Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cutting Remarks



Be forewarned. This post just may be a new nadir among a sea of blogospherical nadirs. (I like that word nadir. It's originally Arabic for opposite, Merriam-Webster tells me. In this case, opposite obviously refers to "opposite to standards of decency and civilization." Speaking civilly, I note that Merriam-Webster gets credit for the illustration.)

While at camp a few weeks ago in the Adirondacks, we were walking Maggie, our German Shepherd-Yellow Labrador Retriever. The dog dutifully performed her duty (how do we know how dutiful? we watched; can't help it; might have to transport the emissions deeper into the woods via the scooper). This observation elicited an item of conversation from one of the members of the walking crew (not me, oddly enough). To phrase matters delicately here, the observer observed that her dog-walking duties in Gotham (with its strict strictures of cleanup) involved a dog who was not always as tidy and naturally fastidious as our Maggie is in the realm of disposal. This particular dog, whose name escapes me, needed human help.

This unseemly phenomenon was dubbed Bad Cut-off.

The observer went on to remark that in her conversations with her counterparts in New York City successful or ruinous cut-off (of the human variety) was deemed a harbinger of the success or failure of one's whole day. Honestly, who could argue with that? (although I argued against a superstitious adherence to cut-off assessment)

Discussion of this anatomical cut-off syndrome became a humorous theme at camp, with shouted public declarations of one's success or failure.

There. I've gotten this off my chest.

I trust the painful lengths I've taken to posit a
simulacrum of decency are woefully apparent.

This is what happens when you feel you must post something (anything!) after four days, whether of value or not.


(Speaking of cut-offs, we had a lunar eclipse here the other morning, with the moon cut off from view at 5:30 a.m. or so. I was sleeping. Melloncutter was up, I'm sure.)

(I suppose this gives new meaning to the "cut-off man" in baseball.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bloggerexia Nervosa


Some nerve.

I've got some nerve talking about manners, manors, reciprocity, blog-responsive recidivism, or civility.

Given my infrequent or sporadic commenting or replying in the Blogosphere, I've got some blognerve.

Then again, the first of my 217 posts was on solipsism.


And nothing is more ephemeral than this Enterprise we are tr
aveling on. No one really much cares for much beyond today's posts, soon to float away into the ether.

Eh?


Rich.


The Portals of Peccadillo, Redux


Okay, righto, true. Trusted commenters to the last post have a valuable point. I heartily concur, namely:


It is just as rude -- perhaps even more rude -- to fail to extend gratitude, or nod, or in some way acknowledge human kindness, urbanity, and civility, when someone politely holds open a door for others to pass through. Not to do so reeks of entitlement, condescension, and disdain.

Littering?

This seemingly pickiest of peccadilloes (unpickiest -- the failure to pick up) is a symbol of the decline of order and respect; it is a symbol of ruin.

Just like running red lights.

Just like the lack of courtesy.

I sound Victorian (I am; I love those naughty tales of covered-up lasses), but mutual civility equals civilization. In American cities, people are shooting each other over a perceived lack of so-called respect, not having done anything whatsoever to merit the respect in the first place (Michael Vick, anyone?).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Portals of Peccadillo



Want to know what peccadillo pisses off Pawlie? Solipsistic Portal Syndrome. Picture this. You're in a grocery store, one that does not have automatic doors, or at the entrance to some sleek corporate HQ, or on the way to divorce court, or at the DMV, or the ER, or to a job interview, et cetera ad nauseam. Pick one. Some fat-ass or Twiggy-ass or pear-shaped ass or Ordinary Mortal advances before you. He or she opens the glass panel. He or she opens the door and keeps walking, solipsistically not bothering to acknowledge your human form or its fragrance or stain or aura or perhaps even its mysterious repulsive force field. No. Oh no. Solipsistic Portal Syndrome, or SPS, only admits the self through the doors of life. Said person opens the door, advances, lets said door close, and keeps walking, even though you, dear reader, may be millimeters to the rear of this ogre.

I have sometimes sarcastically said, "Thanks" to such narcissists. (By the way, did you know sarcasm means "flesh-cutting"? Deservedly, in this case.)

I want to shriek at these ingrates, "Can't you pause, turn around, and hold open the feckin door, you feckin feckhead?!"

But I don't.

It's not just the idea of opening a door. Of course, I can open the door on my own. It's the smug solipsistic sarcastic self-absorbed savage lack of courtesy of such twats.

I wonder if Ralphie encounters aspects of this.

And don't get me started on Littering and the End of Civilization.

(There, I feel better already. Incidentally, can anyone give me a better word than "peccadillo"? This, to me, is a quasi-major offense, not a trifling one.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

APB: Missing Matter


While earnestly trying to work today, albeit a Monday, I was jolted awake by the following story racing along the Information Superhighway (remember that oh-so-Nineties term?):


Scientists trying to create a detailed inventory of all the matter and energy in the cosmos run into a curious problem--the vast majority of it is missing.

"I call it the dark side of the universe," said Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, referring to the great mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.

In fact, only 4 percent of the matter and energy in the universe has been found. The other 96 percent remains elusive. . . .

Now, there's an all-points bulletin (APB), and we mean
all points of the cosmos!

I am greatly relieved to hear this (manifested as a high-pitched, tinny voice in my left ear; do you hear those voices, too? really? adjust thy medication).

This explains the Chaos Theory of the Dining-Room Table; my desk at work; the papers piled on the shelf by the window where Nickie the Cat pisses; missing credit-card bills; the seemingly lost autographs of Willie Mays, Woody Allen, and William F. Buckley, Jr.; lost virginity; missing appetite; misplaced ancient family photos, both framed and unframed; dangling participles; the dearth of semicolons; and the plethora of missing serial commas.

Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Cosmologist, whoever you are (missing or not).

I am so freaking relieved!

Speaking of cosmologists, I want to relate a little story. I have a weird hobby of being fascinated by weird obituaries. Probably goes back to my days as a newspaper copy editor. Well, there are actually people who do that as a hobby. They go to conventions and everything.

Anyway, one odd obituary sticks in my mind from 2000. I have a rather photographic or obsessive memory for minutiae, and I have always remembered the name of Jeffrey Willick.

As you can see, his untimely death was like a comment in and of itself: "Cosmologist Killed Sipping Coffee at Starbucks." See for yourself.

I mean no disrespect or anything like that. I mean, "Sheeesh, when your time is up, it's up, eh?" Or, "When your Maker summons, the bill is due." Something like that.

Carry on.

Back to the cosmological search for all that missing matter.

Dust balls, anyone?


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Solitary Refinement

I tend to prize solitude and seek moments being alone. This week forced me to revisit some of my premises about my domestic premises. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights I was back home, having been required to go back to work (not enough vacation days) while Spousal Unit and Irishstep Daughter cavorted at camp. Especially on the first two nights, I slept poorly. (Well, some of that, at least on Wednesday evening, may've been fueled by the espresso I had while having al fresco desserts with AnimatorSon and BalletDaughter at Frankie's Piccolo Bistro.) I stayed up later than usual, browsing the Double U Times 3 and reading and et cetera. Yeah, especially that et cetera. It's as if, contrary me, missed the friction, had no one to bounce off of, had no one against which solitariness provided a context, a refuge, or a backdrop. Coming into a house absent of the dog or children or wife, seemed, well, empty. (The cats don't count, all right. And only pisscat Nickie was around until Friday morning, when his nemesis Tommy sauntered home.)

So, this afternoon, upon arriving back, upon distributing the capillaried collection of clutter, what do you think I did?

Took a nap in the back room, by myself.

Go figure: the capillaried complications and configurations of self and context and solitude and space and time.

(Already missing BalletDaughter as she soon wings her way eastward across the night sky into the Berliner dawn. God bless.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Misnomers and Mr. Nomers


So, several weeks ago I met the guy who owns our building. Being a suitably affable marketing guy (who never wears a suit), I amiably chatted with him. His name is Peter M., a genial and talented Captain of Modern Industry. I discovered we went to the same college, etc.

Turns out he's a trustee of the college. I'm not. It may have something to do with the variance in our levels of alumni donations over the years. I'm just guessing.

Peter comes down to our floor to visit fairly frequently.

I notice he's been calling me Peter.

At first I thought I heard wrong, but, no, he says, "Hi, Peter."

Trouble is, I've been replying, "Hi, Peter" in true Doppelganger Loyalist fashion.

I'm a J. Alfred Prufrock on this one. A wimp.

I couldn't bring myself, after several nominal misnomers (or mister nomers, if you prefer) to correct him.

I didn't know how to begin. Call me Pawlie (not Peter) Kowardnuts, if you must.

Ballet Daughter warned me: You'd better nip this in the bud. It'll only get worse.

Today I took action.

I told Shannon, Peter's assistant. And she told Peter. Brave, eh?

Peter came by later in the afternoon, rolling his eyes. We're good. however, he departed my "office" area saying, "See you later," noticeably but good-humoredly not saying my name.

If he only knew about Pawlie Kokonuts.

Whew.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Summer Vacation


My summer vacation was short because I had taken a winter vacation and a spring vacation. My summer vacation consisted of parts of four days amidst pine needles, by a lake, in a cottage, called a "camp" in these parts. The morning alarum was the whimpering of Maggie, a yellow labrador-German shepherd puppy asking to be let out. At 6:40 a.m., or later on two mornings, a walk along Long Point of Brantingham Lake, foggy mist curling up off the lake, the sun trying to burn through. Chickadees. Lots of blue jays. Then back down the opposite end of Long Point, up and down macadamed inclines. One day her gnawed-at leash broke. She stayed close, unlike the late but beloved Rosie, who would've been gone, chasing the wind. All this in my pajama bottoms, sandals, t-shirt, baseball cap. No bears. Return to the cabin: toast and tea. A nap. Still in pajamas. (Have I already told you the ol' Groucho Marx line? "I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How it got there, I'll never know.") Play Yahtzee. Trade obscenities. Young'uns howl. Eat. Sleep. Play Scrabble. "Assise." "Cruster." Walk. Eat. Sleep. Dangle feet in lake. Sleep. Finish
Samaritan by Richard Price. No cellphone coverage. Buy fly paper ribbon strips; mostly feckless. Nap. Read. Return home. Two messages from work on cellphone when in range. Dread. Horrid dread. Work Wednesday. Somehow get through it all. Back up to camp Friday for a cameo return.

The aim of leisure is not to make us better drones.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Vacantsy



Pawlie Kokonuts, speaking in the condescending and off-putting third person, is off for several days to the Adirondacks.

Vac time, baby.

No Internet, no phone, no faxes, no emails (probably no sex either: too many moose [mooses? mice?] and loons, is my excuse). And I most certainly left no number for work. Well, there is no number. No phone, remember? And my cellphone has little or no coverage up there. Splendid.

If you need to reach me, just go to PrivateNudistRetreatForPotBelliedMemoirists.com.

(Fellow naturalists: Don't you just hate it the way sand and ants find their way into all those cracks?)

You all behave now, ya hear?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

ChicorLit



Maybe I'm getting better, have turned a corner, reached a tipping point, cliched a cliche. Last week I was chatting with a colleague (Botanist Colleague) about chicory, celebrating its singularly summery and scintillating color. I asked her about it, since I wasn't quite sure how chicory differs from purple coneflower or cornflower, if at all.

Sure enough, the flower I had in mind is chicory, she confirmed for me by consulting some serious-looking textbooks.
You see chicory on roadsides a lot at this time of year, just about anywhere in the continental U.S. (As for Europe, I don't know, so chime in readers from around the planet.) It has been used as a substitute for coffee.

So today I made a remark to Botanist Colleague (BC) about chicory, something to the effect that she certainly got it right. Our chicory-referenced dialogue proceeded along these lines, although we bloggeristic Proustians realize how unfaithful and saucy a mistress Ms. Memory can be:

PK: "You see them all over."


BC: "Yeah, you do."

PK: "You were saying they're transitory, lasting for a day?" [like blog posts, I could've added but did not]

BC: "They bloom every day. They wilt real quick."

PK: "Just like me," I quickly and breezily reply in my head, the words clanging around in the cranium like a struck gong.

But I didn't say it! A monumental first!

The elevator doors close.

Saved.

This may be the first instance of what I think they call impulse control in my so-called adult impulsive life.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Alphabetacoincidence


So the four of us are there at Starbucks on a Friday night. Playing Scrabble. Yup. Wild night. You snicker? (Or is that snigger?) You titter? Words can be wild! After all, they can start wars, make peace, declare love, ignite lust, or seal the deal. Amidst gale-force winds generated from air handlers, we trot out a very worn Scrabble board made available for customers. Several of the letters are overwritten with m
arkered letters, presumably to accommodate missing letters. Or because our predecessors were cheaters. So there we are: Beloved Spouse, Ballet Daughter, and Irishstep Daughter (which is infinitely different from Irish stepdaughter), and El Laforisto himself, Pawlie Kokonuts. Our gales of silliness are interspersed with observations regarding fellow customers, stuff like, "They're a handsome couple," or "No, they're not; you're so old," followed by "You're right" when Handsome Couple (he, possibly Italian with ponytail; she blonde and fit; both contagiously smiling) come over to chat it up with us.

A short time later, picture this. I have the letter A in my left hand (since I am the sinister sort). I move to place it on the board. On the board, if you please, picture the word MEN positioned horizontally. Perpendicular to it, separated by a conjoining blank space, reading downward is the word GIANT. At the precise moment that I move my hand downward with the letter A and I kind of mumble self-mockingly, "Heh, amen! a giant!" at that exact moment in through the doors walks a giantess of Olympian proportions. We're talking H-U-G-E. I'm sorry, don't be offended. It's just T-R-U-E. I could not help it. I just stopped in mid-air, mid-sentence, mid-Scrabble-word-placement (of course, I was not seriously about to posit the word "agiant"), and did a double take at the door. "A-men. A-giant."

We just broke up. What else can I tell you? You could not have choreographed it better. It even made dour ol' me laugh out loud in real life.

Fortunately, Amazon Dot did not seem to hear me. Relieved at that.

Your turn.

Any Scrabble stories?

(Aw, c'mon, I'll bet you've played Dirty Word Scrabble, Mist1. Or Glamourpuss, have you? Army, you? Dafaths? Any Scrabble stories from The Ephemerist Cohort, e.g., Michael C? Wanderlust Scarlett? Odat? Diapering Madwoman? JR? Ralph? Patti? Others?)

C-A-R-R-Y O-N.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

My Oh! My


With all the hoopla over Barry Bonds's chase of Hank Aaron's home run record, you seldom hear the name of Sadaharu Oh.

You should. We all should.

The guy's not gettin' proper props on this homer thing.

A fellow by the name of Jim Albright, at his BaseballGuru.com, makes an impressive case for Oh's enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And I concur. Oh-san belongs there.

My introduction to Mr. Oh (as opposed to my clumsy intro to Ms. O in my youth, HAHAHAHAHA) was about twenty years ago, in the superb biography Sadaharu Oh: A Zen Way of Baseball by Sadaharu Oh and David Falkner. (It's actually quite difficult to find this truly excellent book; I should check out that blogger again who was paring down his library for free; now who was that?).

Oh suffered discrimination because of his mixed ancestry; was a pitcher early on, just as Babe Ruth was; played through excruciating pain in a critical game; and -- get this -- swung a samurai sword at a tissue dangling from a string tied to the ceiling to perfect his swing. The key is waiting, waiting. Very Zen. Very Haruki Muakami. Oh. And he hit 868 homers. That's 8-6-8.

Anyway, great baseball players (including Tom Seaver, Davey Johnson, Pete Rose, Hal McRae, Don Baylor, Frank Howard, Greg Luzinski, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, and Don Dyrsdale) have attested to Oh's greatness -- and have all said he would have excelled even in American Major League Baseball. (This is underscored now by all the great Japanese players forging very fine careers over here. Many players can be named. I personally saw Masanori Murakami play at Shea Stadium with my brother in 1964 before a crowd of more than 50,000. It was not only Murakami's debut; he was the first Japanese-born player to play in an American game. And, according to the linked story, he said it was easier to pitch in the U.S. than in Japan.)

So, why the cold-as-fresh-shushi shoulder?

The youth of sports reporters? Xenophobia [which isn't very Zen-like; and why doesn't that word start with a Z, huh?]? Just-plain ignorance?

Don't know.

But, way to go, Mr. Oh!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Urban Legends 3


Phonics
Wearing a straw hat that gives me a slightly Amish look, I walk the dog in the hot dusk. Up by the muni pool, a kid asks me if I have a cellphone he can borrow. "No," I quickly lie. His eyes catch me. We size each other up, face to face. He says, "I'm tryin' to find my brother and I can't find him. I don't know where he's at up here." "Your brother?" I say, almost adding, "You don't know where your own brother lives?" He gets the implication just the same and says, "Not my brother like dat. My friend, I'm looking for my friend for about twenty minutes. I can't find him." The private joke between us is that we both could be laughing over this term brother, as if I don't get it but I do, and vice versa. He's tall, gangly, maybe 16; maybe 14. His bike is way too small for him, tricked out in duct tape around the handle bars and a peace symbol uniting several cables just above the front tire. I reach into my right pocket and take out my shitty, worn cellphone. I ask for the number he wants to call; he calls out the numerals; I punch in the digits. When it starts ringing, I hand him the phone. No answer. We try again. Finally, he gets a response. "Yo, where's your crib at? Hunh? I'm on it. I been up here waiting on you. For like twenty minutes. 270? Aaight." He gives me the phone. "Thanks," he says. "Have I good night," I say. He rides off, but I lose track of him, mildly curious as to which street he goes to. I walk the dog home, down the half-block.





Histrionics

After supper, I'm in my car, roll down the window, and approach Richaaargh. "Hey, Rich," I say. "I saw how you tracked down that hot rod the other night. You're crazier than I am." He says, "Yeah, I followed him all the way down the hill, even knocked on his door, but he wouldn't come out." I convey my doubtful admiration for Richaaargh's persistence. "I had to laugh when I saw you out there checking his car out with a flashlight. You're gonna get yourself killed." Rich laughs (though he's not The Laughorist). "His plates don't match the registration sticker." I tell Rich all he has to do is call the cops and they'll tow the Firebird Z28. "I know, " Rich says. "But I'm gonna get that car." "How's that?" I ask. "Next time, I'll stand in the road, and all he has to do is just touch me and I'll fall down, then the car is mine." I chuckle. "Well, then, we never had this conversation, then, did we, Rich?" I tell him. "What conversation?" he says, and I drive away.




Tonics
Not far from my neighborhood but oceans away in other respects, in the upper room, at the top of the church stairs, they are talking honestly and openly. I am late. No one seems to mind. Of the dozen or so in the room, I am the only white male. And an old one at that (but likely not the oldest person in the room; hard to say). No one seems to know, or mind. There is the occasional laughter, and yet an aura of serenity. When someone talks, no one interrupts. I sit by the window. I feel perfectly safe, as I close my eyes and listen and faintly smile. The breeze is a welcome tonic, as is the lilt of their voices, their stories, their journeys, their amens.