Monday, September 29, 2014

last night's bear story

the bear jumps out on the boy in the forest again, and says this time he's going to eat him for sure. but the boy says it's a bad day, because he has an art exhibit at a gallery in town, and he's expected, he's not only expected, but he's the star of the show, inasmuch as he's the main artist. the bear is not thoroughly convinced but once again decides to go along with the boy.

when they get to the gallery, it's a thoroughly modernistic building with glass walls and weird angles everywhere. there's a whole table of hoover-doovers and everyone is standing around eating hoover-doovers and drinking wine. the boy asks the bear if he'd like any hoover-doovers, but the bear, though starving, is more focused on watching people. the walls, however, are empty except for light shining on them. "hey," the bear says, "there's no art on the walls! where is your art?"

"it's imaginary," says the boy. "my art requires a finely developed sense of imagination on the part of the viewer, who must make of it what he imagines," and the boy goes into an explanation of how the art relates to the viewer, and the viewer relates to the art. meanwhile a woman comes up and gives the boy several thousand dollars in cash, for a piece of art that she has taken a liking to, and she seems quite content to carry this picture out into the street even though it's imaginary. the bear is incredulous. he gets the boy to promise to take him to the movie after the art opening.

now the owner of the building comes by and reminds the boy that he owes rent for this fine old building space which is, after all, right downtown. the boy pays him cash with the money in his pocket, and buys an extra month while he's at it, even though he doesn't need it as the exhibit is coming down soon. the man is satisfied and goes to eat more hoover-doovers and drink wine. some people appear to be getting a little tipsy.

but the building manager reminds the bear that you have to wear pants or you're not allowed in the elevator, though the bear says he has no intention of using the elevator, since he's sure that they will make the elevator stuck the minute he gets in it, and he also says that even though elevators are supposed to always go up and down, this one is likely to go sideways since he doesn't trust the management. the building manager says he'll call a tow truck and have the bear towed away if he doesn't behave himself immediately but the boy grabs the bear before it's too late and takes him across the street to the movie theater where "fantasia" is showing and they get in line.

they buy tickets and order a large popcorn, but instead of receiving a giant bowl that is full of buttered popcorn, they receive a single piece of popcorn that is what, several feet wide and several feet tall. they don't know how to cut it because they have nothing to cut with. they take it to their seat and put it between them, but people behind them start yelling, down in front! down in front! but they can't put it down; it's too big. and there are no seats in the back, all the seats are taken.

they start an intense conversation with a woman behind them about the rights of a person who has bought a movie ticket, but people nearby resent the conversation in the middle of the movie and pretty soon there's a commotion of people yelling at them to shut up and the bear finally threw the popcorn over to a little kid, since he wasn't going to use it himself. he began considering the exit door, since he'd already seen the movie maybe nine times, and knew all the songs by heart.

classic bear story

bear stories, in our household, mostly come out when we are camping but are likely to come out any time. they are characterized by a certain absurdity, starting with the fact that the bear always talks. but they are also characterized by a strong relationship between the bear and the boy, who is always in a little danger of being eaten if nothing else. here is the main one:

one day the boy was walking along in the forest when the bear jumped out at him and said he would eat the boy. the boy said, "whoa! don't eat me!" but the bear was determined. finally the boy made the bear an offer. "you should come down into town with me and eat a hamburger. when we get the hamburger, they put it in a bun, and then they have cheese, and relish, and ketchup and mustard, and tomato, and onion, and lettuce..." now the bear doesn't really know what all this stuff is, but he decides to give it a shot, since, if it's not enough to eat, he can always just go on plan a, which is to eat the boy. but as they walk through the forest, they run into a number of other animal friends.

first they run into the dog, and the boy describes the entire hamburger again: cooked well, with cheese, and tomato, and ketchup, and mustard, etcetera. pretty soon the bear is entranced by the sound of this exotic food which he's never tasted, but the dog is not impressed. "i am busy," he said, "chasing a cat." later they run into the cat, and the story is repeated. the boy describes the hamburger in detail, but the cat is busy chasing a mouse. when they get to the raccoon, the raccoon is planning to break into a garbage can, so he's too busy to go to town to get a hamburger.

when they finally get to town, it's just the boy and the bear again. on the restaurant is a sign that says "no shirt no shoes no service." the owner points it out and complains that the bear doesn't even have pants on either. the bear says he'll eat the owner along with the boy, and he doesn't care what anyone is wearing. they are standing outside the restaurant and in fact are pretty close to a parking meter.

so the meter man comes by and starts writing the bear a ticket for not plugging the meter. the bear maintains that he is not a car, so he should not have to plug the meter. the meter man says that it doesn't matter if you wear pants or not, if you are blocking the parking space and not dropping quarters in the meter, he'll give you a ticket. i don't have quarters, said the bear, because i don't have pockets. but i will gladly eat you, and drop some of your quarters into the little slot.

oh no no no no, says the boy, running from the restaurant out into the street to retrieve the bear. he has obtained a seat in the restaurant, after some waiting, and now wants the bear to join him for a dinner of two hamburgers with the works. the bear is stuck on the idea of "the works" but he was quite bored with the meter man, so he walks into the restaurant and joins the boy at the table near the juke box. now people are plugging the juke box with all kinds of quarters, and they are listening to classics of all time which come on repeatedly.

but a tow-truck driver pokes his head into the restaurant and asks if there is a bear in the house. yes, there is i, says the bear. the tow-truck driver says he was asked to come downtown and tow this bear who was blocking the road and refusing to let people park in front of the restaurant. you can't tow me, says the bear, i'm a bear, not a car, so take your tow truck and go tow someone else. they just about start a fight right there in the restaurant and one young child actually hides under the table because he's afraid there will be food and plates flying any minute. but the bear keeps his calm and simply reminds the tow truck driver that he can tow whoever he likes, but he can't fit the bear through the door without the bear's cooperation, or breaking the big window that says "eat" on it, and the tow-truck driver ends up complaining that this bear is not even wearing pants, even when you are supposed to be kicked out for as little as "no shoes no shirt." but it's too late, people have come to like the bear, and they don't like tow truck drivers, and even as he raises his voice they keep singing in french and banging their spoons against their glasses, and he just has to leave. the bear and the boy order apple pie with cream on top, and make a long night of it, telling stories and singing with the crowd. somebody brings out the raspberries, and that makes the bear really happy, but finally he remembers his little home in the woods, and stumbles home, in the middle of the night, glad that there's a large moon to light his way.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

10 years blogging
and i have no idea how to mark the occasion
he looks at the post below, the one in italics, and he says, what a piece a crap, i sure have turned into a lousy writer. going back through the autobiography, which is called just passing through by the way, and in need of a central piece but this is not even a lousy start. it might be of some use if it's rewritten over and over but hey who's got the time. taken up poetry again, you don't have to slave over every sentence or organize which i do for a living.

then the tech team goes up into oklahoma, and apparently t.-boone pickens gave them a few hundred million, a few hundred million for their football team and another few hundred million for their school, and they spent their football money recruiting texans, and doing a few other bawdy things for their visitors which they got caught doing but which someone said, hey, every football team does this kind of stuff they're just the dumb suckers who got caught. so they got their wrists slapped but they got to go ahead and play football and now they beat us every year apparently. and not only that, but they injured our quarterback.

now i should mention that as a lifelong cleveland browns fan all of football has now become a cruel parody to me, a kind of vaudeville entertainment where people who should know better fall into genuine rooting for this team or that team, meanwhile the players fall injured, or get a lot of concussions, or beat their girlfriends or wives, or whatever. we're lucky, in that sense, that we're losing to the big guys because if we were winning them all, then somebody would care too much about the kind of stuff we're getting away with. coach is getting three mil but he's a single guy. girls are trying to figure out how to trip him and land beneath him.

saw a truck waving huge confederate flags as it drove triumphantly down university avenue. but they were paving university avenue and it was all gravel dust and torn up asphalt. this truck, it had been in the mud, obviously. i guess that's a sign of something, the boys like that, when the truck has a fair spattering of red texas clay all over it. it was a victory lap, i'm sure. on the way to town for a friday night.

now i must say, i myself got a ticket the other day, went south out of the cvs on memphis and nineteenth, went past four stop signs in a row, and came to a sign that said, school zone, 20 when flashing, but it was not flashing, so i kept going about 30 which is what it is if it is not flashing. got pulled over for doing 31 in a 20. didn't see it, i told the guy, which was true, because it was broken, so of course i didn't see it. but in the end i went downtown to protest the ticket and got out of the van, and all of a sudden i was tipsy, kind of drunk-feeling, the world spinning beneath me like i could hardly walk. here i am downtown trying to find the municipal court, and i know i'm walking like a drunk, on account of being so dizzy. now it so happened that i'd eaten some fu-fu salad, really nice, with pasta and everything fancy on it, and when i got home i got sick and that salad ended up all over my kitchen floor, but at the time all i knew was that i was about to keel over and when i got to the court, i decided not to fight the ticket, but rather just pay it, since my days might be numbered, and agree to take that drivers safety course that teaches you to follow the speed limit, which i will take and report right here in this spot. i'm beginning to feel like an old duffer. i follow the speed limit now, i don't even do illegal u-turns, and if people have a problem with that, i just flash my ancient white beard at them and let them curse me out.

waited all month to go out to the golf club on the far north part of town, where all the old duffers play bluegrass on the last friday of every month. they were missing a few people this month, but nevertheless played a pretty hot panhandle rag and washington and lee somethingorother. could have been washington and lee swing, but it's kind of bluegrassy, and i'm not sure it's the same song. nevertheless it was good n' hot. unfortunately they won't play in october, inasmuch as everyone goes to amarillo for halloween, then november and december are shot because of the holidays, so it's no more of that until january.

taken to wearing my sandals to work, it's of some concern that when it rains barely an inch there is sometimes as much as a foot of water at the crossing, the one place i need to transverse to get across nineteenth street and into work. i can either walk down nineteenth, cross dangerously at a place where people can't see too well and where i have to get across at least five soggy lanes and even then jump possibly into another pool of water but at least into very wet grass, OR and this one's obviously better, just wear sandals and take my shoes off, and roll up my pans, and walk straight across. this protects me also, if it rains while i'm on campus. in this rainy time anything can happen. i clearly can't read the sky. it can come form anywhere and it can be a deluge, can and often will be.

the other day woke up and there was a wall of trouble off to the west and i thought, here we go, but as the day wore on it drifted around to the north and by soccer practice time it had sprinkled but it didn't really look too bad, i was afraid i'd have to take the girlies to soccer and finally i did. but at soccer we're all standing out in this open field as one kid is playing soccer and the others are doing the bars, and this wall of clouds hooks around up in the northeast and starts trucking on down toward us with lightning in front of it and bearing down pretty hard. we got in the car and went straight home whereupon it rained quarters and flooded down flint, the basement got a few inches in spts, and everyone took a pounding. some cars got stranded in the marsha sharp where a few feet of water just stood down there until it drained, this is the main highway through town, you'd think there'd be drainiage, but no. a couple inches in a couple hours, and it's more than the city can take, and things are going bonkers all over the place. whole cars are being sogged out, pulled over and forced to dry out for a few days.

couple days later, the basement's dried out, the ragweed's a poppin' all over town, things have bloomed and grown, we didn't even know was there. a whole crop of mushrooms for starters. the ragweed is killing me, i've never seen so much of it bloom all at once in one single place in my life. whole lawns overtaken with it, and it's all blooming, going bonkers, and when i tried to pull some out around my own garage, the hay fever got worse. worse, maybe, than any i've ever had, though iowa was especially bad in that regard. iowa had it from an exact time, august 15, to another exact time, october 15, whereas southern illinois had it gradually over a period of four or five months, popping all the time. texas, though, didn't have it at all for my first two years, but this year, had it all in one week, and had it more than the others had it combined.

came out of the grocery store the other day and a new country song was on the radio. it had a boy and a girl falling in love in the back seat of a "cop car." Had a whole story line, where they had this complex relationship with each other and with the law, but i didn't catch that so much, so i turned up the radio. had the window open too, though it occurred to me that's how i got my ticket earlier, driving around with a window open like it's party time. but i came up to this intersection, where i turn onto my own road, and there's the police again, and this time they have this guy in a black pickup, and he's in handcuffs, sitting outside his truck, and they're doing some kind of negotiation with the other passengers in the truck, maybe they're searching the thing. i turned off that radio right away, and turned very gently onto my own street, and went my way, glad to be an old duffer, hoping for a few more rounds of good music.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

just passing through

recently i've recalled one of the most bizarre events that happened to me while i was hitchhiking. it scared me pretty strongly at the time, and i wasn't easily scared, but i'd forgotten about it, more or less, until recently.

the situation was set up when a truck driver gave me a ride going across northern iowa; we were passing through small towns on a two-lane road. i had agreed to go this way, west to east, even though my ultimate destination was some other direction, based on his advice maybe, or someone's advice. for this reason i was somewhat disoriented, when, at a gas station, he got into his truck and left without me. he had not taken any of my stuff, but his leaving, without telling me, still disoriented me. maybe i had said something political to him; it happened that virtually whenever i opened my mouth about politics, i'd offend someone. but nevertheless i was on my own, and didn't really know where i was. iowa was not too complicated, so in that sense, i knew it would all work out. i continued on that same road going east.

but now it had become dark, and it was harder for people to see me; furthermore, i continued walking, instead of waiting under a light where i'd be better off, and that made it even harder yet for people to see me. within minutes i was way out in the country, though only a mile or two from town. to my right, off the road, was a decrepit house, and i could see it clearly from the roadway. run-down houses, also, are not too unusual in iowa. people abandon them; they're a hassle to tear down; they sit there returning to the earth from whence they came.

but a sudden crack of lightning lit up the entire night, quite suddenly, and quite close to where i was. now the house had a completely different image, because it was all lit up. i had the feeling, suddenly, that i wasn't entirely alone in this wide, sweeping field on a lonely highway in the early evening.

ah, but i don't push too hard on such things. in other words, though it's easy enough to sense the presence of unearthly spirits, it's a little harder to define them, or take the liberty of imagining who they might be. i had no idea, and still don't. presuming that it was a viable farmhouse for years, and had all kinds of people attached to it as a symbol of their family, their hopes, their accomplishments etc., i'm sure one could do research and learn a thing or two. but instead, i've chosen to let such things go, since my feeling is that if it was meant to be our business, we would have been told. chasing after the information puts you in the position of intentionally disrupting whatever is going on there, and that wasn't my intention. i was just passing through.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

so what gets me about this ISIS deal is this: here we are again, bombing the heck out of somebody, and presumably we're pretty good at this killing, and we can find the bad guys and get them. they are the guys over there, that we just gave all those guns and bombs to, because we thought they were going to fight assad in syria. we were so surprised, when they turned around, and gathered up part of iraq with the guns we'd given them. and then, WTH, all those shiite guards who were representing the nation of iraq, dropped their guns and fled, couldn't even fight for that country that we'd help them set up.

so now, we're bombing these ISIS guys, and, we're hoping somebody will go in there and clean up after us? maybe those shiite iraqis will go into that sunni territory and pick up all the dead bodies? and rule the place? or maybe some moderate iraqis will appear out of the woodwork, to run the place, and have a democratic government?

it seems, all we know for sure is, we hate ISIS and they cut off people's heads. so we have to bomb them no matter what. we don't really have a plan for what to do after that. maybe the shiite iraqis will come back and this time they'll try to defend the place. maybe iran will move in, after we're done bombing, and just take over. or maybe even assad will come down, and say hey, you wiped out the opposition, so i'm all that's left. or maybe israel will move in.

the problem is, none of those are good options. and it's a territory occupied mostly by sunnis, so the ideal government would be sunni-supported and iraqi. the only sunnis who are willing to fight for iraq are in ISIS. so we have now set ourselves up as a conquering nation, manipulated into trying to find people who will rule over iraqi sunnis who are not sunni, find anyone, give them guns, hope they stay on our side, and turn those guns on ISIS if it should ever pop its head back up.

to me it sounds like throwing a pile of armaments into a gang fight. here, boys, have all the guns you want, hopefully enough of you will die that there won't be any permanent ill effects for the rest of us.

the US is the world's biggest armament-maker. somebody is making lots of money in this deal. it's all borrowed money, borrowed off our future, and the future of our children, but it's money nevertheless. you want drones, you gotta pay for drones. you want to kill these guys, you got to get what it takes.

after that, we'll worry about cleaning it up.

you may have gathered right: i'm against the bombing. i would like to see a plan. i would like to see how this could possibly work out. the only good thing i can see out of the whole mess so far, is the independence of kurdistan. my solution would be, start with that. let the sunnis have whoever they want. make kurdistan free and secure. let religious minorities live in kurdistan. let go of the rest of it, and let people fight their own civil war, including the syrians.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

we fight the ever-encroaching, terminal obsession with screens by having no screens on sunday morning, which is actually pitiful, if it means constant screens every free minute of the rest of the week. we also have no screens if homework isn't done, though, and no screens if for some reason someone is touchy or violent or things are out of kilter. we sometimes say that screens can cause meanness, so if they are mean to each other (and there are three little ones, so this is likely), we hold that over them, as if we'd take them away if they got too mean to each other, which we might.

but, the ironic thing is, they actually enjoy their sunday mornings, in the sense that they actually get on their scooters and go down the block, screeching and yelling and doing all the stuff little kids should do. or they start horsing around in the living room and then go down in the basement where they're free to run and throw the ball and do gymnastics. or they go tearing through the house with some imaginary game, dressed up or yelling at each other or hiding in the rooms. the reason i call it ironic is that, since it's sunday morning, you'd think it would be reserved for quiet contemplation of religious things, and in fact, that is why we have a general prohibition against calling our neighbors on sunday mornings, or making too much noise too early. for me, i'm religious, but can't just take them to church, where they could make as much racket as they wanted, as there isn't really the right church that would suit all of us. for our neighbors, however, sunday morning is the only time they even know for sure that we have kids, because they're making such a racket out there that you can't not hear it, and it's actually pretty easy for me to keep track of them, because their voices bounce off each other and they stay aware of where their brother and sister are, so nobody even wants to get too far away. to me it's kind of the joy of old-time childhood, with lots of kids around, having fun, and the neighbors all kind of watching out for their flower gardens but still generally familiar with them and watchful. they know these kids, they live down in the corner house.

when fresh air is involved, you know they'll sleep better at night, but the main point really is that they get a lot of muscle development in different directions. hopefully each kid will fall off the scooter several times, but not land too hard on the sidewalk, but rather someone's grass and preferably someone who doesn't put nerve gas on theirs, or vole poison, or whatever they use. some lawns here are actually astroturf, but more common is the person who just puts rocks all over their yard so they can save on the massive watering that's required to have anything green. another value i've picked up is that it's really the city's job to provide real grass, and water the parks, so that any citizen can go walk on real grass for a few minutes, even if, as in my case, one is likely to hit stickers and dog poop or do a little caveat emptor or whatever that was that meant buyer beware...though we recognize that anything can happen, we also know that we can get some real grass if we just go to the local park and walk around a little.

football so thoroughly permeates the culture that one can hardly not be aware of when the local football games are happening, even when, as in this last weekend, the raider game was at ten at night. thousands of fans tuned in to watch it; it ruled the televisions and the social life, the raiders and the cowboys, anyway, the cowboys going today. it's ironic, given the intensity of their passion, that the teams are as weak as they are; our university just gave the coach a whopping $3 million/year long-term contract making him easily the richest man in west texas, more even than the oil barons, yet the team floundered around on the field and barely beat el paso. ah, but this isn't about the fumbles, the penalties, the missed opportunities. it's more about how, even at the local grocery store, everyone is wearing red and black, even people who aren't going to the game. the place loves its raiders, or, if you're a little more on the city side, the silver-star on blues.

the sky here is an infinite, ever-changing light show; it's so clear that you can see all the way up through these clouds, so the clouds become multi-dimensional moving bodies that would, well, remind you of tripping, if that were possible. it reminds me of pilots, because those are the guys who get to go up through them regularly, and really experience the different dimensions that we can only get hints of down here, and besides, we're in the city, and one can guess that probably it gets lots more interesting once you really get out over the open plain. and we know, from the few times we fly, that it does. but imagine doing that for a living, going up and through all those intense clouds, diagonally or through these transient storms or turbulent winds that rake the plains. it would be really fun, i think, and i'm really jealous. the best i can do is drive on the roads, and look up occasionally...

and in fact, even the storms are quite geographical in nature, the hail can be damaging out past the loop, but almost nothing in town where we are, or, it can destroy our house and do almost nothing to most of the rest of town. you can note the perimeter of the damage or document the path of the rain, where they got over an inch on a swatch of the city running diagonal through this way, whereas over on the edge, or on the south side, they may have got squat. each little square foot has its own rainfall total, and that's why if you are inclined to go out and stand in it, like a lot of people are, you shouldn't always stand in the same place. you'll rob the ground beneath you of its annual supply.