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You Haven’t Got Mail!

So I was walking home from the bus and noticed a small envelope in every driveway. They were rectangular and about the size of any prepaid card. What’s this? I thought. A gift for all the residents of the neighborhood? Yeah, I’m not that naive; I knew it was an advertising ploy, and a cheap one at that. Whoever was behind it was too cheap to mail us their advertising. Instead of paying for a bunch of cheap postcards they could mail out they spent money on gas and time driving around the neighborhood throwing out a bunch of small envelopes they’d bought. At least they were smart enough to know they’d be breaking the law if they put the envelopes in peoples’ mailboxes. Mailboxes are only for stamped mail delivered by the postal service, although misuse of a mailbox isn’t exactly a frequently prosecuted crime. I do believe the FBI tried to pin it on Al Capone at one point but he successfully argued that he’d put a stamp on the mackerel wrapped in newspaper he left in the mailbox of his client, and the judge got the message. Here’s another fact about mail: if you get anything in the mail that you didn’t specifically order you’re under no obligation to pay for it. I learned this when I worked in a library mailroom and companies would sometimes ship unsolicited books to the library and expect to be paid for them, and I’d send back a nice letter referencing the specific law that addresses unsolicited mail. I still have that letter and occasionally send it to Nigerian princes who email me, but that’s another story.
Anyway I got a little excited as I got closer to home. I wasn’t going to steal an envelope from any of my neighbors, but I figured I’d find out what the advertising ploy was as soon as I got home. Except when I got home there wasn’t one in our driveway. It’s one thing to get a cheap sales pitch thrown in your driveway but I was too upset about being rejected to think of what the other thing could be. Why were we not good enough? What were we, chopped liver? Maybe not–I like chopped liver and I’m grateful to Ann Koplow for providing some background on that saying, which I think should be changed to, What am I, steamed broccoli?
Anyway the next day I found one of the envelopes in the street where someone had thrown it, or maybe they drove over it and dropped it somewhere. It was a business card some kind of house cleaning service and I felt better that they obviously felt our house didn’t need cleaning. It was exterior cleaning; if it had been interior cleaning I’d have gotten really paranoid about how they knew the inside of our house didn’t need cleaning. And there was a glass pebble in there to give the envelopes some heft for throwing.

And I want that company to know I’m keeping the pebble.

And Now You Snow.


One year when I was in college it snowed heavily. Since the University Of Evansville campus is quite small and since most professors lived within walking distance I said, “Hey, what are they gonna do, cancel classes?” They cancelled classes. I just wish they’d cancelled them sooner because I had a test the afternoon it started snowing and I ended the final essay question ended with, “Foucault’s reasoning on this matter was I can’t go on because it’s snowing and there are people playing in the snow and I’m sitting right next to the window and it’s impossible to concentrate”. Anyway we had a lot of free time with classes cancelled and some time after midnight a group of us decided we should build a snow sculpture right in front of the main door of the administration building. We had a very specific shape for this snow sculpture: it would be tall and narrow and have kind of a rounded top, sort of like a mushroom, but we also planned to put two large spheres on either side of the base. Unfortunately it turned out to be hard to get such a structure erect, if you catch my snowdrift. We briefly tried to use a trash can as a frame until we got chased off by campus security after I unsuccessfully tried to argue that we were celebrating the Japanese festival of Kanamara Matsuri early, but that’s another story.

In the end I think we learned a valuable lesson even if I’m not sure what lesson that was, and so did the person who ran into the snowman pictured above. Some people decided to build a snowman in their own yard and some idiot decided to drive across their yard in a truck and run into it–not realizing that the nine-foot snowman was built around a tree trunk. There’s a valuable lesson in that and this time I know what it is, although I’m not so sure about the guy driving around with a smashed-in front to his pickup truck as a very visible display to the world that he picked a fight with a snowman and lost.


There’ll Also Be Plenty Of Hot Air.

Here is the weekly weather forecast for the office:

On Monday sunrise will be at 5:52AM. The building will be open at 6:00AM but you’ll still need to use your key card to access the elevators because the maintenance guy keeps forgetting we’re no longer on Daylight Savings Time and at this point he might as well leave it like it is.

Gary will be in at 10:23AM and be careful because he’ll still have a wicked hangover.

On Tuesday expect a frosty reception from Meredith who will be upset that no one watered her plants while she was on vacation even though she didn’t ask anyone and they’re all succulents anyway. And technically she should be more upset that no one really noticed she was out Monday.

There’s also about a 60% chance that project that’s 90% finished will be cancelled.

An envelope for contributions to Pearl’s retirement gift will circulate through the office and there’s an 80% chance you won’t have anything smaller than a twenty.

On Wednesday morning you’ll need your key card to access the elevators because the maintenance crew did something to the alarm system the night before and now everything’s locked down.

Wednesday afternoon expect a high pressure front to move through as Rick and Gary get into an argument over whether or not to close the blinds on the western side of the office in the afternoon. This could cause significant delays in getting out that earnings report, so be prepared and make sure you’ve got your noise-cancelling headphones.

You’ll go to the vending machine and there’s an 80% chance you won’t have anything smaller than a twenty.

In the afternoon be prepared for delays in the break room because that’s when Meredith is going to want to tell you about her vacation.

On Thursday there’s about a 75% chance the construction guys who’ve torn up the sidewalk on the west side of the building will cut a cable causing a loss of internet access, all power, or both. If this doesn’t happen you can congratulate them as you’re forced to step out into traffic to get around the mess they’ve made, or you can wait until next week when the chances they’ll cut a cable will be up to 100%. Also at around noon on Thursday Terry is going to heat fish in the microwave, making you wish there were such a thing as smell-cancelling nostrilphones.

Watch for slick spots in the break room on Thursday afternoon too after Terry spills a bottle of Sriracha and is astoundingly, but not surprisingly, oblivious.

In the late afternoon Rick from the fifteenth floor will discover an accounting error and will storm into the office and figuratively eat someone’s lunch.

On Friday it will rain. It won’t affect your plans to go out for lunch but dress accordingly.

Terry will discover leftovers from Giacomo’s in the office fridge and literally eat someone’s lunch.

Also on Friday afternoon Steve will drop by and ask you to proofread the handouts for the meeting and by “proofread” he means “collate and staple”, so you won’t catch his hilarious misspelling, inserting an “i” in the word “pens”. And it serves him right for scheduling a meeting for 4:00PM on Friday.

Every day over the coming week be careful driving in the parking garage, especially between 7:30AM and 8:30AM when most people are coming in, between 4:30PM and 5:30PM when most peple are leaving, and between 9:30AM and 10:30AM because that’s when Gary comes in.

The cold front will continue for the foreseeable future as long as the building managers persist in the belief that shutting off the heat at 6:00PM every night and only turning it back on at 6:00AM the next morning is actually saving money.

At some point this week there will be a fire alarm. I can’t say when exactly it will occur, and it’s probably just a test, but there’s a small chance that it’s a real fire or other emergency, so I leave it to you whether or not you want to wake up Gary on your way out.


Under Cover.

There’s construction going on all over Nashville, along with prices, because, as I’ve heard some people say, Nashville is turning into Seattle, and it’s mostly people who’ve moved here from Seattle to get away from the high cost of living who say that and they’re the ones driving up the prices. It bugs me that there are so many places where construction has closed off the sidewalks and I have to make long detours to get wherever I’m going. The other day, for instance, I had to run an errand. Well, technically I had to walk the errand. I could have run, but it was a pretty long distance, and made even longer by the construction. I could have taken a bus but, well, Nashville buses are irregular, even on the main thoroughfares, and would have added at least another half hour to my errand, so I figured I might as well walk. When I got outside I realized it was raining, although I should have guessed it would be. We’ve had forty days and forty nights of rain this month alone since the weather obviously overheard people say that Nashville is turning into Seattle and decided Music City needed a Pacific Northwest soaking, but that’s another story. And I was too lazy to go back to my office and get an umbrella. The rain was only a light drizzle and I decided to take my chances that it wouldn’t get any worse. As I was walking along I passed this sign:It reminded me of the time I was on a Greyhound bus and before starting off the driver made some safety announcements. He didn’t say, “This is your captain speaking,” which I think would be a hilarious thing for a bus driver to say, but he did say, “Please do not open the windows except in the event of an emergency. The last person to open a window on this bus became the next emergency.” That was mildly amusing although it also made me a little worried since I was sitting in a window seat.

Anyway on my way back from walking the errand it started to rain a little harder, but for a good stretch the construction didn’t take me out of my way. This was the sidewalk:

I just wish they’d put in windows.


In The Walls.

It’s hard to see, and not least because it’s in the bathroom behind the shower curtain, and behind the shower head, but there’s an oddity in the plaster—I think it’s plaster, anyway; I’m not really sure what the white part of the bathroom walls is made of since it’s not tile and I don’t think it’s drywall which, in a shower, would quickly be wetwall, but that’s another story—that looks to me like a leaping gazelle.

Can’t see it? Making it even harder to see is that it’s very small and it really only looks like part of a gazelle, the gazelle’s head specifically, so it takes an incredible amount of imagination to see anything at all in it. Here’s a badly done outline that might help you see it.

It’s something I look for in the shower in the mornings when I’m still trying to shake off sleep, or when I’m trying to cling to that weird dream I had because I think it might be an interesting idea for a story but usually when I manage to hang onto it long enough to write it down it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And sometimes I contemplate that this is probably how art got started in the first place: someone looked at a natural or accidental formation and it looked to them like something else so they traced it with the juice of a plant or the ashen end of a burned stick. You might have heard of pareidolia, the phenomenon of seeing faces in inanimate objects or natural formations. It extends well beyond faces.

A Classic Never Goes Out Of Style.

Source: Pinterest

Oh lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,

My friends all drives Porches, I must make amends.

Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,

So lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

-Janis Joplin, 1970


Oh lord, won’t you help me invest in the Pound,

Brexit has killed it, but it’ll come around.

Investment in currency’s a strategy that’s sound,

So lord, won’t you buy me about ten million Pounds.



Oh lord, won’t you buy me a new hybrid car,

Gas prices spiked, I had to sell my Jaguar,

It’s good for the environment to drive like a film star,

So lord, won’t you buy me a new hybrid car?



Oh lord, won’t you buy me an Apple computer,

I’ll use it for finances, and the kids need a tutor,

We like the Macintosh ‘cause it’s so much cuter,

So lord, won’t you buy me an Apple computer?



Oh lord, won’t you buy me a walk-in humidor,

I’ve made millions in dot-coms, I know I’ll make some more,

Someday, I’m sure lord, we’ll even up the score,

But for now, lord, won’t you buy me a walk-in humidor?



Oh lord, won’t you help me out with my mortgage,

I’ve had to put most of my stuff into storage,

I’m cutting out coupons and learning to forage,

So lord won’t you help me out with my mortgage?



Oh lord, won’t you help me invest in real estate,

Flipping homes I fix up has turned out really great,

They say it’s a bubble but there’s no limit on the rate,

So lord, won’t you help me invest in real estate?



Oh lord, won’t you help me solve the damn Rubik’s cube.

My friend does it in minutes, I look like a rube,

If I can’t get all solids I might blow a tube,

So lord, won’t you help me solve the damn Rubik’s cube?



Oh lord, can’t you find me a Tickle Me Elmo,

Christmas is coming and what rhymes with Elmo?

My kid wants one so bad I drove to Anselmo,

So lord, can’t you find me a Tickle me Elmo?



Oh lord, won’t you buy me some single-malt scotch?

I’ve had a bad day, one I’ve totally botched.

That sweet tartan whiskey could take me up a notch,

So lord, won’t you buy me some single-malt scotch?


Riding Into The Future.

Some time in the 1990’s the Nashville Public Library put in an electronic catalog and I joked that it was great that they were finally moving into the 1980’s. I think I also threw in some references to Desk Set because there’s nothing like mocking technological advances with a film from before I was born, but that’s another story. Anyway the other day I had a similar experience when I found the bus I was riding had WiFi and I said something like, “Hey, the Nashville MTA is getting so 2012, and has anyone noticed our driver looks a lot like Spencer Tracy? I just hope he doesn’t drink like him.”

It was a lot better than having to rely on the WiFi signals around the bus. Sometimes it’s possible to get a signal from a fast food restaurant at a red light but mostly signals are touch and go.

And here’s a glimpse of my inbox. DON’T JUDGE ME!

It almost made up for the fact that the Nashville MTA’s bus tracking app seems to be permanently offline now. Well, it’s online. It just doesn’t track buses anymore. They even tell you that on the WiFi page.

And the next day I learned that not all buses have WiFi. Just the new purple buses with the slippery plastic seats. I learned it because I was picked up by one of the old standard buses that doesn’t have WiFi. On the bright side the driver looked a lot like Katharine Hepburn.


The Long View.

A funny thing about most street art is that you can usually only see it from the street it’s on. Even if it’s high up on a building there are often other buildings around blocking the view so it’s only as you turn a corner that you see it and then it disappears just as quickly.

This mural painted on a tall tower is an exception. As you drive along I-40 headed East toward downtown Nashville you can see it in the distance. From a long way away it’s not even clear what it is but it’s obviously something. It’s only as you get close, and part of the beauty of it is you can get really close—it overlooks the parking lot of White Bison Coffee, a local shop, which is fitting because it puts two things that are distinctly Nashville together in one place.

The mural is the work of internationally known New Zealand artist Guido Van Helten, and, looking at it, you might wonder who the guy is. He’s Lee Estes, a long-time resident of the area, a Nashville neighborhood known as The Nations. Why it’s known as that is somewhat controversial with no clear answer. Mr. Estes remembers much of the history of the area and the city. Growing up his family didn’t have indoor plumbing and raised chickens for eggs and meat. Actually that last part hasn’t changed—or rather it changed with zoning laws that ended the keeping of livestock within county limits. Then it changed back in 2014 when the city council voted to allow homeowners to have chickens on their property, but only chickens. Roosters are verboten, although at least one person has violated that rule—there is at least one part of the city where I’ve heard crowing, but that’s another story.

There’s more detail about the mural at isupportstreetart, and also more pictures. An important detail I missed when taking pictures of this mural is that on the other side of the building there are two young boys next to Mr. Estes, perfectly combining the old and the new.

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