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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving


Some things change; some things stay the same. However, I can assure you that the woman behind the counter at the Walmart in Mexico Maine selling frozen turkeys didn't look at all like the picture.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Wishes, Nine Years On

[Editor's Note: I first offered this sentiment nine years ago. Since then, I've lost everything, several times over, except for my family, so I have lost nothing. We will have Thanksgiving today, and mean it. You should, too] 
 
There are lots of news stories available -- the majority of them, I think -- expounding on the horrors of Thanksgiving. "Send us your dysfunctional family Thanksgiving disaster stories" is the lede on every radio program I can find, at least those that haven't jumped the gun entirely and started with, "Tell us your Christmas horror stories."

I'm not having it. Thanksgiving is lovely. Or it should be.

Thanksgiving doesn't beat around the bush. Right in the name it tells you it's a day to be grateful. Complaining about it seems to me to be like going to the art museum and complaining that the paintings are obscuring your view of the walls.

Hmm. Perhaps that's a bad simile. I've been to many museums where the dropcloth daubs they hang on the walls aren't as interesting as the off-white paint, now that I consider it. So please insert Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy in the preceding paragraph where art museum appears. Thanks.

Anyway, it's not about you. For one day, at least, I don't want to hear about your crabby attitude towards your assembled family and your overcooked turkey. I don't want to hear about the lousy TV you've got to watch the football game on. I don't care if you don't like the floats that drift by Macy's like garish barrage balloons. Put a sock in it. It's not about you.

It's not about any of us. It's about remembering that everything we have is a gift, and we could lose it, and we should take time out from our lives for one day a year and acknowledge that.

Have you ever been in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving? I hate the preening socialites and politicians that visit there on Thanksgiving to get face time on TV. I think much more kindly about the people that feed those poor souls on November 22nd and November 24th, when the cameras aren't interested.

There's a look on a person's face, when someone gives them something they need that they might not have otherwise. It's the look on the face of the man in line at the soup kitchen. It's gratitude.

I'm going to give it a try tomorrow, that look. It looks like Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I'm Out of the Fruit Loop


My life is endlessly interesting. There's a Chinese proverb, "May you live in interesting times." It's meant as a curse, of course, but I have to take my pleasures as I find them. My life hasn't been boring for so long I forget what boring looks like. Three square meals a day and central heating is what I imagine it looks like, but how would I know?

My older son is off visiting a friend for a few days. My younger son, who is 12, likes to sleep in his room when the large son is away. The room is ten feet away from his own room, but a big brother's room has special magical powers that make it magical and special and tautological. He also likes using big brother's computer. It's a special treat that also makes no sense. His older brother's computer is at least a decade old and runs Vista. The computer in his own room is newer and faster, and at least has Windows 7, but the magic beans extend to his brother's computer, not just the room itself.

Before school and after school we pretty much let the little feller do what he wants. He spends most of his time monkeying around with various computer programming tasks. He's learned a scripting language in order to produce new versions of Doom rooms, likes working on it a lot, and has basically abandoned Minecraft over it. Kid stuff.

Doom is an old "First Person Shooter" that invented a lot of what is take for granted nowadays in computer games. The computer language that runs it looks vaguely like Javascript to my eye. He knows at least a smattering of Javascript, HTML, and several other programming languages. He uses Khan Academy to learn what he wants, and he has a big pile of programming books that a friend of ours gave to him in a fit of generosity.

I looked over his shoulder this morning as he was writing code. He looks really funny in the morning. His hair is going this way and that from his nightly battle with the Laocoon of his pillows. He still has sleep seeds in his eyes, but he can't wait to get at the computer.

On the screen was the usual text editor window used to code Doom levels. Inside the text editor was something that looked entirely like hieroglyphs to my eye. It was like four hundred Led Zeppelin IV album covers strung together. Line after line of something way past gibberish, because regular computer scripts look like gibberish anyway. This looked like a telegram from Alpha Centauri. What the hell are you doing, son?

I'm writing Doom scripts in WingDings, Dad. Duh.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Oh Noes! It's Gypsy Jazz



That's Rocky Gresset and Noe Reinhardt playing Them There Eyes.

I really feel compelled to correct the grammar in that song. Not sure why. Old habits die hard, I guess. Those there eyes? No, that won't get it done. Those eyes there? That's better, but not quite the knees of the bees, I think.

When in doubt, spray in commas like an Arab, I always say. Even if they're used incorrectly, they give the reader a pleasant place to stop and rest awhile. They're like a bench in a park. Here goes: Those eyes, there.

Hmm. That's grammatically correct, but the meaning has changed somehow. It's possible that it might be preferable to use a semicolon instead of a comma, but I'm fairly certain that semicolons aren't allowed on the Intertunnel anymore. I'd put an exclamation point after: there, but exclamation points are just used instead of periods now, so it wouldn't have the proper declamatory effect.

All I really need to do is need to sneak up on: Those eyes that that girl is in possession of. Oh, dear. Anytime I see "that that" abroad in the land of a sentence I just wrote, I have visions of a nun and the sound of a ruler dopplering towards my knuckles. Also, the song is all bollixed up and wishes to intimate that the beauty is in the eye of the beheld, which can lead to a dangerous feedback loop now that selfies are en vogue. I also feel as though I should specify the gender of the beauty of the beheld of the eye. I'm a guy person, and rarely notice the eyes of another guy unless I'm poking them in a bar brawl, so I'll go with a girlie eye from here on out. 

"That girl is pleasantly ocularly equipped." That mellifluous combo works well enough, but the spellchecker is freaking out over "ocularly." There it goes again. You'd think that after you wrote it once, it would leave you alone after that, but it keeps on telling me that ocularly isn't a word. It's weird knowing more words than the spellchecker and Maceo Pinkard, Doris Tauber and William Tracey.

I think I have it now: "I'm fairly certain that neither of that woman's eyes are made of glass, or both are." Perfection. Someone's going to have to get busy on the chord structure, though. It doesn't seem to fit anymore. I had a hunch something was wrong with that, too.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Three Old Men Having Fun


Back towards the tail end of my stint as a working musician, my friends and I had a name for our band, strictly for internal use: Four Old Men Having Fun. I was in my early forties at the time. We understood that what we were doing was ultimately a young person's game, even though we were still doing it. Unlike many of our contemporaries, we didn't have any ego problem that would interfere with acknowledging the growing absurdity of it. It seemed plenty absurd to me before we got old, so for me the transition was seamless.

Music wasn't our real profession, though. Don't get me wrong. We performed a lot and got checks with more than one zero on them. That was the whole point of it. We had regular occupations and played music at night and on the weekends to make some extra money. When we were younger we met lots of pretty girls and when we got older we used the money we earned to buy formula for the babies we had with the girls. 

I have no complaints. I simply stopped doing it. It was easy for me to stop because I was stopping being what I wasn't.  It's not so easy for people who are musicians whether the sun's up or not. They are what they is, as they say. They don't want to stop being musicians because then they stop being people. A few prominent people in the arts, who don't want to keep slugging it out in a fickle industry, open wineries or some such enterprise when they want to live my life in reverse, but most are still trying to sing Hope I Die Before I Get Old right up until they're screwing down the lid.

I find that most of the interesting songwriters in pop music are basically scholars. Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and people like Donald Fagen are bookworms for music. They perform their own stuff, but they would probably be just as happy if they were like Jimmy Webb or Rogers and Hammerstein or a million other guys that sat in a walkup office with a piano and a pile of foolscap and wrote music all day. I'm pretty sure that Fagen and Becker actually tried their hand at being Brill Building-type drones before the music business decided that it was simply cheaper and easier to have all the bands write their own stuff. Man, the Beatles ruined everything.

I found it amusing to watch the Three Old Men Having Fun resurrecting the Isley Brothers Who's That Lady. Pop music doesn't cure cancer or anything, but you can always find interesting things in it if you look around. Donald Fagen isn't about to seine the Seventies looking for material and come up with The Candy Man. He has better taste than that. Who's That Lady was a great piece of pop when it first came out. It's been mostly overlooked in the recycled music industry, so it was both a surprise and familiar for the audience of geezers. That's the secret to good covers.

I found all sorts of things interesting in that video: Bog Gas is performing with the wreckage of Steely Dan now? Fascinating. After all these years, Michael McDonald still doesn't know the difference between a cardioid and an omnidirectional microphone? He pulls his head away from the microphone too abruptly at the end of phrases. In about ten more years, are you going to be able to tell the difference between Donald Fagen and Stephen Hawking without nametags? I used to think the Gibson SG was the worst guitar ever made, but now that I've seen Jon Herrington play one, is it possible that it's worse than the worst guitar ever made? It makes him play badly, at least for him.

I'm moderately surprised that was a performance at the Metropolitan Opera. It's not that goofy an idea, I suppose. Mean Joe Greene (Giuseppe Verdi) was a pop artist, and opera was the equivalent of the top forty on AM radio back in the day. Sometimes only the passage of time gives things cultural weight. But man, if you asked me in 1974 if the Isleys would be covered in the Metropolitan Opera House by Bog Gas and Steely Dan, I would have said that's impossible. And tried to buy tickets.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Top Ten Adviceses for Aspirating Writerers

Before I begin with the advices, I'm required to pull rank somehow. Lay out my bona fidos. In order to tempt you to take writing advice from me, I have to lure you into thinking that I've managed to produce some form of folding money by writing. That's the Holy Grail, and I have to convince you I've had a swig from it before you'll listen to me. Here goes: I'm such a good writer that I have intermittently been able to cover the monthly fee for keeping a bank account open to accept the money I've earned by writing. I know, huh? How awesome is that?

I don't mean to brag, but I have adjectives I haven't even used yet. I can swear more convincingly than Edna St. Vincent Millay and write dialog better than any you'll find in the Encyclopedia Britannica. I can make grown men weep and women violent. I have the touch, and I'm here to give you the benefit of my touching.

I started out fairly wretched, so it was easier for me to become an inkstained wretch than most people. I wrote a book that had pages with printing on both sides and two covers that were too far apart. I sold several copies of that book to drunk persons who found themselves on Amazon at 4 AM (it's my target demographic). That doesn't mean you'll necessarily have that kind of luck. Those people might have sobered up by now. I advise you to start off slowly and confine yourself to writing for the Internets. But whatever you decide, make sure you confine yourself, or someone else will.

 Here's my Top Ten Adviceses for Aspirating Writerers:
  1. Make sure all the guidance you seek out on any topic is from a deciled list. Never read anything with even a hint of paragraphs about it. Numbered pages are right out. Don't waste your time with any wild-eyed iconoclasts while you're poking around the Intertunnel looking for your lists. Remember that nothing important ever consists of nine or eleven items. Ten items is your guarantee of quality. 
  2. Use words like "deciled" in your writing. It wasn't a word until I made it a word in the previous entry on this list. Sprinkle in words like that, and pretty soon your blog or website or honeypot or whatever will be search engine optimized to be Numero Uno, baby, whenever anyone uses Google to look for words that don't exist. Just watch the money roll in from that.
  3. Only express strong opinions about who shot first or the dress some talentless skank was wearing at the Oscars. All other opinions will be met with an endless cavalcade of death threats on Twitter and bad reviews on Yelp! -- whether or not you own a business. Yelpers will found a company under your name, rent a strip mall storefront, and then fill it with employees just so they can give you bad reviews if you express certain opinions that are beyond the pale. Never mention that Windows 10 works just fine, for instance. 
  4. Make sure you tell everyone how passionate you are about writing. Let's say you're applying for a job offered by a Bangladeshi spammer on People per Hour to fill out an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the comments he's leaving on abandoned blogs for generic Nair for back hair. It's really important for you to assure him how passionate you are about that type of work. The job pays almost as well as delivering gluten-free pizza using Uber cab service, so you're going to have to show some serious passion if you want to beat out Mikayla, Michaela, Makaila, Makhailla, and Premjit for the job.
  5. You need a headshot photo. Make sure it's taken of you, by you, at arm's length. Employers have learned to trust only people who appear to be furtively looking up at the surveillance camera in a convenience store while pursing their lips into a kind of smirk. It gives off a vibe that screams: passion.
  6. Sometimes passion alone isn't enough to get that Kenyan to award you that erotic fiction e-book gig. That's when you need to haul out the big guns, and assure them that you have a real "flare" for writing to amplify all that passion.
  7. You're going to have to know all about how sexy a werewolf is. You can't limit your ability to textually sexify werewolves solely to the terrestrial kind, either. Bone up on sexy interstellar  werewolves along with the domestic breeds. It never hurts to have a minor in Sexy Vampirism to go with your B.A. in Libidinous Lycanthropy. 
  8. Don't make the mistake of offering content that's too challenging for the average college-educated person to understand. I mean, does that GIF really need to be animated? Can't it just be a GIF? 
  9. Use mnemonic devices to organize your daily efforts. For instance, I keep a little framed sign on my desk that says: K.I.S.S.. It's an acronym that reminds me that if I don't write something and sell it soon, I might be Killed Indiscriminately by the ShutzStaffel. I think that's what it stands for. I got it from the tail end of a deciled list and can only remember the first three items. Number 4 was an animated GIF, and I got confounded. 
  10. Under no circumstances get a real job and leave writing to people who are good at it. Get a real job and then use the office computer to write badly and show those starving writers they're starving for a reason. 
Well, there you have it. You're now ready to enter the lucrative world of Intertunnel writing. If you're wondering if my advice is any better than the other 40,995,651 websites offering writing advice, I urge you to search on Google for "Top Ten Adviceses for Aspirating Writerers." I assure you I'll be the very first entry on the search results. That's how the quality of everything on the Intertunnel is determined.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Winter Dreams the Same Dream Every Time


We burned around seven tons of pellets last heating season. There's approximately 8,500 BTUs in a pound of wood pellets. That works out to 17,000,000 BTUs in a ton. Seven tons is almost 120 million BTUS. That was enough to make our refrigerator run from time to time to keep the ketchup inside from freezing solid, so we can't complain.

It's difficult to say exactly how many of those BTUS end up being useful inside our house. The pellet stove industry doesn't like cold, hard, facts very much. Instead of telling you how many BTUs their rigs produce, they prefer to say how many square feet of floor area the machine will serve. Um, yeah, about that. I've noticed several differences between, say, San Diego and New England, in addition to only one having a functional football team. Call me a wild-eyed pessimist, but I guess that the ability of a heating appliance to cover the same square footage in those two places might also vary. The home in San Diego might still have an old 100-watt incandescent installed in a ceiling can light, which as you know produces enough "waste heat" to act as a standin for a furnace. I suspect there might be other variables.

The unit we use to burn pellets says it will heat 3,000 square feet. I haven't noticed any macaws in the sumac bushes across the street, crocodiles in the Androscoggin River out back, or howler monkeys in the spruce trees, and I haven't noticed being overly hot in January while trying to heat 2,000 square feet. The howler monkeys comment on news stories on the Bangor Daily News, so I know they're around, but I think they have oil heat.

The reported efficiency of a pellet stove is a WAG when it isn't an outright lie. The entire industry gets a pass because they put "eco" in every other word on their websites. I guess that a well set up and well maintained pellet stove runs at around 80 percent efficiency. An oil furnace that efficient would get replaced. I mentioned yesterday that wet pellets are a problem we avoid like the plague. Wet pellets drop the efficiency of a stove precipitously.

The manufacturers of the stoves use the variable quality of pellets to weasel out of any sort of prediction on how the stove will run and the amount of heat and creosote the stove will produce. The Number 2 bunker oil you get for heating your mighty castle might be anything from Caracas sludge to North Sea sewing machine oil, but your oil burner will handle it just fine. Your furnace will be expected to perform the same in any case, but the the pellet industry gets a pass. "I'm sorry, the trees used to make your pellets had over 17 birdsnests per cubic ton of shade, so their refractal qualities make them unsuitabable for peak performance in our Lignoblaster 5000 EcoGuevara stove."

At this point in my life, I simply dream of a thermostat. After that, three square meals a day would be gravy. And I mean that every which way.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Sixteen Tons and Whaddaya Get?


We got a ton of pellets yesterday. A ton isn't that much. It's fifty bags that weigh forty pounds each. I wrote out the math for you to prove I went to Catholic school. We had it delivered, because the place that delivers keeps their pellets indoors, so they're the only supplier that doesn't sell you wet pellets. Wet pellets are next to useless. Walmart is only twenty-five dollars a ton cheaper, and they leave the pallets out in the weather. In case you're some form of criminal, I'm giving you a heads up that you can go to Walmart at 1 AM and find $25,000 worth of pellets in the parking lot that you can steal if you're feeling really frisky and have a pickup truck that can handle a hundred tons. My advice is that it's a lot less work to simply siphon gas from your neighbors' cars and use the fuel to drive until you reach the Mason-Dixon line. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

People never steal anything useful like pellets. That's why they're left out in the parking lot under the hinky streetlight. People who want to steal things go inside the Walmart and try to steal televisions and iPhones, which are not useful, and go to jail for their trouble. There's 25 grand in pellets outside, but they want to steal a phone the company will give to you for free if you sign up for cellphone service. I think that proves that tattoo ink interferes with normal brain function, because everyone in the police blotter has a visible tattoo on their neck. I'm just doing the math again. However, it doesn't explain how you ended up with a tattoo in the first place, so I need a new theorem.

We burn pellets instead of firewood these days. Firewood is cheaper than pellets, which are cheaper than oil, which is cheaper than propane, which is cheaper than electricity. Wood, pellets, oil, and propane dumped together and burned in a rusty barrel out in the yard to heat the house indirectly through an open window is cheaper than electricity, now that I think of it. That's because electricity is 100-percent efficient. Nothing goes to waste. Every electron you use is converted directly into a zero on your bill. You could get an electric bill for $900 where I live. For one month. That's if it's a warmish January. The electric company doesn't leave any electricity outside on pallets in their parking lot, or I would steal it, and feel saintly while doing it. There are laws greater than those made by men.

We bought the largest pellet stove we could find. It's a Vogelzang VG5790, which translates roughly from German as, "The goddamn electric bill for January was $900." If that translation sounds a bit off for you, that's because I learnt classical German, not that strange dialect you seem to have picked up. Anyway, according to the manufacturer, our pellet stove produces 60,000 BTUs per hour. According to me, pellet stove manufacturers produce one extravagant lie every minute. At any rate, our stove has 5 settings:
  1. Why do you keep it so hot in here? (October)
  2. Why do you keep it so cold in here? (November)
  3. Why is there ice on the inside of the windows? (December)
  4. Why am I brushing my teeth with slush from the faucet? (January)
  5. Why didn't I buy damp pellets from Walmart when I had the chance? (February)
Whenever we turn the pellet stove on Setting 5, we all adopt a Montgomery Scott accent and say things like, " She canna take much more captain, she's gonna blow." On the humor scale, that's right up there with saying, "Come along, Artoo," when you're pulling a shop vac over to clean out the pellet stove and start a fire in the shop vac. Normal people fear a fire in their shop-vac. In Maine, we shrug and say, "Woohoo! Free BTUs!"

The stove glows like an Iranian underground bunker, vibrates and hums a lot, and the side panels pop open from expansion when it's on the Number 5 setting. It's still only 40 percent as terrifying as the electric bill, so we take our chances.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Jewbadours Are My New Second-Favorite Band

Of course Unorganized Hancock has been my Numero Uno favorito completo band for four years now, although not necessarily in a row. I'm related to them, so that means they're definitely in my tribe, and as you know, you gotta support the team. The second-place slot on my hit parade is always in flux, however.

I had a dalliance with the Kimjongleurs for a short while. Their brand of love-starved -- and every other sort of starved-- ballads really hit home for me. I took a flutter on the 4chan-teuses, but their lyrics were a little risque for my tastes. I enjoyed the heavy metal stylings of the Crystal Methodists, but their gigs go all night and I can't stay up that late anymore. No, if there's going to be a new Number Two in my life, it's got to be the Jewbadours:



That's pretty damn good, but lets not get ahead of ourselves with praise here. A peek behind the mixing booth curtain would reveal the true secret of their success: Copious amounts of the McDonaldizer plugin for ProTools.


The Jewbadours use a beard setting that's a little low for my tastes, but the heavy post-Doobie mix offsets any harmonic alopecia. Anyway, let's not quibble. The Jewbadours are the best thing to come out of New York City since King Kong, and since he came out feet first, they're the reigning champs as far as I'm concerned.


Shalom!

The Jewbadours

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

By the Time I Get to Simi, You'll Be Writhing


We bought a little SPL bop drum kit for Garrett for his Unorganized Hancock gigs. There are half a dozen or so terms currently in use to refer to a small drum kit. Some call them jungle drums, street kits, cocktail sets, breakbeats, or jazz sets. Everyone argues endlessly over the terminology because each of the names was in (obscure) use for other types of drum sets. For instance, a true cocktail drum set is played standing up, and usually features a beater pedal that strikes the underside of the bass drum, with a snare placed on top of it. I think the term bop kit is the most useful.

We bought Garrett's bop kit using the money they won in the Lewiston/Auburn Fighting Spirit hockey team anthem contest. He formerly played on a drum set left over from when I was a working musician in the 1990s. It was a modest set, a Pearl Export Pro, but it was way too big, way too loud, took up too much room, and was way too heavy to cart around. Drum sets are stupid. We had to do something about it.
Drum sets have gotten really elaborate. They were originally intended to keep up with big bands, who were as loud as rock bands in some cases. Once the 60s rolled around and the volume of pop bands got uberstupid, drum manufacturers started making drums even louder to compete with Marshall stacks. The volume arms race was moronic beyond belief, and even though it was shortly made superfluous by secondary amplification, it continued unabated. Everyone miked the drums and put them through the PA system, so volume shouldn't matter, but they kept making drums louder. Nobody knew how to play anyway, and volume became a stand-in for musicality.

The more drums and cymbals I see when a band sets up, the less music I expect I'm going to hear. If you could play the drums properly, you wouldn't need very many of them. Buying a little bop set has made it possible for Unorganized Hancock to play in smaller rooms without blowing people out of building, and it lets Garrett see the audience, and lets the audience see him better, too. They're still too loud for him to practice with unless he wears headphones, but progress is progress. They take up half the area that the old set required, both when they're set up and when they're being transported. Their white sparkle finish is jaunty to look at, too.

There's another rub. The new bass drum sounds good. Drummers have come up with a very elaborate process for making their giant stupid bass drums sound like something. They stuff them full of pillows, cut holes in the front head, remove the front head entirely, or just give up and have the PA do all the work. The idea that the bass drum itself should sound like a drum, and have a satisfying tone, was lost.

We filled Garrett's old bass drum with stuffed animals, which the audience always found amusing, but it was only incidentally for visual effect. We were trying to shut it the hell up. For his new bop kit, we ignored everyone and simply put a strip of felt across the inside of the head to keep it from ringing when it wasn't being struck by the beater. We tuned the heads properly, and it sounds exactly like the bass drum in this Simi Stone video.

It sounds musical. What a concept. Might catch on, you never know.

Monday, November 02, 2015

If You Make Things, You Are My Brother: Manny Avalos


I need you to get past the production values of this video.

Videos made in this fashion are manipulative. They become propaganda. The music is chosen to provoke sentiment without meaning. The slow tracking shots are meant to manufacture interest in mundane tableaus. A voice-over lends senatorial gravity to banal utterances. Put the method aside.

Manny is an interesting person. Manny is an interesting person whether or not there's a camera dolly involved. I can, however, assure you that you probably wouldn't think Manny was an interesting person unless he showed up in four minutes of pixels on your iThing. Manny could work in his garage for twenty years and not one of the neighbors or their kids would be the slightest bit interested in what he's doing. An invitation to see his workshop would be met with a slightly panic-stricken look and a dissembling, "I've got this thing in Van Nuys in a half an hour...". Manny probably wouldn't care. He isn't a docent in the museum of Manny. He wants to make guitars.

What Manny is talking about in the video is profound only because it should be quotidian, but isn't anymore. He's talking about being connected with other people. He wants to make a guitar so that other people can use it to make music to entertain and delight still more people. He feels connected to the world at large by his own solitary efforts. He admits he found the construction of the guitar interesting for its own sake, but he understands that his interest is pointless unless it serves others.

The bit of text appended to the video makes some bold claims about Manny that I don't want or need to investigate. They call him a "Renaissance man," incorrectly, I imagine. It's the sort of term people with ironic beards and stovepipe pants enjoy using, but don't really understand.

If I had to guess, I'd imagine that Manny is a retired schoolteacher of some sort, and has taken an interest in his fellow man every day of his 89-year-old life in one way or another. Not the sort of interest that takes the form of ruling them for their own good, either. He has been a productive and pleasant person for so long that he doesn't know how to be anything else.

The United States, in my lifetime, was chock-a-block full of people just like Manny. Now it's full of people with camera dollies and ring lights, hunting around for the last Manny on Earth so they can stuff him and display him.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine



I don't live anywhere near Beech Hill in Rockport, Maine. I know you flatlanders think all Mainers must know each other, so everyone must have been everywhere else, but Maine is the same size as Ireland, and twice as likely to urge you to drunkenness, so there's plenty of places I haven't been.

A "flatlander" is someone that doesn't live in Maine, if you're wondering. If it makes you feel any better, Mainahs still call me a flatlander, too, because I've only lived here for six years or so. As far as Mainahs are concerned, I'm not frum round heah, and never will be. They try that flatlander shite on my wife, who casually mentions she looked everywhere for them in Maine in 1970 when she first lived here, but didn't notice them about, and they leave her be. At least they don't call us Massholes anymore. We're not half bad for flatlanders, I tell you what, they'll at least allow.

It would be worse if they called us straphangers. A straphanger is way, way down the totem pole of disrepute from a simple flatlander. A straphanger is an urban flatlander. They're the worst. The last person from New Yawk City that Mainers could stand was E.B. White, I think. If you're ever in Maine on a cold, dreary winter's night, which you can enjoy in either early June or late September, and you're huddled around the campfire while the locals wear flip-flops and jorts, ask them what they think about straphangers. Wait until they have four or five Lewiston Martinis in them. A Lewiston Martini is Allen's Coffee Brandy mixed with milk. I think it's called a Trailer Park Love Potion in some zip codes, but can't testify to that with any surety, your honor. Of course more discerning palates imbibe Burnt Trailers, which is Moxie and Coffee Brandy. Moxie is Maine's own brand of soda, which tastes like Socrates' backwash. Don't confuse a Burnt Trailer with a Welfare Mom, which is coffee brandy and Diet Moxie. It's an entirely different vibe.

Anyway, if you were going to hunt straphangers anywhere in Maine, you'd drizzle Hoboken hobo urine on traps in and around Rockport. That's the sort of Downeast place where whales on your pants won't get you into any scrapes. Out west where I am, it's all cowboy hats and feed caps, and everyone listens to country music. I've seen more stars and bars flags here in western Maine than I saw when I drove from South Carolina to Arizona. Western Mainahs like doin' what they're not supposeta. They don't mean anything by it. They don't really mean anything by anything as far as I can tell.

I can tell the video is from a part of Maine where the flatlanders haven't been overfished yet. Beech Hill in Rockport is a Land Trust. Flatlanders and straphangers love that shite. There's nothing and nobody in Maine. It's completely empty and filled with trees, but you never know, I guess. The state is the size of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire put together, and about a million and a quarter souls live here, but somehow a patch of grass and a house with a lawn on the roof needs a Land Trust to protect it from becoming a trailer park overnight.

Watching the video, I know the land trust straphangers are losing ground to the hicks without knowing it. The background music is banjos.