Monthly Archives: May 2013

Dance, Mr. Placebo-jangles, Dance! The Lim-bo? How did I know?

      Hey, I would have posted on my beloved Xanga a month and a half ago… were it not for this damn drug trial and my agreement with the firm.
Anyway, it’s all over, and I guess I can now ‘tell-all’. Read on…


Synopsis: Franji, in her to-die-for white lab jacket, ends up knowing more than her ‘double-blind’ professional role allows. Torn between her love and empathy for one innocent participant (me) she does cartwheels in the verbal air to try and spill the beans without in so many words jeopardizing the 3.5 million dollar Upjohn project.
Let’s start at the beginning, ok?
My house, on a map, is about 1 miles from the sleepy hamlet known as Mount Nebo. But as the crow flies, it’s got to be at least 1.414 miles, since I live in a valley barely above sea level, and Mt. Nebo is the highest point in the entire Lancaster County. From the parking lot up there one can gaze into three counties and two states. it’s four miles by winding mountain road to the little general store , and if you run out of gas you can coast the whole way home in neutral. In my situation that’s a decided plus.I’m not sure why I even added this part to the story, other than local colour.


     Speaking of color, I’m hopelessly attracted to women in medical attire. (Even if @murisopsis didn’t write stellar poems and prose, I’d still be sub-ed to her out of pure fetishist desire.)
So… I’m at the Mt.Nebo Store for, I don’t know, ketchup or something, and this red-headed ‘Franji’, as it turns out, shows all the signs of wanting to converse with me. Must have been something pessimistic I said. Ten minutes into a surprisingly deep conversation in the parking lot and I already learned that she was basically in charge of a clinical test of a new anti-depressant, ‘Smilezone-Hcl.’ She laughed when I responded:
“There’s probably nothing you-uns got that can fix my negative attitude!”
Long story short, one week later, after three interviews in her Lancaster (PA) field-clinic, and I was signed up, received my instruction booklet and blister-paks of the putative wonder-drug.

Four days later, Franji calls me on my cell. She must’ve dug it out of the personal files. I had just that minute learned that my  property taxes had been raised to  un-thinkable new heights; She asked me how I was feeling.
“Life sucks and then you die.” I told her. “Thinking of digging a hole in the back-yard; six feet deep, right?” I asked.
“Oh ,my, dear, sometimes it takes a few days for the medicine to work.” she cooed, in a voice which already dripped more than professional concern.“How about we talk about this over dinner this evening. We can meet at Mt. Ne-bo at seven,; I’ll be coming back from Baltimore anyway.”
What does she know?
I don’t know, the trial had 380 participants, I’d been told. Half received the real thing, the other half, sugar pills disguised as Smilezone. Somehow I couldn’t see Franji attending to each and every depressed candidate with dinner-date invitations, and I took it as a real compliment and therefore I could feel the hint of a rare departure from my usual morose mood.
“Yeah, ‘Life sucks, but you do go out to eat once in a while.” I allowed. Like Droopy the dog said, famously, “I’m happy!?”

At her suggestion, we went to a nice little steak-house, Sambo’s.
“Didn’t know they could still name a place that.” I said as we pulled into the lot. “Thought they have to call it ‘A diminutive dark-complected boy named Sam.'”
“Oy, it’s just a word.” she reassured me, “like Dumbo over there.”
Sure enough, the place had rented an enormous inflated elephant, tied down by three guy ropes, to, I guess, attract customers. We sat down inside; I did my best to talk about Ms Franji, not about myself. Kinda like what @boulderchristina described in an awesome post on Xanga a few weeks back. But Franji, bless her over-sized heart, gave me the impression that I needn’t have exerted myself over-much. She quickly turned the conversation to something we had in common, a fascination with words. Yes, like ‘Dum-bo’.
“Stuck in the MUD, is he?” She quiped. Took me half a perfect baked potato with sour cream to ‘get’ that she was reversing the letters in ‘DUM-BO, except for the -BO of course.
“We can always just pull him out, with my TUR-BO truck,” I came up with, “unless it gets stuck in a RUT.”
“Well, you can always just buy a new vehicle, on the web; ‘Carb-bo.com'” she said, slicing her steak.
“I tried that,” I came back. “but every time you click for prices it re-directs you to ‘Carbo-hydrates, and all the rates are greyed-out.” she liked that one. And I liked her more every minute.
 Something’s up
We kissed, as platonic a peck on the cheek  as I could manage, and when she left me off back at Mt Ne-bo I actually took two of the feel-good pills. Hey, I can always say the dog ate one. Didn’t get a particular rush from a double dose though. In fact, the depression returned less than an hour after I got home. ‘Wonder-drug’? You wonder where’s the ‘wonderful about it?
“Life sucks, you go out to eat, then it’s over, and they bury you on a full stomach.” I found myself thinking. Plus, the -BO words were starting to feel…um… uncanny. She’d absolutely insisted I order the ‘Jum-bo Fries’ as a final takeout. What’s up with that?
Lot’s of -BO words. I may be despondent, but like Poe, I still hear the  the ‘Nevermore’ when it poops on my head. But overall, I was  rapidly learning to  relish, ‘Franji Pani’s quirky attention.



Monday, first light she sent me an email about some inter-stellar discovery from the gigantic dish antenna at Areci-bo. “We need to talk abot this!” She added, under the link.
“Yes, I do believe we should, Franny” I SMS-ed back.
“Sambo’s at seven?” she asked, and it was set up.

It all becomes clear
    I distinctly saw her wink at the manager as we walked in. Twenty seconds later the Muzak abruptly segued into ‘Mr Bo-Jangles’. On repeat. I mean, three re-plays at least. I got the message:
“Franny,” I took her hand in mine. She knew it was coming. “Did you know that Pea-bo Bryson can play the O-boe with his el-bow?  How does that make you feel?” I asked her. Without waiting for her reaction, I ‘moved‘ us outside to the gaze-bo’ dining area.
“Glad for that.” she thanked me. “I mean, how many times can you listen to Mr. B-freaking Jangles?”
“Franji-le, there’s something you want to tell me, no?” I got right to the point.
“Excellent steak,” she avoided the question, “We should come here once a week, for starts.”
“Nu, Franji, what’s with all the -Bo words?” I got to the point.
“Johnny, are you happier since we started this?” she asked, gazing into my eyes there in the gazebo. For some reason I ’bout to cried.
“Of course, sweetheart. It’s the Smilezone, is it?”

“Hmm… can’t say.” she gazed toward the horizon.
“You mean, you’re not allowed to say, is that it?” I pressed her.
“Exactly. I mean, even if I had, hypothetically, hacked the files and discovered that you are in the cohort group receiving that, you know,  -BO word I’ve been kinda hinting at…”
“Kinda hinting at?!?” I laughed. Yes, it was all clear now. Bound by her professional obligation not to prejudice the trials, Franji none-the less, as a human, ok, a woman, needed to deniably signal to me that my new happiness was the singular result of her pure, basic, concerned love. Chemicals be damned. ‘What’s Love got to do with tertiary-amine sidechains and dopamine re-uptake.?” as the song goes.


      She paid the tab, on her Upjohn account, and this time the kiss was,let’s call it, ‘exploratory’.
The only thing I have to add here is that it does take a while to ‘un-blister’ all those left-over sugar pills, to use in my coffee. Hey, I may be in love, but I’m still broke. 

Posts with pix are usually non-fiction… with me.

     Yes, anyone reading my site has probably already accepted that I ‘make stuff up’. Not, G-d forbid, in an attempt to deceive, but for comic effect. (And also because so much of my life and work is like, classified, if you hadn’t guessed.)
And so here is something albeit on the edge of legality but real and cute as hell. My two turtles arrived this morning as planned at 10;30. Nine years old, they weigh in at 27 and 32 kilograms respectively. They will almost certainly out-live me . I need to put that in my Will. Along with a list of their favorite foods, for my heirs and assigns.
     As we speak, I’m trying to get past the impression from their facial expressions that they despise broccoli. They eat it just fine, with relish even. It’s just that dour look engineered by the drooping lip line which screams “Such awful food…. and such small portions, too.!”
‘Neta‘ and ‘Moofleta’, the girls are called. Native to Somalia, they are probably happy to be out of that war zone. Not that Israel is some idyllic middle-eastern Switzerland, but still, so far, so pastoral.
I also fed them cucumbers by hand. The trick is to stop the process while you still have the prospect of playing the piano ever again. And their tongues are pink and as big as mine. They hiss when they’re happy, I was told. I spent most of Saturday sifting the poisonous ‘chinaberries’ from the soil in their pen. My wife says I need more mouths to feed like another nose. She may be right, still, gawking at the freaking Galapagos is about as close to real-life Jurassic Park as I’ll probably ever get. And the expended broccoli plants were destined to be compost anyway. I just hope they don’t organize a food-strike. They finished off a pound of wetted cat-food in 5 minutes this afternoon. Licked the dish and begged for more. Oy, what was I thinking with these ravenous dinosaurs?
   

Kooks Kicking Cookies

     Morbid curiosity I guess. I traipsed the half mile to my nearest neighbor to inquire about this morning’s little ‘Event’: paramedics escorting a young kid into a window-less van, and thence, I assume, to the funny-farm for observation. I’d waved hello to his Mom a few times; she always looked be-draggled and a bit unkempt. ‘Melba’, I think that’s her name.
“Yeah, they took the kid away.” Ezra told me right off. “Somebody must’ve called it in. Weren’t me though.”
    The child had always been a bit too much for his mom, a single mother at the end of her rope even on a good hair day. Small town; we know each others’ business, whether we want to or not.
“What was he doing this time, Ezra?” I pressed him for more skeletons of the plot.

“OK, there was this banging, at 6 in the morning. On the sidewalk. I looked out the window and he was just hammering the be-jesus out of something. Turns out it was a box of ‘Nabiscos'”

That’s what we generically call any kind of cracker here. Like calling a refrigerator a ‘Fridgidaire’, no matter what company made it.
I thought for a second, then hit him with the punch line:
“Kinda scary, watching a teen assault a saltine?” I said, vastly proud of my construction.
Ezra didn’t ‘get it’ in so many words, but none-the-less seemed to catch the verbal drift.
“Yeah, Melba’s toast; they’ll fosterize the kid this time fer sure.” Ezra opined, without the modicum of empathy one would generally hope to hear in a sad situation.
“What’s the world coming to these days?” I asked him, “Drugs, probably. The kid’s probably one of those, what do they call ’em, ‘cracker-heads’.” I tried to move the conversation to the larger picture.
“Yeah, they start in elementary school these days. Waifs wasting wafers, and no budget for counseling.” Ezra had sub-consciously been infected with my word-playfulness.
“Cretins crunching croutons?” I offered, inquiring as to the brain-damage factor as a possible explanation.
“Or… ‘Derves’ whirling Hors d’oerves? Ezra with a three-point basket. Yes, it could be a result of religious fervor, I reasoned.
“So, what is to be done?” I asked my neighbor, thinking maybe he had given the problem serious thought.
“Hey, you’re the one with the free WIFI” Ezra hinted, out of the blue. (I’d always wondered  which of my neighbors was {-default, un-secured})
“Google it. Try ‘PTPPS’ for starts.”, he advised.
“PTPPS?”, I asked him, puzzled.”

“Yeah, Post-Traumatic-Pissed at Pastry Syndrome” Ezra explained. “It’s probably not in the Big Book of Nuts yet, but a few more teen saltine assaults and we’ll have Merck, Smith, Kline, French, and Upjohn working on it pronto. There’s big bucks in bi-polar biscuit-breaker amelioration,”
I walked back home through the woods, deep in thought. Could someone sane such as I (?) fall victim to this new peril? Yes, I’ve been known  on occasion to stomp the odd overly rock-like pretzel into smithereens on the floor, and to ‘frisby’ an entire six-pack of week-old pitas I bought without checking the sell-by date. But a Syndrome? Nah, worst-case I’m just ‘Impulsive-Not Otherwise-Specified’.
    Still, dear readers, if you do come upon a kook kicking a cookie or a miscreant making a mess out of a matza, at least consider intervening. It’s the yeast you can do.
 

Be Honest: Would YOU have figured this stuff out?

      Every time I read on Wiki “…was known in antiquity; the Egyptians used the dried seeds of this plant to cure ‘al hadrakeef’, known today as meningitus.”
Or “records of the planet Saturn’s 139.67 year orbital period have been found incised into excavated ground sloth femurs from ca. 9500 years before the present.” I wonder about the question in the title.
    Tonight I noticed Jupiter, bright in the Western sky. And yeah, it’s not where it ‘belongs’. I mean, where I left it last time I looked, about a month ago. Most of the rest of the stars seem to stay put. Oh, except for that pesky bright-as-hell Morning star… and its dead-ringer twin, the Evening star.
The big question here is: would I have, could I have, put two and two together all by myself, thousands of years ago. (that’s before Google and high-speed internet, by the way.) {deduced that they are planets, not stars}
     So here’s a list of other discoveries/realizations you may want to use to test your deductive prowess against pre-literate cave-persons of either gender:


1) FIRE Ok, fire occurred naturally on occasion from primordial times. Must have seemed like apocalyptic magic to our ancestors millions of years ago. And I’m assuming char-broiled steaks kinda just happened as a lucky accident. But the fire kept going out, overnight. Could well be that entire populations of Neanderthals froze to death waiting for the next benevolent lightning strike. And though it sounds simple in the Boy Scout manual, making a bow/string, spinning a dowel in a hole in a piece of dry wood with appropriately dry tinder? Yeah, I woulda froze, bottom line; how about you?

2) Agriculture/seed planting.
This one I’m pretty sure I woulda figured out. You dropped some beans on the front lawn of your cave, a week later you see them sprouting and it’s the very same plant you remember you got the beans from. So you do it again and damn, it works! No more hunting/gathering for this wunder-kind…

3) The finite speed of light:
Ok, a bit of a fast-forward but a perfect example of the role of step-by-step yet un-directed technology in becoming Smart like Us. The telescope (of course after the invention of glass, duh,) followed by careful timing of the ocultations of Jupiter’s satellites. This of course after we realized that the planets orbit the Sun, and not the reverse. And sadly, I wouldn’t have figured that one out. I’m down with Ptolemy, (and probably also the flat-earth common-sense theory too. Seriously, I woulda spent my whole life dead-certain that ‘There they be Dragons!’. Ships appear lower in the water as they receed into the distance because… I don’t know, maybe they leak?

4) Sickness, disease, and monstrous deformities:

I have these four orphaned kitties some scoundrel threw on my lawn a month ago. about two weeks old with eyes pasted shut, I of course knew that they were afflicted with the endemic feline herpes virus. I’ve now fed them continually, around the clock. Materna ™   from an eyedropper. 30 days X 4 babies X 6 feedings a day X 5 ‘hits’ a feeding = some ungodly number of acts of mercy. Sadly, one died a week ago. Lost her appetite, her primal spark, and just quietly gave up the ghost, as they say. Sad. But as a pre-modern human, to what would I have attributed her particular demise? Vile ‘humours’ from the night air, the Evil Eye, Karma, Mercury retro-grade at the hour of her birth?
     Look, our modern understanding of cause and effect, in this case a malevolent virus small enough to put billions on a pinhead, is built on so damn many incremental discoveries, fine-tuned in fits and starts. And these days all only a click away on the net.
And it’s only every so often that I ask myself: “How much of this treasure-trove of knowledge could I have mined and smelted all by my lonesome?” Not much, I have to admit. We do stand on the shoulders of giants


That’s the thought for today, my friends.
(I haven’t posted here in a coon’s age; a good dozen entries await my release from kitty-motherhood. Yup, as soon as I get ’em all accepted at prestige colleges, I’ll be back just like always./JS