Monday, July 30, 2007

Beach Vacation: Day 1

Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand - miles of them - leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues, - north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite.

There really is something weird about the lemming-like way we water-gazers congregate here at the beach in the high summertime.

Tents and umbrellas; kayaks and big-wheel strollers; shovels and spades; coolers and beer cozies, set out in windrows on the verge of the North American continent. We disciples pinkening above our summer novels, checking our children for dangerous ocean behavior.

Having spent pretty much all my adult life (excepting only the college years) within a short drive of the Atlantic, I too have been a regular participant in that Army’s annual march to the sea. And this is what I continue to see:

• Tattoos. All over.
• Last winter’s cheeseburgers. All under.
• New generations of girls in bikinis, now – disturbingly – the age of my daughter.
• Those extended family units, whose class-tensions and resentments remain appallingly clear, even among the sand and scanty cladding.

And yet…here I am. Again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

All blogged up.


It means "day" in German. It's also the nickname of Mitt Romney's firstborn son. What infamy. You begin to see my point.

First, let me say that I absolutely quail at being asked to conjure “8 random facts/habits about myself.” (I don’t, really. I just thing the word “quail” as a verb sounds funny, when you visualize it.)

To begin with, we should posit, no facts are random. While they may start out looking that way, immersed as they are in the spray of phenomena emerging from the…er…spray-gun of phenomena, I can assure you, by the time we process these so-called random facts through the tintinnabulary, fast-food, drive-thru speakers of our cramped consciousness…they are, indeed, random no longer. And habits? As random as the crease in a nun’s wimple (which is to say, not random at all).

But I digress. There will be 8. No more. No less. The rules:

Should you have been tagged, the only alternative to honorable self-slaughter is to do the following:

• Post these rules before launching your 8-part rant.

• Relate the 8 random facts/habits/peculiarities/stigmata, as mentioned above, in your own blog, being sure to also include these key commandments.

• After the psychic dust settles, you must choose 8 new bloggers and/or people to afflict with this quest. Let them know they’ve been tagged via email or comment, and ask them to read your relevant post.

Ready? Let’s rumble…

1. I was confirmed by Bishop Walter J. Kellenberg sometime in the Spring of 1973. This means I have been a soldier of God for nearly 25 years. Am I eligible for a pension?

2. I grow the best tomatoes in the Mid-Atlantic. No, I don’t care what you say. Mine are better. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I’m not listening…

3. I once went on a ski trip with Neddie Jingo. It was Spring Break of our junior year, and we drove semi-cross-country from Ohio to Boulder, Colorado in the car of a third friend – let’s call him Mark – with the intention of cadging what skiing we could, during the day, and crashing on someone’s UC-dorm-room couch at night.

We were quite thoroughly broke, nearly all our cash sequestered for gas, ski tickets and whatever protein we deemed necessary. Too parsimonious were we even to buy beer, except on the most special occasions – or should an injury or ritual humiliation require immediate medication.

One of those special occasions did occur after skiing one day, when we splurged on a six-pack of Michelob and, searching for a spot to kick back and relax, parked the car by the side of the road, picked our way across the stones of a shallow river, and perched ourselves beneath some picturesque Ponderosa pines.

I should note, that while we were short on cash for beer, we were in possession of other, shall we say, more spiritual options, of which we availed ourselves, my recollection is, in spades.

So we sat. We grooved on the river’s song. We became one with the Larger Way. Until the Larger Way became larger than expected.

From upriver came a roar and a rolling wave of white foam which I could only compare to a tidal wave (which I’d never seen, either) coursing down the river’s channel – exactly like the cheesy special effects you’d see in a ‘60s disaster movie. In reality, some dam had undoubtedly opened its floodgates, in what must have been a regular occurrence at that time of day and year.

Needless to say, however, Neddie and I were absolutely spellbound by these Godhead droppings on the sidewalk of quiddity (Hallucination? Reality? Hallucination? What’s the difference?) and so stayed rooted in place, while Mark, ever the Eagle Scout, sped across the river to make sure he was on the same side as the car.

Me and Ned spent the long ride home sputtering obscenities, flash-frozen feet pressed up against the heater vents.

4. I’m hot for professional lady golfers. There. I’ve said it. So sue me.

5. I never slept with Jamie Lee Curtis. Although I did go to high school with her. And on that basis alone, for years afterward, I claimed to have..well..."known" her. To those who didn’t immediately see through this hollow and pathetic lie, I apologize.

6. I once, briefly, drove a tractor-trailer truck and on one memorable occasion, came within a hair’s-breadth of causing dozens of Long Island Expressway commuters to die a lingering, painful death, immersed in 10,000 gallons of super-heated liquid asphalt. But that’s a (long) story to be shared another time…

7. I have calmly watched my foot burn. 5 or 6 years ago, when I had my plantar warts removed. I woke up unexpectedly from the anesthesia, only to see a covey of doctors huddled around my flaming instep, frantically squeezing a spray water bottle, a bit like barbecue chefs whose coals had become too hot. Apparently they’d gotten a little trigger-happy with the laser gun. I felt not a thing, being pumped up with novocain. At the time, this seemed to me to be of some spiritual significance – my foot, perhaps, acting as a burnt offering to atone for my bad karma…or maybe my pronated ankles.

8. is twice the Protagorean nexus, 4…the square root of 64, one-half the points on a medieval compass rose, and folded in half, looks like a zero. Random? I scoff.

All right, here’s the problem. I know only one person with a blog, and he tagged me. So I’ve tagged 8 “normal” people, and promised to post their replies just here. I’m sure I’ll have more friends, once I get a new haircut and attend a few more mixers.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Balls like...

Despite the deep consternation they've caused in some quarters -- this one included -- the Bush administration probably won't be judged by history as being all that exceptional.

Putting aside the bloody arrogance of the Iraq adventure aside (a matter of heavy lifting, I'll admit), their most recognizable trait seems to be a propensity to foul themselves within their own living quarters. In time, as the full stories come out about the politicizing of the prosecutors, the co-opting of the EPA, NIH and NASA, the outing of Valerie Plame -- and as their continuing ability to harm us recedes into the past -- our reaction to their misdeeds will most likely simply cause us to turn away in disgust, as from a relative with a bad case of halitosis.

Still, yesterday's revelation of the rather detailed throttling of the administration's ex-surgeon general, held some surprises in store, even for this practiced consumer of apalling White House behavior.

According to Dr. Richard H. Carmona, political appointees within the administration blocked him from speaking out about a wide array of public health matters, including stem cell research, abstinence-only sex education and the emergency contraceptive Plan B.

Nothing surprising here, of course. Just more of the same demand for loyalty above truth and the seemingly endless need to pander to the right. New day, same bullshit.

(In truth, the best part was the White House's demand that Carmona "mention George Bush 3 times on every page of his speeches," which seems more a matter of ubiquitous cruelty, sort of like making Muslim men wear women's underwear.)

But it was the reply of the White House spokesman Tony Fratto that really caught my attention:

"It's disappointing to us," Fratto said, "if [Carmona] failed to use his position to the fullest extent in advocating for policies he thought were in the best interests of the nation."

There, from the lips of an administration underling so unknown, he/she was identified in the New York Times as being of both genders, comes a display of Herculean chocks so enormous they seemed positively Rumsfeldian.

"Holy shit," I sputtered to my wife, "that's Stalin blaming Kamenev for leaving his brains all over the kitchen. It's like Yoko blaming the Beatles for not getting along. It's like shooting your neighbor and then complaining about how he lies around all day..." Similes simply fail one at moments like these.

It's not just the cynicism...the bald, corrosive self-interest...the complete disregard for truth -- it's the joy they take in it. They know perfectly well that no one over the age of 6, without a major impairment of brain function, would actually believe they were telling the truth. And that really gets them off.

After all this time, they can still give me the creeps.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Can't You Smell That Smell?

The Problem.

Critters denuding my vegetable garden. Beans blasted. Cucumbers eviscerated. Even squash squished.

The Solution.

Coyote urine. Believe it or not, you can buy it a bottle. The one eau de toilette guaranteed to get you noticed in the lupine set. And man, does it work. Not even a tooth mark on those luscious new bean leaves.

The Unintended Consequence.

Call it blowback. I'd left the bottle out in the sun during the week I was away from the farm. And before replenishing the strategically deployed cotton balls in my garden, I thought I'd better check to make sure the nectar hadn't lost it's...pungency. So unwisely, I opened the bottle and took a great, big sniff.

The watery eyes and hacking cough were instant proof that the bouquet hadn't faded a bit. The smell is sort of like a liquified essence of the Canal Street subway station in August -- but simmered and reduced to a demi-glace potency. So powerful is it, that my ill-considered sniff apparently fused or melted or mutated my nasal receptors such that even today -- 70 miles distant from the coyote urine -- I'm still smelling it, wherever I turn.

In short, I'm swimming in an imaginary cloud of hyena pee. I live in fear that I'll soon see the neighborhood dogs' eyes alight with a desire that they themselves barely understand.

What am I going to have to do to get rid of this?