26 January 2015

Quirk (just for you)

So you had a friend who you thought was a friend, but turned out to be something substantially more than a friend. On the other hand, there was that person you thought was a friend and turned out to be quite less.

This is the way we used to think. Doo dah. Doo dah.

There were people living in a settlement very many miles away from the rest of us, and we were forced to view them with a great deal of mistrust. They had skin that was a slightly different shade than ours, and they pronounced the letter “a” differently. We had to think of them as “outsiders,” and we threw rotten vegetables into their backyards when they were not looking.

These were the things we used to do. Doo dah. Doo dah.

We knew better. We all knew better. You think you knew the most? You are wrong. We knew more. When the buzzer sounds and the game is over, the judges are going to look at us and say “you are the winners! Huzzah! Hale fellow, well met! Gatchooba!”

That was the way it was. Doo dah. Doo dah.

You used to buy paperback novels and read all about who killed who and who slept with who and who was stealing from who and how it is that authors never know how to use “who” and “whom” correctly, but you never paid any attention to that because you were focused on the killing and the sleeping and the stealing.

Not any more.

Now you kill and sleep and steal and you check your grammar and your spelling and your syntax and you mind your pease and queues. And no one ever mentions a thing about how you used to have this friend who you thought was a friend but turned out to be something substantially more than a friend.

Doo dah.

19 January 2015


Did you ever meet that kid that we called “Camphor”? He was a quiet kid. Short and quiet, as I recall. I have no idea how he got the name “Camphor,” but that's what we called him. I never asked, and now I kind of wish I had.

Camphor used to walk up and down the main street of town, stopping and looking into the shop windows. He would spend the longest time looking into windows that you just wouldn't think could hold the attention of a thirteen year-old boy, but there you have it. He would stop in front of the hardware store, and look at a window display of chicken wire and galvanized washtubs – all the while moving his thin little lips with no sound coming out. I've seen lots of folks do that, of course, but never in the places that little Camphor would do it.

This was Dubuque, mind you. Dubuque in the hey-day. Or do you call it “hayday”? I was never sure if it was one word, two words, or a hyphenated word. Anyhow, it was Dubuque when Dubuque was more than just a place on the river. Camphor would sometimes stop outside the big hotel (you know the one I'm talking about – if you know Dubuque, that is) and wait for someone to come out. It looked as though he was expecting a celebrity to come strolling out of the lobby, and I think one time I even saw him holding a pad of paper and a chewed-off pencil, looking for all the world like he was going to ask someone for an autograph. This might have been, as you know Dubuque was a hopping place for all sorts of big-city performers who might have driven up from Davenport or over from Chicago just to do a show or maybe to get away from the big city.

I don't think he ever got any autographs, as best as I can figure.

Camphor, he came down with a disease when he was just what nowadays they call middle school age. It was some kind of odd disease where he started hearing loud explosions all the time. It started with him sitting bolt upright in the middle of class, and clapping his hands to his ears. At first the teachers thought he was being disruptive, but after the doctors in Iowa City told his mom and dad what was going on, folks got used to it. The loud noises started keeping him up at night, though, and by the time he was fifteen he was missing from school almost every day. Sometimes we'd see him around town, small and quiet, and looking a little flinchy and sad.

You would be too, I suppose.

Camphor's dad died out on the river the next year, and his mom went away. No one asked where. Camphor went to go live in what I suppose today you would call a “group home,” but then was just some kind of a place for unfortunate folks to live. It was run by the Church, I think. Who knows? I once saw what I thought was a nun there, so I'm just taking a guess. Anyhow, that's where Camphor went. We saw less and less of him, and eventually he just seemed to disappear. I only hope the same could be said for the explosions in his head.

I'd like to be able to say that I saw him years later, but I never did. No one ever did, as far as I can tell. He just became one of those people you only think about when you see something that you haven't seen for a long time – or when you hear an explosion in your head that no one else can hear.

And God forbid you end up hearing the explosions that no one else can hear.

12 January 2015

"19a" - 1980? You Like? A Chapter From "Yerba Mate"

Roller skates are another invention that was given to the inhabitants of the earth by ancient astronauts from an alien civilization. Space travelers from the planet Gecko-13 were zipping through the interstellar expanses over 4,000 years ago (in earth years), listening to eight-track tapes of whale music (produced by whales on another planet – a third planet, neither Gecko-13 nor our own “earth”) and looking for a good place to sell their load of sushi-stone. Sushi-stone, for the uninformed, is not what the name sounds as though it might imply – it is simply a carbon-based fuel source; an edible carbon- based fuel source mined from the depths of the Geckian oceans. Check it out the next time you are on Gecko-13.


The sushi-stone vendors from Gecko-13 were traveling through this neck of the interstellar woods when they happened upon our planet. They set down for a short visit, and aside from being mistaken for minor deities by a tribe in the Amazon basin, had little to no contact with any earthlings. They just made a quick pit-stop, as it were, to empty their sanitary holding tanks and get a little exercise. The most beloved exercise of the people of Gecko-13, of course, is what we on earth think of as “roller skating” but which they call “bletching” (it still is, in fact – bletch sales on Gecko-13 have gone through the roof in recent years, in fact). From high up in the earth's atmosphere the travelers from Gecko-13 saw the plazas standing outside of some awesome Mayan ziggurats, and decided that they would be the perfect place for a little midnight bletching. They settled their sushi-stone powered spacecraft into a soft landing in the middle of the jungles of modern-day Mexico and laced up their bletchers.
Speeding out of their spacecraft in a frantic round of “snap the whip,” a line of seven Geckian astronauts whizzed past a native named Earl who was wandering amidst the ziggurats while dealing with his insomnia. The poor fellow looked up to see seven wheeled god-like creatures, laughing and shouting as they bletched, and the sight scared him almost half to death. He ducked behind the stones of the temple, trembling and shaking his head in disbelief.

On an ironic note, this poor, frightened tribesman happened to be a distant but direct ancestor of the owner and proprietor of “El Taco Muchacho,” where Michael Nitrous and Jerry Grogan enjoyed their fine plates of tacos and nopalitos tiernos. That's just how these things work out some times.

The astronauts from Gecko-13 skated (or bletched, if you prefer) for a good fifteen minutes or so, and then headed back to the ship. Just as they were getting ready to leave, one of the Geckian travelers decided to dispose of a small stone that he had found in his roller skate (or bletch, if you prefer). He stood in a cargo door and turned his bletch upside down to shake the little pebble out. Just as he had done this the pilot hit the accelerator, throwing the astronaut violently to one side. His bletch was knocked out of his hand as he collided with a bulkhead (that is astronaut-speak for 'wall'). The Geckian roller skate dropped to the ground as the spaceship sped away and out of sight. When Earl had regained his composure he walked over to pick up the bletch. He kept the bletch with him all the rest of his days, but could never really bring himself to explain to his friends and family exactly how it was that he came to be in possession of such a strange, futuristic object. The Mayan priests put the bletch into the grave with poor Earl's body when he died, and there it rested for several thousand years, until an archaeologist came across it in the mid-nineteenth century while hunting for Mayan pottery and other exciting relics. The archaeologist had no idea what it was that he had found, but brought it back home to merry old England with him as a curiosity, where he gave it to his brother as a birthday present (he was a notorious cheapskate – no pun intended). His brother happened to be a sporting goods wholesaler (you didn't know that they had those in merry old England in the middle of the nineteenth century, did you?) who spent his free hours as a collector of South American sporting antiquities – an unusual combination, but not altogether unlikely, now is it?

The situation presented by this unlikely array of events, objects, and interests is just one more example of how it is that deep connectivity works. You might think that it is all just coincidence, but it is actually a lot less dramatic than that. It is just another load of bogus storytelling, used to make the author's point.

(Roller skates were actually first patented in the late eighteenth century and then made popular about a hundred years later. There were likely no aliens involved whatsoever. Take it for what it is worth.)

Rollerskating, however, can be a rather spiritual exercise, if you believe in that sort of thing. It provides ample opportunity for glope-steps, even though one does not always take “steps” in the traditional sense of the word. There is something about the spinning of the roller skate wheels that sets up a static field, thereby influencing the kinetic dingeddy-dangle...blah blah blah...you get the idea.

Suffice to say that roller skating gives the opportunity to experience deep connectivity in a way that most people do not realize. Just being around people who are roller skating can have a profound effect on a person. This may account for the harmonic convergence that was beginning in the United States of America in the 1980s and which came to a screeching halt with the close of that decade, just as roller skating rinks were closing in droves.