Better Living Through Technology

My phones have been screwed for a week. I’m actually starting to enjoy it, even though it obliges me to conduct a daily work-around of checking the Verizon voicemail box to see if anyone’s called the landline. Some days no one leaves a message; most people want to text or e-mail, which I don’t mind. All my clients who might need to connect quickly have been advised. I hate the sound of that damn thing ringing, which it seems to do all day long. As a semi-blind lady I long ago adopted speaking Caller ID, so I don’t have to run over to the phone and squint at a teensy little screen that tells me I am being called by Organizing For America or someone’s campaign committee or the Fraternal Order Of Police, or any one of a hundred charities, causes and scams whose phone-bank representatives will, if I am so foolish as to pick up, address me by my first name with obnoxious familiarity and ask how I am today before trying to shake me down. Now I just get to hear a robot voice tell me these things.

Robot voices are big these days. In fact the only calls I have gotten in two days, on either cell or landline mailbox, are from the Verizon Robot Lady who advises me primly that “you recently called about trouble with your phone line. We believe the problem has been resolved. If your problem is resolved, press 1. If you are still encountering problems, press 2.” Then the mobile phone screen goes blank and I can’t get it back in time to press 2 and the robot lady hangs up on me and calls again later. I am mightily fed up with the sound of her voice and would like to sic Barney the Dinosaur on her, if I could find either one of them.

Every day or so someone tells me that they gave up their land line years ago and don’t miss it yada yada. I get the point, but this number is on business cards that have been floating around for years, and sometimes after a twenty-year gap people have found that card and remembered the great massages they got at Spa Lady back in the day and they call up. Plus, cell phones are no good for talking. My stepmother, Vacuums-With-Snakes, likes to call and chat every so often and I can guarantee you the call will drop twice before we are done because she only uses a cell.

When my dear friend Dorothy died — she had unexpectedly listed me as next of kin — I was left standing in my office with one client leaving and one arriving, waiting for a Fairfax County cop who had found the body in her condo to work his way out of a cellular dead spot so he could utter a complete sentence before being cut off.  That is crap. (I always thought that when people died and the police needed to notify you they actually sent an officer in person, but I guess this is better living through technology. At least they could use a real phone.)

Anyway the first time we could settle on a service call is Saturday, so I can count on a few more days of luscious silence around the house. The text message noise is a polite little triple plink, down a perfect fifth and back up. I can live with this.


Notes From My Absence

I really have to come back. I have not missed a workout, but since the US election I have been sleeping a lot and throwing up sort of regularly. Not a joke. Really throwing up.

Life goes on nonetheless.

Do Not Drop Shit On Yourself

This is really good advice for anyone. On Election Day, after voting

img_20161108_1039061, I looped around to the gym for a chest and back workout. Lately I have been hucking a pair of 45#s on my last set and for some reason, that day, the weights went down cattywumpus and the left hand dumbbell decided to teeter and crash onto my pinkie finger, the one where I always wear a ring, since like forever, long story, but the latest ones have been adjustable copper rings on account copper leaches into your system and supplements the enzyme that blocks Substance P, which is a pain neurotransmitter… oh well. Some pain got transmitted. The ring flattened into a narrow oblong,


one end dug into my flesh, I managed to wrench it off, and double-timed up to the front desk to ask if there was an ice pack available.

Great kerfuffle ensued and one of those gizmoes was produced that, on sufficently vengeful smashing, turns into an icy gelpack which I wrapped around my pinkie while the gym manager worked his way down a form. “Were there any witnesses to the incident?” he read off the sheet. “Buggered if I know, I just dropped a weight on myself because I’m a klutz, I didn’t look around,” I said.

“Do you want an ambulance?” he asked gravely.

“The fuck?” I responded.

“I have to ask, it says here,” he explained.

We finished the form, and I went back and finished my sets.

That is sort of an omen for life going forward.


For the curious, I worked every appointment I had booked, it actually doesn’t hurt, unless you squeeze it. Periosteal bruise is my best guess. The ring either saved me or savaged me.  I’m keeping it on my desk.

Tough Redheads

My passion for Star Trek led me to a CGI animated fan film whose hero is a badassed redhead prone to starting fights (with Klingons, even). I can relate. I am in a mood to start fights right now.

I Had A Birthday

I am now, by US law (for as long as it lasts) eligible to collect a pension should I choose. I am really kinda good for some years of pummeling butt, so I didn’t apply, but it is awesome to be recognized by people like Azahar,  who engineered the provision of a buttload of incredible sherry through the agency of the store that, funnily enough, in its earlier incarnation offered my first shit-job out of college forty years ago.


We drank it with a birthday dinner that followed a late-afternoon screening of Dr Strange, hey, Benedict Cumberbatch stripped to the waist, what’s not to like? I think I am going to be hiding in a lot of fantasy universes for a while, such as…

Fantastic Beasts

I hate Thanksgiving, that American holiday sacred to gluttony and familial teeth-gritting, but the day following (having evaded gluttony and gritting) we did enjoy this.

You get adult (in the best sense) ideas, and a Polish Jew in 1920’s New York who can bake, and the Thunderbird. The one who belongs in the sacred lands of the First Nations. I wept.

I even refrained from starting a physical altercation with some yuppie twat who brought her toddler kid into the restaurant where we had settled on our pre-film dinner, fired up her FaceTime app and indulged in a loud kid-assisted conversation with some distant family cohort. Hello, asshole. The whole restaurant does not want to hear your Precious Sneauflake blatt or your relatives blather.
But, y’know. I could be watching the movie or I could be in the police station across the street, trying to think of magical ways to erase these philoprogenitive scumsuckers from time and history.

Hanging in for a future. Watch this space.






Is It Just Me?

Am I the only person who is depressed and disgusted that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize in… Literature?

Does the word even mean anything any more?

I was never going to reach even the bar of being published for money, much less the Nobel committee, but this is like a shitbag in the face to anyone who ever sweated blood trying to make a work of fiction into a solid and living thing, or went back to a cycle of poetry year after year, shaping it like a bonsai tree.

I guess all of us who ever wanted to build something worthwhile out of words ought to just go fuck ourselves, or learn to sing in an abrasive, obnoxious tone of voice.


Gillian went on a road trip.

She’s my client, the one on whose clothes Nickel Catmium likes to roll and perv, and I swear in between massages she never stays put. This time she hauled ass down to North Carolina, in the company of one of her “coveninis,” on account she is a committed and playful Wiccan who does earnest spells on behalf of her friends, in this case, someone tackling the quotidian horror of chemotherapy. They were occupied for the weekend putting up frozen homemade soup and performing hair spells for abundant regrowth as the pre-emptive head-shaving took place.

On the way back through some wide spot in the North Carolina road system, Gillian heard a thonk under her car and a succession of flap-flap-a-dab-a-daps as she rolled on. Pulling over at the nearest sign of intelligent life, she was told that about three miles on there was “a tire place,” where someone could at least get her car up on a lift and discern what had gone amiss, as the obvious conclusions like a blown tire didn’t seem to be responsible.

Substantially close than three miles, she saw a large illuminated sign reading Mechanic on Duty, which on closer inspection fronted a tractor maintenance and repair business. Surmising that anyone there could at least scope out her problem, she pulled over and stuck her head in the door, to be greeted by a purple-faced, white-haired redneck who seemed distinctly well into the late day’s drinking ration.

“Y’all lost your bumper liner here,” he said. “Used to they put these things on with solid clips. Now it’s all cheap plastic shit. See here? All in shreds. I can cut it off and stop the noise, throw it in the trunk so you can show it to who’s-ever does your car work. Bumper’ll rattle a little but no harm. How’s about?” Well that was fine, said Gillian. They stashed the damaged part, and as she was ferreting in her wallet the redneck added “Now, I don’t know if y’all are interested, but we got some of the best shine around here, just pulled off a new batch. Care for a slash?”

Gillian pleaded a weak head and the need to drive, but their new friend was undaunted. “Give you a good price. This ain’t like you read about where drinkin it can kill you, you gotta pull off that first few gallons. Don’t sell that part, it’s about a hunderd thirty proof.”

“Yow, you could put that in the gas tank,” said Gillian.

“Y’all hear that generator out back? Whatcha think that’s runnin’ on?” winked their new friend.

Gillian forced a twenty into his hand, and as they piled into the car, he said “Well if y’all get back through here, you know where to find the good stuff okay? My name’s Buddy.”

“Of course it is,” said Gillian as she got back into the car, and floored it.

Gillian usually brings me the pain relief unguent of the locality when she travels, which is typically far and wide. This time, she came back empty handed. All to the good, I figure.

His Majesty


Torvald has been having a difficult week, which is one reason I’ve not posted in ages; that, and the heat, which melts your brain.

I fuss over him a good deal, my fluffy Viking. His appetite flagged again about eight days ago, something which was going to happen, given that his kidneys were never going to completely recover from the heart medications that have kept him alive since May of 2015. He is thinner, and spends less time bounding and more time just chilling (though he can still show a clean pair of heels off the sofa back), but he is still every inch a king.

He does not really want to eat, but he’ll let me, without a fight, give him cream in a dropper and cat food by hand, and it perks him up at the cost of two thirty-second indignities every day. The vet said there might be ups and downs. I’ll take what I get, so long as his life is still about catting, not just surviving.

In the evenings he jumps onto a platform on the porch, or stakes out the fascinating Buddy Door (which leads to the upstairs where the senior cats are secured when Torvald is up and about). Occasionally there is a conversation through the cellar door, which is almost all glass, and a white tippy paw thrust under it to try to get at Nickel or Fergie.

As long as he holds like this, tired but seemingly happy, there will be no trips to the vet.

I carve out moments to contemplate his unquenchable majesty.

I Hate Memorial Day

Every year I get a butt-load of e-mails telling me to catch these sale prices now.

Every year someone somewhere wishes me or the general population a “happy” Memorial Day.

Every year there is an obligatory news bite featuring “Taps” at Arlington National Cemetery, and every year several elected officials who have somehow gotten hold of my Net address admonish me to reflect. Reflect???

Every year my NRA-employed, Republican-voting nabe across the street hangs out a big mammyjammin’ flag.

I never hear anyone talk much about what they propose to do — what justice they will pursue, what inequity they will work to remedy, what diplomacy they will support — so that the world can stop having fucking wars.

Des Morgens zwischen drei’n und vieren,
da müssen wir Soldaten marschieren
das Gäßlein auf und ab,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
mein Schätzel sieht herab!

Ach Bruder, jetzt bin ich geschossen,
die Kugel hat mich schwere, schwer getroffen,
trag’ mich in mein Quartier,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
es ist nicht weit von hier!

Ach Bruder, ich kann dich nicht tragen,
die Feinde haben uns geschlagen!
Helf’ dir der liebe Gott!
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera!
Ich muß, ich muß marschieren bis in’ Tod!

Ach Brüder, ach Brüder,
ihr geht ja mir vorüber,
als wär’s mit mir vorbei!
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera!
Ihr tretet mir zu nah!

Ich muß wohl meine Trommel rühren,
ich muß meine Trommel wohl rühren,
trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,
sonst werd’ ich mich verlieren,
trallali, trallaley, trallala.
Die Brüder, dick gesät,
sie liegen wie gemäht.

Er schlägt die Trommel auf und nieder,
er wecket seine stillen Brüder,
trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,
sie schlagen und sie schlagen
ihren Feind, Feind, Feind,
trallali, trallaley, trallalerallala,
ein Schrecken schlägt den Feind!

Er schlägt die Trommel auf und nieder,
da sind sie vor dem Nachtquartier schon wieder,
trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley.
In’s Gäßlein hell hinaus, hell hinaus!
Sie zieh’n vor Schätzleins Haus.
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
sie ziehen vor Schätzeleins Haus, trallali.

Des Morgens stehen da die Gebeine
in Reih’ und Glied, sie steh’n wie Leichensteine
in Reih’, in Reih’ und Glied.
Die Trommel steht voran,
daß sie ihn sehen kann.
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
daß sie ihn sehen kann!


In the morning between three and four,
we soldiers must march
up and down the alley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
my sweetheart looks down!

Oh, brother, now I’ve been shot,
the bullet has struck me hard,
carry me to my billet,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
it isn’t far from here!

Oh, brother, I can’t carry you,
the enemy has beaten us,
may the dear God help you!
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
I must, I must march on until death!

Oh, brothers, oh, brothers,
you go on past me
as if I were done with!
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
you’re treading too near to me!

I must nevertheless beat my drum,
I must nevertheless beat my drum,
trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,
otherwise I will lose myself,
trallali, trallaley, trallala.
My brothers, thickly covering the ground,
lie as if mown down.

Up and down he beats the drum,
he wakes his silent brothers,
trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,
they battle and they strike their enemy,
enemy, enemy,
trallali, trallaley, trallalerallala,
a terror smites the enemy!

Up and down he beats the drum,
there they are again before their billets,
trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley.
Clearly out into the alley!
They draw before sweetheart’s house,
trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
they draw before sweetheart’s house, trallali.

In the morning there stand the skeletons
in rank and file, they stand like tombstones,
in rank, in rank and file.
The drum stands in front,
so that he can be seen.
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
so that he can be seen.

And that’s what I wish they would play on the radio every Memorial Day.


Catch That And Paint It Green, or, A Populist Parable

What it was, was that I got reminiscent with the Engineer this evening, now that I find that I am old enough to reminisce, and having recently enjoyed an online conversation with someone who played the krummhorn in her day — about half way between the bagpipes and the oboe my father once stuck into my face — I remembered the Lenten morality play.

These little dramas were the ancestors of modern theater, and the Society for Creative Anachronism — where I was once a court jester and performed various contortions and sight gags — occasionally produced one. The Lady Signy Dimmridaela, who had a krummhorn of her very own, scripted one for the penitent season.

It’s a joke. Possibly you know a version of it.

Scene 1: A church on the eve of Lent. Various parishioners utter their vows as to the Lenten austerities they plan to observe. Last of all, a little peasant swears to subsist only on beans and onions for the obligatory forty days.

Plaster saints and angels, portrayed en tableaux by living actors, cringe and wrinkle their noses.

Scene 2: Services within the cycle of Lent. At the end of every clerical exhortation, there is a sound effect to be produced by an aggressively voiced krummhorn.

Nearly asphyxiated parishioners converge upon the little onion-and-bean-eating peasant and thrash him within an inch — yea, beyond an inch — of his mortal life.

Scene 3: The Gates of Hell. The Great Adversary, Satan, toys with his prey, suggesting that they can escape by setting him a task he cannot execute. An avaricious man demands that all the riches of the world be set at his feet. They are — for a split second before his damnation. A power-hungry prince demands dominion over all the realms of this world — and has it, for a split second.

Then the little peasant reaches the head of the line and stares Great Satan in the eye. Hikes a hip, and lets loose a violent reverberation, a veritable cacophony in the finest etymological sense of the word. [Krummhorn eructation]
“Catch that,” says he, “and paint it green.”

And serenely, smugly, the little peasant ascends to Heaven…

So much for the princes of this world.

A blessed Lenten season unto you.