531. Wild Wabbits,Women and Songs

Image result for corn stubble in snow field imagesA wild weekend on my treadmill. Stifle that yawn! While I hook up to my Lou Reed station and set the pace at a blistering 4 mph, I stare out across my backyard and into hundreds of farm land acres. Lately the snow pack has made any creature movement easy to see. On Saturday morning I noticed something skittering across the field stubble about the size of a groundhog, but moving differently with a long tail, but not a fox.  Even with my foggy binoculars, especially with them, I could not get a positive i.d. So I went to Google Earth real time drone surveillance, dialed in my coordinates, and ordered up a strike. Actually I googled muskrat and came up with a match. It disappeared into the stream bed that splits the field at its low point.  Cool! I’d never seen a muskrat out of water before. Mystery solved.Image result for muskrat  picturesThey look so different on land, but I suppose humans look different in water, eh? Just put on your bathing suit and belly up to the mirror. See what I mean?

Later, on the way back from my granddaughter’s fifth birthday party, we passed an owl sitting high up in a forlorn looking tree, looking forlornly across a forlorn landscape, where rain poured down on the stubborn snow pack, which was likewise forlorn. One trivia fact I remembered about owls is that they can’t fly well or hunt in rain with damp feathers. It was gonna be a long day for what looked like a barn owl.Image result for white barn owl in a tree pictures

Still, my second wildlife sighting in a day. On the way back from Hershey the next day I saw the silhouette of a large hawk tearing at its rodent catch while perched on a fence post. Another gift. Raptors take my breath away for some reason I can’t articulate. Image result for red tailed hawk on a fence post pictures

So this dull aluminum grey Monday morning as I stepped on my trusty treadmill, I was not expecting anything. Lou Reed’s “I’m Waiting for My Man” started on my Pandora feed. It’s about buying heroin from a street dealer. I picked up my 5 lbs dumbbells and began stepping to the beat. Just outside the sun room, across a wooden deck I noticed the white bunny looking in at me. It’s a fat domestic escapee who has been wandering the neighborhood since last summer. Cute with black rings around his eyes and a few black splotches on his coat. Looks like he hopped under an oil drip. No sooner did we make contact than a wild brown bunny zipped by him. Hard to tell if it was aggression, play, or mating season. The two of them then hopped and chased and flopped as I walked and curled my dumbbells… chuckling over the juxtaposition of a jaded addict’s song of buying heroin overlaid on an icy winter rabbit frolic. It was comical to me. Twitterpation came to mind from Bambi, as Lou’s narrator was scoring his first love…

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I’m waiting for my man
Twenty-six dollars in my hand
Up to Lexington, one, two, five
Feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive
I’m waiting for my man

They continued playing, occasionally coming up one more deck step to nibble at the sliced orange carrots my wife had tossed out for the benefit of wild life. After the recent warm up and ice melt down, the carrots were finally accessible. The bunnies seemed content with winter grass and dried out autumn leaves.Related image

Next song in the feed was the Beatles “Don’t Bring Me Down“. It started to reverberate in my liquified brain and fit with the odd sequence of events.

I’m in love for the first time
Don’t you know it’s gonna last
It’s a love that lasts forever
It’s a love that had no past
Don’t let me down, don’t let me down
Don’t let me down, don’t let me downImage result for beatles photos
My mind wandered as it is prone to… floating on its raft across the sun drenched Bay of Bongolia … back to my wife’s loving tenderness. She cares even for a wild rabbit. On the upper deck she installed a bird feed tube, the overflow of which litters the lower deck and feeds the rabbits and squirrels drawn to free eats. Sometimes it may seem to be counter intuitive, this feeding of “wild life”. Are they still “wild”?
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Last week we were awakened three or four nights in a row by a howling cat, a big fat orange one that would perch on the 6×6″ corner fence post at dawn’s early light. I offered to shoot it a couple of times. My bride declined the offer. Instead, she put some old left over cat food in our deceased dog’s bowl for the cat!! On the upper deck no less, near the sliding glass door. That’s how our former cat Annie became a house cat, by degrees. First she built Annie a shelter box for the long winter nights. Later in the warmer months she lured Annie in to the daybed in the sun room with catnip treats. Finally that cat had the run of our entire house and I was living in the box outside. This is just one area of difference between us: her empathy is limitless at times; mine works more like a parking meter. Boom! Time’s up.Image result for parking meter pictures
And the final song that hit this time frame was the Talking Heads “Wild, Wild Life”.
Here on this mountaintop oh oh oh
I got some wild, wild life
I got some news to tell ya oh oh
About some wild, wild life
Here come the doctor in charge oh oh oh
She’s got some wild, wild life
Ain’t that the way you like it oh oh
Living wild, wild life
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Now, I know it’s an overreaching associative mashup mess to claim some thread ran through all of the above songs and thoughts and visuals. That’s LSD talk, right? So Groovy, it was an oceanic experience where I was you and you were me and we were all together. Which riffs another Beatles song. No, it was more like the Shepherd’s Pie I had for dinner the night before, a bunch of subliminal meat and veggies beneath a blanket of baked mashed potatoes.  Good eats. Peace. It all becomes one in your guts.Image result for wild bead necklace images
Still, a shout out to my beautiful wife of 38 married years. Still wild and never lets me down, so I’ll keep waitin’ for my woman. Stop your filthy thoughts, you.
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530. 8th Grade

Image result for hayfield high school picturesThings were different in Virginia Hills at age 13. The bus ride to the brand new junior-senior high school was longer and bumpier, miles away down Telegraph Road. It smelled of newness and paint and building supply fumes and concrete dust. It was the largest school in the area at that time and felt like the Pentagon must to a Cub Scout on a field trip. Not sure if they even offer field trips to the Pentagon nowadays.

Image result for old fbi building washington d.c. 1960's photosWhen I was a kid our elementary classes toured the White House, the old FBI building, the Capitol, the U.S. Mint, a submarine somewhere downtown, and the Smithsonian. My most memorable moment came at the FBI after an agent/tour guide shot a silhouette target with an automatic weapon. I asked if I could have the bullet riddled target. “Sure kid, here you go.” Never before or since have I gained instant cool cred like that. My classmates envied me palpably. Every boy and some girls wanted that shredded FBI target. I taped it to my bedroom wall until it scared my over anxious mother one night too many and she threw it in the trash.Image result for target silhouette pictures

I’m pretty sure that in these paranoid times field trips to iconic Washington, D.C. landmarks are no longer allowed. Pity. Watching money being printed like a newspaper was a stunning vision to an 8 year old whose family almost lived pay check to pay check.

Related imageAnyway, back to 13. I was interested in a girl named Lisa who had a racy reputation. She was cute and wore short skirts and a knowing smile. I was battling acne and athlete’s foot that I had acquired in the junior high showers the year before. I mean my right foot hurt to walk on. And yet, Lisa and I conspired to skip school one day and “hang out”. This was before Netflix and chill, and friends with benefits. She stayed home sick in her house across the road from our massive school factory. My part of the plan was to go to homeroom, be counted as present, and then walk over to her house after her parents left for work. We executed the plan flawlessly. Image result for hayfield farms neighborhood pictures

By 8:30 or so I was knocking on her door. She let me in, wearing a skimpy night gown and that knowing smile. I was terrified of what lay ahead. It is one thing to desire knowledge and experience, but quite another to boldly acquire it. I felt like I had in Little League coming to the plate to face Kevin Carr’s wild curve ball. He was way too fast and therefore dangerous to face. Even bunting was a challenge against this sapling of a left hander.Image result for little league kid at plate pictures

We sat on her couch and watched daytime television, reruns of standard shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and a game show or two. It was awkward and terrifying, as I expected her Lieutenant Colonel father to burst in at any moment. A noise at the door freaked us out. It was a meter reader or utility guy… not her father. Lisa was far more comfortable with this business than I was. She tried to move the conversation and body language into jiggification. I floundered like a drowning kid in two feet of water. Pathetic. All I needed to do was stand up and save myself, but I was too ignorant and scared. Cue up Running Scared by Roy Orbison. I think after a couple of hours Lisa figured out nothing jiggy was gonna happen between us. I made my escape when the buses cued up at 2:30. Glad to be going home. I was not ready for the wily world of women and couldn’t even fake it.Related image

Later that year four or five of us guys decided to take another day off school. One boy, let’s call him Lee, who lived down the street from Lisa had an old car in his driveway that had been given to him by his grandfather. He had the keys and our big chief hero, Steve Goll, told him he could drive. “Sure, man. I drive all the time.” We were 14 by this time in the spring, and no, not one of us knew how to drive even a golf cart. But that was the plan… sign in to homeroom, skip out all day, ride home on the bus at 2:30 and keep the lies straight. So we did.Image result for old car with teen boys inside pictures

It was a little weird driving the back roads of Lorton and Newington, Pohick and Gunston. Somehow we scored some beer and cigarettes, maybe through Steve’s older brother. It wasn’t that hard back when cigarettes were sold in lone vending machines in front of empty stores. Beer simply required a little more money and planning. Off we went hooping it up, listening to crap music on an AM radio. It was a shared fear that some joyless adult might notice a carload of 14 year old boys were driving around the countryside on a school day and notify the cops. For the most part we saw very few cars. We’d duck and leave mature-looking Steve alone at the wheel when we approached another car or pedestrian. I’m sure we weren’t at all suspicious looking.Image result for 63 plymouth on road pictures

Sometimes when we came to a bend in the road, Steve would lean with the steering wheel, upon which he had a death grip, and also duck beneath the dashboard while we yipped and yapped for him to keep his eyes on the winding road. On one of these bends he did not turn sharply enough and we wound up with the right side wheels in a ditch. Cue up Neil Young’s Alabama. Stuck. Dead meat. We could not even imagine the school and parent trouble and criminal charges we were in for.  Image result for car with wheel in a ditch pictures

That is when the heavens opened and a truck full of road crew inmates from Lorton Penitentiary pulled up behind us. Six or eight grown men in prison striped uniforms and one guard with a shotgun got out and approached us. We were shaking in negative anticipation, busy hiding beer cans and cigarette evidence.Image result for prison road crew pictures

The guard said to Steve, “Looks like y’all are in the ditch, son.”

“Yes, sir. We sure are.”

“Okay, well, let’s see if we can get you out.”

Miraculously they lifted and pushed as Steve gassed the old Plymouth and we were back on the road to salvation. Forty five plus years later I still chuckle at the absolute absurdity of growing up, and marvel that anyone makes it through alive. Cue Stairway to Heaven.Image result for stairway to heaven images

529. A Tale of Two Crowns

Image result for elaine foy photos as queen elizabethI’ve been watching The Crown on Netflix recently on these long, cold winter nights after my wife erupts in vociferous frustration with the soap opera news cycle I watch faithfully. She can’t bear the endless adolescent drama that emanates from the White House. I must admit it is a great relief to trade one classless impostor U.S. monarch in for another one, a real one with tact and taste, refinement and character. Elizabeth II is superbly played by the accomplished actress Claire Foy. She is the restrained eye of the royal hurricane swirling around her at Buckingham Palace.

Image result for jungle book king louie with crown onBack on this side of the pond, the U.S. king is played by a grasping orangutan with a penchant for worship and subservience and big boy parades. Our manboy king is the hurricane in the eye of his own ego storm, like a full toilet swirling mercifully down and away, we hope. Anyway, I don’t want to give the illegitimate one any oxygen today. He’s had way more than enough already, being a career attention junkie. How do you get a one-armed orangutan out of a tree? Wave goodbye.Image result for toilet flushing gif

The last episode of The Crown was so artful on many levels. I think it was episode 9, called Assassins. Among the many developing plot lines, Elizabeth and her hubs Phillip’s relationship is straining at the royal seams. At the same time her old flame the horse trainer is obviously still carrying a torch for Liz. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Winston Churchill is being pushed out of public office by his successor and time. He is 80 years old and receives a Parliamentarian birthday party, as well as a portrait by an established artist, Graham Sutherland.The portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, by Graham Sutherland

The one scene that corkscrews three hearts at once is when the portrait painter Sutherland is finishing his oil painting of Churchill. It is clear that they admire one another. Each man has reviewed the other’s paintings, looking for personal meaning projected into them by the respective artist. Churchill is the in the power position and lets Sutherland know it. He mentions a particular Sutherland painting that is filled with black trees. Churchill had actually copied the painting as he studied it. “It’s somewhat malevolent”, he observes as Sutherland’s paintbrush seems to become seized with indecision.Image result for corkscrews with corks images

“It was a very dark time in my life”, the artist explains in the smoky cottage light. “My wife and I had lost our infant son.” Long pauses and blinks kept tears from falling on either man’s cheeks.

Related imageSutherland points out that Churchill has painted the fish pond on his estate at least 20 times. He mentions how he believes the depths of the pond show great pain and grief. Churchill tries to put him off the trail by suggesting that Sutherland is projecting his own feelings into Churchill’s paintings. “I was always battling the light and the play of the water’s surface like a warrior in battle.” No argument by Sutherland. Instead he moves on to Churchill’s children, “Five, right?”Image result for churchill children pictures

Churchill corrects him, “Four” and proceeds to explain and deflect that the youngest, Marigold, died while he was away. “When I came home, Lady Churchill howled like a wounded animal.” He goes on to add that they moved into the current estate a year later… which was when he constructed the fish pond…indirectly proving Sutherland’s speculation. Both men lock on to the same wavelength of anguish. The camera holds the indirect light flooding in from the back yard where the fish pond is located. Sutherland’s heart is pierced; as is Churchill’s; as is mine while I watch this scene that moves at the pace of oil paint drying on a canvas, or vellum memories curing on tenterhooks. That corkscrew breeches the preserved wine inside the cellar of one’s personal history.Image result for churchill fish pond paintings pictures

And that episode title Assassins comes to mind. Killers. Middle Eastern origins. Religion and politics… a murderer of an important person in a surprise attack for political or religious reasons. Who is the assassin in this scene?  Sutherland is “killing” the false bravado of Churchill with his spoken truth and his painted truth, and getting paid for the service. Churchill told Sutherland to paint only the good, the strong, the empire before him. As a precise witness and artist he painted what he saw– the ravages of time, whiskey, cigars, and decades of restlessness. To some degree age is also an assassin. Churchill is stalked by members of his ruling party and the press he can no longer control. Assassins all around.Image result for pictures of shia assassins

When the painting is finally unveiled at Churchill’s birthday celebration, he is repulsed by the truthful but unflattering image in front of him and Parliament. His disgust and rage are briefly contained. Sutherland later confronts him at his estate over the portrait after Churchill has officially rejected it. Enraged, Churchill says it  looks like an old man trying to move his bowels, weak, impotent, fragile, etc. It is the sum total of all Churchill’s fears staring back at him. “It’s cruel!”

Sutherland shouts, “Life is cruel. I paint what I see.”Image result for life is cruel pictures

Their interactions are so powerful. The great man wants political deception not truth; flattery not precision. Despite two strokes, his pride, vanity and self deception cannot tolerate the truth of his indisputable decline. The artist, on the other hand, wants truth over the approval of his legendary superior. He cannot tolerate the great man’s mirage of self. Each man holds to his agenda and so they separate like oil from water.Image result for oil separating from water gif

Soon thereafter, the great Churchill resigns with a tender, fatherly kiss on Elizabeth’s forehead. He shakes his successor’s hand as he leaves Buckingham Palace. And then has the portrait burned. Yep, the haughty politician destroys the artist’s truth.Related image

Back in the States, our head of state sprints like a wild hare in search of applause, sycophants, and cheeseburgers. His portrait, however, has already been mass produced… all puckered up to kiss your butt good bye.

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528. Trumpecac Syrup in a Capsule

Image result for ipecac syrup picturesMy above average, intelligent, well informed blog readers already know about ipecac syrup, but for the occasional blog visitor I’ll get you up to speed immediately.

“The rapidly-induced forceful vomiting produced by ipecac was considered for many years to be an important front-line treatment for orally ingested poisons. However, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists now advises that ipecac syrup is no longer recommended for routine management of outpatient ingestions of medications or other chemicals. Humco and Paddock Laboratories, the only two remaining manufacturers, both stopped production of ipecac syrup in 2010.”Image result for puking cartoon images

Shocking, huh?  Time to empty your medicine cabinet of this impostor poison antidote, actually an emetic. In fact, ipecac syrup can be detrimental to one’s health and may have been responsible for the deaths of bulimics when it was still available in pharmacies across the country.Image result for medicine cabinet photos

What to do in these nauseating times? Let’s say you have ingested floor cleaner by some strange mix-up in your morning oral hygiene routine while mindlessly gargling and watching Fox and Friends. By a terribly tragic sequence of events, you gulped a swallow of this poison when you heard the Donald’s latest hyperbolic rant. He inspires gasps and gags at rates higher than any other U.S. President, in case you didn’t already know. Image result for jaws shark images Just when you thought it was safe to wade back into the salty water of democracy, and that Mr. Shark Jaws could not outdo his last tortured statement, along comes Monstro the Moronic Whale version,Image result for monstro the disney whale images with a porn star leading lady on the side A good government group filed a complaint alleging the hush money that the President reportedly paid to Stormy Daniels (right) broke election laws.and the official First Lady (third wife) in an Aflac duck commercial undergoing brain transference.Image result for melania aflac commercial pictures

[Note: the author is not exaggerating yet. That will come later.] In moments of shocking disreality television news, you still need something to help with life saving physical purging and psychic catharsis. The effects of such poison must be reversed or the patient will surely die. At this juncture you may be wondering which is the more toxic substance:  the floor cleaner or the Don John experience. The safe answer is yes.Image result for trump nodding gif

Now, from Trump Labs, LLC comes a modern marvel of medicine. Greater than the discovery and development of penicillin, the polio vaccine, insulin, antibiotics, bone marrow transplants, and water. More effective than the epipen at treating anaphylactic shock… without any troubling medical, legal, or ethical liability or nagging side effects. Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, introducing Trumpecac Syrup in a Capsule. Each capsule contains a truly revolting quote from Emperor Don printed exclusively in American English (in China) on a slip of American made paper strangely resembling the fortune part of a fortune cookie. A month’s supply means you can take up to five a day, since research by the Washington Post found that the Liar in Chief told at least 2,000 lies publicly in his first 365 days of office, or roughly 5.5 lies a day. (Consult your bankrupt Obamacare physician to see if you are healthy enough to vomit or have sex or both.)Image result for medication capsules pictures

Let’s walk you through a typical scenario where you would definitely want Trumpecac capsules on hand. Imagine you are at a fundraiser for neo Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia or at a Roy Moore re-election rally in Dothan, Alabama. Shellfish is everywhere and it’s a warm sunny day. After choking down a few mussels or clams, you notice the following symptoms…Image result for roy moore trump rally images

Shellfish poisoning, illness in humans resulting from the eating of certain mussels and clams.  Symptoms often begin within 10 minutes after eating the shellfish. Initially, there is tingling and numbness about the lips and prickly feelings in the fingertips. The throat is often dry. Staggering, giddiness, and muscular incoordination may appear, and speech is often incoherent. In severe cases, respiratory paralysis and death soon follow.Image result for dead man pictures

Now, I know what you’re thinking:  how can I tell if I’m dying or just at a Trump rally or speaking in tongues at a fervent Amway glossolalia convention? It requires a skilled trauma doctor and exorcist to differentiate among the three, but by then it could be too late. So Trump Labs, LLC suggests that you take out your capsule bottle and open one of the 150 fully safe mini-tubes of reverse Trumpecac wisdom, and read it aloud. If you have an obstructed airway, ask someone nearby to read aloud over you while making foolish hand gestures like the Fuhrer himself.  Here’s a randomly selected example Trumpecac quote:Image result for trump supporters be like gif

Okay, left to right, top to bottom, Ahem…

“Just grab’em by the pussy. Grab’em by the pussy. And they let you cuz you’re a star. You’re a star.”Image result for trump with access hollywood stills

Now, if you are truly dying of ptomaine poisoning, you will feel such a revulsion in your stomach when those words and their stench are decoded by your neo cortex that you will immediately upchuck the shellfish, stomach acid, and any inorganic material that was just filling up belly space and not paying rent. Taking this possibility into consideration, but accepting no responsibility implied or replied, we at Trump Labs, LLC recommend that you position yourself above a toilet or bucket before ingesting the Trumpecac reverse wisdom epigram. One more caveat, (these stupid regulations!!!) : Projectile vomiting often occurs in Democrats and Independents or select liberal, fake news, treasonous media representatives. So, avoid them at all costs.Related image

If you are still feeling the symptoms outlined in paragraph six of this post, take a second capsule’s Trumpecac juice just to be sure.

Open. Flatten. Read…

“I love these black and brown dreamer kids. I just wish they’d get off their asses and go back to their shithole countries and not let my wall hit them in their lazy asses on the way out.”

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Clearly, if this Trumpecac venom does not clean out someone from sphincter to sphincter, then you are at a rally or have been bitten by a rattlesnake in a Pentecostal reptile church frenzy. In any event, you are going to die a horrible death. But wait, that’s why we at Trump Labs, LLC are offering term life to protect your loved ones left to cope in a world without you.

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527. Bravo, Brasso Bravissimo!!

So the day came when Tu Bette found her way down to Philadelphia. The low brass auditions were going full steam ahead on a steamy humid day in September. Using blackmail and threats to call the IRS for audits, Joel had managed to get a university president and a former state senator on board, backing Tu Bette and swearing that she had been educated under an assumed name in Switzerland to protect her real identity as Kim Il Sung’s illegitimate daughter by a touring Danish sousaphile. It was a tidy bit of disinformation that allowed plenty of latitude and implausible deniability. In the dossier Joel had a classified memo written by a mujahideen leader in Afghanistan with a photo of the same holding an AK 47 on a mule. Image result for mujahideen photos on mulesThe landscape was remarkably similar to the Grand Canyon’s south rim. “Mujoelhideen” seemed a bit photo-shopped but the letter with it was touching, as if written under the influence of high grade fairy dust.  Joel had deliriously pulled out all the stops for Tu Bette, sort of like the Phantom of the Opera did for Christine; he had passed the point of no return.

Image result for snidely whiplash gifUnfortunately for all concerned, the Reverend Miller Stubbs had tracked Tu Bette across the country and back, following the Toothless Billy the Pirate’s Emporium carnival on the hunch that the tuba playing pirate chicky was none other than his investment, Tu Bette Wiel Suhn. He just missed capturing her in Tanglewood. In fact, he mistakenly attempted to kidnap another female tuba player in the BSO as she exited the dressing room, but the thugs he sent to abduct her wound up breaking Nancy Kerrigan’s femur at a skating rink on the other side of the state and he had to abort the mission. He would not make the same mistake again.Related image

Emily and Susan continued to party away their fracking millions like twin Lindsay Lohans dating twin Charlotte Sheens. Not a good look on a spreadsheet or district court docket. Lemme tell you. Tu Bette’s old milking herd had long since been sold to the slaughterhouse in Wausau. No one cared; all were abandoned… and it seemed the evil crow of the Ojibwe people was about to claim the top of the inter-tribal totem pole. If all was not lost, then it sure seemed like it was about to fall off the back of the Tom Joad’s wagon… like a mummified grandma.Image result for tom joad's truck pictures

The symphony hall was dark as Tu Bette came forward, lugging her Jupiter 378 on a rolling suitcase frame. Three blindfolded judges sat with their backs to the stage, score sheets attached to clip boards. A drool trail led up to the first balcony where Joel was dizzy with anticipation and excitement. Calmly Tu Bette wet her lips and began her lip flutters, blowing raspberries into the unforgiving air of the Kimmel Center. She knew the odds were against her, an unknown from a traveling carnival named for a toothless pirate.  One mistake, a flubbed note, a missed or prolonged caesura, too much spittle and loss of breath… would be the end of all her dreams. Image result for woman in spotlight on stage picturesShe sensed her deceased father’s spirit in the darkness telling her to calmly play for the herd, play it like warm milk, play it like a new bride on her honeymoon. Something powerful rose up in Tu Bette, a force she had only guessed that she possessed. She pressed her moist lips to the silver mouthpiece and blew like an archangel announcing the Second Coming. In fact, she began with the Hallelujah chorus by Handel.

Bump,     bump, bump, bump    Bump,    bump, bump, bump”

The judges opened their eyes and mouths in perfect “Oh’s” in recognition of greatness. It was apparent that they wished to turn and look at this tuba genius, but they restrained themselves as if they were sausages strapped to a gurney. Image result for sausages looking like people

A commotion began as Reverend Miller Stubbs entered from the darkened balcony box behind Joel, firing two shots into the back of Joel’s head while yelling, “Sic semper tyrannis”. He jumped down to orchestra level and twisted his ankle in the process. His derringer was a two shot model, so he needed to reload. Related image

The judges ducked for cover, leaving Tu Bette alone and frozen in the spotlight as Miller Stubbs hobbled toward her with two fresh slugs in his pearl handled derringer. “I’ve been pursuing you for seven years now, Tu Bette Wiel Suhn. I made an investment in you and I aim to keep it or kill it. Your next breath may be your last.”Related image

Tu Bette stood up calmly, thinking of her milk cows going out to pasture back in her childhood days. She reviewed all the good people in her life, which did not take her long as it was a tragically short list. One voice echoed across the Upper Peninsula and through the Midwest: Big Joe and his beloved Phantom 309. He had promised her back in episode one that he would never allow Miller Stubbs to have Tu Bette.  Oh where was her trucker friend now?

Stubbs pulled back the hammer. “Tu Bette? Are you coming or going?”Image result for snidely whiplash gif

Just then a ferocious wind gushed through stage right. Tornado like gusts of wind and hail tore across the auditorium, blinding everyone temporarily. When they opened their eyes, Big Joe was stepping down from his rig, right there on the freakin’ stage of the Kimmel Center. Image result for tractor trailer gif

Filled with terror, Stubbs dropped the derringer and ran toward the back exit. However, as he turned, the bleeding sousaphile Joel whacked  him across his snarling face with a silver euphonium, knocking him unconscious. The three blind judges rushed to Joel’s side and sat upon Stubbs until the Metro police arrived. Reporters flocked in behind the cops looking for a hot story popping with drama and intrigue. When they asked the judges just what in Hell had happened, they replied, “Gentlemen, we’d like to introduce our newest member of the orchestra, Tu Bette Wiel Suhn.” Image result for female sousaphone stars

[Joel survived his execution shots due to a steel plate doctors installed to correct a childhood balance issue, never suspecting that one day it would save his life and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra all in the same day. Cards and flowers may be sent to  Philadelphia’s Jefferson Hospital in Center City as he recovers.]


526. Low Down Dirty Brass

Related imageBig Joe turned out to be a big, warm teddy bear of a trucker. He listened to Tu Bette’s dreams and decided he’d help her however he could. He swore an oath that she would not return to Rev. Stubbs music school, Brass Knuckles, just outside of Marquette. However, due to a string of recent traffic infractions, Big Joe was limited to driving in state exclusively. He got on his CB radio and called in favors from trucker buddies who drove east. Tu Bette was going to that audition whether Hell or high water came first.

Image result for party girls on a cruise ship picturesMeanwhile, Rev. Stubbs contacted Susan and Emily after he discovered Tu Bette was missing. He assumed she would go west and home, which just goes to show how little he knew of Tu Bette. To further confound things, Susan and Emily were on a cruise in Cozumel with their nouveau riche  gas fracking friends. Stubbs filed a missing person’s report with the Michigan State Police. He suggested it was a kidnapping case since a runaway label could damage the polished reputation of his music conservatory. At every turn and any cost he sought to protect his investments, his endearing name for the students who lived at Brass Knuckles campus.Image result for u p michigan landscape photos

Tu Bette was resourceful beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, however. After hitching another ride with Big Ernie, in Indiana she fell in with a traveling carnival, Toothless Billy the Pirate’s Emporium, who needed someone to make popcorn and run the balloon pop game. Tu Bette easily mastered these duties in an hour, leaving her much free time to rehearse her tuba scales. With all the loud background noise and commotion, a teenager playing a tuba with an eye patch and tricorne hat did not stand out. The carnival kept moving ahead of any child protective service investigators or nosy do gooders. After a few months Tu Bette felt safe and secure in the carnival family of chain smoking oddities and freaks. Plus Burgundy Pirate Wench Costume

Years passed. Tu Bette grew into a lovely young lady, looking more Danish than Asian. Still dreaming big dreams, she imagined herself blowing away auditions in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. Somehow she was determined to live out her adoptive dad Bob’s sousaphilic legacy. But how? She was the assistant manager in Toothless Billy’s road show by now. At 20 years old she was nearly a full adult legally speaking. Men were noticing her for all the wrong, unmusical reasons. She had to get out.Image result

While carnivaling in Rochester, Tu Bette made a desperate attempt to break out of her shadowy life and step into the spotlight of a major orchestra. She bought some studio time at Wally and Connie Deitrich’s Sun recording salon on a Saturday morning and laid down her audition tracks, mostly Bach, but she also covered “Foxy Lady”.  Telling no one of her intentions, she left the studio with a heart full of hope and four cd’s containing her work in a cute little black leather clutch. Image result for sun records pictures

She had to find a way to get these audition cd’s in the right ears, so to speak. Six and a half years on the road had been thrilling, but she knew she had to get off the circuit. Her musical soul had developed shingles, aching blisters grew in luxuriance. Sleep would not come. She was losing weight and lung capacity.

Image may contain: flower and outdoorBefore anyone could say “Eureka!”, the carnival was set up outside Stockbridge, Massachusetts during the Tanglewood Music Festival. She had heard that big wigs and brass music lovers attended this annual event featuring the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Everything was falling in place. She hatched a plan with a bit of manipulation thrown in to be sure. She’d wait outside the gates when the brass night was featured, figuring real brass nerds would be coming to listen with glazed eyes and hungry hearts to get their magical fix of tubescence. Secretly she’d call out plaintively to one of these sousaphiliacs on her Jupiter 378, soothing his tortured, misunderstood mind like the milk cows in her early adolescent days in Wisconsin.

Image result for woman playing tuba outside photosOn a beautiful August night she put her plan into effect. She lugged her Jupiter on her back as if she were a performer with the BSO. She dressed in a black gown with a tiny black clutch holding four audition cds.  Near the southwest entrance she feigned a wardrobe malfunction, a broken heel on her left shoe. Several brassy men stopped to assist her, but she dismissed them. “I’ll know when the right one shows up”, she told herself.

It was nearly 8 p.m. when she began to blow her horn, softly at first, arousing the low moanings of man and beast alike. Fireflies were lighting up. The sun was setting. Up the gravel walkway came a Viennese-looking chap in round tortoise shell glasses and a light tweed jacket. He was older, graying, with a well groomed Van Dyke beard. None other than our Joel, the consummate connoisseur of the low brass.Image result for freud headshots with glasses

Something like levitation took place as Joel drifted on Tu Bette’s nasal intakes, sucked into the musical vortex. A helpless love slave flittering on fairy wings of sousaphilic desire. Tu Bette gave him the cd and instructed him to visit Philadelphia, then Boston, then Chicago, seeking auditions. He could not deny her. She kissed him on his forehead leaving lip prints in a medium red lipstick.  Image result for lipstick print on forehead of manJoel was certain he had been raptured. He skipped the BSO concert that night and began his plan to put Tu Bette in her forever home, Philadelphia, where he could listen to her break winds of change till death did them part.

It took a few weeks, a few bank board calls, and bringing in the full weight of the foundation, but Joel managed to get Tu Bette an audition on the strength of her cd chops. He played on her lack of pedigree, the diamond in the rough story. He wished she hadn’t covered “Foxy Lady”, but maybe that would confirm her outlier mystique. Breathlessly, all waited.Image result for symphony audience pictures

525. Tu Bette Wiel Suhn, Low Brass Rock Star

Image result for beijing airport photosTu Bette Wiel Suhn’s story is a tangled one that cannot easily be untangled, no matter what hair product is used or international law firm is consulted. It begins on a rural Wisconsin dairy farm where Tu Bette came to live after her adoption from an unnamed Asian country was completed through a web of bribes and subterfuge. In the end she was smuggled into the U.S. in a baby carrier made to look and feel like a curling stone carrying bag. Her adoptive father Bob actually competed in the 1992 pre- Winter Olympic curling trials in Bejing in order to extricate baby Tu Bette from another baby handler, known only as Jimmy Smooth, who switched curling bags at the airport as they returned to their respective countries.Image result for smuggler images

The adoption records were sealed with Super Glue by a prominent Chinese attorney. When her adoptive parents attempted to open them, tragically they pulled at opposite ends of the envelope and Mr. Wiel Suhn fell backwards into an open fireplace and was immediately incinerated, leaving only his traumatized widow, Emily, to raise their newly adopted child Tu Bette on a marginally productive dairy farm, located in the outskirts of Wausau, along the banks of the mighty Wisconsin River.Image result for open hearth pictures in farmhouses

I’d  like to pause here and remember the good intentions and completed actions of Mr. Bob Wiel Suhn, may he rest in peace. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Let us be comforted that his cremation fees were minimal due to the accidental cremation on the home place, and no pall bearers had to miss work for his coffin transportation. Cuz, if you know a thing about a dairy farmer, you know that nothing is more important than milking on time. Amen.Image result for dairy farmers milking pictures

Now, Bob left something very special behind on the desolate, nearly bankrupt godforsaken dairy farm north of Wausau, something most folks found to be an odd possession for a milk man from Wisconsin. His prized possession was a Jupiter 378 Series 3-Valve 3/4 BBb Tuba. He had played it in the milking parlor while his girls deflated on the robot milker. Soft, melancholic notes floated above his cows while they pushed out gallons of raw milk with nary a moo or kick. Bob wasn’t sure if they enjoyed it more or if the whole enterprise was a self soothing, cheesey affair for him. But he knew that it was the highlight of his depressed milk price life. Sometimes he’d get lost in his tuba reveries, imagining he was Vaughn Williams working out his Bass Tuba Concerto in F minor. Other times he’d settle for blowing a simple B flat to call his girls in for milking.Image result for old man playing a tuba in a barn pictures

He dreamed of teaching his own child to one day love and revere the tuba as he did. Unfortunately, he and his wife were as unfertile as the land they lived upon. No fruit came from Emily’s womb, not even a raisin. Bob was not to be denied his dream, however. He began reading about great deceptions and connivances in history, Baby Moses, the Lindbergh Baby, Jack Nicholson. During the long cold winter nights he worked out a most devious international child smuggling plan, which sadly crashed and burned up in an open hearth.Image result for fireplace ashes pictures

Emily secretly married a neighbor widow and kept the farm going. Yes, two women, one farm in liberal Wisconsin. Funny thing was that these ladies managed to turn a profit when they combined their two hardscrabble plots of ground and leased the land to greedy gas frackers in the early 1990’s. They kept the herd going to hide their new found wealth.Image result for middle aged sisters

As the years went by, Tu Bette Wiel Suhn discovered her father’s tuba and began to teach herself mournful notes that turned into mournful tunes. The cows mooed delightedly as they recognized the soothing low brass sounds reverberating through the milking parlor once more. Some nights or early mornings it was common to find Tu Bette doing a call and response between her father’s tuba and the herd choir of happy cows. Sometimes they would sing “MOOOVIN on up, to the East Side…” from the Jeffersons t.v. show. Image result for girl playing the tuba pictures

This lovely pastoral scene came unglued just like her adoption records had one day when the Reverend Miller Stubbs was visiting her two moms, seeking their matronage for his private music school in Michigan.  The Rev. Stubbs followed his big ears out to the barn during one of Tu Bette’s impromptu recitals to the herd, and he could not believe his very cultured ears. Instantly envy and greed wrestled in his black heart. He hatched a plan.Image result for snidely whiplash nasty minister pictures

Back in Emily and Susan’s warm kitchen The Very Reverend Stubbs offered to take Tu Bette back to his elite music school in Michigan where he would mentor her… for a very modest donation to said school. Secretly he longed to profit off Tu Bette’s impressive talents, perhaps getting her on late night television shows in Chicago. Perhaps a recording contract would follow. He was giddy with the mercenary possibilities.Image result for snidely whiplash nasty minister pictures

For the sake of brevity, Susan convinced Emily to allow Rev. Stubbs to take Tu Bette back to his school on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a twelve hour car ride away, where she cried herself to sleep each night, missing her cow choir. One day, however, she heard a New York station and she couldn’t believe what she heard at all. It was Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”. Tu Bette was 13 and fed up with the soap opera her life had devolved into. A rebellious tremolo rose up in her as she soaked in “Foxy Lady”. That very night she made a sacred vow to escape all of these impostors in her life and hitchhike her way across the USA, a hustle here and a hustle there, to Philadelphia, where she would audition for the famed Philadelphia Orchestra.Image result for teen girl hitch hiking pictures

It was tough sledding for a teenaged girl with a tuba trying to hitch a ride during late winter in the U.P. of Michigan. It was May 11th when a big trucker named Joe stopped for her in his big rig, The Phantom 309. They pulled over into a rest stop, which is where I am going now to figure out how to end this adventure. Stay tuned.

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524. The Gas Man Rises

Image result for clues in detective work models visualsLinkage, our brains seek to connect data and draw reasonable conclusions. If you find a bag of English muffins has a little hole chewed in it, and a trail of crumbs surrounding this hole, plus a few little mouse turds on the counter top, it’s reasonable to conclude that a mouse visited recently and may still be roaming about the kitchen. You haven’t seen the mouse yet, but it’s a reasonable reach to believe you have at least one in the immediate area. More likely mice, the plural form. (Though if that’s the case, why isn’t hice the plural of house? Blice the plural of blouse? Why? Because language is fickle and eccentric. It evolves or not, and you deal with the residue. Resin dew. Raisin dew. Resident due. Reason do. Say it long enough and it evolves in real time, legitimately or otherwise.Related image

I had a topic idea this morning as I drove to work. However, I failed to write it down. Now it is an evaporated figment, gone like the frost on my windshield. I’m left with crumbs and mental mouse turds, nothing more than tiny morsels of a topic I wanted to explore. Verbal shards explode like starlings murmurating across the sky of memory. Perhaps I can reconstruct based on the skeletal remains in the ashes.

Oh, now it’s coming back to me. The gas man, the utility guy from a hundred years ago when gas was used in the home for lights. Pre-electrification era. Yes, the gas lighting era. Related imageA famous movie was made about psychological abuse using gas lights as the vehicle of manipulation. In fact, this movie came to define the following sociopathic manipulation.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.Image result for sociopath faces

Let me give an example of how subtly this can be done. We engage in a dialogue, sharing thoughts, feelings and facts. At some point I deny ten percent of what you said. I faithfully recall and affirm the ninety percent, which makes me seem reasonable, reliable, and accurate while at the same time making you question your own memory of the unrecorded, unwitnessed dialogue.Image result for nodding head gif

In the next phase of our little talk, I manufacture ten percent of my side via half truths and direct lies. I assert my extra ten percent with the same calm authority I presented while earlier denying your real ten percent. I don’t dramatize the fabricated difference. I might even reassure you that you must have just zoned out for a moment when I covered my fake news.Image result for unfair scales images

At the end of this brief transaction there has been a 20% shift in the overall narrative in my direction. I’m at 110% of the truth while you have been reduced to 90%. The process is as quiet as a whispered threat of a brain fart. The intrinsic power of logic and truth is undermined on your side and falsely elevated on mine. I have leverage and advantage as surely as a man at 5’10” has the same over a 5’6″ opponent… even if they both started out at 5’8″ and 150 pounds each. After this dishonest jujitsu, it’s 165 vs. 135. Follow?Image result for sumo wrestler with little man pictures

Even if you do catch on and call out the false parts, I can redirect you to the 90% indisputable truth, dismissing any doubt about the tenth. I am overwhelmingly truthful, right? Why get hung up over a tenth? What sort of perfectionist are you anyway? Good gosh! Next thing you’ll tell me which way the toilet paper should unfurl.Image result for toile paper on roll images

Perhaps you are already familiar with these techniques on a personal level. Since all my readers are presumed to be adults, I will leave you, dear grown ups, to resolve your own gaslighting issues. What called me out for intervention was the nagging feeling that we have a gaslighting epidemic going on in our national political scene. Reasonable sounding congressmen and senators, White House shills, journalists, paid pundits on news channels all jabber on for about 85-90% of their allotted times. Then they carve and shave your truth while inflating their truth by an equal but opposite amount. Verbal jabs are exchanged and time runs out. Darn!

Oh, the movie, yes, 1944 called Angel Street… starring Ingrid Bergman. Image result for ingrid bergman stills from gaslight movie

In the story, a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The original title stems from the dimming of the gas lights in the house that happened when the husband was using the gas lights in the flat above while searching for the jewels belonging to a woman whom he had murdered. The wife correctly notices the dimming lights and discusses the phenomenon with her husband, but he insists that she just imagined a change in the level of illumination.Image result for ingrid bergman stills from gaslight movie

Kind of like Fake News, huh? You know how it goes? Denial, more denial, then massive denial.  I am not up to anything illegal here. No sirreee. Not me. Not my boy. Not my general. Not my secretary of this or that. Not my campaign manager. Not my mistresses. Not my victims. Not my taxes. Not my decisions. Not my fault. Not my candidate. Not my words. Not my voice. Not my fingerprints. Not my DNA. The gas man elevates two inches above the crowd, throws other dignitaries to the side in the photo op.Image result for trump pushing prime minister gif

Then the shift against the other party comes right at you. The blatant lies, the alternative facts, the kiss of death. There is a conspiracy against poor innocent me. A deep state is introduced. Nasty pet names are handed out like candy to anyone who speaks truth. Three word slogans are repeated and repeated until they are like lyrics to annoying pop songs or commercial jingles. The victim sinks two inches and loses leverage. We all sink when the gas man rises.

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And the gas man rises like the Hindenburg in New Jersey, 1937.


523. Comparative Living

Image result for pictures of envyA lot of folks are miserable not because of what is going on in their lives, which are usually safely mediocre or tediously interesting. Maybe even enviable in their own right. Rather, they make themselves miserable by looking at others’ lives on Facebook or television and doing some pretty poor reactive thinking. First of all, they extend the weight of truth to mirage, confusing screen fantasies with whole truth. The miserables assume that since three people they know are all smiling at a new restaurant in a group selfie on FB, ALL their so called friends are out on the town drinking fru fru drinks and partying with Prince like it was still 1999. [Update:  Prince is dead. It’s 2018. Sorry for the purple flames, the color of burning potassium.]  Further, they assume that this photo-shopped little window into others’ lives is representative of their entire lives. Others are ALWAYS having great parties, sex, vacations, family gatherings, special occasions, and flowers from their spouses. The green worm of envy inches out of its cocoon and revs up his voracious appetite for what he feels entitled to, which is pretty much everything. Wormwood is the bitter ingredient in absinthe, the drink of sodden forgetfulness.


Image result for wrinkled old woman's face“Why are you so sad and bitter, Wanda Absinthia?”

“I was cut out of the will. See my mother left the farm to my brother and his wife just cause they were living there with her. I couldn’t stand to visit them, so I stayed away. They cut me out of their lives too.”

“So you received no inheritance?”

“Well, I got a cash value equal to what the farm likely would sell for.”

“In round numbers… how much would that be?”

“A couple of hundred thousand.”

“Dollars?”Related image


“So, uh, help me understand your upset with the deal.”

“It’s just not the same. Mom always favored Clinton. Always, I never could do nothing right for that woman. If I baked her favorite red velvet cake, she’d tell me it wasn’t her birthday.”

“Wanda, are you saying you’d prefer to have the farm instead of the cash value?”

“No. I want no parts of that place. I lived there too long to begin with. It was Satan’s landing pad, the mouth of Hell, a pasture for demons to roam, a…”Image result for mouth of hell pictures

“So what do you want?”

“I want all of them to admit that Clint was the favorite, Mom’s pick, and I was discarded like a losing lotto ticket. All my shiny silver coating scraped off with a penny…”

“Wanda, that’s not the sort of thing conveyed in wills. It’s not real property. It’s a different sort of value, emotional value. You know?”

“I want to hear my mom say she was sorry and that she did love me.”

“Which cannot happen now. Correct?”

“Yep. And that’s why I’m so bitter. And I think you suck too. Why would you tell me that I’ll never get what I want. I want it, don’t I? Who are you to say I can’t git it?”


Image result for automobile accidents pictures rubberneckingAnd so on. Some people slow down and rubberneck at horrible wrecks on the highway. The Wandas of the world, stop. They put up the camper, set the satellite dish for Trauma News, and then complain about the view and all the traffic crawling by, while also charging admission to the gore show. “That’ll be three dollars. Don’t you have anything smaller than a twenty? Can you believe how the world is turning out, Bob? It’s not like it used to be, isn’t that right, Bob? Bob? Where did he git to?”

What a wicked web we wear when first we practice to compare. Okay, not the finest rhyme ever, but you get it, right?Image result for spider web pictures


The real story I wanted to share happened on my watch as a middle school teacher/ bus duty monitor. My extra duty four weeks each year was to walk with a few hundred kids down a big hill, across a foot bridge, and then up another slope to a bus ramp area. The kids would mercifully go home. Sometimes you’d run into a smoker or fighter. Maybe get a free cigarette and then walk back to the principal’s office.  Usually everyone was too tired for shenanigans, though.

Image result for school busses lined up in parking lot picturesOne afternoon, however, I found myself behind a little seventh grade guy I did not know very well. Mason was his name. He was kicking rocks; had his fists thrust into his pockets; and was just a ramrod of anger looking for powder to jam down.

“Buddy, what’s going on?”

“I’m pissed!”

“Yeah, I can see that. What’s the drama about?”

Through very tight lips he spat out the problem.

“Everyone is getting laid but me!”

I tried not to laugh out loud, but I’m sure I did.Image result for trying not to laugh gif

“Whoa, Cowboy!! Who is getting all this action?”

“All my friends.”

“Buddy, let me share some man truth with you: your buddies are lying. ”

“They said they were getting laid and I never would!!” Kick another rock.

“Well, they’re just talking. Guys will do that, and really, there’s no way to prove it.”

“But Doogie Howser got laid last night on t.v.”Image result for doogie howser pictures

“What? You mean the television show with the teenager doctor?”

“Yeah. He’s getting some.”

“Mason, that’s a t.v. show. You know it’s fake, right? Neil Patrick Harris did not get jiggy with a woman despite what the script suggested.”

“How do you know?”

“Cuz he’s gay. I mean, he’s gonna come out in about ten more years, and he’ll be selling Heineken beer. Trust me. So, no. Doogie is not into women.”Image result for neil patrick harris selling heineken beer pictures

“You mean even gay guys are getting laid and I’m not?”

“No, nobody’s getting  laid. You’re killing yourself with bad intel, man.”

“But, somebody must be. It’s everywhere. ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It’. How about Will Smith?”

“You have a good point, Mason. I actually know Will, and he  told me that the phrase meant ‘to be cool or in style, fashionable’. Okay? So, just lookin’ at you, I can see you’re gettin’ jiggy wit’ it. Cool?Image result for gettin jiggy with it gif

“Yeah, I guess. I gotta get on my bus now. Thanks for the chat.”