Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Meeting The Neighbors

Hi! Yes, nice to met you, too! Carl, did you say? Oh sorry. Kale! Kale? Kale! And who is this little buttonhead in the stroller? Enid? What a sweet name! Hi, Enid! Hi, Enid! Aww, Enid's shy. Welcome to the neighborhood, Kale and Enid!

Gosh, isn't that typical, I just meet someone for the first time and I look like I've done my hair with a fidget spinner. Sorry! I usually fix it first thing in the morning. I've got that big cowlick on the one side, and the flat spot in the back, and it just takes a little floofing but I must've gotten distracted this morning. Anyhoo!

Yeah, I'm in between haircuts, so it's a little weird. Right, Astrid? You haven't even had a haircut yet, have you, honey? Cute little button. Oh, Enid, right, sorry.

The garden? Thanks! I try. It looks a little funky now because the spring bulbs are all done and it's just a bunch of brown crap, and the fall perennials haven't really come in yet. I'd have had a nice new mulch down by now but I haven't even started weeding. There was all that rain, and then it got so dang hot, and you know. Yeah, last week would've been perfect, but I had a thing. Monday. And I had another thing Tuesday. I had all the things last week, I swear. Anyhoo.

Sheesh, you'd think I could've gotten that little postage stamp of a lawn done by now, right, Chive? Sorry. Kale. Mower's in the shop. Four weeks out. Swear to God, every year. You think you're going to get to it, and then the rains come, and all of a sudden it's up to here, and you haul out the mower and she's-a no work. I called a company and you know they want eighty bucks for that little patch? I don't think so. Kids used to do a whole yard for three bucks when I was coming up. Yeah, that was a long time ago, you're right about that.

Anyway, nice to meet you, Chard--no, I'd better not shake hands, I've been in the chicken shit. Ordinarily you wouldn't see me out in public in an old shirt and torn pants and these clodhoppers, but hey, you caught me just when I was thinking about getting to some of these weeds. No sense being a fashion plate in the garden, right? Be nice to get all this done and shower up and put on a nice outfit and enjoy the place. You all should come back in a few days. Bring your wife too. Pardon me? Gerald? Bring Gerald. We'll sit out back and have a beer. Not for you, Aphid! Ha ha! You're too little!

Enid. Swear to God, I've got a mind like a, like a, you know. You drain your spaghetti in it. Mind like a cauliflower.

Colander! Yeah, that's what I meant. Hey, why don't you and little Edna pop inside for a second, and I'll write your name down so I don't forget it, because otherwise I totally will, and I'll give you my email. Come on in. No, no, no need to take your shoes off, I'm going to have to vacuum soon anyway--obviously!--it's usually a lot more picked up in here, but I had that thing. You want some water or something? Sure. Hang on. Let me just rinse this glass. I've got a note pad around here somewhere. It's under that stack of mail, I think. Don't trip on the laundry basket, I was just getting around to that. Let me shut that door--no one needs to see my sewing room while I'm in the middle of something! I'll just shut this one too.

Help with all this? I never really thought about it. I mean, why pay someone to do something I'm perfectly capable of doing? Huh. Your mom, you say? Oh, your grandma. Well sure. She'd be a lot older than me. She's how old? Oh. Huh. Every other week, huh? Sure. I'll bet it looks real spiffy. You know, if you're into that kind of thing. Sometimes I think people care a little too much about appearances, if you ask me. I mean, no matter how much you clean, it just gets dirty again. We're all going to drop dead soon enough anyway. Bam. Finito. Here's my email. Thanks for dropping by! Careful of that door on your way out. Wind gets ahold of it and it can have a helluva kick to it. Smack you right in the fanny.

Broccoli-Boy.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

When Mars Hits Your Eye Like A Big Pizza Pie

After reading about astrology I've realized how important it is to keep tabs on the planets (not to mention the moon and sun and the Black Moon of Lilith, which is not even a thing). Otherwise you won't know what they're up to and will be forced to let life proceed along as it will, without any supervision.

My advice? Keep an eye on Mars in particular. That's one aggressive sumbitch.

You probably saw the exciting news the other day on the internet, the world's greatest source of content. Mars was going to get closer to Earth than it had been for 60,000 years and would look as big as the moon! There was even a picture of Mars as a giant tortilla in the sky. Any closer and it would dribble its canals on us. Mars is a very masculine planet and wouldn't think twice about doing that. This was going to go down on July 27th during the full moon. It was going to veer our way sudden-like, go "boogah-boogah," and then peel off to see other planets.

Alas. As is often the case, this was old, recycled news, like when you find out some actor died but he actually did it fifteen years ago. The real authentic tortilla hoax happened in 2003, when Mars made another close approach. It hadn't been that close since giant sloths slowly roamed the Earth, and wouldn't come that close again for 35,000 years. Don't bother to mark your calendars. We'll have been gone as a species for 34,850 years by that point.

The sky show was nevertheless a fine thing to watch. People should always watch planets, or at least track them on the internet, so they're not taken unawares. For instance, Mercury is in retrograde again. I know, I know. Happens all the time. Somebody should explain to Mercury that nobody's falling for that shit anymore.

This explains everything.
Unfortunately for everybody, good old Mars is also in retrograde. Didn't even hear about that did you? Planets are in retrograde when, from our perspective, they appear to be moving backwards. They aren't, they're just trundling around the sun as usual, but because the goatherds of yesteryear thought they were backing up, we have heritage anxiety about it to this day. We can blame a number of things, from flabby thinking to pox to bad sex, on planets being in retrograde. Or we could just crack a textbook.

But wait! There's more! Six planets are currently in retrograde. That's probably one asteroid shy of sending the whole solar system off the rails. Basically you should hole yourself up indoors with cable TV and lay low for a while. It's like when all the women in the dorm get their periods at the same time. Same advice applies.

Well, I'm sold. I got my natal chart done by the Googles. That's it, right up there. I have a Taurus Ascendant. The body of a woman with a Taurus Ascendant, it says here, will tend to develop as the archetype of the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite. The breasts may be larger than average, and the hips may be wider. I don't know. I do know just about everything on my natal chart is below the belly button. Even my zodiac chart is sagging.

I made sure to check on Mars. My Mars is in Virgo, or would sure like to be. Now that the horny bastard is in retrograde, I am informed that this can be a tough time for us Libras. I was advised to try to relax. "When Mars glides back into Capricorn on the 12th of August, expect inner anxieties to come out. Try to decompress a bit by taking long walks and mindful meditation."

Duly noted. After the 12th, I'm going right back full bore into reckless driving and overeating.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

All Dressed Up For The Brawl

We'd walked all the way downtown anyway, so I said, Well heck. Let's go watch the rallies.

What rallies, Dave wanted to know?

That would be your Patriot Prayer rally, with guest appearances from the Proud Boys, plus the other contestants, Antifa and a group of Reg'lar People like us.

Who are the Proud Boys, Dave wanted to know?

I'd looked them up. According to Wikipedia, they're boys who are proud of being white, and also they don't masturbate, in case that prevents them from getting off the sofa and going out to find a real woman.

Dave elected not to pursue.

Patriot Prayer is a right-wing group based in nearby Vancouver, Washington, where people from Portland go if they want to escape the tyranny of taxes and decent civilization. "Patriot Prayer" is one of those names you cook up if you want to rattle the opposition with otherwise inoffensive words. Like if I started a group called "Divine Uterus."

We walked along the waterfront; I'd heard that was where the action was. There were blue flashing police lights in the distance. The closer we got, the more people seemed to be wearing outfits. Everyone gets an outfit! We were puzzled. Some of the people--all right, they were all men--were wearing American flags. Some of them had bandanas over their faces. Some had, what do you call them, flak jackets? Big puffy vests anyway--not at all slimming. Everyone was playing dress-up.

"I can't tell who is who," I told Dave. The folks who had cut up flags into clothing might appear to be our vaunted Praying Patriots, but maybe the flag was being worn ironically. There didn't seem to be much violence in the air at this point, just a lot of milling about, although the Patriots had promised to come packing.

Per my query, a gentleman explained he was wearing a bullet-proof vest to protect him from the counter-demonstrators.

"Couldn't you just stay home?"

Evidently not. They were here to demonstrate free speech, or something. I'm all for it. ACLU supporter and everything. Their little get-ups looked more like a provocation than protection but in either case that's free speech too. I'm not sure why they're worked up about it. We do have free speech. Could it be they think free speech means nobody is allowed to object to it?

The gentleman next to the large bullet-proof fellow was saying something about the state of our country that--I'm sorry, I know it's not polite--made me laugh out loud at him. Kind of a lot. Also I may have blown a fart noise at him. Twice. Whereupon he loudly informed me that I'm in fucking denial.

"Language, son, language!"

I believe the inciting comment was "It was Obama who divided us, as soon as he got in."

Huh. Well, he did flush out the bigots pretty fast, I'll give him that.

But, sonny! Why get all het up about free speech and then spend it on profanity? Never mind. I have other questions.

Why call yourself Patriots and then turn around and desecrate the flag?

Do you have star-spangled underpants on too?

About that Prayer. Didst thou know thou art to enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly? Of course thou did. Everyone knowth that.

Isn't this a beautiful day? Isn't it nice to get out of the basement for a while? Did your mom pack you snacks? I hope your mom packed you snacks.

Dave began to steer me away. He is not a macho dude and has never, and would never, intervene in any fight I might want to pick. Unless he senses I'm in actual danger, which hasn't happened yet. Nevertheless, he doesn't care for my interest in picking fights with Nazis.

We walked a bit from the epicenter of things and only then discovered that all of the dressed-up boys were far-right types, and then there was a four-lane street with police in it, and then on the other side was the crowd of anti-fascists and Reg'lar People like us. It's like the Revolutionary War. Everyone gets spruced up in their uniforms and colors, and then they stand in a line and face each other, and maybe there will be some blam-blam. It always seemed like a silly way to conduct a war, albeit orderly. When Dave and I came up on the backside of our merry Patriots, we were accidental guerrillas.

Far out.

Anyway that was the whole problem. Here we were, just a little late for the ceremony, and there wasn't an usher to direct us to the correct side of the aisle. Our friends were over there, and here we were with the batshit brigade. Oh, well. Do you, Dave, and you, Murr, promise to defend the Constitution and fight the forces of autocracy and hatred for as long as you both shall live?

We do.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

My Stars!

Let's hear it for the Babylonians, who either invented or discovered astrology, depending, a long time ago. The Babylonians worked it all out just before being obliterated by Cyrus the Great--bummer they didn't see that coming!

But there's something to the idea that mere antiquity gives a philosophy weight. After all, rumors still persist that even before the invention of the written word, the primordial Wakka Wakka people were well on the way to proposing a Grand Unified Theory of particle physics, when unfortunately their oral tradition was disrupted by the terrible Tongue-Eater tribe bent on expanding their woolly-rhinoceros hunting territory. Such a loss.

Astrology, however, continued to thrive long after the Babylonians failed to, because it is fun. You get your own chart. It's your chart! Not really like anyone else's! You feel like a five-year-old with her first backpack that has her very own initials on it. It's very specific, and just as good at explaining your life as anything else. You can open a can with a car tire, too.

An acquaintance practices the occult arts for a living. Shortly after we met, she asked me my zodiac sign and I made her guess. She finally fetched up at "Libra" eight signs in. "You know how I knew?" she said, triumphant.

She has since explained various aspects of my personality to me, although I rarely recognize any of them as being my traits, and when I squinch up my eyes and say "Well, not really, I'm just the opposite," she tells me that it's because probably my moon is somewhere or other. Else. In a house. There are a bunch of houses. That moon could be anywhere. You can't trust it.

The idea is that the position of the planets (and moon and sun) at the very moment of your birth determines a lot about who you are and what you may become. Your whole natal chart is thrown out of whack if you're off by a couple hours.

Doesn't he look thrilled.
My mother was clearly aware of all this, which is why she had me induced one week before the school cut-off and two weeks before my due date, so that I would grow up to be the kind of kid likely to enter first grade at age five instead of age six and ultimately leave home altogether as soon as possible, because she and Daddy were getting on in years.

Astrology worked well enough to be considered a science for a long time, but there were always things that didn't quite add up, until, finally, the missing piece showed up in 1930, when Pluto came on board and straightened out the whole franchise. Unfortunately, he later retired as a planet, and now just does consulting part-time.

I'm not certain what mechanism the planets use to influence our psyches. Evidently it has to do with energy, which will remain undefined out of respect for its mystery. All the planets have different kinds of energy. I don't know which one holds the most sway over me. But the smart money is on a gas giant.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tycho Is In Da House

Welcome out, little dude! Bright out here, innit? That was probably a rough few hours there but now here you are and everyone's in love with you. There's so much love out here, you couldn't pack it in any tighter with shims and a mallet. And you haven't even done anything yet. Go ahead and take it--it's all yours. You can't mess this up.

That's not an excuse to be aggravating.  You should probably get that stuff out of your system now while you can still get away with it. In fact, some of the stuff you're going to get out of your system in the coming year is pretty dreadful. Here's a suggestion. Take it easy on your folks, they're good people. Jump all over the potty training thing first chance you get. Everyone will be amazed. Proper containment of personal effluent is much admired in the very young and very old. Your parents are not elderly but they're not shiny new, either. That's going to work to your advantage because they're going to be calm and steady and completely there for you, but maybe just a little too tired to supervise you every dang minute, so you will get a chance to go make a bunch of mistakes and figure things out. That's good.

In fact, if you really want to blow their minds, try being completely uninterested in screens. Phones? Tablets? Don't even give them a second glance. Mess around in the dirt instead. They won't know what to make of it. But then they'll totally need you in their old age, when all the communication systems of the world have foundered in ways we can't even imagine, and they'll need to learn how to grow their own beets and lettuce, and there you'll be, seeds and spade in hand and way ahead of the game. Oh, Dad, you'll say. The potatoes are underground, Dad. Go ahead and roll your eyes at him, but do it with love.

Your papa's a button-nosed beauty and your mama's a freakin' Viking. You're going to be real good-looking unless I miss my bet, but try not to ride that pony too hard. You're already lucky in love. You even have a third grandma, if you count me, and you don't even have to worry about getting any of my genes on you. I am an honorary grandma, which is what you call a grandma who isn't getting anyone named after her. Speaking of that, you might be the only kid in your class with your name. You were named after a 16th-century astronomer, because he was born first. Never forgo love. You really can't have too much of that. Doesn't mean you get to do whatever you want. Just the opposite, actually. That'll make sense later.

There used to be an oldie that went "What the world needs now is love sweet love." Oldie? Tough concept for a newborn. Let's see. About thirty years from now you're going to hear a song that will be written fifteen years from now, and that will be an oldie. It's all about perspective, and yours is very short now, though it's wide. Anyway there was a lot of truth to that oldie. The world still needs love sweet love but it's not the only thing that there's just too little of. We're missing a bunch of stuff. The guy who wrote the song thought we don't need another mountain, because we had enough to last till the end of time, but he'd never heard of Arch Coal, and had no idea people would just blow mountains apart to get at the insides, burn that up, and leave all the crap in the air and streams. He couldn't even imagine that. There's an awful lot of unimaginable things. You'll see.

Going to have to apologize for that right now. We probably couldn't have messed things up any worse if we'd made a point of it. Every generation thinks the world is going to end on their watch, of course. The generation that polished off the last mastodon thought that, but they were only just getting started. We just happen to be the first generation that's right about how bad things are, but that doesn't mean life isn't worth living. In another ten years you'll read about tigers, and rhinoceroses, and all kinds of different fish, for instance, but you never knew them, just as I didn't know a world with billions of passenger pigeons, enough to darken the skies for hours. You only know what you know. You get used to it.

Anyway we're all really sorry about things, but we still got wiggly bugs and music and rainbows and your namesake's stars and peanut butter, and the most amazing clouds--just look up!--and maybe a few salamanders will hang on too. Life is extraordinary--just you wait and see. Maybe you'll be the one to solve everything. Soak up all that love and do loving things with it, little dude. We're all counting on you.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Lepidopterology For And By Dummies

We were on the mountain and we saw an orange butterfly and then we saw another orange butterfly and they piled up until eventually, at alpine elevation, the butterflies reached confetti saturation. Whatever they were up to, they were all up to it. It was a social. A Mixer.

Don't know where the punch bowl was, but butterflies fly like they're drunk. You'd think they could only blunder on whatever they're looking for, flower nectar or Personal Butterfly Nectar, but you'd be wrong. There they are, flapping away and staggering across the sky, until another one shows up, and suddenly it's all highly precise aeronautic do-si-do and allemande-left, soon to be followed by butt-to-butt and shwing your partner. Clearly they do have a plan and know how to carry it out.

See the comma?
And clearly I need to learn more about butterflies. Starting with our little orange friend. Question one: who is it?

Question two: did you know there are five bazillion orange butterflies in the field guide? And that there are worse things to do with your time than spend a half hour leafing through them? My orange friend is a Gray Comma. Commas are so-called because of an eensie beensie white mark on the back of their wings that looks like, um, a parenthesis. There are also Question Mark butterflies. Basically, you should ignore all the fancy colorful bits in the front and flip your butterfly over to look for punctuation.

You can also spot the comma-that-looks-like-a-parenthesis if they fold up and show the gray mottled backside of their wings. They have raggedy edges to their wings and when they fold up into the praying-hands position, they look like crap. Specifically, they look like leaf litter, presumably so as to be less noticeable to predators, although just between you and me, plenty of birds like to kick leaf litter around.

(Even then, they're crappy at looking like crap compared to the Giant Swallowtail, which comes out of the egg looking like bird poop. That's okay. Mom was pretty much done with them after she laid her eggs on a nice breakfast plant. She's not going to fret about their social challenges. The strategy is: nobody eats bird poop. Even mystery bird poop that appears to be chewing up plants just as fast as it can. The bird poop caterpillars unzip their suits when they're too tight and reemerge as larger bird poops because it worked out so well the first time. They'll do this four more times until they're too large to be plausibly poopy and then a whole new fancy version shows up, but I digress.)

Back to our little orange sots. Evidently they are lurching around looking for meaningless sex. Long-term commitment does not apply to butterflies. They find each other by sight, and seal the deal with pheromones, little molecules of flirtation. They also have photo receptor cells at their genitals, which have to be pretty close to Where The Sun Don't Shine, but we're not here to criticize. The rest of the show is the same old story: the male employs a pair of "clasping organs" and his "tubular structure" is extruded into the female's "vagina," or hoo-hoo.

This may go on for several apparently agreeable hours. The male may present the female with a nuptial food gift in addition to his sperm packet, which no female really regards as a gift so much, and then eggs are laid, larvae emerge and eat everything in sight, and eventually, uh-oh! The caterpillars pupate in a chrysalis. Sure, it's embarrassing, but it can happen to anybody.

What follows is the amazing metamorphosis that every school child learns and can illustrate readily with folded construction paper and little crappy rounded scissors. There are numerous videos of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly but they are not satisfying. You can't see what's going on. A big goober crusts over and hangs around and then a butterfly busts out. Like, what the hell.

It's all been a big secret, until now! The chrysalis is actually open in the back where you can't see it, and the butterfly was in there all along in a bag that looks like it's securely fastened, but really has a secret zipper in the bottom. Distraction doesn't figure in. The process takes a few days and they know perfectly well you're not going to be looking the entire time.

Now we're back to having a butterfly and the crowd goes wild. People love butterflies. People sometimes find a butterfly has landed on their very person, and they're usually pretty honored by it, even though the insect is basically attracted to their salt, and would be equally interested in landing on poop or a corpse. They might even have just done it before they landed on you. They're just big tubular structures, that way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Slivery Moon

So we got into the car around 10:30 and left Jack and Devon's house and drove around the corner and up the hill, and Lo! Lo, I say!

Biggest dang orange crescent moon ever, total sky hammock, with the biggest brightest juiciest star ever, tipped just off its toe, on a solo spangle, just hanging there over the horizon. Gobsmacked doesn't cover it. "That's got to be Venus," I said to Dave, totally guessing because he wasn't liable to contradict me, and accidentally getting it right. I have seen a fair amount of sky shows over the years and I've never seen anything quite like this. It's as though Aphrodite flang her giant flag all over the western sky. The flag of Turkey, actually, for some reason, but whatever.

Venus is the goddess of love and beauty, and all the trouble that goes along with that. She is a stunner. That's probably why I guessed her instead of big ol' spotty Jupiter. According to the Romans, she was born when Saturn killed Uranus, sliced off his wiener, and threw it into the ocean, where it generated what was delicately called "sea foam," as if. Up she comes out of the "foam" standing in a big scallop shell and the rest is history, or something just as good.

Anyway it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Huge orange slice of moon and big bright star that had obviously just rolled off it. OMG OMG OMG, I said to Dave, Jack and Devon have to see this! And I don't have my phone! And you don't have your phone! OMG OMG OMG! What to do, what to do! And Dave said, after giving me one of those looks, "They're a block and a half away. Turn the car around."

Always an analog solution.

We turned the car around and fetched them out and soon we all stood there at the crest of the hill with our smacked gobs, and I wished aloud I had my camera, even though I have never ever taken a decent picture of a night sky and wasn't likely to do so now, and Dave said "You could just look at it," which is what he does.

This, but bigger and oranger.
I did. If Venus had been any closer to the moon, he would have poked a hole in her. She's Venus, he probably wanted to. And of course both objects were enormous, about to set. Scientists insist that this bigness is an illusion, but they have at least three different theories about what causes it, to which I'd add a fourth: they're wrong. The moon really is freaking huge on the horizon.  It starts out all dilated and nervous, and then it gets smaller after it has a chance to do some reconnaissance and climb up the sky a little where we can't get at it, until it gets to the other side, when it blows up to do one last nanner-nanner at us before dropping safely out of sight.

Oh, victim of the modern world. Along with thinking I needed a cell phone, and a camera, I also wondered why I hadn't read about this in advance so I didn't miss it. But is it always good to pre-smack your gob? Maybe not. This vision was made more stupendous by its serendipity.

It's not that I think knowledge ruins things. It doesn't, unless your thing is ignorance. I have friends who are so attuned to the sky that they can watch the swing of the stars and the perambulations of the planets in perfect intimacy, their minds at ease in a friendly web of stardust and time. The constellations are their personal friends, the neighborhood of the near universe is familiar and dear. Their joy is amplified.

And they're not necessarily scientists. Once there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night: they knew all about it. I'm a city girl. I don't know as much as the shepherds in the field.

But still the glory shone round about me.