Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dohn Fahget Tha Othah Thing Ovah Theyah

Fantastic surf video over at our Borderline Sociopathic Blog For Boys. Don't miss it.

I'm A Lumberjack, And I'm O......Holy #$%&

Plaid flannel shirt and blue ox now optional.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Naked City

A while back I had a kinda corporate job. After a time, they made me a manager, and a while after that, they made me the managers' manager. I had to travel from office to office, firing people, mostly. It made me a kind of tethered vagabond, expected to see everything in an instant and to be mean without malice. I found out that to be really lonely in this world, you have to be included but feared; and I was certainly that. A city is like that, writ large. In a city everyone is included, but feared. It's not lonesome in the woods. It's lonesome hanging on a strap in a tube full of people trying not to look at one another much.

The company was based in New York, and I had to start going to their... my... the office out on the island from time to time. When they canceled the plane from Providence to Lawn Guyland, I had to drive it a lot. I remember the first time I drove into The City as part of my job. I'd driven through it before, but to be a part of it, a participant in its affairs, is an entirely different thing. I was accordioning into one of its many tunnels, the cars jostling and pushing their way into the maw of the underpass, and I can still recall the feeling of immense power invested in the place. When London was the center of the world, they called that feeling The Hum. I'd read that, but until The City digested me and I passed into its bloodstream instead of passing right through, I didn't really understand The Hum.

If you don't have a skin in the game, and visit it as a tourist, you might miss that. If you're a denizen, you might become inured to it and miss it too. But someone that's in it, but used to observing his surroundings with a bit of a detached eye, now that's a valuable guy to have around. My friend Gerard of American Digest is such a man. Bookmark the Tumblr stream of photos of the city he called home, taken right after the foundations of that city were rocked to the granite ledge beneath them. He left it after that, but he was smart enough to make an impression of the key to the city in the wax of his camera before he made his escape. Feel The Hum.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Not Really A Plumber

It's not approved. How can we tax it? I can't find a slot in the wall of conformity for it. Best not allow it. Take your ration and put it in your ricebowl and like it until we break that too.

There's a line and this ain't the back of it. Do you know who my father is? The secret handshake? I thought not. NQOCOP. Kiss an ass and you can work for nothing in the place built by a Rockefeller until an old man gropes you and then you're in. Don't forget not to recoil in horror.

The glowing rectangles flicker and a parade of the pre-approved march by. You could set yourself afire, or claw at the door for the amusement of the cheap seats, and feel the contempt radiating from inside, if you like. You'll get your few minutes on the rectangle, the lidded gaze will rest heavy on you for a moment, and then you'll be discarded. Grab the meter money, quick, before the lever is pulled to spin the meaningless symbols again and drop the coins in the tray for another.

There is some hidden process. If you don't know it, you might go poking around the outside of the machinery, trying to glean what you need to know with your wits and your hands. You bust your knuckles on the rivets, and occasionally you tug on a loose panel and get a blast of steam in the face. Gardy loo.

Or maybe you turn your back on it. No one can stop you if you don't ask them if you can start. Do not pray to their god of mammon. Drift through the pagan culture -- still vibrant and muscular with its hopes and exertions, not sallow and anemic from its tuffet -- and find the souls who cannot fit, no matter what they try, and concoct a brew from it. We'll make our own things out of our ration of nothing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Going Norm Galt

Many people with skinny glasses instead of safety glasses talk a good game about self-reliance. They grow cucumbers in a window box and put together an IKEA shelf, then start blogging about how they've returned to their pioneer roots. They're going Galt. Complaining you're being forced to hoard your quarters instead of buying toys with them right away sounds vaguely familiar to me. I did it when I was six, when my mother made me fill a Christmas Club card from my allowance every week instead of blowing it immediately. My behavior was understandable, if not commendable. Gleeful references to John Galt from the well-off are similarly understandable, but not commendable.

But I was in first grade. What's your excuse? Ten percent of the population of the US is being told that the creative destruction they've always had to deal with--the hard way --while their managers shrugged and ordered a third martini at lunch, has morphed into permanent unemployability. Telling them it serves them right for not being rich enough to threaten to take their economic ball and go home, like you say you're going to do, is unseemly.

I'm beginning to become slightly irked at continual references to that Harlequin Romance version of economics everyone but me seems to be captivated with. Then again, actors in unwatchable Batman movies win Oscars like they're Olivier now. No use complaining about it, I guess.

Did you know Norm Abram retired from his TV show, The New Yankee Workshop? Probably not. Let's test my hypothesis, using Google News:

Two references. Both not about the subject. Let's see what the average Netizen does know and care about. How about the Balloon Boy:

Over 20,000 news stories.

The balloon boy's parents are "Reality TV" people. There has never been a more inaccurate sobriquet in English. Everybody seems to be fascinated with nothing.

Norm Abram is the penultimate example of true "Reality TV." He made real things, and encouraged others to do so. No pretense. Not a scam. The balloon boy's father will get his 15 minutes, but being part of Katie Couric's nightly geeks and freaks sideshow act is a virtual reality, it's not real real. He'll get a book deal or an ankle bracelet, maybe both, but he literally contributes nothing to the sum total of the world's worth. If you count up just the Twitter time he wasted, which is all waste anyway, he was the most destructive force on planet Earth for a week. But you didn't have to look. I didn't. You can't even dissect him as an example of a media frenzy, because there's no rhyme or reason to it. It's all just stupid.

"Reality TV" is an absurd concept to people that live in the real world of work and worry. They get reality every day, they don't need a faux one to amuse themselves. Cubicle-bound endomorphs think a contest that looks like figuring out a subway map, a bus schedule, and an airport tote board is an "Amazing Race." Catching a trolley is not a bloodsport, no matter how heavy your backpack full of energy bars is. Adults going camping while participating in activities too silly and sedentary for an overweight child's summer camp, with office politics thrown in, hardly makes them a "Survivor." I'm told that when you're all done watching all this onTV, you're going to weave your own clothes and barter with your next-door neighbor, the grizzly bear, with Kruggerands. Sure you are.

There actually is one hint of unreality to Norm. The workshop isn't his; not many people know that. It belongs to the producer of the show. Norm, as successful as he is, has been dragging his ass to the factory every day as if he was just another schlub. But that's it. He's immensely more influential and successful than most anyone I can name on television. He could walk into any home center, tool shop, construction trade show, and any restaurant in New England, and get carried around on people's shoulders if he felt like it. It's not his fault you don't know that. He's not an idiot celebrity. He's important to a lot of people, and for good reason. He's as close to a real folk hero as you can find in contemporary American life. It was as if Johnny Appleseed was on TV for two decades, but everyone was too busy watching execrable people with no talent judge singers with even less talent to notice. You didn't get to lounge around and vote on which table leg Norm used, instead of putting down your bowl of lotos petals and making one yourself, so you weren't interested.

Norm is going Galt, if you insist on using the term. He's still making lots of dough pointing and smiling on This Old House, the only shelter show worth a turd, and money will roll in from all the books and drawings and videos and advertisements from his shuttered but amiable and useful show forevermore. He doesn't have to stand on someone else's concrete floor and smile while his feet hurt and back throbs anymore. Norm will be fine. His audience's life will be diminished because he's not in it as often.

I keep hearing others say they're going to drink taxpaying gasoline, eat supply-side dynamite, have a trickle-down nitroglycerine enema, and then swallow a serves-you-all-right John Galt match. Beware. Daffy Duck teaches us it's an exciting trick, but unfortunately you can only do it once --just like your fifteen minutes of fame. It would be a shame if you went John Galt and no one noticed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Continuing Series: Pictures Of Paul Robeson Playing Softball Pictures

Sippican Cottage once again apologizes for our lack of alacrity in adding to our ongoing series: Pictures Of Paul Robeson Playing Softball Pictures. Pressed for time again today, and unable to locate the steamer trunk we have filled with pictures of this great thespian and fair hand at throwing the leather, we offer as a milksop, to our tens of thousands of fans that clamor daily for additional pictures of Jose Ferrer missing the tag on Paul Robeson: Videos Of Marlon Brando Playing The Bongos In A Grotto Fashioned After A Drunkard's Nightmare Videos.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blues Guitar, From Primordial Soup To Cloud Cities

Pretty much everything ZZ Top has done for the last twenty-five years has been a joke. An amiable joke, it's true, but a joke nonetheless. A man's gotta eat. Billy Gibbons is an amazing player, though; and like many of his brethren, a true scholar of what he's doing. This is the rarest of things here: a person that knows what's what explaining it without pretense or ulterior motive.

Here and there, you hear a real ooh or aah sneak out of the guy while he's playing what is for him a mundane, workaday thing. He's remembering the pleasure he got out of discovering it. It's an old man, fishing through his old toy box, finding his old treasures.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Et Clamor Meus Ad Te VĂ©niat

I have had my fun if I never get well no more.
I have had my fun if I never get well no more.
All of my health is failing;
Lord, I'm going down slow,

I'm going down slow.
Please write my mother and tell her the shape I'm in.
Please write my mother and tell her the shape I'm in.
Tell her to pray for me,
Forgive me for my sin,
For all of my sin.

On the next train south, look for my clothes back home.
On the next train south, look for my clothes back home.
'Cause all of my health is failing;
Lord, I'm going down slow,
I'm going down slow.

All of my health is failing;
Lord, I'm going down slow,
I'm going down slow.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Juiced Up And Sloppy

Some Enchanted Place is only at the ten thousand word mark, so you're going to have to buy another book in the interim. I suggest my friend Gerard's latest project, Let It Bleed.

The Rolling Stones. Hmm. Watch carefully children. Nothing up my sleeve...

Keith Richards can't play the guitar. Charlie Watts can't play a fill. Bill Wyman is a bass owner, not a bass player. Mick Taylor couldn't hold his liquor, and looks like he'd rather be wearing a tuxedo and playing behind Cliff Richard. What Mick Jagger is doing onstage is what people do to distract you from the fact they don't have an ounce of grace or rhythm, or any other compelling reason to look at them. I used to refer to it as "Doing nothing frantically." Smearing yourself with Elmer's Glue and then running through Carly Simon's closet is not style. None of them, least of all the lead singer, can sing one little bit.

Why would any of that matter? For a period of maybe half a decade-- perhaps a little more -- they were the most important thing in pop music, and for good reason. I was alive in 1969, and believe you me they served as a most compelling soundtrack for the disintegration of the sixties, then immediately and ably transitioned into an excellent drugged-out Magi, present at the birth of the decade of international delirium tremens that followed.

I know at this point they look like your mothers after they've been at your grandmother's beauty parlor all day, and haven't done anything worth mentioning for thirty-odd years, but they used to get the juke box ambulatory at one point. Just ask Gerard. He's old, showed up when it counted, and can write.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some Enchanted Place -- Chapter Eight

To read Some Enchanted Place from the beginning, click here and start at the bottom

What is cowardice? I dunno. My father said it was a kind of vanity. Every coward thinks they're special. That they're the very first one to feel afraid. They think that if brave people felt the way they did, they'd never do anything heroic. They figure intrepid people are simply too dumb to be as frightened as they should be. It's a great way to claim to be superior while cringing in the corner.

Well, I always fancied myself smart, too, after a fashion. I went to school, but not enough to do myself any harm. I was never that into it. But my predilection to read everything put in front of me had an ugly step-sister: a sort of detachment, even from my own affairs. Daydreamer. But thinking wry thoughts is no substitute for action sometimes. Can't help it.

I had a moment one could mistake for amusement right there. Benedict Arnold Dracula was lurking at the bottom of the stairs somewhere, the wildest thing my imagination could conjure up was snuffling and snorting in the kitchen, and I was practically zoned out, my mind filled with trivial absurdities.

Trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see it makes no sense at all,
Is it cool to fall asleep on the floor?
I don't think that I can take anymore

It's not fear. Fear doesn't make you stand daydreaming in a little mixing-bowl room like some Hamlet in overalls. Fear's easy. Fear's a monster doing bad things and you run away or don't and he eats you or he doesn't. This place would be simple if it was plain old fear. There was just something disquieting about this joint; metaphysical termites were gnawing at the entire rotten substance of the place, leaving only a veneer to look at. It straddled some line between awake and asleep, or past and future; maybe man and beast. Something. Innocuous enough to make you fear looking foolish if you didn't play along, strange enough to keep you looking over your shoulder all the time. It wasn't a machine-gun nest to be charged or anything. If he was a werewolf, Pecksniff was a mundane kind of werewolf. As far as evil goes, I could picture him doing Jack The Ripper's taxes, but I couldn't picture him owning a knife. Something makes a noise. Big deal. Man up.

Hanging on a hook on the wall was an implement that would confound a million people who'd never been in an old-money house. The closest they'd come to it was mistaking it for a boathook. It was a long, smooth, slender shaft of white oak, with a little brass cap with a curlicue like an "S" on top. The oak was harder than Chinese arithmetic, and worn perfectly smooth by the touch of a hundred thousand hands. Big houses had tall ceilings, and the servants needed something to reach up and cock the transom windows open and closed. The shaft wasn't much thicker than a pool cue, but I knew I could beat a charging rhino to death with the thing and it wouldn't break. I grabbed it off the wall, not afraid mind you, just ... prepared. I kicked the door that led into the kitchen, and it swung into the room, and then back on the double hinges you'll find on all the doors a servant has to pass through to put food on a table in a mansion.

At first, there was a massive blast of sunlight. The sun had reached some magic point in the sky, and transformed the dim morning light I remembered creeping through the wall of windows in the kitchen into a blinding sheet of white light. My eyes were gulled by the basement and the windowless room, and my rods and cones rebelled. I saw all sorts of things that weren't there, and missed the very real door as it hit me square in the face.

Anger, or pique, or whatever you call the shitfit you throw after the application of a door to the beezer and God's searchlight right in your eyes, is the sure cure for all fears. If a monster rings your doorbell at two AM, you feel like running away screaming. If a monster rings your doorbell at two AM and tries to sell you encyclopedias, you feel like punching him in the face. Rage beats three beers, money, and a medal for ginning up courage. I kicked the door back hard, whacked the oak stick against it to hold it open, and went into the room like a prizefighter coming off a stool.

Between the tears in my eyes from the blow on the nose, and squinting from the sunlight, everything in the room was gauzy and indistinct. It didn't matter. There was someone hunched over the sink on the far side of the room. A hand reached for the faucet, and the hissing noise from the spray head suspended over the sink stopped, and the drumming of the water in the bottom of the big copper basin slowed, and then ceased altogether.

The door was swinging wildly in a back-and-forth half-moon through the doorframe, and I was standing a few feet in front of its arc with my feet apart and the staff held forward like some misplaced Quixote confronted with a real-life Dulcinea; without question, exaggeration, or any other embroidery, the most beautiful woman I've ever laid eyes on turned from the sink and looked at me.

No, not Dulcinea. Or Helen of Troy. Cleopatra? Uh Uh. Marilyn Monroe? Pfft. Pikers. This woman wasn't attractive; she was literally awesome.

We were both dumbstruck, if for different reasons. I was frozen by the unexpected appearance of some sort of Aphrodite; she was left to figure out the buffo arrival of a strange man, puffing like a marathoner, ready to joust, all the while being fanned by the languid breezes from a butler's door.

"I. I..."

I lowered the stick and tried to look somewhat more nonchalant. Unsuccessfully, I'm sure.

"We're... I'm... I'm the carpenter. For the fixing. Of things -- stuff. I... Do you... live... um, work here? What's your name?"

There was a pause, and she drifted across the floor towards me. She was even more stupefying close up. Almost tall, but not quite. Delicate and athletic, if that's possible. Her skin was so fair she appeared to glow in the sunshine, without the slightest hint of pastiness, and the effect of it was multiplied by the frame of her hair, lustrous black, thick as thatch, and cut straight across just above the shoulder. She had no hint that anything about her was massaged to perfection by the touch of a human hand. She must have been kicked out of Olympus without her purse for showing up the second-string goddesses. I began a weird sort of visual Easter-Egg hunt, trying to find some flaw, something asymmetrical, any little blemish anywhere on her face. It was a fool's errand. I followed the line of her nose around the perfect curve of her eyebrow, a savage eying another tribe's totem and wondering if I should steal it or worship it, until I settled on the striking green of her eye and ran out of gas.

There was a long pause, and she pursed her lips as if to say something, hesitated, and her eyes widened to a look almost like surprise. A clock ticked loudly somewhere.

"Miss Immaculada Doyle is our housekeeper," Pecksniff said, as my makeshift lance clattered to the floor.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy Colon Day (2009)

[We interrupt our regularly scheduled Some Enchanted Place extravaganza to properly celebrate Day. More SEP after the holiday]

I remember Columbus Day because I used to play music in a hundred and one bands anyone that would have me and try to make money to eat and get cigarettes and I don't smoke and there still was never enough money and I played at a tee-totaling biker association party for two members' wedding not gay a man and a woman that arrived on a motorcycle with the woman I think wearing a white Wedding Dress and no helmet and we played for one hundred sober bikers and ninety-nine of them were like accountants and one was like a serial murderer but they all looked exactly the same so you had to assume they all would kill you if they got the chance instead of the more likely thing that they'd do your taxes if you asked nice and I never played Born To Be Wild for a Wedding Song before and the bride's father was in jail I think so she had to dance with the groom twice and the whole thing was held at the Italian-American Club on Gano Street in Providence but everybody calls it Guano Street for a joke haha and it's a real long time ago but it might have been the Portuguese-American Club I don't remember but I do remember it was Columbus Day and I went into the bar to get away from the sober biker accountants and that one serial murderer that were in the function room and it didn't matter if it was the Italian-American Club or the Portuguese-American Club or the Knights Of Columbus Hall haha that would be funny but I don't really remember but I distinctly remember a guy with a knife a real knife not a just a knife a dagger that came to a perfect point and didn't fold or look like you could do anything wholesome with it it just looked one hundred percent like it was designed and made to gut a bass player and that guy held that knife right under my chin and explained to me in Portuguese that Cristobal Colon was Portuguese and don't you forget it and my Spanish was very sketchy and Portuguese sounds like Russian to me not Spanish anyway but believe me I understood every damn word he said and I advise you all to answer the question did you know Cristobal Colon was Portuguese in the affirmative at all times.

The end.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Some Enchanted Place, Chapter Seven

If you just stumbled in, I'm apparently writing a book or something. Start here: Some Enchanted Place
Then here: Some Enchanted Place, Part Three
Then here: Part Three, Episode Two
Then here: Part Three, Episode Three

Then here: Episode Four
Episode Five
Chapter Seis

Chapter Six Second Part
Chapter Six Part Three

A man chained to an oar is not responsible if the ship runs aground. Hell, if you run aground, the guys in loincloths and shackles riding in involuntary steerage should get a raise the farther up the beach you end up. It just means they're pulling hard.

I was way, way up on the beach at this point. Standing in a dank cellar with a weirdo, abandoned by Angel and the angels. I looked at old Pecksniff, and knew any small-talk approaches to smooth things over I had left in my bag of tricks were going to stay in there. I had stuck with the program long enough. Angel was a coward, but he wasn't wrong. The place was creepy, and the weird waxwork dude running the place was getting creepier by the minute. Time for action.

But it's an interesting kind of "action" you're allowed in this life, at least if you're born into the traces. You can't just do whatever you want. Life for me and my friends was something of a lark, it's true. We felt we were lucky to be spared a real career. Upward mobility was a term of art for us. The nuns would turn and point to the picture of Kennedy they all kept on the wall, and intone: "See, children, anyone can be president if they want to." Yes, we all have the right to be born rich and well-connected. Or shot in the head. Or something. They might as well have told us we could all have a baby because we were all human.

"Action," for people that drift through life with a boss in their ear, a Guinness in their bellies, a song on their lips on a Friday afternoon, and ten cents in their bank accounts at all times, consists of cooperating as little as is required, bumping along, and only actively dragging your heels when things have gone south already. No frontal assaults on the established order ever pay off. "You're not the boss of me" doesn't work when the object of your scorn most decidedly is. And most everyone is, in this world -- or knows the judge. So you learn through painful experience not to telegraph your punches. What did dad call it? Keep your own counsel. Talk all the time; say nothing.

Well, this place had gone south to the Goddamned equator as far as I was concerned, but I wasn't dumb enough to tell Pecksniff that if he was planning on making an oil portrait of me, he should hurry up because he was going to be doing it from memory from here on in. I was going to fib as little as necessary to get to the property line and never darken this already stygian doorstep again. If I even gave him an inkling I was abandoning my post, he'd be on the phone to young Charlie in an instant, the receiver would be handed to me, and I'd have to hold it two inches from my head or go deaf. And stay. I had to do unto others as Angel had done to me. Tag is an Olympic sport in the building trades.

"This area is fine for setting up shop." I backed toward the stairway leading up. " I'm going back to the shop and help my friend with gathering... um, gathering the materials for the list." Halfway up the stair now, Pecksniff standing at the bottom, looking like he's not believing a word of it, but, who cares? "Someone from our office will call to... to... confirm our... us... when we're coming back."

I was home free at the top of the stairs now. I couldn't picture Pecksniff running up the stairs to catch me in the driveway. I'd call in sick or find some other nonsense to tell young Charlie, and he wouldn't believe me any more than Pecksniff would, but so what? He'd have to send someone else, and the deed would be done.

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly...

I froze. Something was not right. That's really saying something, in a place where nothing was right. I was in the little roundabout room, and I looked at all the doors leading out, and recognized the kitchen in an instant. There was a noise in there.

I looked back down the stairs, and Pecksniff was gone. Back to his shrine, to atone for my intrusion? Who knows? Maybe he was tired from a long morning of tormenting contractors and needed to hang upside-down for a while to refresh himself. The noise couldn't be him. It was a sort of drumming sound, down in the bass register, and a nasty, high-pitched hissing, muffled and indistinct, and it was coming from the kitchen.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Some Enchanted Place - Chapter Six, Part The Third

If you just stumbled in, I'm apparently writing a book or something. Start here: Some Enchanted Place
Then here: Some Enchanted Place, Part Three
Then here: Part Three, Episode Two
Then here: Part Three, Episode Three

Then here: Episode Four
Episode Five
Chapter Seis

Chapter Six Second Part


History is just tribes. We're all in great big tribes now, and belong to all sorts of smaller ones simultaneously -- you're in a bowling league and the National Guard and a book club at the same time; stuff like that. The importance of the original race tribes are waning fast now, and the fellow-traveler voluntary associations are nearing their place on the meridian. You've got more in common with a Mongol on your dart team than a professional golfer you saw on television that looks like your brother.

But don't let it fool you. All sorts of vestigial tails accompany you into the bassinet. Later maybe you pick up more obscure signals through osmosis, or more directly. Dad might make an offhand comment at the dinner table, or maybe goes the point-blank route and just beats it into your head with a belt. Maybe the preacher slips it in your head when you're not looking. Maybe your country hands you a rifle and tells you it's A-OK to let it rip over there, but not over there, and you do the math. Perhaps someone looks at you funny in the schoolyard, and you really don't know what or why it was funny, but you're shirtless and throwing hands in no time.

People that live close enough to the railroad tracks to have their dishes rattle always come up with a variation on the same bit of bosh: I'm the descendant of kings! The black kids in high school would talk about the proud Ashanti warriors they had falling out of their family trees, and of course we dumb Micks claimed Kings as thick as poison ivy all over our miserable half-remembered patch of the Ould Sod. In your heart of hearts you never believed a word of it, even as you were saying it, and knew a king in Ireland was probably the king of this rock here to that pile of dung over there anyway, and even that was only because no one was around to claim otherwise. Your semi-notable surname just means your great-great-great-great grandmother got knocked up by a slightly better class of lord that happened to be passing through. We're all nobodies or we wouldn't be talking -- or fighting -- over nothing much. The somebodies are always elsewhere.

The sum total of my inculcation into the Irish tribe hung behind those damp towels in the bathroom. Dad could tell you, chapter and verse, the difference between the Fianna Fail and the Fine Gael, and many of his drinking buddies would go home angry from some party because someone said De Valera couldn't hold a candle to Collins -- or vice versa, depending on how many drinks they had. Me? It seemed very far away and trivial. The Polish and Italian girls in my High School class tested the limits of their blouse buttons, and I plumbed the depths of diversity peeking at them.

But still. Angel went a little overboard, but Pecksniff certainly did exude something creepy; radiated it. His little disclosure pushed me past wanting to wet myself and around the bend in a way it was hard to explain for someone that really didn't give a fart about being Oirish. But this was beyond the beyonds, as my grandmother used to say if you dared swear at the dinner table, which you didn't.

I don't know the Royal Black Knights of the Camp of Israel from the Apprentice Boys of Derry, or any of the dozens of clubs my father would mention with his eyebrow lowered and set on stun. I don't know one from another, or any particular one from a hole in the ground. But that vestigial tail of my race, the faint imprint of my ancestors left in my bones, told me that all my squabbling tribes forget everything between them in an instant, then coalesce into one big angry Green tribe, whenever the Orange tribe shows up.

Pecksniff was standing there in this gloomy hole in the ground, beaming with pride to announce that he had turned his back on his brethren, and gone to carry water for the Orange team.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Oh Swell. Germany's Fascinated By The Roman Empire Again

My German was never very good, and I'm way out of practice besides. What did that last guy say about Poland?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie...

...Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie, Ernie.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Now For A Message From Our Sponsor

Some Enchanted Place will continue on Monday.

FYI: I'm our sponsor. I mean, I'm my sponsor. That is to say, there is no sponsor.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Some Enchanted Place - The Second Part Of Part Six

If you just stumbled in, I'm apparently writing a book or something. Start here: Some Enchanted Place
Then here: Some Enchanted Place, Part Three
Then here: Part Three, Episode Two
Then here: Part Three, Episode Three

Then here: Episode Four
Episode Five
Chapter Seis

Similes are hard.

You must have had someone you cared for -- maybe even loved -- sneak up behind you and put their hands over your eyes and say: " Guess who?" in a playful sort of a way at least once in your life. They figured you'd realize they were there long before they touched you, but occasionally a person can be concentrating on something, or distracted somehow, and be truly startled.

OK, now imagine a leper does it.

A man has to be careful in these situations. A real man, I mean, not the entirely gelded variety. A man who has not sublimated every aspect of the animal instinct we're all born with. Most of us get plenty of it to start; too much, really. The organized world draws it out like venom or beats it out of you when you're little, fitting you for a lifelong wardrobe full of little mental jackets with sleeves that tie in the back. Civilization tries to replicate itself again and again from the born anarchy of the little boy. But the dirty little secret of the civilized male is that we've squandered more than controlled our essential nature. Nothing particularly important was harvested from us; we just go to seed on our own after a while. But there's still fast-twitch muscles available if you've got the urge, and if your hand is a little too slow to twist the lever on the rattletrap governor we all keep in our heads, you can still get in a lot of trouble in a hurry in this world.

I was in luck. Maybe one of Aesop's Fables I'd be hard pressed to name came halfway to mind; some ignored and leaden homily delivered in a dreary church that leaked into my head anyway crept back from its oblivion; some little tidbit of a juvenile aphorism my dear mother whispered into my childish ear while my knothead straddled the line between awake and asleep reappeared; perhaps a vision of a nun, now long dead, hovered over my shoulder with a ruler ready to strike one more time -- something kept me from spinning around in a fit of awkwardness, embarrassment, mortification, or maybe just plain fear, and putting my fist right in Pecksniff's face.

I flinched and restrained from flinching at the same time, like a man in the electric chair. I felt as though I was a volcano, just warming up, and a giant had sat on me. I emitted a little something from every aperture imaginable, and then it all slammed shut. My thoughts ran across my eyes like a ticker tape, and I wondered absurdly if Pecksniff could read backwards, like Leonardo da Vinci, or a gypsy calling for Beelzebub in the mirror. Think fast, talk faster, the ticker came up with much too slowly.

"I, um, er, a Shriner maybe?"

"My dear boy. A Shriner is a Freemason."

I liked this line of country. Pecksniff was off the scent.

"So what club is it that your boss belongs to, exactly?"

He cleared his throat in particularly weary way. It's better to be thought stupid than up to no good. I figured I was home free.

"He does not belong to clubs. Many clubs, however, belong to him. The handbill that has caught your fancy is mine. I am a Deputy Master of The Royal Black Knights of the Camp of Israel. Though I am Irish descent, as I infer you are, they have graced me with their trust and fraternity."

Light dawns over Marble Head, as they say. Now I get it. Pecksniff didn't just throw off a metaphysically creepy aura. He had something else going on. He wasn't a snake in the bathtub. He was a snake in the grass.