Monthly Archives: March 2012

Rubber chicken with Mr. Kissenger. Yes a dream.

     Well, maybe not everyone’s dream… Some would prefer ‘Brad Putz’, whoever, these days. But I don’t claim to write my own dreams, and this one lasted all night. And I feel a need to document it, for the amusement of Xangans everywhere.

Folding tables and paper table-cloths stretched to the dream-horizon in both directions, and I was seated directly across from, obviously, Henry Kissinger. Though not obviously to every guest, as you will see.

The Players:
Me: Most of my dreams seem to explore some emotional challenge. This one was a test of my ability to finesse the presence of a Household-Name, to his satisfaction, and that of the random crowd.
Mr. Henry Kissinger; Looking worried the whole time. I can only surmise that he was weighing the pluses of an edible meal versus the down-side of having to re-enunciate his whole historical Geschicte  to a gang of unpredictable strangers.
Son/brother: Yes, my younger brother, ‘D’ and my oldest surviving son, ‘I’ are always a confused amalgam/mess in my dreams. Even in real life, if not careful, I call them by each other’s names. No idea why. Perhaps they are both Jungian competitors for my plan to kill my Dad and mate with my Mom? Speaking of which:
Mama: Oblivious to geo-politics as always, her role was to put an acceptable chicken on the table. Along with the ‘help’, equally aloof, and for whom recognizing a key player from the world’s negotiating history was about as comprehensible as a Modem to a Duck.
And so my dream-jobs were as follows:
1) Ascertain, not in so many words, whether Son/Mom recognized the Guest. I don’t recall my skillful challenge-questions, only that it became quickly clear that, to them, the Guy was just some random ‘hairy-eyebrow’ fellow with a German accent… and a suit he probably hadn’t bought  at Sears. Onward…
2) To do my sound-asleep best to help this man, whom I genuinely respect, to feel comfortable. I think I led off with: “Probably not the first ‘Vielicht-Vogel’ (possibly-chicken?’) you’ve had the pleasure of giving eine Augenblick?” (an eye-blink‘)” Thus re-assuring him that quasi-faux-Deutch wouldn’t be a problem, in extremis. Hey, it’s a dream. Sue me.
He smiled, which was a good sign. I adjusted the pillow for the long haul.
And yes, I have No-Idea’ why I dream this stuff. I had e-mailed my brother the night before that our negotiations for a sibling division of a communal property reminded me of the Geneva disputes over the shape of the table. Perhaps that was the cue. Gehe vays?
Anyway, with all the other ear-shot guests at a loss as to what small-talk to exchange with this foreigner, I launched into a Complex Question, which I’d estimate took about two  hours, dream-time, to express. I asked the veteran diplomat across the table, while he tried to feign love for the cole-slaw, about his thoughts regarding our current ‘peace-partners’. Specifically, to what extent, (or not), they hold themselves to some ‘duh’ basic Socratic mantra, where when the facts are obviously not in their favor, they maturely admit such and accept the Truth.
Mister ‘K’ seemed to appreciate the question, but at the same time glanced side-wise before answering, Any hint of some previous expertise in the matter might telegraph to the feast-goers
that he was ‘special’.
My son gave me a ‘WTF?’ look. Ditto my Mom, for whom the Chicken, its flavour, et. al, was, hands-down, the only ‘uber-alles’ on this occasion.
Finally, he opined, conspiratorialy:
“Ja,natürlich. Sie hab’n keine Ahnung!” (‘Of course. They haven’t a clue.’)
My Mom, no stranger to German, overheard and thought only about her poultry: over-cooked/under-cooked?
All in all, I decided that I’d done my part for Peace in the Middle East for one night. It was going on 4:30 AM. A quick break, to piss, and I forgot the whole escapade. Until just now.

Henry is already on a flight to Frankfurt, or Dulles. I may learn more tomorrow night. Thanks, meanwhile, for your attention./JS/ Tel Aviv


Life on Mars: It’s not for everyone

    Astronauts are training for the mission to Mars as we speak, but take it from ‘someone in the know’, their major  worry is not ‘being there’. That part will be ‘piss-your-pants exciting’, for anyone who loves visiting new travel destinations.
    No the big problem is in-flight-boredom. Our current propulsion technologies give cabin-time estimates of over a year, spent mainly watching the planet Earth grown teenier.
And ‘Ain’t it a small world?’ jokes among the crew will only kill so many months of mute tedium.
And therefore, without much media fanfare, NASA initiated the ‘EPIC’ program about a year ago. And I am proud, if that’s the word, to be a part of it.
Short for Extreme Poetry Immersion Chamber’, I now know quite a bit more about the training module, there in the spacious compound at Huntsville. A mock-up of the crew-compartment, it is totally sound-proof, as befits the deadening silence of inter-planetary space. In fact, that was the reason they gave to fly me to their own studios to record my poetry and commentary. I’d offered to save the government money, but you know, $1000 toilet seats and all, they insisted on their perfect zero background noise.
Dick Thorenson, veteran audio engineer with the US space agency, sat me down in the booth. A Sennheiser, a wind-screen, a pair of headphones a bit more serious than my Radio shack version at home, and a cue from the console, and we were On the Air.
I finished the poems, and Dick stopped the taping for a moment to tell me to, like, ‘talk about ’em, explain ’em…’ in his words.
Talk about a compliment! I tried to kinda summarize my poetic theories in succinct sentences, but he kept waving his hand; ‘More’. And so, an hour and a half later, I’d estimate, in the middle of a particularly complex sentence, Dick finally gave me the hand-across the throat ‘Cut’ sign.
He told me to wait a second, while he opened the door to the room with the recording console and shut off the machines, waking up the Sound Engineer in the process. Groggy, the fellow gave me a thumbs-up, and I was led to the office to get a check. Three-hundred bucks + airfare, and a chance to be a small part of history. I felt like a million bucks on the flight home.

I just wish I hadn’t Googled ‘EPIC/ NASA’(!)
My verses, and even more-so, the attendant explanatory blah-blah, were chosen by a panel, according to Wiki, for their ‘soporific, mind-numbing character’ (!) I quote:
“The Module’s task is to acclimatize the personnel to repetitious, essentially meaningless noises, to attempt to explore their capacity to remain alert and functional in the face of this unavoidable aspect of inter-planetary…” I quit reading at that point, a broken man. I’m not sure I even want to cash the check. Somebody will know. Tellers will talk. My career is shot.
    Dick did email me a week or so ago, since we promised to stay in touch, that at least one astronaut-trainee, a combat veteran ex-USAF, had quit/resigned from the program as a result of my ‘significant contribution to the selection regieme.’ Yeah, they probably woke him up to tell him he wuz ‘outta there’.
“I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit here with a digital thermometer up my ass listening to this idiot drone on about vowels!” were his last words as he collected his things and left, on his way back home to Kansas. At least that part’s not in the Wiki. Yet.

Poem 714

An over-eager ogre bought an
auger at a sale
Drank  Little-leager Lager®, watched his
logger data fail

A less-than meagre cougar got Pete
Seeger out on bail
‘An overt egret yogurt’ gets thumbs-up
in The Daily Mail

Excerpt from my commentary:
“.. and so, yeah, like, you know, with the Kiki and the Bouba, the sounds of the words, their vowels especially, have this kind of primal essence of their own. I mean, ‘Lloyd leads a load of loud, lewd lads from Leeds to Lodz’ just say it out loud, or even “Luke likes to look at the leak in the lake, but he’s out of luck; lacks the key to the lock.” And sometimes they even happen in order, AEIOU, long and short, like in
For the sake of some saki, I seek just one second
My psyche is sick, and I can’t soak my socks
There’s no succor in a sucker
So for the flavour I savour
Just fill up my sack and I’m gone
Now, I’m not sure why this should all be so intensely fascinating. The Greeks, beginning in the third century…”

Synesthesia *and* Perfect Pitch? Hey, thanks guys, for the head’s up!

     Woulda been a nice touch if someone had clued me in at an earlier age.
On the number=color thing I do remember when it became clear, finally, that I was a weirdo.
Second grade. Teacher asked what’s seven times twelve? and I answered ‘yellow ‘n-blue, of course!’ Must’ve been in a rare confident mood. Dumb looks all around. I covered my tracks with ’84’ but asked my ‘fiance’ at the time, Sandra Milligan, at recess, why the teacher was ‘being mean to me’. She tried to tactfully explain that numbers are numbers, and colors are colors, and never the twain… Whatevah, she had no idea what I was talking about.
So I dumped her. But none of the other proto-chicks showed any understanding of numbers, (and letters too, ugh!) having their god-given colors either, and so I spent my final year, 2nd grade, in the public education system an outcast, wondering if I was perhaps the Return of the Messiah I’d heard some talk about.
erfect pitch was equally hard on me. My Mom probably had it to some degree, ditto her Dad. Since then I’ve learned what it is, through self-diagnosis, and now know that my first-born, too soon departed, suffered also from the curse/blessing, as does my cousin. But in those days nobody wanted to talk about it. Especially not to a little precocious kid who has colors for every note on the stupid piano. Admit something like that publicly and before you know it he’s gonna ‘think he’s smart’, which in our culture was a sin roughly equal to being a serial killer.

Flash-forward: As of 2012, I know everything  Google knows about my ailments. Kandinsky had it, as did Rimsky-Korsakov. Great, now that it’s too late to e-mail them.
And surprisingly, or not, all I really wanna know anymore is the damn mechanism for the beasts; how in the Hell does my brain count vibrations and distinguish between, say, 440 wave-crests per second and 440.5? And why is the number three light green? Yes, ever since I held up three baby fingers in front of my face at age one? It could no more be red than the sky orange, for god’s sake! So what’s the deal with that?

I’d love to hear a physics/neurology explanation of my perfect pitch and synesthesia, but in the big picture, it’s prolly more important to figure out why no one wanted to speak up, to warn me, and Beatrice, about Life in all its you-know-whats. Not that we woulda given less milk. Jus sayin…

“Bob’s having Fun!” I don’t like the sound of that…

     I was.. (Sorry, “So I wuz…“) cutting evil asparagus at 5:30 this morning. It grows here everywhere  the lazy local natives allow it to. Kills trees, makes the supposed Promised Land look like back-water Alabama in the throes of a Kudzu epidemic.
And I asked myself, out loud for effect: ‘So, what-ya doin’, sunshine?’
Had to think about it for a while. I mean, a guy asks you a serious question, deserves a serious answer, no? 
And in a flash it hit me:“I’m having fun!” I said, in the voice of a Comic-book Ad I saw once; it portrayed
‘Bob’, surrounded by nubile 50’s chicks, X-ray spec discretely perched on his imposing forehead like Warren Beatty in You’re so Vain‘.
And from the back page of the book, I was being told, not in so many words, to send my child-like life savings, $3.19 at the time, to somewhere in Texas,  and then I’d ‘have fun’, Just like Bob.
I didn’t, which is probably why my childhood was such a wash, fun-wise.

Anyway, I don’t even like the sound of the phrase, hence this post.“Fun” I get, but why ‘having’? To me, “Having” is for ‘having a stroke’, or a conniption-fit, or having the neighbors in the next trailer-home over for burgers on the Fourth, just to see if they’re as dumb as they sound.
And so, having turned up my nose at the expression in English, it behooves me ( if I want to be an ass about it, or a donkey) to check other languages. Surely their ‘Bob‘s have fun also, even though they do have to take courses to learn how to talk to each other about it in foreign tongues.
1) Hebrew: Strike-out. We don’t even have a progressive (‘-ing’) tense. There’s a verb for ‘enjoy’ but it sounds so formal, plus I don’t even know how to use it in the first person anymore here. ‘Fun’ we got: ‘Kef’. Kids talk about it. Nah, too juvenile. If backed into a corner, I’d tell the guy that I’m ‘ooh’say ha’eem’-ing. (‘Making a life’.) But it’s really not how I’d describe killing asparagus if I had a choice. Next.

2) German: Surely the fun-loving Aryans have a plethora of expressions? Let’s try Google:
‘Ich habe Spaß’
.’ Yeah, figgered. They’re stuck in the same rut as us in English, ‘cept their word for fun sounds like ‘Bob’ but with a Swedish-chef ‘sh’ tacked on. Pass. (Oh, the ‘B’ is an ‘SS’? Well, too late, sauer-kraut…
3) French:
Je m’amuse Ha. ‘I’m amusing myself.’ Sorry, sounds vaguely masturbatory. Auf wiedersehen,Froggie-breath.

4) Spanish: Google claims Me estoy divirtiendo. Somehow I never heard a native speaker say that. Must be a diversionary tactic. I’m sure someone here can tell me what real Latinos say when they’re having some kind of fun.

5) And finally, from left field, some unknown language, chosen to add diversity to this post. Lets’ see… hmm.. ok, Polish, why not?:
Jestem zabicie szparagi
OMG! I looked at this phrase and felt an electric shock of kinship, as if perhaps somewhere in my lineage a smiling Polish bride, complete with a retinue of well-wishers shusshing the flies off her bodice, was telling me from beyond the grave; ‘Paisano! You are one of us.
So Polish, thank the loving gods.
All in all it was a a productive experience; this Q & A before dawn. Some questions apparently can only be answered in a language which embraces the the essential human thrill of … well.. killing asparagus. Perhaps at first as a metaphor, but over time, solidly entrenched as standard vocabulary.
Ok, back to Herbicide.

Dear Beth: Thanks for the peas♥. (Sorry about the Ads!)

     My Dear Beth: {sp? Venison, the Natural}

     I want to thank you… {Hallmark}
for the, (ok, let’s call em the ‘small round objects’)… (Nice try, Sherlock. geometry_online 4}
…which you sent me. {Fed-Ex: the Logistical Solution}
I looked carefully this morning… {Optica:_4_ur_I’s}
…and it appears that 99% of them… { Join the fight!}
…have already raised their little heads above the surface. {}
This was such a sweet thing you did for me. {‘Saccharine, the modern sweetener!’}
Truly, God seems to be blessing our little endeavor here in the Holy Land. {Oy! Get Right with Israel in Biblical Prophesy: the Truth!/ See following page for much more…}
Perhaps I should not have  had any doubts… {U2- ‘Losing my Religion’ click here for free download}
…but lately, everything I do seems to backfire. {Chilton Auto manuals: click on your make ‘n model for price!}
At any rate… {digital velocity/throughput, we have it!}
…I couldn’t have done it without your help. {‘Seven Steps to a More confident You}
And so when I get a chance… { Jokes direct to your Inbox}
…I will send you a photo… {No file attached! Send anyway? Ok?/ Cancel?}
…of the progress… {‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ @ ‘Progress #9’, when you seriously need a Pea!}
…of my green garden. {}
Just don’t pay attention… {‘A-D-D’.org We are here for you. Remember?}
…to all the weeds. {
Yours truly, {Find Ur Tru_luv @
Yonatan Solberg {RootsWeb.comSearch your ancestors. Free!}

A new high, or low, at Gmail

     Yes of course they read your letters while you type them. We knew this.
Write ‘How now, brown cow?’ and you get ads for ‘Artificial Inseminators Near You! even before you hit ‘Send.’
But now it just got better. Or worse? Yes, I’m taking a ‘poll’. (Cue illiterate ‘poll-dancer’s‘ ads. Uh-huh, with the extraneous apostrophe. GIGO, as they say.)

See, I just wrote a short note to my friend/rental supervisor, and mentioned that I was ‘sending him a file.’
I hit ‘Send’ having blithely forgotten to attach the thing. And Google came creepily to my Rescue with this pop-up, a new one for me at least. Take a look:

The Reader needs to know that I routinely forget to attach the file I’ve just talked about. Half of my out-going messages start: ‘Oops, forgot to send the file, duh. But now, luckily, it shall never happen again. Neither will my cattle go un-bred, nor my poles be unadorned by topless dancers with bottomless whatevahs. Thanks, Google.

So you’re probably already asking “What’s next?”
Well yes, I do have a few more that I’ve heard are ready to be launched as we speak…

1) Let’s say you write: “I’ll tell you the story about my Mom and her new  gay Armenian lover in a second, but first:  Hasn’t it been warm lately, blah blah blah…?” Then try to send that without spilling all the gory details to your BFF. You’ll get THIS:

2) You begin a letter:
‘Dear PP&L, my trusted, caring partner serving my residential electricity needs for over 70 years:
Go fuck yourselves, and stick your incomprehensible on-line statements back up your ass where they came from!’

You can try to hit Send, but Google is there on duty. This pop-up reminds you not to send mixed messages, I guess:

3) And finally, as @blonde_apocalypse found out, (or will, after Xanga starts with the ‘smarter than y’all’ snooping over the shoulder), don’t expect to write THIS, without consequences:
“So anyway, I bought a book in the airport at Tel Aviv before a flight to the States. Three years later(!) when we finally landed, I’d finished the dumb thing seven times, the guy in the next seat had grown a beard, and my little daughter, born somewhere over Cyprus, was entertaining the passengers with Shirley Temple imitations.”
Google, partnered with Xanga, to the rescue:

There ya go. Brave New World, isn’t it.

Oops, forgot to add the pix. Thanks Goo-goo.

WU: So that’s what it was. I thought it was a virus, got a blizard of pop-ups!
Me: Whadya write, Wu?
WU: I wuz breaking up with my girl. Typed:  “My dear loving sweetheart! I’m attaching a picture of our cute little pussy-cat, but first I wanna tell you an amazing story about what happened this morning on the bus. Well, under the bus. You probably wouldn’t get the joke. In fact, now that I think of it, I’m pretty damn sick of you and your dumb-ass cat. I been feeding the thing for like, 150 years and do you ever thank me? I hate you, tell the truth. P.S: your cat is dead.”
Me: Yeah, you hit em all there, buddy. Sorry about that. At least you got the
dating-site ads now, right on the page.

Five Pleasantries you meet on the way to the Super

File under: Berlitz/Hebrew/Greetings/Whassup?
     On a day like this, 80 degrees (F)outside  after freezing rain for three weeks everyone here is seemingly in  Muy-convivial Mode. Even on a normal day I can’t get to the Supermarket without acknowledging at least a half dozen townspeople, but today was over-the-top to a blog-worthy degree. A hidden camera-man following my progress would have asked himself whether this show of stereotypical Our-Town camaraderie was staged: I mean, the Mayor, the Postman, the Doctor, the Plumber, the Guest-worker, the Drug dealer, and the Rabbi all within five blocks? C’mon, nobody lives like that anymore? Or do they? Well yes, in a small-town Berlitz Paradise like mine  we keep the 50s B&W TV cliche alive with a vengeance.
Let’s get to the fun part: Essential Israeli Pleasantries.

1) The Doctor:Haim Kupperman, mid 30s, his eyes radiating practiced concern but also a weariness probably acquired during 30-hour shifts during internship, crosses the street from the local Clinic. His choice is the standard: ‘Mah shlom’kha?” Literally, ‘What is your state of peace?’ Generic, but, like a medium-grey pants-suit, always appropriate. I respond by pretending to check my pulse, then answering, ‘Na’chon le’ach’shav, be’seder.’ (‘So far, so good’, roughly. He smiles and hurries off to his destination, and I to mine, only to see the Mayor strolling towards me:

2) The Mayor: His Honor, Itzhak Golbari always relates to me as if I were his only citizen, towns-person, voter(?). They probably learn that in courses. Still, it’s hard not to feel knee-jerk flattered. I decide to out-Carnegie the guy and prepare a quick treat of my own. As soon as he’s within ear-shot I gush “Walla, ha’bibi, yesh le’cha kha’tikhat avodah po!” (‘Hey, my man, you got a serious piece of work here!’) and point to an obvious crack in the sidewalk. He laughs and shrugs: ‘Atah mas’bir LI?’ (‘You’re telling me?’) and lets it go at that. Both of us know that his real problem isn’t concrete infrastructure, it’s the local wanna-be mafias, against whom he needed 24-hour armed guards for the first two years of his ‘cadenza’, as we call an ‘administration’. I worked actively for his opponent, the incumbent Ezra Levi. Perhaps no one’s mentioned that to him. Anyway, it’s a democracy, and this guy won.

3) The Plumber: Called an ‘installer’ in Hebrew, which I always felt was unforgivably ‘duh’, like yeah, but what do you ‘install? Until I remembered that ‘Plumber’ in English is every bit as far-fetched, based as it is on the Latin word for ‘lead’. I don’t even know this guy’s first name. I see him at the hardware store all the time, looking haggard, be-draggled, and frezzed-out. Spell-check doesn’t like those adjectives. Yeah, I just made ’em up, but they fit, sue me. His greeting is the slightly out-of-fashion ‘Mah in’ya’nim?’ (‘What are the issues?’) He looks too busy for a rigorous answer, and in fact, the question is manifestly rhetorical. Once upon a time I didn’t ‘get’ that. I’d hear the question and start laying out the ‘concerns of the day’, counting on my fingers for the supposedly-curious interrogator. Usually got to, like, the middle finger before the guy made it plain that he wasn’t exactly taking notes. So the Plumber received a nice non-committal ‘eeh, be’seder.’ (‘Fine’). He seemed relieved to hear that. The Rabbi was closing in rapidly behind him, and both of us, working as we do on Shabbat, wanted to get moving. But I never seem to get lucky:
4) The Rabbi: Dressed in what I un-charitably view as an absurd period costume from a Polish stetl, broad furry hat and polyester-gabardine suit over I can only guess three layers of ritual garments, is an impressive figure. Hails from the same little Romanian town as a good friend of mine; we converse in a mixture of languages, old and new. Today it’s all business, Hebrew: “Mah Hadash?” (‘What’s new?’) Of course I immediately wrack my memory to bring up the Jewish Calendar: What religious chore which I’ve been chosen to do for this clown is pending. Every year  before Yom Kippur I have to take off all the plastic sheeting from his porch roof, so that on Succoth, when he makes the porch into a Succah, God (sorry, ‘G-D’) doesn’t have to speak to him from the Heavens through a half-millimeter of poly-carbonate. It’s all in the Torah somewhere. I don’t even protest anymore Anyway, realizing that I am provisionally faultless, us having weathered Purim last week and facing a dry-spell holiday-wise, I answer: ‘Ain ha’dash takhat ha-shemesh.’ (‘Nothing new under the sun’. which is from Ecclesiastes or somewhere. I get one point, and keep walking. Lasagna beckons. Ground beef, three kinds of cheese. If he knew he’d start to pile up stones in the town square.
5) Drug Dealer: Finally, someone normal. His job kinda entails being painfully ‘hep to the jive’, up to date on the de rigeur greeting, and I await today’s version.
“Ah’lan!”. Arabic. Most of our ‘streety’ slang is from Arabic these days. This one’s a couple years old, but, I’m pleased to hear, still en vogue. I answer ironically: ‘Wa’sah’lan’. Why ironic? Well today, on the news, the Gazans, our peace partners, seem to be similarly enthralled by the warm weather, and they’ve been doing what they do for fun, set up the cheap rocket launchers. Try to kill a few women or children. Extra points for both. Usually they miss. Then the Apaches with today’s technology take ’em out. There’s virgins in this for the ‘martyrs’. So no worry. Anyway, you don’t hear Arabic without thinking about our lovely neighbors. He turns off the street into an abandoned orange orchard. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

     Yes, there were more. The checkout girl… then a lady I just finished a roof for…and then  the Dentist, whom I greeted without opening my mouth too widely and  risking showing him my new teeth. He’s too expensive for me, so I went with a marvelous Arab guy in the next town. On visits we communicate mainly in standard German. And as expected, the ‘Deutsch’ ‘Whassup?’ salutations mirror Hebrew: ‘What’s new?, ‘What’s happening?’, ‘How’s it going?’
Nothing’s new under the sun… And now,cart in hand, I leave y’all. The security guard recognizes me and waves me in with a ‘Yo!’ One of his two words in English. I give him a thumbs-up and a ‘Sup?’ Big smile. Whatever works.