Saturday, June 30, 2007

Holiness Unto the Lord

Bust a Move

Yesterday driving home from work on N. Broad, I stopped at a red light. The other drivers and I were treated to a dance by this man:

It was a poised left-to-right shuffle,* slow but with lots of attitude, culminating in a sassy ass-smack. (He held his Rally's bag the whole time.)

I love Broad.**

* Not the Cupid Shuffle, but not so different. (That's a great link, by the way.)

** Sarah and I were discussing, just the other day, whether it was Broad Avenue or Street. It's both at different points.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

...of Two Cheese Maestros

a) Neil Diamond

b) Tom Jones
Place your vote.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Things I've Seen Around the Neighborhood Recently

  • More skateboarding.
  • Owls flying overhead in the evening.
  • People living/squatting in houses with gutted walls and tarped roofs.
  • New trash heaps in front of previously neglected houses—the familiar post-diluvian detritus: old albums, report cards, letters, dolls, clothes, furniture.
  • An under-the-radar open-air auto repair "shop" run out of a FEMA trailer on the otherwise empty block two streets over.
  • A lady in an outfit that struck me as a tad saucy for Sunday morning (matching turquoise halter top and bubble skirt, four-inch heels) crossing herself as she passed in front of a church on the way to the corner store.
  • The Hondurans around the corner playing soccer in the adjacent empty lot.
  • The filming of a scene from the newest Tommy Lee Jones movie in the flooded-out church down the block.
  • Neighbors gardening. (I like to think we started a trend.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

...of Two Weevils*

a) Elton John

b) Billy Joel
Place your vote.

* So say I.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mama's Got a Brand New Bag

There's a lady I say "hello" to every evening while walking Penny who has a marked resemblance to James Brown. It's kind of disconcerting.

Things I Like About This Town

A Sunday morning brunch can, without too much effort, extend to eight in the evening.*

* And the morning champagne fizz can, without too much effort,
extend to the afternoon Sazerac.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Monkeys Roam Free

A little bird sent me this tale of monkeys. It reminds me of monkeys I've seen at zoos:
  • When I was four, we moved to Kenya. Early in our stay, we went to the Nairobi zoo.* As we walked along the main path, a band of monkeys scurried over a fence and across directly in front of us, then over another fence and away.** What a zoo. (Hah!)
  • I once saw a large gorilla chew up a banana, press his face against the glass directly opposite a small girl, and schmoodge the banana out in a nasty chewed up pancake. It seemed like a remarkably pissy thing to do.
  • In college, a group of us took a day trip to the National Zoo. On the brightly colored map was a picture of "Monkey Hill". That sounded good. We excitedly made our way. When we arrived, we found a raggedy mound with a couple of forlorn monkeys intently picking each others asses. Cotton candy couldn't mask the bitter taste of disappointment
Monkeys (and apes) seem like trouble.

* As a four-year-old, I was surprised to learn that tigers don't live in Africa. Then we went to the zoo. There was a tiger there. I was confused.

** Later in Kenya, I saw plenty of wild monkeys (I once had an inadvertent alpha-staredown with a large male baboon), but that first encounter made a strong impression.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Once Waited on Marilyn Manson

I once waited on Marilyn Manson:
  • His people called ahead requesting a "VIP table". It was a slow night. I looked around the restaurant. There were no VIP tables but plenty of empty tables. "Sure."
  • They came, the whole band plus a giant body guard.
  • I started to take the order of the person nearest me. Everyone quickly pointed to Marilyn. I took Marilyn's order.
  • He ordered an elaborate multi-course meal and a Coke.
  • Everyone else ordered the same elaborate multi-course meal and a Coke.
  • He barely touched the first course. He ordered another Coke.
  • Everyone else barely touched the first course (except the bodyguard). They ordered another Coke.
  • He barely touched the second course. He ordered another Coke.
  • Everyone else barely touched the second course (except the bodyguard). They ordered another Coke.
  • This went on for some time...
  • They each drank six Cokes.
  • They didn't talk.
  • They didn't smile.
  • Marilyn paid with a credit card. It had his real name, Brian Warner
  • He left a crappy tip.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

...of Two Weevils

a) Bono

b) Sting
Place your vote.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Freak Magnet

I am, by nature, a freak magnet. Freaks, ranging from mild eccentrics to full blown lunatics,* tend to engage with me. There are two reasons for this (that I'm aware of).
  1. My entrenched, Virginia-bred politeness makes it difficult for me to overtly blow people off. Freaks sense this.
  2. I kind of like freaks. Freaks also sense this. (Freaks may be freaky, but they're generally also pretty smart and are often remarkably astute at detecting where there freakishness will be well received or at least tolerated).
The downside, of course, is that, fundamentally, freaks is freaks is freaks. A bit of casual freaky banter is all well and good, but you gotta draw the line. When I was younger I got sucked into endless quagmires of tortuous freak-chat, patiently listening as various weirdos opined about the merits of industrial hemp or lamented the prohibitive cost of bathing in cottage cheese.

I'm all better now. My robust arsenal of freak-deflection techniques includes:
  • Careful management of eye contact
  • The polite but non-committal "hmm..."
  • Pressing engagements elsewhere
  • Fabricated cell-phone calls
  • Feigned deafness
It's working pretty well. How do you deflect freaks? (Or if you're a freak, how do you thwart our techniques?)

* to perverted squirrels

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pervsy the Disconcerting Squirrel

Yesterday, our pleasant Father's Day outing in the park was interrupted by a shrill screeching from above. It was a squirrel. It had crawled out onto an overhead branch and was fervently (furiously?) gesticulating at us. Was it angry? Were we encroaching on its nut-horde? Had it been kidnapped by a villainous gang of rogue squirrels? Was it wishing me a happy Father's Day?

None of the above. It then stretched itself out along the branch and began rhythmically jutting its pelvis up and down in regular staccato intervals, accompanying each jut with its strange cry—"qweaah!... qweaah!... qweaah!..."

Oh. Should we be flattered?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

If the Cat's Hissing, That's Bad

True, they deny me sleep, and can be rather noisy, and always want a bite of my ice cream, and sometimes bump into me while I'm drinking coffee and spill it on me, and they seem to have a remarkable ability to distribute a huge amount of stuff all over the house in a remarkably short amount of time but no corresponding ability to re-concentrate it back where it came from, and they're sort of expensive to maintain, and they want to grow their hair out but don't want to brush it, and they refuse to believe the dog doesn't like to be sat on, and if the cat's hissing, that's bad, and no, breakfast does not include a dessert course, but—I have to say—those kids are pretty cute, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.*

Happy Father's Day to all my fellow padres. (And thanks to the famille for my lovely new cocktail shaker and other sundry goodies.)

* Except when they're really bad.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Proactive Honky Tonk Sputum

We once had an office-survey-contest thingy. One question was What is your least favorite word? I said "proactive". (I said my favorite was "honky tonk".)* The next day we met with the boss. He said "proactive" about a dozen times in half an hour. I went into a secret tizzy and discreetly changed my least favorite word to "sputum".**

What is your least favorite word?

* The favorite / least favorite word questions gave people a lot of trouble. Far and away the most popular answers were the decidedly simpy: favorite word, "yes"; least favorite word: "no". (Really? Really? If I were to ask you, "Would you like a heaping serving of scorpions?", how would you choose to answer? Hmm?) The worst pair of answers was: favorite word, "Confederate"; least favorite word, "Union" (given by the guy with the big bushy mustache who spent his weekends doing Civil War reenactments). This response was both generally kind of weird and creepy and remarkably impolitic given that the owners of the company were black.

** "Sputum" is actually a wonderful word—though it's sort of wonderfully awful.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We Are the World

We all know those conversations where one person meets another person from somewhere else and they run through their respective lists of acquaintances looking for a match.* I was privy to one recently that went something like this:
"You live in Berlin? I've got a friend there." "What's his name?" "[so and so]. He's a musician." "Hmm... where's he play." "Usually at the [such and such]" "Mmm... I don't think I know him. Does he ever play at [another such and such]?" "Hmm... I'm not sure."
They worked on down the line, finally hitting a match:
"Oh, you know [another so and so]? I know him."

"Yeah, I know [another so and so]."
And then:
"...He's kind of an asshole."

International harmony, it's a beautiful thing.

* Is there a term for such conversations? There should be. Let's make one.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Urban"* Skateboarding

Back when I was a kid falling off skateboards, it was mainly a white thing. Not everyone who did it was white, but that was the general milieu. White. Middle-class. Sort of suburban-ish.

Over the years I've seen plenty of wheeled trends sweep through the decidedly un-white, un-middle-class, un-suburban neighborhoods around here: scooters, go-carts, pocket bikes, etc. But skateboards? Definitely not.

The times they are a-changin':
  1. I saw the first neighborhood kid on a skateboard a few weeks ago. The armchair-sociologist lazily dozing in the back of my brain snorted, mumbled something about statistical anomalies, and fell back asleep.
  2. I saw another kid on another skateboard. The armchair-sociologist harumphed about bell curves and put a pillow over his head.
  3. I saw a whole group of teens a couple of blocks over practicing tricks together—Ollies and other arcane shenanigans—up and down past the flooded-out houses. Down the street, a younger kid practiced the same tricks by himself in his driveway.
  4. Yesterday a kid skated past in an oversized t-shirt that said "THUG" on the back.
It's official. Within the narrow confines of my world, it's a Thing.

Is this a localized phenomenon? Is there some broader trend?** Minions, bring me data-points!

* This "urban"-codespeak is a confusing business. If I create a radio station exclusively devoted to playing songs about or pertaining to cities, what format would it be? (And, tangentially—just because I'm curious—what would be on its play list?)

** Is this old news? Has there already been some BET feature you will politely point me to? Will I have to mutter some embarrassed apology about not having cable? Is the New York Times about to kill it with a large glossy article in its weekend magazine?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Missie-Mama-Morph

Okay, we've had our fun with "mutton dressed as lamb". (And the sight of an adult woman zealously mimicking the hyper-trendy styles of her thirteen-year-old daughter is undeniably silly.) But I'm not saying everyone over twenty should dress like aging maw maws and paw paws. As Aristotle, the greatest of all stylists, taught us, moderation is key.

There is a phenomenon I've dubbed the Missie-Mama-Morph (sometimes seen in wealthier slices of Southern society) where a young woman, having married (and perhaps had her first child), suddenly transforms into her mother's stylistic-doppleganger.* One imagines that she woke up some morning, opened her door, and found a mob of highly polished matrons politely chanting, "One of us. One of us. One of us." as they bound and gagged her and whisked her off to the stylist they all share. ("You'll love her! She does wonderful things with color...")



The long, natural hair is cropped, coiffed, and dyed into a uniform, blond, helmet-like bob. The make-up thickens. Hoops and pendants are replaced with diamond or pearl studs. The attire turns moneyed casual—Ann Taylor or high-end exercise wear. And voila! A twenty-eight year old woman suddenly looks forty-eight.

It's kind of creepy.

* Though my focus here is on the ladies, there is a male analog: the guy a few years out of college doing his best to look and act like a middle-aged banker. But I haven't figured out the snappy catch-phrase. (Pissie-Papa-Porph doesn't quite work.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It's Getting Hot in Herre

As I sat here just now eating my tacos heaped with sliced jalapeno, I thought of an incident from when I was a much younger man, far less knowledgeable about the ways of our world.

I'd been cooking dinner, something spicy. Later, I went to the bathroom and shortly thereafter was smitten with a searing, near-debilitating pain of the most personal sort. In something of a panic, I raced through possible causes, racking my brain for an explanation.* But I'd been a good boy, innocent of the sort of indiscretions that typically lead to such a quandary. Oh, the misery!

Only after plunging into an ice-cold bath, as the pain dissipated and my mind cleared, did the answer become obvious. Oh... the jalapenos.

I wash my hands very thoroughly after my taco lunches.

* Sarah was also very interested in hearing an explanation.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007



Grandma* is the queen bee of the neighborhood slide-n-gliders. But she's no happy drunken Buddha—she's just mean. She's almost always ornery, either because:
  1. She hasn't had enough to drink.
  2. She's had too much to drink.
During, her quieter moments she may dolefully moan as she shuffles down the street in her slippers, "uh... uh... uh...", or mutter some bitter monologue, "Ought to put a diaper on that baby. That baby smells like poo.... I need a cigarette."

In her more expansive moments, her voice echoes off houses and resonates through walls, interrupting conversations for a block around as she berates her perceived offender, perhaps telling them exactly what part of their anatomy stinks and urging them to wash it.**

It keeps things lively.

* We call her "Grandma" even though we don't know for a fact that she is one. But from her age and the large brood of kids around the house, it seems more than likely. If she is a grandma, she's a grandma from hell.

** She does seem to have a lot to say about other peoples odors. Maybe she just has a highly refined sense of smell, bless her heart.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Slang Sling: Nuttin' but Mutton

Sarah likes
"mutton dressed as lamb"
referring to ladies of a certain age attempting to maintain excessively youthful styles and affectations. I like it too. I like the whole breed of colorfully oblique insults.*

What've you got?

* They come in handy for surreptitious snots such as myself.

My Oh Nezzz...

We've been musing on the mother-tongue. Let's muse on the great-grandmother-tongue:

Time was, a lot of people around here spoke French, Creole French which is its own beast full of archaisms and corruptions (any newcomer who's tried to master the idiosyncratic pronunciations of our local street names will know exactly what I'm talking about), but French nonetheless. In time French declined and English ascended,* but curious traces of our linguistic past linger. These traces fall into two distinct categories: extra-Frenchy and extra-un-Frenchy.
Extra Frenchy: Scraps of French still float around at family gatherings: it's still common to hear "cher" as an affectionate diminutive. And certain typically anglicized French words are given the original French pronunciation: "mayonnaise" is pronounced "MY-oh-NEZ".

Extra Un-Frenchy: Certain typically French-icized French words are given a bastard English pronunciation: "armoire" is pronounced "armor", like the stuff knights wear. (This one comes up a lot. Our family is lousy with armoires.)
Don't ask me why, it's a complicated business. I assume it has something to do with the curious convections of our local linguistic gumbo. Though maybe it's far simpler.

Help, is there a linguist in the house?

* By my grandparents' generation English had achieved dominance, but most people had at least some conversational French fluency. (And the shelves of their house were full of old books in French. I currently have a garbage bag full of the water-swollen, moldy old things waiting to be picked through.) By my father's generation, it had further waned. (Supposedly the maw-maws would gossip in French and didn't want the children to understand.) And today, alas, I'm left with nothing but my poorly remembered scraps from high school.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Where Angels Fear to Tread

I find it curious that the neighborhood wastrels/weirdos are often the most forthcoming with their advice.

Our street has its share of foot-traffic, back-and-forth slide-'n'-gliders ambling along to the Walgreen's or Popeye's or wherever they score their fix of choice. They tend to be a chatty bunch, and any front-yard activity is the subject of much discussion. Whatever the topic—be it lawn care, child rearing, or auto maintenance—they have have an opinion. And they're going to share.

One wonders if folks who can't maintain two consecutive days of employment—or the finer points of basic hygiene—or a straight line while they walk—are the best qualified to offer guidance. But maybe they expend all their wisdom on others and have none left for themselves.

Bless their hearts.