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Don’t Stop Me Now.

rainbowIt wasn’t supposed to rain. At least I don’t think so. I really didn’t check as I was leaving the office because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. At least I don’t think so. I really didn’t look up. It was sunny and that’s enough, right? And I made it most of the way before it started. I was walking down the home stretch to home when the rain started. It was light but still wet, and the sun was still out, the kind of rain some people call “liquid sunshine”. Sick, twisted people who are desperate to find the bright side of everything. I know I’m not one to talk since I’m an incurable optimist myself. When a friend was hit by a car I said, “Well, on the bright side…” He punched me before I could finish the sentence which is okay because it was a Volkswagen Beetle that hit him, but that’s another story. The point is even the sunniest optimist has to draw the line somewhere and I draw the line at rain. And then it gets washed away, but I keep redrawing it.

So there I was walking home and a light rain started. It was light but still wet. And one of my neighbors was standing out in her front yard with her dog. She had a leash in one hand and an umbrella in the other. My neighbor, I mean. The dog had two pair and a king high in her hand and was obviously eager to get back to the game.

“Isn’t this wonderful?” my neighbor said.

“Yes,” I said, smiling, because I was too polite to say, “WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME? CAN’T YOU SEE I’M TRYING TO GET OUT OF THE RAIN?”

“Have you seen a rainbow?” she asked.

“No,” I said, smiling, because I was too polite to say, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? CAN’T YOU SEE I’M GETTING SOAKED HERE?”

“There should be one around somewhere,” she said.

“Yes, keep looking out for it,” I said because I was too polite to say, “AS SOON AS I GET OUT OF THIS RAIN AND DRY OFF DEAL ME IN. I’M TALKING TO YOUR DOG.”

I kept going and got to my house. And there, in the backyard, was the rainbow. It was glorious. It was amazing. I even thought about going to get my neighbor, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

 

Keep On The Sunny Side.

Source: Nashville News Channel 5, WTVF

Source: Nashville News Channel 5, WTVF

Noshville on Division Street closed its doors at the end of 2015. Well, the restaurant has other locations, but the one on Division was its first and was the one I knew best because it was so close to where I worked. And I never thought to take a picture of it in its heyday when the Statue of Liberty stood tall atop its roof.

I still walk that way regularly, down the sunny side of the street, under where its awnings used to hang, usually on my way to JJ’s Coffee Shop. And there’s a bit of a tale: Noshville had been there since 1996. JJ’s has been there since 1974 and is still going strong in spite of a couple of major coffee chains moving in just a few blocks away. Noshville decamped to make way for developers who want to put up an apartment building but JJ’s is being the thorn in their foot. The owner of JJ’s has a lease through 2020 and, bless him, is defending his right to keep going at least that long in court. And so far has been successful.

I don’t mean to turn this into an ad for JJ’s but I like the coffee and the atmosphere of the place, and it also sells an eclectic mix of European chocolates and craft beers. It’s also the oldest ongoing establishment in an area that’s been in flux and is changing even now.

Anyway I happened to be walking down the other way—the shady side of the street, and I do mean shady, but that’s another story. I turned around and looked back and saw this:

noshville1It’s striking. It’s powerful. I have no clue what it says. It’s also huge. It also made me think about how much the building formerly occupied by Noshville looks like a submarine.

noshville2Graffiti is usually seen as a mark of a bad neighborhood, something that lowers the property value in an area, but the space where Noshville was has been sitting empty for more than nine months now. It’s hard to imagine the value getting any lower, but an artist has added something to the area. It’s fascinating and thought-provoking. Maybe it will even inspire conversation, at least among people walking down the shady side of the street.

 

A Matter of Etiquette.

etiquettePublic transportation etiquette is not written in stone. In fact it’s not written down anywhere as far as I know, although I don’t have any of Emily Post’s oeuvre handy at the moment. I do have some general rules I try to follow. For instance I believe people should board in the order of their arrival at the bus stop. When I got to the stop the other day there was an older woman already there so I was fully prepared to defer to her. We waited and then I could see the bus a couple of blocks away, behind a line of half a dozen cars.

The bus stop was at an intersection and the line of cars pulled up just as the light turned red, leaving them stuck there. And the bus was stuck too, about half a block away. I realize in city terms a “block” is not an absolute measure and the term has confused me ever since I was a kid and my parents would talk about “taking a walk around the block”. I had a bunch of wooden blocks with letters on them but they were so small it was easier to step over them than walk around one. And the size of blocks varies from city to city and even from block to block. In New York, for instance, a block may only be two or three hundred feet long on one side while in Boise a block extends twenty miles, but that’s another story.

Let’s just say the bus was within easy walking distance. And the etiquette in such a situation varies from driver to driver. Some prefer that the passengers-in-waiting get up and walk to the bus so when the light turns green they can go on without stopping. Others prefer that we wait to be picked up at the authorized bus stop. I usually defer to the former, but the woman at the stop next to me was remaining firmly seated.

And there’s the conundrum. If I walked down to the bus and was let on I’d be getting on ahead of her. And if I wasn’t let on I was going to look like a jackass. And either way the driver was going to have to stop and pick her up. So my only choice was to stay put, but I also sat there wondering, didn’t she know the etiquette? Most people in that situation walk down to the bus. If it’s hot or rainy or cold or even if it’s a really nice day it’s better to get on the bus sooner rather than later even if it means a bit of extra walking.

Then the light changed, the cars moved, the bus stopped in front of us, and the woman next to me picked up her cane. And it made sense why she wasn’t interested in taking walking even an extra half a block.

I just wish I’d gotten on the bus first. I don’t need Emily Post to tell me I should have let her take the seat closer to the front.

 

This Doesn’t Mean Something.

nailsI looked at what had been scribbled on the back of this bus bench and my second thought was, I’ve really got to rein myself in. My first thought was, How intriguing. “Nails be ur trap.” Yes—obviously the artist meant coffin nails and that, paired with what looks like part of a readout from a cardiogram on the lower right make a comment nature of mortality. If I’d kept going I might have shoehorned the other tags into this grand masterpiece too but instead I stopped because I felt like I was turning into Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters. Except instead of seeing Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower in everything I was seeing art. I see a bunch of leaves fallen on a sidewalk and start thinking, well maybe someone put them there, arranged them in just that pattern as some kind of a statement, and only come out of this reverie when I walk into a lamppost, but that’s another story.

I would resist the impulse to tie all this together but I can’t so strap in: I’m diving into a bumpy train of mixed metaphors. This fits with a nagging thought that’s been in the back of my mind ever since I opted to take an art history class instead of wandering the halls for an hour each day. The whole idea of “art history” is based on a collective agreement between a bunch of people that we’re going to look at this artist but not that artist and pretend the whole thing fits into a neat line with cave painters at one end and, oh, let’s say Jackson Pollock at the other. Your endpoint may vary, especially since Pollock died in 1956 and history, including art history, has arguably continued on since then.

The problem with this line of thinking is it can quickly spiral out of control. After all every human endeavor that we consider historic or worthy of recognition is based on a collective agreement that it’s, well, worthy of recognition. And there’s a lot of stuff that falls by the wayside.

How do we decide what to keep and what to throw away? Is it random? Could be a trap.

Mixed Nuts.

nuts-Hey Phil. Phil, you here?

-Yeah, a little shaken, but I’m here. What’s up Wally?

-Just checking. Everything got crazy there and now it’s gone quiet. Really quiet.

-Yeah, I know. I’m okay with the quiet. Better than dealing with—

-HEY EVERYBODY! AL’S IN THE HIZZOUSE!

-Whoop. Let’s party like it’s 2006.

-GOOD ONE PHIL!

-I’m Wally.

-DON’T BE A HATER PHIL. WHERE’S MY MAN BRAZZY? BRAZZY, YOU HERE?

-Da.

-AWESOME. THIS IS MY GUY!

-Ich hasse dich so sehr.

-HE’S THE MAN, AM I RIGHT EVERYBODY? LET ME HEAR EVERYBODY SAY YEAH!

-You two want to be alone?

-DON’T BE LIKE THAT. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU PHIL!

-I’m Wally.

-WHERE’S PHIL?

-Over here, next to your Teutonic twin.

-Ich verachte Euch alle.

-Some of us can understand you, Brazzy.

-Mein Name ist Bertholletia.

-YOU SPEAK SPANISH PHIL?

-I’m Wally. And [sigh] the most common language there is Portuguese, and anyway he’s speaking…forget it. Yes, Al. Yes I do.

-Dies ändert nichts

-COOL, COOL. WHAT’S HE SAYING?

-That you’re his best friend in the world, Al.

-HA! YOU BET I AM! EVERYBODY LOVES ME! AM I RIGHT EVERYBODY? LET ME HEAR EVERYBODY SAY YEAH!

-Wenn es einen Gott ist, werden Sie das erste zu sterben sein .

-YOU SAID IT BRAZZY! HE PHIL, HELP ME OUT HERE. WHAT’S HE SAYIN‘?

-I’m Wally.

-YEAH. WHAT’D HE SAY?

-He’s trying to butter you up.

-WHOA, HARSH BRAZZY, HARSH. I KNOW THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU MEANT BUT HARSH ANYWAY. I HAD SOME COUSINS WENT DOWN THAT WAY.

-Ich würde Sie mich zerquetschen, wenn ich könnte.

-He says he’s sorry.

-THANKS PHIL. I GOT THAT. AND BRAZZY REMEMBERS GOOBER TOO. A MINUTE OF SILENCE FOR OUR OLD FRIEND GOOBER.

-Y’all keep it down.

-WHO SAID THAT? SOUNDS LIKE GOOBER! GOOBER, YOU HERE?

-Der einzige von euch, die erträglich für mich ist.

-Y’all make more ruckus than a mess of hounds done got a possum.

-Who is that?

-Pecan.

Fishing For Compliments.

A recurring theme in my part-time pottery hobby has been fish. It started one night when I was going through the instructor’s box of patterns and found a fish one, so I used it to make a pencil jar and a coffee mug, both of which now adorn my desk.

Also pictured: Mark Twain, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Star, and a few unmentionables.

Also pictured: Mark Twain, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Star, and a few unmentionables.

I also just made some flat fish for, er, some reason. They’re purely decorative.

schooloffishAnd that, combined with a desire to find a bigger project, gave me an idea. I started making more fish.

fishbowl1 fishbowl2 fishbowl3fishbowl4Then I formed them around a mold and a base. I applied vinegar, which makes clay stick to itself, gradually building up layers.

fishbowl5fishbowl6It’s a fish bowl. Get it?

fishbowl7I have no idea how this will ultimately turn out which is why I’m sharing the process with you now. Pottery tends to explode or fall apart or do other strange things and, as the saying goes, the journey is more important than the destination. So I’m sharing it now before the destination disintegrates.

Get A Ride!

Yesterday I wrote about how, like any good Star Trek fan, I celebrated the 50th Anniversary on September 8th with a marathon of episodes and movies, including Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home which I first saw in the theater with a friend who I thought was a bigger Trek fan than me. He had a whole series of books, and comic books, and was the only person I knew–prior to the recent reboots, anyway–who knew Uhura’s first name.

And then as we were coming out of the theater he said, “Well, it was pretty good except for that crap about the whales.” And I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I thought every fan knew that Star Trek’s science fiction was merely a smokescreen that allowed Gene Roddenberry to take on controversial subjects like racism, sexism, and, um, the environmental threat posed by invasive species.

Tribbles were actually a metaphor for the zebra mussel. Source: Wikipedia

And for a while I thought, Well, he’s just not a real Star Trek fan. It was a terrible assumption on my part. I was falling into the No True Scotsman fallacy, and not just because James Doohan’s accent was fake, but that’s another story. Fans come in many types and varieties. All that makes someone a Star Trek fan is that they enjoy Star Trek, right? Besides I have a conundrum that’s got me questioning whether I’m really a fan. In his book Get A Life William Shatner shares a story about his decision to walk from his hotel to a horse show one morning. It was a crisp, sunny day and he was feeling his oats. It was only when he realized how many miles he’d be hoofing it that he started to panic. At an intersection he talked to a couple in a pickup truck stopped at a red light, explaining who he was and begging for a ride. They pointedly ignored him but before they drove off the woman yelled, “Kirk sucks! Picard rules!”

I have trouble believing this story because I don’t think any true Star Trek fan would turn down the chance to give Captain Kirk a lift, and yet I also don’t think any true Star Trek fan would doubt William Shatner, especially since that book was such a love letter to fans. So, how do I solve the conundrum?

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/trekkies/n9511