Three A.M.

Awake at three in the morning. It’s a contradiction of human existence, I guess.

I’m awake right now because I was having a weird dream. In the dream, Mel Brooks asks what if Buddha had been a nice Jewish boy from Queens?

Siddhartha the Buddha, or as his mother called him, Siddhartha the Bum.

She says to him, Sid, Sid, why don’t you get a job? Your brother Marty has a nice job on Wall Street and what are you doing? Sitting under a tree eating plums!

I woke up laughing.

I tried to go back to sleep but Mrs. Gautama kept talking.

Why don’t you get a job, she says, and he says, Ma, I’ve got a job. I’m a teacher.

She says, that’s not a real job, you know why I know it’s not a real job? If you had a real job, you could afford to go to the Hamptons for the summer instead of sitting under a pear tree eating plums. That’s no vacation from a real job!

He says, Ma, why would I sit under a pear tree eating plums? It was a fig tree and I was eating figs….

I don’t care if they were Avogadros! she interrupts. You could eat any number of Avogadros and I wouldn’t care.

Then she starts in on him about grandkids. When are you going to get married? If you were married, you would have to get a real job and get me some grandkids? Your brother Marty, he can’t because he’s got that thing, his Exeter is too narrow.

His urethra, Ma.

His ureter, he’s not going to have kids but you could get married…. Are you gay? You can tell me…. If you have some nice boy you’d rather marry you can bring him by…. What’s his name? Steve?

Ma, I’m not gay, Sid says.

Maybe you and Steve could adopt? Marty can’t adopt because his wife has that conviction from when she was a prison guard.

Imogene Coca was playing Ma, Sid Caesar (who else) as Sid, with Howie Morris as Marty and Terry Jones as Mrs. Finkelstein nextdoorsikeh.

At which point, I got up again and wrote this all down. 🙂

Real Estate

Another story based on a dream I had.

Real Estate

The old man eating lunch in the park didn’t seem to be interested in his sandwich. Sitting on the grass nearby, a taller, younger man in dirty clothes watched. The old man sighed for about the fortieth time then stood and carried his uneaten sandwich toward the trash can, frowning.

“If you’re not going to eat that, can I have it?” asked the young man.

The old man stopped and turned to look. “It’s salami and tomatoes on Italian,” he said.

The young man could not stop the visible rush of saliva to his mouth. “Sounds great.” He stood up, wiping one hand across his face.

The old man nodded and held out the meal, still mostly wrapped in the deli papers. “I’m Thomas, I’ve seen you here before.”

The younger man took the food from his hands, his face intent on the prize. “I’m Chris. And yeah, I uh, sort of live here.”

Thomas walked slowly back toward the bench. “Sit, eat,” he said nodding toward the other end as he sat down.

Chris sat, smiling briefly toward Thomas before he began eating. He treated the partially wrapped sandwich with care and almost reverence as he extracted a cut third of it from the papers.

Thomas watched him eat and his own face changed. By the time Chris had finished the first third with a bit of tomato dripping from his chin, Thomas smiled. “Glad to see you like that,” he said. “There’s a couple of napkins.”

Chris nodded, wiping away the ruby red remnants from his stubbly chin. “It’s good. And I’m not just saying that ’cause I hadn’t eaten since yesterday, the guys at Two Fat Italian Heroes know how to make a sandwich.”

Thomas smiled but it seemed to pain him. “They do,” he said. “I wish they were better at making the rent.”

“Huh,” said Chris. “How do you mean?”

“I’m the property manager for this block of shops.” He gestured toward one side of the park. “I collect the rents and turn them over to the owners. I take care of problems like roofs and sewers and dealing with police and building inspectors. But Leo and Gio are late with the rent, two months in a row. And short both times, besides. I have to tell the owner.”

Chris chewed his way through the second section of the sandwich and neither of them said anything for a while. Finally, Chris said, “You don’t want to do that.”

Thomas shook his head. “I don’t. But it’s my job. If they are short three times, they go on a list. From being on the list to getting evicted if you don’t make up everything you missed, takes about six months.”

Chris nodded. He looked at the last third of the sandwich, about four inches long and nearly as wide. Salami, provolone, tomatoes and onions with a light coating of olive oil and vinegar filled the bread to overflowing. “You want the last piece?” he asked Thomas.

Thomas looked at the remainder of the sandwich. He hadn’t wanted it at all but now that he had said something to someone, he felt a bit of hunger. It was his lunch after all and he had forced Leo and Gio to accept payment for it by leaving the money on the counter. “Maybe half?” he said, his mouth watering.

Chris carefully tore the sandwich in two and offered his choice of halves to Thomas and they both ate with obvious enjoyment.

“Good sandwich,” said Chris when they had finished and used the napkins to clean their hands and faces. “Thanks,” he added as he threw the trash into the can.

“They do make good sandwiches but hardly anyone is willing to pay eleven dollars for a foot-long hero anymore when there’s a chain sandwich shop on almost every block,” said Thomas.

“Yeah,” said Chris. “They have a nice corner location though, they ought to be able to grow a clientele if they can get through a year or so. You think?”

Thomas nodded. “Probably.”

“But if they go under in six months, the storefront is likely to be empty for a year or so?”

Thomas nodded again.

“That can’t be good for anybody on the block. Not good for the owners or you either.”

“No,” said Thomas. The small part of the sandwich he had eaten sat like a lump in his stomach.

Chris belched. “Pardon. So, what if you went to everyone on the block and asked them if they could help the sandwich guys out with rent for a while. And put it like a package deal to your bosses, reduced rent for a year while Leo and Gio get on their feet?”

Thomas gulped. “That just might work,” he said. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Too close to the problem, maybe?” suggested Chris. “It’s worth a try, anyway.”

Thomas started away, his face showing his optimism in the new solution.

“Hey,” said Chris. “You got any work for me? Run errands? Sweep up? Haul away the trash in the alley? Anything?”

Thomas blinked. “I’m not doing so good on the thinking things through bit today. Yeah, I probably do have some things for you to do.” He smiled at his new friend.

Chris smiled back. “I knew it couldn’t hurt to ask,” he said.

The Benefits of Doubt

Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If you think someone has deliberately offended you, think a second time — what if you’re wrong?

Of course you’re sure they were talking about you even though they did not mention your name, but what if you’re wrong?

Certainly, everyone knows you can read minds…but what if you’re wrong?

Always give everyone the benefit of the doubt because as sure as shit smells, you are going to need it back sooner or later.

I know this is true because I get bit by it over and over. Being ready to forgive is not just being nice, it’s a strategy of self-defense in the long run.

If you’re too upset or angry to do so immediately, walk away and think about it before you hit that angry reply–that perfect angry uppercut of a comeuppance–that rant about the unfairness of SOME people….

Walk away and think…

What if you’re wrong?

Doubt is a small coin, spend it freely.

Jackass Marketing

Everyone has heard of Gorilla Marketing, which is where you jump out of a tree, put the customer in a headlock and force them to sign a six month subscription to your print magazine. No, wait, that’s supposed to be Guerilla Marketing which is where you jump out of a tree and shoot the bastard….

No, wait.


What there is way too much of on the internet is Jackass Marketing. Which is where your subscription offer is an insult to the intelligence of your average hairy equine consumer.

Q.V. Excellent bad example.

First, that they even offer something with web access that does not include available optimized mobile is not just ignorant, it’s struthioformic (that means like an ostrich) — in order to do something like that, one has to have one’s head in the sand or someplace even darker and smellier.

Second, look at the fourth offer, presumably their trial offer to entice people in: 30 days web only access for 19.95 — versus the second offer: web plus mobile for ninety days for only $1.30 more. W? T? F?

Third, try to tell them this is a stupid marketing position and you are faced with two screens worth of checkboxes and a captcha to communicate with them. And they don’t have a checkbox for “You should fire someone in marketing.”

Fourth, who would want to read a futurologistic magazine so poorly grounded in the present as to come up with this for a marketing plan?

The obvious deduction from their offers is that one month of web and mobile access to their current issue is worth sixty-five cents. The check is in the mail!

More Than You Wanted to Know

My sister-in-law asked in an email:
> Did you know this?

Yes, I did. If you wonder what the stuff looks like, Navy peacoats, the heavy wool overcoats sailors wear, are made of Melton cloth. It’s so tightly woven you can’t see the weave. It’s also got clay (fuller’s earth) pounded into it to make it even heavier and pretty much waterproof. Because of the fulling, you can’t dye it bright colors. Browns, blues, grays and dark greens and reds, pretty much. It goes back to around the time of the Napoleonic wars when good heavy woolen coats for soldiers and sailors were needed. In the US, the mackinaw and also some lumberjack coats are made of Melton cloth.

Melton-Mowbray is the town in England where our ancestors, Melton cloth and Stilton cheese all come from. Stilton was the market town nearby and is on the road to London so the cheese got named for it instead of Melton. But the rules of what is Stilton cheese say it has to come from cows born, raised and milked within ten miles of a certain dairy barn outside Melton-Mowbray. Also has to be treated this and so and that and such and aged in one of the villages in the same area.

Stilton is a suburb of Peterborough, the big town in that area nowadays, between Nottingham and Cambridge. Melton-Mowbray is about 20 miles away.

John Milton’s ancestors (he of Paradise Lost fame) came from Melton-Mowbray so he’s probably a distant relative.

Melton-Mowbray is also famous for several kings, dukes and bishops having hunting cottages and dog kennels there. Fox and pheasant hunting, I think, it’s farmland all around. A bit squishy from the look of the map, you probably can’t walk a quarter mile without getting mud on your shoes. All the streets in the town look like they were laid out by following cows around.

Oh, and pork pies. Not the hats, the pies full of pork and veggies that the British eat, those are from Melton-Mowbray, too. So, cows, pigs, sheep, dogs, foxes and pheasants; a crowded place, it’s a wonder there are any people at all.

Coffee and the Morality of Aesthetics

John Henry Was a Coffee Drinking Man…

The link above is to an article that first supposes that artisanal coffee is superior to the best coffee a purely mechanical process can create. And when the blind taste test is done and the artisanal brew has been narrowly defeated, it comes to a different conclusion than that suggested by the evidence.

Is it just rationalization or does moral connection to a process influence the aesthetic? Is beauty being in the eye, or taste buds, of the beholder a misleading supposition?

Does foreknowledge of the origins of our pleasures have any control over our experience — or only our expectations? Give me another doppio and I’ll think about it.

Omega Wolf Pattern

Wolfpacks have a hierarchy of respect, obligation and deference. At the top of this hierarchy are the Alpha Wolves, usually a mated pair but sometimes a single individual. At the bottom of the structure is the Omega Wolf. The Omega eats last and is chased and bitten by all the wolves higher up in the structure.

If the Omega wolf dies or leaves the pack, a new Omega ends up being chosen quickly and is not always the wolf that was formerly the one just above the old Omega.

It’s in the interest of the pack to allow the Omega to remain a member, even though many of the individuals in the pack attempt to drive him or her away. For this reason, the Alpha is obligated by personal interest and social dynamics to defend the Omega when things get out of hand and the weakest member of the pack is in real danger of being driven away or killed.

Humans, lions, hyenas, crows and baboons have oddly resonant social structures; though none of them are similar in all major aspects to the wolfish model, they all do share the Omega Pattern to one degree or another. Humans, lions and crows are actually crueler about this than wolves, baboons and hyenas. Human, crow and lion Alphas sometimes kill or drive off the Omega themselves, perhaps to foster more cohesiveness in the tribe, flock or pride.

But wolf, hyena and baboon Alphas seldom turn on their Omegas wantonly, usually offering them protection from the worst excesses of their pack mates. There must always be an Omega, why get rid of one just to have nature nominate another?

One measure of the civility of human societies might be how much closer to wolf than lion they are in the treatment of their Omegas.

Horses, cattle, rats and elephants do not have Omegas; herds are structured but marginalization is based on different dynamics.

Why am I bringing this up? Just something offered as a topic of meditation, perhaps.

Are we not Omega?

Zing and the Art of Furnace Repair

Update: Two days and $400 later I have heat and a new appreciation for the incontinence of PHAC corporations and for the erudition and arcane knowledge of the laborers in that field.

After visiting seven different practitioners of the art and craft of Coleman heater repair and purchasing the wrong replacement motor, we finally found a practitioner of the PHAC art who recognized that part numbers and model numbers are meaningless: all is determined by serial number. It’s like the doctrine of predestination.

But even a wizard can slip up and repair would have been delayed another day had a second PHACartist not contributed a little known bit of expertise: the Golden Grommets without which the motor could not be reinstalled.

These little double-ended screws with rubber in the middle cost $5 each and either five or six of them are required, depending again on serial number.

When I murmured about the cost of them, he said that I should be glad that the motor was going into a heater and not an air conditioner or refrigeration unit because those grommets, identical except that the steel parts were made of brass, were $20 apiece.

I asked if they can realize that steel will corrode in the condensation of refrigerated air, why can’t they realize that rubber will bake to brickosity in a furnace vent and make the softer parts of silicone?

He just shook his head, like all practitioners of the dark arts, he knew when he must bow down to Mystery.

Starting the New Year Cold

First night this winter it actually got below freezing here and my furnace went out at 10 p.m. last night. I didn’t get to sleep until the dog got under the covers with me about 2 a.m. because SHE was cold.

Got the repairman outside looking at it now, if it’s an electrical problem, he should have it fixed soon. If it’s the heat exchanger, well, that furnace is old enough to have run for president against John McCain. Third party ticket though, so no hope of winning.

Got to take Cuddles to her eye checkup in an hour, looking forward to the heater in the Nissan.

The Ugly Truth

I had a dream last night and I remember much of it this morning. Like a lot of my dreams, it had a title and seemed to have been constructed by the Writing MachineTM I keep in my head. This one was called, The Ugly Truth.

It was both a movie and a card game, a la Steve Jackson’s Munchkin; dreams can be like that. And like Munchkin, there were several different versions. The Ugly Truth about Life, The Ugly Truth about Marriage, The Ugly Truth about High School, The Ugly Truth about Cats and Dogs, The Ugly Truth about Politics and The Super Ugly Truth which was an expansion set that could be added to one of the others.

So this dream was The Super Ugly Truth about High School. We all know that one.

It was a game and a story at the same time. In the story, a group of friends and acquaintances in high school battle with the usual zits, proms, swots and finks while also dealing with super powers and the occasional monster. And also in the story, the kids were playing the card game. Very meta.

The deck is shuffled in a hand of The Ugly Truth and each player is dealt a number of cards, five or six, I think. There are personality cards in the deck and there’s a list of precedence for them, whoever has got the highest precedent personality card in their hand goes first, playing the card and becoming that personality for the hand until replaced. That player draws a replacement card and play begins.

On your turn, if you have any Ugly cards in your hand, you play those first and they take effect. For instance the Massive Zit on your Forehead card prevents you from scoring until it is replaced. You have to have a Beauty or Brawn card to replace an Ugly one, Brains cards can’t do it but Brains cards let you play Ugly cards in front of someone else. Details of how this worked were not clear in the dream.

The Super Ugly Truth added superpowers to this. One Super Ugly card was Bulk Out – you go on a super-eating binge and devour the snack bar, lose two turns.

Oh, the art on the cards was by Brad Guigar of Evil, Inc.

I wonder if this is an actual commercial idea. I know there would probably be a novelty market for the Super Ugly Truth about Politics every four years, what with cards for RepUglycans and DeMonstercrats, but could it ever become a perennial like Munchkin?

Probably not because the Ugly Truth about the game is that nobody wins.