Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Place and Date to Punctuate

Calendars are second only to clocks, when it comes to things that beg to be ignored. Sure, there has to be a readily agreeable way for people to get activities synchronized, to commemorate events and celebrate things in one's life that have either happened already, are happening, or have yet to occur- until something better comes along, I guess I'll have to use these crude devices to delimit the various sentences of living. Actually, run-on sentences and lives will chug along nicely, unattended, in their own little continua, until someone or something takes a hand to alter their courses.

Good thing there are plenty of hands to go around. With any luck, the resolutions I make this New Year's eve will be safely interred by April Fool's Day, with only a chuckle to acknowledge their inception.

Leave a light on, and I'll probably visit in the new year. Have a good one, but don't forget to play nice while celebrating, on New Year's Eve! .

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Unblunted By Snow

I'll be the first to admit to experiencing a certain lethargy (antipathy?) about the holiday season, this year. Not for lack of loved ones, or lassitude, or as an expression of disgust; more nearly, I'd say it was confluence of simpler impulses, all clicking into place at the same moment. However those may be parsed, I've had Hell's sweet time, getting it into gear (in any conventional sense).

While waiting for my umpteenth cup of coffee to finish being nuked into potability, I started fiddling with the damned knobs on the radio. Whirling past a bunch of random squawks and squeals, I came upon some choral music, a performance of Handel's Messiah (considered by many to be traditional Christmas music, despite its mercenary origins), which is normally a beautiful adventure to hear. Normally beautiful in its composition; an adventure, because its gorgeous soloes and a capellas are variable in performance, and vulnerable to obnoxious renditions.

The plaintive beeping of the microwave didn't even register, until about forty-five minutes later. I'm not sure whether it was the broadcast itself, or the acoustics of Verizon Hall, but it was difficult to pick out vocal landmarks during the recital. Oddly, this didn't diminish its beauty, though what may have been silk came out a bit more flannel.

Attention spans are ethereal things. My feet were getting cold, like the forgotten coffee, but the anonymity of the chorus had me wondering: Wonder what this sounds like to people who haven't come up in an Anglo-Saxon tradition? It might be hard to translate the songs into some sort of regionally equivalent messages, but the Messiah isn't particularly heavy-handed or preachy. Wonder what it would sound like, in Farsi, Arabic, Mandarin, or Malay? Forget about exact translations or political sculptings; What if the same grainy, inexact sounds I got were what other folks heard, no matter where or how they lived their lives? I'm pretty sure that I lead a life which rates either envy nor enmity, and that things I hear about others' lives miss many essential details. Set it aside. What does this music sound like? Is it a threat or insult to others? Is it offensive to you, personally?

Cold feet, cold coffee, warm thoughts. One out of three are better odds than I would have given. I'd be interested in any comments folks might have about our different takes on things.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Thought That Counts?

Firm, like an avocado, but smoother than a baby's unlined forehead, but softer, more along the lines of turquoise pudding, but more attentive and readily devoured, like the Meerkat, whose proclivity is for travelling (at least) in pairs, though of course, rounder and more perpetually fulsome, and though blunt enough to withstand the most saturnine, languorous gaze, equally likely to make pointed statements (though better suited to more pursuasive surroundings), attached and yet autonomous, always at the ready to give rest to weary pearls. Got anything along those lines? Hey, you asked what I'd like to see for the holidays.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Deriliction? I Think. Not.

I'm only about two-thirds into the shoe-box, but a lot of the transcriptions have found their way into the shredder (mainly, due to illegibility). I could kick myself, but lassitude prevents such intemperate gestures- too bad, as Bronyard's off-the-cuff remarks were always a mysterious, often incomprehensible treat. At first, I found myself begging him to repeat himself (he never did, as nearly as I could fathom); Later, I learned to listen harder, then write his contributions down, as soon as a chance presented itself.

I came to recognize the difference between what was possible, and what was probable, early. It was hot and filthy, in the shadows of the antenna towers. It was not possible (nor probable) that I would sprout wings and whistle arias from Aida; It was probable (and possible), that I'd spend the summer, mixing and humping mud for a crew of plasterers; It was neither probable nor possible that I would catch peculiar observations from the man on the leeward side of decrepitude, but the days were long, and apart from his periodic, quiet chuckling spells, or these otherwise baffling commentaries, Brownie wasn't one for talking. I worked shoulder-to-shoulder with him for nearly a year and a half, without his ever opining on the crew he was in, (possible, but not probable) even though the rest of the crew spent many hours, regaling each other with only the foulest salutations. Not Brownie. He seemed content enough, chopping sand, portland cement, and finish lime into grey mud. Said mud, decanted into 5-gallon pails, would then be humped to the waiting mortar boards of small teams of plasterers, by yours truly. Now and then, pails empty, I would return to the mixing pit, to find Brownie muttering one of his incantations. Nothing to be done, but chop the mud, then retreat into the shadows, fire up another Chesterfield, and wait for me to top up the mudslingers. At other times (without breaking stride of his mixing activities), his enigmatic chuckling issued forth softly, without preamble. As he never revealed the sources of his amusement, it was impossible to know what tickled his fancy. Just a baritone, "Hyuck! Hyuck! Hyuck!", to accompany the scraping of the hoe on the mortar pan.

Our paths diverged; An old colleague told me that the Chesterfields had finally had their way with Brownie. My hod-carrying days have since gone. No more toting pails of mud, myself, though I see others doing it, from my office window. So that's that; nothing but the chuckling memories, and a shoe box full of random scraps of hastily scribbled aphorisms.

Sometimes, it seems like something that happened a world away, and I'm left with Brownie's old spade to clean up the wreckage of crazy images. It's the same stream of people and events that everyone else is looking at, but the damned lens is out of whack, and it turns into a cinema for one; one's in the seats one minute, in the cast, the next.

In the sepulchral solemnity of the company's throne room, I too frequently find myself masking the sudden transformation of the commonplace into the irreverent. This is too exhausting. I've feigned every attack from Pulmonary Edema to Pleurisy, simply to disguise the explosion of mirth that follows life's authentic comedies(to dispel the notion that I might be plumb loco, in the minds of mystified co-workers). Jezus! The onset is stunning in it's suddenness, and usually, my reactions are completely inappropriate to my surroundings. Why can't one hold oneself nearer to propriety, to respecting reality (without laughing in it's face)?

Maybe that was why Brownie learned to keep his responses to life down to the occasional chuckle- anything more than that was too risky (possibly), too serious (probably), too funny (possibly and probably). Maybe, it was due to one irony supplement too many, or maybe, he couldn't take the increasing amusement attacks. Living is such serious proposition, but life is so fraught with pent-up, sinus-clearing comedy.

I've got to put the shoebox away now, before I blow a gasket.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Are yer?

"An' now, fer not showin' headstrong, isn' it an accusation o' bein' weak?
Was it a Huzzah, er words o' courage tha' yer wanted, or even now, seek?
Isn' it the strawman seems ter hava problem, keepin' his hat on?
Ah, doan imagine it'll go easier, once all'a problems are gone.

Aye! Ai-ai-ai, is our world up for feeble tricks, o' feeble minds a' feeble pricks?
Weaker still, an' all puffed up, yet strainin' all ter swing bigger sticks.
All the while, waitin' fer the fallow, the long-sufferin' Earth
gets no needed Jubilee, owin' ta the commonsense dearth.

Takin' a moment 'er two outta yer rare an' troubled sleep,
Yer powerful leaders ought ter stop th' doin's an' weep.
Then put them feet up an' relax, for th' work's already done;
The talkin', an' showin' a' respect fer th' livin', are ideas all on th' run."

Yet another bit of obscure Auld Bollocks doggerel, the exact meaning of this rustic quatrain is unknown. Unfortunately, the A.B. weren't too keen on selling second-hand oats. Whether out of sheer laziness or other motivation, the feeling seems to have been that further explanation only added needless confusion, and was thus a waste of time.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Return, Of Sorts

"Here's a scrap o' wisdom, once scrawled on an oily rag:
Ther' ain't room fer th' third person, not in my sleepin' bag.
First person (singular or plural) is about all th' thing'll hold,
an' still keep us warm and moist, in the face o' bitter cold.

Th' answer ter yer askin' 'bout how or if I'm bent,
is somewhere in that pile o' crap, heaped outside th' tent.
Unsightly, unseemly, ungainly, no sense arguin' wi' th' fact,
You can stand out there, shiverin', or crawl in an' teach me tact

This is about as direct as Auld Bollocks rhyming gets. I'm guessing that the message is along the vein of: "Don't bother me with rules that I won't follow, and you can't afford to enforce". It's worth noting how the pleasantries of civilization aren't always the ornaments of real peoples' lives, and in some societies, are disdained as the senseless impositions of other people's wills.

Have a peaceful holiday, folks!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holiday Greetings

Howdy, folks! Thanks in advance for the opportunity to shed (however briefly) my usual mantle of curmudgeonly sang froid. It's been more like waiting in the holding pattern, to catch people in the right frame of mind to process joyful imprecations, so I'm deliberately taking a little off of the usual "Hail fellow, well met!" bluster.

I'm glad for many things that the year has brought me personally, and my desires are few, so there's no long list of holiday gifts (discreetly lying aeound on my messy desk, taped to the medicine chest, or anywhere else). I will likely succumb in small ways to procurement of goodies for the family, but as a trait, I rarely get frivolous gifts for anyone, regardless of the calendars threats (in fairness, when I do chance upon the 'perfect' gift, there isn't always some sanctified reason for giving it- the calendar and clock being less of a motivation than the element of surprise. There's nothing so sweet as causality cut adrift- heh, heh, er...Ho Ho!)

Doesn't leave much to get pumped up for, you say? I'll concede that it Does remove the punctuation from whatever statements we make, particularly those which by convention are writ large. Either I'm more conventional than I admit, or else, my kids received a peculiar genetic conservatism. Whatever the source, I'm forced to contend with a simpler analysis of the holidays, one featuring boldly-wrapped, ribbon-festooned plunder, delivered cheerfully on behalf of non-specific benefactors to shiny-eyed teens. Who knew that the cat would have the wherewithal to give my son an XBox, or that the turtles (in their testudo wisdom) could desist in their mockery long enough find the elusive cams for my daughters sewing machine? Clearly, few demands or expectations would be met by creatures with such different value systems, and such limited resources. The pets are exquisite in their befuddlement, and receive appreciative hugs, kisses, kibble and catnip with dignity, if not comprehension. The stockings are filled with gauds with an intentional half-life measurable in days, if not hours. This brands me as a tasteless cheapskate, but it decouples gift-giving as a reward system, and restores the whimsical quality (is this the expression I want?) to the holidays. The kids reciprocate by handing over armored cars, new automobiles, poetry, or other exotica (all in matchbox dimensions- i detest clutter! ;-)

The real gifts of this world are simpler and harder to find, and for others to enjoy only in the living. If our days were individually numbered just so , would it still be a worthy pastime, to bring harm to others? Setting down the cudgels (for even a few days) might be the gift that keeps giving. I like fishnets as Holiday stockings- you can pour a virtually unlimited amount vitriol or hot words into them, without any fear of overflowing them, and still have room for precious joys. Hopefully, the respite will rejuvenate us all.

PS: There are those like to season their posts with colorful regionalisms. For example, the traditional spelling of 'around', as "in the vicinity of", has other similar (but arcane) variations. One rarely sees it spelled, 'aeound', as it is typed in the Auld Bollocks dialect (the language of a nearly extinct, fat-fingered blogster tribe, most of whom expired from sheer lassitude). Feel free to use either form, an' doan fergit tah tellum I tole yer s'okay! Yeah, but what's it mean? Ahr, yer askin a lotta questions, then?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Outcomes Without Surprises

I wonder why it didn't surprise me. A light breeze blew across the crepuscular parking lot, against which the forlorn silhouette of the Disreputable Heap stood, nearly alone. Like the other vehicles, daylight had slipped away hours ago; immobile but uncomplaining, a crushed beercan of uncertain vintage (but with wheels) awaited a journey of some distance into the darkness. Slinging my sack of notebooks into cab, I made ready to depart. I routinely anticipate dementia, and so check down a list of pre-conditions before embarking on long journeys. Not far into the preflight, I noticed that the clutch wouldn't be joining us for the trip this evening; once depressed, the clutch pedal sank to the firewall: No clutch pedal, no disengagement of the clutch (unfortunately, a routine activity as one traverses the range of gears of a manual transmission). Hmm, alrighty then, let's go down the list of options, in the event of dysfunctional clutches, after dark, miles from home... Right, let's drive without the clutch, and see how that goes. Should be able to determine feasibility, before the streetlights end.

The truck didn't like it much, the few other motorists were confused by it, I wasn't thrilled with it, but like anything else, you just have to get the hang of it. The longest route home also had the fewest traffic lights and motorists, toll booths are good places to convince the !@$^% transmission to get back in gear. Piece of cake: tug the shifter down into neutral, shut the engine off, slide it down into second gear, set down your road mug, restart the engine (in gear). If you don't gut the engine, the reward is a few seconds of abrupt acceleration during which to find third gear...

That's right. Kludge. Got any problems with that?

It didn't even take that long, before the streetlights of home put an end to the lunacy. The main unbroken stretch of the journey seemed uneventful, but somewhere near the end of the 60-odd miles, my labors paid a dividend of sorts. Soon after picking up my toll ticket (and another jackrabbit launch), I was able to coax the clutch pedal from the floorboard. It took nearly an hour, but after working the pedal back and forth with my left foot, I was able to pump some pressure back into the hydraulics, enough to navigate the local streets without restarting the engine. Better yet, because the clutch wasn't fully disengaging anyway, it gave me something to do to break the monotony of driving. I'd give it about a nine out of ten, on the ol' Duress-O-Meter scale, but an ugly win is still a win.