The ChuckleHut

[ Wednesday, April 30, 2003 ]

 
RECENT D'ETRE

Of course I didn't forget about you. I had to save a kitten from a burning napalm factory. Twice. So don't get all in a huff. There are demands on my time. And ants in my pants. And they're all for you.

Lacking the mental discipline to think of any one thing for long enough to craft a decent essay about it, let me share a few items that dropped into my brain and got stuck:

On a recently-aired television commercial, a major grocery chain started lauding the services cheerfully provided by their produce specialists, their checkers, and their "meat cutters." We used to have a pretty good word for "meat cutter;" it was butcher. Has that word fallen irreparably into disrepute now that Saddam and Kevin Kline have been pegged with that moniker? What we need is a positive butcher role model. Growing up in LA, we had Farmer John with his "locally dressed pork." Even I knew that mean "killed, skinned and severed in your area code." And he wore a cool hat. Maybe if they gave up those blood-stained aprons for something more stylish, and had big farmer hats. Maybe if they'd stop sharpening that cleaver and whistling the theme from psycho while I'm trying to decide between the rump roast and the london broil. There's got to be a solution here. We can't go much further with all this talk of meat cutters, though; pretty soon the dairy section will have cheese cutters and the whole system will collapse.

On a recently-aired "sponsor ID" on NPR, the sponsor was a huge accounting firm. Their tagline is "The answer is the people of D&T." That's great, unless the question is, "who f'd up my audit? Who got the SEC involved in this? Who's been sleeping with my wife?" Sometimes "the answer is the people of D&T" isn't the answer the people at D&T will want to give.

I recently rented a movie based on the trailer - the montage of scenes cobbled together to make the film attractive to potential viewers. The trailer showed people smiling, then people laughing, then a sexy girl in a school uniform looking coy, then a sexy woman in a red dress posing in front of a window... there were images of people riding bikes cheerfully, powering up a little hill, riding no-handed with arms outstretched... images of tough guys carrying busted bikes and hassling each other... all against a soundtrack of happy, inspirational music. Okay, I like bikes. I like happiness (in moderation). I'm not opposed to sexy girls-n-women, in or out of dresses and uniforms. What the hell, we took the plunge. THE MOVIE WAS UNREMITTINGLY DEPRESSING. Every momentary flash of a grin or ambiguous grimace was included in the trailer, even when the overall scene was tragic and the characters were alienated and miserable. The women were not developed characters worthy of any attention, and they never disrobed or even made out - separately or together. The one character I didn't detest was beaten to a pulp - that was the scene from the trailer of the "tough guy carrying a bike." I might have seen this movie had I known what it was about, but I feel cheated by the trailer - cheated into seeing a movie other than that which I thought I was renting. If the trailer is all blood and gore, I don't expect a delicate love story; if the trailer is all grinning happy people, I don't expect a movie about the degredations of modern city life. I guess I'm encouraging more truth in advertising. Beijing Bicycle isn't a bad movie, unless you saw the trailer first. Oh yes and The Thorn Birds isn't about fighter pilots, and Looking for Mr. Goodbar is more about the peanuts than the chocolate, if you catch my drift. This stuff can be tricky.

thats just the way it seems to me at [4:38 PM]

[ Tuesday, April 29, 2003 ]

 
It was early; maybe I heard it wrong. But this morning the radio woke me up with a story about medical lobbying or something equally riveting, and the guy they were interviewing was named Dick Pounder.

Heh.
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:45 PM]

 
Unthinking and herd-like, I am so tickled by Scott’s description of his workspace that I thought I’d do just like he did. In my little cube in the heart of a boring 12-story early-70’s building, I have on my walls, clockwise from the entry: Poster from Asian Art Museum, holograph of pocketwatch, coaster from Hog’s Breath Pub in Australia, phone system cheat sheet, official State Bar Bomb Threat Report Form, promotional booklet from The Pantry open to “20 Head of Beef Cattle are Needed to Supply The Pantry’s Daily Serving of Steak” with b&w photo of four lowing heifers, a poem I wrote, key phone extension lists, photo of me, kel and two friends at my uncle’s house, promotional postcard from “Grateful Dawg,” photo of me, kel and her parents heading onto the Alcatraz ferry, postcard with line drawing of Penn’s University Museum, photo of the Statue of Liberty taken at sunset from the top of the World Trade Center, photo of old cat Sydney, list of all programs with their program numbers, boring pictureless wall calendar, aerial photomap of downtown San Francisco, small Peruvian changepurse, plastic mini-pumpkin, Japanese calligraphy of my name. On my “display shelf” I have a photo of Kel at the Joss House in Mendocino, a photo of me and my 7 college housemates right after graduation, a get-well card with a cool Gorey drawing on it, a photo of Kel at Devil’s Kitchen, bubblestuff, old dry roses in a tumbler, pumpkinhead pez, tiny Tabasco bottle, strange photo-montage tarot deck, “star” eyes sunglasses, foot massage dowel. On my desk I have various work-related papers, in-and-out boxes, rolodex, phone, catalogues from museums I have to return, tumbler full of pens, Lima Ohio mousepad, CPU and monitor, busted halogen desk light, Franklin planner, cds (Jared’s birthday mix [yay!], Wes Montgomery, Ray Charles, Holst’s The Planets, John Mayall), Casio FR=1211S Printing Calculator, package of Glee gum (yay!), baggie of tart-n-tinies (yay!), stacks of evaluation materials and applications, box of Trader Joe’s Masala tea.

How fulfilling. What am I missing? What ought to be proudly displayed in my beige cube, but isn’t on this list?
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:19 PM]

 
Southwest Airlines fires pilots accused of taking off clothes during flight. Really, there's not much more to be said. Except that we understand why they call that bit in the front of the plane a "cockpit," I suppose.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:11 PM]

 
From "The Iceman" - a catalogue from a museum featuring the artifacts and remains of a copper-age man found frozen in the Alps: "The little pouch contained five items, including a scraper, a drill and a flint flake. A 7.1 cm bone awl was also found. A black mass which could be identified as "true tinder" fungus filled most of the bag.... Fine traces of pyrites show that lumps of pyrites were used to create sparks. None were found in the equipment of the Iceman, however."

Been through this pass so frequently
my pack was fitted to my spine,
the hat I wore had seen new moons
above the searing alpine sky.
My shoes of net and hay had trod
across those mountains many times;
my tinderbox and arrowheads
had warmed and fed me in those climes.

Of course the risk was always there,
but I was confident and strong;
I set out from the valley col -
but I could not have been more wrong.
I reached the camping-place at night;
the wind screamed out a haunted song;
I opened up the tinder kit -
the ore had fallen from the thong.

My hopes of fire quashed by loss
I wrapped myself in skins I'd shorn
secreted myself in a nook
and waited, freezing, for the morn.
I lay out flat against the cold,
my reed cape wrapped around my form;
I concentrated on my heat,
I thought of someplace soft and warm.

I slipped away. A frosty rime
obscured me as I lay supine,
at rest for eons cold and long,
then thawed and wrested with a tong.
For years I lay, my culture's norm,
protected by the snow from storm,
and now, uncovered, withered, shine
my smile back down on those who climb.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:38 PM]

 
Last weekend I took a nice bike ride out to Point Bonita, Rodeo Beach and Ft. Cronkhite - my old "trainer" ride that took me an hour and twenty minutes no matter the weather or my physical condition. This time we took four hours, but I got to appreciate the flowers and the roaring surf and the frisky frolicking of the dogs on the beach. We noticed that there were some dogs that had a lot of energy and ran everywhere, and some seemed tired - "dog" tired, so to speak. They were lounging in the sand but I thought they'd be more comfortable in a little chair, where they could yip and growl and woof at the other dogs to their hearts' content - but no one seemed to have brought along a barka lounger.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:46 PM]

 
Maybe I'm a little behind on my "to do" list, but I just finished reading the catalogue for the ol' South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology's "Iceman" exhibit. You know, back in '91 some hikers found a body on a small rock face on top of the Alps, which ultimately turned out to be a dude from about 3500 BCE. Which is pretty cool all by itself, but the catalogue has all kinds of great photos in it of exhumations and detail shots of the contents of the lower intenstine. No, really, anthropology is a lot of fun and very interesting, and I enjoyed the catalogue. ESPECIALLY:

p. 11: "...The official recovery of the body took place on the same day.... On account of the low temperatures during the night, the body was again frozen stuck. It was finally freed with the help of ice-picks and ski-poles. Bits of leather and fur, string, straps and clumps of hay appeared in the process. These were collected in a pile next to the body." Translation: "We got to the top of the freaking alps and, can you believe it, some kind of totally unexpected solid form of water had trapped our glacial corpse. So we grabbed some axes and sticks and whaled on the general area until we smashed our way through to paydirt. But somehow when we were hitting the five-thousand year old wood and fur artifacts with the axes we kinda messed some of them up, so we just heaped that stuff together in a little mound and tried to act like it was like that when we got there." It's not like the dude is going to ask, "what happened to my kindling? Where's my sloeberries?" They just didn't want to come off like a bunch of looters. This is the same general process as is referenced by the phenomenon of the "tel" in the mid-east, except somewhat accellerated. Modern science wins again!

p. 18: "An examination of the gender of the mummy, which could not be definitively established when it was first discovered, was carried out in the Anatomical Institute and revealed it to be male. The equipment also pointed clearly in this direction." I think all that needs to be said here is "heh." Also, I'd like to see the t-shirts that say "My academic advisor went to the Anatomical Institute to establish genders and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." Anything's possible. The mummy himself was wearing a Napster hat, but we can't tell if he got it new or traded it for some mp3s.

Time to resume productive behavior. I'm sure there's some equipment for me to examine somewhere around the Institute...
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:40 AM]

[ Monday, April 28, 2003 ]

 
THE FIRST AMERICAN MONTY PYTHON FAN OF MY GENERATION

I. My Generation, Baby

The Baby Boom is often described as the demographic surge associated with the post-WWII era here in the US, starting in 1946 and usually ending, for some reason, in 1964. '64 was a big year for a lot of things, but it was a small year for birthing babies. Gen X typically lays claim to '64 through '80, but, just as the BBoom was skewed forward and my '64 cohorts didn't really connect with those 20 years senior to ourselves, most Gen X'ers (such as they are) are younger than I am. I'm the old man to kids, and a kid to old men. I think of those born in my birthyear as "trough babies" - few in number, unbound to any greater group, we fell through the demographic cracks. That being so, I "identify" young. My cousin, three months older than I am, is about 10 years older than I am in every non-chronological way. Hell, I'm a blogger. So I proceed on the premise that I'm one of the first members of the post-baby-boom generation, rather than the youngest boomer in the trailer park.

II. Thank You For Inviting Me Into Your Home

In 1970 I was 6 years old when dad's sabbatical came up. (Not a euphemism.) He took us all with him for six months in warm and sunny Oxford UK, where I learned many useful facts, bad habits and neuroses. I had school every day and an appropriate bedtime, which I respected without the need for my parents to resort to strongarm tactics.

But shortly after our arrival something unanticipated, unprecedented happened. It was nine pm, half an hour after my bedtime. I was awake in my cot in my dark room. From the living room next door I suddenly heard an hysterical sound - laughter, choking, gasps, and the dull regular thump of dad's fist against the arm of his chair. I carefully snuck out to see what was going on, but mom and dad caught me and hustled me back to bed. It was the very first episode of Monty Python and it had taken out my dad. I was duly impressed.

The next day I tried to wheedle some information about the show I'd missed. It was hard to learn much but the name, which I found cheerfully nonsensical; mom would say a few words and toss up her hands in a gigglefit. Dad just said 'it's for grown-ups, they show naked people.' This irresistably compelled me - I had to learn more. But for the remainder of the season I could only sit by the closed door of my bedroom and try to imagine what could be so funny as to render my parents speechless as they watched every episode with religious fervor.

III. Silly English K-nig-g-g-ht

I cherished the notion that Monty Python existed for years upon my return to the land of left-hand drive and the designated hitter. Mom and dad were impressed with my staying power. I would find out about this program. In late '73, And Now For Something Completely Different came out and a piece of it aired on a late-night show one Saturday night. I stayed up till 1 am to see John Cleese reading the news as his desk skittered around the grey english countryside. Then there was an animated boobie. It was hilarious, but I was too fascinated to laugh. At first.

In '75, Holy Grail came out. I saw it early in its run at a big theater in Westwood that had the actual wooden rabbit model on display in the lobby (yes, it's only a model).

Despite its theretofore having been securely fastened to me, I laughed my ass completely off. I'd never seen anything remotely as funny. I paid to see it again three more times and bought the script, which I substantially memorized (including a lengthy and bizarre first draft which barely tracked the actual film at all). The film did so well in the States that PBS started "educating" us with the series itself. It was crude, vulgar, offensive, and sometimes unclad. I was in fifth grade. Mom and dad let me watch every second and I watched like a junky watches skag melt in a spoon. I bought records, including the extremely rare three-sided Matching Tie and Handkerchief. I bought books. I would recite, from memory, not just scenes but whole episodes. I knew, not just the Rutles, but the Rutland Weekend Television album and the Rutland Dirty Weekend book - and that was just Eric and Neil Innes! I was at the 'Live at the Hollywood Bowl' shows. I began to alienate even myself.

IV. My Hovercraft is Full of Eels

The fever broke sometime while I was in college, and now it's been a long time since I've seen Grail. Even though the canonical episodes still sound familiar, I can't quote along with them any more. But that's okay, I've made my mark. I was the only fifth-grader in 1975 to be whistling the Liberty Bell March every day on my way to school, start to finish with raspberry. I can hear that berry even now. It's the sound of freedom. In rude translation from the Hungarian.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:52 AM]

[ Saturday, April 26, 2003 ]

 
Rumination at 7:32 am, hopelessly awake and moderately hung-over: Give a man a drink and he's buzzed for a while. Teach a man to drink and he's buzzed for a lifetime. You might notice some deterioration in his handwriting, too.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:14 AM]

[ Friday, April 25, 2003 ]

 
Category: Self-Adulation
AND I SMELL LIKE ONE TOO

From the filth in which I've wallowed
and abuses that I've swallowed
I have risen up in glory to a place above the sun
Get your ambergris and ivory
Nothing human will survive me
and all the rest can go to hell once my time here is done.
Give it up for modern marvels
have another plate of farfel
If it's all the same to you I'd rather live my life in style
Put a gem in my incisor
Ever older, never wiser
and all who dare oppose me I'll leave drowning in denial.
Rent my service by the hour
Drench your psyche in my power
Take your medicine and smile till your molars turn to dust
Kiss my forehead, give me succor
I'm a crazy motherfucker
coming back to rock your face off and to stimulate your lust.
You can see what is required
if you don't want to be fired
I have one demand - perfection - and I want it all the time
Lift your leg up and salute me
Get your kneepads out and toot me
I control the mighty cosmos for today I'm 39!

Thanks, sincerely, to everyone who's been wishing me such a lovely birthday - it's been by far the nicest part of my day so far. You guys are the best. No, really!

thats just the way it seems to me at [4:22 PM]

 
April 24, 1967

My third birthday is the first one I remember. There had been some build-up so I knew it would be something special. Exactly what it meant, I was not sure, but I knew the date commemorated when I came into the world, a day of fundamental changes. Birthdays therefore were days of great upheaval; they portended something big.

I clearly recall that I lay in my bed on the evening before my third birthday. The bed was in the corner, with a window over my right shoulder. Lights were off. I thought about the change that was upon me. I wondered whether I would undergo a sudden evolution. I was thrilled with the anticipation of discovering what happened when a birthday happened to me. I resolved to stay awake all night and find the answer out.

In the darkness, almost total when the light was first extinguished, the features of the room crept forward slowly to reveal themselves. Soon I could see most everything despite the darkness. I felt secure and comfortable and let my thoughts wander. I counted up the years that I had lived: my first year, in which I had lain; the second (after my first birthday), when I crawled; the third, which I had just completed, when I walked; and now on birthday number three I was to enter my fourth year of life. I expected some great change would come upon me to distinguish this new phase. I could sense it even then. I was lying there thinking of numbers of birthdays, the age I was turning, the number of years since I’d started my life. A door to the interior had opened in my thinking. Things were already getting interesting.

Light from a passing car leapt up and spilled across the facing wall. It frightened me. First, it came from outside, from the cold night world, while I was warm and safe in bed. This led me to consider how the inside was distinct from outside, how my bed sat by a wall that was the only thing that separated me from anything that lurked out there. I realized that, right outside, next to my bed, lay dank untended beds of foliage, alive with bugs – a place I didn’t like to go in broadest daylight. Now it was dark and who knew what was crawling there among those filthy fronds, and here my head was closer to them then I’d ever thought. Just a wall between my tender self and all the creepy creatures of the night. I lay awhile pondering the architecture.

Another car went by and once again the light whipped out across the walls, the shadows crazy out of every corner, spinning, growing, disappearing just as quickly. In that moment chaos erupted in the room, a seething matrix of some alternate environment, an unintelligible flipbook moving faster than I could watch it. A moment afterwards and everything was back to normal. But for that instant light had ripped away the lid that held this quiet world in place, revealing a disrupted chaos I found disturbing. I was no longer sure that I was ready to become a three-year-old. Regardless, I had made a vow to stay up late and witness my own transformation, and I knew my birthday was inevitable. It would happen, even if I tried to hide from it. So I convinced myself that nothing bad had happened yet, and started waiting for the next phenomenon.

It was a long time coming. But slowly, warm brown light spread through the bedroom. Too incrementally for me to mark the change, the light developed next a tinge of red. The air seemed thick. I saw it fill the space up to the ceiling as I stared above me, saw it occupy what I had always thought was empty. The room was full of air and the air was full of swirling, coruscating particles, a breatheable liquid. The air motes scintillated, points of light making lovely patterns. At first, the points were silver-white, but then I started to distinguish colors: yellow, orange, blue and green, and some still silver scattered in among them. All the colors now, washing back and forth like respiration, iridescent and electric. Then I saw a special object floating in the sparkling tide of air. It was composed of rings of color, orange, yellow, red and blue; a white five-pointed star inside it. It glowed in a corona, spinning slowly. When it drifted close enough I reached out gently and grabbed it, held it in my fist. I was careful to make sure it hadn’t slipped away somehow. But when I slowly, oh so slowly opened up my hand, my eyes unblinkingly attentive, I saw the colors of the spinner I had grabbed had been transferred and stained my very flesh. Phosphorescent rings of color covered every finger to the very tip, and in the center of my palm a big blue star rotated joyfully, wrapped inside a series of exquisite bright concentric bands.

After several moments, I no longer could maintain my focus. Tearing eyes demanded that I blink. The colors instantaneously started fading. I slowly let my hand relax and close. The patterns just as slowly were absorbed again into my flesh. But I could see now that there were a lot more spinners floating in the thickly populated air, some with stars like that which I had grabbed, and others that had other patterns. Some were like the beach, and when I captured them and stared with all my energy while opening my hand as slowly as I could, I saw my hand transformed with rippling dunes, long grass blowing in the wind, waves washing down my fingers and kites flying from their tips to wave in the celestial sea of glittering air particles. Some with other patterns made my hand appear to wear a lovely dress, each fingertip the face of a poetic girl, golden hair blowing in the wind, a face too vague to recognize when I looked closely. There were lots of different spinners; each had a different consequence, created different patterns on my hand and in my mind.

Finally, the sky began to lighten. All the colors that had filled the air grew watery with dawn’s approach. It was my birthday. I was three years old, and in the fourth year of my life. I had evolved. I fell asleep, reverberating with the truths revealed to me. When I explained it later to my doctor at my annual physical not very much later, he didn’t seem to understand. It was probably, I thought, because I was not yet communicating clearly. I supposed that that would have to wait till I was four.

thats just the way it seems to me at [12:20 PM]

[ Thursday, April 24, 2003 ]

 
Pulbic Sevrice Annoumcenent: Twenty-four hours from right now I'll turn 39 years old. I recommend Priority Mail if you don't want to be late with your lavish generosity. Tomorrow evening I'll drink beer at Lucky 13 to commemorate my agedness - out on the patio if it stops raining, otherwise huddled with the other lushes indoors. Stop by for some face time. It's all I have left to give.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:20 PM]

 
Small things to be thankful for:

* Watching 24 on tape so I can skip the commercials

* Being favorably compared to Keanau Reeves (from behind while wearing a long coat, but whatever, I'll take it)

* Not being present for the publicity photo shoot for "Daddy Day Care"

* The tingling in my fingertips and sense of warmth and euphoria washing over me when my overcrowded bus mostly empties out at 3rd and Market and those few of us left on board suddenly get all the oxygen we need again

and of course -
* Tart - n - tinies
thats just the way it seems to me at [12:50 PM]

 
I'm expecting to be very busy today so I'll just hurl something against the wall here and then hide myself away. Kel has a typically mindboggling (to a guy) array of toiletries and skincare products. I'm okay with some fine-grit sandpaper and a little mouthwash under my arms, but kel's got unguents, lotions, and salves galore. One that she's trying to get me to use is the "Peel-Off Mask." I haven't been able to work up the enthusiasm. But I think that I would use the damn thing, and guys nationwide would buy this product and even try it in public, if it was a "Peel-n-Eat Mask." One more step in the product development process and a whole new market can be yours. I want mine in cinnamon. Or maybe that would be itchy. Okay, guava. Tasty and soothing....
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:01 AM]

[ Wednesday, April 23, 2003 ]

 
Today is the first anniversary of Joy Challenger day - the day last year when I came home from work to find an envelope from “Joy Challenger” in my mailbox, properly and personally addressed to me and Kel, stamped but not cancelled, containing ten $100 bills. It came at a most auspicious and helpful moment, making possible certain advances in our financial position and interior decor that otherwise would have been beyond reach. In addition, it infused Kel and me both with a sense of ineffable possibility, that good things sometimes happen for no good reason to relatively good people, that anonymous acts of kindness and generosity can touch you when and where you least expect it.

Happy Joy Challenger day, everybody, and especially to you, JC, whoever and wherever you are. This is a good day to pay someone’s toll for them on the bridge, or to hold open a door for a stranger, or to cook at a soup kitchen, or to talk with a lonely person on a park bench for a few minutes. Money is a language we all speak, but kindness is the real message and it can be shared in many dialects. Can’t wait to get home and check the mail, though I think JC’s moved on to the next worthy soul. But maybe I’ll find out who JC actually is, finally. One thing for sure though: it’s changed my perspective and made me a lot more joyful, just to think back on opening that envelope and finding the bills wrapped in that sheet of blank paper. One of those personal holidays. I’ll see if I can get it off work next year. The gift that keeps on giving...
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:41 PM]

[ Tuesday, April 22, 2003 ]

 
Is it true? I don't know and I don't care; this was forwarded to me by a wise and sober woman who doesn't fall for much hollywood hooplah. She claims that "This is the full "apology" of Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks," who apparently is in hot water with her fans because she said that Texans should be ashamed that the President hails from their state:

As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I now realize that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect. I hope everyone understands, I'm just a young girl who grew up in Texas.

As far back as I can remember, I heard people say they were ashamed of President Clinton. I saw bumper stickers calling him everything from a pothead to a murderer. I heard people on the radio and TV like Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott bad mouthing the President and ridiculing his wife and daughter at every opportunity.

I heard LOTS of people disrespecting the President. So I guess I just assumed it was acceptable behavior. But now, thanks to the thousands of angry people who want radio stations to boycott our music because criticizing the President is unpatriotic, I realize it's wrong to have a liberal opinion if you're a country music artist.

I guess I should have thought about that before deciding to play music that attracts hypocritical rednecks. I also realize now that I'm supposed to just sing and look cute so our fans won't have anything to upset them while they're cheating on their wives or getting in drunken bar fights or driving around in their pickup trucks shooting highway signs and small animals.

And most important of all, I realize that it's wrong for a celebrity to voice a political opinion, unless they're Charlie Daniels, Clint Black, Merle Haggard, Barbara Mandrell, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr, Amy Grant, Larry Gatlin, Crystal Gayle, Reba McEntire, Lee Greenwood, Lorrie Morgan, Anita Bryant, Mike Oldfield, Ted Nugent, Wayne Newton, Dick Clark, Jay Leno, Drew Carey, Dixie Carter, Victoria Jackson, Charleton Heston, Fred Thompson, Ben Stein, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Bo Derek, Rick Schroeder, George Will, Pat Buchanan, Bill O'Reilly, Joe Rogan, Delta Burke, Robert Conrad or Jesse Ventura.

God Bless America,

Natalie

thats just the way it seems to me at [10:59 PM]

 
- and in my festival of self-pity, my demonstration of applied wallowing, I act as if the preceeding days had not existed. That is an unbalanced perspective, so I'll right myself.

Tara and Phil got in Thurs pm ready to party and eat chocolate, in which we were happy to oblige them well into the night. We got up late on Friday (Kel and I took the day off), had some orange scrambled eggs and popped over to Seakor deli for an easter butter lamb. Seakor's an authentic polish deli, and it was fun to show off one of our neighborhood treasures with all its pope pictures, dangling kielbasis, questionable cheeses, packages of unpronouncable biscuits and cookies... the west coast butter lamb was a bit more stylized than the Wilkes-Barre standard and had no cellophane flag, but it did have little leaf ears and the requisite peppercorn eyes. The tradition of the butter lamb seems a bit bit gruesome to me, making an image of a lamb out of (cow's) butter and identifying it as the messiah and then slicing it up and smearing its creamy body on a slice of toast and eating it... but when in Rome....

But the lamb was for Sunday; this was Friday and we dropped it off at home and went on to the Palomarin trailhead outside Bolinas for a hike to Alamere falls. After our recent rains, the trail had dried of mud but hadn't gotten dusty; wildflowers were abundant and outrageously vibrant. A mile and a half we walked along the coastal cliffs, then inland up and over a pass into a valley, past Bass lake and Pelican Lake to the Alamere creek, where the maintained trial goes on north into Point Reyes but the cool trail peels left through humid green walls of towering undergrowth down to a clearly unsafe scramble leading to a plateau of small cascades where the creek pours out of the mountatins, across the flats to the cliffs, and over a final 50-foot rock face before hitting the beach and losing itself in the ocean. It's where we left old Syd (the cat)'s ashes. The moss impressed me, and the clearness of the water. The moss was so rich and deep, I wanted to push my face into it, to take it into me somehow, but I knew the experience wouldn't have lived up to my desires and expectations so I denied myself.

We hopped the creek and had lunch in a secluded cove of the stream next to a 20' waterfall, big tasty sandwiches from Andronico's gourmet market and deli, which Phil noted sounds like an italian android. After lunch we scrambled down a scree slope to the beach; we stood at the base of the falls, watched the water cascading, the moss glistening, the flowers positively glowing; the creek had cut a deep channel in the beach and it looked like an enormous canyon viewed from high up and far away. It was worn in a somewhat stratified pattern, neatly echoing the cleavage patterns in the flat fractured rocks of the limestone cliffs.

We walked for a few minutes on the beach, then turned back, returned to the car, came home, cleaned up, set up for upcoming events a bit and then went out to pick up Justin at the airport. Everybody stayed up late (except for me) talking and teasing and eating easter chocolate (Jesus wouldn't be mad if we started early, right?).

The next day I got up early and there was basically nonstop activity until we left for seder at Jon and Lisa's at 3 pm; kel made a ham and a blintz souflee and we ate and cooked like mad things. I made mazoh balls (veggie and schmaltzik) and fried candied mazoh squares (bizarre but tasty); Kel made the world's best lemon bars, again, by popular demand. We arrived at Jon and Lisa's lovely peninsular home to find the house packed and swarming and more people steadily arrived. I met some very nice people, saw some very dear old friends, and faked a 10-year-old girl out of her glittery turquoise sneakers with a decoy aphikomen, leading Justin to wonder whether there was any precedent for celebrating "prankover." Kel's relatives had never been to a seder before, and hadn't seen our circle of friends in full-court press - there were about 25 adults and 10 kids, all mingling and laughing, loads of great food and wine, lovely and thoughtul and funny conversations - this group of friends is a very rare and powerful phenomenon, one that we all have cultivated carefully over a period of 20 years... I was glad to be able to share this special experience with Kel's peeps. Also, it was total ego gratification for me because I get to lead the seder every year. So I had a blast, wearing my big white suit and swilling wine and distributing toys. Oh yes, and eating myself into collapsed satiation. Priorities, priorities....

Easter morning we had more ham and more blintz souflee and butterlamb rump smeared on toast, and chocolate crosses ("choco-fixes") and bunnies and smidgens from Northeast PA's own Gertrude Hawk chocolates, and we engaged in a lively debate over the preferred peeps consistency (fresh? frozen? stale.) , and the following sacrileges were uttered:

"Even if Jesus wasn't the son of god, I think I'd like him."
"Nothing says 'Christ died for your sins' like a good nut cluster."

I packed up a ham sandwich and a PBJ for the road, put my suit and a change of travelling clothes and my lucky bingo bag in a case, and Kel took me to the airport. So you see, it was a positive, life-affirming weekend, my grandmother's funeral notwithstanding - plus, there's more ham, peeps, lots of beer and a whole choco-fix left over! If this isn't redemption and resurrection, well, I like it anyway...
thats just the way it seems to me at [10:49 PM]

 
A surgical strike, in and out. I'm back from Ohio and Nana's funeral. It was surgical in terms of time - leave SF at 1 pm sunday, back at 10 pm monday. It was surgically clinical too, or felt that way - everything happened according to a preprinted schedule, as Nana would certainly have wanted it, and though nothing was done in a perfunctory way, it was all brisk, efficient, and tidy, as Nana certainly would have insisted it be.

The travel portion of my trip was not noteworthy, except for the drive at night from Dayton into Lima in my rented Taurus (what ignominy to share an astrological sign with the automotive version of the Pax channel), listening to Quah really loud, singing with the windows open and letting the moist cool air fill my mouth; it's an hour on the interstate due north without anything more interesting to look at than the garrishly lit but featureless saltbox of the ADULT bookstore off the highway in Findley, and the gentle breastlike dome of the Armstrong Space Museum in Waupak, emerging from a low hill and surmounted with a small blue light - Kel called it the "land boob" but she couldn't come on this trip, her sister and cousin and husband-in-law were visiting for easter... I thought as I cruised past, that this would be my last trip to Ohio and I would not visit that museum again. It's really a cool one, too. A cool thing, evaporated from my life with the loss of my grandmother. I was going to start noticing them.

Then, in Lima, I drove around downtown for a few minutes before pulling into the hotel. I took a long look at the brusque brick buildings, damp with a fresh sprinkle of rain and reflecting the sparse streetlights. The town was dead at that time, about midnight-thirty, but it wouldn't get much busier during the day; I approached the hotel on Main Street, with the grandest and sturdiest buildings in the downtown area, and three-quarters were completely vacant; the rest mainly just had groundfloor tenants. The town was on life-support, barely responsive, trapped in fantasies of byegone significance, if not importance (Lima was once a major manufacturing center) - or so it seemed to me in my bleary and somber state. City as analogue for nursing home. Morbid thoughts.

I checked in at the big downtown hotel - five years old and entirely satisfactory - and was assigned room 306. I found it, opened the door, and stood outside for a moment - the room was completely filled with old furniture, much of it obviously broken - cast-offs from other rooms. After my initial surprise, I began to feel badly for these items that had sacrificed themselves for the patrons of the hotel and were now ghettoized together in a dark chamber out of the public eye as if they were diseased, a source of shame. A warehouse for that which we have used, used up, and don't wish to have anything further to do with. Of course I thought of Nana in her nursing home again, which was by far the nicest nursing home I've ever heard of and should be a national model, but regardless it is full of old people, many of them remarkable and precious, and I don't even want to continue to describe the thoughts that hammered in my head as I rode the slow elevator down to the lobby to get a new room....

The next day I arose and dressed in my suit. I had gone without shaving since leaving work, on the recollection that "not shaving" was a traditional jewish response to the death of a close relative, but I thought better of it that morning. Nana was far too proper and bourgeoise to smile upon a slovenly appearance, so I showed up for our family breakfast shaved and tidy. It was my mom, my sister, me, and my mom's brother with his wife and two children, my sister's and my ages. We went to the Huddle, the traditional breakfast joint, home of truly exceptional fried cornmeal mush. I didn't get any - it's passover and for some reason I was being observant of it that day. It was good to shmooze with the family; Dick had just returned from Israel and had some interesting stories, and we all get along well.

From breakfast we went to the synagogue, where about 15 of us met up for the procession of seven or so cars to the cemetary. I drove slowly with my sister in the car, a flag magnetically stuck to our roof. We didn't get lost. We noticed that, at the cemetary, many gravesites were marked by a family name and then, instead of individual names and dates, just family roles: "Mother," "Father," "Child." These seemed to date back to the early 20th century, they were not unfinished. Seems a deindividuizing way to spend eternity, but maybe that's what it's all about. More people met us at the gravesite, including the korean couple my grandparents had befriended back in the 50s when he first came to the US, and who had been their local proxy "kids" for many years. They always look great. The gravesite was under a green canopy with two rows of folding chairs; the coffin was a lovely and elegant model in a mellow wood stain with brass fittings that looked like they'd make good cufflinks; a gorgeous boquet of pink roses and star lilies lay on top. Nana was a Sulka, after all, and style was important to her.

Rabbi Oster said a few words that were extremely moving. I was going to try to recount them but that would be very pale and inadequate and unsatisfying. He stood there in a floppy bucket hat (against the possibility of more rain), an elder statesman, imperious in gaze and supplicant in gesture, speaking with that most haunting and tragic dialect of the old german jew. He was eloquent and passionate; he'd known my Nana when she was doing big things all the time with utter charm and grace and smoothness. She had been one of his first and best friends and her loss touched him very deeply too.

We concluded the committal - tears were shed, and copiously, most touchingly to me by Mrs. Kim - and then retreated back to the synagogue. A beautiful memorial service was held, with notes of both sorrow and joy from my mother and her brother. We retired to the reception hall, where we talked about all kinds of petty things. When Grandpa died, as I recall, we all talked about him. We hadn't mentioned Nana at breakfast and barely mentioned her at her reception, except to draw each other's attention to the many artifacts around the room that bore Nana's imprint - photos of her with various clubs incorporated in montages of old press clippings; a memorial plaque with her name; an engraved plate for the "Woman of Valor" award with her name carved in it for October 1967 (a time at which I am sure valor was desparately needed). In a place with so many pictures of her from 30, 40, 50 years ago, those were the images of her we wanted to remember. The her we buried, the one in the wheelchair talking about cruise ships and long-deceased friends - that her we were willing to forget. We let the "real" Nana beam out at us and ate.

The food was excellent in spite of being kosher l'pesach, with no grain products but mazoh and its derivatives on the table. There were kugels and desserts which appeared to have been homemade and were, generally, very tasty; the Lima lox connection is something that truly flummoxes me - how can such a tired little midwest berg have the best lox I've ever tasted? I ate substantially, chatting with my family and several of the very kind people who came to pay respects.

It was at this phase that my Mom learned that Jimmy H. had died just that morning. He had worked for Grandpa and his brothers when they'd owned a department store 50 years ago, and had remained a good friend to the family. When my mom was unable to climb stairs to her classes in high school because of foot surgeries, Jimmy picked her up from home and carried her up 20 steps in front of the school and then up to the second floor of the building - and then carried her back down at the end of the day. He was dead too now. He'd been ill, everyone was older than dirt. There were very few people left in town who knew what once had been Lima and my family.

My flight was at 4; I changed into my casual clothes and non-metal-containing shoes and drove with my sister to Dayton. During my flights (both ways) I read A Prayer for Owen Meany, which I enjoyed. It, too, concerns death. It seems to be everywhere these days. It's getting so I have to remind myself that Lima was full of flowering fruit trees and elms and maples and oaks coming into leaf, that the grass was lush and green and the tank plant was back in operation; the world is renewed and redeemed and all that good stuff is going on. Tunnel vision, I suppose. I'll go out and walk the dog and have a bit of a distraction and I bet that'll cheer me up.

Ohio Highlights:

Ohio claims on its license plates to be the "birthplace of aviation," because O & W Wright lived in Dayton. However, they road-tripped to North Carolina to test out their invention, and NC therefore puts "first in flight" on its license plates. Sounds like time for a showdown to me, maybe an old-fashioned drag race or dance-off. But, driving around Dayton, I understood why Orville and Wilbur had been driven to such heights of creative genius from their bicycle shop there - TO GET THE HELL OUT. "Dude, I'm so bored - let's give this heavier-than-air flight thing a shot. At the very least we might meet some chicks from the Outer Banks. Beach girls love to party!" (I'm just conjecturing, based on "Orville" and "Wilbur" being such lame names, that they didn't get a lot of dates.)

The family always eats out at the same restaurants when we go to Lima, because, mainly, there's not much else to choose from. The section of the phone book that lists restaurant menus was limited to six pizza joint menus and two chinese menus. My sister suggested TIGFridays. I reminded her that we were buried so deep in the shallow stagnancy of north-central west ohio that the phrase "TGIF" here stood for "Thank God It's Findley." In Ohio, this passes for humor. Anyway, my uncle laughed, and he was at his mother's funeral.

On the way back to the Dayton airport my sister pointed out that the truck next to us was marked, "Technical Animal Fat - Not Intended for Human Consumption." This phrase raised many questions in my mind. What made it "technical?" Was this some form of adipose science with which I was unfamiliar? Or did this distinguish it from "putative" animal fat, which is effectively animal fat but hasn't fulfilled all the legal requirements? Then my mind turned to whether huge two-tank trailer trucks are cruising around filled with animal fat that IS intended for human consumption, and if so, in what form? And then, who did they think would benefit from this sign? The people who drive, fill and empty the trucks must have some clue what's going on - Ohio's not a place where people hail down random animal fat trucks to get a quick top-up of comestibles for humans, is it? I guess this warning is for the people who might by chance witness a terrible accident in which a giant truck laden with non-comestible lard tips and tears open and its precious cargo of lipids and cholesterol begins to spill onto the roadbed - for somebody just stupid enough to say, "Dang, that smells like animal fat! And I brought me a spoon!" Such people are unlikely to be dissuaded by signage, but I guess it's a matter of risk management.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:42 PM]

[ Thursday, April 17, 2003 ]

 
STRICT CONSTRUCTIONISM

I was heating up some frozen garbage for dinner and read the following instructions on the box in which my sustinance came packaged: "For food safety and quality, follow these cooking instructions." Very comforting. Then a few lines later I read, "Since ovens vary in temperature, these instructions are guidelines only." Got that? Do exactly as we tell you, but be prepared to be flexible. If you follow instructions and ruin everything, it's not our fault - we told you we were only giving you guidelines. And if you adjust our instructions for the peculiarities of your own circumstances and ruin everything, it's not our fault - we told you to follow the instructions. Heads I win, tails you lose. The only way to beat the house on this one is to get something else for supper but it's too late for that now.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:50 PM]

 
A KICKY LITTLE ENSEMBLE

We were having a cup of coffee in the local Notbux, a sunny ex-bookstore with charmingly clumsy murals of a coastal mediterranean village and a long rank of tall windows looking out onto Geary. There were about 10 of us in the store and we all noticed when *he* showed up on the sidewalk. He had hefty, well-defined muscles and no shirt; black hair to his shoulders and bangs to his eyes; not a big man, nonetheless he took up a lot of space. He was jumping and kicking, acrobatically but martially. He clearly had some serious fighting skills, and equally clearly had very few social ones.

A young woman in pink was standing at the bus stop in front of the coffee house. He jumped up, spinning and kicking, his heels butterflying in the air in front of her face. She cringed; landing lightly, he bowed and extended a chivalrous hand to her. She declined it and began to walk away. He followed for a few steps and then let her melt into the throng; instead he started doing frantic flying spin kicks and katas in the middle of the crowded sidewalk. Pedestrians who looked up from the pavement to see him in their paths looked back down again quick and hoped for the best. I didn't see anyone get kicked or knocked over. The only real take-down I witnessed was credited to the woman in pink who got away. Looked like that one hurt.

MORAL: Try not to introduce yourself with an instep to the face. No matter how well you do it, you're not putting your best foot forward.
thats just the way it seems to me at [3:01 PM]

 
It's important that we all look at this article because 1) it demonstrates the societal co-opting of the parental role, begging the unstated question whether people today are actually capable of raising their own children, and 2) I graduated from Grant High in 1982. So I have to admit I find the article a bit disappointing. Where did he tag? The shops? 200 building? The quad? or - god forbid - Administration? And what did he write? His name (what an indictment of the public educational system, to write the one thing that will most clearly identify your guilt)? Hot for Teacher? I (heart) polynominals? or just another giant floating eyeball with blood tears? Details bring the news to life, guys. If this kid was nailing his theses to the door of the assembly hall, there might be more to this story. But the guy who's been writing "Yukballs" all over my neighborhood? Yeah, I think we've heard what you have to say. Yukballs. We hear ya. Go tell it on the mountain. Or at least my old high school. I hear they have an opening for "narcissistic vandal."
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:44 AM]

[ Wednesday, April 16, 2003 ]

 
Passover starts tonight. Can't deal with that. Grandmother died two days ago. Can't really deal with that either. Tara and Phil are coming to town tomorrow night and it's raining. Not only can I deal with that, I have to deal with it and it's in my face even if I don't deal with it. So in honor of their impending arrival and the ongoing precipitation now moistening this city of screaming spires, I will post an old essay about Tara and Phil and the rain. Cozy on up and get your freak going with:

BRUTAL RAIN

Tara and Phil came down to visit from Seattle for a weekend three years ago. Tara’s head is screwed on straight and tight, so it’s always refreshing to get her perspective. “That is butt,” she’ll utter cryptically. I don’t know anybody else who can infuse that word with such significance. Phil’s a made man – writing software for the world’s most influential cybercorp, and still a power-packing mountainbiker on the side. He's hardwired for fun. We wanted them to have a time that they’d remember, one that all of us enjoyed.

Things had been going really well – the food, the weather, all the moments when we got to be ourselves together. Then our dear friend Andy called to ask us if we’d like to go with him to see his friend's band in concert. It wouldn’t be a lot of cash and they were playing right here in our neighborhood. We told him that we’d be there.

The concert was a hoot – it really wasn’t the kind of music we most often listened to, but for what it was they did a bang-up job. Phil and Tara came with us and one by one or two they met a goodly number of our friends, including Andy’s brother who believes Phil’s boss is Lucifer himself. Phil held his own against the tirade; in the end they parted amicably. They had both been been baptized, Phil and Tara, in our pool of friends. With a pleasant beer buzz we left after midnight. Even Tara and Phil, still in the upswing of their twenties, admitted they felt a bit tired and worn.

The perfect weather we’d been having had been on the change when we went to the club, and we’d all brought some rain gear. Phil had been dismissive of our warnings, reminding us that Puget Sound conditions had over-prepared them for what we hypersensitives called rain. But when we stepped outside the bar that very early morning, rain poured out around us in a series of grey ripples in the air, moving swiftly up the street. Sheets of water fell from all the edges of the awning under which we stood. Phil snapped up his hood. “Yeah, it’s kinda raining.” Tara was less sanguine. “Holy crap, it’s shitting. Can’t we blow this off, cruise later? How long does rain like this go on here?”

Kelly answered that some storms go on for days; it’s not like back in Pennsylvania where a squall blows through and leaves. In vigorous response, the wind picked up around us audibly and the raindrops in the air consolidated into one big flying puddle for a moment. I resigned myself and then convinced the others: it’s only water; we’re just ten blocks from home; it’s time to go and we all want to get to bed. With a sigh, we stepped into the deluge.

Phil was still less than impressed. Water was cascading down the sidewalks; curtains of rain rippled fast over rooftops. He said, “We get a lot more rain than this back home.” We kept on walking. Within a block or two, my raincoat was completely soaked. My wide-brimmed hat was sodden, dripping. I looked to Kel and Tara. They were huddled to each other, each attempting to get down beneath the other or behind her to avoid the rain that blew and swirled around us. Phil was strolling with a grin, rain streaming off his hood and rivuletting down his back. “You know,” he said, “up North the people go out in this kind of weather all the time. It’s when you get down here that people all start freaking out.”

I smiled back at him. The weather quickly turned much wetter. Where once thick snakes of rain cut through the landscape, now it all was thick with braided ropes of water. The color of the night grew lighter – raindrops were everywhere, expanding light while they obscured our vision. I looked at Phil. He started laughing. The water hit the shining sidewalk really hard, hard enough to splash up to our faces; water seemed to spray from all directions. Both of us were laughing. Kelly stood by Tara, soaked, stoopshouldered, inconsolable. “Okay,” Phil finally admitted. “Even in Seattle, this is pretty brutal rain.”

*****

Almost time to catch the bus home at the (outdoor) transit terminal. It's not raining quite that hard yet. It's waiting for me to get outside. Tomorrow will be very busy and I'm off Friday, Monday and Tuesday. Let's see if I get anything posted. In case I don't, try not to think poorly of me. I'm under a lot of stress.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:03 PM]

[ Tuesday, April 15, 2003 ]

 
THE QUIZ OF AFFLICTION

My springtime spiritual season is nigh. It's not that I particularly avoid spirituality for the rest of the year, but special occasions in the springtime and fall focus this interest, inciting me to greater heights and deeper depths. I missed last autumn's headline event because of some residual discomfort from an injury, so I'm especially primed for Passover this spring. It's a really fun holiday, especially the way we celebrate it with our 20 or 30 closest friends from all traditions and walks of life. I've written a guidebook ('hagadah') for the ceremony, almost 50 landscape pages long; my dad uses it and he's the chair of the Talmud department at a rabbinical seminary. This year Kel's sister and cousin and husband-in-law are coming out to join us, a particular pleasure because none of them have attended a seder before; it's considered especially meritorious to host new people as the main goal of the whole event is to share, discuss, inquire and learn about redemption - both historically and psychologically. I'm anticipating a lot of good questions this year, and I'm trying to come up with some good answers. Here, as a spiritual appetizer, I am pleased to share a few provocative questions and enlightening answers about the festival of Pesach.

Q: Why did the sages of old discuss the Exodus all night long?
A: Ask them.

Q: Why is Moses mentioned only once in the hagadah?
A: Stop bothering me.

Q: What is the significance of drinking four cups of wine?
A: You've got to be kidding.

Q: Is the afikomen really a messianic symbol?
A: Go play outside.

Q: I don't understand the answer given to the "wise student."
A: Right. Take a hint.

Q: Why do we dip parsley in salt water?
A: Ask someone who cares.

Q: How much horseradish do I have to eat to fulfill the comandment?
A: Stop complaining or I'll give you something to complain about.

Q: Why do you open the door for Elijah?
A: Why do you open the door for Elijah? Huh? Huh?

Q: What's the purpose of the two washings of the hands?
A: Are you still here?

Q: Why is this night different from all other nights?
A: You're usually not so irritating when I'm this drunk.

I'm assuming as I type these in that no one actually cares about this other than me. If you have any real questions or want less cursory answers to any of the above, please drop me a line. I do actually find this stuff pretty interesting and I'd welcome the chance to discuss any of it. I would even be happy to email you my hagadah, though the hebrew might not come out properly at first. Pesach begins Wednesday night; we do our seder service on Saturday. It's the perfect intersection of piety and partyhearty. Let's get unleavened!
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:48 PM]

 
Pea has a lot of pull here at the Chucklehut. After taking her request to re-move my picture under due consideration, I'll see how it looks in a new location. I do so like to present a moving target.
thats just the way it seems to me at [2:02 PM]

 
A Second EXERPT

The car pulled up and three officers stepped forward to open the door and let her out. She went with them, still cuffed, down a short hallway to an elevator, and rode with them to the second floor. The room was broad, bright and empty as the four of them walked to a booking desk. Alma sat at the edge of the desk, and one of her three escorts sat opposite her while the other two took up positions at her back. "Your name?"

"My rights?"

"Very well, that will conclude our questioning of you for the present. You will now be searched." The other two offices stepped forward and very carefully examined every bit of her clothing and all the contents of her purse with a thoroughness that bordered on the overfamiliar. Still, they exhibited such a passionless professionalism that she couldn't be outraged at that aspect of their work.

All her personal effects were placed in a box and carried to an officer sitting behind a metal grate. The officer in the cage shortly called one of the guards back over. They conferred for a few moments and then the guard returned, took Alma by the arm, and brought her to the cage. "What's this?" The property control officer held up a sheet of legal paper with the names of elements on it. The worksheet. The code.

"A recipe."

"You're a busy cook, eh? You cooking with sulphur? Huh? Argon - that's an explosive, right? Hey, hey - Uranium, here. This looks like a recipe all right. You're a fucking terrorist. You're making a bomb, goddamn it! You are gonna talk to my Captain."

"Yeah, that's what they say...."

"Look, don't get smart. The Captain is indisposed at present but he'll be here tomorrow. In fact, he's looking forward to discussing this matter with you. You can wait for him in a hospitality suite."

"Yes, that sounds nice." They walked her to a wide, windowless door, and opened it with a key and an intercom. The jail lay on the other side, hundreds of small cells, lots of noise and no privacy, the sharp smell of industrial cleaners nearly covering a septic stench that permeated everything.

Alma was placed in a private room with a latticework door, daybed and bidet. She was uncuffed and left by her attendants to sleep. She was tired, but felt rather displaced by her surroundings - though it really wasn't any noisier than any big public hospital or high school cafeteria. At some point, all the lights were turned off and the place quieted down. Alma lay on the cot, a thin blanket teasing her with an empty promise of warmth. Her pillow was flat; Alma always slept with two fluffy ones. Just one of them would have done that night.

Upon falling asleep hours later, Alma was awakened by a loud buzzer and a sudden illumination of all the lights. Guards began walking along each floor, past each cell, checking each prisoner. They moved with ordered efficiency, in lockstep from floor to floor, one for every row of cells. Three guards suddenly appeared before Alma's door. "Shit," she mumbled.

They opened her cell, cuffed her hands behind her back, and took her with them down the hall and out of the jail, back in to the police headquarters portion of the building. Wordlessly they led her to an elevator and got into it with her, rode it to the forth floor, and got out. One of them said, "This way, missy," and they went to the left, into one of a series of identical doors lining the lino and neon hallway.

Inside, grinning at her, was her old friend. His hand was in a cast and his forehead was swollen and bruised; the circular imprint of the mace cannister was quite clear on his purple flesh. "Well, lookie here." His voice was quiet and calm, though raspy and broken. "Would you please tell me something?"

"What?"

"Why shouldn't I just kill you right here in this room? What would I lose by doing that?"
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:56 PM]

 
sometimes no nudes is good nudes.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:11 PM]

 
Absurdity knows no season, no surcease.... last night I was walking home from the bus stop and saw a small square plastic purple wrapper on the sidewalk. The ring-like impression on its surface suggested to me it was another prophylactic wrapper - since there's parkland across the street from my house, it's a fairly popular place for the occasional quickie. Usually the wrappers are standard fare - Trojan, Sheik, Probation brand (for bad little boys), but this one - well, I didn't want to check it too closely but it looked like a Hello Kitty condom. It had the cartoon cat and the garrish purple background so beloved by that improbable character. But I think if I were to market these I'd drop the "kitty." "Hello Pussy" sounds like a much more viable shelf-identity for a lovesock.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:10 AM]

 
There's a lot on my mind right now, and more on my plate - so I cant be as loquacious as I'd like. But it's therapeutic for me to vent this out a little, so here's some notes from my commute home yesterday about - you got it - my grandmother: She had a sense of propriety - acting well and properly at all times. I believe she did, in her life, many things she found distasteful, and many more that were objectively difficult. But she confronted all of life's obstacles with perfect poise, a cool elegance that bespoke more of her Julliard days than her Lima decades. She ran a tight ship and demanded everybody's utmost, with a rigor and partiality that caused no little offense on occasion. But the rigidity of the protocol officer cohabitated with the breezy wit and easy grace with which her every act were infused. Four foot nine, 100 lbs, tennis well into her 70s. Library, symphony, museum, hospital - all raised and supported by dint of her tireless efforts. Bore two children and an often-bumbling husband. Kept a spotless house and lots to eat. Loved a good laugh but brooked no nonsense. Classed the place up wherever she went. A woman who could make the name Zerline sound beautiful. No approval was sweeter, more meaningful. Shrewd and clever, literate and articulate. Maintained her propriety all her days. May God intend as much for me.

I think that does it. I'm feeling much better about things; I'll be flying out for the funeral (out sunday morning, back monday evening). Meantime we'll have three beloved houseguests and a passover seder to orchestrate (but, thankfully, not to host). Things come thick and fast. Let's see what happens next.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:03 AM]

[ Monday, April 14, 2003 ]

 
People - you make me feel very lucky. Thanks for the support around my grandmother's death. It means a lot that you'd take the time to give me a boost when we've barely even gotten to know each other. But I guess some things translate universally.

Today some two-word phrases started coming to me, little contradictions that seem to bespeak my grandmother's paradoxical nature. I don't pretend that they give a complete picture of this woman, but they give a bunch of interesting snapshots and maybe if you flip through them quickly you'll get a short cartoon of a very powerful person. Or maybe you'll just get dizzy. That can be good too.

Without further ado, my dear Zerline was, or had, or could be described as:

* enormously diminutive
* repressively artistic
* accoladed anonymity
* tightfisted generosity
* stern love
* frenetic focus
* pious apostacy
* peripherally central
* cosmopolitan parochialism
* independent goodwife
* dynamically ineffectual
* wizened orchid
* assertively gracious
* heartbreakingly funny
* stylishly declasse'
* archaically modern
* benevolently prejudiced
* tragically undramatic

Nana was a woman of her time, which was a good long time ago, but she never missed a step in the dance or lost a footpound of torque on the wrench of life until her mind stopped working - and even then she could crush your hand in her grip. I learned too much from her to do her justice with this post. But don't get the wrong idea from the list above. She was a contradiction in terms in everything she did, but she made it work and made it classy. I'll have to do some more thinking before I write anything else. I'll leave with this: if you find yourself ahead of schedule, tidy, courteous and driven to over-achieve, you've picked up a piece of her. Try to make it last, there wasn't much of her to begin with and they're not making more.
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:30 PM]

 
After 93 years of inspiring all who met her, my grandmother Zerline died this morning at about 9 am local time in Lima, Ohio. Her demise was not unexpected, as she had been in sharp decline for several days after seven years in a nursing home with senile dementia, ultimately confined to a wheelchair. That wasn't her. I remember her as a veritable force of nature; she was an extrordinary woman and I will probably be saying something more particular about her soon. Almost a year ago, her husband died, his body tired and weak, riddled by disease, but his mind sharp nearly till the end. Nana had the opposite experience, and her passing I see as a release for an indomitable spirit. Take off, Nana.

At such times as this I sometimes find myself thumbing through a 1973 copy of the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. Sometimes I don't get much out of it but sometimes it's almost like the I Ching. I'm not sure what to make of the poem I read this morning but I'll share it because I liked it.

Snow

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands -
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Louis MacNeice, 1935
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:57 AM]

[ Sunday, April 13, 2003 ]

 
Without resorting to computerized searches, does anybody know offhand any words that include the letter combination "uia"? Prize disclaimer: no prize, don't ask. What kind of a website do you think this is? I'm just a productivity disenhancer. Sorry.
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:05 PM]

 
Night fell like a sock
he'd worn three days running. "Honey,"
he ventured again, the word
hollow in his mouth, an earnest irony -
"isn't there any more I could do?"
She turned on him with a night-new glare
and clenched her jaw. "There's nothing,"
she told him, "that you can do
that I can't do myself twice better."
thats just the way it seems to me at [9:02 PM]

[ Saturday, April 12, 2003 ]

 
SEE IT HERE FIRST: A CHUCKLEHUT RETRACTION

I don't set many rules for myself on this blog but one from the outset was to try not to deride other people unless they really ask for it. Occasional comments about body odor, rudeness, or foolish behavior (and a few poems about unbalanced weirdos who get in my face at happy hour) notwithstanding, I would prefer not to belittle people with whom I have extended personal or professional contact.

I got an email recently about my recent post about a commission member who didn't seem to understand the mandate under which I work. The email told me my post was, to paraphrase, arrogant. That's accurate, and I regret it. However, I can try to make things right. Let me take this opportunity to 1) apologize for blogging while in a bad mood, resulting in a thoughtless and inapt criticism of another person, and 2) make it clear that there is a particular member of my governing commission who has earned my true respect. She has overcome significant obstacles and difficult circumstances to be an engaged and important member of community-building projects that will positively impact thousands of people. She speaks with the passion of her convictions, and is true to them even when others try to dissuade or restrain her. She plays by the rules, and to win - but her victory is a victory for the disadvantaged, not some petty personal advantage. Sometimes we disagree, and sometimes she allows herself to stray from our statutory restrictions by her desire for justice and parity among all people. In many ways I hope to attain some of her good qualities - steadfastness, sympathy, involvement, and others too. She is good people and undeserving of my antipathy. Even when she irritates me, I am honored to work on her behalf, because she represents the best of what my organization is trying to do. I bite my tongue, embarassed to read my own words. Maybe, if I bite hard enough, I'll remember for a while, too. Thanks, Geewhiz - whoever you are.
thats just the way it seems to me at [11:05 AM]

[ Friday, April 11, 2003 ]

 
I make the decision days in advance: weather permitting, I will take a sunset ride on Tuesday. On Tuesday, the weather is perfect. I make sure to get home in time to stretch and change, to do a proper job of things. I mount the bike and feel again the height and lightness; I pick a vigorous cadence climbing to Balboa and find once more the gratification of brute strength. I ride through shadows on the west side of the street. The houses opposite shimmer in shafts of citrus sunlight slanting through the pines.

I arrive at the park and ride carefully through the Rose Gardens, where I technically am not allowed to be, where my bike rolls fecklessly over “no bicycles” signs set in the very pavement in white paint and bronze plaques. The garden is lightly spangled with visitors, few of whom are even near the path. I slip past one or two as the beams of sunlight pour through the rose petals, thousands of flowers in pink and orange and lavender, each with its own scent, and all the scents bathing me as I ride across the evening breeze that blows over plot after plot of fiery blooms.

I kick into a cruising gear on JFK. I know the road well and let the meadows and groves slip behind me. I accelerate uphill to the crest, then concentrate for the sprint down to the head of the horse trail. I leave the pavement feeling sharp and I ride hard, skipping over roots and across sand, eyes fixed on where I will be in two more seconds. The bike dips chatters bobs beneath me; details blur. I arrive at the Murphy Windmill in excellent time. The trail ends. Ocean beach, six railstraight miles of sand, stretches out to either side, holding back the Pacific. My breathing is deep and relaxed; my legs tingle.

The sky is a rich blue behind me, hinting darkly at the promise of night. Overhead is orange shot with pink clouds, and just past that, a pink sky laced in tangerine. A band of white spreads on the horizon from the sun as it reaches to kiss its reflection. The sea is black, with all the colors of the heavens reflected on its choppy shoulders. The dunes lounge, random tufts of long grass waving in the breeze. The wide beach is the color of honey and live embers, pitted everywhere with scoops of shadow, some dark and blue, some grey, some colored just like sand.

I face a choice: my usual route is to head back into the park, pick up the official concrete bike path, and go home. This time, though, I don’t want to delve back into shadowy groves. The gilded light draws me to the alternate route: north to the hill, up and then east to Geary. On my right will pass the width of the huge park, juniper wilds and the Chalet and the Dutch Windmill, and then the condos and the sandstone cliffs. To my left is the sea wall, four feet high and three wide, running straight, dropping sharply on the westward side to the sand a dozen or so feet below. Every fifty feet, wide concrete steps descend to the beach, or perhaps emerge from it. There are twenty-eight stairwells from here to the hill, twenty-eight portals to the edge of the continent. This is what I see at each of them:

1. Five teenage asian boys in chinos and white t-shirts, laughing and shouting as they run across the dunes, punching each other in the shoulders and flipping their extravagant hair.

2. A heavyset white man in his 60s, wearing a blue jacket and walking a tiny black dog.

3. Nothing.

4. An old black man in a flat-top hat and an old dark suit, sitting on a concrete pilaster at the top of the steps, watching the sunset and listening to a transistor radio.

5. Two lanky young men with long hair, playing Frisbee, standing far apart near the water.

6. Two white women in leather shoes and heavy sweaters, looking down and talking earnestly as they approach the steps; they are quite near and look up, startled, as I pass.

7. A tall white woman with white hair in a bun, walking south along the beach, holding seven leashes on which seven dogs of different sizes and breeds pull intently in seven different directions.

8. A couple in their thirties with dark hair, skin and clothes, sitting near each other on a red cloth with a bottle of white wine and two glasses, some crackers, cheese and fruit.

9. Nothing.

10. A white man in his fifties with bushy sideburns and a black Greek fisherman’s cap, his back to the sea and sunset, flying a box kite and laughing.

11. A white teenage boy, shirtless in cutoffs, sitting in the sand with his knees up and playing a didgeridoo.

12. Nothing.

13. A white woman in her twenties wearing a spandex singlet, doing yoga (exalted warrior pose).

14. At the pilaster, two very pale young white men sit drinking beer out of cans in paper bags; their black t-shirts are in faded tatters and they watch me with something like malevolence as I ride along. I expect to be hit with a beer can once my back is to them, but nothing happens.

15. Nothing.

16. A family of seven blonde people, mom and dad in their thirties, children throwing handfuls of sand and comparing seashells, and one little girl standing still at the edge of the ocean, watching the sun as it merges with its image, her hair a burnished crown.

17. A white man in a business suit with a large briefcase, from which he is removing sheets of paper that he crumples and throws one at a time with all his might into the pink foam of the surf.

18. A stocky white woman in tight white pants, sunglasses on, stomping toward the steps and reaching back to clutch behind her the hand of a stumbling boy; two slightly older boys follow, staring at the shadows that stretch out before them.

19. A young couple with olive skin, he in a blue t-shirt and jeans, she in black overalls, sitting on the sand with a six pack of canned beer and a bag of chips; she leans back against him as they both watch the sun flatten against the thread of the horizon.

20. A man in filthy tattered clothes, curled in a ball on the steps down near the sand, asleep, his face burned from the now-fading sunshine.

21. Nothing.

22. Nothing.

23. A tall, thin old black man in a floppy hat and dungarees, walking along the water’s edge, listening intently to a little girl in a jumper with a pig tails who tightly grips his downstretched hand.

24. Nothing.

25. A tall barrel-chested white man in white jacket, checked pants and a white chef’s hat, his back to the steps, a sharpening steel in one hand and a fifteen-inch chef’s knife in the other, methodically working the blade as he stares into the shrinking disk of the sunset.

26. Nothing.

27. An asian woman in her thirties or forties in a knit top and long skirt, standing near the steps, watching the sunset alone, her arms crossed over her chest, her hands on her shoulders.

28. Two young people on a blanket, embracing, ignoring the splinter of coal-red sun slipping into the sea.

I’ve been riding slowly. Now the sky is dusty red across the horizon, darkening fast. The path climbs and swoops up the hill past the buttery smell of the Cliff House to the Seal Rock overlook and the ruins of the old baths dissolving far below into the sea and the fading light. The push uphill warms me. As the street opens up to the east I’m spinning smoothly; the road straightens and slopes gently back down to my neighborhood. The Eastern Rite cathedral flashes past on the left; onion domes glint green as night bounces off gold tiles. On high alert, I weave back home through the dazzling traffic of Russian Chinatown. My ride is over and I dismount, climb reluctantly upstairs. Without turning on the lights, from my front window I look out to the west, where indigo is fading to black and the silhouetted trees grow harder to distinguish. I close my eyes and all the colors are still there.
thats just the way it seems to me at [4:56 PM]

 
Today we're having a committee meeting and a commission meeting, so I'll be away from the Chuckledesk for a lot of my time. I'll be cheerfully distracted by thoughts of Happy Hour, which will come in handy because this will be a contentious meeting. I'll be particularly discomfited by one "public" (non-lawyer, non-judge) member of our committee and commission, who is zealous and passionate and has trouble with logical thinking. We have very strict rules on who gets funding, and even if we like what someone is doing, if it's not "the provision of free civil legal services to indigent people in California," we can't contribute to the cause. She doesn't get it. She wants us to fund anti-discrimination work in Mississippi shipyards. So I'm looking forward to the protracted discomfort of hearing an earnest ignoramus who doesn't realize she's not making sense or even understanding the larger conversation, but who feels compelled both to expound and to opine at length and with poor grammar, vocabulary, logic and social grace, derailing the meeting and making Happy Hour seem that much sweeter and more distant. I love you all.
thats just the way it seems to me at [8:01 AM]

[ Thursday, April 10, 2003 ]

 
SPARE THE ROD

Those depositions usually lasted about a week. I'd show up an hour or so early on the first day to get to know my client and prepare him - overwhelmingly, him - for the ordeal. I had a pat rap that worked well; the firm assigned newbies to me so they could see how I handled the processs and the defense attorneys, of whom we usually confronted between three and 15. But more typically it was just me and my client. Scantily educated men in their latter years, who were already dealing with issues that severely challenged their self-esteem and self-perception, it was daunting for them to see so many attorneys arrayed against them. But I was good at teaching them to use the ammo that they didn't know they carried, at establishing myself as a weapon both of defense and offense on their behalf, and of demystifying the process.

These guys were tradesmen in the construction crafts, painters and pipefitters and riggers and steamfitters and masons and laborers and all other manner of working men, all diagnosed one way or another with asbestos-related injuries, all suing any number of defendants - as many as 250 at a shot - for compensation for their respiratory weaknesses, heart conditions, cancers, and consequent infirmities. They didn't often feel good about bringing suit - they were used to relying on themselves and working their way through hard times by dint of brawn and sweat rather than by hiring a mealymouthed desk jockey to complain about things for them. But by the time of their depos, those considerations were usually past. They tended to come to me honestly disposed to try to help me help them as much as they could.

Then, there was Rod. My cursory review of his social security records led me to believe his case was thin, but he was the client and I went forth stoutheartedly to introduce myself to him. When I met him - late, he'd gotten the time and place both wrong - he was anxious to the verge of incontinence, jabbering and gesticulating. He was a little guy with lank, greasy hair, shifty eyes, and a big scar from his upper lip to the base of his nose. He wanted right away to lay out the ground rules for me. He had it all figured out and was just getting started telling me what was what.

I stood up, shook his hand (strong and rough as any tradesman's) and wished him well with his deposition - maybe he'd call me to tell me how it went. That got his attention. "You do this my way or you do it alone," I told him. He agreed sheepishly to my terms. I was able to embark on my spiel. We went over the elements of his case, the process, the strategy, the players. He was extremely anxious about his loss of consortium claim. This was a count of the complaint on behalf of his wife (a woman I was quickly growing to pity) for her inability to have intimate relations with her husband on account of how the asbestos had damaged his vascular and pulmonary systems so badly that he was no longer able to function sexuallly.

As I raised this subject, so to speak, he started freaking out. He got up, pacing, sawing the air with his hands, interruping me, spewing an incoherent stream of logarrhea. I slowed him down, told him we wouldn't be getting there today, that we'd focus on his workplace exposure and the multifarous details of every job he'd ever had. This calmed him down a bit. Once he caught his breath, we entered the conference room for the deposition, now an hour and a half late.

We were lucky in that I knew the eight or ten defense attorneys there and had a good working relationship with them. They were a decent cross-section of humanity, just doing their jobs, as workmanlike as carpenters framing out an abattoir, but over time I had earned their respect and a certain latitude with them. We sat and began. Things quicly went south. Rod started laying down rules for them as he had for me, then answering with windy narratives often unrelated to the pending question. He spoke without reflection, interrupted questions with off-topic but harmful answers, and derailed discussions.

It was already after noon and we'd gotten nowhere. Rod's memory was porus to the point of nonexistence, so he needed a lot of prompting and encouragement. He was sweating and starting to smell pretty cheesy. I kept calling breaks to refocus him, during which our relationship deepend into a paternal one, me being dad. We were scheduled for four days; I could see that we wouldn't be halfway done by then. And I wanted out. I told my firm after the first day that I'd complete the week's work but they'd have to trade someone in for the next round.

Three days later I said goodbye to Rod, lying when I told him he'd done well and had a decent case (he'd recalled nothing to identify any defendants at any of his jobsites, and many of them would be dismissed shortly. He'd also volunteered substantial information on an adverse medical history and a long habit of smoking.) When he was scheduled to return to finish the job, he asked for me to be has attorney again and, despite assurances to me to the contrary, that's who he got. Wer dragged through another week of testimony that featured rambling descriptions of irrelevant work and non-asbestos-containing lung irritants.

This case was a dog and Rod couldn't open his mouth without making things worse, both legally and interpersonally. He was confrontational. He didn't listen. He misunderstood. He whined. Yet we continued. After a few years of my life had been sacrified on his behalf (compressed into nine days of halting and frequently incoherent testimony), we got to the damages portion of his testimony. We discussed the ways his injuries impaired him, the consequent limitations on his day-to-day activities. He claimed extrordinary reductions in strength and stamina, but hadn't been even minimally active prior to the onset of his symptoms so we couldn't gauge how his injuries had changed his life. But the end of the depo was in sight.

Most of the defendants and their attorneys were gone by now - we were in a small conference room with four other lawyers and the court reporter. It was late but none of us wanted to have to come back even one more time. We were down to the final issue. The lead questioner and I had worked together many times and I respected his professionalism. I knew where he had to go next and, knowing Rod, I knew it wouldn't be pretty.

"Sir, your complaint includes a claim on your wife's behalf for loss of consortium. Do you know what that means?"

"Objection, expert opinion, privilege, foundation. You can answer."

"No. No I don't know what that means." But already I could see his breath was coming in short hard rasps. His face was growing flushed. He knew what was happening.

"It means you're suing my client because of some disruption in your intimate relations with your wife. Can you tell us what kind of disruption you mean?"

Rod's eyes grew beadier and more belligerant. He turned on me. "You stop this right now, Dan. I've been through enough. I'm not here to be humiliated." I looked around at the attorneys and the court reporter. The air in the wroom was thick with tension. Rod was ready to embark on a tirade that promised to be more agitated than any we'd yet seen - his face was red and his mouth and throat were working to articulate utterances so anxiety-ridden he was having trouble gettting a handle on them.

"Let's go off," I interjected. Counsel sighed - these breaks could take a long time with Rod and it was already after seven. The reporter grimaced and stretched her fingers. Rod and I left the room. In conference he found his voice - angry and piercing, a three-year-old in a man's stunted body. The complaint was winding up like the first tentative groan of an air raid siren. I shut him off quick by slamming my palms fast and hard into the table in front of him.

The sound carried like a rifle shot in the small room. I'd exhausted all my cajoling skills, my logic, my calm persuasion, my avuncular camaraderie. We were all too tired to play more games. Now, for the first time, he was going to see me get angry. Angry at him. "You want to call this off? Your wife's case is over. Think she'll like hearing that? What are you gonna tell her? Have you even thought about it? Or are jou just going to run out crying like a little girl? Screw it. I'm done with you. You've ignored me, trashed every piece of advice I've given you. You've made me look like a fool. You want to lose this case. This has all been for nothing. Just don't blame me for your failure. And don't blame those other lawyers. Or your bosses, or your dad or anybody. You're a failure because you fail. You do it to yourself. You've wasted two weeks of my life. I guess that means nothing to you but I could have been helping someone who was willing to work with me to win his case. Not like you. You walk out of this depo, you're a loser. None of us care - we'll be just as happy to see the end of this. But you're gonna have a lot of time to think it over. Think it over on the drive home, and while you're explaining it to your wife, and when you're lying in bed next to her in the dark doing nothing for the rest of your loser life. Get up and walk out. I'm sick of this."

Rod was looking at his atrophied lap. When I paused he raised his eyes to me. They were full of tears. "You know what they did to me. My surgery. I can't talk about it."

"These people are professionals. They already have your medical records. They know what's been done - and they do not care. They need to hear it from you; they need your story. We need your testimony. It's like talking to a doctor, a mechanic. But if they know you can't speak for yourself they won't settle and we'll just dismiss your wife's claim. You've wasted enough of our time. Stand up for yourself or run. Now. Your choice."

Rod was bawling. "Let's finish, Dan," he choked out. "I don't want you to hate me. I don't want to be a loser." We returned to the meeting room, which was somber and lurid with florescent lighting.

Lead counsel quietly announced, "We're back on. There's a question pending. Woudl the reporter read it back?" Her fingers churned the keys for a few more moments and then she read the last bit of the record from before the break off the long ribbon of gibberish she extruded from her steno machine.

Rod steeled himself and answered, "I can't get it up. Is that what you wanted to hear? They put a prong in me so I could pretend I had a boner. They cut my dick open and stuck a stick in it so I could do it. But I'm too upset even to try any more. I used to pleasure my wife every week. It's been three years now. I've had a fake boner for almost a year. It's horrible. Every time I see it or touch it I know it's fake. It makes me miserable. Are you happy now? Are you happy?" This last question was directed to me. Tears ran down his face and his testimony was subsumed in sobs. "Are we finished now? Is that enough?"

Lead counsel checked around the table - no one wanted more. "Yes, I think we're done."

"Then this deposition is concluded," I responded. The reporter stopped typing, started gathering her materials and machines. Defense counsel looked down, concentrating on the papers they were shuffling and stuffing into briefcases. Rod wept openly. I told him, "We're done." He bolted. Usually I debriefed, congratulated, bid farewell to my clients after these things were over. I had nothing to say to Rod and he didn't want to hear anything from me. I never heard about his case again and eventually left the firm, then the business. One of those was more than enough for me.
thats just the way it seems to me at [6:55 PM]

 
Last night I revisited a film I hadn't seen for years - Hiroshi Inagaki's Musashi, part one of the 1954 Samurai Trilogy. It's gorgeously filmed with great characters and an inexorable build. Toshiro Mifune is riveting as the renegade peasant who makes a name for himself, first as an outlaw, then as a diligent student of the way of samurai. At one point he takes on twenty men with only a wooden sword in his hand - and since this is part 1 of 3, you know he makes it out okay. But he's forced to retreat and hide in the countryside, which itself is treated so sensitively and lovingly that it effectively becomes another character in the film. As the entire village is impressed into service to find him among the steep hillsides and deep ravines, the kindly buddhist monk and the jilted orphaned fiancee of his faithless best friend decide to sneak into the woods themselves to camp out and bring Musashi to a safe place. The priest and young woman scurry along hoping to evade detection in that wonderful scampering way so prevalent in films set in 17th century Japan, he in his grey tunic, she in bright red ankle-length robes. I was thinking at this juncture that she really needed something less conspicuous to wear, something that would blend into the verdant hillsides more smoothly - maybe with a mottled green pattern that would make it harder to see her. Then I realized that, at that early date, the camo-no hadn't yet been invented.
thats just the way it seems to me at [1:52 PM]

[ Wednesday, April 09, 2003 ]

 
My non-imaginary friend Charles (note lack of hyperlink) sent me this some time ago. It made me a bit unsettled. I just found it again and now I'm making it your problem. 'Cause I like to share.

Scientific Truth in Product Warning Labels

by Susan Hewitt and Edward Subitzky
(Stolen Without Permission from Journal of anillegiblycopiedtitle)

WARNING: This product warps space and time in its vicinity.

WARNING: This product attracts every other piece of matter in the Universe, including the products of other manufacturers, with a force proportional to the product of the masses and inversely proportional to the distance between them.

CAUTION: The mass of this product contains the energy equivalent of 85 million tons of TNT per net ounce of weight.

HEALTH WARNING: Care should be taken when lifting this product, since its mass, and thus its weight, is dependent on its velocity relative to the user.

ADVISORY: There is an extremely small but nonzero chance that, through a process known as "tunneling," this product may spontaneously disappear from its present location and reappear at any random place in the universe, including your neighbor's domicile. The manufacturer will not be responsible for any damages or inconvenience that may result.

COMPONENT EQUIVALENCY NOTICE: The subatomic particles(electrons, protons, etc.) comprising this product are exactly the same in every measurable respect as those used in the products of other manufacturers, and no claim to the contrary may legitimately be expressed or implied.

CONSUMER NOTICE: Because of the "Uncertainty Principle," it is impossible for the consumer to find out at the same time both precisely where this product is and how fast it is moving.

NOTE: The most fundamental particles in this product are held together by a "gluing" force about which little is currently known and whose adhesive power cannot therefore be permanently guaranteed.

ATTENTION: Despite any other listing of product contents found hereon, the consumer is advised that, in actuality, this product consists of 99.999999999999% empty space.

HANDLE WITH EXTREME CARE: This product contains minute electrically charged particles moving at velocities in excess of five hundred million miles her hour.

PUBLIC NOTICE AS REQUIRED BY LAW: Any use of this product, in any manner whatsoever, will increase the amount of disorder in the universe. Although no liability is implied herein, the consumer is warned that this process will ultimately lead to the heat death of the universe.

NEW GRAND UNIFIED THEORY DISCLAIMER: The manufacturer may technically be entitled to claim that this product has ten-dimensional legal rights above and beyond those applicable to three-dimensional objects, since the seven new dimensions are" rolled up" into such a small area that they cannot be detected.

IMPORTANT NOTICE TO PURCHASERS: The entire physical universe, including this product, may one day collapse back into an infinitesimally small space. Should another universe subsequently emerge, the existence of this product in that universe cannot be guaranteed.

PLEASE NOTE: Some quantum physics theories suggest that when the consumer is not directly observing this product, it may cease to exist or will exist only in a vague and undetermined state.

THIS IS A 100% MATTER PRODUCT: In the unlikely event that this merchandise should contact antimatter in any form, a catastrophic explosion will result.

Feeling safer? I'm gonna go right home and remove some tags from my mattresses and see what happens!
thats just the way it seems to me at [5:07 PM]