Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Bad haiku No. 137:

old churchyards slumber,
dolphins jabber, martyrs scream
vainly, cocoons sleep.

(I have no idea what it means, but if you think about it long enough, it may start to mean something.)

Friday, April 26, 2002

Encyclopedia Brown--Boy Detective. That was one of my favorite books as a kid. It's all about a super-smart 10-year-old who helps his police-chief father solve crimes. He also helps his friends solve mysteries, like "who stole my bike." Each chapter is devoted to one mystery, with the solution given in the back of the book--so you can try to solve it yourself based on the clues the author gives. Most of the time I cheated and just turned to the back. I was more interested in the character of Encyclopedia than the mysteries themselves. I identified with an intellectual boy. That's probably why I liked Will Robinson on Lost in Space, too. Anyway, I've been reading the Encyclopedia Brown books to my son while he's in the bathtub at night, as a sort of bedtime story. (There's a second book, Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again, that's just as good.) He seems to like it, which pleases me no end.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

I haven't posted here in a while due to computer problems. [heavy sigh] Some directories on my hard drive got corrupted and I couldn't start Windows up. I hate it when that happens. Luckily, I was able to get some files off the computer using DOS (remember than delightful operating system?) and continue my work on a laptop.

I just finished writing the first draft of a short story that is quite autobiographical. Usually, I use composite characters and situations in my stories--bits and pieces of real people and events, mixed with imaginary elements. But this one is close to the bone, so to speak. It was an odd, slightly disturbing experience writing it. It threw me back, mentally, to a time and place I don't like to think about much. But it was worth it for the story. It's not something I could have written a few years ago, but I seem to have enough perspective on the people and the "plot" now. Writing it was a kind of exorcism, a looking back at a painful period to sort out what I gained from it, so I can finally put all of that to rest. Rest in peace.

Saturday, April 20, 2002

Quote of the day:

"Shadows are harshest when there is only one lamp." (James Richardson)

Friday, April 19, 2002

Jack: Baretta did it. He did it for sure, I'm tellin' ya.

Zack: Baretta wouldn't kill NOBODY. Baretta, he fought for justice, man.

Jack: Not TV Baretta, numnuts. The REAL Baretta. They said he was a gun collector an' she got shot with a WORLD WAR TWO PISTOL!

Zack: He wasn't no gun collector. He had a bird, a parrot . . .

Jack: [sigh]

Zack: He CAUGHT the murderers. Pounded 'em!

Jack: Ha. The parrot?

Zack: No, dickhead. Baretta!

Jack: But I'm talkin' about the REAL Baretta!

Zack: What?

Jack: You know, the actor--Bob . . . somebody. Robert Bakely.

Zack: Who?

Jack: Robert Bakely!

Zack: Who's that?

Jack: Baretta!

Zack: No, that's not his name. That's her name. The gal got shot.

Jack: Whatever.

Zack: Baretta, he wouldn't do nooo such thing. Could see him gettin' framed for it though. That often happened to him, if I remember. Been a long time. Whatever happened to Baretta? Why don't they show the good shows anymore?

Jack: Maybe now they'll rerun it. Prob'ly will.

Zack: Good! That show stood for somethin'.

Jack: Yeah, what?

Zack: What Baretta used to say. "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Why don't you . . .

. . . cut all the sleeves off your shirts for summer . . . put a mirror at an angle next to your TV set, so you can watch everything in stereo . . . pull a leg off a dead fly, put it in an envelope, and mail it to Yoko Ono . . . tape all your phone conversations, add a drum track and offer them for sale on eBay as underground rap recordings . . . remove all the "postage paid" envelopes from your junk mail, stuff them with flyers and brochures, and drop them in a mail box . . . wear a Mona Lisa smile today . . . ask someone to call you "Nick" from now on . . . walk around with an unlit cigarette dangling rakishly from your mouth. (If someone asks you why it's not lit, say "because I quit smoking.")

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Jack: Sure is strange weather we're havin' for April, innit?

Zack: Oh, it sure is. I'm like to melt. Pass me 'nother beer.

Jack: Hereyago. I'm gonna take my shirt off, I think.

Zack: Oh, spare me. Nobody wants to see your big gut.

Jack: Not as big as yours.

Zack: What is the temp'ture, anyway?

Jack: Ninety, last I checked.

Zack: And here we were shovelin' snow two weeks ago.

Jack: "Global warming"?

Zack: Nah.

Jack: "El Nee-nee-o"?

Zack: Nah. Just the world goin' to Hell. Faster and faster.

Monday, April 15, 2002

My wife used to have long, wavy hair, past shoulder length, but she recently got a short haircut. Much to my amazement, she decided to keep the long braid that was cut off. At first, she thought she might be able to sell it to a wig maker, but she discovered that the manufacturers don't want "European" hair, only "Asian" hair (apparently because it is easier to dye and manipulate). So, the disconnected braid sits on top of the bureau in our bedroom, looking (to me) like a dead animal. Every man I've told about this has agreed with me that it's gross, but every woman I've told thinks my wife's proud display is wonderful. Go figure.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

Quote of the day:

"He has let his infatuation with his own rectitude metastasize into hubris."

--Frank Rich

Friday, April 12, 2002

Quote of the day:

"I've been accused of vulgarity. I say that's bullshit."

-- Mel Brooks

Thursday, April 11, 2002

I have a new poem, entitled "Match," published at Eclectica magazine. If you'd like to read it (it's short), it's here. The poem is partly about my memories of a long-ago relationship, but it's not autobiographical in any literal sense. It's more like I've adopted a persona to create a brief dramatic scene.

I'm thrilled to be in Eclectica, which I think is a fairly prestigious online mag. I know they're very selective. They've turned me down often enough!

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

We have returned to glamorous New Jersey from exciting Minneapolis. I haven't mentioned it before, for fear of jinxing things, but I was very leery of getting on a plane at this particular juncture in the "war on terrorism." Airport security is largely a put-on, I fear. At this point, I doubt that a terrorist is going to attempt to pass through a metal detector while posing as a passenger who just "forgot" about that gun, knife or box cutter he was carrying. (Although you never know--I heard someone got through airport screeners carrying eight [8!] knives the other day.) Nevertheless, we all have to go through the motions. I was "wanded" and required to remove my shoes at one checkpoint. I saw an elderly lady being wanded, too. My 11-year-old son was also wanded. I guess they must have thought we hid explosive devices in his cargo pants.

Speaking of cargo, it seems to me that these days a smart terrorist would attempt to sneak something on a plane that way--in the checked luggage or the cargo that passenger planes often carry. According to security analysts on CNN, the vast majority of it isn't screened at all. The airlines don't have the equipment, or the time, to examine it. (And forget about baggage matching--it's meaningless in the era of suicide terrorists.) They also don't secure their baggage-loading areas very well, or conduct extensive background checks on the drones they hire to load the planes. Supposedly, this Achilles heal will be eliminated over the next year or so.

Meanwhile, "they" will continue to "wand" white-haired old ladies and assure us all that airport security is much tighter today. It's important that you believe that and continue to board planes to "wherever your destination may be." Far be it from me to tell you otherwise. After all, our economy depends on it.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

Wedding, reception and open house today--which is why we're here in Minneapolis on this cold April day. The sun is out, and the snow banks are collapsing into puddles. I think the temperature is somewhere in the 40s, with a strong wind. My son was bored with the whole wedding thing, so now, while the open house is still going on, I've brought him to PC Palace, one of those rent-a-computer-for-$5/hour places. He's playing a Star Wars game on their X-box, which is hooked up to a projection TV--heaven for an 11-year-old. I'm checking my favorite web sites, catching up on e-mail and journaling here (or "blogging here" if you're a web head). We dropped in here last night for an hour, too. Apparently, their main clientele is the local college crowd from the University of Minnesota, which is around here somewhere. Last night, they were playing metal or goth music, or whatever it's called (Marilyn Manson-type stuff) while Philip played NHL Hockey on the X-box and I did my web surfing. (My wife sat by Philip on the leather couch and read a book, actually one of Philip's scholastic books: Conversations with J.K. Rowling, which is pretty interesting.) Cool decor here: black carousels, black computers and monitors, charcoal-gray carpeting and walls, and a black leather couch for those playing the PlayStation or X-box games. Now if only they served coffee.

Some Like it Hot

Speaking of coffee, doesn't anyone in Minnesota like their coffee hot? I'm a real caffeine addict (like many writers, I suppose), and I've been ordering coffee everywhere we go. So far, it's always been served luke warm. Even the "gourmet" coffee they served me at the Science Museum was tepid. The hotel serves free coffee in the morning, but it's also not hot. I tried putting it in the microwave in their little breakfast room, but the machine kept cutting off after 20 seconds. I finally got it to a drinkable temperature, but not what I consider hot. Only the coffee at the wedding reception scalded my lips, which is how I like it.

We're staying at the Econolodge on South University Avenue (PC Palace is across the street), and the best thing I can say about it is that it's cheap and clean. None of the "little" things work, though: the room's coffee maker, the TV's remote control, the room phone (can't make outgoing calls) and one of the soda machines in the hall: all disfunctional. Sigh. Good thing we've got our cell phone with us.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Today, we visited the Minnesota Science Museum in St. Paul. I liked their "Playing with Time" exhibit, as did my 11-year-old son. At one of the "stations," he made funny faces--rolling his eyes, making 'horse lips'--in front of a video camera. Then he could watch it played back in slow motion--a hilarious effect. At another station, you could run your finger over a touch screen, "painting" a summer landscape into a winter or fall one, or slowly transforming a six-year-old boy into an 18-year-old man. Most of the exhibits were of the type you'd expect to find in such a place--dinosaur skeletons, a laser show about a girl growing up to be an astronaut--but there were some odder things, like an old tugboat on the roof of the museum (huh?) that you could walk through, and a lecture/slide show about the human brain. The latter included some rather nauseating pictures of an actual brain surgery. It also included a computergraphic of a corpse that had been sliced up, in thin slices, from feet to head, so you could see all the internal organs built up, slice by slice. Quite interesting, though it reminded me of thin slices of steak you'd see at your local supermarket. We had lunch in the museum restaurant, which overlooked the frozen Mississippi.

Other than that, lots of visiting with relatives. The wedding is tomorrow, and we head back home on Monday.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Here I am in Minneapolis, a city with an airport, a mall and, at the moment, a lot of snow. We visited the "Mall of America" today, which is like a combination of a gigantic shopping mall and an indoor Disneyland. It's a great place for people watching while the kids are enjoying the rides and other attractions at Snoopy's Playground, or whatever it's called. (It includes a full-size roller coaster, a log flume ride, various other Disney-like rides and "Lego Land," where you can see nearly full-size dinosaurs and other critters made out of--yes--Legos. Thousands and thousands of Legos . . . .)

As I said, it's a great place for people watching. It's very white suburban, though, with only a few blacks and Asians. Every other male seems to have a big beer belly on him and every other female has what my father used to call, euphemistically, a "wide beam." Many people wear a kind of vacant expression as they walk around the mall, maybe because there's just too much sensory stimulation. I may have looked pretty vacant myself. (Isn't there a song called "Pretty Vacant"?)

After a while, I had to retreat from all the noise (people screaming on the roller coaster, etc.) and hide out at Barnes & Noble. I enjoy browsing the shelves, even if I can't work up the enthusiam required to plonk down $40 on a collection of Ray Bradbury stories, for example. I did buy a kid's book called Conversations with J.K. Rowling for my son, who is a Harry Potter addict. (He's currently reading the fourth book--in hard cover, because he couldn't wait for the paperback.) Thank the Cosmic Muffin for bookstores, even the chains, I say. They often serve as an oasis in the midst of modern chaos.

I'm just blathering on a borrowed computer. Maybe when I get home I'll fix this up and add some more blithering commentary about glamorous Minneapolis.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

I'm off to Minneapolis for a few days. Just where I wanted to visit in early April! I'll report back about my exciting trip, maybe even while I'm there if I can commandeer a computer.