Friday, March 31, 2006

Death Of A Thousand Cuts

Cut myself today. Dumb. I may not have had a thousand cuts, but over a lifetime it's starting to add up. I cut that spot on your hand that has no name (at least in English) about an inch behind the base of my left thumb. Deep. Five stitches and it didn't hurt a bit. Till now. It is going to be one of those throbbers, I can tell already. I'll just call this one #756. That leaves me only about 9 or ten cuts per year until I croak. I'll try not to make a habit out of this.


Comments: 2


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Single Girl, Married Girl

Single girl, oh single girl
She's gawn anywhere she please
Married girl, oh married girl
Got a baby on her knees


With these lyrics the Carter Family defined the status quo in 1927. This simple song deals with the defining issue that divides the sexes...

Single girl, oh single girl
She goes to the store and buys
Married girl, oh, married girl
She rocks the cradle and cries


So who's watching the kids? A mother is a mother, no matter what the circumstances are. The biological imperatives are often lost (or ignored) by the father...

Single girl, oh single girl
She lays in bed 'til one
Married girl, oh, married girl
She's up before the sun


The party is over. Not really, if a couple decides to work together on childrearing. But a faithless, absentee father is more than merely selfish. He is cruel...

Single girl, oh single girl
She's looking for a man
Married girl, oh, married girl
She's got her wedding band


And why is it that single girl is looking for a man? And what, exactly, does the married girl have, besides her wedding band? Sara Carter had it figured out. I wouldn't presume to present such a bleak view of matrimony, but some truths in life are like cod-liver oil- unpalatable, but good for you.


Comments: 2


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Here Kitty, Kitty..."

I lost someone.

A three pound grey and black striped feral cat.

Answers (in his fashion) to the name of "Buster".

I've missed him at the colony over the last couple of months. That's how it goes there, you get a pretty good sense of the regulars, and then one day you realize that there are one or two that don't come around anymore. The colony has been thinning out. From an actual count of 24 all together at one time, it has dwindled to the point that you are lucky to see a dozen. Since the neutering project began there are no more kittens. Only one new stray has appeared over the winter. So it goes. This wasn't a particulary hard winter, but accidents do happen. Buster was, for a feral, quite sociable. Perhaps someone took him home (not a good idea- he was friendly but hardly tame) or maybe a dog or coyote got him. I'll give the colony two more years before it is extinct.

I can't get all mushy about a stray cat. He was able to live his life as he chose, people fed him, and now he has faded from view. As we all must, eventually. When I was at the colony today, the finality of it all started to sink in. I asked the other cats: "Where's Buster?" They had already forgotten him- or if they did remember him they weren't talking. That is their way.

"Here kitty, kitty..."


Comments: 1


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Obsolete.

I just can't help but wonder if she will play with your hair like I did, make you collages, write you poetry, think about you when they watch the sunset, yell at you for smoking, listen to your heartbeat with a devotion so strong as to count every beat towards the minute like I did.

But I made all of that obsolete when I left, didn't I?

Everything happens for a reason.
If I didn't know that I'd go insane.


Comments: 0


Monday, March 27, 2006

"Don't Make A Scene"

He hissed.

She had just said, in a very loud, clear and steady voice: "So that's what it is, you're ashamed to be seen with me?"

She was an attractive, 30ish woman. Not petite, but nothing near an unhealthy weight, especially considering her above average height.

He was a bit shorter than her, perhaps it seemed that way because he was acting small- and if one were to describe his appearance as an animal type one might pick weasel.

Was it her attire? A black stretch v-neck sweater, complimentary, not revealing. She was "womanly", no denying that pleasant fact. They were going to Menards.

I left this little melodrama that was taking place in the parking lot of that home-improvement store- I had seen this play a few too many times before. There is a sub-class of men who seem to enjoy publicly humiliating "their" women. When I was working nights in the University district years ago, there would often be shows like this, especially near the frat houses. The weaver and I overheard one of these dialogues while hiking along a hedgerow in West Sussex one fine summer's day. The man seemed to think that an error in gardening by his spouse deserved a full dressing down. I've never fully understood these cheap theatrics about inconsequental issues that some men (and women as well) seem to relish. Of course it is really about something else altogether- the need for dominance in a sexual relationship.

Recently, there was in interview on TV with a couple that had been married 82 years. The question that you knew would be asked was asked: "What is the secret of being happily married for so long?"

The woman's answer was quick and concise: "He never put me down."


Comments: 0


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hippies In The Heartland



In 1970, the year after Woodstock, dozens of rock festivals sprang up in the US and other parts of the world. This was IT- the Youth Revolution, or as close as we got. In the small town of Iola, Wisconsin (near Steven's Point), some unknown entrepreneur threw together a three-day (THREE DAYS, MAN!) festival with a big, if somewhat thematically diverse, line up. Buddy Rich's big band, Chuck Berry, Ravi Shankar, Ted Nugent, The Paul Butterfield Band, and many other regional and/or "almost famous" acts (Ides of March, Crow, Terry Reid, etc.)

   What the concert lacked, however, was any form of structure, police or security. A tent city sprang up, with a "dealer's row" of drug merchants offering up just about anything you could desire (morphine suppositories, anyone?). A Chicago-based motorcycle gang thought this would be a good place to intimidate, harass, and rape women (there was a shoot-out Saturday night that caused the whole crowd to move as one, driving out these miscreants.) There were lighter moments too, however, as the blissed out flower child in the photo above suggests. Afterwards, all festivals were much more strictly run; beer and booze replaced pot and acid (well, not entirely) as the drugs of choice, and the Upper Midwest's summer of love was soon forgotten, replaced by heavy metal "Edge Fests" for the rockers and "We Fests" for country music fans.


Comments: 1


Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Woodshed



This was part of my grandparents' barn, which in itself was a combination garage/chicken coop/outhouse/hayloft/cowbarn and, added on to the south side, this woodshed. The cows were long gone, the chickens were gone by the time I turned 8 or 9, but the barn remained an endless source of fascination for this city-boy. When I got older, I would spend a good deal of time there, splitting wood to be used in the cookstove. To be among those rough, hand hewn timbers, with the smell of the freshly split wood filling my nostrils, and having my grandfather's time-worn tools hanging about me- it was as if I had entered into a different world, far away from the "modern" life I lived at home.


Comments: 2


Friday, March 24, 2006

Scratch 'n Sniff

Thumbing through The New Yorker magazine today, I became intrigued by one of those perfume inserts- you know the kind- where you put your nose up to the page and it smellls just like - INK! Then you realize that you have to open a flap, or scratch a spot, and then it smells just like CHEAP PERFUME AND INK!

Through the miracle of internet technology, I've created two such scratch 'n sniffs for your olafactory delight:


for Macs= "Eau de Jobs"


for PCs= "Gatesian Dell"

They should smell just like your favorite display! (hint: lick finger to enhance aroma!)


Comments: 0


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Most Popular

As the two year anniversary of Flippism Is The Key approaches, your humble host takes time to reflect on his efforts. Lord knows I try to mix it up, I think that some of my better efforts are those that I re-read that cause me to say to myself: "I wrote that?" Disregarding my own impressions, the #1 Google hit on my site is "Mel Jass." It isn't even close. The words "Mel" and "Jass" combined get more hits than "Flippism" itself. Usually I get a couple hits on Mr J. per week, lately it has been more like a couple hits a day. He hasn't been in the news, the last I heard of him was that he was still dead.

My original post told a small story about this local TV personality, and gave a little bio of his life and work. I've followed up on Mel myself- I have yet to read anything bad about the man. My former co-worker, M. Hansen (the ne plus ultra "it girl" of the swingin' sixties) actually stomped on his wing-tips once, HARD, just to see if he would show his mean side. No way. He was cool. (So cool in fact, that he had a bit role in an "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episode.)

And so, as with most things Flippist, I can't explain it. But also, as with most things Flippist, I'll write about it, in the hopes that I'll receive some blinding flash of insight, or a least a gift certificate to The Furniture Barn (one of Mel's sponsors.)


Comments: 3


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mellow Yellow

"Electrical banana
Is gonna be a sudden craze
Electrical banana
Is bound to be the very next phase
They call it mellow yellow
(Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow
(Quite rightly)"
- Donovan


In the summer of love (1967) one of the grooviest cats was Donovan. His paean to the hallucinogenic powers of smoked banana peels (note to younger readers: I am NOT making this stuff up!) enticed this young thrill-seeker to try it out. This was the way I heard it:

  • peel a banana
  • scrape the inside of the peel
  • bake these scrapings in a low oven until crumbly
  • smoke the residue in a pipe
  • get high


  • Not very likely.

    Although, an awful lot of people tried this. Some will even admit to it.

    Then the Coca Cola company made a soda pop with that name. It had a pretty good dosage of caffeine, but was about as good as those peels were for consciousness-expansion. The "Mellow Yellow" craze of the sixties became a national brand in the seventies. But Donovan himself has been making a comeback lately. Quite rightly.


    Comments: 2


    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Southern Exposure

    In a tattered cotton flannel shirt, a boy stood on the back steps, basking in the sunshine.

    It has been a long, dismal winter. It had seemed to him that winter would never end. He always felt cold around the "edges"- his gloves let the snow chill his wrists, his cheap, thin soled shoes turned his feet into blocks of ice long before he made it home from school every day. The house had its share of cold corners too, and his bed was in the coldest room of the house. He was still of an age when he spent most of his time on the floor, with his toys or just watching TV. He would become aware that he was quite numb after a few hours of this. He asked his mother if spring would ever come. "Of course, silly," she smiled, "just a few weeks longer."

    And then, one day, the snow was nearly gone. Birds had been seen flying by the window, and the boy went outside without his jacket. Spring had returned, and the sun warmed the boy through his cheap clothing. The dreary, cold ache left his body as he walked out into the side yard; where the southern sun had melted the snow and was now calling to the crocuses and tulips- "Come out! Come out of your winter hideaways."

    And the boy heard this also, and he was glad.


    Comments: 0


    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Working

    Everybody's working.
    A lot.
    Around the world.
    Jackie Wilson said: Baby, baby, workout.
    And so she does.
    This is that time of year,
    (at least in the northern climes)
    When all those indoor things,
    Those things that you said you were going to do this winter,
    They have to get done NOW.
    Spring is here.
    And the spring chores are almost upon us.
    And then, the summer, when livin' is easy.
    Right.
    Work baby, work out.
    Work out.
    Work out.
    Work all night long.
    Yeah.


    Comments: 0


    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Four Women

    Attended a birthday party today. The honored one was turning fifty. She was part of a group of girls that had gone to school together, partied together as young women, and now that they are turning the half century mark, still remain close. When I was younger and single, for one wild year, I was on the fringe of their "group". They took me along on a few of their adventures, even christened me "Alice" so as to symbolically make me "one of the girls". Outside of a fair amount of drinking and herbalism, it was pretty much good clean fun. I had even taken the birthday girl on a date once, but nothing "happened". We all got along, it was good to be in a low-key, non-sexual relationship with all of them. Later, as we were "married off", those days were put behind us.

    At the party today four of those "gal-pals" were reunited. They are still close; I had a sense that this party, or rather this reality, was due to and sustained by that friendship. The guys that were involved with them (the rock band we were all in), still see each other once in a while, but in sort of a parallel universe- some of the guys ended up marrying some of those girls. The ones that had relationships but broke up with the girls tended to drift apart from the guys as well. At the party, among the women, there was a bit of blouse-flapping going on, but at fifty that's only to be expected. They all looked great. I was really struck by how socialized we had become. The raw, rough punks, the beastie boys that we once were, had been tamed by these beauties. Love works its wondrous charm in mysterious ways.


    Comments: 2


    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Penny Candy

    A phenomenon of my early childhood was the neighborhood candy store. Even smaller than a true mom-and-pop grocery, the candy stores were often in a front room, or a side porch, glassed in and set up with a display case or two with boxes of "penny candy" propped up inside the box cover. Some had a cooler for soft drinks, most did not. They were usually staffed by older women, retirees, who used the stores as a source of supplementary income.

    In 1955, when I started Kindergarten, I began to discover these places as I started to explore the world beyond my block. There was one such place on my way to school, just a twelve-foot-square room lit by a dim overhead light, run by a dowager who lived in the back room and would come out when she heard the bell on the door tinkle as the door was opened. I would go in, with my two or three pennies, and carefully select my purchase from the cellophane wrapped goodies in the case. Some candies came four or five in a tube, if I had a dime I could get a small candy bar along with gum, jawbreakers, malted milk balls and even some "Lik-em-aide", a packet of industrial chemicals and sugar that would burn your tongue if you tried to eat it all at once. Which you always did.

    One day, when I didn't even have a penny, I went in and asked if she had anything thing that was free. I had evidently become aware of the concept of "free samples", and I thought that it might work here. She scowled at me, and then, as I looked sad but adorable, she relented, and gave me one hard candy that was normally three for a penny. I said thank-you, and left.

    Of course, this kind of activity had its price- which my parents paid at the dentist's office. This was before fluoridated water, or fluoridated toothpaste, and I usually had a cavity or two every six months. Thank goodness for baby teeth!


    Comments: 0


    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Question

    Has maintaining a blog improved my life? -a question from Reshma

    Long Answer:

    The Word and the World.


    When I was growing up, "The Word" meant the Bible (and as I was later to figure out- whatever those who held power over me thought was right.) Sometimes the Word was right for me, sometimes not. Sometimes the Words from other sources were more appropriate for me, at any given time. The "blog thing" has shown me that "The World" is full of "Words", some trivial, some truthful (but never completely "true") some just plain mean. But the difference between these kinds of words and other kinds, such as those in journalism and literature, is the feeling I get that "The World" is really just one mind, a mind that has been fractured and compartmentalized but is now just starting- in really a very small way- to integrate. This will improve everybody's life.

    The Space Between Us All.

    Why shouldn't the ideas of a college student in Korea, an anorexic school-girl in England, expatriates in a variety of situations, a woman without a man, and yes, a computer-systems expert in India, be given equal consideration, as much consideration as mainstream media is given? These bloggers, and too many others to enumerate, have shrunken the distance I had allowed to grow (through laziness as much as anything) between myself and the five billion other souls out there. Can blogging solve the worlds ills? Of course not. Has this closeness improved my life? Of course.

    Male and Female.

    The eternal riddle. It is life itself, unless you are some asexual plant or bacterium. The barriers between men and women are not always bad, some things about being human are arguably beyond understanding. But the effort to connect, the dance, so to speak, is a wondrous thing unto itself. To be able to see, if only for a minute- if only just a small part of the whole- those inner lights in the opposite sex, to use those lights to illuminate the darkest corners of your own being; that experience makes my life better. Immeasurably.

    Knowledge and Understanding.

    Lots of the former, not so much of the latter. Certainly the central problem of my life, if not of many others. Reading other peoples' thoughts on issues, and especially following individual blogs for a period of time, has given me a chance to understand things that are hard to grasp in other ways. Of course, as anyone who has read FITK at all knows, I have an interest in Iceland. I'm developing an interest in India. And the UK has always held a special place in my heart. It is interesting to note that these countries (along with Canada) are the ones (after the USA, of course) that read FITK the most. This two-way activity has been most gratifying- and when I realize that peoples from around world are reading, I feel inspired to write a little better, in the hope that I can give someone else a little better understanding, in the same way that I receive virtually every day. And anything that inspires me to write (and write well!) is a good thing.

    All Together Now.

    So, we're all in this thing together. The good thing about blogging is that once you start to figure it out, there is always someone else out there, someone who may compliment your outlook on life, help complete it, challenge it, or even change it.
    I still get those moments when I'm stunned after reading a particular blog post. I've had many, many great moments reading blogs, and still more experiences of a subtle nature- realizations that come only after having followed a blog for weeks and months. That feeling is probably more akin to friendship, albeit virtual. I really respect anyone that has stuck it out, and kept writing, striving, trying to connect.

    Short Answer: Yes!


    Comments: 2


    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Broken Hearted Melody

    In the living room sits a CD player - Radio. A fine product, made by Sony, in a designer style with a faux birdseye-maple finish, a remote control and a variety of features, most of which are never used. You see, the infernal gizmo is a music critic. Whenever I wish to relax with a fine quality music CD, I put on my smoking jacket, my slippers and grab my (bubble) pipe, and pop in a disc. All's well, the room pulsates with beautiful music (MegaBass™), and as those bubbles float to the ceiling they pop- and my cares with them.

    And then, with notice or pattern, the CD players turns the music off. It happened once in a while at first, then more often, and now I'm lucky to get 10 minutes of music. It must not appreciate my taste. I'm thinking about getting a new one. With my luck, it will be as fickle as the Sony, and my heart, like those bubbles, will be broken again. Appliance romance- doomed from the start? Next time I'll get a Samsung.


    Comments: 0


    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Ambivalence

    For some, sailing is a way of life. Make that life itself. Not for me. Stuck on a boat with no way off. I've been that fix a few times, with my sister and brother-in-law. A very nice 30 foot sailboat, with sleeping for four (or six, if you don't mind the sky for a roof), a galley and a head. We sailed Lake Pepin, a large and wide stretch of the Mississippi river, between Wisconsin and Minnesota, about 60 miles south-east of the Twin Cities.

    After getting prepared for our voyage, we motored out of the Marina, past the quay, and then set our sails, wherever the four winds would take us. Out in the lake. I explored the boat, aft and stern. Water all about. Took sailing lessons. Water all about. Dodged swinging booms and swirling , hissing ropes. No way off, water all about. Went below, tried to take a nap. Claustrophobic cabin all about. Got up. Drank some beer. Ate some sandwiches. Water was all about with no way out. Suffered sun and wind burn. Allergies acted up. No where to go for relief. Tried to read. Still in the same place, stuck in a boat with no way off. Other boats went by, we had to "race" them. Still stuck in the boat. The wind died. REALLY STUCK IN A BOAT WITH NO WAY OFF!

    Hours later, we limped back to the marina. Docked the boat. Went ashore. Met some interesting people. Went to a delightful restaurant and had wonderful food in pleasant surroundings. Strolled about town, took some pictures, watched the sun set over the water.

    I enjoy being in a canoe. You can paddle here or there, you usually can get out along the shore, explore things, take a leak, go back and paddle some more. A small fishing boat is fun too- and you can catch your lunch! But not a big boat, with little to do, water all around and no way out.

    I went sailing with them a few more times. One time the wind was blowing pretty good ("a freshet") and the boat was about six inches away from capsizing. I was sure I would be a headline in tomorrow's paper- "P. Batty drowns while boating". Fun for some, not for all.

    Ambivalence was the name of the boat.


    Comments: 0


    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Five Times Five

    Tagged again, this time from Reshma:

    5 things you may not know about where I live:

    1. Anoka is an American Indian name meaning "on both sides" (the town straddles the Rum River.)
    2. Anoka is "the halloween capital of the world" (self-proclaimed.)
    3. Anoka is the hometown to former Miss America Gretchen Carlson.
    4. I live in a house that is almost 120 years old.
    5. There are no decent restaurants in my town.

    5 things you may not know about my personality:

    1. I cry watching award shows.
    2. I get very quiet when I'm with people I adore.
    3. I get angry over some things that mean little to other people.
    4. I can't stand the sound of my voice when I talk too much.
    5. I still get a thrill from being with my wife.

    5 things you may not know I would really like to have:

    1. A Jaguar automobile.
    2. A cat (allergies).
    3. A cabin on a river.
    4. A lifetime pass on Icelandair.
    5. A big party for all my friends (both real and virtual.)

    5 things you may not know that I really hate:

    1. The ten pounds I gain every winter.
    2. Microsoft.
    3. Any Tony Danza sitcom.
    4. Being stuck on a boat for any length of time with no way off.
    5. GWB and all his cronies.

    5 embarrassing fannish admissions:

    1. Blogger (answer stolen from RS- but true.)
    2. B&W Russ Meyer movies.
    3. Björk (oh, but you already knew that!)
    4. Bettie Page.
    5. Bruckner.


    Comments: 4


    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    Sixth Sense

    "...the dismal fate of blogging: it renders the word even more evanescent than journalism; yoked, as bloggers are, to the unending cycle of news and the need to post four or five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence."- Trevor Butterworth

       Financial Times journalist Trevor Butterworth's recent article about blogging is fairly well reasoned, in as far as it goes. I get the sense that he's kind of missing the point of the cultural impact of what the "blogosphere" is creating. His article concentrates on "professional" (or wanna-be professional) bloggers and their relationship to professional news journalism. I'll certainly agree that his arguments about news and opinion blogs (Lord knows I've tried to read "the big guys" and I absolutely cannot fathom why anyone would want to read that fluff- although the same holds true of regular journalists who write without naming sources- heaven forbid one might have to read a footnote!)

       My interest in blogging is in personal impressions of life and culture. Of course, most blogs are just about worthless for usable information. But many offer insights to the world that previously were only available through inspired novelists, poets and playwrights. The human condition, as seen by these intrepid pioneers (and pioneers they are- we've gone from 15,000 blogs in 2002 to nearly 30 million today- who knows how many in 2010?) is the subject, not selling of information in a controlled media. The key point that Mr. Butterworth misses is that this type of information, once lost in daily conversation or personal diaries and correspondence, is now available to a world audience because of search engine technology (ie: Google). And because of this immense indexed database, people are allowed to find their own information, directly from the source, in great detail.

       A simple example of this would be travel and trip planning. Anyone who has been frustrated at the glossy and shallow information in most travel promotional literature should start searching web logs for information and stories about the place they wish to explore. You might have to sift through a stack of chaff, but the kernels of information are there already, in both print and images. With translation tools becoming more sophisticated in the future, more foreign languages will be accessible as well. Other filtering techniques (ie: AI) in the future may hold even greater promise. I won't even try to guess what video and multimedia will offer.

       I think that in the future, assuming that civilization doesn't collapse of course, is that blogs will just "be there" much like our five senses, a sixth sense that will be taken for granted, a major evolutionary step in human consciousness.


    Comments: 2


    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    Waitress In a Doughnut Shop

    Once upon a time...

    ...there was a doughnut shop on a corner, about a mile from where I work. I'd stop in when I had skipped breakfast (and sometimes when I hadn't) to pick up a bismark or some other pastry. It was run by an older man and his wife, she was usually behind the counter, he was often in the front, at a table with his buddies, shooting the breeze and smoking cigarettes.

    And then it was only her. She was obviously tired, she had the look of someone trapped in a dull nightmare. Looking at her closely, I realized that she was actually much older than I had first thought, certainly over 70, perhaps as old as 75. One day another customer asked about "Bob". She told him how he was doing (not so good) and that the stroke had taken a lot out of him.

    I've been thinking a bit about my retirement lately. I've always said that I wanted to work until I dropped, but I'm not so sure of that anymore. To toil at something that really doesn't give much back seems kind of pointless now. Unfortunately, with the United States' deficit and poor economic prognosis for the foreseeable future (for the middle and lower classes, at least) I may well end up like that waitress.

    I stopped going to the shop. A few months later it was closed, then it sat empty for a few years, and finally it was torn down to make room for new construction. That scenario plays out too much like a metaphor for life for comfort.

    "Would you like that order to go?"


    Comments: 0


    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Welcome To South Dakota!

    MEN! If you've got a hankerin' to continue your genetic heritage, we've got just the place for you. No need to mess with courtship, marriage or family! Just come on in, do your dirty work, and with a little luck, in nine months Junior pops out- and there ain't nothing any damn woman can do about it! IT'S THE LAW! The rape biz here is already flourishing, a woman is just about as likely to be raped here as she is to have her car stolen* already, I am sure that with a little help from you daddy wanna-bees we can up that percentage. Oh, and lets not forget you fathers that want to "keep it all in the family" - that daughter or niece or granddaughter is fair game too! IT'S THE LAW!
    -Remember - "Father Knows Best!"

    *of course, almost all stolen cars are reported, but not all rapes are- so the rapists are probably already ahead!


    Comments: 0


    Thursday, March 09, 2006

    The Good Earth

    My grandparents lived on a half acre in Morrison County, Minnesota, about a mile and a half south of Upsala. They lived in a small farm house, with a barn that had seen better days. Central Minnesota is where the glaciers dropped a whole lot of gravel during the end of the last ice age. The house lacked running water, so my grand mother had to take the dishwater and slop out every day. It had been decided that a small cesspool would be constructed for her, a short distance from the kitchen and connected to her sink, to ease her burden a bit. I was old enough to be allowed to help shoveling out the pit for the cesspool. My dad, some uncles and I took turns digging the grave-like pit. The soil was quite compact, and as we got deeper it became quite cool in the shaft. Examining the strata in the walls, I noticed that the gravelly composition of the earth below the top soil was full of crushed granite. There was a cool mineral smell to it, very fresh and moist.

    This earth had supported several generations of substinence farmers already, but at only a foot or so down, it had not been disturbed for ten thousand years. When I was in the shaft, deeper than I was tall, I could feel the mass of the earth as an invisible force, pressing against me, not oppressively, but in a benign fashion. The good earth. Our mother.

    I left that cool womb and climbed up, back into the heat of the afternoon. Parched from my labor, I went to the pump and filled the copper cup that hung there with cold, iron-rich well water. Mother's milk.


    Comments: 0


    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    The Jane Austen Network

    Announcing the Jane Austen Network (or JAN)- the ultimate in literate cable programmming. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, all Jane, all the time. Each night will feature one of the filmed versions of her classic novels, with Sunday reserved for her juvenilia. Whether it be Sense and Sensibility, Emma or sometimes even Clueless, Austen fans will always have access to all of Jane's Oevure. Betwixt the feature films, Austen scholars will lead lively discussions about the Author and her works. In the morning hours, Freshman term papers will be read with a background of images from her many adaptations. New adapatations will include an animated Lego version of Sir Charles Grandier, a claymation of The Beautifull Cassandra and ad hoc "Living Theatre" improvisations of all her literary output. Don't delay! Call your cable or satellite provider and simply say: "I want my JAN!"


    Comments: 0


    Phone Call

    ...during supper, Dad is mad, but hey, I'm not going to let this go. "I'll take it in the basement. With her it can be 5 seconds or 5 hours. Usually toward the latter. One of those calls where the folds in your ears start hurting, the reciever is covered with nervous perspiration, and you are in heaven, or close to it. She's calling from thr hospital; her asthma is acting up. worse than ever, the August dog days have everyone wheezing from the pollution and pollen. I make a date to "visit" her that night.

    In her room she is hooked up to a drip, but feeling better. After a while we are both feeling a lot better. The night nurse comes in and prescribes a cold shower.


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    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Puck

    Minnesota weeps.


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    Monday, March 06, 2006

    The Day After...

    ...found me peering out into the flat Kansas plain, wondering what I was doing here. My brother-in-law suggested we take a look at the house next door. The landlord (who also ran the implement dealership) owned most of the town; in one house, which was not currently occupied, he had the entire stock of clothes from a pawnshop that he had liquidated. I never thought that pawnshops had much in the way of attire, but evidently not in in the late 60's Kansas. He let us in, and there- in every room, stacked in piles about four feet high- were clothes of every possible style. "See anything you like, make me an offer" he smiled. I did find a "Japan" embroidered jacket that must have been traded for cash by some returning G.I. That was all I could afford- I wish that I had access to it now, you could furnish a dozen retro boutiques with that stash!

    Later on, we drove around the countryside, seeing far more abandonded farms than active ones, and the late November overcast made the scene even more bleak than it was in reality. That night, I took off alone, on foot. As I continued to walk down the country road, away from the yardlight in the farmyard, the darkness ahead was absolute.

    Finally, all light was gone- with only the texture of the gravel indicating the road beneath my feet. I became aware of my interal monologue. What was in the dark? I had read Capote's In Cold Blood but that kind of crime although Kansas-based, seemed unlikely. A wild animal? Maybe a coyote, but they usually stay away from humans. Perhaps I would fall on some hidden culvert, roll down in the ditch, be covered with mud and die here, a premature burial by chance. I went back, and told no one of my morbid musings.


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    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    In a Fiat 124...


    ...I was heading south with my sister's sister-in law, on a road trip of sorts, to Zeandale, Kansas. The convertible's rag top thrummed as we drove on through southern Minnesota and into Iowa. The band Chicago was on the radio, their clunky fusion of modern big-band jazz and rock assaulted my ears in much the same way as the road and wind noise did. Being 19 and alone in a sports car with a young woman would have been more stimulating, but the extended family thing had pretty well killed any romantic notions I might have entertained. Besides, at 19 I had just about zilch to offer any girl, anything other than my youthful enthusiasm, that is. We switched seats, I was actually pretty good with a stick-shift, and headed onto the Kansas turnpike. I missed our exit and it was about 20 miles to the next one, so by the time we pulled into Zeandale it was past midnight. Zeandale was a crossroads. A half-dozen houses, a farm implement dealership, and a now-closed gas station. My sister and her husband (who was in the military, stationed in Fort Riley) greeted us warmly into their half of a humble duplex. "We'll show you around town tomorrow," my sister joked, although the next day did hold a surprise or two.


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    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    Girls' Night Out

    "Bye honey, have fun with your friends..."
    Home alone again. I don't mind. Women have their needs, the need for female companionship, by definition, precludes men. Sometimes I wonder how men and women get along at all, some don't, of course, but many do- and not just an uneasy peace either. The need to get away, to reestablish friendly connections, both men and women seem to do better when they have an outlet. Everybody just wants to have fun once in a while. The ease which many women have in maintaining social relationships with the same gender is often absent in men, who tend to have a competitive factor with their comrades and often need to maintain an emotional distance between each other. Insert your own Brokeback Mountain reference here. That may be one reason that the film has found a large audience- by showing the potential of same sex love in a new light.


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    Friday, March 03, 2006

    The Search

    "...blogs are personal statements by individuals, digital declarations of who they are and who they wish to be in the searchable world. Together with the system of links, both inbound and outbound, which grow around the specific site, the blog becomes a very nuanced... statement of individuals' social standing, relationships, interests, and history." -John Battelle, The Search


    I recieved an e-mail today in which the writer expressed a sense of unease about "lurkers" on his blog, a feeling that many of us who write regularly can emphathize with. With a site meter, one can get a rough idea of who's visiting, the trollers that are just passing through give me no cause for alarm. It is the regulars, that one in Maryland, or the person from St. Louis, it's those folk that come again and again, yet leave no comment or e-mails; those are the ones that give me second thoughts. Who are these searchers? I'll grant you that FITK is not the most tightly structured epistle. But there are recurring themes, and some posts are better than others. What do these people want? Perhaps some of the lurkers aren't people at all- just web-bots tabulating keywords?

    I consider myself fortunate in that I've usually had very positive experiences with my readers, and with those I've contacted as well. I'm always amazed when I receive positive feedback from readers in ways I've never expected. But I also understand that many people are shy, or afraid of writing. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, and also the time to overcome their fears. This blog thing is something big, to be sure, but it is also profound- a change in human consciousness that may affect our search in ways unforseen.


    Comments: 3


    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Oh Dear...

    With the new OS installed (Tiger 10.4.3), I feel like I'm on a date with my wife's sister. Everything is the same, yet different. Text is crisper, my bookmarks will take a long time to get straightened out, but many of the "improvements" offered have already been deleted. And what is with the fake brushed aluminum on Safari, Mr. Jobs? Back to the preferences...


    Comments: 1


    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    Strip Poker

    Nine-year-old boys have their secrets. One of ours was created in a large dog-house behind the big house on the corner. The house had elderly tenants as boarders, but in the summertime Bobby would come and spend a few weeks with his grandparents. Bobby was a few years older, and from south Minneapolis (far more urban than our rustic neighborhood on the outskirts of town.) Along with the Jensen brothers, who lived next door, we would use this large (6'x8') box-like structure for our card-playing. I'm not certain who suggested strip poker (probably the worldly Bobby}, but it was agreed that this would be a lively diversion from Hearts or Old Maid. For some unknown reason, I was lucky that day. (Not "got lucky", mind you- after all we were only preteens!) I ended up with my shirt off, while the others were stark naked. I didn't dwell on their condition (PREPUBESCENT SCROTA!) and I soon realized that we had gone too far. I left in a hurry.

    When I got home, my mother noticed that my t-shirt was inside-out. When queried about this abnormal condition, I blithely replied: "I was hot." She didn't say anything, but she knew that I had been up to no good. I never played strip poker again.

    With boys.


    Comments: 1