429. Fartichoke Soup

Image result for artichoke pictures

It wasn’t last Christmas, so maybe two Christmases ago my New York City sophisticate daughter Erin was home for the holidays and was sharing some of her nifty NYC recipes. The first one was awesome. I believe it consisted of pan fried kale with sliced radishes and pumpkin seeds drizzled in lemon juice.  Perhaps I’m skipping bacon or some other delicious element. Anyway, it was delightfully tasty. For that matter so was the second dish she made for us.

It was Christmas Eve, as I recall. She was cooking down fresh artichokes, something my family never ate unless you count pickled artichoke hearts on a salad. There’s some yum yum eating. I don’t recall the other components, just that the end product resembled salsa verde or a thin split pea soup. Oh, it was tasty alright. As we sipped and sampled the soup, Erin offered this caveat:  “Some folks have gas reactions to this soup.”  We reassured her that we’d be fine. We were going to Christmas Eve worship service after this early supper. Certainly we would not fart in the house of God. As the old Chinese fortune cookie joke goes, “Man who fart in church sit in own pew.”

“Oh that is so good. I’ll have another bowl.” All of us approved highly of this high octane flatulence rocket fuel and, tragically as we were to learn later on, ate it up with smiles on our faces and soup spoons in our mouths. Not much time went by  before the artichoke soup began doing its malevolent magic.

Toot.”

Ripppppp.”

Snort.

Kaflump!

Purrrrkup.

Flubbbbbbbrrrrrrr.

Strangely, the entire Old Mcdonald’s Farm cast showed up in full throat– “Here a pig, there a goat in a cart; here a cow, there a horse. Fart, fart fart.” The resonance was amazingly melodious and slightly psychedelic, as if we had all taken LSD for dinner or hit the bong hard. Each toot was funnier than the last. We all regressed to being children on some level, fascinated with flatulent bubbles in the bathtub, laughing like stoned orangutans high on fermented mangoes. It was a bizarre predicament, a pickle barrel moment, as we considered, “Toot, toot, toot,” that we had to go to an hour’s service at church. How was that going to work?

Fortunately, fartichokes are all bark and no bite, so there was no scent trail, just burps of varying length, strength, timber, and melody. Perhaps fartichokes could have been the earliest form of cave man music. I imagined happy cave dweller families lounging around after a bowl or two, humming and then singing something like Sam Cooke’s “Working on the Chain Gang

409. Sonoran October

Image result for sonoran desert picturesSonoran, not, snorin’.

(May be related to sonorous, “capable of giving out a deep resonant sound”, but what do I know? Wikipedia claims it comes from the early Spanish explorers who dedicated the area to Senora, Our Lady. Sort of like Maryland was named for Queen Mary. Not Maryland Monroe, knuckleheads!!  Our Lady’s Desert just doesn’t sound right, though, anymore than the Swamp of the Sacred Heart does. Again, what do I know? I’m just a little lost blogger with a bald spot.)

The desert spreads across part of California, a lot of Arizona, and parts of northwest Mexico. There are no leaves to change in the Sonoran Desert, just cactuses of all types plumping with August monsoon rain under the still intense autumn sun. 90 degrees each day of the past week that we spent basking in Tucson’s glorious light, visiting the grandkids and their mom and dad, as well as the sweetest dog ever, Kermit. Yes, there was pool time too. Fret not, blogaddios, rest and recreation were sampled while I painted their rambling house and drank Mexican beer at night. What might sound drudgerous was actually more of an extended meditation with me applying rich brown paint like eyeliner onto the overabundance of a ranch house’s butter cream face. Focus in on that for a moment.

“Define the relationship”, I told my daughter. “The butter cream face just blobs all over without definition. I’ll define it with this Ultra grade Native Soil exterior satin acrylic paint from Home Depot.” And so I did, cutting the edges of door and window trim, boxing, fascia and gutters. Finally the tapioca hippo house pudding magically jelled into a caramelized camel crème brulee.

The first night at my daughter’s house we went to bed at 7 or 8 p.m., which was 10 or 11 p.m. east coast time, where we had started our day. Inevitably we awoke at 5 a.m. on Sunday, rested and interested in the half moon and full complement of stars above. I sat by their pool in the dark and leaned my head back to watch the interstellar show above. Two shooting stars flared inside of five minutes. The longer I focused, the more stars and swirls of stars I witnessed. Down the hillside wash toward the city of Tucson I thought I heard an ambulance siren, and then realized it was a coyote when six or eight other coyotes joined in on the siren song. “Aiyeeeeeeeeeoooooooooooo”. Palm trees swayed ever so slightly as the air moved in Indian ghost whispers. Sara brought coffee out in the moonlight. I breathed in as much of that spirit as I could, hoping it would stain my heart forever, leaving Night’s footprints in a wiggly trail, as if a lizard had skittered over fresh wet mud.Image result for arizona night sky

“Oh, man!  This is just a taste of all the beauty in this world, the grandeur of God’s plans, the bliss of being still. Cosmic sparkling wine and delightful appetizers. The visual equivalent of  grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon. How awesome must the main course be!”

Even as I sat inside their brick-walled front yard with the wrought iron fence, I knew packs of near sighted javelinas and sharp eyed coyotes were out beyond, scavenging for their next meal. Bobcats and mountain lions too. Rattle snakes and owls I’d never see or hear were on the predatory prowl as well, gliding noiselessly through sand and sky. The potential danger was salt on my senses, making them more acute. As the eastern sky paled, the Catalinas stood up; the fan palm trees and feathery mesquites appeared against the phosphorous background that was forming. In the dark there had been little depth or shape perception; but as the light increased, all the fine details of the landscape emerged.Image result for sonoran desert wash in morning light

Each moment brought a deep breath of satisfaction from my contented abdomen. Weather I love; location I love; the people I love, all together. “My my, hey hey. The burrito man is here to stay. It’s better to burn out than to fade away….” Rust Never Sleeps was a classic Neil Young album out of which those lyrics trickled. And yet, here in the desert rust does seem to sleep or at least nap. Without water, the oxidization of iron slows down. Just one more reason to love this place. My personal body rust is slowed also by the constant divine light that suffuses this holy land. My joints push back against gravity’s grinding grip of six decades. “My, my, hey, hey, the burrito man is here to stay…”

What is this lovely attachment I suffer for this desert scape? Something like a loom in my mind where memories are woven horizontally through vertical heartstrings into a supernatural tapestry. Words and images fail, however, to capture the palpable spirit hovering all through it, but the spirit loom racks it all together into a tight weave. A Persian rug could not be a more perfect reflection of this dream.

Image result for persian carpet images of desert designsNaturally a large part of my self longs to stay and plant lettuce and roses; to weld odd pieces of metal into defiant, eccentric desert art; and yet still blend into this desert scape like a thick-walled adobe casita. I’d like to have my cake and just nibble at the edges, consuming the annual interest while admiring the precious principal. My rational mind knows it is impossible, but my irrational mind tires of the merely possible. Magic and miracle and mystery await the curious mind that is tenuously hinged by bungee cords to “reality”. Open that  gate…

391. Baltimore Down

Had to be twenty years ago because we drove to Baltimore in the old red and white Ram van without air conditioning to an Orioles game during the summer. My wife and three young kids looking for a parking space while the clock ticked on a Friday evening. Seven o’clock and the lots near the stadium were full. I started to pull into a parking deck, but the clearance limit dissuaded me from trying to peel the skylight off the roof. So, we drove on with the crowd toward parking that was farther and farther from the stadium. We passed parked cars with smashed out windows that had obviously been robbed. Maybe I should have pulled into that parking deck. The herd turned right ahead near some warehouses within sight of Camden Yards. 7:15. First pitch is 7:35.  No attendant or gate, just an open lot that quickly filled with baseball fans’ vehicles. I’m certain that my wife said something about the safety of parking there.  Out of an ocean of ignorance I reassured her. “They can’t tow us all away.”

We followed the crowd into the stadium and had a fun time cheering and doing the Macarena to loud music. I don’t know if the O’s won. What mattered is that we had an all American experience on a lovely summer night in Baltimore. Around 11:00 p.m. we retraced our steps back to that mystery lot only to find the first toenail of our nightmare torn off and bleeding. A tow truck was hooked up to the last car on the lot while the car owner screamed at the driver and tried to convince him to release his car. Meanwhile a Baltimore policeman stood by explaining that this was a private lot and a little sign behind a sumac tree said so. It seemed clear immediately and thoroughly that the cop was part of the scam, pretending to be authoritative. He explained that we were trespassing. “Okay, but where is my van?”

“Likely on the impoundment lot  in Linthicum. They open back up on Monday morning.”

“Now, no, wait. You can’t do that.”

“Sir, it’s done. You should not have parked here. This tow truck was called by the lot owner. He’s just doing his job.”

I didn’t think I’d get anywhere with the cop or the tow truck driver. I turned to face the firing squad of my family, “What are we going to do now?” they all asked at once. The cheers and Macarena were gone, forgotten. The fun, the peace, the simple pleasure… all towed away to an impoundment lot in hell.

“Ah, let me ask this other rent a cop.” I approached the crossing guard cop at the intersection as we wandered back toward the lit up stadium. “Excuse me. Our van was towed away and we were told it’s outside the city in an impoundment lot.”

“Ah, no. We don’t take’m there. They tow’m over to the other side of the Inner Harbor and drop’m off on side streets over there.”

“In the neighborhood behind the Science Center?”

“Yeah, down Charles Street where it ends. Your car is down there.”

I  turned back to my wide eyed family. “What are we gonna do?”

“Let’s walk over to the Sheraton and see if we can wait there; and if I can’t find the van tonight, we’ll just get a room.” Minor sighs of relief came to know we had a plan and possible destination in the dark sultry air. The desk staff at the Sheraton could not have been nicer; however, there were no rooms at the Inn that night. “There’s a huge softball tournament in town this weekend. Every hotel room is full.”

Unbelievable. We explained our predicament and the nice lady at the desk told us we could stretch out on the couches in their lobby for a while until we reached resolution. I decided to jog over to Federal Hill, a two mile jog from the  Sheraton, but I  was in good shape back then at age 40.  Not fast but steady. Off I jogged, telling myself I’d find my van and drive it back victoriously to the Sheraton, and boy oh boy, wouldn’t the kids be excited to see that. It got eerily quiet as I jogged across and away from the waterfront and into a shabby, unfamiliar neighborhood. No one was on the street or sidewalks. Up ahead a bunch of young men were playing basketball under bright lights at a school yard. I didn’t see my  van, which would have stuck out like a chicken in a guinea pig farm. I looked and pondered the darkness and my empty options, and kept on jogging as if I knew where I was going.

Sadly I gave up the search and jogged back to the hotel lobby. The kids were drowsily curled up together alongside my wife. I felt defeated but I was not going to show defeat. “What are we going to do now?” my wife inquired.

“I’m going to get a cab and drive around some more. Maybe a local cabbie will have some ideas.” Surprisingly my wife accepted this stupid idea of mine as having a chance, a better chance than me jogging all night.

No sooner had the desk clerk put the phone down after calling a cab than one showed up at the  front door. It was too fast. But the grizzled driver assured me he’d been just around the corner when the call came. I could not believe him and the laws of science at the same time. I got in and explained my situation.

“I know where  your van is, man.”

“That’s impossible. The cops told me it’s on Federal Hill or in Linthicum till Monday, and you’re telling me you know exactly where it is.”

“Yep. you can waste your money looking around Charles Street, but it’s not there. These slimy bastards tow them across to a lot under the 295 bridge along Gwynn Falls. It’s a racket. The cops are in on it.”

“Let’s go to Federal Hill first, okay?”

“Sure. It’s your money, man.”

As he started the meter my eye followed his hand down to the bench seat where I saw a .45 loaded and unholstered. “What’s with the gun?”

“It’s Baltimore. Gotta show folks you’re serious. I’m moving to Denver next week. I’ve had enough of this place.  Wouldn’t mind shooting a few locals before I go.”

‘Oh great,’ I thought. I have a psychopath Taxi driver zooming me around Baltimore with a death wish. Steven Seagall and Robert Deniro floated across my memory banks. ‘Someone is gonna die tonight.’ I realized I was more afraid of my taxi driver than I was of the local hoodlums.

But Marty was correct. No van, nowhere. “You ready to find your van now?”

I reluctantly agreed and he sped off across the 95/295 elevated highways. I had no idea where we were going, but I knew it was not a good place. He drove around a deserted industrial area and I began to wonder if he might want to shoot me just for kicks and dump my body down by the creek. Heck, he was going to Denver next week and there was no way to  track me.

390. Almost Breaking Amish

Rainy AfternoonIt’s time for the next installment of The Silly Id and The Oddity, by  Homer Simpson. “Gather, my wet duckies, around the flaming hearth and hear, the stories of wet woods and rained on deer.” My buddy Clark just informed me that we have had twelve days of rain and two with sun here in depressed central Pennsylvania, home of mildewed burghers. This was not news. Some part of the mammalian brain keeps track of these dismal facts without any outside instruments. I don’t need a rain gauge to know it has rained a lot. The ground is near saturation. I don’t need a light meter to know it’s cloudy again or night for that matter. (I know you sharpies out there are going to play the eclipse card here. Go ahead. I can take it.) My pupils are dilated in the low light while my sunglasses are getting dusty from lack of use. So gloomy I can’t see them anyway.The weather, as it does so often in these damp parts, just sucks. The only consolation comes from relocated residents of Erie, who tell us they’d still be shoveling snow off their roofs in May. “May is when we dig out our cars”, they say as if talking about gardening tips, ya know? Like “Late May is when we pull up our first radishes.”

All the while I know that out west the sun is glowing clearly and cleanly, radiating and mesmerizing the sparsely populated landscape into a holy lethargy like a warm glazed donut. (In Tucson you can order glazed lethargy donut holes with a large coffee at Starbucks for under 5 bucks. Sometimes Shirley, the barrista with the face tattoo of Ghandi, gets it and slips me three metaphysical scones in waxed paper with a glazed wink. “Go forth in restful peace,” she whispers in yogic syllables.) The air is dry and fresh.  Cactuses are blooming and hummingbirds are buzzing. Feathered lizards run on grains of hot sand, leaving hardly a trace of their travels behind. Whoosh. Legal psychadelia.

The pull of what I want and the ballast of what I must do rock me like a cop car in a Baltimoron riot. I might be pushed over if lawlessness overrides the laws of gravity. (Or is it freedom fighters and tyranny?) Stay the course and get to the finish line with dignity… sure, as contemporaries die or become disabled by the myriad ailments and diseases available. Hmmmm,  this might explain why we have so many obese residents in Central Pa:  we eat chips and brownies rather than jumping in front of trucks hauling chickens to the slaughter house. Slow or fast? How do you like your death? “Neither,” you say, “I’m chicken.” Deep fried chicken.

I read a story about an Ohio State study claiming the Amish are very physically healthy, maybe the top 1% of Americans in that medical arena. The possible explanations for this statistical fact included their lack of smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol; the ever-presence of fresh foods full of vitamins and minerals without pesticides and herbicides; lack of sluggishness inside fluorescent lit environments;  and the biggest contributing factor of all seems to be hard outdoor physical labor. Well, what do you know? All this industrialization and technological advancement that the Amish refuse to participate in turns out is killing those of us who do partake. Shukkamukka!! Instead of getting out in nature and doing something vigorous, we watch Survivor and vicariously survive via the boob tube with our Diet Pepsi in one fist and ranch flavored nachos in the other. One thing is certain: we will not perish from starvation. Brain atrophy or death by a million potato chips, yes.

“Amen!! Preach it!! And, while  you’re up, pass me that onion dip, willya?”

I don’t want to make you feel bad. I’m just muttering and stuttering aloud on an ashen gray day that can’t help but disappoint you. I mean it’s the final shot at Special Olympics for the special needs kids, and it’s raining again!!  I know, God, it’s all good somehow, but if I were throwing the slippery shot put in this chilly weather, I’d break someone’s toe for sure.  Then that someone would limp through life with a hammer toe, having to tell curious podiatrists about a rainy Tuesday in their adolescence at the Special Olympics when the shot put went kaput. My empathy stops me from such violence. Not to mention the toenail would be all gray, grisly and mangled, and hard to pedicure.No visible incision scar on the top of the foot

All of the above feels like being stuck in an elevator in a Russian submarine with the Doors playing “L.A. Woman” over and over, as Russian sailors bang the doors outside the shaft, “Komrade, be cool. Ve vill get beeg rench and free you, good American proletariat man. Leesin to de Doors.” Kind of cool the first time through, and then you want to dig up and re-kill Jim Morrison, “Mr. Mojo Risin”. You know he rearranged the letters in his name to come up with that refrain, right? Not Amish.  Anyway, when the Ruskies finally ruskue you (I know, it’s not an accidental misspelling), you are so oxygen deprived that they put you in a stale donut hole of a windowless nursing home in Odessa run by expatriate Amish widows. I bet you didn’t see that coming, didya? And it rains every day, dark greasy rain that makes Odessa feel like the far side of the River Styx. Oh blighted fate!!

And sort of like that movie The English Patient, one day you awake from the haze of your oxygenless existence in Odessa. Slowly a face comes into focus as old words flow gondola like through your filthy Venetian ear canal. Familiar somehow. “Go forth in restful peace,” saturates the dry sponge of your abandoned soul. Shirley, surely it’s Shirley. But how?

As she helps you sip cold water, the mystery unfolds at last. “Those scones were laced with lysergic acid, Dude. I’m sorry. I thought you knew. You’ve been trippin’ for three weeks now, singin’ L.A.Woman like with a Russian/ Amish accent. Too weird, man. ”

“Shirley, it wasn’t the scones. No, it was that damn rain.”Image result for psychedelic rain pictures

386. BEWARE: Killer Wanna Bees

Years ago we were supposed to be invaded by swarms of Africanized honey bees, known as Killer Bees. Saturday Night Live did skits on the Killer Bees. These bad mannered bees eventually did find their way into the Southwestern states where they have killed some outdoorsman types, rock climbers and landscapers, a hog here,  a dog there, and have attacked many a baseball player with aromatic hair gel. The swarm will sting a body  over 1,000 times, injecting more venom than a human body can tolerate. Victims swell up and die, unable to breathe.

And how did these stinking thugbees get loose, you ask?  Human intervention and accident. In the 1950’s Biologist Warwick E. Kerr interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa in an attempt to increase honey production in Brazil.(I am not making this up. I am paraphrasing Wikipedia here.) Great idea, right? What could possibly go wrong?  But, you guessed it– these hybrid bees were very defensive and swarmed aggressively. They had to be kept in containment as the research progressed. But in 1957 a visiting beekeeper not named Bill Buckner thought he’d take the lid off the bees’ hives. Twenty six swarms of Tanganyikan bees escaped through the wickets and into the wilds of Brazil. The rest of the tale is history, stupid history of man playing God and screwing up nature’s balance yet again.

Image result for attention addicts picturesI’m not writing about Killer Bees, however. I merely mentioned them to funnel you ala the old bait and switch technique into my topic–>> Wanna Bees. These are not insects but humans who buzz about.  Hungry and strangely defensive? Yes, but not for pollen or nectar. Nosirreee. They seek attention and any supplemental benefits that come from attention. Fame is the ultimate goal for Wanna Bees. This may come from performing or politics (really, what’s the difference?) or writing (doubtful, not enough face time) or the other arts. Sports has its share of wannabees, hot dogs who not only seek but create drama… because that’s where the cameras go, and bored American audiences crane their necks to see what’s gonna happen next. But the largest swarm ever released comes from the Hydra Headed, Medusa like beast known as Social Media, which inadvertently spawned and released the pathological Wanna Bees into the world about 15 years ago. This correlates roughly with the rise of the celebrity, noun, a useless but attractive Wanna Bee, see Kardashian/Jenner. Synonym, weasel-pede. Primarily American usage.

Andy Warhol was prophetic when he declared, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” That was in 1968, Blogabillies.  Since then the world and its pool of potentially famous humans has grown substantially. Basically it’s doubled from 3.5 billion to 7 billion people. If each person gets his/her 15 minutes of fame, you and I are going to have to wait a long, long time till Zylpada Zyabrowski finishes her turn, assuming we go in alphabetical order.  I’m sure a math geek can calculate the number of hours required, and an engineer can rig up a system to broadcast each famous person, and a political delegate hunter can measure by polls how famous a person is for the allotted time… However, this 15 minutes of fame thing is really getting old. All these “famous” people aren’t all that interesting. Nonetheless we continue hoisting another Baby Bieber up the flagpole of popular appeal until everyone salutes. We step back and yawn, “Wow, that dude is famous. Could you pass me the salt?”

About the time the Killer Bees were released, a new way of parenting was being practiced– indulgence. My buddy Clark once told me that indulgence was the worst form of child abuse ever. When I prodded him for his justification, he told me this.

“You know if a kid gets beaten or sexually abused, he/she can eventually get over  it through counseling and medication, right? But the thing with indulgence is this: THE KID DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HE’S BEEN ABUSED. Instead, he’s been sold a script that he is so very precious and entitled to special treatment by everyone, all the time, everywhere. He’s screwed for life cuz he’s totally unprepared for unfiltered reality. It’s so awful.”

I could not disagree. He’s usually brilliant anyway, an anthracite diamond from Cambria County.

For myriad reasons, parents in upwardly mobile segments of America wanted more for themselves… perhaps because they worked themselves silly and were told by voices on television and radio that they deserved more of everything, all the time, everywhere. At the same time the American economy was booming at such a force that the dollar’s buying power increased, causing a unique problem known as deflation. Suddenly in the late 1950’s the dollar magically bought more. Prices dropped. All signs pointed to success, world domination, and the righteousness of the American Way.

Those parents came to adulthood during the Great Depression and World War II. They did not know what surplus meant since the excess of the Roaring Twenties fueled the near total collapse of the stock market and banking system in the U.S. over a generation previously. Here was a new opportunity to get it wrong again. Those parents might have suffered through bleak decades of war and deprivation, but their little ones would not want for anything if they could help it. Free time, sports, entertainment, convenience foods, miracle drugs, and other indulgences exploded as if to confirm that America had found Nirvana. The kids of that era were given more than any previous generation had dreamed of along with a  system that would keep the dream alive. Television became the opiate of the masses, hypnotically calling them onto the treadmills of consumerism, pulling them deep into the vortex of unending debt.

Voila!! There is the recipe for today’s indulged children no matter their age.

Today’s Wanna Bees sting with cyberwords and emojis, thousands in a minute. They Twitterpate their adversaries with 180 cc’s of deadly venom at a time. All for the sake of more honey. They don’t even know they’ve been abused, honey junkies one and all.

372. Time Management

My time management is weak, my chronic blogetrics. Heck, if I did manage my time well, I would not blog my almost daily drivel, and then where would you be? Don’t answer that question. It could put me out of business and ruin my fragile elf esteem. (Growing up as an elf was traumatic until I had my ears done and started on a blogesterone regimen.)  Instead of blogging I would do my billing and prepare my taxes and write checks to folks who are waiting to be paid on time. Hold on a second… I forgot to write a check to my bookkeeper. Where’s a pen that works?  Stamp. Envelope. Alrightee, back to The Velvet Underground’s Greatest Hits.

Okay, where was I?  Yes, noodling seems to preoccupy my hours. Now let me justify that with this:  I don't cruise porn sites all day. No addictions beyond blogging and groundhog hunting in season. Harmless activities unless you are a groundhog or a blog aficionado with no taste or standards, i.e., an intellectual groundhog. Who on earth insults his own readers?  A guy with too much time on his hands, thasswhoo. Remember those Salvador Dali surrealistic paintings of melted watches and clocks?  That's me, except my time waste portraits would be served over steaming pasta, timeless timepieces like grilled oysters dripping over a mountain of buttered linguine. Now you're hungry for my world, right?  Oh, but the crown of time mismanagement weighs heavily on the King's head. It can literally crush a man with a weak neck. I've been hospitalized for collapsed neck syndrome twice now. I know, I make blogging look mindlessly easy, even trite, but do not try it at home without adult supervision, kids. It's like lifting weights without a spotter. The wrong run-on sentence, bench pressed inches from your throat, could slip away from you and asphyxiate you. (There's a great Scrabble word.)

I remember my neighbor Michael had a pet boa constrictor that slithered around his bedroom while he slept. I wondered how that would be if the boa ever got hungry for a snack while Michael was asleep or just too stoned to put up a fight. You see, Michael supplemented his sewage treatment plant income back then by dispensing medical marijuana without a license. If Slithers had swallowed him whole, how long could Michael have lived without water and air? I suppose if the snake started at his feet, Michael could technically have carried on for hours as the snake ingested him, all the way up to the White Afro he sported. Hmm, would Slithers later share that recipe in Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooked Meals for Constrictors? And what would she call it? Miss Slithers’ Meat Stick with Curly Frosting. Perhaps. Baked Caucasian Cauliflower? Michael was very pale.

I am a be’er as opposed to a doer. Doers are all about action and task completion. They work off lists and manage time as if they were dying, or at least billing by the minute. They tell you things like, “You’ll never get this hour back.” While that is true, it is also true that we don’t get any time back, whether we cure cancer or smoke another cigarette.  Be’ers often drink beers, which is not cannibalistic, though the nearly identical spelling might lead you near that conclusion’s neighborhood. That tiny apostrophe separates a human being from a brewed adult beverage, just barely. What? Did I hear a gasp of amazement coming from the frozen tundra of Blogland? Possibly from Das Kapital city, Wreck Ya Vick.

In Wreck Ya Vick idlers rumba along the cobblestoned Groucho and Karl Marx Boulevards drinking beer beneath the melted Dali clock in the town rhombus. Some smoke cigars while others merely use them as props. They say things to each other that have no conviction or urgency. They sing Dean Martin songs…

“When Marimba Rhythms start to play

Dance with me, make me sway

Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore

Hold me close, sway me more.”

However, unlike drooling Trump drones, they are not easily swayed. In fact, they are quite  politically savvy. Some say they like a man with an open mind. Pressed for details a man who wanted to remain nameless stated, “Because you can feel the breeze better.”

Bloglanders bounce their thick eyebrows and say ridiculous and funny things to each other all the day long.

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Even the paramedics get into the swing of things in Wreck Ya Vick. Why the other day an EMT was witnessed taking a man’s pulse at an accident scene. He uttered the imbecilic line,

“Either this man is dead, or my watch has stopped.”

Because it lies above the Arctic Circle, Blogland had many pristine ski slopes. They are pure and perfectly groomed because in Blogland we ski uphill. It’s a great cardio work out, like a big frozen treadmill. But it’s all free thanks to a freed proletariat.

The Mayor of Wreck Ya Vick is Michael Iceberg, a big fan of Groucho’s work. In his acceptance speech he concluded his remarks with this line,

“Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” On marriage law he opined,

“Despite what the pundits claim, marriage is the chief cause of divorce.”

His Vice Mayor, Anthony Weiner, was unbowed and defiant in front of the press. He was heard to say,

“Women should be obscene and not heard.”

When asked about women’s rights, Mr. Weiner said,

“I like both sides of women… Lefts and rights.”

Police Chief Dick Cheney was also asked for his thoughts. He shared his dreams for Wreck Ya Vick.

“Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

Attorney General Bush Limbaugh was flustered when asked for his credentials. He said,

“You’ll be hearing from my attorney as soon as he graduates from law school.”

Finally, Director of Voyeurism, Bill Clinton summarized what all Wreck Ya Vickians hold true,

“I’ll dance with you till the cows come home, Hillary. Better yet, I’ll dance with the cows till you come home.”

Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do.

 

355.The Dinner Party; The Force Awakens

You know how it goes at this time of year. Festive festivities pop up like mushrooms after a warm rain, given the necessary fungi enriching  ingredients. We were invited by our hosts to their house on the hill, which hovers above the Falling Spring like (may I say it out loud?) a Death Star. It was the Croquet Bunch from post #303. plus two, but for me it had a Star Wars sort of feel to it. I sensed almost from the get go that a power struggle between the Force and the Empire was about to unfold in the guise of a Christmas dinner party gathering amid gargoylish repartee. Over the hills and faraway I thought I heard Led Zepellin warning me not to cross that fateful threshold. I disregarded my Jedi intuitions and crossed over.

Image result for han solo picturesHan Solo (i.e. Jerry) greeted us at the decorated door. “Welcome. Let me take your coats.”

“Let me get it off, Jerry!! You are neither my tailor nor my urologist. Let go!!”

“I was just trying to be a good host.”

“Then get a good wooden hanger, and stop groping my leather jacket so fetishistically. Gosh!!”

I sensed cosmic tension and made a mental note to stay vigilant against being sucker punched. Time has not been good to Han, I noted. He is shorter than I recall, which is forgivable, but also more talkative, which is not. Also, he was wearing bright orange shorty socks without boots, shoes, or even flip flops. His mood was suspiciously upbeat. I wondered if Jimmy Buffet style free flowing pharmaceuticals had been ingested recently, not out of paranoia but from an over abundance of Jedi caution. I wondered, and still do.

As the other guests arrived, Princess Leia met them and whisked them off to the living room with the formal Christmas tree. Nerdy pictures were taken all around the Death Star as the ladies exchanged presents and pleasantries while the males drank solar brewed beer on leather couches. Han/Jerry demonstrated his dog’s mind control abilities by letting Sadie Dogstar in and out 17 times in 20 minutes, each time rewarding Sadie with a dog biscuit for coming back in the Death Star. Had I been training her, I would have given her the biscuit to leave and locked the door, but it was clear that the dog had Jedi mind meld skills and was Jerry/Han’s puppet master.Toward the end of the demonstration Sadie’s belly was dragging across the threshold and she could not continue, so Jerry went in and out at her almost intelligible bark commands. It was the most impressive set of animal skills I’ve ever witnessed outside of Sea World and Shamu playing chess while blindfolded.

Before we knew it, an intergalactic dinner was served (actually we did it buffet style since the robots and storm troopers had the night off) in the formal dining room. The eight of us ate, and ate eight servings of splendid choice chicken in a perky pineapple sauce brought by Barriss Offee, aka Snarky SueBeeDOOBeeDoo, and an almost too perfect salad presented by Toryn Farr/ SoosannNITRAM, who had been planning a clonespiracy for later in the evening. Not even their husbands knew that these dishes had been dastardly prepared by their brides to weaken the Force’s forces. Truly, we ate in a cloud of ignorance.

Much later, 8 pm on Pluto Central, the Plus Two arrived. By then we had descended into candlelight, setting the stage for what was to come. I sensed the conflict about to begin. My arm hair rose and sizzled with static electricity. It was Zoltran Magyar and his CoCounsel, Nancee WOnton Kenobi. The napkins were thrown down like gauntlets on the tablecloth as Princess Leia served decaf coffee all around.40. Sabe15. Darth Maul

Dan/ 3CPA and his droidmate SoosannNITRAM began the blog interrogation, as if we all did not know this moment was inevitable. Sure, help the hostess wash up and then post-apron kitchen duty throw down the real gauntlet. “So, how is the blog going, Burrito?” Not a hint of entrapment in his voice.

Around the table of ten it went, affably at first. You would not know a coup d’état was in progress. Princess Leia mentioned the Indian restaurant/ belly dancing episode post that she had orchestrated on planet Nasturtium. Hot nervous laughs snorted through clenched teeth and flared nostrils of droids and wookies alike.  Markbaccaman seemed confused at all the flustering. He bellowed baritone yeti growls, possibly trying to warn me of an ambush. Too late. We continued on with way too much interest in my blog and coffee nation world, a utopian land of unemployed men condemned to clean their navels all day. It was suggested that my real job does not exist and my wife simply allows me to live out my harmless delusions, which, like my snoring, I am unaware of. The laughs and guffaws built into cosmic thunder as the poisoned entrée and salad digested out of sight, trickling into neural synapses left unguarded.

I shared the inner workings of the blogiverse, which most attendees did not know well, or pretended so. There was an unnatural focus on my alternate universe. I knew something was wrong. I mentioned how many hits I’d recorded from countries all over the world, and gave examples of my Brains and Potatoes post that brought a lot of Russian traffic. That’s when Snarky SueBEEDooBeeDoo struck like a cobra. “Can you tell how long they stayed on?” she asked in such a way that it implied folks scurried away from Burritospecial as fast as roaches from light.

 SoosannNITRAM’s circuit board overloaded on comic input data and she spewed 12 cubic feet of laughter gas, while Dan 3CPA schnoozled next to her with his belt light blinking and blaring ” AMBER, AMBER. INTRUDER, INTRUDER!!” They were uncontainable disgraces to droidhood.

Image result for star wars characters pictures I pondered my chances of escape from the Death Star. I wanted to save my wife Queen Latifahspanx, but the rest would have to be sacrificed. As my bride got up to use the ladies room on my cue, I turned to Zoltran, who was at my right hand side, and gave him a Jimi Hendrix Jedi handshake at full voltage. The blue arc of cobalt vapor coursed around that unholy assemblage, expanding them for a second and then each one imploded, sucking the glass inward from the Death Star’s picture window. Only Sadie Dogstar and my Queen survived alongside me. We left behind only an incomplete set of Star War plastic figures as we exited the Death Star.

 

340. NYC

This past weekend was spent in Manhattan, New York, New York. “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”, so the song goes. [“Unfortunately, if you can’t make there, you just go home and mope about what a sucking loser you are.” That line was mysteriously cut from the original version of New York, New York. Apparently it lacked musicality.] Our pilgrimage this year was the least stressful trip to, through, and out of Manhattan that we have ever experienced. We being my lovely wife, my operatic daughter, and I. Last Christmas was the last time we visited and whatta, whatta, whatta nightmare it wa- wa- wa- was!! The traffic was inhuman. Cruel even.  We spent two hours getting through the Holland Tunnel and then putzing through lower Manhattan over to Brooklyn, where we returned my eldest daughter to her micro apartment thimble-sized sparrow nest. (I am feeling re-traumatized now just typing about the memory. “I’ll have a Xanax martini, bartender. Make it fizz.”)  I got stuck in the crosswalk just a block away from the tunnel entrance on the Jersey side. A murderously angry driver in a Lincoln town car blew his horn and accelerated like a rabid bull toward my side of the car as we sat helplessly in the intersection, expecting to be gored on the doorstep of the Big Apple. Dude locked up his brakes and stopped inches from my door, like it was a mob hit, think of Sonny at the toll booth in The Godfather .  We all screamed in anticipation of the impact that did not come to my new car, but the horns just kept blaring at me, condemning my blatant tourist fox paws, that’s French for a social blunder.  The stress kept mounting until my skull cracked open and a tree grew up from the pavement of my corpus callosum as we entered Brooklyn. What kind of tree, you ask?  A coconut naturally. I had to tilt my head forward to avoid catching the fronds on the Williamsburg Bridge supports.

Image result for coconut tree growing out of someone's head pictureThat’s what it felt like anyway, a massive fuzzy spider web of stress that spread out from my brain stem across every millimeter of my crawling skin and then crystallized into veins of brittle glass. Simply breathing required focus due to the overwhelming video game exploding on the other side of my windshield, sucking my eyeballs out of their fragile sockets– trucks, taxis, buses, scooters, skate boarders, bicyclists going with and against traffic, and endless pedestrians on cell phones talking to their lawyers about potential traffic torts. [I need a breath here. Whew!! “Bartender, another zantini.”] All this stimulation palpitated at the bottom of incredibly interesting canyons of amazing architecture and iconic buildings, bridges, and statues everywhere. Wha- wha- wha- what the heck!!! You don’t realize that you have stopped blinking due to your very active fear of death. Naturally your eyes dry out and the sooty air begins to sand down your corneas. And yet, on this razor’s edge of existence you feel fully alive and a part of this liquid human magic act where thousands ebb and flow by one another crimelessly. It should never work, this human bee hive, but some primeval cooperative gene turns on and millions of humans glide by each other as if choreographed by a master dance genius.

Of course it helps if you come in to Midtown via the Lincoln Tunnel. No muss, no fuss, just 14 bucks. And then stay near the theatre district, which we did this time. Thankfully, our street, 37th, was actually closed due to some construction project at the end of our block. We parked, yes PARKED, across the street in a garage for less than $50 a day. Our tiny suite was quiet, QUIET. The only word we could not use, in fact, can never ever be used in NYC, was CHEAP. New York is a huge money meter monster that has to be fed richly every hour or it will grind you up and spit you out onto the grimy sidewalks where those same millions of minions will trundle by crimelessly self absorbed.

Where do they toilet and bathe, the homeless?  Forget laundry. They are like the pigeons, living on the crumbs and debris of the well heeled Gothamites. God knows when a sparrow falls. I guess He knows when all these human pigeons scuttle about, living like modern lepers. I ask myself ‘Why is it that some folks sell junk on the streets and others beg? They spend just as much time on the same street.’ The one standing offers you a hat, an umbrella, a t-shirt, tickets to a comedy club, or a photo of John Lennon hugging the Naked Cowboy when they were both toddlers. The slouching other asks for your pity and jiggles a cup with coins. They are both selling junk, but the one still standing does not believe he is the junk being sold.  Meanwhile I’m going to a two hour show and put my butt in a $75 seat. I’m eating dinner with $18 bottled water to wash it down. And I wonder how these guys even got into Manhattan at $14 a pop. Happily there is no charge to leave. But why does their image burn deeper and last longer than the sentimental musical I paid to see? I guess their performances are more meaningful in the grand scheme of things. Unforgettable even.

No matter the cost, I think of my New York trips as investments, not as frivolous and extravagant waste. It’s like Dorothy going to Oz. Visiting Gotham makes living in Kansas or Central PA more bearable.

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York
I want to wake up, in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap
These little town blues
Are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

 

338. Bloggerazis

The kid asked to be in my blog, like it’s Broadway for the weird. Actually, I have to ponder this analogy further. I do have a lot of weirdos, village idiots, wildmen, and perverts in my cyber pages. No one consciously auditions for my blog space, however. In fact, they often threaten me with civil suits, bow ties, and tweed jackets if I do not cease and desist my slanderous blathering. Okay, just Joel. Others simply do not know they have been featured. And how would they unless through the Ethernet of internet connectivity and global shrink?  [I don’t know what that last sentence means, but I like how it sounds informed and cutting edge intriguing.]

Unbeknownst to me, a friend from my old neighborhood days found my blog and faithfully read every post from the start right up to this point. For legal purposes we’ll just call him by his nickname, The Weasel. Weasel has been sporadically contacting me and bathing in the nostalgic bubble baths I have transcribed onto blank screens across the world and into the dimly lit living rooms of my three devoted followers on Haldol. I find some strange comforting validation in his faithful following. And an odd accountability since he knows many of the characters and landscapes I’ve written about. Oh the Humanity! Blogging is not as easy and simple minded as I make it appear, my people. Will you drink from my cup? I didn’t think so.

So here we are. Dorothy is the newbie barrista at the coffee shop and the daughter of fellow Sunday School members, Karlina and Eduardo. Mom is Austrian and Dad is Bolivian, if  you a’ bolievian me.  Dorothy was the lead in The Wizard of Oz  just recently in our local community theater. Besides being very talented and pretty and 18, she can realistically pass for 13 with braided pigtails and a plaid blouse. (Judy Garland pulled it off in the movie, but she was 16.) Now I had voiced my intention to see her perform. However, I failed to fulfill my intention due to other lame obligations. As I apologized for my absence yesterday, she said, “That’s okay. You can write about it in the blog.”  Redemption? Or redaction? Dunno yet, but I’ve written with less direction and less likelihood of success. I will boldly go where three blind mice fear to tread.  “Onward men, toward the Farmer’s Wife and her butcher knife.”

Wow!! I don’t know if she knows what she has asked. Like a toddler who wants a sip of Uncle Billy’s beer, the unacquired taste is immediately revolting so the toddler spits out the very thing she had just longed for. It looked pretty and seemed to be valued by valuable adults, so the child’s reasoning goes. Opening the hallucinogenic world of Burritospecial to someone who was a minor just last year… that’s dicey. I wrestled with the slippery, wormlike ethics for just a moment and then hung it on the hook for blog fishing. Ethics shmethics!! I’m not selling crack here, am I?

Well, Dorothy, in this adult world we struggle to make sense out of nonsense. We don’t always get our needs met in a timely manner. Folks fail and let us down, and sometimes we are the folks.  Let me  quote the philosopher Mick Jagger…

 

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she would meet her connection
At her feet was a footloose man
No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you needAnd I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need
 
I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
And man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda
My favorite flavor, cherry red
I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy
Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “dead”
I said to him
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need
You get what you need–yeah, oh baby
 
I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need
I don’t have much to add. Life is short and often full of peril. Suck the juice out of every minute just like you reportedly did on stage, Dearie. Be prepared and yet never get so rigid that you can’t flexibly come on back to Kansas.  “Oh no, Toto come back.” Truly, as weird as it may be, there is no place like home.

322. The Battleship and the Daisy

[Once, a half dialogue dribbled down like this, like a watercolor monologue or a torpedo’s jet stream.]

“It’s like this”, she said. “You are a battle ship, armored and loaded for warfare. No soft spot on your hull. A floating uncrackable Brazil nut. You can muster your energies for sure destruction, mutually assured destruction, to be sure. Your relational invincibility makes you vulnerable, though. Because I can’t get to your steel-plated heart to change your course. 007 couldn’t complete this mission. So, ‘Boom’, our world ends. Dr. No wins.”

“On the other hand, I am a daisy whose soft petals sometimes fall. I am fragile sometimes and need to be held gently. You know, as a girl I counted ‘he loves me; he loves me not’, always frightened of ending on ‘not’. I can’t end on ‘not’. I refuse to grant you ‘not’ status. We are rooted in each other.”

“Still, you just go ‘Boom’ when things don’t go your way. You attack before you are attacked. No warning, maybe one demand for ransomed love, usually not. Only shattered windows and smoke follow your shoreline shellings. I know every hero needs a good villain, but that’s the movies, Mr. Bond. Listen to me:  this is real life!”

“I, huh, I need your protection and comfort, not your aggression, criticism, and condemnation. Circle that battleship around and protect me, please. Open a door, a port hole to your soft soul. I am not your Savior but I know Him. He loves you too, not your armor. Don’t you know that by now? Doesn’t that lonely ache scream out, ‘Abba’?”

“How? I just don’t know how we are going to make it work. All these years we have adjusted course and reformed a bit, amended, edited, throttled back. But we have not transformed to where we have any chance to succeed.”

“And survival is all we have to show for the years together, like some teetering rock in Utah that has survived centuries of erosion. Desperate Desert Dalis, we balance so precariously on toothpicks. A word, a look, a small failure and the whole thing collapses. Erosion will win if we don’t. Ours is a surreal relationship that won’t pass scrupulous scrutiny. Just look. Things are not what they appear to be.”

“If we don’t die first or find a way that is bigger than both of us–The Way of mutual surrender– then we’re just dead dust. I don’t trust you or myself to find that way through without surrendering to God. We suck by our odd, selfish, impatient, shellfish, greedy, lazy, miserable selves. Dessicated crustaceans in an Asian food market.”

“And that’s just what we are– not special or noble or exceptional. That’s all so much false advertising on t.v. Left to our own vices and devices we deserve nothing but trouble on our own. We are bloated ticks on an old sick hound dog. We need God, who is good and seeks us. Who knows why? The answer is not on our side of the equation, where we stack all our good works and all our failures on one side of a scale and God’s grace on the other. His grace will always weigh more, way way more. Our deeds are hollow as pigeon bones.”

“I can’t explain it. I take it on faith. That’s all. We are always a toothpick away from destruction.”

“Which is why we need to stay on our knees, face to the ground. We cannot fall from this humble mound. It’s when we are tall and haughty that we trip over pebbly sin.”

“Are you listening? How can a daisy pry open a battle ship?  Dear God! There must be a vent, some opening you breathe through. And I will pour my petals into that vent until your pistons pause, your gears gum up, and your engines stutter. I will smear my pollen all over your radar screen and uncorrupt your warped messages with powdery triple negatives. I’ll wrap my supple green leaves around your evil sensing antenna. Send an army of devoted honey bees into your cruel captain’s cabin. I’ll float my fragrant allergens into your nostrils, causing fits of blind sneezes. In any way I can, I will disarm you, my pirate love. We are not at war.”

So Isaiah wrote, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

This cold war operation has run out of time and fuel.”

“Can we live in peace and gently garden? ”

“We will plant hectare upon hectare of pure daisies, my love.”