Friday, April 28, 2017

The Reader - Week 17



Faded Love


Buried secrets can be exhumed, albeit with difficulty. The unity of the previous generation of my father’s family was fractured by three inter-related events. All of the principals are dead now but their stories still linger, not in any public awareness but, rather, in the darkest rooms of private memory, behind seldom-opened doors that, if accidentally breached, are quickly shut again. I have an old photo of five of them, my father, his brothers and sisters. It is faded and out of focus. There were actually six siblings: born to a mother of German lineage, a woman who loved life, and a Yankee carpenter who loved liquor. The mother rejoiced in her family; her children came easily and most were born three years apart, her extended nursing of each infant was the only birth control she ever used. Mary, Arthur, Allan, Mae, Aaron and, after a span of seven years, the caboose-Margret. There would have been more, but post-partum care in the years of the Great Depression was minimal, her undiagnosed high blood pressure killed her a few days after she gave birth to her last child.

The children’s father was not a bad man. “His word was as good as his bond” was a line in his obituary. But he was lost without his wife. His drinking increased to the point of his being unable to work regularly and baby Margret was “passed from pillar to post” in an effort to give her a semblance of a normal childhood. , The others, older, were left to fend for themselves. There were a few ways a child could earn some money back then: hunting and trapping, gathering berries and, at least while prohibition was in force, collecting bottles. The bootleggers making ‘Minnesota 13’ corn liquor always needed them, as did those who brewed beer from recipes handed down from their immigrant parents. The kids did what they could. Allen, the middle boy, was trouble. His emotions ran unchecked. Living unsupervised in close proximity to his younger sister Mae, Allen couldn’t control his impulses. Mae was a vibrant girl but when she was on the cusp of adulthood she had to go away for a while because of Allen’s behavior.

I pieced this together from various sources, no one would say it so many words, but I could do the math.  Allen moved out to Montana, where he died drunk—frozen to death in a cattle feed-lot. But the son that Mae had by him, Laurence, also moved to Montana, and was raised in a small town near the Canadian border by Mae’s older brother, Art. I met them once, when I was a child, in the late fifties. Laurence looked like his mother. His mother, who later got married and raised a family, never went to Montana to visit. I wondered why. Mae died from hypertension as well, leaving behind three teen-aged children who needed a mother. That story had a happier ending. Before she died, Mae had me stay with them for a few days one summer. She always took an interest in me. Later on, I thought that it might be her displaced affection for the one son that she never new. Our families did things together: always Christmas, sometimes summer vacations in a cabin near Detroit Lakes. She would live in a swimsuit those stays; the dark hair that crept out from the ‘Delta of Venus’ behind her suit was fascinating to this then twelve-year-old boy. When she died, a year later, I was conflicted, thinking that my impure thoughts had some bearing on her untimely demise. Later, when I got more of the story from an older cousin, I realized that my Aunt Mae, besides being a vivacious and attractive, had a darker side as well. She was considered to be a willful and disobedient child, but it was Allen who was the real transgressor. Their son Laurence spent most of his adult life drunk. He died of exposure as well. 

Andy put the manuscript down. It was a bad story, he thought, one that Jennifer didn’t need to hear on a night like this.

“Jennifer?” he said.

“M-m-mm,” she murmured. Her whisky was gone. “Thas good story. Read more.”

“Your phone chimed when you were outside,” said Andy.

“Let it ring,” she said, with eyes closed, “Jus’ daddy. Daddy.” She began to weep. “Leave me alone,” she said, turning away. Andy gently positioned her on the couch and put a blanket over her.

“A world of troubles,” Andy thought. He went into the kitchen and turned on the radio. An old Patsy Cline song came on:
I miss you darlin', more and more every day
As heaven would miss the stars the above
With every heartbeat, I still think of you
And remember our faded love

It was time for Andy to have some whisky.



The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Death and Diction

My new fave internet personality is Caitlin Doughty, an actual mortician, YouTube presenter and the prime creative force behind The Order of the Good Death, a site that will answer ANY questions you may have about leaving the mortal coil.  I could listen to her talk about anything, including corpse poo, exploding caskets and, for a really grim vicarious experience, this video:



What sets her apart from most YouTube celebs (besides her subject matter)? What feature makes Caitlin so appalling appealing? Is it her bangs? Her lily white skin? Her entrancing green eyes? Her inviting wide mouth with its perfect teeth framed by those delectable lips? No, no, no and no. It is none of these things.

IT IS HER DICTION! In this world of lazy ‘relaxed’ speakers, Catlin’s perfectly performed pronouncements are a panacea for pessimistic purveyors of public prose.

Much more at The Order of the Good Death site, or just click through to YouTube on the video above for hours of macabre fun. Stick with the vids to the very end, you won’t want to miss her post-credit gags.

I think I’m in love.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 5 




Monday, April 24, 2017

Livestock



The last thing the Weaver expected to see while she was cleaning out a window well was someone looking back at her. Amidst the leaves and pine duff, a handsome and dignified toad was at the bottom, effectively trapped in a prison of his own making:



I took him out for his formal portrait:



Then I placed him in a hopefully more sustainable habitat: a quickly constructed ‘toad house’, situated in a sheltered back corner of the garden:



With a small pool nearby, our new friend should have all he requires for a happy toady existence, excepting, perhaps, for a Mrs. Toad (or vice-versa.) I’ll let nature take its course on that issue.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Friday, April 21, 2017

The Reader - Week 16



Aftermath

“You two are free to go now, but be aware that you may get a follow-up call from our investigators in a couple of days.”

Andy and Jennifer had been sitting in a booth in the back of the pub, as far away from the front door as possible. When the bouncer was shot, he collapsed on top of Jennifer, bleeding profusely from a massive chest wound. He was dead. The shooter had left, but there were plenty of other witnesses who had seen him get angry when the bouncer had ejected, kicked out for yelling at the people who were watching the band, interfering with his pool game. It would only be a matter of time before he would be apprehended. Jennifer had been doused by the bouncer’s blood. Several wet towels later she was still a mess but no longer looked as if were she who was the person who had been shot. Andy was still numb, only going through the motions of trying to be helpful.

“Do you have some clothes I could wear at your place? A sweatshirt, some pants?” asked Jennifer, “I need a shower and I want to get rid of this dress. I don’t want to go home yet.”

“Sure, my sweats will be a little baggy, but they’re clean,” said Andy, “I need to change too.”

“The walk will do us good,” she said, “Just a sec, I’ve got a call.”

Jennifer took out her phone and glanced at it for a second before putting it away.

“It’s nothing,” she said, “Let’s go, I can leave my car in the lot.”

At Andy’s place, Jennifer showered and put on Andy’s sweats, while he changed his clothes in the bedroom. He went back out into the kitchen and waited for Jennifer. Her phone chimed, but he didn’t look at it.

“That feels better,” she said, “Will you do me a favor? Do you have a plastic bag you can put that dress in, and then take it out to the trash?”

“Sure, I’ll do it right away,” answered Andy as he got up from the kitchen chair, “Your phone rang.”

“Thanks.”

Andy went into the bathroom and bagged up the dress, taking it outside and putting it into the trash. As he walked back into the kitchen, he saw Jennifer put her phone away. He noticed that she was shaking.

“Are you all right?” he said.

“I’m still pretty jumpy,” Jennifer said, “I need something to calm me down. Do you have any liquor?”

“I have whisky,” Andy said, “It’s a single malt, but its mild, not too peaty.”

“Pour me a glass, please,” she said, picking up a manuscript from his work pile, “Why don’t you read me a story.”

“These are pretty soporific,” Andy said, opening the whisky, “Straight or on the rocks?”

“Straight, with a little water. Four fingers. Hold me.”

They went into the living room and settled in on the couch.

“Thanks for doing all this, Andy,” said Jennifer, “You, know, we have the strangest dates.”

“It’s O.K., We’ll just do whatever we can to make it through the night.”

Andy swapped the whisky for the manuscript and, as Jennifer moved in close to Andy she began to calm down.

He began to read.








The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Crank


Smalley’s Pirate Barbeque, Stillwater, MN

Its been four years since I’ve retired. Of late, a few trends in my life have emerged, nothing earth-shaking, but there are definitely some new directions. For one thing, my musical tastes have changed—I’m not nearly as interested in Pop Music (although I think that might be that Pop Music is not interested in me.) It is really evident when I’m out somewhere (restaurant, stores, etc.) where the inanity and vapidness of modern songwriting becomes inescapable (and indigestable.) It isn’t only new music, there’s plenty of dross in all eras, I even went so far as to give away my ENTIRE vinyl collection (to a worthy cause—the legendary scenester David Foley.) My CD collection is always being pruned, if I don’t listen to something in it every couple of years, its gone. Physical storage has undergone massive changes in the last twenty years. I can foresee the day when all my music will be contained on one 32 gig USB stick. TV and Movies are fading in importance, although I must admit that Miss Fisher (Australian murder mysteries) and Portlandia, are guilty pleasures (best taken in small doses.) The Great British Baking Show is an especially delicious form of pornography.

The contents of my bookshelves have become more rarefied as well, with its big Icelandic section (much of it reference for the Laxness in Translation blog), Robert Benchley, Wanda Gág, Frank Lloyd Wright as well as asmaller variety of curiosities. I’ve given several of my books to the “Little Library” that is in front of the Methodist Senior Living complex in town. I like to think that some of the residents there are reading them, although I fear that some of the newer books are being taken by people who will resell them and never even read one. Because I’ve never warmed up to eBooks, I think the bulk of my ‘real’ books are safe for now.

These acts of giving helps to keep me from becoming embittered. The world doesn’t need any more cranky old white men, the ones we now have in positions of power are perfect demonstrations of rising above one’s level of competence. Spring is here, the gardens await, my serial fiction is challenging, and some summer trips have been planned. I’m not quite a grizzled curmudgeon yet. Although my mien can be scary at times, I’m not yet at the point of the chalky dude pictured above.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Movies - Double Feature

A couple of vids from the legendary Páll Óskar to help you start the week on a high note. First up, a Taylor Swift cover:



Next, Páll does Neil:



More on this legendary singer HERE.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, April 14, 2017

The Reader - Week 15



Trouble in River City

Andy looked at Jennifer. She was stunning, sporting a shiny red dress.
"And she, she was the great bath of life, he worshiped her. Mother and substance of all life she was. And he, child and man, received of her and was made whole. His pure body was almost killed. But the miraculous, soft effluence of her breast suffused over him, over his seared, damaged brain, like a healing lymph, like a soft, soothing flow of life itself, perfect as if he were bathed in the womb again."
His internal conflict between emotions and desire needed a referee, and preferably not D. H. Lawrence. He knew that he had to let go of the fictions of the past if he was ever to live in the present. He liked the fact the Jennifer wasn’t needy, that she hadn’t exchanged phone numbers with him yet. And she came back!

The noise in the back of the pub had something to do with one of the pool players. The bouncer had collared the miscreant and hauled him out through the pub’s back door.  Jennifer looked at the ruckus for a moment, then shifted her gaze back to Andy. The server came and took their orders.

“Now, where were we?” said Jennifer, “Or perhaps you’d like to start again, on a fresh page?"

“Don’t look back, look to the future!” Andy said, “Life begins now!”

“Fair enough,” said Jennifer. Her smile had a hard edge to it, as if she’d had this conversation before. “So tell me about yourself. I gather that you make your living doing some kind of proof-reading? That must be interesting.”

“Sometimes,” said Andy, thinking about the tedium of his technical work as well as the mawkish memoirs he’d been working on lately. He was determined to keep a positive spin on this conversation. “It’s a discipline. How about you?”

“I work in real estate, not sales, dealing with the paperwork side of things. I guess you could say I’m a reader as well, although the stories aren’t very interesting. Nine to five, five days a week, three weeks PTO per year. Health insurance. It pays the bills.”

The server brought them their beers, while the bouncer returned to his perch next to the door. The band began a Junior Walker medley with the song Roadrunner:
Money, who needs it
Let me live a life free and easy
Put a toothbrush in my hand
Let me be a traveling man
I'm a roadrunner, baby
Andy chuckled at the lyric. His life was as far from free and easy as one could get. He wondered if Jennifer liked to travel.

“Three weeks of PTO! I guess that is one disadvantage I have in being self-employed,” said Andy, “Where do you like to travel?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I guess that California is my favorite: San Francisco, Sausalito, San Rafael. The wine tours. How about you?”
Don't want no woman to tie me down
Gotta be free baby to roam around
All my life I've been like this
You can love me at your own risk
When the dust hits my shoes
I got the urge to move
Andy thought that it might be all right if he were tied down by Jennifer. He hadn’t done any traveling since college—a spring break trip to London on a cheap charter flight. God, that was thirty years ago, everything has changed by now, he thought. He had better tell her something: “I like London, The British Museum. Going to old book stores, just bumming around.”
'Cause I'm a road runner baby,
Gotta keep on, keepin' on
And I live the life I love
And I'm gonna love the life I live
I'm a roadrunner, baby
Andy took a sip of his stout as the band segued into What Does It Take (To Win Your Love):
What does it take
To win your love for me
How can I make
This dream come true for me
Ooh I just got to know
Oh baby cause I love you so…
The lyrics made Andy feel as if his heart would burst. He never had such an emotional response to a song before. Was he finally becoming a human being?

“London… that makes sense,” said Jennifer, “The Reader in his natural habitat. I’m more of a murder mystery fan myself, the gruesome Scandinavian ones, like Stieg Larsson, where the veneer of normalcy is shattered in a moment of violence, and everything is ugly underneath. I hope you don’t hold it against me… ” Her eyes flashed when she said the word ‘violence.’

A series of rim-shots in rapid succession from the band’s drummer announced the beginning of the Junior Walker song Shotgun:
I said, Shotgun shoot em ‘fore he runs now
Do the jerk baby
Do the jerk now
Hey!
“Ooh! This a great song!” said Jennifer, rising, “Let’s dance!”

At that instant, Andy saw the pub’s door open.
Put on your red dress
And then you go downtown now
I said buy yourself a shotgun now
The bouncer rose from his stool, directly behind Jennifer, blocking Andy’s view.
We’re gonna break it down baby now
We’re gonna load it up baby now
And then you shoot him ‘fore he runs now
A deafening blast came from the doorway, and the bouncer reeled back, falling against Jennifer, she fell to the table with the burly bouncer lying awkwardly on top of her.
I said it's Twine Time
I said it’s Twine Time
I said it’s Twine Time
Hey!
Andy caught a glimpse of a man in the doorway, holding a shotgun.  His face was twisted in rage. The man turned and ran out into the night. The band had stopped playing.

There was blood.




The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Overdue

A few weeks ago I went to see an old friend’s band play. Imagine my surprise when Bill, the the bassist of the group, handed me a property tax bill from 1981! It was for a house in North Minneapolis that a group of us had once owned in joint tenancy. Bill had found it filed among his papers (he lived next door at the time), it must have been delivered to his house by mistake. While I don’t recall missing any payments from that era, this was about the time we purchased it and we must have gotten a duplicate when we took possession—it didn’t have the homestead credit on it.

The amount of tax was $349, which was low even then. The property wasn’t much to look at, but it did give a bunch of people a pleasant place to live (and a place to start our families) for many years.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Monday, April 10, 2017

The Explodo Boys - #6



Wilson Pickett cover, summer of 1974

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, April 07, 2017

The Reader - Week 14



Another Saturday Night

The week passed slowly for Andy. Not that it wasn’t productive. His queue of technical manuals had been cut down to the point of being at its lowest level in years, and he had finished all the outstanding sections of the ”memoir” that had been plaguing him all summer. His non-hook-up with Jennifer still weighed heavily on his mind. He took a nap Saturday afternoon, with the intent of meeting up with Jennifer again at the bar. They hadn’t exchanged phone numbers, he sensed that she wasn’t ready for that step yet, especially after the fiasco of her visit to his house.  He wasn’t ready to give up on her just yet. He didn’t know her at all, really, he would take it cool, let the relationship  develop of its own accord. He woke up at seven and spent an hour in the bathroom, primping, something he never did. When Andy came to the point of applying deodorant, he paused, wondering if it was worse to smell like a chemical plant or, rather, like an animal. The deodorant soap he used was pleasant enough in his mind. He’d take that chance, rather than come off as a nervous salesman.  

He wasn’t going to blow it tonight! He’d have one drink—not five (no ‘Whiskey Dick’ tonight)—he’d be charming, he’d ask Jennifer about herself, and he’d definitely not talk about his boring job; you’ll see a brand new Andy, yes you will!

He set out for the pub. The night air was warm, but there was a definite hint of the changing seasons—in a few weeks it would be downright nippy. He strolled into the pub–not too eager—and, after scanning the room for Jennifer (not there), he settled into a two-fer booth near the front door, by the bouncer’s stool, where he could see the people who were coming in. The place was filled, as it usually was on Saturday, although there was an open space in the back where there were still a few guys shooting pool. When the server came, Andy ordered a stout and an order of chips. There was a different band tonight, the R&R Cadets, from Milwaukee. They played with a pseudo-creole vibe, as funky a group as you’d find on the shores of Lake Michigan, vis-a-vis Lake Pontchartrain.

Is she coming? No use in getting my hopes up too high. And I could meet someone else!
Anything can happen—well not anything—but there’s no call for me to become a Debbie Downer.  My Cinderella? Princess Charming? Princess Leia? Layla?

The band began to play an old Lee Dorsey tune:

20 long miles from town, my old car broke down
The clutch is shot and the sun is so hot
Oh what I’d give to be home

19 miles from town, my old car broke down
The battery’s dead, man like I said
Oh what I’d give to be home

18 miles from town, my old car broke down
The fan belt’s slippin’ and the engine's missin’
Oh what I’d give to be home restin’ my bones

17 miles from town, my old car broke down
Just my luck, I’ve got the fuel pump’s stuck
Oh what I’d give to be home

(When the sun’s so high up in the sky)
And I’m tryin’ to get home to my baby
(When I get that far, I’m gonna get rid of this car)
It’s got to go, it’s got to and I don’t mean maybe

16 miles from town, my old shark broke down
My tire’s down, no spare around
Oh what I’d give to be home!

“Hi!” It was Jennifer, “Car trouble, or else I would have been here earlier. Been here long?”

“Have you ever loved a woman until milk leaked from her as though she had just given birth to love itself, and now must feed it or burst? Have you ever tasted a woman until she believed that she could be satisfied only by consuming the tongue that had devoured her? Have you ever loved a woman so completely that the sound of your voice in her ear could cause her body to shudder and explode with such intense pleasure that only weeping could bring her full release?”

A section of Don Juan DeMarco played in Andy’s mind.

“Hi. I was hoping you’d be here tonight.“

“Have you ordered? Are you hungry?”

Andy thought he’d say something clever: “I could eat a peach.”

“AH-HA-HA-HA-HAH!” Jennifer laughed like a donkey, “That’s the attitude! Let’s give it another try, what do you say?”

“I’d like that!” said Andy, “Please—sit down.”

“My pleasure. The object of tonight’s experiment—my pleasure,” said Jennifer, smiling, “You are invited to come… along for the… ride.”

“Erp,” said Andy.

“Erp yourself,” said Jennifer,  “and who do I have to fuck here to get a drink? Waitress!”

A commotion had erupted in the back of the pub, by the pool table.

Andy couldn’t see it, and Jennifer, who could, didn’t pay it any attention.

The band played on.



The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.




By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Rites of Spring

Ah, Spring! A time of rebirth and renewal—in more ways than natures gifts. The old Battymobile, an 18-year-old Mercury Sable wagon that was pushing 200K miles, was doing OK, although I didn’t relish the thought of going another summer without A/C. The emerging ring of rust around its perimeter didn’t help any either. Therefore, when I began my quest for a new “Chariot of the Gods”, the first contender was this 2002 Jaguar XJR, in racing green, a supercharged 400 hp luxury car:



Unfortunately, it was a salvage title and had a weird little shimmy at highway speeds that I think would cost more to correct than the price of the car. I also looked at another Jag, this time a 2006 Type S, which had also been in an accident, but was in better shape overall. The spoiler: This car had "hi-performance" tires installed, making it feel like I was always driving on a gravel road:



Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, this 2010 MINI Clubman was a looker, but not a goer. The salesman and I tried to get it started for about a half an hour before I gave up. Not even a click. It looked cheap, both in the interior and in the engine compartment, it was also not rated as very reliable and very expensive to fix:



This homely little Nissan Cube was sitting on a prairie lot, windswept and forlorn:



It was priced cheap enough but had been sitting on the lot for over a year. And it was a drab gray. There was a sad story there, one that I didn’t want to read. The next car I tried was a 2014 Fiat 500L, not the cute little 500, but its bigger brother. It had numerous quirks (and a poor reliability record). It didn’t help that it too had been sitting for a year:



I sat in a really cute "1957 Retro Model" Fiat 500. It was adorable, but I would have had to be about six inches shorter to fit in it comfortably:



I tried another Cube, this one was at a high class suburban lot, it sported a more subtle gray (with hints of iridescence) but was way over-priced, especially for an "orphan" model fleet car from 2014:



I even looked at another 1999 Sable wagon, with about a third the miles of my old one:



It was very nice, and cheap, I was tempted, but it was gone the next day. So, by now you may be wondering, what did Batty buy? What vehicle is now bestowed with title of “Battymobile”:



TA-DA! A 2016 Kia Soul, in frog green, 11k miles, and cheap enough for this skin-flint. I was surprised at the quality of the fit and finish, and especially the quietness of the ride. It doesn’t have all the latest electronic gee-gaws, but that’s OK by me. I did rip some MP-3s of Pascal Pinon onto a USB-stick in order to have some of my own music—I went from a car with a cassette player to one with USB or aux-in only, skipping the entire CD generation of dashboard players:



R-r-r-bitt… R-r-r-bitt…

By Professor Batty


Comments: 10 




Monday, April 03, 2017

Monday Movie



Are You Lost In The World Like Me? from Steve Cutts on Vimeo.

(Better with the sound off)

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0