A Little Bit Of Dirt
"and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless." J.M. Barrie, at the end of his novel "Peter Pan"
I recently finished reading "Peter Pan" and was a little surprised at how murderous the children were or were represented to be. If I ever read it as a child, it must've been some cardboard Little Golden Book version. I've gotten so used, in this century, to seeing children in children's books represented with kid gloves or as sweet little lambs, this old-fashioned Peter Pan is bit of a relief. Of course, Peter Pan isn't represented as purely mean, but he and the other Lost Boys are cutthroat. The author doesn't worry about that, though, never getting very far from the idea that this is all a children's fantasy and that, in the minds of little boys, cutting off arms isn't very real and killing pirates by the boatload isn't anything very wicked. Neither Peter nor the Lost Boys care a whit if they should kill Captain Hook or if the alligator should chew and eat the Captain whole. They climb and they fall, they slaughter and they laugh, they get caught and barely escape, the worst bunch of little boys in all of Neverland!
I'm glad I read it; those memories of the bloodless sweet natured non-threatening almost purely good Disney version of Peter Pan and Wendy and the Boys lingering in my head were too antiseptic by far. The Disney version was funny and well drawn, but a little bit of dirt and grime and chopping off of heads is good for youany boy will tell you.
Friday, December 31, 2004
A Little Bit Of Dirt
Thursday, December 30, 2004
It was an ill-starred day, the day after Christmas, when a powerful wave of water hit the coastal areas of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and a host of smaller locations in Southeast Asia. The effect of that wave has not stopped yet in terms of damage and harm it will do. I have to think that everyone on the planet considers Asia's recent disaster as something horrible. It is horrible even from this great distancemy own location here in Texas being on the opposite side of the earth. But for those who are there, it must be like having a bad star hanging in the sky above them all the time these past several days. It will probably be much the same for days, weeks, and months to come. The population of ordinary citizens of this Pacific Rim area are uncertain if another quake and tsunami might follow, or how many survivors may die of disease to come and injuries already sustained.
I remember hearing the numbers on TV. The first time someone said that Thailand had had over 200 deaths. Then they said it was 2,200. That was serious, though it was a large landmass, so I took it with a sigh. Next I heard the totals for all of the Asian countriesIndia around to Thailand, and down to Africa had gone up to 10,000 deaths. Then 20,000. Then each morning the totals grew worse until I heard today a figure of 75,000 dead. They expect that number to climb.
Everything about it is always "the worst of" or "the greatest of", according to somebody with a podium. There hasn't been a tsunami like this in 40 years, someone said. Within a hour of that, I heard someonefrom the Red Cross, I thinkmake reference to their work during last year's earthquake in the city of Bam, Iran, when 26,000 people died. There is always a runner-up of some sort, I guess. Bam seemed terrible enough at the time, that's all I can recall of it only one year later. It too was the other side of the Earth for me.
Whatever this disaster lacks (and it doesn't lack much) in force of violence and horror and numbers of missing and dead, it seemed to leap ahead and make up for it all today when officials and the news media began to point out that one-third to one-half of the victims are children. So many strong adults perished in the powerful wave of water; it is hard on us just to think how much more difficult it was for the children. Many children survived, of course, and that seems to wrench one's heart, too. They look so stunned, even when apparently not seriously injured. The hurts are deeper than that. Lost parent or parents, lost siblings, even entire families lost. Orphans of all descriptions. I can look at the floating or beached bodies of the adult dead, but the sight of the children, alive or not, left me sitting alone in front of the TV yesterday afternoon trying to eat a piece of chocolate pie, my eyes leaking so much for the tormented and the dead that I could only halfway see the plate.
I could not eat just then, but I ate it later, after I'd turned the television off. It's bad when terrible things happen to people, but the world never ends because of it. Horribly enough, though, we go on. One can't escape the guilty sense of gladness one feels that the bad things did not happen to you.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Her husband spent a good deal more time with her, of course, and that bothered me. For his part, he couldn't help being afraid that she was having more fun with me. He didn't particularly believe that I was anything special. He knew me, he liked me, but it was easy for him to see that it was the shine, the newness of me that held her. I was something novel for her. A brand-new toy.
He probably knew early on what I did not: that there was time for me to bore her yet. That's the way it would happen. But for now, I was interesting, the shiny new toy. A steadfastly passionate boy. The handsome intelligent matron with children who now are older than I was then, the lady who loved my poetry, couldn't help but want to pet me.
That was me at 26. God rest his soul.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Come Back, Black Sheep!
One of the silliest and yet one of the most efficient ways of "losing track of a blog post" happens when one is not quite paying attention. It has happened to me three or four times now and even now that I know to suspect it, it still mostly catches me by surprise.
What It Is, Is Butterfingers, Bubba!
Sometimes as I “publish” and exit the program, my fingers slip and seem to stumble and slide over an extra key. I’m never sure what I did! But when I “view” my blog, today's post isn’t there. Whatever happened, I have since learned the end result; today's post date has changed! I’ve learned to use the Search feature and hunt the title down. Sure enough, it turns up easily enough, except that instead of being at the top of the blog, the date has changed and now it’s on the page for some previous month, possibly even for some previous year. The post that doesn’t exist! That post is pretty thoroughly hidden, if you don’t know to look there for it!
The Simple Fix
So I edit the post again and correct the date. When I Publish this time, I’m more careful with my butterfingers. There’s today's post at the top of the blog, right where it’s supposed to be. You don’t have to be a genius to solve the Disappearing Blog Act, you just have to remember that the trick exists and how it works!
Saturday, December 25, 2004
I guess this is as good a day as any to introduce five new sites to the “Intelligent Blogs” list in my sidebar.
being jennifer garrett
The Zen Pretzel Trick
All five of these new Bloggers (new to me) are women. Some of them are a little similarthey all have a good bit of "piss and vinegar" in their characterand yet they are all rather distinct from one another. Some of them cuss. Some of them cuss a lot! If you want to learn about them, though, you’re going to have to read them for yourself. All my efforts to characterize them would just confuse you more. Besides, I’m still having trouble keeping all of them straight in my own head except while I have their blog in view. Most of you (you few of my readers) probably won’t read any of these Ladies’ Home Journals (it’ll be your loss), so I’m not going to make any long introductory do dah day about it.
In a nutshell: This is them, there they are, one or more might strike you as great good fun. If you don’t like them, there they go. Now go away yourself, it’s Christmas!
Friday, December 24, 2004
Overheard at the library exit
"Degrading things like that were always happening to me in the real world," he said glumly, glancing over his shoulder toward the woman to whom he'd been telling a long story. He couldn’t see it, but she was grinning at him tolerantly.
I wondered what world he was in, now that he was walking around with the rest of us. Didn’t anything degrading ever happen to him here?
Located at this site about poet W.H. Auden is a poem about a painting (also shown) of the mythic character Icarus who fell from the sky. You and I recently looked at a photo of a statue of same. Many media involved here! [A larger image of Breughel's Icarus.]
Search Engine Hits
It's amazing how many hits have jumped out at me from search engines hunting down sites that mention Vioxx, Celebrex, and Aleve. People searching for clinical or legal data on the subject must be sorely aggravated to find me going off on a rant about it! I admire Sergeant Joe Friday for saying, "Just the facts, ma'am, we're only interested in the facts," but I myself am seldom in possession of any.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Don’t Worry, The FDA Will Save Us!
What about these bizarre turnings all of a sudden against all our painkillers? And while serious questions are being raised about the safety of them, one hears some doctors on TV shrugging and saying there was little reason for the existence and prominence of Vioxx and Celebrex to begin with, that Advil and Tylenol were effective enough against these pains for many people? Now what’s that about? They weren’t talking like that before. Have the pill-peddlers in fact promoted and advertised us into believing we can’t live without these medicines? Are we that stupid or controllable by ad agencies? I know that the pharmaceutical companies can trot out droves of well-paid (ahem) doctors who’ll testify to why we NEED fancy pain-killers and I know the reasons and ulterior motives why the companies would want them to say it, but why are these other doctors going on TV and saying, in effect, “Don’t ask me why they were developed or how we got so hooked on them, the others are just as good.” And why did the FDA scientists and desk jockeys fall like dominoes for this bullshit instead of doing their duty and warning the public about the risks?
It’s my opinion that we ought to cut to the chase—just burn the FDA to the ground in broad daylight and then shoot the sonsabitches as they come running out with their hair on fire. The same goes for the facilities and CEO’s of the pharmaceutical companies. Kill them, dammit! They are clearly murderous and incompetent bastards if this is the kind of science they’re practicing for the good of the American consumer. In brief, they should be eliminated from the face of the earth, and the next crowd of greedy bastards who comes along will have a little something practical to MAKE their shriveled consciences stay alive. I’m no expert about chemistry or science, but I know what a good kick in the ass or a bullet whizzing past their ear will do for jerkoffs who’ve never been held accountable. I’m sorry to say that our country, particularly within our government, has forgotten how far a few executions might go toward making bureaucrats and business executives stop acting as if nothing matters. You can tell me I’m crude, but I haven’t killed or injured anyone like the pill-peddlers have.
Okay, I lied about shorter posts. I meant to do it, but I just got mad about this particular thing!
" If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.." Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Christmas Ennui has arrived. Now increasingly there are people as unoccupied as I am. Except that they have been shopping (I have not.) They are planning parties (I am not.) They will be going out of town (I will not).
From today until who knows when, my posts will become shorter, more utterly frivolous, or more depressive. Therefore, if you miss them, you won’t miss much. But I won’t shut down. Those of you not sure whether to call the Suicide Line might need me. Call me first. I’ll be your reassurance that you have made the right decision. Or that you can instead get drunk and think about it again next year. Truth is, I don’t mind if you barf or bleed, as long as you don’t scare the children. Or me.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
The bored housewife was a shapely matron
And wouldn't talk to me much as a rule,
But she met me today by the frozen meats
"Let's go somewhere warm,
Let's set up a farm and get milk,
I'll be the girl, you be the farmer,
Or I'll be the boy,
and you be the farmer's wife.
You can be strong, I don't mind being weak,
But don't squeeze too hard
Or I'll knock you down with my strong right arm!
Just love me as much as you can
And I'll roll out my tongue and lick you and kiss you
Till you squeal like a left-handed pig.
Monday, December 20, 2004
He Takes His Second Shot
Even as he spoke to distract her, his senses tracked another course in his body. He continued to experience the unreasoning physical attraction he'd been feeling for her for so many weeks now. He wanted to ask her out, but he was afraid to. Afraid she’d say no, afraid she’d say yes. What if she was too serious? What if he was?
“Now, now!” some voice screamed at him silently. He needed to ask her now!
The time and place were right, more or less. The Hardee’s fast food place was about as private as he’d been with her so far, so it’d have to do. He'd made up his mind to ask her out days ago, and still he couldn't. He felt a stirring in his pants now, and then a terrible sense of panic. The stirring was why he wanted to ask her and at the same time the reason why he was so afraid. He knew it didn't make much sense, but he hadn't felt that utterly involuntary stirring in his penis for so long, it scared him. He liked it, of course, but somehow it made his heart beat too fast. Would it do all his thinking for him? Was he too old for this?
She was thirty, he was forty. Her frequent talk of bad health put him off slightly. He worried that she might be a woman who had too many problems, too many nameless illnesses. Maybe she was a hypochondriac. Maybe her problems were real. Either way, that could be a problem.
“Goddammit, everybody's a problem and everybody talks about health problems too much,” he told himself angrily. “You can't have relationships without problems and people who chatter too much!”
But on and on they went, talking about her symptoms and whether the doctors would call her with the test results. He wanted to snap at her, “Go get well so I can ask you out!” But that wasn’t it.
He stood there, feeling foolish, speaking sympathetically, still discerning that slight stirring. He wondered what it’d be like to kiss her small straight mouth! He wanted to take her hand. It felt like he'd been standing there forever. Only three or four minutes had passed, in fact. Soon he was telling her goodbye, that he'd see her on Monday.
Did she hear what he meant or only what he said? He expected a lot of her. He prayed she was able to sense his cowardice and his hope, that she'd find some reason to excuse him and not to lose all interest in him. For some stupid reason, although he was acting so brainless, he felt that she was still interested.
“It'll keep me from feeling dead this weekend to imagine that, anyway,” he thought.
Big deal. Once again he’d failed to ask Carole out.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
The First Try
Before he could leave Hardee's, Carole came up to him from behind, surprising him as he emptied the contents of his tray into the garbage container.
"I still haven't heard anything from the doctors," she said.
She spoke lightly, but not very quietly. So far he'd always found her looks shy, but not her demeanor. It intrigued him, of course. He smiled at her.
"You're still feeling dizzy?" he asked.
"Oh, yeah. Sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse. About the same all this week, and it's tiring."
"I bet it is," he said.
He didn't even know what illness she had. He talked to her about it only because it was what she talked about. Goddamn it, why couldn't he ask her out!
There will be more and longer similar neurotic permutations about asking Carole out here tomorrow. If you don't want to show for that, I won't mind. I know how religious you are. Punks. Druids. Evil twisted Satanists!
Saturday, December 18, 2004
This is another sculpture story about my hometown, an old story, long ago resolved, but it occurs to me to mention it now, following yesterday’s “lost sculpture” story.
At one time, the University where I used to work had obtained one of the legitimate copies of a Charles Umlauf statue of Icarus. I have now variously heard it called “Icarus Falling”, “Falling Icarus”, “Flight of Icarus”, and one or two more. Maybe it’s simpler just to call it Icarus in this story.
The Myth of Icarus
You probably know the old Greek myth, but here's a reminder: His father Daedalus attached a pair of wings to each of them with wax so that they could fly away and escape Crete. Icarus was warned not to fly too close to the sun, but he was having too much fun and did. The wax melted. Splash. Icarus drowned. Instant cult figure, represented in bronze, paintings, and poems ever since.
Icarus As Valuable Property
Though the sculpture was a gift to the University about twenty years prior, I had heard that a purchase price of about $1500 was paid for it. It was neither the work of an amateur art student, nor an inferior work by some artist who was never heard of again. It was created by Charles Umlauf, a successful sculptor and art professor at the University of Texas at Austin, whose career in Texas spanned decades and included a long list of sculptural works that ornament universities, churches, institutions, and private homes all over the country, particularly Texas and the Southwest. Whatever price was originally paid for Icarus, I would assume that, like most works by recognized artists, it's value has gone up rather than down over the decades.
Art Work Sent To Siberia
So, one day I found it hastily and carelessly stored in the Physical Plant compound. This was at least the second time in a ten year period that this sculpture had been inexplicably "sent to Siberia" for an extended period. I knew this because it had been carelessly stored both times in the same place while I was there. So this time I got on my high horse and started pestering people about the hazards of it lying around the Physical Plant open storage sheds with the other "junk". I submitted to them that the Icarus sculpture was worth better treatment than it was getting and that it ought to be restored to conspicuous display rather than hidden away among rusty tractor implements and trash.
Bad Handling And Disregard
If it were in the way, tractors would often move the pallet on which it rested with a good shove. Icarus itself was uncovered and had no protective wrapping, its storage place changing willy-nilly as one person after another found it to be in their way. I considered that a horrible way to keep it! It was designed to be out in the weather, of course, but it wasn’t impervious to bumps from tractors and mowers or to exposure to chemicals.
What, Me Worry?
I talked to the Art department, even to one of the men who had been on the committee that had chosen it years previously, but nobody could get very excited about it any more. The people who wanted it on display again wanted it in a particular place and the people who would have to do the work to erect the pedestal and attach it would not do so until certain renovations and landscaping were complete so that the work wouldn’t have to be done twice. No one in this whole college community could work out a compromise on this! I talked to the Physical Plant director, who agreed to talk to the Art Department, and they did talk, but for some months more nothing was done.
Call IBM and ENIAC!
It overwhelmed the combined intelligence of a large university art department with all its creative people and a vast physical plant department armed with engineers, planners, draftsmen, mechanics, welders, and carpenters. No one could or would move their dawdling dopey-headed diddled ass in the direction of either getting it on Display or getting it Stored Properly! Why the hell not?! Although I had for a long time jokingly referred to this former swampland next to the chemical plants as Mosquito University, apparently a more apt name would have been Mañana University! Aaagh! Nothing ever got done around here!
Movable Objects, Resistable Forces,
And Strange Sanitation
Bureaucracy had worn them all down and nobody could stand to try to hurry it up any more. I didn't mind that they were so willing to just wait patiently about mounting it for display again; I just had no toleration about them storing it in the Physical Plant's outdoor piles of crap, among cast-off lumber, jagged sheet metal, pails of roofing tar, and rusted mowers and tractors! Egads, some people would wipe their ass with the Mona Lisa. Don't be so sure that I exaggerate; I often heard the good ole boys laughing it up about the "angel's dick" because that was the most interesting thing about it to them, that it’s dang dick was exposed! Icarus is most often represented naked, you know. Well, you may know, but they didn’t. I’m surprised somebody didn’t go beat on it with a hammer and take that bronze penis home in their pocket for a joke. This is a very coarse society I live in here, I’ve known it since I was ten or twelve. It probably explains my own inability to refrain from vitriolic vulgar language even now, most of which I aim toward this coarse society around here!
Friday, December 17, 2004
I have long been interested in a Texas-based sculptor, Pompeo Coppini, an Italian who worked a great deal in San Antonio and New York. He produced the Littlefield War Memorial (aka Littlefield Fountain) and various associated sculptures at the University of Texas in Austin. Another famous work is the Cenotaph in front of the Alamo.
In my hometown, city fathers back in 1912 commissioned a medium-sized statue from Coppinia little larger than life-size, perhaps not quite as Heroic as some of his more famous worksof an average looking locally famous businessman. These days it is difficult to find any mention of the old gentleman on the Internet and so I guess he is only remembered by local historians and a few street signs. The city fathers had perhaps more money than sense, whether you're talking about the old ones who commissioned the statue or the more recent ones who redrew the city in a manner that effectively hid one of the city's supposed treasures.
The statue is still there, you see, in a flat monotonous park in a fallen-down part of town near our gray but busy port. It's not far from my Aunt Ruth's old house where I played as a child. Though I remember that park a little, I don't remember the statue at all; such things were of no interest to a kid. Since my childhood, the traffic has been rerouted so that the streets now drive through and split up the park into sections, the statue now on a piece of the park that is a sort of vacant oblong shape. The statue is isolated out there on that narrow piece of land bounded by busy streets and no parking. It is difficult for anyone to ever see it, even if they want to. The last time I looked at it, I had somebody drive me to it during light traffic and I jumped out to make sure of the name of the now thoroughly forgotten man who's memorialized there. The statue's still good to look at, yet who else around here would go to that amount of trouble to go see it? After all, it's a statue ofwho?!
Modern jaded school kids can't be impressed by it, I'm certain of that. So a thing that can't be loved sits where it can't be seen in an empty park that's not much more than a wide boulevard. I'd say that old Coppini statue of old So-and-so has reached a dead end.
These things happen all the time, I suppose, in towns across the countryAmericans ignoring, burying, or losing our cultural heritage while we worry more about losing our SUV's and super-sized drinks. God, we're heathens.
There will be a similar, but different, story about a sculpture tomorrow, if you haven't been punished enough already.
Feeling Is The Least
But now I dream to sleep,
No longer sleep to dream,
For comfort’s greatest these cold fey days
Where feeling is the least.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
At different times, one is in the mood for different kinds of reading. I recently read a couple of enjoyable Louis L'Amour novels, and thought I'd continue in that direction. It was time for a little mild manliness in my literature!
Not long after I started "The Shepherd of Guadaloupe", by Zane Grey, however, I had to give it up. It seemed to be, not a Western, but some sort of demented Romance novel. I don't know anything about Zane Grey and wonder if this was typical of his books or just a quirk? I had also been under the impression that Zane Grey was a writer of the Old West, and that wasn't true, either, this book being set at the end of the First World War. Our cowboy comes home from the war injured, still debilitated, and barely recovered from some serious bouts of memory loss. Then a very rich girly girl, once his neighbor and now grown up, finds him. She used to hero-worship him when she was 12 and he was a young man, so she now jumps on him like a loving leech, swarms on him, smarms all over him! Aaagh! It was enough to make a goat puke, not to mention me in one of my rare reading forays into cowboy stories! A cowboy's only supposed to get the girl at the end of the storythat way he gets to smooch her and we don't have to watch. It's good for the cowgirl to be there, to take part in the story, but hey, hold the smooching till the end, please!
"Oouu, the poor widdle injured soljer! Don't you need some help, doncha, doncha?"
A bad guy was established in the story already, so I guess there may have been shootouts and fisticuffs later in the book, but I couldn't wade through that much mushy stuff. Anyway, it was news to me that Zane Grey was "women's reading" in the damn pure old-fashioned sense of the word. I think I'm going to go read Peter Pan next, where boys are Rude and men are Pirates! And not the perfumed kind of pirates, either!
Actually, I've never read Peter Pan, I've seen it. I guess the book could be tougher or softer than I know about. Basher Pan? Pansy Pan? Well, it would be legal and all, but it wouldn't be what I was expecting.
How To Get Mad
Overheard from a man apparently talking to his bicycle chain
"I'd like to think that I'm smarter than this, but that's the same stupid shit that everybody likes to think of themselves! Uh, let's see, now I got it--no, I don't!
Aw, shit in a bucket!"
Red-faced, he kicked the bicycle chain as hard as he could; the bicycle jumped and rattled.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Back in the seventies, Parker was under 30 and he had a widowed great aunt who was quite rich and who liked him. He must have really buttered her up when he was around her, for I could see no reason why an old lady would be fond of the erratic fast-talking crazy man that I knew him to be! For whatever reason, though, he had a fantasy that he would inherit a large amount of money when she passed away.
I always had a notion that he obsessed about it more than was good for him, but I didn’t think that much about it. When I heard that he’d gotten drunk and high with a couple of his less cautious friends and told them about the old aunt and made it sound as if the death had actually just happened, I grinned, but I couldn’t believe it. What’s more, he’d invited those friends to go with him on a world cruise, all expenses paid! Parker woke up the next morning, desperate to contact the two guys and set them straight. He was terrified they’d quit their jobs before he could get hold of them and stop them!
I guess he did get hold of them in time. I never heard anything about it directly from Parker, but that says nothing one way or the other about the probable truth of the matter. There were so many Parker stories already known to be true, so many daffy exploits.
There were the stories about his punching holes in the wall and kicking through doors when he was angry, for instance. Once he’d even broken his wrist in the process—at first, he’d told some lie about it to everyone, but the truth caught up with him when the guy who’d taken him to the hospital for it spread the story.
And there were stories of him breaking into and damaging residences that he shared with other people just because he’d lost his key. I think once he’d broken into a friend’s apartment when no one was home just because Parker had been promised that he could borrow some records. Does the phrase “out of control” come to mind?
He mysteriously parked me once in the apartment of some friends of his that I didn’t know while he drove all around the parking lot until he found a Volkswagen like his so that he could steal the spare tire. I didn’t know he was doing all this, but when I got back in his car, it wasn’t hard to figure out. There was the tire in plain sight and I knew Parker didn’t have money for a new tire, nor had he purchased it in the dark of night!
“Oh, shit, Parker!” I groaned. “You’ve stolen somebody else’s tire who probably needs it just as bad as you do!”
“Well, I’ve GOT to go out of town tomorrow to see my folks and I CAN’T go on a long trip like that without a spare tire, can I?” he said, sounding very intense and reasonable. He always made things sound reasonable because he was so heart-felt about everything—nobody could sound more sincere because he was sincere and he believed himself! He would just NEVER have done it EXCEPT…and so on. That’s how he convinced his friends, I guess, that they were invited along on a free world cruise! I was glad I wasn’t smoking any of what they were having!
Surely that old aunt has passed away by now! I wonder if Parker got the money and if I could get any of it from him?
No, wait a minute, that’s not the end of it! Now I recall; at one point about 10 years ago I heard that his old aunt did die and Parker ended up with nothing. Some other nephews got it, some that had been too young for Parker to take into account when he first starting wishing his aunt’s health to turn ill. While he was worrying if she was ever gonna die, the younger ones had been buttering her up!
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Father McKenzie, writing the words
of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks
in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
and was buried along with her name
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Overheard in front of the elevator
The next day near the same elevator, the same two young women were gabbing about their nursing and health-care experiences, in particular moving people in and out of their beds. Karen, the one who's been on the job longer was speaking.
"You have to know how to move 'em rightreally, Beth! You can really hurt your back if you don't hold yourself just right when you lift, you know?"
They began to whisper and for a few moments I couldn't make out anything they were saying. After a while they snickered loudly, touched one another's forearms intimately, and began to speak audibly again. Karen, who had so much experience, began giving instruction again.
"This one old black guy," she chortled, "God, he was a real lardo!"
I cringed inwardly. Evidently, "real men" didn't get stuck in hospital beds very often.
"The bastard just insisted he could move himself. He was wrong, of course! So when it turned out he couldn't and I had to rush over and try to save him from falling on the floor, he nearly busted my back."
"The dirty bastard," said the other girl.
"Uh, well, I don't mean that," the first girl said in a hushed tone.
I'd just given both girls a hard and very unsubtle look, and she had seen it. Maybe she noticed my own lardo gut. She then purposely avoided looking in my direction any more and just as purposely tried to sound self-deprecating. It was clear enough that she'd meant what she said. She was only embarrassed that someone had heard her say it. Maybe she was wondering if I might report her to anyone. I was wondering the same thing, but just as I often memorized the license plate number of a particularly bad driver, then later stopped being angry and let it slide, it wasn't long before I quit thinking about the heartless young women getting their just desertswho ever gets such a thing, anyway? I don't think you can punish anyone enough to make them stop being themselves.
Some people are too tired or lazy to look it up, so I did it for you.
Definition -- flow in an irregular current with a bubbling noise, as of water; "babbling brooks"
Synonyms -- babble, bubble, guggle, gurgle, ripple
"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?" Abraham Lincoln
Monday, December 13, 2004
Overheard in front of the elevator
I had an errand that day on the second floor of the Health-Sciences Building. There were two slim, very attractive, but very loud and callow young women in uniform standing nearby while I waited for the elevator and I couldn't help overhearing them talk to one another. One was a little older than the other and, judging by her superior attitude, a little more experienced than the other in something or other. Neither was very far out of their teens.
The novice had been speaking at length in a precocious tone, but he hadn't been able to hear much more of it than the tone of voice. At the end of her talk a handsome, well-built young orderly walked by and she turned her head and made a sort of smacking sound with her mouth. I tried to read her lips; and it looked like, "Oou! Ah!" Then she spoke aloud.
"Gawd, Karen! Now that's a real man! I sure could use one of them!"
"Yeah, who couldn't?" the slightly older, more sophisticated one said. "If I could just find one first."
The novice looked at her and saw that Karen was grinning; presumably she was speaking ironically, for her eyes too were following the young man’s shapely bottom with interest.
"Yeah!" the younger one answered, and they both giggled. The elevator door opened and I got on.
Another episode of “Overheard” with these same two angels can be read if you come back tomorrow.
"Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them." H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Overheard from another table at Wendy's
"You don't know enough to write a story like that, do you?" she said.
"No, I don't think so. That's what bothers me."
"But you want to do it anyway?"
"Yes. I think so."
"Well, research it then!" she said enthusiastically. "Get the background on it! Study! That's the only way left."
"Research won't tell me how people like that talk, though. It won't tell me how they think."
"I can't imagine it," he said.
"Yeah, but that's why you research a subjectbecause you can't imagine it. Don't be lacking in imagination at both ends of your problem. It'll eat you alive. It'll keep you from ever writing."
"I guess you're right," he sighed.
"Now you don't know if you really want to be a writer or not, do you?" she sighed disgustedly.
"We're creators by permission, by grace as it were. No one creates alone, of and by himself. An artist is an instrument that registers something already existent, something which belongs to the whole world, and which, if he is an artist, he is compelled to give back to the world." Henry Miller, Sexus
Saturday, December 11, 2004
I find the growing tendency of modern movies, TV, and some books to embrace the "Jason Principle" to be growing very thin on me. I mean, intolerable. The villains aren't just bad, they're all super-villains. Evil Incarnate. They can stop the sun in the sky, but nothing can stop them! Everything has become Ultra! Bad guys can't die, they can't be killed, they always come back. They are nearly invincible, and they are certainly implacable and way too perfect until they make that final fatal mistake in the last 60 seconds of the movie and get blown up, ground up, shot up, impaled by unicorn horns, vaporized by magic, or catch a torpedo up the ass! With blood and appropriate surround-sound. Give me a fucking break!
Soap operas have been doing this sort of addle-pated tiresome things for decades. Popular characters are killed off, but the characters (even the same actors!) come back (it wasn't really Me in the burning car!) or as their identical twin or as a look-alike cousin or as somebody who's had first-class plastic surgery. They had to do it the hard way in the soap operas; they always had to come up with some kind of lame explanation! But the Jasons of the entertainment world never have to explain.
A basic presumption is made in Movieland that God preserves the villains and that Evil never really dies! Or something like that. If God really had anything to do with it, one would have to wonder, What IS God thinking?!
All I know is, the wicked always springs to life again for a sequel if we buy enough tickets. There is a wickedness indeed! You may be one of those lamebrains who are buying those tickets and thus bringing these boring monsters back to us again and again, but I wish you'd fucking STOP IT! What's the matter with you?!
" Everyone is as God has made him, and oftentimes a great deal worse." Miguel de Cervantes (1547 - 1616)
Friday, December 10, 2004
Overheard through a thin wall
"What the hell do you really want?" she asked impatiently.
"I want tenderness," he said irritably.
"Oh, is that all?"
"But the world isn't a tender place!" she insisted. "Maybe when we were young. Hardly ever, any more.”
"We're one step removed from being animals?" he said.
She couldn't tell if he was agreeing or disagreeing, if he was being honestly cynical or just cryptically ironic. Certainly he wasn't actually asking her a question.
"Now what the hell does that mean?" she snapped. "Are you quoting from something or what?"
"Nothing. It doesn't mean anything," he said irritably.
"Well, that's just great!" she said. Now she was irritated. "You want to talk, but you only want to talk about it the way you want to talk!" Her face was red, she was furious.
"Things ought to make more sense than this," she thought. He thought so, too. They both said nothing.
They both thought too much. They fought too much, as well. Later they'd have sex and everything would be all right again. Everything would be wonderful, until the next time they argued together so cleverly without knowing what it was about.
"Jefferson begged for letters, from his wife and daughters as well as from his friends, and wrote in bitter protest when they were not forthcoming as often as he expected." Fawn M. Brodie (Thomas Jefferson biographer)
Thursday, December 09, 2004
By the time I got to The Drag from my playtime with the frat rats, all the street vendors on Guadalupe Street were acting crazy, wondering if they'd really have to "fight" one another to get their spots back, the selling spots they'd been "squatting" on, night and day, for a week already. My friend Jack marked his spotprobably with something inconsequential, such as a blanket, that everyone used for such purposesthen turned away from it and helped me move my heavy wooden frame back onto my spot. When we turned around some new guy had kicked Jack's blanket aside and camped on his spot. An argument ensued, which I joined in and got so carried away I hollered more defenses of Jack's position than Jack did, informing the guy, who would not desist from insisting on his rights, that he was in the wrong and on the verge of getting his ass kicked! Something of that sort, at the top of my lungs. I had no reason to roar so, for Jack was strong and capable enough if it came to physical conflict. I had already been revved up in front of the frat house, remember. I was now so mad about this irritation, I was rabid! Jack and I weren't the only ones giving the fellow hell, though; almost all the rest of the street vendors were stirred up and either likewise being hostile to the newcomer or trying to gently reason with him.
The newcomer tried to defend himself and insist on his civil rights, but no one was buying it. No one believed he didn't know Jack had already claimed the spot. The stranger was a threat to everyone there, we told him. I suppose it was funny (well, it wasn't funny then!) that all these mild-mannered hippies had in this situation become, not only the establishment, but also the coercive establishment! There was no point in calling a policeman,we felt, for there was no certainty which way they would lean in a dispute. The "midnight rule" was brand-new that night, sprung on us without warning or explanation in the dark of night. As far as we knew, it wasn't a law, just a sudden City "rule" that a cop could rule on by sticking his thumb in the air. "Authority" was not a reasonable authority to be appealed to, we all knew that. Even the newcomer didn't suggest that.
The out of town hippie tried to argue, "Hey, you guys don't own these spots, do you?" And, "I didn't see anybody sitting on the damn spot!" I was ready to take him in the back alley. Do him in, dispose of him. It wasn't like he'd beaten Jack to the spot at all; he was a claim-jumper! A cattle rustler!
But eventually the stranger gave in. I think a group of vendors sweeter than I was had pulled him aside and agreed to move over just a little and allow him a modicum of space that night. After being threatened by others and me for 15 or 20 minutes, he was easier to convince than at first. But I don't recall him coming back after that night. Maybe he was just passing through to begin with and had never meant to stay very long. He certainly hadn't chosen a very good night to pass through or to meet me. There was little relaxed geniality on duty among the peace-loving hippies that night! Later Jack and his wife Jane, who'd known me several years, remarked with a smirk that they'd never seen me get so mad. Alton had just stood back with his mouth open. He hadn't known me very long, but he was still surprised. He probably wondered if he'd make a mistake about me being the nice guy he'd taken me for. Of course, none of them knew yet that they only knew the half of it; I hadn't had time to tell them about how riled up I'd gotten at the frat house disturbance yet.
How could I explain such anger to them? Or to you? Sometimes one just lands in a place where a Tasmanian devil is already pitching a fit and the fur flies. Sometimes the devil is you. Or, I could say, sometimes the moon is just in the right position for just such wrong and crazy things to transpire. In a phrase that became popular some years later: Shit happens.
The night WAS crazy, but nobody hit anybody.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Frat Rat Cockroaches
In Austin, more than 25 Years Ago, it was early in December like now, and the Christmas rush had already begun. I'd just hired Alton Fixley that week to occupy my "blanket spot" for me out on Guadalupe Street where I sold my hand-made leather goods during the day. Later on, I paid Alton to put in a longer day and sell for me, too, so that I was free to make belts and such all through the day. But for now it was a very simple job for Alton, just "spot-sitting" at night.
But then one night, I was in my workshop and got a call from him, sounding worried. He said I'd better get down to the Drag in a hurry because the police were going to force everyone to move off our "reserved spots" at midnight and stay off for a full ten minutes before we were to be allowed to run for our spots all over again. Like some kind of crazed Land Rush from the Old West. Every man for himself, kill or be killed. The sellers had worked things out for themselves so that everything was fairly amiable and settled, but the City of Austin felt compelled to make things "fair". This way, somebody who's never paid their dues in the heat of summer as I had could just saunter in, outrun me in a footrace, and reap the rewards of the market during the most rewarding sales season of the year.
That kind of threat, coming with only an hour's warning, shit-canned most of my hippiedom in moments flat. Anger and Capitalism rose up in me like a snarling wolf, like a mother bear protecting its young! My money! My Christmas bonus! More seriously, it was the money that would sustain me through January and February, the ass-freezing time of the year out on the concrete when the University of Texas students weren't in town much and bought very little if they were. I needed that extra financial padding just to get through the two lean months following Christmas. End of discussion.
In that snarlish mood, I stopped working and started the rush toward the Crafts Market at Guadalupe and 23rd Street. On the way there, I turned down a street that I thought would have time, but it went past some fraternity houses with a lot of traffic. I realized quickly, but too late, that I'd made a big mistake. Suddenly the slow traffic stopped utterly. My patience was short and I stormed out of my car and walked hurriedly forward. This was not typical behavior on my part, I usually had patience. But there was some stupid foul-up ahead and I couldn't wait on such witless shit tonight. I was greased and ready to kick ass!
That's when I found out there was some big scene going on with two drunken fraternity boys parked head to head in the middle of the street. They were in some argument, or maybe one was getting back at the other, I couldn't tell. They had carried their bitch brawl out to the street and wouldn't yield to one another, nor would they get out of their cars to face one another. I thought it rather sissified of them, I didn't know what else to call it. But they were drunk, and you how drunks arebeing drunk is an excuse for everything, anything.
The two of them were out in front of me and I was trapped behind them. A bunch of other cars were behind me, other partygoers, adding to the noise and confusion. Parked cars on both sides of the street meant we were packed in like sardines and thoroughly blocked from backing out. I was furious. I needed to get to the Drag and make sure I didn't lose my selling spot for the next day.
I came up beside the first frat boy's car and he rolled his window up. He'd seen me coming and apprehended that I was his eneny and I was ready to eat nails. I tried his car door handle and found it was locked. I wore a heavy silver ring at the timeno setting, no stone to breakand I beat on his window with it harder and harder to get his attention, continuing to holler at him. (You're used to thinking of me as this old fart; remember that I was the boy's age when I was being so belligerant.)
"I guess you think you're not gonna move unless he moves first, eh!" I hollered. "And he thinks the same thing, huh? You two stupid candy-asses can't block traffic like this!" I was in no mood for tolerance, tidings of joy, or good will. They were fucking up my Christmas!
"You better decide to move this sonofabitch car, you little shitass!" I said, banging more loudly and relentlessly with my ring. I could see the frat rat's girlfriend's face, but he couldn't; she looked like she thought it was time he did something!
"I'm going to come in there after you, you moron, you better move that fucking car!" Bam Bam Bam! I didn't care if I broke the glass or not.
Just as my blood pressure was going through the roof and I was beginning to think how my jack handle might be handier than that ring, I heard a slight commotion behind me. I turned and saw the lights of an Austin police cruiser. All the asswipe fraternity boys and their girlfriends began to disappear like cockroaches scattering from the cat food dish when the overhead light comes on.
I turned and walked back toward my car, passing the cops on the way. The cops showed no interest in me. Someone must have called the cops and given them the details, since it would have been within reason for them to have detained The First Angry Guy at the scene. It's a wonder they didn't. I would certainly have had a brain aneurysm if they'd wasted some more of my time! By the time I got to my car and got it cranked, there was hardly anyone left on the street except the two dipshit fraternity boys who'd started it all. Probably their daddies were rich and the cops didn't even yell at them very long.
[Check back tomorrow for Part Two of this same night's adventures.]
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
As I was leaving Clarion Park one day after an hour of bird watching, I saw a soggy prophylactic against one of the concrete chock blocks in the parking lot. I assumed someone had flung it there during some previous night of passion. I'd never been there at night and had no idea what kind of patrons came there in the dark. So to speak.
It had rained earlier that morning, but had cleared off before I arrived. By the time I was looking at the wet discard, it couldn't really be told if that thing was clouded merely with rainwater. It just looked wet, really. Now I don't mean that in this day of sexually transmitted diseases, I experienced any temptation whatsoever to pick it up, lay it out carefully under the microscope and subject it to careful scrutiny! I just wondered about it. Nobody else was around to wonder about it, so I did.
Two days later, I was at the park again and noticed that the lone condom was still there. Maintenance of the city parks suffers as much as any city department from budgetary cutbacks this year. Somebody early in the year threw one of the large trash cans into the deep storm drain that runs through the park and it stayed there for a couple of weeks. Anyway, I looked with interest at that happy balloon, again from a safe distance. If someone had come along and asked me what I was doing, would I have candidly answered, "Just looking at this gooey looey!" and laughed like a loon?
What if they retorted, "How do you know it's gooey?"
Everybody's a smartass. I had not prepared any answers to questions of that sort. Depending on who had asked me, I could have given them a disgusted look and said indignantly that I was going to email the City Parks and report this outrage and complain that the park wasn't being cleaned! Actually, I've done just that about the garbage can in the storm drain and earlier about fallen tree limbs blocking the pedestrian trails. (Just call me a secret do-gooder.)
Rubbers are interesting, and ought not to be unduly condemned. There must be a compelling story attached to each one, that's what I always think. Don't you? The condom in the parking lot was just as it'd looked on Monday. Though a little dirtier, the latex still had a newish look. I thought I could detect microscopic dots of sheen in the small puddle of rainwater it rested inautomotive oil, I'd thinkwell, probably. From its unevenly-deflated shape, someone as crazy as I am could imagine that if it had not recently been on somebody's member, then perhaps it had been in the hands (hand) of some earnest student of love who'd been joyously practicing with it on a banana. Naturally, you and I never did such a thing, but I suspect that somebody has, don't you? People are very weird, not to mention grotesque, you know?
If the former had occurred, I guess our happy sexual athlete simply flung it out the car window with a sigh and a "Thank you, Jesus" to the stars and a "Thank you, babe" to Whoever. It's an old-fashioned story.
Clean This City Up! (Start with me!)
But what if it was the latter scenario? I couldn't help but wonder, where was the banana? Wouldn't it all have been flung out the car window together? Why would one want to keep it?! Why not? I guess the banana wasn't as transparently "trash" to him (or her) and could be retained in the car for a while. Frankly, I would have considered a "practice" rubber less messy than the banana. I wonder if they remembered to remove the banana from the floorboard before somebody stepped on it? Life is messy.
Okay, I know you think this is getting too weird. I think so too. I now leave the rest of the guesses and conjectures about these messes to you. I have to go see my witch doctor right now.
[Uh, you weren't waiting for me to write about cute angels with pink wings teaching virginity to white fluffy bunny rabbits, were you? Sorry. Not yet.]
Monday, December 06, 2004
Send Lawyers, Guns, And Money!
A few years ago, I read about a Palm Beach Pest Control Operator who, after treating a courthouse with pesticide, went back to his office for lunch and discovered that in less than an hour he’d gotten 30 phone calls of complaint about the job he’d just done. Worse, all the complainants were lawyers! Each was complaining of the stinky dangerous-smelling choking odor of that chemical when in fact he was using the most expensive of the new low-odor synthetic pyrethroids. This stuff was so safe that not everyone doing pest control work even considered it very effective!
I guess you’d call that a Heart Attack Day for a pest control man who was already trying to be considerate and uncontroversial with his customers. Without knowing any more than this little outline, my thought at the time was that, like sharks in the vicinity of a drop of blood, 30 lawyers at once all smelled a good personal injury lawsuit, with themselves as the plaintiff and lawyer both!
Unfortunately, I never heard how that news story ended. I wondered at the time, though, if there wasn’t a counter charge that could have been brought against the lawyers for Being Big Slobberin’ Sissy-babies!
Sunday, December 05, 2004
I jerked The Master And Margarita off—wait a minute, let me rephrase that. I dumped them. That’s better. I took The Master And Margarita off the sidebar because I don’t plan to finish reading it. It was boring me shitless. Damned weird Russian novels. Or maybe it’s the damned translators. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never even heard of the stupid thing before I picked it up cheap at the annual library sale ($1 a bag) and I had no reason whatsoever to believe that 1930’s era fantasy would be a good book. It was a heap of books for not much and sometimes Not Much is what you get. It’s a well-designed cover, I guesssmall praise for a so-called literary work.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Below is a list of titles that I accumulated over the years and never used. I fully intended them to come into use, for poems, for short stories, whateverbut that never happened. I throw them before you like pearls before swine, or swill before fine ladies and gentlemen, or crabs before crumbs, I dunno. Guess that's how this list is still hanging around, I "didn't know" for the past twenty years. Steal one, if you like, I'm sick of 'em!
Possible Titles List
1) "More And More Pizza"
2) "Fighting Loneliness With Savagery"
3) "White Women Can't Dance"
4) "Copulating Quarters (Or, Will It Make Money?)"
5) "Ugly Women, Forgotten Men"
6) "No Kiss Is Ever Wasted"
7) "No, It Ain't OK!"
8) "Frustrated Conversations"
9) "Cartoon Poontang With Pontoon"
10) "Panda Bear With Poontang"
11) "Pointy Hats and Hieroglyphs"
12) "Can't Fight Annie Hall"
[As you see, I finally got to use one of the titles! May not make sense, but I used it!]
Friday, December 03, 2004
Drive-By Surfer Won't Cook Rodent
One of the visitors to my site on 11/14/04 showed a "referring URL" that was searching for WAYS TO AVOID RAT IN THE OVEN. So Site Meter told me. By that, I'd guess the visitor was searching for pest control tips on getting rats out of the underside or backside, not the inside, of their kitchen oven! If rats were inside, you could just cook 'em out!
That drive-by surfer will probably never find his way back to my site, but I'll give a few suggestions and maybe it'll help someone else in the world of blogging. I'm just entertaining myself, being always at a loss for post subjects.
Living With Commensal Rats
My guess would be that, if the rat is living in the oven at all and not just underneath or nearby, it may well be nesting in or behind the oven's insulation. You'll have to look. See if the shape of the insulation seems lumpy or rearrangedthe rodent could be making a suitable nest for itself. See if the insulation has taken on a bad odor (rodent urine), a smell that encourages the return of the rodent or of other rodents. So, unless the infested insulation seems clean and free of odor, you should consider replacing the old insulation after whatever normal baiting, trapping, and exclusion (closing up pipe chase openings, etc.) you may perform. Remove what built-up grease you can while you've got it partly disassembled. Don't electrocute or gas yourself. Look both ways crossing the street. Oh, excuse me, got carried away!
Find The Little Creep!
If you don't find definite evidence that a rodent was in the oven area, don't ignore the possibility that the rodent could be making a home elsewhere in the area. Look behind and under the refrigerator. Pull out the refrigerator and use a flashlight so that you can get a good look, not a mere glance. Kitchen cabinets often have false bottoms, so check thatthere may be a portion of it you can't see without moving some things. Look for holes. There's a good deal (for a rat!) of open space around and under a dishwasher, so look there.
Check anywhere that there is an area usually hidden from human eyes. Clean or at least sweep all those areas, even if you see nothing; then when you look again later, a freshly cleaned floor space will more easily reveal small signs, such as rodent droppings, chewed pieces of paper, greasy smears where the rat's body rubbed repeatedly against the wall and other surfaces.
Meanwhile, try to keep in mind that your dogs and cats also live with you and are not "perfectly clean", either. I don't want to pet most wild rats myself, but try to keep some equilibrium about nature while you're solving your pest problem.
Good luck, All You Demented Drive-By Surfers!
How I Found The Poem "Paradox Of Time"
Because I was interested in heroic sculpture it just happened that I ran across mention of a massive heroic statue called "Fountain of Time" by a 1920's sculptor named Lorado Taft. Playing on the Internet leads in all directions, I guess. The poem was said to be the inspiration for the sculpture. Guess I learned about them in reverse order.
Below is quoted from the web site, Photos of Fountain of Time
"By Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft, this piece is 110 feet long. It shows a wave of 100 figures passing by the figure of Time standing across a pool of water. It took 14 years to build, is made of steel-reinforced concrete and was dedicated in 1922. It was built at Taft's studios, a couple of blocks away. It's at the end of the Midway Plaisance at Washington Park."
Both poem and sculpture are very interesting to me. Wish I could see the sculpture in person, it's too large for photos on the Internet to show it off well.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
by Henry Austin Dobson
Time goes, you say? Ah no!
Alas, Time stays, we go;
Or else, were this not so,
What need to chain the hours,
For Youth were always ours?
Time goes, you say?- ah no!
Ours is the eyes' deceit
Of men whose flying feet
Lead through some landscape low;
We pass, and think we see
The earth's fixed surface flee
Alas, Time stayswe go!
Once in the days of old,
Your locks were curling gold,
And mine had shamed the crow.
Now, in the self-same stage,
We've reached the silver age;
Time goes, you say?ah no!
Once, when my voice was strong,
I filled the woods with song
To praise your "rose" and "snow";
My bird, that sang, is dead;
Where are your roses fled?
Alas, Time stayswe go!
See, in what traversed ways,
What backward Fate delays
The hopes we used to know;
Where are our old desires?
Ah, where those vanished fires?
Time goes, you say?ah no!
How far, how far, O Sweet,
The past behind our feet
Lies in the even-glow!
Now, on the forward way,
Let us fold hands, and pray;
Alas, Time stayswe go!
Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921), born in Plymouth, England.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
My cousin JW finally got around to reading one of the Travis McGee books I gave him six months ago, which is how this long rigamarole of a post got started. I was reminded by it of how John D. McDonald’s fictional hero, McGee, always called himself a salvage consultant, but he was more of a private eye, an investigator who took on most cases with the expectation of getting half the loot or half the cash value of the missing items. If he could “salvage” it for you, he’d get paid. Otherwise, no pay. Between jobs he’d “take his retirement in installments”, living on a houseboat called The Busted Flush that he’d won in a card game and driving around Fort Lauderdale, Florida in his converted Rolls-Royce truck, Miss Agnes. When nearly broke, he’d hunt up another job. I love that eccentric Travis McGee character and have read most, if not all, of the 21 books in that series over the decades.
The Real Thing
The next salvage expert I knew anything about was a real one I saw a few years ago on a TV documentary. He salvaged everything at sea, from ships merely run aground to a ship full of crude oil lost on the bottom of the sea since 1952. In the latter case, the TV documentary described how an empty tanker was passing just as they were beginning to bring the oil up. The passing ship was contacted and a deal was struck to sell the crude oil then and there. Transfer was made of the oil on the spot and an electronic transfer of money put money straight into the salvager's Swiss account. Wheeler-dealer extraordinaire!
The guy spoke unaccented English; he couldn’t be nailed down as sounding either English or American. He spoke English like an International Spy, I thought—too perfectly. Wore a beard without any mustache. Seemed to have a great deal of expertise in engineering, and in fast and efficient business dealings, etc. I couldn’t help but imagine that he either had a lot of cash or a lot of gold and diamonds hidden away!
The Extreme Real Thing
I took the slim chance that I might discover that salvager’s name and bio on the Internet, and couldn’t find it—not so far, at least. In cruising those sites, though, I did run across sites about an Admiral Edward Ellsberg, an American Naval officer who was, if not famous in the world at large, well-known among Navy and salvage men. It is, however, a mystery to me—guess I have to read the book!—how he ever became an Admiral since most of the time during his extensive World War Two tasks of building and salvaging, the Navy brass didn’t like him.
The paragraph below is quoted from the Web Site noted further below.
”Sent to England to advise on preparations for the D-Day landings, he found himself in a difficult situation with little authority, as the British had prime responsibility for the naval side of operations. Responsibility for the provisions of the two Mulberry harbours was shared between the Admiralty and the War Office, which had not recognized the scale of the problem or the resources required for deploying the Phoenix concrete breakwater caissons. Once completed, these were grounded off Selsey Bill, to be refloated after the beachhead was secured and towed to Normandy. Ellsberg was the catalyst that finally got the authorities to recognize the scale of the salvage operation required to pump out and refloat over a hundred caissons in a matter of a few days - without which the whole artificial port concept would have been jeopardized.”
Read more about Edward Ellsberg in reference to a 1999 biography, "Salvage Man", by John D. Alden.
Thanx to P.S. at Changes In The Glass for passing along those reflections about Santa and madness. Now I don’t feel so extreme about acting as if there are connections between these disparate things!