Jun 30, 2005

Vomited forth from the primordial ooze

That sounds like quite a dashing way to start a new post. Wish I had some steak to go with all that sizzle.

I think we've discussed this before, but it's a good jumping off point. There are mornings when I get up and my tired little brain is just sparkling with ideas to blog about. There are mornings when I've dreamed things that I want to discuss in the wee hours of the pre-work morning, there are mornings where things outside or around me spark off the roaring flames of creativity, there are even days when I've been thinking for days about just how to approach a certain subject. And then there are days when I go and confront my creativity gland and it's lying on the couch with a beer in easy reach, a Supersize bag of Tostitos on it's belly, the tele blaring in the background, and when I say "Hey there, what about some ideas?" it simply rolls over and digs it's underwear out of the crack of it's arse.

And so, disheartened, I go slumping back to the Real World, sit in front of the glaring, acusatory white screen and wonder just what the hell I'm going to talk about.

It's not so much a case of Writer's Block, because I don't really think of myself as a writer, but I still get the occasional "Oh dear Billy, don't touch that man, he's a Writer. Come here and hold my hand, just don't look at him and he won't speak to us." Writers seem, in the public eye, to be one small rank up from being a carnival worker.

"Step right up, one and all, don't be shy, only one thin dime, please don't touch the Carnie. See The Writer in it's natural habitat! Watch as it rants and raves! Please don't place your hands within reach of The Writer."

But I'm not a writer. The main difference between being a writer and being a storyteller is that I like being a storyteller. It seems to me that there is one integral part of being a writer that I lack: a hatred of what I do. Every writer I've ever spoken to seems to have this deep boiling resentment at being a writer. They shout and rant about how hard it is to write, about how writing rides them the way a poor jockey rides a horse, and then they stomp off and order a double frappe with a twist of bitters and they go home to sit in front of their antique Olivettis and bang away at the keys until their fingers bleed.

I almost feel guilty when I talk to these demented souls about what they do and what I do. They have that haunted look in their eyes, and never seem to look directly at you, while I have a clear, bright honest gaze that is willing to meet you eye to eye. Their complexions are spotty, pale and haggard from sitting up all night smoking cigarette after cigarette in front of a blank page of paper, while I have the robust tan glow of a guy who gets out in the fresh air a lot. Their hands twitch a lot, mine offer a firm handshake. Their backs are bent and arched from carrying the weight of the world, while mine is straight and proud.

I did say that I "almost" feel guilty. I rather like being a storyteller. Except when the stories don't come.

Jun 29, 2005

Incoming!

Who wears a white hat, a black mask, carries silver bullets in a silver gun, and rides a lawnmower? The Lawn Ranger.

I've been fiending over the fact that I haven't cut my grass in over a week. It's a weekend thing, you see, to make sure the yard is cut. It's been that way since I lived here with my folks and was old enough to ride on our new (at the time) Gravely riding mower, with it's massive 20" or so cutting deck. It's been that way ever since.

And before you panic, don't, because I'm not one of those guys who gets out there and makes sure his lawn is cut so short it looks like it's dirt that's been spray-painted green. My redneck neighbor is one of Those Guys. He cuts his postage-stamp sized yard with a borrowed professional model cutter, one of those huge Dixon Zero Turning Radius things with the huge back wheels and nothing but a deck in front. It takes him about three minutes, but when he's done it looks like someone came in the night and stole all his St. Augustine grass and replaced it with pale green Astroturf. I'm astounded that poor grass can grow at all.

See, I learned a long time ago that while that Astro-turf look in a yard is decent, because of it's frightening uniformity, a yard should also be enjoyable, should be a place where you can walk across it barefoot without fear of having your feet cut to ribbons by razor-edged half-inch long grass stubs. This is a yard, not a pit filled with punji stakes. So, years and years ago I got the message and raised the cutting deck on my mower an inch or so, and now I get nothing but compliments along the lines of:

"Wow, Irrelephant, you're yard is so soft! What do you do to make it so soft?"

and

"Your grass is so thick! Very pretty!"

and

"Hey, I can walk across your yard barefoot and not need medicated socks after!"

I like a soft veldt of yard. But it's still uniform, and is planted carefully, tended carefully, and so forth. So the question then arises: When did we get this way? What guy decided that we needed to have manicured lawns? Have you ever looked out an airplane window or at a aerial photo of a suburb and seen the cookie-cutter look of those places? Perfect little squares bordered by streets and sidewalks, occasionally the freakish blue of a swimming pool, and the uniform green of yards, stretching out endlessly. Who decided we needed perfect yards? Is it some sort of extension of Man's Need to exert control over what we see as Nature's Chaos? Do we feel the need to reach out our hand and take the pristine wildness of prairie and turn it into bunkers and sand traps and perfectly rolled Zoysa grass?

I can see it now. First Man, standing in the entrance to his cave one evening, the sun setting across the prehistoric world, his belly full of Stew*, smoking an after-dinner pipe, thinking to himself "You know, that long slope of dirt and weeds in front of the cave would look awfully nice if it was all flat and smooth. And maybe some zinnias over there by the brontosaurus, and a nice water feature. And it'd sure make my neighbor Ug over there jealous."

I'm certain that's how it all started. From there it was all a down-hill slide into watering, careful chemical and fertilizer additions, and those weed-eaters that have the big blade on the end that you have to run down the driveway and sidewalk with, cutting a huge black gouge in the earth alongside the concrete, throwing sparks and making that horrible churring sound when you get too close, and those small sweaty swarthy guys in white T-shirts that insist on running a leaf blower at full throttle underneath your window while you're trying to make youself understood on the phone to your profoundly deaf 95 year old grandmother who wants to include you in her big fat will but cannot remember how to spell your first name.

I know that's what's holding me back. I can feel it. Change is trying to come, has been sniffing around the doors and windows for years and years now, eager for a way in, but it's being held back by a mass of grass clippings that I should have composted instead of leaving it in the yard, thinking that the mulching blade was a better option, and that little brown man with his 150mph blower keeps blowing it down to the Jones' house.

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*Stew was the First Meal, you see. The first time Man stepped into the first cave with his mate and started a cooking fire, the first meal she ever served him was Stew.

Jun 28, 2005

The Cicadas are coming!

Summer is officially here, again. The Cicadas are singing in the trees.

That is, at least one is. I hear him at work. Seems this eager fellow has found the one tree of any sort of size at all in our little courtyard thing out there, and every morning about 10 or so, when the heat gets up good and he starts to feel in fine voice he starts singing.

(That, and the black crickets are starting to arrive in their ultra-tiny form again, and I've been seeing nearly microscopic preying mantises, tiny light green bodies the size of a fingernail clipping, little legs nearly invisible, but this post is about cicadas, sorry.)

I was trying to find a good site with a clear recording of a cicada singing, but lacking time to really look, I settled for this site, which if nothing else gives you a lot of options to barely hear them. The reason I do this is because it was brought forcibly home to me years ago that not everyone in the world knows what a cicada sounds like, nor has ever been comforted by the sound of dozens of them singing in the gathering dusk, or played Frisbee or softball under the spreading limbs of an oak tree while their rustling drone played counterpoint to the slap of a ball hitting a warm leather mitt.

Yes, it's true. Not everyone knows what a cicada sounds like. I spent an airplane ride up to Oregon one year several years ago talking to a young lady who was returning home to Portland. It was her job in Louisiana to pack up the legal records of a closed sawmill and return them to the home office. Being a sawmill, and not, say, a shipyard, it was deep in the piney woods and it being most definitely summer the woods were packed with cicadas all singing for their mates. The poor child and her entourage had spent the entire week being utterly terrified out of their minds from what she termed "a horror show noise" in the trees, from what sort of tentacled, razor-fanged beastie they could not possibly fathom. She seemed rather let down when I told her that it was made by a dark green bug about the size of her thumb. I guess she was expecting some sort of extra-terrestrial creature come to suck their brains out their noses, and a wide-eyed insect with a body like an armoured beetle and wings like cellophane didn't really jibe with her fears.

I can recall the first summer night I spent in Oregon at my then-mother-in-law's house. It was deep summer there, the temperature was a staggeringly hot 75 at night, as opposed to our own Louisiana average evening temp of 90, and I lay there on the couch listening to the night wind blow (the windows were open, they had no A/C...can you believe it??) and I realised that even though I was exhausted, I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned and fretted until it finally hit me--it was quiet. Too quiet. There wasn't a single shrill cadence out there. No cicadas, because they are a warm-weather insect. It was simply too cold for them to live up there. Once it occurred to me that I wasn't going to hear that multi-voiced ringing choir in the trees I fell asleep immediately. Unhappy, but instantly.

I've spent my entire life around cicadas; my every moment outside in summer accompanied by their high-pitched singing, I collected their discarded dirt-crusted shells as a little boy until I had paper bags filled with musty, rustling husks. I've even done my fair share of school Science Fair projects on them. And looking back on my mis-spent youth, it pleases me how much I learned from simple observation. I have watched every stage of a cicada's 17 or so year lifespan; their white underground grub forms blindly working through the earth to eat roots, their steadfastly marching brown bodies crossing the yard after the rains had finally come to soften the ground, their semi-blind questing for a tree or fence post or any vertical surface to climb, the struggle to crack open that brown shell so the new form could emerge transformed, and then their jewel-like translucent pale green bodies clinging to the old shell, itself still clamped to the bark of a handy tree like a bulging-eyed mask of grim brown death. I have watched so many of them hanging from branches and trunks, looking like nothing more than pale jade earrings, patiently waiting for the morning sun to dry their still-damp bodies and gossamer wings to a dark green armour hardness so they can then spend one brief summer singing in the pine trees.

Jun 27, 2005

Monday Morning

Wow...one whole weekend of no posts and there's no howling mob of angry protesters outside my windows, demanding humour and clever insight into one man's day-to-day life.

Bunk.

It was a strange weekend, let me tell you. Not strange in a bad way, just out of the ordinary. The usual routine that I often find myself safely ensconced in was gone this go-'round, and it left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable all weekend, just a mild nagging sensation, like someone had pulled out one of my teeth and I simply hadn't quite noticed it's absence yet.

My delightful boss let me off early on Friday at a hair's notice (about half an hour's worth) as I had intended on getting home to wash my wife's car. She was due to arrive back from her family trip to San Antonio that afternoon, and I thought it'd be nice to have her car washed and waxed for her when I went to pick her up. That was a mistake. I stepped foot outside with cleaner in hand and managed to get her dashboard dusted and her change tray cleaned out when the heat decided that I was through with my outside time. It was ASTOUNDINGLY bad, so I literally threw in the towel and went inside, to spend the rest of the day washing clothes.

We had supper that evening at Cracker Barrel, and I went out on a limb and ordered the Chicken Dumplings. Now if you're not a Southerner, "chickn n dumplins" might be a foreign concept. When I was a boy, we would make a bi-monthly trip to the heart of Mississippi to visit my grandparents, and there were times that more of the family would also happen to be there or passing through, and my grandmother would make chicken and dumplings for Saturday lunch. Back in the days when my father was growing up chicken and dumplings was no doubt a staple, because it used so little 'real' food. A little water and flour to make dough, cut into strips, and one whole chicken, using every bit possible, some butter, heat, and you had it. When she made it, the pot would be full of this wonderous milky white gravy, with huge dumplings floating in it, and huge chunks of chicken meat, with a wash of butter and a light crust on the top. When I ordered it at Cracker Barrel it was a wash of pale dumplings and two pieces of chicken buried under them, pieces of meat that could have come off each side of a single thigh. Letdown? A bit, but didn't Thomas Wolfe say "You can never go to your grandmother's house again?" Something like that.

The routine was further damaged by me avoiding cutting the grass entirely. Nice in it's own way, but it threw me off further still. We did, however, get to go back to the firing range Saturday morning for some target practice, and some time to familiarise my wife with her new 9mm. It soon got too hot, naturally, so we packed it in and headed to Wal-Mart, both for a present for a friend's child's first birthday and for some pistol cleaning supplies. One race home later, half an hour or so spent learning the last bit of handgun ownership (cleaning) and some fierce wrapping on behalf of my wife and we were at the birthday party, hoping that the roiling family issues under the surface would stay there, which they did. Very nice.

Saturday evening was spent suffering through the waste of film "The Boogeyman." These poor clods took a great three minute story idea and padded it into 88 minutes of poorly done movie. There's only so many times you can make the audience jump with shock when you pop something out at them before they simply get sick and tired of it.

Sunday was equally out of synch with Irrelephant's Usual Weekend--we utterly broke with tradition by going to the movies at 10:15 in the morning, to see George A. Romero's "Land of The Dead" with my older daughter in tow, who at 28 years old got carded at the ticket window. The movie ranked up there with the Top 5 Best Ways To Spend A Sunday morning. Marvelous movie, as good as the originals but free of the constricting bands of an indie budget. Romero went all out; enough blood and guts that I'm suprised the censors didn't just ban it outright, and a great story to boot, as well as the Romero mix of humour and horror. He really expands on the "Okay, so what happens the months and years AFTER the dead start walking the Earth. How do people cope?" Well worth going to see, and watch for three cameos--Tom Savini, makeup guy and cameo-star from the previous movies, Simon Pegg who played Shaun of "Shaun of The Dead," and the director of said same movie. And if you're a big fan of the now-cancelled Nero Wolfe TV series on A&E, watch the butcher zombie--none other than Dinky Bines!

The rest of the day was spent fighting with Chinese dumplings. Dumplings again...seems to be a pattern. A tiny bowl of meat and cabbage mix seemed to last forever while I failed miserably to be a pastry chef, my elder daughter made several passingly round dumplings and the wife gamely fought her way through about seventeen dozen others. Tremendously good, tho, even if they were awfully labour-intensive.

The rest of the day was spent playing PS2 and folding clothes and in general mostly avoiding any sort of work, which further made the Protestant/Catholic guilt raise it's ugly head in me for Not Getting Anything Done. This was further compounded by us watching "Alone In The Dark," an unfortunately video-game to movie crossover. My wife said afterwards that the best bit was the last third, which she slept through. Christian Slater used to be good back in the 80's and is no longer, the blonde chippie who was his sex interest was about as wooden an actor as Keanu Reeves' wooden leg, and the crowning moment in the movie was when the group was having to leave behind a dead team member; as they all flee the room the dead girl raises her head up off the floor, apparently not willing to wait for the director to call "Cut." Roger Corman Guerilla-Style Filmmaking at it's best. "Did anyone notice that? No? Good, then print it! Next scene..." Me, I thought it was nice of the director to give that dead girl a continuing role in the movie.

So in all honesty yes, there is a part of me that knows being in a rut is a bad thing, but there's a lot of me that likes having the comfort of that rut. Saturday mornings are for cutting grass, Saturday afternoons are for inside washing load after load of clothes, the evening for Prairie Home Companion at 5 and Nero Wolfe at 7. Sunday morning is for finishing up whatever outside work there is, maybe washing cars or motorcycle maintenance, and then change all the bedsheets day, more washing, and cleaning the house, and that evening Sherlock Holmes sees me to bed.

I need to get out more, don't I.

Jun 24, 2005

Biggles Of The RAF

No, I'm not going to post about Biggles, I'm going to start off with one of those pseudo-philosophical jokes and work my way from there. The Biggles thing was just a red herring. My apologies to Biggles fans everywhere.

A man is walking down a beach in California late in Fall. It's cold, and a little clammy, but he's enjoying the quiet. As he walks, he kicks over a bottle, and lo! what should appear but a Djinn, a towering giant clothed in smoke and a turban.

"Master, you have freed me from the bottle. For that boon I shall grant you one wish" booms the Djinn.

"Well now, let me think" says the fellow, being ever the pragmatist. "I wish for a bridge from here to Hawaii, so that folks who come from two very divergent groups of people can get together and share their experiences and come together as friends."

The Djinn looks far out to sea, looks back at the man, and says "I am truly sorry Master, but that's just too much doing. See, I've been in there a long time, and I'm a little rusty on doing magic, and what you're asking would take such a sheer volume of magical effort, not to mention the time I'd have to get into as far as getting workers out here and the materials and the danger...it's simply not worth it." The Djinn shrugs and booms out "Try again."

The fellow rubs his chin thoughtfully, not questioning his good luck at having a wish in the first place, and says "Okay, I'd like to know what makes people tick. I want to know what goes on inside their heads to make them think and act and behave like complete fools sometimes, and saints the other times. I wish I knew what makes people do what they do."

The Djinn crosses his mighty arms, looks thoughtful for a second, looks down at the man and says "Okay, so you want two lanes or four?"


I feel like that a lot. And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way. I know Shakespeare spent a lot of time studying people and how they behaved. People as far flung apart as Freud and Plato did the same thing: study people and how they behaved, trying to get to some root cause. It's simply an impossible task right now, with the abilities and tools we have. There's too many different factors that go into the development of a person for us to be able to point at a critical junction or an important cusp moment and say to each other "Aha! Here's where it all went bad!" or "And you see here, on the seventeenth genome, that's what makes our boy a recidivist." Unfortunately we're still on the "And this is the nerve that, when stimulated with a mild current, makes that bit over there go 'boing.'"

I can't even begin to fathom what makes people do what they do. Cats I can mostly figure out, dogs are dead simple, fish...well, fish don't have much of anything going on but somehow can still manage to evade my best efforts at catching them in the wild, but that's neither here nor there. People. That's where the problem lies. People can astound me and in the same breath make me want to pour a big bottle of Chlorox in the gene pool.

So you tell me. Give me some examples from your own life of people who have either astounded you with their saintliness or who have made you abhor them with their foulness. Maybe between the jillion or so of us we can come up with an answer. And if not, maybe we can get that highway from here to Waikiki.

Jun 23, 2005

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

So a chicken and an egg are lying in bed, smoking cigarettes. The chicken turns to the egg and says "Well, I guess that settles THAT."

Consider, if you will, the egg. And if you won't, you might as well stop reading, because I'll be talking about eggs pretty much the rest of the post.

So. The egg. What a wonderously designed piece of work. A potential chicken, housed in a very thin shell made up of calcium that is produced by the chicken's own body. It has a stupendous bursting resistance (place an egg flat in your palm, and squeeze without pressing your fingers into it; you won't be able to break it.) It's oval shape is designed to evenly distribute crushing pressures evenly across it's surface, and it makes a great photographic subject (clamp one in a steel "C" clamp and snap to your heart's content...utterly fantastic!) It is a marvelous object d'art (take a flat rock and place a glass Coke bottle on it, lay two twigs and a flower on the rock in front of the bottle and place the egg standing broad side down on the top of the bottle and voila', Art!) and Nature was even thoughtful enough to design them so that they're tapered at both ends, so when a bird lays one their birdie wazoos don't slam shut.

*cluck cluck* *cluck cluck cluckcluck*

*poit*

*SLAM*

Utterly dreadful.

Used to toss at houses and cars to show both dislike and love, best of all they are incredibly delicious in a number of ways, both as a stand-alone dish (deviled eggs, scrambled for brekkie) or as a side-player in a bigger game (used as garnish on top of a spinach casserole, for instance.) You can even eat them raw if you like that sort of thing, or put them in an alcoholic drink ala The Redeye. And if you're Sylvester Stallone you can pop a few in a blender with some other icky stuff and drink the whole thing down.

The egg. Multi-faceted, incredibly talented, a master of physics properties, and darn cool to boot.

So why is it that I can't shell one to save my damned life?

Consider The Boiled Egg. Long a staple food of the picnic, as well as the brown-bag-lunch set, it's about as easy a dish to prepare as anything. Place egg(s) in pan. Fill with water, and boil. Shell, and eat. And I'll even give you a trick to try--don't like the yolk turning that horrid flat green colour after you've boiled your egg? Then do this--boil the eggs as you ordinarily would, but just when the water comes to a rolling boil turn off the fire and cover with the lid. The boiling hot water trapped under the lid and in the pot will finish boiling the egg for you (the water is, after all, still boiling hot,) but at a temperature just low enough that the yolk will not tarnish, and you'll have perfectly hard-boiled eggs in about 20 minutes which have beautiful, sunshine yellow yolks. You're welcome.

But see, the problem arises here--I can never peel a boiled egg properly. I mean, it's not rocket surgery, I can get the shell off, but I can never seem to get the shell off without tearing the egg to utter bits and pieces. I have tried letting them sit overnight in the fridge, I have tried peeling them the second they come out of the water (paid for that one with an afternoon's stay in the local burn ward) and I have even tried soaking them in cold water right after boiling so that the resulting temperature shock would somehow perhaps shrink the egg inside while leaving the shell bigger so that it would come off evenly and it didn't work either so there.

*sigh*

Eggs defeat me. The simplest package Nature ever devised, including fruits. And don't try and show me a banana, because bananas are silly and don't have that wonderous resistance to crushing pressure as well as a thousand and one other features. Just try squeezing a banana and see how far it gets you. Go ahead, I dare you. And who ever heard of a chicken laying a banana? And for that matter, eggs don't have silly songs made up about them that stick in your head forever. "Cellular, modular..." indeed. Pfui.

So why can't I get the shell off while leaving the whites in one smooth piece? I am forever prevented from making beautiful deviled eggs because I can't shell one properly. I mean honestly, who wants a deviled egg that has a big flat spot on it. "Ooh yes, I'd like the one there with the silly tilt to it, the one that seems to be forever falling over." Feh.

Nature, you defeat me yet again.

Jun 22, 2005

Communicate, communicate,

com...oh, fuck off.

I'm a quiet man. Don't get that mixed up with being a "private" man, because I am a somewhat private man, but I am very much a quiet man. I don't talk a lot. My father was a quiet man, and private too, and I took my lessons from him. There's no need to fight, no need to argue most times, and always use your better judgement when it comes time to talk. Use your words carefully and sparingly.

So when someone decides that I have screwed up and wants to communicate with me about my problem, don't talk to me like I'm a three year old, and to begin with you might want to make sure you CAN communicate properly. And don't lie to me. Don't stand there and tell me with a straight face that you "admire my work" and "want to work with me" because we both know better. You're wasting my time and your breath with crap like that. You and I both know that my intention is to replace you. I will learn your job, taught by the proper teachers, and I will take your job and do it better than you.

That is my sole intention right now, and I am focused on it with a terrible and burning intensity.

And I will not communicate that to you. The serpent does not apolgise to the mouse before dinner.

Don't have a screaming meme

I know, that's got to be one of the lamest openings I've ever endured, unless you count sex with my ex-wife.

Damn, did I say that out loud? In a public forum? Ah well.

A meme is, in the ordinary parlayance, a little bit of wisdom or knowledge that is passed along from one to another, and more often than not used to denote something like tribal knowledge or wisdom that is passed from one generation to another. It's more modern usage includes the idea that a meme is something used to jog one's memory, a sort of placekeeper or even a starting point for something bigger.

In the blogging world there are dozens (no doubt hundreds) of blogs devoted simply to memes. Each day, or week, or whatever unit of time they're using, they post a meme--a starting point for someone else's blog. It might be a question or series of questions, or it could be a list you have to fill out, it's simply always something to help the writer along.

Me, my meme is the other blogs I read, my morning experiences, everything goes into the big boiling cauldron that is my brain. I feel a lot like Ray Bradbury, who in the beginning of his "Ray Bradbury Presents" television show would be filmed walking into his study, I think he called it his "magician's workshop," which was this little room filled floor to ceiling with THINGS, and his typewriter smack in the middle of it. In real life this was supposedly pretty accurate, and he'd simply draw from what was around him, mix it with his own experience and storytelling ability, and spin out thousands of words of the most beautiful prose I have encountered.

Well, I ain't that good, so don't be looking for no story of dinosaurs and time travel and midnight carnival arrivals.

This morning, however, the blogs were a bit...flat. Nothing leaped out, nothing seized onto my wetly grey and shining brain to devour the very essence...no wait, sorry, I read a post on George A. Romero's upcoming "Land of the Dead," the next installment of the Living Dead series. I love zombies. I love zombies all to pieces.

I got to enjoy Soylent Green last night again, letterboxed no less, I believe it was on AMC, or TCM, one of those wonderful channels. It got me thinking how jaded I've become to certain things, and I don't know if it's overexposure or a mind as open as a saloon door, but whatever it is, I'm not shocked a lot anymore.

Viz--

Situation: The world is dying, overcrowded, and food is running out.
Solution: Everyone on the dole eats dead people, served under the guise of little green crackers.
My response: "Do we get to choose who we eat?"

Situation: The entire planet is overrun with the living dead.
Solution: Wall off an entire city and live there semi-safely in utter terror.
My response: Bring me my bicycle and my .45, I want to go hunting.

Situation: Some kid wipes out on the highway at 110 mph. Road Rash City.
Solution: Motorcycles are dangerous, so slow down.
My response: He deserved it, riding in a t-shirt and shorts. And why didn't he take any sort of Rider Education?

Situation: Stranger In A Strange Land frankly discusses cannibalism in the future.
Solution: Hide our open-minded behaviour but engage in it anyway.
My response: Do people taste better when they're boiled or fried? And which wine do you serve?

Situation: Can't come up with anything to blog about
Solution: Check out the Daily Meme sites for some inspiration
My response: Write about cannibalism, death, dismemberment, and other sickening things until everyone stops reading this blog and goes away so I can stop writing it.

You know, a little smart-ass goes a long way, especially on toast with some lettuce if the leaves are really crisp and fresh, and some tomatoes sliced reallly thin and just a little mayo. Yum!


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Post Blog: Oh, and what's this with West Coast Choppers and Honda getting together on motorcycle design? My sweet stars and garters, Honda, couldn't you have picked a better customiser? That Jesse James guy is such a prat. OCC would have done you a job a thouand times better, more creative, and less...pratish. Even Arlen Ness, had you paid more for him than Polaris and the extraordinarily lame Victory Motorcycle Company, would have produced designs you could have been proud of. Cripes, you could dig up Indian Larry, chop off his head, stick it in a big-ass Erlemeyer flask full of green preservative fluids and shoot a few hundred thousand volts through it, then hire the best telepaths in the world to pick his brain (literally) for ideas and done better than using Jesse James. Big Red, you're letting me down!

Jun 21, 2005

By the pricking of my thumbs/

Something wicked this way comes.

When I was a very young child, I was afraid of a lot of things. I was afraid of the dark, afraid of snakes, afraid of the creatures that roamed in the night, and afraid of most nuns. Thankfully most of that has changed.

The dark no longer worries me, and in fact is a great comfort. I know enough about snakes that I am no longer afraid, simply respectful when need be. The barking yowls and yips of the foxes chasing mice in the fields no longer makes me cringe, and instead makes me smile to imagine the dusky red and white coursers through the rows. Nuns? Well, I'm still afraid of them, but that many years of nun-centered abuse can't be cured overnight. As for the creatures of the night? What music they make!

Okay, that makes two poorly used quotes, so let's get on with the post, shall we?

I woke up this morning at the usual time (5:30a) and was treated to a sound that used to chill me straight to my bones. Owls hooting. Next door, back in the old barnyard stands a two-story mammoth of a barn that my grandfather built back around the time he was building the REO swing. And like most everything he did, he built big and innovative, which aspects we won't get into right now. It's stood there, genteely falling to pieces from long before I was a little boy, and it has housed, for no telling how long, barn owls. And these barn owls have long populated the landscape of my fears as a child.

It's strange that Hollyweird could get so very many things wrong, and yet somehow get the mournful hoot of an owl just right. When I was a little boy trembling under the covers, afraid of the things that I could see in the pattern of the curtains and afraid of the dark and afraid of sleep, the hooting of an owl outside, sounding exactly like the soundtrack off a black and white Dracula movie would put me into utter paroxyms of terror. That sound carried so very well, utterly without effort it seemed, and would hit the huddling primate in my hindbrain right between his dull eyes every time. That empty, piercing cry without fail sent me scampering into my parent's room begging for protection from winged death.

The turning point came at some obsure point in my childhood partly because I rarely heard them and so never got the chance to really dig that fear in deep, and partly because I simply grew up and learned more about the silent hunters. I can recall my father finding owl pellets for us out in the field and, with large, careful fingers, opening them up on a flat space so we could see this dry gray capsule suddenly turn into such a marvelous collection of tiny white bones and bits that any graveyard worth it's salt would be proud to have held it. I always felt like some sort of archaeologist, and knew that if only I had enough very thin wire and a jeweler's loupe I could take all those tiny ivory puzzle pieces and turn them into a gleaming white memento mori. I learned about owls, and occasionally even saw them.

One memorable night while I was still in college I turned onto our lane after a very late night out and couldn't help but notice the foot and a half tall, razor-beaked addition to the street sign--a massive brown and white finial over the usual red octagonal sign. I was rubbernecking so hard to get a glimpse of that beautiful creature that I nearly put my Camaro in the ditch. Then there was the summer night years ago that I decided to step out onto the front porch to see what was making the birds nesting in the hedges so restless. I casually looked up and saw a giant on my television aerial; the only thing I could think about doing was grabbing the digital camera and snapping pictures of it before it flew off, utterly unconcerned with the pasty blob down below it's very long talons.

It occured to me much later that, had it taken offense at the bright white flash that kept popping below it, all that it had to do to cure the problem would be to dive the twelve feet straight down off that aerial at me and tear me to bloody ribbons with those two-inch long black talons and that cruel hooked beak, a thought which gave me no comfort when it occurred to me, but the fact that it took almost no notice of me at all made me feel better, too. Obscurely, and perhaps wrongly, I assigned to the owl a belief that it saw me as a provider of shelter and a handy perch from which to survey it's domain, not as a threat to it's survival. It's a thought that still gives me a measure of satisfaction.

And so this morning, when I was blearily staring into the mirror, regretting last evening's push-mower exertions, it was with great joy that I heard that lonely hooting echoing out across the pasture. Mixed in with the raccous screams of blue jays and the wide-ranging noises of the mockingbirds, making a pleasant counterpoint to the mourning dove's cooing song I heard that sharp 'hoot' rolling off the trees, magnified by the heavy fog, and I could see in my mind's eye the perfectly silent hunter gliding through the thick morning fog, gliding back to the old barn's hayloft, back to the talon-chewed perches that many scores of huge, wise-eyed brown and white shapes have perched on, raised owlets on, and kept careful watch through hot sweltering summer days from.

Jun 20, 2005

It takes all kinds.

Or at least that's what my father always told me, and I believe him.

This weekend was a prime display of difference, for me. I found out almost by accident that there is a shooting range in one of the tiny outlying villages in our area, and so the wife and I and two of our close friends who also like weapons packed up in their van and went out. We had a marvelous morning at the range, plinking at targets and smiling at the variety of people displayed for our viewing pleasure.

There were, in no particular order:


  • The Range Master This was the old USDA employee who was riding down his last year or so before retirement. He had a face like a mountainside, a neck so leathery you could have ridden it like a saddle, and the "20 year paunch" out front. His USDA green shirt was unbottoned half way down this ponderous slope, revealing his sweat-stained wife-beater T-shirt and more grey hair than I care to see on anything. He'd sit and glare up and down the line, bark out his two sentences "Line'scoldopenmagazines, checkyourtargets" and "Readyontheleft? Readyontheright? Line's hot" and think about the day when he could finally leave all this glory behind, creep back to his little cabin in the woods and start some serious teenage camper butchering. His one joy that day seemed to be seeing the young man who had appparently brought, the week before, a rifle that hadn't been cleaned in several years, and dogging him unmercifully until the boy's father arrived, at which time the abuse switched to the father.

  • The Rednecks There were a couple of these guys down at the far end from us, resplendent in head-to-toe camo, hats to boots, who were sighting in some huge caliber deer rifles. There might have been three teeth between them, and ten working brain cells, and quite frankly I'm astounded that there wasn't a suitcase of Natural Light beer nearby. These are the guys who spent more on their rifles than on their houses, and likely don't have running water, but they sure have big game rifles to feed their families and keep the towel-head menace at bay. In case the Afghanis ever decide to invade Jena, LA that is.

  • The Rich Guy. Yup, there were two of this species, too. We're at a very rural US Dept. of Agriculture firing range in the middle of nowhere, every other vehicle out there is a truck or mud-covered or both, there's no A/C and the only restroom facility is a VERY old and rarely emptied Port-A-Let, but smack in the middle of all this is a BMW 7 series, and two polo-shirt wearing pressed-khaki's middle-aged men with very expensive and very new rifles and handguns, and a look about them that says "Watch out very carefully for me, because I haven't used any of these weapons ever before, and after today I likely won't ever use them again." One of the pair had brought about four pistols, all of them still sheened in Cosmoline, and the other had a selection of rifles that would have made any small Bannana Republic very safe indeed. I've never seen anyone own both an AK-47 AND an SKS, which for the uninitiated are the same rifle, with different stocks. And not know how to use any of them.

  • The Paramilitary Married Couple These two were the most fun out there. The husband was a little Casper Milquetoast-looking fellow, and his wife was about a buck and a half tall and might have weighed 90 pounds if you counted her shoes, clothes, and a backpack of bricks. Both of them were packing a serious amount of ordinance in a collection of aluminum custom cases, at least three .45 ACPs that I saw and an unknown number of other handguns carefully concealed in big nylon duffles. They spent the "line cold" time collecting .45 brass like nobody's business, I'm sure so they could scurry back to their mousehole and reload some more of "Big Daddy's Custom Gut-Splatter Rounds." She was standing there in her little power-walker tennis shoes and Pentecostal skirt, with her hair in a severe bun, her yellow shooting glasses on and her shooting gloves tightly Velcro'd on, and about ten pounds of stainless steel .45 automatic in her hand, playing Dirry Harriet on a paper target set up at 5 yards. She'd blow a hole in the center diamond, then proceed to make that hole large enough to push your arm through, then reload and go at it again. He was even worse, because he was doing the same thing, only at 25 yards.

  • The Wannabe Cop This poor sod was the most pathetic of the group. Shaved head so white that if the sun had come out we'd have all been struck blind, highlighted by his black BDU SWAT pants he bought at a garage sale and his black Sig Handguns T-shirt, this guy was the ultimate in basement monkey. He had a single .40 caliber automatic pistol (naturally a Sig, apparently they gave away T-shirts when he bought the pistol) and ten loaded clips piled up on the concrete rest. He'd set up his target, snap in a clip and fire through it like it was a race, hurridly eject the empty, snap in a full and go again. Repeat. At the rate he was firing he had to have been landing a good two rounds per clip in the target, the rest had to be taking out treetops, birds, other people's targets, unlucky earthworms, what have you. And talk trash? When the Range Master would call "Cold line" he'd start running at the mouth about police academy, shooting, his handgun, his ammunition, how cool he was, you name it, he'd spout off. The only saving grace was that he was some sort of compulsive ammunition handler, and the Range Master called him down about seven times for entering the firing zone to touch his clips when the range was cold, and he finally got tired of being kicked like a puppy and left. The Paramilitary Couple was next to him, and I think they breathed a collective sigh of relief when he packed up.

  • The Black Powder Man I guess there's one in every group. This old fellow was patient, quiet, small, and was carrying a black powder rifle that was about ten pounds shy of having US ARMY FIELD ARTILLERY painted on it. The Range Master would call "Line hot!" and he'd step up carefully, start pouring powder and wadding and a giant ball-bearing into that four foot long water main of a barrel, tamp it all down carefully, and settle himself and his field piece onto a sandbag. I was entertaining myself by looking down the line for that huge black steely snake to come easing out of the line, looking like a tank slipping up in the midst of a lineup of infantrymen. It'd steady down very fast, and about ten seconds would pass, and then he'd pull the trigger, and about two seconds AFTER that the concussion would roll out, sending a shockwave like someone had dropped a hand-grenade in our midst, and clouds of blue-white smoke would pour across the entire left side of the line. The target, wayyy down at the 100 yard line would explode into flinders, and as the little white paper bits snowed back to earth Casper would carefully stand up, ease back a little bit, and start the arduous process of reloading. Five minutes later and the whole thing would repeat: tank's main gun ("feeling a little inadequate, boys?",) trigger, EXPLODE, smoke everywhere, and the Range Master would stop choking and coughing long enough to call "Line cold" and we'd all get a respite from the Civil War reenactment.



And then of course was us, the Hard Core Shooter, the Not So Hard Core But Maybe One Day Soon Shooter (that'd be me,) and the two wives, the Patient Wife and the I Wanna Be Born Again Hard Wife (mine.) I was, I'll say, quite proud of my spouse. After sitting out one round to watch the line hot/line cold procedure she stepped up and started snapping off rounds like a pro, with both rifle and pistols. Made me proud, she did, with her accuracy and her cool handling of the Range Master. And she never once turned any weapon on anyone who deserved it, which is more than I can say for my own behaviour.

Jun 18, 2005

It's really 'orrible

Hello, my name is Irrelephant, and I'm an addict.

To the computer, that is. Got home yesterday afternoon after a long week at work, sat down in the office here, wiggled the mouse, and realised that there was a little blinking icon down on the toolbar there which was busily trying to tell me that there was a network cable unplugged. Now I know this is impossible, because I personally JB Welded every connection off that modem into the box so there would be NO chance of it every coming unplugged, so I take a glance down at the modem, and what do my wide-set eyes see? No lights.

None.

Suppressing my panicked cries, I call the cable company's tech support, and it went a lot like this:

Irrelephant: Hello yes, this is Irrelephant, telephone number 47, my cable modem is dead. I don't have any lights, including the power light, I plugged the wall plug into another outlet and that's not it, and have reset the computer and the modem. It's about two years old, and I guess it finally died.
Tech Support: Hallo, this is Buffy, how can I help you?
Irr: Uhm...yes, my cable modem is dead. No lights, no power.
TS: Uhm...*sound of madly flipping pages*...have you tried resetting it?
Irr: Yes. It's got NO POWER.
TS: Ooooh. Uhm...*flip flip flip* Okay, so what was your phone number again?
Irr: 47.
TS: Okay...uhm...er...*flip flip* Let me try sending a test signal to it.
Irr: Right.
TS: *long pause* Uhm...yeah okay, it looks like the problem is on your side.
Irr: Yes. It's dead. The modem. It's dead. No power.
TS: Aaah...uhm...*flip flip* Let me see if I can...we've been getting a lot of calls from your area...uhm...*flip flip* Okay uhm...let me see if I can set you up for a service call for tonight, if not...uhm...they'll be there...er...Monday.
Irr: *gritting teeth* Yes, please.
TS: Okay, so uhm when they let me know I'll call you back and let you know when to expect him.
Irr: Yes. Okay. *click*

Three hours pass, I finally reach the end of my USB cord, and call back. It went something like this:

TS: Tech Support, this is John.
Irr: Hi, John, this is Irrelephant, telephone number 47, I called earlier to set up a trouble ticket for my modem which has died, no power, and they said they'd set me up for either tonight or for Monday, and they never called. Can you tell me when I've been set up for?
TS: Sure thing. *sound of madly clicking keyboard* Okay, she set you up for Monday. You said you have no power at all to your modem?
Irr: That's right.
TS: All right, let's see if I can't get a supervisor to override that service call to tonight. *more clicking sounds* We've had a lot of calls from down your way tonight, there must be some bad weather down there. *steady working on keyboard all the while* Is it still raining there?
Irr: Uhm...yes, actually it is.
TS: Dang. My girlfriend and I were going to come down there to that great Mexican place you guys have, we're in Town An Hour And A Half Hour South Of Youville and it's stopped here. She really digs Mexican food. Okay, so I've got the supervisor on the line and she's going to override the local service call from Monday to tonight, and...she's done that, so I can set you up for *more clicking sounds* tonite, which I have, and you should see a repair man pretty shortly.
Irr: Er?
TS: Okay, so you have a good night, Mr. Irrelephant!
Irr: Ah? Thanks?
TS: Thanks for calling Cox Communications. Bye. *click*
Irr: Er? Uhm?

Within fifteen minutes I had a guy calling for directions to the house from the closest cross street from here, and within another three minutes he was in the house unplugging things. Five minutes and one phone call later and he's got it hooked back up and is going back into the rain to his next call.

Man. When Cox blows it blows bigtime, but when they're on the ball they're unreal. The important thing, of course, is that my umbilicus is reattached, and I can blog, surf, and otherwise be a citizen of cyberspace, which is how I like things, thank you! *click*

Jun 17, 2005

Anything you can do

I can bugger up worse than anything.

The daughter posted one of those free-form posts, the ones where you don't have anything in particular to say, so you just sort of say it all, in snippets. I rather like those posts, because they can say a lot about someone in a very fast time.

I know it happens to me especially--I try my dangdest to have a post ready by the previous evening, or at least the kernel of an idea, but sometimes the well is dry, and all the chaff and dead bits are sort of scumming around the bottom and you get dregs rather than a drink of fine wine. But you see, that's the very thing--the dregs are the very things that have meaning too! They've been floating around that well of creativity for how long? steadily soaking up the creative energies, or at least swirling around in interesting patterns when the wind gets going good.

So what I'm getting at is that I'm proud of my dregs, because at least they're something, and might once have been creative ideas who simply outlived their usefulness, or no longer apply in the real world but might have had some application six months ago or several years or when I was a kid and still in diapers.

So what sort of dregs have I for you this morning? You know, I'm not sure. I've gone and made the cardinal mistake of wearing a black T-shirt this morning, because each and every cat in the house has made at least one trip up to me while I sit at the computer, rubbed every loose hair they have on me, and left again. I'm going to arrive at work this morning looking like I'm wearing a mohair suit.

The weather has gone utterly mad--the heat has been LA usual for summer the past week or two, sauna-style, and yesterday out of nowhere the rain arrived, cooling everything down remarkably well. I went outside yesterday evening to do a little overdue gardening and it was 74 degrees out there, cool enough that I felt like I could work all evening. That is until I realised that my work involved me hunkering down by the brick wall of the house, the one that had been soaking up heat all day and was steady releasing it into the air. I think I sweated out more fluid than I HAD in my body at the time.

Tomorrow promises to be interesting--a shooting range has been located within fairly easy driving distance, and so instead of driving way the heck out into the federal reserve to find a high berm to spend the day standing in front of, swatting mosquitoes and trying to find some protection from the pounding down sun we will instead be, I believe, in a semi-enclosed building with sandbags, hearing protection (other than shoving a .45 caliber FMJ in each ear) and targets, as well as a Range Master and maybe even some liquid refreshment available. Good heavens, I won't know how to act, and I'm glad I remembered we were going tomorrow, because this means I have to pick up some ammo this afternoon.

And time has flown...I need to do the same.

Jun 16, 2005

Hand-rolled on a virgin's thighs

Not me, cigars. At least that's the way I always heard of a good smoke being prepared.

Having watched torceadors at work rolling cigars by hand there were no virgins in sight, unless some of those brown-eyed, walnut-dark gentlemen were not of the sexually active frame of mind. Which was quite a shock to me, but I guess the high cost of finding virgins these days, mixed with the upkeep costs and the ever-increasing demand from high priests and Wiccans makes it more economically feasible to simply use a big flat space.

So that dream being popped, let's move on, shall we?

When I was first introduced to the world of cigars in the mid 1980's it was just beginning to boom. The economy was trying to turn around, smoking wasn't completely and utterly evil yet, and men (and some women) were starting to realise that a cigar is sometimes more than a Freudian symbol for naughty bits. And of course, Bill Clinton hadn't ruined it for all of us yet.

The first time I slid open the thick glass door and stepped into the humidor at The TinderBox, where I was gainfully employed, I was struck first and foremost by the humidity--I thought it was open to the outside air it was so damp. But no, a humidifier chugging away quietly behind the wall was pumping a steady stream of mist into the room, keeping the area at a comfy 70% humidity. The A/C was running steady too, keeping the room right around 70 degrees, which made it comfortably cool, and I was later to find out, kept tobacco mold from growing and kept any missed tobacco beetle eggs from hatching.

The array of cigars was staggering--boxes stacked on shelves from knee height up to eye level, and ranks upon ranks of long thin sticks resting in their Spanish Cedar or brightly-decorated cardboard boxes, some in cellophane, some bare to the air, and some in smoky glass tubes. The smell was wonderous, thick and rich as an old forest, and the shades and colours were nearly endless.

When I started learning, I was taught that there were three classes of wrapper, the leaf that holds the filler tobacco inside. There was Claro, the green leaf wrapper that was mildest, there was E.M.S., which stood for the mouthy English Market Selection, and then there was Maduro, the dark, oily browns and near-blacks that promised the sort of tastes you only get from very expensive coffees. There was something called a ring gauge, which measured how thick a stick was (you didn't call them cigars, that was crass, you called them "sticks") and there was length, which was, naturally, how long each stick was. It didn't stop there, because there were names for the lengths as well as for the styles--familiar names like Churchill and Torpedo and Cheroot, and then exotic names like Robusto. And then you got into the bewildering array of different fillers and wrappers, because each seemed to come from a different far-away place: Nicarauga, the Dominican Republic, Camaroon, even Brazil and Connecticut. Each with it's own unique taste, and each combination of filler and wrapper changing the finished product.

And so the long slow process of learning began, and time passed.

Fast forward to a few years ago, when I got back into the cigar world. The big boom had hit, and cigars were going for premium prices. It was nothing for someone to boast that they had paid $100 for four Dominican Republic Cohiba Churchills, and even a run of the mill stick would set you back five or six dollars easy. And some of the names had changed--no longer was there a Claro or an EMS choice--it was now unexplicably Candella and Natural. Maduro was still there, dark as night and tempting as sin, but it and a few names seemed the only thing that had changed.

And of course there were a thousand and one new brands, a bewildering array of new box images and cigar bands to ooh and aah over, each backed by their own ex-patriate Cuban family, each family planting and growing and harvesting their own special blend of leaf, each offering a new tasting experience, each with, I would assume, their own barn-full of flat-thighed virgins who sat still for hours a day, letting swarthy sweating brown men carefully craft cigars on their untarnished bodies.

Yesterday I stepped back into the cigar world in a big way, and I'm still rather unsure why. My pipes are still my love and my joy, but sometimes I find myself reaching for a cigar rather than a pipe. Perhaps it's fear that I'll drop one of my beautiful pipes into a spinning table-saw blade and get to watch it ripped to shreds, or perhaps it's a fear of walking through the yard only to step in a chuck-hole, to hear my teeth suddenly bite through an acrylic bit. I love my pipes, and the unhurried rituals of smoking a pipe, but for me sometimes a cigar is the choice.

I've had a smallish desktop humidor that holds about 30 cigars if you really shove hard, and it seemed to always be willing to let it's tiny sponge element dry out at the worst possible time, and even then the hygrometer always insisted it was still 69% humidity inside, so I did some selling of old stock I had lying around and I took that money and got a very nice, roomy personal humidor (think desktop sized, and without the humidifier behind the wall) and about six bundles of sticks, and last night I spent a happy twenty minutes or so carefully unpacking sticks and nesting them in each of the humidor's seven trays.

While I stood here in my office packing away the sticks, carefully making sure that each had it's heel turned away from me and the label was facing upwards, so I could see at a glance which stick I was reaching for, I realised I was feeling a lot like I did when I was still a kid working at The TinderBox. I could clearly remember the sometimes stern, sometimes laughing "Mister Bill" giving me stocking lessons; how I shouldn't open a new box of sticks until the old box was down to it's last five sticks, and how the new empty stayed behind the counter for preferred customers or attractive women who might want a cigar box, especially at back-to-school-time, and how to check the humidifier's water level, and keep the air out of the huge bags of bulk pipe tobacco we kept on the floor, pushed up around the outside edge of the humidor.

I remembered most the sweet leathery fragrance that without fail wafted out when I slid aside the big glass door of the humidor, and how the light seemed somehow subtly different, like you had suddenly stepped from a mall in Louisiana into a storeroom somewhere in Cuba, and that if you could only find the back door you could walk through it into the rolling room, and join the rows of silently smiling, silently smoking dark men with their white shirts and Panama hats, and their wise fingers going about their work.

Jun 15, 2005

Things fall apart...

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of "Spiritus Mundi"
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-- William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

I was thinking this morning about what to write, and it was one of those strange rare incidents when nothing was really willing to present itself. The skull is, as usual, full of jostling, shuffling things, but this time none of them felt really ready to be in the full blinding footlights of the stage, and so they're all pushing each other to be in the back, afraid that I might reach in, the mighty Hand of Gawd, and grasp one kicking and screaming, to force it, unready and unwilling, into the full light of the public's gaze.

But not today.

(could you hear the mighty collective sigh of relief?)

Change happens. I know, never was there a more profound thing said here. I'll tell you this much--I've found that it's easier to see the big picture when you know what all the little bits are doing. Change is a fundamental part of everything we do, and no matter how much our little hidebound ritual-seeking selves seek to keep things the same, change happens.

The trick, you see, or so the Zen teachers tell us, is to live in the eternal Present. God Emperor Leto Atredies said "It's pointless to live in the past, impossible to live in the future, and damned hard to live in the present." To live Right Now is the highest form of sentient activity, and me, I fail pretty regularly. Hear that? That's the sound of Enlightenment sulking off to get a drink down at the pub.

I say all this because I was thinking about friendships I've had in the past. Two very unexpected phone calls from my dark and mysterious past a few weeks ago jolted me into remembering a lot of things that I thought had settled into the silt and black leaf mould of my past, sort of like when you swim over that dark and cool pool and suddenly your foot is brushed by something that everyone said was dead and gone. That feeling, only without all the screaming.

I lament when time and distance force me from friends, or prevent me from talking to someone as much as I'd like, sometimes to the point that I lose them entirely. A very good friend of mine in high school travelled to and from Europe a lot after his college years, expanding his mind (formidable) and his horizons (already rather wide) and as the years went on he got further and further away until one day it occurred to me that I had no idea of how to get in contact with him anymore.

A very good friend of mine right now is overseas, fighting in this god-forsaken war. He's got about 90-ish days left, and I for one am desperately glad to think of him coming home again. For a while there it seemed that every weekend we were getting together to go down to the Oriental Wok to have supper together, or play Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (he's a police office, which brings an extra sweetness to beating the cops on the game) and to smoke cigars or pipes. He's been over there for well over a year now, and we cannot go to The Wok without thinking that there's something integral missing.

The list goes on, I could sing you a litany that would break your heart, a song of lost friends and missed opportunities and names forgotten in the dusty attic of my head, but I won't do that to you. I've got to get to town--a friend of mine just received my cigar order, and I've got about 90 sticks to pick up.

Hoo-Yah!

Jun 14, 2005

The soul of hilarity is brevity.

Or so I'm suddenly being lead to believe.

I had a crisis of...well, okay, not a crisis, but another round of self-doubt and self-questioning and over-analysing the other day, and have not so much hit a snag but brushed up against the dock hard enough to sort of rattle the tacklebox.

Not to confuse you with a dark-haired beauty, I feel I'm sort of a Scheherezade. I like telling stories. Granted I'm not telling them to keep an amourous fat sheik out of my tent, but you get the drift. I like telling stories, and I think that at times I do a pretty good job of it. The thing is this--I think I'm losing some of you because of my sheer volubility.

Either that or I don't use the word "tits" enough. *shrug*

My concern is that I am a documentary in a sound-bite world. And it's a mark of a writer to doubt his or herself, right? Well, I'm right in the groove then. I wake up in the mornings and my brain has been busily bubbling all night, and as I shower and shave it starts offering up ideas for The Morning Post, and I sort them and refine them and by the time I sit here they're about half-baked because I've got to choke them out and get going, so I'm never quite 100% pleased with the result, but that's my brand of creativitiy, I suppose. But my brand is also long, purple-proseish. I have to wonder how many of you have turned away after one look at a 14 paragraph long post that's so wordy it's dragging your server down at work when you'd rather be over at myboyfriendisatwat reading about life in Belgium in three paragraphs or less.

Aah, self doubt.

So anyway, of my nine or so regulars, honest, tell me do--long posts, or short?

Jun 11, 2005

Me, I don't get it.

Blogger needs to go through it's blogrolls and delete every damned advertisement and p0rn site they list. That might decrease their membership roll by a few million, but spend five minutes surfing with the "Next Blog" button and you'll see what I mean. Every tenth blog is a real person, and half of those aren't even in a recognisable language.

So anyway--

A magician was driving down the road, then he turned into a drive way.

There were two muffins in the microwave. One of the muffins says "Man it's hot in here!"
The other muffin exclaims "Look a talking muffin!"

Q. What's pink and fluffy?
A. Pink fluff
Q. What's blue and fluffy?
A. Pink fluff holding it's breath


I feel: robbed by Blogger.

What about Neosporin?

Crows Attack Joggers In London

Thank heavens they gave him some antiseptic wipes.

The serpent was subtil

Yes, I know I misspelled "subtle," it's a reference to Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" video, which was referencing the KJV of the bible.

Yesterday was...interesting. I had left work to go to the local supermarket for some lunch, and coming back the ladies across the parking lot screamed at me when I drove up to come help them. We work in sort of a pentaplex, two buildings on our side, three on the other, and they're all sitting on big mounds of dirt, which leaves a lot of the concrete slab showing. So when I turned I immediately saw two older women behaving like scared monkeys and a 3' long black line up against the base of their building. I ambled over, and they're freaking out because there's a snake there.

Okay, let's take this from the top:


  • We live in Louisiana, a state not known for it's dryness nor vast expanses of concrete.
  • We work very near a small man-made lake and a lot of trees and underbrush.
  • We live in Louisiana.


So what conclusion can we draw from this? That there's going to be wildlife abounding, and since we're encroaching on their grounds, they're going to interact with us. And yes, I indeed know and respect people's views on snakes, and still respct my syster even though she kills every single slithering thing she sees, including garden hoses and rope, because her dog has been bit twice by poisonous snakes, but living half an hour from her keeps me from launching a rescue effort over there every time she sees a snake. So anyway...

Being in possession of my senses, naturally the first thing I notice is that it's business end is pointed away from me, the secnd thing I notice is it's colour (dark muddy green with red flecks,) the third thing is the little round head. Conclusion? Harmless, what farmers and livestockmen around here call a "chicken snake" or a "rat snake." I'm not even sure of it's real name, sad to say. Numerous as fleas, and about as dangerous as a hop toad. Granted they look tough, because they can obtain quite a length (I've seen them up around the 5' mark) but their bite is about as bad as that of a chameleon lizard.

So, the conversation went just a little like this:

Them: "Will you kill it?"
Me: "Uhm...No. It's harmless." (And all life is sacred, even yours, you lame bitch.)
Them: "Is Chris there?" (meaning the boss) "He killed the last one!" (Inaccurate--he shot point blank and missed the last one a year ago, and the secretary had to kill it with a shovel.)
Me: "No, Chris is gone. It's not poisonous, don't worry." (And even if he was here I wouldn't bother him with something as silly as this.)
Them: "What is it? Shouldn't you kill it?"
Me: "It's a chicken snake--see the round head and the little red bits in it's scales? It's not poison. Poisonous snakes have triangular heads. Chicken snakes eat rats and frogs. If you kill it you'll be infested with rats." (I know, turning teacher to those two was about like trying to teach a pig to ride a bike, but I had to try.)
Them: "Do you have a shovel? Chris had a gun..." (Yeah, I carry a shovel on my bike.)
Me: "I don't carry a handgun on my motorcycle. Anyway, it's a CHICKEN SNAKE." (At this point I was starting to get a little nasty, because they were really pissing me off with their insistence I kill it.) "Unless you're a rat you're pretty
safe." (I was rather proud of that line!)
Them: "That guy in the white car *pointing* wouldn't do it." (They meant the other Chris, the nurse. He said he had no time to mess with stupid old women when I asked him later. Yeah!)
Me: "Let me put my food inside, I'll come get it. Leave it alone until then."

I went in, took off my jacket and helmet, went back out, grabbed a little twig and held it's head down so it wouldn't get nervous and bite me, and the poor thing panicked (naturally) when I touched it, so it drew all that length up into a little wad and started rustling it's little pointy tail in the dirt, trying to make a noise like a ground rattler to scare me off. I snagged it behind the jaws and scooped it up. The women, who I guess had been watching, certain it was going to leap up and bite my face off, went insane when I lifted it, then screamed and ran inside. I walked it down to the fence and tossed it into the tall grass, and that was that.

When I went back up the parking lot the harpies came back out and shouted "Did you kill it?"

I was proud of myself for not using profanity. I couldn't keep from sneering at them, though, when I said "No, I tossed it over the fence. It's not gonna bother you anymore."

I guess years of watching my father take care of snakes in the yard finally sank in. We always had snakes in the yard, living so close to the bayou and several fields, and I've seen him handle everything from a five inch long baby garter snake up to a monster of a cotton-mouth moccasin that got up in the yard when I was very very little. He always did it with a certain familiarity, and never made a production out of it. And whenever either of us was there he'd take the opportunity to teach us; to show us how snakes were put together, how they felt, how they looked, and moved, and more importantly what to look for on a snake to be sure what you were facing. Again, I guess it all finally sunk in.

Anyway, I did what I had to do, to keep a harmless snake alive and keep the idiots next door from harming themselves or it. I think it's what my father would have wanted me to do.

Jun 10, 2005

Miss Behaving

I was thinking this morning, and yes, we all know that's a dangerous thing indeed. A mind is a terrible thing, and should be stopped before it hurts someone.

I was thinking that we're running out of things.

Not things in a general sense, because that's a rather wide application. Let me clarify. I'm a huge fan of WWII aircraft, right up to the jet age where I draw the line. And as the years have passed, I've been lucky enough to live right on the outskirts of an air force base. So as a child, I spent more than a few summers walking up and down scalding hot tarmac, looking at and into aircraft of every sort and description. And the years I didn't get to go to the show I spent lying on the scalding hot roof, watching the fly-overs, which was almost better than being at the base, because then I didn't have to deal with the crowds.

Last year around this time I got a call late one night from my brother, who was utterly freaking out. You see, it's possible to see almost the entire base (now closed and turned into a small metro airport) from the 'bayou road' that winds toward our house, and I think a day doesn't go by that I don't drive that road and cast at least one glance up across the hangars and the runways, trying to see what's new. Well, my brother, coming home late one night swore to me on the telephone that he had seen a WWII era bomber on the tarmac, and, holding his voice very low, he thought it was a B-17.

Now the fact that there might be a bomber on the tarmac alone was thought enough to make me want to slip my shoes on and go see. The thought that it might be a B-17 was enough to make me slip a gear. I grabbed the digital camera and tore off for the base. Sure enough, it was a B-17, a silver-skinned beauty basking under the glow of the area lights.

Long story short, it turns out that this aircraft, "Sentimental Journey," was on tour from an air museum out in the desert. I got two different opportunities to crawl all over her, inside and out, poking my head in every open door and access port. It was a grand time. And it made me think of one other tour of a B-17 that I had managed years ago, the "Tommahawk." And speaking to SJ's flight crew, I realised that I had just set foot in the second of only twelve B-17s that are still airworthy. That got me to thinking of how many aircraft there are that are even rarer than that. There is a tiny little aircraft, I believe it's name is the "Fairy Swordfish" or something very unusual like that, which was made to be stored inside a Navy dirigible, and lowered, launched, and later recovered from the dirigible during flight. There were I believe six of them when the dirigible carrying them all crashed during a test flight, and now they're all on the bottom of the ocean.

And this could turn into a post about lost opportunities, but it's not going that way. You can get enough of that from your own life without me poking fingers into it. No, I was thinking more about the experiences that get lost when we lose people or things. When an elderly person dies, all that experience, all those years of wisdom are instantly taken from us. I have no idea what it's like to drive an old Cadillac on a winding country rode, but there are people out there who do. I don't know what it was like to stand in the gunner's bay of a B-17 in the bitter cold of the upper atmosphere and defend your ship and your crewmates from enemy fire, but there are still a few gentlemen out there who did just that. I don't know what it's like to drive a car around a racetrack at 200 mph, although I do know what it's like to drive a motorcycle at 174.

There's so much I'm missing, so much I want to hear about. To return briefly to the B-17 theme, the base out here used to be, back in it's glory days, a B-17 base. My mother has told me, several times, because I cannot get enough of the story, the day she and her family watched a crippled B-17 return over the trees, very low, with a fully-loaded bomb bay, and make a semi-controlled crash landing on the runway without exploding. The best I can match that with? I got up early one morning and was treated to the sight of an Ag Cat crop duster airplane crash in a cottonfield no more than a mile or two distant.

That event sort of pales in comparison.

So--go talk to someone today. Let them tell you about something you've never done. And keep that memory alive for someone else, before there's no-one left who knows what it's like to feel a horse gallop with you in the saddle, or what it feels like to dive into the ocean to swim with dolphins.

Jun 9, 2005

They can't all be winners

I think Lee Iacocca said that after he released the Reliant "K" car on an unsuspecting market.

It's one of THOSE mornings. You know the kind, you've shared enough of them with me here. One of those mornings where nothing is bright and spritely in my head, anxious to get out and live on the glowing phosphor dot screen that is our only link to the world we call The Web. No ground-shaking event occurred yesterday that begs to be posted here, no soul-crushingly bad occurance that drives me to pour out my soul like a big burlap sack of dry oatmeal. See? Even the metaphors aren't working right this morning.

So, when in doubt, steal something, this time from Sci Fi Daily.

1) Who was the mad scientist in the classic Metropolis?
2) What was the name of the pacifist race in The Time Machine?
3) What was the film and TV series that featured the Seaview?
4) Who was the writer, producer and director of Plan 9 from Outer Space?
Edward Wood, Jr, greatest director ever.
5) What was the name of Ripley’s ship in Alien?
6) What was the name of the "robot policeman" in The Day the Earth Stood Still?
7) What was the title of Ming the Merciless on the Planet Mongo?
8) What was the name of the race of creatures created by Saruman in The Lord of the Rings
9) What was the film featuring Raquel Welch in a miniaturized ship traveling through a human body?
10) Who was the ambulatory man eating plants in a 60s sci-fi classic?
11) Who was the author of Make Room! Make Room!, the inspiration for Soylent Green?
12) What's the one-word command to activate the Enterprise transporter?
13) What's the name of the other hero mentioned in the first Spiderman movie?
14) What was Boris Karloff’s character’s original name in The Mummy?
15) Which TV series had Doug and Tony leaping through different historical eras?
16) What was the American International movie that teamed up the Teenage Werewolf and the Teenage Frankenstein?
17) What was Scott McCloud’s heroic name?
18) From what race of creatures does Chewbacca rescues the dismantled C3PO in The Empire Strikes Back?
19) Who was Zira’s lawfully wedded spouse?
20) Peter Jackson’s next film features this classic movie giant. What's his name?
21) Who was the DC Comics muck creature that cavorted with Adrienne Barbeau?

My answers are below, in case you want to see how big a sci-fi geek you are. *S*

Me, I'm surprised there was no Dr. Who questions in there, so I'll add three of my own:

A) For 2 points, what was the name of the Doctor's robotic companion. I know, that's an easy one, so here's a harder one.

B) For seven points, what does the name "TARDIS" stand for? And if you've got that one, here's an even harder one.

C) For twenty points, without looking it up, exactly what words are posted on the door of the TARDIS?


And here's my answers to the geek questions--bonus questions to be answered tomorrow.

1) I can remember the robot, and the effects, but not the scientist.
2) It was something close to "Eroi." Forgive me, Mr. Wells!
3) Yeah, that.
4) Edward Wood, Jr., greatest director ever to wear angora.
5) The Nostromo. "Mother, turn the cooling units back on!"
6) Gort. Klaatu, veradda niktu!
7) Emperor Ming, Lord of the Universe and I'm sure a ton of other high-falutin stuff. *lol*
8) The Urukai
9) Fantastic Voyage...that white body-suit got me through puberty.
10) Triffids!
11) Eh?
12) "Energise." Unless you're Picard, in which case you simply pointed at a handy red-shirted ensign and said "Make it so."
13) "Who do you think you are, Superman?"
14) Mr. Giggles? *lol* I remember it was a palindrome or something very hokey.
15) Time Tunnel?
16) Roger Corman Needs To Be Shot. *lol*
17) Erf? Shazam?
18) Those little brown dudes in the big-ass rusty aquarium. Jawas?
19) Cornelius
20) King Kong
21) Swamp Thing

Jun 8, 2005

Thomas Wolfe was right--

As much as I hate to give crecendence to an old rhubarb: you CAN'T go home again.

I mean, you can, really. When you get off work, or finish your errands, you can go home again. And again. What I mean, and what I think Mr. Wolfe meant too, is that once you make a break with something there's no going back, because it's gonna be bad. Like leaving your first wife, or quitting a job. Once you get out of that relationship you suddenly start to be able to see the cracks in the foundation, the rats in the walls, and you start to smell (again, you had just blocked it out the first time) the nose-curdling miasma that surrounds...well, you get the picture.

And that's enough from Thomas Wolfe, because were I to try and go any further I'd have to break out my Norton Anthology of English Lit, and that'd involve me moving from this chair, which isn't going to happen, much like another literary Mr. Wolfe.

Thus ends English 101, your essays are due tomorrow.

It was strange to be back in OD yesterday. I stopped by to see a friend I left behind, and it was quite peculiar to be crossing that parking lot again. And I could tell that my absence was at least in some tiny way showing--the lot was full of shopping carts.

I know, I can just HEAR you laughing, but I learned a vaulable lesson there--you can screw off and still work. The young ones hadn't learned yet that walking out in the parking lot to 'fetch some buggies' was a prime opportunity to walk around in the sunshine, breathe the fresh air, be away from the incessant demands of telephone and mouth-breather customer, and simply relax for a second. It was an ultra-mini vacation, if you will. And I took them. A lot. Heck, there was a prime opportunity waiting for some enterprising young lad or lady--the wind had blown one stray all the way across the lot and into the ditch, and that in itself would have made me smile for hours. A long slow stroll across the lot and back, doing the business a service, and almost five whole minutes in which to wander nearly aimlessly in the fresh air, and a prime opportunity to network (read: watch for pretty girls in the other shops and trying to get them into OD using only The Power Of My Mind.)

The regional and district managers used to compliment us on how clean the lot stayed. I'm surprised none of them ever complimented me on my tan. I guess they never made the connection, either.

Seeing how much things had changed and how much they had stayed the same was just as peculiar, and the new faces abounded. My lord, they hired an entire 6th grade class. There wasn't a bearded chin in the building. And everything looked just a little shabby around the edges. Nothing terrible, just...shabby. I won't even discuss how my department looked, but the boss had to take the opportunity to use his favourite line within my hearing. Used to be, I'd be helping someone, and I'd overhear him encounter someone else, and he'd wrap up very fast with the line "If you need anything else I'll be happy to get my furniture specialist for you" and he'd pointedly look at me, as if to demand that I take that string, too. He pulled it on me yesterday, while I chatted with one of the marketing reps that happened to be back there, and I laughed at him when he used The Line and said "Oh, you HAVE one of those now?" It was a sweet moment, because I knew damned well he didn't, not since I left.

I'm irreplacable! Muah-hah-hah!

The strangest part was sitting in the boss's office chatting with him. Before, it would have been me sitting there browbeating him, and him making up excuses for not firing people. Yesterday it was camping and cigar smoking. Tres peculiar, I can tell you. But it was all over soon, and the cat tree was picked up from the pet store and I even managed to get it home dry, which is no mean feat considering it has been pouring rain for days now.

But Thomas was right--you can't go home again, once you've left it for good. It's simply too painful.

Jun 7, 2005

In the future, all Mankind will share one mind.

Everyone says "Hi."

I love that joke.

So anyway, let's move on.

It's long been a favourite theme of science fiction that humans will eventually share a group mind. Either that or there are indescribable aliens out there intent on destroying us and taking our women who have a hive mind and it's their downfall. In the limitless landscape of science fiction, this is a marvelous thing to try and comprehend. In reality? It'd knock all life into a cocked hat.

If we were to suddenly be given the power to share a group mind, would we all suddenly reach some sort of all-encompasing Enlightnment, to realise that all people everywhere share our same hopes and dreams and fears? No. We'd realise that having a group mind would be just like the Internet--on one end you'd have the complete and utter loonies who think the government is spraying us with toxic chemicals for their own demented ends, and on the other end you'd have the few truly intelligent people who have their heads on straight but can't manage to match a tie to a pair of slacks.

And in the middle you'd have the Great Unwashed Common Man. You'd have billions of completely incorrect factoids, you'd have hearsay, conjecture, and outright disinformation. You'd have people desperate to know what Brittney Brittney is wearing this weekend at the Gala Premier, and you'd have overweight Mountain Dew swilling pubescent boys in their basements fretting over whether 9 or 10 d20's will be enough for next week's SuperMegaElectroGeekCon5000. And through all this you'd have to wade, to find the little tiny bit of information you really want--how much vanilla extract you need so you can make that killer cookie recipe your grandmother always served on Sunday afternoons.

It's a wonder we don't all collapse right now from the weight of our own banality.

I sometimes entertain myself (?) by surfing blogs. Blogspot has that handy little "Next Blog" hyperlink up there by which you can surf randomly through all the blogs that they host, and that's an awfully large mound of horse shit to be digging through if you're hoping to find a pony. Granted, I've found a few horseshoes, and once I found a nice bridle, but no pony yet. I'm sure it's there, I've just got to keep digging.

So back to the group mind. Do you really want everyone in the known world to know what you're thinking? All the time, without fail? It might keep crime down, since everything you planned not only would be published out there for anyone to see but you'd also have the benefit of all the accumulated knowledge of all the folks who have tried it and failed already, so you could see where you're going to go wrong before you even go. And things like sneaking out of the dorm after dark to enjoy a little ass grab/titty squeeze would certainly be curtailed, because not only would your intentions be immediately apparent to anyone who cared but you'd also have to witness the memories of your own folks doing the same thing when they were your age, and if there's no more effective control to messing about than seeing your parents messing about then I'm a regal monkey.

So you see, I think we've pretty much put to rest the idea that a Group Mind would be the answer to all our problems. I think it's pretty obvious that we simply need to get a good grip on ourselves, hike ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and abolish this thing called "the Internet" because it's only a cesspool filled by millions of people who firmly sincerely believe that if only they can prove to 1000 people that Bigfoot is their baby daddy then Jaizus will personally arrive with a check from Microsoft (who has been monitoring your email forwarding activities) and Bill Gates and you will ascend to a resort spa where if you're a guy you will have a permanent errection and if you're a girl you'll be 18 forever and you'll lavish each other with overseas stock investments that are guaranteed to double your money for all eternity.

Obviously the answer is simple: one ruling Overmind.

Jun 6, 2005

Louisiana After The Rains

And if you're a Max Ernst fan, you might recognise the play on words. If not, don't sweat it, it's a joke that esoteric even for me, and I know what it means.

The rains came yesterday afternoon. The best part is that they came AFTER I was done cutting grass, clearing the fenceline, and even doing a very small amount of gardening (at some point in the day I'm sure I bent at the waist and pulled a weed out of some bed somewhere.) I was actually in my shop, of all places, when the first rain came. I had to stop and look out the dust window to verify that my ears weren't simply ringing from the table saw's scream, but sure enough there was actual wet water falling from the actual blue sky. Utterly wonderful. Cooled everything off nicely, it really did, and made everything feel fresh again. And it never stopped long enough to make the place turn into a sauna, which was doubly nice.

I even managed to complete a project yesterday, and break another one. I've got this little squiggle of a knick-knack shelf I was playing around with, you see. I saw one in a wholesale catalog and said, as I often do "Hey, I could do that." So I tried it, learned a few valuable lessons on the way, and promised Vulgar Wizard she could have it when I was done, which it's down to the tung oil finish stage now, and yesterday while sanding it I managed to separate part of it from another part. I swear, VW, I'm not shirking, I'm actually just clumsy. So it's gluing back up, and perhaps next weekend it'll be done.

And I need to wrap this up way short of my usual output because I have to go feed the brother's dogs and livestock and insects, and foolishly I also had to have breakfast this morning. So sue me, I was hungry.

More later.

Jun 5, 2005

How do I get traffic, officer?

One of the blogs I read occasionally just boasted that a poll they took accumulated over 700 visits in a 24 hour period.

So my question, asked from a mind that craves attention, is "How the hell do I get that sort of traffic without selling myself for nickels or putting the word "twat" in my blog's title? I mean DAMN. Don't get me wrong, she writes well, but not all THAT well. And most of it is whining about her family and how Belgium is. Borderline stuff at best. So is that the trick? I need to be more mediocre? Well then, here we go!

Okay, so let me complain about the heat. It's freaking HOT out there, can I tell you? The wife asked me to drive to Wal-Mart today to pick up a script, and since I had a request from the daughter for a butterfly net, and I needed some deodorant, and I could use all that as excuse to go fill the gasoline cans for the lawn tractor and weedeater that I never use, so I put on the jeans and headed out. And started sweating immediately.

What's sad is that I went at 10 am. I was up at 6:30 (late for me) and out on the fenceline at 7 swinging an idiot stick with more than idiotic fury (the shoulder tells me so right now) and it was hot then, so I guess I got what I deserved if not expected. I also went early to get to Wal-Fart before the idjits arrive. When Church lets out Wal-Mart fills with brightly-coloured Sunday Best Idiots who are all looking for just the right loaf of french bread or just the particular car battery they need to get home, and as much as I hate that place I utterly REFUSE to set foot in there on a Sunday afternoon. I'd sooner have my trunk hammered flat and nailed to the floor with roofing tacks by a 300 pound redneck in Dickies named "Bo."

Ne in my early-birdness got there to find the pharmacy closed, either because of the dreadfully early hour or because Louisiana still sometimes suffers from the effects of the old Blue Laws, so after a few well-chosen explectives for the world at large I went on to find the other items. Thankfully the gawds that be kept the entire trip from being an utter failure by letting me find the two other items I needed after spending a fruitless twenty minutes looking for an employee who gestured across half the store and said "It's on thuh thud aile," and so I got my goodies and fled. The wife called me en route out of the parking lot, thereby cleverly distracting me from stopping at Lowe's, which was what I intended to do, since I was already in the truck and sweating like a pig I figured I go ahead and buy some pine lumber for her potatoe/onion/bread bin. Instead, while talking to her (I can't do more than one thing at a time effectively) I drove on past the Lowe's cut-off.

Now at this point I could have simply turned around in a parking lot or on a side-street, but turning around would have involved me slowing down or even, heaven forbid stopping, and that would then make the air current in the window stop moving and I would die. See, I've got no A/C in the truck, because the bits alone will run a grand, and installation another grand or so, so as often as possible I ride the bike or take someone else's vehicle.

I end up driving to the local Sutherlands, a long story because I used to work there and HATE going into the place, their selection is poor and the place is FILTHY, but it's on the way home and I didn't want to stop for long so I walk into the lumber yard side, spend a fruitless half-hour searching through their wide selection of rocking-chair lumber, and salvage out two boards that I could possibly make work.

Loaded up my two sway-backed boards in the truck bed, and they're too long for the tailgate (and I refuse to lay something on the tailgate that will scratch the paint so I lay them one on top of each other beside the gas cans, and being 1' X 12" x 8' long I figure they're heavy enough to ride okay. Hah. Fool that I am, I blithely pull onto the highway and the top board decides to slide off into the highway. Right in front of a Sherriff's Deputy, who did nothing more than drive around it. I was utterly mortified. It is very rare that I lose loads, and when it happens it always makes me feel foolish for not having the smarts to properly secure said load, so there I am, leaping out of the truck to rescue it before the traffic light changes and people start racing toward me.

At some point about an hour later I arrived at the gas station to fill up the cans, and I took a few minutes to inspect the boards a little closer. Now I knew they were warped, but not how badly, or the heat taking out the incredibly high moisture content of the wood made them warp even more prominently, because the boards were soooooo warped and cupped that the top had about 1 square inch of surface contact, and the rest was up in the air, so the grain-on-grain friction was, well, nil.

At this point I'm a bit afraid of setting foot outside again, because my next stop, after lunch at the 'rents house will be to work on the poplar lumber I bought to restore the swing with, and then do some on the potatoe bin, and hopefully work on Vulgar Wizard's knick-knack display, and damned at this point if I think it might be more efficient if I just took the table saw and cut my own leg off with it, to save myself the difficulty of cleaning blood off half-done projects.

It's been a hell of a day.

Jun 3, 2005

It's all in your head

And your lower back, and your knees that sound like castanets when you climb stairs or get up from a squat.

Age. Or more specifically, physical age vs mental age. I guess when you get out of training pants you start asking yourself things like "Am I getting old?" and "Why does my body hurt in the mornings?" and "Where's my applesauce? Who are you people? Where's my regular nurse?"

I often curse the day the first proto-man decided to go ahead and use that bulging forehead for something other than a handy coconut opener and turned on the self-consciousness circuit, thereby saddling himself and every one of his billions of descendants with neuroses, crises of self doubt, and headaches. Way to go, Ugh. I appreciate that, we all do.

But, no use crying over spilt grey cells, is there. We've now got a mind that spends it's entire day racing backward and forward across the years, from the day you were too ashamed to raise your hand in class and decided that you'd pee just a little bit to take the pressure off, all the way to the day that you'll be lying in a nursing home bed and be too obstinate to raise your hand to pee so you just make a mess for the day nurse to clean up, and then the nurse will be further inclined to return the favor by peeing in your tuna hot-melt.

I was asked just a few days ago how old I felt, mentally, and without even thinking about it I replied "About 25." You'd have to cut me in half and count my rings to see how old I really am, or maybe just check my Profile, I think I was foolish enough to put my year of birth in there, but if you know me in person you'd probably be inclined to say that I act about 12 most times, and mid 20's otherwise. At least I'd like to think that. And of course those of you who have seen me after a hard day's physical labor will likely tell me that I act about 95, and strangely enough on those days I DO feel like I'm about 95.

The hooman mine is a wunnerful thing indeedy. So powerful, and we haven't even scratched the surface (so to speak) of it's ability. Nor do hardly any of us use it to it's full potential, but that's another post. It affects us in thousands of tiny ways, and we affect it in turn. And mine has decided to let the events of the morning sidetrack me into a discussion of kitty rescue rather than a high-brow discussion of thought and it's processes, it seems.

See, Tall, Grande and Venti have all gotten to the age that they've decided they are Velcro Kitties. They climb everything, and being on a patio they have ample screen to climb. Well, they used to be content with climbing to the foot-and-a-half-height beam out there, where they'd get stuck and scream and holler for help. Then they got used to that and started heading up toward the four-and-a-half-foot ledge, where they'd get stuck and holler for help. Well, being Big Kitties now, they've decided that the only goal in life is to climb all the way up to the seven foot roofline, where there's a slot for the soffitt to breathe, and which will juuuust fit a determined Klimbing Kitty.

This morning I heard two little voices calling, and found Tall and Venti jammed into those little soffitt spaces, two little tabby faces staring out at the 'suddenly seven feet in the air' drop to the patio below. Rescue was easy, scruffing them and pulling them to my chest for some comfort, but then not five minutes later I hear Grande screaming.

Now, keep in mind that Grande does not take rescue well. Grande does not take ANYTHING well. Grande does not care for people yet, and is proving to be the hardest to socialise. And Grande, when I had him scruffed and half-way out into the air began screaming like a banshee who just got it's fingers slammed in a car door, which woke up the entire house and energised the five INSIDE kitties to a state of ferocity, and when I finally had Grande free and on my chest to calm him he promptly climbed my shoulder and was making his way down my back while I got back to the patio floor. He leapt off and ran away into a corner immediately, to tell tales of my ferocity and his daring-do.

Ungrateful little brat.