Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Plunger Games

In a world not that different from our own, 18-year-old Scatnipp Everwhine knows her way around a monkey wrench and clogged pipes; she has to, for she lives in District Overyonder, one of six districts that make up the nation Foremerica, where tools are rudimentary and the plumbing worse. At the annual Passing Day ceremonies, Scatnipp is chosen, along with her district-mate Peeta Wrap--a rather sad-sack young man who dreams of being a vending machine repairman--to represent their District in Foremerica's Plunger Games, an awful pay-per-view contest where two young adults (known simply as #1 and #2) from each district are locked into individual port-a-potties where they must read godawful third-generation fan fiction while subsisting solely on spicy, laxative-laced fare. The last one to make use of the only tool provided--a splintery plumber's helper--to unclog his or her notoriously malfunctioning port-a-potty wins the respect of the nation and a home with indoor plumbing. This year's interminable tome that the Great Unflushed (that's what they call the district reps) must read continuously while sitting on their holes is Fifty Shades of Pink Slime, a horrendous, laborious look inside the lascivious world of meat packing. Will Scatnipp emerge from her port-a-potty unwretching in triumph? Will Peeta Wrap ever succeed in winning anyone's sympathy? Will that treacherous good-for-nothing from District Aroundthebend, Dustin Beeper, get his pretty blond hair mussed up? And what will that vamp from District Somewheredownthattaway, Oxsona Bayou, learn about seducing a slaughterhouse hand from her voracious reading? If you care, stay away from this blog in the future.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Mama's Pride

How cool is this? On a frazzled day of work which created a virtual media blackout for me, I was apprised of Bob Dylan's much-deserved Presidential Medal of Freedom award via a voicemail from my mother, a fan by osmosis, if not by stereo-hugging devotion. Oh, let's put it at proof #1235 of why mother is so cool. I'm as proud of her Bob fandom as I'm sure Bob's late mother Beatty (pictured above cheering on Bob and that Baez woman) is of her little boy. Congratualtions Bob and Beatty, and thanks for the news, mom.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Periodic Lazy Susan Of Elements

Far be it from me to claim any scientific expertise, but I do know my way around a phylum and other lab apparati. Hence the offense I took the other night when I got into a bit of a technical spat with my Guardian Angel (dba Stan). God knows how we got there, but after discussing quite civilly the debate between aluminum and wooden bats, things got a little tense when Stan questioned my working knowledge of the properties of aluminum. The next thing we knew we were in each other's faces about the atomic weight of Rhenium (Re), Stan absurdly suggesting it was 102.90550. "You fool," I countered. "You've made the age-old eleventh grade mistake of confusing Rhenium (Re) with Rhodium (Rh). As anyone who got above a C+ in chemistry knows, Rhenium is 186.207. That settles it; I'm eating Devil's Food Cake tonight." Stan flitted away in a hiff (angels don't huff, mind you, they merely hiff), obviously chastened. But, as usual, with Stan off in the ether, self-doubt creeped in. Is it .207 or .209? I decided to fact check myself and turned to my go-to source of self-confirmation, wakipedia.

Suffice it to say, Gosh, science does march on, don't it? Admittedly, the last time I perused the Periodic Table of Elements was June 5, 1980, when I was doing some last second cramming for my eleventh grade chemistry final exam, but wow, those chemists have been busy. Not only have they added a few more places at the table over the last 32 years, but they've accessorized! Do you know that there's now a Lazy Susan of Elements perched smartly on the old Periodic Table? How quaint and helpful to all of us lay folk is that?

The story goes that as technology hit its present warp-speed phase a few years ago and new elements were being discovered or artificially created seemingly fortnightly, a kind of domestic chemical kitchen debate raged about where to arrange the newcomers on the increasingly crowded table of elements. As usual, the standard debate over whether to be fully inclusive of the Lanthanides and Actinides (kind of the Palestinians and District of Columbia denizens of the chemical world, the not-quite-matching-new-leafs-of-the-table elements) spilled over into the debate, with many experts adamantly against yet another unwieldy leaf. That's when Dr. A.C.D.C. "Skip" Effluvium seized his moment of fame. "Okay, brains," Skip exclaimed at a consortium of Table Logistics Guys confab, "since all of these new elements aren't, you know, main entrees, shall we say, like Hydrogen and Rhenium, but more like, well, 'condiment' elements, why don't we construct a real sleek Lazy Susan for them? Hunh? Sort of like that one Brandon bought for me at BB&B? Only teal." Before some of the Old Guard had laughed Skip out of the conference room, other more open-minded Logistics Guys bravely spoke up about the genius of Skip's idea. By week's end, that teal Lazy Susan was sitting gorgeously on top of all the most up-to-date Periodic Tables round the world (though Skip's suggestion/plea that Neon be added to the Lazy Susan, "just for, you know, some panache," never did gain any traction).

Not wanting to overwhelm my casual readers (I love you all, as you know), and not wanting to seem pedantically redundant to my more erudite, certified Chem-Head ones (hey, guys, how's it going?), instead of going in-depth about all the wonders of the Periodic Lazy Susan of Elements, let me just highlight some of my favorites, if for no other reason than to give you all a fighting chance with your Guardian Angel should he or she get a little ornery re chemicals. There's 183 Borium (Bm, not to be confused with 107 Bohrium, Bh), which was discovered by an amateur chemist in Topeka in the bathroom of the local Days Inn where a weekend metal detector devotees convention was taking place. So far, though, nothing in the natural world has had any detectable reaction--chemical or physical--with Borium; it just kind of is. 666 Umlautium (Uu) is a very heavy metal, found only in dingy bars in Denmark. Most chemists recommend wearing earplugs when handling it. 360 Yuckium (Yu) was discovered by accident when a Cheetos-loving chemist in Butte got a little careless. 571 Eh (Eh) is a rather worthless element. 321 Oyvehn (Oy) was discovered when Mrs. Moische Scheinblum looked under the bed in her son Alvie's basement room for the first time in twenty-one years. Controversially, there's one compartment of the Periodic Lazy Susan that is left blank, in the belief (for some) that a new element, tentatively named Ahhaium (Ah) will be synthesized naturally from the collective sighs of relief and vindication that will emanate from Clevelanders upon one of their sports teams finally winning a championship. The esteemed chemist, Dr. Jose Castro, a lifelong Clevelander who has recently fled Dodge and ex-patriated himself to sunny SoCal, scoffs at such a notion: "Given the present laws of science, let alone the obvious supernatural curses long at work, impossible!"

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Personal Tribe What If ...

For the past two years my hometown Cleveland Indians have run a series of ads called "What If ... " highlighting some of their greatest moments (yes, there have been some of those). The ads are quite effective, though I feel a bit sad that in the absence of established stars to market and a legitimate contender to hype, all the enthusiasm is rather nostalgic. But still, the overall theme--what if none of this happened?--gets me thinking each time I see or hear one of the ads how grateful I am to have had a home team to root for so passionately for more than forty years now. Considering the lean times in the 70s and 80s, when the team's possible move away from Cleveland was more than just a rumor, there's still cause to celebrate the team's continued existence, despite some rather mediocre baseball being played of late. And so, as a tip of the hat to the ads, to the season's start, and a successful (7-2) road trip, here's my own personal what if litany--both good and bad--for my 40+ years as a devoted Tribe fan. The basic answer is, my life would have been a whole lot emptier.

What if Pat O'Neill had sold the team right away to an out-of-town owner ... if all the people who said they were at Beer Night had really been there ... if Frank Robinson hadn't been so kind to me while giving me his autograph ... if Albert Belle had answered my letter ... if the bleachers weren't so cheap in the 80s ... and if the cop with the funny sunglasses there had had better eyesight ... if Len Barker's perfect game had been on a night when I wasn't out of town ... if they hadn't traded Craig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Buddy Bell, Carlos Baerga, Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia, Dennis Eckersly, Brandon Phillips, and all the rest ... if John Lowenstein hadn't taught me the meaning of the word apathy ... if mom hadn't been a good sport Grandstand Manager ... if my father could have used his 1954 Game Five World Series ticket ... if Omar and Robbie hadn't played together ... if Joe and Lainie hadn't taken me to Game One vs. the Red Sox in '95 ... if I had never heard the names Ossie Blanco, Bo Diaz, Duke Sims, Gomer Hodge, Horace Speed, Jack Brohammer, Joe Lis, Von Hayes, Angel Hermoso, Ted Uehlander, Kevin Wickander, Alvaro Espinozo, and all the others I'm not sure how to spell ... if I hadn't given that guy a bloody nose in securing my one and only caught foul ball ... if I hadn't seen that comeback vs. the Tigers in '86 ... if I couldn't have kept up with the sorry '87 season via USA Today's British version ... if George Steinbrenner had bought the team in the early 70s ... if Cuyahoga County citizens didn't drink and smoke enough to build a beautiful ballpark ... if Jose Mesa hadn't had that look in his eyes in Game Seven in '97 ... if Charlie Nagy wasn't such a gamer ... if Doug Jones and Tom Candelaria weren't so cool ... if Ray Fosse hadn't blocked the plate in a meaningless All-Star Game ... if Ted Cox, Luis Medina, John Bohnet, Roy Foster, Matt LaPorta and all the others had been as good as once hyped ... if Manny Ramirez hadn't been so fun to watch playing an ADD/HD RF ... if Manny Acta didn't always say, "Dis guy," and "ballGAME" ... if Doug Clarke and Terry Pluto didn't write about the Indians ... if Herb Score hadn't told me a million times, "throw to first, back safely," and Joe Tait hadn't told me "It's a beautiful night for baseball," and Tom Hamilton doesn't tell me 81 times a year we're at "the corner of Carnegie and Ontario" ... if Mudcat hadn't taught me about "chin music" ... if those bugs hadn't bothered Joba so much and calmed Fausto ... if I hadn't sat in the dugout with Megan ... if Connor hadn't gotten locked in a stall in the men's room ... if I hadn't almost gotten into a fight in the bleachers one night defending Albert Belle ... if I hadn't found the remains of League Park and told a kid there that Babe Ruth used to play there and the kid asked who was he ... if I hadn't snuck down from the cheap seats into the expensive ones with a baseball mad priest ... if I hadn't sat down the third base line talking with ballboy/student Mark Haas ... if I didn't own the 45 RPM "Go Joe Charboneau"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blips From The Blur

The week that was: a blur of work, road trip, movies, and general busy-ness. All that remains is a series of moments.

The road trip (to Detroit, to see Bruce Springsteen with a Bruce-fanatic good old friend [B-FGOF]) started off witnessing, not two miles from home, a car with an Ohio license plate--CA N8VE. Now let alone my disdain for vanity plates (which could fill up a week's worth of regular blogging; though my favorite is still my Classics Ph.D friend's fantasy plate--UBI SUM, which is Latin for "Where Am I?"), what's the point of giving the government extra money to flaunt your California native status in, of all places, Ohio? According to wakipedia, the phrase, "who gives a rat's ass?" was actually coined by a fella from the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland when, in a smoky bar back in the 1960s, he heard someone down the bar start some kind of argument with another patron with the introductory clause, "Well, being a native of California, I ... " Know thy place, man. I didn't invade the State Up North (i.e. Michigan) bedecked in BrownsBuckeyeTribe gear, because I respect geography; so don't make left hand turns in front of me without signalling first on my native Cleveland streets when you're allegedly boasting (fail) to me that you're originally from California. If I had better auto insurance, I would have rammed the car.

Used to be road trips called for unwieldy unfold-'em-one-time-and-never-fold-'em-back-properly road maps. Times have changed, I guess. We had barely merged onto our first highway to Detroit when B-FGOF turns to me in all seriousness, as he hands me some gadget that looked like a long-forgotten transistor radio I treasured, and says, "Do you know how to use a SmartPhone?" Good God how times have changed. Wasn't it just yesterday that the macho test of road trip readiness was when the driver handed his passenger a "fuzz buster" and asked him if he knew how to operate it? Do you know how to use a SmartPhone? Like I might be dumber than a phone? Like I'm grandpa who hasn't yet heard of the telegraph? Granted, B-FGOF is younger than I, but only by two years, so this wasn't some kind of inter-generational technology tutorial. It was intra- I tell you, strictly intra-! Suffice it to say that by the time we hit the outskirts of Toledo (a mere 90 minutes) and had to start worrying about merging onto another highway Up North, I had a good grip on the not so SmartPhone and we made it to The Promised Land of Auburn Hills, MI with little difficulty. Up yours, Mr. Steve Jobs, may you rest in peace, and get a decent shave.

Bruce was amazing, despite the six hours out of seven I spent standing in confined spaces. If you've got a little excess of cynicism in your life, pay the money and go see the Boss--he'll flush your system. He might not do it night after night year after year, but I think with James Brown six feet under for a few years now, we can officially crown Bruce the new Hardest Working Man In Show Business. And I must say, I've never been around a more polite crowd of people at a concert than I was at the Bruce show. I know that statement--even the fact that I noticed such a thing--should immediately bar me from attending any more rock concerts in this life, but it's true.

Taxes. I think the reason they make filling out the forms so complicated, convoluted, and confusing, is that by the time you've finally finished them with some modicum of confidence that you did so properly, you're so happy with yourself (show me a SmartPhone that can handle Schedule D, and I'll be duly impressed) that the fact that you owe as much as you do doesn't seem to matter at all. Besides, I like peanut butter.

Work. Some boy around eight years old comes up to me looking for books on hamsters the other day. I take him to the kids' "pets" shelf and start combing through the skinny books, looking for one or two on hamsters. Who knew so many different animals qualify as pets these days? I start naming all the animals that have books about them, sensing that there might be no hamster books here and hoping the kid will forget about those rodents and be instantly excited about iguanas or ferrets. "I don't know," I tell the kid as I near the end of a shelf with no hamster books to be had, "we've got books about every animal on the Ark here except hamsters. They must be hiding from us." The kid, ever hopeful and ever literal as all eight-year-olds are, exclaims, "Trust me! Every time my two hamsters get loose they go right underneath the stove!" Made my day.

Scribbles. Every once in a while I take part in a writing workshop with some homeless men. Yesterday was great. Some of my doodles from the afternoon: "Yes, I said 'no.'" "I know how you is." "Incessantly incestuous." "A musical comedy version of Deliverance." "The part of Cadillac will be played tonight by Datsun."

Fantasy. I watched two old Bogart-Bacall movies this past week, The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not. Priceless. Forget the great whistle line--when Bacall shimmied out the bar over to Bogie at the end of Have Not, I almost had to call the ER to have my jaw re-set. Then last night I saw We Need To Talk About Kevin. Wonderful, disturbing movie. But Tilda Swinton. My God, what a masterpiece.

Fantasy baseball. Two weeks into the season, and just this morning I figured out how the points work. Maybe now I'll be able to massage my lineup to move up in the standings from the seventh to tenth place (out of ten teams) ghetto it's been languishing in. Who knew my life would come to obsessing about how someone named Omar Infante does wielding a wooden stick night after night.

Time to cut the lawn and get back to an unblurred life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Smell Some Omissions

Here you go, folks, a brief description of why people always say to me, "You smell funny." Provided by a proper English fellow--it's got to be true, right? Well, not so fast there, John Bull. The videoed Limey might work among scores of volumes that have been sitting on gilded shelves in some country manor house for centuries, hence the "hint of vanilla" he detects emanating from his previously read tomes, but I work in a good old fashioned (sic) strip mall used bookstore, American variety. We see, and unfortunately at times, sniff, books that have been through a little more world-weary experience than tea times and cricket folderols, books bearing a few odors a bit more pungent than vanilla and tobacco. Mold, syrup, flame, sticky-fingered three-year-olds, felines (the hair is bad enough; the urine you don't want to know about), asbestos, mice, road salt, goldfish crackers--try assessing the value of a Danielle Steele volume with any three of the above (or dozens more that aren't immediately springing to mind) having left their marks, and stinks, on it.

"Show me a man's bookshelves and I'll tell you his soul," someone famous once boasted. Well, daily I see a man's tattered box of books that he's decided no longer warrant shelf space, let alone ownership. My innate philanthropy won't allow me to describe what the box says about his soul, but I sure can tell you the olfactory state of his flesh and blood and domicile, and let me tell you, it ain't no garden of roses.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ozzie Loves Fidel, Ho Hum

Leave it to the Free Speech Police to quash a man's dreams of leisure. I was all set to take a few days' hiatus from the grind of dogged blogging, a kind of mini-Spring Break wrapped around a short road trip to Detroit (only in Cleveland, where the spring is more like the winter we were supposed to have but didn't, can a road trip to Detroit qualify as a vacation), when absurdity struck once again and forces me to sound off. Ozzie Guillen, the say-it-first-think-about-it-later baseball manager was quoted as saying he loves Fidel Castro and admires the seemingly immortal dictator's longevity. After the expected uproar, Major League Baseball has seen fit to suspend Ozzie for five games. Five games! Okay, saying it as the new manager of the Miami Marlins wasn't the smartest thing (if Seattle Mariners' manager Eric Wedge said the same thing, would anyone have cared? Oh right, Wedge never says anything spontaneously), and Fidel's record as a rights crushing despot is even worse than his pitching one, but come on, it's Ozzie Freaking Guillen, and what is this anyway, 1962? You can't say stupid, off-the-cuff things anymore? How does this blog still exist? If I were one of Ozzie's players, for the duration of the suspension I'd have the stadium folks play as my "walk-up" music that line from Bob Dylan's 1964 song "Motorpsycho Nitemare": "I like Fidel Castro and his beard," in protest. Geez, I really need a road trip to Detroit to clear my head now.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Could Writing About It Be As Boring As Doing It?

Nice coat, shiny. Makes the wall look much nicer...Who was the better tipper, Sherwin or Williams?...Is Pink Floyd's The Wall the ultimate double album that should've been a single?...Did Picasso hire house painters?...No discernible drips. Pretty damn good job...What time is it?...Al Gore in Speedos...Ethel Merman as a phone sex operator...Like being an accountant without the hassle of decimal points...Six, or is that seven, missed spots?...Arid, sere, bone...As soon as one stops painting, the sign should read drying paint, not wet, no?...There once was a man named Santorum...Is the Dutch Boy Pennsylvania Dutch or the real thing?...quorum, bore e'm, ran toward 'em, can pour 'em...Interior aluminum siding?...    ...zen schmend...Could the trained eye really see grass grow?...At conventions of deaf people, is there someone who stands to the side voicing everything that's signed? Seems only fair...Mom, dad, I've decided to become a mime. a clown? Which one elicits the heavier sigh?...Dom DeLuise in a unitard...That's one small smudge for a man, one giant slouch back onto the couch...Prohibition. Dry county. Washing line smile...DryBoni, the miraculous invention that dries your painted wall while you watch--transfixed!...Biden, Cheney, Gore, Quayle, Bush (1), Mondale, Rockefeller, Ford, Agnew, Humphrey, Johnson, Nixon, ?, Truman, ?...Does Ecclesiastes explicitly specify a time for this?...Where are you without a slide rule, hunh, where are you?...   ...six bottles of beer on the wall...Would beer dry faster?...Paint thinner on belly fat?...Graig Nettles, Buddy Bell, Toby Harrah, Brook Jacoby, Jim Thome, Matt Williams, Travis Fryman, Casey Blake, Jhonny Peralta, Jack Hannahan, Lonnie Chisenhall, with room somewhere for Eddie Williams, Paul Dade, even Von Hayes?...Dry, bastard, dry!...Dick Cheney in a tutu...Ah, screw it. Time to do my taxes.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Win or go forgotten. I'm always amazed at this time of year when they talk about last year's Final Four participants or last year's runners-up at the Masters, that I have completely forgotten those almosts. I was reminded once again yesterday of the cruel fate of non-winners when Co-Worker (okay, Boss, the only non also-ran in this post) threw a crumpled piece of paper onto the enormous mountain of trash I was wheeling out of the store. As the paper flew the two feet of air between him and my trash heap, I braced for toppling. Boss was thinking the same thing as he said, "I hope this doesn't make it too heavy." Alas, nothing happened, but it made me think of the straw that thinks it'll be the one to break the camel's back, and how disappointed it must be when it takes its place among all the other pieces of straw and the camel continues to stand sturdily--there goes my shot at immortality. So today I'd like to give a shout out (well, maybe a muffled squawk out) to all the also-rans of history, whose failure is necessary to crown the Alpha Dog, the Icing on the Cake, the Cherry on Top of the Sundae.
  • the straw that buckled the camel's knee
  • the face that launched an Estes rocket
  • the prune of his eye
  • The New Paltz Times #1 Bestselling Author
  • the mediocre medium-sized whorehouse in Texas
  • the cat's leg warmers
  • all the coffee in China
  • the guy who gets more ass than a roped-off antique chair in a museum
  • the player to be named when we get around to it
  • shown with mild reservations in Boston
  • Man's pretty good friend
  • an air mattress of roses
  • a certificate of participation wife
  • Pattersonesque
  • the goose that laid the tin egg
  • built like a plywood pisser
  • nobody expects the Portuguese Board of Inquiry
  • Dapper Doug
  • the four-hundred-sixty-two pound hippo in the utility room
  • Lady Caca
  • Belgian falafels
  • Star Jaunt
  • thinking under the box
  • the hostess with the plenty enough to go around for all
  • Auntie Maim
  • the land of condensed milk and Honey Nut Cheerios
  • the gerbil days of autumn
  • Pete Best
  • The Holy Grate
  • the seventeenth nail in the coffin
  • the Belarusian Kiss
  • Living the Life of Wile E.
  • a Chevy-on-its-way-to-the-dentist-for-a-teeth-cleaning-appointment-chasing lawyer
  • a barrel of ferrets
  • Fabian impersonators
  • a lick-on tattoo of approval
  • the bee's ankles
  • da dud
  • Prince Mildly Amusing
  • the Swiss Navy nail file
  • the hair apparent
  • the anti-hero sandwich
  • bi-polar ice caps
  • the belly of the ball
  • the Queen's Cockney
  • the first pigeon of winter
  • the power of a praying mistress
  • the Boston Gooser
  • robbing Bud to pay Lou
  • The Near Death Experience of the Sales Rep
  • Moby-Finger
  • a Canadian wake
  • My Slim-Fast Geek Retirement Party
  • Cleveland

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cursed Golf (Redux)

(Some days, you just can't win. Originally I had planned a quick, lazy post--a re-post of an Easter/baseball story from a couple years ago. But then the link didn't work. So I shed my laziness and wrote the following post, only to discover after writing the whole thing, that I had already written it a couple years ago--though I must um confess, like un-boxed wine, I think I get better with age. Anyway, in the archives to the right, you can click on "Happy Easter, Frank" from April 2010 to read the Easter/Baseball post, and "True Confessions" from December 2009 to read the original, inferior but still pretty damn good post of what follows here. Me, I'm going to go kick myself.)

I know it's Opening Day here in Cleveland for another baseball season, but the convergence of the ending of Lent and the venerable Masters golf tournament is too much to pass up. Therefore, I pass along to you a true golf story, with a healthy dose of old-fashioned sin and repentance, which was told to me years ago by an old guy I played nine holes with on a blustery October afternoon:

"I was young like you, headstrong and quick to speak before I thought. You wouldn't know it by my creaky swing now, but back then I could hit the ball fairly well, though, just like now, my putting was quite the disaster. I was playing Aberdeen Gulch, which is now a strip mall out near Bucyrus. Good track, tight, lots of water, tricky greens. Something happened that day that changed my entire view of golf, fate, and religion. You see, immediately after the round, due to what occurred on the eighteenth hole, I had to hightail it right to church, right to the confessional, to confess my sin to the only priest I knew who might be able to understand my misdeed, Father McHogan. This is what I told him, and he told me, in the claustrophobic confnes of the confessional.

"'Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been four rounds, I mean, three weeks, since my last confession. I cursed up a storm on the golf course today, and I feel so bad about it.'"

"'Tell me about it all, my son.'" (Here, and for the rest of the story when imitating what the priest said, the old guy used an over-the-top Irish brogue that is heard nowhere in Ireland, just in jokes told by Americans.)

"'I was playing great all day, the best round of my life. I chipped in three times, sank two putts from over fifty feet, and hadn't set foot in a sand trap all day. I came to the eighteenth tee needing a par to shoot two over, but the way the day was going, I wasn't discounting the possibility of an eagle and shooting par for the first time in my life.'"

"'Ah, par, the holy grail of golf, innit? Never shot it myself, but there's always hope, my son, there's always hope. Just need to work on me short game, is all.'"

"'But this eighteenth hole is a doozy. Long par four, woods on either side, a big pond right in front of the green, well-bunkered.'"

"'Sounds like Aberdeen Gulch to me. Yeh, I know it well. A bugger of a finishing hole. Makes the nineteenth hole much appreciated, if ye know what I mean, lad.'"

"'I hit a monstrous drive, right on the screws, straight as an arrow. I tell you that ball looked like a comet streaking against the blue sky. And it hit right in the middle of the fairway and took a great first bounce. But then it landed on a sprinkler head and the ball made a right angle left turn and headed directly toward the woods.'"

"'Ah, that's when you turned all blue-tongued and let loose a torrent of cursings, didn't ye, son? Understandable, if still quite sinful.'"

"'No, before I could even comprehend what was happening the ball, as it finished rolling into the woods, was somehow seized like an all-star shortstop by a squirrel who came out of nowhere and fielded the ball right in its mouth and started to run back across the fairway to the woods on the right.'"

"'The varmint! So that's when you turned into a sailor on shore leave with money to spend and not a cathouse or pub in sight, aye?'"

"'No, because just before he reached those woods, the squirrel was scooped up, ball and all, by a swooping hawk who clasped the thing in his talons and started flying away.'"

"'Airborne rapscallions, those hawks! The official bird of Hell, no doubt! Talons the very hands of Beelzebub himself.' (And here, through the opaque screen of the confessional, I could sense Fr. McHogan scrunching up to the edge of his chair.) 'Of course that's when you called down eternal damnation on birds, rodents, golf, and God knows what else, didn't ye?'"

"'Well, no Father, because that bird looked so majestic as he flew farther down the hole, with the squirrel dangling from his talons squealing awful noises. It was a sight to behold. But then, just over the pond in front of the green, either the hawk decided he didn't want the squirrel or the squirrel shook himself free, but somehow the squirrel, with my ball--'"

"'Titlelist or ProStaff?'"

"'Um, neither, Father. I play only Top-Flites.'"

"'Well, my son, you need some guidance of a different kind. But go on.'"

"'The squirrel, with my ball still in its mouth, started falling right down into the pond.'"

"'Ponds in front of greens! The Devil's cesspools! Oh, I can just hear you now, letting loose a string of foul-mouthed utterings that shook those trees on either side of the fairway, no?'"

"'Well, actually, no. Because just before the squirrel hit the water, he let go of the ball, which fell smack dab on top of one of those fountain things they have in the middle of ponds to help circulate the water and the ball ricocheted wildly off it.'"

"'Confounded Man, always defiling nature with his noisy contraptions. That's when you screamed the Devil's litany, didn't ye?' (I don't know, because I've never heard it from anyone since, but I swear I could hear, through that shady screen, actually hear, Fr. McHogan salivate.)"

"'No, not then, because the ball was bouncing right toward the sandtrap.'"

"'Oh, Lord, forgive Your humble servant, but why, why in all Your Wisdom, did Ye have to create sand? I don't comprehend, Lord, I don't comprehend. But, my son, I do comprehend that by now you must have had enough bilious bile bubbling around your tongue to yawp enough filth to cause you to come running straight from Aberdeen Gulch to me with your soul between your legs, begging for forgiveness, of which the cost of repentance will surely be a month of rosaries, am I wrong, son, am I wrong?' (By now Fr. McHogan's face was smushed against that cloudy screen and I could feel his fevered breath shooting through those little holes.)"

"'Well, no, Father, because as the ball descended into the trap, it struck a rake there and somehow bounced up on the green and miraculously rolled to a stop two feet from the hole.'

"There was silence in that confessional, as I hesitated to confess my awful sin, and Fr. McHogan, by now panting, slowly slid his face down and away from the screen, slumped back into his chair, let out a long, disappointed sigh, and, again, I could hear it, shook his head from side to side. And then, in a whispered, but stern, condemning voice, that brought back all the fear of sin and damnation that only Catholic schoolboys experience, Fr. McHogan spoke."

"'Ah, dammit, ye missed the fecking putt, didn't ye, ye dumbass shithead!?'"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Song Misinterpretations, Done Right

In my constant dual attempts to waste more time on the Internet and to increase my burgeoning trivial knowledge, I clicked on a story titled "Eight Commonly Misinterpreted Songs," written by Vicki Santillano, at something called I'm sure Ms. Santillano is a wonderful person, but I was a little disappointed by her article. She rounded up the usual suspects and told the usual stories and that was about it. Always looking to rip off a half-decent idea and run it through the spitoutyourgum sensibility, I hereby offer you the following list of eight very common songs and the truly remarkable "real stories" behind them. You see, these songs are not only so common, but their "meanings" are apparently so straight forward that few people take the time to read between the seemingly simple lines, to scratch beneath the surface, so as to discover the (at times quite shocking) truth behind them. Lucky for you, I am a certified one of those "few people." Be prepared to have a lifetime's worth of familiar listenings totally blown away by what follows.
  1. The Hokey Pokey Song by Various: An innocuous kids' dance song, no? Hardly. Lost in the mist of variant forms and competing claims of authorship (you'd think some people would set their competitive bars a bit higher), is the fact that this insipid but undeniable song is a, well, cornerstone of the Freemasons' world rule. In the sacred, secret dance halls of the infamous secret society's lodges, the Hokey Pokey song is sung, and the accompanying dance danced, ritually by the secretive Masons before any undertaking by them which will result in further world dominance is duly undertaken. The fact that everyone in the world knows the song and dance by the age of four and happily sings and dances it after two glasses of champagne at any wedding is the ultimate smirk at the world by those nasty Masons. Rumor has it Dan Brown's next novel will be titled The Hokey Pokey Unholy Conundrum
  2. Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger: The song that unfortunately provided the world with the uncalled for visual of Tom Cruise in tighty whiteys seems like a simple paean to the joys of old fashioned rock and roll, the kind that was made before the Beatles did acid. In reality, this song is Seger's post-Viet Nam, post-Watergate lament about the changes wrought in the United States intelligence community's modi operandi with the dissolution of the OSS and the creation and ever-increasing hegemony of the CIA. With this knowledge, just try to listen to that line about not going to hear a tango and not think about the United Fruit Company.
  3. I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles: Love song? Bollocks. In their "decadent" Hamburg days, the Beatles, contrary to the myth that all they did between endless gigging was go whoring and pop pills, usually wiled away their time playing the old-fashioned card game Hearts. In the middle of a game once, Paul asked John what he wanted to do with regard to discarding. John, inveterate looker-at-other-people's-cards as he was, honestly replied to Paul, "I want to hold your hand." Ten minutes later the song was written. Incidentally, the "you" in the song is not some Scouse bird or Reperbahn hooker, but simply the ace of spades. A fact that Lemmy exploited years later.
  4. God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols: Fresh from his reading of Nabokov's Knight's Gambit, John(ny Rotten) Lydon penned this intricate, allusive ode to the joys of chess. And how prescient was the line about "no future" for England? Can you name a famous British chess player since the song came out?
  5. All Right Now by Free: That insidious riff helps to disguise this song as a simple one about a boy who meets a hooker and thinks he's in love (love? Lord above!) and that everything's a-ok now. No. The songwriters, "Andy Fraser/Paul Rodgers," is actually a pseudonym for Barry Goldwater, yes, that Barry Goldwater. After his thumping in the 1964 presidential election, Goldwater, like everyone else, assumed the Conservative Movement was dead. But by 1970, with Nixon having awakened the Silent Majority, the Kennedy dynasty devastated by assassination and Chappaquiddick, and Ronald Reagan somehow making the transformation from bad actor to California governor better than Ahnald would thirty years later, Goldwater was feeling pretty good about himself and his beliefs. Things were all right now indeed, he felt. You doubt me? Check out the line about "them" raising the parking rates and see if that isn't a Conservative mantra if ever there was one. And what better group to give his song to than one called Free? It all fits together, doesn't it? Once you see a glimmer, you then see the light.
  6. I Shot The Sheriff by Bob Marley: A closet Barney Fife/Don Knotts fan his whole life, reggae king Bob Marley despised Andy Taylor/Griffith. Basically.
  7. God Bless America by Various: An unquestionably beautiful and stirring patriotic hymn. Believe it or not, the song's writer, the estimable Irving Berlin, had other things on his mind the early spring morning in 1918 when he wrote it. Berlin, born Israel Isidore Baline in Belarus (a land famously bereft of pollen), had always been mystified by the amount of allergy sufferers (and the severity of their sufferings) in his adopted homeland of the USA. Early in his songwriting career, Berlin, facing a stiff bout of writer's block one morning, kept being distracted by all the sneezers around him on Tin Pan Alley. Finally tiring of offering individual blessings to each and every repetitive sneezer, Berlin decided to be done with it once and for all and penned this generic one for one and all.
  8. Any Song by the Police: Sting is the anti-christ, as any half-informed rock cognoscente clearly knows. In light of that fact, re-interpret any song from the Police canon at your own risk.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

If Not Here, Where?

There's a sign, much like the one pictured above, right outside my Place of Work. I like standing directly underneath it for minutes at a time, sometimes on my way into work (clearing my mind for the arduous eight hours ahead of me, setting my daily work goals, watching the parked cars in the adjacent parking lot), sometimes on my break. As David Byrne put it, it's a "good place to get some thinking done." Of course, there's more to it than that. I wish some person would come by and snap an ironic picture of me. Better yet, I want some snooty person to tell me to "read the sign, mister, and move along." Best would be if some cop stopped and read me my rights. I have nodded to passing cops, but they just nod back, never braking hastily and calling for back-up. Now I fully realize it's not like nailing 95 Theses to the wall, or hurling a Molotov cocktail, or even dumping over-priced tea into some harbour, but I kind of like standing where I've been expressly told not to stand--it's my own little way of protesting all the creeping idiocies of the world, as insignificant a gesture as it might be.

Because one needs to loiter a bit in life, and while maybe it lacks a little brio, where's there a better place to loiter in America these days than that symbol of all that's great about America--a strip mall? There's nothing much to dazzle in the history of the word loiter--some Middle English or Middle Dutch (loteren--to wobble) origin--but in the list of "related" words, I did discover a great one I've never seen or heard of before: footle, "to act or talk in a foolish or silly way" (hmmm, I may have found a new motto for this blog). So now I really hope a cop comes by some day when I'm seemingly loitering beneath the "No Loitering" sign. "Can't you read the sign, buddy?" "Oh yes, officer. And I might just be able to translate it into Middle Dutch for you, too." "Well then, move on now." "Oh, but officer, the sign prohibits loitering; I am not loitering but footling" (at which time, if I'm a feeling-lucky punk, I might point out that on my go-to source for all this,, there's a "Word Dynamo Rating" [complete with a cool lightning rod logo] that tells me "people who can define the word loiter may know 6,112 words," but if I can define footle, I may know 42, 605 words, as many as an 11th grader!--so we'll see if the said cop has an 11th grade vocabulary). Another great "related" word is "dawdle" (11,000+ words). Although dawdle seems to imply intentional delay--I've got somewhere to be, I'm just taking my time getting there--loiter seems to imply nowhere better or else to be.

Anyway, my point is, call it what you will--loitering, dawdling, or footling--we all need such moments of hanging around doing nothing obviously productive. Wasn't Newton loitering when he sat 'neath the apple tree? Wasn't Whitman dawdling when he was staring down that blade of grass? Wasn't George de Mestral footling when he came up with the idea of Velcro? I bet more good things in human history have occurred from the result of the combined loitering, dawdling, and footling of heroes and rapscallions than from all the committee meetings, task forces, and power lunches. But what's the reward? Nothing but No Loitering signs everywhere you go. Where's the monument to Loitering for all the good it's done us as a species? More humbly, where are the Please Loiter Here signs? Wouldn't the sight of just one of those once in your life be the most charming, welcoming, humane thing? My gosh, I've just discovered the greatest pick-up line of all time: May I loiter with you? You'd think loiter would figure more prominently in popular song. It's ripe for a punk anthem, of course, and I can certainly hear Mick Jagger, in the middle of "Let It Bleed," singing, "And we all need, some place we can loiter ... and if you wanta, well you can loiter with me." Perhaps the reason why loiter isn't more popular in popular song, though, is that the only word I know of that rhymes with it is goiter. Sorry, I'm footling around here when I should be going on and on about the joys of loitering. But it's not something I really have to explain, is it?

The actual sign outside my Place of Work differs slightly from the one pictured above. In small print at the bottom, it reads "Local Ordinance 547.09." Being the strict letter-of-the-law guy that I am, I had to check out this ordinance, which lo and behold, I love modern life, is easily accessible on this world (just in case someone in Jakarta needs to know the .0whatever intricacies of the Mayfield Heights, Ohio, ordinances) wide web (okay, before discovering my golden loophole of "footling," I felt I should memorize the ordinance in the event of a contretemps with Johnny Law). Here, as they say, is the bespoke ordinance, verbatim:

 No pedestrian, loiterer, member of a loitering gang or group or other person shall intentionally block ways and entries to or congregate on private property in the nonresidential districts of the City, as specified on the Zone Map which is part of the Zoning Code, where business is conducted or services rendered and an invitation to enter is made to members of the public, express or implied, for such purpose. No such person shall interfere with the intended use of parking lots adjacent to such business or part of the same property where the business is located. It shall be prima-facie evidence of such intent when such person continues to loiter or block passage, or when such person remains, after being requested by a police officer or owner, lessee or person in charge of the property to move on.

Good God, they even use that wonderful cop-speak "move on" phrase! I love the choices they give you to identify yourself: you're either a pedestrian (and really, unless you're idling your car on the sidewalk underneath the sign, you're a pedestrian--prima facie--aren't you? Well, I guess not technically if you're in a wheelchair or one of those scooters--are those people exempt from the loitering prohibition?), a loiterer (which smacks to me of a huge presumption--you're guilty of loitering if you're a loiterer?), a member of a "loitering gang" or group (ooohhhh, the gang problem is really getting out of hand if we not only have vandalizing gangs and drug gangs and menacing gangs, but loitering gangs ["mom, we don't do bad stuff, we're just a gang who loiters"]; and what's this generic "group"?--isn't everybody a member of some kind of legally definable group?), or other person. Other person? "We picked up this guy loitering, Sarge." "Pedestrian?" "No, he was on one of those scooters." "Known loiterer?" "Record's clean, Sarge." "Gang member?" "Nope." "Member of a group?" "No, confirmed lifelong loner." "Must be an 'other person' then. Book 'em."

I don't know, life's tough when you can't just stand around anymore. No April Footling.