Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ecclesiastes for the 21st Century

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.  A time to text, and a time to refrain from texting.  A time to browse the internet, and a time you may not browse.  A time to friend people on Facebook, and a time to unfriend them.  A time for Pilates, and a time for Rocky Road Ice-Cream.  A time to send emails, and a time to check emails.  A time to google yourself, and a time to google others.  A time to refinance, and a time not to.  A time to fold, and a time to go "all in."  A time for a cappuccino, and a time for just a plain cafe americano.  A time for Dancing with the Stars, and a time for Shark Tank.  A time for networking, and a time not to network.  A time for hybrids and a time for hummers.  A time for Wii, and a time for Nintendo.  A time for global warming and a time for more global warming.  A time for Polar Bears and a time for Polar Bears, but only in the zoo.  A time for safe sex and a time for no sex.  A time for tatoos and a time for HepB.  A time for Spring Break and a time for HepB.  A time for margaritas and a time for ibuprofin.  A time for Pay-Per-View, and a time to download from Netflix.  A time for NASCAR, and a time for NFL.  A time for Merlot and a time for Zin.  A time for Country and a time for Western.  A time to vote, and a time not to vote and just tell people you're sick of the whole mess, and they all stink, and besides, what's the point.  A time for taxes and a time for death.

(Originally posted in 2012)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Losing Things

I knew if I found them, I would
glow briefly as a hero
in my wife's eyes
Let me say at the outset, that if you could make a career of losing things, I would be highly paid, for I am an expert.  Yesterday morning, I mislaid glasses that I had been wearing scant minutes ago.  Even Nancy confessed admiration.  I did find the glasses, but in the interval have mislaid them again.  I am wearing Nancy's glasses as I type this.

Oddly enough, at home, I am never without my glasses, not because I never mislay them, but precisely because I do mislay them, so thoroughly and so ubiquitously, the wherever I look, my eye will fall on a pair I've set aside.  Basically my system is to lose so much stuff, that anywhere I search, I'm bound to find something.

I worry about myself sometimes.

Yesterday at the beach, Nancy lost her hat.  You might question her judgement wearing a hat into the ocean, but she has done so many times.  But yesterday, a wave swept it off her head.  We expected to find it floating in the surf nearby, but no.  As far as I can make out, it fell directly under the curve of cresting wave, was pounded to the bottom, then dragged out by the undertow.  

This was a very nice hat - not that it was encrusted with valuable jewels - but it was functional and attractive and Nancy had never seen another quite like it.

I had on a swim mask and searched diligently underwater, not really expecting to find it - the Atlantic off the Florida coast is as clear as clam chowder - but knowing that if I did find it, I would glow briefly as a hero in my wife's eyes.

We finally gave up the search and went back to put away our assorted beach paraphernalia - chairs, umbrella, etcetera - it was the end of the day, and the loss of Nancy's good hat cast a pall over us.  We had to hurry because the tide had come in to a goodish extent and was even now lapping at the feet of our beach chairs.

And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but Nancy's hat!  

The conclusion of the story is more remarkable than it appears - our beach stuff was about a hundred feet from where she lost the hat, and we'd already looked for it without success for fifteen minutes, when a helpful wave deposited it right as our feet as we were packing up.

Thank you, mighty Poseidon!

There's a wonderful experience in finding something that has been lost; we prize it more dearly for having contemplated life without it.  Not that you have to be an Expert at Losing Things as I am, but I feel sorry for someone who never loses anything ever.  How would you know the delight of finding it again?

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Packing Implies Compression
I write this from the sunny clime of Jacksonville beach, from a balcony overlooking the mighty Atlantic, whose waves roll in and roll out, as they have with timeless patience, beating the shore with a calming shush and rush, and have thus beaten since long before I was born, or humans walked the earth, and will continue to la-dee-dah-dah-doo-dah-dah and you can fill in the rest yourself.

Yesterday in the AM, Nancy and I completed our packing and set off from Atlanta.  Packing is an interesting word for what we did.  "To pack" implies compression, that the quantity and dimensions of things have been constrained by a limited volume of space.

For a three-day trip, mind you, Nancy and I each brought our own suitcase, plus a computer bag apiece - each with a laptop and an Ipad, plus a coffee-maker, beach chairs, and beach umbrella, a sand-screw for planting the umbrella, a beach bag, another thermal beach bag for carrying drinks, snorkles, masks, sunglasses, hats, a cooler, and - I know I'm leaving something out, but I darned if I'll go take inventory to tell you what it was.

Oh, wait, I just remembered.  Nancy's pocketbook, which itself doubles as a substantial piece of luggage.

The best thing about hauling such a plethora of stuff to a three-day getaway is the soothing prospect of getting to unpack it all when you get home and putting it away for your next trip.  What jolly times we shall have, sunburned and weary, unloading all our sandy gear from the Rav and hauling it to the basement.  What fond memories it will bring back - "Remember putting this cooler in here?  It didn't seem so heavy last time."  

Oh, well, we're Americans, and that's just the way we do.

Meantime, it is a pleasant day here, and the ocean rolls with its immortal shush and rush. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Keeping Chickens off the Patio

One of the problems associated with raising chickens in suburbia is keeping them off the patio.  Nancy and I, I forgot to mention, have two Rhode Island Reds, delightful birds in every way, who provide eggs for the table and fertilizer for the garden, but who love nothing better than to stroll on up to the patio and feast on Nancy’s potted begonias and poop on the patio deck.  

Chicken poop, it turns out, has a unique chemical property that when it comes in contact with any concrete or masonry-type substance, such as a patio deck, instantly anneals itself to the surface with an epoxy-like bond that would defy a NASA scientist to scrub off.  

For a while I kept a squirt gun on the patio, and when the chickens approached, would shoot at them.  But the water gun was pretty low caliber, more of a water derringer, actually, and it did little to dissuade the birds.  They may have actually enjoyed the challenge, a challenge.  A little spice of danger to season the begonias.  Anyway, after failed attempts with the squirt-derringer, I decided to bring out the Big Guns. 

The big guns in this case being a “Scare Crow,” a sprinkler with a motion detector that goes off whenever something approaches.  I set it up on the steps leading to the patio.  And waited.  Sure enough, within a few minutes the sprinkler went off, there was a frantic clucking, and I saw my hens achieve the maximum lift-off of their chicken ability and head back down the yard.  Mission accomplished.  The only teensy drawback is that the Scarcecrow doesn’t have a specific setting for “chicken” vs "human being" but fires indiscriminately at any motion.  Squirrels, birds, me.  This means effectively the patio is off limits for me as well.  However, I hope this is only a temporary measure. 

I once saw in a fair a chicken in a glass box who for a dime would play you a game of tic-tac-toe.  I do not think the chicken knew she was playing tic-tac-toe, and I have no idea how good a player she was; I use this example purely to show chickens can be trained.  In the fullness of time, I trust, my chickens can learn to stay of the patio.  And the Scarecrow is a very effective teacher.  In the meantime, however, the patio is a no-man’s-land as well as a no-chicken’s-land.  The begonias have it all to themselves.

(Originally Posted April, 2012)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I Learned at Hambidge

You might think they want to hear about this.
They don't.
If readers of this blog - either one of you - are curious about my silence for the last two weeks, it is because I've been at the Hambidge Artists' retreat in Rabun County, Georgia.

Basically, the deal was this: I'd wake up each morning in my solitary cabin, scramble an egg, and write until noon.  Then I'd make a sandwich, take a nap, then write until four.  At that point, I might go for a walk or just hang out until suppertime, when I'd sit around the table with a bunch of other creative types who'd been alone all day doing pretty much the same thing I had, although in their case it might involve fashioning strange and beautiful ceramic pieces or making moonscapes on the floor with powdered kaolin.  

Right now, you're saying to yourself, "Where do I sign up?"

The main thing I learned from Hambidge is that when you come back from a really wonderful, even transformative experience, the less you say about it, the better.  Your nearest and dearest, though they love you as the flowers do the sun, do not want to hear about it.  They do not want to know that while they were home dealing with laundry and the dog's ear infection, you were having a great time.  They do not want to know that it was such a great time, you sort of dreaded coming back home. 

You would think this would be just the sort of thing that would delight them - exactly what a great time it was, and how you wish it had been longer, and how you can't wait to go back.  And yet they do not want to hear this.  If you tell them, they will greet you with stony-eyed looks.  I share this as a public service.

And that is what I learned from Hambidge.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Apocalypse of Paulie Betenbaugh

The Revelation which the Malthusian Overlord gave unto Paulie Betenbaugh which must shortly come to pass. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy and not just call it bullshit like usual.  

I, Paulie, who was in Mrs. Othmar's detention for drawing pictures of death-stars during Social Studies, did hear a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying I am Knorman, Overlord of Malthusians, what thou seest writest in thy spiral-bound notebook and send it to the Seven Jocks who sit together at lunch, and especially to Jenny Pritchett, that she may hear.

And I turned to see that voice that spake, and saw seven light-sabers and in the midst of them one like a man, except his eyes were, like, completely whited out, and he was bald all over, but with nails sticking out, like the guy in Hell-Raiser, and his tongue was an actual snake, and there was other stuff that was even creepier, and I would write it down, except it was too creepy for you.  And, seeing, I fell at his feet as if I were dead because the whole thing was so creepy, but the Overlord said, FEAR NOT,

For the judgment of the Overlord is not upon thee, but upon the Seven Jocks especially for pantsing you in gym class and also Ms Othmar and to Jenny Pritchett that she may see and repent.

And I looked up, and out of the East, there came Seven Fiery Cockatrices, the Seven Jocks probably think is some kind of rooster, but is really a dragon, and totally bad-ass.  And one cockatrice was named Bad-ass, and one was named Doom, and one was named Hrothgar the Unholy, and one was named Decapitator, and one didn't have a name because he was too horrible even to name, and one was named Galaxian, and one was named Nameless.

And the cockatrices flew and spread havoc, which was the name of the Eighth Cockatrice that joined them late because he had something.  And a person, who shall not be named, but the secret of his identity may be guessed, for his number is 66, and he is the second-string quarterback, he said, "Holy shit," for he knew his hour was upon him.  For, an unbeliever, he had said Paulie did not have a girlfriend in Canada and there was no such person, even though Paulie had told everyone, and she is totally hot.

And from the mouth of one Cockatrice shot fire, and from another nails, and another hot oil that stuck to you - only it burned like crazy and you couldn't get it off, no matter what - and another had death-rays coming out of its eyes, and another would just bite off your head and for a second the rest of your body would quiver and sort of walk around like it still didn't know what had happened, and another could make itself invisible any time it wanted, and the other one or two were even worse than that, but it shall not be revealed what they did, so that it might be a Surprise.

And all who pantsed Paulie were laid waste, and all who laughed, and all who witnessed, and none were spared.

Except Jennie Pritchett, that she might see and repent.