November 25, 2013
November 14, 2013
November 12, 2013
November 10, 2013
I still don't really understand what satisfaction he got from scoring points on his credulous and naive children, but whatever thrill it was it must have enough for him to continue it for far too long. Very seldom could we turn the tables on him and when we did it was almost invariably accidental.
My parents went to Mexico one year. I think I must have been 8 or 9 years old. They brought back presents for us. I can't remember what my sister got, but my brother got a red basketwork dragon that I was intensely jealous of. I got a wooden sculpture which has been with me ever since. I named him Atrocious. It was explained to me that this was a sculpture of an African lion done by a woodcarver who had never seen one. We all got heavy Mexican serapes that had the neck slit sewn shut so we could use them as blankets. My father gleefully told me that the figure on my blanket was Chac-Mool, and Aztec god who demanded freshly extracted and still throbbing, human hearts as a sacrifice.
Stuff like that didn't bother me at all. The blanket went on my bed. I toyed with the idea of sacrificing one of my siblings to the god, but it seemed overly messy and uncomfortable to explain and clean-up afterwards. The lion was placed in a position of honor on one of my bedroom bookshelves (yes, even then my bedroom was lined with books).
A few days later, I walked into our apartment kitchen to find my father busily searching the drawers. Since he had a can in one of his hands, I assumed he was looking for the can opener. I found it for him. He was excited and announced with great pomp and circumstance that I was just the person he was looking for. This was enough to instantly make me wary. He had smuggled a can of chili peppers back from Mexico and he wanted me to be the first to try them.
Without actually running out of the room in fear, I explained that there was no possibility of my acting as taster for his royal highness. He insisted that these peppers weren't THAT hot. I insisted that I didn't trust him. "Then just dip your finger in the juice," he said, " and put a drop on your tongue. I continued to refuse. I had been caught too many times before.
He finally tried to suggest that my refusal was due to my wimpiness and lack of character. I remained steadfast. He smirked at me and popped a whole pepper into his mouth and bit down.
There's an expression that comes over a persons face when they've done something without sufficient thought. I have seen it on the face of a woman who liked the look of the pretty green stuff on the side of her first plate of sushi and popped a walnut-sized lump of wasabi into her mouth. I have seen it on the face of a friend who ordered a brew pub's hottest chili con carne and their special beer of the day, not realizing that their chili was intensely spicy and that the beer of the day was jalapeno. I have imagined my own face after having told a waiter at an Indian restaurant that I liked the heat of chilis and that they should amp it up for me. The first time I saw it, however, was on my father's face that morning.
There was a very slight widening of the eyes, damped down quickly by pride and not wanting to seem surprised. Then came a flush starting at the base of the neck as the heat hit for real and started to spread. It was clear that had I not been there he would have spit it out, so I stayed. The flush reached his forehead and he started to sweat while still trying to maintain a poker-face. He didn't want to swallow it, but I wasn't about to let him of the hook that easily.
Then came the bonus, he reached up to wipe the sweat off his brow ... with the hand he'd used to take the pepper from the can. I stood there quietly as if waiting for his verdict on the deliciousness of the peppers and my loss at refusing to go first. More sweat started to trickle down, this time washing the minute traces of pepper juice down through his eyebrows and into his eyes. He waved, as if to dismiss me and raced to the bathroom where I heard him spit out the pepper and wash his hands and face over and over again.
His eyes were red for the rest of the day. I never saw that can of peppers again.
The kicker to this story is that I am a great aficionado of chilis now. I grow my own jalapenos, and habaneros, I have jars of hot chili and curry powders, and containers of Jolokia (ghost peppers) and Trinidad Scorpion peppers in the cupboard and use them regularly. I am sure that the peppers that destroyed my father's composure all those years ago, would be mild to me now.
November 3, 2013
I got home, after two weeks in Boulder CO, last Saturday evening and was immediately faced with several pounds of mail. Somewhere in the stacks was a jury summons and questionnaire that needed to be filled out before Monday. I did triage on the mail on Sunday to find it, filled it out, called to confirm they needed me, and before I knew it the day was gone.
On Monday, I arrived at the courthouse, as ordered, at 8 am, waited in line to confirm my identity and prove that I was an upstanding citizen. Then watched a video which tried to persuade me that I was being a mensch by doing my duty. Then I waited. Eventually I was called to a Superior Court criminal case about drunk driving ... I was excused. Then I waited. Eventually I was called to a Superior Court civil case about someone suing about tripping on an uneven parking lot that was covered in snow at a popular local roast beef sandwich shop ... I was excused and it was obvious which lawyer had chosen to exclude me. I waited. They told me to go to lunch. I went to the local hotdog stand and ordered a vegetarian sausage. I hear someone behind me mutter "Dammit, I knew I fucked-up." I looked over my shoulder and saw the lawyer for the plaintiff who had excluded me. I ate my veggie dog. I waited.
I was finally seated in a jury for the housing court fpr a landlord vs. tenant dispute. I didn't like the landlord's attorney, and I liked him less when it turned out that the landlord was a corporation. He also seemed to concentrate on minor technical stuff when it was obvious that there were significant overarching property management problems.
I did like the tenant's attorney. She was bright and personable underlining the problems and did a bang-up job for the tenant. Unfortunately, her client had been a bit disingenuous and had obviously manipulated the situation.
I found myself, sadly, finding for the landlord. This so devastated my sense of rightness that I ended up unable to write for a while. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that I'd had no time to renew my prescription for attention medication. I'll have the new scrip on Monday, just in time for the final phase of my colonoscopy diet. So don't expect anything coherent from me before Wednesday at the earliest.
October 25, 2013
The Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy also includes a public aquarium. (One of the features was an electric ray in a petting tank. You couldn't get away with that in the US.) We had a large octopus in one of the display tanks who disappeared one night. The catwalks we used to feed the display animals were simply a set of boards laid over the tops of the tanks.
When we went searching, we found sucker marks drying on the boards and followed them. The octopus had gone past the dogfish tank (dogfish love to eat octopus) past the moray eel tank (morays also find octopus tasty), past the sea anemone tank (pretty but inedible) and dropped into the crab display where he reposed on a pile of empty crab shells radiating pleasure and satisfaction.
Many people don't realize that an octopus can clearly show its emotion. It is relatively easy to tell when an octopus is happy, sick, scared, curious or even horny by the texture and color of its skin, which it can control almost instantaneously.
After a few similar incidents, we moved this guy to a large tank in the common area of the research facility where he became a pet.
For those of you who may still doubt the intelligence of an octopus, let me continue. Our new pet loved being fed by hand. He also liked to grab my arm to get lifted out of the water and taken for a walk. They can survive cheerfully in the open air for longer than you might think.
His favorite game was to watch the door to see who came into his area. Octopods have extraordinarily good vision. If a stranger entered, he would quietly ease himself up and slightly over the edge of the tank (it was open at the top) and wait for his opportunity. Then he would use his siphon to jet a stream of cold seawater 15 - 20 feet to douse the unwary intruder. Then he dropped back into his tank an display the strong colors and hornlike skin protruberances that were his equivalent of giggling.
October 24, 2013
The owner's favorite purchase was frozen processed turkey breast. He liked it because it was cheap, he could buy it in bulk and its flavor was easily disguised. If you ordered a tuna salad sandwich what you got was 50% tuna and 50% turkey.
The biggest travesty was the "lobster roll" according to the menu "succulent chunks of Maine lobster in homemade mayo." In actuality it was a product called "Sea Legs" which was essentially processed fish and texturized soy flavored with lobster juice and dyed red along one edge to give the appearance of lobster, mixed with chunks of turkey dosed with paprika to match the visual effect, mixed with old chopped celery and industrial mayo.
I needed the job. My kids were hungry.
Then came the middle of summer. During a parade a float went out of control knocking down a power line and blacking out downtown for two days.
When we reopened, the inside of the refrigerators were like ovens. I started to dump the tuna, chicken, egg and lobster salads into the trash. The owner stopped me and told me that we could just mix fresh stuff with the warm and no one would be able to tell the difference. Put it back he said, or you're fired. I took off my apron.
Three weeks later he was cited for a dozen or so cases of food poisoning.
I've lived and traveled all over the world, but mostly I have been a resident of one or another of the New England states. I have been lucky enough to have met some people with the old yankee outlook on things.
There is much about true yankees that others consider insular and anachronistic ... what tourist bureaus would call "colorful". But they are a dying breed and I am sorry about that. I am particularly sorry that they have been caricatured to the extent that some of the lessons that they could teach us have been mocked so much that we no longer see their virtues as anything other than quirks, fodder for jokes, or funny postcard content.
That is a shame, for at the base of the yankee character is the stuff that made this country great, and some of those attitudes, which to many seem quaint, could teach us how to stand tall again.
We laugh, for example, at the old story of the man who stops to ask a farmer for directions to a distant town. The farmer ponders several different routes then finally opines that "You can't get there from here." How dumb could this farmer be to not even know how to get to a nearby town? How foolishly self-centered not to realize that you can get anywhere from anywhere.
But, think about it. This farmer cannot give directions to the distant town because he doesn't need to know how to get there. His world, his life is the farm. For him, a town is a place to go only when you must, and only for a purpose. He'll go to the closest town to buy what he cannot make himself, and that is very little. His knowledge is centered on self-sufficiency. He does for himself and for his family and neighbors. He may not know the way to that town, but he knows how to tease a crop of corn out of rocky soil, how to sharpen an axe, how to build a house, how to dig a well.
To him, the fool is his questioner. The farmer would not start plowing, or framing a barn without a plan, but this traveler has set out on the road without one. Why do we consider the lost traveler the smart person, venturing out on the road unprepared? Why is the farmer foolish simply because the traveler has asked him a question the answer to which the farmer has no need to know?
But I seem to be drifting into a rant and there is one of these yankee characteristics that I want to talk about today. It has to do with my recent article on waste.
I rewrote an old story story a while ago about a miser who recycled his first wife's gravestone for use as a cooking stone. The story works because the degree of thrift seems to us to be outrageous. Perhaps it is. But then, with all due respect to Thomas Lynch and his brethren in the funeral industry, perhaps the profligate use of natural resources to memorialize a dead body is a bit outrageous as well.
Personally, I would prefer to be ground up, reduced to compost and used to fertilize a garden. As the Fugs once wrote in their delightful "Burial Waltz":
"Do not surround me with wreaths of flowers
nor place upon my body the signs of a fetish
nor crescent, cross, phallus nor sun.
But bury me in apple orchard
that I may touch your lips again."
As an historical researcher, I am grateful that my attitude is not common, gravestone and cemeteries are a major resource, but I understand the miser's point-of-view that the needs of the living trump the memorializing of the dead. When I see a cemetery, the neatly mowed lawns of a suburb, golf courses, parking lots, I think of waste, waste of resources, waste of opportunity. When I see 15-room McMansions built for a family of three and costing a small fortune to heat, or SUVs with gas tanks that cost a day's pay to fill, I think of the small rooms of old New England farmhouses that minimized the use of fuel.
And isn't it odd that our response to this waste is to computerize and add new devices to the mix, as if saving oil by building controls justifies adding the poisonous by-products of their manufacture into the eco-system. Why is it that we find the yankee virtue of thrift so hard to implement?
There's a magazine that I've seen, I think it's called "Real Simple" (I can't be bothered to check right now). I was leafing through it one day and found myself simultaneously amused and irritated that nearly every "simple" solution involved buying something. What an oddly perverse idea. Sadly, it's too common an idea. Our concept of fixing is to replace. Our idea of thrift is to add. We no longer make do.
I've been grumbling on for too long, so I'm going to bring this to a close with a few facts, a prediction and an anecdote.
In spite of the fact that new oil reserves have been discovered lately, the earth is a closed system and at some point we will have succeeded in moving it all up to the surface. This makes most people think of higher gas prices and alternative fuels. But think of this ...
Asphalt is a petroleum product. When the oil is gone, there won't be anything left to patch our roads for the alternative energy cars. Look around you. How much of what you see just in your room is made of plastic? Just the shopping bags you use to bring stuff home from the store take 12 million barrels of petroleum a year to make.
Think of this ...
Many medical devices, both high and low tech are made of plastic. disposable syringes, medical pumps, artificial hearts, eyeglasses, and on, and on ...
I predict that in the, not-too-distant, future there will be a new occupation. Perhaps it will happen, as a happy parallel to the gold rush of 1849, in 2049. The new 49ers will race to stake claims on landfills and dumps, where they will dig mines to extract the new gold ... all the plastic that we've so casually discarded for all these years. Most of us will pay small fortunes for medical devices made from the recycled plastic. The rich, of course, will have it molded into jewelry in order to show their status and ability to waste.
Now for the story.
Many years ago I lived in a small town here in New England. Town meetings were always a treat. At one of them there was a heated argument over the state of one particular road in a thickly settled area near a lake. The residents of that area were upset that the road had not been repaired in some years and that the pot holes were causing damage to their cars. Eventually the repairs were voted on and approved.
The next motion was an addendum to the first. A committee of parents many of whom were the same people that proposed the road repair, rose to request that the repairs should include speed bumps in order to prevent reckless drivers from endangering the children who walked along or played near the road.
The debate had barely begun when an older man got to his feet to be recognized. He was one of the oldest citizens of the community and had lived there all his life. The room quieted with respect.
"It seems to me," he said, "that we're talking about spending money on a problem that has solved itself."
When the vote was taken again. the road repair was revoked.
October 23, 2013
A farmer works methodically, step-by-step, to accomplish a predictable goal. Hunters wander about waiting for a disturbance in the patterns, a movement in the leaves, a color change, a rustle in the hedgerow.
Farmers tend to be ordinarily successful, hunters are either spectacular successes or total failures depending on the amount of discipline they can apply.
School is painful for hunters since it is aimed at farmers. Hunters get bored with the plodding and memorization. They are often pariahs since their skills cannot be easily quantified. They may do well on standardized tests, but their daily work will not predict this outcome. As a case in point, someone close to me went through high school with Ds and Fs, but achieved SAT scores of 700 in math and 750 in verbal.
Many hunters are omnivorous readers and autodidacts.
I finally figured out how my mind worked in mid-life. It was a revelation. My dependence on coffee, my love of rythmic music, my unproductive creativity all formed a clear picture.
It's good to know who and how I am. I don't spend time agonizing over the pain of being an "underachiever". I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam, as Popeye would say, and all-in-all what I yam is pretty damn good.
About the only good thing about the ADD terminology is that it gets me a prescription that helps when I need to stop being creative and start being productive. Since I limit the amount I take, it's a good thing I'm a fairly fast typist.
Hunters of the world arise, you have nothing to lose but your shame!
The guilt had gotten to me. The guy in the wheelchair at North Station, the insistent quasimodos in Salvation Army uniforms tintinabulating at every street corner, the stocky old man in tattered jeans who sang to me, "I need some money, I need some money bad," had set me up.
Stoically, with my bland commuter face firmly unfocussed, I had passed by them all. My hand in my pocket clutched my change to keep it from jingling. I felt awful. I was a liar and a cheat and an ungenerous son-of-a-bitch, but I had made it through the gauntlet with enough money for a cup of coffee and a hard roll.
The coffee shop was steamy and friendly. They knew me and usually I joke around a bit with the ladies there. This time I just smiled and grabbed my paper bag and left. I could see another panhandler on the corner so I cut through the alley to the next street and my office.
The building was still locked, but, as I got out my keys I suddenly remembered that I had a doctor's appointment this morning. I turned and headed for the subway. As I passed a doorway further down the street, Someone stepped out. "Spare some change for a cup of coffee mister?"
Her timing was perfect. I handed her the paper bag and said, "I'll do better than that, you can have this coffee." She shrank back and wouldn't touch the bag. For a moment I thought she was frightened. Then she said, "It's probably not black."
I laughed. "Yes it is," I said and handed her the bag again. This time she took it and stepped backward into the doorway again as I headed down the steps to the Red Line. Suddenly I heard her voice again.
"Hey mister, didn't you get any butter for this hard roll."
October 22, 2013
October 21, 2013
It was the fourth year of my first tour of duty as a Navy journalist. I had been assigned to handle public relations for a Navy Office in Milwaukee WI. This was a terrible decision by whoever it was who sent me there because my pay grade was so low that I couldn't afford to live there. I'll talk about that more in another post. But the critical part is that, by my third year there, I was living alone, my family having (temporarily) disintegrated.
October 20, 2013
October 18, 2013
Springtime is the wrong season for a dog to die.
I know this. I said it about a week ago to Penny.
I was lying on the floor next to her for most of the day, holding her, masaging her legs, hoping that her inability to get to her feet was a cramp and not paralysis, comforting her through her obvious embarrassment at having to void bladder and bowels on the bed that she used in our bedroom closet.
I woke up that morning ready to plunge into a day of writing. My wife, Deni, was still asleep as I made myself some coffee. Penny usually gets up with me and barks to be let out into the backyard, so when I didn\'t hear her, I left the coffee perking and went back into the bedroom. She was awake, lying on her side as usual but her eyes were alert. I knew something was wrong immediately. When I thought back later, I realized that when she saw me, there was no motion at all from her tail.
She lifted her head and neck attempting to twist her legs under her and get to her feet, but she had no control of her body.
Let me back up a minute.
Penny was my youngest daughter\'s dog, but for the last 6 years or so, she has been my companion. She is a small white English setter with large round spots that were the source of her name. She came to us as a puppy. a tiny thing that wanted so much to be with us that she would bark and whine until we helped her up onto the sofa.
She was a runner. She\'d dash across the backyard like a streak of doggie lightning in pursuit of squirrels, neighbor cats, birds, and any other invaders real or imaginary. Her favorite game was to chase a basketball as it was kicked across the backyard. I called her "The Hound of the Basketballs". With smaller balls the game played was not so much \'fetch\' as \'just try to get it away from me slowpoke\'.
She was a runner. She was an investigator. She was hard to take for walks since she would always be straining at the end of the leash trying to follow a scent trail, or seeing just one more movement deep in the shrubbery that she had to identify. I\'m sure that some would say that we didn\'t train her properly, but I have always valued curiousity above obedience. Penny may have half-strangled herself trying to pass her limits, but at least she tried.
She featured in many of my essays about nature. She was my companion on walks, on the porch, in the yard, and as I worked at my desk. She\'d curl up at my feet as I pounded away at the keys, every so often barking or whining me away from the desk for a romp.
She got yelled at a lot too: when she barked incessantly in the middle of the night, when she whined at the dinner table until Deni (the soft touch) would sneak her a tidbit from her plate, when, bored with her own food she shouldered the cat aside and feasted on Tuna Delite.
She got cuddled. She was afraid of thunder, of sticks, of water sprays, of other dogs, and of snaky things like ropes or belts. We could always tell when a storm was rolling in ... Penny would try to dig her way through the bathtub or cram herself into the smallest space whether it was a kitchen cupboard or under a bed.
She loved car rides. I\'d tease her by saying "Want to go for a ride in the car?" and she would be panting and whining at the door before I even finished the sentence. She rode in the back seat with her head out the window. If I was running errands, as I walked into the store or library, she\'d start barking foe me to come back. Sometimes she\'d continue for so long that I'd have to cut the errands short.
She loved bones, much prefering them to dog biscuits. She was fastidious about her food. There was only one type of dogfood she liked, and she would actually sort out pieces that she didn\'t want from the bowl and pile them to one side, but she wasn\'t as picky about other things she ate. She liked peanut butter sandwiches, butter, anything that had been on a plate on the table (I once watched her steal asparagus, another time found that she\'d raided the trashcan for artichoke leaves), she also liked eating the occasional flower from the garden.
Her reckless eating habits may have hastened the end. Last summer she ate a large bee and, later that day, went into a series of full-bore grand mal seizures. She frothed and drooled, her legs spasming and her eyes bewildered at her body\'s betrayal. Deni and I bundled her into a blanket and drove to the only place open, a distant animal hospital. She had come out of it by then, but was in the post-epileptic stage of constant walking and fear. They warned us at the hospital of likely permanent neurological damage and that the seizures might recur.
She had trouble with her back legs from then on. She could still run, but it was an effor for her to climb stairs and once again we had to help her up onto the couch so that she could be near us. She went from sleeping on the couch to sleeping on an old feather bed on the floor of our bedroom closet. Then came the day last week.
Throughout the course of the day, I lived in hope, I gave her some chunks of beef from some beef stew and some of the liquid. I had to use a shallow bowl and tilt it sharply to let her get at it since she could not raise herself up enough otherwise. I lay next to her, massaging her legs and hoping it would pass.
It was when she tried, desperately to get to her feet, and first whined and then moaned ... a sound I had never heard her make ... a sound of such distress, that it forced me to think. Here was a friend of mine, someone whose entire life is about movement. What could I do for her? It wasn\'t as if she were partially mobile. Except for spasms and quivers she was immobile below the neck. There was no option for scooter wheels orother partial mobility solutions. As humans we have other resources, we can internalize, creating a mental alternative to the freedom of movement.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am still tearing up as I write about it. Deni and I took the corners of the featherbed and lifted her up to the bed, where, once again, I wrapped Penny in a blanket and carried her to the car. I drove as my wife held Penny. The vet was waiting for us.
Springtime is the wrong season for a dog to die. Winter is finally over and the grass is coming up. The snow is gone, the peepers are back. Wildlife intrusions into the backyard will be more frequent.
It is a week later and I am still putting food in her bowl, watching where I step, reacting to the barks of other dogs in the neighborhood. It is a week later and I\'ve decided to leave the faded, half-deflated basketballs where they are under the tree and up against the weathered fence.
It is a week later and I just realized that I have my feet tucked under my chair so as to give Penny more space under the desk.
October 17, 2013
October 16, 2013
October 15, 2013
October 13, 2013
October 12, 2013
October 11, 2013
October 10, 2013
October 9, 2013
Happened: c. 1984 Just north of Boston on Route 1 is an exit to Route 60 also known as Squire Road. If you live on the North Shore, this is the exit you will usually take to get to Logan Airport. About a mile to the east you hit the first of two rotaries. Just before you enter the maelstrom of traffic, you will see a Dunkin Donuts shop. It has only been there a short time. For several years the spot was abandoned. Before that it was the site of the Pewter Pot Family Restaurant one of a good-sized chain with colonial decor and a basic sandwich/steak/soup/muffin/breakfast menu. They made good coffee, passable muffins and excellent clam chowder. The Revere site was tiny in comparison to most. It was a free-standing building with a dining room that could hold about 75. Cooking was done on a grill and prep area directly behind the cash register which faced the door. The side of the building facing Squire Road was mostly window. Toward the back of the building were the dishwashing area, a walk-in reefer for produce, eggs, and prepped stuff and a walk-in freezer for meats. A door from this area led out to the side parking lot and the dumpsters. I had a great crew, a good mix of young and veteran servers. The star waitress was a pretty Filipino, 'Cookie', who could have handled the entire floor by herself with one hand tied behind her back. The dishwasher was a young kid who had just started and was doing well. The cook whom I'll call Mark was huge. An immensely muscular 6'7 or more with shoulders as broad as some of the waitresses were tall. I was in charge of the night shift. I came on duty at two to get people started on the post-lunch, pre-dinner clean-up and resupply. The dishwasher was catching up, the ladies were filling salts and wiping everything down, Mark was scraping the grill and I went down to the basement where we had dry storage, canned goods, the office and the safe. I reconciled the drawer Made sure that the money equaled the tape, put the surplus in the safe and took the drawer back up to the register. As I walked past the door to the dumpsters I noticed it was propped open with an empty can. I took the drawer to the register and came back to investigate. I pushed the door open and there was Mark with a hand truck loading six cases of frozen steaks into the trunk of his car ... restaurant steak ... steak I would have to explain the disappearance of on the the next inventory ... and the bastard didn't even look embarrassed. I said, "You realize that you're fired." He said, "Why?" I said, "We're cutting back, there's no need for a cook when there are more steaks in your trunk than there are in the freezer." He looked confused then said, "You can't fire me." "I just did." "I'll get you, you asshole." I walked back inside and pulled the door shut, then called the Revere police. Okay, we have to talk about the Revere police for a minute. Stories floated around about how some of them would take advantage of situations, helping themselves to stuff when a store was broken into. These were common folklore around Revere. I have to say that the guys I knew were stand-up and trustworthy. That being said ... we always comped their meals, a practice I was grateful for later that day. The cops went to Mark's apartment and retrieved the steaks. I checked with the company and they were not going to press charges as long as the food was returned. Since the meat was back in the freezer, all was well and that was the end of it. I called a cook I knew and offered him the job, and we arranged for him to start the next day. That night we closed at 10, but business usually dropped off to just a trickle after 8. At 9 pm, the waitresses started to clean and reset. There were a few coffee and muffin customers so I cleaned half the grill and turned it off leaving the other half for any latecomers' meals. I told Cookie to call me if she needed anything cooked. She snorted at me sweetly as if I were an idiot child. "If anyone needs anything I'll cook it myself," she said. I pulled the cash drawer and set it up for the following day, then took the money and tapes down to the office, where I was sitting trying to figure out a $1.75 discrepancy when the phone rang. I left it for someone upstairs to pick up. Cookie called down, "David you'd better pick-up." I did. The voice was Mark's. "I'm gonna kill that sonnabitch, and any of you bitches get in my way, I'm gonna kill you too." He was talking to one of the waitresses. "Mark," I interrupted, "we're not pressing charges. You lost your job is all. Calm down." "You asshole, I just needed to know you were there. I'll see you in a couple of minutes." I heard him hang up. Remember how big I said he was? I tossed the money into the safe and went upstairs. The waitresses and dishwasher were freaking. "We're closing early," I said. "How many of you have cars?" I gave each of the drivers $5 to drive the others home. I herded them out quickly, locked the doors and watched them drive away as I called the cops. I told them the situation. They said we'll be there in a minute. I put on a fresh pot of coffee for them. While I waited I shut everything down, cleaned the grill and watched the parking lot. About 10 minutes later a squad car pulled into the lot. I knew the cops and unlocked the door and let them in. "He hasn't shown up," I said. "Maybe he smartened-up." One of them laughed. "No such luck. We found him parked half a block away. He had a baseball bat and Bowie knife on the seat and a .357 under it." "Oh shit!" "Good thing you called buddy ... any chance of some coffee." The next day, we were comping another cop for dinner. I sat down with him and asked what was happening with Mark. "Didn't you hear?" he said. "We tossed his apartment. The dipshit had an arsenal in there; pistols, automatics, a shotgun, a boxful of big honking knives, and enough baseball bats for a season of Little League. We got him on so many 'carrying concealed',and unregistered weapons violations that he's not gonna see daylight for some time." For some reason, that's when I started to shake.
October 8, 2013
October 7, 2013
Long ago and far away (oh, my best beloved) there was a student of limited resource and capacity. He lived in the vale of of Washington University, set about by phallic symbols made of the teeth of elephant children. These towers protected the land from the intellectual desert of St. Louis.
At night, he huddled in a small cave hung with posters and mobiles, and eye-catching items of more than oriental splendor. But when the sun rose, he placed upon his back the coat of morning and ventured forth in his guise of "The Elementary Penguin", to tell stories and soothe the hallucinatory dreams of those who had eaten of the mushroom or tasted the blotter.
One day the Penguin was seated in the cool shade of the student union (a coming together which was devoutly to be hoped for), contemplating navels other than his own, when he noticed a creature that resembled a long hairy ... ummm ... let us say 'sausage' (best beloved). The creator of all things had seen fit to place short stubby legs upon this animated sausage, two before and two behind. Above the forelegs rose a head that seemed too big for the rest of the creature.
The Penguin regarded the creature with 'satiable curiosity, wagering with himself as to the moment that the head would overbalance the body and, pivoting on its forelegs, the wiener dog Max (for indeed it was that very animal) would tip forward and flip end over end down the slope which led down from the student union to the swamp known as 'the residential halls'.
But as he studied Max he realized that there was indeed a counter-balance dangling from the rear of the creature. A counter-balance which even in repose seemed to clear the ground by only the faintest fraction of the smallest fragment of an inch. Sipping from the potent caffeinated beveraqe which was his usual if not sole sustenance. He watched the animated sausage at play in the field, and pondered the irritation and pain that would be the lot of an extruded member so proximal to the ground.
As the sun rose higher, the Penguin recorded the approach of a long-haired female, more of Max's persuasion than of the Penguin's, yet extraordinarily different. The Penguin muttered "is Timmy in the well?" under his breath.
Max had become aware of the presence of the female and turgidly produced a pink sausage that seemed to cling remora-like to its supporter. It did, as the Penguin winced to recognize, drag along the ground, scraping through stones, sand and grass clippings leaving a shallow ditch. The Penguin, as was his wont, took a simple-minded delight that the word ditch appeared in relation to the female, and immediately started casting about for other rhymes.
She, in the meantime, had found some shade beneath a dying maple and lay there panting, overheated in a multiplicity of ways. Max, with his enormous pink plow, furrowed the field as he slipped up behind.
He attempted. The lass looked over her shoulder with disdain and dislodged the intruder through the simple expedient of standing up. She moved to another patch of shade, but Max came grooving through the fields to try again ... and again ... and again. After thirty minutes the field looked like a trigonometrician's blackboard. Max's excitement was intense and he had been leaving trails of genetic material in the furrows. The penguin pondered this, realizing that to the vector belong the spills.
At last more in furrow with his hanger, Max watched as the object of his affections trotted away to find a more private place to repose. The Penguin watched as Max's spirits and wilted. Sadly, that was all that wilted, and for some time the animated weiner wandered forlornly, leaving a map of his sorrow.
The Penguin ordered an iced drink poured it into a bowl, placed it on the ground and called Max over. He wondered which end would be in the bowl. Max lapped at it gratefully and the Penguin enjoyed a Cat Stevens moment for he had provided 'tea for the tillerdog'.