405. Static Electricity Explained

Image result for static electricity imagesEveryone has pulled off a sweater on a dry winter night and seen tiny greenish yellow sparks fly. Do not worry, kids. It’s harmless static electricity jumping about from one fabric to the other. This results from the imbalance of positive and negative atomic charges. Let me explain for the layman reader:

if a proton goes shopping and runs up his Visa card balance on a bunch of electronics, like a big screen t.v. and a new cell phone, when the bill comes in the mail, his neutron partner will explode all over him for his ridiculous irresponsibility and selfishness. Image result for man in an electronics store

She will defend the integrity of the atom to the fissionable end, even threatening to take the baby electrons with her in a nasty divorce if her protean husband does not take all that crap back to Best Buy right now. Now, the proton, being maleish, refuses to repent and return his new toys. He cites the literature about imminent domain, the 14th amendment, and male authoritarian leadership of the family dynasty. He pouts and says things that make no sense, simply fueling the neutron to further rain down sulfuric hell fire balls on him.

Image result for pouty faced peyton manning imagesRest assured, kids, sparks not only fly in the atomic marital gaps (like a huge welding shop on a federal contract.Pow!!) but it can become an electrical storm of a fireworks finale on the 4th of July. Frighteningly Frilling.

Each illuminated static electric pinprick is actually an electronic syllable as the proton is beaten down by the neutron at a rate of 18 to 1, roughly the exchange rate between the Honduran Lempira and the U.S. dollar. Whoops! in the time it took to Google that fact, the rate jumped to 23 to 1. It’s not a fair match, mind you. No, more like a mugging by Muhammad Ali versus the pre-sparkle gloved Michael Jackson.

Image result for muhammad ali and michael jackson picture togetherNow I know it’s not right to mix metaphors and use entangled analogies, but that’s where the fun is, Momma. If you stay on the beaten path, sure, people get your message in a safe, efficient manner; however, if you run through the brambles, you get all cut up and might find some fresh raspberries while the path plodders apply layers of Deep Woods Off. As you forge a new path, the safe ones roll on in their antiseptic hamster ball of protection. I don’t know what that means, but I like how it sounds. However, at some core planet in your inner universe also coexists a form of static– the pops and sizzles of different synapses pounding out novel neural pathways, i.e., the static in the attic.

Image result for man and woman arguing pictureBack to the other static. In the real world mental static can build up inside the brains of arguing marital partners. When really it’s just an imbalance of positive and negative atomic charges. Take the husband, for example. No, put him back. The husband may make some innocuous comment about the price of milk, for instance. Only to be met by a flurry of leading questions from the wife. “What do you know about food prices? When was the last time you went shopping. You don’t even drink milk. Why don’t you drink more water? Do you want to die of dehydration and leave me a young but unmarriageable widow?”

Image result for picture of man drinking waterWhat do you do with that?  First, take a long, slow drink of water. Then deconstruct the mosquito swarm of interrogation with a cleverly relevant compliment. “Honey, you’d be more marriageable than Elizabeth Taylor if I should die of my stupid lack of hydration because I know nothing about shopping or milk. I am not worthy of your tender concern.”

Well, that’s unlikely to be uttered. But, if like a neutral cotton shirt grounds a charged polyester sweater in 8% relative humidity, the clever husband did utter such balderdash and calmed his long suffering wife, this would be an example of harmless grounding of static. Perhaps there would be a slight zap when either party reached for a bedroom doorknob, but that’s a better outcome than the nuclear option.

You see there are actually at least two forces that hold together neutrons and protons in atoms. I don’t expect you to believe me. I don’t believe myself, so I Googled again.

Opposites attract, likes repelAs my chart makes clear, a proton and an electron will attract each other. The closer they are together, the stronger this attraction will be. Two protons (or two electrons) will repel each other. And again, the closer together they are, the stronger the repulsion. Now the nucleus of an atom is positively charged, while electrons are negatively charged. As a result, a nucleus will attract electrons. These electrons will swarm around the nucleus, and the result is an atom.

Image result for nuclear fission imagesHopefully by now it is becoming clear to the reader that men tend to run away from the nucleus while women hold it together with overwhelming nuclear energy known by physicists as quarky charm. The trick involves how many electrons (children) a couple has between them. Studies show that if a man has more than ten children with a neutron partner, he is just too tired to leave. He cannot break through the static bond created by ten kids swirling all around day and night. He’s gonna be exhausted by brunch. The negative charge of the children cancels the positive charge of the proton dad, thus defaulting to the core nucleus being run by the supercharged neutron mom.

And that’s static electricity. Next time I will explain gravity. Till then, I’m goin’ to Jackson…

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.

But they’ll laugh at you in Jackson, and I’ll be dancin’ on a Pony Keg.
They’ll lead you ’round town like a scalded hound,
With your tail tucked between your legs,
Yeah, go to Jackson, you big-talkin’ man.
And I’ll be waitin’ in Jackson, behind my Jaypan Fan,

404. Born to be Mild

Joel has been on the lam for the past three weeks or so. Could be a month. It’s been a social and intellectual drought in his absence. However, time is sketchy. At our age time is measured in sinus infections and colonoscopies. The sky won’t rain; the chickens won’t lay; and the cows will not come home. I don’t really want the cows to come home, mind you, but that leads right into one of Joel’s favorite movies, City Slickers.Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

If you recall, several rather impotent midlife crisis New York men go out west to a real working ranch to find and flex their manhood. Despite many challenges and setbacks, Billy Crystal transforms from some sort of fragile wimpy dud Dad insurance salesman into a true cowboy hero. He brings in the herd after the real cowboy leader (Jack Palance) dies. Crystal observes, “What did you expect?  He ate bacon three meals a day.” Let this be a warning to you lard inhaling bacon lovers. Do you want this epithet on your tombstone? “Killed by nitrates seared in salty pork fat.”Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

Similarly noted in Coffee Nation, “Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” That virile (or is it viral?) spirit led our mild mannered Joel out of Turtle Town onto a world class motorcycle trip into the Ozarks with several other biker dudes from around the world. You see, he recently purchased a three wheeled Spyder motorcycle, which is worthy of much envy. But our local roads could not contain nor constrain his Steppenwolf heart that beats beneath a sharp new leather vest, bursting with high test testosterone.Image result for steppenwolf band pictures

“Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway

Lookin for adventure and whatever comes our way

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

I like smoke and lightning  heavy metal thunder

Racin’ with the wind and this feelin’ that I’m under

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen  Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

Like a true nature’s child  we were born, born to be mild

We can climb so high  never want to die.

Born to be mild.”

Before he left for his journey, I managed to wheedle him into a napkin will, where it was clearly stated in his inky hand, that in the event of his untimely death on the Tail of the Dragon trail, I would receive the Spyder, if it survived unscathed. I had the napkin notarized by Shirley, who calls me various men’s names and occasionally gets the right one. I was torn, however, between wanting to hear Joel’s road warrior tales and driving my new Spyder cycle. Come on, you would too.Image result for spyder motorcycles images

So, Joel has returned intact with a certain swagger that comes from deep immersion in the hot springs of masculinity. His jaw seems more square and his posture post modern, beyond framing. He announced in  his purple checked shirt that he had to leave for a meeting in Shippensburg, and thus he could not attend Coffee Nation. Wow! Just Wow! We moved out to the noisy sidewalk to do our suddenly less important business, but Peter Fonda’s stunt double remained inside, finishing something epic on his Ipad.  Eventually he emerged and put on that leather vest, a funky helmet and away he road on that Spyder, like Harry Potter… into a world we mortals could only imagine.Image result for pictures of faces of abandonment

I was left without any tales of Brave Joelysses or my much coveted Spyder cycle. I felt robbed twice, as if someone stole my wallet from the guy who stole my wallet. It hurt in an abstract sort of way if you thought about it long enough. Somewhere Shakespeare’s lines on mercy seemed reversed–

“Envy is twice cursed. Like gasoline stinks on the pumper and the pumped.

It curses he who covets and he who is immersed.

Leaving both as empty as a wheel barrow dumped.”Image result for gas pump picturesUnlike Billy Crystal Joel did not return with a calf named Norman. That would have been special, by Golly. Norman on the back seat roaring through Turtle Town.Image result for cow on a motorcycle picturesBut he did return with a huge mildewed heart. Being mild is okay, my blog warts. It allows for a comfortable move forward, while remaining grounded, safe, and homogenous. The highest state of mild is “to become the dew of mildness, also known as mildew.” Wild is for crazy risk takers who don’t wear helmets. In salsa sales mild is by far the leader, not medium or hot. Know why? You can always increase the kick of mild, but you cannot unwild the hot stuff. A jalapeno without a fever is a fake pepper and will never become a gastronomical dictator.

And that is Joel. For sixty some years he has been building up to this zippiness. Aging well like old amontillado wine. He is enjoying life uncorked now since accepting Social Security and AARP benefits. Rockin it, too.Image result for amontilladoAnd I am trying really hard not to be envious, but I am failing miserably. He has taken on mythic stature in his semi-demi-god retirement. Image result for zeus on a harley davidson images Could it be that the Sermon on the Mount passed over the mild because their inheritance was too materialistic?  “Blessed are the mild, for they shall inherit the cool cycle, hang with Motor head dudes, tame the Dragon Trail in the Ozarks, and walk as giants among measly mortals.”

Image result for walter mitty imagesTom Petty told us “If you never slow down, you never grow old”, which is a nice lyric but a very hard trick to pull off into your seventies and eighties.

In any event… I guess it’s okay to have Joel back on his Spyder. He’s the man, the myth, a giant among dwarves. All the men of Coffee Nation stood a little taller that day as he gunned the Spyder and whirled away dervishly.

“You’re a savage gift on a wayward bus,

But you stepped down and you sang to us.”

So Joan Baez glorified Bob Dylan, and so we salute you, Joel. Born to be mild.

Image result for mild mannered man pictures

 

 

 

319. Parking Tickets and Murder

So back on Pine Street I had on-street parking in front of my run down building, and I parked the old Ford Falcon there 95% of the time. However, one morning as I was coming home from work, some punk college commuter had wedged his/her little weasel vehicle into my semi-designated parking space, forcing me to park down the block  on a meter near Bruce’s up and coming restaurant. I was torqued off as a ghetto dweller could be. When you don’t have much and someone takes the little crumbs you do have, well, dang it, you need to hit something. I hit that meter with my empty hand as I pulled it out of my empty pocket. Not even a slim dime for the meter could I find. I stomped off indignantly and humiliated that I didn’t even have a dime. It’s much cooler to act angrily undignified, however, than to fall to your knees in front of a blank faced parking meter, crying “Why? Why?”

The next time I looked at my car, there was a $3.00 parking ticket under the wiper. Ahhhhh!!! Now I was bolt bustin’ mad!  I tore up the ticket and said to no one, “I’ll never pay this stupid ticket. I’m the victim here. The punk stole my spot and I get the ticket?  Ahhhhh!!! This is America. I am going full Liam Neeson, and I will find you and keel you, punk!!” It was a very dramatic though pathetic solo performance on the uneven brick sidewalk with crabgrass growing out of the joints. (I was nominated later for Best Public Jerk Wad Tornado Hissy Fit by a male at the prison talent show.)

Some time elapsed as I pouted in my wet emotional diaper, chafing at the cruelty and injustice of this world. A formal letter came from the City of Richmond, telling me that my $0.10 meter fee which had turned into a $3.00 ticket was now being billed at $25.00 plus court costs. I could appear in court at such and such a time on such and such a date if I wished to contest it, or I could simply concede and pay the $25.00.  I was rebar bending, steel girder grinding mad. I was going bankrupt over a stupid parking violation. I didn’t have $25.00 to pay the incentivized ticket, so I resolved to go to court and contest the whole thing.

About a week later I showed up in District Court and tried to educate the cranky old judge before me. He simply said, “Pay the ticket. There is nothing else to do. Add the court costs. Next.” I was numb and in shock. I was up to $77.50 in unpayable fines. If this had been a stock instead of a debt, I’d be rolling in the dough. I’d have run around town collecting these magic tickets to wealth. But it wasn’t and I wasn’t, because ‘FuzzyWuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?’ I hung my head down and shuffled to the cashier’s window. I told the guy there that I didn’t have any money and was unsure of what else I could do.

He told me, “Well, you can appeal it, basically roll the dice. If you win, no cost. If you lose, it’s double.”

“Heck, I can’t pay what I owe to begin with, so let’s go with double or nothing. So if I lose and can’t pay….?”

“Jail.”

“Lovely.”

The clerk filled out a form and I signed it, affirming I’d appear in a week to appeal my conviction to another judge.

A week later I realized while I was reading a textbook on Renaissance Art or Greek Philosophy that I was late for my appeal. I quickly tried to make myself look respectable. An impossible task on any day. I knew at least I should dress for jail. I chose tight and durable material that would send the right signals to hardened criminals when they asked me why I was in the slammer.

Image result for prison bully pictures

[“Yo, kid. How long? What for?”

“Sixty days. Parking violation.”

“That’s funny. You ought to try for the annual talent show. That’s some prime material there.”

I imagined my prison street cred would be solid from that point forward.]

I hopped on my bike and coasted to the court, unable to afford another parking violation, I was being ultra-cautious. I walked around naively hoping my legal fairy godmother would show up and cut me loose. I went from one official court person to another trying to find which courtroom my fate had been decided in. I also wondered about my bike being locked up to a utility pole for two months. Not likely to be there when I got out of the Big House.

Finally I was directed to Courtroom 3 where a trial was in process for a rape/attempted murder case. I was blown away that I was even allowed to spectate. It was pretty tough stuff going down in there. I knew something was off, but I was not going to get right back up and risk alienating, i.e., pissing off another judge. So I sat respectfully till there was a lull in the action. I quietly tip toed out of the courtroom and sought clarification from another clerk.

“Oh, yeah. The judge already dealt with your case first thing.”

“I was late due to a near death experience…”

“He threw it out.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, expecting that it meant I was going to be thrown out to the human wolves in the penitentiary.

“It means it’s legally done, over, cancelled, kapoot, nada, gone, dead, etc.”

“What about court costs, community service, probation, parole, restitution?”

“Kid, it’s done. You lucked out. How your parking ticket crap ended up on appeal ahead of a major felony is like fairy godmother stuff. Now get out of here, you lucky bastard!”

I was stunned by this mis-miscarriage of justice. I was released into society almost unscarred and maybe unrehabilitated. Suddenly my clothes felt too tight as I remembered I could breathe freely again. I wanted to break out in a victory dance right there, but I reconsidered I could be arrested for lewd and lascivious booty dancing in a government building. I wanted to be humbled by this stroke of luck, but I also wanted to get that parking spot punk thief and jack him up like Liam would…. “Don’t ever believe that this is over, Bucko.”

 Then again, maybe I should just swallow the humble pill. They only cost a dime.

 

 

 

289. Something/ Nothing?

                               

I liked Todd Rundgren’s music in the 1970’s. His double album Something/Anything (1972) was pleasant enough as I recall. Not groundbreaking or toothchipping… just enough of something salty and sweet together, like tortilla chips and chewy caramels for my ears to chomp.  He played all the instruments and sang all the tracks, which is pretty impressive, I think. I recall a review in the Washington Post that called him the clown prince of rock n roll. I guess that was accurate. He made some money along the way and did a good bit of successful producing. So I suppose he knew a thing or two. I mention him as a surveyor’s reference point in time and culture that I am racing away from.

I saw him at the Kennedy Center in 1973, I think, with his Nirvana band. (No, not that Nirvana band! Duh!! They were still in elementary school then.) I wore gold glitter across my metrosexual collarbone and sprinkled more on the tops of my literally blue suede Converse sneakers. And, yes, filthy ones, I wore other clothes. [Strike that last image from the record, your Honor.] It was a fashion statement I will never need to restate, unless it would get me out of prison early. Get this: during the show some joint burning pothead (not the Burrito Manchild ) was being escorted from his seat by security when Rundgren stopped the show and told the wannabe cops to leave the guy alone. Strangely enough, they complied. Who knew that celebrities on stage commanded civic authority? Keep in mind that Richard Nixon was in the White House, and at the Opera House next to our auditorium, Washington’s finest sashayed in the great hall under JFK’s bronze bust while the other glitterati pranced about during a shared intermission. Someone should have lost his scheduling job for that faux pas. When hauled before the review board the next day, in response to the question, “What were you smoking?”, Ted the scheduling director pleaded simply, “something, anything”. “Shoot him!”

Bust of JFK in the lobby of the Kennedy Center

Fasten your seat belts as I whip the narrative violently away from this scene. The other day I believe a musical person by profession at my Sunday School table told her husband that he should never agree with me or say “Right” if I just said “Right” or “Never” if I just said “Never”.  Okay, hurt me. I believe it was a case of Something/Nothing. Robert was confused.

“Can I say ‘Right’ when you say ‘Right’, Dear?”

“Yes, but not when he says it. Okay?”

“Okay.”

I whispered, “Right on, Robert. Right now. You’re righteous. Right?”

He looked at me like I had an ice cream cone on a hot summer day… and he didn’t. “Oh no you don’t, Buddy. Not a single lick.”

“Ri…. ri…ri…”

“Robert!”

Crackamundo, he heeled.

I get a good bit of this reaction from others. I must provoke a certain socially acceptable disdain in folks who feel familiar and comfortable enough to mildly insult me. They tell me I bring it on myself and I can’t disagree. I think it is a pheromone that I emit.

The other night after our ballroom dance class a bunch of us went to a local restaurant and had a drink and an appetizer. I sat across from my lovely bride who sat next to Don the dancing dentist. Within a short period of time Don felt familiar and comfortable enough to drill and fill me. He asked my wife where our daughter got her musical ability. My wife said something like ‘Well, I took piano and guitar lessons, but my husband did not. His family didn’t do much with him.’ To which Don replied something like ‘So you contributed something and your husband contributed nothing’ or something like that.  To which I complained, “Don, don’t you even use novacaine before you stick a knife in a man’s gums?”

We chuckled nervously. I wanted him to think that I am a dangerous ex-con with a hair trigger temper and pistol under the tabletop. At least I wanted to think that he thinks I’m  more dangerous than an ex-hairdresser with a sparky blow dryer in hand. I am no marshmallow, Dude! The bullseye on my back is an unfortunate birthmark not an invitation. But alas! It’s a target for the disenfranchised to franchise like a McDonald’s. (If  you have any ideas what that last sentence means, would you please personal message me? I’d really like to know.)

So, the theme, the overarching theme that I must support with related drivel… hmmm. I seem to have lost it along the way. This is of no concern to me since I don’t usually follow the rules of proper writing. I just accelerate to maintain control. I first over heard this statement in a small English pub outside of Bury St. Edmunds, East Anglia in 1973 or so. Some American military guys were talking quite loudly as they sucked down pints of ale. One guy was reviewing driving training he’d received State side. He was yakking about driving through a culvert when he blurted, “I accelerated to maintain control”, as if that were the punch line to an extended joke. I was seventeen and alone. I wound up chatting with one of the military dudes. He was righteous and much smarter than I was. He told me of the vast peacekeeping mission of the military, how they were agents of peace. I did not believe him, still don’t. However, I had a copy of a science fiction book that a former classmate claimed to have written. Wilbur even autographed it for my girlfriend’s gift.  This military guy clarified that the Great and Powerful Wilbur was lying, which was true, of course, but it wasn’t nearly as cool a story as having gone to school with a famous science fiction author. Just another something/anything that turned into nothing. Why do folks insist on the truth when a faint gauzy blur will do just as well? We know Bigfoot doesn’t exist, but why crush us?

“Hello, it’s me
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong
There’s something here that doesn’t last too long
Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine”
Something cannot come from nothing. Right?
“I’ll have an Anything with a twist of lime.”
Oh where is Todd Rundgren when you need him?

262. Coffee, Constitution and commandments

Despite the utopian nature of the Coffee Summit and the wonderful cacophonous harmony of disunity that has persisted for the past five years, it is time for some tweaking of the original charter. The genuine Magna Carta napkin has been misplaced, possibly in a washing machine. I thought it was in my old wallet, but when I switched to a new wallet at Christmas, aghast! The most important napkin in Christendom was gone!! It was an agreement among unemployed giants of our time inked out during one of the bleakest periods in our collective history. Like Washington at Trenton or Meade at Gettysburg, the future of the nation was at stake as Tim the Silver Back and Chuckles and I stood in a wooden canoe crossing the Conococheague. (It was shallow there and narrow. Okay, we just walked across on a June morning, but it was powerfully symbolic.) And rather than wave a blank napkin of surrender, we (really I) wrote down on one powerful 3″ x  3″ square eternal truths to live by. And I-uh-I seem to have lost it.

I must, however, persevere and recall as much as I can of the Constitution of Coffee Nation before it deteriorates in the landfill of wasted time and wasted minds. First of all, it was decided by voice vote that we would meet Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. unless otherwise directed by the Supreme Imperial Leader, which I decided was me. For an entire college semester, however, we met on Fridays at 8:30 due to a teaching commitment I had made. It was Abnormal Psychology. Shocker. I drew heavily on my interactions with the primates at Coffee Nation for the class I taught. (Sotto voce) “Here are lowland gorilla men grazing at a coffee shop. The one on the bottom is thought to be a direct link to the Himalayan Yeti. Note his ululating calls… ‘Ugggguggggllll. Uggggugggglll’. We call him Chuckles. The one on the top is from Allentown.  His call resembles human speech… approximating the expression of pleasant surprise…’That’s so coooool’. ” He’s Timmy.

It was simple then… Two articles: No politics. No religion. Bodily noises were permissible and continue to be.  Mild violence is encouraged but not required. No outside food or drink is permitted, however. It is not forbidden so much as ridiculed. Brother Lance brought a purple lady’s coffee travel mug once. ONCE. It was a long day for him. But I am getting far ahead of the Nation’s coffee creamer thimble of tears.

We grew one unemployed and undeserving man at a time. Matt the creeper tried to deny his predilections while only reinforcing our beliefs. He ranted on about astral physics while staring at women’s physiques. He was sanctioned. Low octane Walt rolled along for a while. He didn’t even drink coffee. However, we puttered along through his successful chemo treatments. Truly, there are far more departed Nation brothers than active ones. Rob the candy and ice cruncher moved on. Josh the armed American bull rider came faithfully but got a job and married into the System. He was always good for NRA propaganda and outrageous right wing conspiracies from Fox News Nation. “Did you know more people were killed by water heaters last year than by guns?” Many times he was sanctioned for offending Our second amendment– no politics– and for being downright naïve.

The artist formerly known as Egginator was a faithful attendee and chess opponent, but the coffee was too strong for him and he fled back to his Motherland. Ron 1 used to keep the bar up with his aging frame, while chatting amiably to the pretty young barrista-ettes. We talked for  a while about him putting me into his will, but he was hung up on the fact that I was older than he was. “You could die first, Ron. You need to be prepared.” He could not see the logic in my argument despite his End Timer tendencies.

Chuck the Cowboy came for a few visits. He was too busy, though, and could not take the constant demand for sluggishness by the group. He had to rope a calf or canter about. This is the existential problem when it comes to do’ers versus be’ers. Coffee Nation is all about being and is on record against doing. Anything! Once Lance suggested a purpose for our aimless crew. He was severely sanctioned. “Ignore that voice of doooty. We are here merely to be or not to be. Doing is not in our Declaration of Indolence. Heel!”  Dave dropped in for chess a few times and disappeared into that blind alley of upper mobility like a character from a Springsteen song.  We of coffee nation curse the cruel JOBS that have decimated our ranks. As the chart below illustrates, happiness comes from set points, which means inertia. Studies in the UK have determined that working toward specific goals actually hampers perceived levels of happiness in mental patients and sluggards. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Rob 2 affiliated with us for a few weeks. He was between financial gigs but graced us with his starched white shirt appearance for a while. Gigilo Gene took some offense to Rob’s eccentric white collar mojo.  D.J. helped mediate that fraternal fracas before fists flew. His MP background has come in handy a time or two in disciplining Big Steve, perhaps the most faithful National among us. Though fully employed by an international corporation, Steve routinely goes in late on Thursdays. When he dies we will bury him with full Nation honors as outlined in a previous post. (240. Time is Short)

And then there was Gary aka Jerry who tried after a brief internship to organize a coup d’état. What saved the Imperial Leader for Life’s life was the fact that no one speaks French, and therefore they thought Jerry was coughing while sneezing. “Make up your mind, Dude. Either cough or sneeze.” He was sentenced to a North Korean firing squad in Hagerstown. Actually we tapped Josh and his personal arsenal to shoot a precise outline of .17 caliber bullets around Jerry to warn him against insurrection. He was sentenced instead to a lifetime of servitude under a different dictator.

Oh the humanity!

234. Wanderlust

“Wanderlust may be driven by the desire to escape and leave behind depressive feelings of guilt, and has been linked to bipolar disorder in the periodicity of the attacks. Or it may reflect an intense urge for self-development by experiencing the unknown, confronting unforeseen challenges, getting to know unfamiliar cultures, ways of life and behaviours.

In adolescence, dissatisfaction with the restrictions of home and locality may also fuel the desire to travel.” That’s Wikipedia’s quick and dirty definition.

I had a good dose of wanderlust as a young guy. I grew up in the same sameness of a cookie cutter neighborhood in the 1960’s while the world raged around me and I could not engage it. My parents’ frame of reference was pre-World War II and later on the marvelous uniformity of the 1950’s. Life seemed pretty well scripted for them– go to church, go to school, go to work. Asking why or what else there could be never seemed to occur to them. Or for their entire generation for that matter. And it makes sense when you consider that they were born during World War I, into pre electrification and pre automobile America. They came of age in the Great Depression and the rise of global Fascism. Wanting a predictable script is understandable when the world you live in has unleashed fear, loathing and insecurity again and again. Having safety, food, a job, a home, and predictable routines trumps having an adventure. I always say, “We want what we do not have, e.g., If you have a double cheeseburger, then you don’t want one.”

So when my turn came to bat, I had all of the things my parents often lacked. Consequently, I wanted what I did not have– travel, adventure, novelty, diversity, art, music, romance, etc. I did not want the cookie cutter house, the government job, the Catholic faith, the same old same old. I began exploring as a kid, often wandering off to see what was on the other side of the road, the neighborhood, the highway, the world. In an odd way childhood wanderlust confirms the security or desperation at the heart of the matter. This sort of thing was not encouraged, by the way.

One of my first wanderings was away from the childcare room at my mother’s bowling league on Thursday mornings. I was five, I think. I took my little brother Chris along with me and started walking home, about two miles. No one noticed. I knew the way and we crossed a four lane highway and walked along a two lane country road before our neighbor lady, Connie Page, stopped and picked us up. I got my butt whipped for that adventure; to no avail. I liked the taste of risk. No one died, and besides, you ought to pay more attention to sneaky kids, dontcha think?

When I was older, I’d ride my bike farther than permitted, out into the hinterlands of the unknown. Maybe a half mile away. Maybe five. It was never hard to find another boy in my neighborhood with absent-minded parents and an itch to go. Sometimes we’d ride in little gangs of four or five, jabbering as we pedaled without helmets or pads, often without working brakes, “Look, No hands!” up to the Giant store on Route 1 or down to the 7-11 on Kings Highway or over to Rose Hill shopping center. At other times we’d simply follow woods or streams as far as we had daylight and then come home again. Often enough we’d collect returnable bottles to fund our soda or pack of gum at the destination, at two cents per discarded bottle.

By age 12 my world expanded with junior high school and lots of new folks from other neighborhoods. The local Metro bus stopped at my street corner and continued all the way to the Mall in D.C. For thirty five cents you could cross state lines and arrive in another world full of diverse tourists or civil protesters. I did that at 12 years of age, just out of curiosity. I wanted to see what an anti-war protest looked like up close in 1968, I believe it was. Thousands and thousands of hippies were camped all around the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, smoking pot and burning flags. They were bathing buck naked in the reflecting pool and in a fountain near the Smithsonian. Thus my wandering was lustfully rewarded with large doses of nakedness. Yes, my grandchildren, it’s hard to believe now, but it’s true: The Nation’s capital was briefly a strip club before the D.C. police started firing tear gas all over the place. Then it was just naked brutality.

Hitchhiking was a common practice back then. I used to hitchhike back and forth to high school without too much effort or worry. Later on I hitched back and forth to college. And ultimately across the country in 1978. That was some awesome wanderlust that I posted about early on in this blog.[ I even hitched a few rides in England when I was there in 1973 trying to impress my lost high school girlfriend with my wanderlust. To no lustful avail, my blogguppies.] In those days I knew where I was, and I didn’t want to be there. My blinking GPS pin was always somewhere else. I wonder if an Irish gypsy slept with one of my ancestors.  Eventually life became too harsh for hitchhiking, maybe in the go go 1980’s when the gap between rich and poor skyrocketed; when free agency came into mainstream American life; and greedy individualism swelled up with 401k’s and property values. But I believe those days are gone… replaced by bunkerlust, a longing to burrow into one’s own luxuriously appointed gated community.

What was is no more and yet there is nothing new under the sun, except for the folks who have not learned this lesson. Wander on, young ones. Someone will pay more attention to you after you’ve gone.

 

 

158. Totalitarian penguins

With a title like that what would anyone expect?  I have no idea either, I just like the odd juxtaposition. I also like the word juxtaposition. It makes the user of it seem smart, whether he is or not. Juxta means beside. I’m going to try “rapper styling” this line with my wife, “I just wanna get juxta you, Baby .” I wonder how far I’ll be slapped. Across the room? Across the street? Into next week?  But penguins? They are universally loved and esteemed. Why, there was a lovely movie made about them years back, The March of the Penguins. I saw it and oohed and awwwed at those big birds and how they huddle together sacrificially to survive in the brutal Antarctic climate. They are just wholesome and good and clean and well dressed in their perma-tuxes. Who does not love penguins? Let’s see, their predators. South Polar bears and kangaroos, separated by continental drift in the Second Ice Age, but in their collective unconscious kangaroos and the beige South Pole bears slaver over mythical penguin jerky strips that were once regular menu items in Old Australia. Please fact check me on these assertions. I could be wrong. I might be confusing history with an episode of the cooking show Chopped.

Image result for rebel emperor penguin pictures

But just for a moment, imagine if a single (or married) penguin began to talk or squawk smack about their awful conditions and how the seals and sharks had forced them to live on ice and krill. And this Alpha penguin developed great oratory skill over time, always focusing on the pain at hand… or at wing, or flapper, you know what I mean. If this Emperor of Emperor penguins stood on a little squinty-eyed sycophant (another smart sounding word) and railed against the cultural oppression and poor financial situation the flock faced, well, stuff could happen. Then if he, let’s call him Flappin, focused the hate on walruses, how they had so much blubber and were responsible for global warming and overfishing, you see where this would naturally go. Since penguins are the bird equivalent of sheep, they would get in line behind “Slappin’ Flappin” and elect him Emperor of the Third Ice Age. Zeig Heil!!!

Flappin’s press agent would arrange to have him arrested for inciting chaos (actually, cross dressing will do it) and crowd surfing (felonies in penguin colonies), and then publish his autobiography, Mine Cough, in which he would continue his conspiracy theories and megalomaniacal (There is a whopping smart word, folks.) schemes as well as offering home remedies for respiratory ailments.  Then, when Flappin was released from his brief stint in the walrus jail to the strains of I Am the Walrus, he would be welcomed as a hero, the return of the phoenix, and other such mythological drivel. He would go around Antarctica, wearing John Lennon granny glasses, speaking at penguin beer halls and stadiums, building even bigger audiences that would pitch their feathered heads back and cluck straight up, “Flappin, Flappin, Flappin” until they were hoarse and needed one of his home remedies for irritated avian throats.

Over time Flappin would organize a new Penguin Nationalist Party and get elected to the Parliament, or Diet as it is called in the Southern Hemisphere. He would have such a strong majority that his squawk would be law. Loan sharks and Navy seals, gay polar bears, and especially intellectual walruses would be rounded up and tortured, their food and property expropriated for the Nationalist Party. They would be thrown together in igloo gulags (which I challenge you to say three times fast) surrounded by razor-edged barbed wire, forced to wear Mickey Mouse ears. Abject humiliation has never been known at such levels. Meanwhile the rest of the civilized world would cry out, “What has happened to the penguins? They were so calm and cute. Guess that movie went to their heads.”

Flappin would delve deep into the penguin psyche, maybe five millimeters, and play on old symbols, associating kangaroos with giant squid, in order to justify the necessary conquest of Australia. Crack teams of penguins would work undercover at zoos around the world and send coded messages back to Villa Las Estrellas and Flappin via carrier penguins on refrigerated UPS next day delivery with zip drives built into their frosty beaks. Meanwhile, back at base camp, Flappin would appoint evil henchmen to run his air force and secret police– Hurtmann and Blud. The PP, penguin patrol, would teach all penguins to goose step and flap salute the Emperor in parades, as the low rumble of war built up in the sunless Antarctic winter. (Wow, I like that last sentence. Re-read it in movie trailer voice.) And there is nothing more sinister than a sunless secret. Just ask Kim Young Fool of North Korea or Robert Dumbass Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

The attack would begin in late August, the end of winter in the upside down Antarctic monosphere. The Norwegian slice of Antarctica would be the first target. First of all and primarily, what is Norway doing there? Did they get into the colonization business after the bubble burst? It’s as absurd as the British owning the Falkland Islands, don’t you think? Did they not have enough snow and ice and bleakness at home? Holy Flippin’ Fjords! So you see, Flappin would fire up his big birds with a visceral hatred of all things Norwegian– mostly dried fish products and cheese– and then attack in darkness. By the Antarctic spring (also known as November) they would have overrun the Norwegian wedge and the four drunken security guards left to defend it. Then the rest of the civilized world, not wanting to start up the engines of war again, would concede that slice of ice to the Emperor Flappin.

Sadly, the rest of the March of the Penguins would look like a slow motion domino nation domination. They would swarm across the Australian slice of Antarctica on their bellies while wearing white ski jackets, virtually invisible to the naked Aussie eyes, or the eyes of naked Aussies. They would form flying belly wedges and break through unsuspecting Australian defenses. From there it would be a short hop, skip, and a jump to the tip of Chile and Argentina, up the Amazon tributaries to the banks of Bermuda, and world conquest. And, most tragically of all tragedies, this strange totalitarian penguin juxtaposition could have been avoided if the world had only listened to an old white guy with an obscure blog whose wife makes him shave. Sadly, those who learn to fail from history (and good hygiene tips) are doomed to repeat it.