Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Will I Live To See 2015?

Will I live to see 2015? It's very close, virtually within reach, just a matter of hours. I hope I make it. I figure I will. I've made every other New Year's Day since I've been alive, and am going to keep going for one more, one more, one more, as long as I have life, breath, and determination.

You get this close, one day to go, that's no time to drop off. Even if I were deathly ill, I could probably summon the life force, the spirit of life, to the extent it would take to last a few more hours. I've heard of people doing that.

I've been very philosophical about it -- wondering -- since earlier today, when I was out driving and saw a dead squirrel in the road. You see that and you think, He crossed that road thousands of times, no doubt, and he had to die on New Year's Eve. Couldn't cross it just one more time, and now he won't see 2015. Sad.

Before that I wasn't thinking of it at all. And to think, worse than that, I took a sick friend to the doctor today. He had a face mask on, then I ran into a another guy I know from church with a face mask. I hadn't thought of it at the time, but I might die from that before the day's out. A stray germ, it's not unheard of. Whether those masks are able to keep all germs in, I seriously doubt it.

There's other ways of dropping off. Of course there's traffic. You never know what's coming up the street, about to mow you down. Someone a little tipsy. Or drunk. I know I'll be on the lookout tonight, when the going officially gets rough. I'd hate to make it to 10:00 p.m., just to be mowed down. I actually plan to be safe at home, but with so many sick friends, you never know who might call. Will I have the heart to tell them to wait till tomorrow? Probably not. Then I'll get in the car, a drunk kills me, and I'll get a bad reputation for not showing up when I said I would.

It might be a good day to put my phone in the toilet, so I won't get any calls. Speaking of the toilet, I cleaned the bathroom yesterday, even behind the stool. I was thinking of all the germs I might be getting into. I didn't have gloves on, a mask, nothing. I was doing unprotected bathroom cleaning, about as bad as dating strangers. At that point, though, I wasn't worried about the New Year. Hard to believe, such a huge concern today, having seen the dead squirrel, but not a huge concern yesterday.

The biggest concern I had yesterday, cleaning, was that when I scratched my ear once, that a germ might get in there and take away my hearing. These things are not just idle concerns. I saw something online just today about amoebas eating away someone's eye, so don't think it can't happen. I'm very philosophical about such things -- Everything's gotta eat -- just not on New Year's Eve and not on me.

I'm going to try my best to make it!

(The time I spent working on the graphic and the rest of this post, my lunch was here on the plate, forgotten. After I got done, I was a little suspicious about the olives and salami. I ate it anyway, got whatever airborne diseases attach themselves to food, and promptly died.)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Leaving My Blog Post at the Manger

I've always been impressed by the Christmas story, for many aspects of it. One of the greatest is the idea that each person who comes to behold the Child brings a gift, the best he or she has.

For the Wise Men, we know their best was gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Impressive. For the shepherds, they brought a couple of sheep. And for the Little Drummer Boy -- I like his most -- he had no other worldly goods except his drum, so he played for Him.

We've all heard the message, "What can I set before the King?" It varies from one person to another, of course. Maybe a watch or some other valuable thing. Maybe an animal other than a sheep, like if  you raise birds or cattle, whatever. Or something you can do and do well. For me, that has to be these blog posts. I'll be the first to confess, my talents in life are sorely lacking. I don't play the drums or piano. I don't raise animals. And I don't have any gold. But I do write blog posts. I guess pretty well. I don't get many complaints.

So this year, my gift at the manger is a continuation of my last blog post, starting where I left off, some of my old memories of the newspaper delivery boys we had in olden days.

In those days, when I was growing up, there were boys in town who delivered the newspaper every morning, and also evenings. (I don't remember any girls.) One paper came out in the morning, and there were two in the evening, except Sundays when it was just the morning paper. That's a lot of papers, but we read each one.

The good thing for those boys, obviously, would be, That's a lot of work! Giving them the opportunity to have spending money and also money to save. It also taught them, no doubt, important lessons on responsibility. I myself never had a paper route as a kid. Whatever responsibility I learned was more through trial and error, and, frankly, I'm still learning!

Paper delivery in those days had an additional important aspect to it, collecting. The boy had to collect the subscription fees by himself. We didn't mail it in. That could be challenging, even though my parents were prompt in paying. Others, regrettably, would be short of money, and so they'd "not be home" or just blatantly putting him off. I can see a lot of frustration in that arrangement.

Now everything's changed. We have a guy in a truck who tosses the paper out the window, then roars off. He doesn't have to collect. We never even see him, unless we just happen to be up and looking out the window and he's there. In his truck roaring off. Instead of paying him directly, we mail our subscription in on an annual basis. That's a lot of money to come up with all at once, close to $200, but we want the news, so we cut back on food (or whatever) and get it accomplished.

A lot has changed over the years. Certainly newspaper delivery isn't what it used to be!

That's a pretty good gift to leave at the manger, I'm sure you'll agree. It'll give them something to read while they're just sitting there.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa Claus Was the Christmas Star

All of us have suffered the same tired discussion every year for the past 2,000 years: What's the truth about the Christmas Star? I hesitate to even mention it -- beating the same old dead horse -- because most of us turn it off at the first breath. Even now I feel queasiness coming over me. And it always ends inconclusively, because, whoever it is -- scientists, theologians, pastors, Sunday School teachers, even your parents -- it always ends the same way: "We'll never know." Doesn't that just make you sick?

In fact, they come pretty close to saying there wasn't even actually a Christmas star. They point out, rightly, that with a simple sky-view app, we're able to see precisely what the stars in the sky were like on any day in history. According to this, there wasn't any unusual star activity on the first Christmas. They tell of various conjunctions of stars on different dates, but none of them are quite right. Especially if you factor in the Wise Men (Magi), following a star that eventually pointed to a particular location!

I can't believe I just belched out a whole paragraph on this. That's how queasy I get. Because I've been saying for years that the star was actually Santa Claus. When the story says it was a "star," of course we can take that a couple different ways. Santa Claus is a major "star," right? He's even one of the "stars" of Christmas, is he not? I'm saying that's what the Bible meant.

A couple things here. You might say Santa wasn't even around in the days of Jesus. I beg to differ. How many times have I seen authoritative artwork showing Santa Claus bowing at the manger? Yes, they have an agenda when they put those pictures out, trying to detract from Santa and give greater prominence to Jesus. The agenda, unmistakeably, has to do with how Christmas has become commercialized. Which wasn't the case way back when.

But the pictures tell me something different: Santa was there! How did he get there? Isn't it obvious? Hello? His sleigh? The brightness of his countenance (let's say), and the leadership of Rudolph ... It had to be a magnificent sight in the sky of the ancient world, before electricity, when nights were extremely dark.

It's no great shakes to answer how Santa knew about Jesus. If he knows every boy and girl in the world, what they're doing when they're awake, when they're asleep, when they're bad and good, how much more is he going to know Jesus! The very guy who would go on to compete with him -- head to head, mano a mano -- for Christmas supremacy. I'm sure they got together as the years went by, trying to hammer out who would get what, which one would get the fun side and which the serious side. That's how it should be done. Like in the circus, you've got clowns and regular people. Or TV, cartoons and documentaries.

In my opinion, I'd much rather it was Santa Claus than an actual burning star. An literal star, if it got too close, would fricassee Christ and completely obliterate the earth. You don't mess around with stars. Our sun is a star, 93 million miles away, and look at the damage it does. But Santa Claus, being a person, whatever star quality he has, gives things a personal touch. He can rip across the sky, leading the Wise Men, then double back and make sure they're not lost. When Herod goes out to look at the star, he can be hiding in an alley. Then back up! And most importantly, he can hover right above the stable and point to it without fricasseeing anyone.

I'd love to sit down with Santa and get his take on this stuff. Wow! To think, all those years when I was a kid, I was in the same house with him. However briefly. But always asleep. There on my little bundle of straw, my parents standing on either side of me, looking down, with sheep, donkeys, and cattle lowing. Waking up to the Little Drummer Boy, who back then was my parents' paperboy. We don't have paperboys anymore; now it's just a guy tossing it from his truck and roaring off.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Giftus Thinga" Learns True Meaning of Christmas

Since about August there's been real despair at the manger scene in Bethlehem. Despite the best preparations for Christmas, they could find no new creature to share the true meaning of Christmas. Which, as we've heard all our lives, is very important.

The Lord is born! Wise men came from the East, and then over the years various other characters appeared, representing all creation: Chipmunks, beavers, birds, Frosty the Snowman, Little Drummer Boys, Little Drummer Girls, misfit toys ... The very last of the ordinary animals to come was in fact just a few years ago, the mole. Being an underground animal, no one thought to dig one up and take it.

With the mole used, every year they've been looking for other new things. Even microscopic things. Last year was touch and go, until they discovered Grubby the Pool Virus, found in a dank corner of the dressing room. Related both to dirty feet and poor janitorial work, Grubby, like Frosty, "came to life one day," and Christmas was saved.

I've been keeping track of the search most of this year. They've been using some of my global contacts, thanks to the blog, meaning I've been scouring the Ukraine and a few of the other more exotic countries of the world. Remember Mauritius? I get hits there, too, and I'm always thinking it's almost obscure enough to have new life.

Manger authorities even asked me to get hold of any scientist friends I may have, not wanting to leave any stone unturned in the search. I thought "stones unturned," and immediately thought of Neil Shubin, famous for turning rocks and discovering that each of us is descended not just from other mammals, but reptiles, then fish. Someone in Sunday School a couple weeks ago (true story) said, "Jesus wasn't a reptile." I immediately thought of Neil, but was wise enough to keep my mouth shut. Anyway, I called Brother Shubin, but the best he could do was a fossilized fur follicle from a Tribble. We already got Tribbles to the manger in '68.

So the search has continued fruitlessly. Imagine, then, my huge shock, when just yesterday, right here at my place, one of the heads in a Christmas present I was getting ready to send to a reader was granted life!  How about that? I bought 40,000 of these gifts and, like, the tenth one I'm handling starts moving! One little snaky, floppy, head thing, now going by the preliminary scientific moniker "Giftus Thinga-ma-Whatsit," came to life!

Yes, it's small, dinky, extremely tiny and insignificant. It's actually little more than a head and stem. But there's a few strings falling from it, like delicate roots. Probably the beginnings of a spine. I thought I saw movement, but denied it. Then it moved even more and was even looking around, all very tentatively. The signs of life increased by the second. Twisting and morphing, morphing and twisting.

I sat it down and told it the true meaning of Christmas, just in case it died, then called Bethlehem and got it on a plane to the Holy Land, and they said it arrived at the stable about an hour ago. With beautiful light beams coming from the manger in response!

Friends, this is it! Whether you're a pool virus, a chipmunk, or a brand new Giftus Thinga, the true meaning of Christmas is here, love, light, greatness and power, the Divine Word within everything. What's in it for you? How about free plane tickets to Bethlehem? .... if your story's convincing enough to the powers that be.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Christmas Gift to My Readers

It's almost Christmas Day! And that means something to me, lots of things. One thing it means, very relevant to this blog, is getting something out to each of my readers. To show my love and appreciation. 2014 has been a great year.

As you remember, last year it was a French silk pie for many of you. Then I had a few complaints, what you might expect. 1) Too fattening; 2) Distribution was poor; 3) Many were left out; 4) Several pies were crushed by the time they arrived, etc. So pies were out this year.

Not only that, but the number of readers has grown so much. Now I'm getting around 36,000 regulars, almost too many for me to keep up on, with birthdays, clothing sizes, letters back and forth about family milestones, and everything.  I needed something that's good quality, sure to please, and easy to ship. So I got each one something very much like what you see in the picture, a planter with funny little creatures with big eyes popping out. Very nice, aren't they?

Then, being ever the optimist, even though I only needed 36,000, I figured by Christmas I might have another 4,000 readers, so, hell, let's just get an even 40,000. At $8 a pop, that's ... It's quite a bit, but what's money when it comes to making someone's Christmas a little merrier? Grandpa and Grandma left me a little cash. I keep it in the very bottom of the freezer. Right under the fish I still have from the mid-'60s. Then there's my own disability payments (game toe). I've been able to save back around $10 every check.

It's the least I can do. I remember what Christmas always meant to me as a kid. Back then I got dolls. Grandma made them. Jet black, like a quaint old world craft. Lovely. Except I used to dream of them sitting up suddenly in the night, going, "Mama!" I'd wake up in shock. Whatever gender ambiguity you may have noticed in me, it started about that time. "I'm not your mother," I'd think, then I'd wonder, "Maybe I am. I don't know anymore."

Everyone please be patient, your planter's almost on its way. Right now they're individually wrapped and stacked to the ceiling, both house and garage, with a few thousand in the cellar. I have a couple of high school girls -- maybe they're boys -- getting extra credit for doing this kind of charity work. They'll be helping me get them to the post office, so everything's going to work out for your happiness, and mine.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Spaceship Library Lifts Its Way Upward



In my whole life I've never been in the library before it opens. So I don't know what goes on, which might be for the best. I like imagination. I've been in churches and seen the holy stuff behind the scenes and it ruins the mystery. Whether libraries have any mystery, I don't know; of course they have a mystery section, maybe sort of the same.

So far, library openings only exist in my occasional thoughts. I try not to get there early, since I hate being one of those guys standing outside. There's all the nasty etiquette of people holding the door for you, or you holding the door for others. I prefer the system of every man for himself, but there's always do-gooders willing to wait for you to make your way from the parking garage. Let the place open, let those people advance to their table, then go in...

If a library opening is like the opening of a play, that'd be cool. But since it's everyday, probably not. They're counseling everyone, "You did great in rehearsal, don't worry about it." "Break a leg." "Show 'em who's boss." "Don't take any crap from the critics." "The only critic that matters is the audience." Then they see me, "Excuse me, sir, why are you backstage? Why are you taking notes? Security!"

Today I got to the library just before it opened, which meant I had to witness the unfortunate door etiquette, terrible as always. It was somewhat relieved by a guy in a pickup being wedged funny in the parking ramp entrance, leading to some reverie over the pickle he was in. "How would you even get in a pickle like that? How would you even do it? Go up over the curb without knowing it, then you're stuck?"

Looking at the place standing big and rectangular in the rain, and the various attendants standing at the ready, I thought of a big spaceship. The clouds are coming down heavily. It's Falling Skies, except we're going to escape, not fight. They're taking us to another planet, maybe in a different galaxy, with our only enemies the figments of our imagination. The place will rise silently from the ground, just a hum.

The library director stands on the bridge with his main crew, the members of which will never die, come what may. The guy at the "Ask" desk may die -- I've had a run-in with him in the past -- he's minor. Many others may perish in future episodes. But for today, right now, everything's great. The director gets their attention -- just before the opening and launch -- to tell them their mission is important. "You will be attending to our passengers as they wing their way in flights of imagination. Every little kid with a picture book is in your care. All the way down to the old man with the coarse gloves without fingers, the gloves not the man..."

His crew chuckles. They've been through his talks many times, but they're always inspired by his dedication. Knowing that each of them also is in his tender care; he's willing to sacrifice himself for them; fortunately it never comes to that; in space it might.

All's aboard who's coming aboard. We look out on a world now being consumed by every apocalypse known to gods or men. I see much gnashing of teeth, many arms outstretched toward the library. But we're already off the ground. There's no going back, even if we wanted. We must escape. I run to the southern windows. I see my car on top of the ramp, the last time I'll ever see her. I wonder, "What will happen to her? Which of these zombies will get her? How many will be killed again and again fighting for her? Surely she'll be a burnt out hulk this time tomorrow."

Next stop, some other galaxy! Need to find a table and settle in.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Exactly Did We Forgive Japan?

I'm normally quick to forgive people their faults and sins. I know I've done a few evil things, like one Thanksgiving I ate way too much pie. I did it, I wasn't proud of it, but after a time of penance I forgave myself. I believe others deserve the same consideration.

But what about actually being at war with someone, even a World War? Is that not at least arguably worse than overeating on a holiday designed for food? I think it is. In the case of World War II, and America's war with Japan, you've got outright treachery at play, then all the sorrow and suffering that went with it. It's still something that brings a lot of grief. I saw an old guy at the memorial reliving it just this year. He didn't look reconciled.

I hadn't seen Tora! Tora! Tora! since the early '70s, but saw it again the other day, the disaster now streaming on TV on demand. Japan's Original Sin against us can never go away. We're forever waking up on December 7 -- if we're in Hawaii's time zone -- to the coming of planes in a sneak attack for the ages. It's gut-wrenching. There's also the movie The Final Countdown. Kirk Douglas goes back in time, thanks to a weird storm at sea, and is about to take down the Japanese before they can attack. Unfortunately, the storm reappears and he's back in 1980, having not changed a thing. That tells me the Japanese were damned lucky.

A bigger take on it is to conclude: The only way to prevent Pearl Harbor is ... there's not a way to prevent it now that it's happened. All we can do now is what we originally did, go to war against them, destroy them, then hold a grudge forever. (We're not forgiving Al Qaeda anytime soon!) What we actually did is only half good. We went to war and destroyed them, but then we promptly forgave them. All I know is I was born within 10 years of VJ Day and my first toys were made in Japan. That's not right.

Is my argument, then, against my parents? I hadn't thought of it, but maybe so. They either bought those toys or allowed someone else to. I didn't buy them myself. These are the same parents, by the way -- speaking of my mom -- who taught me, "Once burned, twice wary." Wonder why she was such a huge hypocrite, applying that teaching to me swiping cookies from the jar but allowing the Japanese complete leeway. She and Dad are both gone now, so I'll have to work out this mystery myself.

Probably they were simply going along with the rest of society. It's hard to buck the trend. They thought, "Japan's destroyed, they're tamed, they're under control." We occupied them for a while -- my mom collected "Occupied Japan" nicknacks -- then turned them loose, to be as duplicitous as they wanted, if that's what they chose. In the '60s, Japan sent us crap. In the '70s, it improved. In the '80s, we couldn't keep up with them. Our stuff was crap, their stuff gold. "Who won this goddamned war anyway?" my grandpa might've asked, had he not died in the '70s. He talked like that.

From where I sit -- not able to see past my personal horizons -- it's only a matter of time... As far as I know, Japan's already amassed enough weaponry, force, and the will to use it to pay us back big time. I hate the thought, but in a way the comeuppance would suit us, having forgiven them and ignorantly trusted them. I never liked Reagan, but I like what he said, "Trust but verify." As it turns out, the Land of the Midnight Sun somehow has light for their path and it's us who dwell in darkness. It's all something for future generations -- if there should be any -- to contemplate.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Strict Limit -- One Question a Month

There's a guy I know who used to run me almost ragged asking questions. Infernal questions! Enough questions to make me horribly uncomfortable; he was so curious, it's ridiculous. But bit by bit I worked to reduce his idiotic quirk. Now we're down to a few questions whenever we're together. But I'm hoping to go whole hog and limit his questions to only one a month! Think it can be done?

Once I spell it out for him, he'll know the rules, and, by God, if he wants to be my friend he'll have to try his damnedest to follow them. I'm literally sick of him anyway, so what have I got to lose? Plus, if I'm somehow able to drive him batty, maybe he'll shrivel up to nothing and blow away. Of course I kid, we're friends, he knows that. But we'll never get anywhere unless he makes progress and accepts this limit. I can always be "sick" when he calls and wants to come over.

OK, here's how I see it going. Looking ahead, let's say we're at March. We get together, I explain the rule. And he asks, "Why only one a month?" I say, "That's your question, and here's my answer, Because that's the rule." No more questions till next month.

April rolls around and he goes, "Could I have more than one question?" That's it, he asked his question, and here's my answer, "No, the rule says one a month."

Now it's been a couple months, and he's getting so used to not asking me things, May is suddenly here and he's like, "I can't think of anything. Could you help me come up with a question?" That's his question, he's stuck for another month.

Now it's June, "What's the point of this?" he asks. That's his question!

In July, he's totally stunted and won't ask a question to beat the band. "Are you going to ask your question?" I say. But he only looks up at me with big dull eyes, so beaten down, so stuck inhabiting perplexity, and to such a degree, he doesn't know what to ask. I look at him with a certain amount of sorrow welling up in me. He's sitting on the couch, his arms positioned like he's in a straitjacket. And he's rocking back and forth.

I bring him treats, snacks, instant oatmeal, fruit roll-ups, etc., doing my best to nurture him along with tea, donuts, etc. I'm coaxing, pleading, wheedling, setting it out that he was once a guy of such inquisitiveness, and now is so bound up, having totally psyched himself into a silent stupor. He's a pathetic, wispy reminder of his former vital talkative self. O the greatness of his former curiosity, now fallen, now utterly fallen!

I think, "Good God, what have I done?" To see him bowed and broken like this. This could be something I could make money on, sell tricks like this to the CIA. Although we've been taught never to look for useful information in torture. But was it torture? I reject the inference.

Now, though, it's torture for me! I beg and plead yet more. He looks at me with those big bloodshot eyes (how good it is to see them open again, even a slight crack). Then, finally, at end of opening them, his lips twitch and also start to open.... I think I can hear the faint beginnings of sound bubbling through the spittle.

I tell him like a mother hen, "Go ahead, my friend, it's another month, please ask me your question."

It's tough going but at long last I hear his feeble response, "Who, me?" Ahh! That's your question! We're done for another month! I'm doing the happy dance, a dance around the room, looking ahead to another whole month of silence, just as it should've always been.

I'm Finally Getting That Lap Dance

Celebrate with me! It's been a day of great success! I'm finally getting the lap dance I've always wanted, even though I've always been too reticent/cautious/embarrassed to actually go there and get one. Now -- better late than never -- it's all arranged.

And all the credit goes to the Spirit of Christmas and Generosity, believe it or not. We were out for lunch and got on the subject of what we should get each other for Christmas, this woman I know. We've known each other for a number of years, and, both of us getting older, it seems like we don't need stuff like we used to. This goes for my other old friends, too; it's getting harder and harder to get for them.

Anyway, I've had this idea for some time, but, like above, I've been too reticent, etc., to say anything about it. This time, I don't know what got into me -- blame it on the patty melt -- I just laid it on the line. My big idea... I know she likes working on handcrafts, for one. And I've long had the idea of getting a lap dance, ever since I talked to this guy I know who said he was at a bachelor party and got one. At the Kit Kat Klub. Everyone knows the place east of town.

Anyway, like I said, she likes handcrafts, so here's our arrangement. I'm going to get her a wallet kit, the kind made from rawhide where you stitch up the edges with leather. The kit comes with a nice big needle, so it's just like sewing. Then, more than just stitching it, you have these cool metal stamps, similar to rubber stamps. You heat them on the stove and press them into the leather and they leave very sharp western designs. I think the last bit of the craft is to insert a few plastic sheets inside, a great place to store family photos or possibly a driver's license. I'll also give her $40.

So far, so good. Then I spelled it out to her what I want her to do with it. When I'm dead, and when they cremate me and give my ashes to whoever -- it'll all be set out in my will -- she'll get the ashes and fill the wallet full, leaving just enough room for the $40. Sticking out the top. She'll take the wallet to the Kit Kat Klub, find the hottest dancer -- a blonde or redhead -- and arrange for the lap dance on it. Of course the money will be for the dancer, and I'll just have to settle for whatever a guy gets for $40.

It'll be everything a decent stripper could want, right? Easy work. Money. No fuss, no muss. Maybe a few ash spots on her behind.

So she said yes, even though the "gift" for me for Christmas probably won't be realized for quite a while. I'm feeling great, on top of the world, even though I won't likely be getting it this year. But someday! I hope I'll be able to look down and see it, but even if not, I'll still be happy up there, just knowing things played out as I wanted.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December's Real Day: Christmas

Yesterday was December 2. Tomorrow is December 4. And so on. Whoop de doo! Big deal...

The truth is, and everyone knows it, the only real day in December is Christmas Day, December 25. Everything leads up to it. And everything after it is a letdown. Nothing is redeemed until January 1.

We see the big number -- 25 -- and it tells the whole story of December. We always think, "How many days till Christmas? Get us there!" We might ask how many more meaningless days till the suffering's over and Christmas finally gets here. At the beginning of the month it's quite a few, over three weeks, three boring weeks, three weeks of days that may as well not even exist, except for one reason, no one's figured out what to do with them.

A guy hates to say three weeks of his life is simply worthless. Because those days, arguably, could be real life, life and potential that you shouldn't wish to hibernate through just to get to Christmas. That doesn't seem like how we should live. My instinct is to say that every day of my life should be meaningful, worthwhile, and lived to its fullness. But when you have a huge day like Christmas looming there, like a black hole, it sucks in everything around it, even three weeks out. We go inexorably toward it, then afterward we start breaking free of its gravity, and we wonder what happened.

It's amazing then that we have to crawl to December 31 just to get started again with normal life. Even as it itself is something of a semi-holiday, existing as it does right on the cusp of January 1. December 31 and January 1 are like parts one and two of the same thing. Like Christmas Eve -- to a lesser extent, because of the magnitude of Christmas -- and Christmas Day are sort of parts one and two. I like Christmas Eve for this reason, because Christmas isn't over; it's just beginning. But I have something of a problem with Christmas, because it gets here then slips through our hands ... just like that.

We hear how people are very depressed on Christmas. I know how that goes. It's because we tend to shrink in size (mentally, psychologically) the more magnificent our surroundings, in this case the day itself. Then, for all its magnitude -- and this in part is in the nature of the shrinking -- it's still slipping away like any other day. We're anxious! Have we done with the day what needs to be done? Have we done it properly? Are we anything like the Christmastime observers of old that we know from songs, cards, artwork, and memory? So many of us feel like total failures.

Now, of course none of us asked for this. We may not want it to be this way, but there it is. There's nothing we can do about it. The years, the decades, and centuries have set Christmas in place, the dominant day of the month, the black hole at the heart of it, and now the entire holiday complex it's become orders our lives as the month arrives and proceeds. Everything aims toward it, and the residue is full of Christmas leftovers and aftertaste.

This year, speaking for myself, I'm going to try my best ... not to fight back, that's not the word ... but to try to redeem those other days. I might go about it like this. "Christmas Spirits, past, present, and future ... I know you're listening and watching, and want me to maintain my allegiance to your day. I promise I will! But until then, please let me give these other days of the month some small attention. Perhaps, with your leave, I shall read for an hour, then burrow down again in hibernation. Would that be so much? You'd surely agree that's honoring time as well as honoring Christmas. Because I'm letting Christmas approach in its own time, not rushing it, not delaying it. Hoping for your approval,  your humble servant, etc., etc. Amen."

I hope that works out, because for once in my life I want a December that I can remember having lived, apart from Christmas Day. Which is a great day -- Spirits, don't get me wrong! It's just that I'm getting so old and want the other days of my life to be good, too, each one.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Time to Face Your November

I love visions, usually. You're sitting there in meditation and maybe you fall asleep, I really don't know. I only know it all seems so real. There's planets and stars in strange formations passing overhead. You see wild symbolic figures, circles and triangles and various objects brightly colored in continual morphing. And the great figures of spiritual history, Moses, Buddha, and my Mom. I'm like, "You bastards get out of the way, that's my Mom!"

Today was one of those days. I felt like I was completely awake, because, look above, I have a pretty good picture of it. The revelations -- alas, mostly criticism -- are also clear in my mind. A kind gentlemen, very inscrutable, appeared in my room and told me to follow him. A yellow door suddenly appeared. I looked, there was nothing on it, no "For Madmen Only" sign, so I went.

Damn, if this wasn't a judgment seat type of thing going on! Just what I need, right? You think you're doing OK, things are going along good. But even then, and maybe especially then, everything is karma. Which I tend to forget till it's too late. Remember, I had the great idea to post something on my stinking blog everyday in November. So I did, posting-posting-posting, then I get up on November 30, today, and they come along to tell me ... all I did was make myself more karma. In terms of spiritual truth, you see, every goal like this is actually an insidious thing -- really bad for sensitive types -- where you realize in a flash the things you do are mere maya, delusion.

I've been through this crap before. There's not much you can do about it. Take your medicine and try better next time. But this time I decided to advocate for myself, stand up for myself. The highest part of myself, however, split off from myself, and stood across from me, closer to the judgment seat. According to it, it tried to warn me -- quote a million times unquote. "Did it try to warn you a million times? Yes or no." I stammered, "Well, yes, probably, I don't know if it was literally a million times..." "Silence! Whippersnapper..."

The problem was, according to the highest powers, for the most part I wasted my essence, which, damn, how do you argue with that? It's really true. "But!" I interrupted, trying to save a tiny bit of face, "Didn't I do a good job?" They averred, that, yes, occasionally I did all right, but sometimes it was a terrible bomb.

I asked which posts they thought were completely "suckalicious," meaning bad. They listed off, Chasing the Thrill Divine; The League of Women Non-Voters; Little Old Fantastic Me Strikes Again; and gave a few black marks for My Better Angels, which toyed with the idea of getting rid of my better angels and seeing how well I could "do it myself." I thought back and remembered those relatively horrible posts. The Thrill Divine was an idea that never blossomed, Non-Voters was inconsistent and false, and I don't even remember Fantastic Me. The beings at the judgment seat led me into an antechamber with nothing but a hickory tree in the middle. They cut off a strong switch and beat me till I almost passed out.

Back out, they told me their favorite posts. Including, Sloshing Tankards of Grog, Phones Ruint; Get Your T-Day Turkey by Drone; A Willing Man for Dillingham; That's Sexy...We're Not Moving; and, of course, Cosmos: Elvis Presley. (They love Elvis there!) I tried to make a case for my Mental Parasitism series (7 parts!), but this was judged technically adequate but overall a waste of time. Too much Institute politics, not enough actual mental parasite activity!

For the good posts I was led back into the antechamber, and this time there were pleasurable things, which were so personal I feel I should forbear describing them, except to say it was like a dozen honeymoons in Sweden, if you catch my meaning. I almost turned it down, because it's all I can do to even attempt a kiss on the first date. The thought of going all the way, and so many times, was like way too much!

They told me, then, that had they started first with the good, I would've been spared the whipping. "So why didn't you start first with the good?" ... "Didn't think of it till it was too late. Bruno started whipping you and he hates being interrupted."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ma & Pa Kettle vs. Transformers

It's my guess that most fans of the Transformers have never heard of Ma & Pa Kettle. Whereas it's just the opposite with fans of the Kettles; they've heard of the Transformers. Meaning, the fans of Ma & Pa Kettle appear to be smarter.

"But," Transformer fans say, "who needs to know about--- Who'd you say?" I politely, patiently repeat the name, "Ma & Pa Kettle," sounding it out as slowly as possible. The first two words rhyme; see if you can get that much first, Ma & Pa. Then think of the old phrase, "A fine kettle of fish," and that'll help you get the rest, Kettle. If we could now move on...

I might be among the last generation to love the Kettles, having grown up watching them on TV. And I attribute many of values I learned to the Kettles. Catch the difference? My values go back to the Kettles, not the Transformers.

But not everyone was as fortunate, as one generation gave way to another, raised instead on the Transformers. As I understand the Transformers, they're involved in all kinds of sci fi, live action fighting, weaponry, and destruction. Their world is filled with enemies to destroy. How things have changed!

In some of the Kettles' films there were folks of the community who didn't approve, or felt they couldn't countenance the Kettles' homespun ways. But no one destroyed them. Instead, the Kettles proved themselves truly wise even though they seemed to be know-nothing hillbillies. Ma was the wisest with lots of smarts, while Pa in his innocence, and more limits, showed a more naive wisdom. You really couldn't go wrong with the Kettles.

As for the Transformers, I only wish they'd held off on that brand of entertainment, to give that generation a surer foothold on the threshold of maturity. But the switch, if it had to come, had to come some time. Still, how unfortunate it was, coinciding with a serious psychological crisis among youth, who suddenly were given to spray painting things and gratuitous destruction. Today's rampant tattoo craze can be traced back to the rise of the Transformers; you're no longer happy with who you are.

The Kettles weren't perfect, though. Pa smoked quite a bit, as was common then. But he and Ma stayed home a lot and found happiness there; they had 15 kids. That's sweet. The Transformers, though, being machines, didn't know the same love of two human beings for each other. And that's communicated in the overall tone of their show. The Kettles had to know each other's feelings, and mature in their outlook, and watch for opportunities along the way to enhance their relationship. Then it was necessary to nurture their kids, and send them forth with the same values.

But the Transformers, what'd they even get out of bed for? You're a machine! If you get up, it's at someone else's instigation. And if you're able to get up "by yourself," you've been programmed to do so. You have no soul, you have no good in mind, no relationships to speak of, except what else you can destroy and lay waste to. It's ridiculous. No wonder society's been coming part at the seams since we went from the Kettles to the Transformers!

The way I recall, at first, the Transformers were supposed to be semi trucks or large motorcycles. Then they opened, or unfolded out to reveal giant robots. Which then took part in destructive behavior and mayhem. At that point I pulled back, never allowing myself to become immersed in it. I do know that over the years they did this, that, and the other thing, with multiple presentations of the overall concept described above. Big whoop!

The Kettles, though, as a family, in all kinds of social settings and through many dilemmas, present a human story, with good lessons to teach that kids could proudly emulate. I remember when they won the dream home of the future. It had lots of gadgets ("transforming" life as they knew it), but, unlike the Transformers proper, their transformation did not change them from the quality folks they had always been.

The Kettles are now part of a bygone era in entertainment. And how much worse the world is for it! The Transformers, on the other hand, have arisen, and dominated entertainment in the last few decades, contributing exactly nothing, to be exact, squat. A lot of malice and the spoiling of our youth.

Note: A couple of you wondered how I know so much about the Transformers if I'm so against them. I'm a social critic. It's my job to know things.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Another Thanksgiving Meal Goes Bad

I suppose it's the world's oldest cliche, that a family like mine, cursed as it is to occasionally be together, would have troubles sharing a Thanksgiving meal. Truth is, we suffered through it, but survived.

It's actually been a while since we attempted it. Holidays have a way of going sour -- normal people know that -- but when there's a lifetime of grudges, deep jealousies, various resentments, and painful failures, plus this, that, and the other person simply doesn't get along, things get ugly, then uglier. The good news in the long run is I'll save money, since I've been paying the last couple times...

I'll just admit it, overall my family's been financially embarrassed. Various ones have been taken in by schemes over the years, risky ventures, and threw away their money. A lot of the resentments are rooted there. My Aunt Lois thought she had a big future in aquarium stores, for example, opened one and threatened to open another, and her money was lost forever. No doubt you've heard of the problem fish have with "ich," a disease. It was especially bad between 1970-1972, as I'll never forget. To this day Lois hates fish, the raw ones swimming or the dead ones cooked.

Like I said, I've been paying the bill. I've had two good steady sources of income. The disability I get from my game toe. And the money I make off this blog. I get a pretty good traffic stream. And a few of my posts have "Google Ads," which have been a real goldmine for me. I give 10% to this allegedly shady home for crippled children, whose only activity (6 days a week with a strict Sabbath) is clicking my ads. The kids are wasting away, they say, but their clicking hands are enormous, muscular. You wouldn't want them to get a hold of you. Just keep your distance.

Anyway, the family's behavior hasn't improved a bit since our last meal three years ago. We arrived and I went around and gave everyone a handshake or kiss on the cheek when we got there, ever the optimist. "Blessed are the peacemakers." But jealousy immediately raised its ugly head, since a few thought they saw favoritism in who I started with and how long I lingered. And it was more trouble when someone said I rolled my eyes as the accusations began. It's been this way as long as I can remember: Rolling your eyes is the Original Sin that even blood can't atone for.

The restaurant, I should say, was a fancy one. A nice big round table, the classiest folks, a buffet with heated silver food servers, deserts made by professional chefs in the finest tall hats, parsley and other greens scattered aesthetically between the entrees, and flowers. The gravy was delicious, pineapple was spread out in big chunks, and there was literally a mountain of cold shrimp. At $25 a pop and an automatic $45 tip for the table, you know it had to be good.

Everyone got their meal and the shenanigans began. Any word not spoken clearly enough or loudly enough was about me, it was assumed. Someone's tight-lipped over here, and that's not wisdom but standoffishness. I saw some unwisely looking up and motioning with their heads at someone else. A comment about the food taken or how big the portions were was veiled criticism. When a couple of drinks -- coffee and water -- were spilled, it could've only been intentional, with eyes rolling in response. The baby urped and someone said, "He's never liked me." It was wondered aloud what you were talking about when I was away from the table. Pretty soon voices were loud enough for everyone to hear, with various accusations being flung about, now enunciated clearly, no ambiguity. Our circle was deserving of the stares we got from across the room. The crowning moment, bringing silence to the entire place, was when Uncle Barnes crushed an aluminum teapot in frustration, or just for the hell of it.

Some of the talk went back to the aquarium store days. Which is a coincidence, because just the other day I was in the pet store -- true story -- and I had that temptation a guy always gets to buy an aquarium. Then you start thinking of all the bad things that'll happen. Ich, cleaning the damned thing, fish dying, and all the money -- tons of money -- you'll waste on it. And how you eventually end up with a dry, dirty aquarium with dirty fluorescent blue rock piled up in one of the corners. Someone from the family comes over, goes to the garage to get a box for something, sees the aquarium and kicks a hole in it. Now there's glass everywhere and the carcass form of the rotten thing sets there forever.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sloshing Tankards of Grog, Phones Ruint

At the Boar's Head Public House, Andermatt, Switzerland, peasants from the countryside and the people of the village are joyously sloshing tankards of grog in great celebration. The grog makers are bringing it in as fast as they can put it out. The tankards are being filled and downed, filled and sloshed boisterously.

Certainly everybody there is merrily sloshed, whether out of their own drinking or their being sloshed by a neighbor. What a happy time, "Here's mud in your eyes!"

The keeper of the Boar's Head -- old Jeremias Boarshead -- later cleaning up the dam place, thinks back on the festivities. He pauses with his brooms and mops and recalls even his own brother in the mix there, sloshing with the worst of them, calling out in celebration, "You dirty bastard!" to the merriment of all.

There were no enemies, only the best of friends in those days -- a neutral place -- when the grog was flowing. Even if sober and dry they would've been enemies. But a tankard of grog in your mouth or coming through the air is the great leveler of a people.

The same damned place is going strong, with some updates, some improvements, maybe. The sink's got a new layer of porcelain. The big difference is the drinkers, coming in as they so often do with phones, computers, and all these dam devices. It's technology on them, the delicate, dainty widdle technology, that nobody can get grog in or its delicate mechanism is spoilt, ruint.

So when the spirit gets lively, from whence it comes, and the grog is flowing, and the shouts of "bastard" are at their most fevered pitch, you hear the saddest words known to man, "Oh, dam, you bastard, you only now just ruint my phone!" The man runs quickly to the back room to grab paper towels, getting it out of the plastic case as hurried as possible and getting it dried off. It spritzes and flashes before blinking off black. "Out the door with me!" he declares, going out the back door.

But the spirit's still lively, though, in the main hall. I'm right under the massive head of some massive animal attached to the wall. A boar, its head. There's drippings from its hair, trickling down its forehead, on to the glass eyes and running much quicker, skipping the nose and making it straight to the lips and chin, and running quickly and dripping endlessly, depending on how much grog there was we got flying.

Bastard me! I turn to check my messages just as a tankard crisscrossed the room, unbeknownst to me. Thankfully, mercy heavens, I heard the whiz and was able to get my phone under my pocket liner just in time to celebrate the tankard's explosive arrival at the big boar's head. More spray going everywhere! I give a hardy and hale shout, "Yea!" Doubling down, I crash a tankard into another bastard's tankard and it sloshes us good. A little gal with a tray's down below, beaming up at us. Cute little thing.

But nothing would be the same, would it, for a studious fellow opening his iPad in this frenzy, only to have it doused with the sloshing by six good mates crashing tankards all at once, going in toward one the others in a conjunction that could easily only possibly end in one big mess. He looks down at his iPad on the spritz, splashed now beyond recognition as a working and vital device. The bastard's gone, it's dead, ruint...

High Tor, the cash register guy, moves through the crowd with his raincoat. We all have to laugh, as we look over and see such a massed assembly of raincoats, plastic wraps, umbrellas, and various diversionary heavy tarps looming over the delicate integrated mechanisms of the register. The son of a bitch was made to communicate with the outside world, it was. Foolishly! They could've done better with a wooden drawer. This thing beams its workings to the office, where the accountant, Old Max, dwells, and from there it's a pushed button's job to relay the accounted sum to the local banking establishment. And in a crowd like this, O!, it was so constantly busy!

Yeah, well ... I poke this one crazy bastard in the ribs, who looks at me with stupid happiness all over his face till he sees my grand plan at once. We will soak the cash register with grog, and let it spritz its way across the floor, if its source of energy will allow it! And so we do. And so it's ruint! The old boy knows the other guys more than me, and we assembled all ourselves around the thing -- we're truly too wasted to be held culpable for our actions -- and it was round robin, one by one, dousing it in grog. A roar of celebration went up as it fell to the floor and spritzed and jumped like it was limping for dear life, any possible shelter, the shadow of a table. There it died and a host of connections were utterly lost forever.

No sir, 'twouldn't've been this way back in 1814, the longtime bartender of the Boar's Head, laments. Back then they could've made the cash drawer swim to the ceiling and we'd still have been able to pull out the pieces of silver and make it a decent payday. Now we just have to hope the soaking of the wet hasn't extended as far as the bank. And that all our dealings hitherto have beamed their way all the way there. Do you think that they did? I'm putting you all on the honor system. The place now is closing, check back tomorrow. We'll settle all debts.

Ruint phones, computers, pads. Tomorrow. Time is no healer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

One Night at the Haunted House

Uncle Cleaver finally died -- Yea! -- and left me the old family place in the country, a scary looking old place -- Crummy Manor. I was there for the reading of the will, seated at the head of the table, around which was a fearsome assortment of angry looking retainers. Uncle's cook, butler, gardener, handyman, and maid. They'd been with him for ages and there I sat, more or less a stranger but the last possible guy in the family who could inherit the place. I felt quite out of place and unwelcome. They shot me daggers.

The lawyer read off each of their names, with each in turn looking downcast upon inheriting nothing. That said, I was a little leery when the will specified that they could still share the manor jointly, if the rightful heir was unable to stay one night. I thought, "What? One night? How hard could it be?" I looked around and imagined their devious thoughts, seeing the grinning, rubbing of hands, and furtive glances at one another.

I felt a tremendous fear well up in me. Then I thought, "Hey, I've seen this movie before!" I called bullshit on the whole thing. I just laid it on the line: "I know you're going to do your damnedest to chase me out, but the truth is I'm not gonna let you. I've got your number, each one of you." I set in listing their schemes. The gardener would have a metal garden claw, the cook poisoned food, the butler knows every secret passageway, the handyman's good with traps, and the maid would get me in bed, the bed would fold up in the wall and I'd be impaled.

If none of that worked, the same cast of characters, no doubt, had costumes hanging inside the walls, a ghost, a werewolf, a skeleton, a leopard, and a French maid dress. In addition to the impaling bed, there'd be poison darts, a noose, a trapdoor, a flaming boulder at the end of a catapult, and a tray of ice cubes for the maid, if things got too hot. I came right out with it, "Each of you scalawags is prepared to do anything you have to to inherit Crummy Manor."

The telling glances continued as I spoke. I looked at the handyman, twiddling his thumbs. And the butler, nervously tugging at his cummerbund. And the maid, hitching up her bra and fanning herself. I knew they were all dangerous in their own way, but I kept my eye on the maid the most, never knowing if I might catch a free shot. She shot me a private glance that I read as a request for a private meeting.

I stood to my feet and slammed my fist on the table, "Gentlemen, I've seen it all before. Let's just cut the crap, OK? If anything happens, if anyone jumps out at me through the night, I know it's gonna be you guys. I don't believe in ghosts, werewolves, walking skeletons, or any of it." Then Greta and I stepped out and I shared with her some of my private fantasies.

She and I passed into a secluded hallway, where we kissed longingly. She saw I was an extremely affectionate soul and broke down in tears, confessing the whole scheme to cheat me out of my inheritance. I swore that if she were true to me, good things would come her way. She looked in my eyes and saw the sincerity. I thought to myself, "I may just give the entire estate to Greta, for her honesty." I turned the thought over in my mind.

She pulled out a detailed list of the evening's schemes, with all the stuff I expected, darts on wires, a skeleton suit, and most intriguing of all, a stunning seduction scene, in which she and I would be sharing a bottle of wine. Then when I set my glass on the table and we commenced a full love scene, a hand would reach out of the drawer and switch it with poison. "How tedious," I said, "I've seen it all before!"

By now, though, I figured the rest of the staff knew I knew, so Greta and I would be safe. But just to be extra sure of not being observed in flagrante delicto, I put masking tape over the eyes of the paintings on the walls. Then it was time to bear down and get this show on the road. I was kissing and stroking Greta, who indeed did come prepared with a French maid outfit, which she was very proficient at wriggling in and out of. Ooo la la, I purred, the only French I know.

I hate to spell everything out -- it's possible someone under 18 might read this, under 16 in Arkansas -- but we were building toward the decisive moment. Our breathing was heavy, our eyes were rolled back, we were panting, there were bold declarations of love, and I for one was all hands. It wouldn't be--- too long--- now------- when, The doors of the wardrobe burst open, and out stepped Uncle Cleaver, very much alive, not a corpse, not a ghost. Himself, in the flesh!

He boasted of staging this entire spectacle, having suspected Greta of being unfaithful to him, etc., etc., and knowing that the arrival of his nephew would only constitute "fresh meat" in her eyes, with which to fulfill her lustful ways. She pulled the sheets up almost to her eyes and was shivering in fear, white as a sheet. Cleaver came at her, very sharp in his tone, and very strong, having lost his grip. He shouted insults at her. She pleaded, "You were dead, Cleve, I thought you were dead!"

"So this is how you console yourself, in the arms of my fool nephew!" The rest of the story doesn't matter much. I got the hell out of there. Greta's now cooking at the diner downtown. I see her once in a while. I don't say much. But it's on always my mind, how close we were to the very top, then Cleaver had to jump out. I'd like to ask her out and pick up where we left off .... or start over ... probably about have to start over.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chasing the Thrill Divine

"This is that once in a lifetime,
this is the thrill divine."
"Again" by Lionel Newman and Dorcas Cochran

The great song, "Again," tells in lovely lyrics that the thrill divine is a once in a lifetime experience. At first look, we might say once in a lifetime isn't very many. But upon reflection, we can say, at least we had that one chance!

Assuming you realize the thrill when it's there. Presumably you would, since it is "the thrill divine." What kind of divine thrill would it be if you totally missed it? Although it's easy to imagine cases in which the person, be he drunk or something, might miss it. If it's indeed "once in a lifetime," you should've been ready...

On the other hand, the song doesn't say everyone's entitled to the "once in a lifetime" experience. It strikes me, rather, as a serendipitous thing, like the coming together of two lovers who suddenly experience the thrill divine. No fumbling with straps, no bushwhackers, just greatness and intensity they'll treasure forever.

I don't hold to the notion that it has to be only once in a lifetime. I think the thrill divine can happen often, and in experiences broader than love and sex. I'm saying your life can become completely immersed, drenched, enfolded, and wrapped in the thrill divine.

Yogis, gurus, holy men of old, and even today -- a man I know locally, Pastor Wadd -- have been touched by the thrill divine. My guess is this, that they're actually all over town, the countryside, and around the world. But probably not all of them want to be known.

I can see myself very secretive of the thrill divine. I wouldn't want anyone to dissect me and look for things wrong with me to explain it, blood vessel strictures, high sodium, low sodium, or brain tumors. As long as it's truly the thrill divine, I don't care what causes it.

I can envision a time -- maybe closer than you think -- when the thrill divine springs up everywhere. Little children with more visions than usual, old men dreaming dreams, etc., the thrill divine constantly hitting us. It might even be on the news! "Ten more great outbreaks of the thrill divine in the metro, details at 6." Then you catch a glimpse of the anchor as they're going to commercial. His eyes roll back in his head, the thrill divine hits, and when they come back he's gone.

Say, though, the thrill divine is happening all over the countryside, like tornadoes. We have tornado chasers, bringing us videos of tornadoes. They're just chasing wind, twirling, swirling wind, which we've seen a million times.

But if we had the thrill divine chasers, we could see euphoria on earth. So many people knowing the thrill divine -- and in the strangest ways -- others would want it too. You see this guy's cabin, and he's at the window, a big beatific look on his face, eyes rolled back, hair in an aura of non-consuming fire, etc., and people are amazed. How did that happen? It was the thrill divine!

Let's picture me as a thrill divine chaser. I'm like the storm chasers, with all the usual excitement. The thrill divine's at the Jenkins' place! His chimney's glowing, supernal photons are streaming out, old man Jenkins himself is on top of the barn, one with the clouds. Someone get over there! Assure him it's the thrill divine, and he'll have it on the ground too.

I have to tell someone! "Friends," I'm talking on a special radio broadcast, "We've had 44 known thrills divine just today in the central region. The key thing is no one's being left out. It's spread over the entire spectrum of traditions, and even those with none. If you're listening to this broadcast and the thrill divine hits you, do not be overly concerned. Enjoy it."

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Pages of History

My basic point today is that the past is not set in stone. It can be changed, if there's a very good reason and if you don't know what you're doing. Naturally, I don't know what all the good reasons would be, but I feel a dire emergency might qualify. Similar to adrenalin, where a 99-pound weakling is able to lift a Mac truck to save a kitten. Plus, I think swearing-to-something is important enough in the cosmic economy that you could just change history.

Here's how I see it working. Say you're with people and everyone's shopping and wants something. There's a buddy system, and you're buddies with a girl who's wasting her money. She wants a new pair of shoes, but you're afraid she won't stop there. So you get her to swear. "Do you swear on your dog's grandfather that you won't buy anything but shoes?" She thinks, "My dog never even met his grandfather. Do dogs even have grandfathers? I've never met him either," so she swears. But you go to the bathroom and come back and she's bought extra shoe strings. The phone rings and her dad tells her her dog's gone. "He was just here!" the dad says. She gets home later and there's no sign of the dog. She swore on "The Pages of History!" A bad thing. But she reasons, "The dog ran away, I'll get a new dog."

The second episode also drives the point home, but perhaps there's wiggle room here too. Two buddies at the state fair. The undisciplined one is eating everything in sight, much to the other's consternation. "Someone's gonna get sick!" he thinks. Now, the undisciplined one wants a corn dog. The disciplined one remembers his buddy's dad has a bunch of Boy Scout memorabilia on the mantle, souvenirs of when he went to National Jamboree. "Do you swear on your dad's Jamboree stuff that this corn dog will be the last of your prodigality?" He swears. But next thing he's got a snow cone! They get home and the Jamboree collection's gone. His dad's on the couch, crying, thinking thieves broke in. But his son knows, or believes, he screwed with "The Pages of History." On the other hand, maybe they were stolen. Father knows best!

The last incident is similar, with one gigantic difference. Two friends walk by DQ. One friend hasn't had a snack all day and the other's gorged himself on snacks. Clearly, he doesn't need anything. The first one says he wants a snack, but only if the other swears on the existence of DQ itself that he won't have anything. He thinks, "The existence of DQ itself?! What kind of idiot are you? DQ has a worldwide outreach and has been in business 60 or 70 years." In this case, however, he doesn't order a thing. He's true to his word. But going to the table, he sees an extraneous chocolate chip and eats it. Immediately they find themselves empty-handed, standing on a vacant lot, no whoosh of the store disappearing or anything!

They call the police and report the disappearance of DQ, but because no one's ever heard of DQ, they think it's a crank call! The police get there and the two guys are standing there. But there's no way they can convince anyone who's never heard of DQ that an ice cream shop was ever there. Their sincerity keeps them from going to jail. The friends leave and research it. Indeed, there's not a DQ anywhere in the world! The whole enterprise is simply gone ... vanished from memory ... all because the guy violated his oath with a chocolate chip!

In this case I see a whole different ending. Showing that you could mess with "The Pages of History" and come out on top. They know the concept of DQ is a winner, so they immediately get loans and investors and build 12,500 DQs throughout the world, and they're filthy rich within weeks. They try then with all their might to swear to things and renege, hoping they can duplicate their success with McDonald's and all the others. But as it turns out, you can't do it on purpose .... it had to be true swearing. They sell DQ back to Warren Buffett, who doesn't remember he already owned it, and retire at 14.

So here's the problem. You (my reader) can't do it now either, no matter how hard you try, because I tainted your mind with the idea. And if you tell anyone else to do it, having impure motives, no matter what they do, they won't be able to screw with "The Pages of History" either.

My advice is forget the whole thing. Then maybe someday, innocently, you'll forget and swear to something worthwhile and accidentally get rich. But don't count on it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The League of Women Non-Voters

Before the election, I had to have it out with the League of Women Voters, with their meddling ways. They were trying to register people to vote, kind of bizarre these days. The trend's going the other way!

But you know me, I'm willing to live and let live as long as they leave me out of it. I was brought up to mind my own business and look the other way, whatever offensive thing I might see, but once they involve me, then of course it's my business.

They wanted to know if I was registered to vote! Me, who used to vote all the time ... back in the dark days when such a thing was considered cool. Now, as everyone knows, it's out; how much nicer it is to let others worry about all that.

Three of them took me on. I felt that red hot surge of rage take hold of me, kind of like the unpleasantness a kid feels when he tastes vegetables for the first time. I looked them up and down, appraising them with meanness in my expression, and took their full measure. "What is this?" I asked myself, looking at a table stacked with forms and three women meddling in people's civic affairs.

Naturally I wanted to tell them off, even to the point of dressing them down like wild game, but I held back. Instead, I thought, I must educate them and perhaps save three souls from the fires of civic judgment. "You're bucking the trend on voting," I said. Wow, speaking of rage! They took it out on me! They shot back at me the same mean glare, like they wanted to fight it out, but I stood my ground. I told them their old quaint ways are dying.

Again, I saw their anger intensifying. Had we put it to a vote, I would've lost 3 to 1. But they couldn't gainsay my basic point about voting. Not voting frees us up for the more important, funner things in life, like ... whatever you want. Is there really any value in one vote? Probably, if you had a million votes for a certain candidate, it'd make a difference. But how do you get a million? It's tough.

There used to be the idea that we'd have election day be a national holiday, but it never gained much traction. Now, however, thanks to the trend away from voting, we may just get it. Yea! A national holiday on voting day! A great day to skip out, load up the station wagon and head for the beach! Or somewhere else more weather-appropriate.

When you think of the time it takes to get voter ID, finding hard to find polling places, then standing in a line of a hundred to get in, and every other inconvenience, we're saving a ton of time. We always get the best people in office anyway, meaning we're already set to live happily every after.

So the League of Women Voters needs to get with the program. And call themselves the League of Women Non-Voters, then put out literature on some good family fun destinations for the day off, and we'll support them in their efforts. They've got my vote!

Note: A few people asked how Truth Dillingham did this year in the sheriff race. What? You didn't get the news? Of course he won, 98.6%, about normal. In the key demographics -- Red and Yellow, Black and White -- Dillingham came in first. The only people nasty enough to vote for the other guy were criminals and the other guy's family. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Get Your T-Day Turkey by Drone

After all these years of lagging behind -- check any key index -- my town has something to finally be proud of, something to put us on the map. I'm hoping this will spur greater tourism, as folks will come from near and far to see where it happened. Certainly it'll be a boost to our reputation, as we'll be able to claim the title, "Home of the First Drone-Delivered Turkey."

Those are the larger issues, but the main thing is how attractive this is for the local consumer, not having to go to the grocery store and stand in long lines, your temperature rising, the feeling, cramped in as you are, that you're going to explode and massacre everyone. We're looking forward to getting rid of that. Because it's Thanksgiving, folks! A sacred holiday, a day for family, friends, and food, not erupting in bloodshed at the local supermarket.

And finally there's something to celebrate in the field of technology. This is technology that actually enhances life and doesn't detract from it. I used the think the computer and all our other gadgets would be a blessing. Instead, crime against children is up, brutality against women is ever-present, banks are being robbed faster than they can build them, there's shoplifting, arson, and bullying. What's the one thing all those have in common? The perps more often than not have used a computer at some time in the last 15 years.

Plus, this is something I can actually get excited about. I'm like everyone else, as above: I hate the inconvenience of grocery stores. You find a parking space (good luck), you go in, the antibacterial towels for wiping the cart are usually out, then you're jam-packed with other people with the same basic goal in life, hunting and gathering food. You get to the checkout and there's always someone ahead of you. Usually with a squalling kid, nose running. It's almost enough to make you go berserk. Thank God most stores are now open-carry.

Anyway, technology to the rescue! Little drone planes promising the fullest measure of convenience for getting your turkey, greater than anyone could've imagined. That's the way I like it. No fuss, no muss. Just go out, get in line, wait your turn, etc. Then some time, be it an hour, or maybe a few hours, the mighty drone plane will come in with Turkey on Board for you! They'll take your souvenir picture, you load it in the car, and you're off.

Being new, though, with everyone wanting one, there will be a little competition to get your turkey. But don't worry, it'll be fun! When you get to the airport, stop by the main booth and get your bidding number. Then make your way to the runway. No crowding please, there's room for everyone. Pretty soon, the store will have loaded the drone and sent it flying, and it will come into view with a beautiful frozen turkey. Hands will go up fast, of course, because everyone wants one. But wait! With supply and demand, the only fair way is to auction it off. No one should complain. Why do you think you needed the bidding number if you weren't expecting to bid? The auctioneer will start every sale at 49 cents a pound, and depending on how many haven't yet got theirs, it might go for 89 cents a pound, or you could wait till the crowd thins out and get it at the minimum. It's all good. The store will keep sending them while buyers are still present.

Once you've got your turkey -- and checked out the drone, very cool -- the only thing left is to buzz by the store and get everything else you're going to need, dressing, beets, yams, pies, and don't forget you'll probably need a big aluminum pan.

That's what happening this year, exciting enough. But for the future, the sky's the limit! I'm looking forward to the day when someone makes the attempt, the first transatlantic delivery of a turkey by drone to France, with throngs of excited Thanksgiving revelers waiting on the scene.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Vigor Vivus Makes Absolute Horse Sense

I sincerely believe my posts on Vigor Vivus, the active principle of life in a person at its utmost quality, are what I was born to write. I'm always touched, in return, by the many cards, letters, emails, comments, smoke signals, tweets, and proposals for marriage I get. Your kind remarks mean so much to me, more than you know, although, as you would guess, I cannot answer each one, as I hate wasting time and money. But be assured, I take them into account in later posts. Today, for example, is an answer to someone who suggested that the horse, foremost in the animal world, is the personification of Vigor Vivus. I completely agree!

It's been three months, meaning it's time to check my Vigor Vivus levels. That's a great discipline, by the way, in case you've let yours go. Seriously, I don't think there's anything better you can do for yourself, be it a yearly physical, flu shots, or monthly prostate exams. Or be it going to church, furthering your education, taking care of your family, being kind to neighbors, donating to charity, adopting orphans, buying winning lottery tickets, praying for China, or stopping after you've been in an accident and/or yielding for the ambulance. Vigor Vivus is Number 1. I for one have kept up on mine, and I have to say, I feel healthy as a horse.

I can't think of any horse I've ever known that's been sick. They gallop right along, right through life, living in the sunshine, in the hay, in the clover, feeling their oats, staying frisky, raring back with cussedness, with nary a saddle sore. It's their spirit that leads us to handle them right, keep them groomed, tend their stalls, and never leave them to suffer without provender. I've always believed, and I've reiterated it a thousand times: The horse, foremost in the animal world, is the exact personification of Vigor Vivus, its express image.

Part of my discipline with Vigor Vivus goes back to my own upbringing. Also recalling the horse, Mom would brush me down, and of course Dad kept me trotting to accomplish some little task or other, both teaching me good values for riding tall. They were great and didn't nag much, raising me from the small pony boy I was to the full grown man I am today. I also owe it to them, the desire and ability I have today, to teach others, you. You can thank my parents, regrettably now deceased.

Without Vigor Vivus, the great life principle, the source of psychological and physical health, I'd be nothing. Yes, without it, I might stumble along, probably, well enough for a while. Just like the horse might stumble along, were it a lesser animal, but not win the race. You know the drill; it'd be in last place, going downhill, then kaput, fizzzt, like a wire shorted out. Am I right?

We must never forget Vigor Vivus' dreadful yet very real opposite. There's a scale that goes from the life principle, devolving to its opposite, Rigor Mortis. And even in Vigor Vivus, Rigor Mortis is still there in some quantity, however minute. That why we can say so-and-so has greater Vigor Vivus and how we can say there is a scale. The life principle can be lose the lead and Rigor Mortis can gallop ahead. God forbid! But that explains how a Hercules, Samson, or Jack LaLanne can die at peak health.

Would you like pointers on checking your Vigor Vivus level? If you say no, you either know how, or your levels are so low you're hopelessly lost in Rigor Mortis. I have a good discipline on how to do it. Put on some soft music or something with a good message. This morning I went with the old song by Tony Bellus, "Robbin' the Cradle." With the great lyrics, "They say I'm robbin' the cradle, little darling. Is it strange for true love to be so young?" Very inspiring. As that played a few times I sat quietly, head above, body below. For a while I closed my eyes, then opened them. Then one eye closed and the other open. Then switched. Last of all, I scratched any itch. Which, my mom always reminded me, horses also do, making a big production out of it, rubbing it against trees.

A very important part is to move thoughts around in my head. Move them to the left, then to the right, then distribute them back to their place. These are mental movements, you understand. There's hundreds of them. Any image with motion, any real life correlate, is useful. You might think of reining in a wayward, excited horse, and keeping it in a small pen to let it cool down. Whatever you do to check Rigor Mortis, Vigor Vivus pays off greatly, sometimes 40 to 1.

Vigor Vivus! Win, place, or show, it's all good. That's all I got today, no mare, no less. All of it making great horse sense.

Other great Vigor Vivus teachings:
My Vigor Vivus Health Plan
The Dawn of Vigor Vivus
Teens Reject Rigor Mortis
Vigor Vivus -- I Command the World
Rigor Mortis vs. Vigor Vivus
Your Basic Problem is Rigor Mortis
Unveiling the March of Vigor Vivus
The Unremitting Shield of Vigor Vivus
Vigor Vivus at the Dentist
Teen Talk: Rigor Mortis vs. Vigor Vivus
Rigor Mortis Nix, Vigor Vivus Best Way
Bin Laden Mortis vs. Obama Vivus
"For Entertainment Purposes Only." Added at the recommendation of a doctor friend.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why Are Chefs So Horrible?

Today we're spewing venom in the general direction of chefs. For the most part, everyone's enemy. While not as bad as sex offenders, pit bulls, and jake brakes, depending on how the case is presented, still they're pretty bad. As in horrendous.

Chefs are well known as the prima donnas of the food industry. I haven't looked at the rankings in a while, but I'd say chefs still have to be Number 1, then butchers Number 2, deli guys Number 3, and bakers at number 4. I notice bakeries take a lot of vacations, which is probably why they rank lower than deli guys and butchers. Another thing that helps bakers is they often work behind the scenes and let high school kids man the store.

Of course we all justify ourselves, so naturally chefs don't see it this way. Their contention is they're professional and you're not. But their professional status is generally unnoticed, since they're right there in the kitchen with the underlings. This is part of the chef's problem. A lot of underlings are just schmucks hired off the street this afternoon. They just got off a merchant marine ship and still stink of the sea. Other professions aren't like that. When you go to the dentist, you're not sitting there with merchant marines administering the Novocaine. Dentists know their stuff. Or you go to a mechanic for repairs. The guys working there know where the oil goes, the tires, the brakes, everything.

The chefs come up with their own food combinations and they know more about it than you. Which is true. If I came up with a more or less random slate of bad choices, naturally I'm going to know more about it than others. Just like I know more about lots of things that are personal to me, my bad teeth, weird hair, and the dizzy spells I get when I lie on my right side.

With chefs, I've been slightly guilty of interfering a time or two. Like the time a new chef came to town and wouldn't allow 1000 Island dressing in his kitchen. No sir! I told the waitress to tell him that it's a very popular flavor. But to no avail. But then, since a lot of people in town started griping -- including influential Chamber of Commerce members, even one from my own family, guess what ... Suddenly regular food started showing up on the menu, stuff common folk eat, including 1000 Island dressing. Before that, everything had some kind of weird horseradish sauce on it.

I would've loved to have been a fly on the wall during his consult with the boss. "I am the professional chef!" he shouts. "Yeah, well, I am the professional boss, and if you don't want to be doing your chefing in a hobo jungle somewhere, turning out mulligan stew even the hobos wouldn't eat -- with horseradish sauce -- keep it up, idiot! I say we're getting new food or we're getting a new chef! Capiche?" The chef is steaming, simmering, and boiling, and before long he's well done and about had it. He blows his stack, his hat is now 6 foot tall, and pieces of him are everywhere. And there I am, a fly on the wall, splattered, a real mess. But I'd do it again in a heartbeat -- what a show!

I never actually spoke with the chef in question. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever spoke to a chef anywhere. They're kind of standoffish. Maybe they don't want to come out and get their hands dirty so they won't contaminate the food, or they think they're just so much better than everyone else; maybe doctors feel that way. Doctors and chefs are the two careers whose practitioners appear and disappear, never to be seen outside in regular life. I remember having doubts about my own doctor even being a doctor, because I saw him once in a public park. Next time I was in he showed me his certificates and confessed he'd slipped up.

Would I want to be a chef? Not really. You make a masterpiece and it's literally crap in the morning. It's too fleeting. Then, I don't really like the stuff chefs always come up with, a million ways of glazing a dozen green beans. They have them on the plate, angled out like some kind of green Japanese porcupine, it's ridiculous. Or meat that's so small you couldn't bait a hook with it, and that's your entree. That and the green beans and a dessert to match, always small and in the center of a plate with lots of wasted space. "The presentation is the thing!" is their mantra, which doesn't mean that much to customers used to eating out of a paper sack behind a steering wheel.

I'm not sophisticated like that. I basically eat to give me enough oomph to make it to the next meal. Save the shenanigans and nervous breakdowns when I don't like it. Chefs might not be so miserable if they just made what we wanted, then received our worthless praise: "Really good, Pepe."

Just this past Sunday, to end today's entree, I was at a restaurant for the first time. I'm ensconced in my seat before I notice a giant white hat in the kitchen. At this point, with my tea already on the table, there's no proper escape.

I thought of going for the hamburger since it'd be crystal clear I was getting something else I wanted, french fries. But no, I went with the blackened catfish filet that came with a fancy salad. I asked the server if I could substitute fries. I told her I thought I saw a "No substitutes" sign on the door. She said, "Ooooooo," then indicated the chef wouldn't like it, but in the true spirit of a fighter said she'd run it by him and get it accomplished.

OK, then a guy brings out my fish and there was the salad! The chef was testing me, obviously! "Try to substitute in my kitchen, will you, you bastard!" I told the guy I had asked for fries. He went back into the trenches and somehow escaped with fries, telling me I wouldn't be charged for the salad.

I ate most of the salad -- meh -- then the fries weren't even that good. Gnarly. The blackened fish, maybe the chef learned about blackening fish in school, was also nothing I liked, and catfish is my fave fish. I have autographed pinups of catfish on my wall.

But this chef is the professional! That he can ruin even catfish proves he's good.