Saturday, July 24, 2021

Can Do

Hold onto yer britches, I'm a-comin'! I'm just wiping down the counter. I put by twenty pounds of broccoli, or maybe thirty, I'd have to put my cheaters on to tell for sure. It was nothing! Just a little can-do Sunday activity. Pick, cut, clean, blanch, cool, dry, freeze. The broccoli? Just the four plants, and no, I didn't start them from last year's seed this time. I've never done that, actually, because they come all ready to go in a plastic four-pack at the garden store down the way. Real good crop so far. Real good, and still coming on. Come on in, set a spell. I'll see can I fetch us some sarsaparillas.

It is a little close in here, isn't it? Picked the hottest day of the summer so far to be b'iling water but you can't argue with a harvest. Leave 'em another day and they'd be fixing to bloom. Just look at all that bounty! Why, pop me in calico and slap my fanny. It's that round squishy bit right there below the bow of my flour-sack apron, and I don't mind if you do.

It's no big deal. It's just a matter of self-reliance, and Lord knows we could use a lot more of that these days, if you don't mind me saying so. People these days aren't willing to put in the work. Expect other people to take care of them. They're going to be lost some day without the thrift and know-how that I personally demonstrated by putting by all that broccoli.

There's nothing to it. You just make do, you fend for yourself. How did I know what to do, you ask? I come from good Norwegian stock, farmers they were. It's in my blood.

Also, I looked it up on the youtubes to be sure.

I mean, no reason not to be modern. You don't want to rely on such a thing, but it's nice. Still have to use your common sense. Oh, and another little tip of the bonnet to our chest freezer and stovetop and all that hydropower. Well there's some hydropower for sure, the mighty Columbia River, and sorry to all the salmon, but if they were sturdy self-sufficient sorts they wouldn'ta been hatched when we was trying to make electricity out of the very substance they need to live. They'll adapt. Maybe 99% of them will die but one of them will love hot shallow water and slicey turbines and that baby's gonna thrive. Anyway. A little nod to the hydropower, plus the buttload of coal plants up north that also apparently figure into our power. Okay, mostly it's coal plants. But water too. And speaking of water, thanks also to all that water that come right out of the tap because of the good people that dammed up our natural reservoirs at Bull Run--it's a mighty slick system. It's so slick we flush poop with it.

Oh, I'd like to give a little shout-out to that Salad Spinner too. Of course, I could have put my broccoli in a bit of cheesecloth and whipped it around my head, but the Salad Spinner is so much easier, and maybe it'll take a few thousand years to degrade, but I only had to buy it once.

Sure, I could've gone to the grocery store, three of which are in walking distance, and bought plastic bags of frozen broccoli, but I take care of myself. I don't depend on other people. The store is for buying animals someone else has jammed into a pen and slaughtered and scraped the fur and feathers off of and wrapped in plastic. Not frozen broccoli, because I can do that myself. Because I am a can-do person.

I'm self-sufficient.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Nincompoopidemic

The governor of Florida hawks "Don't Fauci My Florida" merchandise. The Conservative Political Action Conference attendees burst into applause because COVID vaccination rates are not as high as Biden had hoped. So it occurs to me, well, golly! Maybe people just don't understand what a virus is and what it does for a living. All I need to do is 'splain it and then we can all move on. Right?

Viruses are itty bitty. There's some argument over whether or not they're alive but they definitely get around, and want to. They're like every other bit of protein on this earth: they want to keep themselves going. Trouble is, they can't live on their own. They die without a host. They absolutely require cushy digs such as your lungs to invade, replicate, and go forth and multiply like God purportedly intended, in another context. Once they're done killing you, they'd be dead themselves if they couldn't somehow jump onto the next host over and keep the whole operation rolling. So the viruses that cause you to hork and schnozzle and smear your effluent all over other folks are super successful. There are lots of those kinds. Colds. Flu.

They're not equally bright. Like any other group of protein packets, some of them are writing sonnets, some are dominating their school teams, and some are eating library paste. COVID-19 is middling smart. Not as contagious--read, athletic in host-to-host gymnastics--as some, and not quite as likely to slay their own hosts. But impressive nonetheless. Just think about how in March 2020 there was, like, one dude in America who had custody of the virus, and the scientists said it was going to flash-over like a burning building to threaten everybody, and then it totally did. So kudos to the clever virus, and more praise to the scientists, who have been vindicated at every single step, no matter what else you've read.
Scientists were well prepared for this, and because of new mRNA technology and genome mapping they were able to produce effective vaccines in record time. Doggone! Ever since the first one, vaccines have proven to be a beautiful thing. We have conquered plagues that vexed us for thousands of years. Do you see this on my arm? It's my smallpox vaccination scar. Must've been a doozy of a shot to still be visible. If you're younger than fifty you don't have one. Because we fucking killed it, by not giving it a place to land. That's right. After at least three thousand years of smallpox, there's no more smallpox.
That's how it works. We'd have polio conquered now too if we could get those last few pockets of humanity in south Asia vaccinated. Similarly, if everyone in the world could hunker down inside with a jar of peanut butter for two weeks, COVID-19 would be gone from this earth. Poof. That's a fact. That's something we can't manage to do, of course. But we do have vaccines. So victory is at hand!
Well, it's hard to imagine how anyone who is not irretrievably around the bend could be against vaccines. As if we could somehow thwart viruses by ourselves with our own virtue and certitude. We can't. We've had thousands of years of proof of that. Viruses have been perfecting their game for billions of years. We can protect ourselves from them but it turns out we can't protect ourselves from con artists who want to befuddle us just to gain or maintain power. What if this whole miraculous scientific breakthrough is just a conspiracy to enslave us? What if we catch autism, or our dicks fall off, or we summon aliens? Santa Claus is coming to town! Bar the door, he probably has a gun. The coronavirus is coming! We'll leave the light on for you.
We didn't use to be so foolish. That's why most of you do not have a smallpox vax scar. That's why there are fewer than a hundred polio cases in the world today.
Weird thing is, conservative mucus membranes aren't any damper or more receptive than liberal tissues. The virus is not biased. If there's a political aspect to this pandemic, it's because the virus is going to stampede toward those who refuse to protect themselves, whether or not they hate abortion or immigrants or colored voters. Bummer for them, but also for the rest of us, who have a grasp of the concept of public health, wherein we all thrive, or for that matter survive, and we're not willing to risk ourselves and our fellow human beings for the freedom to infect.
We actually are in this together. That's how it works. The virus does not care. The virus is a teeny tiny boll weevil. Just a-lookin' for a home.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

My Personal Mediterranean

I had to go to the bathroom the other day, which I am grateful to say is not ordinarily a noteworthy event. In this case, I was all set to walk through the laundry room to the toilet when I encountered a wide, unnavigable azure-blue sea, a veritable Mediterranean, where none had been observed before.

Not a problem. We have two doors to that bathroom, which has occasionally led to embarrassment when we have company, but which now seemed like an excellent design feature. I went around.

Still. This new development wasn't something that should be ignored for long.

I recognized the new feature as the entire contents of a brand-new vat of Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent, set free, and I paused to admire the levelness of the floor. No pooling was observed: the floor was able to accommodate the detergent over the broadest possible expanse given its native viscosity and local conditions of temperature. In other words, it was every the fuck where.

No real mystery as to what happened. My washing machine attains supersonic spin speeds and could rattle the dingleballs off a passing dog, and I'm used to it, but my new tub of detergent must have been terrified, and leapt off the dryer. My washing machine, in fact, is tectonically walking across the floor at a rate of about two inches a month. Next year this time we'll be able to load 'er up without getting out of bed.

I'm sure there are better ways of contending with this, but the only thing I could think of was to scoop all the detergent I could into a dustpan and dribble it back in the container. Sure, there will be dirt and dust in there, but it's detergent. It should be fine. Then I sopped up the remainder with towels and old sheets. It worked passably well. I took the towels and sheets out to the yard to hose them off, but it soon became clear that soap was going to keep coming out of them until the end of time. You don't need much High-Efficiency detergent to clean a load. It's packed with soapy goodness. My towels are now soap bombs. My new plan is to dry them on the garden wall and then snip them into tiny squares like panes of LSD. Pop one in every laundry load and hope for the best.

But there's still a film of soap on the floor. Soap is slippery stuff, and has been ever since it was made from dead fires and animal fat. Slipperiness is sort of the point of it. HE detergent just amps it up. That stuff is slipperier'n a goose's gut.

How do you clean up soap?

"Why is soap so slippery?" I asked the internet. The internet replied that soap is slippery due to a lack of friction. Also? The sky is blue from a lack of orangeness. I still don't know how to clean it up. And half the floor is now stained slightly blue. I don't know why they had to add that much dye unless the original concoction is the color of baby diarrhea.

The clothes dryer has no opinion. I fired that appliance years ago. It's just there as a companion animal to the washer.


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Screwed In The End Times

An Early Fall

Yes indeedy, those of you who subscribe to Murrmurrs have probably noticed I've signed on with a new subscription service called I had no idea it would send out such an alarming spammy-looking initial email, and if it made you suspicious and you unfollowed me, well, you can always sign back up again at that <<--new box in the left margin under Pootie's handsome mug. It's actually a pretty spiffy outfit and gives you options of how you want your Murrmurrs dose, such as to your phone, to your email, to your mama, up your butt, or dropped by drone on your front porch. It also makes it super easy to unfollow. Horrors! And now, to really test your-all's loyalty, I give you a new, super-bleak post with no humor in it whatsoever. I don't want this to be a trend either, but I had to get it out of my system. Thank you all for coming. And caring.

Let me set the whole sorry scene. We're in a major drought. It's worse every year. Large trees were already visibly suffering. We just had our three hottest days ever recorded, and by a long shot. Four trees on my alley turned brown literally overnight. They clatter in the breeze.

This year there seemed to be a consensus that fireworks would be a very bad idea. They've been banned in the whole state. Some teenager burned down most of the scenic Columbia River Gorge with a firecracker a few years back. Last year the parts of the state that weren't on fire were smothered in acrid smoke for weeks. This shit is real.

I say there seemed to be a consensus because for the days leading up to July 4th we heard maybe one or two bombs bursting in air, which is way under our traditional mayhem. People would talk about it on the street. Hope no one sets off fireworks. How stupid would they have to be?
And so we got all the way to about 8pm on Independence Day before the first one went off, and it was a doozy. Sparks flew a hundred feet high. Two more followed. You could feel the outrage igniting from inside every shaken household. And then one of our neighbors went screaming down the street like an avenging angel in the direction of the noise. That's illegal! What the hell do you think you're doing? Hey! And so on.
Only takes one such soldier and suddenly I, nobody's vigilante, had jumped out of my chair and bolted off to offer support. Of course, I had no idea who was setting off the fireworks, but I figured a posse would be helpful. On the way I passed another neighbor, an 80-year-old gray-haired woman in a bathrobe and scuff slippers, shuffling the same direction, loaded for bear. By the time I got to the blast zone, there were about fifteen of us arriving from all directions. All of us women. All of us old.
There was my dauntless neighbor, loudly explaining about drought and fire danger and the fact that a nearby apartment building had burned to the ground from fireworks the previous night, killing two. And that the governor had banned them. She was nose to nose with another woman yelling even louder.
And that's when things got ugly. Rather than the twenty-year-old drunken yahoos I was expecting, our miscreants were a Black family, one of very few in the vicinity. There was a lot of hollering. Mainly it was the two women nose-to-nose, but people had their backs up. The fireworks lady said they'd been shooting off fireworks for fifteen years and they weren't about to stop now. Everyone yelled back that this is not a normal year. Someone said they'd had a death in the family and they just wanted to cheer themselves up. Someone else said maybe they could do that without burning the place down. Everyone was yelling at once. Within minutes our old-lady posse had been pegged as racist. There were ugly accusations. The avenging angel continued to insist this was not about race but about fire. Her adversary laughed in her face and said "Just look around you. Look at the demographics here."
I walked away. What was clear was that nothing good was ever going to come from this confrontation. I knew a lot of facts about the situation, but they wouldn't be heard here. One: yes, all the complainers were white, because that's pretty much who lives here. That is a problem, but it's a different problem. Two: we had converged on this family because they were the ones setting off fireworks. Three: as far as I could tell, most of us had come from two or three blocks away, and had no idea who was responsible. Four: I know the avenging angel well. She is the original Anti-Karen. She wouldn't call the police on a Black man if he was threatening her life; she doesn't trust the police to behave. By confronting the other woman, she was treating her exactly as she would have treated anyone else doing the same thing. Five: she shouldn't have come at her so hard. Nobody likes to be charged and yelled at. It didn't help. It made things worse. Six: she did it because she had just plain lost her shit. We were all crazy with worry over this. That. And all the other Things.
All the other things.
And that is why, as I lay in bed later listening to the bombs going off, from that unrepentant corner and from one street over in the other direction, for hours, with my window open in case I smelled smoke, I finally burst out sobbing. I've done well holding it together, but suddenly it all was so hopeless. My own personal troubles, which are not trivial. The impossibility of communication when we're all stoking our own private fires. The drought. The three days of insane heat that, frankly, shook me up more than I could have imagined. The quickening tumble toward climate catastrophe. Extinction. The coming water wars. A world in migration. The sheer stupidity, at every level, of our kind. We're face to face with it, now. Nose to nose.
I'm as well-rooted as anybody but sometimes I feel myself clattering in the breeze. 


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Fumous Posthumous

Way More Flowers, Please
It's not that I haven't written about poop. I have. In a pinch I can squeeze out a poop post almost at will. The problem with writing about poop is you're never quite sure when you're finished.

For example, I never learned anything about corpse poop until just recently, and that was only because of this service I subscribe to that sends paying writing jobs. They'll send things like 25 themed calls for magazine submissions. 15 pitch opportunities directly from editors. Two journals willing to part with a nickel for your poem.
You can flip through the magazine possibilities pretty fast. Sojourners covers faith, politics, and culture from a biblical perspective. They aren't going to want mine. Anti-Racism Daily is accepting stories of LGBTQ+ experiences as a person of color living in the Midwest. Pass. Post45 Contemporaries' editor is seeking pitches about the state of TTRPG. I don't know what the state of TTRPG is. Maybe it's in the Midwest.

But this one caught my eye. The Order of the Good Death is accepting pitches. This is "a group of funeral industry professionals, academics, and artists exploring ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality." And I'm all for that. Fear of death may be normal, but it sure takes a chunk out of living. I thought I'd have a look at the site.

I'll say up front I'm not the right writer for "Gentrification and funeral homes" or "How death positive women kickstarted a civil war." So I will probably not pitch them anything. But I did enjoy the Ask A Mortician section, presided over by the perky founder of the Order, Caitlin Doughty. This is where I learned that caskets can indeed explode, which would totally be worth the purchase price. And I also learned what else we might pass when we pass away.

Corpses very commonly poop. It doesn't always happen. Elvis should only have been so lucky.

But it's not really intentional rudeness on the part of the deceased. It's more like what happens with a caulking gun. You've pulled that trigger for the last time and started in on tidying up your job and next thing you know there is caulk all over the place. If you have just perished and you're still full of...personal caulk, your retired sphincters have a statement to make.

I like it though. People think it's undignified but there's something to be said for accepting what you cannot control--death, for instance--and corpse poop pretty much epitomizes things you cannot control. Morticians, however, can. They use butt plugs. Actually they're called A/V plugs because they can be used in your A and your V, if applicable in your particular situation. It's just a way of allowing people to keep some things to themselves.

People don't like to think about corpse poop because they don't want to be a bother upon death, but face it--you're a corpse, you're already a bother, and by comparison a little leakage is small potatoes. Or something similar.

But I'm all for it. I hope it happens to me. Life needs punctuation and at a time it would otherwise peter out, like ellipses...I hate ellipses...a good post-departum poop is an exclamation point! If it is reported that I launched a dookie after I died, which I anticipate to be the extent of my afterlife, please crack a smile, and raise a glass. And thank a mortician.


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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Looking For Love?

The reason people get a dog is they want something to love them. They might also want to love something but those are two sides of the same biscuit. Dogs satisfy a human need and sometimes they do it better than other humans do. Or, at least, more reliably.

In fact, you don't even have to do much for a dog to love you. You just have to be that dog's person.

How much a person needs love can be reflected in their dog situation. Some people who need a lot of love get a lot of dogs, but it isn't necessary. They could just get one Golden Retriever. Because some dogs, like Golden Retrievers, need our love more than other dogs. Our old dog, for instance, was perfectly suited to us. Our dog loved us and enjoyed our company and also enjoyed the company of anyone willing to share their breakfast, so she wasn't an exclusive sort of dog. And we didn't want to be looking after our dog's emotional needs every second of the day. 
We spent a lot of time training her when she was a pup. She trotted at heel without a lead, sat when we stopped, stayed when we told her to stay, and came when we called every single time, even if she didn't really want to. What we didn't think to teach her was "Don't climb the fence paw-over-paw" because we didn't think she could do that. But a five-foot fence was no impediment whatsoever to a twelve-inch dog if she was on one side of it and the neighbor's plate of sausage and biscuits was on the other side.

She took care of her own needs.

And--this is probably telling--we didn't necessarily notice when she was missing. Once, during fireworks season, which used to last three months around here, Dave's mom called from a mile down the hill. "Is Boomer with you?" she said, and we said Yeah, we think so, although we couldn't actually lay eyes on her right that second. "Because I think she's at my back door," she said. And she was.

It was a little embarrassing the number of times people returned our dog to us when we didn't know she needed returning.

Anyway we were emotionally a good fit. A Golden Retriever would have been too much dog, needing too much affection. On the other side of the scale, there was my friend Fred, who lived with a perfectly wretched bunwad of a Pekingese, a flat-fronted wheezer with an asthmatic growl, a dog that would sneak up on you just to staple you with its face. Sometimes it bit Fred. "Why do you like that dog?" we asked, because he did, and he said "Well, if this dog likes you, you know you're really special." And after its own fashion, that dog did like Fred. Fred was chewy.

People have different emotional needs. I'm not saying it's a bad thing to get a dog so something loves you. In fact, it's the best reason. You shouldn't get a dog to threaten other people. Or to guard the yard on a long chain. Or to match your purse.

But if you really want affection, if you really need affirmation from across the globe, if you want to be an object of desire, if you want to get fan mail all day long and be pursued by millions, without feeling any obligation to reciprocate? Skip the dog.

Become a literary agent.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Dispatch From The Warm Front

Dateline: Tuesday, June 29

Well, it's only supposed to top out at a nippy 98 today. Yes, the tryouts for Satan's team lasted three days and we don't like to brag but we're pretty sure we're going to make the squad. The predicted high of 118 on Monday did not pan out, but the 116 obliterated the previous record of 112 set the day before, which smashed the previous record of 108 set the day before that. We made it. And Studley made it!

We made it without air conditioning. We were not especially comfortable but we most certainly survived, and during much of the time we weren't even that miserable. Contrast that with folks I saw complaining bitterly about how they weren't able to get their houses below 80 even with AC. And their swimming pools were too warm.

Of course, we're retired, and nothing was asked of us other than to sit quietly and not die. Our mailman, on the other hand, was sent out with a full load and instructions from the boss to also not die, but when he showed up in his salt-encrusted hat we gave him a tank of ice water and turned the hose on him and sat him down until his cells reinflated. As for his boss's instructions, it looked like it could have gone either way.

One friend up north reported that it had gotten up to 110 in her house when all the AC crashed the power grid. This is what I'm talking about: we've lost our skills. Hell, on our hottest day even the upstairs never got above 98. We exhaust all the air we can overnight and then button up the place tighter than Mitch McConnell's asshole. Sunday night I opened all the windows and pointed the fans out and took a cold shower and went straight to bed soaking wet with another fan on me, and I slept very much like the dead.

Part of the skills involve being able to tolerate a much wider range of temperatures than most of us have come to expect. We've become a shorts-in-the-winter and sweaters-in-the-summer kind of people, and we have nowhere to go when the system breaks down, which it is going to do.

The newspaper helpfully provided some tips for surviving extreme heat. For instance, it is suggested that you wear loose clothing to bed. Check! I've been wearing the very same suit to bed since I was fourteen (don't tell Mom), and it's gotten plenty loose. Portions of it are slouched up against other portions of it. At this point the underboobular area is my primary repository for perspiration but I have auxiliary folds in the back for off-site storage. I'm all set.

Here are my tips: sure, it's tempting to open some veins to let the heat out but be advised the relief is short-lived because the blood evaporates so quickly. So if you try this hack, you're going to want to really go for it. Similarly, you could stretch out in a kiddie pool, but remember you can drown in as little as four inches of water, so be sure to put in at least six to be on the safe side.

Better yet is to go to the source of the problem and eliminate Republicans. They've signed off on this entire debacle. As long as their preferred solution to the climate catastrophe is to make fun of Greta Thunberg, it will be crucial for us to take them out of circulation altogether. The liberal-softie way would be to vote them all out, but if they're bent on stealing an election, which seems to be their plan, stronger measures must be taken. To that end, please note that a shot through the heart is not recommended; the target is far too small and the bullet is likely to exit harmlessly straight through the spinal tapioca. Much better is to aim for the head, and possibly take out Trump's ass at the same time.

Wait! Am I inciting my followers to murder Republicans? Ha ha! Of course not! I'm kidding! Stand by.
In other news that should surprise no one, an enormous comet is heading our way. They're made of ice. I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

And If They Like The Weather So Much, They Can Go To Hell

Dateline: Friday, June 25

I've complained about heat before. It's what I do. The only reason people think of me as even-tempered is that it's not usually that hot. That's been changing fast. Scientists are reluctant to pin any one weather event on global warming because they're trained to be careful in their conclusions, but we all know the truth. We're looking at an existential bollixing. And we are both the bollixers and the bollixees.

Today I am filling bird baths and looking out at my bird friends Studley and DooDah and Dickens and Peanut Dave the scrub jay with anticipatory dread on their behalf, and envy that they are, for the moment, oblivious. There's a forecast out for this weekend for a heat wave so unprecedented that the actual precedents are cowering under the porch and peeing themselves. This never was funny, and it's not now.

This Monday, in gentle Portland, Oregon, a modest and temperate jewel of a city on a major river within sight of actual glaciers, it is currently predicted to reach 118 degrees. And it will dip all the way down to 82 at night. Up till now you could count our nighttime temperatures above 70--for all time--on one hand. So unless the nearest glacier slides right off the mountain and into our bedroom, we're screwed.

As regular readers know, I do not have, or believe in, air conditioning, and intend to survive using my prehistoric caveman skills, refined in the sodden swamps of northern Virginia. I do not intend to fire up a box that sucks up more coal power. That's how we got here.

But I'm beside myself, which is really bad, because both of me are too warm.

It's only in the nineties today, but I peek out of my closed curtains and think about asteroids. Isn't it a blessing that no one saw that monster of extinction coming, 66 million years ago? Just chomp chomp chomp like any other day, and then suddenly a blinding light and powdered dinosaurs everywhere.

But here and now, we know it's coming, we know we caused it, we know what to do about it, and we spend our days talking about trannies in the bathroom and the freedom to infect each other. We've known for over a hundred years. We were warned urgently forty years ago. Al Gore pleaded with us twenty years ago and the Libertarian/Republican conspiracy of doom responded by instructing Americans to mock him. They were not about to let anyone interfere with the lucrative rape of the planet.

Every one of them should have to answer, really answer, one simple question: What's your plan, Skippy? They do not have a plan. For anything. Anything except keeping power and money. They are criminals in the first degree and should be treated as such. Mitch McConnell and every one of the sons-of-mitches, the whole soulless lot of them, should be removed from society before they do any more harm, and punished appropriately. I'd suggest they be roasted at the stake, if there was some way to make that take a few years.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Caws For Celebration

The ten-year crow project is off the ground and flapping!

We've been trying to befriend a crow for ages. Any crow will do, but it must be particular, a personal crow that can be distinguished from the rest. Probably by being the only one that comes up and says Howdy. Because, basically, if you've seen one crow you've seen them all.

Like ants. If you've seen one ant in your kitchen, you've seen them all, or you're about to.
Anyway for years now crows have deigned to accept our peanuts as long as we go all the way inside and shut the door after we toss them. This is hardly the relationship we were looking for. I blame Dave.

I blame Dave because for some reason birds have it out for him. They dive at his head, they bop his hat, they are unhygienic on his shirt. And he doesn't deserve it. Crows supposedly not only remember individual humans they don't like, but teach their children to hate them, too. If Dave inadvertently damaged a crow or hurt its feelings when he was seven, the word probably got out, and he remains a dark legend in the corvid annals. I say "inadvertently" because Dave can't even skoosh a bug and the only time he's ever harmed an animal was when he thought it was in distress and tried to mercy-kill it, but, lacking any skill for murder--I'm a beneficiary of that--he ended up making things a lot worse and sobbing for hours.
We have four crows associated with the neighbor's Douglas Fir. Two of them have been busy whomping up the next generation, and the other two are, presumably, teenagers who are still hanging out for the wi-fi. And those two always pal around together, and they're starting to feel warm toward us. Dickens and DooDah. They'll both come within six feet for a peanut, and you can't expect much more than that in a pandemic.

Not only that, but we can totally tell them apart. Dickens is sleek and black and shiny, and DooDah is a mess. He's browner and less shiny and disheveled and itchy. And he makes the most wonderful sounds ever. He coos, he warbles, he chuckles. He sits on top of our little clock tower and chuckles his heart out. Our clock was never designed to be outdoors and the hands have long since told Gravity rather than Time. It's perpetually six-thirty on that clock, and DooDah thinks that's hysterical.

And before you ask, no, I do not know what their preferred pronouns are. I have enough trouble with that in the non-bird world.

Dickens on the left, DooDah on the right
Both of them are still a mite cautious about peanut retrieval, and if there's a scrub jay within a quarter mile, it will bomb in and get the nut first. But when they do go for it, they hop in sideways with a wary eye, ready to peel out, and dash in at the last second for the nab, after which they retreat about two inches and commence hammering. They're all, like, Careful, careful, Oooh! Peanut, and they forget all about the dire danger that is Us.

So we think we've been making headway.

And then yesterday I saw it. A bright foil circle shining from the vegetable bed. If you turn it over, it says "SKIPPY." Nobody opened a new jar of peanut butter in our yard recently. I think Dickens found it somewhere and brought it in for us. I'm sure of it. DooDah's too busy scratching.

Bonus video: sound up!


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Jesus Meat

A wad of bishops is on the verge of deciding Joe Biden should not be allowed to partake of the Eucharist on account of his support for abortion rights. They didn't ding Trump for restoring the federal death penalty, although, of course, Trump is not a Catholic. Or anything else. At least most of the time. Depends on what church he poses in front of, I guess.

All of which led me to revisit the subject of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. And how much of a big deal it would be to be denied the partakance thereof. And, of course, the funeral rituals of the Wari' tribe of the Amazon rainforest.

It would be a pretty big deal. Like a lot of other things, but not climate change, it's important to the degree you believe in it. No Eucharist for you basically means you're out of the club, and this is a club that goes to a lot of effort to make you stay in it.

Catholics believe that the bread and wine of the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Jesus. If that seems like a hard sell, they remind us that this happens "in a way surpassing understanding." So if you don't understand it, that proves it. The phenomenon of the transformation of actual bread and wine to actual body and blood is called "transubstantiation." One of the most miraculous parts of it is it still looks and tastes like bread and wine, so I would judge it has not been so much wholly as substantially transubstantiated.

I remember when Mom and Dad trooped up to the altar for Communion. And then they came back to the pew smelling like alcohol, which was a damn miracle, all right. The pastor held up the Host and said "This is my body, broken for thee," or something like that. Okay. I could plainly see the Host was not Jesus himself but just some other cracker. I was little, but even I could appreciate a metaphor.

Catholics evidently do not. They are not about figures of speech. If Jesus wanted to make the point that breaking bread should remind people of the sacrifice he was going to make for them, he would have said "Verily, this is, like, a little illustration of a broken body, much like mine is about to be, and I hope you all think of me next time you have some," but he did not, not even in Aramaic. He said "This is my body," and that was that.

Back to the Wari' tribe. They used to honor their dead by eating them. Not right away, either. They'd wait for the apparently standard three days, during which time the deceased did not, in their case, rise again incorruptible. It's hot in Peru and they were plenty corrupted and they ate them anyway, causing great gastric distress. The Wari' believed this honored the dead by incorporating them into their own bodies, albeit for a very short period of time. Clearly this was a ritual involving a lot more sacrifice than is required of Catholics, except perhaps the ones with celiac disease, because--this is true--the people in charge of these things insist the Body Of Christ must not be gluten-free.

In any case Joe Biden, by all accounts a faithful Catholic, might well think it was a BFD if he would no longer be allowed to eat his Lord and Savior. It depends how gullible he is. I know he doesn't believe in trickle-down economics.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Hello, Central?

Don't even tell me if there's a new social media platform. I won't know what it does or what makes it special, and I'm pretty sure it will involve some specific brain pleasure-center rewiring that will make it impossible to connect with old-fashioned happiness. Not only that, but I figure if I jump on board and give it the old college whirl, it will already be obsolete. I'd feel like a pre-spurned lover. And who needs that?

I don't enjoy Twitter. I haven't looked at Instagram, or Tik Tok, or WhatsApp, or Tumblr, although I've heard some of them can give you a disease if you swipe the wrong way, which is also true of toilet paper. 

If it's not a new way to interact with strangers, it's a new way to communicate, and if I get one more of those I won't have any idea how to get hold of anybody. Does my friend answer the phone? Which one? Answer texts? Answer emails? Answer Facebook Messenger? Everyone has a preferred communication portal, and you have to remember which one works for each individual.

So the other day I was looking at my email (which I always answer, BTW, unless I forget, which could happen, because my personal software is glitchy), and there was something in there that purported to be from a phone number, not a name. And when I opened it, it went straight to a conversation icon in my dock that I'd never seen before. It says "Messages" but I don't remember ordering up such a thing. I clicked on it. Inside were four messages, all from phone numbers. I don't know whose. (Remembering people's phone numbers is an old and currently irrelevant skill. You can't even show that off anymore. You try to impress someone by rattling off your childhood friends' phone numbers and people squint at you like they're wondering if you can pull off a Rain Man thing in Las Vegas.)

Two of the four phone numbers I was able to figure out from the context of the message. The one about estimating a fence is from the fence guy. I don't know why his message is hanging out in the dock on my laptop. He has my phone number. Seems coy to me. It's like if someone wants to get hold of you by skulking in the shrubbery going Psst. The other three messages have apparently been hanging out in limbo in my dock for a while now.

So I looked up this Messages thing. I still don't know why it exists. Says you can text someone at any time with it. Couldn't you before? And why isn't it on my phone?
I'm missing out. But at least, thanks to my considered avoidance of these things, I have no Fear Of Missing Out. You want to get hold of me for certain, see if you can get your message projected on the wall across from my toilet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Death By Peugeot

There's a lot to be said for childhood innocence, and not burdening one's children with the worries of the world before they really need to know. Let them spend a few golden years swaddled in love and imagining a boo-boo is as bad as it gets. I did. I was gloriously ignorant. For instance, I had no idea how thoroughly endangered we were whenever we got in the car with my father.

Daddy had mostly God-like qualities, like infallibility and grumpiness. My father didn't smite us in any way but he sure could have punched us an early ticket to heaven every time he got behind the wheel. I didn't realize it until I started driving myself.

For one thing, he didn't have any particular skills. And if another driver did something he didn't approve of, which happened constantly, he got all upset and started driving faster to keep up with his blood pressure. You could tell, even from the back seat, when someone did something bad, because Daddy would say "Why, you miserable so-and-so" and start swerving. Speaking of protecting children from the world, "miserable so-and-so" was about as bad as it got. True story: I saw the word SHIT scrawled on a bathroom stall in sixth grade and not too much later I heard someone say it out loud, and I remember thinking: did they read that off the bathroom stall in Taylor Elementary?
He also didn't have cars that were necessarily up to the job. I think he researched his auto purchases carefully but I'm not sure what qualities he was going for. Back in those days we didn't have that many divided highways. Your average road was two lanes at best, and if you got stuck behind a slower car you had to pass it in the oncoming lane. Even when I was little I dreaded that. There would be this awful buildup with him edging into the oncoming lane to see if anyone was coming, all tensed up for a few miles, and then all of a sudden he'd stomp on the gas, and our car would get louder but not necessarily any faster, and finally, minutes later, he'd edge back into our lane while we watched oncoming traffic spray gravel out of the shoulders.
I know other kids' fathers' cars did better than that. But we never got one of those big boats that when you stomped on the gas it rocketed away. The first car we had was American, but it was no Chevy or Oldsmobile. It was a ten-ton rhinoceros of a Studebaker with suicide doors. It probably would have withstood a heck of an impact but of course we would have long since exited through the windshield. It did have a nice commodious back seat and my sister and I slid side to side on it like ball bearings when we took a curve. You could also kneel backwards on it and play with things on the big back shelf. Butt-first is probably the safer option for going through a windshield.
The other problem my dad had with driving is sometimes he kind of forgot he was doing it. We took the country roads all the way, and maybe traffic was sparse, and the thing about George Brewster was he could spot a cool mushroom from fifty yards out. Many people must have wondered why the little gray Peugeot 304 they were following suddenly slammed on the brakes for no reason. There was always a reason. But you had to be inside the car to hear Dad point and yell Ramaria botrytis! and even then you might not get it.
I still get a chill from the time we were all in the car, and everyone noticed we had sort of drifted into the oncoming lane, and assumed Daddy was planning to do something about it, what with the oncoming trucks and all, but then we looked over at him and his whole head was cranked to the side admiring the view. We all started screaming and Dad jerked the car back into our lane. The truck was all over his horn when he passed us. I know what he was saying. He was saying Dad was a real miserable so-and-so.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Looking For A Nice Squishy Spot To Land

Author's pose

So, yeah. My blog is a creaky little old lady, and sometimes she farts a little when she gets out of a chair, but she's still got most of her marbles, and God knows she's regular. She's had a data dump twice a week since December 2008 and hasn't missed once.

But someone should maybe be keeping an eye on her. And it probably shouldn't be me. I shouldn't be in charge of anybody. I don't pay attention. I'm the one who waits until the old lady is hobbling to discover she has an ingrown toenail, and then I look online for the cure and read:
    Simply <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8?>
    <?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" media="screen" href="/~d/styles/atom10full.xsl"?>
    and wallah

Sorry, Grandma, you're just going to have to wait until it grows out.

Besides, I don't want just a blog. I want a real Author's Page like a real author. It is true most of my stuff started out between two ears and never made it between two covers. But I don't think this should disqualify me as a genuine Author. My God. You should see who got called President a few years back. You wouldn't believe it.

If I had an Author's Page, then if someone tripped across one of my essays somewhere and wanted to look me up, they'd have a nice squishy spot to land, all literary pudding and goodness. There would be a tab for my blog, nicely displayed against a friendly white background. There would be a tab for all my essays appearing elsewhere. There would be an About Me tab. An About Pootie tab. A Murrch tab (books, T-shirts).

People do trip over my stuff sometimes, and I know this because once someone took the trouble to figure out my email address and sent me a letter saying how much she liked my Christian Science Monitor essay. I was surprised and delighted, because I was not aware I had an essay in The Christian Science Monitor. I went to the liberry to look up the current issue and I will be goddamned if I wasn't right in there.

"Hi," I wrote to the editor, "I noticed you published my essay, and I was just wondering, were you planning to let me know?"
Or, you know, pay me?

I got an immediate and embarrassed response from the editor who swore this had never happened before. He said he loved my essay, and I should feel free to send him more. Shoot, I said. I can do this all day long. Give me a column.

He said No. They didn't want to feature any one writer too often. I sent him another. He took it. He's taken over fifty since then. He has rejected only three of my efforts, and those were because I might have trampled on Christian Science sensibilities. (That's something you can do without even knowing it.) It's been a swell ride.

Well, various outlets on the internet make it super easy to design an author page. As with everything else, you can create and launch such a thing without knowing the first thing about how it works. It's even free. I should do it. I've been saying that for years.

I've also planned to clean my house, but I don't. Grow up, Brewster, I say to myself. You can do it, but you won't. And so, slowly, I am beginning to employ a whole new-to-me method of contending with these issues. I am throwing money at them. Which means I should probably hire someone to build me an author page.

Someone who knows how to transplop my blog without losing my archives. Someone who speaks in code. Someone who won't push a button and make everything disappear. Someone who, clearly, is not me.

Ten years ago I wrote a bunch of copy for a web designer. It was supposed to be an exchange, but at the time I didn't know what I wanted in an Author's Page. And now it feels too late. I hate writing emails when I know the recipient is going to look at them and say Oh, Bother. Ten years ago, she'd think. My rates have gone up since then.
Mine haven't. I'm still free.

And so my little blog keeps hobbling along, threatening traffic with her walker and scowling at the internet. I just need someone who can get this old lady all the way across the street without a bladder leak.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Murrtle Forges On

Back when I was working downtown, I got to recognize this one old lady who always crossed the street at 6th and Clay. She'd get a jump on it, if you could call inching headlong a "jump," poking her walker out just past the parked cars before her Walk light came on, to take some of the distance out. Then it was full speed ahead, a gritty, determined, thoroughly terrifying clank-and-shuffle in front of three lanes of temporarily halted cars, and anyone could calculate that she wasn't going to make it to the sidewalk before the light went green again. Not even, really, close. We didn't know who would be barreling down that last lane hoping to turn left and catch the next light before it turned. She bore down on those last few yards with a scowl that could stall out an Oldsmobile, and that alone gave her enough edge to live to see another day's trudge. It was the stuff of nightmares.

Let's call her Murrtle, because if she's no longer with us, she probably came back as my blog.

Something must be done about my blog because there are only so many days left it's going to be able to get all the way across the street without being creamed by the march of progress. Anyone can sense there's a problem just because, well, look at it: it's written on parchment and the wallpaper is clearly from an old-lady dress. It's a cranky old template from the early days of Google blogging and I have to dust the screen with pounce and set my signet to the seal before I can post anything.

It's old.

And when stuff gets old, it quits working as well. Things give out. I mentioned recently that Feedburner, the doodad in charge of my blog subscriptions, was about to quit visiting the Home because it can tell I don't remember it anymore; and shoot, it's old enough to retire, itself. The same year Feedburner came into being, a ton of babies were born who have now graduated from high school, bought up the company, and dropped enough on their houses to send a thousand people each to a homeless camp.

It's old.

I don't need a lot out of my blog. I used to think I could keep or gain an audience by keeping the quality of my (cough) content up. I don't want it to depend on some gizmo somewhere that I use but don't understand.

But I am terrified of starting a new blog site. What if all my archives disappear? And why do I care? I don't know. I spent over fifty years of my life thinking of mysef as a writer, but not actually writing. Since I retired, I've been spraying words all over the place. I've scattered essays in legitimate publications that people have heard of. Right here at Murrmurrs, I've written over 1300 posts averaging about 600 words each. Even if you take out "flang" and "poop," that's a lot of words. I'm about to finish my sixth novel. I've got three other books written that aren't novels. I. Am. Not. Blocked.

At the same time, I have no plans for the afterlife. I don't expect any of the atoms I've been using to recognize each other after I'm done with them, and even if I merely live on in memory, it won't be for long. In fact, I don't think any of our kind will be around for too much longer. I'm finding it easy to give away my possessions. I'm not hanging onto things. So I don't know why I care that the words I've hammered together live on.

But I do.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Jason To The Rescue

I get scam emails. Such as messages that say my email account is completely full and soon they won't be able to jam any more letters in it, but if I click here they can straighten the whole thing right out. The email will appear to be from my ISP Admin but if you check on the actual address it will say something like bambi@bonerville.fishnet, and in any case I'm no random clicker. Not me. I know that much.

That's about all I know. So when I got a letter from an outfit warning me that Google would soon terminate Feedburner for email subscriptions to Murrmurrs, but that they'd be happy to take over the job for me, I didn't click on anything. Especially since it was signed by "Marina, the Happiness Manager." Happiness Manager. That just sits wrong. I always thought "fulfillment" was a little fancy for the shipping department, too.

But I did check around for the fate of Feedburner because although I don't know what it is or how it works, I do know it's involved with getting subscriptions to my blog. For email updates and the RSS feed too. I don't know what an RSS feed is but I know I have one.

I feel the same way about my spleen.

Turns out nobody even agrees on what RSS stands for. Could be either RDF Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, or maybe Ripe Squid Suckers. It takes my typing here and squirts it into your phone. I need it if I'm going to communicate with you all. And Feedburner manages my RSS feed. Guess what? Sure enough, I found out Feedburner's going into Maintenance Mode in July. Someone will be sweeping up for a while but nobody's at their desk anymore. I have no idea what any of this means.

One of the problems with the internet is a whole lot of companies got rich by figuring out dummy-proof ways of wielding it. They made great Out Of Box Experiences so all you had to do was plug in your new toy and it played with itself. You didn't have to know any dang thing to operate it.

So when things went wrong you had to go to your rental house next door where you keep your stock of young people and have them come over and fix it. You'd lean over their shoulders and ask what they were doing and they'd say something like "Oh, I'm just pinging your server" and you'd holler at your husband and say "Hey Dave, come look! Jason's pinging!" and he'd say "I always figured him for a pinger." Later we'd watch him walking down the street and wonder if he was still pinging. How would we know?

At least Jason knew how it worked. Now Jason's kids can send a pizza to their friends in Stockholm in five minutes, all paid for, but they don't know how it works any more than you do. This stuff is so slick you do not have to use any of your brain cells at all. Your brain cells are getting farther and farther apart from each other all the time. It's downright breezy in there.

Does it matter? If everything works by itself, does it matter if we get in a car that drives itself across the country and we can motor right through the Grand Tetons with our noses buried in our phones? I think it matters. I'd like to have more of a grip on things. And see the Tetons.

So I went to the Feedburner website and discovered it has all your-all's email addresses in it right where I can see them and maybe I should look into copying them down, in case I ever publish a novel or something and want to tell you about it. Also at the Feedburner website? I have the options of Buzzboost, Pingshot, and Chicklet Chooser. I do not know what to make of that.

I'm not touching anything. I'm taking my spleen on faith too. At some point, not that long from now, my spleen will go into Maintenance Mode and then give out altogether. I'm just glad in the meantime that I can't reach any of its option buttons.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Hope, Gravity, And Beans

I planted beans. They're already beans when you plant them and I think you could just cook them up, but instead we bury them and have them go through this whole thing so we have beans. They were bashful about germinating. Finally one brave scout poinked its little nose in the air and stood like a protestor defying a tank. Well, that kind of courage comes naturally to plants. They're rooted. Anyway it must've called the all-clear because the rest of the row showed up later.

You can tell they're beans because they're all lined up where I planted them. Otherwise it can be hard to identify a plant at the poink stage. They come out with little blobby leaves that don't look like the finished product. It's a starter set, the cotyledons, and across the seed-plant kingdom they look kind of similar. You have to wait for the prima donna leaves to unfurl like ballerinas to tell the rest of the story.

The leaves in the starter set don't count as real leaves though. Cotyledons are actually part of the embryo. (Yes, plants have embryos, a little something you should think about if you like to eat seeds, which you should totally leave alone until the plant bursts into the air, at which point they're fair game and the Supreme Court doesn't care what you do with them.) The purpose of these cotyledons is to raise a flag of hope to the anxious gardener, a little arrival announcement to the world--and prior to that their job was to glom onto the nutrients stored in the original seed. Once they've gotten the show on the road, as it were, they are sort of done. They figure if the "real" leaves want to spend the rest of their lives sucking up sun and working for the whole enterprise, they're welcome to it. The cotyledons have done a heck of a job, getting the plant to kick its way out of that tough seed coat and head off in the right direction, and now they're retired.

That "right direction" part is cool. Every kid learns that you can get a working plant out of a seed even if you plant it upside down, no matter how dark it is down there. They don't just send out shoots willy-nilly and hope some of them hit the air. Plants react to gravity. They detect it because they have little starchy packages floating around the gooey bits of their embryos, and those sink to the bottom like a load in a diaper. "Ah, that way is down," the plant intuits, and the part of the plant that aspires to being a root gets the drift and goes that way. And the other part, the shoot, goes the hell in the opposite direction out of sheer tribal hostility to the root, a little botanical friction that has worked out well, evolutionarily.

If anything more massive than the earth were nearby, the root would go that direction, but we'd have problems of our own and probably wouldn't notice. That's all gravity is, a mutual attraction between things with mass or energy, and the only reason the earth's gravity is so much more impressive than ours is it's bigger and more opinionated. But our planet is attracted to us, too, and don't let anyone tell you different. Everything is attracted to everything else, even Republicans, and yet we still can't get a decent bill past the Senate.

I'm certainly attracted to this bean plant. I check on it daily, and hope someday it will be full of beans, just like Mitch McConnell.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Mailing Minutiae

You can't mail a day-old pheasant after Labor Day.

This is among the many things you can find out about the Postal Service if you lower yourself into its website and thrash around a little. There are numerous portals to branching catacombs of obscure minutiae and if you have the patience of Job's wife you can sometimes whack your way to an answer, often inside of a half-hour

It's really not the website's fault. There are no easy answers at the post office. But there are people who do know all of the answers. They're called clerks, and they have powers. A clerk can weigh an envelope to precision on her fingertips, in a half a second.

You can hand a clerk a parcel to mail and she'll have it sized up before you get it out from under your arm, and will whip out a customs form--the big one, not the small one, or the green one, because each has its unique function--in triplicate, and shuttle you to the side to fill it out.

"It's not a snake, is it?" she'll say. "There are some countries you can't mail a snake to."

Really none of her business, I thought, but I shook my head, crossed out "snake" and wrote "gift" on the customs card. How much was this going to be?

"Depends. It's one price to Canada or Mexico, and another to most other countries, except Flackland, which has levied an arrogance tariff on items originating in the U.S. since 2017, and, of course, Lower Begonia isn't accepting any mail pieces at all."

"It's not?"

"Only in months ending in 'R.' Their prime minister is trying to manage civic expectations by limiting joy. Also, snakes."

I handed over the customs card, and the clerk crossed out some of it and rewrote it on the correct line, whipped tape around the plastic, affixed it to the box, bounced the box a couple times on her palm and said Sixteen Fifty-Five. I got out my card and she set the box down on the scale for a nanosecond, muttered Yep, and slapped on postage, accompanied by an ethereal chime somewhere between a cash register and Glenda, the Good Witch.

Anyway, this time I had this teeny package and wanted to avoid the post office lobby during plague season, so I tried to calculate postage using the postal website. And she's a bitch. She won't let you slide over to the next window until you're done answering questions.

What zip code are you mailing to? Mailing from? What date? What time of day? What moon phase? What, if any, planets are in retrograde?

Is your package stiff? Squishy? Rancid? Prone to melancholy?

Are you mailing:

   Cremated remains?
   Liquids? (This could apply to non-cremated remains)
   Day-old poultry?
   Live animals other than day-old poultry? (Some restrictions)
   Tardigrades? (No restrictions)
There are instructions. Cremated remains, it says here, must be affixed to all sides of the package. I am assuming they mean stickers saying cremated remains, but in the event, I do have a glue-stick.

Day-old poultry. What exactly is poultry, anyway? Poultry refers to domestic birds kept for meat, eggs, or feathers. So it's a nomenclature of exploitability and Linnaeus had nothing to say about it. Examples could include chickens, geese, swans, emus, or pheasants.
You already know about the pheasants.
But emus? Who mails day-old emus?
The female emu lays huge green eggs and then goes away because she can't even with those eggs. The male emu, unlike most other birds, has a big shlorpy penis and totally pays for it. He has to sit on the eggs for eight weeks, turning them carefully ten times a day, and does not eat during that time. He survives only on stored body fat while brooding the eggs. Once they hatch, he will stay with the chicks for the next year and a half, teaching them how to hunt. Who mails day-old emu chicks?
Adult male emus, that's who.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Perp In My Pants

Something bit me on the butt again. Usually it's when I'm asleep, and I assume it's a spider, because I assume I sleep with spiders, and I assume they object to being sat on. This time I was plenty awake and I was the one doing the objecting. I had been sitting on the steps outside and all of a sudden something was biting me on the butt. I jumped up and dervished around madly slapping myself and yiping and nobody paid any attention because the neighbors that have been here a while have mostly quit looking our way when stuff like this happens. (It wasn't just the one incident either. They figure they're better off not knowing.)

So I thought I got whatever it was under control and I even looked for the perp in my pants but didn't come up with anything. I've got a great pair of pants for that. They're beige linen with an elastic waist and I bought them because they were super roomy even though they fit closely at the hips. Then I sent them through the wash and they came out mottled orange and big enough to shelter a scout troop. They still fit in the waist but I could have a whole circus act in there with monkeys and hoops and nobody would ever know. Reaching into my pants up to the elbow is another thing my neighbors avoid looking at.

So now they're my gardening pants.

Biting on the butt: you shouldn't even get two points for that. It's not a small target. I suspected an ant. Ants are known to hang around on my steps and I was pretty sure they bite just to be dicks. I looked online, finding mainly articles from the pest-control companies, and they're likely to say anything. "Ants will come into your house to canvas for Save The Children and then steal your ID," they'll say, and offer to send someone right over with napalm.

The actual science sites say ants don't bite. They just latch on with their face and then spin and sting you for 360 degrees around. That, my dears, is advanced.

I couldn't find any evidence of a bite where I'd felt it, even though I took my pants pretty much all the way down to check. (Somewhere there must be someone who would pay good money to see that, but they don't live on this block. People, I can hear you pulling your blinds.) So I went about my business, and five minutes later I felt a whole new bite. This time I pulled my elastic waistband all the way out and something the hell shot out of there, past all the monkeys. I only got a brief glance but it looked like a skinny ant and it must have had wings or a ripcord. I still don't know what it was or what it was doing in my pants.

I haven't ruled out an earwig. I hear they seek out dark cracks and crevices. So.

And I still couldn't see any visible signs of a bite. Until the next whole day, when a giant red patch showed up with a purple bruise around it. And another one in the second spot.

Thank goodness. You don't want to get bit on the butt and have nothing to show for it. No one on the block wants to look, but Dave did. He has to. It's a for-better-or-for-worse thing. It's his job.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Zoom Boom

I recently wrote about how my internal editor kicks in when I'm wandering around my garden. Some of it looks grand, and some of it don't. But I know just where to not look. I can ignore entire sites of mayhem and botanical rebellion just by skipping through to the parts that look good. It works better that way. Otherwise I will go to dark places in my mind. I will think: I see you, common vetch. I can solve your ass with a nice dose of Roundup. These are not thoughts that should take root in a liberal's brain. It's a gateway thought to carrying a sidearm into the hardware store.

There is too much common vetch around in general, and lemon mint, and Himalayan blackberry, and conspiracy theorists, and wanton bullshit meme-sharers, and although one is tempted to take a nuke to the whole lot of them, the wisest approach involves a lot of ignoring.

And this is the exact same approach I take with my face.

There's nothing especially wrong with my face, although I could reel off a few dozen things. But really, it'll do. The best approach to it, if you are the proprietor, is to fail to examine it in a mirror. On those occasions you do have to check the mirror, you can control some aspects of lighting and angles. Go in with your chin tilted up. Go oblique.

And definitely do not look in the mirror in the early morning light. Sure, it sounds romantic, but that low angle of light fails to illuminate the deeper arroyos in the mature facial structure, so that your personal topography is fully revealed as the barren canyonland it is. The theme music from The Good, the Bad, and the Oh My God floats into your head. It may seem counterintuitive, but we don't want that slanty light on the face. We want high noon. We want sunshine in all the gullies. Catch yourself in the early morning light and you will find your upper lip pleated up like the Devil's Tower.

I have solved this particular beauty issue by rolling out of bed several hours after sunrise.

The rest of the day it's just a matter of not looking in the mirror at all. I find this surprisingly easy, as a person several decades past being on the make. Everything was going along great in this regard until Zoom. Last year we all found ourselves involved in Zoom meetings. If you care to, you can even brush your hair and check yourself out in a mirror and feel passably put-together from the waist up in advance of a Zoom meeting, but then there's that moment when you're waiting for it to begin and staring at the screen and then all of a sudden boom there's your entire face, looking completely different from what you would ever have authorized if it was under your jurisdiction, which, technically, it is. There isn't a mirror in your house as mean as that screen. Your first reaction is that of a four-year-old. Not me! I didn't do it! But it is you and you totally did it, or sat around idly while it was being done at you. You immediately fart around with the camera angle and pitch some books under your laptop to raise it up but nothing's going to solve this except tape over the camera. 

I think there's a whole thing about Zoom meetings that people who are not me have already looked into. Originally I thought it was just a matter of setting up an attractive bookcase behind yourself and possibly an objet-d'art that illustrates your quirky but lovable nature, but clearly lighting is involved too. I don't have much of a bookcase. I don't collect books. I am considering collecting burqas.

But then the meeting starts and my face retreats into a little bitty square at the top. It doesn't matter that when I speak, which I am rarely prevented from doing, my face will be full-screen to everyone else. It's still itty bitty to me. And that's good enough. That's good enough. If I get too much into the weeds with this stuff, I'm going to start packing heat in the hardware store while I'm picking up the Roundup. And that won't do.