Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Starting Over, Over And Over

It's funny how we wait for the New Year to start fresh when a new year could start at any moment. People across the world don't even agree on when a new year starts. If you're Julius Caesar you could just randomly decide to shove it up a couple months. Even the time of day is an arbitrary convention. We start a day at midnight but we used to start it at noon and there's really nothing wrong with 3:18 either. Beer-thirty is as precise as we get around here, and even that has been creeping earlier and earlier during the pandemic.

But people do love the idea of a clean sheet to write on. We want to be able to count down to a moment everything can change. Back in the dark ages when I used to write longhand on a legal pad, I had entire paragraphs squashed into the margins and circles around things with arrows pointing to where they really ought to go and cross-outs and underlined bits in boxes tagged with their ultimate destinations, and then I'd sort it all out on a typewriter when I was done. A clean sheet meant little to me. All my stuff was on the marked-up sheet. I wanted every word of it and I could rassle it into shape later. I feel that way about life too. I'm not going to start over; I want to pull all those good bits out of the margins and figure out what order they go in, and what I should cross out, and there's always room to come up with more.

Still, you get a year everyone agrees is truly a crappy year, we're all ready to crumple up the paper and pitch it at the can, and maybe set fire to it first. So that's what we're going to do. Now what?

That's when we really need to pay attention to the truth: that a new year starts every second. And that's good news, because a lot can happen in a second.

I got the only Christmas gift I'd specifically asked for. I wanted to be able to feed Studley a Christmas worm. He doesn't show up every day. But on Christmas morning that angel came in from on high and chikketed at me from the window, and popped around to the back door for his worm. Studley Windowson was special to me even before he demonstrated that he knew me personally and was willing to land on me (and my friends) for larvae. That was because I could pick him out from all the other chickadees. The others are every bit as worthy, but only Studley is missing two toes on his left foot. And caring about Studley leads to caring about his kids, and his food, and the native plants his food lives on, and his whole, world-wide web.

Meet Dot
Last week I was looking at lesser goldfinches on the feeder. They're flockers. Six years ago I didn't even know they were a thing, and now I recognize them as among my most common visitors. I know the sounds they make and I know how incessantly and adorably they make them. The other day I noticed one of them had a white spot on her head. I didn't know if someone had pooped on her--I mean, that has to happen sometimes, right?--so I paid attention later, and sure enough, she kept coming by, and it's definitely part of her feathers. Dot! Now I can pick Dot out of a big chirpety bundle of birds. I can tell how she approaches the feeder a little differently, and which azalea branch she favors. I have a new bird to care about. I can care about Dot, and thus even more about the rest of her flock, and second by second my caring can expand until it fills up the whole world. It starts somewhere.

In one second, a boy soprano can lift the top of your head off and send it to the stars. In one second, as you wait out the exquisite tension before a chord resolves, you can feel that ache pulled right through your heart and come out clean on the other side. In one second, you can really notice a bird. You can love any little thing. And then you know how to love the whole world. And that will cause you to change your life faster than any resolution will. 

We can all do it together. We can start anytime.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Tavern At The End Of The Street

We measure things in lifetimes, and not necessarily long ones. Even a five-year-old talks about things she's known her whole life. It's hard to take the long view, if you're a human, which is why we're sucking up all the fossil fuel as fast as we can just in case we wreck our climate beyond redemption later. It's just the way we are.

Right down on the corner, there used to be a terrific little restaurant called Bernie's Southern Bistro, with a faithful staff and a friendly outdoor patio, and if you wanted to get your blood congealed to bacon-grease consistency, this was just the place to do it. Hush puppies, blackened catfish, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, fried could get a salad. A "Fat Boy Salad." Everyone loved the place and now it's gone.

The owners of the building had renovations in mind. So for a couple years now it's been accumulating layers of graffiti, and finally now it's being stripped to the rafters. Plenty of young people talk about the old Bernie's as though it were a Portland institution, and for a short lifetime, if you're twenty, it was. But before it was Bernie's it was the Chez What? before the Chez What? moved down the street and then folded.

And before that, back when the street ambience ran more to plywood and iron window bars, it was Johnny's Jar Room, noted--although not widely--for serving beer in Mason jars. And before that it was the Homestead Tavern. It was the Homestead when we moved in 42 years ago. Our dog Boomer used to waltz in there for a bowl of Heidelberg and the barkeep would call us up to fetch her back. Boomer didn't smoke but if she had she could've done it right at the bar. Stuff changes.

Naturally, like everyone else, we figured that was all there was to know about 2904 NE Alberta Street, because history begins with us. But that was before the siding was removed, revealing a spiffy Coca-Cola mural dating from 1948. The owners had no idea it was there but it can't be saved on account of the high lead content of the paint. The nanny state doesn't allow unabated lead because it could lead to lower intelligence in children who might then grow up to believe wearing face-masks in a pandemic is sissified or treasonous, and we can't have that. Below the Coca-Cola mural was BILLY ROWE'S in gigantic lettering. As it turns out, Billy Rowe and his wife Doris owned the tavern in 1943, despite being Mormons, although God smote them for it years later, when they both died in a head-on crash. The churchly allegiance of the oncoming vehicle's driver is unknown.
I guess it was Duke's tavern after that, and no one seems to know when the mural was sided over, even though it happened well within Dave's lifetime and he grew up ten blocks away. We forget. We forget. It's just the way we are.

Now, before the new façade goes up, we can see the massive old planks of the building, presumably original, dating back to 1922, when the streetcar ran through. But squint harder at those planks and you can see what really came before: old-growth Douglas fir forest, home to life in crazy abundance, razed and ruined not that many lifetimes ago, never to return. We forget. We forget.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Sound Of Rapture

I caught it out of the corner of my eye last summer: six broccoli plants in a row, taking a bow in a rolling wave, like stumpy Rockettes. It didn't make sense but it was graceful and lovely. And then I noticed the choreographer: a crow had taken off abruptly from one end of the broccoli bed and set them rocking. It reminded me that another thing that invariably makes me happy is wingbeats. Wingbeats! The flappination of air!

Everybody's all about the bird songs, but I like wingbeats so much that sometimes I stand under the bird feeder just to hear them properly. I still don't know that many bird songs but I can distinguish different species' wingbeats at my feeder with my eyes closed. And as long as I keep them closed I'll never know I'm wrong.
Dave and I were on a trail on Mt. Hood one time. It was a dark narrow corridor, the trees nearby on both sides and meeting just above our heads. Then there was this sensation, a throb, a premonition. Like your last breath before the Rapture. And a moment later a raven came up from behind and flew right over us, slow, not much faster than we were walking, so that we had time to feel its majestic percussion. Flap. Flap. Flap. I'm telling you, it was holy. And so much better than the Second Coming, in that we didn't have to worry if it was too late to join the right team. We knew we were exactly where we belonged: on our home planet, which we get to share with an iridescent black angel.
Pigeons, on the other hand, have many fine qualities, but I don't care. They kind of bug me. And one of the things that bugs me about pigeons is how noisy their wingbeats are. Looks like they're smacking their own wings together over their heads, and that's just so inelegant and sloppy. That's if you can get them in the air to begin with. Their indifference to being stepped on bugs me too. Weird shiny little head-bobbers with a bad diet. Even the iridescence is all wrong. Ravens shimmer in a shifting sheen of purple and green. Pigeons look like an oil slick.

But I do know Studley's wingbeats. Flibberty flibberty. They're a certain pitch and a certain speed and, most important, a certain distance away. Like, if they end up on your hat? It's Studley.

The sound of a normal wingbeat has to do with the air turbulence. But owls have engineered fluff on the leading edges of their wings to muffle their sound and can fly almost silently. This is real handy if you want to sneak up on a shrew. And it's right considerate too, from the shrew's standpoint. It's bad enough getting turned into an owl pellet without having to suffer that last bit of panic and dread.

When it's my time to go I hope an owl brings the news. If not, a chickadee will do. That's it's own kind of rapture.

Merry Christmas, y'all. Here's something: listen for the wingbeats!


Saturday, December 19, 2020

He'll Have A Butt Light

By now, everyone has already seen the documentary My Octopus Teacher or been told they have to. It's an excellent show and will no doubt result in a tragedy of captive octopuses.
There's something about the deliberation and languid grace of a resting octopus that is irresistible to humans, and the eightness of their affectionate arms seals the deal. Plus, these are not the golden retrievers of the sea. You have to earn their consideration.
Of course, there's no telling but what many of us in your damper climates already harbor an octopus and don't even know it. They are masters of camouflage, and everyone has a crevice or two. This is why we wear swimming trunks.

Octopuses in the proper mood are particularly cuddly because they are almost entirely made of fingers and pudding. There are only a few types of octopus that have any crunchy bits.

This is one thing that distinguishes them from their fellow mollusks, the squids. Squids have a rigid internal portion called a "pen." The pen is there to stiffen the squid. Speaking of that, male squids do have one arm with a copulatory pad on the end of it. According to the literature, it is one of his left arms, although it seems to me that all depends on where you start counting. With the copulatory pad, he can directly reach a female squid in her pertinent privates or, alternatively, wrench off the arm altogether and present it to her. Gallantry is not dead among the squids.

There is a rarely-seen squid that is nevertheless known to be very common, because its pen, minus its original squid, washes up on shorelines all over the world. This is the Ram's-Horn Squid. Its pen is shaped like a curled ram's horn; it's plumb adorable. From time to time people have netted this squid alive but up until recently no one has seen it in its normal environment, which is quite deep in the ocean. As a result, not all that much is known about the critter, the only living member of the Spirula genus, or the Spirula family, or, in fact, the Order of Spirula. Just this one dude.

For instance, they do know that it comes up in shallower waters every so often, because it turns up in albatross guts, next to all the plastic. And it is "thought to" spawn in the wintertime. I do not know who specifically thinks that. No babies have been seen. It's pure conjecture as far as I can tell, and will continue to be cited over and over until someone sieves up a swarm of summer squidlets. They might just as well claim that the Spirula family congregates in late November for roast shrimp with plankton stuffing and screams at each other over the ethical implications of the food chain.

But the other day, a deep-diving unmanned ocean rover spotted a genuine Spirula in the squishy flesh, and the squid-science world went nuts. The squid was three inches long and shaped like a tampon with a big eyeballs on top and lime-green light shining out of its fanny. It was oriented eyeball-up and butt-down in contrast to the way scientists always "thought" it would be. Captured ram's-horn squids tend to keel over on their sides or upside-down, but that could be the despair.

Scientists assumed they oriented themselves the other way because their pen is filled with gas for buoyancy and one would think it would be on top, but it wasn't. This does solve the other problem of the butt light though. It makes sense for the light to point down so that predators underneath it have trouble seeing it against the water surface reflections; not that this helps any with the albatross.

So presumably with the new video of a healthy ram's-horn squid, we have added to our knowledge, but this is science: one must be wary of leaping to conclusions, especially with a sample of one. it could be just what that squid does. What if aliens visit Earth and discover the shorelines littered with durable Carhartts and Kevlar vests, but the only human they find is Gandhi? They might conclude people keep their legs folded up and are peaceful. Boy, would they be wrong.

Thanks to Friend Of Pootie Mary Treiber for the squidly scoop.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Drawing The Line

Big line at the bank today. I wasn't expecting a line because nobody goes into an actual bank anymore, but it was a Friday and I guess the Pay Day thing still applies.

That's how banking used to be. You got paid on Friday and you spent your lunch half-hour standing in line at the bank. That's how you could get cash money which you could exchange for beer. It didn't get excreted from a pore on the outside wall and it sure as hell didn't travel through space and reassemble in money molecules inside your account, from which you could withdraw it on your phone

Of course, nobody needs cash anymore. The grocery store is happy to dispense cash with your cauliflower, but mostly you don't need it. You can pay for absolutely anything absolutely any old way that doesn't involve cash. I don't know what street beggars are doing now, if they don't take cards.

I know you can take photos of your checks with your phone and shlorp them into your account from the comfort of your beanbag chair, or even at a stoplight, but I don't know how it's done and doubt my phone would cooperate. So I walk to the bank and hand my checks to the teller once a month or so. There's never a time a three-mile stroll isn't in order, and I don't have anything else I need to do. It's not like there's a line.

Until today. And the line appeared to have something to do with it being Friday and more to do with the dearth of tellers and the fact that one gentleman occupied one teller for the entire time I was there (that's a lot of mysterious banking), and the ATM outside was broken. The line was out the door because we were all spaced out, man.

The fellow in line in front of me did not recommend himself to me as an attractive font of conversation. He stabbed irritably at his phone and groused about stuff and eventually made it to the vestibule, from which he beckoned me--"They're letting two people in the vestibule"--and so in the name of visible progress I entered the vestibule, a small enclosed space, and the man continued to stab at his phone and grouse, with his face mask stationed under his bulbous nose, and I excused myself back outside, causing a cascade of back-stepping in the outdoor line.

By the time I graduated to all-the-way-indoors and stood on my assigned painted spot, the man ahead of me, Nose-Boy, got to a teller who wanted to know how he was today, or so she said, and he growled "Well, I've been standing in line for forty minutes," which was demonstrably not true unless he was there for twenty minutes before I showed up, which he was not. And he spluttered all of this with his face mask parked under his nose.

I know the tellers, who have to spend all day in that building with everybody's dangling or aerosolized secretions, would have loved to ask him to pull up his face mask. But people get tired of having to scold other grownups. And it rarely works out. This fellow wouldn't have taken it well. He was already put out by everything. The tellers have to make a calculation: risk severe unpleasantness accompanied by more spewing, or count on protection from the high ceilings and the Plexiglass? I didn't even have to work there all day and I didn't tell the man I was leaving the vestibule because his stupid nose was hanging out. I'd do the same thing as the tellers did.

Nothing. God Bless America.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Losing Our Esses

For the duration of the 2020 baseball season, I hear, the Toronto Blue Jays played their games in the stadium of their farm team, the Buffalo Bisons.

The Buffalo Bisons. I don't know. That's a little on the nose for a team name, isn't it? It would be like if Marmot, Oregon had a team called the Marmot Big Fat Rodents. Also? The plural of bison is bison.

Which makes "bisons" wrong in the exact opposite way people are currently getting plurals wrong. Something has happened to perfectly good plurals. Lately, people have been losing their esses all over the place. It's a field of "irises," people, not a field of iris. And it's "ospreys," not a family of osprey. And it's "octopuses." (Or octopodes.) And, well, it never ends. You can't just drop the S willy-nilly and think you've nailed it.

I do understand that this is English and as such it is destined to be confounding. When you've got a big muscular language like ours that has plundered every other language for spare parts and an operating system, nothing is going to make sense.

But it is sort of helpful that a thick swath of our nouns gets pluralized by adding an S. Not all of them, of course. But that S can get you a long way, and you should not be unduly afraid of it.

Some nouns do not get an S because they're considered "uncountable." Rice, for instance. You don't buy a bag of rices. The grains are countable, and get an S, but the rice, not so much.

There are irregular plurals. If you have more than one mouse, I'm afraid you've got mice. Or meece, if there are a whole lot of them, or mousies if they're especially cute. A lot of the nouns that are the same singular and plural, like bison, are animals, such as sheep, or deer, or fish. You can have fishes, but they're usually biblical, and come with loafuses.

And sometimes the plural spelling of those animals is different depending on whether you're chucking them under the chin or hunting them. So you might keep a bunch of rabbits as pets, but you hunt rabbit. (Or wabbit.) Perhaps people say they're hunting elephant because they prefer to think that elephants are uncountable, which they emphatically are not. Shame on them.

But this business of dropping perfectly good esses is getting out of hand. We grow crocuses, not crocus. We plant agapanthuses, not agapanthus. Where does it end? Nasturtia?

You'd think this is the kind of thing that happens when you've scolded too many people for using extraneous apostrophes with their esses over the years. Maybe they've decided to skip the whole thing. But the apostrophe people are not the ones dropping the esses. They're fine with the way they spell and punctuate, and feel it is helpful to give a plural noun a nice apostrophe to help hook the S onto the word.

No, it's the people who strive to get it right that get it wrong. The first time they heard someone say "a bed of iris" they thought: Oh no. I've been saying irises all this time. But clearly this is some sort of Latin thingy and thus, because only erudite people know Latin, it is correct. And then they hear similar incorrect plurals, and rush to catch up to the erudition bandwagon.

And even so, nobody calls buttholes "ani."

It's hit or miss. Somehow we all know to say "asters" and "daisies" but go all to pieces over trilliums or dianthuses. We talk about mallards but suspect there are wigeon. I looked to the experts to find out why some things never take an S plural, and found this:

"They form a lexical category in Guiraud's sense, that is, a non-arbitrary set of nouns with common features at the level both of the signified and of the signifier, and constituting, from a diachronic perspective, a matrix having enabled membership of the category to develop until today."

Apropodes of nothings, the plural of bullshit is bullshit.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Peeing On The Commons

Before you say anything else, let me tell you up front that I Do Not Have A Lawn. Don't even bring it up.

And I know my opinion is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. All the right people say it is. But here goes: I don't like your graffiti. It's ugly and annoying. "But it's meant to disturb," you say. "The whole point is to get your attention and shake you out of your bourgeois sense of complacency." Mission accomplished. Why is annoying Murr a good thing, again?

"What's more important," you go on, "someone's precious capitalist property rights or the lives of the disenfranchised?" False choice, cupcake. You can care about many things at once. And your spiky initials ain't saving anybody. Neither are the penis drawings.

Yeah, fuck off. It's not your building. If you had a job you'd own something too.

(Just kidding. I was just wantonly tagging the blogosphere, there. Sorry you had to see that.)

So let's break this down. As a matter of record, I too believe, as a property owner, that the ownership of private property is an inherently bad idea. I do believe that the acquisition of property in and of itself leading to the unearned accumulation of wealth is a stupid economic model. I believe most property should be held in the public commons and the rest parceled out in an equitable manner.

And I guess you're reclaiming the property you deface as a public space. So why you scribbling all over the public commons, you little assholes?

There are a lot of opportunities for freedom of expression that don't need to be sandblasted off. You can write opinion letters. You can bark in the park. You can go to city council meetings and yell your fool head off. You can knock on doors and ask people if they've been saved.

Graffiti. There's nothing curated about it, which is one of its charms, you say. It's democracy in action. It's The People taking over the town square. Well, goody. Keep the noise down, okay? This isn't art. This isn't worthy discourse. This is like spewing out reams of misspelled ungrammatical incoherent diatribe and random hate speech and calling it dialectic. Oh wait, that's the internet. I'm not wild about that spray job, either.

Visualize how you feel when your precious creation is plastered over by Nazi racist bullshit. No problem, you say? You can just spray-paint over it? Swell. Now we're down to the public-discourse level of urinating spaniels.

I remember, before tagging really took hold here, visiting capitals in Europe and seeing beautiful stone buildings--goddesses, really--that had been standing for five hundred years, their skirts now drenched in graffiti. Should people deface thousand-year-old petroglyphs in the desert too? Who gets to decide?

It was chaotic and depressing and ugly, and ugly matters. Beauty has meaning, is worth pursuing. It's in the eye of the beholder, you say. Fine. This beholder is affronted by your self-indulgence, your celebration of your own presumably stunted spirit, now set gloriously free. This beholder thinks it's ugly, pushy, and rude. You're no Banksy. You aren't merely expressing yourself: you're shouting over everyone else. Half of your precious "message" is I was here, and you didn't catch me.

So you do it under cover of darkness. You like that thrill of getting away with something. Shit, honey. That's what recreational drugs are for. Leave the damn windows alone. Let the restaurant owner scratch out a living without having to scratch out your sophomoric philosophy writ in Krylon.

It doesn't matter how worthy your efforts are--they reek of vanity. You want to make a mark, see if you can improve someone's life without taking credit. Am I doing that, you ask? Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. If I'm doing it right, you'll never know.

Art, my Aunt Fanny. Also? That shit's not music. That's just a lot of yelling.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Sweet Fancy Moses

We're winding down on this weird-ass year. I've got December 31 penciled in for the big earthquake and have some peanut butter on hand, but beyond that I will remain, as always, unprepared. The future is famously opaque, and I plan for it mostly by not speculating. Whenever disaster hits, I can comfort myself by realizing I didn't waste all those uneventful years worrying. "Make friends with prepared people"--that's my motto.

Because you never know. Folks in Boston woke up on January 15, 1919 and fretted about the flu pandemic and groused about wearing masks like they had been for months, but never once thought about what they'd do if they were overtaken by a 25-foot wave of molasses.

Nevertheless a storage tank, fifty feet tall and containing 13,000 tons of molasses, burst all at once and sent a river of goo through the North End at a rate of 35 mph, and no one's outrunning that sucker. (To compare, the great floods of molten basalt that formed much of Oregon could readily be outrun by anyone able to trot six mph for three days and nights in a row, but for the most part resulted in little human injury due to us having not been invented yet.)

People nearby reported hearing machine-gun sounds and were justifiably concerned, but it was only all the rivets shooting out of the exploding tank, which isn't much safer a proposition, bystander-wise. The flood tipped over a streetcar and knocked buildings off their foundations. Best you could do if you found yourself in its path was duck behind a flour silo and hope for cookies. As it was, twenty-one people perished outright, and as the flood cooled and thickened, there was no possibility for rescue. Victims had to be chipped out and bagged for resale. Those North End Italian boys really put the snap in gingersnap!
Strictly speaking, the Molasses Flood of 1919 was predictable in retrospect, which is the least useful sort of prediction. The steel in the silo failed to meet even the lax standards of the time; rivets were flawed; testing was neglected. Hints that trouble might be in the offing, such as a deep groaning sound whenever the tank was filled, were ignored. It leaked so badly it was painted brown for camouflage.

There was, additionally, some rumor that the tank had been overfilled in anticipation of the passage of the 18th Amendment, a.k.a. Prohibition, in order to maximize the availability of rum. The Amendment was indeed passed the very next day, but the U.S. Industrial Alcohol Company insisted it was distilling molasses not for rum but for industrial and military purposes, and there was no law against war.

Nevertheless, citizens brought a class-action suit against the owners of the tank; for its part, the company blamed the explosion on anarchists.*

Basically, the disaster was a result of naked, unrestrained capitalism. There was nothing good to be said about it, except that the area smelled like cookies literally for decades, and once again the world was able to observe that we are all the same under the skin, once we're glazed with sugar.

*not kidding

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Against The Wind

It's easy to justify driving your car when you're going to Costco to pick up a shipping container's-worth of food and paper products. But I was just going to buy a little camera and decided to take my bicycle. I used to ride it daily, but it's been moldering in the basement for a while. At the last minute Dave surprised me by offering to join me.
Huh! Back in the '80s he found a bike at Goodwill for $15 and bought it on a whim. It was a classic, and identical to the bike he rode in college: a bright orange Schwinn Varsity. The sucker weighs in at a smooth two hundred pounds if you take the saddle off, although that makes it marginally less comfortable, and you do need a strong dwarf with a wrench to take off the wheels. 
He rode it straight downtown to surprise me at work, and we rode home together, uphill, and then he stashed it in a dark corner of the basement. Fifteen years later he peeled a felt of dust off it and joined me on a half-day trip, after which it was dispatched to an even darker corner of the basement. The geyser of inspiration for Dave to ride a bike has a fifteen-year periodicity, and I guess he was due again. So we hauled out our bikes, pumped up the tires, blew up one of them with a boom that dropped war vets for a mile around, and eventually spanked them into working condition.

Our route took us along the Columbia River on a dedicated bike path. It was swell! It was grand! The temperature was mild, ospreys wheeled in the sky, herons struck picturesque poses along the shoreline, wishes were lavishly granted. I marveled once again at what a wonderful invention was the bicycle: with almost no effort at all, we were gliding along at a nice clip, with Mt. Hood smiling in the blue in front of us. We were strong! We were sailing! There was no limit to our powers! We rolled smugly through the acres of SUVs at the Costco parking lot and found, to our amazement, a bike rack right out front. It didn't have a scratch on it. I bought my camera and we headed home.

Within a few blocks we were back on Marine Drive and nothing was right. We ran into something a lot like Shinola. We were pressing miserably into the wind, pedaling hard just to stay ahead of our own dark impulses. Here's the thing. When the wind is at your back, you don't even notice it. You think you have superpowers. But a headwind is debilitating. You'll brave the rain; you understand the rain. You're fine with pushing up a mountain; you understand a mountain. You expect to work harder when you've loaded up your saddlebags with heavy things. But you can't see a headwind. You can only feel it, and it feels pervasive, and wrong, and deeply unfair.

Still you battle on, with salt in your eyes, inching closer to home. But you can dream. You can imagine flipping it around just one more time, just to feel those righteous sails billow, to be mighty and invincible again. All we need is one U-turn, and we're suddenly awesome, we're right back in charge. Just two white kids flying into the future we so deserve.

Saturday, November 28, 2020


It's my job to make croissants for family feasts. I'm not much of a baker, but I get the nod in my family because basically no one else wants to bake at all. This year we had no prospects for a big Thanksgiving dinner and no real plans for ourselves, and that was okay, because Dave has never particularly like turkey anyway. He always made the turkey, and the stuffing, and the potatoes, and the side dishes, and the gravy, and the peeled prawns with tarragon mustard sauce, and a selection of Horse Doovers, and he opened the can of cranberry sauce and shlorped it onto the plate, but he always groused about the turkey (little ground bird humor, there) and wondered why we couldn't have prime rib instead.

Anyway, this year seemed like a good opportunity to not have turkey, and we didn't have any other plans, and then it occurred to me how about I just make a batch of croissants and we eat them all? A jug of wine, a freaking mountain of butter-saturated bread and thou. As soon as it came to me I knew it had to happen. I don't even eat wheat much anymore, but I'm willing to destroy my health for homemade croissants. Mine aren't bakery-pretty, but they are spectacular. By the time you read this, I might almost be ready to sit up and take soup again.

This sort of thing is not unprecedented around here. Dave has always been a very good cook but one day I asked him what he was making and he said "All the bacon you ever really wanted." And that's what we had. It was a lot of bacon. We were not at all well afterwards.

This is the first year I've made croissants since I started watching the Great British Baking Show, though. So I've seen how puff pastry is supposed to be made, and it's a somewhat delicate and painstaking process that rewards perfectionists and painstakers, none of whom live here. I planned to make them as I always do. I always check the recipe even though I've made them almost a hundred times and there are only four ingredients. ("Oh yeah," I say, when I look them up.) The cookbook springs open to the right page, spang in the middle like the Psalms. It's an old Joy Of Cooking with grease stains and a sprung spine, and it was given to my mother-in-law Murry (yes) in 1948 with the penciled inscription "Good luck, ole pal, love, Helen." This cookbook is so old it has references to the "colored cook."

I'm good at making the dough but I get lazy when it comes to dotting the butter on it and folding it over. You're supposed to whip the butter so it's easy to Dot but I've never bothered. I just put a couple sticks of butter in my bra for a while and it's soft enough when I'm ready to go. Also, as someone who has never given milk, I think it's impressive to pull butter from my bosom.

So while I had the recipe in front of me, I re-checked it, as I had the previous 99 times, and what the hell but I've been doing it wrong all this time. I've always read "dot 1/4 of the butter on l/3 of the rolled-out dough and fold into thirds," and then swing it around east to south (I think north to east works just as well), and do it three more times. And that is what I have always done. It's hard to fit all the butter on a third of the dough after you've folded and rolled it a few times but I do my best. But it doesn't say that. It says to dot 1/4 of the butter on the whole dough layer and fold into thirds. Much easier. It says that plain as day and presumably always has. This is why it's hard to edit your own copy. Once you've read it wrong, it just stays read wrong.

Anyway my way does result in more chunks of butter that want to bust through the layers of dough and leak out, so my croissants are not only packed with butter, they're also swimming in it in the oven, resulting in sautéed butter rolls, which is even better than the professional version. The judges of the Great British Baking Show would demerit me into exile, but I don't care. And if I have a soggy bottom, 'tain't nobody's business but my own.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

See Spot

I'm not sure my eyes are working properly anymore. Of course, they never have. All I have to do is take my glasses off for a moment to realize how lucky I am to be alive now because in another era I would have blundered into a tar pit. I would have been stomped into salsa by a mastodon. I would have died young but at least I would never have seen it coming.

I should have my eyes checked again. But it's been less than a year since the last exam and I can wait. It isn't any one thing, anyway. Seems like I'm always trying to navigate around the smudgy bits and exploring my trifocals for areas of clarity in any given situation. Supposedly I have a cataract that no one is in a hurry to do anything about. I also have enough floaters that in certain lights it's like I'm living in an aquarium, which isn't so bad. The only place it's really annoying is at the piano. I wonder if I can get sheet music the size of the old Dick And Jane book we learned from in first grade. We sat in its shadow. Four kids could make a fort out of that sucker without even using blankets.

I like to think of my eyes as having "let themselves go." That's the expression people use to describe old people who have flat-out given up on trying to be something they're not. I guess it's meant to be derogatory. Seems to me if you're an old woman who rolls out of bed and into a muumuu and scuff slippers, you've got a good grip on things. Mostly no one describes me as having let myself go because it implies I was holding it together before, and there's not a lot of evidence for that. Comfort, Sloth, and I are a mighty team, and Vanity doesn't have a shot against us when we stick together.

Some things I can see more clearly now, in this life pause we've been given. Our isolation is not without its blessings, especially with the stripping-away of diversion and trivial pursuit. So much of what we do is designed to distract us from our eventual, unimportant demise. We acquire mindlessly, we manufacture conflict. We're desperate and diligent in filling up our lives, we feed our rage and our fears. We complain about our busyness and yet we feed that too. We don't like to think about our lifetimes contracting. But there's no getting around that. There's something to be said about knowing what's important, and a lot of unimportant stuff needs to be moved out of the way to see it.

What we need to do is let ourselves go. We're the ones in our way. Every best joy is simple. We all need things for simple survival, and we should do our best to see that everyone gets them, because right now the winners and losers are determined by a game of dice. But we don't need much--not nearly as much as we imagine. Rejoice in good food. Rejoice in food at all. Go outside. Stay inside. Play music. Play at all. Make art. Make out. Make up. Everything is bigger than we are, and that is the biggest comfort and joy of all.

I rejoice in weak eyes that can still see, and I rejoice in you, and in everything that still wings and still slithers and still sprouts on a still-green earth. And I'll fight for all of these tomorrow, but today I'll let my thankfulness for it all roll through me. Gratitude is another word for peace.

That much is clear.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Rodent On The Lam

You never know what's in store: you could get hit by a bus at any time. That's what people say. I don't know why being hit by a bus is such a thing, or why people are always getting thrown under one. It's evocative. And yet very few of us know anyone who's been hit by a bus. I do: that's how my uncle died. But he wasn't normal.

The thing is, whereas it is sort of true that you could get hit by a bus at any time, given adequate exposure, it is equally true that your life could get suddenly brighter at any time too.

Just the other day a huge happiness landed in our kitchen. Right out of nowhere. Dave was sweeping the floor and rather than sliding a chair aside he actually tilted it up. And what was under that chair but Tater's missing hamster!
Tater has been missing her hamster for at least three years. Dave saw it in a store window and brought it home for her. She likes to bat around little stuffed things and in some cases she likes to disembowel them with her rear feet. It's not unusual for us to come upon a tragic scene of shredded Poly-Fil stuffing and torn plush. I usually sew them back up again because we're not made of money.

(Yeah, it's a little like a young girl being surgically stitched to be re-sold as virgins. I simply have a problem looking at stuffed animals as passive constructions of lint. No. People think I, as a grown-up human, am way too invested in seeing after Pootie's needs and desires, too. But they're wrong. They don't know our history. It's thick.)

Anyway, Tater's hamster is special. We thought she didn't much like it at first. She ignored it. Until the day Dave took off and Tater didn't realize I was in the house and she set up a low, mournful yowling completely unrelated to her regular voice, and I saw her transporting the hamster into a different room and setting it down. After that we noticed that the hamster was never in the same place it had been when we left the house. She'll take it upstairs. Downstairs. If we catch her in the act she'll drop it and give it a few pretend-bats, but there isn't a mark on it. She protects it. It's her baby.

[By the way, yes, it has a tail, and is not really a hamster as much as it's a gerbil, but "hamster" is a funnier word and more fun to say, and that's that. Rules are different in a logophile's house.]

So we don't necessarily find the hamster when we come home, but happen upon it later. And that's why it took us a few weeks to realize we hadn't seen it in a while. 

I have been devastated on Tater's behalf. She loved that hamster. I've been shaking my head in sorrow over it for three years. And now it's back! We tossed it toward her and she put it between her paws and under her chin until we made too much of a fuss, and then she pretended to bat it around for a couple seconds. Later it showed up in another room, set neatly upright.

And Tater, who is somewhere around fourteen and has been slowing down, is a new cat. Lunging at squirrels on the other side of the window. Chittering at finches. Conducting spontaneous crazy-cat exercises at warp speed just because. Exuberating. Ain't nothing in the house safe from her excess of joy now, except for the hamster. He's spotless. And looking pretty bright in the buttons, too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Hold On, Sparky

Well gosh, I'm getting into the rhythm of this business of seducing literary agents. My synopsis is getting tighter. My bio hints at genius with a disarming whiff of humor. I've even found "comparable novels" to throw in because they like that sort of thing. "Jeeves and Wooster meet The Goldfinch on The Road," I begin. Irresistible.

But I make mistakes. One of my favorite mistakes is sending out a query letter from my regular email address rather than the address I use just for writing-related things. I like to keep those accounts separate. Also, my regular account is "Pootie." Some of your more easily affronted recipient mailboxes will send that sucker straight to the spam folder. If I accidentally send a query letter from Pootie and don't hear back, I don't know if it's a normal non-response or if the agent never got my letter.

My perfect letter.

This wasn't a problem on my desktop computer, Old Sludgy. If I wanted to send something from my writing account, I had to ask my computer to flip all the way over to that account. It can't even hear Pootie from there. But on my laptop, my two email accounts are right there together, side by each. And when I send a letter, I have to check which account I'm sending it from. So I do. Usually.

But then there's that time I've got a letter in draft form and I hold onto it for four days, rereading every morning and making tweaks and improvements, and making sure I've spelled the agent's name right, and then I get to thinking "Is 'tight synopsis' a medical condition?" and accidentally hit SEND and whoosh there it goes and instantly--I mean instantly--I realize I've sent it from Pootie.

So I slow down. A bit. I write my letters, and I keep them in the Drafts folder, and have days to make sure they're going to be sent from the right account, and then I open one up, change one word, and click off to send it back to Drafts, and whoosh--off it goes, because I hit the little airplane instead of the little red dot. Was it okay? Did I copy and paste from another letter and forget to replace the other agent's name? Whatever happened to having your own secretary?
Clearly, this has gotten into the same territory as walking down a flight of stairs. I never used to think about that but things have changed. And now I square up at the top of the stairs and grab the bannister. How is it I can take such care with a letter and then screw it up at the very end? The problem, when you're old, is that your muscles went to crap and your memory is even crappier and your muscle memory is all you've got left. You're going to hit that button and it's just a dang miracle you're not also waiting to hear the "ding" and carriage return.

I need some kind of reminder. Some kind of hold-your-horses step. A virtual bannister to square up at. A big warning note on the wall, a post-it on the computer, a device. Something like Groucho Marx's duck that comes down from the rafters with the secret word. If I could only hook up my email program to a lowerable duck that says HOLD ON, SPARKY, I'll be all set.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Trouble In The Trouser Zone


In these tumultuous times, as a lame-duck president still walks free among us, it's good to remember that any prick can be busted.
Medically speaking, this is known as Aubergine Sign. It's not so much a sign as a honkin' billboard. You're not liable to miss it.
Let's back up. The "meatus" is the hole at the bottom of the penis, or top (depending); it's the drain hole, or nozzle (depending). And basically, if you're a boy and you discover you have a vegetablus next to your meatus, you should already be at the doctor's. You probably are.
The vegetable in question is an eggplant. If your penis looks like a stalk of Brussels sprouts, you're dealing with an STD situation. If it looks swollen and purple and, in other words, a whole lot like an eggplant, you've broken your dick.
A boner contains no actual bone. If yours does, you might be a chimpanzee. What breaks when you break your boner is the Tunica Albuginea. This is the envelope that protects the three standard penis tubes. One of the tubes, the Corpus Spongiosum, shelters the wee-wee channel. The other two, the Corpora Carnosum, form the erector set. Tunica Albuginea is from the Latin for White Coat, which is who you should see if you bust it. Which, sometimes, is an audible event. Oh, snap!

How do you break the boner blanket? It's not easy. Basically, you're doing it wrong. Usually it involves some sort of rotational force on the penis during intercourse or masturbation. The medical article I consulted used the phrase "over-enthusiastic sex." (It was written by a man. His name is Randy.) The injury results in swelling that quickly outstrips its desirability, followed by internal bleeding, causing the massive purple hematoma. There's usually no shortage of available blood in the region at the time. In some areas of the Middle East, the injury is more common, due to a cultural practice called "tagaandan." Don't bother looking it up. It's not in the Kama Sutra. It's the practice of shoving your erect penis down so it doesn't embarrass you in mixed company. No word how to protect your dignity when you're screaming like a girl. Really, some countries should just get bigger pants.

One of the other relatively common injuries seen in the ER involves items stuck in the rectum. There is a protocol of bedside manner recommended in these cases in which a number of questions are asked of the patient, but not including "Did you shove something up your rectum?" Evidently a lot of the afflicted present complaining of constipation, or bloating, or back pain. I'm not sure why. This is no time to be coy. It's not like the doctor isn't going to figure it out during the extraction process ("coming clean"). But perhaps the root cause of discomfort does come as a surprise to the patient, who might not have been in a position to visually observe the goings-on, might not have been entirely sober at the time, and hasn't yet noticed anything missing from his cupboard.

Or Habitrail.

Both conditions merit a trip to the doctor. In the case of Eggplant Dick, be sure to snap a photo in the early, pre-purple stages. You might find someone you want to send it to later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Marching Ass To War!

Don't celebrate just yet.

We have been the victims of an intricate and ingenious plot, and as a consumer of the social media, I have done the research.

It's been a sting operation all along, folks, and we Biden voters have fallen for it hook, line, and thinker. Everything that has happened has all been part of the Plan. To wit:

President Trump made a deal with the Kodak company to add a non-radioactive isotope watermark to each ballot that cannot be replicated. It will be very easy to separate illegitimate votes, and the criminals will be exposed and brought before a military tribunal. Then, ideally, they will be lined up and shot. [Advance ticket sales begin Thursday, and a lucky few who contribute to the RNC in six figures will be entered into a lottery for a chance to mow down suspected Democrats from a skybox.]

Illegitimate voters would include the dead, and the thousands upon thousands of voters who moved to a different house at some point, plus the millions of duplicate ballots that have been dumped into the system by the Democrat Cabal, whose voters are all in on the scheme, thanks to the instructions from the brain chips Bill Gates installed via vaccination.

In Arizona, election officials are known to have passed out Sharpies instead of ballpoints, which invalidates the ballots. Sharpies are to be used only by the Executive Branch for bill-signing, personal notes, and weather maps. Arizona election officials insist they have provided only allowable writing implements, a flat lie that is belied by the steep rise in the graph of number of tweets about Sharpiegate (zero to 350,000 in 24 hours).
A sophisticated Plan has been in the works for three years, and the faithful are implored to worry not, and trust that in the next few days the Plan will continue to play out--that everything that has happened has been flawlessly executed, and they will soon see the results clearly. The godly Trump forces have, in fact, lured the enemy "countless times into traps when they thought we were losing," and inasmuch as the President just lost big--or so it seems--imagine how big the trap must be! Hee hee! It's all part of the Art of War. In fact the midterms, when the R's lost the House but kept the Senate, were part of the Plan also; they needed the Senate, but in the House they exposed the crimes of the enemy through impeachment and the withholding of pandemic relief. Not that we need pandemic relief because we've rounded the corner, but still.
Lizard people may also be involved. Reptilian humanoids among us originally came from the constellation Draco. They can be identified by, among other things, smiles that display the bottom teeth. That's why the face masks. Inasmuch as Draco is composed of stars as much as 330 light-years apart, a mighty vast territory, we can see just how huge and devilish an enterprise this has been. They have been manipulating the human DNA for much of history, which also explains how humans have reptilian genetics within their brains. Up till now that has been a mystery, inasmuch as we were originally created in God's image on the morning of the sixth day.

Anyway reptilian humanoids bent on world domination have infiltrated the Deep State and should be suspected of massive vote manipulation if only to distract us from their pizza-fueled child sex orgies.

But never fear. All this was foreseen. The ongoing flow of prayers has activated God's mighty army, which has descended upon our great nation in spectacular force.

Well, Democrats, this would be worrisome indeed, but we too must keep the faith! We have our own sting operation involving radioactive isotope watermarks on Republican ballots, which should bear fruit in the form of two-headed babies and Satanic birthmarks twenty or so years down the line. At that point we can easily round up the perpetrators of the climate disaster, and guilty parties will be marched before a tribunal of achingly earnest liberals who will scold them with really big words and wagging fingers.

Meanwhile, it is uncertain if God's mighty army is in the form of the fat dudes in flag underpants and military gear, but they will prove to be no match to the lurching army of zombies we have recruited to pump up the vote tally.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

I Wasn't Going Anywhere Anyway

Let me tell you the sort of thing that you could appropriately do all day when there's a dangerous pandemic and your state is on fire.

Say you have a quilt top. You've pieced it together, you've ordered the backing material online from China because you can't go to a fabric store anymore in case it's sneezy in there, you've got your batting, and you're all ready to make a fabric sandwich. You have a decent-size table you can lay  your backing fabric on. It's not quite as big as your quilt, so it hangs off the sides. You carefully smooth out your fabric, you carefully smooth out your batting on top of it, and then you ever so carefully settle your quilt top over the whole schmear and prepare to safety-pin it together so you can stitch it down.

That's one safety pin every four inches, radiating out from the center, smoothing all the while. Stab pin through to the table, laboriously wriggle pin back up, coax pin closed with a fingernail, repeat.

Four episodes of a Netflix series later, you have pinned everything you can reach and you've carefully tugged it to one side to get the parts that were hanging over. Then the other side. Then the third side. Then

When you come to, and when whoever was screaming has let up, you realize that the backing material is about an inch shy of being enough on the fourth side. Not because there wasn't enough material. Because your Depression-era parents have inflicted a legacy of thrift on you and you were trying not to waste the extra fabric.

It's not so bad, really. All that is required is to undo all the safety pins, poink poink poink, all 276 of them, and start over, wondering what Sisyphus would have accomplished during a plague.

We all know that Sisyphus guy. The guy who claims he's working, but he never gets anything done. What the hell got him into that fix, anyway?

You hear things. There are an awful lot of stories, but in the case of Sisyphus most of them involve him going to hell.

He was the king of Corinth, and he was a smartypants. Gods do not like that in a man. First time he died and went to Hades, he wrapped Thanatos (a.k.a. Death) up in chains and prevented him from making people die. And that did not go over well with Ares, the god of war, who was no longer having any fun setting people against each other if they just zipped back up like a Whack-A-Mole set. Ares intervened on Thanatos' behalf and everyone got a do-over.

Second time Sisy died and went to Hades, he was all "been there, beat that." He was an old hand at this. He'd told his wife not to offer any of the usual sacrifices and tributes to the underworld upon his death, and so he had a little leverage. The soft spot was Persephone, Hades' wife. He persuaded her that if he could just go back to life, he could tell his wife to pay up. But of course once he was topside again he just skated on the deal and lived to be a very old man, because Thanatos did not care to see him again anytime soon.

There is no record of how his wife felt about him continuing to pop back to life every time she figured she could move on.

But eventually he died again, and this time the big guy Zeus checked hiim in and had the neat notion that if Sisyphus was so eager to remain alive, he should at least push that boulder up the hill for all eternity and see how he likes them apples. Which is a very familiar scenario to most of us, only in this case there was no prospect for retirement.

It was probably his wife's idea. She was probably up there sticking pins in a little Sisyphus doll. Over and over again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Just Another Wednesday

This post is set to go off at 3am the day after the election. I have every expectation that it will. I'll be asleep but it will happen anyway. There's always something technical that might gum up the works, but new days in general have a way of showing up on schedule. It's something you can count on.

I don't know what will have transpired last night. It's possible nobody knows for sure, even now. This is normal. It's important to know what you don't know. It's one of the hallmarks of a thoughtful mind. The cocksure are always missing something. The cocksure know everything all along, but it doesn't make them right.

I think most of us voters are driven by fear. It's a powerful motivator. The main difference between the two major American factions is what we fear. The faction I don't tend to vote with is afraid of a lot of things. In my view, most of those things don't exist. They are phantoms produced in the Devil's workshop to divert us from what we really should fear, to harvest our votes for the purpose of further siphoning off our wealth. Thus, the desperate refugee from violence is transformed into a murderous threat. Thus, a righteous movement of patriots marching for justice is transformed into roving bands of thugs. Thus, an attempt to claw back a share of our stolen treasure for the common good is transformed into the Socialist bogeyman, out to pick our pockets. These are the fictions manufactured by the real thieves. The fat cats. The wicked and criminally negligent destroyers of our future.

This faction has been conditioned to be afraid of The Other, and The Other has been defined so broadly it even includes me. A small, mouthy, entirely harmless human, still I am declared an enemy. I have repeatedly been declared an enemy by the president of the United States. I, and a solid majority of my fellow citizens, have been deemed unworthy of protection or even consideration. United we used to stand, but divided we elect Republicans. We're divided. Have we done it again?

I fear that our trust in our civilizing institutions, from the courts to the press, has been so degraded that we will crumble into gang warfare, featuring executions in the street and terrorist acts from all corners, with the heavily armed right-wing players the more dangerous by far.

What I fear more than anything is that we will miss our last chance to pull out of the death-spiral that is our devotion to fossil fuels. We may well have missed it already; we've wasted four precious years on top of another twenty years purchased by the Koch brothers, which they've blown on toys and party favors for their friends. Cheap energy has turned us into stumbling drunks, with decision-making abilities to match.

No matter what kind of world I've woken up to today, my path is clear. I must try hard to live up to my ideals to push my party where it needs to go, and resist the other party with all I can muster, and work for justice always, and do it peacefully. I once thought my political counterparts' brains had been scooped out and replaced by pudding. Of late I realize that pudding has been packed with nails and shards of glass. But I must remember to be kind. Kindness moves more hearts than belligerence. It's not easy. It will take stamina. But if we didn't have stamina, we'd be long gone by now.

I know we can't fight terror with terror. Not if we want to prevail.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Where Your Money Goes

Helium is one of the most popular elements in the whole universe but here on our home planet it's hard to come by. Most of it is buttoned up somewhere under the Great Plains. It was first isolated on Earth in 1895 by Sir William Ramsay, who was actually looking for argon. (Sir Ramsay was the Christopher Columbus of chemistry.) And what with its usefulness in party balloons, and fancy medical devices, and talking funny, and suicide, and blimps that don't blow up, and freezing people's heads, and the like, people have been busy liberating it for about a hundred years.

Problem with that is once you pull it out of the planet, it goes flying into space and you're not getting it back again. You're just not.

So it's like money. In fact it's so much like money, we've got a stash of it Fort Knoxed away in Amarillo, Texas. That helium reserve got underway in 1925 so that we'd have plenty of juice for airships and then later it became important as a coolant during the Cold War, in case you were wondering how we kept it Cold for so long. And it's so much like money that even though it was calculated we would run out of it right around now, the US Congress directed that our reserves be sold off to private parties as quickly as possible, in the hope maybe we can print some more.

Money, of course, is only as meaningful as we can all agree it is. We all have to agree, wink-wink, that our slips of paper, or whatever ethereal magic happens between our phones and our bank accounts, are worth something; that they represent something. For instance, work. You dig me a moat for my castle, I give you money in some nice portable form, so you don't have to be paid in melons and bags of barley. If money does represent work, it does not do so in a logical fashion. If it did, immigrants bent over in the bean fields would be rolling in champagne and caviar, whereas hedge fund managers would be clutching cardboard signs on freeway ramps. One of the problems with it is that the people what have the money write the rules. 'Twas always thus, but it's been a lot starker in the last forty years.

Kids! You might not believe this, but it's true. When I was your age, we could pay for college as we went, with summer jobs and part-time work. We could study philosophy and art history, and then we could tumble into some job somewhere that may or may not have anything to do with our education, but more with how close it was to where our boyfriends lived. We didn't necessarily make much money, but we could at least live comfortably with a roommate or two (in Boston) or have a complete one-bedroom furnished apartment (in Portland) with no first-and-last, no references, no job lined up, and nothing but a credit card to our name. And still have food and beer and go to the movies. Later, maybe, if we saved, we could buy an actual house. Nobody lived in their car or under a tarp on the median strip.

Then Ronald Reagan came around and decided to tap the work reserve. He told us our union brothers and sisters were holding us back, and that we could send our money uphill to the hedge fund managers and instead of everyone making a living wage and exchanging money with each other, we'd have a shot at the big time. There were a lot of taxation rates changed and legislation passed and all of it was real real good for the people who already had money, and our own work was worth less and less, because the wealthy decided to take more of the fruits of our labor for themselves, and they write the rules. Fifty years ago, we could make a living. Now, our money has been diverted to the billionaires, and no matter what they tell you, it's not coming back. It's flying into space.

If we were wise, we'd quit sending all our money into space. We'd treat billionaires like the moral failures they are. And everyone would get a balloon.
Vote. Vote like a person who knows how much is enough, and how much is too much.