Sunday, March 31, 2013

Death -- When Your Number's Up

I was walking the halls of a nursing home with my friend, Death. (See below for links). I wasn't 100% sure why we were there. He simply said he had an errand to run. Anyway, we went to the room of a nice older lady, Maudie F-------. He was a gentle soul to her, because her number wasn't yet up.

We were in the foyer, and I called Death's attention to the aviary. I mentioned to him how things have changed in nursing home philosophy, in particular the installing of aquariums and aviaries to give them that added natural dimension. He chuckled, being close to nature himself, and commented how the fish are usually distressed and dying, and, as for the birds, a lot of the deaths he administers these days result from airborne fecal particulates and dander. Then five minutes later, Maudie was dead and Death said, "The birds helped me with another one..."

"So you waited five minutes, then took her?" He answered, "Yep, her number wasn't up."

We got in the car, and I had an idea, since apparently my number wasn't up. The whole thing led me to attempt a series of tests. First, we drove out to the interstate, where I jumped out and started running at random on the road. I believe for all practical purposes I was hit three or four times, without injury. Next, we went over by the depot, where I took a nap on the train tracks; a train came through and somehow missed me.

We then went out in the country where I walked blindfolded on the edge of the tressel, without falling. I climbed up some guy's barn and took off the weathercock and cold cocked myself, but it didn't even hurt. And finally, back home, I literally ate a whole pound of bacon, which inexplicably made me sick. Death stood there, laughing, and saying, "Try your worst, your number isn't up!"

We had a mildly philosophical discussion about numbers and why the mortality of organisms would be on a number system. He explained that it's like everything else. When you set up a system you have to make certain choices, and none of them is perfect. At first he left it to chance, then, because the system has to apply for everything from bacteria to dinosaurs, he didn't want to be overworked.

I argued that he probably didn't need to literally be there for everything to die, although, of course, he gets an obvious satisfaction from his work. Which means he's one of the few ones. Since the only ones I can think of who get satisfaction from their work are prison guards, able to lord it over the rest of their species; artists, because they're able to allow their spirits to soar; and, truck drivers, because of the satisfying anonymity of truck stop sex. Death just grinned.

Then he said, if it'd please me, he would test out a system without numbers. I added, "That would make it more fair, because there are some who take care of themselves, and others who are idiots." He agreed, but said he would need to work out a special dispensation for those under 25, whose idiocy is not completely their own fault. Their brains haven't developed sufficiently to grant them sufficient paranoia to be consumed completely with their own personal safety.

DISCLAIMER: Death said he knows I'm writing up these reports. He told me to warn anyone else who might try dangerous things meant to test him, that no matter what age they are, their number will be up. You will die. Because there are certain unspecified "other factors" in the mix, making the whole scheme of things indecipherable. Any false assurance you may have derived from the contents of this blog post is indeed false, as it is for entertainment purposes only, not for risking your life.

Death -- I Now Pronounce You Dead
Out Drinking with Death
Death Goes to the Dentist with Me

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Easter Craft Sale -- Post Mortem

I've had a long and hard day, so I'm really not in any mood to make comments about the Easter Craft Sale at the shopping center. But I feel I owe it to everyone to say something, and I'll try to put a good face on it, regardless of how terrible it seemed at the time.

The day started badly. The set-up time is between 7 and 8 a.m. And for some reason my alarm didn't go off, meaning I overslept for the first time in something like 25 years. I'm thinking I subconsciously didn't want to go, and so whatever internal timer mechanism I have tried its best to spare me. Except I did need to go, since I'd already paid the exorbitant $40 fee for my table, up five bucks from last year.

After I did everything I had to do, including loading the bunnies in the car, and going to the bathroom, etc., I headed out to the shopping center, knowing it was going to be rough. Spots for the tables, except for the higher class people, the real long-termers, is first come, first serve. Which ended up meaning precisely how I knew it'd go, the other bastards would grab the best spots, leaving me, the latecomer, the crappiest spot in the world, a few tables past where even the diehard customers are likely to go.

I got a few nasty comments from some of the ones who know me: "Bedhead," "Look what the cat dragged in," "At least you're well-rested," and "Good luck -- You're going to need it." The worst part of the process of getting in was that I needed to make multiple trips past some of these cretins, giving them plenty of opportunities to level their best taunts.

But I finally made it, and got my stuff all set up: A nice blue tablecloth, my signs -- "Lovely to look at, wonderful to hold, but if you pop off an eye or mess up the styrofoam head, we mark it sold.", "Cute, crazy, cuddly," "No photographs or sketches please," and the price card, "$5 apiece, 2 for $9." Now it was just time to settle in for a day of bustling business.

I guess I'm always an optimist, at least going in. Then as the day drags by, I'm nothing but a realist, "I'm sunk, this sucks, I should've stayed in bed..." For customers I had the usual dregs, lots of lookers who can't be bothered to spend a quality minute examining my stuff, kids who have no qualms about bending the pipe cleaners, and preoccupied mothers who foolishly ignore their children's desire for a nice bunny. Then occasionally -- but never often enough -- one will be persuadable, and it's those ones I like. I'm quick to get their cash before they have time to reconsider. They might walk away and the kid immediately breaks the bunny, but no matter ... I just look the other way.

Around noon, I saw some clown with his phone out, snapping pictures of some of the crafts upstream. For which I came prepared. I whipped out two other tablecloths and covered my stuff, then prominently put the "No photographs" sign on top of the whole works. He got down to me and looked a little put out, but I only smiled, knowing I'd scored a major win for our side. Hell man, if you want a picture of a bunny, buy one, then go home and photograph it to your damned heart's content. I don't want my stuff on Pinterest. Knock off someone else's art ... or craft, in this case.

It slowed to a dead crawl around 2 p.m. I was able to get out and talk to some of the other crafters. My day was terrible but they had even more gripes than me. That's one of the great things about craft sales. If you really want to hear complaints, crafters should be your go-to guys. The sale was poorly advertised, the shopping center doesn't respect us, the increased table fee was egregious, and a lot of the browsers are only in the vicinity to use the bathroom; they don't care about us. Plus, we kick around the bad economy and people's decreased disposable income, despite the evidence to the contrary, poor people going by carrying $5 coffee and their grubby little rug-rats eating $4 cotton candy.

I had a few anxieties of my own. One, my sales were worse than previous years. Two, just because I caught that one photographer doesn't mean I didn't miss a few others. A few of these knockoff artists have someone distract you with friendly talk, then they're snapping pictures, only to have the friend drop you like a hot potato when they've got what they want. On that point, I suspect the friendly girl with the deep cleavage who visited with me -- stunning eye contact! -- might have been a photographer's confederate. But she was sweet enough it was almost worth it. And, three, offering a twofer (2 bunnies for $9) about kills my profit margin. I like the come-on aspect of it, I just have to hope not too many customers abuse it.

Oh, I used the word "customers." In crafter language, the word for them is "fresh meat." That's one of the biggest complaints. Listen for it if you get close to a crafter. If they're complaining about "Not enough fresh meat," all it means is they wish we had more customers. If only the stinking shopping center would advertise more!


Previous Easter Bunny Craft Sales:

Local Man Makes and Sells Easter Bunnies
Selling Easter Bunnies at the Shopping Center
Last Call for Easter Bunnies
Boxing Up My Bunnies

The Easter Craft Sale

I'm Selling Easter Bunnies at the Craft Sale

Easter Bunnies -- Is This The End of Crafts?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Death Goes To The Dentist With Me

I was wrought up with anxiety today, like I am every time I go to the dentist. So I wasn't exactly happy when my newest friend, Death, showed up at the door. I tried to be nice about it, looking at my watch and saying I was in a hurry. Which had exactly the opposite result I wanted; he invited himself along.

He's been dropping by ever since I let him guest-blog for me one day. Then later we went out drinking, which, with three deaths, is still being investigated. It might get suspicious after a while. Even the police might be able to connect the dots. I'm starting to realize I need to hang out with a better breed of company, but I'm also realizing he's a tough old bastard to shake.

I really noticed that when we got to the dentist. I figured he'd excuse himself and go off on his business. Surely someone's number was up in the area, not to mention the world. But he wasn't in any hurry, and tagged along with me right into the office, a potentially dangerous situation. No one seemed to notice him, and by now all I could see was a very faint black mist.

I muttered under my breath, "Please, no killing, OK? These people work on my teeth, a thankless job all by itself, the last thing they need is to lose their lives over it." I heard a faint chuckle, as if he meant to say, "I'm a big boy, I can take care of myself." To which I also replied with a chuckle, as if I meant to say, "That's what I'm afraid of."

The way it worked out, I really felt like he thought he was protecting me. And a near death experience never hurt anyone, so the damage was definitely limited. In fact, a near death experience can wake you up to appreciate your life more fully. A friend was telling me about a popular book about a preacher's little son who "died" and went to Heaven. But they sent him back, so he could write the book. From which, I understand, he made a lot of money on ... Smart kid, reminds me of myself, except I'm still poor.

To his credit, Death was on his best behavior ... most of the time. He sat in the corner. Occasionally, I noticed the X-ray vest twitching on its hooks. I was hoping they wouldn't do any X-rays, since the radiation might reveal him in the corner. I don't know the science of X-ray machines very well. My suspicion is they're like the old X-ray glasses we used to get, generally a fraud with a feather in the lens. But if so, the dentist is the world's greatest liar. Because I can barely make out the feather pattern when looking at pictures of my teeth, so it's at least a stunning illusion. I was also afraid Death might even be scared of the X-ray and thereby compelled to kill someone.

I saw him start to react whenever I showed discomfort. The light was bright in my eyes, so the dentist gave me sunglasses. I had to have several casts made of my teeth, which made me gag. You start imagining the sticky thick gunk going down your throat, it's a killer. Forget water-boarding, send Al Qaeda to the dentist! Then there were those inevitable times I needed to scratch my nose, but didn't want to interrupt the doctor. I had to be very careful not to cry out. The last thing I wanted was a dead dentist when he still had work to do. Death can be just that quick.

The good news is no one died ... at the dentist office. The near death experience I mentioned came when I was checking out. First, the checkout lady needed to finish a call with someone else; I guess I showed the tiniest bit of edginess, nothing big. Then when she told me how much I owed, a little over $400, I felt myself wince. And that's all it took. The poor lady clutched her throat, her face went red and from dry to sopping in a flash, then she fell off the chair. I cried out, "No!," at which point Death released his grip. Everyone came running from the back, saw what was going on, and called an ambulance. Which of course by now she didn't really need, but what could I say?

That was the good news. The bad news came moments later, as the ambulance came racing around the corner and ran over some poor old guy. I guess Death had his work to do. But the idea that it was rooted in my visit to the dentist bothered me. It really bothered me, that and the fact that I was very hungry. I hadn't eaten before my appointment.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Out Drinking With Death

I'm very shaken up. It's weird, I'm usually so calm, but this is craziness hit crisis proportions. Can you really believe the price of drinks? I'm old -- I remember 25 cent draws and dime pitchers! So to say I'm aghast is an understatement; this goes way beyond that!

Why haven't I been out binge drinking in decades? you ask. I've never been that great at making friends. But now -- it's bizarre -- I got to know Death himself, and it's like we're inseparable. I hadn't seen him since the other day, when he guest-blogged on my site. Then he was suddenly gone, just vanished. Then this past Saturday, early afternoon, during breakfast, I noticed a black mist -- kind of dark in color -- taking shape at my table. There he was again.

Of course I asked, "What's up?" and he shrugged his shoulders. I had an immediate suspicion that he'd been out on his unique business, so I just said it, "Spill the beans." He put his hands up in mock surrender, as if to say, "You got me." In enumerating his deeds over the past couple days, he went on and on. For him it was a typical day, nursing homes, hospitals, alleys, schools, prison showers. He yawned, then perked up when he told me about an elephant sitting on a guy in the circus up in Minneapolis. I said, "How'd that happen?," genuinely curious, and he just smiled, "Must've slipped ... or something."

Anyway, now that we're friends, I suggested that we go out to one of the local watering holes and tip back a few. Even though I don't drink much, usually, it's proverbial that a few stiff drinks can wash your troubles away. Death looked at me like he was stunned, and then smiled, saying, "You know something? No one's ever asked me to go out like that, I appreciate it..." It's true, I'm an extremely nice guy.

We got to the bar and settled in with a couple beers. Then I had another beer and a whiskey chaser. He said, "Ah, a boilermaker." I said proudly, "Yup, that's the ticket." At least I thought it was the ticket till the barkeep told me the price of admission, very high; I was stunned.

Pretty soon, I was brought moderately back to reality when Death killed a guy for wasting seltzer water and hogging the bottle. The guy was out with his buddies, and apparently hadn't gotten the memo that such a thing was a mortal sin. I thought, "What? You just killed a guy?" but really what can you say when everything you say might be used against you? I chalked it up to "Better him than me," and proceeded to have another drink, and at these prices, it was shocking!

Well, you know me, drinks go right through me; the alcohol settles in my liver and I'm immediately drunk, but the remainder heads straight for the exit -- I had to pee. I was in the can, trying not to make eye contact, but still looking very interested at the graffiti. How do people have enough privacy to write such filthy things? "For a good time, call...blah blah blah." Shocking. And of course disgusting drawings of anatomically correct figures in flagrante delicto. It's all revolting, my senses were shocked. Just then I heard a scream.

I rushed out to see quite the row, screaming, shouting, some pushing their way to the doors, only to be pushed back by police on their way in. I thought, Just what I need, to be made a public spectacle in the company of these losers. But the spotlight wasn't so much on me as on two fresh corpses draped over the pool table, and Seltzer Guy. I glanced over at the bar and Death was still sitting there like nothing happened, nursing an overpriced drink. The police swarmed the place looking for the lowdown.

I said I'd been in the can when it all went down. I glanced over at Death to vouch for me but he had vanished. The police thought I looked shifty, I guess, so I answered a few questions. Did I have any idea what happened? I tried my best to beg off, till at long last, I blurted out, "It looks like Death got them!" I wasn't smarting off, but that's how they took it. I only managed to get them back on my side by complaining vociferously about the cost of drinks these days. One of the officers was about my age, and he also remembered with fondness the cheap drinks of yesteryear.

The guys from the County Morgue came and emptied the trash, at long last freeing up the pool table and seltzer bottle. I went home -- don't worry, Death drove -- but even being lubed as I was, I still couldn't stifle my loud disgust at today's prices. Yes, three guys were dead, but I bet those beers were three fifty a draw! It was a complete shock to my system.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I Now Pronounce You Dead

Editor's Note: For the first time ever I'm turning over the blog to a guest blogger, a character called Death. I've been familiar with Death for quite a while, having met him back when he came for Grandma and Grandpa, and of course my first dog Eggard. I don't know that he will say anything offensive, but it's worth cautioning you, and exculpating myself by declining credit or blame for anything too edgy. All statements and opinions are those of Death, and do not necessarily -- I'll just say they definitely do not -- reflect the views of me or this blog.

I now turn it over to Death...

Death -- Thank you for that warm welcome. Yes, I certainly remember coming for your precious Eggard. You were something like seven or eight years old, and, as I recall, you cried your eyes out. I remember watching over you as you buried him down by the fence. It was quite a touching sight, which is why I let your other dogs all live to a ripe old age.

Editor -- Hold on, wait a second, before you go any farther. It's not exactly true that my other dogs all lived to a ripe old age. Perhaps you remember Fritz, the dog I had only a week, having gotten him at the Rescue League. You gave him a major attack of the worms and he crawled under the stairs and died. You came for him after one damned week, one week! Excuse me, I'm not done... Then there was Curly, surely not in a ripe old age. I had him what? A year, a year and a half at the most, and someone ran over him; you were right on the scene to snatch him up. And that's not all. What about Frankie? Who choked to death on a chain. I didn't usually chain him up, but because I had to go out of town to visit someone at the hospital, whom you also took that same week, you came by to choke my dog and take him, too!

Death -- Are you going to let me write this column or not? I'm sorry about your dogs. I had you confused with someone less worthy. Plus, since they all go to Heaven, what do you care?

Editor -- OK, but I still haven't wracked my brain to remember the other pets there might've been. But since you say you had me confused with some other guy, I guess I'll let it go. So we'll chalk it up, we'll call it even.

Death -- Fine, I can live with that.

-- Death's column begins now -- 

Look out, dear reader, I'm coming for you and yours. If not today, then someday. Be on the lookout, because I'd love to meet you, and I'm sure you feel likewise about me. But even if not ... [LOL].

I've been thinking about you, yes, you in particular. Of course I know you're reading this. You're actually a rare person in that respect. The editor of this blog showed me his readership stats. They're puny. He gets around 100 weird hits a day, mostly from Russian gambling sites that aren't even actual readers. He doesn't know why they keep coming. Then there's about five posts he has (the biggest seeming to be one of his posts on Strongheart dog food, speaking of dogs) that everyone else hits. But the semi-daily posts only get something like 10 hits, seriously. And you just happen to be one of them. So you're one in 10, obviously I'm talking to you directly. You're going to die, I'm coming for you ... very, very soon.

What's your big offense? you ask. Surely it wasn't that I read this blog. No, of course not. I was meaning to come after you already; you just happen to be one of the very rare individuals who are getting advance warning. That's lucky. For which, in my opinion, you ought to be glad. Because look at it this way, now you have time to prepare. You can tell your loved ones, you can settle your affairs. If I were you, I would check with the editor of this blog, because he always needs money. Since he provided the opportunity for this open forum, you could show your appreciation for the advance notice by willing him all your property.

Editor -- I'm sorry, I meant that you had full reign over the blog, Death, but please don't bring me into the picture. I honestly don't want to have anything to do with the property of my 10 readers. It is very much my preference -- I insist on it -- that they will their property to their family and loved ones. They are the ones it rightly belongs to, unless, as may be true, their kids are a bunch of miserable snots -- riding skateboards and getting tattoos -- then naturally I would appreciate the portions that would otherwise go to them.

Death -- So you have your scruples, eh? I can accept that. Please let me continue ...

I haven't got that much more to say, except, again, to give warning. And to let you know basically how it's going to happen. For a couple of you it's going to be a terrible car accident. I'll be there, pluck your souls from the scene, and we'll be off before anyone knows what happened. For a couple of you, I have a medical emergency lined up, specifically a heart attack for one, and bleeding hemorrhoids for another. Out of the 10 readers, I believe each of you will know who you are. But look on the bright side, you won't have to put up anymore with nagging about exercise for the one, and for the other with that terrible itch.

When I come to visit you, no one will see me but you yourself, and I will have only one thing to say as I swing my scythe -- that's what I call that big sharp cutter thing I carry, very hard to spell. And that's, "I now pronounce you ... dead."

Editor -- Thank you, Death, for those good words. I appreciate your time, knowing that you have a lot of appointments to keep. And to my readers, let me just say, as far as I know, this blog is "For Entertainment Purposes Only." I don't really think you're going to die. But just to be on the safe side, please drive carefully, get your heart checked, and take good care of your bottom. Don't strain.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Damnation Of Sam Hell

"Go to Hell!" he cried, in a fit of pique, an expression of hostility and ire, when confronted by a friend when he was caught doing something wrong and upbraided. Some people are like that; they could just say sorry -- after all, they're the one in the wrong. Maybe it's pride -- it probably is -- or maybe it has something to do with being surprised, then embarrassed -- it probably does.

Sometimes we think Hell is mythic. Mythic in the sense of something that isn't literally true. But when it comes to Hell, can there be any doubt it's real? I tell myself, We have black holes the size (diameter) of the earth's orbit around the sun, oceans 5,000 miles deep on Uranus, planets that are solid diamond through and through, what's so tough about carving out a little niche for Hell?

Well, Samael Heck, said it, "Go to Hell, and then ... guess what? ... He woke up one night; it seemed like a nightmare but it wasn't, there he was, dangling on a ladder, halfway between Heaven and Hell -- true story. It appears he had died. And he saw the souls of the other dead either going up or being dragged down by demonic creatures. It was one or the other. There was no exception. Until, who knows how it happened, somehow Samael swung back up to the ladder. And he must have been hidden from view by the others on top of the ladder, as he managed to shimmy back down, flip over the top of the ladder, and run. He escaped back to the world, and reentered his body.

So much for the 12th century, for that's when all this stuff happened. A long time ago. Leaving us to contemplate something equally fantastic, that this guy has since lived all these centuries. The whole list would include the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th (in which he briefly knew John Wilkes Booth), 20th, and now the 21st centuries. Meaning, unless he hurries up and dies, he's going to surpass Methuselah! Another guy who must have flipped the ladder.

Anyway, maybe it was back when he knew Booth, he toughened up his name to Sam Hell, becoming proverbial, like Waldo and Carmen Santiago, with his question being, "What in the Sam Hell?!" My grandpa used to say that all the time, openly, although perhaps ignorantly, invoking someone who was at least familiar with a presidential assassin, not to mention being a rare escapee from the fiery judgment. But what did Grandpa know, and when did he know it? Probably not much, with the date indeterminable.

Because this is going too long, I'm just going to list some facts about Sam Hell, without ordering them or fleshing out any meaning or significance:
  • Sam Hell's thoughts are tortured during the day ... and the night is worse.
  • He has olfactory, auditory, gustatory, visual, and tactile hallucinations. It's all he can do to keep himself grounded in reality, whatever that may be.
  • He's doomed to rail against his own fate in this world. But one thing he hates above all are the ghost shows on TV. Because your body and messing around is a portal to bring these now-terrible spirits back into the world... bumming everyone out. They missed the ladder, let 'em fry.
  • Of course, like all things of this nature, the holy and secular, the sacred and profane, he soon became a byword for hillbillies and old men in coffee shops. (See Grandpa above). They'd be chewing the end of your average weed, invoking him in astonishment every time a cow died.
  • To combat the old men would be hopeless. But he could open the minds of those yet too young to be old, children. Which opened up a perennial career as a speaker at elementary assemblies, having to soften his stage name to Sam Hill.
  • Have you ever met the real Sam Hell, in his essence? Of course you haven't, very few have. Only advanced spirits. I count myself among that number. I met Sam Hell a few years ago. We enjoyed a time of spiritual reverie, then he was gone. At least from sight... How else I know him, my lips are sealed.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Over And Back -- My Favorite Basketball Infraction

Like everyone else, I'm completely absorbed in the big basketball tournaments. I really appreciate sports on TV. It saves you all the headache of buying expensive tickets, fighting traffic, and wasting your time actually being there. I look at the people in the stands and wonder why they haven't discovered this.

Being here in the quiet of my home, I have a lot of time to reflect on the games. I put on my comfortable slippers, brew a hot cup of tea, and sit there relaxing. Then when my own teams come on, I scream, tear out my hair, and bite my nails to the quick. Truly the best of both worlds.

In my reflection, I pay attention to the rules. I don't know the rules 100%, even though I was briefly out for basketball in school. I was never a player on the team, but practiced with everyone else. But it's been a long time, and rules may have changed a bit.

One of the infractions I know is traveling. But I wonder why it's not OK to take a puny mini-step here and there but it is OK to run the distance from the key to the basket while driving. I keep trying to reconcile that one. I tell myself it must be legal, the refs know what they're doing.

Basketball is a rough sport, and you wouldn't think it would be. There's elbows flying, tripping over each other, and being whacked in the face. They've upped the penalties now with things like Flagrant 1 and Flagrant 2 fouls. The higher the number the worse the infraction. Depending on how much worse the injuries might go, they have plenty of numbers beyond 2 to use. Flagrant 10, intentional emasculation with malice.

My own personal favorite infraction is over and back. Not double-dribble or palming the ball. (Speaking of palming the ball, do they still have that? I don't see it.) I've just always liked the over and back. Once you've left the unfriendly confines of the opposing team's court, you can't go back. Does that make sense? Why would you want to be there in the first place? Where they could steal the ball and more easily score on you.

I like over and back so much, anytime a guy gets close to the line, I'm begging him to cross it. All it takes is a toe. And I get my way more times than you'd expect. But even so, in my opinion, there aren't enough over and backs.

I think the over and back rule is probably archaic, vestigial in basketball. Before they had a shot clock, let's say there wasn't an over and back rule, a team would have the entire court to hold the ball and stall. It was boring. Heck, it was bad enough as late as the '80s, before the shot clock, when they held the ball for 10 or 12 minutes in one court without taking a shot. It was a strategy, a very boring one.

Now, though, with the shot clock, there's no obvious reason why you'd want to linger in the back court. You have to make forward progress or you're finished.

Speaking of forward progress, this is where I get a little philosophical. I like the over and back infraction for that reason, too, because we're a forward-looking people. We don't believe in going over and back, and when you see someone get caught doing it, it cautions the rest of us, in life over and back isn't good.

Really, think about it. When immigrants came to the United States, they had to pull up roots. They spent their money and took the first ship for the New World. They couldn't go over and back. The ship went one direction. That's what the expression "You can't go home again" means; it's too damned far to swim!

And that's not all. We've  always had that western thrust. "Westward ho!" went the cry, as the caravans and wagons headed west. It literally wasn't till the early 1900s that anyone went east, partly because of avalanches in the passes and ambushers in the hills, but mostly because booze was cheap in the western saloons. But they also lived by principles. The old drunk parson gave them the Bible verse, "He who looks back, hic, is not worthy of me, hic."

Then there's the whole linear scheme of things, and that's tied in with our predominating fear of death. We advance, we don't recede. We know death is coming, then the judgment. So, no, over and back isn't for us.

It's different in other parts of the world. Have you ever watched a basketball game in India? They don't care about death, so it's totally different. About the only thing they do is over and back! They're centered in the court, then it's back and forth. No forward progress. Cyclical. They frequently have 0-0 overtimes, the tie only broken by a few token players brought in from the west, who in the end can't help themselves.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Well-Built Wife

It only took a glance to see, She was a well-built wife, very fine!

Their situation was like this: Both Robert and Toni had decent jobs. They worked for the same company. They brought in a good income. You know the story...

In my opinion, what happened was, Robert probably had some issues from childhood on managing money. Maybe it was something his mom did wrong, or his dad. And then it carried over into adulthood, so much that he was destined to become a little over-controlling of their finances.

But not at first. At first, they did what most couples do, pooled their money; what's yours is mine and what's mine is yours. That makes good sense. You file jointly on your taxes, you live jointly as does any decent couple, which also made perfect sense in this case, for Robert and his well-built wife.

But then it got dicey, not all at once, but as these things tend to go, over time. Robert wasn't all that controlling at first, but it sneaked up on him, so to speak. He found himself a little more concerned about finances and meeting their bills, then there was the recession, then he was looking to save for a vacation, etc. In other words, outside events conspired with inner psychological wrangling, and all of it crept up on him, to the point that he was stifling his well-built wife.

As anyone could guess, she chafed against it as it got worse. "What happened to us? We used to be so happy," were probably things she said in their private moments, which, unfortunately, I wasn't privy to. But, Oh! to be a fly on the wall! I'm sure I would have gotten an earful, and since she was so well built, an eyeful.

But I had to hear it like everyone else, except to a certain extent I did have the inside track, since I was briefly friends with both of them. They talked it over with a trusted supervisor at their company, who also had a well-built wife, and he advised them to talk to a counselor.

In the end, it all turned out well, which isn't always the case when counselors get involved. Robert saw his complex for what it was, and as time went on, both he and Toni, still well built, were able to go back to the original (and more equable) arrangement they had when they first were married.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Running Circles 'Round The Baby

You know me, I'm as normal as anyone you've ever met. I pride myself on that. I see unusual people, and while I may envy them for a few minutes, I'm actually glad I'm so normal. But even normal ones like me -- who knows the exact reason? -- can erupt, especially if push comes to shove.

Well, darn it all, that happened yesterday. Maybe because it was Sunday, a day for going to church, then erupting in euphoria, which the ancients controlled by an afternoon of blood sacrifice, a luxury we don't typically indulge in, unless of course we're country folk. Still, as you know, any sublimated desire, impulse, or instinct is still there. And finally -- call it the devil, if you will -- in the end it can't be denied. The Nazis proved that completely, which makes me feel better, although I know I'm still to be blamed.

Anyway, I felt the impulses rising up in me. You probably know exactly what I'm talking about, an inflationary surge of light through the spine that has to spill out, the metaphysical equivalent of piss and vinegar. You have to rotate it just so. I nearly had time to offer up my dog on a makeshift altar, the patio table, but then they were here -- relatives -- to take me to the party.

Party? you ask. Parties on Sunday afternoon? Yes, if it's your birthday and you happen to be one-year-old. There's a youngster in the family, and in a few days he turns one, although they had his party a few days early. It was a joy to see him, there in his top hat and his little suitcase, naked except for a diaper. He waved at me cheerfully as he walked by, his walk very tentative. It seems he has been walking for only a week or so, and even with that he's not very good. He takes a few steps, then sits, ending in the family's applause.

OK, like I said, I'm blaming my behavior on the piss and vinegar, the lack of blood sacrifice, everything but the Nazis, who already have enough to answer for. The surge of light was so great -- it was a rather nasty concoction, actually, of light and dark; inner cleansing carries many risks. I couldn't help myself. When the baby finally plopped down in the center of the room, eliciting applause, I erupted, running over and then running in circles around him, becoming, according to the sworn testimony of survivors, a tiger-like blur (cf. Sambo story). Then, to save myself from a buttery end, I ran up the wall all the way to the ceiling and fell with a thud. I cried out, "I know how to walk, too!"

At this point I might hope for sympathy (I couldn't help myself). But once you've ruined a birthday party for a one-year-old, in the eyes of the spiritually bereft you're nothing but dirt. Aunts and uncles, friends of the mother, including quite a few guests I don't know personally, lambasted me with severity, saying things like, "This isn't a competition! If you're somehow a better walker or runner than a baby, no one cares!" What could I do? I rubbed myself in the places where I hurt, and a few where I didn't.

But they kept giving it to me, the full impact, piling on. These aren't exact quotes, but it's the gist of the damned thing:

"Even though this child is 11 months old, just short of being one, he will grow! And he will get a better education than you! He will succeed where you failed! Then one day when you're in the nursing home, unable to get from your bed to the wheelchair without a Hoyer Lift and five CNAs, this baby -- by then fully grown and able to walk, if not fly -- will visit you, and he'll run circles around you! He will also dash up the wall, leaving muddy footprints for you to look at, if you're still able to see!"

There was everything but forgiveness.

The Man Of The House Movement

Lately I've been perceiving that there is something truly revolutionary (and wonderful) afoot in terms of the basic relationship between men and women. Call it men's intuition on my part, or something I dreamed about, or just an educated guess. Whatever it is, there can be very little doubt I'm right.

Of course I'm talking about the shift in the authority within the household, as evidenced by ... well, there's plenty of evidence, if you open your eyes and look. This shift -- which just a few short years ago would have been seemed incredible -- is taking us away from the woman's authority in the household (gynarchy?) toward a more traditional stance, with the authority of the man reestablished. We tried something else, it failed.

I've noticed it -- I feel I've noticed it -- to such an extent that I'm actually prepared to declare it officially a movement. A swelling tide like this isn't incidental, an all-out push, a thrust like this is more than happenstance. It's gathered a true head of steam at a fever pace, so much it can't be honestly denied. It's bigger than all of us. It's real. It's a movement.

The way I see it -- and this is palpable -- is it's so big I'm giving it a name. And it's such a juggernaut I'm giving it a big name. I'm calling it "The Man of the House Movement." How about that? Do you catch the distinction I'm making? Not a man in the house, i.e., something of a partner, something of an equal, someone to be pushed around. That would be substantially what we've had in recent years. This is man of the house, with the fullness of authority that that label connotes.

When you're the man of the house, you've got something, you're established. Like my grandparents. It was very clear, Grandpa was the man of the house. Grandma had her place, cooking, cleaning, making sure the grandkids had popsicles, etc. And Grandpa was the man of the house, in charge of the overall facilities, the well, the car, the grass, the weeds, where the outhouse was placed (it was periodically moved), etc. He wore the pants, literally, since weeds and lawn care, taking care of the well, moving the outhouse, etc., is something you'd hate to do in a dress. There wasn't all that much guff between them either; they worked as a team.

Something's happened in relationships, as I said, where it's swung back to the old ways. And not a moment too soon! It's easy to see why. You have that extra level of security -- these are very insecure times -- when you're working as a team, and where the man of the house is the man of the house. He's not out sowing his wild oats -- God forbid! -- or drinking beer in bars. To me, that'd be despicable. He's taking care of things, he's got it going on, in terms of responsibility and his ongoing care for the little woman.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Talking Trash To Melting Snow

I have so many problems with snow when it's at the height of its power, when it's melting I like to ridicule it. Taunting has always been my thing:
How the mighty have fallen! Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers: for I have spoken it. Good riddance! Don't write, don't call, don't drop by!
It's nothing but the wasted away reminder of its former self. You're not so tough now, are you? I could kill you with a teaspoon of ice melt. I'm going to be out here again in five minutes to beat you to death with a shovel. And the way you're stuck to the ground, it doesn't look like you'll get away. Look at me when I'm talking to you! How do you feel, seeing I'm walking quite unimpeded.

And it's true; I'm able to run circles around it. There's more grass and, unfortunately, more unraked autumn leaves, than snow. There's no slipping, no falling, no care, no concern for the diminishing white stuff. It's completely lost whatever it had that brought us terror. More talking trash: I've heard of being up to your hips in snow, but you're not so tough, my little toe's not even slightly cool. Is this snow or dandruff? Nice sunny day, huh? I can't hear you! If I threw you in the road, no one would notice! They wouldn't send a truck out to scoop you!

I'm getting in some good licks. Although part of me knows I'll eventually have to pay for it, since snow will again one day have its strength. So we shall tussle, but today, right now, I'm the one with strength. And when I have the upper hand, when I'm able to dominate, that's exactly what I'm going to do, without hesitation, without mercy.

Then I go around to the north side, where the snow has a few more reserves, shivering in the shadows. Oh, hiding over here, are you? Come on, be realistic. It's time to cash in your chips, snow, you have no hope, give up the ghost. If you had half the balls you think you have you'd come over to the south side and prove it. How about a bucket of hot water to toughen you up?

Yeah, snow, I hear you, you were a big man there for a while. People passed by and saw a revolting sight. We had old ladies backed up three blocks trying to see the snow man up the road. And I saw you, too, I saw your pride, your feeling you could do anything. At that time, you taunted us ... I'm the man, I'm the man, there's no man like me! Etc., disgusting stuff! Pull up your damned pants!

But you're not looking so hot now. Or perhaps you are looking hot, and that's the problem. This photo was taken on the exact spot where the snow showed off its enormous package. Admittedly, it was a giant that night. As disgusting at it was, it definitely put me to shame. But that was then, this is now. Now it's a few spots of white. Snow swimmers? I don't know.

It's about over. This is getting pathetic. Snow has had its day, and now its day is through, now it dies. You really had us going there for a while. Ha ha, but now, oh boy, you're finished! You sicken me.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Criminal On The Lam

It's always been one of my hobbies to think about how I'd escape, in the event I were ever taken alive and incarcerated. And then what I'd do on the lam, so my efforts wouldn't have been in vain.

So far I haven't had to put any of my plans to the test, somehow having maintained a perfect record of freedom. But it can only pay to be prepared, even for long-shot events, like the Soviet Union reconstituting, invading the United States, setting criminals free and jailing law-abiding civilians, etc.

It's always surprising how many people go to jail. I read the crime column in the paper, and, Hey, Stupids, Do you not realize by now Wal-Mart is watching for shoplifters? Or, Hey, Idiots getting drunk at home, Do you not realize the police prosecute people for domestic disputes? It actually pays to live a fairly decent life, although, yes, it does take away your opportunities to escape.

I've seen a few easy escapes on TV. Like in The Day The Earth Stood Still, somehow the entire military -- and federal authorities -- can't keep Klaatu in jail. In fact, they're totally incompetent, since Gort simply burns a hole in the wall and carries him away and no one at the jail even notices. Or in The Lone Ranger, I think it is, they pull the jail wall down with a donkey and rope and escape and no one in the area sees or hears it.

I wouldn't expect an escape today to be easy. With modern technology -- video monitoring and platinum deadbolts -- they're making it a lot harder. You about have to escape before you get in, or make long term plans to seduce a jail employee and get them to help you escape in the dirty laundry. But damn the luck if they happen to do laundry onsite! It's almost enough to make you forgo crime all together...

OK, getting to the recent article in The Squeaky Wheel, two escaped but only one really made it. Of course the jail in Grease, Iowa, is one of your older facilities. They have enough heat ducts, large vents, and broken registers, they may as well put a revolving door at the outlets. It was built in the 1890s, back when criminals more or less abided by the honor system.

So let's say I get out of their jail, and I'm the one who isn't recaptured. How do I manage my affairs on the lam, to keep it that way? Naturally, I avoid all bars, tattoo parlors, whorehouses, and other seedy places. I don't phone home. I don't use an ATM. (The fees are terrible anyway.) It's going to be a matter of keeping my head down and my nose clean. If I live on the south part of town, I'm on the north side. If my moll (my main squeeze) is on the west side, I'm on the east. And so forth.

The best place to live on the lam, in my opinion, would be near the railroad tracks. You can always hop a freight, especially if it's the middle of the night. And again, you always use misdirection. If your family lives east of town, you go west. Or, perhaps this is trickier, if you family lives east, you could go east, since they'd assume you were going west. And maybe I'd have to rethink the areas of town I'd go to, above, and do just the opposite of what they'd assume.

Of course it'd be good to get different clothes. You can't be running around in orange. Even the cops in Grease aren't dumb enough to see that as counter-intuitive; that's a dead giveaway. I'd wish it were summer and people's laundry was on the line. Then I could dress up in bib overalls, hang out at the coffee shop, and talk sports, and no one would ever suspect! Although maybe jail would be funner.

The basic rule for living on the lam is always to do it right and make the right choices. If there's even the slightest chance of making a mistake, instead back up and don't do it. An ounce of prevention... You haven't got the luxury of screwing up... One strike and you're out. Think! Always think of your next move, run through all the options and possible consequences, then go with the best choice. If you can easily envision being captured for doing A-B-C, by all means do X-Y-Z instead.

That's how I'd maintain my freedom, by never making a mistake. Great advice.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

They Thought Dentistry Was Some Kind Of Hoax

I was stunned to find out about this. But a little research, and it didn't take much, shows it's absolutely true. Dentistry started out with a great deal of suspicion. We're only lucky the first dentists stuck with it.

People tend to be skeptical. Full of doubt. But it's nothing now like back in the olden days, in the earliest days when man had barely made progress. Thomas Edison had to literally hit people over the head with the light bulb before they saw the light.

I was at the dentist's office just yesterday, and my dentist had only enough time to tell me the bare essentials of what went on way back when. Years ago, it seems, they didn't even believe dentistry was a true thing. Of course those who really thought it over -- the first pioneers themselves in dentistry -- saw it was logical: If you can tie a string around your tooth and pull it out with a door knob, surely a professional could help you with it.

And that might have been the problem. The average guy would obviously think, If I can do it myself why would I pay someone else to do it? Everyone has a sadistic baby brother who'll help out in a pinch, and he's built up enough animus, of course the rest of us are willing to help him, too, and how! They weren't thinking of root canals, crowns, or wisdom teeth, that are tough enough to ruin the knob, etc.

And not only that, they had a teaching from the Bible -- they being pious -- that suggested that when it came to teeth you just left well enough alone: In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few... (Ecclesiastes 12). The verse more or less says you use your teeth till they grind themselves to powder, then you spit the powder out.

But a few of the pioneers, the first men into dentistry, somehow had their consciousness raised, then struck out to convert others. And I would say they were ultimately successful, because as far as I can see, today there's more dentists than gas stations. We're crazy about our teeth, straightening, whitening, braces, polishing, cleaning. It's actually a little ironic. The first dentists were mostly doing extractions, but that's the one thing that's hard to get today. For some unspecified reason, dentists want you to keep your teeth...

I have the ad pictured above to show one of the pioneers, a certain Dr. Witless, who really has to receive a lot of the credit in proving people wrong. Look at that, he was giving away $1,000 worth of dental care just to prove the point that unrelated third parties could do dental work!

And from the looks of things, he was more concerned about simply making that point than in doing anyone's teeth any good. When he says, "I'll extract teeth for you ... simply to prove to you that it truly can be done!", notice he doesn't care whether the teeth need to be extracted, he's only doing it to promote dentistry. And just a look at his before-and-after graphics shows he didn't want to leave even the slightest doubt about it.

What do our current dentists think of those olden times efforts? The way I take it, they're amused by the quaintness of it, while also realizing how much better it makes them look. Because we're so used to modern painless techniques that we see the pioneers as barbarians. True, there is still a lot of discomfort today, shots, your jaw propped open for 20 minutes, mouthfuls of sticky stuff when they're making impressions, and the fact that the free floss is a measly 5 yards. But when you think of the olden days, you're happy, and willing to buy your own floss.

We've obviously come a long way. The skeptics are all gone. The so-called Dental Truthers have all died. Thanks to guys like Dr. Witless, who were willing to pull out every single last tooth in their heads, and free at that, to make the point. And, really, if you left the office with nothing but bleeding gums and still didn't believe, of course there's not much he could do about that.

Today's dentists might be amused by the pioneers. But they also owe them a huge debt. They were the ones who led the way, the trailblazers, who gave the practice of dentistry a foundation to build on. And if it weren't for them, just speaking for myself, my smile would look worse than it does. I'd be a mumbling fool. And worse, probably a virgin.

Friday, March 1, 2013

My Ten Year Baby Aspirin Cotton Collection

It's been 10 years, 10 long years, and I've been looking forward to sharing it with you, but I had to wait for the exact anniversary ... today!
I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it has been 10 long years, how my doctor told me I was a candidate for an immediate heart attack. He said something like this, "You get yourself on an aspirin regimen, sir, or you'll be dead in no time!" Words to that effect.

Of course I clutched my heart all the way to the store, where I made a scene about a lady having 12 items in the "10 Items or Less" line, because I was in such a terrific hurry. "You've got a dying man here!" I hissed, also picking up breath mints and a Twix.

Somehow, though, I survived long enough to get the first pill in me. Then, as it turned out, I did not die, thanks to this quick intervention, even though I had waited till the very nick of time. But I didn't know. I wouldn't take aspirin before because I heard every aspirin makes your stomach bleed a teaspoon of blood. Presumably, though, a baby one would only be a drop or two.

As days went on, then years, I more or less forgot about the death sentence, because the baby aspirin regimen was a complete success. Just think of the time speeding by -- as I said above, 10 years seemed like yesterday -- I got healthier and healthier in my heart, so much so that I'm easily able, say, just as an example, to shovel snow for probably 10 minutes straight without an ambulance on site.

Early on, sometime in the first couple years, I decided to keep the little wad of cotton from the aspirin bottles. The bottles themselves I threw away. Once when I had a couple of buttons fall off shirts, I thought I'd keep them in the bottles, but I didn't lose near enough buttons to make it pay. The cotton, though, I thought might come in handy for something. Like muttonchops at Halloween, a fake mustache if I needed a disguise, or to help the Scouts if they still did cotton drives.

I've been real faithful on taking the aspirin. I take one each night before going to bed. And honestly, I haven't overdosed even one time. A few times I haven't remembered taking one, then I try to remember and usually do.

There's been a little bit of friction in the whole process in this regard. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about taking them. The biggest thing, since they are baby aspirin, I'm hoping I haven't deprived any children of their ability to get the meds they need. Then there's lesser concerns, such as whether crafters might be deprived of cotton if there happened to be a shortage, and whether the slaves who pick the darned stuff are being treated right.

For the most part, though, in fact entirely, I've been able to put those concerns out of my mind and simply take the pills. The way I look at it, What's one piece of cotton every month or so? Especially when I was literally pronounced dead by my doctor. He had the coroner in the hall, the whole bit, but I got myself on the pill, and I haven't quit.

The mortician's going to have to pry the bottle out of my cold dead fingers. And if anyone wants my cotton collection, whether as a memento of my distinguished life or for some more practical reason, they'll have to get in line ... and they'll probably have to fight for it.