My Favorite Troll
The Fremont Troll lives under a bridge in Seattle. Woe be to the careless driver who arouses his ire. If the size of this monster doesn't frighten you, please appreciate the fact that the vehicle snared in his stony grasp is a genuine Volkswagen.
When an industry holds its annual trade show in Las Vegas, surely there will be plenty of distractions to make the experience more palatable. It was the year 2000, the turning of the millennium, when I found myself in the world's capital of broken dreams. The hotel package came with some comp tickets to attractions within the complex, the idea being that you'll "make it a night" there and then trundle up to your room with empty pockets. The Riviera was an aging casino, built when the Rat Pack was in its prime; it had become a bit faded, but it still possessed a main room, a comedy club, and an "exotic" show- burlesque that had been updated a bit, but only a bit. There were dancers- leggy, busty, with teased hair- in a flashy musical revue that was pleasant, if a bit tame (it was called The Crazy Girls.) A fan dancer emulated Sally Rand. There was a foul-mouthed comedienne who brought back memories of high-school locker room conversations. And then, the climax. The lights dimmed, the curtain slowly opened to reveal...
...a totally nude woman, lying on a platform that tilted as it revolved. Her artful poses changed, depending on the platform's position relative to the audience, she was careful to keep her "bottom" concealed. This went on for several minutes. Classical music played. She looked like a piece of meat, on a slab in the butcher's shop; a plucked chicken displayed for the customer's approval. Then the curtain closed and the lights went up.
Somehow, I had imagined that Sodom would have been more exciting. As I was herded out with the rest of the chumps, I wondered what went through the mind of the "girl on the wheel." "Fifteen years of dance lessons and this is what I get? Rolling around naked on a lazy susan, oogled by a bunch of seedy tourists?"
It's a living, I guess. I've had worse jobs.
Discontent Pt. II - Voodoo Spell Broken?
I think I've figured it out. There's been a curse on me. A voodoo doll, in the form of a flat white and chrome rectangle, has been plaguing me for months. I mentioned my Christmas iPod in an earlier post, now I'm beginning to believe that it is Steve Jobs (and not Bill Gates) who is the devil incarnate. A little box o' hedonistic pop culture, always there to fill my every waking moment (or sleeping one!) With its nasty little ear plugs, and its tiny screen (people actually watch movies on them?) it almost makes me nostalgic for my seven transistor Sony radio, circa 1962 and the old Quasar Color TV ("works in a drawer!")
It was a gift, a heartfelt one from my favorite person in the whole world, but as I sat unhappily twiddling with it tonight, I had to tell her: "I appreciate the thought honey, but I just don't get it... I just can't understand what I should do with it." I've even received "how to use" lifestyle tips from well meaning "converts". I'm sorry, but this heathen values his silences too much to frivolously destroy them with cruddy MP3s.
Therefore, now is the time for action. I have put it away, in its original packaging ("doesn't work in the drawer!"), and I will leave it there; if I haven't used it in the next few months, I'll find someone who can.
I feel the curse lifting already.
Bill Gates is still the devil.
The Winter Of My Discontent
"Happiness crept upon me unawares, while I wasn't looking. " - Kristín
... And a vague malaise has enveloped me by a somewhat similar methodology. Perhaps it was this endless drab winter, or maybe it is the calm before the storm (we've got a doosy coming this week-end), nevertheless I've been unsettled as of late. There really is no good reason for my melancholia. A couple feet of heavy snow might be just what this cranky pseudo-prof needs- a good kick in the rear by mother nature to drive out these unfocused anxieties...
UPDATE: So I painted a bit, read a blog post about Halldór Laxness (thanks Rose!) and now I feel much better.
the treasures are coming the treasures are coming no need to panic all i have to do is cook them a nice dinner and be friendly i hope i brought enough wine let me see what shall i make mostly leftovers in the fridge maybe some pasta there is some mafalde in the cupboard there are two half-empty jars of sauce and a little hot salsa some spiced shredded mozzarella and a little cottage cheese i can even chop up last night's pepper steak and toss in some spinach pasta's done put it all in the oven yikes here they are i'll stall them with wine cheese and rosemary crackers the ciabatta will go nicely and some fruit salad more wine ladies everything's perfect...
they've been out shopping all day so i can rest they want to go out to eat tonight oops they're back here we go the first place we stop at one that nobody is ever in is packed 45 minute delay, as is tgif's and applebee's the european house is empty but their special is borstch might as well go home we've got steaks in the freezer put em in the broiler two kinds of sauce rice pilaf and bean medley it all turns out great more wine ladies yes we all laugh...
too much wine on saturday means no more laughing on sunday they go out for one more shopping trip finally they head home and the house is big and quiet again no longer an island for the treasures just an oasis for the weaver and me...
When our boys were young there was one activity which needed no planning, no preparations, no gear. We would simply walk four blocks down to the river. A child's mind can find infinite things to do with some mud, sticks, stones and water. I would tag along, not saying anything, and the boys would soon be lost in a world of their own imaginings, all the while being enveloped by nature. As they got older they learned to handle a canoe; sometimes their trips ran to the hundreds of miles, with lots of preparation and gear. Being on a wild river on a hot summer's day makes it easy to feel as if one belongs in the world. The river goes on and on, the fish splash, the egrets among the reeds stand guard. All the while the sun-dappled leaves along the shore shiver in their dance of joy. As you float downstream in your tiny craft you cease to exist as you become a part of the scenery.
Some lessons need no professors.
On The Pornography Of Propaganda
"The weapons of mass destruction..."- Colin Powell at the U.N. "Mission accomplished..."- Dubya in a flight jacket, standing on an aircraft carrier. "Pulling down the Saddam Hussein statue..."- in Baghdad. All moments of propaganda, all of them pornographic- designed to evoke a visceral response, with no thought as to consequences or reality. Political debate has been trumped by the image, the catch phrase, the iconic. Swallowed whole by a public that craved "the money shot", was "out for blood", and wanted to "make a killing."
Afterwards, the letdown. Slowly the balance of power shifts, but nothing has changed. The new majority doesn't want a change, they just want to call the shots- literally. And so, now that the campaigns for the 2008 elections in the U.S. are underway, the cycle starts anew. There is virtually no nation debate on the validity of U.S. Armed forces occupying Iraq- there is only discussion about its necessity. The tease, the promise, and then the pornography of propaganda- anything but the issues. "How does it feel?" "Was it good for you too?"
Empty politics, like empty sex, creates empty people.
I didn't go to work today. Work has been slow (it's been below zero for three weeks- nobody is crazy enough to go out and order prints in weather like this) and I've got too much vacation time built up- my travel budget is completely spent meanwhile my vacation time keeps piling up, month after month. I'd hate for the lab I work at to go under and stick me with three weeks of untaken vacation- the Bank's loans are all secured, my personal time off is not.
At any rate, a lot got done. I fixed the car (properly, after the mechanic screwed it up) worked on the furnace duct work (an ongoing passion, sort of like blogging except banging on sharp pieces of metal instead of a keyboard) got groceries for my sisters in-law (AKA "The Treasures") who are coming for the weekend, and even managed to get a nap in.
Now I've got the Sunday night blues. I simply must go back to work tomorrow, and it will feel like a Monday, or as if I only got a one day weekend. I'm all confused- my strict routine has been shattered and it's wreaking havoc with my psychology.
That's what I get for playing hooky. HUCK FINN.
One of the joys of being at my Grandparent's house was going upstairs, to the attic bedrooms. They had the scent of old wood, I think the windows were only opened when we stayed overnight. There wasn't a great deal of things in those rooms: a bed, a crib, a nightstand and a dresser with a colorful shell on top in the first room; the second room only had two beds and a Grain Belt Beer poster of a jumping Northern Pike on the wall. But in the nightstand were old photographs and some magazines; underneath these things was a Ouija Board. My sister asked my grandmother how it worked- it was merely a piece of Masonite with letters and symbols silk-screened on it, there was a little heart-shaped table with felts on the bottom of its three legs. Grandmother told us that you and a partner would sit on opposite sides of the board with your fingers lightly resting on the table. Someone would ask a question and the Ouija Board would move the table under your fingers and point at the letters or numbers to spell out the answer. When the Ouija was finished, it would point to "Au Revoir."
When my sister and I tried it she asked what the name of her future husband would be. I don't remember what, if anything I asked. The little table seemed to move around on its own accord, but I was old enough then not to believe 100% in anything my sister said or did.
Once I asked my Grandmother if she had ever used the board.
"Oh, yes! Your aunt Selma and I could really make it work! But one of the legs broke off and when we reglued it it was never the same again."
"What did you ask it?" My grandmother looked a little bit mysterious.
"Well, one time, during the war, your Uncle Bobby was home on leave. He didn't believe in such things, so he asked the Ouija to spell the name of his commanding officer. Selma and I sat down and the board spelled out the name right away. Bobby got mad and walked out the door!"
My grandmother was born in Sweden, she didn't talk much about the spirituality that we heard about in church. She didn't talk about the Ouija after that either.
We got a Ouija board for Christmas (?!) the next year, it was new, and its table was made of plastic. I don't recall it working too well either, but we had fun pretending that it did.
FEEL THE LOVE!!!
"This is DJ Batty comin' at ya from 100,000 watt clear channel station FITK, with Valentine greetings to all my listeners around the world. I just wanted to let you know that this Nutty Professor hasn't forgotten you, that his FLIPPIST LOVE MOJO is beaming out across the ether, on its way to gladden hearts near and far! Goin' out west to sunny Santa Rosa, California, then all the way across the Pacific ocean to Chennai, India. Broadcasting east to a lovely Latin scholar (in the state for lovers), and on to that SPECIAL LOVE ROCK in the North Atlantic... BATTY'S LOVE CHARMS are spanning the globe! Can you FEEL THE LOVE? If you can, just smile. YOU'VE GOT IT BABE! I'll be spinning all your romantic favorites, Barry White's cued up on the turntable, I'VE GOT MORE LOVE HITS, MORE LOVE LOVE, MORE OF THAT SPECIAL LOVE GLOW, DIRECT FROM THE FLIPPIST LOVE STUDIOS IN DOWNTOWN ANOKA LOVE MINNESOTA..."
...we will be right back after this word from our sponsor...
I came out of "retirement" and ran the sound system for a benefit last Saturday. For renumeration I received a couple of drink tokens, but as I usually don't drink while I'm working when I got home that night and emptied my pockets they were still there. I set them on the living room table. The gig went alright, a middle-school was raising money for their school band, and five musical acts played from mid-afternoon until 9 p.m. They were mostly guys I knew and had worked with in one band or another in the past. There were even some new tunes from those old dogs, and yes, they could still cut it. I had brought a few of my audio 'gizmos" down and got the mix sounding pretty good- so good that I received a job offer from a guy who played in the regular Friday night band- The Front Porch Swinging Liquor Pigs (!) I told him that I used to do this for a living but that was years ago; thanks, but no thanks, this would be my last gig.
The last gig- the one you're only as good as. I think I've had enough. It's a lot more fun to just be in the audience; I'll let younger ears have the job from now on. (Memo to self: get rid of all your gear, right now, so you won't be tempted to do this again!)
Those tokens weren't wasted, however. Sunday night the Weaver placed one in my hand. It still worked: she got her drink.
A Dangerous Woman
I hear tell that you've met someone special. She's older? A couple of years? Three? The age difference shouldn't matter that much, but I must warn you, you're dealing with a dangerous woman. You see, she's been around a bit. The fact that she remains single means that she's found other men wanting. What do you have that they lack? You've got a head start with your cheeky smile, but you must understand that a smile won't get you very far with her. You two are simpatico, yes? More danger. You'll get closer without realizing it, and then one day (sooner than you think) you'll be a couple! Think about that. And then there's the problem of other women. A handsome young man will always be an attraction for the opposite sex, regardless of his "status". How will you deal with that? It may actually require you to say the word "no" once in a while. The prowl will be (or should be, if you're smart) over. Play it both ways? You'll lose both ways, guaranteed.
Really, it boils down to this: you can choose to pursue her, but if you do, don't waver in your desire. If you think you are too young and she's too old, then yes, you are too young. If you think that it can work, then you aren't too young, but she's still dangerous. She has her needs and desires as well; if you do commit to her, but don't meet her needs, then your heart will be broken when she spurns you.
So what should you do? You already know that she's different from the others- you wouldn't have gone this far if it wasn't so. And a broken heart will mend. If you try and fail you won't regret it. If you fail to try you will regret it for the rest of your life. Sometimes playing it safe it a mistake. You know that she is a powerful woman. A powerful woman is a dangerous woman. A dangerous woman is worth the risk.
Breaking A Sweat
Another hot August day, temp in the mid-nineties, we met at the coffeehouse. It was far too warm for coffee so we ordered smoothies. The shop itself was freezing (why do they insist on having the air conditioning at 68 degrees when everyone is wearing summer clothes?) so we went outside onto the patio. The sun's heat reflected off the shop's windows, the table's umbrella barely shaded our heads. There was enough of a breeze to occasionally send the mist from the lawn sprinklers onto our arms; tickling, moistening; cooling. We spoke of loves past and present, of work, play and family. The conversation flowed on and on, just two people with nothing really in common excepting this moment we shared; on a patio in a crazy hot/wet/cool cycle that repeated itself again and again.
"We'll remember this afternoon in the winter, when it has been below freezing for a month, and then we'll smile to think of it."
It has been and we did.
I had stopped in for a drink; it was a tiny, tiny bar. Funky but charming and not without renown. Being relatively early only a few people were inside- they were talking quietly at a couple of the mis-matched tables. I came in because I was cold (October nights in Reykjavík are never warm), and because I was curious. I had seen the place before in a Björk video (where it looked a lot bigger.) Now a new generation of young and beautiful artists and performers had claimed it as their own. I was the oddity- an old man in a tweedy sport coat (with leather patches on the elbows, of course) scratching notes in a battered Moleskine and sipping whisky. I had heard from a shop-keeper earlier in the day that some buildings in this part of town were to be redeveloped, it might be my last opportunity to stop in.
The tunes on the house system were pretty cool modern stuff- someone there had good musical taste- but I was a bit surprised when Neil Young came on the box, singing Heart of Gold. My thoughts drifted back to the early 70's and seeing him live, in a solo concert in a small theater. It was the place where I had heard that song for the very first time: "...and I'm getting old..." Ha. He might have been thirty then. Yet still he perseveres, his deceptively simple music reaching every new generation.
As the place began to fill up, a young woman asked if she and her friend could share my table; "not a problem" I said, "I was leaving soon anyway." I finished my drink, and as I walked out, I noticed that the walls were stenciled with the graphic design of the control panel of an ARP 2600- an early synthesizer. Another connection to the past, an in-joke for vintage electronica enthusiasts. Years ago I had used one, even going so far as to make an artsy "performance" tape- a tape still gathering dust in my basement.
"Will the cycles never end?" I muttered to myself as I walked out the door, leaving those ghosts behind in the bar. Outside, the cold Icelandic night saw to it that I quickly returned to a more timely "reality", more's the pity, that.
So, is it cold?
When the wind chill is the same degree in Celsius and Fahrenheit, it's cold.
When I stop riding my bike, it's cold.
When the car makes weird cold-weather noises, it's cold.
When I start fantasizing about warm-weather islands like Hawaii, Jamaica and Iceland, it's cold.
When I give up writing regular posts and write about the weather, it's cold.
It's cold enough.
Gone in Sixty Seconds
Sunday mornings usually mean a trip to the neighborhood gas station/convenience store. This past Sunday found me there sixty seconds after a car theft. In Minnesota in the winter, despite innumerable warnings, people leave their cars running (granted, it is cold) and then dash into the station to pay for their gas (or pick up a pack of smokes) and then walk out to no car. The owner of the vehicle, understandably very upset, was calling the police as I paid for my paper.
As a crime of opportunity, this has to be the easiest. Simply hang around a gas station until you see a running car with no owner. Get in the car and drive away. This station is near a freeway on-ramp; by the time the police make a report the perp is in the next county (or on his way to Chicago.) No hotwiring, no window breakage, and the real beauty of this crime is that the car already has a full tank of gas! It isn't called a convenience store for nothing.
This is such a common occurrence here that it doesn't even warrant the local news anymore, unless there is an infant in the car, WHICH HAPPENS ABOUT ONCE A MONTH!
Flippist Wisdom #1. Don't leave your car running with the keys in it.
If this seems obvious to you, you have passed the Flippist novice test, you will be getting your "Purple Sash" soon. If you have trouble understanding this, please leave your vehicle unlocked and running in front of my house... I could use a free car with a full tank of gas...
Another memorial service today. The mother of a couple of my long time friends, in a small gathering at a funeral home.
In the fifties and the early sixties, a single mother had a tough time making it. People would talk, there weren't many social services, and, of course, it is hard raising four kids with two parents, much less on your own. I would go over to my friends' house, she would always be there, but she was a little different from most of the other parents. She always talked to to me, asked me what I thought about things, expressed an interest in what we were doing. Perhaps she was just checking up on who her children were associating with, but nevertheless, she did communicate.
At the service one of her sons gave a heartfelt appreciation, the other children also spoke. Their father, who had abandoned them when they were young, was not spoken of. They made their family work in their own fashion, sometimes it has to be that way. There are many ways to have a family, those of us with children usually try to be a good parent (or a good enough parent) and really, what is the alternative? To try to be an evil parent? (Or just give up?)
She had lived a long life, within her modest means, she was active until only a few months ago. No apologies are ever needed for a life well-lived. No single mother need ever apologize for her life, if she is trying to be a good enough parent. A family is what you make it. She made hers, and it shows favorably in her children, it shows.
Feeling a bit masochistic, I ventured into the health and fitness club near my work-place. I was only interested in swimming, I thought it might be a better way to spend my lunch break than ingesting fast food. The salesman (customer representative) was eager to show me around (after signing a wavier!) but I convinced him that I was only interested in a swim package.
"Well I could sell you a basic package, but why don't you go for the next higher package, the joining fee is on sale this month, and I can switch you to the other plan later. You can see on this map where the premium package would let you go to these other clubs..."
He held up a map of the western hemisphere. I told him, "no, all I want to do is swim on my lunch break."
"What is your zip code? Maybe we have a special on your area?"
"This is my area."
"How about health insurance? We could get a rebate from your health plan..."
Dealing with my health plan on any level is worse than a disease.
We went back and forth like this. He had mentioned that he could "get me a price" on the membership. He had nothing printed with any pricing.
"Ah, I'll have to think about it..."
So I left. I don't deal with weasels and their weaselly ways. Give me a price list, not a wavier. It's not that hard of a concept.