Quick Takes.

First World Problems Require First World Solutions.

Silence isn’t golden. Silence is the deep, velvety blackness of the early morning. At no time are you more aware of the depth of that silence and how easily broken it is than when you’re going through your usual morning routine without waking up the person in the next room. You become intensely aware of just how much noise you make.

The door hinges creak. The latch snapping into place sounds like a gunshot.

The toilet flush is a cannonade.

The shower isn’t merely running water; it’s a thundering cataract, a waterfall of immense proportions. Adjusting the temperature, moving it from scalding to lukewarm to a final reasonable medium only  intensifies the crash.

Even the steam seems to make noise as clouds of it pound the walls.

The soap squeaks in your hands like a rabbit in a poacher’s trap.

The shampoo and conditioner bottles burp out their liquid allotments.

Halfway through you realize you’re singing Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” at the top of your lungs.

Old habits are hard to break.

The faucet creaks as you turn off the shower. Water floods from the now open tap with the sound of an angry river.

After the rush even the stillness seems loud.

The activity of drying off brings the noise level down, a quiet dance with a thick terrycloth veil.

The toothpaste cap twists off with only a gentle sigh.

As the loud ratchet sound of you brushing your teeth fills the room you realize those post-shower moments of silence were just long enough that a person might be able to go back to sleep.

More silence follows. It’s blissful. You feel peace spread through the house you’ve disturbed.

Then the electric razor snaps into action, a chainsaw felling the hairy seedlings that have sprouted from your face over the past day. In the harsh glare of the bathroom bulb you wipe away the five a.m. shadow and you’re racked with guilt for breaking everyone else’s hibernation.

Sound familiar? If so I’m giving you a chance to get in on the ground floor of my latest invention: the sound-proof bathroom!

shower

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.

Entrances, Exits, and Errors.

This year for its annual Shakespeare in the Park event the Nashville Shakespeare Festival is putting on A Comedy of Errors. So of course I walked down to Centennial Park on my lunch break to check out the set.

I went to a university with a highly respected theater program and went to see every play but the one thing I still regret not doing is sneaking in and taking a look behind the scenes. Not that there was ever that much to see, but I like to look at theater sets from the back, to see the inner workings, even when they’re not particularly complex. And I’m used to being in the audience so I like to get some idea of the view from the actors’ perspective, although in my limited acting experience it’s best to pretend the audience isn’t even there.

And with its hilariously tangled plot full of mistaken identities–it’s probably the closest thing to slapstick you’ll find in Shakespeare with a story about two pairs of twins who keep getting mixed up–it’s fitting to check out A Comedy of Errors from the other side.

shakespeare1   shakespeare2 shakespeare3 shakespeare4 shakespeare5 shakespeare6Given the topsy-turvy plot it’s also fitting that the stage has its own ersatz version of the world-famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.

shakespeare7

Facing It.

Sometimes words fail me. When that happens I turn to the words of others. They can provide peace, thoughtful reflection, or a window into the experiences of people who are unlike me. That’s why, following recent events, I’ve been rereading some of the poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa.

We are from very different backgrounds. I’m a white guy who was brought up in and have spent my entire life living in some level of middle class suburbs. Other than college in Indiana and a brief study overseas I’ve spent my time in Tennessee.

He’s an African American man born to a poor family in the deep South—Bogalusa, Louisiana. He’s from an earlier generation and served in the Army in Vietnam. His birth name is James William Brown. He changed his name to that of his Trinidadian grandfather. He writes about a wide range of subjects, including race.

I didn’t start reading his poetry because we come from different backgrounds. I started reading his poetry because a friend who’d read some poems of mine said, “You write like him.” And when I read his poem Blackberries I felt that way too. With a dog of my own I’d been in those places he describes. But then our experiences diverge. He describes feelings I’ve felt but in a situation I’ve never experienced—a situation he might have experienced several times.

No single person represents an entire group. No matter how we join together, or join others together, we’re still individuals. But a single person can articulate the feelings and experiences of a group.

With that in mind I re-read Facing It. History can alter context, and recent events have left me feeling that this is more than a poem about a veteran’s feelings as he stands before the Vietnam Memorial. An African American man standing before a black wall, seeing his own reflection as he reads names of those who lost their lives—this speaks to me of something I haven’t yet experienced but something I too have to face.

Facing It

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way–the stone lets me go.
I turn that way–I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.

Audio of Yusef Komunyakaa reading Facing It:

Katie Bar The Door.

So Shakespeare walks into a bar and the bartender says, “You can’t come in here! You’re Bard!”

That’s from my ever-growing collection of “walks into a bar” jokes and something I thought of when I saw this list for the Half Moon Pub in London which has creative names for some of its patrons.

barredSource: Twitter user @djsantero

Oh yeah, I also thought about the time I was barred from a nearby bar. That prompted me to walk to another one roughly half a mile farther away which was fine because the people were nicer, the pizza was better, and I needed the exercise.

The only part of the experience that has left me bitter is that I didn’t get a creative nickname. So how you do think you’d be described if you got barred?

These Keep Coming Up.

mangeFrom Great Moments in Culinary History:

Paris, 1923: Chef Marmot de Mange created a tremendous sensation with the introduction of zucchini bread (pain de courgette). A simple recipe it was nevertheless praised by gourmands and the general public. Prior to its debut the humble zucchini had merely been a primary ingredient in ratatouille and a common filler for smoothies. De Mange had, less than two years earlier, been almost as successful with his invention of banana bread, helping to extend the popularity and shelf life of the already popular new fruit, also a primary ingredient in ratatouille.

Sadly the chef’s fortunes would take a turn when the public, expecting newer and greater things from him, rejected his subsequent offerings of aubergine and asparagus breads, his experiments with cabbage bread, and his efforts to get people to at least try kohlrabi.

Banana bread and zucchini bread continued to be served in passe patisseries throughout World War II. American GIs brought home the recipes and in 1949 zucchini bread appeared in Annie Potter’s Cook Happy, alongside her hot dog and pineapple gelatin salad.

Today both breads are more popular than ever. It’s estimated that either a whole or partial loaf of banana or zucchini bread is placed in an office breakroom every 44.1 seconds.

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