and in front of you wielding a silver box is not the most reassuring thing in the world to a spider, and had something to do with her decision to pack up the farm. Be that as it may, she was as gone as that evening's sunset, and I have yet to see her like again.


And then there are the few times when I can just sit down and start typing and it all just comes up from the depths, one word at at time, until I've told you another story from my life.

Apr 25, 2005

Field Trip

What is it with field trips suddenly?

When I was a kid, field trips were usually to things like the Municipal Sewer Treatment Plant and to Angola State Pennitentary, and we usually only lost like three or four a year, and we were thankful for it! The moment I saw the skinny white felon with the Leonard Skinner hair and the words "sweet" and "sour" razor-blade tattooed above his nipples I decided then and there that my burgeoning life of crime was at an end. I won't tell you what the Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant tour did to me. I'm not even going to go into what happened that time I went fishing at the Mary Hill Religious Retreat. *shame*

So, my daughter the weerelephant is in fourth grade and is taking a trip tomorrow to the state capital, Baton Rouge, there to tour the USS Kidd, a floating WWII destroyer escort/museum in the Big Muddy, and then to the State capital, to see where The Kingfish got shot. Me, I'm responsible for getting her intact to the local steak house parking lot at six bloody thirty in the morning. My sweet gravy people, these are 10 year olds! They're gonna be wired for sound, and I'm gonna look like an extra from George Romero's new zombie movie.

I mean damn, people! These kids don't need enrichment, they need to slave for hours over hot pencils with a thousand year old nun standing over them armed with a steel yardrule, ready to slash out at a second's notice! They need guilt, guilt, and more guilt! They need to live in mortal terror of getting caught even THINKING about sex! They need pain, anguish, and....

Durn, I turned Catholic for a moment there. My apologies.

And this is all the post you're gonna get for tomorrow morning, so make it last. There are kids in China who are starving for entertainment and would KILL to have a blog entry to read in the morning.

The Endless Waltz

I think that's the name of a Gundam cartoon too, but it sums up perfectly what it feels like to ride a motorcycle in exactly the same way that "The Spandau Ballet" doesn't, and I don't mean the 80's band either.

We've been having a spate of unseasonably cool weather, a front came in from somewhere Nawth and really cooled things off marvelously, and all weekend the sky was painfully blue, not a cloud dared show it's fluffy face, and I spent all Saturday working in the yard, so naturally I took the bike out Sunday for an extended ride, all through the back streets that follow the myriad twists and turns of Bayou Rapides. What an utterly marvelous thing to do.

When I was first divorced, I lost a brand new Honda Civic sedan in the deal, which in retrospect was a good thing, as it was the Universe's way of telling me "Hey, you need a motorcycle." I went with a friend who had been trying to convince me for a year to get one down to the local bike shop, and I fell in love with Yamaha's 1993 air-cooled XJ600, in Dark Metallic Blue III, which is a lot of words for a dark green beginner's bike. (Damn, would you check out that freak from 1993? *lol* All that hair, and sickly skinny...) Anyway, I brought her home strapped in the bed of my dad's truck, unloaded her in my driveway, dropped the truck off, and proceeded to teach myself how to ride a motorcycle, after first reading the owner's manual section entitled "How To Teach Yourself To Ride A Motorcycle."

I haven't looked back since.

The first three years I rode everywhere and in everything; cold, rain, hail, cold rainy hail, scalding heat, around Harley farts, you name it, I was in it. I was gloriously happy because I had no alternative, but I had found freedom in it. I rode that bike for almost 20K miles before the ex (who had returned for a brief second effort at the marriage) totaled it. My second bike was a Honda Magna 750, because I wanted more power but a cruiser style. I rode her for a good six years and another 36K miles before deciding I wanted more of a sport bike, and I had been dreaming since Day One of owning a Honda VFR Interceptor, which I bought finally.

Through the last 12 years I have ridden every chance I get. Granted, as I rode more I rode in the rain less, both because of the discomfort and the danger posed by motorists who don't see motorcycles on a GOOD day, much less in a pouring down storm. And I've spent my time in car washes and under highway overpasses waiting for really bad storms to pass, and while I'm glad I added those experiences to my Life List I don't really want to repeat them a whole lot. And here of late my mileage has been lessened, partly by having a job that is just a few miles from my house mixed with the need to be home for a child and the necessity of carrying groceries home and doing other tasks that require a truck, but I have never stopped riding, and have never become that most loathsome of creatures, a "Weekend Rider."

Through it all, I've felt the Endless Waltz.

Every time I swing my leg over the saddle I feel like I've never left it. When I get out on the road and the engine is growling and the tires are humming quietly on the road and the wind is starting to move around me it's like music in my body. When I'm driving in traffic I feel like a gazelle in a herd of dinosaurs, moving in and out of their loathsome, lumbering bodies with such effortless ease that it shames their very existence. And when I'm out and alone on winding roads, I feel more powerfully than ever The Endless Waltz--the graceful, intentional motions of a dance that never stops, the delicate traceries that extend beyond patterns and combinations of throttle and steering input into a rapturous single movement, drawn out infinitely.

While in The Waltz, every movement, no matter how small, is transferred back and forth between rider and machine, who have reached a sublime unity. The imperfections of the road are passed through wheel and fork into hands and shoulders, and the smallest shift of weight or pressure on grips becomes magnified into steps in The Waltz. And when you finally are forced to throw leg back off saddle and turn the key off, The Endless Waltz is still moving in your head, echoing in your muscles, making each hand gesture and each step graceful, effortless, and superb.

So I am drawn irrevocably back, to rejoin The Endless Waltz again, and again.

Apr 23, 2005

Know why I like you, internet?

You're a good listener.

That's got to be part of the draw of the internet, specifically chatrooms and blogs and that ilk. Being listened to, or at least being given the illusion of being listened to. When you post on your blog or your webpage or you make some witty comment in your irc channel, you're almost guaranteed a shot at someone reading it, even if what you're talking about is so wildly esoteric that there's only three other people in the world who have heard of a Three-Legged Cast Iron Westerbanger Mark IV with the Optional Tin Frammistantz Top with the erratum in the maker's mark.

I learned a long time ago from a very wise sage something that has, I hope, helped channel my life in a direction I'd like it to go in. I was told "We've got two ears, two eyes, and one mouth, and we ought to use them in that ratio." So, from that point forward I tried to concentrate on that thought--listen and watch twice as often as I spoke. And it's amasing what you can hear and see when you take the mouth out of gear and let your own noise quieten down.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of noise out there that you have to sift through, but if you dig through the pile of dung long enough, you'll find that pony. People used to remark to me about my wit, my maturity for my age (I was born middle-aged) and that I was a good listener. It saddens me how few people realised that the third part of that was the key factor, and the rest was just benefits gained thereby. Shutting up and being open to what was out there makes the rest fall in line like dominoes at a Rube Goldberg Exhibition.

But that's the rub, rube--no one listens anymore. We're a world full of desperate story tellers with no audience, and what is a storyteller without an audience but some lunatic standing on the side of the road talking to himself. Nobody wants to listen anymore. And the next step? The really hard one? Not coming back with some sure-fire answer when you've listened. It's one thing to sit and listen to someone pour their heart out. It's quite another thing to sympathise with this person. It's still ANOTHER, and here's the hard part, not to offer some sort of sage advice or sure-fire gimcrackery to fix it for them. People don't usually WANT an answer to their troubles, and if they do then they'll likely not use it anyway. And I pride myself on being a good listener, and STILL have to catch myself from spouting some old rhubarb about time wounding all heels or rolling stones and moss husbandry. I think we've spent our entire lives hearing other people 'listen' when in reality they're just waiting their turn to talk, and when their turn comes they've already got it all planned out--your Guaranteed To Work Answer To All Your Problems In A Bag. And it's always flummery, but we've been trained that way from the starting line.

And that leads me to another thing I have been thinking about a lot here of late, and simply hadn't had the chance to write about--arguing. I have spent my entire life NOT being an arguer. I dislike confrontation, and while I still do suffer from road rage and will shout and scream in the confines of my own helmet at mouth-breathers and other assorted four-wheel vermin, in the real world I dislike arguing intensely. The reason? See above. When you get into an argument with someone, both (or all) sides immediately start from one point: I'M RIGHT AND YOU'RE NOT. How can you possibly get any sort of direction or learning or understanding from interaction when you're both so certain that the other is wrong and it's your divine duty to show them the error of their ways? What gives? No one. What's accomplished? Nothing.

At work there is a woman who is old enough to know better, but doesn't. She likes to point blame wherever she can except where it might possibly do some good, and I know it infuriates my boss (aka my daughter) when she does it to me because I simply shrug it off and go on about my day. I know she's wrong, because the difficulties she's addressing lie outside the boundary of my job, so there's no WAY I could be at fault; I'm just a handy target, and since I don't fight back I'm even easier. So, it runs like this.

"This is your fault, Irrelephant."
"Oh, okay."
"Uhm...yeah. You're fault. I'm gonna go get an espresso."
"Bye."

Over. It's already run off my back like water on Turtle Wax, and they've been defused. Dare I say "I've won?" No, that's childish. It was never a battle to begin with when one side won't take the field. I could have stood my ground, could have said

"But that's not my job, I don't see that paperwork, X does..."

and we would have been off to the races, arguing over why it's wrong, why it's my fault, and why old girl needs to take her espresso and her wrinkles and leap off a very tall building, but I know what it would do to me--stress, adrenaline shakes, and a lot of free-floating anger that would make my stomach boil, my jaws sore from clenching, and likely pay off in a few decades with an early heart attack, and it STILL wouldn't get her to see that she needs to take that particular problem to X to address it.

So that's how it goes with Irrelephant. I'm trying to take the long view--In (insert amount here) years, what will it all matter? That's makes so much of life easier--not taking it too seriously. I used to be miserable at work when I was 18 years old and a janitor for the Federal Government. I used to fume and fuss and throw tantrums and do all the things that 18 year olds do when they're rather be sitting in front of the television. And what do those three and a half years matter to me now? Absolutely nothing. I took a very few things from those years--I found Monty Python on cable, I learned that I am wildly allergic to poison ivy, and twenty years later I realised that I like to weed flowerbeds.

Mmmm. Worth being blindly angry every day, I'm sure.

Apr 22, 2005

Deus et deuce

That's right, two Jaizuses for the price of one! Whattabahgain!

Sometimes, strange things happen around here. And I mean stranger than someone with a coon dog, a pirogue and twelve shotguns in the back of their truck at the local swank hotel. I'm talking about Walking Talking Jaizuses.

Right at 5 o'clock yesterday, suited up and ready to walk out the door, Blondie, one of our coworkers runs clomping into the office on her huge platform sandals and shouts "Jesus is out walking down the road!" and immediately flees back outside. Not being one to miss the freak show, I figured He'd still be there when I drove out, so I left casusally, while the rest of the office sans my daughter (also my boss) poured outside to gawp and gape.

So when I get to the access road to the highway, what do I see? A very white dude in a very white bedsheet packing a twenty-foot long gleaming white plastic cross over his shoulder. And being a good ex-Catholic boy, what's the first thing I think? "I wonder if there's tiny wheels at the bottom, so it can roll better? That'd rock!"

When I drove past the whole charade came clearer to me. For one, he had an escort truck full of water and a couple of what I can only assume were back-up Jaizuses. Secondly, he had backed up one lane of traffic a good ten cars deep because some moron wanted his signature, or to have their picture taken with the Authentic Fake Jaizus. Thirdly, there were two of them, each working a different side of the road. And that's where it really broke down for me. I see one who was headed distinctly West, toward Leesville. Then, no more than a quarter mile away, I see ANOTHER Jaizus, this one in the same white sheet and tennis shoes, packing a similar white plastic cross, only this one is wearing a dark blue do-rag. What Would Jesus Wear? Uhm...apparently one of those blue bandanas you can buy at the Dollar Store and a white twin-size bedsheet from Target. And he's got the same setup--a support vehicle filled with Gatoraide and water and snack crackers and assorted cheeses. Damn, Jesus never had it so good.

So what then occurred to me was this--perhaps they were two RIVAL Jaizuses, each walking his way across America, and by some cosmic (divine?) coincidence they were about to meet, here, in Louisiana, on a major highway at 5 o'clock, in just about an other half mile, and when they did there'd be a Holy Free For All the likes of which haven't been seen in Heaven nor on Earth since the Holy Trinity drunkenly duked it out with Gabriel the Archangel over who was gonna pick up the $347 bar tab.

So me, not being one to miss a good Holy War, decided to sit tight and watch, armed with my trusty cellular camera phone. See? I do think of you guys. I mean honestly, I knew this was going to be bigger than seeing a picture of the new Pope on toast BEFORE he was elected. Honestly, things got a little tense for me when I saw the two Jehovah's Witnesses come bicycling up with murder in their beady little eyes, but what finally made me drive off, before the Battle Of The Millennium started was the arrival of a four-wheel drive Dodge Ram crew cab, filled to bursting with saffron-robed monks. I mean there must have been fourty of them or more, all hanging out of the cab and crushed up in the bed. I didn't want to be in the midst of THAT. Surefire way to get smack in the middle of a plague of locusts or something.

Anyway, my money would have been on Ganesh.

Apr 21, 2005

Let my people go!

MSNBC News Services
Updated: 8:27 a.m. ET April 20, 2005

SEOUL, South Korea - Six elephants escaped from a zoo parade and roamed around the South Korean capital Seoul on Wednesday before being herded back to their enclosure.

The elephants were on a daily parade outside their enclosure at Seoul Children’s Grand Park when one was apparently startled and bolted, a zoo official said by telephone.

The five others followed “because they have the tendency to do that,” the official said.

The elephants stampeded into the garden of a private home and, while being corralled, three suddenly changed direction and went into a nearby restaurant.

One elephant charged into an alley near an elementary school and hit a woman with its trunk, Yonhap news agency said. She was being treated at a hospital.

"She fell, and I ran away because I was scared," said a man who was standing with the woman when the elephant charged toward them.

During the breakout, one elephant was briefly detained at a police station. And while five were quickly herded back to their enclosure, the sixth took longer to be tracked down.

The elephants escaped due to the "zookeeper's carelessness," police said.



Fah! Accident? Happenstance? NO! The Plan is working! We've already proved it can be done in small amounts, now we can go on toward TOTAL escape! The day is coming, my huge grey friends. Be patient, be smart, be silent. Our opportunity is at trunk.

Apr 20, 2005

In brief

Even though I'm a boxers sort of guy.

Last night was emotionally dark, for me. I have always had what the psychologists call an "external locus of control," which is to say that things outside the confines of my skull move me, change my moods, and steer me. The opposite is, naturally, an internal locus of control, but I've never had one of those. Never even seen the brochure.

A pirate walks into a bar with a ship's wheel stuck in his groin. The bartender says "Uhm...excuse me Captain, but you've got a ship's wheel stuck in your groin. Doesn't that hurt?"
The pirate says "Aye, it's drivin' me nuts."

External locus of control.

Books affect me. Movies do the same. People most especially can give that wheel a spin, or can put a gentle hand on it and give the entire ship a stabilising effect. I've worked at changing this, and still am working at it, but it's a long, slow process, if in fact there is a terminus to it. I'll tell you in a few years if it's worked. But anyway, the long and short of it is that I was coming to the bottom of a two-day fall last night, was tired (always a factor in my mood swings) and still fighting the tail end of this damned cold. Nightmares have been getting me pretty bad, and external things have been really getting on top of me. No excuses, just an explaination of sorts. I'm good at morose, but always better at it at the bottom end of that arc.

Winter does me a turn, too, usually. Traffic ALWAYS does, and storms are more often than not positive influences, but they can bring me down, too. Those days where 'nothing goes right?' Utter killers. Today is Hump Day, I've got a stack of paperwork waiting for me this morning, and fortunate for me paper can't bring me down nor up, but having a day full of constructive things to do (like sorting paper neatly and successfully,) and spending the entire day busy, without time to look up always makes me feel good, like I've accomplished something--turning a complete chunk of chaos into something useful and orderly.

So, it's time to get the wee 'relephant breakfasted and on the NASCAR bus, and me to work, to turn that mountain into neat orderly medical records. See you in about 10 hours.

Apr 19, 2005

Lifespan is only the core

I woke up this morning realising--I only have a set number of days left.

It didn't change anything, I didn't suddenly become a better person, nor did I drop everything to go and make a dramatic life change, join the Peace Corps or climb a mountain in a hemp robe. I went to work as always, thought my thoughts, did my jobs, ate lunch, came home, thought about what needs to be done this weekend around the house--in general, the same.

It's not possible for me to grasp the idea that my death is impending. Part of it is that I'm not afraid of it. I wouldn't say I welcome it, I rather enjoy things here, but it'll arrive when it arrives, and that'll be it.

The other thing that comforts me is that the span of my years is just the core of my life. The things I leave behind, the things I create, the things I have built, those will be me, also, living on past the day my shell stops working. I know that all the bits that make up me will go back into circulation, so all the tiny building blocks that made me go will go elsewhere, perhaps to make someone else go, perhaps to make a bird fly, or a stone to wear down just that much more in the tide.

I feel worn down by the tide tonight. Stones, no matter their great size or might, get worn down to become the tinest grains of sand, lying there to be tossed around the beach like so many child's playthings.

Night of the Long Nights

Ever have one of those nights where it seems it would have been better if you had just woken up dead instead?

When I was eight, I went to my first Chinese restaurant. As I recall it was not a good experience--a customer dining alone that night died at his table, and the serving staff quickly hustled the inert body into the kitchen, and I swear I found a shirt button in my sweet and sour pork, and the tea tasted like it had been brewed in something biological, and when the night was over I opened my stale fortune cookie to read:

"You will be haunted by gut-wrenching nightmares for the rest of your miserable days, stinking round-eye."

The back said:

"Your lucky number is FECES BROWN. Learn Chinese! 'Fooking Mahnkey' - Chinese for 'I have rabies, please put me down.'

When we left the restaurant my mother ran over this wizened little old man in robes and a strange hat who was shouting Chinese gibberish at us, and as we drove out into the street I looked out the back window as he pointed a dying, quivering finger at me.

It was a bad night last night. And here's a little tip for you movie-renters out there: the new release "Sideways," no matter how much they promote it as a cutesy little comedic love movie, isn't. Don't fall for it like we did. It's drama, and a lot of angst and neuroticism and California wine and one truly disgusting scene of two hideous fat people having sex, and other unattractive people having sex, and more angst, and one elderly Saab convertible who was the highlight of the movie, for me. It will leave you feeling emotionally crippled, and will prompt nightmares of an outdoor party at your house where hundreds of people keep showing up and you can't control anything and you will keep seeing nearly invisible things pass overhead in the stars and it will utterly ruin your night and you will wake up feeling sore and rumpled and entirely unwell.

You have been warned.

The power of our minds to truly F us up has always astounded me. It's the reason I went into Psychology--to see if I could make some sense out of my and other people's minds. Of course I found out later that going into Psychology in college to find out what makes people tick is the same as reading an issue of Popular Mechanics so you can go home and build your own space station in orbit around Pluto using nanobots. Only more expensive.

So I find myself at the power of my own mind. I feel muddled, like someone took the 2 liter bottle that is me, filled it with dirt and water, and shook it violently. And yes, if you mean 'do I feel all brown and icky and have sticks and leaves floating on top,' I do. That's how I feel right now. And the forecast is promising rain, and instead of being home so I can sleep through it's music I'll be at work having to stare out the window at it all day, so that should be the icing on the cake.

Gah.

Apr 18, 2005

In a time of bears on trikes

I refused to cycle.

It's got nothing to do with anything really, it's completely irrelephant, I was just trying on the sound of it. I nearly got killed yesterday by a falling branch. S'truth. I was working on a little knick-knack shelf project that I spent most of yesterday on, and was using Krylon up at a drastic rate. After the wife stopped by and told me that my eyes looked a little bloodshot and crazy I figured that it might be best to get out of the shop (yes I DID have a fan going, thank you) and maybe breathe some fresh air while I painted, so I sat in the doorway with the pieces being painted supported on a little jack stand that offered to help.

So there I sat for a good half hour or so, painting to my heart's content, listening to the radio in the background, and I finally got to that point that I hate most--when there's still work to be done but no way to do it. Everything was drying, but incomplete, and I couldn't move forward without leaving sticky tracks in fresh paint, so I brought my gear back inside and left it all sit, to wander into the house to see how supper was progressing.

I ended up at the computer emptying the camera, had been inside for all of ten minutes when the wife bustled up to me and told me that a tree limb had fallen in the rose garden. A big one. So I dragged my tired old bones outside to find a thirty foot long branch with a broken terminus a good 5" thick had fallen longways through the newly installed garden, touching almost nothing. One end of one thin twig had pressed down on one cane of the Don Juan, the only bush out there strong enough to take a direct impact from, say, a falling tree branch and survive. The thing that most got me was this--had I still been sitting in the doorway I would have had a whole head-full, not to mention a body-full, of pecan tree limb.

My pecan tree is trying to kill me.

Thankfully trees are notoriously bad shots, and having at your disposal an arsenal of dead or dying branches which cannot be detached entirely at will makes things a lot more problematic for most trees. For instance, this Stuart Pecan. No telling how long that branch was dead, being held in place by sheer force of sappy will. The tree bides it's time, knowing that I enter and leave the shop at least five times a day, more on weekends, but it knows that I am only in range for a very brief time. It's opportunity arrives--I'm not only at the shop door, I'm SITTING within range of it's primary aimed weapon. The time is right, the range is right, it lets go of it's ancient and malevolent will power, allowing this dead branch to fall from the trunk.

Which it does. After about forty-five minutes of letting tiny fibers finally release and crack and separate one from the other. Slowly, painfully slowly, it waits to see the final result, feeling the branch get further and further separated from the trunk, waiting for gravity to take over and send it hurtling down toward me.

Which it did. Unfortunately, it did so fifteen minutes after I had left my seat, locked the shop up for the night, and gone inside. Foolish tree--maliciousness is for humans.

Apr 17, 2005

Just a quickie

Because I'm easy like Sunday morning.

In the world of the internet, there is a piece of real estate for literally anyone, just for the asking. Well, my youngest cat asked, and has received. He's Blogging now. I'll tell you this--he's got quite a unique voice, and you just THOUGHT I had a different perspective on Life.

On the Sunday morning side, I've already been up bright and surly (7 am, yeah boy!) and been out to the yard. I figured that if I was going to dig up some patio stones that were covered in fire ants, the best time to minimise damage to myself and to prevent my being bitten into submission and dragged down into the underground Empire of The Fire Ants was to get out there and give them holy hell before it got warm and they got active. So, 7:10, teeth brushed and raring to go, I went. Got all ten stones dug up and only scored a few bites for my troubles, which is saying a hell of a lot if you compared the ten or twelve bites an hour I usually get while cutting grass on the lawn tractor and NEVER TOUCHING THE GROUND. These little f**kers are bad, let me tell you.

So anyway, I took a friend's casual comment yesterday about the huge pieces of petrified wood my father left behind and worked them into the design of the rose garden, and laid out the rescued octagonal stepping stones to make a few sort of wandering paths through the albeit small garden. Once I get everything covered good in cypress mulch I'll have to take a picture for you guys. Right now, though, it's just a rough draft, so no picture for you yet.

Breakfast is about ready, so it's time for me to fly. Today is another bright day, full of the promise of working all day in the yard. Yesterday saw a good number of projects finished, worked on, and even completed, so today should be just as good, I would think. And if you're in the LA area, I suggest you get outside today at some point and enjoy the beautiful weather, before Summer gets here Wednesday.

Apr 16, 2005

A rose by any other name

Shakespeare said it best.

I'm really enjoying this rose (the photo of the moment one.) The bush out there is covered in buds, as all the bushes across the yard are, but this particular one has been in the ground for many a long year, and that scarlet undertone on the buds has always caught my eye. It's not a King Midas, they don't have any red in them, and unfortunately the tag is gone, so I don't know exactly what breed it is, but it's a monster. Right now she has canes that are already a good 6' tall, and this season, under some careful pruning and weeding, she has really taken off. As the flowers arrive I'll start pruning back some more, with the intention of making her a lot bushy than she is now, but leggy ladies are pretty too, right?

Yesterday's pic of the day was a bud, taken about 8:30 at night, hence the black background. Today's pic is the same bud, taken almost exactly 24 hours later. Tomorrow's pic and etc. will change until it's in it's full glory, which will be a floribunda opened a good 5 to 6" across, and very pale yellow. What a beauty. Hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do.

Bits and Chunks

Sometimes there just isn't enough to go around.

If you've read for at least two posts, you find that I get rather wordy when I post. The problem is that I'm a storyteller, and one of my pet peeves is a story that's all abrupt or is just a skeleton. When you've got an audience that has a good imagination, it just makes things better when you can put flesh on that skeleton of a story, give them enough to chew on and add their own spin to it. Nobody can work with just the facts, unless you're Nero Wolfe or maybe John Steed.

So, I embellish. I add, I flesh out, I make the stories big and full and detailed. That's also why sometimes I get ideas for things I want to say but can't, because there's just no way to make a story out of "Damn, I've got to spend three hours today cutting grass." Granted, there's always the route of telling you all about the ins and outs of cutting my yard, but that's not exactly riveting.

Then there's the flowers in the yard and the pic of the moment. I try and change it fairly often, but so far it's been 1 plant and about six flowers. There actually IS a reason behind that--two reasons, actually. One is that all my picture CDs are scattered hither and yon, and are difficult to locate, so I can't post any older, non-flower pictures for you guys. The second problem (which is not so much of a problem) is that my entire yard is in bloom, and there's such a wondrous diversity out here that they're just too good an opportunity to pass up, as well as being very seasonal.

Now I could go into developing how my mother, who planted this yard over the past 30 years was not exactly a garden planner and how, design-wise, the flowerbeds stink on ice, but I won't, because that would only interest horticulturists and me, whose yard it is, and maybe the guys over at HGTV (the "Home Porn" channel) so I won't go into that. Mom did a wonderful job of putting a variety out here, but she never grasped the idea of symmetry.

I could even make a whole post (probably) about my efforts to change that design, but THAT'S even too boring for me. *lol* Don't get me wrong, I'm going to do it, but it's going to take years and a lot of painstaking effort, not to mention blood sweat and broken bones, and it won't make a very interesting post.

The cats are always a favourite subject with my wife, and maybe one or two others of you out there who are cat people, but there's only so much you can post about a cat, when you post about them every few days anyway.

Fog is nice, but will not a post make.

My cold? No, everyone's got their own and, like me, don't want an entire Irrelephant-length post about green snot. Trust me on this one.

Woodworking? I've been pretty busy out there, doing some interesting things, but again, this isn't the DIY network, and the nuts and bolts of me saving money by building knick-knack shelves out of scrap pieces of pine lumber will only interest Norm Abrams, who is not likely to be reading my blog now or later. I will, however, be saving a lot of money on wedding and holiday presents. *lol*

So you see, there's always these little things in my head that want to be posted but bravely I stand as Gabriel at the Gate, guarding you gentle souls from the horrors of me posting for paragraph after endless paragraph about my table saw, my plans for trying to dig up 30 year old azalea bushes, or my boogies.

Your audible sighs of relief are thanks enough.

Apr 15, 2005

Bar Jokes.

Bar jokes are the highest form of humour on the planet.

My favourite bar joke of all time? Glad you asked.

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says "Why the long face?"

Just look at it. Ultimate humour, summed up in 13 words. It's like a haiku of humour. And then I found this--

A horse walks into a bar The bartender says "Why the long face?"
The horse replies "I'm deeply troubled by the anthropomorphic aspects of my existance and the extent to which I am now protected by law."

Damn. My whole world is turned upside down.

Important Life Lessons

Everything I ever needed to know I learned from my cat.

Okay, so not everything. Pretty little in fact, and this is not going to devolve into a poster-mentality thing, so don't go surfing away. Attend me: Eastern philosophy teaches the student to look to Nature, indeed to look to all things around us for life lessons. And, being a student of the Eastern teachers, I try to do so, remaining mindful that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Well, he showed up this morning, and boy did I not expect him.

Egan, our baby cat, used to be determined about staying in the bathroom when the morning showers were taking place. He HAD to be in there with us, as close as he could get without standing inside the shower. Most times he'd add to this a yowling and screaming until we'd get OUT of the shower and play with him again. For some reason which we have yet to understand though, about a month ago he suddenly decided that he wanted no part of the bathroom when the shower was on. The moment the water came on he'd be headed for the door, and he'd wait patiently outside, perched on the dresser until he no longer heard the water running, at which point he'd start calling insistently until the door opened to allow him ingress.

Well, this morning Egan decided that it was time, both for him and for me. He faced his fear. Life Lesson Time.

Perched on the toilet seat on his haunches, the tip of his pink tongue stuck between his front teeth, he determined that it was time to face his irrational fear. And being a Doubting Thomas, I turned on the water and opened the door to see if he wanted to leave. Not the case. I opened the shower door, and turned to the bathroom door to open it in case of a bum's rush. None came. Egan was still as a statue, perched erect on the toilet seat with his Game Face on. So, I got into the shower and started the morning ablutions.

Being certain that he was going to decide to exunt at a bad time, like the moment I had an eye-full of Salon Selectives Strawberry Kiwi, I kept an eye on him through the frosted shower door glass, making sure he wasn't getting uncomfortable or scared. Unwavering in his decision was Egan. Steady as the Rock of Gibraltar he sat through the entire shower. When I stepped out in a cloud of steam there he sat on the rim of the toilet, unmoved, conqueror of his fears, unblemished, made stronger for his passage. Tongue still stuck between his front teeth.

So this morning, my cat taught me two valuable lessons. First, always face your fears, because more often than not they're nothing more than noise and fog. Second? When you sit, be sure you know WHERE you're sitting, because if you're not careful your tail might end up in deep crap.

Apr 14, 2005

It's not easy being Irrelephant.

It's not even easy being green anymore.

Originality. Either it's a function of there being so gosh-darned many of us or it's a product of the internet blurring all the lines and erasing all the distances, but it's darn hard being original anymore.

What brought this on, you ask? I'll tell you. This morning, getting shaved and dressed for work I heard outside the bathroom window a mockingbird, who seemed intent on going through every single call, warble and snort in his entire vocabulary. That got me to thinking--why in the world would a single bird need to sound like an entire flock of mixed fowl? I know I heard him go through at least eight different bird calls, and at least once he did a dog. I kid you not, this is the same bird that months ago sat outside my bedroom window and performed his repertoire, including a dog and a rain frog. Creepy.

So what exactly is the purpose of knowing how to immitate every single bird in the world, unless you're a geek and think it's going to help you pick up chicks. No pun intended. Do mockingbirds lie in wait in dark bushes, singing out in a hundred foreign tongues until some unlucky sparrow happens by, hears someone talking in his native Croatian and flies over to have a look, only to have the mockingbird leap out of the bush at the last second, point a wing at the distressed sparrow and shout "Hah! Got you!" and fly off?

Or are they perhaps the thugs of the avian world? Do mockingbirds call through their range of whistles and cries hoping to exhort some passing stranger, an oriole perhaps, to wander close to see what the matter is, only to be leapt upon by a black and grey stranger intent on rolling him for his watch and wallet? If this were the case I think I would be finding more small birds lying semi-conscious under the bushes, feebly patting their waists trying to find their missing bank roll.

It's not easy being original. Blogging is not original. It was original about three years ago when a young man started recording his diary online for people to share. Now it's practically as necessary as having a cellular phone number on your business card, right under your homepage address and your voicemail number. I thought that being "Irrelephant" was fairly catchy and dare I say it "unique," but then again I was wrong. Surfing back through the old archives of a message board yesterday I find that I had been posting there and never knew it. What do you know about THAT? Somehow a future me has hacked back into the past to leave clues for the past me to find, perhaps telling Past Me how to break the surly bonds of Time Itself. If so, I have to say that the future me is one empty-headed pachyderm.

So where does that leave us? Well, it leaves you having wasted a few of the precious minutes that you have left in your life. It leaves me feeling perhaps a little fuller, having left behind one more tiny mark in the sand, on the infinite beach that is Life. Perhaps it leaves a new reader to this blog shaking his or her head in bewilderment, asking themselves "So what exactly does a mockingbird have to do with elephants?"

My friend, the world isn't ready for that information yet.

Apr 12, 2005

Stop the world, I want off

So, the Pope was alien?

Sometimes I amuse myself (easily amused I am) by surfing the "Next Blog" button on top of my blog until I either get sick of the big-eyed anime children or the foreign language blogs or the advertisements disguised as blogs, and most especially the political blogs. I wonder how anyone ever gets anything accomplished with all the froo-froo going on out here. The internet being the Information Superhighway? It's a damned shame the scenery is covered in billboards, grafitti and semi-literate teenagers whining about their latest failure in affairs d'amour.

But once in a while, you find someone that wants to tell you that the Pope was an alien. I read a VERY brief bit into the site that linked the above, and for all intents and purposes this guy is fairly mainstream Christian. Where UFOs come in beats the trunk off me.

I guess it's the crazies that really stand out. In a world filled with closet serial murderers who look and dress just like us it's the ones who go out in public wearing pink spandex that catches our attention.

Yes, I'm rambling, I've been fighting a hell of a sinus infection all day, and I feel like thinly hammered dog shit, so forgive my lack of focus. Perhaps tomorrow will be better, for all of us.

Open your mind

and the wind is gonna blow right through it and give you a chill, see if it doesn't.

Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris.

Apr 11, 2005

I'm waiting.

I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Been like that all my life, so why stop now? I had a great weekend working in the shop, cleaning the yard, and transplanting a bunch of my roses from the old home site to the new one. I'm waiting, I guess, for the roses (some of which have just endured their THIRD transplant) to just up and die. This would not so much bother me in most cases, as they're all replacable, but for one. I have a Don Juan rose back there right now that has come through thick and thin with me, and has managed not only to survive but to thrive.

When I was but a young irrelephant I bought a rose bush, god knows where. As I recall it wasn't much more than a stick with some roots glued on. I planted it here (where I live again,) and it grew. I moved to the back home site a few years after that, and I so loved that Don Juan, with it's tobacco-smelling dark red roses that I had to bring it with me, so I caned it well back, dug as deep around it as I could, and moved it to it's new home, where it remained for a good 13 years. In that time it put roots down into Hell, where it was stealing the moisture from the air, and grew a root bud the size of two of my fists together. When I caned it back yesterday and dug it up I swear I could hear it barking at me. It's safe in it's new home, a shadow of it's former self, and this time I REALLY feel I've done it in. I simply could not get enough of that root out of the ground, along with dodging poison ivy and hornets. Granted, that thing had a tap root that most pine trees would have balked at owning, but still.

There's nothing like putting down roots with a plant to make you crave stability. Stability and a little 6-8-8 rose fertiliser, a side dish of bone meal and a glass of water.

Apr 10, 2005

Okay, so let's try this again, shall we?

Once more into the breach dear friends, once more.

You might have noticed, at least those of you who check regularly, that I have withheld posting for a while. Not as serious as withholding sex, but we're not having any of that, so withholding blogging is the next best thing, right? But see, that's where it all falls apart--none of this was your fault. You guys are just as innocent as me, it was a failure on behalf of the kind folks that supply me this spot to rant and rave, and as such, and TANSTAFFL being what it is, I really can't complain. It's a free service, so I have to expect problems with it. If I were paying for it I'd have more of a right to whine and throw temper tantrums like I've been doing, but at least I'd have some solid backing to fall...well...back on.

It's been an interesting couple of days, and as I always do I was posting in my head even while I had no time nor desire to return here and see if this damned place was working or not. Grief notwithstanding, I was still gamely plugging along, thinking of things I might like to say here.

Naturally, I've forgotten them all.

I finally got to spend some time in the shop. After a Saturday morning where nothing seemed destined to go right I found myself in my local Hobby Lobby store, where plastic plants were on sale. I bought a sprig of orchids for "about three fi'ty," and using some bamboo and a few simple tools I turned out what I think is a rather fetching little addition to the Tiki Room, which is an old thing to most of you, but to those of you who haven't seen it, it's our spare bedroom gone horribly, terribly wrong. Christopher Lowell stand back.

My dear daughter the Vulgar Wizard had brought a catalog of home stuff to work a few days ago, and was showing me some things online at Target.com that she wants for her wedding shower/house grand opening. See, her and the fiancee' are building a house, and my dear surrogate daughter is the sort of organised person who has all her colours, textures, fabrics, all planned out, so that won't be a big hassle when the house is a big blank white canvas for her to work in. So anyway, she was showing me these little knick-knack shelves and things online and in this catalog, and they were all made of MDF (that's medium density fiberboard, or particle board to the uninitiated) and painted colours like flat black and satin white to hide the fact that they were made of sawdust and glue, and I kept telling her "You know, I could make that for you with scraps" and "Damn, they want $XX.XX for THAT? I could do it for $.XX" and the like.

Naturally I decided that after all that bragging I had to put my table saw where my mouth was, or something like that, and started turning out some little house things. It's been interesting, and quite theraputic. Inbetween bouts of laundry and lunch I've been in the shop more than ever before, cutting and gluing and routing and clamping, and have been having a grand old time of it. Today I find that I'm gonna have to get to Lowe's and price some oak, so I can do a pair of knick-knack shelves for the dear wife, so we can attractively display her snow-globe collection. I can't wait! Sawdust! Noise! Rats carrying off scraps of lumber for their own twisted projects! The joys of my shop.

It's looking nice outside. First thing this am it was awfully foggy, but the mist has already mostly gone, and the sky looks beautifully clear. I dreamed last night of fishing, or at least boating, but I don't think that's going to happen today, unfortunately. I've been wanting to get out quite bad here of late, but opportunity has not arisen. The shop is closer, too, which makes working out there a lot easier.

Beethoven is playing on the media player--the Moonlight Sonata, #14. Utterly beautiful. I have a recording of it where it is played presto agitato, but I find that I can't bear it that way. Slow, stately, that's the way to play it. The problem with that is that I have watched so many episodes of Discovery Wings, specifically "Wings of the Luftwaffe" that every time I hear it now I keep seeing Me-111s bombing cities and Komets and Schwalbes racing through ranks of Allied aircraft, shooting them to pieces.

Ah, the shop calls. Ciao.

Apr 8, 2005

Time.

Stinking fucktard IT department at Blogger lost yet another post of mine, and I don't have

TIME

to write another.

Apr 7, 2005

Redneck Dinner Theatre

Ah'm gonna get me uh triple-wide!

That was the high point yesterday of RDT. It's not bad enough that I have to endure having rednecks living next door in a trailer. It's not bad enough that I can often hear them shouting at each other across the house while IN my own house. It's not bad enough that they're training their 10-ish year old lard-o child to be the same way. It's not even bad enough that I have to occasionally see the female of the three out in her three-coloured hair (black roots, dark blonde middle, bleached ends) and her beef jerky skin out hanging wife-beater T-shirts and soiled boxers on the clothesline.

Now I have to work with a pair of them.

It was enough to have one sitting across the office from me. Listening to kuntry music all day is bad, but I can counter with NPR and classical, just loud enough to drown her out. And usually she doesn't speak a lot, which is such blessings showered down on me. The thing is, her sister works there, as a home health aide. This means that I see them together for about three minutes a day, when she turns in paperwork. Yesterday, however, things went terribly wrong.

She plunked her chunk ass down in the chair across from her sister's desk, and they began rednecking. I won't go into specifics, because the mannerisms and accent just don't come across well in writing, and trying to write s**tkicker phonetically just doesn't bring it across. Let's just hit the high points of the conversation, shall we?


  • Triple-wide trailer houses (not trailer, "trailer houses.")
  • Who was sleeping with which cousin
  • Gettin' mah gun and shooting 'that tramp'
  • Killing stray animals
  • Husband's job at Jiffy Lube
  • Living so far into the woods that you have to walk three miles to your house because the vehicle can't make it there
  • Getting yet ANOTHER redneck hired on at the office
  • A lot of aints. You know, relatives. Potential mates.


So I had to leave the room. I held on for a good ten minutes, trying to bury their voices in Beethoven and Chopin, but I simply broke. Couldn't stand it any longer. I'm not proud of that fact, but it was either that or point out to them that however nice it would be to get a surround sound sytem free with your triple wide trailer house it still wouldn't do them any good, because you can't get THX surround sound by picking up one of three stations on an aerial antenna. That would have lead to me espousing the idea that if one was going to spend $85,000 on a trailer house, one would be a lot better off if they used that credit to buy a REAL house, one that doesn't come on axles.

Lord deliver me from mad dogs and Dale Earnhardt fans.

Apr 6, 2005

Elocution

So I was standing in the storm last night and got elocuted.

Sorry, couldn't resist. *grin*

Elocution: the act or style of speaking in public. I haven't posted about any of the cats in a while, and since no-one ever bothers to tell me what they do and don't like about my posts, other than the wife, who tells me every day that I should post about her, the cats, or both and nothing more, I shall post about the cats.

Let's talk about C and D. Delilah, our fluffy-butted mostly Siamese is quite the elocutor. She has a big voice and she uses it to full extent and purpose. Her tonal range is pretty impressive, her vocabularly is unmatched by any cat I have ever heard, and she isn't afraid to use any of it. She talks all the time, about everything. Wanting to go out. Wanting Pouch. Wanting more Pouch. Wanting to come in. Wanting to come in and eat Pouch. Wanting to go across the yard and tear Pepper, my mother's 80 pound Shepherd/Chow mix to bloody blonde ribbons. She talks about everything, all the time.

On the other paw is Cracker. When we first got him he was so quiet we thought he was mute. He never meowed, never grunted, never did anything with his mouth except as a place to put food and water, and occasionally as a tool with which to silently bite an offending brother or sister cat. He was affectionate, he was social, he simply was not loud about it. My lovely wife wanted to get him into speech therapy, but having seen plenty of daytime movies and having read a lot of the Bros. Grimm stories I argued against it, suggesting that he simply had nothing to say.

For once I was right.

Years into our relationship, Cracker finally opened up. Not a lot, mind you, just a little. Most times when he meows, if you happen to meet his gaze you can barely see his mouth open. He sort of purses his lips up, opens his mouth just enough to allow a tiny tricke of air out, and sort of quietly and insistently 'meooooooooooooo's. That's it. Nothing flashy, no subtext, very little if any tone or inflection, just one quiet noise.

So this morning, you'll understand, came as a bit of a shock. When I got into the bathroom, Cracker decided he needed to be in there, too. He explored everything, meowing to himself the whole time. I kept asking him what was on his mind, but he was being characteristically close about the whole thing. As I showered I could see him as sort of a blurry white blob moving around the bathroom, and when I got finished and opened the glass door he immediately took his place in the shower. Allowing him some privacy, I stepped out.

He spent the next ten minutes sitting in the back corner of the shower cleaning himself and meowing. I kept telling him that he was standing in the shower and that it was soaking wet, so it was natural that he was going to get wet, but he insisted. I got a laugh thinking about a cat sitting in a shower cleaning himself with the water off, but that was soon replaced by a strange dread--the noise.

Cats have rough tongues. We know this. Cats clean themselves with said rough tongue. We know this, too. Rubbing a raspy surface against a rough one makes some noise. Again, common knowledge. But has anyone really thought about what it's like when you stick this small noise in an echo chamber? Say, a fully-tiled shower? I hadn't. Until this morning. I had been hearing the strangest rustling sound, kept thinking that there was a Triffid out the window that was about to burst through and grab me with one green viney tentacle, but it was Cracker. He was making the most outlandish racket in that shower stall. Snorting, gurgling, and a rasping sound that made me think of a giant wood plane moving over a sheet of plywood the size of the city. And every time he'd get, say, a foot clean, he'd put it back on the wet shower floor, where it'd get wet again, and necessitate cleaning all over, once he'd gotten done respackling a hind foot.

I find myself astounded the neighbor's didn't call the police.

This went on until I simply had to flee the room. I couldn't bear the noise. I managed a glass of tea to settle my nerves, and the freshly clean and somewhat damp Cracker Man came sauntering into the kitchen, as if to show off the shine that comes from Pert Plus conditioner and being Zestfully clean. That's when Dee saw us standing there together, and immediately assumed it was time for Pouch. Little Ms. Golden Eyes and Huge Voice started in, and I decided that dressing outside was going to be the only way I was going to survive the morning, so I took my toothbrush, some toothpaste, a flannel for my face, my pyjamas, a hairbrush, and stepped into the garage.

And that's when Dannon turned the corner.

Apr 5, 2005

What's black and grey and...

well, the joke sort of falls apart there, because I can't make it funny. Sorry.

When I was first part of the Polo Shirt Brigade at Depot, lo these many years past, the uniform was a red polo shirt with black cuffs and collar, and your choice of khaki, dark blue or black chinos. The management staff wore grey button-downs with a black OD monogram or grey polos with black cuffs and collars. Naturally, the management as a group being a lot of fashion-minded types, they almost always wore black chinos with this grey shirt, and so I spent most of my first two years there thinking I, being a Red, was about to have to start running for my life from the Sandmen. I would surrepitiously check my palm to see if my crystal was blinking, and then take off like a hare across the store, tossing displays down behind me to slow pursuers, evading blaster bolts by leaping behind customers and endcaps. I never managed to find Sanctuary, let alone get past Box and find the underground exit from the city, but then again they never caught me.

This morning I find myself dressed in a pair of very light khaki chinos, one shade down from white, and a black polo with white trim. Something tells me I'm going to spend most of my day fighting off the urge to slip into my black sport coat, stride boldly to the DOO's office, slam open the door, stand there just long enough for the camera to get a good shot of how menacing I am, and then shout "I am not a number, I am a free man!"

The problems with this behaviour are numerous:


  • 1) The office door is only a single, not a double door, and it's narrow
  • 2) We don't use employee numbers
  • 3) I doubt anyone in the office has seen The Prisoner other than me
  • 4) Same with Logan's Run
  • 5) Most importantly, I'll probably get fired for it


So much for my time in The Village.

I have long wanted to spend a Hallo'een dressed as Number 6, creeping around, being brash and snide, cleverly evading the eye of Rover and Number 2 while plotting my escape, only to have the jail cell doors slam in my face at the last. Unfortunately, being a zombie for Hallo'een is a much more recognisable thing than trying to impersonate a 60's anti-hero spy or a futuristic enforcement officer with ideas that things are better in Sanctuary.

It's times like this that really make me realise that a lot of my humour is simply not designed for anyone but me. "Mrs. Peel? We're needed."

The Prisoner

Logan's Run

Apr 4, 2005

To sleep,

perchance to dream. Aye, there's the rub.

Dream diaries. More than anything, when you say "blog" people think of sloe-eyed Goths sitting in their black bedrooms, typing away at their black keyboard about their dreams.

Well, it ain't gonna happen here.

Dreams are an intensely personal thing. Sharing your dreams is rather like selling used panties on the internet, tho I hear this is a pretty commercial thing these days. Ew. But I digress. Not only are dreams personal but they're SO personal that most times people won't understand a blinking thing you're on about. Dreams come directly from our own experiences and thought processes, so how is some complete stranger from Duluth going to read your mental dealings with death and trains and feral carrots and go "Aaaah yes, I understand exactly!" Not gonna happen, Count.

Mrs. Irrelephant and I share our dreams more often than not, but that's because we've been living together for so long that we are completely familiar with each other's dream vocabularies, not to mention each other's fears, wants, hopes and all that. It goes without saying that these same driving forces appear in our dreams, so it's at least a foot in the door to be able to relate to each other's dream sequences. Not to mention the fact that we have to deal with each other WHEN we're dreaming. All of that (except for the "during" part) also applies to my syster, for the same reasons. Time spent together draws people together, so that the mental processes gain a certain familiarity. I wouldn't push it much past a VERY few close friends, you know who you are, and that's about it. Nobody else is close enough to me to be able to even get the tip-end of what I'm on about when I dream about being in a television show or devoured whole by a Greater Three-Toed Pusillinamous.

I recall reading somewhere that Salvador Dali, the leading man of the Surrealists knew of a certain Spanish cheese that would give him intense indigestion, and if eaten at night this indigestion would give him fierce nightmares. So of course, being Dali, he ate it every night, to induce himself to these vivid fever-dreams which he would then translate into pigment on canvas.

No sir, none for me thanks, I've got to drive home.

My wife makes a mean chicken enchillada, which seems to have the same effect on me as the Daliesque cheese. An utterly delicious supper, and she cooks for the three of us like she's feeding a Basque Separatist Movement meeting, but they're soo good it's not even funny. And naturally last night I had one of these monstrously large, incredibly good wraps. What got me was that I knew full well the consequences, but thought that I was eating early enough in the afternoon that I'd have no problems by nightfall.

hah.

Fool that I am, my body decided to shut down all digestive processes until I fell asleep, at which time it went into production like the return to work after a strike at a coal-mine and being paid double-overtime. So of course I got to harvest a full crop of nightmares, as well as getting hit in the face with a pillow at one point, apparently in response to some nocturnal mumbling of mine.

Let's not even get into the response I'm going to have at the other end of the biological system.

Apr 3, 2005

The importance of being

Ernest? No. How about the importance of being ritualised?

If you've known me for more than an hour or so, you know my stand on ritual and ritual behaviours. "Ritual" is one of those words that gets so overused and overexposed by the media and by the commoner that it has sort of lost it's base meaning and taken on sort of a "Oh, it's Them" kind of meaning.

Rituals spring from our earliest hindbrain experiences, back when we were hunter-gatherer monkeys. Ugh kills a bison, and makes the connection that just before he killed that bison he had pulled up a blade of grass to chew on, to kill the time. In his primate mind the two become inextricably linked--the behaviour equals the reward. In this case the reward being that Ugh and his family don't starve to death, chewing that blade of grass becomes a pretty powerful factor in survival. Fast forward a hundred thousand years, and you have things like a batter in a game tapping his bat against the side of his cleats every single time he goes to bat because just once he did that, and hit a grand slam. Watch the old man down the street who always cuts his yard in a counterclockwise motion at the same time every weekend. There's the ritual of lighting a pipe, where each step is carried out in the same way it's been done since you've started smoking. Or at least since I've started smoking. Then there's the Catholic Church, with it's thousands of years of ritual and majesty, most of the meaning lost in the mists of time, or only known to a very few.

Yes, that's what I was getting at. Back when I was a young rogue bull Irrelephant I was raised to be a devout Catholic boy. I was an altar boy, attended a private Catholic school, and in general was steeped in the myths and rituals. And now, looking back at it from my lofty perch of 38 years (that'd be sarcasm) I can see it all with a somewhat more objective eye.

Damn, how little did I realise what the meaning behind it all was! What a doof!

What brought this to my mind was yesterday afternoon--I brought an old daybed over to my syter's house, and while assembling it and such I got dragged into the news. I knew the Pope had been dying, but my syster was actively following it, whereas I was more of a passive observer. And before you get any ideas, no, she's not Catholic either. Has never been. Poor dear was raised Baptist. *shudder* Anyhoo. We had finished building the frame and getting the bed together, and I was standing in the kitchen with her helping her with the food dehydrator (she makes a mean ham jerky) when the live feed from the Vatican drifted into the wake mass that was being said for the Pontiff, and the Archbishop of Whatever was saying the lines "I am the Way, the Truth, and The Light." What struck me as astoundingly odd was that my syster and I both and at the same time spoke exactly in time with each other and the priest, right down to the intonation and pauses.

I cannot count how many times I heard that line during Mass, and obviously Sys had in the services she'd attended as a young girl, and it had sunk so deeply into us that both of us felt compelled to intone along with the ArchWhoopie. Pretty heady stuff, being trained like that.

Back to being on about ritual lost in the murk of time. I might have heard it twenty two odd years ago when the last Pope passed on, but I had since forgotten it, and if you've followed the news for more than three minutes you probably know about it too, but there is a ritual wherein the Pope's right-hand man, when realising that the Pope is perhaps dead, taps the Pontiff on the forehead three times with a silver hammer and calls his name, to verify that he has indeed shuffled off this mortal coil. After the ex-Pope has failed to respond he then uses the hammer to break the Papal seal and ring.

Where the hell did that come from? Was it simply some Vatican janitor, just a working stiff of a Monsignor who was told by a Junior Exchequer to go bust up the Papal things into powder? There he was, dirty work cassock, tool belt around a bulging waist, ready to go and repair some of the shingles on the Papal Apartment's roof when a voice says "Hey there Father Villa, He's gone and croaked, go and bust the Holy Father's jewel's, roigh? Off you go, there's a good lad." So, being the loyal fellow he is, off he trundles, sidetracked into some serious smiting on the Papal Goodies. Perhaps while he was there his thoughts went something like this:

"Oh, so NOW I've got break the ring and the seal so it can't be stolen and used, it's not like I've still got a ton of work to do, gotta fix that roof, and the plumbing in Cardinal Colon's bathrooom is still backed up, gotta go and tape up that stained glass window that Father Ruth broke last week playing baseball in the Sistine, I've still got to go and polish ALL the dad-gum marble, Judas Priest there ain't enough hours in the day.

"Mmmm...I wonder if old boy is really dead? What if he's playing 'possum, lying there with one eye open to make sure I'm doing my job?

"Wow, nice place he's got here. Hey, what if they're just testing to see if I'm working hard enough? I can't blow this one...

"Should I shake him by the shoulder? Whisper in his ear? Bite him on the nose?"

And being the jocular sort of handyfriar he is, our erstwhile jewelry wrecker taps the slowly congealing body on the forehead a couple of times with his roofing hammer and sings out "Coo-eee? Anyone at home? Hallo, hallo? Vienna calling!"

Little known to our Comic Reverend, someone is passing by the Papal Apartments right at this pivotal comedy moment. This fellow, hearing more voices than usual turns a rheumy eye and deaf ear and happens to see and hear it all. But, being of a wildly advanced age his deaf ear reports back to his tinder-dry brain not a grimy Dickies-wearing day-labourer but a Cardinal clad all in white and gold. His hair-filled crinkled ear hears not a clever joke but a calling by name, and his one mostly good eye sees not a Black & Decker 24oz shingle hammer with a yellow fiberglass handle and black rubber anti-shock grip but a gleaming silver Instrument Of Holy Power, and in the depths of his dusty and ill-used brain the Strangely Pivotal Cardinal thinks "Well Hell, this guy oughtta know what he's doing, he's a Papal Right-Hand-Man, perhaps he's smart in making sure the Old Boy is dead, because we DID bury the last one alive, and by Satan's Boxer Shorts the paperwork was MURDER on that one..." And thus the ancient and stately ritual of tapping the forehead and calling the name is born. Born of expediency and silliness, but born nonetheless.

And what's up with that hat?

Apr 1, 2005

Lemon curry?

But it's my only line!

*boo hiss* Yes I know, the worst way to make someone laugh is to put some genuinely funny material, especially stuff that has a historical value, in with your not-so-funny stuff, in the hopes that somehow it'll all turn out good. Witness "The Real Gilligan's Island." I rest my case, yerhonor.

I can't think of the name of the cruise line, and even if I could I wouldn't post it here, because I'm alergic to product placement and name dropping, but anyway there's a bunch of boat people whose tagline implies that if you go sailing with them in one of their big white metal dingies you'll "be treated famously." You've seen the commercials, where ordinary people tell friends and family and complete strangers things like "My butler knew exactly how I took my tea" and "I was to be awoken precisely at 6 am for my sunrise walks" and "My houseboy knew exactly where to touch me to..." well, you get the picture.

I was treated famously the other day, and wanted to share. And I won't go into depth, because I keep feeling like I'm gloating, which I'm not. This is more sort of a deep sigh of relief.

My new company loves it's employees. And I mean that, deeply and sincerely. So do they. I've been working with them for two weeks now, and was sent to Baton Rouge (about an hour and a half away) for an orientation seminar. I can see this, I work in the medical profession now, and am surrounded by sensitive patient data, and the gov and HIPPA are violently against this information being used the wrong ways, so orientation for the noob is a good thing.

My wife and I were put up in a suite at the Marriott.

I know, I can hear the collective letting-out of breath already. Not a big deal I hear you say. I've been bathed by nymphs in the Ritz, you say. Okay, whatever. I've never stayed in anything nicer than "Billy Bob's Kut-Rate Drive-Thru Motel And BBQ Shak," so this was quite an experience for me.

And I'm not going to go into excruciating detail, I mean let's face it, it's just a hotel, a room for rent, but it was the little things that you don't get in a HoJos that made me perk up and take notice. The bathroom, fer instance. Standard equipment, soap and handtowels and a toilet. The bar of soap was not one of those microscopic ones that you usually get in a hotel, the one that slips out of your hand and down the sink drain and then you've gotta wash your hair with Colgate toothpaste. They thoughtfully provided shampoo, which everyone does, but also conditioners and a tiny bottle of what I think was hair gel. On a little silver salver. The floor was marble tiles. High polished, no less. Even the door-sill was marble.

The stand-issue television set was housed in a pretty armoire, which I recognise from nursing homes I've been in, but it was nice to see this lovely faux-wooden armoire rather than the chains-and-padlock-on-a-lazy-susan that I'm accustomed to seeing. There was a keyboard for wireless internet, and a modem hookup for your laptop. There was even a huge overstuffed chair and footstool. It was all standard-issue motel stuff, but it was NICE standard issue hotel stuff.

One other thing that impressed me, and it's not that the front desk staff were all wearing suits. It's that when I called down that evening for a wake-up call in the morning, the young gentleman who answered the phone thanked me by name when I was done. I know that's a simple trick of caller id on his switchboard, but to have a complete stranger in whose house I am staying say "Thank you, Mr. Irrelephant, have a good night" was really a nice touch.

I can hear it. "Country mouse staying in the big city." I know, I do. I don't get out much, and frankly don't have the sort of money nor necessity that it takes to warrant big hotels and fancy cars and all the ammenities, but that makes it all the more special when I get to enjoy that.

Mrs. Irrelephant told me later that the floors from 18-20 were the 'special ones,' and as such had hot-and-cold running snacks (in a fancy French name) and a masseus per floor, and a concierge, but frankly I wouldn't know what to DO with a concierge. I mean, do you put the smaller one to the outside for salad? Is it proper to leave one tucked in our out at supper? Do you or he yield at a four-way intersection? And what do you do if you drop your concierge? Do you politely ask the waiter for another one, or do you simply pick up the one you had, dust it off and put it back on your lap?

How am I to know these sorts of things? Hell, I was thanking the wait-staff and the doorman.