Friday, September 30, 2011

You've Been Fantastic

We've all watched comedians on TV telling the audience that they've been fantastic. That's good, because a comedian wants a fantastic audience, folks who are going to appreciate them and laugh. We might say, What's the difference, if they're being paid? You could hire a comedian, send them out to a bunch of stiffs, he could go through his routine, and end it, and it'd be just as good.

Just thinking of it, it looks like it's just a decent way to end the routine. You're going to thank the audience, and since a lot of comedy is just talking anyway, you may as well compliment the audience. Plus, the audience's response is a key part of the whole thing for comedians. It can be different for a musical act, who are just there to run through their songs. Bob Dylan, as an example, might not say a word.

It's nice to hear it, that you're a fantastic audience, or you've been fantastic, even though it doesn't mean that much. Because it's being told to you in the aggregate, so it's not really a compliment you can claim and put on your resume. But it makes you feel better when you leave than it would if he said you were deplorable, like the school principals used to tell us.

I was at a restaurant that was getting a fresh reboot and the owner (or manager) was there in the first days, acting all funky anxious. (As it turned out, he had good reason to act anxious. I went back a few times, getting consistently bad service, so I haven't been back again.) So he's all stressed out, and his inclination was to come to the eaters and let them know they're fantastic for eating there. Of course they're just there to eat, not be told how fantastic they are. They're thinking, "Hey, dude, leave us alone!" But at least he wasn't singing Happy Birthday table to table!

It's good that a place has an owner who's cordial. But I prefer those who stay in the background somewhere, so you don't even know who the owner is. He's just a guy somewhere, counting money and parceling out the tips. With no feedback whatever table to table.

I'm thinking of the great artists, who simply labor alone, with no feedback from anyone. Like Van Gogh, who didn't get fame till he was dead. He didn't have to periodically step out and tell us we've been fantastic, a beautiful audience. "You've really been quite lovely!"

Closing Out September

I'm closing out September with a few trifles. 30 days hath September, and today's the day it hath them!

I spent most of September on other projects -- note to self -- hence my lack of posts here.

It was actually one project, involving photography, and it's amazing how consuming it was for me. But it had a definite lifespan. I can't say I didn't see it coming, because I felt it coming as sure as anything.

Most things that I become extremely interested in like that have a lifespan. The arc is natural enough, starting with my first discovery, my first steps, a few tentative moves, then I become more interested. Soon I'm an old hand, showing what I have, in this case thinking I have a real eye for it, and I believe I do. Now I'm evaluating it, but only periodically, thinking occasionally of the vanity, yet persisting in ever new variations of participation. Midway through, I'm really able to produce, like the long distance runner. There's still enough avenues to run down, so I'm thinking I'm doing something useful, but the nagging in my mind is getting louder all the time: Why? I keep going, I double down on my efforts, I set goals and meet them, and soon I'm such an old hand it's like I've been doing it forever. I'm established, I'm even respected. But I start seeing the arc as an arc indeed and know that I'm getting toward the end. I make a resolution: I'll just be this interested in it, self limiting. Except I know that will never work. Because when I've pierced through to the full realization of the vanity -- knowing its true worthlessness -- I start casting about for something tried and true, something that does have value to me.

That is a funny paragraph, and every word is true!

The good news about a life pursuit like this is that I didn't make a large investment in it. I didn't make any commitments. There's nothing I have to be ashamed of. No one got hurt. And it was even kind of fun, while also serving as a cautionary tale to me about whatever my next consuming interest is, to look for the arc early on.

The Stick Figure Artist

He sits alone in his artistic citadel. (Hallelujah, that's a great sentence!)

You might call him an alone kind of guy. Something of a social clod. Perplexed by the madding crowds, the jostle and bustle of too many foreign bodies. (Wow, I'm really fleshing this bastard out!)

(Sorry for the parentheses, I know everyone hates them. I'll try to keep my own delight down to a minimum. On the other hand, who am I trying to spare? You, certainly, who are my lovely guest. Let's get back to the stick figure dude...)

There he is, and that's a self portrait you see, alone in his artistic citadel. He's sort of like me in several ways, thinking he is artistic without there necessarily being any evidence to prove it.

By citadel, I mean he's not sitting on the floor. He's up at the kitchen table or at his desk, sketching out his pathetic little sketches in a sketchbook, a regulation sketchbook that he got at the stationer's store. It's run by an English chap, well known for his accent. He, our artist, spends too much on sketchbooks, more than his sketches probably deserve, but the English chap's accent is seductive.

So there he is, once again, hunched over the sketchbook, using his imagination, digging deeply into his thoughts to come up with yet another stick figure sketch. There's a lot -- a hell of a lot -- of straight-on views like that, since profiles don't come easily. Mostly straight-on views, that in my opinion aren't going to appeal to anyone.

(Pardon me while I pause to think. I'm thinking, Who am I to judge such an one? Nobody, really, except maybe ... I could be the stick figure artist. His sketches and mine are straight-on. And too much for anyone to bear. He likes to think maybe the madding crowds will see his sketches. That's a natural inclination, perhaps, although it has a social component, too. End of my thoughts. He needs to think, Why do I even care?)

One of the stick figure artist's great projects, great to him, was to fill a tablet with little drawings at the edge, so he could flip them and see his work in motion. It took a week of meticulous drawing, and what he finally came up with was a stick figure picking his nose. The piece he entitled, "Everyone Does It."

Let's say someday, like when he's on his last stick, he might become famous. Suddenly his tablets and sketchbooks are in big demand. A museum somewhere heard the buzz and decided to jump on them. Now, as his life's breath is on the wane, suddenly his figures are going for big money. Like one figure for four figures or five.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fahoup Fahep Fitzguh

"This is the Randy Track Show, and I'm your host, Randy Track, and today we're welcoming Larry Stine to our studio, from the group Fahoup Fahep Fitzguh. They're in town, and they've got a really big show tonight at The Unmentionable. What time is it?"

"Uh, I think it's 9 o'clock. We'll be rehearsing before that, no doubt. And a couple of our 'roadies' will be setting up the speakers and all that stuff so we can put on the best show we can give for the money."

"So it's 9 o'clock, huh?"

"Something like that, yes, I believe so."

"OK, we're going to be playing a little bit of Fitzguh coming up here, since you have an album or two out."

"That's right, each of our albums has several 'cuts,' or musical selections, all played in our own distinctive style, according to the genre that comes natural to us. And if you play a few of those, whatever time allows for, it might gin up some support for us, with more people then hopefully coming out for the show."

"Sure, Larry, our listeners are very keen on your group and your music, so believe you me, I'm sure there will be quite a few warm bodies in attendance tonight, each one grooving to your great sound. You have a drummer, right? And he's well practiced?"

"We do have a drummer. Exactly how much he has to practice, that's a matter for him to decide. As for me, you probably know I play the six-string guitar."

"Of course. Anyway, Larry, welcome again. I wanted to ask you as my first question how you guys got the name Fahoup Fahep Fitzguh? It's quite a mouthful, causing a lot of us in radio -- and I think a lot of your fans do the same thing -- to shorten it to just Fitzguh."

"Ha, ha, we knew that would happen. We could've called ourselves The 3 Fs, but, I don't know, there's reasons why we went with the name we have."

"OK, that's what we want to get to..."

"OK ... A few years ago my wife -- my old lady -- and I, my old lady and me, were doing all this spittin' and sputterin', just on a lark, trying to 'one up' each other with it. Imagine it if you had Sylvester the Cat just going into this whole routine of being amazed about everything and not being able to get an actual word out. He's just moving his lips and spitting. You can't even spell what it'd sound like: "Futz, fitz, splick, etc.," like that. Now multiply that out for like an hour or something! It's hilarious!"

"I see."

"Anyway, my old lady and me, we're talking it over later, and I'm like, 'How would you spell that?' And that's how we narrowed it down, or crystallized it as a short phrase, 'Fahoup, Fahep, Fitzguh!' It's been a long time, and my old lady -- my wife -- sometimes she thinks we had an extra 'Faheep' in there, but I know we didn't."

"Oh, LOL, that's very very funny! I've heard the story before, of course, and it gets to me every time. So thanks for running through the whole spiel again!"

"Ha ha, you're welcome. It cracks me up, too. I love telling the story, it's so great!"

"OK, I'm going to play one of your 'cuts,' and I'm going to say the whole name -- I hope I don't get too much spit on the mic! Here they are, Fahoup! Fahep! Fitzguh!

Words Of Advice

I'm old enough now to be able to give good, serious advice to younger people. Whatever it is, I've been there, done that. In general, I know what works and what doesn't. I know what regrets are all about and what you need to do to have fewer of them.

When you're young, it's not always obvious to you what all possibilities you have. Mom and Dad are there trying to make things safe for you. They have good reasons for you to play it safe, because all kinds of terrible things can happen. Maybe they want you to fit in the family mold and carry on for them.

Plus, you simply don't know all your possibilities because no one's told you. Well, I can't tell you either, because the possibilities are so vast, everyone's got to see them and imagine them for themselves. It's enough to say, If you think your possibilities are really limited, chances are you're wrong. Because you can launch out and do all kinds of things.

I have this in mind because we've gone out for breakfast and had the same waitress a couple weeks in a row. She's come by the table and talked about more than our order, like what she might do. She's living at home, at her parents' place. Grandma and Grandpa live in the same town and they want her to move in the trailer with them. But she might like to move away and do something else...

It seems like I told her last week she ought to "Go for it." I can't remember if I did or not, but that would be my usual advice if I happened to be in the advice-giving mood.

Really, though, it's OK to stay in your town, just stay wherever you are, if you're happy with that. Like it says in the Tao Te Ching (and is quoted in a Beatles' song), "Without going out of your door, you can know the ways of heaven." It's somewhere near the end of the book, that the people in this one place never need to go anywhere. They never even visit the town nearby. I believe I know what that means. Everything is the exact same in terms of the Tao.

But practically speaking -- and I don't like the sound of that phrase entirely, because practicality isn't always the way to live -- you don't know that your life's happiness is going to be found in your own backyard. You might need to get out and go to school. You might be better off traveling, seeing new things, etc.

The advice that really came to me, which I didn't say, is the most famous thing Joseph Campbell ever said, which is, "Follow your bliss." Look it up, it's an interesting concept. It's different from crawling in a hole, covering yourself, and hoping to die, a lot different.

Then I thought, I don't want to have to tell her, "Follow your bliss." Because how am I going to explain that without my eggs getting cold? And you really don't want to seem too profound, because how are you going to be a regular customer next week?


I need to get it out of my system, my intentions to write about buttocks. I've had it in my notebook for a few days. I don't feel that I have much to say about it at this present moment, but I'm not going to let that stop the attempt.

I was driving today and saw a young woman walk by with just the barest hint of her "cheeks" showing, which was noted by my passenger. I had to say I also noticed, and since it was just the barest hint, in my opinion, that's usually better than the full intensity of shorts down around your knees.

It all served to remind me of the subject. I looked it up at the library, "buttock." And just a word about the word, I don't really like the word in its fullness, with the clumsier sound than just the shortened "butt." Why we have to suffer the more clinical "tocks" on the end of it, I guess it just goes along with the history of words, even though we've more or less managed to dispense with it in day to day conversation.

The dictionary says, "Usually, buttocks, a. (in humans) either of the two fleshy protuberances forming the lower and back part of the trunk." That sounds about right, although my own way of looking at things is that the butt isn't so much the back part of the trunk but the upper part of the legs. If we were turkeys and you were parceling out the pieces of a human, the butt would be the top of the drumsticks, not the bottom of the trunk.

Just look at a person walking by -- and you can do this with yourself as well -- and you can see, if it weren't for legs we wouldn't have a butt. The legs go up, then poof out, with the butt proper being simply the joining of the legs in a kind of mashup. Perfectly proportioned, usually, with the crack down the exact middle being nothing more than the accident of their joining. The excretory opening (look it up) is not so much a part of the upper leg complex itself, but is indeed more properly classified as being part of the trunk. I know all this and I'm not even a doctor!

The butt serves several purposes, for which I am glad. It gives us something to sit with. It fills out our pants. And it gives us something to spank if someone's been bad (or it's their birthday.)

Where I come from, also, buttocks are meant to be a private part of the body. You don't go around with your butt hanging out, even though they are really nothing more than "fleshy protuberances." But it's come to my attention over the years that not everyone looks at it that way. Sumo wrestlers, girls in bikinis, and the kids from The Family Circus, all have been flashing their butts for years, and probably always will. That was a source of great humor for us as kids, to see The Family Circus kids' butts hanging out. Because it was different than what we expected.

Butts. They're really OK as body parts go.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Four Kats Are Following Me

I woke up today to a pleasant surprise, four more rabid followers for my blog. These four join the other six, making them now the Terrific Ten!

(Following this blog has certain benefits besides the editorial red meat I throw out on a regular basis. One benefit, in fact, was just yesterday, before I gained the four Kats, last night, when we had the wiener roast and hayrack ride. And, two, sometimes we get together at one of the coffee places downtown and hash out ideas for future posts. I've had to stare down a couple of them with some harshness a time or two for crossing me, meaning it hasn't always been pleasant. But I can also be easy, like if they bring cookies.)

You have to admit, having six followers one day, then 10 the next, demonstrates exponential growth. At that rate, let's say every day I got four more, that'd be 28 in a week, and that's not even counting the very realistic expectation that some of them might tell their friends, then there'd be five, six, maybe even 100, new ones everyday. Wouldn't that be wild?

Yes, in fact it would be wild, so wild I couldn't stand it, and it actually might kill me. I love the traffic, don't get me wrong, and I love the cookies they bring, of course, but that'd be a lot of pressure to know there were that many people hanging around. The way it is now, being fairly small and few, it's easy enough to remember everyone's names. And with the four Kats, that's no problem.

Let's see. I'll try to recite them from memory. It seems like there was Katherine, Katherine, Katherine, and Katie. I'm just double-checking my notes, and, yes, that's them. My mom used to have a dear friend Kathleen, so she might be coming by. We could get someone from Katmandu, go out hunting specimens of katydids, get some drinks at the Kit Kat Club, then come home and take a  ... catnap.

The actual truth of the matter is that Katherine is one person, one brilliant person who somehow broke the code of how to follow the same blog four times. The scientists just the other day proved Einstein wrong about light being the fastest thing around. And now Katherine has done this! Amazing! I'm grateful for the extra hands with our shared responsibilities, all eight of them, or I guess it's probably just two.

Anyway, we send out a BIG Grandma Slump welcome to our most recent followers: Katherine, Katherine, Katherine, and Katie! You're very nice people and we're glad you're all here!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Fish I Saved

I just wrote about a fish I saved.

I didn't waste any time getting it back in the water. But later I was thinking about it, that I seemed to remember some mythology, or some fairy tale, about a fish that asks favors or grants favors.

Let's say the fish does a little of each, asks and grants. This might be like a transcendental story, the fish wants to become more than it is, so it seeks a favor, then it becomes a princess. Or it might be one of those depth psychology fish, where it stands for your hidden, repressed qualities, but if you minister to it, you are transformed.

I wasn't going to wait around to find out, because this fish needed to get back into the water, pronto!

Later, then, I'm reflecting on it, and wondering what I would do if the fish had asked me a favor or offered a boon. But my basic psyche is set to do this, to say, "This is no time to be asking favors or grant boons, you need to get back in the water, now!" "But, but!" "No buts about it, back in the water you go!"

Let's say it happened that way. Then, even later, I'm reflecting again, going, "I really screwed up big-time, I could've had a favor!" You remember, Jesus and St. Peter found a coin in a fish's mouth. Look it up in your Jung book!

I'm veering this toward a happy ending for me, in case you can't tell. Despite my later rumination, what I did in the pressure of the moment is what counts, that's where my true character lies. I did the right thing, eschewing any benefits that might have been mine. Because, obviously, the fish needed to be in the water.

Here's what might have happened. A beautiful queen shows up at my door, telling me the incredible story that she had been a fish and had suffered greatly. An evil magician, let's call him Sqerlin, had hexed her, for whatever reason, and the only one who could restore her would be an honorable man. Sqerlin of course doesn't believe in honorable men, so now he's governing her land and doing a piss poor job of it.

So she shows up at my door, decked out in gold, silver, and a long silk train, stretching from my front door all the way to the garage. Telling me a fish story that -- hmm, it's awakening some recognition in me -- and that she now knew an honorable man. I say, "Who is he?", being of course very humble as well.

She touches my forehead, bringing me instant recognition -- a series of flashes gives me the whole truth. She was the catfish on the bank! A parade of dishonorable men had passed her for centuries! She was literally down to her very last minute of life -- after centuries! -- when I showed up, miraculously.

It really is miraculous that I showed up, because I'd never been there before -- it was one in a trillion.

And instead of waiting for a boon, I had selflessly put her back in the water! How honorable I was!

She falls into my arms, we hug and kiss, then we come up for air before falling into one another's arms again, hugging and kissing some more. It goes on like that for a while, until I take her out to Long John Silver's for a nice fish dinner, before retiring back to my ... private quarters. Where she is anything but a dead fish! In fact she's quite feisty, putting up a play fight and making me really work at it to eventually land her. Like anyone, once she's had the best, she's hooked for life...

Then she explains to me there's no time to lose. If we don't get back to the palace before midnight -- and it's five till now -- Sqerlin will officially be king. As if in a dream ship, in no time, we're there in her realm. I pound down the gates, we rush into the palace, I kill Sqerlin, the queen is restored, and I am proclaimed King of the Realm!

All this ... because I was honorable enough to save a fish when I had the chance...

I Take Life, I Give Life

It's forever ago that I've had to kill anything (excluding the occasional mosquito or ants). I don't like killing at all. I'm like the old reflective gunslinger who's simply had enough of bloodshed.

But lately there's been a mouse at my place, terrorizing me, ripping into bags of Oreos and corn chips and who knows what all. One night I was sitting there and heard a noise but just figured it was my dog Underbrush, but when I looked, she wasn't there! That's when I discovered, there's some other life form in the house!

Since then I had been trying to catch it. The first time the trap just set there for several days, nothing. Then, because this is one of the newer mousetraps that don't work as well, the mouse ate the corn chip but didn't get caught. Then a couple days ago I reset it and made it more sensitive, with the mouse finally getting caught this morning.

I got up and looked to where the mousetrap was but it wasn't there. Just a little more looking and I discovered it with a mouse in it that was still alive. His head was under the bar but he wasn't dead -- O crap! There'd surely be no releasing him in the wild, because the bar had to have done severe damage.

This is very unpleasant for me to say, but it was simply out of mercy, that I had to take the thing outside and kill it, as quickly and mercifully as possible. That was a terrible way to start my day, and I could barely think of anything else afterward, feeling very sick.

Later in the morning, then, I went out to the country, taking pictures. I have my iPod camera and I like some of the pictures I get. I was messing around at this bridge, a place I've never actually stopped before. So it was a one in a trillion kind of thing that I happened to be there.

I climbed down the bank, went down below the bridge, saw a cool shot maybe 50 yards to the east, near some dead trees with water way up them. I went over, took my pictures, then headed back. While going, then, I saw a good sized catfish on the ground, some bloodiness on its mouth area, but it was still moving its tail.

There was no one around, yet someone, maybe an hour before, maybe 10 minutes, whatever, had left a catfish behind. How terrible, because a catfish is a desirable fish, nothing to leave to die on the bank. Unlike, say, a carp, or something worse, something that is technically illegal to throw back. A catfish is far from that category!

So I got a hold of its tail and put it back in the water. It started moving and swam slowly away. Of course I have no idea what will become of it, whether it will survive, but you have to admit its odds are better in the water than on the bank!

I don't know why I had this kind of morning. I haven't seen a dead mouse in years and I don't know that I've ever come upon a live catfish on the bank before. Anyway, the bottom line is, I both killed and preserved life, all in one morning...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Excuse Me, Ma'am

Excuse me, ma'am, I can't help noticing you have a very shapely figure. You must work out, or maybe you just watch your diet. However you do it, it's very attractive. Very attractive, I like it.

I also can't help noticing you're not wearing a ring. I hope you don't mind me saying so, I just notice little details like that. And your fingers are very nice, slender and cute, like they're made for a ring, one of them anyway.

And while we're on the subject, I see that you appear to be absolutely alone, with a nice late model pickup. Would that be yours alone -- it is a pickup -- or is there someone else at home, where you live? I hope not. Where do you live?

I really like the cute little dress you have on. It's a cute little number. Fits you perfectly, like it was made for you, form-fitted. Do you have a whole closet full of them? It'd be cool if you did, I'm just saying. I love the color. It looks great on you.

I'm looking at your shoulder. I don't see any baby burp on the fabric, so I'm assuming there's no grandchildren you're raising. That's a compliment, because if you have any daughters, I think it's great that they're mature enough to be taking care of their own kids and not foisting them off on Grandma. I believe in personal responsibility when it comes to the little rug rats.

I love your eyes, very well set in your head, moving back and forth in a kind of harmony, not unpleasant in any way. And your smile, it's pleasant. You obviously have regularly scheduled cleanings and limit yourself on coffee and cigarettes. Do you smoke, I hope not, since smoking isn't at all sexy, and, well, you obviously don't smoke...

Hey baby, I can't help feeling your eyes all over me. If, as they say, sex is 99% mental, then we've been going at it ever since we laid eyes on each other. Just your walking to your truck had me saying, "Work it! Work it!"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm Way Too Cool To Post Something Like That

Please pardon my dizziness and discomfort. I just got back from reading my Facebook updates and slamming my head into a wall, in that order. Must they repost crap like this? I'm always kind of stunned by the things people copy and paste, for various reasons.

Here's one that came around:
Stupid cancer... we all want a new car... a new phone... freedom... a person who has cancer only wants one thing... to survive. I know that a lot of you "who think you're too cool" probably won't re-post this. But a very little amount of my friends will. Put this on your wall if you know someone or just want to honor someone who died of cancer, survived, or who is fighting against it now.
This seems to be a rewrite or restatement of a better status against cancer I've seen before. Both draw a contrast between the things the average person wants and what the cancer victim wants. Those of us who haven't yet gotten the diagnosis want normal material things, a new car and a new phone, but the one with cancer only wants to survive, presumably so they can get back to wanting a new car and a new phone...

The weird difference in this status is that the rest of us want "freedom." Huh? Cancer is out there, making us draw the contrast between our wants, so in addition to us wanting a new car and a new phone, we want freedom? But the person with cancer, it says, inexplicably doesn't want freedom. No, that person only wants one thing ... to survive. If they have to be a slave in the Gulag, so be it, just so they survive!

I'm a guy who speaks English, maybe not the greatest, but I've been doing it all my life. And I'm discerning that this status wasn't written by a native English-speaker. And that might be part of the problem. You can see it in a few ways. One, it starts off weird, "Stupid cancer..." But the dead giveaway is this phrase, "But a very little amount of my friends..." There's no English-speaker I've ever met who would talk that way. Like cancer, they'd have to be "stupid" to do so. But I'll be charitable. Maybe it's a translation a generation or two removed from whatever language it originally was. My advice: If you're going to post these statuses, at least rewrite it so it sounds like you!

The next thing to mention is how these statuses always try to manipulate people into reposting them. This one takes the usual path, by saying you'll be among the minority if you do. You'll be consciously and purposefully special, at one with the poster. You don't want to be someone who thinks "you're too cool" to do so. Although, really, if this is such a compelling message, where would be the coolness factor in ignoring it? Let's skip on. "But a very little amount of my friends will." This is odd, like an insult to your friends, while trying to highlight the specialness of your friends who will repost.

Then the conclusion gives another motivator to repost, which isn't so terrible, so you can "honor" someone who has cancer, died, or is fighting it. But why precisely they need to be "honored" for something they didn't sign up for, didn't want, and wouldn't want again, that's another matter. They actually might feel more honored if you just left them alone and treated them like normal.

Let's get rid of cancer! Then you can get back to wanting "freedom" like the rest of us. You know what, I actually would like to have a new car. And my phone is getting fairly old, too...


Monday, September 19, 2011

Parts Numbers

I'm always interested in parts numbers. Meaning, seriously, it's true that there's nothing I'm not interested in.

You might find me. I'm out scouting around town, examining everything I see. If I see, let's say, an old elevator, I want to know everything about it. To me, that's romantic, the stuff of bygone eras that is, wonderfully, still in use today. There is in fact an old elevator I was looking at one day, made by some company in Council Bluffs, Iowa, probably sometime between 1910 and 1930. I looked at everything about it that I could easily see. I'd try crawling under it or on top of it, but since it's actually in use, I might get crushed if I did ... so I won't.

One of the things you notice when you're looking at all this stuff, is that usually you're going to see a parts number, because, I guess, they needed to keep track of a lot of parts. So this lever or this gate piece will have a parts number on it. Let's just say the gate piece is GP4503. Which, arbitrarily, I will guess means, "Gate Piece 4503," the 4503 referring to something. It might be that every part they ever needed is simply sequentially numbered, with the letter prefix being changed depending on what it is. Or it could be that the 4 stands for something, the 5, and so forth.

I can see how even back then they'd want to manage their parts numbers so they wouldn't get confused. Write it all down in a manual, then have it filed away somewhere so that, if the current management all died they could still hand on the company in a reasonable way. You wouldn't want the new management to think the parts numbers were simply sequential if indeed the numbers meant two, three, or four different times.

Let's say the 4 meant "fourth floor." The parts guy -- the stock man -- would know, when he had to supply an assembly line, that "GP4" meant he needed to go to the gate parts on the fourth floor. That's easy. 5 might mean the "fifth station" on the assembly line. They're going to need this particular part at a particular place. It wouldn't be any good to put a fifth station part back at the first station. Then 03. That might mean the third cubbyhole on the line or something like that. If the 5 meant "fifth station," it's unreasonable that the 03 would mean anything other than something at the fifth station.

I might need to revise this, though, because I have him getting GP on the fourth floor, which was the GP4. But it seems like you'd need more of an identification of the actual part than where it goes on the line, unless the stock man was simply filling requisitions for particular places on the line. Because what if you were making various kinds of gates for different styles of elevators? That there's only going to be GPs 1-9 doesn't seem reasonable. You'd need to allow more more gate parts.

I know, especially these days with computers and branch offices everywhere, that part numbers definitely need to be more complicated. And what everything in a modern part number means, I'm not going to sketch out a full guess. But let's just give an arbitrary number to a modern elevator part. XL10345SQV6730. That's the part number. OK, like I said, I don't know everything about it. But I do know that the S in the middle means "Southern district"; I'm smart enough to know that. And in this case -- if you didn't know this, I'll forgive your ignorance -- the QV is a kind of tribute to one of their longtime and most beloved employees, Quincy Valiant, who worked tirelessly in the Southern district, even though now he's dead.

I changed my mind, I will hazard to guess what the number means. XL1 is the elevator type, 03 is the bin they keep it in, 45 refers to the originating station, S is Southern district, QV is Quincy Valiant, and 6730 narrows it down to the exact place it goes on the line. Obviously, their numbers aren't sequential!

I hope you've enjoyed this post. I would be interested in your comments on parts numbers, and whether you think I'm on the right track on some of my guesses or whether you think I've got it all wrong. Leave me a comment.

The Hillbilly Restaurant Reviewer

Here's my idea. Restaurant reviewers are always posh chaps, constantly wearing unusually fashionable clothing, and speaking with a nasally voice that drips with condescension. They're very finicky about their food, mostly eating it for the aesthetic sense of it and not because they're actually hungry. Me, on the other hand, I just eat because I'm trying to keep my body alive for another day.

I actually don't read restaurant reviews, for the simple reason that most restaurants I go to I've already been there before and know what to expect. Looking back on it, in fact, I don't think I've ever gone to a restaurant for the first time. Just like I never eat anything new for the first time, innately knowing what I like. But it seems like I must have read a review at some time in the past, otherwise how would I know of the posh chaps' manner?

OK, my idea: What we need is more true hillbilly restaurant reviewers. I can say this, since I have hillbilly roots, they don't really care that much about ambiance and the aesthetic appointments, being content with paper plates, plasticware, and even hand-me-down napkins. I'm saying this as a guy who's eaten turtle we've caught, dandelion greens, and drank from the family ladle.

So let's pick out a restaurant. I have one. We'll go with the Family Table out on the east side of town. It's not a franchise. But they have two locations that I know of. There's one down south, at a town about 40 miles south of here. People kept going there for the races, then they'd stop at the Family Table, and since they liked it so much, they said, "You ought to build one closer to home." So they did, although they didn't really build it, because it used to be Ken's Pizza.

I will be the hillbilly restaurant reviewer:

I've been out to eat at the Family Table. I was very happy with the staff, the service, and the food. They put on a heck of a feed, but I'm not telling you anything. Everyone knows it!

I went there for dinner, straight-up noon. I was with a couple of my kin, and we were all pleased with everything. Aunt Elvira had -- I can't remember what she had. Cousin Lou, I remember her plate was nice, and what she ate, she liked, but she was feeling sick before we got there. As for me, I can't forget what I had, because it was that good. I had the catfish platter.

If you've had the catfish platter out at the Family Table, you know this isn't a frozen fillet bought off a truck in a parking lot. This is the actual fish, bones and all, fried to perfection, just the way anyone would like it. Then there's all the fixins added, and it's still under 10 bucks. As I recollect, there was potatoes, beans, a piece of homemade bread, and a dish of chocolate ice cream. With the entree -- the fish -- taking up quite a bit of room, it was that big.

I strapped on my feedbag and set straight to working on it. I can eat a catfish probably faster than anyone, since I've done it enough times, I know where all the bones are. But I took my own sweet time with this one. Two reasons, 1) I only had one fish to deal with; and, 2) I wanted to savor the thing. Because I had my mouth set for a good catfish, and that's exactly what I got! It was succulent. By that I mean it was good! Even the tail was done to my liking, crispy without being burnt. The only thing I could want besides would've been some catfish eggs, but of course you never seen them in a restaurant.

Friends, this was a good meal. I packed it away, then let out my belt a notch, quietly burped, and felt glad. I picked my teeth with my hunting knife, went home, guzzled down a Bud, and took a nap till 4 o'clock, nearly time for supper!

On A Library Computer...

This is different. I don't think I've ever done this before. My normal practice, my constant practice, is to write my blog at home. But here I am in a public library, typing away.

It's quite the deal, really, and I feel a certain amount of pressure. For one, I don't know who might be standing right behind me. I'll look. Good, no one was there. The other pressure, and a more realistic pressure, is that there's a "Session Information" clock at the top of the screen, showing I have (gasp!) only 59 minutes left!

I'm thinking it over, and, no, I've never done this before. I had to scan my library card, then type my card number in, then get a printout of my "reservation," then type the confirmation number in the computer. I guess the only thing we're missing is the barbed wire gauntlet and the razor fence. I don't know if that's a very funny thing to say, but I can't go back ... I've only got 57 minutes left!

Oops, I said I had 57 minutes left and immediately got writer's block. The pressure is too great. Anyway, maybe this is the way to do things, with a clock. At home I'm sitting there, lingering in thought forever. Here, there's going to be some other guy step up in 56 minutes and ask to cut in.

UPDATE: Time has passed. In the meantime, I wrote a post about "Hillbilly Restaurant Reviewers" and "Parts Numbers," how to decipher a parts number, using elevator parts for my example. Check out the list of my posts and you'll see those two. I wrote those in the 56 minutes I started with above, and at this point I have 7 minutes remaining. The computer interrupted me at 10 minutes to go to let me know I was running out of time. Libraries! They're never as good as you think they should be. They limit you on this or that. I don't see a line of people over at the station. Seriously, you have to give them your library card to look at the USA Today! No joke, even though it sounds like one!

The advantage of being limited to an hour, in this case, is I wrote those two posts lickety-split, and didn't take time to supplement them with graphics*, like I always do at home.

Hey, guess what, the thing just "extended" my session by 10 minutes. Wonder why? Maybe the librarian is reading my complaints in real time and decided to mess with my head. Probably so. Being the center of the universe and beset by all kinds of purposeful machinations, as I always am, is what I'm used to. But you know what, I'm sticking to my original hour. Meaning I have 4 minutes left, even though it says 14 minutes now. Mess with my head, I'll mess right back! The librarian will be going, "That guy didn't accept my benevolence," which is true. I don't need their filthy charity. Maybe someone else is waiting, just around the corner, all humble and not wanting to be an inconvenience to me; that's the way I would do it, not wanting to be an obvious nuisance to anyone.

So 2 minutes left on my now self-imposed limit. Oops, had a phone call, now I have 1 minute left, or some part of 1 minute. I must hit the post button ... NOW!

*Graphics added later, at home. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's Me Against The Murderous Maniac

I've got to be real cagey about what I say about this matter. It seems there could be a murderous maniac on my trail.

It all started, like most terrible incidents like this do, with a road trip. I wasn't satisfied with what I could find in my own backyard, even though if I learned anything from The Wizard of Oz, it had to be that. Instead, I went out of town.

When you go out of town, especially as I did to a small town, you're just setting yourself up for trouble. The few people you run into are monitors for the rest. They're not used to strangers, but when they see one they go ballistic.

I perceived that I had quickly become the talk of the town. My vivid imagination told me that's the way it was, and naturally all my paranoia flags went up. Maybe if I hadn't stopped in at the local cafe it wouldn't have happened so fast. But in the time it takes to get a bite to eat, not only can word go out that you're in town, it gives them time to learn everything they can about you, assuming anyone there has access to the internet.

OK, so far, so good, at least I thought. I probably should back up and say why I was there. A couple months ago I got an iPod with a camera in it, so I've been having a good time taking pictures. As a guy with no demonstrable artistic talents, yet who considers himself a natural born artist, being able to push the button on a camera and have it yield a colorful picture, is a godsend.

Anyway, there I was, scouting locations for my next masterpiece, and I felt eyes on me. Eyes perhaps attached to bodies with hands attached to machetes! This is one sadistic little burg, I told myself, and I answered myself that that was a good point. So I was conducting myself cautiously, to say the least, even gingerly, with careful footfalls, prowling around in my car like a cat, stalking my prey, colorful scenes, rustic signs, rusty cans in alleys, a house in shambles, or, if luck would have it, a naked lady on a hammock.

When it comes to being killed, I like to think I'd have some premonition that it was about to happen, so I could avert it. But it happened suddenly, without warning. I saw a certain rustic thing, in part pictured above, with a metallic steering wheel and seat, hooked to a motorized vehicle used typically in farming, which I shall not name. Really big wheels in back, tiny ones on the front under the motor.

Then, and this is where danger reared its ugly head, a guy comes out of a barn. He's got what I'm picturing as big murderous eyes, a maniacal sneer, and he's wielding a big bloody machete, and I see what looks like fangs sticking out where his teeth should be. His hands are big and gnarly. His bib overalls are only fastened on one side and the other side is folded down. There's dirt on the T-shirt underneath, like maybe he used it at some time to wipe blood off his hands. His nose is breathing out smoke, like a bull in the arena. It's all I can do not to hulk out and throw a tractor at him, or at least my iPod.

Seriously, this guy was a mountain. No ordinary weapon could possibly kill him. It'd take a nuclear bomb app. If only I could get signal out here in the wild! I'm thinking, iTunes, don't fail me now! What would I give for an app like that? Up to $2.99, especially if it had at least 4 stars. But since there wasn't a signal, I decided to try non-violence. Could that possibly work? Possibly, at least long enough to get me the hell out of there.

He was murderous. He had a look in his eyes that threatened to tear me to pieces, limb from limb. And these were his exact words: "Can I help you find something?" Sounds helpful, right? But that's just code for, "What in the hell are you doing on this property, seemingly tampering with my tractor?" Real accusatory stuff! Since I couldn't nuke him, I begged off, "I'm only taking a picture of this ______ [see photo]." He said some other stuff that I couldn't make out, mostly guttural roars, foaming at the mouth, as I backed up slowly, opened my car door and got in.

I spun it out of the alley doing 40 miles an hour in reverse. Then I laid rubber on the road that probably stretched a whole mile. I imagined (and actually saw, I believe) zombies pouring out of old shuttered buildings. An old lady zombie ran into the road with an apple pie, heaving it at my car. It landed in perfect condition on the passenger seat! That was the high point of the whole experience.

But friends, this murderous maniac, the guy back at the tractor, I believe is still after me. I'm writing this as a kind of last post, in case I don't make it till tomorrow. If I don't make it, please send help! And nuke that little town ... all the way to hell and back!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Women Who Loved Them

Looking back over my life, I guess I was a complete innocent. I didn't know the first thing about anything. I was in a kind of cocoon without even knowing it. Apparently nothing would ever wake me.

Then 75-year-old Tony Randall married a 25-year-old woman and my eyes were suddenly opened.

I suddenly realized that old stars and rich guys could get women, not because they were so great -- in fact they were dried up prunes like everyone else their age -- but because they were well known and rich.

Remember that starlet who died a couple years back? I'm drawing a blank on her name. Big boobs. She married an old guy, 90-something, who made a prune look like a peach. Of course he died soon after with a smile on his face, a big bright smile, nothing but wrinkles and gums.

So it started with Tony Randall. And maybe their respective ages had something to do with it, why it woke me, 75 and 25, because you don't have to know much about arithmetic to see he was three times her age. He was virtually over the hill when her dad was first winking at her mom.

Since then I've heard many other tales, including a star just recently, someone I frankly hadn't heard of before -- and I'm not proud of my ignorance, that's just the way it is -- like in his 50s, who married a 16-year-old girl. Say what?! Don't guys like that have to live at least 2000 feet from a school? But he got an exemption because he's a TV or movie star.

When you're well known like that, everything's possible, including really stupid stuff. Like the way it was with Elvis, girls scraping the dust from his license plates. I'll say that again slowly: dust from his license plates. LOL. I don't know precisely what you'd do with it. Keep it with the toenails you found in the trash, maybe. Although a toenail might be useful, like if you wanted to clone Elvis. But you can't clone a car from dust. Heh, what if you had a toenail from Elvis' trash and tried to clone Elvis and ended up with one of his hangers-on? He'd be like, "You brought me into this world, now buy me a car!"

As far as the actual Elvis, it's hard to believe he had any trouble finding women. He just flew auto pilot and they were all over him. It was a combination of his good looks and his incredible popularity and wealth. Then he died, and it makes me wonder what all the ex-girlfriends were saying, "I knew him when..." Knew him for a single night in Vegas! "Tell us the story again about you and Elvis, Grandma..."

I was at a concert by Wanda Jackson and she told us all she had a romance with Elvis, that she was one of his first girlfriends. She mentioned them kissing but didn't say anything beyond that. And coincidentally her actual daughter and granddaughter were in the audience. She gave them a shout-out. They didn't look anything like Elvis, in case you're wondering. As for me, she dated Elvis? I immediately went outside to scrape dust off her tour bus.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Daddy's Advice

I had a sudden flashback today when I was taking the garbage out, of my dear Daddy and his sage advice.

First, let me say, this has been a long time coming. I've been trying to be very economical, so when it comes to the trash, I want to use the big plastic bags as much as I reasonably can. It gets to a certain level, and anyone would immediately tie it up and haul it out. But because I'm trying to get economical, I get up there with my foot and press it down tighter. That frees up space to keep putting more stuff in it, banana peels, used paper towels, and other crap, coffee grounds, etc.

I have to confess, I think about the bacteria on the bottom of my shoe. But no one's dropping dead, so it must not be that bad. I forget about it and go on with my business, knowing that I'm saving money in the long run, the more garbage I can fit into one bag.

Anyway, getting back to my Daddy. He's gone now, so I'm left all alone to carry on as best I can. But fortunately he talked to me over the years and let me know the things I'd need to know...

So I was thinking of him today as I got up over the trash and tried to compress it further down. It wouldn't budge, meaning it was as compact as it was going to get. It was time to change the bag and take this one out.

My Daddy's words came back to me, traveling over the years once again into my consciousness. Sitting on his knee, I heard him once again: "Son, someday you'll be a man, as old as me. And I won't be there to tell you what to do. You'll be all grown up and on your own. So I'm going to need to tell you right now what to do, so that when you're on your own, you won't lose your way."

I always gave close attention to his teaching, and now I'm glad I did. "Son, someday when you're filling up trash bags, there's some things you need to know." I remember this all so clearly, because I remember cutting him off with my childish protests, "Daddy, it'll never happen. You'll always be with me. You'll always be there to take care of the trash."

He put a gentle finger to my lips, to silence me, and I remember seeing a tear in his eye. "Hush, young one," he said with unlimited patience. My lip started to quiver as I realized he wasn't just "funnin' me." The old codger was serious. "Let me speak. I might drop dead right now." Then he told me, "When you're filling trash bags, press it down very tightly, as much as you can. You'll save money that way, money that may come in handy for other things you might want."

This was a long time ago, but I remember it like it was tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Beatles' Facebook Status Today

How you do think Paul, George, and Ringo would like this summary? The Beatles -- with John Lennon and 3 others.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Look At This Great Picture

Isn't that a great picture? Huh? Huh? What do you think? I surely deserve some praise for it, don't I? Like a lot of praise? Because I took it.

And you know what, it wasn't really that hard to accomplish. Probably for some people it'd be tricky to get it accomplished, like people who don't have an eye for it, let alone an innate knack for style. But not for me, since I have an eye for practically anything, and my innate knack for style is simply without beginning and without end.

I'm looking at it right now, even while I type, because typing for me isn't any problem; I learned the keyboard when I was in junior high school, giving me the ability to look at a picture and type at the same time. And I really like what I see. I really like it.

It kind of reminds me of Sam Spade, you know, the detective that Humphrey Bogart played? He's like all noir all the time, that is, film noir, with noir meaning dark or black in French. If you've ever seen one of these films, naturally they're done in black and white, like my picture. So what have you got? Lots of shadows, venetian blinds making crazy sick patterns all over everything as the sun streams through. There's so many shadows a mouse might be hiding in plain sight and you wouldn't see it.

Well, look at my picture, venetian blinds, check! A bench or table, a good place for a '40s detective to sit, while presumably a Cuban ceiling fan turns creakily overhead, and somewhere, I'm not going to say it's not there, there is a mouse, in one of the corners. And look at the sun streaming through. If you enlarged this son of a bitch, you'd even see the dust motes floating in the room.

It's atmospheric, if I do say so myself. I love the light dangling overhead, just the kind of light a detective would pull down when he was trying to put the screws on someone to get their confession. The very light where a gun moll, which is the word they used for their women back then, would be touching up her lipstick, since she's very finicky about lipstick. Cherry lipstick, coincidentally the same kind they found smudgy traces of on the dead man's collar!

You know what? I've been seriously taking pictures for the last month, since Aug. 1. It's true, I've taken maybe 3000 (or it could be 2000) pictures, everything in my path. I started out all nervous, like you might imagine, because I hadn't touched a camera since maybe the '70s. So I'm all hesitant, then I discovered something about myself, probably something you've known for a long time from other contexts, that I'm a born artist. With that, I loosened up.

I always wanted to be an artist. But I can't draw, can't seem to paint, not that I've really tried, don't know music, can't read it. In every way that counts, artistically speaking, I've been a big fat zero. And that's a bummer to me like you couldn't know, because I've always thought I had the talent, if only it could be borne out in actual fact.

But when it comes to photography, any idiot (which I'm not one of) can be an artist. All you have to do is find something decent to look at, aim a camera at it, and push the button. And they've made it a lot easier these days, like with an iPhone or iPod, because all the tools are built in, filters, etc. It's like a multiple choice test where none of the answers is actually wrong!

OK, picture me on the set of the above picture. I'm brooding over it for like seconds at a time. I'm thinking, "How am I going to frame this son of a bitch so it comes out something I'm proud of?" Naturally, and this is where my innate style comes into play, I'm thinking I want the window off center. The bench on the right is going to look fantastic with the sun streaming through the venetian blinds directly. So I'm thinking that's where I'll leave it. Of course the left side is going to be more in the shadows, not getting a direct sunlight hit. Which ought to be your first clue that the mouse has to be over there somewhere.

All these thoughts are running through my head, and I'm mentally calculating all the angles, my brain being close to a super computer, very fast, and only crashing ... hardly ever. I called for quiet on the set, while, with great stability in my hands, I held the iPod. Then, with everything being in perfect place, I snapped the picture. I thought I could take one more, but I like to work with one take. If you're a perfectionist from the get-go, you don't need to do it twice. I'm like the sign on the plumber's van I saw the other day, "We do it right the first time."

I got my mouse and we vacated the set. I put down a dollar on the table for the management's trouble (this was at a restaurant), and we were off.

TECHNICAL NOTES: In post production, I darkened the original picture with a cool filter I have on an app called MagicHour. The details in the original photo weren't as obscure as I wanted ultimately. A darker picture would make it a place where Sam Spade would be more comfortable. So a click of one button and it was darker, darkened to perfection.

CONUNDRUM: Of course I solely own the copyright on this picture. All rights reserved. It may not be used for any purpose without my express written consent, which I'm not bloody likely to give. Because I'm the guy who clicked the button, it's mine. Making me wonder, and this is the conundrum, if I had taken the picture with a timer, that is, without me pushing the button, would I still own the copyright? Or would I have to share credit with the camera itself? That's one for the courts to decide!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Sun Will Be A Red Giant

It's another scorcher today. Temps in the low 100's, Fahrenheit. Very toasty.

One of my questions, and I keep forgetting to look it up, is since our body temperature is already 98.6, why does it feel warm when it's 98.6 outside? Whatever the reason may be for that, I can't wait because it's even hotter today.

I was downtown and getting way too much sun. I've been wearing a hat for the last few months. My doctor told me I needed to because of the sun. Still, there's all the sun on my arms and neck. So I walk faster and maybe I can outrun it.

I was watching a show one day about the sun, a good scientific show that showed how the heat makes its way up from the middle of the sun to the surface, then of course it streams through space and ends up on me. It was pretty interesting, but it seems like I had a couple calls, then someone was at the door, so I never saw the whole thing, and essentially aren't able to recall what I saw very well. But I think about that show when I'm out in the yard. All those sunbeams, working like the devil to get from the middle of the sun to the surface; it takes forever. Then six minutes later it's in my backyard!

I don't know which show it was -- I think there's been more than one -- where I saw the interesting news that the sun someday is going to become a red giant and destroy everything on the earth. That's quite an awesome thought to me. The idea that everything on earth will be consumed in flames and that no one will be around anymore is mind-blowing. This includes the Mona Lisa, Beatles records, all the great movies, and even the archives of this blog. I'd like to think it's immortal, but that's just a fantasy.

So it's going to become a red giant. There's something about the sun's dying process that will make it get bigger. You'd think dying would make it shrink up, and actually it will shrink but only after it first expands. And once all this happens, a few billion years from now, that'll be it for earth.

My guess is something else is going to kill off everyone before 5 billion years passes. I'm not naturally pessimistic, but seriously, billions of years is a long time for humanity or any species to continue on. Especially when you're as self-destructive as us!

Thursday, September 1, 2011


He wants her, that I can understand. She wants him, which I understand less. It came as a news flash to me as a teen that women had desires. But it's true. They want each other, so they come together...

Hands clasp, eyes meet, subtle signals are flashed, they draw closer, closer yet, so close, this is close. Their lips lock.

If there was time for a breath mint earlier, that moment has certainly passed. From here on, it's going to be reckless abandon, casting aside all concerns, it would seem, although wouldn't it have to cross their minds?

Good grief! This is the heat of the ages! Stand back or you'll be singed! It's a scorcher! The rubbing of lips, oh my God, there's got to be more to it, and there is. Tongue action.

(Just as an aside, LOL, and this is just me, one time I heard a scientist on TV saying the lips are just the other end of the anus, so let that pleasant thought sink in. It's what I think of when I see kissing on TV. It seems the Eskimos had it right, kissing with the nose, since the nose is merely the other end of the lungs. And you don't have to wipe lungs!)

Anyway, her hands are clasping the rippling muscles of his back. And he's fidgeting with her upper body support system (her bra). She's yielded to the idea. It's a jiggling good time for all involved, him and, yes, her.

OK, let's get to the meat of the goodie. They advance on ... inexorably on ... exploring every frontier ... Johnny Mathis is on auto repeat ... As far as the man goes, he's all hands, and the woman is also happy with what she reaches for. A meaningful look flashes on his face, as if to say, "Yeah, baby, right there!"

Then it's a matter of everything fitting as it should. 

Let's analyze where we are. This is about how it goes. Very few surprises. Big whoop, right? No, it's still pretty amazing, biology gone wild, the perpetuation of the species at the heart of it. If they mate, good things happen as far as future generations go.

And if there's some measure of pleasure in the leisure, that too's a treasure.