“Listen to many, speak to a few.”

william-shakespeareThis St George’s Day also marks what would have been the 451st birthday of England’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare. His plays are still hailed as the pinnacle of literature, and hundreds of his coined phrases are still in wide usage in modern Britain. 

The Bard’s influence on our language and culture is still impossible to escape  and even those who “don’t do Shakespeare” unwittingly channel his words in their daily lives. Ever found yourself muttering ‘for goodness sake’ as someone queue-jumps? Or perhaps having “too much of a good thing” has left you “puking” and a “sorry sight”? These are just a handful of popular sayings that came courtesy of Shakespeare…

On the morning I started work alongside some mean iron fighters in a heavy engineering yard – my Father’s words of caution; “Keep your ears open and your mouth shut.” ~ To quote Shakespeare; “Listen to many, speak to a few.”      Wise words either way…      Yours Aye.

Robbie Burns & his Haggis…

Robbie BurnsToday Saturday 25th January 2014, at 03:30 hrs GMT  is one of the most revered days in the calendar of the tribes who live far north of Hadrian’s Wall. North of the border, where the tribes are referred to as the ‘Jockanese’ or ‘Sweaty Socks’ (Jocks). The ginger haired, sporran wearing, porridge eating folk, who dwell across the lowlands and highlands of Scotland. The remembrance of this day falls in honour to their literary hero, Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) ‘also known as’ Robbie Burns, Rabbie Burns, Wee Rabbie, or Scotland’s favourite son. Haggis, a vegetarian’s worst nightmare!haggis_16x9
images-1To celebrate this occasion there will be dinners prepared throughout Scotland for the evenings fare, which is known as ‘Burns Night’. The traditional cuisine being Haggis, a traditional Scottish sausage made from a sheep’s stomach stuffed with diced sheep’s liver, lungs and heart, oatmeal, onion, suet and seasoning. The Burns meal complete is Haggis, traditionally served with ‘neeps ‘n’ tatties’ (mashed swede and potatoes) accompanied by copious amounts of whisky. 

Scottish tradition demands that the Haggis is brought to the main table for presentation, accompanied by Jocks in frocks squeezing their agony bags whilst their faces turn puce. A braw sight indeed for the uninitiated.images-2 Once laid upon the table the host will then address the Haggis whilst holding a fearful knife, the address  is spoken loudly as the host stabs and slashes the Haggis saying…

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm: Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.”images-3  Translated into English“Fair and full is your honest, jolly face, Great chieftain of the sausage race! Above them all you take your place, Stomach, tripe, or intestines: Well are you worthy of a grace As long as my arm.”

The address is a mind-boggling several verses long, by which time the Haggis can end up in a sorry-looking state, depending upon how much whisky the host has drunk, as well as how theatrical his oration has been. One things for sure, the evening always end up being a raucous affair with plenty of traditional country dancing, where the men folk show whether they are true Scotsman or not, by inadvertently flashing their ‘toggle & two’! up yer kilt mon  Preferably not in my presence! 

This post was done so in jest, without intending to be offensive. No Haggis’s were sliced, stabbed, or injured in the making of this post…

Slàinte mhath!      Yours Aye.  

Crossword six across-two down…

Arthur Wynne was the British-born inventor of the crossword puzzle that was first published on 21st December 1913. Arthur was born on 22nd June, 1871 in Liverpool, England. He emigrated to the United States on June 6, 1891 at the age of 19-years-old, he became a naturalized US citizen in the 1920s, and died in Clearwater, Florida on January 14, 1945. Known then as a ‘word-cross’ puzzle it was first published in the ‘New York World’, which embodied most of the features of the genre as we know it today. Arthur Wynne’s puzzle is frequently cited as the first crossword puzzle, and Wynne as the inventor. Later, the name of the puzzle was changed to “crossword”, which was purely a type setting error by the printer, which stuck.200px-First_crossword         (One Hundred Years of knocking your brains out)

Crossword puzzles became a regular weekly feature in the ‘New York World’, and spread to other newspapers; the Boston Globe, for example was publishing them at least as early as 1917. By the 1920s, the crossword phenomenon was starting to attract notice. In 1921, the New York Public Library reported that “The latest craze to strike libraries is the crossword puzzle.” The first book of crossword puzzles appeared in 1924, published by Simon and Schuster. “This odd-looking book with a pencil attached to it” was an instant hit and crossword puzzles became the craze of 1924.

I have spent many hours in the past knocking my brains out over newspaper crosswords, from the most basic to the Times. The sense of achievement on completing one at any level never diminishes… Yours Aye.

Aptanagrams, eunonyms & portmanteau words

English is full of wordplay, witticisms, puns and quirks. On work related issues I am a stickler over the correct use of grammar, punctuation and spelling. When it comes to sending a text message I rarely, if ever, abbreviate a word.zz080910bede 490 (Roman Catholic education, was a painful experience for those that dared to adapt their writing style)

Being a natural born rebel of sorts, I often dabbled with the written word, trying to squeeze out a hidden meaning by abusing punctuation within a scribed sentence; however, six of the best (three hearty whacks of a bamboo cane on each hand) put paid to that… imagesNow, here I am, in my element, with not a bamboo cane in sight, nor a care in the world as I pixilate before you!

Crossword puzzlers will be familiar with anagrams, words that mean something else when the letters are rearranged, but what about aptanagrams, eunonyms and portmanteau words?

An aptanagram is one reason why a mother-in-law, is a woman Hitler          Yours Aye.article-2399493-1B665FB4000005DC-365_634x322

A Job Interview

I am in my car, driving home. Already with the morning commute and the return, I’ve spent almost two hours cooped up. If you don’t live in California, please don’t move here. We have no room. People don’t go to the deep west anymore, anyway.

I’ve forgotten about Monday Night Football. In San Diego. And I see a line of angry cars all over the 163. Pinning me in. Or perhaps it is only I who is angry. The others are happily tailgating each other to get to the tailgate.

I pull off the freeway and onto Frazzee Road and then another street and finally into a Starbucks parking lot. Frazzee I love. How can I not with that name? I take my laptop with me and buy a bottled water and sit down. Next to me, a guy is leaning in and hanging onto every word of his twirling-haired girlfriend.

“I’m not affectionate,” she says.

I cringe. I have hearing like a whale. I don’t look like one. Much. But I can hear a pin drop at a bowling alley crosstown. Wait, I just heard someone convert the 7-10 split in Oceanside. Hearing like this is good for bloggers, good for linguists, not good for those seeking peace. Like me. Now.

“I don’t like flowers either,” she continues. “But I do like presents of food.”

I can’t take it anymore. I put in Rachid Taha’s Ya Rayah. Listen to the song if you want a taste of Algeria. Ignore the mandolute player who overspiced his cigarettes with oregano, misplacing his eyeballs in the process.

Ya Rayah is a song of warning, about losing oneself. And forgetting God:

Rachid Taha – Oh Emigrant

Oh where are you going?
Eventually you must come back
How many ignorant people have regretted this
Before you and me

How many overpopulated countries and empty lands have you seen?
How much time have you wasted?
How much have you yet to lose?
Oh emigrant in the country of others
Do you even know what’s going on?
Destiny and time follow their course but you ignore it

Why is your heart so sad?
And why are you staying there miserable?
Hardship will end and you no longer learn or build anything
The days don’t last, just as your youth and mine didn’t
Oh poor fellow who missed his chance just as I missed mine

Oh traveler, I give you a piece of advice to follow right away
See what is in your interest before you sell or buy
Oh sleeper, your news reached me
And what happened to you happened to me
Thus, the heart returns to its creator, the Highest (God)

I take my earbuds off after the song and the guy is still soft grappling every word of hers. He is in a job interview. I get up and move. And flick over to the novel I have been avoiding. My hobby. Writing, not avoiding. Well, maybe both.

I clunk through the first chapter I started four months ago. And then wonder about Tim Tebow. I click over to check yesterday’s score. Yup, Tim brought it. I like the guy, even when I did not want to.

Jonathan Franzen was rightIt’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.

I pour myself back into the novel. Yards, I gain. A first down. I check the Monday Night Football game in progress a quarter mile from me. The Chargers are up. Yup yup. Hometown boys.

I write more and stand after an unknown amount of time. A good day writing. It is dark outside. The guy and girl are still talking. The job interview may not be over. But I am. With writing and waiting. And I drive onto the quiet freeway. Another hour and I will be home.

Update: Apparently, the game was at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. So I am not sure where the traffic came from. . .

A Revolution in Morocco

Alternatively titled: Footnotes on Morocco

Alexandria, Virginia; King Street; the sidewalk- The bricks of King are angry. I am not walking the sidewalk as much as surfing. Tree roots have pushed up gentle, bricky slopes. Here, there. And they kick my toes when I miss. My calves and my shins are tired. So too’s my right sole.

Around me languages swim. I hear Italian. Va Bene? A man asks a woman, perhaps his wife. Or was it va bien? It could be any number of Romance languages, but the man puts an Italian spin on it. Italian English, the English of a spinning billiard ball, not the brogue.  And then I hear soft German, but not quite. Dutch? The last time I spoke that language was last century and high school and my date angrily did not understand. Dutch.

It is lunch and I am hungry. My stomach, finally synced with Virginia, prepares for a forward assault. Warfighters[1] : we will conduct no flanking movements today, no sneaky projection of power from faraway seas[2]. We will take the fight right to enemy, a forward ground pound on my meal.

But at what restaurant? Subway? No, I am not pushing the tilted bricks of King to duck into Subway for a footlong. I walk past it. Even though I have macked more than a hundred feet[3] of their sandwiches, maybe more when I was at DLI. When I was enlisted as a linguist. And then at Al Udeid Air Base, where I padded my stats with a good ten yard run, through pulling tackles[4], up the middle. Of Subway meatball footlongs. On parmesan bread. Or honey whole-grain, if p-bread was out.

I recon a café across the street with heaven written all over it. Burnt coffee, no doubt. And sandwiches stuffed with pastrami or corned beef, a distinction I do not understand. Is it a conspiracy to sell more corned beef, pastrami? I also have had about ten yards of them sandwiches too. I was all-city, Pastrami (Corned Beef) Eating, Special Teams[5].

A low sandwich sign on King Street waves foot-traffic in without waving. Advertising a lunch buffet. Casablanca Restaurant, Moroccan food. Never met one of them buffets I could not murder. Me and a friend and his brother used to haunt the Asian Buffets in Berkeley. We actually were turned away once. More because of his brother, who weighed nearly 400 pounds. But I held my own. Against those Fresno[6] farm-boys, my friends.

I enter and turn to the right. Dreamy gold-framed pictures line the wall. No one greets me inside, but low music beckons. I think: maybe the place is closed.  A buffet table ahems from the middle of the room. Ahem, we are open, it says. I duck around a pillar and see a gentlemen (eating) in that blue-and-green, plaid shirt, a tartan button-down that said establishment[7] thirty years ago. At Christmas parties and golf courses and country clubs that I was not a member of. Because I was a kid and not because of some institutional bent. But I would never seek to join a club that would have me as a member, right? I am still surprised the Navy wanted me. Good thing I did not have a blog then.

A big man greets me from my left, peeling me away from thoughts of country clubs and sand wedges and lettuce wedges. Nice thick iceburg[8] ones. Indeed, I am hungry.

Anywhere, anywhere, He says. He seems surprised at my presence. But he recovers quickly. I am surprised that he is surprised. It is noon exactly. On the dot. I plunk my bag on a seat and start towards the buffet.

Hummus[9], yes ma’am. Need me some. Avoid the bread. Low carb, I am. Couscous, also avoid. Rice, ah. I cave. Meatballs with peas and little bitty carrots. They are mini meatballs. And perfect. There is no better food. Than meatballs. You ever seen “The Wedding Singer” and that meatball scene? Yep, that is me. Smiling at my good fortune. I lay down an awful hurt on them. Somewhere in meatball-land, hangs my mugshot. Consider this buffet-teer armed and dangerous.

Some zucchini thing. No way. Zucchinis[10] are a conspiracy, though I am not sure where the conspiracy[11] lies. But it’s something. And I just ain’t playing.

And then steamed chicken, which I dig into, and then I turn the buffet corner and get salad and some carrots. How many corners have I turned in my life at buffets?

I sit and eat. Fast. I still have OCS in me, maybe. Me and my war spoon. Shoveling it down. Unless we were Eating by the Numbers[12]. Marine Drill Instructors, they will train you. Delay gratification on the most basic of needs, food. Great training. That I never want to do again.

I am finished with the plate in ten minutes. I got to blog and then prepare for a long day tomorrow. And I don’t have time to waste.

I hear Arabic and I can’t help myself. I listen to their Moroccan. Very mellow. Like this blog. Get the table knives, the older man says to the younger guy. And then a whole stream of stuff I miss. Dialect is dialect and I can’t wrap my ears around it.

Minutes pass and I reload. I even get zucchini and some couscous. It could be low-carb couscous, right? Known affectionately as just cous[13].

The older and younger guy sit speaking near the door. There are only two tones in Arabic, whispering and shouting. Well, that is not fair, but it seems that way, right[14]? They are almost whispering and then the younger guy says in Arabic (translated for comprehension): it is just like Egypt. The Arabic word for Egypt is Misr and he drags the rrr like a flag fluttering anywhere.

I stand and he does too and tells me he will bring the bill. But I follow him to the far side of the restaurant. To chat. I don’t want to disturb the [15]country club guy.

Where are you from? I ask, even though I (probably) know.

Morocco, he says.

Great country, I quickly reply.

You have been? He lights up.

No, never. One dayWhat do you think of its ruler? Mohammed the Fourth?

Mohammed the Sixth, he says with a smile[16].

Ah. A good guy?

Yes, a good guy.

Like 40 to 50 years old or so?

Maybe 45. Yes.

Was it Mohammed the Fifth before him?

No, Hassan the Second.

How do you feel about over there? I make a big hand gesture.

He pauses. Oh, you mean Egypt? Crazy.

Yes and Tunisia.

Tunisia?!? He rolls his eyes at me.

Not like Morocco? Will there be a revolution there? In Rabat? 

No never. Morocco, we are together. There Tunisia, no.

It is a strange time. (In my mind, I start to think in Arabic. What I am going to say. When I chat with him in it. I warm, warn my tongue. First I need to make sure he is cool. I don’t want any muskeelas[17].)

Yes, a new world. (I miss this, because I think he is saying word. And I wait for it. The word. The new word. But then he repeats himself because he reads the miscomprehension painting my face.) A new world. Ever now and then, the Earth plates shift.

A bad shift?

No. Not at all. A good one. I think. We will see. It is global. This shift.

What do you think of America, I ask, throwing him a low, nasty curve.

He smiles. I love it. Hmm, he handled the curve fine, not like it curved much. Really, nothing more than a big meaty change-up, waist high, down the middle, and he blooped it over the second baseman’s head. I like it a lot.

Part II to follow. . . [18].

[1] Cue resplendent Eisenhower smile.
[2] Per Alfred Mahan’s 1890 seminal work on projection of naval power, not to be confused with Freud’s “Projection of Natal Power,” 1940. (Trivial, true sidenote: Mahan is credited with coining the term the “Middle East” in 1902.)
[3] For all metri (metro)-Euros, 100 feet equals 30.40 meters.
[4] Offensive Tackles, see Endnote 5.
[5] Football season is upon us, folks. Can’t you tell? Cal Bears, 3 and OOOOOOh baby! But not for long, Cal will always find a way to disappoint. Bad news, Bears. But we got us a quarterback. And he can run. I better stop, me’s agonna jinx us.
[6] Large sub-species of humanus brawnus, found in the non-wooded regions of California’s Central Valley. Approach at your own risk. Testy if tested.
[7] It lost its establishment status when Woody Allen began wearing it. Say whatever you want of his infantile genius, he is not establishment. Or, if he is, I want out. Wait, am I establishment? (A question for another endnote, not this one.)
[8] Or is it iceberg? Berg or burg? Which German town do we give the nod to when it comes to our lettuce?
[9] Hummus, mmmmmmmmooummus, a common vocalization around that nectary substance. Easy recipe = garlic, olive oil, salt, tahini, lemon juice, garbanzo beans or chickpeas (your preference or both.) And then whip it up. (Note: weak joke on the beans was supposed to be endnoted. But apparently you can’t endnote endnotes. Who knew?)
[10] Zuchinnii (pronounced Zuck-kee-nii) is the plural of zucchini on 242 of the (1000s of) Micronesian islands. Not particularly tasty in either spelling.
[11] If I really wanted to practice my google-fu, I would link you the Alex Jones Show.
[12] Eating by the Numbers is an eight-count system a DI uses to feed Officer Candidates.
[13] Be exceedingly careful uttering this word. I joke about a lot here, but drop half of couscous (in a conversation) and it can get sticky. For folks with Arabic ears. Who know what you are saying. Four-letter words are four-scribble words over there too.
[14] See this video for further proof. I keeeel you!
[15] Anti-dis-establishmentarianism
[16] He is helpful with my Mohammeds. Hard to track those fellers. Not that they are fellas. Per (Garden) Gnome Chomsky (much as I hate endnoting that miserable troll): no Mohammed has been referred to as a feller in 1400+ years. Except for once, circa July ‘82 in Greenville, Mississippi. Bubba Johnson (the II, not patris) purchased a Slurpee from the local 7-11. Thanks feller, he said to Mohamed Abdul Mohammed (who thought: Habibi called me feller! I am so dinar. Wait ‘till Ahmed and ‘da akhis get a load of this!)
[17] Mushkeela translates literally as problem. (Sidenote: although of a similar linguistic phylum, mushkeela is a not pointed poke at my Aunt Rose’s porridge. Not only was porridge (over-reachingly) abolished by the UN as a viable oatmeal term in late ’99, we referred to her gruel as: Mush-keeel-ya. As in: that porridge? That mush-ull-keeel-ya! A subtle, yet important etymological distinction.)
[18] This is the endnote where I ask: do I have to reveal which endnotes are totally fake and which are real? If an unnecessary question, please read endnote 16 again. ‘Tis funny, no?

Getting Paid $50,000 for One Sentence

Alright bloggers, novelists, even you shy, wilting haiku-ists!

Today is your lucky day. It’s time to pull on those big-boy pants. How would you like to make 50K? As in $5o,ooo. 50,000! For only, get this, one (uno, 1, un, ein) sentence worth of work.

But wait! There’s more!

Not only do you have to write a full sentence, you must also sign your letter. And salutate it. Can you do it?  I suggest using the salutation thank you. Like one such author did. And he got paid 50 big’uns! You up? Or down for it?

Don’t answer!

The gentlemen in question, whose letter sold for the princely (bordering on kingly) sum of 50 large, wrote the original missive to his maid. That is correct. His maid, Mary, received a life-changing, poetic thrill (up her leg.) Let’s read, shall we, the masterpiece:

Dear Mary — Please make sure all the errands are done before you go on vacation, as I do not want to be bothered with insignificant things. Thank you, J.D. Salinger

Ah ha, you say. Mr. Salinger, I presume. Yes, the papa of Holden is being exploited. The owners of the above letter are hoping to get 50K for it. Considering he passed away last year, J.D. will not be producing any new literary jottings.

J.D. Salinger's Letter

Bloggers, writers of all stripes (or even you rare, stripe-free variety), toil your craft mightily.

For your meaningless meanderings may be sold once, now or in the future, for ridiculous quantities of turtles, clams, lucre, quid, calamari.

(Or I am trying to disuade you from the eBay auction, by labeling the price as ludicrous, hoping to drive it down to a respectable 35 large medium? So as to buy it out from under you?)(Hmmm, question for you: if that is true, what’s the letter doing under you?)(It’s not an egg. It won’t hatch into any more baby letters.)(Or will it?)(Note to self: start roosting on the classics.)(Begin with Shakespeare.)(Then move, ever so gently, onto Marley and Me.)(Hmmm, I only own the French translation, Marley et moi. Will that suffice? Oui?)(Easy street, and a full library, here I come!)

Mr. JD Salinger, letter writer-er, potentially voracious Mellow Jihadi reader

Possibly unknown facts on Mr. Salinger:

1. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II and participated in the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944.

2. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy from 1934-36.

3. He was a voracious reader of blogs and always thought the blogosphere lacked something that brought the jihad. But in a mellow, gentle way.

Mr. Salinger: Rest easy, kind sir, it has been broughten! (Editor’s note: Factoid 3 remains unconfirmed as of press time. Our editorial squirrel hopes obtain some clarity before the next printing. Stand by for confirmation of this elusive, but clearly obvious, fact.)

(Now what’s gonna be in my 50K letter? Hows’ about this: Dear Reader–I appreciate you actually reading all of this blogpost, as I thought you might not want to be bothered with insignificant things. Thank you. MJ Jihadi Jr. Signed, by direction, Editorial Squirrel #1.)

The Dreaded Australian Curse

Gentlest Reader: Shy Maiden or Once-Brave Lad,

‘Tis with a heavy heart that I type this post. Your blogger has stumbled upon a maniacal, Australian substance driving our good Sailors shrieking mad. The light in these once-great men’s, women’s eyes was captured, quick in a twirling butterfly net, and replaced with the tired, surrendering flicker of the dead. Cold, lifeless. Waiting for the soil, the shovelfuls of soil to pile, pile after pile, and worms, and even grass, with cemetery footstomps above. And then to hear your name, read with a sniffle, off yer own gravestone: Here lies a once good man. Done in by the dread that best be not uttered. Argggh. Argggh, indeed.

What, say ye, drove our sea-faring lot to such sirenesque despair?

Ah lads, fair maidens, gather ye yer senses, gird yer loins, should you still have any loin t’gird, and cluster ’round this blog for a tale o’woe and shrieking. Gnash your teeth at will, for your smiling days have numbers! And th’numbers, they match your fingers. On one hand. Not including thumbs. 4, 3, 2, 1, argggh. . .You are fingerless and dayless in the forever night. And you, with only nubs, fists to ward off all that bumps and whispers in the willows. . .

The hours of wine and roses, the minutes of milk and honey, they are dead. Our sad yarn, it begins in Australia, that land of petty thieves and knife-teethed warriors. Of nervous, dinkum kangaroos and foxtrotting wallabies.

Oh, how happy would I be to write that it ends there! That her devilish hand stayed put, clenched. But alas, her pestilance has been imported, and t’washed up on our fair, virgin shores. Cheaspeake Bay, San Diego, Norfolk folks, Bremerton, Groton, Jax, Galveston Bay, hey! The invasion is upon us, brothers and sisters, and we fight not back! Where is the waiting for the whites of her eyes? The fire at will? The nuts. The un-stuck on stupid?

What disease is this, what name does our doom harken too?

Acch, before I reveal the substance, ’tis best to relax a slight bit, dear reader. Shake out yer shoulders. Take yerself in a nice dipper of clean, new air. Breathe a nostril-ful, and then out. Ready? Gird ye yet once again.

Repeat after me: our enemy has a name. There are many enemies, but this enemy is mine. And she goes by the title of Musk Stick. Yes, yes: Musk Stick. Innocent name, no?

Well, ’twere not innocent in the slightest. Nay, neigh. Before my very red-veined eyes, I watched grown men reduced to unproductive, pre-pubescent boys with a mere, musky snifferful. One lean in and one quick inhalation and they were gone, years lost in naval training. My neck muscles throbbed, the veins in my very forehead pulsed, threatening to burst as fair lasses became less fair, less lassie.

I suppose the best way to whisper of our tale is to invite in the instigator. Ah, cast your eyes not upon her website! Ignore ye the plucky bear, named Digs the Digger. He proudly guards her blog, waiting and counting the hearts, souls he has scythed, harvested. Perhaps he toils as a digger, a plowman of the rib cavity, of the chest. And the owner of this gargoylish site counts page-views in hearts plucked free. Not unlike mayonnaise jars, vegemite tins in her cupboards. Argggh.

In the days of ol’ when-est a Sailor lost his last, unpolished marble, they t’were lashed to the mast to keep from throwing their body into the cruel, shark-infested seas. The ocean, she has no fickle. She takes and takes. Our best and brightest. And takes. Without thanks. And takes more. The sea, as I have known her, has no discern. Yea, have I groaned: Captain, she do take!

Back to our tale of Oz. So, our supposed blog innkeeper invited me to her site, to rest upon couches of wheat, chaff and stalks and grain alike. She served me great big mugs of grog, brought white-knuckled to my table so heavy were they. And t’when I were relaxed, tired from naval journeys, she started in on the musk. With soft incantations, intonations of words I knew me not. Argggh.

And even though I held, clutching in my innermost mind, that (almost) good men have been driven poor. Driven to bad indeed by this musk concoction.

Yet, I was powerless. She insisted. I did not say no. She insisted again. I did not fight. I did not wait me for the pale pallor of my enemies’ eyes. I surrendered not at first light, but at first night, before the very peeping of the infant sun. I had no backbone, guts, resolve. I did not utter nuts at my own Siege of Bastogne!

As if a gull, the musk sticks arrived on my shore, by my door, and me with a heady post-work allo! Once hale fellow, well met. Soon, very soon: frail fellow, soiled and wet. I tromped her in, the package, like a wayfarer, a good samaritan requiring a nightly pillow.

And off the next day, our innocent Ozzie musks with me, t’work. For your viewing pleasure, I present musk to you in all its gorgonesque beauty. Yea, the bag, livery yellow. Musk flavored sticks, colored pink. The same color as my heart, should I still have one beating. Next to our enemies, lying on my very cubicle table: a roll of life-savers. Life-savers, that American confection. That Benedict Arnold within our midst. And like a mallard decoy bobbing on some ducky lake, eucalyptus candy. Menthol and lungful and koala-like. Yes, poison. One more impish pill not to imbibe.

So I subjected my fellow and fellowette Navy professionals to said criminalish candy. And here is t’what I heard.

Her: I feel like I am at a night-club and some sweaty guy has leaned in too close and I just tasted his cologne.
Me: Hmm, something like Drakkar Noir?
Her: Yes (narrowing her eyes.)
Me: What, everyone’s smelt that stuff!

Him: Pink candy. Never. Well maybe a little taste. (One tiny nibble.) Absolutely disgusting. (Spitting it out.) What do you mean by bringing that crap here?!?

Him: (Looking at the Musk) You always bring in such interesting food, NavyOne. Why?
Me: (Thinking of these very pages, this blog) Oh (whistling.) No particular reason.

Him (a retired P-3 guy): Candy, let me bring it home for my children!
Me (gleeful, so gleeful): Yes, by all means do take (the dreaded curse off my stained hands.)
Next day
Him: I could not do it. (Hands me aforementioned, accursed confection.) I can’t give my kids this.
Me: (Head hung low, eyes bloodshot.) I understand.

I best end us there, shipmates. For perhaps yer jumpy tickers cannot take another round. Know this, the musky curse has arrived at our very shores and we are not stalwarted against it.

Pink has never been the color of evil, ’til now. Parents, guard ye yer wee ones, take cover from this pestilence. For musk sticks are on the prowl, searching fer your piker soul to keep. Hug yer children, sob into blankets, bite willow boughs in your gnashed teeth. For tonight, it may be your last. Or perhaps this tale has more tails? Argggh.

Fashion Models and a New York City Bike Messenger

I am tearing crosstown, eastward on Spring Street and my derailler is clicking at me. Like some lost snare drummer. I peer at it, shift up and then back. It stops rattlin’ and I race through Greene, and then Mercer Street. Broadway looms, I slow.

Was this where that guy got doored by a taxi? Them hacks are brutal in traffic, dodging lanes without signal, stopping on less than a dime, a nickel. I have run black rubber from my handlebars down the sides of two cabs at once. In a misplaced game of peanut butter and jelly. The cabbies, they played the bread and I was almost jam, the jelly. And the peanut buttah’. With me pounding on both vehicles at once with angry, gloved fists.

I push through Broadway. It is a long, fast street, that. Running diagonal from the upper-west through midtown and the White Way, alleycatting east to the canyons of Wall. From one corner of Union Square through the other. Yeah yeah, I know: it jogs north of Columbia. But not to this courier. Not to say nothing of East Broadway or West. Better watch yourself there, newbie messenger, or you’ll go to the wrong one. My delivery is on Centre Street. Or was it Lafayette?

As if on cue, a cab lurches to a stop before me. I swerve. Ask any courier about getting doored. Roll a pedestrian and the fall is soft, softer then meeting an anxious taxi door. From some oblivious, exiting passenger who I glare at. Sorry pedestrians, I don’t want to bum rush you’s either, but hack doors don’t move. Much.

I cut a hard right on Lafayette into the slipstream of a cargo truck. Of all my draft choices, trucks ain’t great. If I stay a little in front of his exhaust, I’m fine. And I don’t have to suck fumes. It provides me cover from my left flank. But I have to watch him turning right. In front of me. That would really hurt. Once. And then I would be all sprawled out. Asleep or an imitation of it.

That little triangle where Lafayette splits off to Centre appears off my left. I can’t see it, ‘cuz (remember) I am running with an elephant on my shoulder. I slow and suddenly know where my two drop-offs are. I’d been to this place before. A modeling agency for gangly girls.

I brake and my derailler clicks twice. The same snare. Click click. I pull up to a bent no-parking sign and flip my chain-lock off my handlebars. Just ahead, hunched over a blue newspaper rack, another cyclist struggles with his bike.

I throw my chin at him. In greeting. Mostly because I want to stare at his track bike. Or whatever they call those one-geared dealios some guys roll. This dude is not a messenger, but he is a dude. A hipster. The kind with new facial hair not invented yet. All retro and futuristic at the same time. His shirt says something ironic, sarcasm lost on me. I snap my lock shut and dig into my bag for my deliveries.

Outside, two girls stand smoking. The models have the same shape as their skinny mini cigarillos. As in none. You’ve come a long way, baby.

I hate to break this to you, but some models are not models. Not for beauty anyway. Not up close. Nervous stringy things they are. Maybe they know how to work the camera, but as I pass them, they look like egrets, all swept hair and bob-necked. Sorry girls, I have no egrets in saying it. . .

I walk through the lobby and pass a modely type who frowns at me. I see myself in a mirror, behind the front desk, and I frown at me too.

Old story: how they push up close to the walls of the elevators I enter, glistening from jamming down Broadway, cutting across 59th, ducking through Canal. It did not help that I was a sweater, as in one who sweats, not the wooly contraption. Even in the building that stole my heart, the Trade Center, they would push away. God bless ’em. All of them.

Two deliveries, I say to the secretary. She is not nervous, nor fidgety. And she looks normal, in size and temperament. Probably a model reject, but she smiles at me and I smile back. Thanks, she says, signing the slip with my sweaty pen.

Is my manager ready, one of the working girls asks her. She flairs her eyelids, the model, like a horse. The girls outside are fowl and this one is equine. What sort of zoo have I stumbled upon?

The secretary rolls her eyes at me, like we was tight, even though I don’t know her. Not yet, she replies to the model before turning to me. You stay safe, ai’ite?

You bet, I reply. And I step out of the office, out into the street. Towards the hipster still wrestling with the tricked cycle he probably just bought. I stop: I’ll hook this brotha up. His chain has jailbreaked and I crouch over it, trying to coax it back onto the gear. I got time, I just got an ai’ite from a receptionist. Almost nothing better.

Confessions of a NYC Bike Messenger (Part I) can be found here.

Worms Roxanne, Worms

I like writing, I love words. To sit inside a sentence and wait for you, the reader, to stumble upon this thought, ah this is the life. Each paragraph is a tactical movement, a flank, an ambush. Each post, an operational commitment.

Back when I wore kid’s pants, in my late 7s (and early 8s), I was fascinated with language, with wrapping words around my tongue. I mishandled them more than not. Although: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

During these early years, I was scared of the word grape. The last four letters spelled rape and I knew this was a bad thing. But I did not know the reason. So, I avoided grapes for some time. I hated eggplant in all its purple oddity, but I knew with eggs and plants, at least I was safe. Strange, but true.

Whenst young, I stumbled across a dirty joke book. I found a phrase I did not recognize and I fell prone to shouting it in delicate social situations. It began with: two-timing. I was not popular with my family that year.

A great writer (whose name escapes me) once said that in reading a novel, you are breathing the breath of the writer. My addition: you are eating his last meal, too. I did not brush my teeth, I confess, before writing this post. And I had red cabbage and bratwurst, so enjoy. . .

The blogpost title was nicked from Roxanne, the seminal 1987 Steve Martin movie. If not familiar, get yourself to the nearest YouTube.

Confessions of a New York City Bike Messenger

I am standing on the pedals of my 18-speed, riding towards Rockafella’ Centah, to go somewhere, to see someone, to pick something up. I pop a curb. Something caught. I catch. And I tumble forward and my bike stumbles with me. And I go from upright to the ground with no memory of the travel. I am lying on the sidewalk, dazed. For five seconds or five minutes and a guy passes me and looks.

Hey buddy, you need a hand, he asks, hardly stopping, because it is New York. But he talks to me and I think he is perhaps from out of town. Or maybe I can’t think straight, ‘cuz New Yorkers wear their heart on their sleeve. Underneath that watcha-want usually is a lemme-help.

No, I am fine. And he passes by without another word. Just fine, I say to his back, to no one.

I pull myself up and limp over to my bike. I fish for a quarter, because this is the 90s. I call dispatch from a payphone within mute earshot of my biff. I got dinged up. I wiped, I say to her, the hoarse girl I speak to all day long. Not too bad.  

Go home, my dispatcher says. She’s a former bike messenger. Rest. She knows the job. Fun and fast. Sweaty, windy. You had a good day. 18 packages.

I leave her and the phone and stand back up on my pedals. Not as tough as the last time I rode tall. But still I’m moving. And I pedal uptown. Slowly.

Because to get home, I gotta ride there. I can’t hop a cab. I gotta get get over the 59th Bridge through Long Island City to Astoria, Queens. But I don’t ride home. Not today all banged up. I roll my bike to the 7th Ave subway station. The one near Carnegie Hall.

Down the stairs and to the Queens N track: I don’t even wait. A subway screeches toward me, the air running before it anxiously clearing the way. The doors open, I let people in. And then I swing my bike inside. People give me space. Maybe because I am sweaty. Or that I got my right pants leg all hiked up. Not ‘cuz I’m a homeboy, but to keep the lube off my Adidas sweats. Black grease streaks my right calf. I look like a b-boy, whatever they are.

And the subway doors close and we enter a tunnel and I feel a stream of air whistling through the crack in the door. I’m tired and I can’t tell whether it’s hot or cold air, only that it’s different. The car shrieks and metal scrapes. And we clatta clatta clatta as we wind down along a long straightway before turning left and coming up into the dying light of a New York December.

I am tired and I don’t think about college six months behind me. Or the Navy, still in my future. Or 9/11, which has not painted my city, my adopted city. Yet.

I stand up. Out into the real air, I bump my bike down the stairs and ride it slowly towards my house. I rent in the Greek part of town, mostly because my brain lives in my stomach and gyros and souvlaki are my oxygen and water. And because I want the rest of my body to stick close to my brain and gut, those ruffians.

My bike lock falls off my handlebars (dammit) and I have to circle around to pick it up. If you need a good chain, get you the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Bike Chain Lock. Yeah, Fahgettaboudit is right. That lock is one tough motha.

Some of the other messengers ride around with the Fahgettaboudit draped ’round their necks, like they was LL Cool J. I tried it once and I discovered I was not LL. It felt ridiculous, I felt ridiculous. Like an oxen or how an oxen should feel if he hadda larger brain.

I pick up the lock and wrap it across my handlebars. I pass Uncle George’s on the corner and even though I am trying to save money, I sloop up the sidewalk and lock my bike down with my Fahgettaboudit. Souvlaki, time to get some.

Part II here.

Who Should Read This

I want active-duty and retired military to read this blog
Their fangirls and fanboys
Drudge readers
Everyone in my blogroll
Athletes: fighters and batters, duffers and swimmers
Scientists, doctors, the engineers, civil or not
And lawyers, because they can blog
Frickin’ plumbers
Because tradesmen make the world run
I want men who work with their hands, women who carve
Any artist, especially novel slaves and starry poets
Kids, not too young, none under three
Peace marchers and those running contract guns overseas
I want shifty-eyed rug salesmen
(The carpets, not the toupees. Okay, the toupee barkers too)
Folks in the government, if there exist a folk in the government
Retirees and those in hospitality
But most of all
I want
To be my reader
Wait a second
You already are
Ignore this post.

The Next Great Military Blogpost

Howdy Folks!

In reading some of your comments on the vet and military stories, I have been struck by the passion of this blog’s readers. I have an idea (brace for shock!) If anyone wants to send me a post on either vets or your family’s military tales, I will strongly consider them for publishing here. To be abundantly clear, I am speaking of veterans, not the kindly, country gentleman who sticks his arm, elbow deep, up a horse’s. . .

Before the military, I worked for five years as an editor for two, tiny literary agents. (Their bodies were of normal size, but their agencies hardly mapped.) I also toiled for the mighty McGraw-Hill in their standardized testing department as a proofreader and then style editor. Oddly, I can hardly dress myself every morning, yet my job title was style editor. Good thing I am in the Navy now and they yell/tell me what to wear. ‘Twer I still a civilian, no doubt I would motor obliviously ’round town, simultaneous both plaidy and stripey in my sartorial lean. Bottom line: I have labored with a fair number of authors and would have no problem lightly editing your work, for clarity, grammar, and misssspellinggs.

I invite my blogless (and smart, well-rested) readers to send me anything. You need not be in the American forces, but I don’t imagine I will humor any Taliban tales of yore. Not ‘dat ‘dem guys write much anyway. (Sorry, akhis. None of you brohams are the next Mark Twain. Marked slain, maybe.) In doing so, I agree to treat your piece with sensitivity and honor. I will not distort your story, but I reserve the right to hammer out the stray dent. If anything I do falls into the category of major revision, I will contact you before posting.

I can attribute your tale to your real name, or not. If you desire a pseudonym, my suggestion would be to use your service (or father’s service) followed by the number one. Such as MarineOne or SalvationArmyOne. Should you be a squid, you must start at Two, as in NavyTwo. I am afraid One is already spoken for, although the identity of said individual escapes me, and him, at the moment.

Please indicate names of you and your subject to the extent that you feel comfortable. For example: Today’s military yarn comes from NavyTwo, of 1001 Oaks, California. It starts with his grandfather, Private John Smith, on a cold and stormy night at Omaha Beach. As is my usual practice, all naval sea-stories, bilge-watery or not, will immediately find themselves at the top of my cyber pile.

I really am driving in the dark with this Mellow Jihadi thing. But to it I laugh, painting a smile, a groan I hope, on some of y’all. I would like to open the forum up, should you desire to send me something tasty. I am standing by, at rapt attention, for the Next Great Military Blogpost! (No pressure. . .)


PS Regarding that vet, veteran, veterinarian distinction alluded to above, may I present the following vulgarity? Question: What do you call an Amish farmer with his arm up a horse’s patootie? Answer: A mechanic!

PPS So sorry for the previous PS. After all my pleasant murmurings, entreaties to treat your tulip of a story with sensitivity, I gotta go and do you like this. Though I never promised myself kid gloves, so I’suppose s’okay to make an azz out of myself? (Yikes, I better stop.)

PPPS To end this post on such a note must agitate the great bloggers of yesteryear. Undoubtedly, they are turning in their graves, grinless at such an affront. (Clockwise for the bloggers of the American Academy and counter-clockwise for our friends, the Aussies. As for the literary blogger giants from the humid equator climes, which way they spin, is anyone’s guess. Comment below with tips, should you know. . .)

Zen and the Art of Not Blogging

I am standing in Jamba Juice, in uniform, staring at the wheatgrass. The shoots are yellow and mold encircles the roots. It is a disgusting thing that, wheatgrass. That wheatgrass especially, considering its color, its mold. I cancel my order and the girl with big eyes and the stained red, Jamba Juice apron nods knowingly. I don’t do yellow and moldy. I got a hard enough time doing wheatgrass green and fresh.

A voice interupts my revulsion. “You a Marine?”

I smile. Had I been insulted, complimented? “No, Navy,” I reply.

The man has white hair. He beams at me. “My son is graduating from Marine Bootcamp on Friday.”

“Oh.” He shows me a picture. The kid is overweight with big, Frodo hair. And Puka shells. “He’s probably going to look different now,” I tell the father.

“I’ll bet. That was a high school picture, from Colorado.” He laughs. “Do you know how to get to the Marine Base?”

I give him directions and wait for my pumpkin shake, the one I had nearly befouled with wheatgrass. A mother and a daughter hover behind me.

“Whatever,” the daughter says to her mother and I frown. I don’t understand that word. If I ever use whatever in this blog, dear reader, you have license to come and find me and kick my ass. My daily thoughts this last month have not been far from here. And even in Jamba Juice, I think of these pages. These non-pages. This screen. You know, this blog.

I reach for my pumpkin shake and make a promise to myself. To relax and to not measure success with numbers. To not blog in my mind when I am not blogging. And to blog when I am here, in front of my keyboard, screen.

I see the Marine’s father out in the parking lot later. “You want to follow me?” I ask. “I can take you to the gate.”

“Sure, thanks.” He pulls up behind my car in a white Toyota. We twist through the parking lot and turn out onto Midway Avenue. I switch lanes and we merge with the road running parallel to MCRD. I point out my window to the gate as we pass, but he stays on my tail. I point again and he makes the next right. He’ll have to flip a u-turn somewhere. He’ll figure it out. Marine (fathers): Delivered to the battle by the Navy as usual.

I roll to a red traffic light, waiting to turn around myself, to take me back to my base. A sun-tanned man with black dirt streaking his face holds a sign. I try not to look, but I do. And the sign reads: I need help. Hungry and without work. God bless you.

I reach around my backseat and grab the bag of Japanese snacks I had bought from my friend’s store. It is unopened and I roll down my window. He stares at me. For five seconds. Which feels like fifteen. Does he expect me to open my door and walk the four feet to him? What kind of American is this?

Finally, he stands up and takes the bag with a smile. I smile and understand that I do not understand. His story. What brought him to the streets. He looks healthy and about my age. “Thank you,” he says. He is tanner than me, but dirtier too. I want to remind him where he lives. That he is an American and he must do whatever it takes to get a job. That I have worked at three in the morning, driven forklifts, worked every meal for days. Washed dishes. But I don’t. Because maybe times are different now.

The light changes and I take off. I know I have a blogpost in these last moments and my mind starts running through the events. Then it switches to new readers, bloggers. And how I can link them. That thing about not blogging when I was not blogging? To only blog when in front of my laptop? Whatever. . .

Will We?

Are shades of tinpot dictatorships, banana republics, or backwater slums in our future? WIll we, in decades to come, look back at this time as the year we lost: the economy, the country, the world?

Can I voice my worries publicly? I wear the uniform, charged to support and defend. Still clinging white-knuckled am I to my thought of us, of the US, as exceptional, as brave, as unique.

I fear the world without us. So too should the world. For the second hand will always creep without a Zimbabwean government and their trillions. But how quickly and crazily would it slip without us?

The dollared UN, no matter how much I look askance, provides some service. And our military encourages stability. As for our currency and industry, it mortars brick bridges between countries. Despite what the bear growls, the dragon whispers, or the well-oiled ones believe.

How perfect it would be to laugh at this post in a year, in years! That my worry was simply worry and we rose and said we were risen and we were back before the world. As that which we were before. . .

Charleston, California

My plane floats down onto the Charleston runway, light and feathery. Aviators rate their landings and I make a note to tell our captain when I disembark. The man seated next to me gets up, breathing with a rasp. I had sirred him earlier, except he was not a sir. He had given me a little puff of attitude. Like he was doing me a favor by chatting.

As for the sirs, I can’t help myself. I do it to many when in civilian clothes. The janitor who takes out my office garbage gets a sir. But he earned his. He had glanced once at my khaki and called me Lieutenant with great pride. I could tell it was not his first time addressing someone by rank. He was Filipino and probably once part of the Flipino mafia of storekeepers and CSs, or whatever they called CSs back in the day.

He had pulled the Lieutenant out in long slablyes. Looo-tennnnn-annnnt, as if dragging a bunt down the third base line. Like that jerk Brett Butler used to do when he played for San Francisco. Before he joined the Dodgers and became one of my favorite players.

What I shoulda told the man seated next to me on the plane: addressing someone by sir is more respectful than addressing them by rank, despite what some idiot politician thinks. Addressing by rank acknowledges the playing field, but it also makes note that both of us are players. As for sir and ma’am, it is deferential, ask any enlisted Sailor. I chose to call the janitor sir. It gladdened us both.

I pass the cockpit and holler inside. “Great job, guys,” I say.

“Thanks,” two voices reply. I wonder if the pilots know I am referring to the landing, but it doesn’t matter now, does it?

I get my bag at baggage claim and wait as the rental-car lady rattles on over the phone. It gives me time to plan my tactics. I am tall, like six-four tall, and the little compact the government lets me rent isn’t big enough. I’ve traveled ten times in the last year and at half of the places, I’d dropped my stats (height) and my job (Navy) and they had upgraded me. But the lady is having none it. She hardly makes eye contact. I still call her dear and accept the lousy compact without argument. No way she was getting one of my extra special ma’ams.

Outside, I walk through the fick Carolina night. Fick like only Charleston is.  I drive to my hotel. There, I update my blog for hours, wondering where I am going to get the 28K in new hits to meet the 50,000 goal I had set for my first month. If not 50K, what am I going to do with the article I had written for newbie bloggers: 50 Ways to Getcho’ 50K?

In the morning, my back is sore from the flight and the powdered eggs have no taste. I am in uniform and happy, as I had finally gotten my ribbons mounted with thin ones. I guess I’ll have to throw out the greasy rack I was using before, the one with crooked devices, the E hanging off my pistol ribbon like anyone on the Titanic.

I finish my eggs and read the paper. I don’t give it much thought. For one, I am a blogger and bloggers slew the newspapers, right? The whole damn industry is laid tits up, they just don’t know it yet. . .

Work is work and I drive to it and taste my second real blast of military politics. This blog is no place to vent, but I am a Lieutenant, what do I care about politics? I wonder what kind of Commander I will make, whether I will make Lieutenant Commander. My first foray into command politic had been a bloody affair. An affair not for a blog post. . .

After a day of working on Navy equipment issues, I step outside and gasp. This city has air that you wear and it always fits. Around your neck, behind your ears, sliding between your toes.

I leave the workday behind me and cruise across the base in my piece of junk. I sit either the right distance from the steering wheel or the correct distance to the pedals. But not both. Some Korean engineer is laughing heartily at me. It’s mutual, I laugh heartily at me too.

I pull into a Quiznos and once again Charleston embraces me in its heat. S’nothing like California. Somewhere, someone forgot to add weather to Cali. Whenever I step outside in that place, it’s the same: room temperature.

I catch my refection staring at me in the window. My hair is well within regs, but at two inches, is shaggy for me. A barber shop looms and I look forward, not to the haircut, but to the conversation. I can speak to anyone, anywhere.  But only if it has purpose. Like a taxi driver or a barber. Don’t ask me, it just seems to work out that way.

The bells above announce my arrival and I stare around the shop. Everyone is black and I like it. One guy teeters at my uniform and I boom out to the one open-seated barber. “You have an free chair?” The barber nods.

“Mmm, you look sharp,” a large woman with a tattoo running across her dark chest murmurs to me. “Navy.”

“Thanks,” I reply, clunking into the chair and turning to the barber. “Hey sir, high and tight, three on top, skin fade.”

“We can do that,” he says approvingly.

We chat, first about sports. His brother-in-law is an NFL tailback. “He always eats good, but if he slips up, he’ll pop one of them Smooth Moves to get it out.”

I nod. “This your own shop?”

“Yeah, me and them.” He throws his chin at a couple of busy barbers.

“How are taxes?”

He gives me a don’t get me started, Shipmate look. You know, rolled eyes, flared nostrils. “High.”

I want to tell him that the black community’s support for Obama is misplaced. That there are black businessmen, like Herman Cain, who are far more appropriate for him to back. Or Allen West, not that I know the barber’s politics. But I am in uniform and the man is running a pair of clippers two inches from my eyes.

He spends forty-five minutes on my hair. The main reason I know: one-and-a-half episodes of “I Hate Chris” blares in front of us.

He holds up a mirror and surprises me. A rake with my face grins back. He has manscaped my upper sideburns. I am a Sailor, not a golf course, I want to tell him, but I stay mute. I look again and like it, knowing it will keep the Charleston sweat off me.

He sprays and then lathers on four or five products. Pomades, gels, spritzes, and alcohols. “Twenty dollars,” he says and I wonder if I’m getting rolled the white-guy price. Still, it’s a great haircut. I give him 25.

I leave, buy dinner at Quiznos, and slip through the cooler Charleston night. It no longer embraces me in its sweaty clamp.

I pull into my hotel parking lot, my hair higher, tighter. In front of me an orange plate shines back from a truck’s license plate holder. It reads: EAT BEEF. I nod my manscaped head. Eat beef, I can do that.