Category Archives: Humor

What I’m Thinking About When I Run Red Lights ~ g. kinyon

I used to play Russian roulette but I was never very good at it.

Sometimes in the thought balloon over my head there’s just a schwa.

I wonder how they train corpse dogs.

Don’t just visit Ferguson, Mo. Visit Trip Advisor Ferguson,Mo, bitch-ass punk.

They’ve gotten exceptionally crafty at making it hard to find the expiration dates on many date-sensitive products. I gotta say, hats off.

You’d repeat yourself too if your friends were as stupid as mine. But no, I don’t repeat myself. I emphasize.

I’ve never been a very good “Tear Here” guy.

In the week running up to February 14th, the prison commissaries run out of “Be My Bitch” cards.

Executioner: “Hey Buddy. Don’t let anybody know I told you, but you’ll be the last person ever put to death in this state.” 

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I wonder how many trees have been cut down to accommodate useless letters in the French language?

Sean Connery—Ancient 007.

I’m in the old folks home and I walk by this table of old men playing cards. One’s bragging he can still have a wet nap every once in a while.

Yeah, but in my defense I was drunk.

Me? I’m a professor of Antarctic history.

Getting a birthday greeting from Facebook itself is kind of like getting an anonymous photo of your kid on the school playground in the mail.

Go ahead. Unsubscribe. Two others will pop up in its place.

What would we ever do without toenails?

Two black holes drift too close to each other…

The Firmament

You know that awkward feeling I’m talking about—like when the chick in the tragic news story is kind of hot?

So I reminded the IRS auditor that I pay his freakin’ salary. If I paid my taxes.

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Don’t hear that like you used to.

Plausible deniability? I don’t know what that means.

I had to get a new computer keyboard. My old one was writing things I didn’t approve of.

No, YOU da parrot.

How many doomsday preppers have prescriptions they have to take?

So was Jesus an alpha male?

It’s no different than the other times, sir. Put on that serious look and tell the microphone it’s a matter of grave concern. Then we can go knock out eighteen holes.

I could go on a diet, but what if I lost too much weight? Ever think of that? Huh?

It’s a movie about Nazis hunting Jews house to house. The working title is “Oys in the Attic.”

When the Hindus gave shapes to numbers, they didn’t think the 6 and the 9 through at  all.

The dude’s a walking pen-starter.

Dear Lord, please give our side the win.

…but that was before I found out the locals whiz on the Blarney Stone at night.

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Turns out Einstein’s brain really was in a beer cooler in little Weston, Missouri for a few years. Somebody was trepanning for gold.

My doctor says when a finger grows back it’ll never look the same.

I had sex with a Chinese girl once. I was horny an hour later.

Leaves of three picked just for thee.

A thousand bucks if you name your twins Judas and Adolph.

The McDonald’s menu board at CIA headquarters: “Neither confirm nor deny your order here.”

This kick me tattoo. I knew at the time it was gonna be trouble.

They say if you ever forget what you came into the room for, it’s all over.

Anything for you my little thumbscrew.

A switchblade will open properly a specific number of times, yet I’ll flip mine open a hundred times watching TV. Story of my life.

I envy Eminem and Metallica. I want “Original music used by the US military to torment the enemy” on my list of credits.

The Ancient Hindu goddesses had four or six arms, and the Ancient Roman and Greek ones all seem to have had none or maybe one or a half of one. I really don’t know what should come next.

I was just watching some old footage of Einstein enjoying his tobacco. Suddenly I don’t feel so stupid.

I sent my youthful self a message through the time tube. I regretted to inform me we never went any farther than the moon, but Trojan did run a television add for dildos around Christmas last year.

The optimist that I am, I see myself as half sane.

That cable show, Ancient Aliens, would be better I think, if they used circus music in the background.

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ARCH ENEMY (What not to do in St. Louis)

Westbound, soon to cross the Mississippi River. For several minutes you’ve been watching it from whichever angle the road wants to present it to you. Should you? Go up there? You’ve seen the other stuff. Most of it, anyway: the Golden Gate, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, the giant baseball bat in downtown Louisville, the Grand Canyon, and of course the geyser thingy that ejaculates in a fashion you can set your watch by. The Time’s-Running-Out list still has a blank square next to Gateway Arch, though. It’s early in the day. It’s decided then. You cross the widest drainage ditch in the country, where all water between the Rockies and the Appalachians goes. Sort of.

You cruise off the interstate at a convenient-looking downtown exit. The Arch stays in sight, just to the south. After a few stoplights, you see a sign that says “Gateway Arch” with an arrow pointing left. At the next block, you see an Arch-arrow pointing up, or straight, you’re pretty sure. You look up anyway and there it is, the top of the Arch, so that arrow’s ambiguous. The lower parts of the Arch, however, are to your left, so you figure you will be led back around to it, possibly to bypass the road construction in progress. No different than any other downtown. And there you see it at the next light: “Gateway Arch” and an arrow pointing left. Done. A block later: Gateway Arch! And an arrow pointing again to the left. You turn and are driving from whence you came. You pass the Arch, look for that next sign. Maybe you missed it, so you make the same circuit, see the same sets of signs, end up doing the same thing, expecting a different result.

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By the fourth time around you try something new, get yourself caught in a line of vehicles going nowhere. Are they empty? Have you parked on the street without even knowing? No. Heads bob, brake lights are tapped. And then you see the sign: “Park Here.” Ok. That’s doable. You’re in line. Somehow. You wait your turn. You pay the nice lady collecting money at the entrance and proceed. The yellow “BEST NOT BE NO HIGHER THAN THIS” gate-arm seems to pass through the roof of your pick-up truck like a ghost. You’re on level one. The purple level. You drive to the end and have to make a tight turn up a ramp. The concrete ceiling—you just know—is going to scrape the hell out of your truck’s roof at this angle. The radio antenna bends ninety-degrees and makes all the noises it looks like it should. Your roof is unmolested and you continue. You continue just as soon as you back up and almost hit the guy who’s on your tail. Honk. Your corner is too tight to negotiate without drilling one of the parked cars ahead of you. It requires a second try. You are on the orange level, where there are no empty slots. At the end of the row, you make another one of those crazy-tight turns and cringe as you wait for the concrete overhead to key your paint like a psycho girlfriend. But it doesn’t and what’s more, there’s an empty slot right in front of you. But back up because now you see the sign that says “COMPACT CARS ONLY.” On the blue level, four stories up, parking spots are everywhere. Laughing.

Hobblestones

Hobblestones

Down the stairs and down the stairs, and then onto the cobblestone walk. You call them hobblestones. They deserve it, what with those wide gaps and uneven surfaces. Kinda neat though. A few blocks later you pass “Arch Parking.” Much closer, much cleaner, much unadvertised. Son of a…. To the west, the streets rise sharply Godward, but just for a couple of blocks. It’s Louis, not Francisco. Chilly for this far into the spring, but a pretty day to all but the unhappy. You see pretty people–a preponderance of them from across the Pacific for some couldn’t-venture-a-guess reason. Even without the Grand Draw playing tricks with light in the sky, you notice the area has a singular feel to it. History.
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Much silent contemplation going on, much tilting of heads, much encouraging the beloved other to lean in and absorb body heat along with the picture, to inhale scent, artificial and real, and to smile inwardly. Incredible minds came together as one here, and they have not left. The sight of the approaching Japanese couple remind you that there’s a word, but what is it? Tomashii. The soul of the artist lives in his art. You see that so quickly it dazzles.

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Concrete steps drop to the river’s edge, wide steps that remind you of amphitheater seating from Roman Tunisia, which is probably because of all the backsides keeping them warm, bolstering the illusion. Front-sides are tuned into the river below. Like a dying midnight campfire, waves command attention. You and the other front-sides watch and listen. You listen with eyes closed. One sound for buffeting concrete, another for wood. The depths of the water were fathomed centuries ago, but the force of the current, to your simple mind, is unfathomable. Paddlewheels and barges. Swaying riverboats await passengers. A horse, carriage, and driver hold steady in their riverfront allotment for the next fare, both the horse and driver able to hear the local-history speech in their dreams by now, you suspect. A few blocks away, from a grassy knoll where the season has finally laid down its first patina of green, a cover-band entertains a handful of standing, jacket-clad pedestrians with metal, heavy and melodic. You passed them on the way. A touch of legato here, a sweep arpeggio there, the music rides the breeze. Your stride has been in sync. And like the Grand Canyon and the Pyramids, this Gateway Arch is not captured by any photograph. You look up and ask: How? You’ve asked the same question about the Parthenon. Architects have kept secrets for thousands of years. Architects and Metallurgists. You would too. It takes eyes better than yours to fix on the row of windows at the apex. Those tiny dots fading and returning. Time to go up there.

A ramp leads underground from either one of the Arch’s bases. The line is long and scarcely moving. You wonder what the deal is. In time you notice a voice coming from the PA. A recorded speech, over and over. You move a foot and a half more. People are entering the underground facility through glass doors some dozen yards ahead. The speech, that same giddy male voice that you’re sure was behind “You’ve got mail,” begins its cycle again. It was just so much background noise until now. You start to pick out words. You hear “search,” and “contents.” What? You hear “pockets.” Why did none of this occur to you until this late stage? What a target for terrorists. Next to the Statue of Liberty, above you stands what has to be second on the list. You twist your way out of line and begin that longest journey. Single step. Something. You estimate from memory: thirty minutes each way, to the minute, exactly, give or take.

After you climb up to the blue level, it’s been twenty minutes, but you didn’t tourist your way back. You look around. You looked around the whole way there, but you do it again. Cameras are trained on your every move but you pretend otherwise. Out of your left jacket pocket comes the OTF, one of your favorites. Out of the right, the one you can’t talk about. You don’t forget the butterfly contraption in your back pocket. Better sit in your vehicle, you decide, to unload the defenses in your shoes. Hey, you never know.

You’re back. Eventually you’re far enough along in line that you hear every loudspeaker word. Remove your jacket. Remove all items from your pockets, it says, including cell phones and all other electronic devices. Remove all jewelry including watches. Remove your belt. You will be ready. You will make it go smoothly for your part. You have in one hand: folding money, change, your camera, your wallet from which you’ve removed your driver’s license and the pass you have for national monuments. You are holding your comb, sunglasses, brochures, a package of tissues, your cell phone and recharge cable. Your jacket is in your other hand. Damn. Forgot the belt. You balance stuff but stuff falls anyway. You get the belt off with one hand and commence picking things up off the ground. Everyone in front of you puts items in a plastic tub to be sent on rollers through the X-ray machine. Jackets are inspected manually. Your turn.

“I’m going to make things easy on you,” the national park version of a TSA agent says. “Put everything in your coat pockets and we’ll run it through the machine all at once.” Wa…huh? It takes a second to sort it out in your brain. It can’t be happening. With a long line behind you, you begin stuffing or trying to stuff brochures and combs and wallets and cameras and driver’s licenses and park passes and dollars and change and sunglasses and tissues into the coat draped over your other unfree arm. Instead of simply dropping all that necessary nonsense into the plastic tub like every other person in line has done all day and will do the rest of the day, you’re trying to force those items into tight little pocket openings—-slits, really–of your jacket without losing half of it. Why? No one will ever know why. After your walk through the metal detector arch, you collect your stuff and set up shop off to the side. You unload and inventory everything, tediously appointing the correct pocket where each piece of junk is to go so you won’t lose it—your pants pockets, shirt pockets, jacket pockets, wallet sleeves. Do it now while security people watch you on a monitor in a room somewhere, or never find those things again. Just like at the airport.

The line to buy a ticket to the top of the Arch? Five minutes or so. You’ve made it this far, you can handle five more minutes. You ask for a ticket to the top. You are asked in return if you would like a riverboat ticket and a movie ticket. (There’s a theater in the underground area and they show a movie about Lewis and Clark, you think.) You say no, just one ticket to go to the top of the Arch. You are asked, “Today?” You nod in a way that says if you could think of something to say other than duh, you’d say it, but you can’t so he’s lucky and it’s not his fault anyway and let’s move on. You are told they just sold the last ticket of the day a few minutes ago.

Who's watching whom then?

You exit through the glass doors and begin dragging your defeated feet up the ramp. Defeated. You stop. You walk back down to the glass doors. You see a lady walking through the metal-detector gateway, and you see all kinds of lights of color flashing. You watch the federale–he who chose you for gratuitous torment–you watch that guy send her back through, and you whip out your camera and start snapping shots of the event because that’s why you came back. You should let it go but you don’t. TSA guy sees you, says something to lady-of-concern, something to the effect of move and you’ll be strip-searched, and makes an upstream thrust right towards you. He comes out through the in-door. A leap over the railing separates the two of you. HAW ha. His face looks mirror-rehearsed, but it ain’t. He is angry angry. He says you can’t take pictures of that. He says more–lots more–but the words melt into an amusingly-indiscernible current of downstream rantage. You walk off, satisfied he’s going to choose the lady-of-concern and the sirens and bells over you and your camera and a hop over the rail. You feel better. You couldn’t have seen that face from way up there anyway. Why did you do that? He will never know.

LARYNX-FREE LIVING ~ g. kinyon

I’m not complaining, just explaining. I’m a post-op laryngectomy. I can’t talk. A year now. You begin smoking as a child, long before your brain has fully developed, far prior to your shift into the third chakra, as those in the know understand; and then it is incumbent upon your adult, thinking, reasoning self to stop—to end your life-long nicotine habit when you have a job and a spouse and children and debts and broken things and responsibilities that could fill a list long enough to wrap around the Earth one and a half times and Mars more than that, I think. I stopped, honestly I did, but it was too not-enough and past the buzzer. Nobody can say for a fact why I contracted larynx cancer, but who am I kidding? I smoked, I got cancer. Post op ergo propter hoc. They say we humans have five senses. Still, sometimes I feel like we have six and I’m missing one.

Seems to me it requires one of our senses to say, “Hey buddy, knock it off!” Or, “What’re you lookin’ at, corksacker?” Imagine: You get in a heated argument and your opponent pauses while you scratch out a page-long note with all the emphasis marks in the right places to produce your desired effect. And then that person tells you he can’t make out a certain word. People aren’t capable of keeping their indignation ramped up through all of that. The anger subsides. It takes speech to enjoy the thrill and brinksmanship of a good verbal joust. Still, speech is not a sense. We have (or don’t have) the senses of sight and hearing. We have the gift of speech, and that’s how it is. I’m missing a gift.

This leaves me with two pertinent questions: 1) How do I handle it? 2) How does everyone around me handle it? I went to buy some clothes a few months back, because new clothes make a person feel better. I explained to the sales clerk by way of my little whiteboard that I could not talk. Bless his heart, he thought he would prove his empathy and display a solid measure of fellow feeling. This he did by not speaking himself. He desired that I squeeze between two standing racks of hanging clothes so that I might get a look at his computer screen and see the discount he was giving me. He didn’t tell me this; he gestured the whole thing. And so it went until I paid for my items and left. No verbal expressions of gratitude on his part, just visual ones: smiles, nods, and thumbs up—same as I. The guy, of course, thought I was deaf. It would’ve confused things all the worse to write that I could hear and that he could go ahead and use his voice—that doing so wouldn’t hurt my feelings any. It was easier just to let it go. Happens all the time. I’ve learned to point to an ear, nod my head, and mouth the words “I can hear.” I have an electronic speaking device like the guy on “My Name Is Earl,” but things have to be pretty quiet for people to hear it.

I was talking music with a friend of mine recently, and by way of felt-tipped erasable marker I asked if he was familiar with a certain song. “No,” he said. “How does it go?” I gave him a look and started counting down in my head until I saw the light bulb pop up over him. And BINGO! There it was: that semi-embarrassed grin that says “Oh…yeah.” I would’ve loved to hum a few bars for him. At least this way, though, we got to laugh. And I had the song in question playing on my smartphone as soon as the ancient 3G could produce it. Throw in texting and emailing, and out of all the centuries of human history to date, I picked the best era to go mute. Someone told me the other day I should go on Jeopardy, that I’d be good at it. Tick tick tick tick tick…Ding! Oh…yeah.

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I squeeze through narrow store aisles and inevitably almost bump into someone. They say, “Pardon me.” I say nothing. I want to ask for pardon, too, or say, “Not at all,” or anything to be polite, but all I can do is walk off and leave someone thinking people can be real assholes. I’m a white guy, and when I bump into a black person without speaking, I cringe at what I’m sure is being thought. I don’t bother to beg pardon from your kind. This happens way too often. Or for instance when I reach behind a lady who is standing there reading an ad flyer to grab an item, and she says, “Oh. I’m sorry,” but without looking up from her reading material. If she looks up, I can smile and visibly wave it off at least. But she doesn’t. She expects me to answer that it was no problem at all. I don’t, of course. I move on in silence, leaving her to think some people can be real assholes. None of this means I’m not in fact a real asshole, because I kind of am, but for reasons other than a shortage of common decency.

In a large and crowded pool hall, I slip off to the bar and buy my buddy and myself a beer. A mug in each hand, I serpentine through people and tables and see my friend wandering off. I’m close enough that I can call his name and make him turn around and take his beverage. Except that I can’t. Instead, I try sending mental signals, produce in him the sense that he’s being observed. But that’s wishful thinking. I follow him around for five minutes before I give up and find a safe place to stash his drink. That’s nothing, though. I order a large pizza online one night, to be delivered, in the course of which I click a wrong button and end up ordering two. If I can talk, no problem: I make a phone call and straighten it out. The pizza site gives no options to send an email and I end up eating forty-five bucks worth of pizza for three days. One night the pizza guy can’t find the right buzzer for my apartment. He rings someone else’s for a while until he gives up and calls the phone number I’ve entered into the proper field. I can’t answer. I suspect correctly who’s calling, however, and hurry to the entrance of my building before he goes away. When I add that to the fact I can’t make use of drive-through fast-food lanes, I have become a healthier eater. The signs at those places will say something to the effect of: Speech or hearing impaired customers may order at pay window. That only works when there’s no line ahead of you. When you’re in line and stop in front of the speaker, the poor order-taker has no idea why you’re not answering her May I take your order greeting. Better to just eat like you care for your health, which, finally, I do.

I haven’t been pulled over by a cop yet since this has all gone down, although it’s only a matter of time. And you can bet I’ll milk the sympathy gland with all I’ve got if there’s one to be milked. To get out of a ticket? Hell yeah. I mean, who wouldn’t? I can’t foresee, though, how that scene will play out. If he’s looking at my license and asking questions, I’ll have to get his attention somehow without spooking him into going for his sidearm. Waving my arms…nope. Taking a chance there. Clapping my hands? No. Uh uh. He or she will just have to get pissed at my snotty ain’t-talking-to-you attitude and look at me. Will I have an explanation ready on my writing board? Let’s hope so.

No one has explained it to me adequately yet why when they remove your larynx you can no longer breathe through your face. (I haven’t asked, though, since it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like the doctor will tell me I’ve made a good point and insist on fixing that.) Instead, your neck becomes the new turnstile for air to come and go. This takes some getting used to. I put off looking in the mirror three days the first time—until I had to. But many weeks went by before I had a grasp of what all that would mean to me.

For years I kept an Irish tin whistle in my vehicle. Whenever I’d hit a red light, I’d pull it out and play it to pass the time. That and my harmonica went out the window after the ectomy. (Mouth instruments aren’t something you can give away very easily.) I carry an accordion around with me now. A friend of mine brought out his blow-dart tube the other day, and I communicated fake-mournfully that I’d never be able to blow darts again. “Oh man. I’m sorry. I never thought about that.” I laughed. I never blew darts anyway. But I did blow on hot soup. Hey, I just thought of something: how would the cops handle me at a DWI check point? “Blow, blow, blow, harder, harder, harder!” Heh heh. Make me. One way or another, I’ll have fun with the cops over this someday.

Actually, I have in fact lost one of my senses—the sense of smell, although not completely. A scent or odor has to be strong enough to slap the olfactory by itself. I can’t vacuum the air with my nostrils anymore. (So much for some other bad habits.) This means the smoke detector will probably wake me before the smoke does. I have to take the kitchen trash out whether it’s full or not, just in case, every other day. Bathe at least once a day and go with a light application of aftershave or the eau de parfum. Febreeze and candles. I have no idea where I am with the scent levels so I have to settle for judgment calls on that stuff. I bought some cologne the other day and told the salesman I would just have to trust him on his recommendation.

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I’ve found ways to deal with the removal of bodies of water from my pastimes—I have other, land-based activities to occupy my canoeing, kayaking, tubing, swimming, skiing, boating, parasailing, and fishing time. I hope, though, I never find myself standing on a bank while some child—anybody, but particularly a child—is screaming for help in the middle of the lake. Once in my life I dived into a river and pulled a drowning person to safety. (I also once jumped into a lake to drag my vehicle to safety after I’d left the emergency brake and gears unapplied.) Beyond throwing someone a PFD, I am now useless in that situation, and that’s scary. And that’s not all. If I get into a wreck, the paramedics aren’t going to figure out I’m what they call a neck breather unless I’m able to pull my turtleneck down or my yank my scarf away. I need a sign around my neck, a driving sign: Neck Breather—No Breathalyzers or Soliciting.

I’m having much fun, though–on this page and in general. I can run, jump, climb, kick, exercise, hike, backpack, camp, write, read, pluck strings, pluck birds, throw knives, annoy friends, learn, drive, see, hear, taste, feel, and other things with a teenager’s energy minus his bumbling confusion. I’m glad to be alive. Sneezing is a little weird, but I’ll take it. I wanted to write about this one time, and I have done so. Maybe somebody facing the same rest-of-your-life will see this and know he isn’t alone, and that it could be a lot worse. I was feeling sorry for myself one day, sitting behind the wheel at a stoplight, when I looked over and saw a blind man, tapping his white cane, waiting for the light to change so he could cross the street. His eyes were fixed directly on mine, as if he could see me. I shivered, mentally apologized for my unmanly self-pity, and—lesson learned—carried on. He would’ve traded afflictions with me in a heartbeat.

FIRE and BRAINS~g. kinyon

A lifetime in the confines of a city, moved to the country, something new. On the hill behind the house, to the west, the former owners, the concealers, have left a fire pile. You can burn your stuff in the country? Cool. Had not even thought about that. Visions of M80s. Freedom. Just moved in and we have boxes. Dozens of boxes, lots of trash, moving-out stuff, moving-in stuff, but I can burn it all out here. Tonight. I’ll do it tonight.

It’s December and the fire makes it feel like it’s not. Ah, damn straight. But only for a minute. Wind comes from somewhere, and it feels like December again. Wind comes from the uneven heating and cooling of the Earth, I know, but I mean it’s coming from the west. I have to move around the circle and cover my eyes with the inside of my bent arm. It keeps coming, as if it’s responding unfavorably to my fire. Flaming swirls, and then embers in my face. Whoosh. And ow, damn. It builds itself. It carries things toward the new place, burning things, like cardboard. I’m new to the country living. Glowing paper is landing on the roof. I need a do-over. Asphalt shingles, that’s good, right? I haven’t hooked up any garden hose seeing as it’s winter. I don’t know where one is anyhow. I find a broom and jump high to whack at the flickering dangers on top of the house, drag them into the gutter or swat them out. It’s like the attack of the giant lightning bugs and their spawn, too, to look skyward. Back up on the hill, I scatter the fuel with my foot and broom, all those boxes, and then back down I try to keep the roof clear. Up and back down, swinging my fire-slapper against the wind, hoping nobody sees this. I don’t know the area or who can see what from where but I do what I have to do. New guy. I exhale because the coals I couldn’t reach, way up near the asphalted apex, look like they’ve gone black. The fire is no more and the wind also goes away. The smell stays.

In the country you have your outbuildings. Time and termites really love or hate one of mine, one that I will learn now to do without as it does the gangster lean. But how to make it disappear? It’s the country, you burn it. But something that big? Not at night. Hell no. You do it on a Sunday morning when the majority of the within-eyesight locals are at church. Oops. Did I drop a lighted match? On the straw? In the barn that’s falling down? If I didn’t, somebody did. Doesn’t matter. I have my garden hose. I soak everything around the barn. And thar she blows. Dum dee dum. Ain’t nuthin’ but a thang.

Firefighter Boy

Sir? Sir? Oh shit. Why did they put the public road…why does it have to be so close? Sir? Did you call the fire department? She, the middle-aged nose, has her car door open and one foot on the blacktop. Half in, half out, uncommitted. I tell her yes ma’am, I sure did but thank you for your concern. She drives away–satisfied, I’m thinking. Smoke rolls up into the sky and does this floaty thing over my property, like a mosquito net on a Peace Corps head. And others’ property too, but they’re at church. What an excellent fire this sun-shiney Sunday morning.

Something you don’t hear much out in the country? Sirens. I’m hearing one just the same. A minimum of one. Two is the number of fire trucks screaming down the hill. The fire has maxed out and is on the downside. I make a display of unconcern, taking care of it myself. This accident. They see I have things in hand. I have my garden hose in hand. The volunteer fire guys who don’t need this crap gingerly climb down and out and pay me a visit. I tell them I have things in hand. I tell them mea culpa: I must not have got that cigarette butt extinguished. They tell me a lady panicked into the country deli-store (where the volunteer firemen hang out because, I think, one owns the place) to make sure they got my call. They hadn’t. Didn’t know a thing about it. I ask if I’ll be assessed a fine for the costs. No, he says, but listen: next time you don’t get a cigarette butt extinguished, call first and just let us know, okay?

I deserve that.

One dark night I furtively deduce that a rubber tire will burn so hot and so long that anything in its burning vicinity will be powder before the tire goes out. Sheetrock powder. Probably regular rocks as far as that goes. I should throw one in next time and see. This is the kind of alchemy esoterica that rankles and must be spoken of in colorful and misleading imagery. The dragon seethes, the Elves of Gehenna become one with Oblivion. Only to the ears of the initiated—the Paracelsi and the Ziffels—should these intimate codes be endowed with meaning.

Home alone and I have much to burn. I’ve moved the fire pile to the north long ago, not so far that I dread taking out the trash in winter, not so close as to be a danger. To the edge of our field. Our pasture, I mean. Talk like you’re one of us, son. And light that match. At night, it’ll be just a bonfire. But nobody’s invited. That blackness filling the firmament and blocking out the stars, well, it’s nothing. You’re smelling things again, take your pills.

Flame

And then the wind comes. It’s out of the west like it was during the night of my first burn. Misburn. Usually is. It also picks up. It’s springtime, though. Comfortable out, besides the smell, mea culpa. The steady and heavy breeze actually feels good to me. My thoughts are heard, leapt upon, and the steady-and-heavy goes full tilt. Orange coals take to the heights. To the house. To the roof. It’s coming out of the west and the north. Japanese blade-crafters then and now would kill for what I am running around trying to make stop. Furnace-class. Garden hose throttled up all the way and its sputum is turned into a perfume-bottle mist, dispersed with the blazing matter as if it were nothing. Heh. Sputum. But it’s not funny at all. Can’t even hear sizzles, just whooshes. Slaps. Things attached to hinges slamming. The same wind is amputating tree limbs. Detritus from the hillbilly place two miles away swirls within my crematorium, catches flame, and jets off. The grass of the yard and the alfalfa of the field–the pasture–are laid flat, ripped out by the roots. All I can do now is aim at the house, get it as wet as I can. I am analyzing, and you know what? The stars have vanished because the sky is black, true, but it has nothing to do with my illicit, bad-neighbor fuel. Shingles are flying from the roof like clay pigeons. Shrapnel. Sticks, leaves, branches, and Fire. Pull. Up, down, left, right, Fire. Spray the house. Just spray that damned house. The timing on this whole thing has been preternatural. I think Dresden, but only for a second. That’s not fair. Still….  Tornado, tornado, go away. I’ve learned this time. Ok? Ok? The security lights—mine and others—blink dark. In the country are security lights. Not now. A transformer brightens the horizon with its own lightning bugs. In the country are shingles….

Fire in the Sky

The twister (talk like you’re one of us) touches down about four miles away. It skirts me, minimal damage elsewhere, all considered. Neighbors and buildings, distances cozily between everybody and everybody’s. Like they want it. And a less-menacing path for ‘naders in the bargain. The rain brings up the rearguard and snuffs out my stupidity. Tomorrow I clean up the traces of it.

Heaps and heaps of traces.

NORWEGIAN WOODS: John Lennon, Volker Park, and the Night We Said Goodbye

December of 2013

December of 2013

There really is no way of saying this without it sounding something like the product of a typewriter in carnal congress with a sewing machine tumbling down a mountain: I walked on the Earth with people who walked on the Earth during the Civil War, and I am walking on the Earth with people who will walk on the Earth in the 22nd century. Verbal acrobat training camp and your calculator aside, that’s a deep concept to my easily-amused mind. I came of age during an era for which my own offspring has expressed envy. “I wish I would’ve grown up in the 70s.” And I have heard the same from others in her age group. For all their sakes I’m glad they didn’t, and apparently we’ve somehow managed to romanticize the devil which is our faults, but what can you expect from people who came up in the 70s? Nonetheless, I emerged from that mess and for some reason I probably wouldn’t trade it. Not without a few guarantees.

I hitchhiked. Not as the grown-up derelict I was setting up to become, but as a kid. A child. Twelve—hell, eleven—years-old. Imagine something like that now. Picture yourself as a cop in a cruiser; you’d be on that shit right quick. Good-hearted 21st-century adults would pull over, although in the capacity of a rescue effort—The poor boy’s doomed for a target!—then keep going after thinking it through—But what suspicions will this cast on me? It wasn’t an unusual thing to do, though, hitchhiking wasn’t, in 1970; nor was the sight of a kid with his thumb out evocative of any special ponderations for non-degenerate people. It’s how we got around. No cabals existed then of neighborhood mothers setting neighborhood standards for dress, speech, birthday soirees, vehicle purchases and child-rearing. Not that hitchhiking was sanctioned by my parents or others. It wasn’t for the most part. But sometimes parents know which battles to choose; and as a suburban version of a street-smart kid, you catch on quickly how to prepare for conversational contingencies long before you go home for the night. Frank’s mom gave me a ride. Sure, you remember Frank. And so forth.

When I was thirteen I discovered a place called Volker Park. Volker was Kansas City’s Haight-Ashbury, except with fountains, grass, and evergreen groves rather than building-fronts and hidden passageways. Drugs and music and guys with hair down to their knees speaking words of wisdom. The music was limited to Sundays, but it was especially cool because the only electricity was provided by somebody’s generator and the hat had to be passed through the crowd each week for gas money for the machine. I don’t know how bands got gigs there, or how organizers got bands there, but everything was voluntary, and at eye-level at least, it worked pretty well. The first time I ever heard Chain of Fools was there. A cute girl was bringing it home out in front of her band. Forever after, I’d have this thing for chicks who could sing. I remember thinking how fun that must be, to stand up there and do that.

What I don’t remember is how I even learned about Volker Park or how long it had been happening, but my friends and I would hitchhike down there of a Sunday in groups of three or four or five and we always got rides. The only humans younger than our kaleidoscope-eyed selves at Volker were toddlers, and you didn’t see a whole lot of those. People sold things there: Crafts, artwork, fresh fruit, and back in the spruce groves, substances. We, the gang, might pool our money, or one of us may have saved his paper-route income to be treated as the day’s hero, and we’d follow the call of the sirens straight back to the woods, to those mystical, soulful, druidic trees that grew so incredibly high. (And if you didn’t get that reference, you won’t get the one I’m omitting about Itchycoo Park, either.) And in their cedary, shadowy, evergreeny midst, the pagans would have set up shop. Over here, the affordable Mexican goodies. There, the pricey Colombian. A few steps farther, Jamaican. Ounces, my friend, and three-finger lids. Dime-bags, nickel-bags, and for the likes of a growing thirteen or fourteen-year-old boy, there would always be the one guy on his blanket, his nimble fingers busy rolling up joints with one hand and collecting two bucks with the other. “Are you ripping me off?” I was compelled once by my peach fuzz world-wisery to ask the guy as he tucked my two bills into his purse. “Yeah, man. Yeah. I’m ripping you off.” Well, he better not have been because I was nobody to trifle with. Clouds of smoke enveloped those evergreens like mists in the fjords. But that’s not all, my child. Come this way. I bought my first four-dollar micro-square of Scotch Tape in those trees. Except I bought it under a different label and the culprit didn’t stick around to groove on the virtually-free music while I was learning what adhesive tastes like. Target indeed.

The Grove and its new day trippers

The Grove and its new day trippers

Sometimes I would hitchhike my determined little way there by myself if no one else was into it. Or if I was into no one else going with me. The mesmerizing Volker milieu super-charged my burgeoning awareness. And accommodated my fogginess. And I met people. I met people just passin’ through as the T-shirts and VW bumper stickers and junior-high notebook adornments would say in those clever 1970s. Some of the hippies were disinclined to opine for the amusement of a punk kid, but others didn’t mind so much. They came from all over the country, from the Black Mountain hills of Dakota to Tucson, Arizona. I asked a guy from California, a guy driving to some state in the East for a big outdoor concert, how he knew to come to Volker Park. “I don’t know, man. I just heard about it.” Insignificant as that was, I was impressed enough to remember it four decades in the future. And I remember a little Sunday-comics-like handout publication that you could find anywhere in and around Volker called “The Westport Trucker.” It had nothing to do with trucking, though. If I remember right, it had to do with local Birkenstock-and-ponytail graphic artists and humorists moving the boundaries. Seeing what they could get away with. A comic book for the substance-based life. A showcase for the F-word. Far out drawings of bouncing boobies and dancing dongs. It was an element of Volker Park.

English: John Lennon and Yoko Ono

English: John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In time, without anybody really noticing, the Trucker and Haight-Ashbury and hippies and head shops and Volker Park went away. By 1977, by the time Elvis took his final dump let’s say, the Park was just…just grass that city workers had to mow in the summer. A stroller, a Frisbee, maybe a blanket, maybe some sweat pants, a paperback on someone’s knee. Maybe nothing at all. No more riding on that merry-go-round. Then, on the 8th of December in the Anno of our Domini 1980 and all that…boom. Instant karma. This dumbass shot and killed John Lennon. It was a big deal. Probably not JFK big, and certainly not 9-11 big, but we remember where we were when we heard the news that day. Ohhhh boy. A split second of time passed, and no matter what else happened, there never again would be The Beatles. Not in our maybe-random slice of history. Heavy, man. I don’t know who initiated it, but word went round regarding a candlelight vigil—whatever the fuck that was—at Volker Park, not to mourn the death, but to celebrate the life of…aw, whom the hell were they kidding? It was to mourn the murderous passing of John Lennon into eternity. So I loaded up my guitar in somebody’s car and a bunch of us went to the ol’ haunt to see what a candlelight vigil was.

We were bummed—deep-in-the-gut, we’ve-been-had bummed—to find out it was nowhere, man. The park was crowded enough—more than any time in the past it was crowded by the old crowd with a contingent of new crowd added into the count—but outside of somebody somewhere playing a Beatles 8-track through speakers on his car roof while a few candles were waved over heads…nothing. It was boring. It was boring, it was dark, it was cold. Screw this. 

2013-12-06 17.06.55

The bands who played at Volker on those sunny Sundays still fresh in our memories had set up near the fountains, and that’s where I took my guitar. That’s where my would-be sweetheart sang chain chain chain and that’s where I plopped my ass down cross-legged and commenced to unleashing Beatles and John Lennon masterpiecelets. Hooray for me. People dug it. They sang along. Louder and louder, more and more into it. By the time I got to A Day in the Life, a wide circle had formed with me and an old acoustic in the middle. Applause, applause. And candles. “Do you know Strawberry Fields?” Yep. A blonde girl with glasses ran up and pinned a gold-colored strawberry on my jacket for that one. Another girl slipped a card with a quote by Carl Sagan into my chest pocket. (?) Another one—another girl, hell yeah—gave me a piece of scratch paper with her number on it (which for whatever reason I never followed up on) and we all had a pretty good time for an ash spreading. That night, John Lennon and Volker Park—and I suppose if I want to get philosophical, an era—were ushered out in my town with more of a bang (unintended, John) than the whimper it was all destined to be. Damn right.

Imagine There Was Music (it's easy if you try)

Imagine There Was Music (it’s easy if you try)

Volker Park is still there, but it’s not. Not really. It has a different name now, a name I don’t even remember. Okay, I do but I’m not going to say it. Just like I didn’t say the name of the dumbass who shot John Lennon. Not because the Volker zeitgeist was some great crucible of human virtue deserving of veneration—not by any stretch of the Scotch Tape-powered imagination—but because, well, you know. Because he might be unruly and not house-trained, and probably has rabies, but who the hell are you to rename my puppy?

You’ll see a film today–oh boy! A couple of videos of the Park in the day http://youtu.be/pBR5BMYOdjs        http://youtu.be/MkT6MrFejhk

And a great trailer for a documentary about Cowtown Ballroom in Kansas City, Missouri a few blocks from Volker Park during the same era. http://youtu.be/1OFsE2uyxE8

 

FISH AND WILDLIFE ADDS SASQUATCH TO ENDANGERED SPECIES

Washington, D.C.

November 10, 2012

United States Fish and Wildlife Services spokesperson Naya Faroosh said late Friday afternoon at a Washington press conference that the government organization will include the elusive Sasquatch, more popularly known as Bigfoot, on its list of endangered species. Sasquatch habitat has been severely diminished over recent decades, Ms. Faroosh said. The official FWS stance is that this is due to Anthropogenic Global Warming as well as urban sprawl and human encroachment in inland Oregon and Washington State where the Sasquatch population is believed to be most prevalent in the U.S. FWS scientists estimate there may be fewer than three dozen Sasquatches remaining in both states combined. The total number of these legendary bi-urnal bipeds in the Canadian province of British Columbia may be double that, although much reduced from historic highs in the thousands only two centuries ago, according to the FWS.

“The very paucity of Sasquatch sightings in our own lifetimes is evidence of human carelessness and disregard,” Ms. Faroosh said. “We share this earth with other species who have every right to exist here, and our actions should reflect our appreciation of that fact.” The spokesperson went on to say that a majority of the land best suited for Sasquatch habitat is currently under private ownership, but that with the new ruling, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is empowered to take control of those lands and place them under a federal management program designed to restore endangered populations to previous levels. “The fewer sightings there are, the stronger the proof of our negligence as a society,” Ms. Faroosh said. “It is the Sasquatch children who suffer most.”

Sources confirm that Canadian authorities have been approached by the FWS regarding a joint effort in land management benefitting the Sasquatch. Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon of British Columbia, whose province is believed by U.S. government environmental scientists to be home to the largest population of sasquatches in North America, has failed to respond so far, other than handing out copies of the FWS letter during a holiday party. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has issued no official response, but was inadvertently caught on camera rolling his eyes during a telephone communication on the issue with the FWS director’s office, say sources close to the prime minister.

When the subject of general skepticism among the public in regards to the existence of the Sasquatch was broached, Ms. Faroosh responded that some people still deny the existence of Global Warming and the Holocaust. “We can’t be good stewards of the Earth if we’re willing to allow the fringe element in our society to govern our actions,” Ms. Faroosh said. “These people couldn’t care less about the plight of certain species or the health of the planet, and it behooves true Americans to ignore the rhetoric of hate that continuously emanates from those quarters.” Ms. Faroosh went on to assert that sasquatches, or “these gentle giants of the Great Northwest” are “people too,” endowed with “the desire to provide the best for their children” essentially the same as humans.

The White House also issued a statement late Friday afternoon indicating that President Obama looks forward to a bipartisan solution to the problem of dwindling Sasquatch habitat. “The president will consider any ideas as long as they are balanced,” the statement said.

THE HIGHEST FORM OF HUMOR

American families have been going to the front room and turning on the television for roughly sixty years now. The Simpsons have been on the air for well over a third of that time. That’s remarkable. You have to ask what unique quality gives this program such unprecedented staying power. Is it the weird-looking artistry or the buzz phrases? Is it that the characters are so loveable? All of that has to be considered, but there is a key element of The Simpsons to which its cult following can be attributed—something television audiences had not seen before. I know people who don’t watch it, and I know some who say they never got it. The number of folks who don’t get it is considerable, and I contend it is they who have sustained Bart and company for a quarter of a century.

Simpsons creators took a huge risk by including humor only a small percentage of the viewing audience would understand. Mixed in with the slapstick and occasional raunchiness are some rare gems known in comedy circles as sophisticated humor, and that is what keeps viewers tuning in. The target audiences for those quality lines are made to feel special, as if they belong to an exclusive club, or as if they’ve been rewarded for paying attention. Maybe some TV shows had stuck toes in that water before, but no one had jumped in like the writers behind The Simpsons. When only one or two people in a room of five or six will probably get the joke without it being explained, you have to admire the boldness of the staff and producers.

George Harrison is walking down the sidewalk when he looks up and sees Homer’s band rehearsing on the rooftop of a tall building. “It’s been done,” he says, and walks on. The scene shifts before you have time to digest it. What percentage of viewers will even understand that? Not a big one, I’m sure, but that’s what makes the production classy. A famous sports figure guest-starred and was given one line: “It’s like there’s a party in my mouth and everyone’s invited.” I read that the guest had to have someone explain it to him. As would have ninety-percent of America.

But The Simpsons’ raison d’etre is lines like that one, and they’ve made that type of comedy popular. Frasier was one to follow suit. An example: Each scene is given a title. One in particular was called “If at Faust You Don’t Succeed.” Frasier was lured to the hotel room of the agent he’d fired for being too unscrupulous (She has no scruples, no ethics, and NO REFLECTION!) A choir convention was taking place in a banquet hall below, providing haunting music. A red light from a large neon sign shone into the room with an eerie glow. The agent, Bebe, was removing wrinkles from a dress with steam from a hot shower, which filled the room where she stood in flowing black lingerie, beckoning Frasier to return to her with promises of fame and fortune. She, of course, was Mephistopheles, and the whole scene was a Faustian metaphor. But who the hell is going to understand all of that? A small group of keen viewers applauding their asses off, that’s who.

This, the highest form of humor, which I will refer to from now on as HFH, caught on after The Simpsons became such a resounding success. Those same writers went on to create Futurama, another clever HFH production, where the best lines sail by faster than spitballs. HFH programs like these take advantage of modern technology. The viewer has to pause the scene and watch it again in order to read the sign in the background or catch the joke. The Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” has given its audience several HFH classics, such as Aquateen Hunger Force, Squidbillies, and Metalocalypse, to name a few. Family Guy is generally on the crude side, often taking the cheap shot, but every once in awhile they’ll earn their keep with a bold bit of HFH:

Oldest son Chris brings home a girl who looks just like his mother.

Stewie the baby: Looks like somebody’s getting a little Oedipussy.

Brian the dog: Can we say that?

Stewie the baby: I just did.

Wow. I would love to know what miniscule fraction of the audience caught that one, and particularly when they’re only hearing it and not seeing it written as it is above. This was actually two separate jokes pulled off in three sentences. Granted, it took half the show to set it up, but some (I) would say it was worth it, crudeness noted.

I look forward to more years of the HFH that The Simpsons spawned, the life force of shows like My Name Is Earl and King of the Hill. A person could actually categorize the eras of comedy television in a way that would make sense: Before Simpsons and After Simpsons. It was 1987 when the barrier was breached. Before that, there were funny shows, but nothing like in recent years. And because the bar has been set so high, mediocre comedy rarely succeeds anymore. How I Met Your Mother is a glaring exception. And with that, I bring it to a close, leaving you with a dozen or so of my favorite lines from Metalocalypse. Enjoy.

Pickles the drummer, holding a live lobster in a restaurant: Okay, hold on now. So you’re telling me that you put these little guys in boiling water and they shriek and they turn red and they die?

Waiter: Yes sir.

Pickles: That’s the most metal thing I’ve heard in my whole life. High five!

 

Toki (a Scandinavian guitarist): I…have a confessions to makes. I can’t read music.

Skwisgaar (Another Scandinavian guitarist): Dude, Toki can’t read music. Ha, it’s a laugh.

Toki: Can you?

Skwisgaar:No. I have music dyk…slexia. You know that. I…don’t wish to talk about it.

Nathan (lead singer): Maybe your teeth are falling out because you eat all that candy.

Toki: So what. Teeth grow back.

Nathan: Heh, no they don’t.

Toki: Are you a dentist?

Nathan: No.

Toki: Then shut up.

 

Pickles, to the comatose chef: By the power of all that is evil, I command you to awaken and make me a sandwich!

 

Toki: WOW! What IS this place?

Skwisgaar: This is, I believes, called food libraries.

Toki: Foooood li-brar-eee.

Skwisgaar: Fooood liii-braaarrr-eee.

Pickles: It’s called a grocery store, douche bags! I’m sorry about douche bags. I got low blood sugar.

 

Toki: I Toki. I slips in and out of diabetic coma. They should make insulin-flavored candy. Whatever. Candy taste like chicken if chicken was a candy.

 

Murderface (bass player): What do ya mean, booze ain’t food! I’d rather chop off my ding-dong than admit that.

Peripheral character: You’ll go to heaven for that, Murderface.

Murderface: I’d rather die than go to heaven.

 

Toki: And then from sorrow, far too, he blow he brain in.

Skwisgaar: He blow he brain out.

Toki: Whatever.

Skwisgaar: Out.

Toki. It make a great album cover.

 

Murderface: What are those wooden things? Chairs?

Skwisgaar: They are acoustic instruments.

Toki: What is acoustics? Ah, you mean grandpas guitar.

Skwisgaar: A grandpa’s guitar. That’s for p—-ies and grandpas. I think you know this.

Skwisgaar: Last time I was in Finland, last time I was in Finland I must’ve you-know-what-ed about…mmm, five-hundred girls. Golfpark estimate. Whatever.

 

Skwisgaar: You know what you are? You are a G-milf. That’s a grandma I’d like to f—.

 

Nathan, firing the band’s life coach: We, uh, found out that you can just…you know, buy…psychological validation, so…

 

Pickles: Why do we make it so hard on ourselves? Let’s just solve it like any other problem.

Murderface: Of course. We have them put to sleep.

 

Manager: You could just give him back.

Nathan: That’s a horrible thing to say…but yeah we tried that already

 

Pickles (pushing a cart full of liquor bottles) to grocery store clerk: Say chief, this stuff good for soup?

Clerk: No.

Pickles: Ah ha. That’s a yes.

 

Nathan: We are here to make coffee metal. We will make everything metal—blacker than the blackest black times infinity.

 

Skwisgaar, pouring coffee grounds into a toaster: What’s wrong with this dumb dildo thing? They gives us all the free coffees in the worlds and no instructions how to cook it.

Skwisgaar: All of our chefs, they has died a horrible death. What of that’s do you t’ink?

New chef: I would rather have my brains scooped out with a melon baller than to miss the opportunity to deliver the various cheese snacks to my beloved Dethklok.