Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sarge: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

I wrote about Sarge a couple times already. Once a little over a year ago. And a second time, toward the end of last year. He's a great guy, and in my humble opinion it's guys like this that give the military a good name and make me want to stand up and salute. Honestly, I'd rather see a one single ex-military humble handyman tinkering with broken stuff in my garage than a thousand old guys on top of green trucks rolling down the road at the July 4th parade to wild acclaim.

Another name for Sarge is Walt. But Sarge is good, since it tells something of the guy, that he was able to ascend all the ranks to sergeant. I'm not sure how high that is, but I'm thinking it's pretty far. Mostly what I know about the service is what I remember from Gomer Pyle, that one guy comes in and is a private the whole series and one guy's already there and he's a sergeant the whole time.

But what happened with my Sarge is different from Sgt. Carter, in that he had to serve overseas in a war, namely Vietnam. It's hard now to realize what kind of turmoil we were in when it came to Vietnam. I suppose it was similar to Iraq and Afghanistan, at least in length, but the big difference was that the people back home here really cared about it. To the point of going ballistic. Those were my formative years, so I pretty much stayed on the sidelines and thought about other things.

OK, here's the set-up ... Once again I needed a handyman. For something I saw on Pinterest, basically baby food jars with the lids nailed to a board, then they hang down and you put nails in them, and twist them back to the lid when you don't need them. Damn! This seemed like the kind of thing I should be able to do on my own. It's just a farking nail! But every time I tried it, the nail either went through the board at the top, being too long, or wouldn't hold the lid because it was too short. Then I was messing up too many boards and too many lids (I traded a half dozen Easter bunnies for a box of baby food jars.)

Anyway, to cut it short, I called Sarge, who hightailed it over. He took one look at my mess and said, "Screw it!" I go, "What?!" And he explained, you need to use screws; even if they're short they'll still hold, and they won't poke through the board. Then he did it for me and now I have a nice display, a bunch of jars full of nails I'll never need ... since screws are really what I needed.

Then we were sitting there and I started hinting around about the military: "Ya vol, mein Furher ... From the halls of Montezuma ... C rations ... Mess kit ... Stalag 13 ... A few good men ... The History Channel ... Hut two ... Atten-HUT ... IED ... The smell of napalm ... Enola Gay ... Beetle Bailey ... Uncle Sam Wants You ... My Lai ... Custer ... D-Day ... Dickless Wonder ... Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ... Bilko ... Foreign Legion ... " For most of this, spaced over 10 minutes of otherwise silence, he just sat there looking down at the garage floor, shaking his head, not saying NO precisely, but merely like he was in some sort of daze. When I said "Foreign Legion," he raised his head and said with authority, "Back up!" I said, "Bilko?" No. "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?" No. Then he said it himself and smiled, "Dickless Wonder."

OK, OK, OK, now we're on to something! Ha ha, I'm a genius! This is exactly what I wanted -- see, I was playing dumb! But God, I'm smart! Dickless Wonder, he couldn't help but pick up on that, and we were off to the races, with him telling the one story I love best. About the time ... God help me ... how he ... oh crap, let him tell it:

"I was a Sarge at a desk. It was a day very much like today, sunny and nice. We had so many dipshits in our outfit, spaced out, stoned half the time, out of their F-ing minds the rest. Me and a couple other guys were the only guys I could trust. Anyway, these dipshits had to keep coming in my office for something, paperwork, and none of them had any discipline or any sense. This is why we lost the war, drugs. Well, I had to protect myself against our own guys the best way I could. So I put a gun up under my desk, screwed it up there a lot like I just now screwed in your baby food jars." I had to smile, he hadn't lost the touch! And it's great he had that experience in the war that later had real life benefits!

"So, anyway, one day in comes this crazy guy, one of the biggest nuts, the biggest losers we had. So screwed up! An ugly guy, too. Butt ugly. And out of his F-ing gourd! Shake him, you'd hear the seeds. He comes in, I don't know what for, but he busted through the door and yanked the chair out of his way and looked at me like bloody murder -- daggers in his eyes. I was a dead man. He was coming up over the desk and I usually kept my finger on that gun but didn't shoot it too often ... mostly just to keep the action loose. This time, Jesus, I haven't thought of this in years! [I didn't contradict him here, that he'd told the story to me several times in the last one year plus.] That F-ing gun went off and blew the guy's crotch all to hell... There was dead silence. The guy's face goes from berserk to the face of a helpless baby. He backs up and smashes against the door and falls to the floor..."

Wow, that's exciting. Sarge was laughing, and I was laughing. "The face of a helpless baby ... You don't mess with me!" he says, a lot of his old strength returning to the fore. I said, "That's right, that F-ing guy got what he deserved! Chitty chitty bang bang!" What a story!

Sometimes I wonder if that crazy guy's still out there, now mellowed out, but even after these years, nothing down there... That'd be a weird feeling, just a bunch of tissue, whatever they could save, all sewn together and stitched to his legs. Would be rough.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Roast for God Bless America

We're gathered tonight to honor God Bless America, and to say, You're one hell of a song. But it wouldn't hurt you to have some humility. You're one of those rare songs that stands up when you hear yourself sung. How patriotic ... but over the top. We'll run you up the flagpole and see who salutes.

Our friend here, as you may know, was written by Irving Berlin. Great guy, huh? You remember Irving? He's the same guy that gives us blizzards every Christmas. Martin Luther King dreams of opportunity and equality for all. This guy dreams of snowstorms.

But, really, I suppose if you're a composer messing around, this is a fairly good song, a good idea. But you know how he got the idea? He hit his thumb with a hammer and his mother was standing there, and he goes, "GOD! ... bless America..." True story. I could've composed this song, or anyone of us here. That's what they do in composer school, hit their thumb looking for inspiration. But only Irving, and Yoko Ono on a couple albums, cashed in on it.

Speaking of cashing in, I hate to make it sound bad, but our friend here is -- I want to put it mildly -- something of a charity case. Irving turned over God Bless America's rights and royalties to the Boy Scouts. Thanks, Dad! That's why we don't have Boy Scout cookies; they get their money from him working all day. Someone wants to sing him, the Scouts have their hand out for a dollar. Or in the case of a football game, thousands of dollars!

So the more people sing him, the more money they make. Which is weird, in a way, because we sing him mostly when times are bad: World War II, 9/11, or when we hit our own thumb. It's then the Boy Scouts show up with their hand out. They're taught to cash in on everyone else's misery.

Anyway, we really have to feel for him, right? How would you like to spend your life camping out with 10,000 boys? If you see nothing wrong with that, see me later, you need help. They're supposed to be well-behaved but they're really little monsters. You know the part about them always tying knots? Well, guess who they practice on. (Motioning to God Bless America). They've chased him from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam. But that's not foam, he's frothing at the mouth! God Bless America wishes he could stay home on a nice foam mattress and get some sleep.

But he's here with us tonight, among adults. We're not going to make you gargle tadpoles, which was the real reason I quit the Scouts. My breath was fresh enough. Nothing quite that pleasant! Ve have vays of dealing vith you! All in good fun, of course. We might send you to Russia and let you fight it out with their song. Or North Korea, still working on their song. As the old saying goes, "First prize is a kick in the ass."

You know, I've always thought, as songs go, God Bless America is kind of short. One little verse plus a little intro bit that I haven't heard since Kate Smith died. That's right, the great lady died. Singing one day and just choked and keeled over. They thought that was it for our friend, too, since he was wedged in her throat at the time. Bad place to be. Wrong place, wrong time. He'd always been able to escape before, this time he needed the jaws of life. They were still working to get him out just minutes before the crowd was going to sing him at the funeral. They got him backstage, looking like hell, just in time to honor her one last time.

I was saying he's short. See him peeking over the table there, barely? Somebody said, "Sit him up on an encyclopedia!" I said, "We did!" We're sending out for a dictionary, a brick, Rip Taylor's toupee, anything to prop him up ... You seriously need a second verse!

But that's what we've got, one little verse, a tidy little package, which is why he never gets a date. If it's not stag or the Scouts, he stays home. I know, we're getting personal. But what he's got he got from his daddy, thanks Dad! Enough words to get him started, then it's over! "Hi, I'm God Bless America," and that's it. "OK, God Bless America to you, too!" Seriously, that's bad. He walks up to a girl and says, "I'm God Bless America." Of course she stands up, looks down, and walks out. "I've heard of you: 'From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans...', looking for what you ain't got!"

Then, how about the part about the oceans white with foam? I've talked with foam, he wants you to lay off, OK? Foam's basic complaint: if he didn't happen to rhyme with home you'd be picking on someone else. And just between you and me, most of the foam you see is pollution. Foam isn't any great pride to the ocean. Ocean says, "Hey, I've got enough water to flood the world, and all you see is the foam? That's kind of like complimenting a guy for his dandruff. 'I see you have some flakes on your tux, I love you!'"

Anyway, God Bless America, honestly, we love you, you're a good sport. You're a great song, whether you have one verse or a dozen. One verse is always a great start ... just most songs don't stop there. Kind of leaves you hanging, or, in your case, not so much. The National Anthem's not worried. It's got bombs bursting in air, you've got a prairie and some foamy water.

But whatever your limits, all kidding aside, you've been there for all of us right along. If we've been happy or sad, in trouble or whatever, as a nation, you've always lifted our spirits and brightened our day just a little more. That was certainly true in the war. You'd see our spirits going down in the dumps, and there you'd be. We'd all stand again with pride and fight for another day, until finally we made it all the way to victory. One little song with a great can-do spirit, sometimes that's all it takes!

And of course we want to thank the Boy Scouts for letting you out tonight. You can tell them thanks from all of us, and let them know we're taking up a little collection, and the check's in the mail.

Monday, April 22, 2013

As Worthless As Boar Boobies

"You're as worthless as tits on a boar!" How many times have most of us heard that in our lives? It's one of those deals where if I had a nickel for every time, even taking into account inflation and dividing by two, I could've retired at 40. But instead of saving my money and letting it accrue, I figured, "What? A nickel, that's nothing!" and spent it. Or would have had I gotten them. As it turned out, even the idea of retiring early -- it was a lie -- was worthless as tits on a boar. Can a guy even retire when he's on disability -- game toe -- I'll be dragging this damn toe around forever, like the palsy, worthless as tits on a boar.

Probably even writing about tits on a boar is worthless as tits on a boar. What good's it going to do me? I don't get a big kick out of reading my own stuff. It's like Frank Sinatra, who wouldn't listen to his own records. But I've gotten this far, it's tough to stop now. I usually think that way about investments of time. It's been five minutes more or less, and even if it is indeed worthless as tits on a boar, I have my standards. Waste not, want not. You can't get your time back. So you have two choices, stop now and regret having started, or keep going and try to redeem it. My way is, if the spirit's moving -- anytime now! -- I keep going...

I actually get weird glimpses of ultimate reality, those glimpses that hit you all of a sudden and only last one second, based on this very thing. From starting things, then not being able to stop. Like the Big Bang, it's hard to collapse once it's erupted. As a personal example, which might turn out to be worthless as tits on a boar, too, let me offer this: You've got a stack of things to sort, let's say 25 things, like cards. You get them half way sorted, then you think, "I'm going to do it a different way, like descending instead of ascending order." For me, that can be a real freak out moment, albeit with some spiritual touches.

I had this idea of me being in an argument with another person. The other person says, "That's as worthless as tits on a boar." Then I say, "Do boars even have tits?" He says, "Most don't." I say, "Have you actually looked at most boars in the world?" Naturally he hasn't, which means I've got him. Finally, I make a declarative statement, qualifying it like crazy, "I've heard that the general consensus of people who know about these things seems to be that boars technically don't usually have tits per se, but nubbies." Like most men. And no, I haven't looked at most men, although I believe that the general consensus of people who know about these things -- Elizabeth Taylor, Mae West, and Rusty Warren of "Knockers Up" fame -- seems to be that most men technically don't usually have tits per se, but nubbies.

So where's that leave us? Probably at women. And here's where I am an authority. I have looked at most women, and ... I'll leave it to your imagination what they have. It's not boar tits, and they're not boring. In fact the more hidden they are, it seems, the more fascinating they are. A point worth making? Or worthless as tits on a boar?

Just one more point on boars. I truly have seen any number of boars. I've been to the State Fair, I know the facts of life. You go there and they have boars lounging around their pens, always with their bottom ends hanging out, since there's no where else to put them. Have you ever seen the privates on a boar? Holy mackerel! Skip to the next paragraph while I fan myself!

I'm thinking, just for the heck of it, that I'm gonna make various allusions to the balls of a boar from the album titles of the great Welsh singer Tom Jones. OK? First, they remind me of "The Lead and How to Swing It." That's a Tom Jones CD I used to have. Boar balls are strange to me, but to them "It's Not Unusual." What they're like to carry around is something I'm glad I don't have to know. But for them, it's probably a lot of "Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings." Forgotten because they lay down a lot, and only get up when flies bite them too much. Compared to a boar, I think of myself as "I Who Have Nothing."

What if you fell in a boar's pen and he thought you were a sow? He might say, "Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow." If you did, you'd say, "What a Night." And not necessarily in a good way. You certainly wouldn't wait around for him to "Reload." Probably for the most part, when they asked, "Do You Take This Man" you'd take just one quick look and reply, "Rescue Me." But, alas, once you were gone, the boar might forever "Carry a Torch."

OK, everyone, please do me a favor: If anyone else has already written about boar tits and boar balls, particularly in reference to Tom Jones albums, let me know. I'd hate to be accused to copying someone else's idea. But one thing I don't want to hear is if you think this blog is worthless as tits on a boar. I'm sensitive. As the Tom Jones album puts it, what I need is "Tender Loving Care."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pure Cussedness

I'm meditating today on pure cussedness, the living of life with jagged edges and weird angularities. God dammit! Sweet acidophilus! Pro shiatsu! Shitfire!

Ha ha, were ya expecting a few F bombs? I got em on board, and I probably won't but I could strafe the landscape with em. Most of my followers are women. But it's hard to picture a life of pure cussedness without em.

Whether cussing and cussedness are actually related, I don't know. Why don't you Google it, get the usual million hits, and shove it-- I mean, file it -- where the sun don't shine?! Am I really supposed to care? I'm cussed enough tonight not to.

Pure cussedness means never having to say you care. It's too busy kickassing its way through life and the day. Look at Popeye. He's got about 40 cans of spinach flattened under his shirt, so he's half metal. Anyone  hits him, his chest puffs out like a battleship and he wins again!

Have I ever had my moments of doubt on pure cussedness? Moments? More like decades. And what's it done for me, being Mr. Softy and very congeal? (Ha ha). Pro freaking shiatsu, nothing! I'd like to kick the sweet acidophilus of the guy that turned me off to it.

Grandpa had pure cussedness, and if it wasn't 100% pure it was dam close. He was known for about five things: 1) Hunting, fishing; 2) Digging the meat of the goodie out of hickory nuts all winter; 3) 4) I can't remember 3 and 4; and, 5) Cussing. No doubt he'd kick my sweet acidophilus if he ever heard me say acidophilus, and not the purer "ASS." And for the most part he didn't care, except, as I said it before, he would not drop an F bomb when women or girls were present. Us boys got that extra thrill, which is nice. I felt special as a guy.

Here's a true incident, as best as I can remember it. I'm not going to remember every word, of course -- it was sometime between 1965-1967, in there -- but I can summarize it close enough that you'll get the idea. (This ain't about my Grandpa, but he was at the campgrounds somewhere.) We were all at a campground, and my cousin was demonstrating through gestures and cussedness how he'd recently shot a bird that jumped up. F bombs galore, no adjectives and barely any nouns that weren't cussedness. One hell of a story.

Then there was this guy -- an adult -- who had a tent that was an ex-parachute, circular and very nice. Him and his wife got to be friends with us and our whole family. We even wrote to them for a few years. This guy saw us gesticulating and reliving some major event, the shooting of the bird, and came up the hill and asked us what we were talking about. It was funny, because since he was an adult, my cousin retold the whole story without a single cussedness, and it came out about the same, the bird jumping up and being shot down.

When we were separated from him -- he was back down close his parachute -- we were walking along and laughing and recalling vividly the difference between the two stories, celebrating both the cussedness and the quick replacement.

Oh boy, ha ha, that's one God dang memory, man ... I don't think I've posted that farking story before ... ha ha, one of the highlights of my kidhood. Pro shiatsu! Sweet acidophilus! Pure cussedness.

What makes the world go round? Cussedness. What makes the weary beaten pro wrestler, who can't even lift his arm, suddenly not only lift his arm but rigify it locked in place, to the dread of his abuser, now begging for mercy that will never come? Pure sweet cussedness. That's it. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Peacetime Has Ruined Our Restaurants

Here's the good news, the war's over, the sailors are all home. The merchant marine fleet also has docked and the crew debarked! They battled the South Americans to a standstill and now it's over! Hallelujah! But there's also bad news. First, their unfaithful wives came clean to their many sins and dumped them. And, second, they've all gotten jobs as waiters at the restaurants I go to.

What a war it really must have been! I can't remember what it was all about, but half of it took place in jungles, and that really ages a man, makes him gnarly, gruesome, and tough. And tattoos have to be the national past time in those forsaken ports whenever there's leave. Because the sorry sacks have been through the mill. I'm sure they'll regret it, especially the prominent tattoos of their wives' names.

Really, their wives are better off with whatever trash they've found stateside. They've kept warm at nights -- I'm guessing warmth had something to do with it. Because these guys are in bad shape, the war did a number on them. They're all messed up. War is the human grinder, unfortunate for them, and certainly making a mess out of my restaurants. They're always looking for waiters, it seems.

But it's also tough for us, thinking of me in particular. It's tough to go in, paper under my arm, with my dignified look and an appetite to die for, and have to see sailors and drifters trying to memorize my order. Of course they're going to get it wrong. As for your tattoos, try to find a blank space and just jot my order on your arm somewhere. Then if I want to know what I ate today, five years from now, I'll come and read it.

You don't know what's going to happen if they do happen to get it right. The plate's going to come back with human fur in your food, grease from the ship dripping off the edge, and whatever other begrizzled bits of offal one of these specimens might drop, or shed. Basic hygiene, more about that later, doesn't prevail. But since we're all into recycling, there's a little good news: That greasy apron, a dishtowel tucked in the pants lengthwise, is the same one he was wearing last week. Same stains and everything.

I think I remember a Popeye cartoon sort of like that. The war was over even back then, and Popeye was a waiter, waiting on Bluto. Popeye has a big dirty dishtowel around his normal sailor outfit, waiting on Bluto, and of course still smoking his pipe, squinting at the big man's food, and getting ready for a fistfight.

Here's what I want, restauranteurs: No mustaches. And mandatory tattoo removal. And short hair on men, clean, not a shaved head. Anything longer than an inch or so -- I'd rather their hair look cheerful, like the hair of an average five year old kid -- must be trimmed before returning to work. Their hands must be washed according to the Lord's standards, which is, scrubbing your hands with soap as long as it takes a person to recite the Lord's Prayer at a normal speed. This isn't the old days when we ate around campfires, with any old thing someone could shoot or trap unaware in the corner.

And I want decent coffee. Some of these old war boys don't know how to make decent coffee. Seriously, they'll be telling people 70 years from now how they learned to make coffee on ships, a big boiling pot set on the fire all day, with grounds continually dumped in. Think of a spaghetti pan about five times the size, with 8 inches of old grounds settled in the bottom. Coffee with that old bottom-of-the-pot wang, probably made like this one old boy said, just keep adding fresh grounds and stir.

The waiter needs to be someone who got up on the right side of the bed, and looks it. He needs to be perky, intelligent, with a good memory, and a pleasant personality. These hardened sea hands -- think of "The Deadliest Catch" for the type I'm thinking of -- would make anyone lose their appetite, which isn't good for the bottom line of the restaurant either. Disinfecting once in a while is good!

Preferably, we'll get the women wait staff back, nice ones, so if their germs fall in the food they'll be harmless. Honestly, it's too bad the damned war had to end, wherever it was, South America, I guess I said. As should be abundantly clear, it hasn't been good for my restaurants.

Note: I may be wrong about these rare human specimens being wasted-away sailors. It could be they're just other weird guys who haven't taken care of themselves.

Monday, April 15, 2013

They Say I Can't Be Serious

OK, timeout, I've been taken to task, ho hum. Called on the carpet, as they say. Which is tiresome, to say the least. Leaving me a little -- what? -- mentally drained, somewhat confused... I seriously can't describe the full extent of my feelings. It's like being hit in the gut, like having the wind knocked out of you. You think, Wow, I've been doing my level best; that ought to be beyond dispute, but, no, naturally there has to be someone, certain ones, who sees it differently.

What's it all about? I'm not too sure it matters that much what it's all about. The pure fact of the matter is, It shouldn't even be an issue. I've always been a 'Live and let live' guy -- if people are putting forth an effort, you know, judge them on their merits. None of this cheap shot stuff. I'm trying my best to refrain from cussing, you can probably tell. Just to prove it, I easily could've reeled off a half dozen swear words just in the course of these two paragraphs. Believe it, it's buildt up inside. I'm at the boiling point, although I'm trying really hard to keep it ... cooool. Chill out, this too shall pass. Some people aren't worth bothering over. Tell yourself, It wasn't meant as something bad. Although it no doubt was.

I will do my best to offer up a refutation, for what it's worth ... call it therapeutic. I learned this as a kid, something called the old 'Count to 10' method. You breathe and you count, you count and you breathe. Breath in, 1, Breath out, 2, etc. I recommend it to anyone in similar circumstances. You know, the fist you save might be your own! Putting it through a wall, or flattening it against a brick obstruction, none of that's any fun. True, while the fever's hot, it doesn't hurt. But just wait, pretty soon you'll be cooled off and it'll hurt like hell. Then you have to go to the doctor and get it X-rayed. Their first question is always, "What happened?" And you're a little ashamed to say. Tripped over a pop can.

Anyway, let's leave the self-help advice till later. What do you mean, I can't be serious? That's a statement, a criticism you can take two ways: 1) You can't be serious, in that you're flippant. But that's not it; 2) It was more like this, You were trying to make a serious point, but I judge it as so ridiculous -- your thinking -- that I have to say, You can't be serious ... I both condemn your point of view, and I condemn you. OK, so that's how it is, you sad sack of ... equestrian dung. That's what I think of you! How you like them beans? Doesn't feel so good now, does it?

Disagreement is one thing, but out and out condemnation -- without allowing me the chance to respond and present my case, that's something that ought to be out of bounds. I'm sure it is out of bounds, usually, like at the level of intelligent society, like at the United Nations. One country might hate another country's guts, but at the round table everyone's good friends. They keep the condemnation on the up and up. It's not a knife in the back. You're among peers with some standards of decency, not just cutthroats. Really, though, for the rest of us, apparently that's too much to expect... Bombs away!

Well, here's the truth: Opinions are strong on these issues whatever point of view you take. I accept that. Naturally, I have my own opinions, strong opinions, and simply felt the time was right to state them without the fear of judgment. I'm not completely reticent. Forgive me, I didn't know that was the unforgivable sin. Know what I mean? I'm looking to you for a little bit of fairness, that kind of common levelheadedness Do unto others thing that, I thought, marked good society. If we then differ, so be it, but let's differ in a respectful way. Not with the kind of ignorance that was displayed, more akin to large sacks of male bovine droppings than rational discourse.

I like the graphic above, which sums it up. It makes my case perfectly, worth a thousand words. We have a building, a large room. But behind it all you have all the scaffolding, the structural design, the materials, etc., and the ability of well-trained men to put the pieces into place. They're working together. They finish their task, leaving the building (or the room) for the purposes behind its ultimate design. And what I see is a bright inner sanctum behind those doors, from which can come even greater purposes, the purposes of the mind.

On the other hand -- and I hope we're mostly in agreement on this -- if we give way to endless quibbling and gainsaying, the terrible prattle of the mindless; if that is to be the order of the day, then of course all bets are off. As for myself, I believe I've done everything I can to rise to the occasion. I'm a decent guy. Can the same thing be said for those who would naysay?

I realize there are those who try to set it up so they can't lose. But at what human cost? How appropriate is that? Good luck in the long run! You think you can arrange it so I can't win? Permanently?! Think again! If that's what you're thinking -- and if that's the way you want it -- I need to warn you, Your day of comeuppance is right around the corner! Because the honest-to-God truth is, I know that not everyone agrees with you, whether or not they're presently willing to stand up and say so. That's the truth. Which I know you'll find hard to believe.

But, please, look within yourself. If you do, you won't believe for a second that I'm saying this simply out of my own imagination. I know how that goes, A guy is sensitive, naturally he lashes out without regard for truth, looking out for his own wounded feelings. I assure you, it's not that way with me. My gaze is undiminished. For me, this isn't "Rally 'round the flag" time! But can you say the same? If you're answer is yes, to me, that's porcine excrement, heaped up and rolling down.

I'm going to say this sloooooowly: So listen up, you mindless individual serving of Number 2: This isn't merely a matter of pride on my part. Pride? What do I care about pride? Pride is false. Glory? There's no glory worth having, as the sages say. Who, incidentally, then end up with the greatest glory man can give, which they in turn disdain, as I do now. Am I calling myself a sage? Sages have sagacity, that is, wisdom. I guess I do have something natural in that regard. But even a kicked animal could say the same, if it's kicked enough... Pathetic...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Preemie Gulch -- A Town of Preemies

What a cool alternate reality, if you're into this kind of thing. Especially wonderful for anyone's ever felt a persistent, nagging desire to be early for things. Which I guess I've had plenty of times, since being late, in my opinion, isn't good.

I heard of this place from a guy, and I'm certain it exists, like fairies and Brigadoon. Somehow, like everything else in the fertile mind of man, this also came to be. He told me he was born a preemie, so he hates being late. As for the rest of his story, and maybe mine, I'm filling in the blanks as quickly as I can, since I'd rather get done early than late.

We all know what a preemie is, of course, especially my mother readers, mothers who have had to go through all the prenatal aspects of nature before finally delivering their little rug rats. A preemie is the kid who'd rather come prematurely, early, not honoring his or her in utero lease for the full nine months.

The place we're talking about is a wonderful version of paradise, called Preemie Gulch. Like other utopian visions, it was thought up by people who were preemies, and have carried through on preemie values. Of course the whole thing had been imagined many times, but for someone to actually carry through and establish the place, that took something special.

At Preemie Gulch, the guy told me, they do many things a month in advance. Like filing taxes. I've known plenty of people who file in January, but mostly because they're looking for a refund. In Preemie Gulch, since everyone is so industrious, never letting anything slide till it's too late to benefit, they don't get refunds, they pay. But they still file a month in advance.

As you might've guessed, everything about their schedule is way ahead. School officially starts at 9:00 but their kids are there at 7. Happy Hour is 3, they're lined up at 1. Even TV is different. The late-late show is at 8 p.m. They don't dare have Daylight Savings Time or they'd be up all night!

That's basically the main preemie value behind Preemie Gulch's existence. They were constantly frustrated with the outside world, the rest of us who show up on time or even late. I know I've even been frustrated by that, even though I'm not a preemie, that I know of. I could ask my mom, but I surely wasn't; I was 8 pounds something and preemies are usually under 4; and to this day I like warmth; I get bundled up in a blanket, I can't be budged; I can't believe I would ever give up my lease a minute early. Still, it's frustrating, wherever you are, when people show up late. If it bothers me, think of what an actual preemie thinks!

So in Preemie Gulch they do everything on the Early Bird principle. That's even the name of the school team, the Early Birds, seriously. For the girls, the Lady Early Birds. They have early bird specials in their stores, etc. If someone has a garage sale at 8 a.m., that's just so no one will show up before 5. By 8:00 the whole thing's over. There's so much early birding, worms don't stand a chance.

But here's an example of how everyone being early can have negative consequences: The houses in Preemie Gulch are very nice. The basements are always finished and done so in the greatest way. Because everyone wants to move in early, before the place is built. They simply can't wait. Although the carpenters aren't slow to build. In fact, they usually start building before they even get the blueprints, simply because waiting is so hard.

This doesn't always happen, because the guys in charge of blueprints usually have the blueprints done before they even know what the people want. Although the people aren't slow about making their wishes known, since they're normally at the blueprint place a few days before their appointment. Then, naturally, you have blueprint guys who are upset that they weren't there early enough for them to start earlier. It goes like that. The most extreme consequence is the house is built and decrepit before the eventual owners are even born.

Sample conversation:
"Why didn't you get it done earlier?"
"I'm a preemie, not a mind reader."
"I didn't say you were a mind reader."
"You were going to!"

They're like us in school stuff. They start kids in preschool before school. But the drop-out rate is very bad because no one wants to wait till graduation.

Everything's on a breakneck pace ... in reverse, as you can see. If you can postdate your plans, get started before you're ready, and map out your future before you know what you're doing, you're that much further ahead. Whew! Why put off till tomorrow what you could have done yesterday?

It's becoming somewhat dystopian, my description of the place, although it's truly a paradise.

Point for Discussion: What would happen to Preemie Gulch if the babies born there weren't preemies? Say, in four generations.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Picnic With Death

April's always iffy. We've had some really cold days and some really hot ones. So you take what you get, especially if it's nice, and make the most of it.

I was hanging out with my new best friend, Death [links below], on one of the hot days a couple days ago. We were just lounging around, he wasn't in a big toot for official business, it seemed, so why not get out of the house for a picnic? Sounds good, huh? Take the day off, have a good time, and spare the world at least those few minutes of pain.

I like packing up stuff and going out to one of the town's great parks on a day like this. For this picnic we chose the one with the old Air Force jet. Death and I actually went over and sat in it, messing around with the steering wheel. It's still substantially there, the fuselage, etc., although of course kids over the decades have left the control panel and every gauge totally destroyed. But that's life, bad things happen.

I was tending the meat at the grill. I'm sorry, I like it done right. We had a full picnic basket, with beans, potato salad, chips if we wanted some, celery sticks, baby carrots, some small snack cakes for dessert, and a six pack of Pepsi. What a great day, very little wind, and only a few other folks in the park. I worked while Death messed around with a Frisbee, throwing it against a tree.

That wasn't all he was doing. He was sulking a bit. He wanted to do the cooking, but I wasn't trusting the meat to just anyone; I wanted to do it myself. So he messed around with the Frisbee, and wandered off a time or two ... for who knows what. Clear his head probably, and maybe cuss me out. But his official story was: One, he needed to make a call. Two, he forgot something in the car. And three, which I didn't need to hear, he took a piss behind a tree. After a while, with all this excusing himself, I felt like a solo act, but on the bright side the burgers were doing great.

Later, then, we're busy enjoying the picnic, the fruits of my labor, our plates full of great food and all the fixin's. The only thing spoiling it was a bunch of sirens. There was some kind of commotion. "Wonder what's going on?" I asked. Death said, "Great question, sounds like something big." But I didn't know what, and apparently he didn't know. So what else to do, but enjoy the fun, food, and beautiful day.

Next, we saw ambulances going by, coming from the north ... very unusual! I said it had to be something big, because those are ambulances from out of town. Other towns were pitching in, part of the good neighbor policy the county has. There was a steady stream of them, their infernal sirens starting to give me a headache.

Imagine my horror, then, the next morning, when I saw the news: What?! "70 PERISH IN FLAMES AT HOME FOR AGED." The details were terrible! Destruction, panic, a horrific end to so many dear souls. A few of them from The Greatest Generation, no less. And it all went down at the very same time we were having our damned picnic! 

Death was just getting up; he was sleeping on the couch. He came toward the table and saw me reading the paper and turned around. I called him back, "Stop it right there, mister!"

He looked guilty as sin. "What the hell? I thought we were having a great time. The meat, the chips, the Frisbee... And this is what you were up to all along!? Killing 70 old folks while eating my celery and carrots!?" He had a concerned look on his face, but gathering up all the boldness he could muster, blurted out, "I told you I wanted to grill..."

I have to say, that took my breath away for a moment, and I could only shake my head in disgust. But you know me, Mr. Mercy, I can't stay mad at him for long. Especially when you think it over, that's who he is! That's what he does...

CONCLUSION: Yes, the picnic was messed up by Death's terrible behavior, actually killing 70 dear old folks at the home for the aged. But one thing we can still be thankful for. It was April, it was a picnic, and there wasn't an ant in sight.

Dead Links:
Death -- I Now Pronounce You Dead
Out Drinking with Death
Death Goes to the Dentist with Me
Death -- When Your Number's Up
Walt's Suicide -- Death by Water
The Gaping Maw of Death (Woof! Woof!)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Don't Talk To Me About Mulch!

I was at the gardening center the other day. I like a good tomato once in a while, which means growing them. I ran into a guy I know there, someone really into gardening, environmental stuff, etc., who suggested I should use mulch.

I'm sorry but this is a very sore point with me, whether he knew it or not. In fact, he was probably innocent, I don't know. But I totally lost it. I recoiled, and nearly went into a three-alarm meltdown. I felt such a rush of anger, it was palpable, I flushed, I was beside myself, in just a total crazed state.

"Don't talk to me about mulch!" I shouted, bringing a ton of unwanted attention to myself.

"Why?" you ask...

Years ago, it was a day very much like today, sky, earth, people doing things. I was in traffic downtown, sitting there waiting at a light. A guy with a pickup truck full of mulch, but with no gate, was right ahead of me. When the light turned green, either he was a very careless driver, or somehow his foot hit the gas and it went down too far accidentally, he roared ahead, with the mulch spilling out in a big pile just in front of me, with me also having already proceeded toward the intersection.

My car would go no further, I was lodged on top of the mulch! Now I know I should have immediately turned the car off, but being in shock, I jumped out. The car still running, the engine being hot, and mulch being essentially gaseous weeds, the whole thing went up in flames. Of course the fire followed the gas line back to the tank, and the whole back end exploded, killing the three people in the car right behind me. The flames were so random and so hot that I myself was burnt, scarred, I thought, for life.

In the years since, I submitted myself to very expensive reconstructive surgery, so that I am not so bad off, except for the monthly payments I still make. But enough about me, the families of the corpses behind me saw an opening for a quick payday. My insurance company presented me with a copy of the policy which, hard to understand, did not specifically cover mulch fires, so I was on my own. They wanted $5 million apiece, but since they couldn't get blood from a turnip, they settled for monthly payments of $1,000 for life, so that's three thousand bucks down the drain every month.

You may be wondering how I was liable in all this, since I was quite innocent. That's true, but this is what a fool gets, the court settlement he gets, when he's stupid enough to represent himself. A little plug there for lawyers. They've cornered the market on legally representing people, and they deserve it.

All this time, believe it or not, the original mulch truck driver, who dumped and ran, was never apprehended. I couldn't identify the truck. I was so focused on the mulch, that's all I saw. That, and the driver had a bright red mohawk and a tattoo of Satan on the back of his neck, but that could be anyone.

Ever since, life has been hard for me, virtually impossible in fact, but I plod along as best as I can, with occasional moments of happiness, like a slice of a halfway decent tomato. Is that so much? It's just that -- call it a sore point, something that easily repulses me -- I don't want anything to do with mulch.

The guy in the gardening center had a look of astonishment on his face. "I- I- I didn't know. But I now see that mulch is definitely a mixed blessing, good for some things, not so good for others..." He trailed off sheepishly. I thought about pursuing him in argument, with many smart alecky things I could have said, like, "Mulch, my friend, is good for nothing!" But I let it go. Being so persecuted myself, I've gained in mercy by leaps and bounds.

Anyway, he had his hands up, as if to say, "Let's drop the whole thing, let's call it even, you go your way, I'll go mine, live and let live, let me crawl into a ditch somewhere and die, I'm so embarrassed." Like I said, I let the whole thing go, with my mercy and all, and put my hand up, more or less as a gesture of consolation and dismissing the whole subject, but really I was thinking simultaneously that my intent behind the gesture was as if to say, "Please, don't ever talk to me about mulch. You've now had fair warning. I've been through more than you can ever understand. Go preach environmentalism and mulching gardens to someone without the benefit of real world experience."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Miss Good Old Fashioned Danger

We live in safe times. There's an ad with a car going through town jumping and sliding down rails like a skateboard. With a disclaimer, possibly not necessary, warning us not to try it, that a car is not a skateboard; we repeat, a car is not a skateboard. Right now, I'm looking at the safety label on a toothbrush: "Insert brush into mouth with caution. Be careful not to swallow it."

Anyone else remember the old days when we had a lot of pure danger, when, frankly, we didn't care if people drove their cars like skateboards. I remember a guy in school who got his car stuck on top of the swing set and no one cared. We all just piled in the car and saw how long we could balance it without falling off and killing ourselves. Years later at reunions we still observe a moment of silence for those 15 poor souls.

Danger was an everyday thing. I think of old fashioned elevators, no gates, or a gate where a kid can lose his finger. The door opens and the elevator might be three stories down and you step into the void. I can barely stand getting into a modern elevator with all the safety features, too cushy. Yes, there's a phone to call for help. But it's just for show, the danger's so minimal.

Wow, my memory's going crazy! Fans without screens, sleds with sharp edges, dinosaurs roaming free. No safety standards. It wasn't uncommon to see guys with one leg, one arm, one eye, and even nothing, walking by, or struggling to do so the best they could. My grandpa used to tell me tales I could barely believe. He said it wasn't unusual for half his school to have the Black Plague. They blew their nose a lot and did their best. They treasured learning so much they just sat there and suffered.

Even today -- Hallelujah!, things haven't changed in some respects -- we still have danger. Barbed wire comes to mind. The nanny state still hasn't gotten around to putting little safety caps on each barb. You can prick yourself on one of those and bleed for hours. Doesn't feel so bad. You get some of that rust in your system, especially if an animal died somewhere nearby, and it hurts like hell, then everything starts locking up on you, there's bile everywhere, etc., it's a beautiful thing.

This would be a good sociological study for someone: Figuring the correlation between making society safer in external things things and the nature of Man vs Man violence. Of course you can guess my thoughts on that. Man vs man violence is way up, ironically, while we're making life safer. It could be there's something in us that wants that intrinsic danger to life. Or it could be that psychos and antisocial halfwits used to die earlier, before we had child safety caps and railings, meaning the rest of were spared. The weird thing about that would be: The more dangerous life was, the safer it was. However it was more dangerous to the ones who wanted to make it more dangerous for the rest of us.

It was an ecological balance -- very fragile -- that we've now tipped more toward danger the safer we've become. And, this is embarrassing, the danger in life that I claim to remember fondly is still there, only it's shifted to Man vs Man violence. So what's my complaint? I guess I still have a complaint: I much prefer losing a hand in a bad elevator to losing my life to a psycho. Personal responsibility was key, but this is the fly in the ointment, even back then it wasn't permissible to simply kill psychos; you had to wait for them to stumble over a land mine on the way to school, or something.

Looking back, I can't think of precisely how long it's been since the change came. But I believe we can peg it as coinciding with some asshole tampering with Tylenol bottles. Wasn't that it? I believe so. From there it was safety caps on everything, then little plastic wraps on the caps, then safety warnings. Now you can't do anything without robocops and nosy safety officers behind every pole to warn you. Ever notice all the parents with their kids on Halloween? Back in the day, my parents used those hours to catch up on romance, which is how I got brothers. That's why we had such large kindergartens, all those late July births.

But is life perfectly safe, aside from Man vs Man? As it turns out, there actually are exceptions, heh heh. Antifreeze comes with a safety cap, but no inner seal! So that's something to be thankful for. I don't know if it has a label warning you not to drink it. I personally wouldn't drink it. I love life and am not a psycho. But if some future mass-murdering psycho were to off himself with a shot of antifreeze and a good stiff Quaker State chaser... who's to object? In short, the more dangerous we keep life, the safer we'll all be.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wouldn't Easier DNA Be Great?

DISCLAIMER - I know very little about DNA or DNA testing. I honestly don't have the first clue about the science of it. But no disclaimer is really necessary, because I don't have the first clue about the science of anything and that hasn't stopped me writing about it.

Hey, everybody knows about DNA. We know you can't father a child and get away with it forever. And we know it's tougher to do the crime and escape the time, thanks to DNA. In a remarkable way, it's like you never left the scene! Yet you know you dashed off just seconds later! But some damned thing, a small thing, usually a hair -- which should've stayed securely attached -- inopportunely loosened its grip and fell.

So we have the wayward hair of a criminal. Or in the case of anonymously fathering children, what you needed to leave behind. With the hair, once they have it, they run it through the DNA mill and, years later, it comes back a match. With your ex-girlfriend, unknown as she may be, when she reappears with your child, they match up samples, and suddenly you owe money. In both cases you can end up with visitation rights.

The thing about DNA, though, is it's billed as extremely hard to test. It used to be it took them weeks to test it. Now, probably thanks to miniaturization, much smaller scientists, they're able to get it done overnight, if needed. Maury Povich gets a lot of the credit for the progress, since on TV time is of the essence.

Now I'm wondering what's the holdup on making it instant, like pregnancy tests or microwaving bagels? And with that, making it equally as accessible, so that all of us could do it. Yes, the police and Maury have had DNA testing as their exclusive bailiwick and would be reluctant to give up their advantage, but that's progress. Once upon a time the rest of us couldn't do fingerprinting either, then ink pads started showing up, in office supply stores of all places.

Personally, I like the idea of DNA everywhere. Right here at home -- I live in my grandparents' old house, and they've been dead since the '70s -- I think it'd be cool to test dust and old sticky spots. I haven't touched some of Grandpa's tools in my whole life, so I might find him still lurking in the garage, in that sense. Then there's my own DNA. I have to have a rich presence here. I used to have a full head of hair and now I'm virtually bald. They'll be finding pieces of me for a century!

If we could test our own DNA, even if the police objected at first, think of how we could solve crime that much faster. There's a crime, all of us descend on the scene, we've got about 200 simultaneous investigations going on at once. Then we come together in an auditorium and one by one present our findings to the group. I can't think of any downside, unless, of course, with the mass of people on the scene tainting the original evidence with our own samples, we ended up arresting each other. But that's a risk worth taking. Most crime scenes had unrelated people there before the crime, this just extends it a bit.

Other than that -- which isn't very exciting -- think of the other possibilities. The more people have access to DNA, the more progress we can make in the science. I'd love it, just as an example, if the DNA testing machine could be rigged to develop a photo of the person, then to make a rudimentary video of him, how he would move, etc., then a hologram type of thing, then who knows what! The twin brother I never had?

Or they might come up with a thing like a metal detector. You sweep a room, like at the Playboy mansion, as a random example, run the test, and you'd have the latest thing, a miniaturized orgy right there on your nightstand. You could collect various human scenes, monasteries, mechanics shops, a March Madness game, or the local Goodwill store. Lots of specimens there!

Probably accomplished science fiction authors have already envisioned this much better than I ever could, especially as they would take some time with the idea and not dash it off in a few minutes on a Tuesday morning. That's fine, I can live with it. Although, as revenge for them showing me up, I could see myself "borrowing" their typewriter, taking all the DNA out of it -- the crap under their fingernails in addition to hair -- and creating a race of mutant science fiction writers, mixing their DNA as I would with lesser human types, like accountants, and putting them out of business. Show me up, will ya?

No, seriously, I don't have a devious bone in my body (eventually the DNA will prove it). I would only use my DNA kit -- Petri dish, eyedropper, thermometer, and roboenlarger -- to do good. One thing I'd seriously like to do, if I could find the DNA for it, is bring back milkmen and their cute little trucks. I'm thirsty for some good old fashioned milk. The good stuff!

Monday, April 8, 2013

March Madness -- Punish The Coaches

I'm a victim of March Madness this year! Watching basketball. Not all of it, but a bunch. I should say, the phrase March Madness is a trademark of the NCAA, as is March Mayhem, Final Four, and maybe the Big Dance, and who knows what all else.

And after I get this blog done, maybe Punish The Coach will be a trademark, too, because I believe it would be super popular.

The coach, as everyone knows, is the man in charge. He's the one who's taken a bunch of rough-cut know-nothing guys and introduced them to basketball. He's shown them the ball and explained to them what it is. They've learned the basics from his hands and lips, that it rolls, bounces, flies, and goes through circular things called hoops, then through net-like things called nets. After the basics, it's on to the advanced stuff, like the court, the various lines on the floor, and the rules of the game.

Having learned all that, it's time to form a team and chalk up some victories. The way I understand it, by the time they're allowed into the NCAA Tournament, they have proven themselves on the court in something called the regular season. It appears the criteria for admission is to win more games than they lose, then they apply another factor, the quality of their opposition. If they've got all their dunks in a row, they're in.

Now it's time to win or lose in the tournament. And lose they do! In fact, any rational survey of the situation has to conclude that they're nearly all losers. Only one team makes it through the tournament unscathed. The others have signed up more or less for a completely predictable loss. They're putting themselves through all the agony (which is up to 99% assured) for the rarest of chances that they'll win.

My proposal is, if they lose, as most of them must, we should let the coach experience some of the anguish. As the representative of the team, the head, he must submit to the worst rigors.

OK, we'll leave the last two teams, those in the championship game, aside for a moment. (The last losing coach will face his rigors just prior to the winning team getting their trophy). So this means we have 66 teams who have already lost. At halftime of the final game, we want to bring the 66 coaches out, and have them submit to punishment. Obviously they've done something very wrong that their teams haven't won, although, yes, it's assured that all but one will win.

We line them up by first out, with statistics of the game governing final placement. Then it's on to the festivities, dunk tanks, pie throwing, children pelting them with Nerf balls, and rotten tomatoes. It's a gentler form of what we see in mythology, in tribal societies who are concerned about fertility and crops, the death of the king. I can see that coaches would love to do it, because it might just work, swaying the gods to give them a more fruitful season next year.

All the nastiness out of the way, we have the same line-up, and we pass out the laurel wreathes. I'm very merciful, so I'm saying we add one to the Sweet 16 for purposes of this ritual, 16+1. The top 17 coaches get a bigger laurel wreath for their head, along with a kiss from the prettiest cheerleaders. Of the next two divisions (16 each), one gets slightly smaller laurel wreaths and a kiss from the more average cheerleaders, and the other gets even smaller laurel wreaths and a kiss from the below average cheerleaders.

The next-to-last division is only 15, to account for the 1 we added to the Sweet 16. They get a laurel sprig and a kiss from whoever's left. The last four teams of the 68 in last place, the coaches of the teams, get to sniff a laurel sprig, and look at whoever's left. Plus a kick in the ass.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Ignorance Of The Purebred Libertarian Student

I love stories like this, where ideology screws up reality, and the guy ends up a total shipwreck. Usually, however, you don't have the pleasure of such a pure case; often you're faced with an admixture, generally rooted in a life somewhat inconsistent with the ideology. I was very fortunate to come across this story. It's pure! I'm sure that thinking of it will give me many pleasurable nights, sitting by a warm fire somewhere drinking brandy or something else.

OK, without further ado, we have a kid from a poor Libertarian family. That's the setting. For legal purposes I'm going to call him Walt.

Because Walt's family was poor, they couldn't afford to put him up in a private school teaching Libertarian values. And yet they didn't have the option of no schooling, thanks to the unnatural rules of government on compulsory attendance. And they couldn't home school him.

Walt was just a kid, but that didn't mean he hadn't imbibed his father's ideology. Dad made a point of loudly sharing his beliefs in limited government, taxes, individualism, and hyper-individualism. So when Walt got to school, he cried like a banshee. With him it was me, me, me; nobody could do him any good.

In short, he was completely uncooperative at school, because he didn't want to be on the public dole. That's how he put it. He felt he wouldn't be pulling his own weight were he to cooperate in a system based on taxpayer-funded institutions.

Even at five years old, he was a real go-getter with this nonsense. If the teacher tried to talk, he might put his fingers in his ears and go, "[various babbling noises]." Walt was extremely disruptive. They put him in the hall and passed him to the next grade as soon as possible.

He wouldn't take part in music, for the same reasons. He didn't want a publicly-supported instrument. He didn't care if it was a bass fiddle (large) or a piccolo (small), he had his crazy, inscrutable principles to abide by.

Other kids were advancing like mad, learning how to read and write, how to add and subtract, how to play their instruments, how to take care of their bodies in physical education, and so on. But not Walt! Walt was stuck with his pre-K mentality, except of course to the extent that he just naturally learned things once in a while by brute experience. Still, he started out a fool and was even a fool years later.

Years came, years went. Walt never brought home anything for the refrigerator door. As far as I can tell, his life was a blank, except for his stupid principles. Sad, but funny in a way.

He made it through school without learning much of anything, got his diploma, asked a friend what the damned thing said, and was told it said "Diploma." "That means you're smart." "Damned right I'm smart," Walt was able to vocalize, "smart enough to throw away this diploma, which was taxpayer-funded and not of my own making." Now that's radical!

Fathers, if you're wacky, a Libertarian, if you think UNICEF is a Communist plot to overwhelm the world with their well-fed healthy children (an element of the plot that should be mentioned), keep it to yourself. Your kids are worth more than that!

Commentary:  Is this a parable on modern times? Is it a condemnation of Libertarianism? Am I trying to make a large, relevant point? No, none of that, none whatsoever. It's simply the story of a kid, a purebred Libertarian, who imbibed his father's ideology, and managed to make it through school without learning a thing, simply because he wanted to pull his own weight and not be on the public dole.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Gaping Maw of Death (Woof! Woof!)

I've really been enjoying my friendship with Death (see links below). Especially the times when we're able to talk. Not just chit chat, but on some of the deeper philosophical questions involving life and death. He's a very meticulous craftsman, of course, eventually getting each of us. So who better to share with?

Earlier today, Death and I were out on the half acre where I live, walking along, and talking over these things, life and especially the nature of death. He was explaining to me in some grim detail about the death of numerous folks, how badly they take it, their intense struggle, etc., until finally he said, "They are ground up in the gaping maw of death."

At that point, almost involuntarily, I went, "Woof! Woof!"

Up till then he'd only known me as a serious person. Which is true. But I couldn't help it. He asked, "What's the woofing for?" I had to laugh, realizing I had woofed. I told him the whole story of my old dog, Wuss, who always barked back when Grandpa would call for Grandma, "Ma!" It became something of a family joke, something to mimic. "Woof! Woof!"

We sat down in the shade by the garage. Death laughed, but proceeded his talk, again getting serious. He went into a long explanation of the process of death, in great detail, including not just people, but animals, etc. He said, "All of you, and nature, at some point are chewed up in the gaping maw."

Again, I went, "Woof! Woof!" Death slapped his forehead, a little pissed that it seemed like I was cheapening life and death -- his work -- by constantly harking back to my old dog and what was apparently his single trick.

The third time we were over at the well getting a cold drink of water, and Death again got involved in the discussion of death. He was very serious, because I had asked if it's actually a universal process, quite apart from our mythology of it being the penalty for original sin, etc. And he said, "Yes," explaining that it's in the nature of creatures everywhere to eventually die, sin having nothing to do with it.

By universal, I had meant just that, life on other planets. He went on, sharing with me very illuminating revelations, with parts of his talk granting me inside knowledge on civilizations thousands of light years away, if only I could remember what he said. Parts of it were very philosophical and, thinking of the inner makeup of alien lifeforms especially, were quite dry. The key point I remember was this: "All of them are eventually consumed in this vast gaping maw."

I started to say it, then he anticipated me, and put his hand out as if to prompt me, "Woof! Woof!" He asked, "Have you about got it out of your system?" I threw up my hands as if to say, "I'm sorry, it's a dreadful habit, but, you know, the dog and everything, Grandpa, Grandma, it's in my system like a heroin addiction!"

Finally, back in the house at the table, we continued our discussion. I reflected on Death as someone who obviously relishes his work, while being one of the rare ones -- the only one? -- to have such a thorough philosophy on his job and its nature. Perhaps the only other ones would be strippers, who like saints are the most rewarded when they have the least.

Again, he was completely serious, expounding at length about how misunderstood the reality of death is. He ruminated on our vanity of denying and hiding death and the process, and on everything we do to try to stave it off, which he agreed is understandable; perhaps we're looking forward to the graduation of our first grandchild, etc., something irrational but understandable as part of our present egoism, acting as dualistic, not holistic beings. He thrust his hands up in something approaching complete exasperation, then said, "And all the while this is what's awaiting them, exactly what they dread the most, the gaping maw."

This time Death caught himself, and looking at me, jumped in with his own, "Woof! Woof!" Of course I gave him two thumbs up. He laughed and said, "Now you've even got me doing it!"

Death -- I Now Pronounce You Dead
Out Drinking with Death
Death Goes to the Dentist with Me
Death -- When Your Number's Up
Walt's Suicide -- Death by Water

Walt's Suicide -- Death By Water

My new best friend Death (see links below) is a busy fellow. Everyday -- virtually everyday -- I read of his exploits in the paper and online. He takes down a maniac holed up in a mountain shed (yea!), or he's snuffing out the life of a baby at the hands of abusive clowns (boo!). Clearly, Death, with the nature of his work, doesn't have the same social mores and scruples that I was conditioned with. Who's right, who's wrong? I guess he has to be right, not just because of cause and effect, but because of his rootedness in nature, whereas I'm obviously socialized and sentimental.

But that's a discussion for another day, which may or may not come, because I'm not feeling so well myself. Although I have to say, if Death kills me, I'm going to seriously reevaluate our growing friendship. Although, furthermore, who knows if I might enjoy the afterlife even more, when I'm finally reunited with my grandparents and dad somewhere in the sky, on a cloud without the fear of monthly bills I can't pay.

Anyway, I asked Death -- how about it? -- could I go with him on one of his runs? To my delight, he said yes. It was just a matter of temporarily transforming me into a form of mist, since being merely flesh and blood is not the best way to go on these runs. He sat at my table and mistified himself; I could see just a vague, light black mist in the air. Suddenly, I also was a mist, but more white. There would be no way to tell us apart, save for the color of the mist and the fact that I was here and he was there.

His run this night was to a downtown hotel in the big city 40 miles west of here. It was one of the upper floors, an office where a guy, older and depressed looking, was wringing his hands. I'm big on making snap judgments about people, so I could see he was clearly in deep trouble, likely some financial malfeasance, or political shenanigans, or they were bearing down on him for breaking serious laws of some other sort, or he was complicit in a sexual matter involving himself and a younger mistress. Whether she's underage, barely legal, or what, I don't know. I'm guessing she's probably in her 30s, old enough to know better.  And there's his wife, a fat old biddy, sitting home somewhere, about to sic the lawyers on his ass. Or it could have been he had weird fetishes I could never guess, although I didn't see any tattoos or piercings.

Death and I -- clearly invisible to the guy -- hovered in the corner. I watched the guy toss and turn in his chair, sweat all over his forehead, his hair very wet. I had to sympathize with him, even though he looked like the kind of guy who'd step over me for a dime; I'm just naturally sympathetic, a nice guy; it's my cross to bear, again, my own blasted conditioning. I just had to remember, there was nothing I could do to help. In fact, I tried to hover down to him, but it was like I banged up against a force field.

What I witnessed next is the crux of the matter. And if you don't want to hear about a successful, agonizing suicide, please read no further. I write none of this out of jest or to celebrate. Because I feel the guy's life was still worth living. He could've given his wife the Cadillacs and jewels, he could have plea-bargained on the financial malfeasance, or if it was big enough, he could've endured the shame of a public slap on the wrist. But at those points of the worst depression, of course you're not always thinking of "could'ves." This guy was only thinking of escape. And Death was only thinking his number was up, time to die. I saw a look in Death's misty eye, like an evil hypnotist.

The guy -- let's call him Walt -- had an elaborate suicide machine installed in his office, just for occasions like this. It was pipes and a faucet. He was going to flood his office! He reached over and, with an unusually feminine hand in appearance, twisted the knob full blast. I had to reflect: Wrists are made to connect your hand to your arm, not to kill yourself with. But water gushed everywhere, making the floor wet and no doubt promised mold for the whole hotel for the foreseeable future. Walt sat in his chair motionless, then on second thought pulled out a final cigar and lit up.

Excruciating time passed, the office continuing to flood. I looked over at the door. It seemed to have a good seal at the bottom. The windows were shut with a good seal, too, and waterproof glass, so they weren't about to break. Then the water was to his knees, to his hips, to his chest, to his neck, etc. Suddenly, whether he was having second thoughts or what, he was out of his chair, swimming desperately around the room. He had a purpose, which I took to get to the spigot to turn it off. But he couldn't do it, and I was trapped behind the force field. Even were I to break free, how does white mist operate a spigot?

The look of desperation and terror on his face was the worst thing I've ever seen. A memory seared in my mind, likely to endure the rest of the month. I glanced at Death. He still had that hypnotist look. He would make one hell of a levitator. With those eyes he could sell moonshine to Mother Teresa, had he not already killed her. I looked back at Walt, swimming like crazy. I started thinking, a bunch of water gathered together weighs a ton, and it was almost up to the upper wallpaper line. Walt was on his back, kicking and gasping for air near the light fixture.

At that point, I knew Walt was going to drown. But, wait, what's this? The floor suddenly gave way from the weight of the water! And right down went the whole works, office, Walt, and water all. We hovered downward and the poor dude was dead from the fall, a broken neck. The force field was totally gone, but I was too late to help. Alarms were going off everywhere, it was nutzoid. The police came and rounded up the usual suspects, who all had great alibis.

Back home, back in my body, with Death again at the table, we reflected on the journey. I commented that their alibis, unlike the office in the end, were completely watertight.

Death -- I Now Pronounce You Dead
Out Drinking with Death
Death Goes to the Dentist with Me
Death -- When Your Number's Up