Jun 30, 2007

Poetry Fridy Challenge: Cat

You'd think this would be an easy post, as I am owned by six cats, but it's given me the gyp.

I was looking for a poem I wrote a very long time ago, after having to listen to a very deaf, very uncaring old man have his very elderly graymalkin put to sleep in the vet's office, but I cannot find it. What I did find was this, a bit I wrote in 1997. It's not cheerful, but it's an inescapable fact that when we bring other lives into our space, into the circle of our hearts and our arms we take responsibility for their quality not only of life but of death, too. Responsibility to make sure that their death is easy and painless as possible, and that they know beyond a shadow fo a doubt that they were loved.

Prayer to Bubastis

Bubastis--I send unto your keeping the soul of a kitten. Please take this little one into your arms, keep it warm and clean, and give it the comfort of your mother's care so that it might live forever in your keeping.

I held a kitten today while it died. It was one of three, the runt, and was never very strong or large. Where it's siblings grew larger and more playful as time went on, this little one (I never got to give her a true name) didn't get any larger, slept often, and was weak, never got playful with it's siblings. It was, however, the most affectionate of it's litter. How many nights did this little one sleep on top of the comforter while I slept at night, or curled up on my terry cloth robe and napped while I watched TV. It's mother cared for it, but there was some lack, some unseen failure that I could not fix.

I walked into the house after spending the day working outside today, and found the little tabby lying on it's back on my comforter, legs splayed. I stroked it's back, and it tried to meow, but it had no strength to get any noise out. It had gotten so weak from whatever failure it had in it's body that it had finally crossed the line from living to dying. My heart tore, tears came to my eyes, and I held the poor tiny thing in my hands, barely a handful, smelling of death. I stroked and held it, it lay it's tiny little head against my fingers and after a few minutes it had stopped breathing. I took the tiny one outside, dug a pitifully small hole in the yard, in a quiet place where the sun often shone, and buried it with a prayer to Bubastis to take the wee tiny soul into her arms and love it's tiny self as I did; barely knowing it, but loving it all the same for it's spark of life, short and feeble though it was.

Bubastis, watch over them all. Watch over the nameless kittens killed by tomcats on the prowl. Watch over calico Psycho, my 'old queen of the house.' Watch over the oldster at the veterinarian's so many years ago, his tired heart stilled by drugs, easing it's suffering of too many years lived. Watch over Fafhrd, taken by some nameless unseen heart distress. Watch over all the kittens and cats living and dead. Watch over them and love them as we do.

~circa 1997

And in looking back over the years, watch over Sophia, the beautiful jelicle cat, and Fafhrd's brother Grey Mouser, who moved to Oregon many years ago to live with The Goat, where he died of a ripe old age lived chasing birds and eating mice. Watch over Finnegan, Old Mr. Big Head hisself, who never would stay put long enough to become my house cat, and over Mamie, who would bite when she was happy, who wandered up one day wearing an over-tight zip-tie for a collar, pregnant as all outdoors, who now lives with a sweet old lady who needed a loving tabby. And watch over all the little and the big, please, all the kittens and the cats that live or die, named and unnamed, who pass out of so many lives unmourned.

And less this be nothing but a song of mourning, thank you.

Thank you for Agaku, my first Fishercat, the old queen of the house now, who epitomises the saying "A tabby cat is a very bland cat indeed" but without whose quiet ways and gentle manners I never would have known the love of cats again.

Thank you for Babel, my poor crazed tortoise-shell lumber-cat, who began her life by being tossed over a fence in a plastic bag with her sisters and brothers, who came to live here and is my ever-warm comforter, with her squeaky meow and her reclusive ways.

Thank you for pure as driven snow Cracker, our "gay uncle" of the house, with his soft feet and his close-mouthed miaou when he wants to share my oatmeal.

Thank you for Delilah, the other calico of the house, she who knows my weakness in cats; she of the flowing hair and the plume-tail, who sings with such abandon and unabashed enthusiasm.

Thank you for Egan, the little flame-point Siamese who, at two days of life, abandoned by his mother, was found nosing in the dirt. It was he who taught me that it was okay to be close to little tiny kittens, that with care and cans of KMR kitten milk carefully mixed and given through a tiny syringe and nipple can grow into fourteen pound bottle babies, full of love and eagerness to please.

And thank you for Fiona, MY first bottle baby, fallen into the hollow of a wall and pulled out covered in filth and plaster dust, all orange and grey tabby spit and vinegar because she had the benefit of her mother's "wild milk" for her first few weeks.


Jun 29, 2007

Man Ray I Ain't

I never learn.

This morning going in to work I deviated from the usual drive to get some gas. And since I pass Union Tank Car's factory along that road I looked into the yard like I always do and saw a perfect line of probably twenty brand new black tank cars, each visibly marked with bright yellow paint, ready to be delivered into service with someone. I make a mental note (again) to call R., my cousin who is a manager of the welding shop or something there to ask him when Union Pacific (it's their rails, so it'd be them) comes to pick them up because it'd make a great photo, all that uniformity and contrast, and went on to get gas and then to work.

Time passes.

I took Rita (my truck, freshly back on her toes after a minor engine repair) back after lunch because the threat of rain is increasing quickly out here, and didn't bring the camera bag. Now that's the thing--I've been carrying my new camera pretty steadily, but held off the last few days because of...you got it, the threat of rain. So on the way in I stopped to pick up a Dr. Pepper for Vulgar Wizard, who has been jonesing for one all week, and I hear a train sound it's horns at the crossing that sits some one hundred and fifty feet away and behind a levee. Got back in the truck to see two UP engines (yellow and black, you see) pulling...

Wait for it...

Everyone together now: a whole line of brand new UTLX tank cars, about twenty of them in a row like cloned black elephants with yellow markings on their hides, shining in what would be perfect lighting for taking a photo at just after one in the afternoon.

Except I didn't think to bring my camera with me.

In the truck.

Damn I suck.

Jun 28, 2007

An Open Letter, or, Scent Of A Woman

Dear Stinky Grotesquerie-

Perfume, like spandex, is not a right--it is a privilege.

When I saw you drive up, I thought I caught a whiff of something dead in the air. When you opened your car door, I did whiff something; you, covered in Eu de Too Much, Too Late. I could smell your perfume through a closed glass door. And when I saw how much of you there was to overuse perfume on I realised right then that I was in trouble. Odiferous trouble.

When you opened that front door the delicate scent of One Week In A French Whorehouse Without A Working Bathroom got through that opening like a snake striking, and had about the same impact on me. I reeled, I spun, I went down for the count. That stuff was nasty, and to say that you were liberal with it is like saying that the ocean is a little moist. It was like being hit in the nose with a lilac sledgehammer. You need to stop. When I can smell you from four offices down with the A/C blowing full tilt then you've overdone it a little. It's gotten out of control, like your scent-drowned bulk.

In short, stop buying your perfume in the gallon economy size from Wal-Mart, and stop drinking it, douching with it, and using it for conditioner. I can assure you that it's only making your already manky self even more grotesque.

(the guy who for one solid week made loud gagging noises four offices away while you worked in our office.)

Jun 27, 2007

The Beauty That Is Woman

Women In Art.

Two hundred portraits of women, from the Old Masters up to Dali and beyond. A gorgeous video with a hauntingly beautiful violin soundtrack that you need to go see. Men, go see it because you might need to be reminded that women are the most wonderous things about the Universe. Women, go see it to be reminded of the beauty that lives within you. Seeing all that beauty, so many exquisite renditions of The Goddess that lives within all women made my heart stick in my throat.

You'll have to excuse me, I need to go throw my cloak over a puddle.

Jun 24, 2007

Poetry Friday Challenge: Crush

Okay, so the Poetry Friday Challenge has been sulking in it's dressing room, refusing to show it's lyric face until now.

Poetry Friday Late Sunday Evening Challenge


I thought I was a little
too old, too serious
for a crush. Thought that was
a fancy reserved for the young.
Seems I was wrong.

I have a crush you see, a serious
derangement of my status quo.
Driving desire to be with her in my heart.
I have a crush
on my garden.

My beautiful garden,
my love in her green and brown gown,
Lying there in the back yard,
her arms open wide to the sun, her yearning
to grow sounds like a sigh in the wind.

Her locks tumble and lie, all shades
of glorious green across her tan curves.
Succulent pleasures wait to be harvested from
her body, always open to my gentle touch
sun-warmed and ready, always giving.

She doesn't mind when I tumble her
with the rake, or run the tiller
puffing on a cigar, the pale smoke
pluming around my head,
her steam-powered cyborg.

Standing around an open grave, wrapped in
raven garb, in somber tones they always say
"Dust you are, and to dust you will return."
That fate doesn't seem so bad to me anymore;
An eternity, spent lying with my love.

*Thanks to Nancy Dancehall ("My Life in Fragments") for not slaying me outright (yet) for stealing her beautiful girl-as-earth metaphor.

Interdimensonal Driving Range

You can find ANYTHING on these here internets.

Seriously disturbed fun with golf, Sir Isaac Newton, and a sick sense of humour.

Watch The Video

Jun 22, 2007

Strangely Unsubtle

But stylishly bold!

Get it here, guys--the new "Rockin' Guy Blogger" button, As Seen On TV! and on Meno's Blog!

You know you were called, singled out from the swarming, sweaty, instinct-driven crowds of men bloggers as Something Special, Able To Make The Cut, and Other Capitalized Word Bites! Well, now you can tell the world that Meno Thinks Highly Of Your Writing!

I hope you're worth it.

Jun 20, 2007

Out On The Water

My father was a sportsman; a hunter and fisherman. He grew up in a part of Mississippi that was so rural that hunting and fishing was often the only way to bring meat to the table. Me, I never got the gene to be a hunter, and while I do enjoy fishing it's never been the necessity that my father lived, but I do enjoy the water.

I haven't been fishing in a long time now, and I find that I really miss it. The hum of an open-face reel spooling out line, the quiet 'plish' of a lure striking the water, and the constant wonder as to what is going on below you in that murky water. Not to mention the simple pleasure of guiding a little pirogue across that green and glassy surface with only a paddle and some arm strength.

I haven't put the Little Boat in the water in far too long. That's what the family always called it--"the Little Boat." My father had two boats, one being "the Big Boat," a small-sized offshore craft which he used to use for fishing in Lake Pontchartrain, what the coonasses called "Big Lake." It was no giant of the waterways, the Big Boat, but of course in comparison to the little fiberglass pirogue it was, well, you get the joke.

The Little Boat. I still have it, parked out back on it's trailer, forty plus years old now. I put it in the water by the simple expedient of dragging it off the trailer and into whichever lake I want to be in, now that the engine is off it. It's a twelve foot long fiberglass boat, about three feet wide at it's thickest and only about a foot deep, a true bayou boat. Light enough that even a single paddle can move it pretty easily, made to be in very shallow water, stable as a piece of granite tabletop.

I remember launching that little boat with my brother and my dad early on weekend mornings at Kinkaid Lake. He'd have to do most of the work himself since we were way too young, so he'd back the rig down the launch ramp, walk carefully along the trailer tongue, walk carefully down to the back of the boat and launch it with many a shake and wiggle, then pilot it over to the bank where he'd have to have one of us hold it (a signal honor) while he parked the truck and dripping wet trailer.

Getting in was always the easy part, as the shore held it stable until we could get ourselves settled in. He'd take a paddle, shove it deep in the bank and push, and we'd be off, drifting backward into the near-darkness, the sun only a reddish promise behind the black-shadowed treeline. I remember him turning around in the back of the boat, almost no room to move, and him pulling on the rope starter until the little engine coughed and ran, and we'd carefully, oh so slowly pilot our way out of the No Wake Zone. I don't think it really applied to us, because even at full throttle the little six and a half horsepower Evinrude couldn't push us fast enough to CAUSE a wake when it was loaded down, but Daddy was always patient and always law abiding, teaching us respect of our property and of Nature.

The little boat rode so low in the water that with the three of us and all our gear in there I always felt a not so secret terror that we would be swamped, even though it was wide enough to keep that from happening. You can't tell a young boy that and expect him to believe it, though, when the water is a mere six inches below the top of the boat, so Daddy would carefully turn the prow into every oncoming wake boiled up by the guys with the big monster boats and motors, tearing across the lake like wild men. My younger brother and I, seeing those slick green rollers headed toward us would always grimace and hang on tight to our vests and the boat's sides, but they'd break harmlessly around us with a bump and a splash. I'd look back and he'd be back there, hand firm on the keel, his calm face a beacon of certainty in the midst of the fright of being far out in a lake in a very small boat indeed.

I'm sure by that point we were already fidgeting because we'd been up since 4 am, but he'd slowly steer us out to his favourite spot and only then would he give us our rods and reels, the ones we'd been practicing with in the back yard, washers tied on the ends to simulate lures. Of course we'd start casting immediately, flailing and slinging, trying for distance instead of accuracy, endangering any bare skin with flashing bronze hooks and whistling lines. I still find myself amazed that he didn't just pitch us overboard, but no, he was always there, telling us to speak softly because the fish could hear us (I still half-believe that,) pointing out the widening ripples of fish striking the surface, showing us where to cast, and doing his own fishing in between bouts of taking care of our no doubt numerous and trying needs.

We'd usually fish around one little area at one edge of the lake, miles away from the ramp, a long way from the shore. It was far out enough that it always seemed we were lost, all familiar landmarks gone, that we were adrift alone, the lake suddenly empty but for us three. The area we fished was once part of the bordering forest but was now a watery field of stumps sticking up a few feet out of the water, as far as you could see. It was creepy, those half-rotten grey posts sticking up like broken teeth, tendrils of fog curling and moving, and only the quiet slap of small waves on the side of the boat to break the silence. But, we were told, that's where the fish were, hiding around the underwater shelter of the submerged giants. Naturally we would always lose baits there, snagging sharp hooks far below the surface on roots or trunks. That always entailed having to pass your rod back to Daddy, who would have to stop his fishing to cut the line and re-rig us.

Being young boys whose total lack of fishing knowledge was gleaned from watching Bill Dance on Sunday tv we always wanted vibrant colours of baits, so there was a certain amount of noisy, enthusiastic digging in the tacklebox for just that perfect lure. And somehow Daddy would always talk us into white or yellow or pale green, because he knew that those colours were sure to catch fish, while the eerie reds and sickly blues and electric purples were designed to catch fishermen and their wallets. Anyway, he would tell us in his quiet, reasonable voice, we were fishing for white perch, not bass, and so didn't need pink watermelon-coloured rubber snakes.

Naturally we'd be tired of fishing by the time the sun got just a little way up over the treetops, noon being far away indeed, and since we were kids and not fishermen we'd rarely catch anything, or worse, my brother would catch something (he being a shade more patient than me) and I'd be deeply hurt. And we'd be ready to stretch our legs; run, jump, do boy stuff, and there was simply no room in that little boat. It was genuinely impossible to move around without tripping over the big tackle box or the cooler, or each other. Daddy was always sort of walled in at the back by the big orange-red gas tank and his fishing rods, the huge old multi-drawered tacklebox and the paddles. His predicament was made worse by the engine's keel/throttle handle that used to fold back up against the motor but didn't anymore. It had cracked some distant time past and had been carefully repaired and locked in the down position with pale yellow-white fibrous tape. All that combined with his size made the back of the boat a no-boy's land. Once you sat there you were going to be sitting there until we returned to land, and only my father had the patience to sit anywhere that long.

Through it all, somehow, he put up with us. Taught us. Calmed us. Some saving grace kept him from killing us, and I think a fair part of that was that we didn't go out fishing with him often. We stayed off the water just long enough to forget the discomfort and the mosquitoes and the heat but still remember the shivering joy of feeling your line suddenly go tight and the tip of the rod go diving toward the water in a graceful arc, and that made us want to go back out. And every time we asked he'd bring us, and smile quietly through our griping and struggling and noisemaking.

I stopped going fishing when I got a little older and found other hobbies, as did my brother. And over the course of days my father fell ill, lingering for over a decade and a half while Alzheimer's erased him from our lives, inch by slow inch. The boat sat on the trailer while the seasons passed, until I grew to miss the quiet times out on the lake, the splash of water against the hull and the quiet thrill of fighting a big catfish into the boat. I still try to go out fishing once in a while, dragging the little boat down through the reeds and into the water, and as I clamber in I always marvel--now I'm the six foot two giant struggling to work his way back to the little bench in the back, but now the little boat seems just right; comfortable, not too big, not too small. The motor hasn't run in decades and rests in a quiet corner of my shed, but the paddles still work just fine, and the small trolling motor makes for a fine engine.

I think it's about time to bring my daughter out on the lake, and smile patiently when she worries that the boat will tip in the huge rill of water driven up by a passing twenty foot Triton with it's 200 horsepower motor. It's about time I learned to wait patiently while she picks out just the right colour of lure, or help her untangle her line from an ill-placed branch. And perhaps I will get the chance to tell her to speak softly because she'll scare all the fish off, and I'll hear my father's voice echo back to me across the water.

Jun 19, 2007

Ship Of Fools

I like this whole nautical metaphor for work. While I write this it's raining so hard that fish are out wandering around exploring the parking lot and frogs are strangling so it seems rather appropos.

I started this metaphor, what, three weeks ago? Four? When the new Captain took over and started to turn the big wheel, bringing this ship into the course she desired to be travelling on, steering by a compass only she can see fully. I think I might have talked about the near psychosis-level panic that gripped the ship, and the startling number of folk that went walking the long walk off the short boards. Well, since then we've taken on a whole host of new faces, all of whom have served on board other ships like ours, and a few who came from the new Captain's old ship.

Still with me? Good.

Today was rough. Bad day at sea, one of many in a long series; oily green-black swells hitting the ship one after the other, constant beating and roaring around us. Today the Captain decided to correct the course a little more, bring us closer in line to that point she has plotted out for us, and PJ decided to jump ship right in the middle of the day. The Captain turned the wheel just a little, the ship swung ever so slightly around, and it happened. With very little warning, just a few strained words and a few angry tears she was overboard and swimming for some shore that, to her, must have seemed verdant and welcoming. It was a hell of a shock, I can tell you. We've all been grumbling, it's the right of a sailor to grumble at all times and about all things, but for her to take the next step...we simply didn't see it coming.

It made me think, though, about a hard lesson I learned a long time ago. I learned that nobody, from the lowest swab to the highest commander is irreplaceable. Nobody. The day I learned that if I quit my job it wouldn't matter a tinker's dam to anyone but me really humbled me. Oh, I might be vital enough to throw a wrench in someone's gears for a while but soon they'd get over it, fix the problem, hire another body and in time I'd be forgotten.

I realised that about PJ today. It sucks profoundly that she's gone, but honestly? There's more sailors willing to do her job. Plenty of them. And we'll make do, and in six months or a year's time she might walk up to me in a store and want to visit, and I won't have the slightest idea of what her name is anymore. I'll make polite conversation, and when things get too uncomfortable I'll beg off with a polite lie and a smile and walk away, wondering who that person was, and where I knew them from. And then I'll forget about them. Again.

Don't laugh, it's happened to me before. Frighteningly often.

I don't know if this is a good thing or not. And truth be told, I think that in the long view it's all, like the man says, irrelephant.

Jun 18, 2007

Clothes Make The Pachyderm

I've never been a clothes horse, never knew the ins and outs of what to wear, and I've certainly never been able to keep up with the vagarities of high fashion, nor understand it, and especially not afford it. My ideal of high fashion is a loose-fitting T-shirt and a pair of Levi's 550 jeans.

It all started this morning with a new pair of slacks for work. You see, I'm used to working in the Polo Shirt and Chinos Brigade. I seem to have entered the job market just about the time that polos and khaki pants had become the standard uniform for sales and office personnel, so I never thought twice about them. They're a little coarse, and they lose their colour and shape pretty fast, and show wrinkles pretty quickly if you sit for more than half an hour. And since they're fairly cheap I've gotten quite accustomed to wearing whichever brand happens to be on sale at the time. I guess that's why I don't know much about dress pants, and why this morning's find struck me as so earth-shattering.

I had found the satin lining.

I didn't know that men's dress slacks are lined. And no, I'm not referring to pinstripes, I'm talking about...well, sort of a sewed-in piece of extravagance. I never realised that men's slacks have a pant's leg inside their pant's leg. I know that sport and suit coats are lined with satin, I always just assumed that it was there to keep the material from hanging up on your shirt sleeves and such, and to hide the stitchwork and all the goings-on when you're reaching for your wallet to pay the waiter. Men's fedoras and better hats are lined with satin; again, I always figured it was because no-one wants to see raw felt on the inside of their $100 C-crown fedora from Milano, and it gives the manufacturer somewhere discreet to put their logo. But honestly, who is going to see the inside of your pant's leg?

Yeah, I know. Within certain circumstances.

I used to hate dressing up. I think all men do, at least at first. There's something deep inside us that rebels against looking nice. I've never been one to dress up a great deal, but when I do I've come to expect the clothing to feel different. Nicer. More on par with what you've spent for that nice suit. The material is more than just plain old cotton, so it feels different, right? So when I first sat down at my desk this morning and felt a seam or something in my pant's leg, I started cursing Wal-Mart. Thought for sure I had been had, that there was a bit of string, a missed series of stitches or something in my pant leg that had come loose and I had simply not noticed it before. But no, it seems that certain, well, shall we say "less expensive" slacks simply aren't lined all the way to the cuff, just long enough to cover the majority of the leg, and I was feeling the mid-length hem in the satin.

Satin lining. Who would have thought it? Not just a neat sort of satiny trim along the inside where the pockets are, not just an extra button and catch arrangement to keep the waist band from bunching up, making sure the front of your slacks don't wad up or strain in odd directions when you're carrying a few more pounds than you should. No, there's a lovely long bit of satin lining that keeps everything moving smoothly, keeps your pants draped nicely when you sit and when you walk.

Yeah, I know, I'm a freak. I just never realised it before. Not the freak bit, I knew that. I simply never knew there was a clothier's trick to making nice pants, er, nicer. But upon sober reflection I realised that chinos and khakis and such have just plain cloth for the pockets, and in the inside you can see the hems and stitching. Not so on slacks. They've got STYLE. They have a sort of Saville-Row broad striped satin lining along the waistband and such, and the pockets are made of the same satin material. Elegance. Sophistication. A satin lining.

So how long have garment makers been hiding this from us? Or am I just now waking to the Good Life? No wonder bankers and lawyers and the better class of mob enforcers wear nice slacks and suits. They've got satin on under that J C Penny's suit! They're wearing Man Slips.

I'm going to have to get out more.

Jun 17, 2007

Odds & Ends

More tidbits, you might even go so far as to say.

I've been a bit adrift here this last week or so, my thoughts more fragmentary and scattered than usual, so my posts, when present, have reflected that.

Todays post, unfortunately, is no different. *s*

I do, however, have some fun things for you to see.

Photos! Yeah, you guessed, you shrewed genius. I've not got this gawds-awfully expensive camera for nothing, you see. Saturdy morning involved a short drive up to Natchitoches, the oldest continuous settlement in Louisiana (1797 or thereabouts.) There was a nice little Green Market set up on the Cane River which we wanted to see, and the dogs enjoyed the playing, meeting new people, and the ducks.

And I got a nice photo or two of the very French architecture, though one of the problems, especially on Front Street where this is taken is the near-constant traffic. Just TRY and get a picture that's not full of cars.

Saturday afternoon found me free of housework, having earlier in the week successfully managed some *gasp choke* time management, so I went out (in the heat of the day, foolishly,) to see if I could find some new grafitti.

Success was immediate, which kept me in the fight. I found a whole new lineup of idle boxcars one town over, where I managed to find, amongst other things, the oldest "The Solo Artist" piece of my short career--a paint stick drawing on a boxcar dated 1992, protected and given props by an Aerosol Age grafitti artist working below him on the same car. That find and the other colourful tags I found emboldened me enough to ignore the heat and my copious sweat, and I found myself riding up the interstate. It works out nicely that you can see the entrance to the local Union Pacific yard from one of the overpasses, and I was further lucky enough to catch a full UP train idling while it waited for permission to enter the UP yard, alongside an extensive maintenance crew at work. Thanking all the two-wheeled gods that I was on the bike I parked rather dangerously on the shoulder of an exit and walked up to the top of the off-ramp. Photos ensued.

I've never seen anything like that yellow monster in the foreground. It would extend that pneumatic arm, lower a pair of clamps into the cracked concrete right of way, clamp a railroad tie and yank it out of it's placement as easily as a child could draw a Pick-Up-Stick out from a pile. And from the pictures you can see it's been busy. That lead me to follow the train onto the outskirts of the UP yard where a very little bit of skulking and sneaking netted me some more really good pictures and let me watch some of the railyard men at work sorting cars off onto different sidings. Good stuff!

Sunday morning began with a shout and dogs hurridly shuffled back indoors. You see, one of the joys of living in swampy, humid Louisiana is that you get a lot of swampy, humid wildlife showing up in the backyard.

This, for instance:

Couldn't tell you what the species name is, but it's an alligator turtle. This little work of anger and plastron showed up in the backyard this morning after, I can only assume, muscling a hole in the fence and determinedly breaking and entering...er...my backyard. He was a bit far from water and probably a little weak because of that, but I knew that even in his enfeebled state Belle could easily lose a nose to that sharp little beak, and Penny, well, Penny could have been devoured whole.

I brought him 'round to the driveway hoping to get some nicer pictures of him, say, walking, or showing his extremely long and jagged tail off, but no, every attempt to draw him out was met with snaps of his sharp beak and an aggressive digging in of his claws, so into a bucket of water he went for the duration of breakfast, at which time I concluded my Father's Day Turtle Rescue by dumping him unceremoniously out at the bayou, with many bon voyages, best wishes, and the sincere hopes that he attains the truly massive size (3' long and more) that these turtles can reach if given ample food and room that can be found in, say, a quiet stretch of bayou.

My Father's Day also included a stop at the office to cut grass, but my diligence in bringing the camera along was rewarded when I spotted a car-carrier loaded in interesting things just as I finished mowing.

Working alongside a major interstate means it's hard NOT to see interesting things pass by every day. This last week alone gave me a panoramic view of huge RVs towing equally huge cars behind, a whole boat show worth of watercraft, including one gorendously big yacht wrapped in white plastic and even a car hauler carrying ten identical black and gold convertible Ford Mustangs. Today's show, though, surpassed all that.

It's not so much that they're limousines; even in this little podunk town there is two rather elderly Cadillac El Dorado stretch cars for rent. No, this time it was the fact that there were FIVE of them, brand new, each precariously balanced, placed and otherwise leveraged onto a trailer. The rearmost one (the white car) is STILL hanging off the back of that trailer far enough that it was marked with a red warning flag.

I know that limos aren't all that unusual, and that seeing stretched Chrysler 300s was also not a big thing, nor the variety of lovely colours. Me, I always thought that limos were more of a one-off thing, that a small but very dilligent number of dungeon-based companies existed, each specializing in making normal things grotesquely long. I thought for sure they simply received an order from some king or padishah or Hilton and made the car from there by throwing ropes around the tires of a luxury vehicle and lashing it onto some sort of automotively-specific wooden rack. I could just see the thoughtful guys in white lab coats and black leather hoods nodding over their clipboards while a hunchback scampered around with a tape measure, two muscular deaf mutes worked the creaking wooden screws, incrementally drawing the car out to it's new length. I guess I never thought of there being such a demand that they had to be BUILT somewhere and then trucked in en masse.

So. How was YOUR Father's Day spent?

Jun 12, 2007

I Tell You, It's Like Rocket Surgery

It's been a fragmentary week or so, so I think it's only fitting that this be a frag of a post. You have been warned.

I's In Yur Yard, Stirrin Up Some Dusts

My daughter left with The Goat Monday morning, Oregon-bound. And of course no visit by The Goatish One would be complete without strife, grief, depression and hair-pulling. I'm ready for my daughter to be old enough to be independent of her mother so I can start wishing for that beer truck to smear vile Goatyness all over the highway.

I's In Your Kamra Box, Takin' Picchurs Of Myself

I finally broke. I dug up my savings pickle jar from the back yard and bought a super nice Nikon DSLR, which arrived two days ahead of schedule (thank you Amazon!) I spent an hour and a half charging the battery and a few minutes assembling strap to camera and finding out which slot accepts which insertable item, attached the lens and powered the whole thing up. It was right about then that a bright red beam of light came out of the back and things got a little hazy. It must have gotten past my tin-foil Anti-Brain Scan hat because when I woke up about half an hour later my camera was fully programmed and I had a burning desire to spend another $230 on a 55-500mm zoom lens.

I've taken about forty pictures thus far with the new camera and I'm almost over that horrible feeling that I've done something terribly wrong. I find it so easy to spend small amounts of money--five dollars here and ten dollars there, it doesn't feel like spending money. When that figure inches up into and beyond the century mark it suddenly becomes a whole lot harder for me to spend. Put a handfull of those centuries together and give them to someone else in exchange for, say, a Nikon D40 DSLR and I feel like someone had to take a knife to my palm to get the cash loose.

Maybe next year I'll feel better about buying it.

An Iron Hand In A Powder-Free Latex Exam Glove

My quarterly inventory figures came in yesterday, and I was one of the 81 agencies out of some 300 or so that came in under the mark. Total shortage was $91.45, or 3% of my total in-house inventory. The cutoff? $1000 or 10% of total inventory worth. I'm pretty proud of myself for getting those figures down from where they were when I took over. My reward? A all-expenses paid shopping spree at Wal-Mart to the tune of $50. Mmmmm...success. *snort*

Buy Now, Supplies Are Limited!

Our poorly-insulated, sitting-in-a-field office is owned by a big gas/oil company from Baton Rouge. They also, in that standard giganto-rich corporate way, own the two or three lots next to us and large chunks of the highway and most of the city. For the past year they've been storing massive gasoline tanks (the gas station size) in one of their big empty fields. This has't caused a stir because they look like rusted industrial junk. The problem has arisen in the last week or so because they've started to store diesel trucks and tank trailers there too. They're all parked in neat lines facing the highway and the Interstate, like a parking lot only with more grass and less tarmac. And now every trucker that comes down either highway spies these trucks all lined up like white and red and chrome soldiers and they immediately assume they're **FOR SALE!!!**

This assumption is made even though there's no signs, no prices, no banners, no Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man out front, not even a little portable building with a sweaty-armpitted fat man in a loud tie and Haagar stretch slacks waiting to pounce on unsuspecting buyers. But no matter! I now have a near-constant flow of unkempt, smelly, wild-eyed (what truck driver do you know that ISN'T all wild-eyed) drivers coming in here like children forced to kiss a particularly vile eldery aunt, and they're all asking if the trucks next door are for sale.

And when I tell them the whole sordid story ("It's a parking lot, they're stored there, they belong to 7 Sisters Oil Company, go away please you smell like rotten ham and that stink never comes out of the carpet") they never believe me. They wade across the waist-high grass to the other lot and walk around and stare and kick tires and wait for a sweaty fat guy in short sleeves and an electric green tie to offer them low, low financing.

Shutter Buggin'

Wow! I just uploaded my 1000th photo to Flickr. Kee-ripes I need to get a life.

RN Arse-Kicking To Commence Forthwith!

Wow! If our new RN Stephania pops off to me one more time or to anyone else while I am in earshot I'm gonna rip her head off her shoulders and scream down her neckhole. I don't care HOW long you've been a nurse, I don't care HOW old you are, and I certainly don't care that you're of the opinion that the world owes you a living because you're a black woman, there's no excuse for being outright rude, snarky or speak over someone in that tone of voice. That sort of behaviour proves to me that you are very far indeed from being better than me, and I am going to take you to pieces verbally if and when you do it again.

Jun 11, 2007

An Internal Memo

From: Tammy Smith
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2007 1:50 PM
Subject: Recently reported "Overlapping Cert Period" error

Please be advised…. (Yo, we've got some gaming troubles again here at the Corporate Dungeon Master's Office)

The programming dept. (The Black Hand Orc Tribe from World of Warcraft) has done an emergency software release correcting the previously reported “Overlapping Cert. Period” error. (One of the fat guys tripped and hit the Emergency Reset Button.) This error was received by the users attempting to change the cert from/to to a previous date range. (If you were trying to work while we gamed, you were SOL.)


The patient had been recerted (cert from/to had been changed), after doing so the clinician decides not to recert. (And after we've ransacked the palace.) If the user tried to change the dates back to the previous cert period the system would not allow them to do so and display an error of “overlapping cert period”. (We did this just to make you freak out and think that you really REALLY need us here.) This has since been corrected. (That's our story, we're sticking to it. If you attempt to contact us about this, we'll just laugh at you and point our fingers and say it's a hardware problem.)

If the cert period needs to be back dated and billing has already been done on the current cert, the user will once again need to contact their Regional Director to get the MSKEY (It's a big gold key, covered in rubies, and you'll have to fight a Boss Troll to win it) to over ride the system checks. (You've gotta try to contact someone in Corporate who is nothing more than a name on a flowchart. This person does not exist, this job description does not exist. It's something invented by the Grand High Poobah to give the flunkies someone to blame.) In the past the system would allow the RDOO to issue the key, yet the key didn’t allow the user to over ride. (The Elven Armor Of Ethereal Creepiness would let you override this, but our Battle Lord Thugar The Crooked keeps it in his special chamber.) This too has been corrected. (Yeah, whatever. Bring us some more Mountain Dew and Cheetos, pathetic half-elf.)

Issues related to old certs, having dates changed to reflect a 60 day episode etc…. will still have to be corrected by the Programming Dept. (And we'll take our sweet time getting to it, so best pray it's not important.) Please feel free to contact me directly or contact the IS support desk should you have any questions. (Don't bother to contact me, because I'm too busy leading The Black Hand Orcs to a triumphant victory in the All-IS Department Intramural Buckets Of Blood WOW tourney, and even if I wasn't busy splitting Human's skulls I'd find something else to do so I don't have to deal with you peons. So there.)

Tammy Smith (Orthwarg the Humancleaver, lvl 75 Black Orc Warmonger)
Training Team Leader, IS Support (Lord High Poobah, Black Hand Orc Tribe)
Help Desk # - 800-673-3674 (Don't call, we don't care)
Direct # - 201-000-0000 (This phone rings directly to my trashcan.)
Fax # - 200-000-0000 (You can try the fax line, but all faxes fall off the machine into the shredder)
tsmith@homehealthcompany.com (Everything sent here is forwarded immediately to my SPAM folder and deleted, but feel free to use it anyway)

Jun 5, 2007

Gregorian Be Damned, I've Been Robbed!

I have this desk calendar on my desk, see? A big paper one with large blue squares for the days, plenty of room in the margins for doodling and memory enhancement (notes,) holidays highlighted in red, and it's got big cheerful blue Sans Serif numbers for every day, placed carefully in the upper left corner of every day block. It's also got something today that I've been looking forward to for months.

Today, it tells me, is June the 56th.

Now far be it from me to have flights of fancy (or fancy flights, or even flancy fights,) but I thought for sure that something incredible, something around which my mind could build a landmark for the rest of my life would occur on June the 56th, 2007, that most indominitable of days, the most rare of 24 hour periods (occuring only once every Forever,) but no, nothing thus far.

So tell me, before the anticipation makes me rupture an O-ring: If you had Your Way With Things, what would happen today, June the 56th, 2007?

Jun 4, 2007

All Men Are Created Evil

And politics just seems to bring out the best in us. This idiot's got so much money he's keeping it in his freezer.

It's funny, I'm not even that angry at this, I mean, this is LOUISIANA POLITICS, it's expected. He's an obvious idiot, having been busted AFTER he knew he was under investigation. I mean DAYUM, how much brains does it take to stop stealing after the cops are watching? A tumble bug has more smarts than that. Anyway, an honest man couldn't make a life in politics if he wanted to, not that he'd want to. What is really getting my ire up about this whole thing is Congress' fear that the Judicial branch is overstepping it's bounds.

Uhm, Congressmen? We KNOW you're all crooked, it's just a matter of HOW crooked you are, how much money you're stealing, and from whom. If I were to take a lantern and start looking for a man on Capitol Hill who hasn't lied, cheated or stolen during his career I'd be walking on my own beard before I found one.

Me, I'm hoping that he gets a cell with Edwin Edwards. Maybe they can be butt-buddies.

Jun 3, 2007

The Secrets They Tell Me

I love animals of all kinds, all the myriad tiny bits of living flesh and blood that creep or crawl or fly or walk. My coworkers take great pride in laughing at me for rescuing spiders from the office, or for catching snakes out of the parking lot and moving them back to the fields, but I soldier on. I don't think I'm changing world events ala' The Sound Of Thunder, nor do I count myself a reincarnated Francis of Assisi, it just gives me something to smile about, something to take pride in.

I cut grass for a good four to five hours every weekend, between my contracting job to the office and my yard, my uncle's and my mom's yards, and it's always quality animal spotting time.

I've seen a certain little garter snake around the house for years now. I know it's the same one because when he (she?) was a wee tadger I accidentally clipped part of it's tail, and I can recognise it by a little crooked nick that it healed into. When I first saw it, it was all of six inches long. Now it's a good three feet, and I always smile when I see him speeding his way through the grass.

I've learned not to instinctively slap at things creeping or crawling on my bare skin. In learning to block my inner primate I've been rewarded by finding myriads of ladybugs, grasshoppers and preying mantises on my bare arms or legs, as well as moths, katydids, and every manner of tiny little insect, some of them so brightly coloured it's astounding they can hide in green grass. My hesitation to instantly slap the tickle on my skin has treated me to many such sights.

Cutting close to the azaleas and the herb garden I've been treated to the sight of dozens of anoles at a time, resplendent in their green or brown coats-of-scales, and their more subtly garish cousins the skinks, all dour in their brown and tan striped suits, highlighted by electric blue tails and flame orange heads, as though each and every one is cycling through some sort of dirtied rainbow.

Butterflies find me particularly restful when I'm cutting grass. Many are the times I've been out in the heat, sweat pouring off me, covered in tiny, itching bits of dust and debris when I've been refreshed by something as simple as a yellow and black Tiger Swallowtail or a magnificent orange and black Monarch or Viceroy deciding that it's time to give the wings a rest and landed on my shoulder or hat brim. There they seem to like to ride along, fanning kite-like wings as though to give us both a cooling respite from the searing afternoon's heat.

This afternoon as I cut in the heat I was treated to a wonderful little dragonfly, one of the uncountable mass of little blue darning needles that blanket the area in summer. This one decided to be daring and followed alongside me for quite a time. She was close enough that I could clearly see each of her four cellophane wings moving, reflecting bright glints of sun, and the glossy cerulean blue of her domed eyes. She flew along for a good fifty feet with me, so close to my cheek I was afraid she would fly into me if I turned suddenly. I thought for a moment there she wanted to dart in and plant a little sharp-mandibled kiss on my cheek, but she finally got bored with riding along in the shade of my hat and banked away with startling speed.

It's always made me feel good to watch preying mantises crawl around on me, all machine-movements and green flash, triangular heads pivoting this way and that. I've seen them as long as my finger and as tiny as a fingernail clipping, and smiled like a child with a new toy every time. I've watched caterpillars creep and crawl their way along my fingers, and let's not forget The Adventure Of The Eyed Click Beetle.

This afternoon before the rain squall hit I spent a rewarding half hour in my shop turning some scrap lumber into a little four-legged table with short walls and three-inch tall legs to spread bird seed on. I found out that the ring-neck and turtle doves that live in my trees prefer to eat seeds off the ground, and instead of making them peck up from the concrete porch the leavings from the four hanging feeders I made them a little dining room table of sorts.

I went out to light the barbecue pit just a few minutes ago, and while storing the lighter fluid and matches in the big outdoor metal cabinet I saw a little green rain frog huddled up in the crease of the door. Now, I'm no frog expert, but I know that metal cabinet doors do not a hospitable frog climate make, and not wanting to squish his froggy brains out when I closed the door I scooted and coaxed him onto my hand and carried him to the fig tree. I tried to then coax him onto a tempting green leaf all covered in fresh rainwater, and failed. I tried to ease him onto a tempting branch still wet with rain, but he balked. Ever effort I made he countered by stubbornly moving onto some other part of my hand. At one point he climbed the hill that is the ball of my thumb and faced me directly, his golden eyes sparking, as if to say "You got yourself into this, bub, now get yourself out."

So I flung him gently underhanded, like a tiny green softball with long flailing legs into the thicket of my snapdragons, there to find his own comfortable frog place. I swear, Nature.

Jun 2, 2007

I'm A Dirty, Dirty Boy

I've been gardening most all the morning, it seems, and it's been heavenly.

The rainfall has dampened the ground just enough that when I ran the tiller this morning, a few passes around each row the ground crumbled into small, light brown bits, just right for raking up onto existing rows. Weeds went flying, incautious bits of tomato and squash plants became compost, and the worms headed for deep ground. Papa was in town, and he had his gardening hat on.

(Honestly, between me and you it's my all-purpose, beat-to-hell straw fedora but I'm not gonna tell them any different.)

So, a fair turn behind the tiller and a lot of time spent being a rake and the rows are much improved. Less weeds, for one thing, more height, and some fresh mulch pulled up from below and shifted around, spreading the wealth. The beets have all been harvested so their row is ready for Beets Round Two, and the Kandy Corn varietal of corn was, no surprise, a complete and utter failure. I'm not sure WHAT it is about us and corn but two years worth of attempts have been frustrated by worms, blight, wind, and most anything that can make corn plants fail. I'm not a big believer in chemical additives, so that probably is hindering me pretty bad, too. So last night the stunted and dwarfed corn went onto the compost heap along with the odds and ends of weeds and some of the beets that hadn't fared well.

I love how each year I learn something different, each few weeks watching and tending brings new knowledge. Artichokes, a food I have no desire to eat but the wife loves, cannot abide anything but the fullest of sun, and standing water is utterly anathema. Squash, on the other hand, will thrive most anywhere bright. And Mosaic hates me and my beans with a passion. Every time I turn around there's another plant wilting and crinkling under it's baleful attack. And tomatoes? Sheesh. I can grow tomatoes seven feet tall and ten wide but it'll be next year's crop before I venture into the hardware store to put into practice part of Scott's suggestion for impervious tomatoe cages. I think I'm gonna skip the tires, though, for fear my neighbors will KNOW I'm a redneck. I don't like tomatoes THAT much, no matter HOW good they are on toast with some lettuce and mayo.

The okra is finally showing some interest, too. They've been profoundly slow growing this year, and were slowed even further by a vicious bug attack early in their little lives, but I think they've rallied nicely, and soon will be six feet tall and bristling with long spear points. The acorn squash are growing well, too, putting on quite a profusion of yellow trumpet flowers and even a few pecan-sized green lumps that will soon become fruit.

And The Lone Zucchini is doing beautifully, although it's one sexy green fruit was savaged by some insect or other. We bought, you see, a tray of twelve squash (six smooth, six warty, don't ask me for the brand names) and a tray of six zucchini. Well, seems someone at the nursery was having us all on, because there was ONE zucchini and seventeen squash. Oh, very droll, my unknown factory worker. I'm thinking about letting the canteloupe duke it out with it's next-door neighbor the squash row, since we've got so bloody many squash.

The newest and strangest addition this year is the cucuzzi, a heritage gourd/squash of some sort that the wife wanted to try. Thus far it's going great guns, covering itself in lovely big white trumpet flowers and a few long hairy fruits that look like XXL string beans. I'm wondering, truth be told, if this is going to be like my father's foray many decades ago into cushaw, giant green and white striped gourds with orange meat that made for some surprisingly good fruit spread. It seemed like a marvelous idea at the time for my father the gardener, but when half the garden was aswamp with huge green leaves and vines as thick as your wrist, each bearing multiples of fruit big enough to be Pod People it got kind of scary. I was afraid to step foot in the garden myself, for fear of being replaced by a green and white striped replica of myself.

So tell me, what is it about gardening that gets to us? What is it that drives so many of us to stand in the dirt sweating, hoeing and tending, tossing weeds over our shoulders, praying that the cutworms don't find us? Is it some trigger in our Inner Primates that makes us long to hunker in the dirt in front of a squash and pluck out those yellow gems? Or is it just the joy of watching things as tiny as beet seeds turn into bulbous, ruby fruits with gorgeous green sprays of leaves above?

So tell me--what makes your garden grow?

Jun 1, 2007

How Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk?

That's the riddle the Mad Hatter posed to Alice during the Mad Tea Party, and never answered. It's one I've pondered for a long time too, and never come to a satisfactory answer, along with a few other riddles I've picked up along the way.

Poetry Friday: The challenge today is a poser--the word "Madness." I read it as having the British sense of the word, "crazy" or "crazed" rather than the Anglicized term meaning "anger." There's enough people in the b'sphere writing about being angry without me adding my meager two pence.

When I was a kid, I longed to be Mad. Capital "M" and all. I knew all about madness, knew the whys and wherefores of being 'mad as a hatter,' knew about the French lunatique and had a fair idea of asylum life from Messers. Poe and Price, Lee and Lorre. I wanted to be thought of as eccentric. I wanted to be Byronesque--"Mad, bad and dangerous to know." I wanted to be graciously mad, to go out in the summer heat along with the dogs and the Englishmen.

Little did I realise, then, that I was growing up in what Robt. Heinlein forsaw decades before and called "The Crazy Years," and being mad was a malady as common as the cold, and not nearly as obvious. We are all mad, and not in the good way, so that a little eccentricity here and there is far overshadowed by people blowing themselves up in markets, by children killing each other in the schools, and by so many day-to-day madnesses that it all blends into a sort of background scream, heard so often and so long that most of us just ignore it.

Yeah, not my most cheerful post ever, but it IS the full moon tonight. Perhaps I am a lunatique, after all.