Monthly Archives: June 2023

• What should one do when the housefly one has been chasing for hours is found resting on the business end of the fly-swatter?

• Let’s all finally admit that when we decide to make scrambled eggs, we really don’t have high expectations how they turn out.  Sorta fluffy is okay.  So is sorta moist, where you press down on them and some liquid oozes out.  The happy place for scrambled eggs is in the middle, but with an wide margin of error.  The key is having them go straight from the pan to the plate and then into your mouth.

• Speaking of scrambled eggs, I am always amazed by the number of hotel reviewers who down-rate a hotel based on the perceived quality (or absence) of the free breakfast.  As if make-your-own pancakes, toast-your-own tasteless bagels, and steamed turkey sausages count as amenities.  Do y’all lift your pinky as you dispense the OJ into your Dixie cup?

• Here’s a challenge for you.  When was the last time anyone told you a joke?  I don’t mean a crack by a late-night comedian but the kind of joke that used to pass from one person to another, before the internet made that kind of thing passé.  My spouse and I still recall the one her mother liked to tell about the grocery shopper looking for broccoli, which gave her an excuse to use the f-word — because hey, it’s a joke!  Naughty jokes were social currency back then.

• The correct number of black olives to add to a tossed salad is (a) 2, (b) 3, (c) 4.

• The correct number of baked croutons to add to a tossed salad is (a) 3, (b) 5, (c) 7.

•  I bet most of us amateur chefs think we know the “right” answers to the above questions. I say definitely (b) and (c) unless the croutons are those “Texas-style” ice-cube-sized ones, in which case don’t bother to add them at all.

• Most video games and role-playing games award a player multiple “lives” in case you do something wrong (or haven’t gained enough knowledge) and you need a do-over to survive the current encounter.  Life, or more precisely the prospect of losing it, is the best teacher.  So it’s a shame, how in real life, we only get one of them.

• But wait — aren’t most religions designed to award extra lives, to keep us in the game?

• Something inspired me this evening to check in on the archives of my college newspaper, the Carnegie-Mellon Tartan, for which I was a columnist, cartoonist and features editor.  Re-reading just a couple of my articles from those days, I was struck by how unbelievably bad they were, smug and cynical and full of authority I didn’t merit, albeit dressed up in clever phrasings.  It made me wonder how this blog will look to me when I am 120.

• Speaking of prunes, Henry Kissinger, NSA chief and Secretary of State for Richard Nixon from 1969-1974, celebrated his 100th birthday a few weeks ago.  Sadly, 58,22o U.S. troops who served in Vietnam will not match Henry’s milestone.

Kissinger was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his purported efforts to keep more young people from dying in that ill-fated war.  Many recall those efforts differently, but the truth of the matter has been obscured by time.

I did not serve in the military — as I find myself saying every time I buy something at Lowes.  The only reason I am writing this piece and you are reading it is because how a basket of numbered capsules happened to tumble on February 2, 1972.  That was the day my 1973 lottery number, #244, was drawn and I was off the hook from serving and dying in Vietnam.

Lottery Number #001 went to those born on March 6, 1953.  I could easily have been born one week earlier on March 6.  But I wasn’t and that is half the reason I’m here today.

The highest lottery number called up in 1973 was #010, or those born on August 23, 1953.  The last U.S. military draftee, Dwight Eliot Stone of Sacramento, California, was inducted into the Army 50 years ago on June 30, 1973.  He was not called to serve in Vietnam.

Immediately after my lottery number was announced, my not-even-19-year-old self wrote and recorded in my dorm room a multi-track song of celebration called No Army for Me.  It was probably my most highly-produced recording, replete with jet-engine sound effects inspired by the 1968 song Sky Pilot.  The essence of the song was that my life would go on, unscathed by mortar rounds, my limbs intact.

“Hell no, I won’t go!  /  I don’t have to, you know!” was one of the lyrics, referencing the anti-draft protests of that era and how they had become moot.  I was nineteen.  And now here I am apologizing for having been inappropriately happy that I wasn’t cannon-fodder.

The survival guilt of solders who see their peers killed in battle is well-documented.  But I haven’t read anything about lottery guilt — how some people were forced to fight for their lives while others born a week later could watch the war on TV.  Or write songs about it.

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Let me begin by explaining that “The Pit of Despair” is the local name for a long-standing undeveloped site in the heart of downtown Asheville, whose fate our community leaders can’t seem to resolve to anyone’s satisfaction.  Should it be a park, a plaza, a parking deck, a meditation center, or a hotel?  Right now, it’s a city-block nothingburger that primarily serves as a gathering place for our area’s homeless population.

If it were up to me, I’d vote for a frozen custard stand at the Pit of Despair, operated by the same folks who run the Forbush drive-in in my hometown.  I’ve never had a frozen custard (never call it ice cream!) that delivered the lip-caressing delectability of a Forbush cone.

Forbush’s has served its signature vanilla, chocolate, black raspberry, butter pecan (and many other flavors-of-the-day) frozen custard for many decades of summer evenings as lines gather in front of the service windows and the bugs enshroud the parking lot lights.  Forbush’s owners would make a killing here, assuming they could find good help and afford our sky-high rents.  They would turn our pit of despair into yum-filled pleasure.

Speaking of, I have my own pit of despair, a relatively small plot of dirt at the front corner of our house (see below) which has served for several years as the site of a water feature built by some folks who claimed they knew what they were doing, but as I’ve learned over the years as a homeowner, that’s what everyone says.

Some of you may recall the relatively modest 2016 iteration of this feature — here it was in all its zen glory.  But things could not be left well-enough alone, and we hired those experts to expand the feature, adding leaf-and-sludge-collecting pools that maintenance-wise were quite the opposite of zen.  (Would that be nez?)  Roots from nearby shrubs penetrated the pond liner they installed and enshrouded the pump more densely than the clouds of bugs around the lights at Forbush’s.

I decided that this spring would be the last time I strap on my knee-protectors, dredge last year’s mess out of the water feature and get it running again.  Get someone else to do it?  It’s hard enough finding people to do muscle jobs let alone unappealing projects like this.  Plus, as you can imagine, I have a trust issue.  If you want something done right…

So I’m now in the midst of my project of retro-sizing the water feature into one of those “pool-less” types where the water just cascades into a bed of pebbles.  No more pools, no more leaves, no more sludge.  I’ve dismantled most of the rocks that our experts added.  (Note sledgehammer in photo, prominently displayed for effect.)  I’ve bought a new liner.  I’m ready to clean the roots out of the pump and then create a new layout with a much smaller footprint, restoring the walkway to our deck without a big bite taken out of it.

Lest you think I’m complaining, I’m trying very hard to take a positive stance.  I’m getting exercise.  No one — including me — is pressuring me to complete this by a certain date.  The end result will be, by definition, what I want.  And I will have a bunch (no, a plethora!) of rocks left over, which I can use to stabilize slopes elsewhere on our lot — assuming I can find a muscular rock-lifting guy to help me move them where I want them.

So don’t cry for me, Argentina, or Uruguay.  Our current pit of despair will once again be a quiet, elegant, burbling corner of our landscape, in harmony with the surrounding plants and the controlling, sometimes cranky guy that oversees the harmony.

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