Follow The Bouncing Ball

First of all, rumors of my disappearance or abduction are greatly exaggerated. Considerable drama has occurred. Some of this occurred in last night’s evening at the movies.

1. Fashion Victims

For reasons known only to himself, my Cute Engineer cannot go to a film without buying an overpriced box of the confection known as Milk Duds at the concession stand. This entailed an asphyxiating wait in line before a counter from which festered and festooned the rank scent of faux butter being sprayed onto quantities of popcorn. Seriously, this was an olfactory assault at the level of Lewisite or tear gas. Turning round in hopes of a gulp of less contaminated air, I beheld the line of fellow customers, the females among whom were uniformly attired in Spandex so tight as to outline their buttcracks or, for variation’s sake, jeans rent and savaged until they resembled the mesh barriers strung between armatures that one sees at construction sites. One woman in an ill-fitting bra wore a strange split tunic depending over such a denim garment, made of a transparent fabric such that, well, I mentioned that her bra was ill-fitting.

2. Product Placement

You cannot just go and see a movie nowadays. When I was a pup, you had newsreels and cartoons. Now you have relentless advertisements for television series, Coke, smartphone apps involving the movie theater franchise, Coke, public-service announcements telling you to turn off your smartphone, animations telling you that the feature is on its way and you should buy a Coke, helpful reminders about walking not running to the nearest exit in case of emergency featuring Langolier-like bodiless heads sucking on Cokes, and Coke. Did I mention Coke?

After about three announcements featuring this movie chain’s bouncing bodiless heads I was ready to annihilate any soccer ball I met for the next few years.

3, But I Did Like The Dragons

If only because the animator was obviously a cat person. Look at the first minute here and tell me I’m wrong if you dare.

Ignore everything after about 1:04. I can’t be arsed to figure it out; I’m too busy not being abducted.

I want a dragon.

4. But I Didn’t Buy A Coke

I had no reason to because I closed my eyes after one too many installments of the bouncing animated whatchmajigs.

I had already learned ten and more years ago that the crap “announcements” before today’s film features were a certain precipitator of sick and nauseating headaches. The last time I had the tiniest sip of Coke was after the premiere of “Red Dragon” in 2002, when  was unwise enough to watch the visual effects welcoming me to that particular theater — full of looping, swooping and sideswiping. In the words of someone or other, “I suddenly, and violently, vomited.”

Cola syrup is quite the nostrum for this problem.

This may or may not explain the pre-feature features. Their own antidote, more or less.

There’s a reason I stay home and watch it on disc.

First GM, Now This

I have only ever been involved in one product recall before, and it was for a mechanism called the igniter on Melissa, my old and wonderful Civic Wagon, which by the time the recall was issued had already crapped out expensively on the apron of the swimming-pool parking lot.

This one was different.

Bubble Knob

Yes, as the .pdf at the link will explain, this glass drawer pull has the potential to shear off and take with it a bit of your fingertip, god forbid, considering my occupation, I have two of them in service and another spare in the drawer, or anyway had until I got the notice and restored the drab old wooden pulls that came with the desk . I like things that reflect and refract. My windows are full of crystals and my sun porch is spangled with colored glass vases and candleholders, and my drawers (no jokes please) were similarly ornamented until this evening.

I guess I’m glad one commercial chain is looking out for its customers.

The Burper

I noticed him first about a week ago when I was warming up: a small, trim, well-muscled man probably in his sixties, with light black skin and neat grooming, attired in a cutoff muscle shirt reading “Drug Free Sports” and the kind of wide-striped gym baggies they used to sell about twenty years ago. A lifer. I like to see those.

I almost caught his eye to chat when I found we were crisscrossing through the Hammer plate loaded equipment, though like everyone else, he was wearing those damn earbuds that have made casual social interaction a quaint relic of the past.

Then he burped. Deeply, sonorously, and it seemed unthinkingly, the way you blink.

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” I responded. The earbuds: he didn’t notice.

Shortly after he burped again. And again. He burped while loading plates and stripping the bar. He burped walking along the aisles between the equipment.

I passed him again today. Shortly thereafter I heard the same robust, melodious, unselfconscious burp.

I Googled “uncontrollable belching” and found that there are people who do exhibit it pathologically and idiopathically, and don’t leave the house because they’re so embarrassed by it. Lifters are a different animal though. We really do not care as long as we get to the gym.

No one else seems to mind, happily for him. After some of the places I’ve worked out, my gross-out threshold is way above this, but it can make you jump.

Crusader Squirrel

Agatha’s tail was lashing so furiously that I knew something was outside the window, but this was a bit of a surprise.


The squirrel was chillin’ so insouciantly that I, and the bathrobe-clad client (a cat lover, serendipitiously) who had come out to see, were a bit worried he might be ill or hurt. But no, he was just there to mess with Aggie’s head, at some length and with apparent unconcern about the humans looming over her.


A second after I got this shot he broad-jumped into the holly bush and disappeared from sight. Ours anyway. Aggie kept on staring.

“Is there an extra charge for this?” my client asked as she returned to the massage room.

“Entertainment is complimentary,” I said.

The Kraken

If you are old enough, you saw The Blob, right? Or even Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Or… well… you read (please tell me you READ the thing, vs. “I saw the movie”) Stephen King’s “IT”?

What it was, was there was a sound from the cellar, just as I was about to leave for the gym.


Only an insurrection in the plumbing makes that noise. I ran down the possibilities in my head; no load in the washer; dehumidifer shut off because it shit the bed two days before, but that’s another story; water heater, well, I was recently put on notice that it was twelve! years! old! which hardly jolted me given that the previous one had made it to about thirty, but… well… they don’t make anything like they used to…

I crept gingerly down the stairs, in case the actual Kraken or some similar aqueous horror lurked below (I have not forgotten Kilrat, either, for what it’s worth).  No sign of tentacles in the laundry area. I approached the washtub cautiously with my breath held. Burblebababblup. The sound was coming directly from the tub. I let in a breath. Bad idea. A mephitic exhalation that combined compost, sulfur and well-matured urine ballooned from the drain.

I flipped on the tap. A slight agitation in the drain gave way to a blessed abortion of the stink. I waited a bit. Nothing happened.

I could call the County and ask what was up, I reasoned, and spend the next half hour on Hold and miss my workout, or I could just cut and run and hope the house didn’t blow up, and you know me so you know which way I voted. It was just lucky that I cut back through the hood to get to the gym, and there was a giant Works truck surrounded by an orange Conehenge with a lime-vested functionary waving traffic to either side.

I slowed as I passed. “You doing something with the drains?” I asked.

Flag Dude all but danced from foot to foot as he explained. “Yeah, we clearin’ the sewers so you don’t have crap backin up in the house like in DC! We takin’ care of you here!” I had heard a bit about such incidents  in past months, but, so sue me, I can’t find any news items. The capital of the United States has seen flying gas main covers and the like in recent years, so I am ready to believe anything. Apparently the hard suction they were using had pulled the water out of the washtub U-bend. Who knew.

“As long as I don’t have a giant squid in my basement,” I told him.

I don’t need any more grief than life gives me already, but way in the back of my brain, I kind of wish I had fought the Kraken. Oh well.

Parade Rest (V)

The last known pages of my father’s Army memoir manuscript.

The company party at the end of the basic cycle was a high point. We hired a party room in one of the restaurants in Columbus, and the beer flowed freely. It was a fitting climax to a day that had begun with a battalion graduation review, complete with band. Since I had been involved in music from the age of 5, and had become a passable French horn player, and since this was the first band music I had heard in over four months, it impressed me tremendously. After the graduation parade, we were told that the entire ASTP program had been dismantled, and that we were to continue training until the Army had decided what to do with us. “COMBAT” was the first thing that entered my mind, and the first thing I did was to contact the bandmaster and arrange for an audition.

My parents had shipped my horn to me from home, and I showed up at the appointed hour to meet and play for Mr. Goldstein, the Warrant Officer Bandleader of the 184th Army Ground Forces Band. My audition was simple, short and evidently adequate, as ordered transferring me to the Band were cut two weeks later, and I became an Army musician, much to my relief.

My first official duty with the 184th AGF Band was to turn out of bed at an ungodly hour, go to a rail siding on another part of Ft. Benning, and play marches while my buddies from basic got on the train bound for Camp Claiborne, LA to join the 85th Infantry Division. I later heard that the 85th was sent into combat, and I never heard from any of them again.

It was a strange experience, after years in a high school band of some 65 members. There were only 28 of us. The band had originally been a part of the 38th (Indiana National Guard) Division, and when regimental bands were dropped in favor of one division band, had been shipped to Ft. Benning to serve the ASTP program and the Officer’s Candidate School nearby. Most of its members were Indiana small town and farm boys, not noted much for excellent musicianship, but nevertheless a good bunch of people to be with. Mr. Goldstein was a New Yorker, and although not a band-oriented musician, was talented and easy to work under. We did question his manliness, however, until one day when he was feeling ill and had gone back to his quarters at noon to lie down a while. A senior officer, passing his room and seeing him stretched out, commented, “Running the band from your bed again today, eh, Mr. Goldstein?”  The reply, terse and pointed, was “Go fuck yourself.” We didn’t question his ability to stick up for himself after that.

And that is where my father rolled the paper out of the typewriter.

Flat-footed, nearsighted, he would never have come ashore at Anzio or Normandy, probably not even marched in the rearmost rearguard of Patton’s Army; most likely would not have seen any more of the Pacific than could have been viewed from bases in Hawaii. He had his horn and he belonged in the band, where he stayed, with an interruption for college on the GI Bill, for the remainder of his twenty Army years.

I remember the stories about Colonel Braun, otherwise known as Commandant Braun, who had allegedly been rusticated from service in Europe because of abusive and brutal habits, in front of whom the troops had to pass in review every week. Someone — was it my father? On one side his people were Norwegian and German — wrote a cantrip that went “Was ist dem Farbe von Pferdenscheiss? Braun, Braun, Braun!” Passable German everybody-talk for “What’s the color of horse-shit? Brown, brown, brown!” It ran in triple time on an ascending scale from the tonic to the mediant and back down on the repeated “Braun” to the tonic. Someone in the tuba section would play it, no matter whether the band was doing Sousa or Alford, every time they passed directly in front of the reviewing stand.

I remember the tale of Butterbutt, the portly recruit who exceeded my father’s KP adventure one night by getting into such a condition that his buddies managed to convey him, buck naked, to the latrine just in time for him to blow out at both ends.

Sometime in the nineteen-sixties I found a cache in the attic containing some of his old wartime C-rations. The chocolate was dry and crumbling, the fats extruded onto its surface, but it was still intact. I ate it.

A few years after he wrote these memoirs, in nineteen seventy-six, I took exception to a course of action he had proposed — not the end, merely the means, an ethical dispute at most. Until the day he died — because I think that the person he was died on the day he had a massive stroke in his early eighties — he reportedly said of me merely “I have no daughter.” I know, it kind of puzzled me too.

After he had the stroke he asked his second wife, my dear friend the Serpent Woman, to hunt me up because he wanted to somehow make it up to me. Whatev’s. I got on the phone and said don’t worry about it.

He died five days after the man who had once been my husband, in 2007.

There is silence and immobility.

Parade, Rest.