All right, it’s more of a slide show, but I’m proud of it anyway:
Now go buy the book!
And read more about the book here.
All right, it’s more of a slide show, but I’m proud of it anyway:
Now go buy the book!
And read more about the book here.
When friends found his puddle, they screamed,
“How ghastly! We’d never have dreamed
That one summer day
He’d just melt away!
His car was as hot as it seemed!”
Email spammers often embed their links amid irrelevant and innocuous snippets of text. I learned that those snippets are grabbed at random from web pages, and then cobbled together in a disjointed manner. But sometimes there is a strange beauty to the words, especially when presented as if they were poetry, with a bit of repeating and rearranging. Here is what arrived in my morning’s email, beginning with the unedited text as I received it:
I never liked
because I could not
This book, it must here
deals with specific
recorded facts, and
not with civilization
as it ought to have been
under the Rites of Chou.
I could not
The Rites of Chou:
it ought to have been.
The Rites of Chou
must be recorded
as it ought to have been—
The Rites of Gracia—
The original doorbell of this house was particularly anemic. It could be heard from the living room and the kitchen, but almost nowhere else. So I replaced it with one of those annoyingly loud electronic versions which can be heard in the farthest bedrooms. (Despite this, one of my friends steadfastly refuses to use it, preferring to knock instead. Softly. Even if his arms are full and he would much rather come inside quickly. He has an alarm dog, which I grant is much more fun than a doorbell, but I really, really wish he would use the doorbell. But he won’t. He lives to annoy.)
Ours is a quiet neighborhood, most of the time. Remarkably safe and peaceful. The only worrisome aspect in the past year has been the home two houses away. It is supposedly a sort of church-based halfway house for people trying to turn their lives around, and I see a church van there once a month or so, but there is apparently very, very little oversight. Last year, in the middle of a rainstorm, a drenched young man rang the doorbell. He identified himself as a resident of that home, and said that he was on parole and there were drugs and firearms there (which alarmed me no end), and asked if he could use my phone to call the police. I let him use my land line, not wanting to hand over my iPhone to someone who, frankly, made me nervous.
He called the police, but he didn’t know his street address, and was reluctant to give his name since he was on parole. They asked to speak to me, and since I sounded reasonable, they agreed to send a car out. The fellow left. The police came here before going to the house in question. They came back to me, telling me that no one with this fellow’s name (which I finally had wormed out of him) or description lived at that home.
The guy returns a couple of weeks later. He had his street address in his hand, and says he’s really trying to go straight but he’s afraid his parole will be violated because he can’t be near drugs or weapons and his brother, also an ex-con, is causing trouble over there, and could we please call the police again? I told him he needed to stay here until the police came so I wouldn’t have to deal with them. He agreed, and we made the call. While we waited he was so jumpy and nervous that I became very uncomfortable. Finally he said he’d go sit on his porch and wait for them.
The police came, they spoke to me, they went to his house, they found no one matching his description, and certainly no one sitting on his porch. Then they came back to tell me all about it.
A few days later I saw him while I was driving by. I stopped and had a few stern words with him. Actually, I believe said stern words were, “Not cool, dude!” He said he had been in the house waiting for the police, but they never showed up. Hah!
He never returned. Whether he judged (rightly) that I would be in no mood to help him in the future, or he moved out or was re-jailed, I have no idea. I haven’t lost too many hours of sleep over it.
The doorbell rang last week, and a tall, balding man with several teeth missing, who said he was from The House In Question — which, he told me (oh joy oh rapture) has been foreclosed upon, so everyone will soon be moving out — and asked to use my phone. Alas, I have disconnected my land line, so I had to lend him my iPhone. Torn between not wanting him in the house (when did I become so frightened of strangers?) and not wishing him the freedom of the outdoors should he want to make a break for it, I stood with him on the stoop while he phoned. He had locked himself out of the house and was trying to find one of the other tenants who could come home and let him in. No luck. Then he asked me if I could help him break in. I demurred. I suggested he just sit on his porch for a few hours until someone came home.
This morning the bell rang at 9 a.m. I was in bed asleep. I’ve been ill for the past few days, and haven’t been sleeping well. I ignored it. If it’s the UPS guy, he’s just ringing out of courtesy. It can’t be the mail lady needing me to sign for something, since she’s never been seen in our neighborhood before noon. If it’s a Jehovah’s Witness (they ring the bell several times a year), I’m not interested, thank you, go away. If it’s a friend, they’d have called first. If it’s a neighbor in need, they’ll call out my name. So I ignore the bell.
It rings again. In my head I shout at the person on the stoop. “I don’t want any Girl Scout Cookies! I don’t want a free lawn insect assessment! I don’t want to hear how ADT Monitoring can me me feel safe! I don’t want to donate money for your elementary school’s soccer program! I’m in the shower! I’m on my deathbed! I can’t deal with you now!” I roll over with a scowl.
By now I’m irritated, so I can’t get back to sleep. I finally get up and get dressed, check the front stoop and see no UPS packages, see no one lurking on the front lawn, so I sit down and try to wake up. Ding-dong! The peephole tells me it’s my tall, balding man with the crazy eyes. I open the door, and immediately start coughing on his cigarette smoke. Before I can recover, he asks if he can pay me to take him to his job up on Route 192. Could be a 15 minute drive each way, could be 30, depending where he wants to go. But I decide in a flash to use my illness, and say, “Absolutely not! I’ve got the flu, and can’t even consider it. And [as I fan away the smoke] your cigarette would kill me. Sorry!” and shut the door. I have never been quite so rude to a visitor in my life. And yet, somehow, I don’t regret it.
Maybe my doorbell-eschewing friend is on to something. If I disconnect the doorbell and make everyone knock, I will not hear anyone. I can train myself to check the stoop once a day for packages. My friends can just let themselves in. And I’ll be well on my way to being the neighborhood curmudgeon.
Who am I kidding? I’m already there.
Season 1, Episode 4:
Season 1, Episode 3:
Season 1, Episode 2:
Season 1, Episode 1 of one of the funniest webshow/podcast series I’ve ever seen:
This has been circulating on the Internet for a while now, but it’s still good for a laugh. Someone went over to the Church Sign Generator and created this fictitious war of words between two churches in the same small town.
I know which of the churches I’d be going to!
From the New Yorker, July 25, 1994
It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate. I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way. I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn’t be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do. Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion. So I decided not to rush it. But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads or tails of. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings. Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savory character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. “What a perfect nomer,” I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.
Today, Judge Judy was eviscerating a teenager who was lying about breaking the window of a pizza shop. She called him a fool, and accused his mother of raising him without a shred of moral inclination. “You shouldn’t be standing up for him!” she told the mother. “You should be making him take responsibility for his actions!”
Suddenly I’m five, maybe six years old again, and I’m sitting on my bedroom floor in Takoma Park, Maryland. I had saved up my allowance and bought a Colorforms set.
I had loved the Howdy Doody Show, and was devastated when in 1960 it was canceled and replaced by a perky ventriloquist. I was fully prepared to hate this interloper, but the Shari Lewis Show stole my heart. After that, my Saturday mornings—and the days leading up to them—revolved around Shari and dear Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse. And my Shari Lewis Show Colorforms set was one of my prized possessions.
Alas, my allowance would only allow the purchase of the Basic set. It had most of the important characters and images, but the Deluxe set was twice as large.
The best toystore in the world, and conveniently within walking distance, was Juvenile Sales Co., rival of the burgeoning Toys “R” Us (which actually began a couple of towns over). Chockablock with fascinating toys, it wasn’t as vast and spacious and bright as Toys “R” Us, but it was much more fun. But even caves filled with gold must have a dragon hanging around somewhere, and Juvenile Sales’s dragon was a rather grumpy fellow, prematurely old and stooped, named Robert Roberts. Read more
Remember the mysterious Wootalyzer story? Well, the darned thing is addictive. I’m now able to restrain myself most of the time, but once in a while something pops up that is just too underpriced for words.
Case in point: I’ve been researching GPS devices for my car. Getting lost every single time I ventured out on my own in Norfolk over the holidays taught me that I need some serious help. I looked at all the popular brands, and some of the less popular ones. I researched various models, and dutifully compared features, and read online reviews from professionals and end-users alike. I still hadn’t settled on a final make and model, when up popped the Wootalizer advertising one of my top choices at something like 40% of its regular price.
A few quick clicks later, and my little GPS was on its way.
I installed it. I kept all the default settings. The woman’s voice giving me turn-by-turn directions was clear and sounded very realistic. And slightly familiar, too. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
Florence stands halfway between New York and Miami and, more importantly for me, halfway between Palm Bay and the D.C. area. I have stopped there many times on previous road trips, though I honestly don’t recall it being the hotbed of “culture” it has become. I recall when the biggest hotel in town had an outdoor swimming pool that looked like a petri dish (a rather different kind of culture), and the main dining choice was a fried chicken joint that evidently didn’t change the oil in their fryers very often.
Or maybe I was just getting off at the wrong exit. This trip we stayed at the Red Roof Inn ($44 per night, or $49 if you want the Business King room with high-speed Internet), across from a massive shopping mall where all the fashionable women wore spiky-heeled pumps made from exotic animal hides with impossibly sharp toes that made me wince just to watch them walk. Up and down the street were chain restaurants and hotels and motels and strip malls and . . . well, that’s about it.
Florence’s nicknames are “Flo-Town” and “The Magic City,” though I think the only magic is the influx of tourist dollars to a city that is mainly a way-station. The Wikipedia entry says, “This 1997 All-America City finalist, with its historic homes and medical center towers, came together to form a cultural center for the northeastern portion of South Carolina.” I don’t buy it. The only thing of any historic importance that I saw was clearly the Florence Waffle House, right behind the Red Roof Inn, where we ate on our way up to the funeral in Maryland. Read more