Oct 31, 2007

Happy Samhain!

From the entire Irrelephant family:


Mrs. Irrelephant:

and the pachyderm Hisself:

And a very happy belated birthday to Mrs. Irrelephant

Seen here applying candle wax blood to "Screaming Vomiting Head Wound Jack."

Now go trick some treats before we devour your brains.

Oct 30, 2007

Katrina Kottage

I know they don't call them that, at least with the cutsey two "K"'s, but many of the larger hardware stores saw an opportunity and ran with it: micro-scale housing for displaced persons from the Hurricane Katrina debacle.

Every ready to turn a fast buck, the big boys drew up (or stole) plans for these tiny houses and started building them in their parking lots and anywhere there was fifty open feet to stand. When finished they are tossed onto small house-moving trailers and shipped all over the place, to state-owned single lots or whole Katrina Villages and dropped into place like pastel-coloured Lego blocks, where they are then filled by people who by hook or by crook no longer have a home.

(somehow I doubt they all look this lovely and story-book cozy.)

You'll have to forgive me if I sound a little flippant or less than compassionate, because honestly? I am. I've heard enough of the tales of woe and suffering. The cold fact remains that people living in New Orleans know that they live on land that was and still IS an average of five feet below the water table. If you die in New Orleans and plan on being buried there you will be placed in a mausoleum (a stone above-ground building to house your coffin) because sealed boxes placed in the ground act rather like beach balls held underwater--the moment you let go, it pops to the surface. Too. Much. Water.

Okay, enough ranting. *s*

The thing being, I see Katrina Kottages being shipped up the interstate most every day I care to look out the window. They usually go by in twos or threes, and they're always the same tiny design, and the same three pastel "Gulf Coast" colours--pale rose pink, a very light daisy yellow or a sort of middling pastel blue. They all have white trim, a tiny front porch (a staple of Louisiana life, the front porch) and an itty-bitty window air conditioner unit in the back. They all have such innovative features as a kitchen seating bench that doubles as a bed when you put a mattress on it and extremely cramped floor plans. Granted it IS a place to live and to call your own, and I know that the simple fact of having that can make all the difference, even if it DID arrive on wheels.

I've never had the opportunity to see one up close, however, until today, and even then it was up close at a distance. I was working at my Herculean pile of paperwork when I heard a distant train horn, and I decided it was time to take a three minute break and stretch my legs, so I stepped to the front door.

Kids, let me tell you this: Timing Is Everything.

I watched the train go by behind the treeline, and then heard over it's muted grumbling the roar of several big diesel trucks slowing ("jake-braking" they call it.) I looked over in time to see FIVE pastel blue Katrina Kottages in a long porch-to-a/c line pulling down the interstate off-ramp. Figuring they were going just up the road to the little Choke-N-Puke truck stop for fuel I quickly begged a five minute break, grabbed my camera, helmet and jacket and hopped onto Betty to see what was going on.

I didn't have to get far. Seems they had taken the off-ramp, crossed the little road there and gone back up the on-ramp and stopped. One of the Kottages had developed a flat, you see. (The white plastic is covering the front porches, I assume to keep road debris off them and to keep rocks and wind from blowing the front windows to flinders.

If you're curious, it's the third one in line there. I think you can probably just see two guys down there changing one of the tires. If you're REALLY sharp eyed (and if I had uploaded the 4MB original photo) you could also see the head of the driver of the second truck who had just let his two Dachshunds out of the cab for a fast pee, and followed them down into the ditch and behind the fence. I can only assume for the same reason.

I snapped a few photos and moved around to the hillock that forms the on/off ramp and took one more, into the sun unfortunately, but you can see one of the drivers standing in the shade of the last house, and get more of an idea of just HOW small those things are, and see the tiny window unit. I'm not sure what the larger bump is, perhaps a water heater or furnace unit.

By the time I had walked back down the hillock and was headed back to Betty they were already headed back up the on-ramp and on to their final destination. I'll give it to those guys, they are FAST. I'd not be surprised if they were the builders, too. I've heard that a well-trained three man crew can build one from a pile of lumber in a day, sunup to sundown.

Looking at the online plans I believe the ones I always see and photographed today either ARE the Lowe's 544 square-foot style or something very similar, as they seem to be missing one window.

So, there you have it. An important lesson in timing (always take a break to investigate interesting sounds) and in topography (don't live under the water table.)

Late update: I just watched two MORE blue ones head up the interstate to parts unknown, and saw the back end a little better--that's a back door snugged up against the a/c unit. I guess I forgot my basic house construction. Thank my lucky stars and garters I'm not a house inspector, eh?

Oct 29, 2007

Monday All Over

I woke up this morning, looked around, and thought to myself "Damn. I just finished a week, why do I have to start another one?"

Oct 26, 2007

October Morning

The view from my driveway this morning; 37 degrees, fog creeping around low.

Oct 25, 2007

Variations On A Theme That Someone Threw Away And For Good Reason

Music. Be it the soundtrack of your life, or just background noise there's no escaping music, whether it be on the TV or the movies or your humble radio. Here of late it's been nagging at me lately how tied to certain visceral reactions music is in my life.

Part of my job is filing the previous day's paperwork trail, and to fill what is an otherwise rather dull part of my day I use the built-in MP3 player on my cellular phone to liven things up. It can hold 100 songs max, so I tend to rotate out things pretty fast, but certain pieces of music linger longer than others. Those are the pieces of music that can send my mind reeling to a scene in a movie or a certain bit of the past, real or imagined.

Ennio Morricone filled Sergio Leone's westerns with memorable, sometimes downright eerie music that evoked the wild, wide open spaces of the 1800's West. I've got the piece of music titled "Ecstasy of Gold" on my phone, and every time I hear it, no matter what I'm thinking of or tied up with I'm immediately seeing "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly," and the image of Tuco racing frantically around the cemetery. I can see him desperately searching for Arch Stanton's grave, hungry for the bags of gold hidden, unbeknownst to him, in the grave next to that one. I can see the camera following his desperate flight, the gravestones and markers blurring into a grey wash, and then my mind brings me further back, to some long ago after-lunch Sunday sitting with my father in the living room watching the 'Mother Of All Westerns' for the first time.

Vangelis is good like that, too. I think anyone who survived the 80's is immediately reminded of the white-clad slo-mo runners on the beach from "Chariots of Fire" any time that certain ringing, echoing piece of music is played, but my preference runs to the movie "Blade Runner" and the soundtrack to same. The whole thing, not just bits and pieces. Hearing any one of the numerous cuts from that album brings me immediately to the movie's scene, be it "Blade Runner Blues," "Tears In The Rain" werein Rutger Hauer rhapsodizes about attack ships off the shoulder of Orion or the music backing the flat monotone of Harrison Ford muttering to his photo enhancing software.

The very first long, sensual clarinet slide at the opening of George Gershwin's "Rhaposdy in Blue" always harkens me back to the first time I managed to really smoothly, skillfully let the clutch out on a manual transmission car. The tone warbles at the beginning like an engine starting, then bumps just a little bit as the shifter is engaged and then it sliiiiiiides up, climbing for the top of the RPM gauge, reaching for the target for a shift to second. Both the smooth operation of a clutch and that long musical glide seem to have a sweet certainty, an elegance that once internalized has never lost it's power.

It also makes me think of a sort of dream-induced, bygone 1930's era New York, filled with beautiful old cars, gentlemen in fine hats and ladies in layered dresses, all out taking the air. And speaking of that, how about the most perfect twenty one notes in all of music? I'm talking about, of course, the opening bars of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer." It's been used in probably a thousand different ways if not more, but it's simplicity, it's gentle heart and it's lilt never fail to make me think of an even more bygone time. I can see it as clearly as if I had lived there--a time and place when radio was in it's infancy and things like cars and television sets were a distant dream.

It makes my mind open to images of dapper gentlemen in gaily striped day suits, straw boater hats jauntily askew on hair slicked to perfection, and their ladies, dressed in the many layered sundresses of the times, both walking along the Coney Island Boardwalk, her parasol open to keep the sun from her pale skin, and he turning to buy her an iced sherbet. I can hear them making plans to attend a vaudeville act that evening, and my mind's eye pans back to take in the quiet elegance of the time.

Speak to me--what music takes YOU where?

Oct 22, 2007

Alarming Behaviour

I hate waking to an alarm. I think I'd rather climb over a pile of burning tires than be startled out of sleep by an alarm clock.

Alarm: a sudden fear or distressing suspense caused by an awareness of danger; apprehension; fright.

An awareness of danger. It's called "being awake." While I sleep, perchance to dream I am recharging, restoring. My heart is pumping blood hither and yon, my lungs are drawing in oxygen to fuel the machine and each of my billions of little cells are doing whatever they do to continue this thing called Life. It's a grand time, sleep. The little death (not THAT little death, the other little death, the one that's less sticky.) But since we only need to spend 1/3 of our lives asleep, there's the matter of waking up.

My wake-up preference? Many. Smelling something good cooking in the kitchen. Being awoken by a bedmate in a variety of interesting and enticing ways. Letting my mind decide that the recharge/recycle process is done and having it slowly start the turbines, ease the throttle up confidently and lift me gently out of the sleeping world into the waking one like an airplane flying up through a thick cloud, suddenly emerging into the dawn's light. I hate, HATE being forced awake by, oh, an alarm clock for instance.

Yeah, I hate alarm clocks with a passion. Never liked the damned things, doubt I ever will. Raucous, shrill and vile in the extreme. And I'm not one of those folk who love the snooze bar, or who have to put the alarm across the room so as to make me get up and go over to it to turn it off, thereby assuring that I don't return to bed. No, the alarm goes off next to the bed, I reach over and hit the little button to stop it, my brain pumps the gas pedal a few times and turns the key in the ignition, and I listen to the grinding coughing noises my body makes until the engine turns over and starts to idle, albeit roughly, and then I'm up and at 'em. Slowly. And usually with clouds of blue smoke billowing. Not my preference to waking, but I have to do it five days a week. And I still hate alarms.

Years ago someone finally realised that not everyone likes to wake to that shrill "beep beep beep" electronic noise alarm and decided that with the miracle of microchips and digital storage they'd record natural sounds--brooks babbling, songbirds singing, oceans roaring and the like, and they'd program THAT into an alarm clock. I'd like to move that the man (or woman) who put that in motion be sainted. I immediately ponied up for one of these wonders of modern technology when I discovered them, brought it home and set it for "Ocean Waves."

It's still an alarm clock. It's soft, it's not nearly as brain=-splitting as that blinking, red-eyed demon "BEEPBEEPBEEP" but it's still an alarm. And I still hate it. But not as much. I much prefer it to the old noise, and those Baby Bens with the huge brass bells on top? I'd sooner be woken by a chain saw, or a doctor's voice saying "I'm sorry Mr. Irrelephant, the test is positive." And waking to music just doesn't do it for me. If I had the alarm set to music I'd just lie there with a soundtrack for my dreams, and trust me on this, the LAST thing my dreams need is the Universe assigning songs to them. Oooooh no, not this boy.

There is one time I love alarm clocks, and that's Friday mornings. I love waking on Friday mornings to the sound of a brook babbling. Brook? I turned off the Ocean setting because my brain began to confuse it with the white noise of the A/C unit and I stopped waking up after three years exposure to that certain five second loop, but I digress. Friday mornings I wake up and knowing the next day is Saturday and does not require a wakeup, I can stop up the waters and then TURN IT OFF for the weekend. That's got to be one of the top fifteen best feelings in the world.

Of course Sunday nights suck on ice because I have to turn the blasted thing back on for Monday morning, but that's just the cost of living, I guess.

So tell me--how do you wake up in the morning?

Oct 19, 2007

Poetry Friday Challenge: Fear

The Litany Against Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~Frank Herbert, Dune

Mona put my hand in the fire with today's word: Fear.

Had I posted this morning from work this space would have been filled with fear: fear of making mistakes, fear of being in the wrong place, fear of not knowing what the future holds. I had a real shaking of my foundations this morning, the edge of a panic attack. What brought it on? Beats the hell out of me, but it sure beat the hell out of me. And within an hour it was gone, no signs left of it. I'm not going to write about that, because I've got the lid back on that particular can nice and tight, and I am not going to reopen it now.

And so instead, how about my personal Litany Of Fear? A small listing of things that have set that feeling prowling about the confines of my head. And perhaps in sharing them it'll lessen the impact that some of these still have on me.

I don't know how many of you know how to swim and how many of you don't, but I don't. Never learned, don't particularly care to because I've got a rather sickly fear of swimming. Not water, mind you. I adore water. Boating is a blast. I love the sensual flow of a river, love the quiet muddy meandering of a bayou, and I could happily stand at the edge of the ocean and let my spirit leave my body and join that foamy froth. It's the drowning bit that worries me, you see.

I remember the fear the first time the water closed over my face and I realised that there was about forty feet of lake under my feet. I knew everyone in the boat was too far away to help me and I was about to breathe in a huge chestful of green water. I think everyone knows that moment of pure fear--it's the moment you realise that someone has pushed you into the pool but you hadn't time to take a breath, or that you weren't ready to be in THAT deep, or you realised that you couldn't feel the bottom of the lake. It is that sick, stomach-gripping monster, it is the creature in the dark and it is the moment you realise that the step isn't there and you're going to be falling for a very long time.

I remember the fear of riding my motocycle in pouring, blinding rain and realising that the headlights I saw coming toward me meant someone had turned into the wrong lane of the highway and was about to hit me, and likely not even see me until the impact. I still feel the distant twinges of fear when some blind mook in a cage doesn't see me, is too tied up in the cellular phone or the newspaper or their own rage.

I remember the fear I felt when I realised how close I was to putting my fist through my first wife's face. She had spent what seemed like the entire day taunting me, pushing me, driving me to a red rage. She had spent the whole day pricking and jabbing me in the poisonous way that only a spouse can. She confided in me years after we were divorced that she was pushing me intentionally, just to see if I WOULD hit her. I didn't, but I remember well the fear I felt when I saw just how close I had been to releasing that white-hot anger, trailing it behind my fist like a rocket's red and burning trail. I've never been that angry since.

I remember the fear I feel falling, time and time again throughout my life. Falling from ladders. Roofs. Trees. Bicycles. Skateboards. The bed. Wondering what I was going to hit, wondering how I had gotten into this predicament, wondering if I was going to break a bone (haven't yet, not a one.)

I remember the fear of physical violence, trying to protect a friend of mine from being beaten by her ex-husband. I remember all too well the anger in his eyes, the fear in hers, and the response in my own.

Fear is always there, right around the corner. Our fears shape us, our fears change our behaviours. It keeps most of us from doing stupid things like jumping out of perfectly good airplanes or running through the city streets naked, our private parts painted bright green. (Is that really fear?) It keeps most of us from posting some of our memories of fears in public places.

Fear of being exposed before my peers. That's one that I've managed to kill. I've nothing to hide anymore, or so little that were I to share it you'd scoff at me. And I've still got a whole host of fears that I shan't share with you.

Can't give you guys TOO much ammunition, can I?

Happy Poetry Friday.

Oct 16, 2007

They Grow Up So Fast


You remember the chicken post, right? Remember the photos? Little tee-tiny balls of fluff, some goldenrod yellow and others the black and yellow of a chocolate frosted cake. Peeping, huddling together for security and warmth. The very picture of oozing saccharine sweet Easter Sunday shucks-and-garsh cuteness.

Well, they grow up.

And as you can see, the hand-taming is going well. So well in fact that you cannot enter the back patio where they're being kept without fifteen pair of beady, crazed black eyes turning toward you and a certain frantic peeping and cackling arising from the cage. Filling their food and water containers is an adventure in getting moles, paint spots, hairs or jewelery pecked at voraciously, and if you dare sit down on one of the comfy chairs out there you'll find a whole flock of ladies

(and one wild-eyed young cockrel, now named Coq au Vin)

vying for your attention. Pretty heady stuff if you're a rooster, but not so much if you're looking at the ladies as a source of eggs, protein, and insect pest control.

It's been an interesting six weeks or so, I can tell you that. From day-old peepers that fit comfortably in a six inch square box to what at times looks like a motley and very confused murder of crows and at times sounds like a whole cage full of chickens violently fighting over one very oblivious moth who happened to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Work on The Chicken Sedan (not a coupe anymore, you see,) formerly known as the "Chicken Cube," once known as "the coop" has proceeded apace with a watertight roof, three shutters over the windows and a little ramp with sure-foot grips so nobody slips. All that's left now is to finish painting the insides and to finish attaching a perch and to build a tray for under said perch to catch perch droppings and then there's that whole fence thing to be put up, with bird netting to keep the hawks out...ye gods.

One week.

It'll be done in one week. That's become my mantra. One week and they'll be free to roam around, scratch at the dirt, lay eggs and do all those other chickeney things. Cluck. Strut. Eat insect pests. And most importantly, they can stop staring at me with desperate longing in their little eyes to be held and petted.

Oct 14, 2007

Moving Day

My daughter's aforementioned thirteenth birthday party wrapped up last Sunday morning at 11, giving me, I thought, plenty of time to do all the little things I have to do around the house on normal weekends. Again, fool on me.

A week ago. I can't believe it's only been a freaking week. Oi, it's been a long week, can I tell you?

Anyhoo, enough of the old Jewish mother. Back to the post.

My sister-in-law likes to change furniture. She changes furniture more than most people change their light bulbs. (So, how many sister-in-laws does it take to change a light bulb? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) Oh. Ahem. And since my brother the pharmacist can afford to let her have her little whims and dalliances when it comes to spending copious amounts of money on Things it falls to me to be in the enviable position to happily accept my pick and choice of the 'old' furniture. I say old because most of her furniture doesn't see service for more than a few months before it's Out With The Old, so I get furniture that still has "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law" tags on. Nice, yes?

As the years have rolled past on their brand new, well-oiled casters I've been given two very nice rugs, a lovely queen-size bed with brand new mattress which my daughter now resides on 24/7, and more little oddments than I can shake a bric-a-brac at. And of course being the thoughtful and appreciative brother-in-law that I've always imagined myself to be, I've tried to help her find this Furniture Unicorn she's searching for. You know, that one perfect Ikea moment piece of furniture that'll never go out of style, never stop being useful, never quit being the one thing that you can't live without. To this end I gave her my fifteen year old futon.

It's a bed! *fold* It's a couch! *fold* A bed! *fold* A couch!

That satiated her crack-like need for a few days at best and then even that mystic thing failed her, and I heard at lunch with Mom that she was ready to get rid of her sectional couch. Now, the wife has been lusting after that particular couch for a while now, so I casually interjected that I'd take it (just like that scene in Lord of The Rings; the Council arguing and everyone aflutter and Frodo speaks up quietly in the midst of all the caterwauling that he'd carry the Ring, only picture it over a dinner table with lots more kids, about the same amount of bare feet and way less facial hair. Oh, and not a bauble of gold but The One Couch.)

Now keep in mind that this was last weekend, and somehow I had failed to remember that I had just been put through the wringer with an Overnight House Of Teenage Girls Horror Fest. Also, the part of my brain that still hunches in front of the fire and warns me when I'm doing something profoundly stupid was busy stuffing it's Neanderthal face full of birthday cake, and so I didn't realise that it'd be ME who had to move the existing couch and other furnishings around.

So what did I do to recover from an exhausting sleepover? I rearranged and cleaned every piece of furniture in my den. All of it. All. I moved everything except the bookcase (built into the wall) and the aquarium (125 gallons, it probably weighs about seven tons more than me.) There was more dust in the air than any Depression-era Bowl you'd care to name, and by the time it was all done I required a map, a compass, a flashlight and a Sherpa guide to help me navigate from the back door to the kitchen, but it's done. That burgundy red behemoth is in place, as is the equally huge coffee table. The antique fainting couch/divan has a nice new home behind it until it can be recovered. I even tossed two old oxblood-red brass-button tufted faux-vinyl (the native Americans called it "naugahyde") chairs that I've been meaning to repair for forever and a day, and I stirred up enough animal dander to blind me worse than Oedipus on a MILF website, but it's done.

And to prove it, here's the Sixty-Mile-An-Hour Couch Potatoe giving it the official Nose Of Approval. Not to mention the ensuing Nap of Approval.

And did you know that the Greater North American Nauga (the Real Performance Fabric!) is on the endangered species list? Seems they were hunted to near extinction in the early 70's for their exquisitely heat-press patterned and drum dye-coloured hides and are only now making a recovery as a species in two "Swingers Of America" subsidized Conservation Discotheques in upstate New Jersey.

Award Time!

Scarlett, speaking from The Shores of Introspect And Retrospect (and I'll bet you can't say that five times fast without biting your tongue) awarded me not only her smiles at my feeble attempts at humour but a lovely award.

I had a list of people to thank here, starting with Gawd and working my way through all the little people whom I've trodden upon to get here, but I can't seem to find it. More luck you. I guess, then, I'll have to settle for thanking my readers--the people who, either by their comments or by the little unheard but noticed clicks on the site meter show up here day in and day out, wondering when I'm going to be getting orf my huge grey and wrinkled arse to post again.

And with any luck they're smiling when they say that.

Oct 11, 2007


I've always hated airports.

To some people, airports mean new vistas, opportunities for travel. I've never been able to see that. All I can ever feel in airports is that cattle feeling, like I'm being herded along with the rest toward our respective little gates which lead to very specialized abattoirs shaped like steel cans, cans where the music is piped in but you've got to pay to hear it, and you pony up for the chance to eat really bad food and generic soft drinks.

I don't know how long I'd been waiting at that empty concourse. It seems like I'd been sitting for days, having cross time zones and patchwork lands, my soul falling farther and farther behind me until I was afraid it'd never catch up. A fresh glossy magazine lay in my hands unread, an eyeful of beautiful people and places that tried, but failed to taunt me with it's plastic perfection. People watching was the only thing I had the energy for, and listening for the inevitable gate change over the crackly intercom. Waiting for the announcer's calm, soothing tones mixed with the roar of static, turning it into a cacophony of disjointed barks and hisses. At that point in the game all I could do was sit.

Another huge hulk of an airplane had just pulled in. The prehensile trunk of a gangway had snaked it's slickly grey canvas-covered arm to the now still aircraft and attached itself to the clean silver skin of the craft, an embrace of cold steel with rippled cloth. My eyes turned to the door which, with a tired squeal was being jammed open by a bored attendant ready to greet the flood of tired, stinking humanity with a grin as false as his hairpiece.

The concourse I had been sitting in was empty otherwise, a ringingly open, carpeted and glassed vessel into which the airplane disgorged the contents of it's stomach. What had so recently been deadly empty was suddenly filled with noise and motion, filled with people. Most had that vacant, "Where is my next gate" expression on, many had plugged so far into their 'pods that they barely registered as aware, but as always there were a few who were awake, alive and feeling. It was toward these human oasis that my eyes restlessly crawled, hungry for some sign of life.

There was the excruciatingly skinny teenage girl, eyes wide and kohl-rimmed, hair long and straight as her thin arms, stumbling with coltish steps toward some reunion. Her eyes held a sad mixture of resignation and resentment, and her very skin seem to burn with it. There was the two men, brothers or close friends, struggling to get out of the press of humanity and on to the next gate, to catch a plane that likely had already left, every movement betraying their confusion and panic. After the interminable salmon-rush of passengers marched the flight crew, clean and crisp in black and white uniforms, each wearing the bright professional faces their careers demanded while underneath the weary muscles screamed aloud for release.

With an almost comic speed the concourse was empty again. Even the plastic-smiled attendant was gone, swept up in the tide of unwashed bodies, perhaps to be dragged away to some other gate, some other protesting door needing to be forced open. That's when I saw him.

It wasn't physically possible for him to have just appeared in the long blue-carpeted hallway, but it seemed as though he had. Dropped suddenly from a ceiling tile or popped from some quasi-secret door more likely, but his appearance there startled me. He was huge, filling the hallway like a tree transplanted suddenly into an office cubicle, and I thought at first with a terrified lurch of my heart that he was wearing a dress, until I realised that it was a sarong, coloured plain dark slate, akin to what a Pacific Islander would wear.

In the somber light of the hallway his bare ebony skin and the dark cloth seemed to flow one into the other, blending him into a smooth dark smear but having caught sight of my attention he smiled, a scimitar flash in a midnight sky, sheathed as quickly as it had been drawn. His chest and arms were bare, as was his head, and all over he seemed as hairless as a stone. The skin stretched tight across his expansive muscles was as dark as old wood, so dark that the definition of his arms and neck seemed to blur one into the other until he seemed an abstract of a man, a child's crude drawing: head, arms, chest legs all simplified.

He began walking up the hallway toward me, but walking doesn't fit the performance I witnessed. His huge bare feet struck the carpeted floor like an open palm striking a horse's flank. He didn't so much put his feet down as slap them there, forcing the floor into submission beneath his stride. The dark cloth strained to restrain his muscular legs, rippling and suddenly tensing with a muffled 'pop' with each long stride. And stride he did. long, ground-devouring strides. He was almost upon me before I could begin to try to struggle upright, afraid but required to meet his approach as equals. The magazine fell to the floor with a too-loud bang in the echoing hallway, but neither of us noticed it.

Moments before he reached me he turned aside, stopping at a dull silver water fountain mounted in the wall. I watched with a kind of stunned fright as he turned toward it with a speed as though it had shouted an insult at him. He pivoted as one unit, no turn of the head following the twist of shoulders but a sudden and instant switch of direction, a change of intention that involved his entire body at the same moment. One instant he was driving toward me, the next his entire bulk was focused with frightful intensity on the brushed steel lavatory. He leaned head first toward it's pale silver bowl with the grace and unstoppable power of a mountain falling. Planting his huge, almost luridly pink palms on the edges closest to the wall he tensed his muscles and drew his hands toward himself until gripped each corner of the metal box as though his very existence relied on a firm grip. He shifted one leg backward until the material of the wrap threatened to tear, and his massive foot seemed to dig into the carpet. His broad, bare oxen's shoulders bunched, the muscles rippled like separate living creatures hiding under his skin as he leaned further into the fountain. It seemed for a startling moment that he was readying himself to shove it straight through the wall, a massive black bull driving a tiny silver-wrapped matador into the wooden railings but he stopped there, paused and gathered himself like Atlas about to shift his tiresome burden.

And then I woke up. From the dream, that is. My dream last night, or at least the only coherent part of the dream. That man, that Native. The rest is just set dressing, made up from the vague blurs I can recall, but he, he's as vivid as an oak tree lit by a lighting flash in the night. I can still see him there, his huge leg planted, his foot driven into the carpet like a shovel. I can see the single straight unbroken line my mind draws from heel to top of his head, a mathematical strength in his position. I can clearly see his huge hands gripping the square corners, his arms bunched as though he were ready to drive all his energy forward, one massive release of destruction, and yet he's not. Somehow in the dream I knew he wasn't going to do that. He was going to drink, and then...something. My mind hadn't decided yet, so it paused him there, a terrifying, massive potential, stored like the energy in a compressed spring, awaiting only the tiny ping of a neuron in his mind to drive the entire organic machine into a controlled explosion.

The mind can be a creepy place at times.

Oct 7, 2007

I Do It To Myself

Heh. I thought that'd get your attention. And while blogging can be all about ego stroking this post is going to have very little of the masturbatory quality about it. Unless you're turned on by my writing, in which case I'm terribly thankful and would strongly urge you to let your therapist know this, because your dosage needs to be increased.

My daughter had her 13th birthday party this weekend, a little early of the actual event. It's hell when your birthday lands on a school day. Me, I wanted to be the good dad and help make her entrance into her "teens" (I still break out in a cold sweat when I realise she's crossed THAT boundary) memorable so I decided that it'd be fine if she invited four (and no more than four) of her girlfriends from school over for a sleepover.

Yeah, I know. But it's her thirteenth, and that only comes once. So, I bit the bullet, and had my therapist increase my dosage.

I spent Wednesday through Saturday morning helping to prepare the gates for the barbarians. I cleaned house. Made sure there were enough places to sleep. Layed in what I thought was lots of food for the little 'uns, that sort of thing. Lots of clean sheets, plenty of soda and chips and dip, and a clear guideline from the financial overseer as to how much could be spent at the party store on decorations, how many movies (PG-13!) could be rented for the evening, and very clear instructions that I had to wrap presents. I'm still trying to figure out how THAT got in there, but there it was, the turd in my punchbowl.

Honestly? Knowing I had to face five (it ended up being three plus mine) teen girls overnight wasn't as frightening as knowing I had to gift wrap five books, two T-shirts, a bookmark, a poster, and three CDs. I was given a tape dispenser, two bows, a roll of electric green ribbon, a pair of scissors, one gift bag with tissue paper and two rolls of wrapping paper. I asked for but wasn't allowed Super Glue, duct tape nor a ripsaw. My loss.

The party was due to start at 4 on Saturday afternoon. This salient feature was clearly stated on the invites. So of course girls start showing up at 2, and all I can hear from the driveway is wheels spinning out from vans and SUVs roaring off down the street. So there I was in the bedroom, struggling to wrap presents (there's a reason white men aren't rappers) and...well, I got them wrapped without stuffing them all into the gift bag and ribboning the entire thing shut, let's just put it that way. And I didn't once rely on my staple gun.

And you know, for all my terrors and night-sweats leading up to the party it wasn't half bad. They scared the ever-living bejeebus out of the Pizza Hut guy at the drive-through pick up window. They picked out movies in Blockbuster in about seven seconds flat, and while I did hear more giggling than any man my age should be presented with they were astoundingly well behaved, fairly quiet (it was kept to a dull roar) and even though they stayed up until two this morning I was awakened at 7 not by the howls of fire truck sirens or the howls of a dog being carefully fed into the toaster but the quiet rustling of my daughter moving around her room picking up empty soda cans and candy bar wrappers. Utterly amazing.

I just want to say this, though: DAMN little girls can eat. I have never seen so few girls eat so much food. They drank 30 sodas, ate two medium supreme pizzas, an entire bag of Hershey's miniatures, a 10 count box of Pop Secret popcorn packs, a bag of Tostitos and two large jars of dip, most of the birthday cake, one of the cats and an entire can of my pipe tobacco. Well, okay, so I may be stretching it a bit on the sodas, but the rest? Gawd's own truth. I've never seen anything go through food like that, not even boys that age. Do parents FEED their children any more?

I'm glad thirteen only comes once. Now all I have to worry about is the first boyfriend, the first breakup, her first car, her first day at high school, her first day at college, and...

Oh gods shoot me now.


There's nothing else it could be.

Saw it coming home from cutting grass at work this afternoon, and it was BRIGHT, fiercely so. This is a completely unretouched photo. You can see how much it's brightness forced the camera to speed up the aperture by how dark the cotton field below it is at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. This thing positively RADIATED. And it didn't have a full bow, no curve on the other side, just that sharp, gleaming radiant spear.

Had I seen a fierce, buxom blond Valkyrie astride a huge Percheron riding back up that thing into Valhalla, bearing across her pale-skinned thighs a slain Norseman fresh from the field of glory I'd have not been the least surprised.

Oct 3, 2007

My First Day

I was talking about first jobs with a friend a few days ago, and it woke up a lot of long-dormant memories. Memories that, in retrospect, might have been better left right where they were. Which is to say in the corner of the attic of my brain, under big dusty boxes of old National Geographic magazines. But, that's the drawback of remembering things, isn't it? Sometimes not even pages of naked aboriginal people can keep them down.

My first job. I was seventeen, and needed money. I tried prostitution, selling myself for fifty cents a go on the street corner with the rest of the working girls but some jackass brought a roll of quarters and I decided I needed to change career paths. So, I became a telemarketer.

Yeah, I know, I should have stayed with the working girls (down in county jail...)

See, I was naive. VERY naive. I hadn't a clue about how the world worked, and my parents weren't a whole lot better. And so here I was, seventeen years old, driving an '81 Camaro around like I had a clue, and I knew I didn't want to work in fast food of any kind. I hadn't discovered the Evil That Is Retail, that particular beast still lay in my future, and there was a place that was hiring. Larry Robinson Photo Studios. Minimum wage, with the added incentive of making Big Money! Video arcade, here I come!

This particular company was hiring anyone with a voice and a willingness to sit in an office and talk that summer. Thirty hours a week and all the phones you could gnaw on. I don't even recall there being a job application; I showed up, shook the boss' hand and was given a folding chair, a telephone and a stack of telephone book pages. More fool me, I didn't know that to pass the interview I simply had to resist fleeing instantly.

So all that summer at 9 in the morning I'd drive down to a block of office buildings with the genteel name of "The Fireside Plaza" and park across the street from office "B." "B" was empty but for a tiny desk in the corner for the twenty-something, low personal goals boss, a paper chart tacked on the wall with our names and a tally of how many 'hits' we'd had that week (bonuses for impossibly high numbers!) and six long folding tables and chairs. And phones. Our office supplies went so far as to include pencils and piles and piles of pages torn out of local phone books. We were a class operation to be sure. Oh, and we had a window. I spent a lot of time staring out that window, watching my life pass me by.

I was the only guy in the office other than our boss, and we were surrounded by around twenty women who would come and go like the tide. New faces always appeared while old ones wore out fast. You didn't bother learning names because most of them wouldn't be there long enough to matter. It was that kind of a job.

It wasn't hard work, not by any means. You sat there and you called people and you got them to answer a painfully easy question and you'd gleefully tell them they'd won a prize (if you lasted that long) and about one in every hundred people would stay on the line with you long enough that you could get their name and address. And if they were that foolish or desperate for company we'd send a runner around with the free camera they'd won (Made In Korea!) and a special discounted price on a photography session at the studio. I should have bucked for a promotion to runner.

I don't recall a lot of people yelling or being abusive at the time, as telemarketing wasn't yet that popular. Looking at our success rates I'm surprised it EVER became so widely used. Ten 'hits' in an eight hour day out of twenty people was a banner event. Hangups were wildly common, naturally. We'd just mark the name to call again later and dial again. This was long before Do Not Call lists and such. And as naive as I was, I didn't think about the people I was bothering in the middle of their weekend, eating their lunch or making love or doing whatever it was they were doing. I was drawing a paycheck (the minimum wage at the time was a whopping $3.35 an hour) and it was enough to get me by, a guy of simple needs and weak mind.

I do recall that the highlight of my three month summer tour of duty there was the time I got paid my regular eight hours wage plus $30 cash to spend the day putting limousine tint on the windows of my boss' Cutlass. I should have gone into window tinting, looking back. Hell, I should have been renting myself out as a guinea pig for medical testing, or selling plasma. It was a crap job and I knew it, but I had zero skills and I needed to work.

I will say this--that job gave me a somewhat unique viewpoint. Any time a telemarketer calls now, I can see me as that seventeen year old kid, desperately trying to inject some tiny bit of excitement into my voice while I told you about the free camera you just won for knowing that Richard M. Nixon was the only US president to ever be impeached (to date.) And I feel a little sorry now for that person on the other phone, trying to sound excited, staring out the window at their life passing by. Thanks to that time in a small hell I'm a little bit more understanding, a shade less indifferent to the thousands of people who do telemarketing fundraisers, surveys, or political campaigns. I know what it's like to have that job.

So if you're telemarketing me, rest assured that I'm keeping all that in mind when I tell you that you're a mother honking piece of honk and that you need to go honk yourself just before I hang up on you.

Oct 1, 2007

Cantonese Conundrum

Today at lunch I headed to the office kitchenette to boil some water for tea, and I couldn't help but notice that one of the office folk was microwaving a little chinese take-out style box.

When he was done with his nuking I popped my cup of water in to bring it to a boil, and while I waited I noticed that the box top was extolling me to "Bring The Orient Home Tonite!"

But you know, I don't think I can do that. I mean, for one I don't have the spare room cleaned, and I'd need at least that much room for the Orient to stay over. And every time I've brought the Orient home it's never once offered to pay for gas, and it's always wanting to eat out. Plus the last time I brought the Orient home we had all been drinking and it threw up half-cooked rice mixed with some Schezuan beer all over my new couch. It still smells of Twice Cooked Pork and really cheap cologne on humid days.

So no, I don't think I shall be bringing the Orient home tonight nor any other night in the forseeable future. Of course, if the Orient had a pretty sister...