Sunday, September 28, 2008


I've been absent from Mona's most excellent poetry Fridays for a spell, so here's one that combines two recent words: "library" and "hear."

3 a.m. drunk
stumbling home from the midtown Blarney Stone
tiptoeing past the stone lions
guarding the 42nd street library
I heard one of them whisper -hey you, kid-
-yeah- I answered and he growled
-you overromanticize this drinking you know
all that hemmingway and kerouac
all that faulkner and joyce
you oughtta get yourself some religion
a litle flannery
a little melville
hawthorne, emerson, mccarthy
those guys'd do you some good-
he stopped talking, threw me a marbled stare
challenging me
-they were just drunk on religion- I slurred
and the lion stared me down one last time before purring
-everyboby's drunk on something-
he tossed his mane victoriously
before retreating back to stony silence
and I tottered to the subway
pinballing down the long dark stairs
to fall onto a bench
await the lumbering Brooklyn bound G train
and begin the long ride home

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Anthe and Methone

This is a picture of two tiny moons of Saturn - Anthe (top left) and Methone (bottom right) - in Saturn's faint G ring. The moons are only a couple of miles across. Those arcs the moons are sitting in are caused by debris from mirco-meteorites hitting the surface of the moons. The cool thing here is that, after countless orbits around Saturn, the debris should form complete rings, as the material spreads out and around. That's what scientists expected to see. But, as I've said many times here before, the closer you look, the weirder it gets.

Apparently the debris forming the arcs is kept in place by gravitational resonances with other moons of Saturn, a concept I must confess I don't fully understand. It has something to do with a set of moons gravitationally interacting with each other (there is a third one, Pallene, in this "family" of moons). Even weirder, the moons aren't always in the center of their arcs, but wander to one side, then the other.

I like the idea of incomplete structures out there. It's easy to see Saturn's rings as stately and unchanging, proof of a stable, predictable clockwork universe. The arcs point to a more accurate picture of things, a solar system that is forever changing and evolving, rearranging itself into ever more complex structures. The moons and their arcs remind me of scaffolding around a building, the girders of a skyscraper under construction, the first few halting paragraphs of a new chapter in an epic narrative.

The photo is from NASA.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Fall beckons, baseball season is winding down, and the Mets are yet again slouching toward their annual late season collapse. With that in mind, here's the perfect trivia question to throw out there next time you're at a bar watching a baseball game:

Q: Who is the only man to ever throw a no-hitter while on acid?

A: Dock Ellis.

Baseball is full of apocryphal stories, but this really happened. On June 12, 1970, Mr. Ellis thought he had the day off, and so indulged in a little recreational drug use with his girlfriend by dropping a tab of LSD. Starting pitchers only pitch every fifth day, so he figured it was no big deal. Until he got to the park and found out he was scheduled to pitch. Not only did he pitch, he pitched a no-hitter, which is very, very hard to do. Here's his description of what it was like, which I stole from Wikipedia:

"I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the (catcher's) glove, but I didn't hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't. Sometimes I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder."


Dock was a pretty nutty guy. He once tried to hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds line-up. I don't know why. He hit the first three, to load the bases. The fourth batter was able to avoid getting hit and walked, walking in a run. After he threw at the next batter's head on two straight pitches, he was pulled from the game.

Surprisingly, his lifetime numbers are pretty good. A win-loss record of 138-119. An earned run average of 3.46. And 1,136 career strikeouts.

Not surprisingly, he was at one point a Met. They'll pretty much take whoever they can get.

Friday, September 19, 2008


My sister and I in the photo booth at the Kresge's in downtown Ottumwa, Iowa, sometime in the late sixties. Clearly, she feels I am not smiling broadly enough.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Drink Me

An addendum to my last post; remember the beer I got from the dead guy? Turns out there is a mystery beer in there. Brown bottle. Bigger than the other bottles. No label. Blank bottle top.

It's like that bottle labeled “Drink me” in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. What will happen when I do? Will I shrink, like Alice? Will I grow? Will I learn the answers to the great mysteries of life? The great mysteries of death? Will it be the best beer I’ve ever had, but as it’s unlabeled, never be able to drink again?

Will it simply suck?

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dead Man's Beer

I've been drinking a dead man's beer this week.

My niece's dad died a couple weeks ago. 45 years old, died from a heart attack. He was from little Hucky's side of the family, so I didn't know him too well. He was divorced from the Mom, so I only saw him at drop-offs and pick-ups of the niece. He seemed like a good guy. A good Dad. A little goofy, a little ineffectual. A little baffled by the modern American landscape. I can relate.

He loved his daughter, certainly.

So it goes.

Hux went to the memorial, I stayed home with the girls, and when she got home she had 6 cases of beer in the car with her. The guy was a truck driver for a beer distributor, and got free cases of beer as a perk. Lots of it, apparently. During the memorial someone noticed the 20 or so cases of beer stacked behind the house, and they got divvied up among the relatives after things were said and done. All sorts of beers: honey browns, Red Stripes, amber lagers, pale bocks. Guinnesses, which we are saving for a certain blogger's husband. Chile beer, a vile undrinkable substance that I wouldn't feed to the cats.

The cases are sitting out on our front porch, no doubt drawing disapproving stares from the trio of well kept lawns across the street (Hux finally threw a tarp over them a few days ago, for the sake of decorum). Most evenings for the last couple weeks, Hucky and I will snag one or two promising flavors from the cases after work (I'm partial to the honey brown), stick em in the fridge, and enjoy them after supper. I try to throw out a silent nod of thanks upon my first sip, to the dead man who gave it to us. I don't always remember. Sometimes I do.

So, one more time, thanks for the beer.

Got an award from the ever ebullient Scarlett Wanderlust yesterday. It's over there on the sidebar, or will be when I get around to it. Thanks, Scarlett! Wander over and check out her site. She has a pet lion named Viaggiatore. He lives there too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Falling Man

I avoid most books and movies about 9/11. Some, like Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children, have made me extremely angry, trivializing the event by making it a cheap plot device (I hated that book). Others, like Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I've found very moving.

This is from Delillo's Falling Man (I can feel Eric at My Heart's Porch cringing now, but we share a love of Uncle Cormac, so I forgive him). Not a great book, but a good one. In its best moments he describes 9/11 with precision and grace, detachment and beauty. This is from the beginning of the book:

"It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night. He was walking north through rubble and mud and there were people running past holding towels to their faces or jackets over their heads. They had handkerchiefs pressed to their mouths. They had shoes in their hands, a woman with a shoe in each hand, running past him. They ran and fell, some of them, confused and ungainly, with debris coming down around them, and there were people taking shelter under cars.

The roar was still in the air, the buckling rumble of the fall. This was the world now. Smoke and ash came rolling down streets and turning corners, busting around corners, seismic tides of smoke, with office paper flashing past, standard sheets with cutting edge, skimming, whipping past, otherworldly things in the morning pall.

He wore a suit and carried a briefcase. There was glass in his hair and face, marbled bolls of blood and light. He walked past a Breakfast Special sign and they went running by, city cops and security guards running, hands pressed down on gun butts to keep the weapons steady.

Things inside were distant and still, where he was supposed to be. It happened everywhere around him, a car half buried in debris, windows smashed and noises coming out, radio voices scratching at the wreckage. He saw people shedding water as they ran, clothes and bodies drenched from sprinkler systems. There were shoes discarded in the street, handbags and laptops, a man seated on the sidewalk coughing up blood. Paper cups went bouncing oddly by.

The world was this as well, figures in windows a thousand feet up, dropping into free space, and the stink of fuel fire, and the steady rip of sirens in the air. The noise lay everywhere they ran, stratified sound collecting around them, and he walked away from it and into it at the same time."

My favorite line is "Paper cups went bouncing oddly by." Such an unexpected image.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Missing Hamburger

Had an arduous medical procedure on Monday that I won't mention but which rhymes with "stolonoscopy," and am only now beginning to come out of the drug-induced haze of it all (as opposed to the drug-induced haze of, say, my 20s). The procedure itself was a cakewalk, compared to the heinous liquid I had to drink down at 5 a.m. the day of the surgery. And the fact that I couldn't eat anything at all for 36 hours prior. Nothing but clear liquids.

Luckily, beer is a clear liquid.

I've used that line like 20 times now. It's a good line.


My Dad picked me up afterward, because I wasn't allowed to drive, and took me out to the the Red Top, which makes the best hamburger in the state, if not the world, and I wolfed it down. And have no memory of it. Because of those crazy drugs.

I remember cutting it in half, remember eating the fries, remember snatches of conversation with my Dad, even remember a strip of bacon I pulled out of the cheesy goodness atop the burger. But no actual memory of eating the burger itself.

It's eerie. I've been trying to recapture those lost memories from right after the procedure all day today, and they've gone. Wiped away. It's like that tree falling in a forest thing.

Except with hamburgers.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Last Dollar

Excellent word of the week this week from Mona: gas. Excellent because it's back to school and back to work and everything's go go go! Anyway, here's my contribution.

The week gas went up to five dollars a gallon Toby set his car on fire.

He had been drinking over at the Tip Top in Elmore, and was driving home 2 am-ish, using country roads all the way to avoid the local police. He ran out of gas about three miles from town. He'd left his last dollar on the bar as a tip, so even if he could hitch a ride at this hour, he'd have no money to fill the damn thing up. No money til payday on Thursday.

He got out of the car and lit a cigarette, regarding the situation, and when he was done he just flipped the butt through the window into the back seat. Made sure the upholstry caught the flame, even blew on it a little, grabbed the pint of Wild Turkey from the glovebox, then backed away to watch the fireworks. One of those big explosions would improve his mood. Like on TV.

It never happened, of course. The car was out of gas.

It took Toby about a half hour to realize this. Once he did, he stood up, thinking about how different TV was from real life. He finished off the bottle of Turkey with one pull, lit up his next to last cigarette, and began the long walk home.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bangkok Rules

Okay, it's not Monday, and Snake Plissken isn't really a monster. But I'm declaring a Monster Monday nonetheless, because Escape From New York is making the rounds on late night TV these days, and I love that movie. And because we painted the house over Labor Day weekend, and my mind and body are exhausted and I am unable to come up with an original post to save my life.

Luckily I don't have to.

Yes, I realize this clip is from Escape From LA, not New York. Get a life.

The house looks great, by the way.