Rhymes With Orange (II)

My father — he’s been dead ten years and more now, and for most of the twenty-seven before that he was swanning around saying “I have no daughter” when people asked — complicated story — well, families suck, but he was a man who could tell a story, which redeems a lot. He played the French Horn in The United States Army Band, or TUSAB, an acronym which was stenciled on everything in sight at the Fort Myer band auditorium, puzzling me in my childhood when I was often dragged along on quick missions on base. Everything on base was either dingy light yellow, battleship grey, or brown, wavy linoleum. It’s much spiffier now, but these were the days of clapboard “temporary” buildings” that had been temping along since the end of the war.

I guess you could call my father a veteran. He never saw even the back end of a battlefield, having bad eyes and flat feet, the dead last of cohorts to be deployed, and in his abortive memoir of the war years, he described his ohmigodIdontwanttogetmyassshotoff moment of truth when he sent home for his horn to try out for the camp band. He had observed that troops shipped in and troops shipped out, but the band stayed. It worked. And he became a military bandsman for life, playing the last honors for countless veterans laid to rest in Arlington, playing for President Kennedy’s funeral while I huddled at home with a bad flu, tearfully watching everything on a tiny black and white screen. He gave his respect where it was deserved. Where it was not, he found… ways of expressing himself.

He got moved around to two more bases before the war ended — the last one in Georgia, commanded by a generally despised officer named Braun who had, the rumor went, been sent back from the European theater for vague “inhumane” behavior. According to my dad, he was a stuck up little martinet, fond of Draconian penalties, who relished little more than the regularly performed base “pass in review” — when the infantry had to march in formation past the reviewing stand, saluting as they went, metronomed into line by the base band playing a march as they, too, strode by. Base personnel speculated that a little Nazi had rubbed off on him.

There were tuba players in the band, of course, and they were friends with my father; there is a freemasonry among all musicians but a distinct one among brass players, who seem to share a crude, mutinous sense of humor. I think it is because of the farting noises that you invariably make while trying to learn the right way of getting a sound out of a brass instrument. (Note for what it is worth: I learned to play the oboe.) If you don’t have the inner eleven-year-old that remains capable of laughing hysterically at this kind of noise all your life, you may not be a brass section candidate.

Somewhere along the line, someone coined a cantrip on the notes so-so-so-so-la-ti-do-re-mi, mi, re, do! with the potted German everybody-talk lyric: “Was ist die Farbe, dem Pferdenscheiss? Braun, braun, braun!” [What’s the color of horse-shit? Brown, brown, brown!] It went around the base rapidly, as such things do in time of war when people need to blow off steam and frustration at being dragged off the farm or out of the family store, or just ward off fear of deployment.

Thereafter, every time the band passed in front of Colonel Braun on the reviewing stand, no matter what march was being played, the tuba section on a high sign would play that melody. History does not record whether the CO ever noticed, for all anyone knows he was tone deaf, but people felt better.

I understand the current denizen of the Oval wants a big ass military parade across Memorial Bridge, with tanks and things — never mind that it’s ready to fall into the Potomac — and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

I suppose you don’t really need a rhyme for orange. Or oh-rang-eh as it would be in German. Just a suitably disgusting substance. Any ideas? Slime mold? Metamucil? I’m almost ready to call up my dad on the Ouija board.


An American Classic

I deeply distrust unexpected knocks on the door, especially after dark. So when Thomas M. McCabe the Second (not “Jr.”) hammered for entry on the night before the night before Christmas, I was mostly all “oh fuck go away” and hoping it was one of the nabes with misdelivered mail.

Thomas M. McCabe the Second was over seventy, gray of hair, stooped of shoulder, caparisoned in a satiny Redskins jacket and visibly distraught. He wanted to know if he could use our phone. In these days of cell phones this sort of thing happens less often than it used to, although there’s been one other instance in the last couple of years. Thomas McCabe, however, really needed help. He was shaking in a way that would have done credit to an advanced Parkinson’s patient and he really did not seem to be tracking. He had two flat tires, he said. Went over something. I think he actually must have blown them both on the curb of the median.

The Engineer got a phone handset and the ritual of calling the insurance company and summoning a tow truck began. He had been at a Christmas party thrown by his ex wife where he got to see all his kids and grandkids, said Thomas McCabe. Oughta be home by now. Had this car five years, never a problem. He kept apologizing for all the shaking.

“Shake like crazy if you want,” I coached him. “This happens it’s a specialty of mine. The shakin is part of the shock reaction. It’s what gets you a re-set. You just let it happen till it’s done.”

You detect I was diverting into my American Old Home dialect because that is what I heard coming from him. If you talk to me under normal conditions you will hear something that sounds vaguely academic crossed with the BBC accent, though I invoke American Redneck at the drop of a hat.

Thomas M. McCabe, I learned over the ensuing hour, hailed from the Canaan Valley in West Virginia before moving here. He was seventy-six. His folks had been in WV long enough they pretty much dominated the land holdings around where he grew up. He had served in the Air Force, I’m figuring Vietnam era.

“Most days, I just wear jeans, but I dressed all up for the party,” he said ruefully as the chilly December breezes blew through our clothes out on the porch where we were keeping an eye out for the tow truck.

The Engineer did the yeoman work: accepting a text message from the insurance company showing the tow company’s provenance and destination, writing down details, knocking on the neighbors’ door to ask if they could move their pickup and make space for the tow truck to hitch up. I just kept telling Thomas M. McCabe that for crying out loud, why are we here if we aren’t gonna look out for each other?

“Well that’s what I think,” he said. But he was still painfully over-grateful when we dropped him at his apartment ten minutes away, after a fairly complicated interaction with the driver of a flatbed tow truck and an expedition to a garage behind some desiderate Seven-Eleven off the local state highway. He seemed not to have taken in that the insurance was going to spot him a rental to be delivered in the morning, and remarked that he’d have to eat sparingly till he could get to the market. I kept reminding him that he could not only get to the market with his rental car but to all his family’s holiday events. He kept thanking us for helping and writing things down.

He asked if he owed us anything.

“Will y’all HUSH?” I rebounded without even thinking. From his reaction, it was the right way to say it.

I wanted to hug him, but that didn’t seem like his style or generation.

He debarked from the Engineer’s car, carrying a bag of O’Doul’s Dark and a tray of fudge that his family had pressed on him. I can imagine worse hangovers.


Bath Bombs

I dreamed I was giving a massage to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There was nothing salacious about this. Bodywork is my skill, my calling, my career. I fix stressed, injured people. Probably it was easy for my dreaming mind to imagine that Mr. Mueller could use some destressing. The odd thing was that I was using the dining room table that lived in the house(s) I grew up in, one that was made for the family by a Maine artisan related to a family friend, out of solid oak, not a nail or screw in it, all wooden pegged with a longitudinal strut that I used to sneakily rest my feet on. No clothing was off. I kept getting interrupted between this extremity and that, so that when people started arriving expecting to be served some sort of repast on that table I hadn’t done Mr. Mueller’s feet yet. I held out. Feet are important.

One of the chattering, irritating, girly arrivals had come with a supply of “Bath Bombs,” I’ve read of the things, blobs of bath salts or bubble stuff with usually obnoxious aromas. These, though differently colored and composed, were all pecan-scented.

My Southern relatives, whom I repudiate to the extent that I would carve their DNA out of myself with a blunt knife if it were possible and survivable, owned many pecan orchards. They would probably vote for Roy “Lolitaphile” Moore if they were still living. Don’t know about subsequent generations. I cut them off.

There’s just something wrong about dreaming politics. I’m glad the next segment of the dream involved an old client of mine coming into possession of a hot pink convertible.



I Thought It Was Just A Song

Pfizer denies fumes from Viagra factory are arousing town’s males

Updated 12:40 pm, Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Villagers of Ringaskiddy, County Cork, Ireland, say air pollution from a factory that produces the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra are affecting the menfolk.

“One whiff and you’re stiff,” local bartender Debbie O’Grady told the Sunday Times.

If it’s not the fumes emanating from Pfizer’s plant, then it’s the water that is getting the men’s Irish up, some believe.

“I think that Viagra must have got into the water supply,” Fiona Toomey, 37, told the paper. Toomey used to work at the Pfizer factory.

“I’m convinced that’s what happened at the very beginning before they were so closely regulated,” she said.

It’s not only human males who are aroused. Toomey says that dogs “walk around in a state of sexual excitement.”

Life imitates art.

Deja Poo

Speaking of farting — as in my last, reblogged post, and also in this one — well…

It was sort of the fault of the tortellini. I think. Or maybe the artichoke tapenade. What happened was, as is occasionally the case, the Engineer and I were stuck for a quick dinner, I was woozy with hunger from a long day without any time to eat (sleeping and working out come first), and we did something we often do, picked a stuffed pasta from the freezer and tossing it with some browned bits of vegan sausage, Parmesan and a vegetable relish. This time we mixed two, one with artichoke and tomatoes and one consisting only of coarsely comminuted tomato and garlic. Fergie is crazy for Parmesan so there is always entertainment value in this type of meal; he always gets his share of the grated cheese, and there’s your dinner entertainment. Big salad, and Bob’s your uncle. This was an especially serendipitous combo, with a hearty aroma that gladdened the hungry heart.

The next morning I noticed the house still smelt of it a bit at times — nothing surprising.  I  bucketed off to the gym, and, as one will alone in the car, popped one off at a stoplight — in the arena of cutting the cheese, little more than slicing into a lunchbox Bonbel or one of those square Laughing Cow travesties. It should have been inconsequential, but a rich, Italian-restaurant aroma rose unmistakably from the region of the car seat, accompanied by an eerie sensation of deja vu.

I have only experienced this phenomenon one other time; it involved some Swiss garlic soup that I made thirty years ago, prepared with steamed cauliflower, tomatoes, and two entire heads of fresh garlic simmered slowly to bring out their sweetness, then everything pureed in a blender. It was divine. I ate it for lunch. About nine in the evening, great gong-like explosions of gas commenced, fueled by the indoles in the cruciferous cauliflower. You could have been forgiven for believing I was cooking another batch of the soup. The garlic fumes would have stunned Count Dracula a block away. As I was opening windows a housemate entered and called from the foyer “Wow! Whatcha cooking? Can I have some?”

This was not so explosive, but persistent. I kept slinking around the gym pretending I hadn’t been where I’d been, until I found myself alone in the locker room and just let pressure completely equalize. Of course, that was the moment I heard entering footsteps. Inescapably busted, I winced, then saw that the woman in the doorway was wearing some ridiculous “I’m afraid of the flu” face mask and probably couldn’t smell anything but her own toothpaste.

Saved by germophobia.

There’s some of this stuff left over in the fridge but I’m not sure what to do. It tasted fabulous, but I work with the public.



Conde Nasty

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Conde friggin’ Nast. Try this again and I’ll ask for a restraining order.

What happened was, I was about to leave the house to buy food, just trying to get through the day, when a last check of my e-mail informed me, via PayPal, “You just sent a payment to Conde Nast,” a notorious publisher of overpriced, useless magazines, for the gulp-inducing total of 89.99. Seriously?

My first thought, of course, was that someone had hacked my account, though God knows why you’d do that just to buy some crappy magazines, and by the time I had tied myself completely in knots, been put on hold, been unable to change the password because you can never change the password when you need to, locked the account and called the associated credit card company on my other phone, a nice man with a delicate Bombay Welsh accent came on the line.

“You do not have to worry that someone has got into your account today,” he said. “I see this was pre-authorized in July.”

And I immediately knew what happened. Because all summer I have been getting rid of broken, frayed, splintering things around the house and replacing them, mostly from a discount site called Wayfair, which I like because they will sell me cheap, attractive rugs with skid-proof backings that I can throw into the washer. When you limp yourself, and have clients so tottery from afflictions like MS that it’s not strange for them to do a full face plant every week or two, you like that skidproof feature, and with six cats around the house, the washing machine thing is primo. Your cat can barf at 9 a.m. and the rug is ready for clients at noon.

And the last time I started getting unwelcome magazines in my mailbox — some stupid damned Southwestern cooking magazine — and the time before that — a really disgusting fashion publication, rife with ads for ten thousand dollar watches and reeking of migraine-inducing perfume — it was because I hadn’t unchecked a little tiny box way on the other side from the order details of a Wayfair checkout form. At least I wasn’t charged, they were “trials,” but both times I lost twelve or fifteen minutes I’ll never get back telling Conde Nast I didn’t want their magazines. Not any of them.

(Wayfair, we’ll get to you. There have to be better ways to keep your prices low than this scam. But first things first.)

Who the hell even reads magazines any more? As far as I can tell, they exist only to leaven the boredom in dental waiting rooms and possibly absorb the goo in the bottoms of kitchen wastebins. They are forty per cent advertising. They harbor loathsome inserts that either reek of synthetic scents, or merely fly everywhere and create litter to pick up. And who in jeebus’ name at Conde Nast thought anyone shopping for a thirty-buck rug was going to make an impulse purchase of a ninety-dollar subscription to some friggin’ thing or other that I will never actually know what it even was?

It’s bad enough you buy a perfectly useful piece of software like a PDF converter or  a tune-up utility and it tries repeatedly during the install to foist some clunky antivirus or toolbar on your machine. Now they’ve honed the art of the involuntary dead-tree subscription.

(Let’s not get started on the paper catalogs you get because you bought something from some other catalog. Ever try to stop them coming? It’s your whole afternoon if you were actually to go through with it.)

“Do not feel bad,” said Bombay Dafydd as he signed off, having cancelled everything. “If you don’t mind my saying so, you need a magnifying glass to see these things they use to sign you up. I cannot see that well myself.”

Now I still have to go shopping, and if it weren’t for the lyric sound of Dafydd’s voice, I would probably be at risk of mutilating some idiot woman or out-of-control child in the grocery aisles. Dafydd knows not whose life he saved today.

The Revenge Of The Phone

It was bound to happen. When I upgraded from a FartPhone(tm) I was dead cert something would go south and drive me up a motherfracking wall: yet months went by and the little bugger performed like a trooper, storing way too many cat photos, occasionally allowing me to check blogs on the fly (on a crappy wet day the gym bike session can run forty minutes), supplying me with endless news-bites via Twitter, which in the era of global PTSD (Post-Trump Stress Disorder) has become a lifeline to events as they happen. So I was living with a false sense of security when I fired it up several evenings ago, ready to surf the news from my favorite after-dinner chair.

It’s an Android, by the way. I know people who have iPhones are loyalists for whatever reasons, but I just hate Apple; during the ghastly eight month interregnum when I opened my cellar guest room to a hapless millennial with a case of ADHD on steroids, there were constant panics about things like lost charging cables, which at Radio Shack cost twenty seven dollars. (A knockoff cable finally turned up at the Seven-Eleven for nine even.) Since you can get a basic USB-to-mini cable cheaper than a Starbucks sugar bomb, I decided I wasn’t letting the ghost of Steve Jobs jack me for more.

So it did its little Androidy thing, month in and month out, until the fateful moment when I powered it up, began shuffling through the Home screen and a popup suddenly appeared — it lacked only the black border of a death notice — announcing mournfully, even tragically: “Unfortunately, TouchWiz Home has stopped.”

The only other thing inside the white popup box was a live link reading: “OK.” Things did not seem OK at all, but I tapped it, only to find myself in an endless cycle of lather, rinse, repeat.

We consulted Dr. Internet. Dr. Internet advised us that the phone could be run in Safe Mode, which involves a simultaneous depression of various buttons that you need to be an octopus to do exactly right, though I sorted it eventually. This means that virtually no apps function. If you want to follow Twitter, etc., you have to log onto the phone’s dedicated Internet browser. Fine.

We hunted around a bit more. Various sources recommended a factory reset, in which you restore your phone to the condition it was in when you opened the box. Some hundreds of photos transferred to PC and a few days and drinks later, we held our noses and jumped (by now the Engineer was all over this project).

The phone whirred and screens succeeded other screens. Apps and programs updated at cumbersome length. At one point, the little green Android man


appeared on the screen, announced he was performing a system update, waggled his antennas several times, and then keeled over prone with his casing faded to a jaundiced yellow and his entrails exposed, followed by another tragic caption: “Unfortunately, Android could not update at this time.”

This did not bode well. However, somehow, the phone began to run again, I had my app logos back, I keyed up Instagram to see how many kitten photos I had missed, and then once again the blazon appeared:

Unfortunately, TouchWiz Home has stopped.

Did anyone ever tell the developers how fucking rude something called “TouchWiz” sounds? It sounds like someone trying to pound his pud and somehow wetting himself instead. Which was kind of what the phone had done.

I got back on the Net.

TouchWiz, as I had found out on my first surf, is the “launcher,” the software that kicks up the Home screen and determines its interface. And generations of Samsung users –apparently it is the pet launcher of Samsung — have reported this problem and hated it. Finally, I drilled down to a blog post that suggested a third party launcher, a thing called Nova, which I was able to install from my PC, at least the store said it was installed,  but I had to restart the phone — NOT power it down and then back up, which didn’t help several times — before I got the option of selecting it.

Problem solved. So far. Everything is working. I feel like a smartphone stud, sort of.

There is nothing about this in the phone’s manual.

Sometimes I think we are all participating in an uncontrolled study of who will be allowed aboard the lifeships when Planet Earth finally roasts in its own effluvia. I’m working on it.