Saturday, May 15, 2021

My Private Afghanistan


I have a gardening style that I like to refer to as "desultory" because it sounds fancier than "hit or miss." My garden is a fairly good size for the city. None of it is in lawn. "Good for you," people call out. "Those lawns are such a lot of work."

No, they're not. You shave them with a power mower now and then and call it a day. Meanwhile, every patch of my soil has something going on in it and a lot of it is not authorized.

But I lose focus. I'll start out on a likely patch with the best intentions and then haul weeds to the yard debris bin, and on the way back I see another likely patch that maybe I should tackle first, and then I go in for water and walk by a whole 'nother patch that really needs to get under control, and by the end of the day, I've done all this stuff in all these places and nobody can tell.

But this weekend I'm getting a load of compost mulch delivered. They'll dump a big ole pile in the street. So now I'm trying my hardest to get ahead of the game by getting actual significant portions weed-free in anticipation of my big pile. Once the mulch goes on a well-weeded patch, things will settle down for a good while. It's a little method I think of as "clear and hold."

I think this is a technique associated with whatever the hell we've been doing in Afghanistan. A piece of territory gets cleared of Taliban and then a few guys get assigned to Holding It--let's call them military mulch--and then you go clear another bit. It works great, and we know, because we've been doing it for eighteen years.

But I won't get it all cleared, not by a long shot. So the second technique comes into play. This involves muscle memory. My entire body has learned which portions of the yard should not be looked at, and I am quite capable of wandering through it in a haze of admiration that edits out all the bad parts. I don't even notice them until a guest comes and pauses in front of an unruly spot. Oh that. I was getting to that, I lie.

Every weed in my garden is fully aware that there is no Shock And Awe coming. There will be no drone strikes of glyphosate; and at some point in August, all the troops are going to leave and allow everything to run rampant, and the only chemical agent being applied will be gin to the gardener. If there's still a heap of compost at the curb, I'll sculpt it into a Volkswagen Beetle and stick a petunia in it.

I'm not one to trivialize the dreadful conditions pertaining in the world by making false comparisons, and I will not stoop to referring to any of my doughty garden invasives as The Taliban.

I would never say that. But just between you and me, the field bindweed doesn't believe girls should be educated.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Do You Kuru?


I haven't heard much about Hillary Clinton lately. Maybe she's had something to say from time to time, but she's certainly not front and center in the news anymore. This doesn't alarm me all that much. She's kind of old-school. She's one of those traditional politicians who, when they lose an election, accept the result graciously and fade into the background. As we now know, there is no reason to concede an election, no matter what, but that's a recent discovery.

So maybe I was never going to be the first to notice that she no longer exists at all. Thanks to Q-Anon, who unlike Hillary totally exists, we know that Hillary Clinton was executed following a tribunal some three years ago. It's the kind of thing you'd think would make the news cycle, at least if it didn't drop on a Friday night, but that's the thing about tribunals: they're super duper secret. A properly done tribunal and execution should produce no evident body. Have you seen a body? You have not. So there: ipso fucto. Tribunal. Execution.

I'm still a little suspicious, and so is Cirsten Weldon, the actress famous for playing the agent's girlfriend in a thirty-year-old film called "Hard To Die," so she should know. She does agree that HIllary Clinton is dead but says it happened more recently, when she died of Stage Four Kuru. Kuru is a very rare brain-wasting disease but the famous have ways of getting things that regular people can't. Basically, you have to eat infected people's brains, so if that isn't elitist, I don't know what is. The last time anyone was known to have contracted kuru was ten years ago when a bunch of people in Papua New Guinea got it from eating the brains of dead people. So cannibalism is definitely involved, which lends the entire story a lot more credence than that tribunal bullshit.

Because, after all, it is already widely accepted in certain unvaccinated sectors that Hilary is among a cabal of liberals who run a child-molestation ring out of a pizza parlor, and pedophilia, especially if enhanced with pizza, is well-known to be a gateway disorder to cannibalism. You're going to want to examine those toppings very carefully. So all of this rings true already, but there's the added information that Clinton and her cronies have been eating children for a while now as a Satanic ritual. She's eaten lots of children. You can tell because they went straight to her ankles. 
 
Supposedly this is a way of harvesting adrenochrome, a magic substance that can keep you young. Liberals will do anything, including affecting ponytails and advancing socialism and otherwise caring about humanity, to stay young. Adrenochrome is produced in terrified children, so you could torture them and scoop it from their pituitary glands or their blood if you don't want to eat them. The Jews have been doing just that for generations, while keeping Kosher, in case you have any lingering doubts about the practice. There's not a story out there so outlandish that it doesn't get more true-ish by being Jewish.

Anyway, that's why no one has seen Hillary Clinton lately, and also her friend Huma Abedin, and also John Podesta, and also James Comey, and also George Soros. And if anyone claims to have seen any of these people, ask yourself: would a known torturer and cannibal stop short of lying? That's rich. If you think you have seen them, they are clones. Clones created at or near the time of their own birth, in Hillary's case 1947, so they're the right age and everything. You need to be super smart and devious to think that far ahead. You probably need to be Jewish.

What's clear is that there is now an epidemic of brain-wasting disease. And that Original Hillary no longer exists.

Her emails, now, they're around here somewhere.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Smock Mockup

 

My massage therapist was wearing a really cool apron. I said so.

"Right?" she said. "I got it at a vintage store. I wish I had a bunch more!"

"Shoot," I said. "I can make you a pattern."

There are three parts to it, plus apron strings and a pocket. Just trace it out and put it together. How hard can it be? Well. How hard can I make it?

She had already whipped it off and handed it to me. Jeez, I've been sewing for 55 years. I'm no stitchery genius, but you cut out shape A and shape B and slap them together and stitch, and before you know it you have most of your private bits covered.

I don't know if I ever mentioned it before, but there are a number of aspects to your standard IQ test, and the parts that involve visualizing two-dimensional things in 3-D space is where I pitch into dangerous territory. Basically, my verbal ability is what has kept me out of an institution.

What you really should do, especially if you're not wieldy with the three dimensions, is carefully rip all the original seams to spread the individual pieces out, trace them onto paper, and you have your pattern.

This apron is old. This apron was pieced together by candlelight using scraps from Granny Mae's Sunday-go-to-meetin' calico. It has now been worn quite a bit by our ace massage therapist and is saturated to gumminess with fragrant oils, and if a modern person raised on hormone-infused dairy products and hybridized wheat so much as breathes on it, it will fall into lint. Also, it is piped. Narrowly. A raw edge is covered in 1/4-inch bias tape, and it will spontaneously unravel in direct sunshine.

I'm not going to carefully rip anything.

So there's some guesswork.

The contestants of Project Runway throw these things together in a few hours. They have a model, they have imagination, experience, and three-D imaging skills, and if you ask them to produce a bustled bridesmaid's gown on a Nigerian theme involving a marsupial, using recycled plastics and an inspiration from Dickens, they will churn it right out.

I would like to note at this time that they will do so only after pitching God's own fit and wailing to the heavens. Someone will disappear and return only after having cut themselves until they feel right again. Others will have to introduce ruching to cover over the fabric shrinkage from their tears. These people are as delicate in temperament as they are talented.

I made a pattern and decided I needed to do a test apron before my friend spent any money on fabric. I found an old sheet I used to love. It's soft as a baby bunny. I'd put my toenail through the bottom sheet and bought a new set. I cut it all up and began to sew.

It feels like silk and sews like it too. Which is to say, squirrely and aggravating. But what really screws things up is when you finally get the whole thing put together and put it on and the place where you sew the back straps to the bottom is completely wrong. You have made an apron for M. C. Escher. There's a righteous Moëbius twist in it. So you have to rip it out. You can do that maybe once. Your sheet was no match for your toenail, so it certainly can't survive multiple rippings.

And yet, it must! I took out the two offending seams and put them back together, after pinning and double-checking, and guess the hell what? One of them was right, but the other still wasn't! I'd sewn it to the correct side this time but still twisted it! There are three ways to get it wrong, and I got it wrong all three ways, and one of them twice. It is possible that this brain deficit is what gives me compassion for people confused about the apostrophe.

Nothing like this ever happens on Project Runway. Actually, it does, but those contestants disappear in mysterious circumstances, followed by public service announcements about mental health.

"I can make you more aprons just like this!" I recall I said.

At minimum wage, they'll run a couple hundred bucks each. Good thing I work for free.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Also, The Floor Is Still Dirty


You could make a case that I don't really need garden clogs, but one day it occurred to me that I did, and I went to my local garden store and picked out a pair and they went right over my feet like anything, and I hate shopping so I went home with them.

I should've asked a few questions but I don't always know the right questions to ask.

I thought I needed garden clogs because when you're gardening you are going in and out of your house to pee or goof off or grab water, and if you're wearing some kind of shoe you can kick off and slip right back on, you can leave them outside and keep your house clean. I admire people who take their shoes off every time they come in their house, but if I have to untie and tie them it's not going to happen here. So, clogs it is. Mud shoes.

Now. A few things to remember. The reason I don't tie and untie my shoes every time I come in the house is because it's a bother. I deal with the dirt coming in the house in the following manner: I have dirt-colored rugs and hardwood floors with enough grain that you don't really notice how dirty they are, especially if you're nearsighted, don't bother to look, and don't give a shit.

But hey, clogs. Well, they weren't ideal. I got the kind with the little lip of a heel thinking they'd be easier to slip out of, but I can't slip into them without bending over to finger my heel into the lip. So a lot of the time I kinda sorta don't take them off. Let's say most of the time. I garden, I get dirt on my clogs, and I march it through the house, exactly like I would with any other shoe. And when I sit on my haunches to weed, my heels come out of them anyway, so every time I stand up again I have to reinsert. There will be no running in these shoes.

That, however, is not the thing I should have asked a question about. What I should have asked is, if I am squatting with my left shoe in my own shadow and my right shoe in direct sunlight, will I curl up like a human thermocouple?

I have no idea what these clogs are made of, but they conduct heat like copper in lava. I am so unaccustomed to the sensation that I nearly fried my right foot off before it occurred to me to ditch the shoe. Prior to that I was imagining sudden-onset unilateral neuropathy or Foot Shingles.

Because I am who I am, I will continue to wear these clogs until I feel I've gotten my fifty bucks out of them. I didn't get mom's house-cleaning gene but I did pick up Acquired Depression-Era Syndrome from her.

It all reminds me of a story my college chemistry professor told us. He said that researchers at Dupont created a miracle material that was super-thin and super-strong and super-impermeable, and while they were hashing out what it could be used for, someone suggested condoms. Capital idea, they said, and everyone was aroused by the thought of great profits, and they whipped out a few prototypes, and the chairman himself insisted on testing it over the weekend, maybe a few times to make sure.

In he comes Monday morning and throws the box in the trash and says Nope. Why? the team asked. What happened? It's super thin! It's super light! It's super strong!
 
"It squeaks," he said.

Well, we all thought it was pretty funny. I don't know if chemistry professors are allowed to tell stories like that now. Maybe not. I liked him: he was a very good teacher. Ethical, too, in that he waited for me to graduate and move to Boston before calling up and asking if I wanted to go to lunch because he was in town, so we did, and then right out of the fucking blue he pinned me to the wall--he was 350 pounds if he was a gram--and slobbered on me and felt me up, and I wriggled out and said something about having a boyfriend, and he said Sorry and I never saw him again. Because that was the kind of thing that happened, and that was kind of the way we dealt with it.

Also, we wore shoes we could run in.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Riot Party, Table For Three


Climate. Extinction. Injustice. We've got problems and we need action. Republicans, responding to the charge that they stand for nothing but obstruction, have banded together to invent entirely different problems. In the face of mounting challenges presented by the seemingly wanton exercise of the rights to vote, assemble, and protest, they have produced a multi-state Voting And Rioting Omnibus Bill that large numbers of liberals can be thrown under.

Many state legislatures hope to expand on Florida's Freedom From Braking Act which seeks to eliminate impediments to acceleration, in the event a patriotic motorist encounters a crowd of protestors. It has become the unfortunate norm that lovers of liberty have increasingly been forced to confront groups of people carrying signs they don't agree with, and the Act confers civil immunity in those cases when a reasonable person has no choice but to stomp on the gas and barrel through the opposition. Furthermore, in the particular instance that said driver is accelerating into a crowd that is attempting to deface a Confederate statue, it is no longer incumbent on the driver to remain at the scene. "That could be a safety issue," observed Gub'nah and Florida Man "Ron-Boy" DeSantis.

One state legislator withheld his "yea" vote until a provision was added to require a sternly worded pamphlet be distributed to citizens who inadvertently plow their cars into people carrying fetuses too small to determine their party affiliations. Another amendment specifies that a car may be driven into a crowd of people with whom the driver disagrees as long as the driver does not intend to offer water or snacks.

There are limits. The Freedom From Braking Act does not extend its protections to drivers plowing into people exercising their First Amendment rights about Second Amendment rights.

On the national level, Republicans maintain their stout objection to any definition of infrastructure that goes beyond the traditional construction of highways or bridges upon which a car might be driven into a crowd of liberals.

The Florida bill, widely admired in GOP circles, also defines "riot" as consisting of any group of three or more people ack'n' up. A group of this size might be encountered, for instance, in the vicinity of a ballot drop box in those states that have capped the number of such drop boxes to one per county, or that have severely restricted polling places in poorer communities. Upon encountering groups of three or more people hanging around in a gang outside of a polling place in certifiably blue counties, a rampaging driver should feel free to gun it, gun it, gun it, without ascertaining the crowd's actual positions, as long as they feel personally threatened by their perceived votes and opinions.

Meanwhile, the ongoing effort to purge voting rolls of dead people will be much aided by the new requirement that first responders at the scene of a car-plowing incident immediately send notification of any fatalities to the elections division. "We intend to be proactive to thwart the growing zombie vote problem," said the Gub'nah.

The Gub'nah furthermore hopes the severe restriction in the number of polling places will result in crowding sufficient to justify almost any amount of homicidal driving.

The Secretary of State, candidly admitting she is "old-fashioned" about the legality of murder by Buick, blondly suggested preventive safety measures such as restricting the hours polls can be open to between 5am and 5:23am Brunei Darussalam Time (please consult time zone conversion table on the state website) and limiting locations to areas that can be accessed only by Hummer. For those for whom this might be inconvenient, an absentee ballot may be requested along with identifying information such as the name of the voter's financial advisor or a recent property tax statement.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

By Any Other Name

 
Even the scientists didn't know what they were looking at when they netted the little critter off the coast of Vancouver Island. It looked like a dang tadpole in the salt sea, only less attractive. Finally one took the pencil out from behind his pocket protector and mined for earwax, squinted, reached all the way into the recesses of his considerable education and said "Aw, I know what that is. That, there, is a bony-eared assfish."
 
As soon as he said it, of course, everyone realized it had to be a bony-eared assfish. The thing about a bony-eared assfish is it makes you wonder what other kinds of assfish there are. Are there semi-flammulated assfish? Gibbous-bellied assfish? Stippled or morose assfish? I looked it up.
Well, what the hell. The only assfish is the bony-eared one. That doesn't really seem fair. Just the one assfish. Seems like calling it an assfish is bad enough and the bony-eared part is just piling on. Not that it's that great-looking a fish. It's bony and flabby, all at once. Wouldn't it have been more polite to lump it in with the other bottom-fish?
 
Nobody actually knows how the bony-eared assfish got its name. Yes, it has an anus. But no cleavage, per se.
 
There is some speculation that it has to do with the Greek name for the species, bestowed upon it in 1887 by German ichthyologist Albert Günther. He didn't take the oppportunity to name it after himself, and who can blame him? Anyway the Greek name means something like "bristly cod," which is sensible. But in Greek the word sounds like the word for "donkey." Or ass. And since everyone who was anyone in the late nineteenth century could get a chuckle out of a good Greek pun, Assfish it was.
 
We're not that familiar with the bony-eared assfish because, one, it is distinctly uncharismatic, and two, it's at the dang bottom of the ocean, and we're not. Like a number of other critters in the vicinity, it travels up to the surface at night for snacks. And back again before daylight. It has the distinction of having the smallest brain-to-body-weight of all the vertebrates, and it's not like it weighs much. The best it can do is get half a notion. Like, I've got half a notion to go up to the surface when it gets dark. And half a notion is all it takes.
 
You've got to give it credit, though. The biggest migration, by numbers of individuals, in the world is the migration of critters from the bottom of the sea to the top and back again, conducted nightly. And how does the little bony-eared assfish the hell know it's nighttime? There's no light down there. How much darker can it get? But in its tiny little brain it knows. The bony-eared assfish knows.
 
So, respect due.
 
But the poor bony-eared assfish is no beauty. At its best, at the bottom of the ocean, it is a sort of bristle-headed flaky thing with a skinny tail. At least there it is relatively sleek, but when it rises, and the pressure decreases on it, its cells swell up until it is a goobery mass of sad jelly, still with the skinny tail. And then it sinks back down to its previous ugly-but-not-gelatinous fish state.

Operating a brain takes a lot of energy and if you don't need your brain for any more than popping up to the surface and back again you can let it devolve over time. As it happens, we know our own human brains have gotten smaller in the last 10,000 years. And things are happening in a hurry, now. Speculation is that since we're now storing information outside of ourselves, in books, online, etc., we can get by with smaller brains. I know mine can't manage an article over 2,000 words anymore and I'm lost if I have to remember a password. TL,DR. Precious few of us know enough Greek anymore to be able to properly disparage a tiny assfish.

But assfish don't care. Assfish keep making more assfish.

The lack of good lighting probably helps.

Note to Uncle Walt: So long, and thanks for all the assfish.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Ponzi Dream


Terrible, terrible news. Humans are no longer spawning at a replacement rate and in a matter of decades we might be down to about nine billion of us, all told. It's a catastrophe.

Here's what I read: "Population growth is vital for the world economy. It means more workers to build homes and produce goods, more consumers to buy things and spark innovation, and more citizens to pay taxes and attract trade." If we don't keep pumping out the babies, the experts say, the economy will not be sustainable. It will not grow. It must always grow. How can it? It can't. But it must. 
 
A constantly growing economy is, of course, not sustainable any way you look at it, and maybe we should be placing our chips on a plan that doesn't depend on using up all our resources and cooking the planet and poisoning the water. Because that is truly unsustainable. (To explain what it means to be unsustainable in a way even Matt Gaetz can understand it, it means you can't keep it up.)

But the people who worry about the baby bust say there will soon be too many old farts and not enough young people, and then who will pay the taxes? And take care of the old farts?

Thus it is revealed that the entire vaunted world economy has been a Ponzi scheme all along.

Well, I suspect if money is the problem, maybe we should set things up so that everyone has at least enough to trade around and nobody has way way way too much. Even out the spoils a little. You can still structure it so you have really rich people if that's what you want.

A lot of people, though, will go to the mat to defend the rights of billionaires to keep all their money. Boy, what a con job! Somehow the fat cats have got the little people believing that wealth is its own proof of virtue. What about all the jobs Bill Gates created? Did he? The way wealth actually works is you might have to suck for a while but once you've got the siphon going, it will just keep pulling that wealth out without you having to lift a finger. After that, you might still suck, but it's optional.

They don't mention the Waltons, whose money originally came from destroying manufacturing jobs and family businesses by having their products made on the cheap in countries that utilize slave labor and have no environmental standards; that's Walton The First, and Waltons Two through Eight got their billions by shooting out of a worthy Walton womb.

Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, siphoned plenty by destroying his competition, in much the same manner as Walton did with Walmart. The third richest woman in the world got her pile by divorcing Jeff Bezos. #49 is a pig breeder, speaking of unsustainable practices. Tons of resource extraction on that list too. We're running the human operation into the ground so fast that people (like Elon Musk, #2) are suggesting we move the whole franchise to Mars, and they're not even kidding. Damn! A whole new planet to mine.

So. There aren't enough babies. This catastrophe is brought to you by birth control combined with educated women who are shirking their duty to pump out more consumers. Even Italy is slated to halve its population this century.

Ah, those blessed consumers. Consumption, of course, may be vital for The Economy, at least for a few more years, but it's otherwise a losing game. So it stands to reason that a falling population would be good for the planet. Fewer people, less consumption. And it is: except that it's the consumption that is the problem, more than the number of people. A dozen rich dudes can do more damage to the planet in a long weekend than some entire African tribes will do in a year. Wealth is the culprit. And most of us who like to complain about the population explosion are ridiculously wealthy by any reasonable standard. We've run through more energy in the last fifty years than in all the years since the first ape stood up. We'll destroy an ecosystem to pull a mineral out of the ground to operate a plastic talking Bob Ross Bobblehead for a few weeks before we chuck it in the ocean, and not give it a second thought. We're the problem.

Relying on rampant consumption to run the world economy is like finding a faster car to drive off the cliff. This has been fun, but we're running out of choices and time. There will have to be a better way to manage things. A less showy but more intimate way. We'll build our shelters smarter, we'll generate our power on site, we'll grow more of our food locally, we'll feed and entertain each other in person. Even without the bobblehead, we'll probably be happier.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Hope Bleats Eternal



It's sunny. It's seventy degrees. The birds are pitching woo, and apparently that is all the evidence I need to determine it will never be cold, ever again, and so I have gone to the plant nursery and jammed a bunch of little pots in the back of my car. None of this bucks tradition.

One tradition is, I will buy more flowers than I can plant in a day, or three. I will scatter some of them here and there while I think about where they should go, and change my mind and move the pots around, and finally I'll get around to planting them except for one. It might say "hardy in zone seven" on the tag but what it needs to be is "hardy left in a black plastic pot in the sun without water for three months," and odds are it isn't. Another tradition is: I'll get everything settled in and then we will get one night close to freezing and they'll all sulk for a month. Oh, they won't die. They will just mope around like kids who didn't ask to be born.

The first thing I do is fill the flower boxes. I used to shake that up but for quite a few years now I've put in the exact same plants. Geranium-Lantana-Cuphea-Callibrachoa-Heliotrope. I worry about this. There was this lady on my mail route, Mrs. V., who could politely be described as "rigid." The first time I met her, I was crisply informed I was late. A few days later I was unacceptably early. Mrs. V. employed a miserable-looking gardener and every year she directed him to plant the flower beds all at once: tulips, to begin with, lined up like soldiers, socially distanced on a grid. Then they got pulled out and tossed so they wouldn't naturalize. A fresh platoon would be mustered the next year to stand at attention. At a precise moment that was neither late nor early they were pulled out and replaced by a row of obedient salvias and a precise edging of lobelias, just the way Mrs. V. wanted them. The gardener never smiled and the garden itself, although quite well-behaved, looked unhappy too.

So I worry a bit that I have gotten into a routine with my flower boxes, although I would like to point out in my defense that everything but the Cupheas come in lots of colors, and I mix those up a bit. The thing is, it is a grand mixture, they play wonderfully well together, and in a good year, this is a thing of beauty and a joy for the whole block.

Meanwhile a number of things are conducting springtime in their own fashion without my input. For instance, I have grape hyacinths. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And there is definitely such a thing as too many grape hyacinths. They are a rolling blue tide thundering through the soilscape and lapping up against the walkways and how anything else wheedles its way through the mass of bulbs, NONE of which I planted, I will never know. I begin yarding them out by the bucketloads year after year, starting before they even bloom, and it does not slow them down one bit, because Jesus loaves-and-fishes them till Kingdom Come.


Meanwhile, we enjoy our seventy degrees. A lady crow in the tippy top of the fir is putting out a metronomic bleat every ten seconds from dawn to dark, indicating she wants a treat. I used to find this repetitive but now I am rather charmed by the dedication she applies to thoroughly annoying the neighborhood, and the fine results she obtains. Per tradition, now that I have my prescribed flowers planted, with their tentative, petite rootage, a crow will come down and yank one of them out of the flower box and replace it with a hole.

He is presenting his find to his lady friend, and his lady friend informs him yet again--does he even remember last spring?--that the nest is done and she is not interested in a bouquet, but maybe a snack of some kind, and he drops the limp $4 flower into the yard and plucks out another one, dully thinking "Maybe she doesn't like pink, let's try orange," and his intended reaffirms that actually she would like a delectable larval item or at least something in the arthropod family, thank you very much, bleat bleat bleat. And the courtship goes on apace.

Meanwhile a few weeks of significantly less friendly temperatures ensue, everything botanical pouts except the grape hyacinths, and I examine the empty spots in my flower boxes and go right back to the nursery.

It's a tradition.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Hawk Up


Studley Windowson, my personal chickadee, and I have had a tight relationship for the past three years, and by this point I can pick out his single "chip" note in a blather of birdsong even when I'm inside and he isn't, which he mostly isn't. (That one time he hopped into the house and landed on my desk didn't work out well for anybody, although it was briefly adorable.) Yes, I can tell Studley's voice just as fast as I can find an errant apostrophe in a page of prose. I generally go to the nearest window and put my finger up for him--so he knows I'm "on it"--and fetch my mealworm container and pop outside.
 
So I was on the back porch the other day dispensing worms for Studley as usual, and as usual he takes one and zips out to the hibiscus to saw it up for himself. He tears it neatly on the perforations. While he was busy doing that I looked up in the sky, because that's what birders do, and I've given up saying I'm not a birder even though I'm not good at it. Clearly I am a birder of some description, or I'd never drive two mph on the highway with my head crammed into the windshield.
 
There was the usual traffic. Three local crows were doing a lazy circle around the Douglas fir next door, a whacket of pigeons went by, the neighbor's Katsura coughed up a spray of goldfinches. And way up high, there was a hawk. Not one of the big fat ones. This was one of the little skinny ones with the long narrow tail, either a Cooper's or a Sharp-shinned, which, for my money, are the same bird. I will never tell them apart, but I can pick out a skinny hawk from a great distance, and I personally know people who don't even recognize chickadees that land on them. I looked back at Studley. He was still sawing away at his worm.
 
I kept an eye on the distant hawk, a dot in the sky. The various species of birds were occupying different layers of air like a living Bird Poster and he was at the tippy top all by himself. I know that hawk can move in a hurry and I'd already decided I would go stand next to Studley in his shrub so I can bat the hawk out of the air if he gets a notion for chickadee nuggets. But then Studs finished his worm, which usually means he's coming in for seconds, only this time he stayed put, and glanced around, and made lots of little noises best represented by punctuation marks. He wasn't going anywhere. The hawk wheeled away and back again and only when he passed over the house and out of sight did Studley dip back for his snack.

What a smart Studley! What a bird! Fully operational crack raptor detection system using eyes the size of poppy seeds. I was so impressed he could pick out a silhouette of a threat from so far away! But I shouldn't be. All the proto-chickadees of yore who couldn't recognize a hawk have long since been nipped out of the gene pool. Still it amazes: I'm sure it must come with the whole original package. They can't be learning this all from personal experience. That would be dreadful. The spark of caution must be in the yolk somewhere.

I don't know if there's a parallel human experience. Most of us seem to be born wired to jump away from snakes. Spiders too. We're born afraid of heights, which is sensible for the wing-deprived. But especially in the last couple hundred years, we've thrown so many layers of comfort and convenience between us and what we need to survive that we couldn't tell a real threat from a horror flick. We poop in the water dish and kick over our kibble bowls. Extinction has to be fictional. But vaccines, antifascists, going gray, and Mercury in retrograde? Scary.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

New Little Dude


There aren't any rules about who gets to have kids and who doesn't, and I guess that's just as well, though we all know people who should have been steered toward hamsters instead. But let it also be said that every now and then the very best people become the best parents and might even have the best ingredients on hand when they're whomping up the little buggers. Like, maybe the chile is a gift to the whole world. Like, is it possible the new arrival will descend on a golden cloud with pudgy arms raised in benediction? Because we could use something like that right now.

That's sure how we felt when our friends' first baby rolled off the assembly line. We couldn't imagine a luckier child, and more than the usual effort had gone into his production. And now he has a baby brother. The docs said his mother was already "geriatric" for the first one, which seems rude and, as far as I can tell, means "over 26," but the point is it can be a bit of a challenge to seal the deal in these cases. Which makes this new one a plumb miracle. Oh, sure, lots of people refer to all babies as miracles, but just between you and me, some of them are a little disappointing, Lord And Savior-wise.

Thing is, though, that first child had tributes rained on him, toys and swaddling and onesies and furniture and college funds and what-have-you. We provided some of that rain ourselves, and I even made him a complicated quilt that took a long time to put together. Not nine months, but still.

This child?

Big Brother
Haven't sent him a thing. Big brother's old clothes should work--he doodled in them, but they have a washing machine. They'll give him a name at some point. We should probably send him something cute. Any minute now. We should, but we probably won't get around to it. He's already got something his big brother will never have.

He's the youngest.

And that's the greatest thing ever. Dave and I, we know. We're both the babies of the family. We had it made. The people in charge would snatch us out of the way of a speeding train but other than that? Go play. Figure it out yourself. Mommy's napping.
 
I'm the last of four children. Our parents were fairly strict. By the time I showed up (let's not pretend there was any planning involved) they were old, too. They didn't torment us with their visions for our future, but they definitely had standards for our behavior and were not remotely wheedleable. As a Brewster child, you might not get what you wanted, but you didn't suffer over thinking you mighta coulda if you whined long enough.

You wouldn'ta couldn'ta.

And even so, when all of us got together as adults, and I made some kind of casual but shocking pronouncement, and my parents shrugged and wandered off, my oldest sister looked at me in disbelief and said "You've done wonders with Mom and Dad!"

The number of photographs of me as a child are in the dozens. Yeah, sure, there are even fewer of my brother as a child, but those Daguerrotypes don't hold up. These days, first children are immortalized in pixels a thousand times a week, and the second child has to settle for his mug shot.

So listen up, new little dude. Your big brother is pushing Three, and he may be all walking around upright like a genius tyrannosaur and everything, but at some point  he's going to do some things, some currently unimaginable things, that your parents are going to want to talk to him about. They're going to want to talk to him about his choices and how what he does affects other people and ask what he really wants out of life, and with you? They'll be all, Whatever.
 
You grab that Whatever, child. That's a wide, wide landscape, and it's all yours. Go play in the mud, devise your own private troubles, and then shine, shine, shine.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Can't Touch This


Hey hey! Welcome to my humor blog! Join us on a madcap romp through the world of strange science, fun facts, and human foibles! Now let's talk about abortion!

Oh. We're not supposed to talk about abortion. It's a "touchy" subject, kind of like Hell is "toasty." I just got to thinking about it on account of all the so-called "heartbeat bills" that are getting passed that criminalize abortion at the stage a fetal heartbeat can be detected, or about the time when a woman starts feeling bloaty and crabby for no reason. 

I suspect the whole heartbeat thing has to do with how we romanticize the heart. It's where we imagine love is, it's what we paint on our valentines, it's how young girls dot their i's. Seems like a good place to draw a line, but here's the thing: any line we draw is going to be arbitrary. Even the moment of heartbeat detection depends on what device you use to detect it. Are you bent over a belly with a warm stethoscope, or jamming a wand up a personal area? Is a heartbeat the beat of a heart, or a flickering of electrical activity in a group of cells that aspire to be a heart?

Doesn't really matter. The only thing that we ought to be able to agree on about abortion is that we can't agree on a thing about it. It all depends on what we as individuals believe about human life, and its preciousness or insignificance, and that's personal. Many people abhor the thought of snuffing out even potential human life, and there we're getting into unfathomable territory: the existence of the soul, and the moment of its inception. Is it here, at the eight-cell stage? At the kidney-bean stage? Is any of this obvious? Some people believe it starts with the gleam in the father's eye. That it is sinful to obstruct the safe passage of a raft of sperm cells on its glorious emission.

That's why the one thing that has been proven to dramatically reduce abortion numbers across the board--the provision of free birth control--is still controversial.

Heck, whether you believe in a soul at all is not a given either.

I myself tend to the non-preciousness side of the scale. I think a viable dodo egg is far more valuable than any human blastocyst. It's a supply-and-demand thing in a world choked with people. But that's just me. I also would have no trouble deciding whether to snatch an infant out of a burning building, or twelve jars of unimplanted embryos. No trouble at all.

But here's the other thing I believe about abortion. I believe that there are some politicians who know in their maturely-beating hearts that abortion is a great sin. That is why they got into politics. But I believe there are far, far more politicians who thunder on about abortion, with trembling fingers and quavering voice, and don't actually care at all; might even have underwritten a few. For them, abortion is a lever to move as many voters as possible to their party so they can do what they really care about: assure that the vast wealth of the country remains in the hands of the few.

You might think your legislator is doing the Lord's work, and that's your right, but maybe he's just working you over.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Don't Open The Shed


Someone's been charged with murder in two cold cases here. In the first case, they just assumed the murder took place, in the absence of a body. I don't know: it's hard enough to keep track of all the people we have and if someone lies low for for a while it seems rude to just conclude, ipso fucto, he's been murdered. I suppose there are clues. I, for instance, can hole up inside the house for a long time--I've got toys--but if a few weeks go by and nobody sees any beer bottles in my recycling there might be cause to worry.

Anyway, the cases appear to have been broken due to forensic genealogy. That's the relatively new practice of sleuthery using data that were volunteered to an outfit like Ancestry or 23andMe. Our murderer might have had cause to wonder just how much Neanderthal he had in him and didn't stop to think that dribbling drool into a tube might have consequences for him down the line. (I'm guessing there was a lot of Neanderthal.) Or maybe he just wanted to reassure himself he was super white.

He was connected to the first murder due to the discovery of Probable Murderer DNA in the victim's house. He was connected to the second murder due to the discovery of the victim's dismembered remains in his shed. In criminal investigation circles, that's considered a red flag. I'm guessing he lives in the boonies, and didn't need his mower for a while.

He's also being investigated for a number of other unsolved murders. They'd have him in the slammer already, if any of the detectives searching his house had gotten a craving for fish sticks.

It makes me think of when the Bob Crane murder case was reopened after the discovery of "previously overlooked" brain tissue in the suspect's car. It wasn't enough to convict, but again, highly suspicious, there being vanishingly few innocent ways to get brain tissue in your car, even with the worsening pothole situation.

The other thing it makes me think of is I don't really know what-all is in our shed, and maybe I should find out.

Dave built the shed a long time ago and it has two doors that swing open wide. One of them opens easily by turning a bent nail and the other one is latched shut by two eye-bolts that slot into a cavity, and you have to pull them out from the inside. For thirty years now I've bothered to open that door only a couple times. If I want anything on the right side, I hold onto the middle post and swing my body around like a pole dancer. There's too much stuff on the floor to actually step all the way inside. I am not tidy.

I do have four big containers of water in there somewhere for The Earthquake, and I should replenish them one of these days, but it's a bother, and I figure even real old water would be fine in an emergency. Anyway I can't rule out a body part or two. It's not a big shed, but not everybody is all that big, and things happen. I know we have a saw.

We did find a whole cat tail in there once. Just the tail. Seemed like there had to be a story connected, and I was content to just wonder about it, because I don't reserve my sentiment for outdoor kitties. Cats are wonderful creatures but once they step outside they're coyote chow as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, months later, we did see a tailless cat skulking around the yard. I'd like to say we had ways of making him talk, but we didn't.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Lettuce Assassin



I chop lettuce. Go ahead, let me have it.

You're not supposed to chop lettuce. I'm no cook but even I know that. I don't know why exactly, but I know you're supposed to tear lettuce, not chop it.

Which is better than leaving it untorn. One of the downfalls of going to a nice restaurant is you're likely to get a salad with great big leaves flapping around in it. You can try to fold it up into a tidy package with your fork, but you're still at risk of looking like a turtle, snapping your neck back and forth trying to corral the greenery. Little fringey bits are trailing all over your face because despite your best fork-folding efforts the stuff is springing back out of your lips and dripping unsightly dressing down your cheek. And you're also not supposed to go after it with your fingers. You have to herd the escaped greens back into your mouth with your fork, and that can't be done with any delicacy. I don't know how the Queen manages it.

It's worse if you have a small face. I have a small face on account of I have a small head, and my face is on the front of it. Sure, everything from the chin down has swollen into pudding, but there's not a lot of acreage in the face itself. I start smearing runaway lettuce onto it, I look like I've planted myself in a hedge.

Poo on that. I make my own salad, I chop the bejesus out of the greens. I want every portion of that salad bite-sized. I want to make the transfer from plate to gullet as orderly as possible. Let's just say when we had a dog, she didn't park herself next to my dining chair.

That's allowable, in your lesser restaurants; you can tear your lettuce into little pieces. But I am not inclined to stand there over my cutting board and rip plants into confetti when I can just whack at them with a big knife in four seconds. Done.

I read up. Seems the reason you're supposed to tear, not chop, is that the resulting pieces will separate along natural cell-wall lines and not rip the cells apart. I've studied plants with a microscope before. The cells are generally lined up like subway tiles. And they're very little. Even if a whole bunch of them are screaming at once, you're not going to hear them over the chewing.

Well, I can't even separate an invoice from a page along the perforated line without messing up at one end or the other. I could, if I took the time to fold it real good and crease it with my thumbnail, but that's not my idea of a good use of time.

Presumably the cells damaged by my kitchen knife produce polyphenols in order to protect the plant against further damage. I'm making a salad. I'm already planning on damaging the hell out of those little princesses, right quick.

I'm chopping. If the Queen drops by, I'll chop a salad for her, too.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A Delicate Constitution


Oh, well, shoot (as they say). I don't know.

We've got a problem with guns. We don't agree what it is, but no matter who you are, you have to admit we do a lot of shooting in this country. Most of us don't, but this is one of those areas where one person can have an outsized effect. And the fact is, other nations do not experience the violence that is routine here in the U. S. of A. You know, unless they're in a war. So there's something going on. Can't keep pretending there isn't.

People who oppose any gun regulation like to say that the problem of mass murder boils down to mental illness. But it's not just mentally ill people doing this shit. All kinds of people are ready to put some hurt on random strangers. And the tut-tutting about the mentally ill is generally done by people who won't even sign on for universal health care.

So we have a situation in which reasonable people, people I know and love, people who will never commit a crime, who merely want the ability to defend their house and home in the way they feel comfortable with, and maybe pop a deer every now and then, are so horrified by the utterly imaginary prospect that someone is going to try to take away their guns that they have drawn a line: and the line is All weapons, Always. They might not need a weapon capable of flattening a crowd of people, personally, but they will defend to the death someone else's right to have it. Preferably someone else's death.

Every time someone suggests assault weapons should be banned, someone else chimes in to suggest how ignorant that is. He will then helpfully explain that there is no such thing as an assault weapon, that it is a semantic construct unrelated to anything in the current commercially-available arsenal, and the simple addition of a diphthong-kit can easily render even a carved-dogwood cap rifle into a fully asthmatic splatterstick at a price of $18.99, available at any Walmart. He will further explain that any bullet is capable of dropping a silhouetted teenager in a dark hoodie and it doesn't matter if it runs him clean through or shreds him spectacularly along the way, so regulating ammunition or the speed at which it can exit a firearm is of no value. Basically, you can kill someone with darn near anything, so these distinctions are without merit.

These people make a good point. That point being it is absolutely true that I do not know anything about guns. So I will state my dumb-ass beliefs as simply as I can.

I am not afraid of gun owners; I might even be less afraid of people than they are. I believe citizens who want firepower for hunting purposes or who feel they are safer when armed should have those arms. I believe the Second Amendment as written is a historical fossil. I believe a well regulated Militia does not mean the lawless Bundy gang or the Nazis at the Capitol, and doesn't really apply to anything currently necessary to the security of a free State. I also do not believe for one blessed moment that living in a country saturated with guns makes us safer. That's some wild-West horseshit right there. Now to the technical part: I think people should not be allowed to own bang-bangs that can rain bullets and mow people down in a couple of seconds. And, as an aside, I believe anyone who thinks he has a God-given right to shoot lead ammunition should be pinned down on the desert floor without water in condor territory.

It is remarkable to me how much folks on the fringes, right and left, autocrat and anarchist, resemble each other. They are disinclined to question their own dogma, they're scared of shadowy government forces taking away their guns, and they have plans to personally hold off the U. S. Military from their basement bunkers.
 
And here I am, silly me, stranded in the middle with my fingers in my ears, afraid of global warming.
 
Is there a way to get these fringes to face off in one massive cage match? When they run out of bullets we can yard out the carcasses for the remaining vultures, and then maybe we can address some issues with actual existential consequences for us all.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Ending Bird Homelessness


I don't know why it took me so long to think about putting up another bird house. The one Dave built for the Windowsons, for their chickadee manufacturing project, has been no end of fun. I just hauled it down to bleach it for the new rental season and it's starting to show some wear, but it'll be fine. Then I thought: how about if there's another nest box on the other side of the house? We walked down to the Backyard Bird Shop and had us a look.

(By the way, I know a lot of you want to live with lots of space around you, and that's understandable, but there's something to be said for living where you can walk to a Backyard Bird Shop. A library. A grocery store (or three). Hardware store. Brewpub. Another brewpub. Another brewpub. Where was I? So I hope all you country mice are being great stewards of the land or at least not messing it up, but let's hear it for jamming the bulk of humanity into well-planned cities, okay? We're rambunctious and destructive, as a species, so we should keep most of us away from what sustains us.)

Bird house. That's where I was. My eye was immediately drawn to a wall of small bird houses in fabulous colors, and I picked out the little red one and came home with it. I don't expect Marge and Studley to be interested. The hole is an inch in diameter. Chickadees like their holes a quarter-inch larger. Might not seem like a big deal, but chickadees, quilters, and sloppy carpenters are all about the quarter-inch.

Now, I do not know what the little princesses do in the wild when these precise measurements do not pertain to a given tree-trunk. Seems like you could be house-hunting a long time before you find a nice 1-1/4 inch hole. Chickadees aren't major excavators, but they are willing to chip away at a hole in a tree if someone else has already started it or there's a knothole in soft wood, and that's prety amazing, since their pointy parts are only the size of a fingernail clipping.

Anyway, I don't expect a chickadee to want this red house. You need at least some clearance. Seems like it's enough trouble to blast into a hole head-first and somehow apply the brakes inside before hitting the far wall, which is less than five inches away. What I'm looking for here is maybe a wren. We do have a lovely Bewick's wren hanging around. She's got her tail cranked straight up like one of those cats that's super proud of its bunghole. But I'll bet she knows how to flatten it if she's coming in hot. We stuck the house in a tree and put wood shavings in it, per the advice of the Bird Shop maven.

I've heard this before. Chickadees and wrens are cavity nesters and like to work on holes that already have wood shavings in them. The idea is maybe it indicates someone else already used it and lived to tell the tale, or got a good start going on renovations and then ran out of cash and had to bail. According to one website, it "makes the bird feel like it is doing the work of hollowing out the cavity." Awesome! I'm stocking up on gold stars to reward the bird. Maybe a trophy for Participation.

Do we really know this? Did someone put a bunch of sawdust in a nest box and conclude the birds liked it because they took it all out? Have they tried it with crumpled-up newspaper? Mac and cheese? Legos? Get back to me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

How To Disappear A Mountain


The Mazamas mountaineering club was founded in 1894 by a fellow named William Gladstone Steel, who was a journalist, mountain guide, and mailman. Back then you could have all the jobs because the world was fresh and new and not because you had to do gig work just to cover the rent.

Mailman Steel then named Mt. Mazama after his club, even though the mountain no longer existed, having blown to bits about 7700 years ago, leaving its caldera, Crater Lake. Crater Lake had been discovered only a few years earlier. Rumors persist that it had existed long before that but only the indigenous peoples knew about it and they named it wrong, so it didn't officially count. Mr. Steel was fifteen and living in Kansas when his mom wrapped his lunch in a newspaper that contained an article about the lake. Fifteen years later he traveled by rail and stagecoach to Fort Klamath and walked twenty miles to find it. He spent the next fifteen or so years lobbying Congress to make a park out of it, because mailmen can multitask.

So how do they know Mt. Mazama blew up 7700 years ago? This is why geologists are the coolest: they can take a chunk out of a roadcut and intuit a billion years of earth history before breakfast. The Mazama bit was easy. That volcano blew out enough crap to coat the territory for thousands of miles and the orange Mazama ash layer can be used to stick a pin in time anywhere it's found. Throw in a deposit of seriously charred trees that can be carbon-dated and you've got your story nailed down.

Generally speaking these calderas are not formed because the middle of the mountain got blown into the stratosphere. It's all the stuff well below ground that gets ralphed up, leaving a hollowed-out space, and, after a brief period of hanging in mid-air like a cartoon coyote, the mountain notices and collapses into the gap.

Nineteenth-century geologists, many of whom were also coach drivers, botanists, and pizza deliverers, did not know this is how calderas are formed. But the native population did. Chief Lalek of the Klamath tribe explained it all to a young white soldier in 1865. There had been people in the area for at least 10,000 years--we know, because we've found their sagebrush shoes--and evidently they listened to their parents, because the legend has survived to this day. It was the usual story. Underworld God meets pretty girl, invites her to live forever in his company, pretty girl's tribe hides her, god gets mad and starts pitching flaming rocks at everybody. All hell breaks loose. A wise elder prescribes a human sacrifice, and he and an equally old man discuss the matter, agree to leave the young people out of it, and--after what Chief Lalek said was "a period of silence," followed by a muttered "Oh shit," they trudge up the mountain and jump in. Overworld God is impressed, drives Underworld God back underground, and the mountain collapses on him.

Which is a pretty specific and geologically accurate scenario to have survived in the collective memory for so long--especially since this was several thousand years before Real God created the heavens and the earth.

The Klamath tribes were fond of Crater Lake, and disinclined to tell white people about it, because it was a sacred site. Basically, they knew white people would fuck it all up.

Some of them found it anyway, in 1853, when a man named Skeeters, which is a totally normal 19th-century name, led a band of eleven miners to the region in search of gold. They thought the lake was nice, and told people about it, and named it Deep Blue Lake because they were just that imaginative, but fortunately for the pristine blue waters everyone forgot all about it because there wasn't any gold. It remains a stroke of luck to this day to live on land devoid of oil or coal or precious minerals.

So let us now praise unknown men and women who know how to keep a legend alive across hundreds of generations, and let us not mock their god stories. We have no room to talk. We've got Jewish space lasers and lizard people, we can't remember what happened last week, and our shoes fall apart in no time.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Dinner On A Dime


On Vacation
Because I'm in touch with members of my high school Class of '70, I learned recently that the dear old Alpine Restaurant on Lee Highway is about to be torn down to make way for a day care center. The second thing I learned was that it had been in operation since 1966, a year during which I was demonstrably alive, and had been for some time. But I couldn't remember the restaurant at all. My friends reminisced about the place, and someone provided a photograph--a fake chalet sort of façade--and I still couldn't recognize it, even though it had to be pretty close to my house. I checked the address.

Ah. The Alpine Restaurant was one and a half blocks from my house. If I stood in the front yard and looked south, I could see it. In its entirety.

Well, such is the nature of my Magic-Slate brain, in which most memory is peeled away for a fresh new sheet in case something interesting comes along. Clearly I have no recollection of the Alpine Restaurant because we never, ever ate there. One of my friends said his family didn't go often because they didn't have the budget for it, so that proves it. My father took the family out to dinner every Saturday night because he believed Mom should not have to cook seven days a week. And every single Saturday night for years we went to the Seven Corners shopping center and ate at the S&W Cafeteria in the basement. Where, I assume, you didn't have to tip.

Somewhere along the line Dad discovered a sit-down Family Restaurant in Cherrydale that fit his budget and we went there a few times. Here's what I remember. They had a cool toothpick dispenser at the cash register. And once, some adult came up to our table to compliment my sister and me for being so well-behaved. Was there another option???
 
There was another restaurant I do remember, but not because our family ate there. We did not. I think it was one of my friend's moms who took us to the brand-new McDonald's, one block west of the Alpine Restaurant (apparently) on Lee Highway, and treated us to a cheeseburger (18 cents), French fries (15 cents), and a chocolate milk shake. My world turned upside-down. How could food be so delicious? I couldn't imagine why we weren't eating there all the time. It had to be in the budget, because I was able to buy my own French fries with babysitting money, and I'm not sure I ever cleared more than four dollars a month.

It probably arrived around 1963 or so. A classic. Came with the two Golden Showers on top. Arches. Whatever. And a sign that said "over one million sold" that got upgraded every few months. At some point it hit "over a billion sold," and very shortly thereafter they settled for "billions and billions." Now there's just a poster in the parking lot that says "You know you're coming in here, just pull out your fucking wallet."

The restaurant thing with my father was fraught. I learned to tip heavily but certainly not from him. He was focused on paying down a mortgage and providing a college education for four children, goals which strike me now as laudable indeed, but didn't impress me one bit as a child. I wanted a bigger house with a rec room. I never got it. Got a stupid B.A. in Biology instead.

Vacation is fun!
We did go to restaurants when we were on vacation. One vacation my mom broke the heck out of her ankle in South Dakota and had to stay in a hospital while Dad drove my sister and me back home to Virginia. We went into a restaurant one night, the only one for miles, and as soon as we got seated we realized we'd made a huge mistake. The place was tinkly with inappropriate laughter from adults with genuine cocktails and the waiter brought enormous leather-bound menus over in which every entrée was at least one decimal point over budget. One of them was "Mermaid Steak," presumably a surf 'n' turf deal. I was terrified. Daddy said we could leave and he got up to tell the waiter we wouldn't be staying, but it took a bit to get his attention, and when I saw a straight path had opened up to the front door, I hollered "Run, Daddy!" and we all peeled out of there. I don't know what we did for dinner.

I would've remembered if it was McDonald's.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Live Free And Die


Isn't it something? We live in an age of medical and technological wonders and have the knowledge and means to solve any number of seemingly intractable problems, from climate change to plagues, but we don't, because we still can't fix stupid. We can identify stupid from the hats and the bumper stickers but we can't seem to stamp it out before it spreads.

So now we have a plethora of perfectly useful vaccines for a rampant virus but no way of cajoling enough people into protecting themselves, and the rest of us, with them. Like, we could end this thing tomorrow if we had the collective will. But even if we were able to slip the stuff into the drinking water, it wouldn't work, because so many people don't have access to clean water. The ancient Romans could manage it, but that was before billionaires were invented, and profit must be made.

You can't put vaccines in water anyway, but the only reason you're not hearing that the Deep State is planning to do it is that it seems so much more likely we'll have it sparkled into us from space. There's no end to  how dastardly a liberal--read Jewish--billionaire can be.

You didn't encounter this kind of obstinacy when the polio vaccine was developed. People were kind of simple and uncomplicated about things back then. Polio bad. Thank you Drs. Salk and Sabin. Please give me sugar cube. Now, we're sort of done with measles chickenpox diphtheria polio smallpox whooping-cough tetanus hepatitis and even the dag-gone mumps, and there are so few real things that we have to worry about we need to invent them, just to get our understimulated little chests to rise.

People used to band together to fight their foes but now we're all on our own, 330 million armies of one. Some people would never get a vaccine on principle, that principle being freedom, or some toddler's version of it. Others would rather wait and see how it turns out. "Wait and see" is not a reasonable plan from a public health standpoint when time is of the essence with a still-rampaging mutating microbe, but many people are suspicious. Look how quickly Trump got the vaccines developed, they say. Wasn't he wonderful? On the other hand, it was way too quick to trust. Let's see how many people drop dead from the vaccine first! We can stack those bodies up here, and the COVID Hoax bodies over there, and see which pile looks scariest. That's science, right there. That's just using the old bean.

One fellow who got COVID and has no intention of getting the vaccine explained it this way: "I had a fever for a couple days. I don't think it's the bogeyman they made it out to be."

A half million others were unavailable for comment.

Black people, as a demographic, have a well-founded historical distrust of the medical establishment but seem to be coming around to the advisability of vaccination. Republicans have a distrust of the truth. And they don't trust government ever to do the right thing. Which, considering the last four years, is almost reasonable.

Can't fix stupid. You can fix ugly, but it takes a face mask. So. Back where we started.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Forty Years Of Pointlessness And Laundry


Advertisements are a lot more explicit now. Maybe whatever held us back in the past has long since been rendered quaint by the required recitation of side-effects from the drug peddlers. By the time you've said "uncontrollable erection" and "anal seepage" out loud, a line of delicacy has been crossed.

Even so, Always Maxi Pads startled me with their "What The Gush Moments." You know what? Those ugly technicolor bears with their clean heinies can go straight to hell, but this I love. It's a sly nod to a vulgarity, paired with a 100% accurate, relatable description. Not only that, but when they do the little demonstration of their product sopping up liquid, they use red liquid.

They used to use blue liquid. Mediterranean Blue. Like this is a freaking holiday on the French Riviera. That's how delicate our sensibilities used to be. Pretty sure some men thought even that was gross, and to those guys, I say, button up, Buttercup. At least they're not showing chunks.

Shoot, way back when, "feminine hygiene" ads didn't even really say what they were advertising. You could imagine it was deodorant. Or little white shorts. Or swimsuits. Or maybe they were just celebrating Freedom. Oh, say can you see? Sure hope not!


But the What The Gush Moment gets my attention. Because that is absolutely, totally a thing. You're going about your day and then very suddenly, with no warning, you have a Situation, and you freeze in your tracks to give your mattress-sized pad the best opportunity to Control The Situation and not breach the dike. As it were. Then you're mincing toward the bathroom only moving your legs from the knees down. It's been fifteen years for me, but when I see the faces of the women in the ad suddenly registering a Moment, I know exactly how they feel.

Here's a thing. If you want to see a roomful of women pee their pants laughing--there's Poise for that--just say "The average amount of blood lost during a menstrual period is six to eight teaspoons."

Who were they studying? Disney princesses?

Teaspoons. This is a plug for the metric system if I've ever heard one.

Hey. If they're making something that will handle the Situation without requiring you to tie a sweater around your waist just to make an exit, more power to them. When I was first introduced to the joys of womanhood, my mother set me up with my very own napkin and belt. Which was no doubt an improvement on whatever sorry improvisation she grew up with on the farm in North Dakota. But let's put it this way: when they came out with adhesive strips for your underpants, it had the weight of a technological breakthrough. Because the thing about that belt is you could get the whole contraption centered just so, and five walking steps later it was crawling up your ass and you were backing into the corner of a table to shove it back toward the front. There you are, talking to a nice boy, just, you know, casually backing into furniture with a little humpy-movement hoping you look normal. And you are not. You are embarking on a special Ladies' Cruise with 480 ports-of-call and if you sail out of any one of them with clean underwear, Disney would like a word.