The Weekly Essay

It’s Another Story.

It’s Party Time!

No child’s party is complete without a theme and Partytown Central Depotville—your celebration destination location station for any occasion or situation—has over 1000 party themes available for rent or purchase no matter your festival jubilee merrymaking carnival gala needs!

-from the PCD website

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selections From Partytown Central Depotville’s List Of Children’s Party Themes

Environmentally Sustainable Entertainment Options

Public Domain Fairy Tale Characters

Mortgage Refinancing Negotiation

Earn A Junior Business Degree

Let’s Clean The House!

My Dad Versus Your Dad (Betting optional)

Cowboys and Federal Regulators

Choose Your Own Stock Trading Internship

Birthday Parties In My Day (Parent/Grandparent/Great Grandparent/Victorian Era)

Learn About Waivers

Astounding Sea Monkey Cosplay

Creative Accounting

15th Century Flemish Painting

Victim Blaming

Fun With Reupholstering

Build A Gnome Workshop

Night At The Recycling Center

Chicken Nuggets: From Egg To Box To Landfill

The Party’s Over. [Part 2 Of 2.]

Read Part 1 here.

When we got to Dale’s house my parents let me out while they went to park the car. As I was trying to cross the driveway unnoticed a tall blonde girl spotted me and said, “What is HE doing here?” There were only a few kids outside and they ignored her and me. I went into the house to try and find a secluded perch.
Dale was somewhere in the party, moving around with an entourage. I didn’t try to talk to him, just tried to stay out of everyone’s way. There was no place to sit, no place I could disappear to. It seemed like the only kids from school who weren’t at Dale’s house were ones I’d want to talk to. I hadn’t eaten because of nerves and the belief that there’d be food at the party, and there was food in the kitchen, but the entire football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and golf teams were between me and it. That was a grand total of just nine guys—small school–but the kitchen was crowded and they were hungry and there was still no way I could grab a sandwich without losing a hand. Eventually they moved on to the den to graze on cheerleaders. I sat down next to a basket of tortilla chips and a fondue pot of cheese dip. A guy with a mullet and a wispy moustache sat down and slapped me on the back. “You like nachos?” he yelled, then pointed at me. “Hey, dude’s all right! Dude likes nachos!” And I thought, hey, if this is all it takes to fit in I could have done it years ago.
I couldn’t eat nachos forever–well, I could, but the athletic department was working its way back–so I drifted off to a spot on the stairs where I stayed until Dale’s stepmother, who was nice and always seemed to zero in on me with some idea for getting me “involved”, asked if I’d go upstairs and choose some music. In Dale’s room there was a setup with a turntable and speakers that leaned out the window toward the patio below. I played some of Rush’s 2112, “Burning Down The House”, then switched to “Mr. Roboto”, really digging being a DJ. During the long version of “The Safety Dance” I dug through Dale’s milk crate full of vinyl and found an old recording of “The Hokey Pokey”. I thought that would be fun in an ironic way and danced happily by myself until a guy with a mullet and a wispy moustache, not Nacho Man but a different one, told me to get out.
For a long time I sat at a picnic table in the backyard sipping Kool-Aid. While the evening darkened and the multi-colored party lights strung around the patio grew brighter I watched couples who’d been blocked from the bedrooms disappear behind the toolshed at the back of the yard.
A pretty girl who ignored me at school sat down and said hi to me.
“Have you seen Stevie Wonder’s new car?” I asked.
She shook her head.
“Neither has he.”
She laughed and put out her hand then slapped the table between us.
“You’re a smart guy. Maybe you can help me. I took my mom’s boyfriend’s car out the other night, you know? Anyway I dented the the right front fender and my mom’s boyfriend is gonna kick my ass when he finds out. What should I do?”
I didn’t even know where to begin since “Why were you driving your mother’s boyfriend’s car when you haven’t even even got a learner’s permit?” seemed like a bad way to start. Besides, I thought, we all make mistakes, we all do things we wish we could take back. It wasn’t advice, but that didn’t matter. Horns were honking in the driveway and parents were coming out to point and snap their fingers. The party was ending.
That summer there was a growing schism in the church with my parents on one side, Dale’s father on the other, and most of their mutual friends uninterested in taking sides.  The big gatherings where our parents got together and that had been, for most of our lives, the times when Dale and I would get together, stopped happening. And even when our parents did get together we were both getting too old to tag along.
Most Sundays Dale brought some new friends he’d made in his new neighborhood, or occasionally Keith, to church with him. I was never invited to join these groups. Neither of us played soccer anymore, he’d dropped out of the Scouts, and I’d lost interest in the church youth group. When we passed we rarely said more than “Hey” to each other. In the fall, even though we went to the same high school, it was a much bigger school, and we rarely saw each other, and moved in different circles, although his circles were so much bigger. I was still so awkward, an outsider, alone most of the time, although I’d gotten good at blending in, wearing jeans and an Oxford cloth shirt. Sometimes Dale would walk by me in the hall and not even see me. One night a month into our freshman year my parents went to Dale’s house and I went along. Dale was alone in his room and for several awkward minutes I was alone with him. Then for some reason I started to spill about my latest obsession, interstellar travel, and how much I wanted to get off this planet. I rambled about wormholes and warping space, and I thought I sounded like the biggest dork in the universe, but I couldn’t shut up which made it even worse. Dale didn’t say anything until I finished and flopped into the beanbag chair.
“If you find a way,” he said, “take me with you.” It was a simple, quiet request, and I thought, what problems does Dale have that he wants to escape? And I thought, how could we possibly have this in common? Neither of us said anything after that. It wasn’t awkward, just the airless silence of two people who have nothing to say.
Dale and I would never be alone again after that. My parents left the church and a lot of their friends. Dale and I, I thought, who had so little in common, were only friends because circumstances forced us together. When those dissolved so did the friendship, but after years of feeling I was being pushed away there was that moment when Dale admitted he didn’t want to let go. At school I found friends, friends who were more like me, friends I chose. And yet I realized that you never really replace friends you’ve lost; new ones will never quite fill the void the old ones left.

This story doesn’t have a clear ending. If I could go back, if I could do it over, would I give it one? Would I do something differently, would I do everything differently? Maybe this is the ending it needs, to fray in different directions that will trace out their own paths, like people leaving a party.

 

The Party’s Over. [Part 1 of 2]

“You’re coming to my party, Chris.”

It wasn’t a request. For Dale it was simply a statement of fact, made while we were sitting in his bedroom. Actually he was half lying on his bed and I was sunk into the beanbag chair next to the stereo. He was throwing a party to mark the end of our eighth grade year, the end of junior high, the end of our time at MacMurray school, and he’d decided I was coming. I wasn’t so sure. The one thing I was sure of that Dale and I had been growing apart for years even though Dale had been one of my oldest friends. Our parents went to the same church, our mothers were close friends, and our birthdays were only a few months apart, so of course we bonded. We grew up together. At Dale’s tenth birthday party, the same one where I broke my front tooth but that’s another story, I tried nachos for the first time, although back then our idea of “nachos” was a corn chip with a slice of pasteurized processed cheese and a little bit of onion. Dale and I went to summer camp together. When we weren’t at camp we spent a lot of days walking to the video game arcade. That was when Dale lived near enough that we could walk to each others’ houses, which only lasted a couple of years. His family moved at least three times, but when he lived farther away we still saw each other at least three times a week. Our parents got together most Friday or Saturday nights. There was also church and its youth group, and we joined the Scouts together. We played on the same soccer team for three years. He was team captain and lead goal scorer and I was, well, there. Even though Dale loved horror films and I hated them—they’ve since grown on me—so we watched horror films. And Dale convinced me to sneak out late at night, which wasn’t hard because I wasn’t going to get a lot of sleep after watching The Beast Within, and we ran around the neighborhood filling mailboxes with shaving cream. And I’ve never forgotten the day we were home alone and decided to kill time making prank calls, asking people if their refrigerators were running. Then Dale dialed a random number and asked to speak to Jim. “This is Jim,” the guy on the other end of the line replied. Dale started laughing and looked at me and mouthed Oh shit. “Hang up!” I hissed. Dale said, “Hey Jim, it’s Dale, how’s it going?”

“Dale who?”

“Aw, come on, you know, it’s me. How’ve you been?”

Jim paused and then carefully said, “Well, all right, I guess, how about you?”

And the conversation went on for about fifteen minutes with Dale reminiscing about how they went fishing and their trip to Chattanooga and Jim trying to remember whether he’d ever been to Chattanooga.

During the summer between fifth and sixth grade Dale’s mother had to go into the hospital. Cancer, which she’d been dealing with for years, had come back and was much worse. Dale came and stayed with us. At first I was excited about this; to me it was like an extended sleepover. I didn’t think about what Dale was going through, and it frustrated me that he wanted to spend hours on the phone with Keith, another friend of his who lived next door to him. Keith was an athlete and a football fan, like Dale. It didn’t occur to me that, given the emotional stress of his mother’s illness, Dale would rather be at home.

When she got worse he did go home. When she died he and I didn’t talk about it, not until his next birthday when I was one of a half dozen guys he invited for a sleepover. We had pizza and watched movies and played games, then, late, things got quiet and one of the other kids asked Dale if he missed his mother. He talked quietly about how hard it had been, how the last time he talked to her she was unconscious, that the last thing he’d said was “I love you.”

I didn’t say anything but just listened, deeply aware that Dale, a few months younger than me, was years older.

As we went into sixth, seventh, and eighth grade we saw less of each other. Dale dropped out of the Scouts and his father moved the family to another part of town. There was also a growing schism in the church and his father was on one side while my parents were on the other. There were still occasional get-togethers but it had all changed. Dale and I went to the same school but we were in separate classes and moved in different circles. Most days he wore the usual cool kids’ uniform of a pale blue or white Oxford shirt and jeans. Most days I wore plaid shirts and corduroy slacks, the usual uniform of a kid who wants his ass kicked. When Dale and I were together we had less to talk about. Mostly he tried to convince me I should get my hair feathered and listen to Journey, and I was more interested in reruns of Star Trek.

When he invited me to his farewell to junior high party—not that it had a name or a theme because it was too cool to be anything but a party—I assumed it was out of pity, or maybe just habit for him. None of my other friends from school were invited but a lot of kids I didn’t like were. So I came up with a brilliant plan for getting out of it: I wouldn’t tell my parents about the party, which might have worked if Dale’s stepmother hadn’t asked my parents to help chaperone, and my parents of course thought, hey, what fourteen year-old shy geek wouldn’t want to go to a party full of jocks and cool kids with his parents?

 

The Kids Will Be All Right.

When I say Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of the best films of the ‘80’s and even deserves a place among the best films of all time I’m not kidding. Sure, it got blasted by critics when it first came out, but so did Led Zeppelin’s debut album which is now considered a classic, and, sure, it’s got its weak spots, but so does Led Zeppelin’s debut album and for that matter so do a lot of great works of art. It may not be Citizen Kane but it would be ridiculous if it were because Citizen Kane had already been made almost half a century earlier. And Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has lasted, meeting one of the main criteria for a film to be considered classic. Mark Twain also described a classic as “a book which people praise but don’t read,” and the film is so dependent on sight gags and actors’ performances that if it were made into a book that book would be terrible and no one should read it.

Granted this is just my opinion and while most opinions should be taken with at least a grain of salt it’s up to you to decide just how big that grain should be, and I’ll sprinkle in some additional thoughts. At least three times a day I ask myself, what makes you think that? And the first time I saw Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure I said, wow, I know we’re going to see a lot more of Alex Winters, and maybe that other guy too. Keep in mind, though, that this was before Keanu Reeves was famous and was even before I was asked to play Keanu Reeves in a school talent show, back when I had more hair and less waist, but that’s another story. What I’m saying is that with opinions you should always season to taste, and a voice is telling me I’ve already hammered this point so hard it’s embedded in the wood and I should move on.

The critics who hated Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure were also, in my opinion, a bunch of old ugly dudes who missed that Bill and Ted aren’t as stupid as they seem–and maybe even smarter than they realize, like when Bill lets it slip he has “a slight Oedipal complex”, and while it’s lasted, I think it’s greatest impact was for people of a certain age at a certain time, which is ironic for a movie about time travel, but then films about the future have a lousy track record of actually predicting the future with the possible exception of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. And what made it great was not that the way it spoke to a rising generation but its message to the older generation: trust the kids and they will turn out all right. With the right guidance, in fact, they can be extraordinary, and can even make a better world where miniature golf scores are way down and bowling scores are way up. In retrospect it seems almost too perfect that Bill and Ted’s mentor from the future, Rufus, is played by George Carlin who, two decades earlier, embraced the youth culture that was being rejected even by some of his own generation.

Source: Gfycat

While that other well-known ’80’s time travel film, Back To The Future, also contained the warning that the future and even the present aren’t fixed, it looked to the past. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure looked to the future, keeping it largely unknowable, but placing the greatest burden not on the past but the present. Bill & Ted also fully embraced something Back To The Future only touched on: when you’ve got a time machine you’ve literally got all the time in the world, as the disappearance of Ted’s father’s keys in the first reel has a most excellent payoff in the final one.

Source: Bill & Ted

As much as I loved the first film I had low expectations a few years later when I went to the theater to see Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. It felt like the first film was so complete in itself that, in spite of the success, there couldn’t be a sequel. In the theater, though, I did get a brief reminder of what the first film meant to me. There was a group of kids in the front row and somehow before the movie started I got to talking with them found out it was the tenth birthday of one of them. I gave him a pair of sunglasses with glow in the dark frames. “Thanks!” he said. “That was really excellent of you,” his mother told me. I just said, “Party on, dudes,” and took a seat in the back row where the Bogus Journey, in spite of the Ingmar Bergman references and great use of the Vasquez Rocks, was most heinous and non-triumphant.

And now there’s a third film in the works, and I wonder what this future holds. I don’t ask why because it’s Hollywood, Jake, and sequels and franchises have been part of the game at least as far back as the 1930’s with setups like The Aldrich Family which spanned a total of eleven films.

What I’m wondering now is, have they gotten better? Have we? And by “we” I mean those of us who are like Bill and Ted: guys who’ve already started out pretty high up on the ladder and get an extra boost. The future, so far anyway, hasn’t turned out to be so excellent for many people. Those of us who saw ourselves in Bill and Ted had a chance to make the world better and we largely failed. And one of the biggest flaws of the first two is that women, whose historic roles have largely been sidelined or even ignored, get the same treatment from Bill and Ted–even the historic babes. Sure, Joan Of Arc takes over a Jazzercize class, but even the woman who manages their band turns out to be Rufus in disguise. Bill and Ted have been to the past and future and to Heaven and Hell and even defeated Death, and now is their chance to see history as much more complicated than the contributions of as many dudes, mostly white dudes, as can be stuffed into a phone booth. George Carlin is sadly gone but that means we are now Rufus, and we have a responsibility to extend the help we offer far beyond the Circle K parking lot. And some of us old ugly dudes need to be reminded that while we can still party on the first and most important thing we can do in both the present and future is to be excellent to each other.

The Beach Rules.

In order to enjoy the beach safely and responsibly please observe the following rules:

  1. Pets are allowed on the beach but please pick up after them.
  2. Children are allowed on the beach but please pick up after them.
  3. This is a public beach. Please dress appropriately. Yes, we’re talking to you. Really, those shoes with that shirt? Did you get dressed in the dark this morning or what?
  4. If caught in an undertow swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the current and can swim back safely.
  5. If caught in an overtow dive as deep as you can and swim parallel to the beach, if you remember where it is. This is a great chance to see how long you can hold your breath!
  6. If your car is towed call 251-555-3219.
  7. Don’t build a fire unless you’ve been in a horrific plane crash or fallen off a cruise and found yourself stranded alone on the beach. If that’s the case as soon as you start making a fire someone’s bound to show up and tell you you’re doing it wrong. Get a lift home from them.
  8. Feed the seagulls at your own risk. Every year dozens of tourists are carried away by flocks of seagulls.
  9. Do not linger under the palm trees. It makes the coconuts skittish.
  10. Solicitation is prohibited. So is selling anything. If someone approaches you and tries to interest you in a timeshare or beach property tell them you’re Canadian.
  11. There are lifeguards on duty but they can only run in slow motion. If you’re drowning try and prolong it as long as you can.
  12. If you find a lamp on the beach and rub it and a genie doesn’t come out take it home and try plugging it in.
  13. Do not get high on the beach. You might fall off.
  14. Do not taunt the seahorses. They may look cute, especially the babies, but the adults are very protective and, at up to six feet long and three-hundred pounds, can inflict a nasty bite.
  15. Do not drink the water.

The Atomic Age.

Source: Wikipedia

The 1980’s were a totally tubular decade, the era of Rubik’s cubes and Max Headroom, bandannas and leg warmers, of Cabbage Patch Kids and Garbage Pail Kids and conspicuous consumption, and of course some great and some not so great music, which is why the ‘80’s gave us the mixtape. If you love the ‘80’s then you didn’t grow up in the ‘80’s, but if you did grow up in the ‘80’s see if you can match these songs with their descriptions and deeper meanings below.

  1. 99 Luftballoons-Nena
  2. Take On Me-A-Ha
  3. Melt With You-Modern English
  4. Safety Dance-Men Without Hats
  5. Dude Looks Like A Lady-Aerosmith
  6. Eat It-Weird Al Yankovic
  7. Girls Just Want To Have Fun-Cyndi Lauper
  8. Billie Jean-Michael Jackson
  9. Like A Virgin-Madonna
  10. Karma Chameleon-Culture Club
  11. Every Breath You Take-The Police
  12. The Reflex-Duran Duran
  13. Our House-Madness
  14. Purple Rain-Prince
  15. Hip To Be Square-Huey Lewis & The News
  1. On its surface a denial of paternity this dance tune by the then rising King of Pop was also a response to growing interest in western goods in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe even as the Warsaw Pact nations remained suspicious of capitalism.
  2. Even the most well-stocked bomb shelter, this song reminded us, would require careful rationing and maintenance of a filtered ventilation system to ensure long-term survival in the event of a nuclear war.
  3. A comeback hit for a band that had been on “permanent vacation” this song used gender-bending lyrics as a metaphor for the increasing nuclear arms stockpile that was intended to be a show of force as part of the policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD) that was intended to keep the nuclear superpowers in check even as international tensions escalated.
  4. This popular love song that’s become ubiquitous in cheesy commercials was inspired by the melting of mannequins used in nuclear bomb tests.
  5. The effects of widespread nuclear blasts on the climate and the ensuing “nuclear winter” became a widespread topic of discussion in the 1980’s and the subject of this song which became one of its performer’s signature pieces. It would be followed a few years later by “Alphabet Street”, about the codes entrusted to a “designated survivor” in the event of a nuclear attack during the president’s State of the Union address.
  6. Missile-launch surveillance is a full-time job as reflected in this song about the military personnel entrusted with keeping watch over the “lucky clover” of radar tracking and other early warning systems.
  7. A popular club hit the “dance” referred to in this song is international agreements toward nuclear disarmament and the negotiated withdrawal by the superpowers from certain parts of the world.
  8. Best known for its amazing music video that combined animation and live action as a young girl enters a comic book world the song and video both were a subtle yet poignant commentary on nations in remote parts of the world engaging in armed conflicts as proxies for the United States and Soviet Union.
  9. A popular parody of a Michael Jackson hit this song was also about the importance of storing canned goods and other non-perishable food items in bomb shelters in preparation for nuclear war.
  10. This British ska toe-tapper was all about the ongoing maintenance of a bomb shelter and the responsibility thrust onto the younger generation of ensuring survival in the event of nuclear war.
  11. This song’s performer shocked MTV audiences with her provocative wedding-dress performance but even more shocking was the song’s addressing of the nuclear superpowers’ massive arsenals and the fact that some of the weapons had not been updated in decades.
  12. A nuclear holocaust would likely require survivors to stay in cramped fallout shelters for months, even years. One of the biggest challenges would be staying healthy, as emphasized in this catchy hit from 1986 which featured then-San Francisco 49ers Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott singing backup vocals.
  13. Best known for their flamboyant lead singer this band’s catchy dance tune with its line about “red, gold, and green” was both a plea for universal harmony and a reference to Africa’s strategic importance in providing uranium for nuclear arsenals.
  14. This catchy German pop that went big in the English-speaking world hit is delightfully upbeat in contrast to its dark Dr. Strangelove-type story of nuclear war set off by a handful of children’s toys.
  15. Written and performed by a singer whose vocal range was as extreme as her punk hairdo and makeup this anthem to girls having fun was a cultural response to the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation.

The New Zodiac.

Your Allergy Horoscope For The Week

Pollen: While everyone else is complaining about the sudden cold snap you’ll be glad for the relief. For at least a few days you’ll be able to breathe again without being medicated to the gills. Oh, wait, it’s a dogwood winter and those blooms are wide open. Never mind.

Shellfish: Be prepared to explain at least three more times that it also means shrimp and lobster, and that, yes, you do know what you’re missing but you’d rather be breathing. And once again you’ll have to tell someone to knock it off with the escargot. That wasn’t funny the first time.

Pet Dander: Aggressive people will try to take the lead. Step back and let them. What you’ve been dreading will come to pass. Or it won’t. Take a little “me” time this week. An old romantic interest will flare up, or it might just be your sinuses.

Mold: You’re a fun guy, even if you’re a gal. Haven’t heard that one a million times, have you? This week just say no to those mushrooms your friend brought back from a backpacking trip in Northern Europe or you’ll be having an emergency room freakout.

Peanuts: At least you’re not allergic to almonds because those things are everywhere these days. Or cashews because those are delicious. Here, stick your hand in this can of mixed nuts and see if you can pull out some almonds and cashews. Don’t worry, it’s less than fifty percent peanuts so you’ve got a good chance.

Beryllium: Do you know if you’re allergic to beryllium? Better go ahead and cancel that trip to the X-ray tube factory just in case.

Dust Mites: Imagine millions of tiny little bugs with pointy legs and sharp pincers crawling all over your body all night long. As they march along they eat up pieces of your dead skin that flake off and collect in tiny troughs and canyons of your sheets. Anyway, sleep well!

Eggs: All time is relative at the celestial level. The heavenly bodies move in their never-ending dance to the music of the spheres and all are part of an infinitely circling cosmos. Renewal is constant. So, really, when you think about it, a bacon cheeseburger really is the best breakfast. Especially with that hangover.

Milk: Put down the knife, step away from the Camembert, and no one gets hurt.

Sagittarius: The only people not allergic to Sagittarians are other Sagittarians. Avoid hyperactive, optimistic, outdoorsy types, especially if they’re into archery.

Latex: When stressed ask those around you to treat you with kid gloves. When insulted remind them you are rubber, they are glue. Hypoallergenic rubber in your case.

Bee Stings: Just think of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, while you’re waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

IF YOUR BIRTHDAY IS TODAY: You’re too young to read this, but don’t worry. There’s an allergy out there for everyone.

April Fools.

Source: Wikipedia

April is the cruelest month, and also National Poetry Month, or maybe it’s the cruelest month because it’s National Poetry Month. I started using poetry in high school. It started light: Poe, a little Shelley here and there, some Dickinson, but it wasn’t long before I was on to the hard stuff: Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Coleridge. I had a teacher who made us read The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams in class and then she spent the next fifty-nine minutes before the bell haranguing us about how this poem was full of deep, mystical symbolism and that we were all too young and uneducated to understand it. and this convinced a lot of my classmates to just say no to poetry, but not me. I was hooked and even became an English major in college and learned that what The Red Wheelbarrow is really about is a red wheelbarrow and some chickens.

Here are some poems I wrote in that previous life.

Ratopolis

“There’s a war going on in our cities…and the rats are winning.”

-from a commercial for a National Geographic special

Rats are winning the war for the city,

Displacing us as they come from below.

While our tactics are softened with pity

Rats are winning the war for the city.

Gassing a poisons aren’t pretty,

But all is fair in this war if we know

Rats are winning the war for the city,

Displacing us as they come from below.

 

Displacing us as they come from below

The rats teach us something we never knew

By steady process, since our brains are slow.

Displacing us as they come from below

The rats whisper to us we are rats too.

Knowing too much disrupts our status quo.

Displacing us as they come from below

The rats teach us something we never knew.

Paranoia

Headed toward home I wonder who monitors all the monitors

That glow in the houses on either side. And where

Are they? In the savannahs and remote jungles,

Where the only electricity comes from seasonal storms

Seen in photographs from a distance, monitors

Are lizards that slink around rocks and over

Trees after small mammals and other easy meals.

They range in size from smaller than your hand

To monsters with five-fingered feet

With claws that could slice off your leg,

And they’ve held dominion over their territory

From time before the first simians scraped sparks

Out of stones. A trespassing baron sat down to rest

Among them. All his minions found was his indigestible glasses

And shoes. Some of these big lizards, although common

Names are hard to pin down, are called basilisks.

In legend basilisks had the power to turn their prey,

Or anyone who caught their eye, no matter how

Casually, into stone. It’s just a legend. Some

Legends are encrusted or crystallized facts,

But not this one. This legend’s safely

In its cage around the next corner licking its lips.

Weather Witness.

When I was in sixth grade I became obsessed with tornadoes. I read everything I could find which, at the time, wasn’t much because the school library was pretty limited. What sparked this obsession was the annual watching of the tornado awareness film which always happened in late spring. It was the same film I’d seen every year since kindergarten so I don’t know what sparked such an intense interest that particular year. I always thought tornadoes were kind of cool and I thought it would be interesting to see one, but before sixth grade the feeling passed quickly. Maybe the information just hit critical mass with me, having been subjected to the same bass baritone narrator intoning about, “Tornadoes: nature’s tidal wave. They wreak untold devastation, destruction, and demolition. For the next twenty minutes we will begin to understand all that scientists don’t understand about these unpredictable natural phenomena that strike every year with frightening regularity…” The film covered how tornadoes were caused by rotating columns of air when cold and warm fronts collided, and what to do if a tornado was coming, which was mainly get away from windows, preferably into a basement or cellar, put your head down, and wait it out. There was even a shot of a group of kids just like us huddling in a line with their heads down, and what always stuck with me was that there was one kid who turned around and looked up. And I thought, yep, that’d be me, even though in an enclosed space safe from a tornado there wouldn’t be anything to see except the wall and ceiling. Still, I wanted to look. After the film we would have a practice drill. We’d be taken out into the hall because for some reason our teachers thought the ideal place to be during a tornado would be a long corridor with doors to the outside at either end. I never questioned this but I never understood it either. The restrooms, which were completely enclosed and had heavy tile communal sinks that looked like they were designed by Antonio Gaudi would have been so much safer. In the hall we had to squat down and put our heads between our knees, and when the teachers turned away I’d look. Sometimes I’d be close enough to the doors I could see the trees outside, branches moving slowly in the breeze.
One afternoon during my sixth grade tornado obsession I was outside and saw a few leaves blow around in a circle, one of those strange miniature vortices you sometimes see twirling leaves or trash and I got really excited. The next day I told my friends I’d seen a dust devil, one of those small tornadoes described in the film we’d watched. And this started a long argument about whether a dust devil could be made of leaves or if it had to be dust. Not that it mattered: what I’d seen was just a light wind curling around itself.
All this came to me the other night when a cold front came through and for a few pensive hours the area to the north of us was under a tornado watch and I realized it was nearly twenty years ago that a tornado hit downtown Nashville. The date was April 16th, 1998, to be precise. I was at work that day, it was the afternoon and there were reports of storms. A group of us were gathered at an office window and we could see the clouds begin to rotate, curling downward. At the time a tornado had never hit downtown Nashville. I’ve never confirmed this but it seemed all of us thought it was impossible, that the tall buildings acted as barriers to any a tornado ever forming. There was a sense among all of us, though, as we watched the clouds gather into a downward funnel, that something very terrible was happening. Someone said, “I think we’d better get away from the windows.”
It was terrible but short-lived. A few hours later when my wife and I drove home together there was an eerie calmness. I was glad it had passed. I had seen enough.

There’s A Word For It.

“The beauty of language is that every new word spawns new ones whether we need them or not. Usually not.”-Dr. Ruth Addison, Current Linguistics, v.27 no.9 (2017), p.207

Existing word:

Staycation (n.)-When you take vacation time but don’t go anywhere; time off while remaining at home.

Earliest recorded use: 1944.

Added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015.

New variations:

Daycation (n.)-When you only take a single day off from work to futz around at home.

Splaycation (n.)-When you miss work or something else because you’ve overslept or just can’t get out of bed. Popular among college students who dozily hit the snooze button on their alarm clocks only to wake up and realize they’ve slept through all their classes.

Spaycation (n.)-When you take the day off to take a pet to the vet.

Buffetcation (n.)-When you take a break from your diet.

Braincation (n.)-When you mentally check out while working on a mindless, routine task.

Draincation (n.)-When you’ve accumulated the maximum vacation time your work allows and stop earning more; see also “maycation”.

Maycation (n.)-When your boss assures you there probably almost certainly could be a chance that you’ll have the chance to take some time off after that big project.

Existing word:

Bromance (n.)-A close but platonic relationship between men.

Earliest recorded use: 2001.

Added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013.

New additions:

Knowmance (n.)-When you and another person have a lot in common and you’re sure you’d be good friends but for reasons of geography or scheduling the two of you never meet.

Showmance (n.)-When everything you learn about a celebrity seems to confirm that the two of you would be great friends if you just had a chance to meet but you’re not going to stalk them or anything because that would make it weird.

Promance (n.)-Similar to “showmance”, but applied to professional athletes.

Flowmance (n.)-The brief but amicable relationship you develop with a plumber or other repair person while they do something around your house that you kind of wish you could do yourself.

Throwmance (n.)-A relationship with someone you enjoy talking to but don’t think about when you’re not around them.

Crowmance (v.)-When you keep talking about a new relationship even though your friends really wish you’d just shut up about it.

Nomance (n.)-You don’t even know them but something about that person makes you want to punch them.

Existing word:

Slacktivist (n.)-A person whose actions toward a desired political or social change require little time or effort.

Earliest recorded use: 1998

Added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016

New additions:

Snacktivist (n.)-A co-worker who eats throughout the day, especially chips, crackers, or other loud foods.

Factivist (n.)-That annoying person who asks for your source or says “citation needed” in response to everything you say.

Stacktivism (v.)-Hiding inactivity behind a lengthy to-do list.

Tacktivist (n.)-A co-worker who says “Let’s put a pin in” all your suggestions.

Epicactivist (n.)-Someone whose one-upmanship over you regarding any cause or issue makes you want to vomit.

Other recent additions:

Metraction (n.)-The act of withdrawing from a conversation after realizing you’ve said something really stupid but not admitting it.

Plottery (n.)-Elaborate plans you say you’ll carry out when you win the lottery.

Seemail (v.)-Making sure your emails are read by obsessively attaching receipt/read tags to them.

Celebrenebriation (n.)-Excessive consumption of alcohol on a specific holiday (New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Arbor Day, etc.). Ironically cannot be pronounced by people experiencing it.

Flarking (v.)-Parking illegally or in a non-parking space (in the middle of the street, on the sidewalk, in someone’s yard, etc.) and pretending it’s okay because you’ve left the hazard lights flashing. Employed by delivery people and jerks.

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