Sunday, April 30, 2006

casualties of cleanup

We did some real cleanup in the backyard yesterday. When I said we have some weed trees, I mean we have 8 or 9, full-fledged, 25-30 feet tall, vine-matted trees weaving in and out of electrical and phone cables. This is a job for ladder, rope, Sawzall and fortitude. Not to mention a deep respect for danger and an understanding of physics and engineering. We removed two of the biggest trees on the side of the house. I can't believe I can lift my arms to the keyboard this morning.

The last tree limb we pulled out of the jungle had a nest. Didn't see it until the three (plop, plop, plop) baby birds landed on the soft grass. I am no more zookeeper than farmer, so I was alarmed and awash with guilt. Barbara, calm lover-of-all-things-helpless-and-small told me to go get some gloves and a shoebox. I bounded inside and got the things. She lifted the now empty nest out of the downed limb and carefully placed the almost fully-feathered birdlets back into it. We placed it on some bowers up on air conditioning unit cage near the downed tree. Birds have nested there before and it seemed safer from cats and squirrels than anyplace else we could reach. Then, we waited. The parental birds (I assume...not seeing any resemblance outside my ignorant, prejudicial: all brownish birds look alike) circled, scolded and fretted. We went inside and finally, the mother bird came down and began feeding her relocated offspring. I may not be in touch with Nature, but I get walloped by guilt if I create orphans.

All is well. The three little mockingbirds (more guilt) or sparrows (slightly less) seem to be fine. We've seen them fed a number of times and they made it through the night just fine. We are going to add more protective foliage next time the parents go foraging. I think the little critters are a little too exposed.

Oh, and a stinkbug startled me during the earlier demolition. (I suspect the degree of startle on its part was slightly higher than mine but it's so hard to tell...their 1-inch armored bodies are so aggressive-looking) Suppressed the yelping noise I wanted to make. I'm not truly afraid of bugs (okay, wasps make me want to pee in my pants) or reptiles, I just hate the surprise aspect. Which is why Nature continues to creep up on me. Nature loves a good joke and I'm a walking temptation.

P.S. Found a fourth baby bird this morning. Jesuschrist. The runt of the clutch (that sounds wrong...maybe there's another word for runt when you're not talking about a litter) had nestled in the root system of the downed tree. It was cold and I thought it was a goner. Barbara put it back in the nest but it was too weak to hold its own, so she brought it inside and it has made something of an amazing come-back. It is eating worms like a champ and making the appropriate squeaky noises. I'm still not sure it can survive but we'll see. The other three in the nest are completely okay, eating and squawking like they'd never been tossed out.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

logic and passion

Whenever I get enraged, a little voice in me asks, "why?" Why are you so mad? Does this issue or event threaten you? Frighten you? Make you feel small and insecure?

Sometimes, I tell the little voice to fuck off. Sometimes, I think about it.

If anger is just a displaced emotion masking the fears of the inner-child, or if it is just a response borne of ignorance, where then, is the virtue in passion? Most important decisions need to have as much emotional volatility drained from them as possible before proceding. We don't think clearly when we're hysterical. But not all of the visceral should be eviscerated. It's a critical ingredient in our humanity.

So, why am I so angry? You sigh, patient reader, what is it this time? Please, bear with me for a moment.

If the goal of enlightenment is to lose fear and its red-faced frontman anger, then peace becomes that elusive and difficult to understand state of nothingness. What place in Nirvana is there for passion?

Today's catalyst, and it is–godhelpme–just one of of many issues from the past week, is the hysteria surrounding the national anthem sung in Spanish.
Nuestro Himno. Will somebody please explain to me what the fuck is wrong with this country and our president? Last I checked, nobody was uprooting English as our national language. Nobody was suggesting that the national anthem in Spanish was intended to supplant the original, British-drinking-tune-turned-anthem, Star Spangled Banner.

Our beloved melting pot is not diminished by immigrants singing their love for this country in their
first language. No matter how multi-lingual an individual is, the language that expresses their deepest sentiments best is usually their primary one. This is not rocket science. It's simple logic. This does not mean that they will be discouraged from learning English as a second language in order to function best in this thick-headed, monolingual nation. All it is is an expression of love for their adopted country. WTF is the problem here?

Furthermore, Bush is an
idiot. An idiot extraordinaire. The largest minority in this country, the Hispanics, has the inexplicably largest pro-Republican bloc. Now, I am not blind to the idiocy of politicians, Democrats included. And a very wise man one said (and I paraphrase) that it would be better to be slave to an owner who cares only for his business than be indentured to an overseer who wants to save/improve/help you. There is something to be said for trusting the motives of greed over benevolence. But I digress. My point is that Hispanics supported Bush in this state as if he and the majority of his Republican redneck/bluebloods gave a rusty fuck about their brown skins, outside of their laborer ability to do grunt work quietly, of course. Okay, so why would even the most dimwitted politician step into this ridiculous non-issue and state that the national anthem should be sung in English. English only, one would conclude. Why?

I'm pissed and can't seem to talk myself into the calm peace of "this too shall pass." I am a twin disciple of Logic and Passion. So much creativity is borne out of violence and upheaval. So much of what we see as exalted forms of expression: music, art, literature, dance, etc. is nourished by the passion that threatens to explode the artist if it is not released. And so much damage is done in the heat of passion. So much is destroyed out of fear and ignorance.

So, I don't know what else to say except that, for me, this flies in the face of both Logic and Passion. Kudos to Adam Kidron. If his motive is to make money, as some detractors claim, then he is sadly more the American for it. Many people are also comparing any other country's reaction to having their national anthem sung in another language. I say, once again,
horseshit. No other nation represents the amalgam of cultures the way the United States does. So those comparisons are weak. We are a nation of immigrants.

If Vietnamese-Americans, Pakistani-Americans, Armenian-Americans, etc. all sang our national anthem in their native tongues, nothing would make me prouder to be an citizen of the United States.

P.S. Just when I thought I was destined to stew in my state of pissed-off-ness for the day, my friend Lori called and asked if I'd ever listened to the show then playing on NPR. She thought I would like it, so I tuned in. She was right. The program "Says You" is all about word usage and wordplay. It delighted me, silly word-nerd that I am, and I welcomed the break from fury. Perhaps I worship three gods: Logic, Passion and Humor. I am unbalanced without the third.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

a fine tribute to cheap

After the Sawzall's 1-hour debut (see previous entry), we cleaned up and headed out to The Alley to see a play. One of the benefits of working in advertising at a major urban newspaper is that there are always free tickets in the offing. I was able to snatch up some passes to see Moliere's The Miser.

What a delightful play. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The set, staging and costumes were great. The play itself is timeless. I enjoy going to plays all over town but what a contrast to the smaller companies this was. Not because it was grander–because it would have worked in a smaller venue–but because The Alley attracts stronger actors. The lead Harpagon (played by Steven Epp) was excellent in his delivery and timing. This unattractive skinflint was actually able to curry affection from the audience. The other actors were fine and their characters fairly well-developed. I particularly like the way voice modulation was used to enhance the comedy. One scene showed the servants filling the miser's bath water from the stagnant water that had collected on the roof. Now that was a bit of clever staging.

The beautiful irony was that it didn't cost us a penny.

her maiden voyage

So we took the Sawzall out back for her debut. Too clear the back 40 (sq ft) more or less.

There are weed trees all over the yard that testify to my nonagrarian lifestyle. One such tree in the alley was a roadblock to good scraping and sanding so it had to go. Or at least most of it. I had hoped to Paul Bunyan the bastard but unfortunately, it was more like the legendary logger than I...way taller than I had realized. And there were far too many cables, power lines and whatnot woven in and out of its branches.

But we were undaunted. The two blades provided are called "Wrecker" and "Torch," a testament to why marketing, in all its unctuousness, exists and works. I picked up the coarser-bladed Wrecker and started on the lower branches. Like butter. Even while on a ladder (well-placed and with a spotter—but still a little wobbly being that high up with a machine that can saw up to 3000 strokes per minute) I was able to lop off the offending arms and clear the area. Sawdust showering me and the unsettled insect hordes teeming (oh, you buddhists, don't worry there's greenery aplenty for the gnats to regroup in) I held that small, weighty destruction machine and tried to smile without parting my lips.

In less than an hour most of that tree was in heavy-trash sized pieces and so was a lattice frame on the side of the house. And some railroad ties. And several branches I'd passed on the way to the curb. I had to make myself unplug the thing so as not to bite off more than I could chew. A reciprocating saw...everything I'd hoped it would be.

If the fence or trees in my backyard were sentient, they would all be fearing for their lives. They would tremble as my newly opened eyes examined them for optimal destruction points. This is better, forgive my disloyalty, than the beloved whack-a-mole.

Monday, April 24, 2006

tools and eunuchs

This past weekend we finally got our collective asses in gear and began to take down the screens on the garage apartment in preparation for the painter, who begins scraping and sanding today. Our plans are to rebuild these ancient screens and put them back up after the painting is done. When you start a project, you begin to notice twenty other items that need your attention. Which is why getting the ball rolling is so invigorating and overwhelming.

Anyway, there's a lot of destruction to be done–foliage and structures to be cut down–which necessitated/inspired the purchase of a tool. A tool I have been pining for, lo these many years. I am now the proud owner of a Milwaukee Super Sawzall. I really can't tell you how excited I am about this because everyone to whom I've already waxed rhapsodic loses interest after about 10 seconds. It's okay, I understand. Not everyone sees power tools as I do. I'm just telling you, this thing's a beauty and I may take it, in its spiffy new case, to show & tell.

We also watched King Kong this past weekend. It was entertaining and more fun than I'd expected. Those prehistoric bug scenes were ten kinds of creepy, though. Giant centipedes and 4-foot wide spiders are just the mental imagery that I don't need before climbing into bed. My only complaint was with Kong himself. Oh, the animatronics were stupendous. Never once did I look at his movements and think, "oh you can almost see the mechanical structure...or is that a bit of untufted webbing the tyrannasaurus left behind?" No, it was more about the big picture. Here you have the most agressive, virile ape filling the screen and what is missing? Kong the magnificent is a eunuch. No balls, no dick. He stands atop the Empire State Building beating his chest in triumph and between his massive legs is...nothing. I know the motion picture industry and the people in this country would not have allowed the portrayal of twelve foot simian genitalia further enlarged by the giant screen. We are such pathetic hypocrites when it comes to stuff like that. Because of that, during the first hundred films made for the populous break that barrier, our eyes will be glued to the enormous package. But eventually, we'll get over the fixation and start watching movies not for a glimpse of the forbidden but for the story. Until then, our mythical beasts will remain foolishly neutered.

Friday, April 14, 2006

just tattoo an xy on his tiny forehead

Two of my favorite people, Chris "New Guy" and Katie (blogger extraordinaire had a baby. A 9lb 12oz little boy. Which is a lot of baby and just what happens when you mix the DNA of two rather tall (6'+) people.

Anyway, I wanted to get something for the littlest new guy, so I walked to a downtown department store during lunch today.

Shopping for babies is one of the areas that I come dangerously close to traditional straight womanhood. What's not to love? Everything is all miniature and shit. But it's been awhile since the last time I'd bought baby stuff. Or I have selective amnesia about the experience.

Babies are, on the genitalia-covered surface, essentially unisex. And to all those people who coo about their newborns being brawny all-boy or dainty all-girl, I say horseshit. I've seen those babies and gender is totally in the eye of the beholder. Cross-dress the little darlings and I promise you folks will swear that your little butch is the belle of the baby ball.

Nowhere does our gender-bias appear more rigid than in baby clothes (including the quantity aspect—there are 4 baby girl togs to every 1 baby boy outfit). The stereotyping is somewhat more inflexible for the male of the species than the female but that's just splitting baby-fine hairs. I found myself singing, "Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be homos;" so frantically heterosexual were the selections. Half the boy's outfits were ablaze with athletic, superhero or fireman symbols. The other half were shrunken versions of executive-wear...complete with the ubiquitous embroidered Ralph Lauren horse: oxford cloth crawlers, tiny khaki cargo shorts with coordinated Polo shirts, etc. Not a hint of the metrosexual here.

I find myself wondering why we don't beef up the "package" on infant boys' Pampers so they can wear snug onesies with pride. You half expect these tykes to rip the head off of Winnie-the-Pooh and perfect-spiral-throw Pooh's decapitated body into the endzone, all while highstepping those rubbery little legs to a Souza march. Or, crawl into an MBA seminar after napping on the yacht all morning and sucking down imported non-fat milk out of an ergonomic bottle picked up at The Sharper Image.

Okay, I bought the yacht outfit. Couldn't find any overalls that weren't bastardized by embroidered manliness. Furthermore, this one is just a blue & yellow striped shirt and plain white cotton pants...

I'd lose the faggy yellow belt, though.

Welcome to the world, Henry Todd. Sorry for the limited clothing selection.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

insanity sans sangre

I really hate to admit this. Because I hate to have my reactions discounted and chalked up to hormones, but truth is my hormones had a slapfest with me.

I was lulled into a false sense of security that without the monthly egg drop and its endocrine magic/madness, I would be lounging safely on a placid shore opposite Mt. PMS. Well, just switch the pre with post. I know, I know, many women still cycle without the bloody mess. Guess I'd had a mini sabbatical and forgot.

Goddammit I can preamble the fuck out of a subject.

Okay, so today I was hostile, hungry and hypersensitive. Put that together with that vague feeling of physical discomfort and bingo, I was cycling without any proof of purchase.

Describing what this is like to men is a little hobby of mine. I like trying to find an analogy that makes sense even though the quest is probably asymptotic: you may never get there but you might get damned close.

When a person has a migraine or a hangover (or both) they can become hyper aware of light, sounds and jarring movement. When I had/have a visit from my surging hormonal system, I become hypersensitized to morons. The sound and drivel of irritating people (that I usually try to ignore) suddenly becomes DEAFENING. I pray for a slugfest so I can join in the fray and work out some of this quite stunning hostility.

When the desire to pop someone recedes, I'm left with a surly feeling of isolation. Another lovely and pleasant incarnation. Throughout this little exercise is the pervasive and overwhelming urge to an earthworm through soil. If you saw me you would think that's how I achieved such impressive, some might say awe-inspiring, rubenesqueness. But you would be wrong. On a normal day (as opposed to this mock/stealth/pseudo pre-period crapulence) I'm content with my bowl of soup and diet coke at lunch. At most, I indulge in an afternoon snack bag of pretzels. Not so today. No. Pity the carbohydrate-protein-sugar-fat that wanders unknowingly into my path.

So that's the way it was. My reaction to life may be more controlled without the estrogen shot (like tequila only more...homicidal) but nowhere near as honest. I told my good friend Dave that he would know I was leaving the building when the whistled sound of "the sun will come out tomorrow" wafted over to his office from the stairwell.

Which reminds me...the last player in the Hostile-Hungry-Hypersensitive foursome is Sarcasm. It ruins the alliteration but knows no better name. Slicing, dripping, sharp-tongued Sarcasm. And you should hear all the things that I filter out. Scathing shit that never sees the light of day. I hold the worst of it back because I'm just that fucking sensitive.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

pain relief extraordinaire

I have an ulcer incubator for a stomach. Not unlike many people, my digestive track produces enough acid for more than one person. One might say, snidely, I was making acid for two, if one was jealous of my precocious menopause. I wonder if my Darwinian purpose is to digest leather or tree stalks. But I digress.

The result of this digestive zealousness is not, as Gollum puled about the rope around his neck, that "it burns us." Heartburn from reflux may result in acrid backwash but that's not usually what happens to me. Instead my stomach muscles spasm. Incredibly painful spasms that can last for 15 minutes or 3 hours...depending on whether I catch it on time.

My medication usually keeps this in check but not always. Why it happens is a combination of things predictable and inexplicable but that's not really my point. You know when you have a bitch of a headache and it's all you can do to concentrate on something else? Then, at some point you realize it's gone. Ditto for having the flu—although the timeframe is stretched—the abatement of misery is gradual enough that you don't notice the change. Not so with these corrosive chemicals. The pain comes on like being repeatedly punched in the stomach. At some point I feel the blows slow, then, noticeably stop. It's that moment. That moment when the pain quickly fades into nothing that is so fascinating. The cessation of pain is exquisite. For a moment I wonder if sado-masochism is not about hurting but about the feeling you get when it stops.

No, I'm not ordering nipple clamps online or anything but I admit that consciously crossing over the threshold of intense pain into the blissful absence of pain is incredible.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

how many nuns would a nunchuck chuck

So I got this thing in the mail. It's a Nunchuck. You hold it in your hand like a water pistol and it catapults small plastic nuns across the room. I love it. I've hung it on my wall in a place of honor—next to G-Force Jesus. The thing is, I don't know who sent it. I suspect it's one of my small cadre of readers.

What humbles me, she says ironically, is that I realize that the pool of potential gift-givers of this ilk is a large percentage of my small, twisted group of friends. For that I am very grateful. Now, which one of you is culprit?
I love a mystery as much as the next heretic but it's time to 'fess up, people.

By the by, I also got a small eraser (freebie gift) of Holly Hostess with her
Parasite Pal®, Tickles the Tapeworm, embedded in her stomach. I'm saving that one for a special gift. (You can take Tickles out and use it separately, too!)

POSTSCRIPT: Aha! The winner is my oh-so-funny brother-in-law, Robert. What a great guy.