Oct 29, 2008

Many Happy Returns

To my dear wife!. Mrs. I is celebrating her birthday today; we'll be dining out with family over sushi (yum!) this evening and having cake in the company of The Birthday Bat afterwards.



Here's hoping you have many more, and that each year brings you more happiness than the one prior.

Your loving, short-sighted, and always slightly behind the schedule husband,
I

Oct 28, 2008

So, It Finally Happened.

Fourteen years of determined motorcycle safety paid off. I was in a wreck and survived (this being for those of you who didn't get the rambling, pain-med coloured email last night, and my apologies for the bulk but it was the only way to get everyone informed before I got snowed under.)

Yesterday I was riding back to work and I decided, like I usually do, to cross the railroad tracks right there by my office and see what the signals showed, see if maybe I couldn't spot a headlight off in the distance that heralded a photo opportunity. A black Ford stepside truck with those horrible 21" chrome wagon-wheel rims exited the interstate headed toward me and rolled the stop sign. I SAW him do this, saw him not stopping at the intersection of my lane and his and I was already braking and downshifting. Situational Awareness. I learned it many years ago and practice it like a Catholic priest drinks wine, and it paid off. I knew what could happen, knew what was about to happen, and I knew I wasn't able to stop in time and figured that I had three options:

1) Hit him.
2) Swerve into the left lane.
or
3) Lay Betty down and slide, possibly under him.


I rejected #2 because I didn't know what was in the lane beside me and I didn't have time to look over my shoulder, and I rejected #3 because I didn't want my leg chewed off under New Improved Sliding Betty. I was wearing my leathers, gloves, boots and Joe Rocket riding pants, but didn't want to get my leg hammered betwixt pavement and motorcycle if I could at all keep from it.

So?

I hit the bastard. "T-boned him," they call it, because his truck and Betty made the letter "T" for one brief, bone-jarring minute. It's funny--looking back at it I can still sort of see Betty's front end collapsing as we impacted. Right after that I was airborne and remember thinking what a pretty day it was to have a wreck.

I must have hit his freaking big chrome back wheel because Betty stopped instantly. I didn't go over the truck but instead somehow remained mostly seated while the back wheel swung 45 degrees to the left and then high-sided me off into the highway. I rolled a few times in the concrete median and came up cursing a blue streak. Old boy must have been scared of a 6' 2", 230 pound black leather-clad biker because he never spoke to me--he drove to the far side of the intersection (I thought for SURE he was about to drive off,) called the cops and locked himself in his truck and waited for the State Trooper to arrive.

My camera survived, fortunately. I took some pictures of my girl lying in the street before the ambulance came.





(That reddish brown stuff isn't blood, it's fork oil.)

Damage-wise? My jacket has some serious scratches across it, especially on the neck, side and elbow. My riding pants have the same, and might have a small tear down by my calf, I've not looked yet. My helmet has a palm-sized skid on the back, and will have to be replaced. They're good for one wreck and one wreck only.



My right elbow has a tiny scratch about an inch long and this morning has a nice goose-egg and a soreness that goes right to the bone. I have a tiny little puncture the size of an insect bite on my right calf, which makes me think my riding pants (heavy armoured things) must have gotten punctured by a rock. I landed first on my shoulders, then my head, THEN my hip, so my shoulder muscles are very painful and unfunnily, getting worse by the hour. I've a headache since last night (the Physician's Assistant says this is due to the extensive strain of neck and shoulder muscles) and I landed on my wallet so my butt has a nice deep bruise, too. Since I started this post this morning I've since discovered my neck is sore from where the helmet strap must have strained when I rolled and I've developed soreness in both hands (probably from hanging onto the handlebars on impact) and in general all over.

And then there's Black Betty.

Both her front forks were broken clean in two at impact. All of the front end took lots of damage as you no doubt can tell. The left side floorboard broke clean off and the back left turn signal cracked off when she fell onto her side, and she picked up some scratches and scuffs back there, too. I righted her after the accident to keep fuel from spilling and killed the ignition and the key and realised that the front wheel wasn't coming with. When I messed with her again the second time (after the photos, the Trooper wanted my registration) the front wheel settled horizontally onto the ground. I realised this afternoon, after visiting her in the towing yard that the only thing holding the tire on her is the brake lines. I honestly don't know at this point if they'll total her or not.

Me, I'm sort of on the fence about that, sadly enough. If I have to buy a new one I'll buy the exact same bike again. The problem being, I won't be able to get the special financing and free extended warranty like I did when I bought Betty I, and that SUX. If she can be fixed I'm all for it but it's gonna take a month or more for them to get parts in and do the work, plus paint and such, so either way I'm likely to be off my wheels for a while. Keep thinking good thoughts for me, because I don't want to develop some damned deep psychological fear of riding, tho I doubt I will. I'm anxious to be back riding already.

The ambulance made a late arrival on scene, that was fun. My boss was there in five minutes with some of the office staff (nurses, in case I needed medical help, yay for working with RNs!) and we waited for fifteen minutes for the fire truck to show up. They put chemical dust on the oil spill (that's the brown stuff in the first picture) and in general made sure I wasn't dead. A nice lady who was passing by on the interstate and saw the after-wreck disturbance turned around and waited with us, to make sure if she needed to report to the police. I never got your name, but thank you, ma'am, for doing that. You were a really sweet lady.

The ambulance, I heard later, had been told the wreck had occurred "on I-49," not on the off-ramp area, so they drove a good ten miles past the scene looking on the side of the interstate for me. They made it there in about forty minutes, and BOY I'm glad I wasn't sitting there holding my intestines inside. They triaged me, and when I told the examining EMT that my neck and shoulders hurt I was immediately slapped into a C-collar, strapped and taped (yes, TAPED, with reflective duct tape) to a back board and tossed into the back of the truck.

My Personal Best Moment? Just before they loaded me in I told the two EMTS and the two firemen surrounding my gurney "Once around the block, gentleman, then straight home." 5 hours in the ER last night, slept with pain pills through the night. Woke up this morning to do a full check--sore in lots of places, and aggravated but otherwise intact. Pissed as hell, too. Spent most of the day sleeping and getting more sore, it seems. I've started the process, making calls to a lawyer (9am appointment tomorrow) and the guy's insurance company (he can't be located, they tell me) and so on and so forth.

I'll tell you this, though: Old boy will forever rue the day he was in such a rush that he didn't stop for a motorcyclist.

Oct 25, 2008

GO BEEBS!

Belle (Aria Svora Cascabel, JC) just won her second major, a five pointer in Austin, TX! For those of you who don't fully understand the AKC grading system (me included,) this means that Belle (our sweet couch potatoe) just beat TWENTY FIVE other Borzoi bitches at a specialty show* in the ring this morning.



She's got both major wins to her record now, for a total of 11 points. She needs 15 points in toto to complete her confirmation championship (and we can put the title "CH" in front of her registered name,) and we can do that one of two ways--

1) By winning tomorrow's show. If she sweeps tomorrow's show like she did today, it will be ANOTHER five point major, and she'll be finished.

2) We nickle and dime win one and two point shows here and there (against small numbers of other dogs) until she gets the rest of her points.


I can't believe it. I'll be truthful, too--Austin, TX is too far for us to easily drive and the expense is out of our reach, so we had her with professional handlers. I feel more than a little bit that this is something of a cop-out, but just because she's finished doesn't mean Mrs. I or I can't continue to show her in the ring as a "Special." Which I'm certain we will, just to get comfortable, learn to handle her better, and in general get the word out that Belle is the Next Big Thing. *G* Plus we fully plan on coursing her (racing after a plastic lure in big, open fields) and pursuing (heh!) her Lure Coursing Championship, too. This will make her a Dual Champion like almost all of her dam's (mother's) litter, which is an extraordinary accomplishment for any dog. Currently she's a JC, or Junior Courser, which means she successfully ran two clean races in an official lure coursing event.



Next up? Breeding our beautiful girl to one of two VERY accomplished world-champion males, with the intent of producing some dogs of genuinely extraordinary quality, and our first $10,000 litter.


GO BEEBS!

___________________
* A specialty show means that, in this case, the Lone Star Borzoi Club sponsored the show, supported the entries and in essence went a long ways in time and money to make this a very Borzoi-heavy show.

Oct 22, 2008

Tales of Trouble

I've always called it a 'trouble light.' Some people call them 'drop lights' or whatnot, but I've always known them as trouble lights, since you only use them when you've got troubles. I've hung more than a few under the hood of cars so I could work in the dark at what ails them.

When my father died, my brother and I calmly and peacefully sorted his numerous tools out between us. Each of us already had some tools ourselves, so we divided what we needed and then divided the extras. I already had a trouble light, a fairly new one, and so did he, so we each took one of my father's trouble lights because he had two.

This evening I had need of that light. The days have grown shorter and the chickens have been laying less than half their usual production because of that. In the old days, before lighting your coop was an option you simply had less eggs. Nowadays all you have to do is put a light in the coop for a few hours before dawn or after dusk and your chickens have enough light to stay active and lay eggs like it was the long hot days of summer again.

Trouble is, my big work light with it's tin half-globe shield and it's spring clamp is currently keeping pullets warm and alive. So, not wanting to spend any more money (spent plenty already, thanks) I went to the shop and found my father's old trouble light. It was hanging next to mine on the pegboard, two items with exactly the same purpose but far different value.

Let me show them to you. Mine, just a few years old, is molded in bright safety orange plastic, from it's thin rubber handle to it's orange cord. The cage over the light is hinged cleverly at one side, so that you just push gently and the front half swings open, giving access to the bulb. The metal cage and shield are thick plastic, and the whole thing without it's cord weights perhaps a pound. The on/off switch is cleverly hidden under the thin rubber that wraps the handle, so all you have to do is press down on the little round bump and it clicks on, clicks off with a quiet, efficient sound.

My father's light is a little different. It's old, for one thing. The bulb has been in there so long that it's got a brown fur of dust over it's glass crown, dust that will smolder gently and give off a singed smell when the bulb is burning. The black rubber handle is as thick as a closet-rod, and covered in recessed squares like a waffle iron. It has been handled so often that the black has been polished and rubbed to a satiny silver colour in piebald patches all over, and on the high ridges of the squares.

The cage that protects the bulb is steel, and there's no hinge or other clever little hidden release. There is, however, a metal band attached to the cage that hugs the top of the handle, and a pair of screws 180 degrees apart from each other. To get at the bulb you take a screwdriver to these two and back them all the way out. The clamp is threaded so the screws don't fall out, but there are washers in there you have to watch for, and the little eyelet of the ground wire that pokes up from within the depths of the rubber-wrapped socket comes loose when the screw is backed out. When the clamp is fully unscrewed the whole shield assembly comes off the handle with a tug and you have to pull to open it's halves--the cage is made with tight loops of metal attached to the hook at the top, and it doesn't open easily.

The on-off switch is strange. It's hidden within a thick hood of rubber at the top of the handle, looking for all the world like a mechanical clitoris. It is just a little smaller than the last digit of your pinkie finger, and about that long. Made of bakelite plastic the colour of old blood, it is thick and heavy, and you don't push it in, you pull it down with your thumb. When you do you feel a resistance, as there is a spring-loaded wire running back from that nubbin. When you pull down you see it's braided thickness exposed, a line that leads, you'd think, into some sort of Rube Goldberg contraption, and you fully expect to hear a distant clatter of steel bearings falling into cups and down long curved ramps, triggering spindly rods to pendulum down and knock ping pong balls onto tiny see-saw levers while little flags wave cheerfully.

There's a definite "CLICK" when you pull that bakelite nub, and the bulb comes on slowly, as if the light has to come from a long way away, but come it does, and as the glass warms the dust begins to darken, and a tiny wisp of smoke drifts up lazily to coil under the hook's hood.

I left my new trouble light in the shed, naturally. It still hangs there on the pegboard, its nice, clean orange cord coiled in loops and hung on a hook. My father's light is in the coop right now, hooked in the chicken wire that keeps the snakes and rats out, and is shedding it's timeless yellow glow so the ladies can stay up a little longer, eat a little more, scratch in the pine shavings and lay a few more eggs for us. It'll stay there all winter, until the days begin to lengthen again, and one afternoon in Spring I'll walk out there and coil the thick, rope-like cord up and unhook it, maybe grimace at the black oxidation it leaves on my hands. I'll bring it back and hang it on it's hook on the pegboard where it'll wait for another few months or a year or more, gathering a hair of dun-coloured dust on it's dome. Until it's needed again.

Maybe someone I know needs a trouble light. I've got a nearly brand new one they can have.

Oct 20, 2008

A Weekend Of Pride (updated!)

I know at least one or two of you have been curious about the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race that I attended last weekend, and I'm sorry for holding off until today to write. I've been trying to mentally sort and catalog all the wonderful, scary, exciting things that happened, trying to put them into some sort of order, carefully cataloging all the astounding bits, knowing full well that when I sit to write it all down I'll miss about ten important points.

With that in mind... *g*

It was an extraordinary weekend. I've never gone to a hot air ballooning festival, much less been such an integral part of one. It took place in Natchez, MS, a very scenic little town right up against the Mighty Mississippi* and since there wasn't a single place big enough to put some 70 hot air balloons it took place all OVER Natchez.

Friday night was the Balloon Glow (my first!) which involved a number of balloons set up stationary (not flying) on each side of the river. As dark fell, at certain orchestrated times and as needed each pilot would fire their burners, which in the cool dark of the evening made the thin nylon skins of the envelopes glow like huge stained glass lightbulbs.



There was enough crew there (SkyBird has a lot of loyal followers) that VW and I could occasionally wander off throughout the weekend and take photos, which was a nice bit of lagniappe. When she gets her photos uploaded and set I'll put a link here. Here's my complete set, hope you enjoy!

One of the things that most stood out to me is the variety of chase vehicles and balloons and genuinely nice people that I saw. Crews showed up in everything from plain white passenger vans with home-welded steel platforms on the back to carry gondolas all the way up to what the pros called "Chase Commanders:" huge modified RVs decked out with sleeping quarters, air conditioners, blacked out windows, the works. Crews wore everything from Goodwill bargain jeans to colour-matched button-down Oxford shirts with sponsor patches and embroidered names and balloon emblems. Lots of four-wheel drive trucks with baskets simply stored in the back were there, and every type, shade and colour of balloon. There were corporate sponsored balloons (Curves had THREE, Budweiser had one, the POW balloon was there, and even two local dentists with bizarre tooth-themed balloons) and there were even a few professionals with racing balloons present.



Yes, racing balloons. I swear, you put two men together with the same kind of toy and they're gonna try to figure out a way to prove which is faster. I think there were four there out of possibly 70 that attended this year. Tall, spindle-shaped things, traveling almost eerily faster than the other graceful, full-bodied giants that filled the sky. Me, I'm old school I guess, like I am in most anything else--give me those beautiful, full-bodied round envelopes, moving around the sky like bubbles in a blue champagne flute.



I even got my moment in the sun. I had my first cross-country flight. No tethers, no limits to how high I wanted to go, nothing but David and I and SkyBird there in the sky, surrounded by like-minded aeronauts.


(Balloons jostling for position to drop their sandbag 'bomb' onto the big red "X" in the church parking lot. That's the Budweiser balloon right in the middle, and "Zephyrus" to the far right.)

I was under the impression that Natchez was Jim's time to fly. Always had been, and I thought always would be, so I'd given zero thought to burner time of my own. Saturday morning we'd gotten SkyBird inflated and upright and were waiting for further developments. She was straining gently at the weight of our bodies clinging to the edges of her basket, ready to be aloft and over the target. I knew it was almost time, could feel that lightness in the gondola that signals it's time to fly, and I knew that any moment David would get Jim on board, would say "Weight off" and we'd all step back and he'd be on his way to the first target-bombing flight when instead he said "Paul, get in."

Needless to say I didn't hesitate.

We took off into the cool, foggy morning and it was as magical as the first time I flew--quiet, eerily so, watching the huge round shadow we cast pass across trees and houses and cars. David found the breeze that gave him the heading he wanted and I snapped photos and gawped. After we both realised we were off course for the first target and therefore pretty well shot on the second David looked at me and said "Well, are you going to take pictures or are you going to fly?"

I'm not sure what I said, but the next thing I remember was David moving to one edge of the basket and saying, in that calm, low voice, words that will stay in my head forever: "The aircraft is yours." He showed me how to rest the red line over my right arm so I could feel it move as the envelope changed shape, and he gave me a few briefs about how we'd communicate over the roar of the burner. He showed me how to watch the horizon to tell if we were climbing or descending, and showed me how to anticipate the descent before it happened, so I could burn enough to keep us flying more or less level. I was flying SkyBird. I was flying a hot air balloon.

I was flying.

I still can't quite get my head around it. I was piloting a hot air balloon in a competitive environment. In the air, hundreds of feet up. Free flight. Even that Sunday afternoon during our after-festival ceremony when he introduced me to the gathered crew as "his student pilot" it hadn't quite sunk in.

I remember two years ago, around mid September blogging about my first hot air balloon trip. I remember Scott from Oregon telling me about his experience in the comments, warning me against making myself free labor to someone who would use me every chance he got. Well, Scott was right, but only partially. No one can take what I freely give, and I gave of my time.

I loved crewing, still do. I never once thought about asking David to make me a pilot, never considered saying "Hey, could you train me?" even though I knew he was a pilot instructor. It simply never occurred to me until one day I found myself standing in the center of the gondola holding the burner controls in my left hand. I still haven't officially "asked" David to train me, it's simply happened, as naturally as a seed sprouts when given sun and water and soil. Two years and one month later I own a Pilot's Logbook and am logging my flight hours, logging them toward being certified as a licensed pilot. It's reassuring to an old school boy like me that sometimes hard work and dedication pay off, and pay off big.

The flight was incredible, and I managed to punch us through the top ten feet or so of a tree (flying a hot air balloon is TOUGH!) toward the end, when I was desperately trying to integrate dozens of different sources of information and thereby earned my new nickname: "Treehopper." I even managed to pick out a landing spot and put the balloon down within a few hundred feet of that spot. Gently. I stood there by myself as volunteers who had happened along pulled her down, balanced myself in the gondola as it tipped onto it's side, and was awakened from my reverie when David barked "Don't just stand there like you're the pilot or something, get out there and help snake the balloon!"

I helped snake. I crewed with a light heart and feet that never quite touched the grass of the landing field.

I will say this, though: above all what stood out to me throughout the entire weekend was Crew. Us. The big grinning knot of sixteen or so of us that were there every morning at 6am and every evening at 4 for the Pilot Briefing, who enthusiastically showed up in cold pre-dawn dampness and in late afternoon sun, who spent most of the flying time sitting in the back or in the cab of a very fast-moving chase truck, watching eagerly for sign of OUR balloon, SkyBird, waiting for word on the radio. Our hearts swelled as one when the balloon cleared the treetops one morning and an unseen group of onlookers cheered, and we all grinned together when SkyBird leaped into the sky with what seemed boundless joy. The loyalty, the enthusiasm, the teamwork, it all made me so wildly proud to be there, to be a part of this fiercely loyal family that worked so well together.

_________________
* "Em eye crooked letter crooked letter eye, crooked letter crooked letter eye, humpback humpback eye." That's how I learned to spell it as a kid.

Oct 17, 2008

Poetry Friday Challenge - The Five Senses Series: Taste

OMG this is going to be a major cop out (as opposed to a police officer exposing his genitalia to women on the street which is also a cop out but is more importantly in bad taste which might be barely enough to get me by on this week's PFC) but I'm pressed for time and don't have a Poetry Friday post ready and omg I suxor!

I don't know what sort of taste it takes to take high-speed photos of things exploding, blowing up and otherwise in incredible action, but I like it.

VW, Mrs. I and myself (and maybe my brother-in-law) will be in Natchez, MS this weekend starting Friday afternoon for the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, crewing for SkyBird and David Miller as always, our brave and neatly-trimmed pilot/owner. Also with the not so neatly trimmed Jim, our Ground Crewchief. I'm told drinking and partying is to commence, and I'm bringing cigars so it'll be smoky too. I'm also told that we're going to go one night to a place called "Fat Mamas" and get "slapped nekkid" so I'll be sure and keep copious notes on the entire weekend's events.

If you find yourself in the area PLEASE come find us and hang with us or at least stop by to tell me what terrible taste in clothes I have.

Oct 14, 2008

Drivin' The Bandit

It's been a long past few days. A trying past few days. Vehicularly speaking, I'm destitute.

Let's review. I own an elderly GMC Sierra truck which currently is suffering from some sort of engine malady that I can't diagnose nor fix myself, and is being further held back from repair by current economic conditions (ie: we're broke as a joke.) Black Betty, my bike is my main mode of transportation, and is very willing and able. I put a new back tire on her some four or five months past, and last week she developed a strange wobble in her front end. I realised after it grew worse that I'd picked up a nail or some other bit of FOD* on the street and gotten a puncture and a slow leak.

I can't patch it, since motorcycle tires take much more side-to-side stress than car tires, and patching a hole even on a back tire is asking for a fast ticket to Motorcycle Upside Downsville with a side trip to Broken Bonestown. So, I'm patiently waiting for another back tire (that I can't really afford) to ship so I can bring the works to the bike shop to have the two mated so I can get to work in a manner both enjoyable and efficacious.

The wife has a year old Mazda CX-7, but since we work at disparate times it's almost impossible to catch a ride with her, and while I don't mind borrowing my mom's little Nissan I hate to leave her without transport. That's where my brother comes in.

My brother the pharmacist has, at last count, two cars per family member including my niece and the two nephews, the youngest of whom is 9. He collects and restores '64 to '66 Mustangs, you see. My brother the car collector has a new Honda Ridgeline for himself. His wife drives a Chevy SUV of some generic sort or other. He owns a mint '65 hardtop with the 289 V-8 and a number of others in various stages of restoration. His wife decided she had to have a hot rod car too, but instead of waiting for a Mustang to come available she found a 1975 Trans Am, vis:


You're starting to get the picture, right? I went to him to borrow a vehicle, and since his Mustang is strangely sacrosanct here of late, I ended up in The 'Zam. The Blue Bomber. My nemesis.

Can I tell you why I'm tired of it? I'm tired of the Smokey And The Bandit jokes. I'm tired of hillbillies following me through parking lots just so they can gawk and ask barely intelligent questions. I'm really weary of people staring at me like they expect me to be wearing a black cowboy hat, black Wranglers and a black Western shirt with red piping and the obligatory pearl-covered snap buttons. I'm tired of feeling like every time I get in front of a diesel truck he expects me to race ahead to suss out the smokies for him so he and his dog can continue on to their destination with his truck-full of contraband.

Don't get me wrong, now. When I was 12 my dream car was a red 1978 Trans Am with the Screamin' Chicken on the hood and the 6.6 litre V-8 400. I didn't even care that the dashboards of those cars is covered in silver mylar: I wanted a hot car. Frank Poncharello had a gold one. Rockford had one too, also gold I believe. I wanted a Trans Am. The closest I ever got was while I was in college. I had a pristine white 1981 Camaro with a red interior that was the be-all end-all of cars (to me (at the time.)) I've always loved GM's F-body cars, and when they changed to the boxy new Camaros and Trans Ams I wept for a passing generation of long, sleek, low sports cars.

I just never thought I'd be driving one again at age 41.

The car has it's pluses and minuses, I'll freely admit. It accelerates rather like a Saturn 5 rocket--in a straight line you punch it and it begins to roar, gaining speed in a sort of continuously increasing power band until two miles later you feel like you're about to break the sound barrier. Like the Saturn 5, however, it also takes a VERY long time to slow down. The steering is sharp as razors, aided by a small steering wheel and a high-ratio steering box. This makes doughnuts in parking lots a breeze, but if you're 6' 2" tall it requires a sort of controlled fall to get into and you have to put your hand on the door sill to heave yourself back into the light of day.

I love the long body style, no doubt about it. I love the fact that the doors are five feet long and when you slam them it sounds like you're locking yourself behind a bank vault door. I love that the hood stretches out in front of you for ten feet and the cockpit feels like it ends just behind you, as though you were driving an American version of a mid 60's Jaguar E-type. I even love that the trunk is so small you can barely fit a suitcase in, and the back seats are comfortable only if you can still buckle comfortably into a carseat.

The 'Zam even has that big gaping intake smack in the middle of the hood, a defiant declaration of machismo and sheer "Go ahead and cut a huge hole in my hood so the engine can stick out" chutzpah. Sticker a giant two-toned fire-breathing chicken all over the hood and what's not to love?

Well, I can tell you. What's not to love is that it takes a Chevy Chase pratfall to sit down, the dash is MYLAR for gawd's sake, and that hulking V-8 power plant makes OPEC grin wider every time you turn the ignition on. I also really dislike the constant flow of toothless middle-aged rednecks who longed for a car like this when they were adults and their mullets were still fresh. The near constant flow of onlookers makes me feel...dirty. Did I mention that braking requires a lot of patience and a country mile? Did I mention that the engine is covered in more tubes and pipes and strange bits of wobbly plastic that serve no obvious purpose except to fail at inopportune times, thereby rendering the engine utterly dead? Did I mention that it's got a giant fire-breathing chicken on the hood?

Did I mention it's great for huge smoking doughnut burnouts?
__________________
* Foreign Objects or Debris.

Oct 12, 2008

"I Stole Your Hoodie And Traded It To A Carnie For $2 And A Handful Of Ride Tickets."

That was the quote of the week that sums up the entire Fair Experience, as far as I can tell. I couldn't do better, and I owe it to the one and only Vulgar Wizard, as spoken to my daughter in the Corn Maze. (Yes, it actually WAS cut in that pattern, which was very cool but you couldn't tell even from the observation bridge in the middle but at one point VW decided we were traveling down an antler which was cool.)

It's Fall, and that means the Fair has come to town, and around that august occasion occurs several birthdays and now is the long downhill slide to the New Year. It never ceases to amaze me how fast it goes once you reach October. The wind starts to catch a slight chill, promising cold to come. The leaves begin turning, the grass stops growing, and my daughter gets older.



14 now. A teenager in word and deed and, were I to cut her in half and count her rings, years. She got her first 'real' iPod yesterday for he birthday, a sleek little black thing no longer than my finger and as thin as a whore's promise, all uber-modern matte black. I remember trying to tote around a Sony Walkman cassette player slightly smaller than a paperback book. *sigh*

But this isn't going to be a lament post. It's going to be about the Fair, that strange occurance that haunts and disturbs me and makes me smile a little, all at the same time.

Every year I promise myself I will go the evening they begin setting up and snap photos of the rides in black and white--empty, skeletal, half-built shapes against dark skies. Hints of Something Wicked This Way Comes in the brooding shapes, the hulking trucks. I also see myself shooting very close focused photographs of carousel horses with their flared nostrils and wild eyes, the wear of thousands of hands and feet on their fiberglass bodies. Well, this time it snuck in on me and was assembled and causing traffic-flow troubles for two days before I even knew it was here.

Every year I promise myself I will go at night with camera and tripod and take stunning long-exposure shots of the rides--colourful blurs, smears of light against black skies so vivid you can hear the delighted screams of the children on board. Then every year the reality strikes me--parking twenty minutes away so I can cross two lanes of traffic and walk into the fairgrounds carrying thirty pounds of awkward equipment so I can set up and try to snap photos in between masses of people who might well have a hankering to steal my very expensive camera equipment. That's not even mentioning the copious amounts of dust that will work it's way into every nook and crevice of my camera and lenses.

Sour grapes? Not necessarily. Just...a reality check, I guess. The sensible me taking control and shaking me gently by the lapels.

This year was a bit different, though. Instead of simply avoiding the week-long traffic hazard that is The Fairgrounds I actually got involved. A little. I entered three photos in the adult division photo competition, one each in the Colour: Animal, Colour: Person and Colour: Other categories, and swept the boards--second place on each one. I was actually quite pleased with myself, and didn't even let the harpy-like shrews running the door this evening ruin my mood when I went to reclaim my 8x10 glossies.

The other involvement was my daughter. A few years ago she, like her father, got wind of the fact that unless you're going there for the shaky and thrown-up-overnight thrill rides (I've always been partial to the Ferris Wheel) there's not a lot for you to do at the Fair other than hand your money over for cheap trinkets, plastic geegaws and goldfish in very small bowls. Browsing the surprisingly sizeable fair catalog we saw they were also having, sandwiched between show rabbits, goat agility and tractor-driving competitions, a pet show.

Mind you, a PET show, not a dog show, but the entry was free and we figured it'd be fun. We bathed and very lightly groomed Belle and entered her in the Non-4H Dog competition, Large group (any dog over 18" tall. Yeah, we had that pretty easily.) Not exactly the down-and-back of an AKC show but my now fourteen-year old got in there and walked Belle around the ring, answered questions about her and in general made us very proud.

(That's Humpty and his partner Dumpty behind her in 4-H green, the professional and utterly unbiased (*snort*) judges.)

When the dust had cleared they'd won first place in her division! *G* I know, I shouldn't gloat; it's not truly fair, us bringing a pointed AKC registered sighthound to a local pet show. It's equivalent to bringing a .357 Magnum to a fistfight, but I can say this: we weren't the ONLY ones who brought their show dogs to the ring. 'Nuff said. They then proceeded to lose to a five-year old boy with a horribly ill-mannered French Bulldog, whose owner was the shrill grandmother shouting directions from just over the little rope divider, but Humpty and his brother decided to ignore the outside interference AND the elegant, relaxed, impeccably well-behaved Borzoi in favor of the cute little boy and gave him Best of Show and accompanying trophy.

Me, I'm just tickled as hell that my ultra shy daughter got up there in that ring in front of a MASS of people and showed Belle. Proud? You could say so.



Fourteen years and another Fair has come and gone. Now all that remains is three more birthdays (Mrs. I and one nephew in late October and VW in December,) Thanksgiving, Xmas and New Years. It'll be easy as falling down a greased slope, I can say that for certain, having already felt my feet come out from under me. Me, I'm ready for some cold weather, for the turn of the season and the promise of a new year ahead.

Next year's Fair I'll get some photos, too. I promised myself.

Oct 10, 2008

Poetry Friday - The Five Senses Series: Touch

Just a warning--this is a very dark little piece of fiction. I've spent the day listening to my co-worker mangle and mutilate the beautiful English language, and it rasped my last nerve. I think if they don't fire her soon I'm going to have to cut her throat just so she'll stop talking. She's a poorly-educated hick and hearing her talk is like listening to a pig eat slops. A pig in lipstick whose mastery of the language is equal to an eight-year old who was raised in a closet by coat hangers.

That, and reading Clowncar's excellent post about the beautiful Einstein lens forged of raw space stuff and gravity got me thinking science, and about how frighteningly little we really know about anything, and my mind stuck the two together like some sort of bizarre Reese's Cup.

"You got your sleek elegant science in my poor grasp of diction!" "A-hyuck, I got my-all purdy mouth on yer science."

Naturally this is utter fiction, no intent to match any reality or other dimension's reality. I tried very hard NOT to write like me, tried to write this as someone entirely different, someone writing in their little secret diary they keep under the mattress. I tried to avoid writing like I knew what I was doing, in other words. Feedback is very strongly desired.


Dear Diary.

I'm going to do it today. Going to kill myself. I can't stand the touching anymore.

We were so stupid. People. All of us. God we were stupid, and so full of ourselves. I've got the newspaper article here, going to leave it marking my place so--shit, I don't know why. I just am. I can see the headline in my sleep: "Large Halon Collider Test A Success! 'God Particle' Found!"

I can see it rippling. They're touching it. They touch every goddamned thing. Everything all the time moving, everything always being touched. Everything ripples, moves, tears. Everything is always moving.

God what idiots they must have been. I hope they all died first. Actually, no. I hope they're still alive, all of them. I HOPE they're alive to see the piles of bodies, alive to hear the news reports about the mass suicides, the pacts, the religious crazies. I heard China has been setting up suicide assistance places, where people line up by the thousands so army men can shoot them and toss them in huge lime pits. I hope those big-heads are constantly being TOUCHED, skin crawling all the time with plucking, groping...whatever they have for fingers.

Someone at the soup line today was saying that she'd heard that it had almost opened a door, that we almost let...everything, she said. "They almost let EVERYTHING through." But not quite. It was more like cracking the window a little bit, so that the wind can get in but not the birds and the tigers. Just enough room to stick a finger through to TOUCH us. Something. Some things. From nobody knows where. All we know is that after it happened, people started going crazy. Being touched all the time, everything. People, things, the water, everything, like we're all forever being poked and groped and touched by something we can't see, something just outside of your vision, like being poked in the dark and not knowing who or what touched you. All the time. All the goddamned time.

I can't stand it anymore. I've got my brother's .38 Police Special. It's funny, I can hear him saying it all important, like when he brought it home. "Police. Special." Like you could hear the capital letters. Once in a while it moves just a tiny bit as They poke it, touch it, stroke it. Get your fingers off it, you creeps. It's his. Mine. Not yours.

I like how it feels. Like a machine, all cold and dead. Like I'm going to be shortly. Like it's going to make me. That way I won't feel the touching anymore.

Its funny. I used to ask my boyfriend to touch me. I'd lean over and let my blouse open up, let him see my tits, ask him to touch them. Open my legs and ask him to touch me. He died four days ago. Walked around the safety thing at his work and right into some kinda machine. Tore him to bits. How could I have ever wanted anyone anything to touch me? I'm bruised all over. The painkillers don't even make me sleep anymore. I'm tired of waking up screaming, tired of waking up feeling fingers tentacles whatever They have touching me all over, mauling me, hurting me. They say they know how to stop it. That's bullshit. All I got to say is they'd better hurry up before there's no-one else left to help.

I lasted longer than you by four days, Steve. hah.

Yeah, I Hope you live. I hope you find this, you Turd. I hope you read it. You and your clever ideas about finding God. I bet you didn't know God had a million billion fingers to push and prod and grope. I hope you like being touched, you fucker.

I'll see you in Hell.
B.

Oct 6, 2008

"...Slipped The Surly Bonds of Earth..."*

Well, the photo (and the tags) say it all, but you know me, I've got to get my words in edgewise, and maybe make you smile a little bit if I can.

It was a busy weekend, let me just say that, and a memorable one. Saturday morning we flew our oldest passenger, at 88 years old. She was also one of the coolest, I think. She took up kayaking at 83 and can't swim. She spent the flight hooting and whistling at us as we chased, and the after-flight ceremony, which took place on a land-owner's front yard was just as rewarding.

That evening's flight was canceled, and thankfully. We watched a huge thunderhead (cumulonimbus for you meterology geeks) collapse and change the wind direction a full 45 degrees in less than twenty minutes, then turn into quite a bluster that would have sent SkyBird first into the woods and then toward a very fast, very rough landing.

Sunday morning found us flying a Marine Corps laywer and his wife for her 40th birthday and had to be one of the more high-speed chases we've been on. SkyBird's path took her away from the roads so Jim had to make up for in speed what he couldn't make up in pacing, so a few bumps and bruises later we found ourselves just about flying down the access road to a local crop-dusting runway for a clean recovery.

Then came Sunday afternoon. A tethered flight. What worried me is that I kept hearing those three words uttered with a sort of sick desperation bordering on hatred. That afternoon found us setting up a whole mountain of nylon ropes, D-ring hooks and, oddly enough, two trucks and a tree. The inflation went well until the wind kicked up again, and found me and a heavy-set volunteer fighting the ground control rope and SkyBird, who wanted nothing more than to roll around just off the ground like a giant, gaily-coloured pendulum.

The wind finally settled, the line for rides grew, and we started off. The ground crew quickly developed a sort of assembly line process--kids (and a few adults) would enter from one side to board, while kids would exit the other side. When the gondola was full David would nod, we'd let go, he'd fire the burner and up they'd go, some forty or so feet, hover and bob gently in the breeze, then back to earth.

The best part for me was watching the little one's faces. They'd go up with hands clapped over ears and looks of somewhat abstract terror on their little faces and come down with huge smiles and bright blue fire in their eyes. They'd flown, and done so in the presence of all their families and friends and church mates, and they'd flown well. It made the near-constant sweat and mosquitoes worth while. We even flew a dear lady of some 70 years who was suffering from the most severe cerebral palsy I'd ever seen. Her caregiver sat on a folding chair and held her in her lap, and when they landed the joy on her face was almost painful to see it was so pure and uncluttered.

If only we could have set up an assembly line for everyone to use, to make goals and dreams come true so easily for everyone. Simply line them up, feed them in one side of the gondola, give them a taste of flight and set them back down, then feed them back out the other side to bubble and spread the joy to others.

Dark fell fast and there was still a line, but shortening, and our strength was waning with the setting sun. Toward the end, when there were only a few faces eagerly anticipating flight David looked at me and said "Come on, it's your turn."

Goose I am, I thought I was just going to get a ride. I'd forgotten the email David sent me a while back, which I saved, and reproduce here as I received it.

well done grasshopper.....your observations are obviously not as casual as they would appear as you stand there with eyes and mouth open wide....you have begun a quest that even if tried could not be derailed very easily...good job.....can't wait to read about your first time on the burner.....

sky


I didn't realise that my burner time was what he was talking about until he said "Go ahead, take the burner."

I don't know what I did right then. I probably looked around for the hidden camera. I know I finally grabbed the stubby wooden handle of the burner assembly that I've seen every time we set up, but never touched. It's always seemed sacred, somehow. Sacrosanct. I looked at it's chrome body and saw where the manufacturer had engraved their company name in the metal. I looked at my passengers. MY passengers, because I was the guy at the controls, responsible for putting this simple machine back down on the ground safely. David caught my eye and said "Burn." I held the wooden handle in my palm, squeezed two fingers down on the short black lever. The propane caught fire with a roar and I was looking up at an eight foot tall flower, clear blue with orange-yellow at it's tips, and past that up into the stained glass dome of SkyBird's envelope.



I have to say this--David's teaching method is quiet. He spoke softly the whole time, just loud enough that I could hear him from my position a few feet away from him. "Burn." "A little shorter." "A little longer." The lesson I most remember, though, almost a koan was "Burn, then see what that does for you." "See what that does for you." That was the main lesson. The lesson underneath everything. Try it. Take the step and see where you are. Then, take another step. Take enough steps and you're flying.

I brought us up, then down a little, then up close to the forty feet or so that was the maximum length the tethers allowed, then let the envelope cool a little, keeping us aloft with short burns until we set down on the ground again, surprisingly softly. We offloaded a few fulfilled dreamers, took on a few eager seekers and repeated, only this time David just stood there and smiled that small smile that said "You showed me you know what to do, so do it." He crossed his arms and waited. I burned and we lifted, flew, hovered, then sank gently back again.

Then, since the line was still there and it was getting dark VERY fast, I debarked and he flew the last few passengers while I stood there crewing again, helping little kids and old men get their feet up over the edges of the gondola, reassuring them before they went up and smiling with them when they came down. We'd shared something, all of us. We were aeronauts.

The line ended pretty fast, and suddenly there was one little man left and David told me to get back on board, he was taking a break. I got on, situated myself and my passenger, and David climbed out. Out of the gondola. I was alone with my passenger. Again, MY passenger, but this time there was no helping hand standing across the short distance. David nodded, I reached up and felt the smooth wooden handle and the slick black firing lever and burned. We rose into the night sky. The little man asked me a few questions as we flew, and I remember answering them but don't ask me what I said. My mind was filled with the huge blue flame, with the orange and blue light that shone down from the dome over me with every burn, and the soft creak of the wicker as we moved and shifted in the wind.



I landed us, he debarked, Jim grinning at me and Cookie and Joy hollering happily at me. "Take her to the top," David said, and I stood there grinning into the bright flame as we went back up, she and I, up and up into the night. I know I was secure; the three nylon ropes would stop me before I crossed over the treeline and into the night itself but it felt...impossible. I felt like Daedalus must have felt when he handed his son his cup of wine and said "Here son, hold this. I wanna try something." I felt a tiny touch of what Pil√Ętre de Rozier felt when he first ascended in the Montgolfier's beautiful Fabrege' egg. I felt free. I felt like I'd somehow escaped gravity's notice, and that any second it was going to realise that I'd gotten lose somehow and was going to snatch me back with a resounding thump but for right now I was a kid skipping school, with the whole world open before me.

I know I called back and forth to the crew. I know at one point some jackanapes waiting below shouted "Cut the ropes!" and I said "Go ahead! As long as Jim is driving chase I know I'll be okay!" and I meant it. I remember David yelling up to me "Stop giggling and fly that balloon!" I remember Cookie and Joy calling out in high laughter that I was flying, that I was doing a good job, but all I really truly remember is how it felt to hold that handle in my hand, to feel the heat wash down on my face and to feel the few breathless seconds it took for SkyBird to react to the fresh heat in her envelope.



David made me do a few things, like hover the bottom of the gondola right at his head height, and then made me bring her as close to the ground as I could without touching. I remember him saying I was doing well, that I managed to hold her "at grass tip height" for more than a little while, and then I was up again, soaring to the limits of the ropes, then I was down for the evening before we ran completely out of fuel.

I think I helped pack her up. I think I gathered some of the rope and daisy-chained it. I think I helped put the big blue canvas bag and the wicker gondola back in the trailer because that's where it all ended up. All I know for sure is that my instructor talked to me briefly when it was all over. He told me he was proud of me. He said I had a good touch, a "good hand for it." He thanked me for my hard work, which to me is like thanking a tree for giving shade. Then he told me to go down to the little local municipal airport, to the little aviator's shop there "...and buy a pilot's log. You need to start logging your flight hours."

I don't remember the ride home, but I know I made it. I even have the pictures to prove it wasn't a dream.


_________________
* snipped from the poem "High Flight," here reproduced in full. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe this poem is the unofficial poem of the Air Force.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— John Gillespie Magee, Jr

A Picture,

it is said, is worth a thousand words. I have no doubt I'll have several thousand words ready for you soon, but for now I have for you a photo that says it all far better than I can:







I'm still smiling so wide I'm desperately afraid the ends of my mouth are going to meet in the back of my skull and scissor the top two-thirds of my head off.

Oct 5, 2008

The Simple Life

Last week I was listening to the radio at work as I'm wont to do, and Aaron Copeland's composition Appalachian Spring, based on the old Amish song "Simple Gifts"* came on. I smiled, and sang along quietly to the bits where the tune was the strongest.

It's true, at least for me. It's the simple gifts that mean the most to me. I've learned, as most of you know and the rest are finding out, how to find the simple gifts that Life presents to me every day. All it takes is an eye to see or an ear to hear and a heart open to accepting it.

A few mornings ago I heard a familiar call. Actually a familiar squawk. Now that VW is gone from the office there's no-one else there but me and the Clinical Manager who don't faint or freak out at the sight of bugs. There was a small spider crawling up the wall in my Office Manager's office, and the sight made her squeal. I'll give her this, though--instead of just smashing it outright she called to me to 'take care of it.'

I take it as a point of pride that my office mates have learned that when I proclaim in my quiet voice "all life is sacred," I mean it. I like the Orkin man a lot, he's a pleasant fellow, but I loathe when he comes around with his philters and poisons because I know that for the next week I'll be seeing the office littered inside and out with dead and dying creatures of various sort, from lowly silverfish up to beautiful moths unfortunate enough to land on the poison-soaked bricks.

The spider in question was a lovely little thing, one like many I see in the office. Her filament-thin legs spread out on the wall as she climbed, and instead of the usual round pattern they shaped an oval with it's wide side up. Her little body was a striking sort of orangish red that made me think of a pair of tiny droplets of liquid amber, each the size of a pinhead. I put my fingers under her while she mountaineered up this vertical face, and a brush against her back legs almost too gentle for either of us to feel made her instantly roll into a little ball which fell onto my fingers.

Before I could see her react she was back walking again, finding purchase on my fingers, moving at a goodly pace considering her tiny size (about a quarter the size of my smallest fingernail, so my hand must have been a veritable Appalachian Range for her.) I walked to the door and outside, fully intending to simply let her go the same way I let crickets and June bugs and dirt daubers out--walk to the end of the front porch area to where the grass and the fields begin and give a gentle toss toward the green wild.

My new little friend Arachne, however had a different plan. Her agenda? Rappelling down from Mount Irrelephant.

I reached the end of the walk, turning my hand over and over to keep her on top and in sight when she took a deep breath (if spiders can take deep breaths) and jumped. She began to spin a web so fine that I literally never saw it, but I knew it was there because of the controlled descent that she was making, hanging at roughly 45 degrees in the tiny breath of wind that was blowing down the side of the building.

What made me smile way down in my heart of hearts was how she looked hanging there. Not only was her speck of a body catching the light like a pair of orange-red dew droplets but she seemed for all the world to be parachuting.

I'm sure you've seen people leap from airplanes before. They spread their arms and legs wide and make gentle curves of them to maximize the surface that the air has to flow across, thereby slowing their plummet into a controlled descent. Tiny Arachne was doing the same thing. When she leaped her spinnarettes starting turning a chemical fluid into a line that hardened instantly in the air, and her two hindmost legs were holding onto it as it spun and furled, anchored to my finger somewhere way above. She was hanging, relative to her size, many thousands of times her body-length from the ground, which to her eyes probably wasn't even visible except as a vague green blob 'down' but on she spun, carefully lowering herself.

The rest of her legs she held out from her body wide as she could reach, and each line-perfect leg was curved gently like an eyelash, intended to catch the wind. Perhaps too she meant to reach out to anything that she might encounter in her seemingly endless descent from the rarefied heights, some safe haven. Her whole body had become a parachute, a thin-petaled flower, a spider-lily if you will, and she spun herself out into the world with utmost abandon and all faith that she'd find somewhere to land.

I stood there, arm held at waist height until the invisible line she spun had to be well over four feet long and she finally touched down in the yellowing grass of Fall. A moment more and she was lost to my sight, an infinitesimally small dot of beauty in a world suddenly, to my eyes, grown impossibly large and out of scale. A world so profoundly big that the prowess of my human brain couldn't encompass it all, and I envied my little simple Arachne, lost in her world of green blades of grass and brown earth, blissfully unaware of how very impossibly big the world was, and how tiny her place in it.

I thought about how close she'd come to having her tiny spark of life snuffed out, and how through nothing but my simple intervention she lived on in her microcosmic world. I wondered if perhaps there wasn't someone up there looking down, to whom I was nothing more than an interesting spider on the floor; blue polo shirt and black slacks bare shimmers of colour against the pale concrete, and I went back inside to my desk and my medical records and my music playing softly on the radio.

I've not been that humbled in a very long time.

_________________________

* Here's a link to a free version of Simple Gifts if you're curious about the music. No lyrics, sorry, but I listed them below. I'm sure you can fit them into the melody if you try.

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

The Dale Worland Singers have a beautiful version available for purchase.

Oct 3, 2008

Poetry Friday Challenge -- The Five Senses Series: Scent (Of A Woman)

I like how women smell. Simple as that.

I can't keep from thinking about the Al Pacino movie every time I think about it, though. I see his grizzled old extraordinarily cool self and that lithe young lady tangoing across the dance floor after he recognises the scent of her soap.

Let's face it, girls just smell good. I don't mean powdered and perfumed and deodorized girls, either. Those girls have been Sanitized For Your Protection, and there's nothing interesting about that. If I wanted to smell expensive shampoo and perfumes squirted on in abundance and Secret Super Duper Ultra Dry I'd walk down the Personal Hygiene aisle at Wall To Wall Mart. What I mean is the unadulterated, clean, sweet scent of a woman's skin, unladen with odd ungents and peculiar perfumes. The natural pheromones and personal-as-fingerprints smell of a woman's skin. There is nothing in life quite so nice as that smell.

The scent of newly cut grass makes me smile wide.

Freshly-turned earth makes me want to curl my toes for glee.

That special combination of long-chain polymers that a new car exudes when you first open it's doors is an excellent one indeed.

Even the peculiar burnt Cosmoline grease smell of a new motorcycle engine being broken in makes my nose quiver with happiness, but none of those matches the smell of a woman's skin.

I don't know how else to say it.

One of my great pleasures is waking up next to a woman in the morning and taking a deep breath of Her. That bed-warmed, indescribably yummy musk that only a good night's sleep can produce.

Another of my great pleasures is to work beside a woman for a while, good energetic labour and catch a whiff of sun-warmed skin overlaid with the soft tang of sweat that is indescribably Her, perfectly personal.

Have you ever walked into a friend's house for the first time and taken a deep breath? You should, because after a few exposures you'll never smell it again. Ever notice how each house, each family has it's own scent compiled of cooking and clothing and just living? Try it in a single woman's home. That's HER scent, as surely as a lioness marks her lair with her scents. Drink that scent in, savour it like a wine. It will tell you more about her than you know, but it will tell the deep down you, the primitive you hunkered by his fire in your hindbrain. He'll know, and he'll remember. Listen to him, he's smarter than you give him credit for, even if he does still burn his fingers on hot food.

That's not even mentioning sex. When a woman is aroused she gives off a whole host of delicious scents, most of which your body responds to without even resorting to asking the brain, as though our male noses are hotwired directly to our naughty bits. I shan't get pornographic but the scent of a willing and eager woman is the single most riveting thing there is.

The scent of a woman. The single most excellent thing in the world. Alright men, all together now, deep breath -- IN.