The ChuckleHut

[ Friday, January 31, 2003 ]

 
The cool mid-century deli around the corner has been making and selling bagels since the 50's. It smells like a bagel bakery, yeasty and fulsome and indulgent. They're pushy and friendly inside, there's a fun give-and-take on a sunday morning when we're all hung over and vulnerable. But their sign is not working for me any more. One of the letters has fallen off and now they're proudly proclaiming themselves as the Hose of Bagels. And years have passed since this happened, it's been more than a decade. They're just content with it that way. But I'm getting these increasingly detailed visions of the hose of bagel, and its taking on new and questionable meaning for me. I need for this to stop. Could someone just fix the sign already? Here are some suggestions if you don't want to buy new letters...
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:05 PM]

 
There must be a reason I didn't watch the national television debut of my fave domme. How could I have missed it? My newsletter subscription to "Weekly Welt" must have expired. Well anyway it looks like Joe Millionaire is facing a statistical 1-in-3 chance of getting the paddling of his dreams. His girlfriend has a thing for string, if you get my bent. I guess she needed someone with ready access to sawhorses and duct tape.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:03 PM]

 
I gotta get something new up here, I can't keep looking at that horrible pun. SO: I'm going to rip off the popular media to provide further insight on an issue that's been getting a lot of attention over at Lunanina's place:

"WHAT TO WEAR? Most superheroes go for the nice, tight, form-fitting costume. We want to show off what we got. Sometimes a goods set of pectorals strikes fear in the hearts of bad people more than a freaky mask! Spandex and Lycra are fine materials to make a costume from, and they come in all sorts of neat colors. Think comfort! Avoid all that is itchy. Zippers can sometimes pinch. Never wear corduroy or snow pants: they make swishy sounds when you walk, making it impossible to sneak up on villains. Masks are optional, but are handy if you need to protect your secret identity.... Capes are something to consider. Maybe practice walking around in a cape before you decide whether or not a cape is for you." from The TICK: Mighty Blue Justice, Boulevard Books, New York, 1997, at 14.

Please note that this information comes straight from the animated televised Tick, not the lame live action tick or the surreal and wry comix version. The cartoon was FUNNIER THAN THE SIMPSONS. There, I said it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:09 PM]

[ Thursday, January 30, 2003 ]

 
I read on the Fix yesterday that, in the 1850s, Italian fishermen here on the Bay used to act as their own foghorns, singing popular opera tunes to warn off their colleagues from collisions. I can hear the foghorns from my flat and relish their comforting boom, but the old operatic way must have offered a very rich, if quieter, auditory experience. And it would really tie in to the weather reports I hear every morning, advising me to watch out for arias of patchy morning fog.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:33 PM]

 
- Are you watching this?
- No. Not really.
- I'm gonna change the channel then.
- Give me a minute. I want to see the end of this scene.
- You said you weren't watching it.
- I'm not really watching it but since it came on I got curious.
- Curious how it got on t.v?
- No, now that it's on I can see the attraction. It's insidious. I didn't want to watch but now look what happened.
- So you are watching it.
- No, I'm not. You can change the channel.
- Who's that supposed to be?
- They're lovers.
- But they're -
- Yep. Here's the remote.
- How much longer is this on?
- Twenty minutes.
- Let's see how it ends.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:30 PM]

 
The Chucklehut is a place of convivial carousing, so I'm not going to get into a bunch of humid details about what I flatter myself to call my renewed interest in fitness. But last night I strapped on my Avias, put the Thanksgiving 02 mix into the walkman, and ventured out into the night. The west horizon was crimson, fading fast to sepia; the air was cool but not cold, clear, welcoming. I got to the park three blocks away propelled by a grinding groove, heedless of my pace, my stride, my surroundings, letting the music dictate my thoughts and action. But when I got to the park everything changed. There, the air was darker, wetter, more of a presence as I cut through it, felt it against my legs and in my lungs; the song changed to one which always lifts my spirits. I hadn't run outside for months, not since the late blooms and dry grasses of September. Now it's the very leading edge of Spring and the plants are just starting to rouse themselves. New grass carpeted the ground beside me as I entered the Rose Garden from the busy snarling boulevard. My pace relaxed, yet quickened. I was running past bare rosebeds, each one crowned with several sere stems, the twigs pruned back till the bushes that would soon be verdant with leaves and buds looked more like skeletal hands reaching out from the ranks of regular rectangular plots, black earth against the green lawns, bed after bed, each gnarled bush gesturing poetically to the night sky. On my left a few impertinent old leaves still clung to the tall tumbling bushes, and behind them, the dropoff, steep and deep, into the ravine and the redwood grove, the regal trees towering over me, cool air sweeping up from the dark forest floor below.... I could taste the potential in the air as I ran, taste the world's readiness to turn and blossom with the season, shaking off the torpor of winter as I shook off my own. There was a correspondence in my internal and external environments. It really felt right.

Today I feel the familiar soreness under my kneecap and wonder whether I'll have to leave the running to the professionals. Regardless, I know for sure that my world and I are on the verge of a significant renewal. Flowers sometimes lie, but bare thorny stems know no prevarication.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:26 PM]

[ Tuesday, January 28, 2003 ]

 
I'm tired of all this "free range chicken" noise. I want some long-range chicken.

And on an unrelated note, I made airplane reservations tonight for a whirlwind trip to south florida to attend a coming of age ritual. I'll be changing planes in Charlotte, North Carolina. I learned tonight that this means I may get a tag on my luggage that reads "CLT." If so, I intend to keep it for as long as possible. Finally, I'll know where to find it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:20 PM]

 
I remember so clearly when I realized that the word "alpine" actually referred to the Alp mountains. I knew both words, I'd just never linked them in my head. It was eyeopening and a little embarassing, or maybe humbling. It's so obvious I just never saw it.

Well I got the same feeling tonight when I realized that the "Whack-a-mole" game might just possibly have come into being when someone didn't know how to pronounce "guacamole." In solemn recognition of this - I would fain call it a coincidence, more like an omen - I got out my meat tenderizing mallet and whacked my bowl of guacamole into a festive mosaic of salsa and shards. So if you please - no more linguistic surprises for a few minutes? I'm a little edgy right now...
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:08 PM]

 
THE ODORS OF PERCEPTION

I'm one of those folk who notice the way things smell. I love smells. They don't even all have to be pretty smells, if they're honest and not too noxious. I catch the worst smells on the bus; sometimes someone there will smell so badly that it brings every other stranger on the bus into fellowship, choking together on the fetor, gulping down sweet fresh air when the stink has dissipated... More often, things just have smells, not good or bad, just the smell of things, and I just try to attend to that dimension of my reality. I try to appreciate the olfactory spectra. I have experiences all the time where I get a whiff of something and I roll back in time like Proust in a bakery... The smell of fresh blacktop sends me back to Oxford when I was six, playing in the dirty streets... the smell of sycamores and scrub pine baking in the summer sun is the smell of my summer camp, no matter where or when I smell it. Then there's the new smells: the smell I catch as I come around the corner to my flat and the new shop that took over from the auto parts store is venting some fumes, that new "Hemp Center" store with the mysterious back room, bursting at the seams with the redolent aroma of roasting perfume and scenting my evenings with exotic promise (unfulfilled of course, as the night ever hungers)... the smell of Geary Boulevard at night, frying garlic and simple syrup and fresh lobster in butter, blending incoherently... too many nasal entertainments to taxonomize, but nothing else smells like:
Old, old elevators
Airports
Lumberyards
Long foxtail grass dried in the sun
Warm rubber
Attics and basements
Rain - warm
Bread baking
High mountains
Subways (and underground light rail)
Wormwood and sage
My own sweat
Dawn
Taxicabs
Meat on the grill
Libraries and used bookstores
Rain - cold
Bosky dells
Menthol on steamroom rocks
The sea
Good coffee

Yeah, there's probably more but I'm gonna let it go at that... yo smell ya later
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:00 PM]

 
THINGS I NEVER THOUGHT I'D HEAR HER SAY:
"You are so totally going to make this borsht again."
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:42 PM]

 
SMELLS LIKE TEEN SCHITZU

The shop has been there for years, with a charming and cheerful mural in their front window of animals cavorting in thermae like the bathers in that famous print of Sutro Baths. It made sense - the place is a petwashing facility. On the painting there's always been a cool grey cat with a sign: "We bathe cats." Except, someone has recently taped packing paper over the word "cats" and pencilled in "dogs." So now it's just another in the endless procession of dogwashing parlors, and they've given up - at no small expense to the asthetics of their establishment's chief form of advertising - given up, I say, on the ever-burgeoning soiled kitty market sector. Makes me wonder if something bad happened. Makes me think, "see, that's what you get when you try to bathe the wrong cat."
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:32 PM]

 
We had started the day at close to 12,000 feet, on the far side of the pass. We'd figured to camp somewhere before the meadow and the big sloppy campground, but the first half was way too steep and the second half, too marshy and easy - we'd come so far already and the path was finally smooth and gentle, we didn't want to stop unless theere was a good dry patch free of skeeters, and there was none, so on we went. Twenty-four miles with forty pound packs, trekking down to 7,000' and the campgrounds - where we were stopped on the trail by a few bear in a tree surrounded by concerned geeky rangers. Adorable little bears, barely able to tear the flesh from my skull. But they could have done if they had to. By the time we got past them it was getting dark fast and we were zonked; we couldn't find our special reserved backpacker's site so we unfurled our bags on the side of the road and fell asleep instantly and blissfully. An hour or so later a horse with a non-geeky ranger on it woke us up. The ranger told us cheerfully that it was worth a costly ticket to be caught there again. We set off looking for our campsite, dragging our sleeping bags and packs in clumsy, stuporous disbelief. We paced that damn campground back and forth for an hour, passed the same gleaming Airstreams and Winnebagoes and Jamborees and rolling versions of the Overlook Hotel again and again, but we just couldn't find our site. We strategized. Work lazy, not stupid. Barry sat down with the bags and baggage near the center of the campground and I went forth unencumbered in search of our space. I tried hard but I had no luck and was getting mad. I worked my way back to where I'd left Barry. He was gone. But: I could hear him calling to me - from a cinderblock men's room fifty feet or so away. He sounded urgent so I stepped over. He'd gotten all our stuff in the bathroom and was panting for breath. He told me in aghast gasps that a bear had been checking out his backpack. The one with all the food in it. While he'd been wearing it, the sack with the sausages nestled against the back of his neck. He'd heard a snuffle in his ear and turned to see a black bear, adult and competent, looking at him like he'd look at a truck full of knockwurst. We slept among the urinals that night, never did find our reserved space and got a ride back to Mammoth the next day. Four days in the back country, we could handle. One night in the campgrounds and we were toast.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:18 PM]

[ Monday, January 27, 2003 ]

 
I'm coming back, baby. Coming back strong. It's been almost three months since I stopped caring, and a month and half before that since I was physically able to do anything about it. That's getting on to half a year. And, as of today, Clowntime is Over. It's not like the change has been obvious - my clothes all fit, and I haven't gained any weight. The guys with the weird machine at physical therapy tell me to slow down, that I attack it with a passion and intensity that their other, elderly, atrophied clients just don't have. When I have to run fast I still surprise myself, feet flying and knees high. But I've let myself go. I didn't want to at first, but I had no choice, shattered as I was. Before I'd really gotten over that injury it was Halloween and time for my physabbatical - my yearly wade into sweets and fats and my corresponding vacation from bodily fitness efforts. I'm still eating October candy till Thanksgiving, which is, for me , a time of extraordinary excess... then the holiday parties, latkes and the "shiksa's xmas" (damn fine blowout), a polak potluck or two thrown in for good measure, and then the Stupor Bowl, which in my case was packed to the brim with carintas and peanuts and refreshing malty beverages... Cold dark mornings, sour stomachs, pressing social schedules - I just agree with myself toward the end of the year every year to take it easy on the exercise until the superbowl is over. I spare myself a lot of guilt by denying myself an interest in my own health for a few months.

That hiatus is now over. From now on I am an iron man. (Gauge to be determined.) Wish me luck, I'm getting off the couch.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:12 PM]

 
Catching you all up on what I learned at the brisket party, part 3:

1) There's pink, and then there's fabulous pink.
2) Win or lose, if Oakland can burn, Oakland will burn.
3) If you're going to run up to someone with a wand and tell that person that "I'm going to magic you all up", you don't really need to back up your claim if you have the option of demanding a diaper change instead. We'll call it a different kind of magic. And we'll call it that from a safe distance.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:24 PM]

 
Out in the east bay over the weekend I chanced to pass again by the Berkeley Fire Department's old mission-style station 6 on Cedar Street, a homey comforting site that's been around since the depression at least. Over the garage door is a shield, as from a coat of arms, with the acronym of the relevant organization emblazoned thereon in big classy letters, "B-F-D." My heart swelled (swole?). Maybe I could get a T-shirt.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:21 PM]

 
Sometimes I see stuff on the sidewalk and I can't help wonder how these particular items came together, whether they mean anything different next to each other than they did all scattered... over the weekend I found a small collection that caught my imagination: a little girl's pair of black leather boots, a snapple apple bottle, and a Sharp 1197II 10-digit "L" display desk calculator with "GT function." Every story I imagine to explain the presence and promimity of involving these items immediately degenerates into surrealism, or something even more degenerate. They were just sitting all by themselves, on the grass, nicely arranged. Still life with heels and floating decimal.

Then I start wondering about that GT function... remembering the old days when my own GT was functioning from sunup to sundown, proud and vigorous, never a thought for the ravages of time... but now, as the seasons turn... my GT wakes up at dusk and roams the street at night, functioning dysfunctionally, taking what it wants and draining nectar from the hibiscus of the night.... the snapple and boots begin to make a bit more sense and I feel a strange urge to reconcile my checkbook.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:14 PM]

 
The parties at Andy's house are always gustatory and cultural gorgefests. You get that many smart people that narcotized on brisket and beer and something that sounded funny at first is still gonna sound funny later on. At one point we were chopping up leeks for the grill and were thinking that the hot tub didn't have one of those cute signs suggesting that people not relieve themselves in it. In deference to the Berkeley gormet liberal free-love attitude prevalent at that very moment, it was suggested, "We don't chop shallots in your toilet; please don't take leeks in our hot tub."
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:58 AM]

 
As a child years ago I used to be an insomniac, up till all hours, building fantasy worlds in my little head or watching that Mexican variety show with the guy with the outrageous eyebrows and the volupuous dancing women. Sometime in high school I overcame my wakefulness and sleeping became one of my favorite pasttimes. I became condescending and sanctimonious towards the sleepless: "Ah yes, I've been there, what a pity for you, maybe someday you'll grow out of it and enjoy life with us on the other side..."

Well, I'm back among the ranks of the restless. Four nights running I've laid in bed, alert and honed, listening to the dog snore ("mastiff" is latin for "oboe reed in sinus") and watching the hours change on the alarm clock. Typically I do drift off sometime after 3, and the cat jumps on me at around 5 (with the delicay and grace of a roast turkey falling on a freshly-vacuumed carpet); the alarm goes off at 5:30 and I act as if I've gotten enough rest to enjoy another productive and exciting day.

But there is a downside to sleep deprivation, I begin to suspect - my sense of humor (yeah that's what I'm calling it anyway) is thin, my patience has worn out, and I'm not taking very good care of myself. Yet I'm up early, stay up late, and I don't really slow down much during the day. It's starting to feel normal, and that's what scares me. Which is yet another fixation to keep me thinking too much when the lights go out. I'm busier than I've been in years at work and at home, so much involved in so many things that I lose track of them.

Maybe the problem here is that I'm thinking too much. I'm learning new software, creating new lifeforms, discovering mysterious biomasses in the cat's room and learning exciting new ways to break or wear out inanimate objects. Maybe I ought to try sitting still and contemplating the space between my actions, instead of that between my ears. I need to make a little room to get bored. Otherwise I'm going back to Telemundo.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:52 AM]

[ Saturday, January 25, 2003 ]

 
I work for a company that manufactures boredom and constipation. I'm in customer service.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:51 PM]

 
I know it's supposed to be impossible to teach a cat anything, and our Rufus is unusually dense even for her species, but I think she's picked up on certain subtlties of our language. She seems to know that garbage strewn around is "litter" and that she has a "litter box". And now she's made the connection that we expect her to distribute the contents of the "litter box" liberally around our living space.

If we'd started calling it a "tidy box" at the outset I think things would have been very different.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:50 PM]

 
Overheard from a proud parent at the party with the killer smoked brisket:

"I don't know, I think he'll be quite good at whacking games."
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:50 PM]

 
The Norwegian Prince in the Version of Hamlet that's Set in Silicon Valley: Fortranbras

One thing I like about computers is that they never flat-out lie, in the sense of intentionally misrepresenting the facts. Sometimes they glitch and malfunction, but that's a processing problem. And sometimes, of course, there's a problem with bad input or agenda-oriented programming. But computers are not liars. Whether for good or ill, they tell you what is, to them, the truth.

That's why I'm so resentful of the freecell flimflam. I've played FC by hand - it's a lot of work, shuffling cards up and down and over and back. It's so much more fun on a computer, when two mouse clicks can make the cards cascade delightfully from column to freecell to empty space to freecell to column - so quickly and gracefully as to underscore the infallibilty of the program. Or so you'd think. So I thought - but I've been disabused.

A friend clued me in a few months ago to the FC program's statistics counter that lets you know your won/lost ratio and the length of your current streak and session. (As I write this it occurs to me that this habit of mine is nothing to be proud of. It invites the observation that I'm spending too much time playing with myself. Whatever. That aspect of this essay will have to be in the nature of a confession. If FC were my worst habit I'd feel pretty good about myself.) Since that conversation I've played more FC, and played it more thoughtfully, trying to match my performance to changes in my ratio. It never seems to change. I can lose six games in a row - or, in theory, win them - and my breakdown is always 62-38 (L-W). I was attributing it to the very slight marginal difference a single game, or a few games, made in the context of all the millions of games I've played since I got this computer. I held out hope that this discrepancy was statistically insignificant, an artifact of coincidence.

My remaining confidence in the trustworthiness of my computer has been seriously shaken, however, by my discovery that the FC statistics page is toying with me. I cant tell if I'm playing the game, or being played. But it's not counting properly. As a typical example, I play two hands. The first, I win on the first try. The second, I have to restart twice before I get through. That's a win, two losses, and another win. I check my stats. 62-38, with a current streak of two losses. THAT'S NOT RIGHT. I'm on a current streak of one win. Now I don't know what to trust anymore. And don't tell me to ignore the stats and stop checking them. If I had that kind of discipline I'd have stopped playing FC altogether long ago. It just doesn't want me feeling too good about myself, I guess. Like playing FC would do that for me at all. I play it to stop thinking, to stop feeling, to enter an orderly universe and let it bring itself to a tidy conclusion. I like it because it's simple and clean and I can keep trying it till I get it right. Knowing of its duplicity sours the whole thing.
thats just the way it seems to me at [7:16 PM]

 
WHATS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY
(Another mass transit saga)

He got on one stop after me, inbound at night - not a commuter, just a loose youth. He was tall, thin and pale, expensively tattered and utterly unremarkable. He moved fast past the faretumbler , flashing a wad of paper at the busdriver. The driver called him back - "Hey, let me see that again!" The youth was indignant - "whats the problem man come on!" "I need to see your transfer." He held it out. "This is old, this is a week old. You gotta pay the fare." They youth cursed as he fished out a bill and rammed it with ill humor into the slot. "There, you satisfied? Gimme a transfer too. " Handing over the slip of newsprint the driver advised sternly but without rancor, "You should know better." Stomping his way to his seat the youth rejoined, none too quietly but not to the driver's face, 'Yeah, well you shouldn't give a shit."

I was wearing my seiral killer trenchcoat, black watchcap, leather boots; my jaw was set and I felt potentially dangerous. I stared at the youth from my side-facing seat till I got off, three short stops down the line. I made him uncomfortable. He stared at his feet, occasionally flashing a glance at me to see that I was still on his case, saying nothing to me, clearly wishing I were not there. The feeling was mutual. I'm sick of people who not only don't give a shit, but resent others who do. I gave him the scowling of a lifetime. It was a job well done and he just sat there and took it. It was the most satisfying accomplishment of my day.
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:45 PM]

 
I'd be preoccupied - but I've got some other stuff going on right now...
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:35 PM]

[ Wednesday, January 22, 2003 ]

 
She who lives next door
is a sourfaced old crone
she lives out of cardboard boxes
and, but for a cat, alone.
She is thick around the pelvis;
she never entertains;
she's possessive of the parking:
she's a doctor, she's got brains
but I never see her smile
as sunshine fills the street,
stomping downstairs in her housecoat
on terry-slippered feet.
(We get along just fine
for I park with extra care -
encroach not on her driveway,
leave her egress unimpaired.)
Our garbage day was Monday.
I took the dog outside,
crossed over to the greenbelt,
and, while he peed, I spied
my crotchety old neighbor,
garage door lifting high;
she pulled her garbage to the curb
and looked me in the eye.
She knew that I saw her
as my doggie moved his bowel;
she wore a ratty sweatshirt,
huge pink panties and a scowl.
I cleaned up as was needed;
she stood there with a frown,
her pale thighs uncovered
as she tugged her sweatshirt down.
Her puffy face defiant,
she turned to go back in -
the worn and baggy cotton
masking her vertical grin.
The garbage men removed the trash
as promptly as before,
but my eyes remain polluted
by the crone who lives next door.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:32 PM]

 
TANGIBLE RELIEF: PARTS 1 AND 2

1. I got home tired and sore to find TNT's 7 pm L&O well under way. I thought I'd weaned myself from this addiction a few months ago, the addiction that had made me hang on Lenny Brisco's and Jack McCoy's every raised eyebrow, that tied me to the television from "these are their stories" to the final wry comment and fade-to-black. But clearly I was wrong. The passion I felt that night for this program was undimmed, if not increased. I planted both cheeks on the big green couch as willingly and thoughtlessly as I ever had; Kel poured me a glass of impertinent red, and I let the prosecution take over my evening. Luckily, the show ended at 8 and I was free - except TNT backed the the next L&O right up to the prior one and I hadn't time even to hoist one glute off the couch before those two piano notes warned me that I was again at another crime scene. I didn't recognize the episode and felt helpless to leave. Eventually I escaped for 15 minutes to pick up a burger and chips (Buffalo Burger, best in SF, order to go - it's not a place to linger) and got back for the conclusion of the trial. Bells began to ring - I did recall this episode. Sigh of relief. Finally the murderer allocuted and was hied off to face his fate, and I hove a sigh, gearing up to get vertical - me and my burger and my chips (put 'em in a paper sack and shake with adobo and cayenne - really, nothing else even comes close). Bonk-Bonk: a third L&O was starting. Of their own volition my legs relaxed, I sank deeper into the chenille luxury of the insidious couch, eyes trained on yet another televised crime scene. Two charming young people entered an apartment, she telling him that she couldn't believe he was growing pot on his balcony. That's all I needed to hear. I HAD SEEN IT. I KNEW BETTER. The power returned to my hands and legs. Before the unwitting characters had even discovered the body on the balcony, I had turned off the set. It was nine pm, and the evening was finally my own. To coin a phrase, it was a great relief.

2. It really made my day to see that Trader Joe's has added some real bagels to their line. Years ago they had great bagels; then they switched and only carried ones made of sourdough or sprouted weinerberry bread. There's a big difference between circular bread with a hole in the middle, and a bagel. Sourdough and sprouted weinerberry are inimical to the essential nature of the bagel. I had to get my bagels elsewhere, where a proper bagel was the rule, not the exception. But those days are now behind me. Once again I can enjoy the TJ bagel options. One less errand to run; one more reason to shop TJ's every week. Needless to say, it was a great relief.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:26 PM]

 
I must have been in 11th grade or so, at a point in my high school career when I had enough going on to justify being out of class (because I never once cut clas in the four years I spent there). I was walking from the 200 Building to the Admin Building and I was feeling pretty good about myself. I don't recall the details but my spirits were high enough that, as I traversed the concrete paths of the central quad, I swept one foot forward in some sort of kicking motion, knee locked like a placekicker. My foot rose swiftly and powerfully before me, swinging easily to the height to my face. It kept on going up, rising higher than it should have. Up turned to over. My other foot lifted off the ground. I realized then that I was entirely out of control. My head was dropping back fast, the back of my head swooping dangerously toward the ground. I saw sky. (It's not like I was some sort of physical prodigy. I played no sports, took no exercise, and toppled frequently and spectacularly. This was all a new experience for me.) My arms thrust themselves out ridigly to either side like the axis of a gyroscope. I saw the ground. That's when I realized that I was regaining control. My kicking leg had gone all the way around and was coming back to earth, the other leg rapidly following it. I landed on both feet at once and continued walking to the Admin Building without skipping a beat, hoping that my little adventure had escaped notice. No such luck - I'd been seen, by an underclass girl sitting on a bench, agape and silent, just a few feet ahead of me. The only line I could think to toss her way as I tried to stroll nonchalantly past her was 'bet you've never seen that before.' I know I sure hadn't. I've never yet replicated that move. I haven't tried. I don't need to do it again. When I get something right the first time, I consider myself finished. Even if I do it accidentally. Especially if I do it accidentally.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:05 PM]

[ Tuesday, January 21, 2003 ]

 
That was disturbing....

I just finished a short meeting when my supervisor came by my cube to check in on a project I've been handling. She's very sharp and has great institutional memory; she's been with this program nearly 25 years, since it started. But sometimes her conversation seems to wander, and she uses a lot of words to express small ideas, so it can be tough to follow her when she speaks at length, as she was doing just now. What made it worse was her shirt: she's a golfer and usually wears golf shirts, t-shirts from courses or polo-type shirts with golf themes embroidered on them. Today she's wearing one I don't think I've seen before - a black polo with a small embroidered square over the left breast, in which a white-gloved mickeymouse hand is reaching down to place a golf ball on a tee. This golf ball is right over her nippular area, and it just looks like somebody's tweaking her as she stands there discussing monitoring followups and her neice's college options. And the conversation weaves and veers as she adds sentence to sentence, and all I can think is, purple nurple...
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:26 PM]

 
Kel just finished Kavalier and Clay and I'm bound to start reading it soon. In the spirit of such things I've been looking through my old comic books lately - there's only two, The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen. So when this article came to my attention it struck me as very poignant. My main problem with the "humanists" is that they seem to portray anything that's not human as "animal," and endorse the negative imputation with which that word has been saddled. That seems a shortsighted and reactionary position, and I'm surprised such professional visionaries would assume it. I'm inclined to think that our evolutionary successors should be entitled to whatever we think we are entitled to ourselves. To do otherwise would be to thwart the very design of evolution. Then again, it's not like it would be the first time we've done that...

Also, by lowering trade tarrifs, theoretically you're expanding your product marketing potential - lower cost means additional economy of importation and perhaps a bigger market share by mere virture of ubiquity. It's bad business and bad philosophy. Ceci n'est pas un pipe, guys - we're dealing with comicbook characters. Can't we put these resources into something more productive?
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:22 AM]

[ Monday, January 20, 2003 ]

 
A new friend told me recently that she often does things by herself, on her own, free from attachment or distraction. I admired her independence, recalling how I enjoy my own company and how rarely I seek it.

But Saturday was the perfect opportunity to seize the moment. I had a couple dozen things to do at home - Kel was at work, I had the time to myself - but one distinction marked the date: to honor the ideals of Dr. King, and the dodecal anniversary of Desert Strom, a day of worldwide protest had been declared. Those who think we shouldn't start another war in Bagdhad gathered in DC and here in San Francisco, where I live and work already. Before I rose from bed that morning I had heard on NPR of 20 hour busrides, Misssissippi to DC - 40 roundtrip hours just to register a protest. It's less than an hour from my home to the marches here; I can even ride the bus to them for free.

Back in '91 my wife took part in similar events; she went with friends from work we no longer even think about, much less discuss or see. Now she's at another job, doing good for those in need. Though my personal responsibilities should have kept me home, I felt strongly - for myself and for my species - that I should go out alone with mobbing others to express my hope that somehow war could be averted. Nobody has been invaded, nobody is asking for our help, and foreign children are already starving under dictators and sanctions - so I went in silence and alone to encourage our Commander in Chief to find some patience and a better option. And, perhaps, I thought, I'd find a voice of protest in me that has rested quiet since that sit-in out at College Hall in 1984. That one, against apartheid, did not achieve its goal for years, but ultimately that obscenity of politics was ended. So I went in hope that worldwide protest might work faster, yes; and also that I might learn to endure my own companionship more easily, and that of some of those who share the planet with me.

Arriving at the protest site, I noticed first that race politics were being injected into the protests, and that the Iraqi offensive was being linked to US aid to Israel and the situation in Palestine. I can't buy that line. The Saudis are the same race as the Iraqis from where we stand, and we're sending them money and support. It's not race, it's politics. If you're having trouble staying on message, wear a more relevant T-shirt and look down at it every so often. Maybe you can find one that's printed upside down so you can read it as you march and get your story straight. When we're defending Kuait and Yemen against some chimerical Iraqi threat, you can't really call us racists. You can call us a bunch of stuff, but not that.

Later, a speaker on the podium before the march began was doing a protest rap; he brought out his two daughters with him. One was about 7 and she adorably screamed the chorus of his song into her microphone right on cue several times. She got huge applause. The other was about 4 I guess, a tiny girl to be in front of 50,000 or more people (I think it was more like 100,000 but I live in a fantasy world); she was carrying a sign that read "Did You Ask Me What I Want?" and was on the edge of tears on the stage, her fists against her ears to block the barrage of sound, unable to join her sister in song. I was figuring, nobody asked her whether she wanted to be in this protest, her sign notwithstanding....

Later, during the march itself, another small child was marching gamely with his parents, shuffling the 3 miles to City Hall, and chanting to the best of his ability: "We want war!" Yeah, kid - you and what army?

But in the end, I was cheered and encouraged to see that, at the very least, by sheer force of mass power, we had taken back the Verizon signal of fore- and middle-fingers held out and up in a "V". Once it was a peace sign, then a corporate logo, and now, maybe the pendulum has swung back? One small step, as they say... Now if we can just repossess the phrase "nucular" and have it scuttled....
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:36 PM]

 
I'm sober as a churchmouse and twice as fuzzy.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:27 PM]

 
I'll share the wealth in my own damn way. By keeping it.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:27 PM]

 
We have an open door policy here. So long as the door is open, shut your trap and do as I say or I'll fire your ass. If the door is closed, that means I'm gone but I'll come back to fire you tomorrow if I find out you opened my door without my permission.

Wanna hear about my "open mind" policy?
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:26 PM]

 
I had, until recently, a pair of socks that I particularly liked. They were warm and cozy and stylish and very fuzzy on the inside. I thought they were the best socks ever because every time I wore them I got sokfuz on my feet. That was proof, I thought, that they had the most going for them of all the socks - so much cozy fuz they could afford to shed a little on me each time I took them off. But finally I wore out the toes and reluctantly had to consign them to the dustheap of history. I got new socks which turned out to be even cozier and warmer than the old ones. I put them on and my feet were instantly cradled in softness and cush. It's the nicest feeling I've had below the ankles without another person being involved. And here's the thing: there's no off-fuzzing. All that softness and thermal protection is staying right where it's supposed to be. It makes me think that there's an important difference between giving a lot and leaving a piece of yourself behind, and giving it all and retaining your integrity. Are my socks a metaphor for life? Isn't everything?
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:24 PM]

[ Friday, January 17, 2003 ]

 
Chucklehut Survey: You've invented an aperitif made of cranberry juice and champagne. Do you call it a:
a) narcissus
b) crampain
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:01 PM]

[ Thursday, January 16, 2003 ]

 
Yeah, I know this one's kind of long, but I'm posting it anyway.

I guess it began in the early 90's with Kel's first soob, a little red wagon with lots of low-torque heart. True, my testicles were not enlarged by driving such a vehicle, but still it served our purposes quite well for several years; we felt a sense of loss beyond mere inconvenience when it was totalled by a redlight runner. Next came a vehicle that wanted to be a minivan but wasn't tuff enuf - we drove it till only second gear was operative.

Then came the second red soob wagon, undistinguished in the extreme, with broken 4WD and a crack that spanned the windshield. It smelled of the former owner's dog and looked extremely tired. We drove that sleepy little car to every place we went for five long years. It carried us through the time my 626 self-immolated and when the old beemer stopped responding to defibrillation. That little DL wagon, which I rued each time I sat in it, kept hauling us even up to the top of tall steep hills and rugged mountains, rattling and coughing, only one speaker for the broken tape deck, host to a world of woes but going on without complaint and almost without maintenance.

Until that morning when, in deference to my injury, Kel drove me to work and we noticed it was gearing up to overheat. We filled it with emergency water and got it to the shop to have it tuned; our unreasonably ethical mechanics refused to take the job. Head gasket blown, the cost of repairs exceeded value. We were advised to drive it so long as we could, and doing so, to find another car. And quick.

I really like the new car, another red soob wagon, this one pumped on low-grade steroids. It is everything the old one wasn't (except for being a red soob) - quiet, well-appointed, cosmetically acceptable and reasonably powerful. Driving is again a pleasure. Meantime, the defunct old car sat at the curb as we tried to sell, and then to donate, it, without success. Over time it started looking very shabby, carpeted with eucalyptus dust and needles from the pine trees overhead. Soon it needed jumper cables just to move it for bi-weekly streetsweepers. It billowed gouts of acrid pale smoke each time we started it.

Finally we bit the bullet. Despite the stalwart service it had done for us, to the exhaustion of its physical capacity, it had to be hauled off as junk. With more than just a little guilt, I arranged for the wrecker to tow it away.

That morning I unlocked the old soob one last time and popped the hood to jump it and avoid a final parking ticket. Then I got the other - working - car, pulled it round, fished out the cables - found I'd lost the other keys, the ones for the car they were coming to tow. I'd held them in my hand not thirty seconds prior - now I searched my pockets, both the cars, the street and sidewalk - finding nothing. I went back inside and got the spares.

Keys: these were on a little ring, one for the ignition and the doors, and one to work the trunk. Along with them, a dog tag: Bozo, 4518 Wortser, NoHo 91604; a (213) phone number also. Bozo - we got her when I was four; a good and personable dog throughout her life. When I was 19, home from college for the summer, I could not ignore the ravages that time had wrought on her - so weak and tired, nearly blind, unable to get out to answer nature's call. I drove her to the vet and said goodbye, held her as she pased from me. I hated to have lost her but the time had come for her to be set free forever. I miss her still and kept her tag with me for longer than she'd been alive.

And now, as Al from All-Star Towing hitched up the good old soob I'd held in such disdain, crushing a virtuous rear tire into the curb till I felt the pressure in my heart, I scanned one final time for the ring with the keys for the car I was junking and the tag from the dog I'd had destroyed. Th search, again, was fruitless. The driver cinched the tow chains tight and pulled away, the car obedient as always, trotting along behind the truck. The good old car was gone, the keys that ran it gone as well. The dog, that good old dog, was so far gone as to be but a ghost of memory. Her tag, that, while I kept it, tied me to another era, now is lost forever, I'm afraid. Time to lay the dog to rest, to let the past evaporate.

Now my keychain sports another dog tag, one I found across the street from where I'm living now. It was unearthed when city crews tore up some ratnest ivy and it's dated 1947. One more dog that's dead, but this time I have no attachment. Maybe if I'm forced to part with this one I will find it easier. But something quite ineffable is gone from me. My keys, once keys to history and heart, now only open future doors.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:04 AM]

[ Wednesday, January 15, 2003 ]

 
I was shocked to see the letterhead. Why would they be writing me again? It's been a year and seven months since I stopped working for them, since I broke away from endless days in lonely cowtown, eating mud and taking orders from a shill who knew no more than I - so many months in stagnant stasis, trying to advance the cause, alone and aching, making calls to strangers at their supper table, begging with a borrowed hat in shackled hands.

They'd made me promise to contribute; I was paying back my salary to those who quashed my vital spark and left me mouldering where honest folk would never tread. They wouldn't share the time of day with me, just left me to my own devices, then denied me those as well. And so I left, and since that day I had heard nothing from the ones who'd hung me out to dry - until, last Friday, came a letter. My old boss had left but my name stuck to someone's wall, and her successor sent me a request - resume your payments. Meet your obligation.

So I called her. Do you know, I asked, that I've heard nothing from you since I left? No magazine, no thank you note, no invitation to the open house to celebrate what I'd made possible for you? Do you know my gift was nigh extorted from me? That my bitterness was born of long-endured neglect that bordered on abuse? She told me I'd be taken off the list and swiftly ended what I had begun.

Now I'm free of her, of them, of all of it. Why don't I feel even just a little better? After all, it's just my solemn word I've broken. This kind of situation leaves me feeling worse than when I started. Now I need to take that sense of frustrated benevolence and do something to make a difference. Not for my community - at least, today, that's not my motive; I just need to find a way to salve the notion that I'm just a heel, self-involved and selfish, undeserving of the trust my global village placed in me. In the meantime I'll just loathe myself in silence. It's cheap and I have lots of practice.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:23 PM]

 
One of those days
you can predict
before the floorboards freeze your feet
before you try to make a sound
even as you lie in state
exactly as you laid asleep
One of those days you'd rather not have
throat dry and scratchy, uvula
incensed, ears plugged and throbbing
as you rise, your head is not your own -
it soars above your shaky body, plummets
down into a murky sea of
insubordinate unthinking
showerwater burns your skin
and all you think is, I can feel it
food, the breaking of the fast,
is no enticement, nor does vigor
creep into your soles while walking
through the stale morning streets
and you begin to realize
it's not just you, the world is ill
you have unpleasant conversations
telling people ugly truths
and they return the favor, as
your gorge and rage creep up your throat
takes all your strength to sit and act
like you are showing some respect
your vision blurs, your eyeballs shudder
folk materialize before you
posing thoughtless queries, shredding
work you thought you put to bed
engaging you in pointless chat
against which you rebel in silence
frozen, boiling, ossified
they look at you expecting answers
all you want to do is sleep
or lie awake on sweaty sheets
those moments to which you looked forward
falter, fold, decay before you
ere you see that they've begun
the kind of day that never ends
you know it prior to arising
yet you must get up out of bed
and try to salvage just a moment
knowing better than to hope
no friendly words will pave your path
or ease your burden
one more snooze will make no difference
time to go and meet my fate
live out the doom that looms before me
wait for better days to come
assuming that the world endures
so I arise. The day begins.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:10 PM]

 
We're developing quite a shelf of cookbooks here at the 'hut. We have classics, novelties, exotics, and dark horses for the betting man. And we're using them, too - for inspiration, direction, instruction - for compiling shopping lists and for turning groceries into meals. We've found a few recipes that didn't impress or took too much work, and several dozen we need to try but haven't yet. It's a source of great comfort to see all these books standing there on the green kitchen shelves behind the bread basket.

But one is more comforting than the rest. The Settlement Cookbook, 1909 edition I think, with the worn, nearly illegible embossed motto on the front cover: "The way to a man's heart..." (I won't ruin the ending of that one.) Inside, some of the index pages are loose, others are missing, many pages throughout are stained with grease and opaque solids nigh unto obscurity. Those are the pages Nana cooked from most of all. The book was hers, a wedding present, and she used it till she put away the spatula for good. I got it when they left the condo for the home.

Last week we warmed a pot of Charles' hambean soup, delicious, thick and hot, a meal in itself. I pulled out Settlement and found a recipe for soda biscuits, pure and unadorned, the formula that's stood the test of time. Twenty minutes from the book to the bowl, they were perfect, flaky, ageless - just like Nana might have made them. Nothing more was needed, wanted - the soup became a full-on banquet. And, making up my biscuits, I felt my ties to kitchens going back three generations through my ragged little cookbook. It features every recipe imaginable in the first decade of the last century, diets lenten to kosher l'pesach, substitutions for most staples, foods for children and the very aged. It has at least one billion recipes. But most of all, it has my Nana's kitchen still inside it; all I need to do is let it fall to any random page and there she'll be again, imperious and sanitary, weilding chicken salad and jello molds as tools of conquest and subjugation. That power now has descended to me, or I have been elevated to it. Either way, there's a lot in that book that goes beyond food.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:55 PM]

 
OFFICE OF LEGAL SERVICES, ACCESS & FAIRNESS PROGRAMS DEPARTMENTAL MEETING
JANUARY 15, 2003, ROOM 4A - 10 AM TO 12 NOON (plus...)
(inspired by Matt's sonnet)

The meeting grinds. The minutes last for days,
agenda creeps along at snail's pace;
I plead in silence with the things I praise
that I be favored with restraint and grace.
I have no interest, knowledge or concern
for anything that anyone has said;
It seems the goal is not to share and learn
but just to drone till all of us are dead.
A million thoughts are jostling my brain
as sugar and caffeine disrupt my thought
It's hard to tell if I have gone insane
or if this is a trap in which I'm caught.
The clock is running backwards. I endure,
amuse myself with fantasies impure,
while factoids drop to earth like worthless spoor -
bureaucracy is illness without cure.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:28 PM]

[ Monday, January 13, 2003 ]

 
Thankfully this arrived at my desk at work just moments before a moment of weakness overcame me. With a firm committment and rigid self-control, I was able to grasp the situation and take it fully in hand. It's not so easy to ignore the urgings of my firey nature, but thanks to the Morning Fix and the provocatively named Mr. Mark Petersen, I have learned to control the beast within. And if you happen to hear me shouting "No, stop!" while I'm in the bathroom, do please come in and help me. That's why we leave the door open, right?
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:39 PM]

 
Maybe the Simpson's aren't what they used to be when they got started. But in a recent episode, Lenny articulated my new approach to life:

"If I didn't have inner peace I'd completely go psycho on all you guys all the time."

I feel calmer already.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:31 PM]

 
Where I was: halloween party
What was asked: "What's that costume?"
Answer I heard: "Grody old cowboy."
Actual answer: RODEO COWBOY.
Incessant thought since 11/1/02: assembling a grody old cowboy costume. No end to the utility of such a resource.
Nagging concern: I'm not really sure what a grody old cowboy would wear....
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:26 PM]

 
...his beard looks like his chin threw up....
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:23 PM]

 
We just got rid of the old soob. Much more on that later, but first Kel had to go to DMV and get paperwork for the Bill of Sale, Power of Attorney, and Odometer Disclosure. (Yeah it makes me feel like a man to know what you need to transfer vehicular title. A small nerdy man.) She came back with the paperwork in hand, and an observation: The worst drivers in the city, a city known for poor driving, are all in the DMV parking lot. I guess it makes sense.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:22 PM]

 
The crow stood on the littered strip
the median where garbage breeds
Before him rolled four lanes of traffic
heedless of his glossy wisdom
The ground was shaking with their speed,
their weight, their thoughtless might, their sureness
That is when the crow leapt forward,
doing what has made him famous
Merely yards away were standing
others of his inky ilk
so little space to separate them
Thus he charted his intentions,
hypotenused his shortest path
and flew toward the other birds
directly into roaring engines,
radiators - moving walls -
on which his dark reflection gleamed
I saw it all. Five cars avoided
turning him into a giblet
as he flapped with - could it be
anxiety or that regret I feel
when I have chosen badly?
One yard above the ground he flew
until he landed safely but
his cohorts didn't seem to notice

I may still use the flight of crows
to symbolize the quickest route
but now I see that merely choosing
paths because they are direct
can put a bird in mortal danger
Regardless that he landed living
I may select a route that wends
if traffic blocks a shorter path
I'd rather know I'll land alive
Efficiency is moot for those
who have eternity to wait.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:15 PM]

[ Friday, January 10, 2003 ]

 
- Are you in line?

- No, I'm just watching.

- It's incredible, isn't it.

- This is probably what modern culture means to most of them.

- Makes you wonder if it was worth it.

- Ask them; they'd say it was.

- And I came down here just to watch them, for my own amusement. On purpose. So I must have decided that this was worth it for me as well.

- Was it voyeurism that compelled you?

- No, I don't think so. I don't feel titillated. I feeel dirty, but prideful. Maybe I came to feed a sense of superiority.

- How's that working for you?

- Now that I've articulated it, not so well. It's starting to feel like the satisfaction I derive from watching people I feel superior to, is inversely proportional to the developmental distance I perceive between myself and them.

- "...to whom I feel superior."

- That was a clause, not a sentence; you can end a clause with a preposition. My point, if you can see it through your syntax, is that the greater the chasm between me and them, the less I think of myself for revelling in it.

- "...between them and myself."

- Are you even listening to me?

- Yeah, you're saying you came here to diminish yourself in your own eyes by deriding those you assume to be lesser than yourself, but you seem challenged to express the idea using proper grammar. Really, it verges on comedy.

- Your suggestions regarding my usage are specious and suggest a cursory and inadequate education. You can keep them to yourself.

- Hey, you like sounding like an idiot, don't let me stop you. Goes well with the slack jaw and prognathic brow.

- "Prognathic" refers specifically to mandibular characteristics, you dillhole.

- I'll mandibular characteristics you, goddamn bitchwhacker.

- Bitchwhacker isn't even a curse, you - hey, get your hands off me, I'll break your arm - ouch - how dare you -

- Yeah, go on, tell me bitchwhacker isn't a word you bitchwhacker, now don't - oh damnit -

~ Heah lookit, them dudes are kicken each others's asses, poor guys, they don't even know what they're at do they, whatta buncha sissy fighters - they'll be at it all night - let's watchum, better'n pay-per-view...

MORAL: Everybody's stupid, but that won't stop any of us from making fun of each other.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:48 PM]

 
Sometimes you get more information than you asked for. Like, suppose you're asking, "Which of these 4,000 books on MS-Access is right for me? For my hopes, dreams, and personal limitations? What makes them different from each other, and do any of those differences actually make one of them better? Or best?" These are normal, healthy questions that people like you and me ask all the time. There's no reason to be ashamed or embarassed about them. We are in good company.

But then - but then - as you idly pluck thick floppy masses of text off the shelves at Stacy's and flip through them to see whose typeface, level of detail and sense of humor best match your own decorum and capacities - that's when you get the extra information. Someone has torn a page from a magazine and inserted it, folded in half, into the ostensibly unsullied volume in your hands. On one side, a fashion plate featuring high-cost, high-exposure poolside fashion displayed on the body of a skinny little model. On the obverse, you find the first page of an article on pubic hair: Who trims, dyes, shaves; pet names for one's pubes; cultural insights into saving the shavings, genital perfumes and how to get incense smoke where it doesn't belong.

The page is torn - no way to tell what publication produced this tract. But you read what you've found, grateful for the variety, earnestly convincing yourself, "this is still useful and important data for me to learn. The kind of data I wouldn't want to ask about at the busy information desk of this busy urban bookstore."

I, for one, would have been embarassed to ask, "Are there modern cultures that celebrate pubic surplussage, and the natural odors associated therewith?" But this time, I didn't have to ask. The answers just fell into my hands. I think it's God's way of telling me to stop and smell the roses.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:36 PM]

[ Thursday, January 09, 2003 ]

 
I had to force myself not to wear it yesterday.

Kel came home from her family xmas with some gleanings. The kids had harassed Big Frank too many times about his crammed, uncharted closets. They galvanized him into action. After the ensuing closet-clearing, Kel came home with relics, two, for me: a t-shirt, 'York Bar Bell' - XL from Dad, but fills a niche, I think I'll keep it for a while; and then the prize - Maybeheather's denim jacket, levi's, circa 1985 or 90, smelled like once was dipped in coffee, put away unwashed and never touched for 15 years, sleeves down to my fingertips, crusted and musty. I thought, "here I go again."

I might have been 6 when I got my first denim jacket - was it green? When I say I wore it out, I mean I wore it till there was nothing left of it, never took it off, and if I couldn't bear the heat, I'd tie it round my waist. And I developed a fetish for patches too, and had Mom stitch them all over the back of the jacket: ecology, peace, benign early-seventies stuff.

When I was tearfully forced to replace it with another denim jacket - red? - I had Mom transfer the patches and I transferred my bizarre attachment to an article of clothing. I cycled through at least a dozen jackets during grade school, and after those first fauvist two, my choice was always levi's denim. I got from them exactly what I wanted every time - high utility, high familiarity. With some reluctance I weaned myself from them after grade school, when I started to think they were a social liability. Like that made any difference. Different story.

This story now picks up with the aforementioned Maybeheather jacket. I washed it and it shrank up to fit me perfectly. The smell was gone. I think I will be able to resist sewing patches on it with cute sayings like "Speed Kills" and "Don't follow me I'm lost too", but that's taking all my willpower. The urge to wear the damn thing is omnipresent. Thankfully I have some other nice jackets to counteract some share of my compulsion, but I know eventually I'll wear this one out too. Maybe I'm denying my true nature. Do I need a support group? "Outerware support" sounds like an underwire jacket, though. I think I'm on my own with this one.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:57 AM]

 
Anybody out there listen to Chuck Prophet? I ask because I've been wondering about his song, I Bow Down and Pray to Every Woman I Meet. Near the end of the song the lyrics go "Aint no mother... gonna criticize me." The pattern of the words against the music makes it sound like there's a two syllable word that fits right after "mother" and I was wondering when I first heard the album whether such a word had been deleted. The more I listen, the less I think that happened. There's no cursing on the album as far as I can tell, and the song's theme suggests to me that the word I suspect may have been deleted wouldn't fit with the story being told. Anybody else thing Chuck's playing with Chuckle's head? Anybody else want to get in on the fun?
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:39 AM]

[ Wednesday, January 08, 2003 ]

 
And lest we forget, let me broadcast to the world that the finest bigos I've ever et - and I've et some fine bigos to be sure - was served to me last Saturday night at Andy and Heidi's house. Charles and Lori brought pierogies which they fried in butter and slathered with carmelized onions; these we ate enthusiastically with sublime pickled herring and sevruga caviar and sour cream on crisp light crackers on the side. Oh, and we drank vodka too.

Our tastebuds sensitized and ringing, Andy served up the stew - masses of basi and smoked turkey in mounds of sauerkraut, the flavors all mingled and subdued, tangy and sweet and heartwrenchingly tender... with this he served the best damn potatoes I've EVER eaten, chunked and parboiled, seasoned and buttered and roasted to a fluff inside a crispy shell.

For dessert, we enjoyed Ralph's typically wonderful Aussie sweet wine and some See's candy, and Kel brought a traditional poppy roll. And a marble cake. And pfefferneussen. And a traditional polish chocolate wafer disk. And a bunch of weird cone-shaped chocolates wrapped in colorful foil and filled with some kind of unusual wafer-n-cream combo.

Then we let Ralph take the kids home, and Charles took Lori home, and Kel and I got into the hot tub and simmered ourselves into bliss under an unusually starry sky. Andy joined us after about half an hour and shortly after that we hove out of the wooden barrel, toweled off, got dressed and drove home. We got home after midnight, which is pretty darn late for homebodies like us.

Polak fest has become a well-established mainstay in our party repertoire, but we'll never do better than last Saturday night - it sets a new standard. That kind of satisfaction can last halfway through a standard workweek. Well, welcome to Wednesday, Chuckles - the party's over. Time to smoke another turkey.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:47 PM]

 
I was always the healthy one, by which I mean least sickly, least incapacitated by health concerns. I didn't miss a lot of school, despite a rash of broken bones and a few serious sunburns. I did well with doctors, took my shots without much complaint... but I do share the family's congential deformity: the accessory scaffoid, an extra bone in the meat of my foot, just above where normals have an arch. My kin and I are archless. Through some cruel quirk of coincidence, both my parents were born with a highly unusual recessive condition, and by mating they guaranteed that both my sister and I would get it too. Mom and dad both have had surgery to correct it, unsuccessfully - now dad can't walk much anymore and mom is missing parts of some of her toes. Sis's weak ankles helped shorted her terpsichorean career - a few serious pulls and reconstructions and she couldn't think of dancing any more. I've worn orthotics since 8th grade and always favored biking over running because of my flat pronating pods. But here's the thing: in the 13 years or so I've been doing yoga, I've always blamed my poor balance on my weak ankles. They were a very convenient foil for explaining my tendency to topple during tree or triangle. But it turns out that sis, whose ankles are a lot worse than mine, can do tree just fine. Deprived of my excuse, I am now learning to do tree also. Turns out I do have some sense of balance, though it badly needs development. "Balance" is my special challenge for the year, according to a card I selected at random at High Holiday services last autumn. So long as I am upright I will embrace that challenge.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:17 PM]

 
And, on a tangentially related note, I learned recently from Dr. Andy that, when he was managing my post-op recovery after my wrist surgery, he encountered hospital staff discussing a patient (me) in hushed tones of - dare I say it? - awe. "I've never seen anyone take so much pain medication and still make sense. Maybe he's an addict." No snookums, just a bottomless pit of hedonistic potential. It's the kind of talent that must be nurtured gently... now about those spongebaths...
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:48 PM]

[ Monday, January 06, 2003 ]

 
I got in the elevator; two men were there already. Both had very short hair, neatly pressed shirts, shiny belts, business pants. They were both standing on one side of the elevator; I was near the front, facing (as is obligatory) out. One said to the other, "You got new shoes." I looked too - his pennyloafers shone preternaturally in the spot halogens. "Yes," said the other, tall and lean and almost bald. There ensued a brief pause. "Bass?" asked his friend, slightly less tall, slightly more rotund, with a fringe of short hair and a short dark beard. A slightly longer pause: "Yes." I could smell their antiperspirants, each of them, separate masculine yet floral scents. I felt watched as I watched the indicator lights flash on and off in the board in front of me in slow pixillated simulation of motion as we plummeted down the shaft. The tall one asked, "Did you have a good new year's eve?" They exchanged a quick
meaningful glance. Neither spoke until they left the elevator, walking close together, both with a quick tight gait. The more bearded one leaned forward to describe his neoannual revels, eyes bright and lips pursing in anticipation of juicy details; they disappeared down the hall as the elevator doors closed, rapt in the retelling, released from my inhibitory presence. Sorry to slow you down, boys. You really aren't fooling anybody, you know.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:54 AM]

[ Friday, January 03, 2003 ]

 
In honor of a reasonably new year I took a few minutes this morning to clean my desk. I'm one of those "good workers" whose desk was already clear of old assignments and random pieces of surplussage. I'm so good I bring my lunch to work most every day and eat it here at my desk. A desk which, in consequence, had developed a nice shaggy crust of PBJ, mango juice, chili sauce and some brown stains I'm not looking at too carefully. I used a highly-pressurized foaming product from 3M to surfact up these aged filths. So why bother you, gentle reader, with such details? The 3M Foaming Desk and Office Cleaner smells like I spilled bad gin all over my desk. Quite an evocative odor. I am now dying for a jalapeno-stuffed olive, a small glossy dark cocktail table, and another weekend. Oops! Here comes one now! That's what I like - quick service. Well, that's one thing I like. I don't want to tie myself down already. It's only January 3.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:57 PM]

 
It's not enough that the world is hurtling toward extinction, that human nature is a cesspit, that entropy is final and immutable. I could handle that stuff. It wasn't my problem. Not so long as I had my cheapass halogen desklight I got at Targe'. It brought a small, unfocused spot of incandescent light to my dusky beige cube, the only visible source of non-flickering, non-florescent illumination for those who toil in the grantmines as I do. Yeah, so yesterday I heard it crackle and cackle and I wondered, like, "Hm." And then I wondered, like, "Crackling. Not so great." But today I turned it on and there was a flash and a pop and no more light. So NOW I'm pissed. And don't tell me I can just change the light bulb. I read all the jokes and now I have no idea how many lawyers or non-profit administrators or white men or whatever it takes to screw in a lightbulb. All I know is that I languish in relative darkness, my blog-editing screen now the brightest thing in my day. All else evaporates into the misty obscurity of office lighting design.

MORAL: Electricity is our friend.
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:48 PM]

 
I didn't spend enough of yesterday gratifying my inner geek by repeatedly using the date 01/02/03. It'll be 100 years before we get that again, folks. Don't tell me it doesn't give you a thrill to see all those consecutive digits laid out like that. Maybe it actually doesn't give you a thrill but for gods sake don't tell me that. It's all I have left.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:59 AM]

 
Okay I'll stop after this one, but here's my question to the people of this great country: if you're gonna change your name to Jack Ass, shouldn't you expect people to take it in vain? If you make up a weird name like Jazzy Dangle, okay. You've got protectable unique content - even though, technically, titles and names cannot be copywritten unless containing in and of themselves some cognizable content (such as Tomlin's "Search for Intelligent Life"). However, there's privacy rights and misrepresentation, not to mention appropriation of likeness and interference with prospective economic advantage. But that's when you make up a name. When you use one that's been around for centuries, and then try to protect it, you really are a jackass.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:03 AM]

 
Lets say it proudly: Boo sets the standard. PBR: It's not just for target practice anymore!
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:56 AM]

 
I don't know whether to file this under "Shut up already about your bad day" or "Triumph over nature - this species ROCKS!" In either case, Man Bites Crocodile In The Nose is a story we would all be wise to study. I intend to start biting my antagonists on the nose starting immediately. Starting with myself.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:41 AM]

 
Isn't it great what computers can do for us? They can organize our thoughts and our business, bring us together, help us communicate, and then ruin our careers by unveiling our perverse fetish during a business meeting. It's the working of the hand of god. Some people deserve their bad luck.
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:33 AM]

[ Thursday, January 02, 2003 ]

 
I think y'all are taking this whole "2003" thing way too seriously. It's not like this will be the last chance we have to get stuff done. If some of you are considering ambitious self-improvement programmes that don't get completed by December 03, loosen up - you've still got years after that to deal with anything left over. Let's depressurize this "new year" thing and ease up a bit on the resolutions. And if you can't, if you're constitutionally incapable of letting well-enough alone and feel compelled to have an agenda of personal growth for the next 12 months, here are a few resolutions I'm not currently using - feel free to add extras for those for whom Santa didn't bring a special bag of guilt. Some people just don't have enough pressure in their lives.

Stop eating stuff just because its weird - unless it’s really really weird
Close cover when striking
Use more food coloring on both food and non-food items
Stand proud - even when seated
Learn the weight-loss secrets of movie stars
Slash prices so low you’ll think I’m insane
Carry Lysol everywhere and spray it liberally
Probe for hidden truths
Support the Bottom
Impose my will
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:31 PM]

 
She was the classic package, wholesome and unsullied - a modest profile, slim figure, sober business attire and self-possessed attitude. I'd have been petrified ever to speak to her. It's not that she was exceptionally beautiful, she just seemed so sure of herself, and I would have felt very uncomfortable insinuating myself into whatever well-structured world she inhabited. As it happened, I was sitting on a bench facing forward and next to me was another bench facing into the train car (yes, another transit story, this was BART in Oakland); she approached a seat on the inward-facing bench. I'd be able to see what she was reading, how she managed the tiny activities that occupy travellers on their various travels. She demurely planted her butt on the cushioned seat and pulled a bulky paperback from her bag. My heart clenched to see that she was reading the Rules of Evidence that would govern a law school competition of some kind. I've been there, my garrulous persona was urging me to commiserate. Yeah, you've been there and it sucked, so don't distract or irritate her; just because you endured this kind of drek doesn't mean you're entitled to distract and retard others attempting the same feat. Let her study. So, as (almost) always, I shielded my gaze and clamped my jaw.

The train was about to start moving when he leapt between the doors as they closed. He was slightly less than average height, not well-built, with a belly that, by its roundness, called attention to his lack of musculature. His sport coat was not in good condition and didn't fit him terribly well. His pants were unpressed, unprepossessing. His shoes - scuffed leather oxfords in guttermud brown - looked even worse next to the pert business pumps strapped to her soles. She made him look like a dumpster diver. There were plenty of open seats but I could tell he'd want to sit next to her, especially when I saw him see what she was reading. He settled in at my knees with a congenial nod to her and opened a leatherette document sleeve that was frayed and shiny with use, pulled out a newsletter: "Tax Practitioner Monthly," or something of similar ilk. With quiet self-importance, he began to read his turgid periodical (and I don't mean turgid in the good way). His fingers slid back and forth under the line he was reading, pushing his eyes to move faster. His fingers moved so fast that it looked like he was petting his newsletter, fondling it with thin pink fingers. He'd stick with one line, his fingers running back and forth under it four or five times before he had sufficiently read it, and then he'd move to the next one. His hand moved much more quickly than he was reading. As he slowly worked his way through the material he'd brought with him, he occasionally glanced to the woman next to him to see if she had noticed what he was reading, that he was a potential mentor for her, that they were siblings in the law and he could shelter her and foster her budding skills and intuition with avuncular wisdom and compassion... she kept her eyes down, thoughtful, undistracted. She left the train first, putting her book back in her bag and rising with cool cosmopolitan calm at a transfer station. He watched her leave; she did not turn her gaze on him as she exited the car. He was left sitting alone, put his newsletter away with sighs and officious folding, and finally left his seat at the last appropriate moment with a wistful glance back over his shoulder. I could smell unfulfilled hopes and realized frustrations in the air eddying behind him. Or maybe that was just West Oakland.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:58 PM]

 
When something happens, I try just to notice it and not to draw conclusions. When something happens twice, it becomes more challenging to remain open to the full range of causal possibilities. For example: not long ago I sat on my usual ass on my usual buss, listening to my walkman and watching the streets roll past. The seat next to me opened up. A young man seated across the aisle and behind me a bit promptly got up and switched seats to the one next to me. I checked back - the seat he'd vacated was not adjacent to anyone who appeared, on superficial visual examination, to be remarkably distasteful - I couldn't see a reason for him to have moved. He was no nearer the door; he was still sitting next to another person, he didn't get a window seat that he hadn't had before... He was in his 20s, I think, with red hair, red whiskers, a red zippered coat, chinos and sensible brown leather shoes. He wasn't making eye contact with me, or any other kind of contact so far as I could tell; he just plunked down next to me and sat quietly. So even though I quickly exhausted my roster of potential reasons for changing seats without figuring out a good hypothesis for my new seatmate's behavior, I was content to let it lapse into the realm of unsolved mysteries, or at least, mysteries not interesting enough to spend any more time trying to solve. Shortly before the end of the line at the Transbay Terminal, where we both ultimately disembarked, he switched seats again so he was sitting right next to the door. He didn't make any communicative gestures toward me that I could see - and I'm a trained professional.

But then it happened again today. The bus was crowded, so I felt obliged to take a seat when one opened right next to where I was standing. (I'd already opted against taking a back row seat next to a wildman perched like a coiled spring with bulging eyes and matted, coronal hair. I hate taking the back corner seat, especially when it's next to an unwashed human time bomb waiting to blow up or wet his pants or both. Especially both.) So I sat and relaxed for a few minutes on the way to work. Shortly thereafter I saw Red push his way through the crowd, his hair still a little mussed, his whiskers, too spare to be a beard, unshaven, his jacket unfashionably primary in coloration. The slightly zoftig young woman whom I so often see on the bus gave him stinkeye but good as he shouldered past her, literally bumping people out of the way to get back to where I was sitting. By this point a few seats had opened up. He took the seat next to me again and this time rode it all the way to the terminal. We didn't speak or exchange glances. It was like the relationship one has with the gent at the next urinal. So I'm wondering why he has made such an effort, twice now, to join me for a silent ride downtown? I don't mind the company - it's not understanding his basic motivation that has me so distracted. Anyway it's better than sitting next to the actively psychotic.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:26 PM]

 
What the kids today are saying:

Seen painted on the center street divider on Geary westbound at Masonic: "I'm CrabMeat." Well don't be so proud of yourself, chum. Some of us are actually vertebrates on this bus.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:01 PM]

 
So I was doing a little reading on the bus and encountered Dogen Zengi's Tenzo Kyokun - a guidebook for management of kitchens in zen monestaries. In the discussion of this work, which I have not myself read and let's not get crazy now with the weird exotic reading material anyway, I found a discussion of the old Chinese tenzo (cook/chef) who was working hard to dry out his mushrooms in the hot sun; in his late years, he was glistening with perspiration as he labored. Asked why he was working so hard at such a warm time of day, and why he hadn't assigned the task to someone else, he replied (reportedly) "Other people are not me. And if I don't do it now, when else can I do it?" This response was cited as a good example of certain zen practices which are at the moment somewhat obscure and vague in my weary mind. Regardless, it seemed remarkably similar to the famous challenge of Nasi Hillel: "If not now, when? If not me, who?" I hadn't thought of such active, worldly words as partaking of zen spirit. Shows ya what I know. Maybe it's time to get back into some comic books.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:56 PM]

 
I learn that my nephew Paul, now 11 or so years old, wanted to be a rap star (probably hip hop, you know how overexcited those little kids get) when he was about 4. He picked out a name for himself and told his parents that was what he wanted to be called. Today he's probably grateful not to have the nickname "Funny P" hanging albatross-like from his youthful neck. He's pretty cool but that's pushing one's luck.

My personal selection for a hip-hop or DJ name for 01/02/03: Jazzy Dangle. Sporty, eh?
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:32 PM]

 
I was coming home - in my car - across the bay bridge, full and toasty warm and moving swiftly to the compelling groove of some chunky funky mixes. Traffic wasn't bad but there were a lot of vehicles around. The one that caught my attention pulled up alongside me just before the tunnel: an undistinguished dodge van with tinted windows, tired blue paint, and a good head of steam. As it consumed the road and passed me on the left I noticed its bumper sticker: "DO NOT PASS." Yeah, right, buddy, I thought to myself. I'll pass yer ass when I'm good and ready and don't pull any dodge van attitude either. But this guy had attitude to spare. Even as I articulated these thoughts, the boring vehicle was accellerating, moving past me into the frontiers of darkness and traffic at a speed that I found just a little dangerous. I let him just cruise past me, happy to give his bumpersticker more credence and respect than I had at first. It no longer seemed to plead, "Do not pass, please, I'm fragile enough today as it is;" this was more like "IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE, YOUR VEHICLE, AND YOUR INSURANCE RATES, STAY THE HELL BEHIND ME." As I came off the bridge I caught a glimpse of him barrelling along the 80 onto the Skyway and amidst the jaded lights of the dreaming city. No one was passing him. The evening concluded without further incident.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:25 PM]

 
Noisy parties can be such an impediment to effective communication. Just when you need the subtlty of inflection, the distinctive difference between a short vowel and a schwa, just when mispronouncing an umlaut can be most deleterious for one's social agenda and continuing personal growth - that's when the overwhelming wall of festive sound can render you not only unheard, but potentially misunderstood and derided by strangers. For those attending parties with a goal in mind other than to be ignored or humiliated, Ohbalto directs us to these easy signals that can help you make every party a personal success.

My question is this: what other signs need to be developed? I was thinking of ones such as: "I'm Superman - you Jane", "I’ll be your best friend," "Can you open this zipper for me?," and "Those goddamn liberals are ruining the country". Submissions for additional signals are now being accepted.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:21 AM]