The Weekly Essay

It’s Another Story.

Freedom Bus.

There’s a special freedom that comes with riding the bus. It’s not perfect, but then no freedom is absolute; everything requires certain trade-offs and sacrifices, as well as benefits. Driving has its advantages, like allowing me to set my own schedule, and while the distance to the parking garage is about the same as the distance to the bus stop the distance from the driveway to the door isn’t as far as I have to walk when I disembark from the bus. Still when I ride the bus I can read a book, or even listen to an interesting podcast, things I really can’t do while driving. I realize a podcast only occupies my ears and not my hands or my eyes, but sometimes I can get so engrossed in a story it’s hard to focus on anything else, or, especially if it’s a comedy podcast and I’m listening while walking to the bus, someone will say something that makes me laugh so hard I have to stop for a minute, even if it means potentially missing the next bus. Another one will be along eventually. And I can never predict when someone’s going to say something really funny. If I could I’d steal their line and use it here, and then later when I heard it on the podcast I’d say, “Hey, they stole my line,” and then I’d start wondering why they were on a podcast and I wasn’t, and that’s the sort of distraction that would be really bad if I were driving.
Anyway the other day I stepped out of the building where I work and it was raining. I hadn’t noticed it was raining earlier, probably because my cubicle doesn’t have any windows, and I was distracted by the thought of getting home. And I had two options to consider. One option would be to catch the bus at a stop right across the street from my office, where there’s a covered bus shelter. That would mean taking the bus all the way downtown so I could catch my regular bus, which would add about half an hour to my commute, and although I wasn’t in a hurry and could use the time to read or catch up on podcasts I also had to wonder if the extra time was worth it. My other option was to go back up to my office and get an umbrella. It was only a light rain, but I’ve noticed that a light rain will get you just as soaked as a hard rain if you stay out in it long enough, and even if I did take the bus downtown it might still be raining when I got to my findal stop and I’d still have the walk home. So I went back to my office and got an umbrella and set out for my regular bus stop several blocks away. And then I got distracted because I was listening to a podcast while I walked and someone said something funny about octopuses, and while it wasn’t a line I’ve used in anything I’ve written it was a line I think I could have come up with if they’d invited me on, and if they had it would have been better for me not to have used that line before because it wouldn’t be as funny if people knew I was going to say it, but that’s another story.
Anyway I managed to get to the street where I catch the bus just in time to see the bus on the other side of the street roll up to the stop and then roll away before I could cross over to it, but at least I had my umbrella so I could enjoy the freedom of not getting soaked while waiting for the next bus.

Wish Upon A Star.

Source: Sky & Telescope Interactive Sky Chart. Check it out. It’s really cool.

Have you ever made a wish on a star? Traditionally wishes are made on the first star to appear in the evening. Maybe that’s because the first visible star is the brightest and therefore able to shine through the sun’s lingering radiance, and was there long before you could see it, although the brightest stars aren’t necessarily the closest stars, and the more distant stars may not even be around anymore. Maybe stars are such lousy wish-granters because we’re wasting our wishes on the ghostly light of stars that burned out long ago. And can wishes move faster than the speed of light? If not and if you get lucky enough to make a wish on Proxima Centauri it’s going to be more than four years before your wish gets there and just as long before it gets back. I don’t know about anyone else but my priorities when I was seventeen were very different from when I was nine.

Maybe I’m overthinking this.

Sunday morning, after Daylight Savings Time ended and all the clocks fell back an hour, I got up early because my wife was going somewhere and I helped her load stuff into the car, take the dogs out, and whatever else needed to be done. I don’t remember exactly because my brain was still hanging out an hour back, but after she left and before I went back inside I looked to the south and there was a single star, bright enough to still be visible in the approaching dawn. And it was definitely a star, not a planet.

It was the star Alphard, the brightest star in Hydra, the constellation of the snake. The constellation is Greek, but the star’s name is Arabic for “the solitary one”, and it’s one of the stars on the Brazilian flag, representing the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and it’s on that state’s flag.

I can’t say I knew all of that while I was standing out in the backyard. Some of it I had to look up, including the fact that Alphard is larger and brighter than Earth’s sun, although cooler, and about one hundred and seventy-seven light years away, which makes it a relatively close cosmic neighbor, although still farther than you’d want to go for help if you locked yourself out of your house.

What I did know, standing out there in my bathrobe, is that the weather has gotten colder as we’ve moved into November, as the Earth’s orbit has taken it to closer to the sun, making the northern hemisphere’s nights longer, and that got me thinking about time. The ways we measure time–hours, minutes, even days–are arbitrary. Some cultures begin days at sunup, others begin at sundown, and in either case the sky never goes from completely light to complete dark in one swell foop. Time itself, though, is more of a mystery. Ever since Einstein we’ve known time and space are one thing, part of a continuum, and that matter affects space a time–an affect we can see in a picture of an eclipse, the sun’s gravity bending the light of other stars around it. The greater an object’s mass the slower time moves around it, and the faster an object moves the greater its mass, which is a thought I’ve been turning over in my head since I was seventeen. Is movement simply a way of marking time or are time and movement fundamentally linked? And does this have anything to do with temperature? Movement generates heat, whether it’s the energy released by stars knocking hydrogen atoms into each other or heat produced by the movement of molecules, movement that only stops at absolute zero. If you could stop all time around you but keep moving, like in a science fiction story, would you freeze because all the matter around you was no longer generating heat?

I shivered in my bathrobe. I’d lost track of how long I’d been standing there in the backyard staring at a solitary star as it dimmed in the growing light of a much closer star, so I walked to the door and wished I hadn’t locked myself out of the house.

What Your Favorite Halloween Movie Says About You.

Little Shop Of Horrors (1961)-You look forward to going to the dentist.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)-Your dentist dreads your appointments.

Basket Case (1982)-You’re sincere when you say you like sunsets and long walks on the beach.

Re-Animator (1985)-You were the first person in your neighborhood to buy a Prius.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)-You’re still the only person in your neighborhood who owns a Prius.

Paranormal Activity (2007)-You tell everyone you’re getting a hybrid vehicle next year.

The Thing (1982)-You think your man bun draws attention away from your attempts to grow a beard.

Get Out (2017)-You have at least three NPR tote bags.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)-You were once arrested for indecent exposure at a nude beach.

Saw (2004)-Your safe word is “tricycle”.

Hellraiser (1987)-Your safe word is “pinhead” but you’ve never used it.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)-You have no safe word.

The Black Cat (1934)-You’ve unironically described an office party as “a hootenanny”.

The Amityville Horror (1979)-You once electrocuted yourself changing a light bulb.

Hocus Pocus (1993)-You check under the bed before you go to sleep.

The Babadook (2014)-You sleep under the bed.

It’s Alive! (1974)-One of your grade school report cards said “Plays a little too well with others.”

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)-You laugh at conspiracy theories.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)-You laugh at people who don’t take conspiracy theories seriously.

Sssssss (1973)-You’ve been banned from zoos because you disturb the animals.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)-You’ve been banned from watching Sesame Street because you disturb the puppets.

Frankenstein (1931)-You once won a goldfish swallowing contest.

Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)-One of your summer jobs was raising rats for a reptile house.

Suspiria (1977)-You had to give up your dream of teaching kindergarten and settle for working in the ballet.

The Shining (1980)-Your bathroom has an enormous ball of soap made up of leftover hotel soaps.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)-When asked about breastfeeding you say, “Thanks, but I’m trying to quit.”

Doctor Giggles (1992)-At every checkup your doctor has to listen to you read a list of obscure diseases from your smartphone.

Dracula (1931)-The Halloween aisle at Walgreen’s gives you the creeps.

An American Werewolf In London (1981)-You prefer stout over lager.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)-You’ve told the joke about the three bartenders, the Franciscan monk, and the cross-eyed turtle as part of a wedding toast. Twice.

Halloween (1978)-The barbershop quartet you were in broke up over creative differences.

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)-You once gave a nine year old a dictionary as a gift.

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)-You’ve chosen a restaurant solely because it serves blood pudding.

Dawn Of The Dead (1978)-You’ve said, “Don’t be confused by the name. It’s really more of a sausage.”

Day Of The Dead (1985)-You’ve made your own blood pudding.

The Fly (1958)-You kept a praying mantis as a pet when you were a kid.

The Fly (1986)-You’ve chosen a restaurant solely because it serves fried grasshoppers.

The Exorcist (1973)-You don’t understand why people have a problem with the word “moist”.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)-You tried out for but didn’t make the high school swim team.

Beetlejuice (1988)- Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways it’s still rock and roll to you.

Scream (1996)-You’ve spent more than twenty minutes listing the inaccuracies in a film someone casually brought up at a dinner party.

Alien (1979)-You can belch the alphabet.

Carrie (1976)-You attended your thirty year high school reunion but you’re still not sure what Homecoming is supposed to be.

The Raven (1963)-You have unusually strong opinions about the difference between jelly and marmalade.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992)-You made the high school golf team because they were short a player.

The Wolf Man (1941)-You’ve ordered chicken “medium rare”.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)-You dressed up as Nikola Tesla for Halloween when you were a kid.

Ringu (1998)-You still own a VHS player.

Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)-You’ve said to a nurse who was about to give you a flu shot, “Here, let me do it.”

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)-You were once arrested for setting an inflatable Santa on fire in July.

The Stuff (1985)-You make your own granola.

The Addams Family (1991)-You sleep with the lights on.

The Ghost And Mr. Chicken (1966)-You sleep with the lights on during the day.

Off The Menu.

Welcome To Long Pig Barbecue! We’re that little place off the beaten path, way up here where we look out for each other. That’s why we say the hills have eyes.

We stick to the old ways and treat all our customers like they’re one of us because there’s a little of you in all of us. It’s why we’re known as a place where people keep coming back up.

Come on in, sit down, and let us take care of you. At Long Pig Barbecue our motto is by the people, for the people, of the people.

And when it’s time for you to foot the bill don’t forget to tip your waiter or they might give you the finger.

Appetizers

All Ears

Crisp, crunchy, deep-fried goodness, a big plate of these treats is sure to satisfy the whole table.

Butter Fingers

We’re not stingy with the butter and these are slow-cooked so the meat falls right off the bone.

Entrees

Baby Back Ribs

Fresh and tender, but ask your server about the rack size. You might want to order a double.

All Hands

Popular with the kids! Served fried or grilled, and either way they’re finger-lickin’ good.

Well-armed

Baked to a nice crisp and also served in a special novelty dish to tickle your funny bone.

Tongue-tied

You won’t know what to say when this mouth-watering platter is placed in front of you.

Cold Shoulder

Great during the summer months you won’t be able to turn away from this dish.

Cold Feet

Another summer specialty that’s sure to keep you on your toes.

Bleeding Heart

Served up hot and rare and swimming in its own juices people get choked up over this dish.

Combo Meals (2-4 People)

Double Header

Two heads are better than one, and this big platter is bound to please all palates.

Foot in Mouth

One of our signature dishes for couples, people can’t stop talking about it.

Feast For The Eyes

When we say the eyes have it we mean you’ll love this specialty platter that you have to see to believe.

Arm and a Leg (Market price)

A great combo meal for those dining jointly.

Desserts-Sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Humble Pie

Spotted Dick

 

I Want Candy.

The following candies will be rebranded as “sexy” this Halloween:

Kit Kats

Mounds

Almond Joy

Blow Pops

Milk Duds

Lemonheads

Licorice whips

Jawbreakers

Malted milk balls

Twizzlers

Gummy worms

Caramel apples

M&Ms (all flavors)

Snickers

Goo Goo Cluster

Reese’s peanut butter cups

Reese’s pieces

Hershey’s kisses

Butterfinger

Anything “fun size”

Mary Janes

Jolly Ranchers

Watchamacalit

Nerds

Skittles

Candy corn

Starburst

Granola bars

Bon Bons

Pop rocks

Swedish fish

After dinner mints

Wax Lips

Raisins

UNICEF money

Passing The Test.

To: All Employees, Braeburn Building

From: Building Management

Subject: Emergency Drill.

Hello Everyone,

First of all we’d like to thank you for your understanding while participating in the emergency drill earlier this week. This is our first test of the emergency notification system or ENS, which is required annually, since we began managing the building seventeen months ago. We know there were some mistakes made and we’d like to address some of those now. We’d also like to offer assurance that we are reviewing the procedures and will be making adjustments based on both our own conclusions and feedback from you. We’ve already received a great deal of constructive feedback from you as well as from the police and fire departments and we really appreciate it.

First of all we’d like to defend the decision not to inform building employees that we would be conducting a test of the building’s ENS. We felt that it would be a more effective test if people were not given advance warning. This decision is currently under review. Going forward, however, it will always be our policy to notify the police and fire departments in advance that we’ll be conducting a test. On the bright side we found that if there had been a real emergency we can count on first responders to get here within minutes.

We also made several changes to our plans before conducting the test. For example it was suggested that someone from building management run down the hallway of each floor screaming unintelligibly just before or during the activation of the emergency notification system. We didn’t want to cause too much alarm by having the person scream something specific and we can all agree that this was the right decision. Abandoning this plan before we conducted the test, we can all agree, was also the right decision.

We apologize to employees who work on the 9th Floor that Kevin was not informed that we decided not to implement this part of the test.

Second, it is standard procedure for the elevators to shut down automatically when the ENS is activated. We apologize to those who were in the elevators at the time and will be making adjustments to make sure the elevators don’t stop between floors, and that the doors open.

Third, and speaking of doors, we are very glad to see that almost everyone used the stairwells and proceeded to the emergency exits at the ground floor, as instructed. We apologize for the fact that the emergency exits were locked. In our defense the building goes on automatic lockdown between 7:00PM and 7:00AM for security reasons.

The ENS was activated at 8:30AM, but after careful review we realized Kevin had failed to adjust the building clocks correctly, due to confusion over time zones and Daylight Savings Time. Since we’d received several complaints about the building not being open or going into lockdown at odd hours we should have noticed this sooner. We promise this will be fixed immediately even if we have to work overtime.

You can take some comfort in knowing that in the future all tests of the ENS will be conducted between 7:00AM and 7:00PM, so if the alarm goes off outside of those hours it’s probably a real emergency. Ha ha.

Finally there’s been a lot of confusion and misinformation about the wasps. We’d like to make it absolutely clearly that we were testing the ENS and that there was no emergency prior to that. The accidental release of the wasps at the same time was purely coincidental. Fun fact: the wasps are not native to this area but in Japan are known as “the yak-killer wasp”. We’ve consulted local naturalists who assure us the wasps will “probably” not survive the winter and are not an environmental threat unless a queen was also released. We’re checking on that, how they were brought into the country, and why Kevin had them at work.

As an added act of good faith and retribution on our parts we’ll be giving each floor a tin of butter, cheese, and caramel flavored popcorn, as well as sending around a collection of get well cards for those employees who sustained injuries during the test of the ENS but which, for legal reasons, we can’t currently acknowledge had anything to do with the test.

Please feel free to sign the cards and enjoy the popcorn which will be delivered to you by Kevin.

Thank you again for your understanding and acting appropriately during the test of the ENS.

-Braeburn Building Management

Going Number Two.

Stickers have been going up on signs on bus stops around the city. Apparently the Number 2 route isn’t the only one going down, and that’s a sad thing. Since riding the bus for me is a convenience it’s easy for me to complain, but what about the people who depend on the bus to get around? Whenever I see a route being eliminated I remember the Number 13 route that I once accidentally got on, back when the buses didn’t have signs with their route number and bus drivers sometimes forgot what route they were on. The Number 13 went down Murphy Road, an side street that curves around through the Sylvan Park neighborhood. Along it you’ll find a vegan bakery, a bagel place, an organic grocery, and the McCabe golf course where, in high school, I made a dismal attempt at joining the golf team, but that’s another story.
I still wonder who rode the Number 13–that one day I accidentally got on the bus was packed–and how they had to change their schedules. Parts of the Number 13 overlap with another route, and getting from that other route to Murphy Road is walkable, for those who can walk a mile or more.
The Number 2 partly overlaps with the Number 7, which I rode as part of my plan to ride every one of Nashville’s bus routes–so far I’ve fallen short, and yet it still bothers me that there’s now at least one less route to ride. The Number 7 goes through the heart of Hillsboro Village, an area that gets so much traffic it could use more buses, not less. The Number 2 goes around a side street, past the entrance to the area’s YMCA. Hey, don’t people who ride the bus also go to the gym? If you look at the schedule you’ll see it’s kind of an odd route that starts running at 5:34 in the morning then stops at 9:28, and only starts up again at 2:15 in the afternoon and stops at 6:49, so it’s mainly aimed at people who work the day shift.
I hope the people who used to ride it can walk.

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