Legally Bombed on the Poop Train

In the sixties cult classic, The King of Hearts, a Scottish soldier played by the late Alan Bates is dispatched by his commander to a small French village to diffuse bombs left behind by Nazis.  Once there, he tries to convince the townspeople of their imminent peril but they could give a rat’s ass.  Instead they insist on dressing in costumes and holding a carnival in the streets. 

At some point he realizes that he’s actually dealing with the patients of the local insane asylum. The other villagers fled to safety before his arrival, leaving the crazies behind.

Last Friday, aside from the usual “Trump fumes in tweet threat,” this was the headline in our local paper that first caught my eye: “Legally Bombed.”  It referred to the annual 4/20 Fest happening in Golden Gate Park.  This festival has been going on for years but this was the first time it was officially legal.  Yes, finally Gram and Gramps can smoke their weed in peace and we don’t have to worry about posting bail.

  

Then my eyes fell on this gem: “S.F. toilet monitor becomes a hero.” In San Francisco, public toilets or “pit stops” are so notorious for drug overdoses that they must be monitored by an actual human being.  So if you’re in SF and decide to use a pit stop, be aware that someone is counting how long it takes you to pee. I’m not sure what the accepted norm is, but don’t dawdle. Despite my snarkiness, this was actually a sweet story about an ex-con who saved the lives of two alleged junkies and was honored by the city.  No ticker tape parade but a commendation and a new uniform.

The next scratch-your-head-till-it-bleeds headline came from the great state of Alabama where they just executed an 83 year old man for the mail-bomb slaying of a federal judge back in 1989.  If they’d had him in prison for so long, why wait until he’s got one foot in the grave anyway? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. The last sentence of the article was the kicker:  He did not respond when an official asked if he had any last words.  Indeed.

But, boys and girls, I’ve saved the most bizarre news item for last. In addition to executing 83 year olds, Alabama is the final resting place for New York City’s poop. The residents of tiny Parrish found this out the hard way when one of the “poop trains” used to transport the shit sat on tracks outside their town for two months.Ten million pounds of poop left sitting in Alabama’s humid climate. It must have smelt heavenly. There is a plus to poop, of course. Shit processing provides jobs which the state desperately needs. But, who did the residents of Parrish blame the stench on? Lax environmental laws? The fact that their officials had no plan to transport the shit from the trains to the landfill?  No. You got it. The elite liberals of New York.  I can’t wait till Trump finds out.  What do you think he’ll tweet?

It’s time to find that insane asylum, folks, and beg for admittance.  By the way, Happy Earth Day. May you never find a poop train in your backyard.

The Prisoner of Twisselburg

I don’t generally share upsetting news with my online friends because that’s not why I started this blog.  I started it because my now-defunct publisher told me it was the way to sell books.  The theory being, if you could get people to like you then they’d buy your books.

You don’t have to say it.  I will.  What a load of crap. 

But by the time I made that stunning revelation I was hooked.  Today I literally blog more than I write and from what I’ve read buzzing about the hive, I’m not the only one.

However certain things I just don’t like to write about such as Joel’s disease (chronic couch potatoitis) or the acute pain in my gluteus maximus (the result of my bizarre sleeping habits).  Don’t get me wrong. I think bloggers who write candidly about issues such as depression and chronic pain do a great service and should be applauded for the bravery and candor.  I’m just not one of them.  Uptight? You betcha.  It’s those Puritan genes.  You know, skeletons staying in closets, dirty laundry staying in the hamper.

But today I cannot contain my grief.  I’ve eaten all the saltines in the house, stuffed them into my mouth and chewed them into mush and still that’s not enough.  The bottomless void in my heart  has migrated to my stomach and it’s all over now Baby Blue, bring on the Tamborine Man. 

You see, dear friends, my cat hates me. Absolutely despises me.  Wouldn’t give the sweat off his balls (if he had them) to save me from eternal damnation. Of course, I’m not entirely sure he ever liked me but at least he would let me pet him during a full moon cycle at precisely five o’clock in the kitchen as he sniffed my gin and tonic hoping to get lucky.  Now, nothing.  Not even a look in my direction.  It’s tense here, friends, very tense. 

It all started when the back door was inadvertently left ajar and out he walked, tail high in the air like a question mark.  I became aware of his escape when he strutted past the window and looked in at me, a little surprised at his own brilliance, “Holy Shit, I outsmarted you bozos.” 

Once free, no amount of “Here Kitty” would entice him back in. He promptly found the nearest mud puddle and had himself a spa day and then, when the sun set and it started to get cold, finally submitted to Joel’s pleas.

I don’t know what the hell was in that mud but he returned a changed kitty.   Arrogant and bossy.  Demanding to be let out and when told no, a damn pain in the patootie and, as I previously mentioned, my patootie already has a pain.

“You used to have a pet, humans, now you have a caged beast who hates you. And don’t try buttering me up with various cat treats and toys. It wouldn’t work as long as I’m condemned to your lousy lockup!” Woe is me. On a positive note, the calla lilies are blooming.

On a Fine Day

On a fine day,
I took a walk in the hills with a friend.

Someone I’ve known for a long time and with whom
I’ve shared many ups and downs.

We even dated the same fellow and
worked at various times for each other
which is the true test of any friendship
and there were times, ah yes, many times. . .
I was sure our friendship was no more.

Offshore a storm was posed to strike
one rumored to slowly pass and drench the hills,
and flood the coast.
But we did not talk about the weather.
Only of the silly things,
the frogs in a nearby pond frozen to silence
by the loudness of her laugh.
Frogs are shy, don’t you know?
The way horses read your feelings
(through your butt bones).
And our adventures with cannabis,
now that it is legal.

And we ended as we always do,
finding it hard to say goodbye.

Adventures in a Nash Rambler

I was too young to drive when I marched for the first time. I was also too young to understand the complexities of the so-called “conflict in Vietnam.” I only knew we were sending young men to die in a country on the other side of world; a country that didn’t seem to pose any real threat to the United States.  My father’s refrain (shared with most of his generation) was “when you’re asked to serve your country you just go. No questions asked.” Which seemed to be a stupid thing to do.

There were no anti-war marches planned in my hometown of Reno Nevada for two reasons. One, the good ole boys, who were proud they couldn’t even find Vietnam on a map, would have loved an excuse to commence a shootin’ party on the nerds who actually planned to graduate from high school.  And two, the city fathers would have loved  to advertise that Reno was “the place where them damn anti-war protestors got what was coming to them.”

From estuarypress.com

San Francisco, that was where it was all happening. So I hitched a ride to the City with my best friend, her father, and Dr. Mole (not his real name but what he looked like). The drive required us to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains which at any time of the year is a crap shoot (just ask the Donner Party) and sure enough we encountered heavy snow just past the summit and could barely see the road.  Then the radio, which had been iffy since we left Truckee, suddenly sparked to life.

The song that brought the radio to life was “If You’re Going to San Francisco.” I saw this miraculous coincidence as a validation that my deception had the cosmic seal of approval. You see, my parents thought I was going to a book fair with a friend who was an A+ student, her father who was a noted Chaucer scholar, and the dean emeritus of the philosophy department. Had my father known that I’d lied and I was on my way to an anti-war march with two socialist-leaning democrats, he would have had me locked up. 

After dropping Dr. Mole off at a shabby Victorian belonging to his elderly mother, the Chaucer scholar, A+ student and I checked into a motel near the UC Berkeley. It was one of those motels on University that generally rented rooms on an hourly basis which only sharpened the perceived danger of our escapade.  

In the morning we wandered around the campus where other anti-war rallies were being held and then met Dr. Mole at Moe’s Books on Telegraph. Moe’s is the sort of place that caters to obscure classics and rare out of print books. In other words, nirvana for any academic so soon both men were lost in the dusty back shelves. We had to constantly remind them about the march.

View from the water

If you’ve never been to San Francisco, there are only two ways to really appreciate the skyline for the first time; either by crossing the Bay Bridge or taking the ferry from Larkspur to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Some people may argue for the Golden Gate approach and I wouldn’t say they’re wrong but you don’t really get the whole skyline and it was spectacular on that day.

The parade started in the city’s crowded financial district and meandered up to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate park.  I don’t remember anything other than marching behind a flat bed truck from which Country Joe and the Fish played acoustic guitars and led cheers but it’s not a short distance and there are steep hills along the way.  Today that walk would kill me.  I do remember poor Dr. Mole complaining mightily when we finally reached the stadium and found a seat but it didn’t take him long to revive once the speakers began describing the horrors of a totally unnecessary war.  For such a little man, he could really let it be known how he felt “No More War!”

We drove back to Reno that night; this time there was fog on the summit and ice on the road.The old Nash Rambler’s electrical system shorted out somewhere along the Truckee and we had to stop while the two men, neither or whom had any mechanical skills, tried to figure out why the lights were no longer working. But the gods spared us that night, the lights miraculously came back on, and we all lived to tell the tale. However, after my father found out about my adventure, peaceful dinners at our house were officially a thing of the past. 

As I watched the recent marches for stricter gun control, I thought about the arguments my father and I had almost nightly during those years. What a waste. I hope that’s not a scene played out in the home of any young marcher but sadly, it probably is. 

I never thought back in the sixties that I’d be marching in my actual sixties…  Just goes to show that the fates are fickle and love to play a good prank or two on our sorry selves.

From the Solemn Gloom of the Temple

From the solemn gloom of the temple
children run out to sit in the dust,
God watches them play
and forgets the priest.
– Rabindranath Tagore

On an unstable day filled with hail bursts and wind gusts and a lightening strike or two, I watched Bill Maher’s movie Religulous.  It was, in a word, horrifying.  A horrification most likely amplified by the weather. Luckily the tree which always threatened to wipe out our house in such weather is gone.  Sadly, so is neighbor who refused to chop it down. But I didn’t do it.  Honest.  His was a natural death.

Bill Maher is a comedian with a nighttime talkshow which is, like all talkshows these days, highly politicized. He’s also famous for being an outspoken atheist and pot smoker.  Religulous (an anagram of religious and ridiculous) is basically about people whose beliefs cannot be swayed by any amount of logic. I don’t know how he rounded those folks up. That must have been some casting call.  

I’ve known and worked with Muslims, Jews, Sufis, Hindus, Witches, Satanists, Atheists, Agnostics and Transpeople of all varieties.  Not to mention a plethora of Christians.  Most did not feel the need to convince me that their path was the only one.  Oh, one particular Charismatic Catholic claimed that God had a message for me through her and it wasn’t good news. But since she specialized in only channeling dire warnings from the Supreme Being about my fate in the hereafter, I didn’t pay much attention. Although when you’re a child, it’s always upsetting to be bullied by God’s Special Whisperer.

Which brings me back to, how did Bill Maher find so many people who have no doubt they are absolutely right? The Bible was written by God; Mary was a virgin, Jonas lived in a whale and Jesus never had sex.  And if you doubt any one of these “facts” you are going to hell, even if you follow the commandments to the letter.

To me, this is intolerance and bullying. Because. . . 

I hope your celebration of spring is full of love and completely devoid of any discussion of hell.

#ThursdayDoors: Gardens and Lotus Eaters

Guess where I found this door.

I’ll give you a clue.  When the rains finally give way to glorious sun-filled days, where do you generally tend to stray?  The bank? The dentist? Or perhaps you wander down the street to a place where you can buy seeds to plant and birdbaths for your friends.

A place decorated for Easter and Halloween and all holidays in between, where you can ask why your calla lilies didn’t bloom this year or get fertilizer tips for a picky Bird of Paradise.

I must admit, the first days of spring you’ll likely find me hanging out on the Isle of the Lotus Eaters waiting for Odysseus to arrive and shake me out of my stupor. Perhaps then I’ll have more to share with the doors folks over at Norm’s who’ve made Thursdays an around the world adventure.

A tip for time travel

I keep dreaming up stupider and stupider ideas for the ending of The Return of Flipka.  My latest had her time traveling from 1978 to 2016 as a part of an FBI plot to stop the presidency of Donald Trump  and yes, aliens were involved. Obviously I’m in a slump.  If the weather were better I’d forget my writing gig and go down to the teahouse and paint.  But the teahouse has no heat.

I write this sniveling, whiny post while listening to Rachmaninoff, someone so gifted that he could not possibly have ever suffered from writer’s block.  Or so one would think.

Of course, he did. As a young man he needed therapy for a depression that plagued him for four years and came and went  throughout his life. One of his most famous pieces, The Bells, was inspired by another famously depressed artist, Edgar Allen Poe. 

I don’t know nearly as much about classical music as I’d like but luckily my husband once belonged to one of those CD of the month clubs. I don’t know why as most of the hundred or so CDs he received are still wrapped in plastic but his loss is my gain. So now I’m going through composer by composer and trying to learn something about each one.

First I was hooked on Bach (whose birthday is coincidentally today).  His compositions aren’t as rhapsodic and soulful as Rachmaninoff but it is possible to listen to them over and over again. Try listening repeatedly to Rachmaninoff’s  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, I dare you.  That piece is so achingly romantic it’s been used as the sound track for many a movie, including Somewhere in Time

In this movie, for those of you who haven’t seen it, Christopher Reeve is a playwright who’s approached after his debut show by an elderly woman who hands him a pocket watch and says “come back to me.” He forgets about the incident until, while on vacation, he becomes obsessed with the portrait of a woman who lived in the early 1900s.  Many plot convulsions later he manages to hypnotize himself and go back in time and meet her. Unfortunately he can’t stay back in time forever.  He has to return to present day where he finds out his true love has just died of old age. After this point the plot goes into an infinite loop of past and present spinning like tops and all because of a little self-hypnotism. 

Okay, I guess my time travel idea for the Return of Flipka is not so crazy after all, is it?  (yes, it is!)