427. “And what is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

  

pictures of weeds

Emerson wrote that a long time ago. Back when you could be original, before all the cool things were said and written. Nowadays it’s a lot harder to come up with more such diamonds of speech, or pearls of wisdom, even rubies of reasoning, or sapphires of sophistication. Opals of … opprobrium. Whoops. I got carried away with all the color and sophistry. Let’s look at some weeds and see how they have either come into their own over time or lost their popularity.

Cannabis sativa comes to mind instantly. It has a long history and a dynamic present. Likely has a rocket’s trajectory for a future as well. According to my five second Google search, cannabis has been cultivated since 8,000 B.C., first for rope and later for its seeds and oil as food products. Around 2,000 B.C. it was used medicinally in ancient China. It was used recreationally and ritually in a wide swath of the Middle East, including Persia and Scythia, while still being used for paper and rope. Perhaps this is where Muhammad Ali came up with his “rope a dope” boxing strategy, sparring with half baked pugilistic partners.

In the early A.D. years it was used as an intoxicant and an anesthetic. Even the famous Greek physician Galen prescribed medical marijuana. The Smithsonian has one of his original pharmacy scripts in storage since the ancient Greek scribbling is not as popular as it once was. Its derivative hashish was known as an inebriant and an aphrodisiac in Egypt. As travel increased, cannabis moved to Europe and Africa. And laws regulating its consumption began to appear. Hemp was legally cultivated all over the southeast United States in the 1800’s. What?

1850-1915 Marijuana was widely used throughout United States as a medicinal drug and could easily be purchased in pharmacies and general stores. And then?  The war on drugs began in 1915. By the 1930’s and 40’s fliers like the one below warned of the poisonous effects of marihuana…. in which lurks Murder! Insanity! Death!

The debate rages on today, even as medical folks use cannabinol oil to reduce seizures in epileptic children,  as well as to alleviate symptoms of trauma and depression in veterans of war’s wanton demons. Oh, it’s been decriminalized and legalized in several states, for sure. But is it still a weed? Let’s go to the dictionary definition…

376. Precision Dawdling

The Nation met this morning and inspired me as usual to chronicle this meaningless meeting of human mediocrity. Let me first say that tomorrow is my 60th birthday and the fellas knew it. Steve and Doug were waiting with a chocolate chip muffin on a napkin. Adorning the muffin were two wiggle candles, one yellow and the other green, that resembled DNA strands without the connecting rungs… or bug antenna set on fire. Pick the one you feel is more appropriate. A plastic conifer tree stood at attention in the center, guarded by a plastic clown head that somehow resembled Donald Trump. I was touched as I snuffed out the two snakey candles and peeled the wax paper cup liner off the base of the muffin. MMMMm, not a bad way to start Coffee Nation.

No sooner had I begun eating my muffin than Joel arrived in a spiffy gray pinstriped suit with a black bow tie. Sharp as a diamond studded platinum tack in Al Sharpton’s silky lapel. Steve compared him to Harrison Ford in his fashionable tableau. I just called him Hair Ass, Son, with an Asian accent, and left it at that. Joel noted that his deceased father-in-law celebrated the same birthday as I. “He lived to be 99… and was a miserably smart, horse’s ass who disdained me from the get go.” Harsh words from the usually mild mannered Joel, but I was beginning to see things that only a father-in-law can perceive. Well, that eruption struck me as a methane burp from old decomposing feelings.  Therefore, I decided to share my evaporating weird dream from last night so as to steer a new course for Joel’s psychic dingy, away from the wicked shoals of cranky coral.

I was getting dressed , somewhere in my dream, for the birthday dinner party my wife had set up at the Gourmet Goat in Hagerstown. She had invited 15 folks to join us. We were waiting in a familiar glass house having a glass of wine with vague anticipation, or was it dread? Oddly, Donald Trump was a guest and behaving unpredictably civil. I asked him, “Donald, would you like a drink?” He declined without a bit of attitude, insisting that he did not drink alcohol and loved Mormons, Muslims, Morons, Mandalas, Mandelas, Mandolins, and that was just the M’s. Though it did look like he was passing a kidney stone.

The house began to fill with cousins whose names I did not even know.  They looked familiar and were dressed up for the dinner party.  I counted heads like my border collie does with folks in my house. He likes to keep inventory. He was abandoned by an accountant who moved to Oklahoma with the petrochemical surge in 2010. Fracking idiot!  I was keenly aware that we had way too many Indians for our reservation. As I looked around in my dreamscape I saw my sister-in-law and her kids; my wife’s cousins and their kids; and a deceased aunt who told me, ” I knew you wouldn’t invite me so I invited myself.” She looked good for a dead woman; wore a nice white satin dress; hair perfectly coiffed. Things were getting weird, though, and as  usual my bladder nerve was the director of this movie, so visuals started pulsing faster and faster. My dream self searched frantically for a bathroom or a bush.

That’s when Steve from Coffee Nation pulled into the driveway in a red car. He was early as usual, but had to go buy a helium party balloon at the grocery store. He was in a hurry and no one was in the empty Giant store. Creepy. Being an engineering genius, he went to the helium tank and inhaled two lungs full of the gas… and began to float like a Macy’s Thanksgiving blimp. He grabbed onto a shopping cart for ballast and sort of bounced out of the store, hovering six feet above the ground, resembling a gymnast on a runaway jet ski, only it was all in whoa slowa motion.

Meanwhile back at the house everyone else took off in various vehicles for the restaurant, leaving me behind to select a sports coat. As I exited the newly acquired second story, I realized that I was in Mexico, far south of the restaurant. Just then a Jeep with four Mexican soldiers showed up and arrested me in Spanish. I tried to explain to them that I had reservations for 15 at a restaurant north of the border, but they just looked at me like I was speaking English. I made a run for it up a flight of stairs that simply ended above a walled garden. Two little girls ran around me, teasing me with toilet paper and the key to the locked bathroom door that stood across the courtyard.  I heard the heavy footsteps of the Mexican gendarmes pounding up the stairs behind me. I closed my eyes and took a leap of faith.

I braced myself for a hard landing, but when I opened my eyes I found I was standing on Steve’s back, just like I was surfing without water beneath me. Wordlessly I communicated to him that he needed to vent some gas so that we could get moving laterally as the gendarmes lowered their rifles and aimed at me/us. He complied and we took off in a zip. In dream time it was a matter of seconds before we arrived above the restaurant 2,000 miles away. I know because Steve was singing Margaritaville and only had time for two lines…

“I stepped on a pop tart,

let out a big fart…”

The next thing I knew I was droning above the multitude as one of my cousins ordered a shark steak off the menu. Suddenly a 14 foot bull shark crashed onto the table and devoured him. The rest of the party looked away and ordered the chicken in unison.

The fellas interrupted my mad tale so that Doug could present me with a brown tee shirt he had made up for me. It had a nice coffee logo with Coffee Nation written boldly in a circle. On the front chest where pockets usually go was a smaller version with Supreme Leader underneath. I was touched, but wait, there’s more. Doug folded the front of the shirt up like a belly reveal shirt and upside down in white letters it read, “You need to GROWASET”. It was utterly perfect precision dawdling.

 

373. Love is a many Splintered thing

So Pat and Clark are in Florida on the Good Ship Lollipop, soaking in hot tubs and heated swimming pools at night, watching pelicans flail the air inches above Tampa Bay during the day. Sun, warmth, and elderly folks everywhere. But when you are 60 plus, you are in that demographic. The concept of OLD shrinks every year like grapes turning to raisins, you notice, as there are fewer and fewer people left on the vine who are older than you. Places come up for purchase at rock bottom prices. $59,000 will buy a nice home on a rental lot next to the river.  And you learn why such a deal exists:  the previous owner no longer exists. She went Home. Died. Crossed the River Styx.  Still, it’s tempting to settle into the last chapter of one’s life. Twenty pages left and then the hard cover of a carved coffin closes the story.

“We’re not ready to commit to living here six months a year. Not yet. It’s a different world here, though, nice and  friendly. Everyone is so helpful. They have nothing else to do. You know, it’s like a staging ground for launching into heaven… or somewhere.”

Clark pretends to complain about Pat when he calls me. “She’s getting violent, beating me about the head and neck for no reason.” In the background I hear Pat  say, “Oh, I am not!”

“She needs anger management, I’m telling you. It’s her Irish. You know, whiskey and anger. Anger and whiskey. The Irish drink cuz they’re mad, and they’re mad cuz they drink.”

Pat far away, “Heeeeeyyyy”.

“I suggest that Pat get a solid weapon such as a ball bat so she does not hurt her hand while whacking you, Tonto, who undoubtedly need correction. ”

“She’s worse than the nuns who used to beat me in elementary school.”

“Good. You are bigger now and need a stronger hand.”

“Hey, I’m the victim here.”

“Clark, remember one thing:  Everyone loves Pat. Nobody loves you.”

“That’s two things.”

“So it is.”

“But this is abuse.”

“Well, sometimes love has to be cruel to be kind. That’s how much she loves you, Dude.”

“With a ball bat?”

“Is it wooden or aluminum?”

“Wooden.”

“Yeah, that’s love.”

“Why do you say that?”

“You will break before the aluminum. With the wood, there’s a chance the bat will splinter in half with a good blow to your granite head.”

“And that’s okay with you?”

“Sure. Not just me, Clark. Poets sing of such love.”

“This cell phone is messing up your words. Sounds like you said something about poets love abuse.”

“Seriously, ‘Love is a many splintered thing’. Haven’t you heard that song lyric?”

“I remember Frank Sinatra singing ‘Love is a many splendored thing’….”

“No, man, they changed the lyrics for the movie version. The original, uh just wait a sec…. I’ll Google it to you… Yeah, it was a war movie, Losing Private Lyons. Dean Martin is sent to find Private Lyons, even though they love the same woman back in Toledo. Once Dean finds Private Lyons, played by Sinatra, he’s blown into bits by a land mine, and his head just lies there on the cold French landscape, looking at Dean with his eyes open; then he just starts singing as Dean Martin cradles him like a basketball…

Love
Is a many splintered thing
It’s the April rose
That only grows
In the early spring
Love
Is nature’s way of giving
A reason to be living
The golden crown
That makes a man a king

“And then the head just stops speaking as Deano blows up a Nazi machine gun nest.  See that?  Her beating you on your crown is a royal blessing on your noggin. Don’t you see?”

“I think you are messing with the words, El Capitan. Plus, I don’t believe that movie exists. I never seen it.”

“No, Bro Diddly, them’s the words. You just have to live in the world you’re in.”

“So, basically, you’re on Pat’s side again, is that it? And you’re gonna make up a bunch of lies to protect her?”

“Yep. Your side is the abyss. And you started the lying, Stubby. Look at the second verse, Broheme. It’s where Deano sings back to Frank’s head after he cleans out the nest of Nazi shooters.”

Once on a high
And windy hill
In the morning mist
Two lovers kissed
And the world stood still
Then your fingers touched
My silent heart
And taught it how to sing
Yes, true love’s
A many splintered thing

“Then he buried Frank’s head under a flat rock. It was a movie ending no one saw coming, I tell you. Do you see how the longing and the splinters are interwoven?”

“Not really. Now, I was never very good in English class, but I know when someone is pumping canal water up my ass.”

“You know, I’ve never understood that colloquialism.”

“It means you’re full of crap and you’re giving me a verbal enema.”

“Clark, that may be true, but love and splinters, that’s truth hard as a tooth. Ya know?”

“You’re not budging are you?”

“Let me just put it this way:  if Pat broke the bat over your head and you were  bleeding with half of the bat stuck in your cranium, meanwhile you have the entire assault recorded on your smart phone’s camera, the police would arrest you for bothering Pat.”

Cop 1, “He had it coming, Murphy.”

Cop 2, “Yep, surely he did, O’Malley. Let’s have a Guiness. I’ll buy.”

Cop 1, “No indeed. You bought this morning. This round is on me.”

Cop 2, “So be it. We’ll hoist a pint of Guiness for the love of Patty Girl. Aye.”

“You Irish always stick together, don’t you?”

“We have to. The world’s leaders know that if we are ever set free from Guiness and whiskey, we will rule the world. So they try and try to splinter us.”

“Uh huh. So is this going in your blog?”

“You know it is.”

“What are you gonna call it?”

“I’ve narrowed it down to Sinatra’s severed singing head or Love is a many splintered thing.”

“Yeah, I’d go with the second one.”

“Gotcha.”

345. Robbing Reality

Rawcuss Thursday to you, Blogwallowers. As you know by heart, Thursdays begin with Coffee Nation Summit, and today was no exception, nor was it particularly exceptional.  Joel was busily typing a business e-mail as the scavenging coffee crows began to roost around him like fresh roadkill. Me first. Some discussion ensued about his eulogy, which I told him earlier I had cut and pasted to personalize it for his funeral.

Groggily, “I thought you said obituary.”

“Certainly not, my august friend. Well, December friend now. I don’t pretend to know the cause or time of death. That work belongs to the crooning coroner around the corner. The newspaper will publish your obit at no charge under a picture your family will provide. They have little choice. However, I prudently wrote your eulogy before it was needed. (silky soft salesman voice) Think of it as a reverse mortgage plan that frees you to enjoy life now on your terms, knowing that an essential final need has been taken care of, so that your loved ones don’t have to face that awkward question: ‘Whazzznext?”

“Do I have to pay you now?” he inquired with hesitance in his voice.

“Of course. I don’t want to trouble your bereaved survivors with pecuniary matters when you can relieve them of that burden by paying me now.”

“Hmmmph.” Joel knew this game of verbal dodge ball was over. There was only one of him and twenty six of me, and my team had the balls.

“Well I suppose, um, I could, uh… well, look who’s here!”

Rob joined us in his sleepwalking fugue state of new fatherhood, a defenseless uncaffeinated putty puppy. He vainly attempted to make sanity chicken salad out of insane chicken poop. We weren’t havin’ none of it, nosirree!!

Steve needed to do real business with Joel and proceeded to spell his name, “Steve with a V dot com.”

Rob, “Why do some folks spell Steven with ph? What’s with that?”

“At one thyme that was how Jewish Stevens distinguished themselves from Christian Stephens. They made a Vulcan V like Spock did. It was sign language for ‘I’m Jewish Steve.'”

“Really? I never knew that.”

“You still don’t. I am encouraging you to google it and find out for yourself, Rob. Man up.”

“Oh man, why not just trust you? Wait, that’s stupid, but I don’t have time to research it. You make things hard on no thinking Thursdays.”

“It’s tough love, Rob. You’ll need to tone up as your baby boy grows. Consider this DAD CAMP for wusses.”

Next Doug shared family drama with the group as well as several well timed puns. “Joel, estate planning is a dying business.”

Steve gave us a glimpse at managing elderly parents and his obsession with Christmas lights. He’s the kind of guy who will find the bad bulb and replace it, no matter the time or cost. He and Doug shared esoteric bits of insider information on Christmas light repair [and changing diapers. “You never fan the naked baby or it will pee on you.”]

“They’re $3.98 for 150 feet at Lowe’s, for God’s sake. Just buy a new string.”

Doug continued the Christmas light repair lecture as sleep deprived Rob fought for consciousness. “You’re killin’ me. Just go to Lowe’s and get a set!!”

“See when the bulb filament burns out, there’s this connecting wire that burns out with it and then runs the current around the burned out bulb, so that the other bulbs glow just a little brighter since 110 watts are being divided by fewer bulbs. And this will go on until a tipping point where nothing will light up no matter what.”

“Christmas light Armageddon.”

“Go to Lowe’s and get two sets!! I’ll buy them. For the love of the Baby Jesus in the Manger, Stop with the lights stories!!”

“Look, Rob. You don’t have to be cranky with us. We didn’t get jiggy with your wife forty one weeks ago. That was you, Buddy. Look at me and mind meld along!”

I placed two empty 12 ounce coffee cups with white lids over my eyes like Mr. Magoo spectacles. “Listen, Blister Butt. And repeat after me,

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet…. Everybody sing it…”

“That’s not doing it for me, Supreme Commander. I need real eye contact.”

I moved the cups down to bouncing breast level and gave him the next verse,

” Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry”

“That is truly disturbing. Why not put that in the blog?”

“Okay.”

“I never read it. Why don’t you put me in it and then I’ll read that post, but you have to tell the truth.”

“Done.”

“I used to read it and then I’d feel like I wasted good productive time, so I’d rush off to do something I could feel good about, something with purpose to assuage my guilt.”

“Hey, I take that as high praise. You see, I am providing a much needed service that propels others to lead more upright, productive lives. After wandering in the black hole of Burritospecial, sojourners rush headlong toward sanity and meaning. They go out and lead lives of consequence. It’s just reverse psychology, Rob. The more unglued I am, the more you want to get your poop in a pile and glue yourself into top shape. You feel angrily invigorated to conquer your deficiencies.”

“That is truly brilliant.”

“Yup, like Christmas lights at Steve’s with a V. Or Doug with a potent pun.”

“No, no, no. I need a latte to go for my wife. I’ll see you next week, fully slept up and caffeinated.”

“Good, one day, my son, you will be a real man. And always remember,

  1. don’t fan the baby.”
  2. V is for Jewish Steve.
  3. We all need a little Christmas.”

“Got it.”

 

 

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.

252. “Call the doctor or I’ll kill you!”

I tend to exaggerate, but my wife did say something like this to me this morning. You see  a month ago she’d written on a piece of gray cardstock that my doctor’s office had called me for a follow up appointment … because she does not want to be a widow at 58, especially since I have finally learned to dance with her and show some promise for retirement. I had faithfully used that reminder card as my bookmark for the past month. She bugged me a few times and I said that I would call the office to schedule, but here I am thirty days later, senseless and defenseless. She’s worried that I may have some hidden cancer that is eating me up, metastasizing as I am fantasizing about being younger and buffer than I am. I told you that I tend to exaggerate. Now keep in mind, my blogstas, this is the same woman who once told me to unloosen my belt and unthaw the frozen roast beef. To which I replied, “You want me to tighten the belt and refreeze the meat?” The current threat is ironic, I think.  It boils down to this paraphrase, ‘Prolong your life or I’ll end it now!’ In some strange way I think I still have to unthaw that meat and I am it, and I am scared.

So this  got me thinking about other ironic communications in my life. Years ago in Sunday School class our then single gun-toting cowboy Josh was famous for saying off the wall things that would occasionally make sense. His favorite color was/is camo. His favorite shoe?  Tony Lamas boots. Favorite truck?  Dodge Ram. I don’t recall the exact conversation, but Josh offered that the devil comes on like sheep in wolves’ clothing. He meant the opposite; however, he had such a history of twisted clauses and phrases that it was anyone’s guess which way he wanted it to roll. The imagery is weird either way, but I’d never heard of herbivores skinning out a carnivore for a new suit.

That is the beauty of irony; it’s completely opposite of your expectations. Shame on you for thinking that way! Incomplete communication is the heart of many trick questions. Here’s one that occurred to me. “Which one of the following months has 30 days in it– June, July or August?”  Well, they all have thirty days, but if you push and pull a bit, you can imply that the answer ought to be June alone. And that vague gap is what lawyers drive wedges into to end contracts or nullify agreements or just to be mean.
At the coffee shop this morning the Nation was meeting in earnest. Two games of chess were played satisfactorily. (I dominated.) However, Joel, the consigliere exchequer of the Nation, was making noises behind us, two tables thither. It’s cold this morning, which got me to bust out the Eddie Bauer down jacket, affectionately known as Mr. Fluffy. Joel has a bizarre attraction to my fluffy jacket like the old Charmin toilet paper commercials proclaimed, “It’s squeezably soft.”  He has heard me say that it’s $2.00 a squeeze if I’m in the jacket, and $1.00 a squeeze if I’m not.  Anyway, we bantered back and forth about his predilection and how it meets a primal mammalian need to suckle. I offered to clip a binky on my jacket for next week so that he could have the full experience. He declined saying it was too weird. To which I responded, “Why is it okay for lawyers to pinch and squeeze their customers, but when their customers want a piece of the action, it’s a no squeeze zone?”
Ah, the suckling irony of it all!
Earlier this week, Tuesday night to be exact, I worked until 8:30 p.m. and then checked my cell phone– three texts and three voicemails. I could quickly guess that Danny’s Garage meant my car was ready, so I began walking the two blocks to pick it up, hoping that the keys were under the mat as usual. Two texts were from my wife reminding me to pick up our daughter at 8:30. One voice mail was, I was sure, her attempt to confirm why I had not responded to either text message. I’d been fully engaged with clients since 2:00 pm without any break, that’s why. I hustled to pick up the car, then the daughter, and answered another voice mail with a live phone call. It was exhausting. Guess what? My wife was upset with me that I had not texted her back a simple “ok” to confirm that I’d received her three reminders. At 9 p.m. when I was finally eating supper, I did not have room in my brain to store her complaint. So I just stared at her like the substitute village idiot.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon. As I was leaving my office to pick up the dry cleaning and go by the bank, I noticed a reminder text from my bride to pick up our daughter after her work day. Though I already knew this and had it on my calendar, I panicked and fumbled with my phone. I quickly typed “k” to acknowledge her text and avoid future pain. But my phone would not let me send that. No, technology was using me not vice versa. I tried again as I was driving, which I think is a crime unless you have just picked up 30 pounds of dry cleaning.  I missed the k key and typed “LLL”. I was screwed. The phone tried to edit me and refused to send that also. Finally I typed blindly “PLO” and sent it by mistake.  Uh, what’s the deal here? I pondered how she would interpret this error… “Are you comparing me to a terrorist organization?”
Sure enough, an hour later she called to inquire about the PLO. I told her that’s how you spell “ok” when you are driving a five speed SUV and you are scared of your wife’s retribution. Okay, I guess sometimes the truth is the best policy. She chuckled and gave me three points for the effort. “You know you could have just waited till  you got home to safely text me.”
“I know, I know, but I needed to unloosen my belt and unthaw the meat before you kill me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

248. Unrequited Political Ear Sex

I know. I know. It’s not what you’re thinking. Elections are next week and the awful, biased, insulting political ads are going full bore on television and radio. It’s all slick talk like a slimy pick up artist at a slimy bar hitting on easy but slimy marks somewhere between happy hour and closing time. All the voters get prettier at closing time, dontcha know?  Heavy humid words are being delivered with great passion to waxed and unwaxed ears alike throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Even tired nail technicians watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians” are being selectively hit on….

Click. Channel 08.

Slimy Slim, in a low sultry voice: “Hi there, Gorgeous. You don’t know me or who paid for this commercial, but Tom Wolf wants to take your guns away and raise your  taxes, Honey Bun.”

Bimbo: “Who’s Tom Wolf?”

Slimy Slim: “He’s the Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, you sexy thing. You’re like a voluptuous hoot owl when you say Who.”

Bimbo: “I don’t know what that V word means, but do we got a Governor?”

Slimy Slim: “Oh yeah. He’s my best friend and boss, Tom Corbett. You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania with Tom Corbett. You bet, Corbett.  Like a Corvette. He’s our man. If Tom Corbett can’t do it, no one can do it, you better believe it. He’s like a Chevy truck in a Viagra commercial… unstoppable old horsepower with a hemi.”

Bimbo: “That’s so cute how you turned around like a cheerleader. Ya know, I was a cheerleader back in the day in middle school. I never made it through high school, though. That New Math did me in.”

Slimy Slim: “That’s what I’m talking about, Pretty Eyes. Tom Wolf wants to bring in educational strategies that were used in Godless communist countries like New Math for a New World Order. In his geography book Iran and North Korea are tinted blue, like a subliminal message that they are trust worthy, ya know, like true blue? It’s nothing less than a left wing liberal conspiracy for one world Democrat demagogue domination.”

Bimbo: “Uh huh… I could eat some wings about now. Maybe I’ll get some subliminal cheese sauce with my regular ranch dip. Is it kinda tangy like a lime?”

Slimy Slim:  ” No, Bims. But Tom Corbett has a plan. He’s gonna remove all bad countries from his geography book and shrink the world back to pre World War II borders, return us to the gold standard, leave the U.N., and repeal all unnecessary taxes while eliminating the government deficit of 19  trillion dollars.”

Bimbo: “Oh, wow!! That’s like a lot of money. I wish I had some money. Wanna buy me a drink, Handsome?”

Slimy Slim: “Sure. Bartender!  Two margaritas, separate bills. Thanks.”

Bimbo: “Uh, that’s no way to treat a lady, Slim! You were supposta pay for mine too. Don’t you know nuthin’?”

Slimy Slim: “But Bims, it’s a cruel world and everyone must pull her own weight. Now I’m not saying I need to know how much you weigh, but Tom Corbett will cut corporate taxes and regulations that keep us all overly safe. He thinks all Pennsylvanians need to buck up and eat venison, support Penn State, marry only humans, put prayer back in school, and arm our underfunded school students with NRA approved high capacity handguns.”

Bimbo: ” I had a couple of kids once. The county took’m from me for barhopping too much while they were supposta be sleeping. I’ll never understand that. Ya think Tom can get me my kids back? The one was a girl named Kitty. The other one was a boy named Tiger. Oh we had us some good times, we did.”

Slimy Slim: “Well, Sure, Bims. With your dedicated vote, just mark the straight Republican line, I can guarantee Tom will apply the full force of the state government to your case like a hurricane whoopin’ Jim Cantore’s butt. He won’t rest until your kittens are returned to the mother cat and their litter box. No more welfare or useless things like social services and needless over-education of the electorate will stand in his way. ”

Bimbo: “Oh that’s so sweet, Slim. Um, how do you vote?”

Slimy Slim:”What do you mean? You, you just go to the designated polling place and sign the book and then mark a ballot.”

Bimbo: “Well, sure. You make it sound all easy and everythin’, but I aint never done it. Plus I lost my license for my fifth DUI, for which I still owe a pile of fines and lawyers fees. So I’ll need a ride. Do I got to bring my own pencil?”

Slimy Slim: “You mean you’re not registered?”

Bimbo: “That’s right. I’m whatcha call a political virgin, Slim. Zat make your motor rev up,huh?”

Slimy Slim: “No, this can’t be. I-I-I can’t believe I spent the last five minutes with a nonvoter cretin who can’t even bother to register. It’s too late to register because we wanted to weed out your kind from voting at the last minute. Oh the Horror!”

Bimbo: “Oh, so you’re not really interested in me as a person, huh? You just want a uptown voter chick for a girlfriend. I see. Any old slutty cretin voter will do for you. Zat it? I thought we had something goin’ on here, Mr. Cheapskate political windbag. Ya’ll ought to be votin’ for wind power farms cuz you got one right here when you open your pie hole.”

Slimy Slim: “Oh sure, talk your trailer park trash talk, Bims. You know what you are?  A loser. We don’t need stupid dyed blonde bimbos like you in Harrisburg.”

Bimbo:”Cuz ya’ll got that market covered, right?” Click.

Channel 27.

Bozo Bob: “Hi Beautiful. Heaven must be missin’ an angel… Tom Wolf wants you to have free cable t.v. and green energy made from kale grown in Pennsylvania’s abandoned coal mines,  but Tom Corbett won’t poop or get off the pot.”

Bimbo: “No, not another slime ball!!”

Bozo Bob: “Wait, don’t make me pay for another man’s sins. I’ll buy you a drink. This could be love. I’m for gay marriage, medical marijuana, and the Equal Rights Amend… ”

Click.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

240. Time is short

No time for silliness, my silly blogwillies. Get that smirk off your face and stand up straight! It’s time for sober realism. Or somber surrealism. Pick one.  It’s the end of the world as we know it…. We could say this every day, dontcha think? We do say it every day… on the news anyway. “It’s the worst case of the dreaded Ebola virus since the last one. Epidemic Domestic Violence. HIV/ AIDS. Anthrax. Epic Abuse. WMD. Chemical weapons. WWJD? Catastrophic. WWTMW. Expialadocious.” And that’s just the sports section.

 

“Oh my furry whiskers, I’m late. I’m LATE!!”

So, in order to save time and live expeditiously, we began planning our funerals at coffee summit nation this morning. Steve volunteered way too much information about his post-life needs. He expressed his wishes that the nation would function as his pallbearers, providing there were six of us, sober, and at least four capable of weight bearing loads. Dustin has a bad back but was assigned side, left duty between two taller members in good  standing. He can still call cadence without actually supporting any of Steve’s corpse’s weight, unless Steve consents to post mortem mummification. As in life, so too in death.

Steve asked that I would give the eulogy if I did not precede him in death. I am considering preceding him just to get out of that gig. What would I say, ” Steve liked pain. Amen.” Further, he requested that the pallbearers wear black suits with white shirts and black ties and dark sunglasses like Men in Black or the Blues Brothers, depending on our collective mood– high tech or old school blues. Furthermore, which is more than further, he wants Taylor Dayne’s greatest hits played at his funeral. He said his widow Robin will understand and appreciate this 1980’s touch. Well, in my journalistic effort to document her greatest hits, I found that Taylor’s real name is Leslie Wunderman. Okay? Uh, I was crushed almost as thoroughly as when I learned John Wayne’s real name was Marion Morrison. And John Lennon’s real name was John Lennon. Do you see a drift toward crisp, one syllable Nordic stage names here? But never mind; we have no time to waste. Steve is aging and we must plan his memorial. Fortunately we still have him presently carrying on across the table this dreary morning about needing to go to Vegas and be tazed. “Wouldn’t that be fun?”

“And so, let us remember him in death as we did in life. Steve liked pain, NASCAR wrecks, Taylor Dayne, lots of napkins and mindless violence. Amen. Please lower the carcass now before the shedding of the tear gas. Thank you all for coming. There will be a reception at the coffee shop following Steve’s internment, if his name really was Steve and not Rod Blogoyavich or Petroff Nogoodnovich.”

Meanwhile Gene brought his class picture from 1965 to the table for our inspection and to see if we could accurately pick him out of the black and white line up. Only the newest provisional member, David, was correct. Which means that, counter-intuitively, the longer you have known someone, the less likely you are to be able to pick him out of a childhood photo line up, thus proving once again that eye witness testimony is shady at best.

To test our theory we had Gene commit a simple crime in full view of pedestrians and commuters and then hang around for identification. He kicked the glass out of the Gypsie gift emporium door and then sat back down. Ten minutes later the Turtle Town police showed up. When they asked us if we’d seen who did it, we identified Gene and his younger version in the old class photo. The cops arrested him, thanked us and hauled him away as he tried to con his way out of it with “it was an, an, an, experiment, officer.” I hope he gets out in time for Steve’s funeral. I don’t want to carry all that dead weight alone, mummy or no mummy. I think it’s odd carrying corpses around, unless you are in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

It’s unfortunate, indeed, that life is so short that we must occasionally throw one another under the troika, as they say in Russia. But we can’t be wasting time. No sirree. However, as I consider this profound thought, it brings the entire Coffee Summit Nation’s purpose into question. Our sole expressed and implied mission is to waste time, to avoid work, and to contribute next to nothing to the greater good. I guess that’s three missions tied tightly in our one-sided napkin constitution, thus the previous troika allusion. (The original magna napkina is getting harder to read after five years in my wallet.) If this mission statement is true, then something important needs to happen soon for the Nation to continue in its false sense of urgency. We must invade another table or challenge the banker contingent to a uselessness contest. You see, three snappily dressed, snarky bankers from an abbreviated bank (M&T) stroll down to the coffee shop every day whilst we are harmlessly wasting our time. They laugh and make comments about the Nation, but one day Boy oh Boy, we are gonna go off on them like espresso steam spigots. We may have to wait till Gene gets out of jail and Lance remembers what time we meet so our numbers are in our favor.
Steve may have to postpone his funeral and take one for the team until we re-establish hegemony in the downtown community of nations. Oh, so little time and so many delusions.

232. My Personal Paint-by-Number Vietnam

So my daughter reminded me of a dark episode in my life when I was stuck with the endless paint job from hell. It was 1993, I think. Back in those days I painted houses over the summers when I was “off” from my teaching job. I had a full schedule that summer, but I received a desperate phone call from a woman I used to work with who was moving back to Turtle Town after years in Florida. You see, I had painted her last house in this area and it met with her expectations, so naturally I had to paint the local home she had just purchased. I made minor excuses on the phone why I could not possibly take on her job… the summer was nearly over, I did not have the man power, I was already tired, etc. She  pleaded. I relented. I took ownership of her imaginary problem. Never, bloggy wogs, never take ownership of others’ problems. Why? Because their problem becomes your problem times ten, and you wind up like the U.S. did in Vietnam, fighting someone else’s unwinnable battle with no dignified way out. Oh, and covered in pigeon crap from head to toe.

I believe the draft call came in August. Ellen charmed as much as she could. Could I at least come and give an estimate? My paint partner knew intuitively that nothing good could possibly come from this. He warned me. I ignored him. God bless him, he came along on the estimate to try and keep me from disaster, though he clearly stated he was opposed to the idea. Here’s the thing: the house was just fine. It was in move in shape, but the homeowners did not want the country style paint and wallpaper choices. They wanted a stark white on white theme throughout the large cape cod. The antique white paint could not remain, nor could the perfectly matched wall paper. Instead she needed a CoCo Chanel look throughout, and I was too stupid to pump my brakes, downshift and park. However, to justify myself a bit, I had only experienced success within my ten years or so of contract painting. I generally enjoyed the process and could not foresee this thing happening to me…ala the Stones “Paint it Black” song. Only my ode would be “Paint it White”. “I see an oak door and I want to paint it white. No colors anymore, I want them to turn white.”

Okay, after a  safe bid of $2500 to do the inside walls and trim, I called on two other paint crews. I had 10 experienced guys on site for most of a week. We never even got upstairs. The paint we bought at Duron just would not cover anything. Barry came to me with his concern. “Just double coat the wall”, I said. “I did already. It’s not covering.” Gulp. “Okay, give it a third coat.” I knew that the labor was far more expensive than the paint, but the homeowners had picked the brand and the anemic bright white. I was floundering. Little did I know that the flat wall paint was the least of my worries. The next day Roger came to me and said, “The trim paint is not drying.” “Say What?” He demonstrated what he meant. “Look. I painted this trim three days ago.” He ran his finger across the windowsill and the shiny paint rolled up into a ball. “Oh no!!” I’d never seen such a thing. I felt panic surge in my stomach. “Wha, wha, wha…” I could not make complete words. My neocortex was shutting down.

I was out of money budgeted to pay my crew. I thanked them and paid them for time in. My partner and I were staring at half a job ahead of us and a completely unfinished story behind us. I was angry at the paint store. I knew something serious was wrong with their paint and I went in on Monday a.m. to make my demands and threats. The regular paint store guys admitted that something was wrong with their paint. It should have covered and hardened but obviously did not. They asked me what I needed. I told them $1500 for the wasted labor, and replacement paint. They nodded and seemed  to agree with my demands. Unfortunately the next day the owner of the store dismissed all my concerns, claiming that the problem was on my side. He made the preposterous charge that I had failed to prep the surfaces and some mystery oil was preventing his paint from adhering to my walls.  Wow, I knew I was completely screwed. I had already paid out more than half of the bid for maybe a quarter of the work done. I had  a lying paint company owner in front of me and angry homeowners behind me. Plus my prophetic and pissed off paint partner was beside me. What a quagmire, a tropical swamp, a… Vietnam of painting.

Well, there it was. I had no way out but to work my way out. My partner stayed as long as he could stomach the drama as Ellen moaned and her husband kvetched. The paint store folks suggested that I use a paint hardener to firm up the bubble gum paint that lacked hardener to begin with. They could not see the irony in their retrofit. I fumed and so did the highly volatile solution. Then I had to use oil based paint on top of the hardener to guarantee results. Had we simply used the right paint to begin with, I would not have this heart ache to report to you now. Meanwhile the cranky homeowner complained of the fumes from the oil based paint while he watched the Dow Jones rise and fall daily, coughing himself into fits of asphyxiation. Ellen tried to appease him and seemed to get a measure of reassurance from my endless presence. I worked evenings, weekends and holidays well into the late fall of that year to expiate myself from my Vietnama drama. In the end I had a personal testimony of pain and suffering that rivaled Mick Jagger’s.  “I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes, I turn my head away until my darkness goes.” I wanna see it painted, painted, painted white. Oh the horror!

230. Magical Mystery Tour

Okay, this post has nothing to do with the Beatles album of the same name, I just thought you might peek in if I baited you with art and then switched you into madness. I am currently under the influence of Pink Floyd and Cream at this very intense moment and my thoughts seem to be erupting slowly like methane bubbles rising out of the decaying detritus from the floor of an intellectual swamp and then popping onto this blank canvas you are reading. Visual flatulence… could be the name of a band from Toronto that never quite made it, like Spinal Tap. Anyway, at this morning’s Coffee Nation Summit things turned and twisted uglily (yes, I’m sayin’ that) as they normally do… five wet shower curtains in the wind on a drizzly day. Each very limited man put in his unlimited input, like PGA putters put in their putts or putzes, depending on your personal preference and people group. But put or putt or putz, no one was disputin’ Rasputin or Vladimir Putin due to Article I of the Nation’s Constipation:  no politics or religion will be broached or tolerated in Summit. Failure to comply will result in a slow, painful death by pun firing squad, which may take up to six months. [Most victims of the pun firing squad actually die of dehydration since they only drink coffee during the painful firing of the puns. They often beg for a quicker death near the end. It’s a cruel and inhumane way to die and must be carried out beyond the outer limits of the Geneva Convention in caves on the north beach of Aruba, aka Pun Island, where the pun is truly mightier than the sword.]

Joel our jovial attorney was in no hurry to get to work printing counterfeit money. He stayed quite a bit longer than normal. (I hesitate to use the word normal, since that has mental health implications that we cannot justify. We are abnormal putzes. If we had an alma mater, that would be our cheer: “We are… abnormal putzes. We are…”) He had shared his thimble of wisdom for the morning and invited us all to his summer tendonitis attorneyment. You’ve probably already guessed its name:  Thimbledon. It’s a fortnight of blindfolded barristers yelling legal citations back and forth over ankle high badminton nets followed by a round of icy mojitos on the  croquet lawn. Instead of golf carts they have summer interns push them around in wheelbarrows to avoid any possible DUI’s. This year’s theme is “Liability and Libation, A Study of Contrasts”. Most attendees will never forget last year’s rousing rendition of Pete Seeger’s “If I had a margarita, I’d hammer out justice, I’d hammer out freedom all over this land” by a young member of the local bar who chooses to remain anonymous. (It was Eddie Fickle, but you didn’t hear this from me.)

As Lance arrives, Joel says, “When I see you, I have to go.” The table reassured him that there are medications that can help with his random urinary urges. He did not protest as we offered various homeopathic remedies such as corn starch and fiber supplements to balance and help him control his aging bladder. My favorite suggestion was for him to sleep with a penny under his pillow each night to pay off the bladder fairy. With a sheepish grin he thanked us.

Big Steve regaled us with his pool maintenance tips and warned us of using outdated hoses on updated pumps. Someone could be violently hosed if the couplings did not get along. (There’s a Lady Gaga joke in their somewhere.)  And isn’t that a universal truth?  This was a natural segue into the topic of war. D.J. shared his near death experience in Iraq when a nursing mother attacked him with a squirting breast. His soldier buddy collapsed at the absurdity of it all, laughing himself into a helpless state as D.J. had a tense standoff with the milk bomber. Later he wrote it up as an encounter with an IEBD, Improvised Explosive Breast Device. “She was deadly accurate with that thing. I mean it, man. I was ready  to shoot back!” Imagine his PTSD flashbacks and nightmares. Huge zeppelins spraying laser streams of 2 % milk on him as he fights against his high count Egyptian cotton sheets and shudders, “Don’t milk taze me, bro!” It’s not funny. A simple trigger of a pool pump could throw a man back into his struggle for life in a godforsaken land of booby traps… something his recruiter completely failed to inform him about. Maybe one of the Thimbledon lawyers will take his case and together they can push wheelbarrows filled with young interns around Aruba. “Mojitos for everyone.”

Meanwhile Gene sits like a disgruntled Buddha with hemorrhoids who occasionally shouts, “Shut your face!” He gives his shots at the Nation, knowing that when he leaves he’ll be subservient to Lance’s razor at the barber shop tomorrow. ” N-N-Not to be smart, but I can’t argue with a man who’s got a razor at m-m-my neck.” He’s as meek outside of the coffee shop as he is cantankerous inside it. The Nation functions as a catalyzing poop magnet for Gene, keeping him emotionally regular from week to week.  Lance sat across from Gene and was not content until he got a blast, “Shut your pie hole, you!” This outburst led to bent over contortions of laughing.

And that leaves me. The nice thing about being a blogger or the Dictator for Life of Coffee Nation Summit is that you answer to no one except your wife. So I am under no legal or moral obligation to say what I did or did not contribute to the group… unless my wife jacks me up and makes me confess. Anyway, I remember others’ silliness far better than mine. So let it be written. Let it be sung.              The magical mystery tour is coming to take you away. Dying to take you away, take you today.