Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Temporarily Out of Service

I guess it’s pretty obvious by now that my blogging endeavors have come to a screeching halt and I am guilty of the sin of silent neglect.

It wasn’t my intention to simply disappear, it just happened that way. It has been a frustrating time since the back injections offered some hope for recovery, only to be followed by a disappointing return to the same old aching bullshit. I felt like Pavlov’s Dog, even a passing glance at my keyboard made me grit my teeth and clutch my back. A day turned into a week, a week to a month, and here I am.

I am currently getting just enough mileage out of my spinal column to keep my business afloat and my potter’s wheel from gathering too many cobwebs. As much as I have come to look forward to visiting blogs, commenting and posting, I cannot survive without work and my clay addiction must be fed. More than anything, I have my sweet Jilly to consider. She is a woman of infinite patience, unconditional love, and boundless compassion. Even so, she has enough to deal with without me piling on additional miseries that are arguably elective in nature.

I hope to be back to blogging in the future. My back is actually getting better over time, but it is still a bit of a roller coaster situation with the ups and downs. I can’t predict when I will be able to risk posting, but I should be able to start visiting and commenting again, hopefully within the next few weeks.

Bye for now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Art Imitates my Cranky Disposition

I am going to elaborate on the injustices perpetrated against me by my ungrateful bones and unfaithful innards. After all I’ve done for them in the last few years, I deserve better.

My diet options are being chiseled away at an alarming rate by organs that arbitrarily decide they will no longer perform the functions for which they are intended.

I’ve given up a lot of delicacies over the years. I waved a fond farewell to liver and onions, chicken gizzards, wieners, potted meat and spam. Then it was mushrooms, carrots, legumes and nuts. No more peanut butter, bratwursts, aged cheese, or un-distilled alcoholic beverages. Goodbye my precious beer. I tried not to be too disappointed when shellfish, crustaceans, beef, turkey, chicken, asparagus, spinach, and cauliflower sailed over the horizon, never to return. And the list goes on.

Just as it seemed that I might learn to live happily alongside dry lettuce sandwiches on stale bread, unflavored water and air, the gods saw fit to crumble my brittle soul with words that I prayed would never come.

Please, oh mighty Zeus, I beseech you, do not render my last delicious condiment verboten, do not take away the only taste sensation that separates me from culinary oblivion, do not cast me into the bottomless pit of grocery doom. Take anything, take my homemade buttermilk cathead biscuits, pluck my pathetic testicles from their shriveled sack, just leave me be with my glorious vinegar you dirty bastard! Please! Not my precious vinegar!

It happened, vinegar is gone, and along with it all of the things that vinegar makes so incomprehensibly gratifying. Cheap yellow mustard, ketchup, even mayonnaise, gone. The giant sour dill pickles and pickled jalapenos, they have vanished from my life. Sauerkraut, olives, German potato salad…poof* Cucumber salad, deviled eggs, vinaigrettes, all gone. Malt vinegar, rice vinegar, cider vinegar, vinegar vinegar, they are no longer for me.

Think of something you really like to eat. Chances are it has vinegar in it. Chocolate ice cream has vinegar in it and so do big, fluffy, buttery sweet cinnamon rolls. Think of a warm glazed doughnut, fresh out of the hot grease canal, that’s right, vinegar! The next time you find yourself in synchronized passion with the one you love, arms and legs entangled in delirious ecstasy, quiet whispers giving way to uncontrollable wails of elation, you can get down on your knees and thank vinegar for making it all possible! Don’t ask me how or why, I don’t know.

This was the last piece of pottery that I made prior to that day when sweet innocent vinegar was torn asunder and unceremoniously ripped from my embrace. I was still happy then, I can see it in the reflection of the copper and iron that dance across the shiny surface.

Then I went to my dark place. A place where apple juice and popcorn are all I have left. It can’t be too long before they come for that too. I don’t care, take it, I’ll eat lawn mower clippings and dirt.

So this is what my clay has come to.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I Hate my Skeleton

It is true that this blog has been seriously neglected for too long. My spine is the culprit. I can manage only short sprints at the keyboard and those have been reserved for the increasingly difficult job of keeping my little business afloat.

By the way, they don’t call them “spinal taps” anymore. They are referred to as “lumbar punctures,” or “LP’s by those too busy to spare the extra syllables. Sometimes LP’s leak, and when that happens, you get nasty headaches. Mine leaked and I’ve been lying on the couch now for three days in an effort to forestall having a “blood patch” procedure performed. That’s where they draw blood from you and inject it into the leaking LP, which patches the hole and theoretically ends the headaches.

The headaches are dissipating and my estranged spinal column is slowly coming to the conclusion that is just can’t live without me. I’m not one to hold a grudge, but I’m not sure I’m ready to let that unfaithful piece of shit come waltzing back into my life as if nothing ever happened. We’ll see how that works out I guess.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Business of Monkeys

The data that resulted from this study is, in my humble opinion, lacking in credibility for two reasons.

Reason number one: While the monkeys were stabbed, they were not robbed. If monkeys are to be utilized as human analogues, the sociological impact of the violent action should have to be factored into the equation. It is my understanding that in Humans, stabbing typically precedes robbery.

I heard nothing at all about whether or not the monkeys were verbally harangued during the stabbing. Do you know anybody who has ever been stabbed where they have not also been verbally insulted in the process? Me neither, and that is reason number two.

While I’m sure they meant well, I think they should leave the animal stabbing to the trained professionals at the cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies.

Wait, I’m receiving an update. Apparently, no monkeys were stabbed after all and it was all just an outrageous and totally believable hoax. As my sympathetic feelings towards monkeys are in the public domain, you can imagine my relief.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Jungle Fever

It was the late 1960’s. The law of the jungle was broadcast every Sunday afternoon on a television show called Wild Kingdom. While obviously staged and comically over-produced, as wildlife programs go it was the only game in town. The master of ceremonies was a guy named Marlin Perkins, a kindly old grey haired circus ringmaster with a cottony voice and little concern for the Prime Directive. Each week, assorted wilderness beasts underwent detailed analysis in severely sanitized terms. This was, and I’ve said it many times before, an unfortunate manifestation of vestigial Victorian modesty. Stupid Victorians!

Most of the truly interesting aspects of animal life never made it past the censors, which is too bad considering there just isn’t a whole lot going on in the life of your typical Gnu when farting, crapping, screwing and birthing are deemed dangerously destructive to the developing moral framework of red-blooded American mother’s sons and daughters. By virtue of a stroke of the pen and a shear of the scissor, those natural facts of life found their way into the editor’s trashcan.

Prior to modern times, homo-sapiens and their progenitors had survived countless thousands of generations (300 generations for my Christian Fundamentalist compadres) of direct exposure to sexual activity and bodily functions of the foulest biological origin, and we somehow survived it all.

Things are different now. We are protected from the details. We throw buckets of water on mating dogs and blur out images of humongous elephant baloneys while clinging desperately to the image of the peaceable kingdom. It turns out it’s more of a queendom, but that’s another story. At the end of the day, righteous indignation keeps us all safe and sound, insulated from the most profound displays of physical attraction. Goddamn Victorians! Did I mention I hate those bastards?

Off the soapbox and back to my point, in the early days, nature film producers found themselves in a quandary. How do you create a compelling narrative when the star of your show spends most of the day eating grass and defecating? It was the predators in general and the lions in particular that filled the entertainment gap. You never saw them fart but that was ok because killing makes for some righteous Sunday afternoon relaxation with the family. The Victorians were apparently ok with that.

--------------------Bad Hair Day--------------------
Lions always put on a good show; a well-regulated social order and proficiency at the kill provided ample metaphor for their naturally predatory human counterparts. On the hunt, the big kitties are all about efficiency. They seek out the weak and the lame. To a predator, weakness is relative. In the absence of an obvious injury, a sneeze or a bad hair day might spark their interest. Prey animals in lion country pay a heavy price for even subtle deviations from normal behavior; few of them die of old age. Instead, they take early retirement, an option that typically involves being processed into little furry turds.

Cut to the scene of a shade-tree in the heat of the day, lounging predators nurse distended bellies and lick blood from each other’s faces. Marlin Perkins was telling my story. In those days, I was in almost every sense of the word one of those little furry cat turds that littered the ground under the shade tree. But I’ve told that story before and I don’t want to go over it again, gotta stay focused.

-------------------------Definitely Not An Eagle-------------------------
More than likely, you have imagined yourself as one of those animals, a leopard doing what leopards do or an eagle taking it easy on a thermal updraft. The animal that you imagine yourself as says something about how you view yourself, but maybe not in an obvious way. Maybe you do yearn to sink your teeth into the warm flesh a still twitching Gnu. It could be you’re just tired of looking over your shoulder, had enough of people telling you what to do. Chances are, given the choice and knowing what that choice would entail, you might choose a vulture. They don’t kill, they don’t get in any big hurry, they just take it nice and easy until the quadrupeds get a bellyful and then swoop in for a little buffet action. I think the mating hierarchy is a little less strict for vultures, which is a huge concern. Consider the lion, if you expect to get a little bit of that furry hind shank, you pretty much have to be the biggest, hairiest, meanest motherf*cker on the block. Any less and you’re left skulking the perimeter, watching the action from the sidelines.

----------------It's ok, Daddy's just tickling mommy!----------------
The same is true for all of the really cool animals that you might imagine yourself to be. All accept one, the Bonobo Chimp. They are fairly intelligent, mostly vegetarian, and they are all about scratching each others’ itch and keeping the flea population to a manageable level. Also, they have sex with whoever is in the mood, anytime of the day, any day of the week. They might be the only animal in the peaceable queendom with no rules when it comes to “making a ham sandwich” if you know what I mean. They do it face to face; doggy style, sixty-nine and three-ways are rumored. They do it hanging upside down, swinging from a branch, they trade food for sex, and there are also legends that have them ”playing the rusty trombone.” I would pass on that. They don’t care who sees their scary sex faces either. I find that a little disturbing too. If I were a Bonobo Chimp, I think I would tone that down a little, unless it was after dark, then who cares. Of course, my information on them is a little dated. If it turns out they’re a bunch of assholes like all the other jerks in the animal queendom, I don’t want to hear about it. Just let me have that one fantasy without ruining it with “data.” And no, I don’t consider having sex with hairy-assed monkeys a personal goal. But if I had to be an animal, that’s the one I would be.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tomato Rancher

----------------Harvested Yesterday---------------

Tomatoes are my favorite vegetables. Technically, tomatoes are fruits. According to those who know, they are fruits because they contain seeds, but then so do cucumbers, green beans and walnuts. By that standard, my testicles are also fruits. As evidence of that fact I point to Deuteronomy. Does the Old Testament not warn of the dangers of spilling your seed upon the ground? Do I not consistently fail to heed that warning? Either my nuts are fruits, or tomatoes are vegetables. You can’t have it both ways. Where tomatoes are concerned, the fruit versus vegetable debate is a slippery slope, a slope made even more slippery by seed spilt to no good end. It is a viscous [sic] cycle indeed.

The answer to the riddle is in the context. In my kitchen, those glorious crimson orbs (tomatoes I mean) are treated as vegetables in every sense of the word. Many experts will concede that the manner in which tomatoes are typically processed in the kitchen supports the contention that they can be correctly referred to as veggies. So it looks like my nadicles are not fruits after all.

As I said before, tomatoes are my favorite vegetable. As I stroll the aisles in the vegetable section of the local supermarket, I point and laugh at the waxy, tough skinned, pinkish-green knobs that pass for tomatoes these days. Sometimes in the off-season, when I have failed to practice good tomato husbandry, I fumble through the grocery store pile, reaching far to the back of the bin hoping to find an overlooked specimen, one that is just a little less abominable than the others. But they are all the same. I’ve never eaten a tumor before, but I have the feeling I would not be totally surprised by the experience.

----------------A single day of picking----------------

I’ve raised tomatoes almost every year for the last thirty-five years. I cook with them, can them, prepare them in every conceivable permutation, and otherwise devour them in logic-defying quantities all season long.
From the day my first tomato ripens on the vine each spring, until the last lid on the last jar of tomato sauce is popped off, my intestines maintain a state of agitation due to the high acid content of the varieties I prefer to grow. I liken tomatoes to one of my least favorite deities. They provide happiness and they promise more of the same for all of the days of your life. But they are also menacing and vengeful. If you rely too heavily on them for your daily ration of ecstasy, you will surely turn your blistered colon inside-out on some unhappy day. Not that it’s a bad thing.

These are my tomato plants this year. I trim the tallest ones down to seven and a half feet to keep them safely inside the tomato prison I built for them several years ago. I don’t have time to grow no stinking garden, so I have a garden that requires absolutely no effort to maintain. It has an underground watering system, a weed barrier so there are no weeds to pull, retractable netting, and an electric fence to keep my competition at bay.

The birds jockey for position around the top edge of the frame. They watch my tomatoes ripen to a luscious dark red, but there will be nary a beak hole in a single tomato all season long. The large birds take out their frustrations on the smaller birds and they all fight amongst themselves. Sometimes the tomatoes are almost within pecking distance through the net. I make sure my little tomatoes stay just out of reach of their filthy beaks. Those are my stinking tomatoes you damn dirty birds! My winged adversaries stay pissed-off all season long.
The squirrels run headlong into the netting over and over again. They climb it and try to dig under it. The squirrels don’t really like tomatoes, they just like to bite holes in them and knock them to the ground until there are none left on the vine. There have been a few in the past who figured out how easy it is to chew through the netting. I live-trap the smart ones and provide them with a one-way ticket to a city park down the road. There they will assimilate into a population of expatriate bushy tailed rodents who failed to address my tomato plants with an appropriate level of deference.

The worst of them all are the raccoons. When they found my tomatoes about four years ago, they breached the net barrier in less than one second. They devastated crop after crop. They ripped off limbs and ate their fill, lounging in piles of greenery with tomato juice on their paws and all over their faces. I tried all manner of defensive action until one evening; I looked out the window and saw twelve coons, exactly twelve, having a goddamn party in the tomato patch and laying waste to my jalapeño plants. I waded in amongst them with a paintball gun. By the time the last one made it up and over the fence, their fur matted with mutli-colored dye, I was sure they had had enough. Where brains are concerned, I guess size does matter; they were back thirty minutes later as if nothing ever happened. I installed the electric fence around my tomatoes the next day and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of them since.
Note: With the exception of a few sore rumps from the paintball incident, no animals were harmed during the tomato wars and no immediate family members were separated. It was primarily old bachelor males and breeding age reprobates amongst the squirrels and coons who were given their marching orders.

--------The first of this season's canned tomatoes--------
Being relieved of concern for almost all known threats to my precious tomatoes, I harvest and eat at will. However, as with any ecosystem where natural predators have been eliminated, overpopulation reaches critical mass early in the season. Rather than re-introduce the tomato’s natural enemies, I choose to fill that vacuum myself. It is for this reason that I often grip my belly and contemplate how much more my colon can take. According to my calculations, my colon will take all I can shove into it until the first frost comes sometime in December. At that point, I settle into the off season with the help of stacks of home-canned tomato products, e.g., tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, stewed halves, and so on. Some will end up in spicy salsas, others in soups and the odd lasagna.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blog Loot

I won a box of internet loot in a caption contest at Judith’s blog a while back. The treasure chest traveled thousands of miles across the ocean, from Ireland all the way to Texas, arriving at a post office no more than a few miles from our house.
I have more than one address, in fact, I have several. There’s the business address and the home address and also a post office box. I have packages sent to the P.O. Box because our postman gets bent out of shape over having to get out of his little postman-mobile when boxes show up. I installed a larger mailbox, the biggest I could find, still not big enough.
Long story short, I was terrified of giving Judith the wrong address, international shipping after all, so I was very careful when I emailed the info. So careful in fact that I screwed up the zip code. The post office promptly sent my winnings all the way back to Ireland. I am known as a very meticulous person, anal in fact, and yet still prone to bouts of buffoonery.

Judith re-sent the package and it arrived here a few days ago, tattered and obviously opened and resealed, possibly three or four times judging by the layers of different kinds of tape. Those postal handlers are a curious breed.

The first item is a she-demon riding a banana. She’s holding her decapitated head in her lap and seems overly excited to be doing so. Naturally, I scoured Deuteronomy and Leviticus in an effort to put a name to the beast, but I had no luck at all. This seemed more than a little odd to me because, while Leviticus might occasionally fall short as a spiritual “search engine” of sorts, Deuteronomy never lets me down. Hmmm.

The second item is a bottle of what is described in the fine print as “Brown Sauce.” I checked and the contents are in fact brown. All appeared perfectly innocent at this point except for the name on the front label, “HP.”
As many of you are aware, I was recently victimized by a treacherous band of thieves and liars. Through several blog posts, I described how I had been driven to the brink of technicidal rage and ultimately screwed out of a sizeable sum of money by a name-brand computer manufacturer. Month after month, they plowed deeper into my pocket. Time after time, they thrust their faulty equipment into my office. I begged for mercy, they responded by flipping me over and toasting the backside. I threatened them with legal action; they transferred me to an operative who called himself “Merle Ricardo.” His job was to wear me down through stuttering miscommunication and when the time was right, to throw sand in my crack in preparation for corporate sodomy. Time and time again, they plundered my village and now, with my wounds still fresh and reeking of burnt wiring and extruded polycarbonate, I get a suspicious package in the mail containing a bottle of “HP” sauce and a voodoo doll in blood-red shoes armed with a banana.
Judith, if that is your real name, I never mentioned the name of the computer manufacturer, how could you have known? And what about this, Merle Ricardo is the only person who has ever threatened to “banana me with egg salad service.” I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, but it is all becoming clear to me now.

For those of you unconvinced by the evidence presented thus far, consider the remaining contents of the box.
A cigarette smoking nun! A nun that is smoking a cigarette! When you add the words nun and cigarette together phonetically, drop the “nun” then join the new word with Merle, you get “Merle Re-gar-te.” That’s right, Merle Ricardo!

A butt plug, carved from a single piece of bone, human bone in my estimate, or wood maybe. Either way, it is certainly designed to inflict pain and not pleasure as the ribbed surface might otherwise suggest. Once again, it all seems innocent enough until you consider that I had on numerous occasions told Merle Ricardo that he should shove all manner of things up his ass. I am certain one of my suggestions included a block of wood. I’m usually not a rude person but I assumed he couldn’t understand most of what I was saying anyway.

And last, but not least, a bar of “Dairy Milk” chocolate. Judith, or whatever they call you at corporate headquarters, I finally understand Merle Ricardo’s bizarre directive that I “put dairy milk bars in Henry’s chicken spleen.” You can tell your overlords that I’m on to their scheme. Tell them that I ate the chocolate, stowed the banana riding she-devil in a well secured box of Christmas ornaments, taped the nun to the top of my monitor, sanded the corners off the plug and they can say adios to the HP sauce.
It turns out that your so-called “brown sauce” has nothing at all to do with feces. Who could fault me for thinking “brown sauce” was a euphemism. Nope, brown sauce is what we in this part of the world call “bar-b-que” sauce. I rebottled it, added garlic and a couple of fresh jalapeños from the garden and I will be putting it to use on the grill next weekend. We will be having bar-b-qued chicken spleens, but I’m sure your sources have already informed you of that.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Monkey Wrenched

Testing, testing, one two three. Is this thing on? Check! Check! Check!
Ok, thank you all for being here this evening.

-----Disclaimer: Yes, I know it's not a male monkey.-----

The first items on the agenda are my testicles. As most of you know, I have no shame. My innards (and outwards) are pretty much an open book. What little humility I might have still possessed a short time ago evaporated in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, 2am or so, twenty-three days ago. I was hanging out, minding my own damn business, trying to remember what I had done that day to cause my coconuts to register such discontent. One minute I’m considering a dull ache, a moment later I’m in the trusty old fetal position. I have found that position to be a versatile maneuver for trying times. It has amazing analgesic properties. Anyway, knowing that my first-aid kit contained not a single remedy for testicular tribulation, I began the process of deciding which ER should have the displeasure of seeing me on their doorstep once again.

Shuffling bent over into the triage area, I was greeted by a check-in droid who could not have been old enough to drive, I guessed ten or eleven years old. She handed me the familiar form to fill out and asked me why I needed to see a doctor. I told her my nuts were hurting really bad and I asked her what I should put in the corresponding section of the form. I mercifully cut short her endless re-phrasing and dancing about the issue by bluntly telling her I would write, ‘my nuts hurt really bad.” She said ok.

She asked me to describe the pain on a scale of one to ten while directing my attention to the little placard on the wall. Every ER has one, ten little stick-figure faces illustrating severity of pain in ascending order. The face of level-one is sort of a baleful stare. Stick-figure number ten has tears flowing and a mouth drawn in a perfect “O.” The “O” is hospital code for scaring the shit out of the other patients with high pitched howling and uncontrollable sobbing. It is always a good idea to add at least two frowny faces to your score in these situations, trust me on that one. I pleaded a solid ten with breached bulkhead imminent and then prepared to disgrace myself for affect. I didn’t have to go that far because they weren’t very busy anyway.

While being wheeled to my curtained-off cubicle, I noted a consistent trend in the ER staff, more rosy-cheeked children, like a middle-school lunch room with kids running about in lab coats and scrubs. I also noticed there was not a single male employee in the bunch. I’ve said it before; I prefer a female urologist, or any ologist for that matter, when it comes to handling the tenderloins. Female “ologists” are naturally more empathic and gentle. This was a primary concern at that time because I was rapidly taking on the appearance of those red-assed monkeys on the Discovery Channel.

The ER physician turned out to be female, which was a good thing, but she looked even younger than the receptionist. She asked the obvious questions. I hadn’t been kicked in the nuts or paid for sex in the recent past. She read my chart and posed her questions with a distressingly pained look on her face. Her demeanor spoke of dark times to come. I feared her runaway sympathy might hinder a thorough administration of medical care and I was getting increasingly creeped out by her pigtails and knee socks. I was about to receive a digital inspection of my comically inflamed man-parts from Pippi Longstocking. The nurse who entered the room twice during the pre-prod setup awkwardly averted her gaze and stammered at my request for a drink of water. There was plenty of irony to share with everybody that evening, very strange.

Back to the business at hand, with my hospital gown hiked and the danger zone exposed, Doctor Longstocking advised me brace myself for a whole lot of hurt. For the first few seconds, I was thinking, that’s not so bad. I guess it took a while for the nerve endings to recover from the initial shock, and then, discomfort! It spread through my pelvic region, up the spinal cord, into the brain and on to whatever specific region is responsible for relaying the signals back down the spinal cord, through the pelvic region and right back where it started from.

The examination now complete, Doctor L told me to start breathing and she would order up some morphine. I told her I had to work the next day, refused the morphine because sometimes I’m a stupid f*cking idiot, and I opted for Tylenol instead. In short order, another baby-faced woman-child carted me into the ultrasound room and started treating my poor nadicles like billiard balls, batting them about with a gel-coated tool resembling a post-war Norelco Electric Shaver, at least from my contorted vantage point. I gave the ultrasound tech two options, morphine, or stampede. I didn’t want to scare my fellow patients, but it was out of my hands.

I think it was for punishment that they administered the morphine in the form of a meat-shot in the upper front part of my left leg. My kiwis quit hurting but the morphine never did dull the pain from the knot that formed at the injection site. It must have been opposite day at the ER, I prefer a certain level of logic in my world but I can make due with less.

I did get a diagnosis, doctors call it “Orchitis” I’m on the twenty-second day of a twenty-five day course of antibiotics, which of course means I haven’t crapped in twenty-two days but considering the alternative, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Unfortunately, because of all of this, my spine doctor refused to administer a third and final spinal injection. My back was on the mend, only to be thrown a curve and left to fend for itself until this other situation clears up.

And this is the story of why I haven’t been blogging in the last several weeks. By the time I finish each day’s worth of desk and fieldwork in a desperate attempt to keep my little business afloat, and take care of all of the home-life chores that fall within my area of jurisdiction, the thought of spending even one more second at a keyboard has all the appeal of a bathtub full of squids, but without the fun parts.

Let’s check the score. According to my research, in the last twelve years I’ve had every malady known to medical science except for Distemper and Monkey Pox. I’ve noticed my monkey has been a little poxy today, so I might be able to cross that one off the list soon. Damn monkey pox!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

To See or Not to See (There Is No Question)

I’ve seen this issue come up occasionally. I have heard the question dealt with on talk radio a few times and bloggers sometimes argue the pros and cons. Oddly enough, most people seem to have strong opinions one way or the other.

The question: Is it necessary, advisable, and/or appropriate to ascertain the effectiveness of your wiping maneuvers in order to determine when the job requires no further action on your part, i.e., should you review the results of your final wipe before reaching for the little chrome lever?

You might think that the debate would hinge on the issue of cleanliness. Logically, for me anyway, subjective definitions of the word “clean” and effective strategies for attaining a state of clean should be the only points of contention. I guess if it were that simple, there would be no public airing of grievances, accusations of negligence and incidents of indignant anger that keep popping up.

I figured it was time to lay the issue to rest, so I compiled and condensed the most commonly occurring points of view from both sides of the debate; two fictional men will present these arguments here in first-person format.
Neither of the imaginary antagonists are women. Why? Because based on the limited data at hand, it appears that most women do look before they leap and most are horrified to learn that many men do not, therefore, they skew the statistics unfairly in one direction. Besides, Jilly tells me that most women will have stopped reading this post after the second paragraph, when it became obvious that the subject is even worse than shit; it is about getting it out of your crevice.
I don’t understand that position at all considering that sphincters, rectums and human waste are a never ending source of entertainment. Anyway, my interpretations of the two primary points of view are as follows.

Position 1:
I heave my final log and I retrieve an enormous amount of wood-pulp-based-cleaning-material from the spool hanging beside the bathroom fixture on which I sit. I drag the haphazard wad of absorbent, and highly abrasive, material across my danger zone.

Things get a little murky at this point. I’m not sure of the mechanisms involved but it is during this scraping maneuver that thousands of miniature butt gnomes are deposited in my crack.
These tiny gnomes diligently search every nook and cranny. They set to work in a frantic effort to restore my danger zone to a pre-soiled condition. It is for this reason that I feel no need to look at the fruits of my labor. I have complete trust in my gnomes and as far as I know, they have never let me down, ever! Besides, if I were to look at that wad of paper and actually see my own deu deu, I would vomit.
I think people who look at their own dung are snobbish nasty freaks. I finish up, spray myself down with Axe Body Spray, and then leave the house for a few hours.

Position 2:

I have deposited my final offering and I retrieve a conservative quantity of wood-pulp-based-cleaning-material from the spool hanging beside the sanitary porcelain bowl on which I sit.
I pass a neatly folded pad of luxuriant Charmin (with Aloe and Vitamin E) gently but firmly across my holy ground, and then repeat.

Of course, there is no need to view the results of my first or second swipe since I am educated. I understand the dynamics of digested animal and vegetable waste. I also know that in my crack, there will be no army of butt gnomes to do my dirty work for me. It is my mess, and it is up to me to clean it up. It is for this reason that I look.
More often than not, on the third swipe I find the task has been satisfactorily completed to current cultural standards. Sometimes though, instead of unblemished Charmin there in my hand, I see vile filth and I am grateful that I performed a visual inspection. I repeat the process with visual examination until that sucker is polished squeaky clean.
People who fail to examine their work are nasty repulsive freaks. My ass is a temple and I have trained it never to offend; I will not desecrate it with dingleberries. I finish up and feel no need to saturate myself with over-the-counter stink abatement products or stuff my pockets with potpourri to camouflage the fetid vapors that would otherwise breach the thin fabric barrier between my ass and my fellow human beings.

I will now sit in Judgment:

In the case of onlookers versus non-lookers, I rule that personal sensitivities are doing a great disservice to personal hygiene. Bottom line, you must look. Unless your body excretes waste like Spock’s coffin in The Wrath of Khan, which I believe is not possible, you do what you have to do to get that thing clean enough to use as a serving dish for Thanksgiving turkey. Use a belt sander if you have to; just get the damn thing clean.

I can think of only a few scenarios where not looking is ok. Departure from even one of these requirements is a deal killer.

- Your spouse, partner, or date does not perform visual confirmation either and you live on another planet.

- You wash your undergarments in your own (non-public) washing machine or you take them down to the river on the end of a long stick and beat them against the rocks.

- You engage in no public activity that might surreptitiously cause your cheeks to spread.

If you have any lingering doubts, there’s no need to take my word for it, ask a granny, any granny. I’m glad I could help.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Needle Point

Tomorrow morning, I will be laid out, locally anesthetized, and punctured with a needle. I have no problem with needles. I actually like needles especially when they are being used to deliver anesthesia of any flavor, local or otherwise.

The target of the aforementioned needle is my spine and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. My back has been jacked up for maybe three months now and I’ve just about had enough of this shit. An MRI has confirmed that my skeleton is no longer performing the function for which it was intended, vertebras are degenerating and disks are “bulging.” I found a guy who says he can put me back in the saddle by poking a needle into my spine and injecting “something” into it. I’ll find out what that “something” is tomorrow.

I don’t really care what that mysterious “something” is, whether it be hammered goat testicles or motor oil, it just doesn’t matter at this point. I haven’t set foot in my pottery studio for months, my precious Les Paul is gathering dust and my biblical directives have been terribly neglected. What biblical directives you ask? Consult Deuteronomy, or maybe Leviticus, I can’t remember where it is but it goes something like this, “Go in unto thy brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother,” sorry, that’s not the one. I’m working by memory here but I’m pretty sure Gawd wants me to “know” my wife and “lay” with her or maybe it’s “on” her. The Laured and I don’t agree about…anything really, but I can get behind him on this point. Actually, I couldn’t care less what some jealous and wrathful deity thinks of my personal life, I just like saying “Gawd” and “Laured” almost as much as I like putting words in “quotations.” Bottom line, my back’s been giving me fits and I’m ready for that sweet, sweet needle.
Regarding my duties to wife, work and art, it is my potter’s wheel that has suffered the most neglect. My current state of physical torpor renders any thought of clayworking completely out of the question. So, as a memorial to the hunks of clay that are languishing in their plastic bags, I’m posting the results of my last Raku pottery firing extravaganza three long months ago.

I call this one "Urn." Seriously, I don't know where I come up with these names. Sometimes the pottery tries to name itself, stuff like "Despoiled Terra" or some other such lame self-indulgent nomenclature.

I call this one "Hopes and Dreams." Just kidding, I call this one "Urn." I prefer consistency.

I call this one "Urn," because to me, it just says "Urn."

I call this one "Urn with a smoke fired spout." I could explain why I named it that, but it's really personal and I'm not sure I trust you yet.

I don't have a name for this one yet, but I'm open to suggestions. I was thinking that maybe I would call it "Urn" but I'm just not sure.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Retribution Machine

Many years ago, I worked for a mercifully short period of time in an office building. It was an interesting experience at first but it didn’t take long for the shine to wear off. Having spent so much of my life in close proximity to ripped Levis and steel-toed boots, I just assumed that a workplace noted for starched cotton shirts and men’s perfume would have more to offer in the categories of intelligence, honesty and civility. It appears that no amount of education will ever undo a hundred thousand years of natural selection (six thousand years for my gawd fearing friends). I have plenty to say about well-spoken liars and mealy-mouthed ass kissers but that will have to wait until another day because this post is about practical jokes.

Forgetting for a moment the misery of being cooped up with self-important nimrods and having to breathe their rank recycled air, I did meet a few people that I still consider good friends. None of them were natural born practical-jokers but they did ok for beginners. The gags started out small and fairly painless but eventually escalated to a level that could not be sustained. I knew the end was near when I walked into my little office to find what appeared to be a hundred pounds or so of trash piled everywhere. It was a simplistic gag but funny nonetheless. Then I noticed that several files that had been on my desk, files representing days of mind numbing data entry, had been dispersed in and around the detritus. The mound of trash consisted primarily of thousands of legal sized sheets of paper printed with black nondescript text. My missing documents fit the same description. I was so screwed. I used the downtime to plan my response.

The ring leader of that particular crime was a man of impressive dimensions, twelve feet tall with hands the size of ham-shanks. He was well over a thousand pounds of pure, unbridled teddy bear. Ok, he wasn’t that big, but he was big enough to warrant embellishment. I guess I could just hand over the cold hard data, but I think that would constitute negligence on my part. So that you might truly understand the enormity of this man’s physical presence, I submit the following.
I’m not a man hugger but every now and then I bow to social conscript and hug a man, always finishing with a hetero-style triple pat on the back. The triple pat is a common move that most men, even if they don’t use it, are familiar with. George Bush uses it on men and grieving widows alike. It is a maneuver that conveys the sentiment, “I’m hugging you but I’m not getting a boner.” There is a more modern version of the “homophobe hug” that protects against the accidental bumping of pee pees by employing a cross-the-body handshake. This method is fraught with affected machismo and is typically shunned by older males. Anyway, I did hug the big man once but a proper execution of the triple back pat was not possible due to the planetary scale of his person. I simply couldn’t reach around that far so I ended up patting him somewhere between his left nipple and armpit. I was terrified that he might think I was coming on to him and when I am terrified, I get a boner. We have never spoken of that event; he is truly a man of poise and decorum.

I have nothing but respect for the big man and I would almost never consider public humiliation an appropriate response to a practical joke, but he wouldn’t let up. He started sneaking up behind me during lunch excursions and hugging me. It was actually more grapple than hug, but to the random spectator, it was so much more than that. It typically went like this: He grabs me. I struggle. All heads turn in our direction. He looks at me like a porn star getting ready for the money shot and then he blows me a kiss. He finally stopped doing it when I retaliated by attaching myself to his leg at the checkout counter in a Soup-R-Salad. I felt like a Chihuahua dry-humping a redwood tree. He decided his little gag had run its course and we spoke no further of it.

Time passed and he thought I had forgotten about the paper incident. All the while, I was planning and building the Retribution Machine. The machine itself was an over-engineered manifestation of an anal inclination to convert two-dimensional pieces of metal into three dimensional objects, mostly for utilitarian purposes. The Retribution Machine started out as a flat sheet of light gauge galvanized sheet metal, a short length of pre-punched angle iron and a box of bolts, rivets and plastic tubing. For all of the resources expended in its construction, it was destined to be used as nothing more than a diversion, a gadget intended to clear the decks for the coup-de-grace.

-------------------------Back Side-------------------------
This is the Retribution Machine. It is a trip wire triggered device that sets off two cans of Silly String and an air horn. I originally designed it as a remotely controlled tracked vehicle, like a little tank, but I ran out of time and had to deploy it to active duty before completing the motorized carriage.

On his day of reckoning, I took the big man’s office door off its hinges and hid it in the file room to make sure it didn’t interfere with my setup. I then removed the fluorescent tubes from the overhead lights and closed the blinds. I tied the blind cords into knots and tucked them away out of reach, all except for one, the cord I wanted my friendly giant to tug on. I had just finished setting the trap and was sitting at his desk admiring my work when I heard a noise and looked up to see him standing at the doorway. He noticed the door was gone, saw me sitting in the dark, and knew something was up. He surveyed the office from a safe distance just outside the doorway. After checking overhead for the old water bucket gag and then hitting the light switch to no avail, he hesitated, allowing his eyes to grow accustomed to the dark. Then he saw the Retribution Machine sitting on the desk a few feet away. After a short study of the situation, he narrowed his eyes and grinned, nodding his head slightly as if to say, “Not this time buddy.” Then he crossed the threshold. The five-pound monofilament fishing line serving as trip wire made contact at mid torso and began to stretch as he moved forward. I thought it might snap before putting my plan into motion. I saw the thin crease in his shirt deepen as the line pulled tight; surely he would notice and back off. As it turned out, he did not notice and the line held as long as it needed to hold. The smug look on his face gave way to wide eyes and gaping mouth. The blaring horn froze him in his tracks long enough for my twin cans of Silly String to cover his face, shoulders and belly with wet slimy gunk.
Phase one: Check!

Mr. “Poise & Decorum” closed his mouth and quickly regained his composure. “Yeah” he said, “I saw that coming from a mile away.” I said nothing as he moved toward the blinds. He searched for, but could not find, the cord for the first blind and then moved a few feet to his right, reaching for the only available string. As I said, the Retribution Machine was only a diversion, a setup for a much more primitive device nesting overhead. Had he looked up, he would have seen that the ceiling tiles had been shifted slightly but he would not have seen the container holding about two pounds of gold, silver and blue glitter. He pulled the cord. Time really does appear to slow down in moments of danger. It also slows down when a glitter bomb goes off. I watched as the initial wad of glitter made contact with his head, exploding in a shower of sparkles. I was amazed at how long it took for the cascade to end. He turned towards me, his hair and beard glistening in the low light, and said “OK, you win.” He was still sparkling like a Party Glitter Barbie Doll days later. I had sprung far more elaborate traps, but that one was one of the most satisfying.

What brought all this to mind is our ongoing problem with thieves in the neighborhood. From 1976 to 1989 I lived in a seriously high crime area. Vigilance was a daily affair but even so, rarely a week passed that some crime or another didn’t spill over into my general area of concern. Regarding this current batch of neighborhood shoppers, I’m not surprised in the least and I’m reasonably sure I can knock a dent in this little crime wave without causing any major bodily harm (legal issues), and even more importantly, without painting a big fat target on our house (common sense). I toyed with the thought of rigging up something like an industrial sized chicken plucker and I have to say that the thought of a thieving jackass hanging naked and upside down from a tree in our front yard gives me a warm feeling deep down inside. Gotta be civilized about it though. A retaliatory response is currently in the design phase.