Friday, December 29, 2006

Identifying "Weird" In Genetics

So I'm unpacking and reaching out to lost folks and so forth, and in this process I turned up some photos recently procured from my mother to prove the actuality of a tale I told my kids. The story and photographic evidence may provide a window into my world- seemingly normal at first glance, then progressively stranger with inspection. I proudly embrace and advance this senselessness in my family, by the way. I feel obliged to see to it my childeren are brought up to be interesting (if eccentric) people.

Snow camels, painted lawns, and the epic battle that never was.

The year is 1974. The place is a recently developed suburb in the midwest, far from anything. I'm a buck-toothed dork of a youngster- the complete opposite of grace, poise, and cool. Next door were Scott and Kelly- the enemies. It was a snow day, but not much of one by midwestern standards. The only way this particular snowfall was able to get us the day off was by being deceptively heavy and wet. Perfect for snowmen, or... wait for it... a snow fortress from which to launch my shameless conquest of the neighborhood- starting with my own personal Sudetenland, Scott and Kelly's yard. I met with them first thing- as no one was expecting the day off, we were all up and dressed and ready for school at the usual time. Terms of engagement were agreed upon and the construction of fortifications began. Instinctively I recognized the advantage of (slightly) higher ground and since I couldn't trench down, I built up my fortifications like the Hindenberg line. Initially, Scott and Kelly were merely preparing ordinance (prefashioned snowballs), but then like the Belgians, they realized the folly of thier inadequate strategy and began trying to match my furious wall building pace.

After some time, I was tired, but proud of my accomplishment- a wall as high as and wider than my shoulders and perhaps or 6 feet in length. I was concerned about being flanked in the event Scott and Kelly went "over the top", so I was building smaller angled walls- or at least this is what I was accumulating snow for when my mother came to check on me. She usurped my foundation in the name of self expression and took the flanking masses and stacked them higher still on my fortress at one end and two in the middle, making it sadly lumpy and unbalanced looking. I've got a problem with asymmetry, and this was chapping my underdeveloped ass. She retired to the kitchen and came back with a wooden spoon. I paniced- to me a wooden spoon was an instrument of punishment. There was this one wooden spoon that had a handle warped like a dog leg from being too hot in the dishwasher and she favored this one for my domestic corporal punishment. She could whoop ass from around a corner with this twisted and vicious culinary apparatus. At any rate, I was in the clear as she intended to use the spoon to shape the fortress. Huh? Yeah! Shit. This was going to be weird and I knew it. (In those days I wasn't so into the weirdness that surrounded me) As she took to shaping this lumpy shame, I had to face Scott and Kelly and explain to them how I couldn't engage them, couldn't blitz my way through their Ardennes, couldn't gird up my loins and let loose the dogs of war. My mom was stopping me. Worse still, my spectacular fortress was being bashed into a snowy ploughshare or some other peaceful object.

As I hung my head in shame, dejected and defeated I turned to sulk my way back to my territory when it first struck me- there was a camel in my yard. THAT's what she was making of my fortress!?! Well, at least it was convincingly a camel. No one was going to guess llama or such. About this time, Scott and Kelly's dad came onto the scene. He was a reckless and lazy fellow- I liked him. What followed was one of the strangest "keeping up with the Joneses" phenomonona I ever saw. Not to be outdone with the uppity neighbors and thier swanky yard snow camel (now resplendent with colorful wrapping ribbons as garnishment and spendored rigging), he began surveying his options with the far less spectacular speed bump of a barrier. Not wanting to make much of an effort, he decided that thier snopiary would be a caterpillar. The problem was that passersby would not intrisically know that it was in fact a caterpillar, versus say a fallen snow cylinder or snow phallus. Enviously spying the colorfull ribbons on the camel, his solution was decided. Black paint. Yeah. Really. He painted stripes and eyes on the lump of snow.

Here is how it all looked:

The outcome of all this was equally traumatising. When the snow melted, my yard had a lenghty patch of hard ice where the camel sat. We played with this like a slip and slide until I cracked my tailbone in a nasty fall (notice the earlier claim to be graceless). Concurrently, the caterpillar melted but the snow remained, leaving a strange grid of blurry black goo in the grass.

All of this was handled as being completely ordinary. I'm grateful that it was not.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Occupying My Thoughts

Not too much to report today. I sent some emails out to some folks I haven't been in contact with in a spell, as my Christmas card list was incomplete this year (hey- we've been busy!). One of those who I sent an email to was my previously mentioned (or alluded to) friend Don. Don was Phil's step son and my best friend for years. As a quick recap, he married a woman who hates me, and that's that. I sent him a quick message and new contact info, but I doubt I'll hear from him. He has reclusive tendencies. None the less, the excercise go me thinking about him and some of the amusing times we'd had. Don was the guy I would compete against in overpass-onto-train urination (most traincars contacted wins). Don was the guy with whom I drank Schaffer Beer (oh the shame). Don was a witness and compadre to some purely inexplicable events that, if I were to try and impart the details, you would call me a liar. More than anything else, he and I were on a tuned but nowhere near mainstream wavelength of humor. One of the habits we had that no one else ever seemed to understand or enjoy was that of the absurd pseudonym. At pretty much any time one or the other of us would extend hand for shaking, and then introduce ourselved with a hopefully funny fictitous name. There were hundreds of these over time, maybe thousands, but I remember what I thought was our two best:

Don: Flexbar Chimpwhistle
Mine: Snodon Bulwark

These would literrly send us into hysterical laughter when we'd generated a funny one. I don't even think we were high, but who knows?

I don't expect I'll hear from him this year, but hope springs eternal.

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown, R.I.P.

No, THE James Brown. Not that sports announcer formerly of Fox Sports, now on CBS- (I mean, he's okay, but he's stuck in a tough spot. He could never be "James Brown" properly, because the world already had the finest "James Brown" possible in the Godfather of Soul. He also couldn't be "Jim Brown", for reasons football fans will already know.) The REAL James Brown left us last night. To paraphrase HST, James really "stomped the terra". Like me, you may want to Get Up Offa That Thing, Get On The Good Foot, Think, Make It Funky, and Please, Please, Please Say It Loud- Thank you James Brown.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Land Of The Free?

No matter your ideology or political slant, there are real problems with the mechanisms by which we choose out leaders.

Credit to Angry Girl and Bob Rowe

1. 80% of all votes in America are counted by only two companies: Diebold and ES&S.

2. There is no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the US voting machine industry.

3. The vice-president of Diebold and the president of ES&S are brothers.

4. The chairman and CEO of Diebold is a major Bush campaign organizer and donor who wrote in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

5. 35% of ES&S is owned by Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who became Senator based on votes counted by ES&S machines.

6. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a long-time friend of the Bush family, was caught lying about his ownership of ES&S by the Senate Ethics Committee.

7. Senator Chuck Hagel was on a short list of George W. Bush's vice- presidential candidates.

8. ES&S is the largest voting machine manufacturer in the US and counts almost 60% of all US votes.

9. Diebold's new touch screen voting machines have no paper trail of any votes. In other words, there is no way to verify that the data coming out of the machine is the same as what was legitimately put in by voters.

10. Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines, all of which log each transaction and can generate a paper trail.

11. Diebold is based in Ohio.

12. Diebold employs 5 convicted felons as developers. These are the people who write the voting machine computer code.

13. Diebold's Senior Vice-President, Jeff Dean, was convicted of 23 counts of felony theft in the first degree.

14. Diebold Senior Vice-President Jeff Dean was convicted of planting back doors in his software and using a "high degree of sophistication" to evade detection over a period of 2 years.

15. None of the international election observers were allowed in the polls in Ohio.

16. California banned the use of Diebold machines because the security was so bad. Despite Diebold's claims that the audit logs could not be hacked, a chimpanzee was able to do it! (See the movie at

17. 30% of all US votes are carried out on unverifiable touch screen voting machines with no paper trail. 18. Bush's Help America Vote Act of 2002 has as its goal to replace all machines with the new electronic touch screen systems with no paper trail.

18. All -- not some -- but all the voting machine errors detected and reported went in favor of Bush or Republican candidates.

19. The governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush, is the President's brother.

20. Major statistical voting oddities (odds on the order of 250 million to 1!) -- again always favoring Bush -- have been mathematically demonstrated by experts.

Such amazing odds, the equivalent of statistical miracles these were. Was it God? Or was it Diebold...?

The sources and original posting can be found here

Monday, December 18, 2006


Having been tagged by Judith, I'll in turn will tag Scott from Oregon, Irrelephant, That Guy, and Schmoopie.

1. Three things that scare me:
-My heart
-Closed in spaces
-Stupid people in charge (eg. The TSA)

2. Three people who make me laugh:
- Louis Black
- Stephen Colbert
- Billy Connolly

3. Three things I love:
- My family
- The Northwest
- Football

4. Three things I hate:
- Toll roads
- Coffee
- Country and Western music

5. Three things I don't understand:
- Making the bed
- People who believe what Rush Limbaugh says
- Why I don't have an electric car

6. Three things on my desk (at home)
- Kleenex (feeling much better though, thank you)
- My camera (Nikon D50)
- Sundry remote controls

7. Three things I'm doing right now:
- This Memememememe
- Watching the Colts v. Bengals
- Wondering if Schmoopie is feeling well enough to make out

8. Three things I want to do before I die:
- See Europe
- Move from my current feeble ability to fluency in German
- Impart to my children the things that I believe are important in and about life

9. Three things I can do:
- Hold my breath for over a minute (even in my awful shape)
- All kinds of things with a CLARiiON SAN (last weeks training)
- Eat my weight in lobster

10. Three things I can't do:
- Eat bananas
- Explain myself effectively
- Whistle with fingers in my mouth

11. Three things you should listen to: (what? I should listen to, or I'd recommend that you listen to?)
- Noam Chomsky
- My/Your inner voice that says "You don't really need/want that do you?"
- "the opposition"

12. Three things you should never listen to:
- The voice of doubt
- William Shatner singing
- Fox News (even if you lean to the right, you can surely do better)

13. Three things I'd like to learn:
- How to make stained glass
- How to weld
- How to leave no room for doubt with my family that I in fact love them more

14. Three favorite foods:
- Lobster
- Snickers Ice Cream Bars
- Stew

15. Three beverages I drink regularly:
- Chai Tea (but only if it's good- like NOT Starbucks)
- Orange juice
- Water

16. Three shows I watched as a kid
- Rocky and Bullwinkle
- Gilligans Island
- Heckyll and Jeckyll (once upon a time, television was uncensored from political correctness)

So there you have it. Feel free to ridicule me as appropriate.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

El Juevos Grandes (WARNING- graphic painful truth)

So, I'm not sure why this story was requested, but ugly truths will be told. This story is not for the squeamish. This story is also not recommended if you are considering a vasectomy. Within the community of men I know, I have all but destoyed this industry.

In the spring of 2000, I had just started a new job and had a new baby boy with all requisite fingers and toes. In order to permit my sweetie to go off of birth control (wasn't agreeing with her blood pressure, etc.) I arranged to have the big snip. Now, at this point, I was a diet-control diabetic with a managed heart condition, and was in reasonably good health. I made an appointment with a urology group and scheduled surgery for the long Memorial Day weekend, with the theory that I would be able to recover and return to work that Tuesday afterward. I had some concerns about where exactly the sperm would go after the vasal canals were severed, but it wasn't a big hangup. Otherwise, things seemed sensible to this point, with the promise of unfettered access to nookie as the reward.

So I go to the outpatient surgery and it turns out that the doc in charge is an ex-Army doc who apparently a cowboy with a real thing for Remington bronze sculptures. I remember having mixed emotions about an ex-Army doc in charge. On the one hand, with the kind of volume the Army offers these "doctors", maybe he's learned valuable lessons about his craft, and has it down to a science. On the other hand, Army docs can be butchers and get away with sub-par work. Turns out, dealing with this guy was more like dealing with a large animal veterinarian. He had me sit on a cold metal plate (an electrical gound) as his tools were designed to cauterize with electricial current (sounds appealing, right?). Local anesthesia was applied, and a half inch or so cut was made in the middle of my nutsack. There are two vasal tubes to be severed- one per testicle or something, but with a bit of fishing, they can both be accessed from this central cut. The deal is this- the doc hooks one and pulls it to a point he can work on it, he cuts a length out of the tube and knots each end and then burns them shut. Fffffyowch! So, this is what Dr. Wyatt Earp does for/to me. I wore a jock strap home instead of my then routine, jokey type underwear, per my instructions.

The instructions were illustrated and hilarious. I think the same people that make the airline safety cards make these things. The image that I remember was a 70's looking handsome Dan kind of character sitting on a couch with a blanket over his lap and waving at people bringing him shit. I thought at the time it was ridiculous. No, I didn't go jogging or anything, but I didn't sit and stay put. I got up and did things for myself. Things didn't hurt. I was optimistic.

By Tuesday things were wrong. The package was mighty sore, and swollen. Not one to conceed to my health, I went to work and, as I had just started, met new clients. I was sweating and could only walk like an old woman with a walker/zimmer frame. What these people must have thought of me I can't imagine. It wouldn't have been appropriate to tell them that I was in testicular tauma, so I said nothing. Odd glances were proffered far and wide for the remainder of the week.

I spend the following weekend in bed shivering and fevered. My scrotum had swollen to a size larger than a softball. I went at some point for a follow up to the cowboy doc and was told that it looked painful (yeah- ya think?) and that it still might be okay with rest. No antibiotcs, questions about my diabetes, or the persistent fever. I missed the entire next week at work. I thought surely I'd be fired- missing a full week after only a short week of work? Fuggedaboudit. I spent ten days in bed bored to tears, sweaty and miserable. The next Monday, I tried to work again, but was dizzy and looked terrible. I couldn't keep warm in a heavy coat in the summer. I stood outside in my heaviest winter coat, and it was in the upper 90's, and I finally felt warm. People passing by were staring. My employer at least knew I wasn't bullshitting them. I went back to the cowboy on Tuesday and Schmoopie was with me. I was obviously in shock, and the staff at the cowboy's office were not seeing any of this as signifigant. Schmoopie asked if I shouldn't go to the ER. Well, okay- if you want to they replied. Off to the ER Schmoopie and I went. I'm admitted and am laying on a table in an ER room freezing and crying like a little girl. No one was there (including Schmoopie- I think she was dealing with the admittance Nazi). After 10 minutes or so, a male nurse came along and almost with a sneer asked "what's the matter with you?" You know- like "aww, didums hurt himself, de big burly man?" I didn't answer verbally- I merely pulled the sheet off to reveal my naked-from-the-waist-down anatomy, featuring a canteloupe sized scrotum, and an awkward related swelling that had begun overtaking my penis. This was the moment when having a male nurse made all the difference in the world. He literally shouted at people. One was to bring me morphine, another to bring a heated blanket and additional pillows. Things got into high gear in an instant.

I was given morphine (which by the way I recommend to the full- I LOVE morphine) and admitted. FInally the doctors were paying attention to my fever and blood sugar, which were horrible. Antibiotics were introduced and insulin four times daily. I'm now certain that I'd be sacked. I spent a week in the hospital without working. The thing about male genitals is that they are plumbed in such a way that fluids can flow to them more rapidly than away from them (this isn't just about erections, but it's a generalization that might shed some light on how my miserable scrotum could have become an inflated novelty item). So, part of the problem was literally the pressure. Enter Dr. Understatement. Dr. U has been coming in to keep tabs on my package, but short of looking for progress, hasn't been engaged. After two or three days in the hospital, the point of incision looked stretched to the point that it might reopen with a pop. More alarmingly to me, was that it was started leaking something that really freaked me out. It was fairly watery and the color of thousand island dressing (which I didn't like before this event). In my serioulsy drugged up state, I told the nurse that something was really wrong and could Dr. U be found in a hurry pretty please? He turned up shortly thereafter and said (no shit) "Oh look- it's weeping" Weeping? I'm weeping, I know, but what's the orangy shit leaking out of my grapefruit sized nutsack? There were other levels of worry that morphine hadn't put down too. The swelling was so severe that my penis had become engulfed in swollen tissue to the extent that when I needed to urinate, I had to make efforts to locate the end of my penis and hold back hot and tender tissue. It was like being uncircumcised and my foreskin was a water ballon. I was seriously worried at this point that I'd be unemployed and never able to have sex or urinate normally (if you call what I like to do "normal") again. Additionally, the morphine was sedating me to the point where I'd stop breating- sleeping or awake, which would be reflected in my pulse/ox reading and would lead to this sinewy German nurse running into my room and shaking the bejeezus out of me shouting "BREATHE!"

So, Dr. U announces that it's weeping, and he seems strangely chipper about all of this and wanders off to collect some things on the small metal TV dinner tray that they use in hospitals. Upon his return, he has a large syringe without a needle- just the plastic taper to where the needle would attach (think pneumatic squirt gun), some iodine (or betadine), and some hydrogen peroxide. I recognize all of these things, but couldn't imagine what he was up to. He mixed the iodine and hydrogen peroxide and then loaded up his syring with the mix. As a window into my thoughts at the time- who among us knows wat hydrogen peroxide does when applied to infected tissue? Yeah- I knew too, and could not believe what happened next. Dr. U lines up the needleless syringe to the barely-closed incision and SQUIRTS IT INTO ME. Well, for a half a second- nothing, then my scrotum inflated like a novelty baloon and I started shouting like I was on fire (despite the morphine). Then, as I'm shouting, the levee breaks, and a combination of thousand Island dressing, hydrogen peroxide, and iodine launch out of me like an overshaken two liter of soda. It shot out laterally and upward, covering Dr. U (good, he fucking deserved it for not telling me what the hell he was doing), the nurse, the wall, the television, the sheets, the floor- honest to God, it was everywhere. And it smelled too. Not badly, necessarily, but that it had a unique smell made matters worse in my mind.

Okay, so now I've got more to worry about, since my scrotum has split open and erupted. I couldn't tell you at that point if my testicles were still within me. They were on top of the television for all I knew. So, after cleaning up, Dr. U starts soaking a length of gauze in his potion of hydrogen peroxide and iodine and then starts SHOVING IT INTO ME. Something like six feet of 1" wide gauze, and then he leaves three inches or so hanging out. Fucking kill me now. I can't handle this. He calls this a "wick" and says it's important to keep the wound open and to draw the toxins out. Schmoopie was going to have to remove and replace this daily. Credit to her- she didn't flinch. I however fliched and then some. As a male. I guess I had some impressions of my anatomy rooted in how it feels (versus, say consulting an anatomy tome) and chiefly among them was that there shouldn't be opening in my scrotum into which things get stored. Would my balls fall out? Would squirrels take up residence in there? This was psychologically very upsetting.


So after my "wick" was installed, I was back to softball size and was sent home with drugs. Plus, to add insult to injury, they took away the morphine. So one more week at home and several wick changes later, I'm starting to mend. My penis is revealed to me again, as the tissue swelling subsides, and the persistent fever is gone. It was at this point I should mention that That Guy emails me a video of a woman in high heels violently stomping the shit out of some guys scrotum. There's a friend, huh? This and after my first month of employment, I had worked four days. While I didn't get paid, I also didn't get sacked. Four weeks after my start date I was finally ready to CAREFULLY return to work.

The long term affects of all of this were not insignificant. I became a full fleged diabetic after this- damage had been done to my pancreas presumably from the fever or infection. Welcome to the world of insulin and needles. That in turn led to some other issues with weight and a bevy of rotten side effects from the oral meds for diabetes. Ever since that surgery, I'm a boxers man. Jockey shorts might've seemed appealing given the support they can provide, but when you're toting around a grapefruit, you'll want the space more than the support. And realistically, the support is only of real value if you say, run somewhere. I only ran when it was from the cops, and that hasn't applied since I was underage. So, this was a sea change in my undergarment preferences. On the plus side, my genitals still function and the vasectomy was successful. I was supposed to go in twice and jerk off into a petri dish so they could look for spermazoa. I did this once, but all the Nurse Ratchett types there refused to lend a hand, so I only went once. I figured, if there was not any sperm in the first batch, the odds of any in the second would be effectively nil. Plus, if it didn't "take" there was no way hell I was going to repeat this process.

I knew other men who were considering vasectomies and they (I think) all declined after learning about my experience. In one instance I know that this led to friction between a husband and wife, because she wanted him to have one, and I permanently changed his mind (just by revealing details- not by lobbying). As a matter of fact, I wouldn't actively discourage any man from having one, but I would stress that they take it easy afterwards, even if they feel fine.

The moral of this story? Men will do anything if they believe it will lead to frequent, consequence-free, spontaneous sex.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The World Is A Poorer Place Without Him

I offered to share some "Phil" stories, and in attempting this, I may be underserving his legend. Phil was the step father of my long time best friend, Don. Now, Don is married to a woman who hates me, and I haven't seen or heard from him in years, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't/doesn't tear me up. Growing up, Don and I took a journey that routinely defied reason, and explanation, and we couldn't have been more satisfied with the passage. We were angsty self-exiled outsiders in a relentlessly comfortable suburbian environment in the midwest circa the 1980's. Two clever crackers, smoking cigars (long before it was chic), competitively urinating on freight trains from overpasses, playing NWA loudly in the 'burbs, and trying to morally compromise young women. Birds of a feather, Don and I.

STAGE and CHARACTERS: For whatever reason, we spent more time at Don's place than at mine. At Don's home was: Don, Don's mom (a sweet woman, who is also wonderfully unbalanced, supremely garrilous, and in this environment, a provocation for Phil), Phil (the subject of these recollections), Loralai (some awful little dog that resembled a mop), and Stalin, the Akita. The home was a ranch style with detached garage, and about 1 acre for each the front and back yard. The driveway was white gravel and ran about 150 feet to a reasonably busy thoroughfare.

BACKGROUND: Phil was, among other things: large (about 6'5" and probably 285lbs.), loud, a retired (city omitted) police officer, former car salesman, shrink wrap salesman, frightening driver of huge american cars, connoisseur of chili, weekend auto mechanic, a father (in addition to the stepfather role), grandfather, live-in estranged husband, and as I like to think of him, a benevolent and graceless water buffalo type. No, he didn't look like a water buffalo, but there was a similarity of spirit. I don't know that either water buffalo's or Phil deliberately ever hurt anyone, but by virtue of limited awareness, panic, or misunderstanding, they can be mighty intimidating and wreckless. The key is to observe from a safe distance.

Phil stories tend to fall into to categories- things he's said, or thing's he's done. Some of them are one liners that made us wonder about his brain pan:

DON (cleaning his room, to PHIL, passing by): Hey, do you have a box?
PHIL (chewin something): What? An empty one?

Many were actions, such as falling alseep on one of those low wheeled sled things mechanics use to get under cars, while under his car. Then some were a glorious union of words and action:

Enter STUCCO and DON
PHIL (while sitting in his Barcalounger, watching a Joe Don Baker movie from the 60's, eating about 2 gallons [no kidding] of chili from a large stainless steel mixing bowl with a serving spoon): [shouting to the television] "That's bullshit! Niggers* didn't say 'Brother' in the 50's!"
{Looks to STUCCO and DON, both standing jaws agape looking at the chili serving, and shocked at what was just said}
"I eat a lot of cheese, know what I mean?"

* A note about racism. I'm white, as is Don, and as was Phil. As I alluded to before, I grew up in the burbs of a city with tons of black people, and where I was concerned, I tended to embrace their culture. for many years I was the token white kid in my part of town (yup, we were poor) and I was actually part of involuntary desegregation- I was put on a bus with maybe 40 other black kids and shipped off to the white kids school. Weird. The "N word" was, and I understand remains, a fixture in this midwestern town, and I knew then and know now that it is not a word I'm entitled to use. I mention this not to defend Phil, who I think had some serious racial prejudices (seemingly from his time as a cop), but to explain that this is what he said, and I'm not going to edit this to paint a more politically correct picture. If you are sensitive to these kinds of things, you may take solace in the fact that I never saw Phil act with malice towards anyone based on race.

There are three stories involving Phil that are timeless, and I will do my best to impart them as accurately as possible.

The Cat
Don, Don's mom, and Phil had a cat that lived in their basement and avoided people. I didn't know this for years, as a result. Once, when on a rare occasion I went down to the basement, I saw the animal scurry from one dark corner to another, and I was as surprised as when, in the movie Alien, that critter burst out of the guys chest and went scampering off. I don't know that the cat had a name. No one ever referred to it as anything other than "the cat". It lived near the washer and dryer and was mostly black.

One day Don's mom came home and found something odd on the steps up from the basement. It was a little less than a foot long, hairy, and had a ribbon of tape at one end. It was the cat's tail, featuring some electrical tape unwinding from the end formerly attached to the cat. The cat was not visibly about, and no one else was home.
Rewinding to earlier that morning, events can be sketched together but questions remain. Phil somehow seperated the cat from it's tail. He never gave details, and our best guess was that it had something to do with the dryer door slamming on the cat as it attempted ingress or egress from the dryer compartment. Being an absudly pragmatic man, Phil wasn't about to take the injured feline/space creature to a veterinarian for treatment- he was going to remedy the problem himself. Enter the electrical tape. My expectation is that Phil chose electrical tape over say duct tape for color matching reasons. Had the cat been a gray tabby, for example, duct tape would have been used I'm sure. So the part I ask you to visualize is the sight of a burly large man with wiry silver hair and a penchant for profanity, wrestling, trying feverishly to tape a tail back on to what was surely a panic stricken and sore cat that avoids people. The tail was taped on, and Phil went to work. In the end, Don's mom saw to it that the cat was given proper medical care. The tail was not reattached- the outcome was a nubby cat butt.

The Dog
They had two dogs- one was a large, good looking, well mannered Akita, named Stalin (Don chose the name, and it was a girl dog), and some usually damp whiny mop of a dog named Lorilai. Lorilai only had one skill as far as I was concerned, Phil would feed her those "L'il Smokies" wienerette things, and she'd chew them until they were a soggy near-empty sausage sack of saliva, and then she'd leave them under Don's pillow. The Akita was a pampered pet and the mop was largely held in contempt and ridicule. The Akita belonged to Don's mom, and the mop to Phil. That may have been a default ownership issue however, but it was interesting to see Phil dealing with such a small and irritating dog.

One day it snowed about 18" and was mighty cold. Tough times for a little dog to be sure. Phil let Lorilai out to crap, and she did about 3 feet from the door. Phil then forgot all about the dog, and then presumably to keep warm, the dog sat down in it's freshly laid turdstack. Ker-squish. About 45 minutes later, Don's mom discovered the brown dogsicle and when she saw that Lorilai had frozen shit all along her bottom edge, she shouted for Phil to take care of this mess, as it was his fault. Now, there are no doubt those among you that are thinking like I was- he'd run a warm bath and deal with the nasty thaw. Nope. Not Phil. Phil got out the shears and cut off all the fur that had frozen shit on it- paws included. The outcome was both sad and completely hilarious. I don't know if you've ever seen a dogs paws shaved, but they have little hand-like paws under all that fur. At least this dog did. But the worst part, the pink bald ass. This little dog had it's ass end shaved clean and it's pinkish chapped butt cheeks were vivid against the white fur flanking it. This in concert with the bald "hand" paws that tapped loudly against the tile floor delivered a special indignity to the mop creature. "Tappity tappity tappity" would be the sound of the dog entering the room. You couldn't really hear the dog leave the room as we'd all be laughing at the pink monkey-like ass.

The Garage
There are actually two things that could qualify as garage stories, one far simpler than the other. The easy story invoves Phil, under his near-limo of a car on a mechanics crawler. Never overcoming his reflex to sit up, he was forever hitting his head on the underside of the vehicle, but one fine day while working with a cordless screwdriver, he managed to wind up a tuft of hair around the bit, and before he knew what had happened, he pulled out a patch of hair. Right at the beginning of his hairline, over his left eye, he pulled out enough hair with the screwdriver to make a silver-dollar sized circle of tender raw scalp. This led to one of the most ambitious comb over designs ever witnessed this side of Donald Trump.

My personal favorite though, requires a little bit of imagination. Phil was a clear proponent of the afternoon nap. He'd routinely fall asleep in the garage, normally under a car on the crawler. One day he fell asleep sitting on a barstool in front of the workbench, slumped on the bench itself. Don and I had apparently left the house quietly enough to let him remain in slumber. Our plans were quickly revised when we saw him out cold. We were robbed of the full potential to mess with Phil when one of us made some sound and he woke with a start, and grabbed a hammer laying beside him on the bench and proceeded to whack the ever loving bejeezus out of the benchtop in what appeared to be a measured pattern. Clearly, he was trying to give us the impression that he wasn't in fact sleeping. While we enjoyed this violent and grunting display, we privately vowed that should an opportunity such as this happen again, we'd sneak in quietly and replace the hammer with a full (not cleaned) fish, and scatter eggs about the bench. This is the part requiring imagination- imagine a large man sleeping at a bench, waking up with a start, grabbing a fish and whacking it against the bench, periodically smashing eggs in the process. Poetry in motion, I say.

These Phil stories really only scratch the surface of the man. He died a couple of years ago, and that was the last time I heard from Don. He had some medical problems that might've been beatable had he been willing to fight what he saw as his fate. Over the years that I knew him, I came to think of him as family, and even though once I left town I rarely contacted him, I felt a sense of comfort and humor just knowing that he was unchanged. I also acknowledge that these stories are best told verbally, but in an effort to share I'll try this medium. I'm thankful to have been a spectator to the water buffalo.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pahk The Cah At Hahvahd Yahd

Just a quick note on not being dead in Massachusetts- this place doesn't feel even a little bit like "home". I don't mean that like, I've lived here before, or that there are no houses to be found. I mean that this place does not have the sense or feeling of home. I could never live here happily. Which isn't to say that it is without it's charms or beauty. I certianly appreciate the history of the area, and think that in the spring and fall it's beautiful. There is something else missing here and I can't put my finger on it.
The training that brought me here is underway and interesting, and I think that the EMC facility in Milford is in a really pretty and surprisingly quiet area. I'm jetlagging pretty badly and needed to cause myself pain to stay awake this AM in lecture. I came to my room and fell asleep before the game started tonight, and now at after midnight EST am wide awake. I'll probably get adjusted to EST just in time to go home. *sigh* The Radisson, by the way, is a place that could really use some help. I found a live ant in my bed on the first night (although, who knows how much food has been spilled onto and ground into the carpeting, so he was probably just an opportunist. The alarm clock doesn't work (thankfully, I didn't trust the cut of its jib, and set my phone alarm as a backup). The alarm indicator light goes on and off at will, so potentially, if the light were on at the critical moment, it might've worked. I was testing it and the best result was to get it to make a quiet noise that sounded like "nuh". There is no fridge in the room. I guess they never have diabetics stay here who need to keep insulin cool. I'm using an ice bucked, but there is no ice machine on my floor. There is a place for one, but I guess it wasn't suitably locked down. There is a dearth of power outlets, and the worst part? They filter the Internet here! No naughty pictures for you my boy! We save all the porn here for the Kennedy's! WTF? You pay for a room (maybe even for the purpose of fucking) but God forbid you see a booby? There is something wrong with these Massachusetts people- dry towns, toll roads/roads with no signage, a baffling dialect, and now porn filtering? THIS is why the "big dig" failed- the engineers probably fed "big gaping holes you could drive through" into Google and got accused of being pervy. A real pervert would have gotten the job done with a smile and a double entendre for good measure.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Maybe It's All The Cough Syrup...

So, yes- I'm still sick, but I did finally drag my miserable ass to the doctor and got meds, so hopefully I'll be back in form shortly- just in time to leave town for the week. Sheesh. Well that's okay, I like Boston well enough, and am looking forward to the training.

What with the holidays and hectic schedules, we had our send off celebration for the guy I'm replacing. He's staying through the 22nd, and has been really great to me in the transitition. I hope he finds whatever it is he's looking for going forward. I asked him once why he's leaving and he didn't want to get into it, but allowed as how it was a personal matter- that is, that the job isn't a problem. In the storytelling tonight at the send off, I heard an amazing story that may shed some light on this.
The business owner is a considerate and engaged person, who really seems to walk the walk in terms of wanting to maintain a positive environment, and last May put together a teambuilding kind of deal where everyone went bowling. At that time, the company was a little smaller- say a dozen and a half (or fewer?). At any rate, the then office manager was an apparently well-regarded guy named Dave. I don't really know anything about him, other than while bowling with the gang from the office, he dropped over dead of a massive heart attack. Dave was 38.

Holy Shit.

The paramedics tried to revive him for 45 minutes or so, but it was over before it started. Everyone was there, and everyone remained. I can't imagine the fallout from this. I understand that Dave was pretty close to a number of folks at work, although I would think that even the folks who didn't know him well would be affected. The owner brought in a greif councelor and they all did what they could. I'm not interested in prying for details further- I'm just thankful to know the gist of the matter. I can see where this event would trigger some of those long dark tea time of the soul periods of introspection and re-evaluation. Being a fellow of unreliable health (as those of you who know me personally are well aware) it didn't take long for me to think about my own mortality. I mean, to be crass about it, I thought about my potential (and Dave's) to do for this company what Spinal Tap did for drummers. Weird.

In other news, as I'm still feeling awful and hacking up lung biscuits all over, I still haven't moved the server downstairs, so my email is still offline. Well, that is my PRIMARY email is offline. You can email the stucco_x at mac dot com if you'd like. Hammer- jog my memory wouldja? What story was I threatening to tell? I've been trying to put together a list of stories that I think might "tell" well on the ole blog here. The problem is that I tend not to know where that "too much information" line runs. For example, the story of my vasectomy is legendary. I nearly ended an industry. Then there are "Phil" stories that once told, tend to get requested for retelling. I have stories that I find, well... let's say "formative" as well as amusing. Plus, not everyone involved is dead, so there are names to change.