Madame Tara Predicts
Those of you who have been with me from the beginning, or who have braved the early archives, may remember a certain "Madame Tara." You have my condolences. However, like a bad penny (or presidents from Texas) she just keeps turning up. Invading my fortress of solitude ('fortress of attitude' - quips M. Tara) with a crumbling papyrus clutched in her bony, ring festooned fingers, she loudly proclaims: "I have seen the future, and it is here!" She thrusts the scroll into my face and hisses: "Print this, Batty!"
I sigh, knowing full well that she has in her possession a set of embarrassing photos of yours truly engaged in a little game of "koochie-koo" with Condi Rice. So, to spare the world the visuals of that tawdry incident, I present, MADAME TARA PREDICTS - 2005:
1. The mysterious "bulge" under George Bush's suit will be revealed to be a radio-controlled ventriloquist's mechanism, under the operation of Karl Rove.
2. Weblogs, or "Blogs" will become the rage in the pre-school set, with a system of pictograms enabling the tykes to express such wisdom as "Want some candy" and "No nap, mommy!"
3. A new version of the iPod will be introduced, already filled with Rush Limbaugh radio broadcasts - enabling his followers to avoid ANY contrary thought (comes with a physician's sample of Oxycontin)
4. Pro Baseball players will start exploding from the over-use of steroid drugs, the Players Union says "there is no need at the present time to reopen the players agreement" - George Steinbrenner signs the remains of Barry Bonds to a $100 million dollar contract.
5. Superbowl half-time acts will be forced to wear Bukahs.
6. Lesbianism will take over the world, resulting in an end to war and the increased use of more sensible shoes.
7. Flippism will hold its first international "convergence", turnout will be so great that Professor Batty will have to put in BOTH leaves of his kitchen table to be able to seat everyone.
8. The Feral Cats of Anoka® will get an agent, and challenge "Hello Kitty" as the top feline merchandising brand.
9. Professor Batty will use turpentine in a futile effort to remove the sap from his posts.
10. Due to a series of lucky events, Professor Batty will temporarily be unable to stop smiling.
There you have it, gentle readers, Madame T has spoken! Thanks for all your support in 2004 and I hope that YOUR future is bright in 2005! ~ Batty
My Dinner With Andy (and Audie)
Not often enough do I have the opportunity to dine with my old schoolmates. "Partners in Crime" might be a more apt description. We had a knack for ruffling feathers in High School, but we always managed to escape without too heavy a punishment. I had done some work for a local bistro and had received three gift dinners in trade. After making the appropriate calls, we met at Audie's house for a drink and then proceeded to the cafe.
Andy was in good spirits, having gotten over a brush with ill health, and Audie was his usual impish self. It's fun to see friends change over the years, and also see how they haven't really changed at all. Still schoolboys at heart, even to the point of recalling old girlfriends, or those girls we wanted to be. I brought up the possibility, God forbid, that if any of us lost our spouses, would we be looking for another? It was, to each of us, our greatest fear. In truth, we are not the schoolboys we once were, when any meeting with the fairer sex suggested an unlimited future. No, we finally have started to act our age, I suppose.
The mirror is unforgiving. Time continues its march unabated. But our friendship endures, and when we slipped away from each other that evening, our memories endured. And when those memories fade, and our time finally runs out, only a snapshot of three friends (taken by an obliging waiter) might survive.
My Holiday Sweater
As a dedicated follower of fashion, I needed a new piece of attire to complete my winter ensemble. After inspecting rows and rows of garments, I came upon it. A cotton sweater, the likes of which the world has never seen. Even Joseph, with his coat of many colors, had nothing on this. With a wild weave, a white-on-black warp, and accents of that classic color trio - purple, turquoise and orange, I knew I would be the height of glamor. When I arrived at my sister's home for a Christmas Day soiree, I casually removed my wrap and strode to the center of the room. With the jacket flung over my shoulder and my right hand causally inserted in my pants pocket (with the thumb sticking out) I allowed myself a moment of preening.
"Where did you get that hideous rag?"
"Tut-tut, I assure you, this sweater is absolutely 'it'."
The mood of the room was tense. I detected an imminent outbreak of snickering. I had to play my trump card. It actually WAS a card that came attached to my festive adornment.
"Read it and weep, ladies and gentlemen...":
Severe eye rolling ensued. "That's really creepy" said one of the nieces.
You have just purchased a garment that is a compliment to your taste and judgement. It is unmatched for style, comfort, and quality.
Hmph. There is just no accounting for some people's lack of taste.
And I have a card.
Driving home from work...I'll be home alone tonight... #1 son is cross-country skiing in Colorado... I hope they don't have an avalanche...the weaver is staying with her mother... on her drive home tomorrow she'll be coming in on 10 at rush hour...hmmm...this traffic is strange today...it shouldn't be this backed up...oh, oh, a news chopper overhead...I'll switch on the news radio channel..."...and traffic is being diverted, highway 10 is closed between Thurston and Sunfish Lake boulevard..."that's by the Perkins!..son #2 goes there at this time of day...emergency light flashing at Main and Ferry St...I can take a right turn here and get home...pulling up in the driveway...#2 son's car is gone...better turn on the news..."a building explosion in Ramsey has killed two and workers are still looking for a third"...It's not the boy...what's on the national news?.."Deaths from the tsunami have reached 60,000, may climb much higher..."
No matter what disaster you can imagine, it's worse someplace else. I could use a little more perspective, I guess. Still, it's only natural to worry about your family. This must be one of those "joys of parenthood" that you sometimes hear people speaking of.
The grandmama who sees everything
Now then Loopy, draw three cards and place them upside down on the table. Clear your mind. Don't think at all. Concentrate.
Grandma, you know I don't believe in this nonsense...
Nevermind believe, just do it. And I never want to see you wearing make-up, you don't need it, you hear. Now, oh my, you fancy a boy.
Really now? I fancy a boy huh?
Yes, you like him a lot but you don't want us to know about it. You are very secretive when it comes to the matters of the heart.
Hmm... I see a lot of fun and adventure coming soon.
What are you talking about? You know we are going to London for Newyears, of course we will have fun and adventures.
Yes but it's going to be a lot of fun but a little bit difficult. The two of you are going to be a little bit sick. Maybe the flu, maybe stomach problems but sick you will be.
And you are going to brawl.
Well it's going to be me and mother alone together for a week, of course we are going to fight. Are you not my grandma and her mother? Don't you know us at all?
Hmm... interesting. You are going to fight over a man. Either you don't want her to talk to someone or she doesn't want you to talk to someone. There is going to be some kind of brawl between you, mark my words, but luckily it will all work out in the end.
Uhu, any more great news you want to tell me about? Maybe I'll brake my arm while I'm at it, since I'm already sick and fighting with my mother?
Nono, I don't want to tell you more... no.. don't want to tell you more about this trip. Except watch your money, I have a feeling you will spend way too much money. Both of you.
Well it doesn't take a crystal ball to figure that one out.
Loopy, I see two men here. One of them lives abroad. He is a good friend of yours. He is a very nice man. The other one is dark and I think he's foreign. Who's that man?
Uhhh, beats me.
Yes, foreign man.
There is the spending card again. Watch your money, you hear. And your mother is going to meet someone with a lot of money. Or maybe it's you but I think it's your mother.
Oil tycoon from the Middle-East?
Don't be silly. No, I don't want to tell you anything more.
Well thank you grandma, this has been very informative. I'll mind my money and make sure mum doesn't take off to Iran with some dark and handsome stranger. We'll send you a postcard.
It was -10°F. this morning. I stopped in at the feral cat colony to give the critters a Christmas treat. They all have their thick winter coats now. I just have to flick the ring on the sardine can and they start to appear. They circle around me, never getting closer than four feet, but they're not afraid - they know why I'm there - just careful. Their winter existence is based on being careful; they have to eat, but also need shelter, they need to watch out for coyotes and dogs, to respect the dominant cats, and not get hurt climbing. When the snow is wet they walk carefully, in existing tracks as much as a possible, to stay as dry as they can. After I finish dishing out the oily sardine chunks I quietly walk up the hill a bit, they don't care about me now, my function is complete. They slink from one serving dish to the next, checking for a missed crumb, and then carefully wipe the oil from their whiskers. Then they disappear, one by one, until, like Alice's Cheshire cat, only my grin remains.
Tis' The Season...
...to be frantic, Oh My God, My God, My God , My God. No time to blog... must shop for five meals in four days... buy groceries...new record for $ spent... bring home...drop bag... put away... cook almond-breaded walleye fillets for office party tomorrow... don't forget the blackberry-ginger-teriyaki sauce!… Think about the dinner tomorrow night with nephews, brother-in-law and his ana girlfriend ("its OK - she won't eat much")... then family Christmas Eve dinner Friday night... followed by Christmas Day dinner with my sisters and their broods... 300 mile round trip... then #1 son to the airport 4 a.m. Sunday morning then 500 mile round trip to sister-in-law's for another dinner... help me... I think that I have the holiday madness licked, but I never really do... anyway...
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
The Year I Ruined Christmas
Twelve years of age is an awkward age. Boys are physically still boys, but are expected to act in a more mature fashion. Girls - well they are going through the biggest change of their lives - I don't need to comment on that. But I was a boy, over-read and under-socialized, and still short, squirrelly and clueless. For some reason, this particular Christmas season, I was almost out of control. What caused this turmoil, I'll never know. Perhaps too much TV, maybe the stress of starting junior high, maybe the first few drips of hormones inflaming my Id. At any rate, by Christmas Eve, I was frantic. The presents under the tree were a nagging stimulant, my world revolved around them. I did go to bed early, so as to shorten the wait. About 2:30 A.M. I woke up. "It's Christmas! I erroneously surmised. I told myself: "Wait! It's not morning yet, no one is up." The Devil-Id voice within said: "Oh go on! You woke up on Christmas morning right? Go down and get what's yours!" I crept down the stairs, and plugged in the tree lights. The lights reflected in dozens of ornaments cast a surreal glow to the living room. Enchanting. "I'll just open one, then go back to bed." And then it was two, and three and four and the emptying of my stocking. THEN I OPENED THE FAMILY GIFT! A new family Bible. What had I done? I could re-wrap all these presents and no one would be the wiser! My sin would be undetected, I could get away with it...
"What are you doing up at this hour?" It was my mother. "Go back to bed!"
When my sisters called for me top get up in the morning, I told them "Go ahead, I've already had my Christmas." They made me get up anyway. They didn't care about what I had done, but my mother's glare convinced me that I had ruined Christmas for everyone.
Kiddy TV in the early days was cheap, live and local. The "King" of kid-vid when I was growing up was a man named Clelland Card. His show was called Axel's Tree House. It was, even by the standards of the day, humble. A tree trunk painted on canvas was the set. A goofy mustache, a railroad engineer's hat and suspenders over a striped t-shirt was his costume. He had two puppets (well they were really just furry arms with paws) Tauser the dog, and Talullah the cat. He had Carmen, the nurse, who was...a nurse. He delivered a disjointed monologue in a fractured Scandinavian accent, and told corny jokes and nonsense poems. We loved him. We copied him, we dressed like him, and when he came to my neighborhood theater, we went to see him (Axel's TV show never had a studio audience, but he did make a lot of personal appearances.) When he hit the stage all the kids went nuts. I was sitting in the front row, but off to the side. I remember how old and frail he looked, how he trembled. He did his routine, told some jokes, and was off, probably to visit another matinee at another theater.
Years later, I learned some of the details of Clelland's life. He had lost two of his children in separate accidents in the same year. He had been fighting the cancer (that eventually took him) for many years. He was fighting it the day I saw him. He continued to perform and appear until he was too weak to continue. I cried the day that Carmen announced on his show that he wouldn't be coming back.
Some saints have lived lives of example. Some saints have performed miracles. Some saints have written words of inspiration that have lasted the ages. Some saints have told corny jokes on a hokey local TV show to a bunch of kids.
"Birdie with a yellow bill,
Hopped upon my windowsill...
Cocked his shining eye and said...
'Look at the orange mama laid - BEEBOOP!'" - Clelland Card
Common Law Wife
In another lifetime, I was in what used to be called a "common-law marriage". What the heck- we were young, shared some interests, and both needed to get out of our existing families' situations. Some things about it were good: cheap rent, no TV (not even a telephone for a couple of years!) and similar senses of humor. The problem that emerged after a while was lack of growth in the personal relationship department (i.e. sex.) I tried to make a go of it, but after a while (four years!) it was pretty apparent that it was not to be. She was fairly comfortable with this living arrangement. I was miserable. I found a lover. She still stayed. Finally I insisted that we split, she moved out, and we both moved on.
Later I heard that she had "changed sides" in her sexual orientation. I HAD MADE HER INTO A LESBIAN! Well, maybe not. I never had that effect on anyone else before or since; I think she just hadn't thought about it when she "shacked up" with me. Is lesbianism the trend of the future? I think that a lot of women who would have been inhibited in a different era will be more open to the opportunity. Conversely, if you aren't "wired" that way, I don't think anything will change your perspective. The dynamic in men is somewhat different, I suppose. In this, as in many things, men are more polarized and volatile. Still, regardless of what orientation you opt for, you have to enjoy some kind of relationship with another person. I won't even comment on multiple partners or "open" arrangements. That issue is almost beyond discussion.
People get into relationships to fulfill human needs. If it works, it's good. If it doesn't work, it's not good. What is bad is not being honest with yourself - life is too short to spend years in pointless frustration.
Lesbians taking over the world?
I was sitting at work last night, enjoying a slice of pizza, with a co-worker who can easily be labeled as very odd. He was reading an article in the trashiest of the Icelandic newspapers about this girl who hooked up with a boy with a very small penis. Evidently the girl felt as she had suffered from this experience and decided to write about every little detail in her encounter with the ill equipped man. My weird co-worker found it hilarious and wanted to share his joy with me and read some of it out loud to me. I didn't find it quite as funny and told him: I will deny it to my death that I ever said this as I am the official spokeswoman of the inner pigness of men but I swear to god that sometimes I think women are worse.
He looked at me in disbelieve as if he was wondering if those words had really come from my mouth. Then he said he had actually learned about these things in psychology and asked me if I wanted to hear the theory he had studied. I was all up for it since I am sincerely interested in everything regarding the interaction between the two sexes. In so many words, this was his theory:
Well, uhhh, when girls hit puberty they don't realize that they have to start to behave differently with their male friends than they used to. So they still behave the same around them and confide in them with the same issues as before. Except the boys don't just want to be friends with them anymore and use every opportunity to score. The girls then become very bitter when they find out about the situation and start focusing on their relationships with their girlfriends. And that is why the number of women turning to other women is increasing incredibly fast. In a few years all women will become lesbians.
The first thing that came into mind was what bullshit school did he go to? The second thing was hmm... actually, I do that. I don't realize that my male friends are male and in the end they can't have friends that are girls without at least thinking about sleeping with them There may be some truth to this weird theory of his but I refuse to believe that the next stage for me, after the Men are pigs one, will be lesbianity. As I said before, it's not just men that act like idiots, people in general act like idiots.
In conclusion I have to say that sitting down to eat that slice of pizza sure did bring up a lot of interesting questions. Why are men the way they are? Why are women the way they are? Why do I have emotional maturity of a adolescence girl when it comes to men? And maybe the most important question of all, where the hell can I sign up for that psychology class? Looks like a pretty wacky place.
"Yes, hello this is Hollywood calling, is Mr. Batty in?"
Hollywood! Just the word alone conjures up images of movie premieres, with searchlights whirling behind sequined starlets stepping provocatively from their limos, smiling in the glare of a thousand flashes from the papparazzi. The camera pans up to the theatre marquee, and there it is: "Flippism - The Movie!" I knew someone would pick up on my humble blog eventually... But wait! I won't forget my long-suffering readers, they'll all have to have roles, and not just walk-ons. Little Miss L. will have to be the leading lady, of course, and Ame could be her plucky/bratty/pesky little sister (with a heart of gold.) Tykho could be an international spy and Jojo the "wronged woman". We could have something for Andy and Gary too...perhaps a good cop/bad cop team. The Descendant could be a high-powered attorney and Lab Munkay #9 could choreograph the production numbers! With a Bollywood dream sequence starring Reshma! And for a touch of class - Kristín. Would they cast me a kindy father-figure? Or perhaps as a kinky playboy - an Austin Powers who says in his best Minnesota dialect " Oh ya youbetcha, BABY!"
I am ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille.
"Mr. Batty, this is Hollywood VIDEO calling about your overdue rental, 'Herbie Goes Postal'...Mr. Batty? Hello...Is anyone there?..."
When people get angry or upset, a set of words may be used to express this displeasure. These "cross words" are meant to have an effect, either on the person uttering them or the recipient of them. Various bodily functions, genetic associations or religious blasphemies are used, sometimes interchangeably. The actual words matter little, except to possibly illuminate a darker aspect of the speaker's psyche. Is it rather a form of animal-like growling? Of primate howling? There must be more to it than that, for otherwise these "special" words could be replaced with any word, no matter how inappropriate. Or does it stem from childhood taboos on speech? I always told my children that "those" words were OK, if saved for the right time. "Don't wear them out - you might really need them someday!" They don't seem to curse (in my presence at least!) that much. It doesn't seem that religious training has too much to do with it, both pious and pagan alike use the same vocabulary.
Horsefeathers! I may never understand it.
In Croatia old ladies make a living by offering tourists a room in their home for a reasonable price. For many of them that is the only income they get all year so they try to cram as many people as they possibly can in as little space as they possible can and they try to get them to stay for as long as they possibly can. Most of their guests are backpackers who they pick up at the bus and rail stations. Getting out of a bus in a place like Dubrovnik can be a nightmare because these old ladies jump at you before you even get out and try their best to sell you the idea of spending the night in their home. The facilities they offer are as different as the ladies are many and in this as in other business deals, jumping at the first offer is not always the best thing.
When arriving in Dubrovnik, on my way through Croatia, I had planned to stay at a youth hostel. When I got there it was filled with very loud English people so I decided to give it a miss. Instead I ended up at Mama Maria's. Mama Maria was a lady of about 80 years. Her house was next to the pathway leading up to the youth hostel and she lured people into her garden by whispering to them as they were walking by. Her English consisted only of the simplest words but somehow she managed to bargain about the price and convince people her house was the best anyway.
Mama Maria had a son who was about fifty or sixty. I suspect that she saw a wife in me for him because she was from the first moment extremely nice to me. I later found out that I was the only one of her guests who got a formal introduction to the son. She even gave me dinner one night and let me sit in her kitchen and watch American television with hvratski, Croatian, subtitles. Sitting in her kitchen, eating the oily sausages and sauerkraut, is one of my favorite memories I have from traveling.
Mama Maria had a big temper and she was not everyone's favorite. There was another woman who had rooms to rent living on the bottom floor of the house and at least once I heard them screaming at each other in Croatian. I guess they had both been living there forever and this was probably not the start of the argument. They accused each other of stealing customers from the other and that is exactly what they did. When Mama Maria first got me into her garden and I told her I had to think about whether I should take the room or not the other old lady tried to steal me on the way out. "Maria no good" she said with a stealthy voice and shook her head.
She was good though. Her guests who came from places as far from each other as Iceland and South-Africa loved her and her strange behaviour. She was growing turtles in her backyard, she had a bunch of cats and a couple of hamsters in the bathroom. She wore the same blue dress the whole time I was there and she used the hands of her male guests to wipe the sweat of her forehead when demonstrating how hot she was. She washed the clothes from those she liked and it was Christmas for her when all her rooms were filled with young people who spent the evenings at her terrace getting to know each other over a glass of wine. What is there not to love? She has probably had about a million people sleeping in her home, favoring those who stay for long and giving those suitable as her daughter in law the royal treatment. Sure her furniture was odd, the beds not all very comfortable and taking a shower with the hamsters was not that pleasant but it was all a part of the experience (not to mention all the cool people I met at her terrace.) All that and so much more for lousy 100 kunas a night.
She was everything you could ask for in a promotional representative. Young, attractive in a friendly, wholesome way, not the least bit cheap or sleazy. Well dressed, but not showy. She explained to me what her "job" entailed. She would just go to her regular haunts: bars, nightclubs, dance venues, and be friendly and strike up conversations and hand out samples. The pay was so-so, but she would be going out anyway. In some places the bartenders were in on it too, so she would get free "drinks" of soda-water or mixer, so she wouldn't even have to by anything. How could she go wrong?
"So, what exactly is this 'product?'" I asked.
"Cigarettes, silly - what else?"
After you have buried a few of your friends who died of lung cancer, it just doesn't seem like such a good deal anymore. "Cancer Girl" is not a good thing to have on your Karmic resumé.
Pica - an abnormal desire to consume non-food items
My maternal grandfather, "Charlie Arn", as he was called by the locals, was a man of few words. Taciturn would be an understatement. Nevertheless, one summer when I was about ten, I spent a few days with my grandparents and got to know the patriarch a little. He took me to "town" in his 1951 Chevy and while there we went to the grocery, hardware and the creamery ("Grade AAA butter here, boy, not many in the state can say that".) At every stop, an old friend of his would nod, perhaps exchange a few words in Swedish, and not much else. Later, after we returned to the homestead, we walked along the road aways. He reached down and pinched a bit of the dirt from the road and swallowed it. "A little bit of dirt is good for you, boy, good for what ails you...but not city dirt, just good country dirt. "
Well, a ten-year old has a lot of trouble processing that information. I've always had that little nugget of wisdom in the back of my brain. Maybe I'll eat dirt someday. Or maybe not.
As in the creeping, gut-tying, "Woke up this mornin' and I was feeling lowdown" - P. 'Blues Boy' Batty, 1927.
I knew I should've gotten that flu shot. Oh wait...I wasn't in a "target" group. Live and learn. If this is my last post, I want someone to avenge my death! Tommy Thompson! You can run but you can't hide! I'll just crawl back to my couch and wonder how I will get my job at work done tomorrow ON THE BUSIEST WEEK OF THE YEAR! Well, my machine is closest to the loo...
As a feckless youth, many a fine summer's day was spent on the shores and in the water of the mighty Mississippi river, literally a stone's throw away from my boyhood home. We were always warned "stay away from the river" and drownings, although not common, were by no means rare. In the middle of July the water would usually be quite low, so that most of the river, excepting the main channel, was 3 or 4 feet deep. This was the time for drifting. We'd put on our old tennis shoes and shorts, a ripped t-shirt and last year's baseball cap and hike a couple of miles upstream. There we'd wade in about a third of the way across, and drift down with the current, bouncing off the bottom for several miles until we reached Old Camden, where the long abandoned shingle mills once stood. There were sand bar islands there, with rope swings, or if we did brave the mainstream and cross to the other side, the city waterworks. We would climb the scaffolding above the water intake, and dive into the only really deep part of the river.
We weren't totally reckless, we learned respect for the river, we learned the signs of a sunken tree that could trap you underwater, the hazardous current by the islands, and we learned to most important lesson about swimming in a river:
Always go with the flow. It's too hard to swim against the current. If you want to cross, aim downstream, let the river push you, and take your direction where it will let you go. Watch out for hazards, keep your wits about you, but don't fight it. You'll get where you want to go, but not by the shortest route. It is dangerous and you will get a little muddy but that's the joy of it.
There is a thin line, it seems, from being painfully single to not quite as single. It sort of sneaks up on you and you don't have enough time to fully respond to the situation. You are not exactly un-single, or in a relationship as you would call it, but still you are totally wrapped up in getting to know someone you didn't even know existed a short while ago.
For a control freak like me, not knowing where something is headed is the worst thing that can happen. Going with the flow, taking it easy and seeing where things will take me is just not something I do. Except when I'm traveling, which really is the only time I truly should know where the hell I'm going but that's a different story. I need to know where I'm going, how I'm going to get there and preferably whether or not there are going to be any stops along the way. I need to know how, when, why and what for. Everything less than that is unacceptable, which when I think about it is probably a contributing factor to the painfully single state I had gotten myself into.
I'm in the process of going down a deep and mysterious river and I don't know my destination yet. I don't have a life jacket or anything and hardly even have a raft to hang on to. All I know is that something is pushing me away from the banks and that force is stronger than the fear I have inside of me. All I can hope for is a smooth journey and that I will somehow manage to cope with the stress that comes with not knowing.
This is not fair, I should at least get a helmet or a life vest.
As a first grader, I had a crush on a pretty little girl with deep brown eyes. I got over it, but when I was in fourth grade we moved to a different neighborhood (same school however.) Now I lived just down the block from the girl, and so I saw her often, playing in front of her pink house. She lived there with her grandmother, mother and sisters. This was a little unusual in the fifties, still, I never gave it much thought. In junior high the girl "blossomed", and she received a lot of attention from the older boys. I watched from afar. In senior high she was one of "those" girls, whatever that meant. I hardly noticed her at all. The pink house always seemed to have guys hanging around.
Years later, she worked at the same place I did. She still lived at the pink house. She was not a girl anymore, and had probably spent a few-too-many nights at the neighborhood bar. Later still, my father moved out of his house and I went back to get it ready for sale. The pink house down the block was still pink; there was a new generation of boys was hanging out. I wonder about this - that our lives started out the same, but somehow she never made the break to a life of her own, away from that pink house.
"For tonight's lecture I will expound, nay—I will enlighten, those in attendance with a veritable cornucopia of ..."
"I daresay my good fellow! I am in the midst of a VERY IMPORTANT POST."
"Yeah right. You know why I'm here."
"I do not, sir! You have me at a distinct disadvantage."
"See this badge?"
"The language police! However did you find me here?"
"You've been spreading your trashy little 'blog' around pretty freely, bub."
"I thought no one would find me here, it's...it's...only a harmless little..."
"HARMLESS? We're wise to you Batty, we know your sneaky little ways."
"Oh you started out real nice, clever short posts, pithy, then the verbiage started piling up, just like a regular Stephen King you are, soon it will be two posts a day, then a chapter, then a novella. Who's gonna want to wade through that?'
"You're right. I'm just a word-processor-windbag. What can I do?"
"I am not that kind of guy!"
"Do I have to spell it out? 'Keep It Simple, Stupid'. Use one sentence instead of six. Get to the point. Make every word count. "
"That's it, now you remember."
"I'll try to do better..."
"And lay off those annoying ellipses. Just try ending a thought for a change!"
"O.K.. Are you finished?"
"Just one more thing, wiseguy - remember this - there's probably a lovely young English major out there somewhere that you have been warping with this 'Flippism' baloney. Or an ESL reader that might get some wrong ideas from your 'clever' wordplay. Just watch it, petey! Because we'll be watching you!" (leaves room)
"Er. Ah. Class dismissed!"
Ok, this one will have the names, dates and places not only changed, but omitted. For some reason beyond my understanding, every autumn Pseudo-Renaissance style fairs are held at various locations around the country. This gives work to unemployed actors and underemployed crafters. Everyone dresses up in flowing robes and gowns, buskins and bodkins, with an occasional codpiece thrown in for good measure. There are various entertainments, some actually quite clever (Penn and Teller played this circuit for many years). But there is always the village lout (idiot?) whose job it is to insult the unsuspecting rube.
On this particular day (some time ago) a newly engaged couple, happy in their prenuptial bliss, were strolling through the "village" and were beset by the aforementioned lout. Within moments (and with the help of the groom-to-be) he had the fair damsel in the stocks, and made her the butt of ridicule, much to the amusement of the gathered crowd (and the groom-to be.) After what seemed to the fair lady to be an eternity, he freed her.
Now let us pause here. What would your reaction be to this situation if you were her? You could be gracious, or flustered, or mad or a bit of each. Perhaps you would also find it funny as well.
Not our fair lady. Seeing the crowd, the lout, and her betrothed all still laughing, she calmly straightened her clothes, turned, and began walking. She stopped walking when she reached her car. She got in the car, locked the doors and drove home. 300 miles.
The groom-not-to-be was left with his new "pal" the oh-so-funny lout. That was the last time he saw her.
My afternoon constitutional led me past a local church. It was having a bazaar in the basement, church members were selling their handcrafted items to raise funds for a sponsored family. I went in - I don't know why, I'm not much on that kind of thing, but I went in nevertheless and found myself among tables of gift items, jewelry, and other nice, but unremarkable goods.. There was a selection of fine ceramics, I just didn't need another vase or jar. The kitchen was operating, the scent of meatballs in gravy filled the stifling air. I couldn't put my finger on it. Why did I feel so alienated to the otherwise "normal" scene?
Later, I figured it out. It was as if I had been in someone else's home. People I didn't know, and didn't have anything in common with. They all knew each other, of course, probably too well, faces weary of years of bazaars and bake sales, baptisms and confirmations, marriages and deaths. It was a closed world, and I was the stranger in a strange land.
It is amazing, considering I never really do anything, how incredibly little time I have these days. It runs from me like a hunted animal and there is no way I can keep up. I think so much about all the things that I have do that I never actually have the time to do them. I don't know what to call that but I do know it's a very typical "Little Miss Loopy" kind of a problem.
The bass playing toilet paper thief, my next door neighbor, has decided with my alcoholic landlady upstairs that it's a good idea to drill through my wall. He doesn't have a socket to plug in his TV and I do and apparently the best solution is to drill through my wall. I'm not whining about this because I don't want to do the poor guy a favor but I already hear everything that goes on in his room and I don't think a hole through my wall will do either of us any favors in the privacy department.
I lay in bed last night trying to sleep but like usual my overproductive brain kept me awake. I started thinking about this guy that I was sort of seeing a couple of months ago and whether or not I had made a mistake chucking him. Well I didn't really do a good job getting rid of him because he kept calling me and sending me text messages for about a month after I said good bye, but the idea anyway was to not see him again. Then one day he just stopped. I am pretty sure that I did the right thing but at the same time I miss him. Actually I think I miss the thought of someone fancying me more than I miss him. It's just hard knowing someone as beautiful as him and overall a good person is out there waiting for me to come to my senses when I know in my soul that getting involved with him would be a huge mistake. I fell asleep thinking about him. When I woke up this morning I saw that I had got a message early this morning. Hey, how are you? It was from him.
I've been smiling all day.
The Gift Beyond Price
After reading Lab Munkay's latest bit of domestic hilarity (she is one FUNNY Munkay!), I remembered a not-so funny trick of my dad's.
First, get a small, trusting child. Induce this little cherub to peer up a coat sleeve by saying "You want to see stars in a coat sleeve?" As the child looks, and waits, you quickly pour a glass of water down the sleeve.
Actually, now that I think about it, this was probably what passed for entertainment in the depths of the depression. "Make your own fun". Munkay has the right idea. Any excuse to wrassle, dance or otherwise amuse your self and your kids when they are young is a gift beyond price.
If this were unique, or had a twist, or if it wasn't in the least bit predictable, this would make for a better tale. Frankie P, northside boy-singer-guitarist-wiseguy-skeptic, died ten years ago. A motorcycle accident, the curb was harder than his head, left behind three adolescent kids.
But it was more than that. Speedballs, horse, who-knew what else. In his last few weeks he was burning the candle at both ends and in the middle. I never thought it would happen to him...his critical eye should have kept him away from all that, but in his own words "I just can't get high enough."
Oh Frankie! How we miss you.
As in signal to noise. In communication theory, signal is meaningful information. Noise is not. Unless we sit quietly in a dark cave all day, we are bombarded with signals and noise. The human brain has evolved to be able to separate the two, eat or be eaten. In the modern world, the increase of abstract and artificial signals has exploded to the point where almost all of what we process is now noise. There are ways to deal with this. Meditation and other mental disciplines can create a haven where the self can focus on "the signal".
Curiously, many people enjoy the noise, and embrace it. When the signals one perceives as important are negative or intolerable, the temptation to escape them, through drink or drugs is almost irresistible. The noise blocks out the signal (if only for a while) but at a cost. Intolerance and hatred can supply a signal, if the recipient focuses only on that message, any other information becomes noise and is ignored.