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I Hope There’s Not A Fire.

The optimist in me says that it’s a good thing to see an almost-overgrown fire hydrant because that means it’s never been needed. Then there’s the realist in me that says, hey, what happens if there’s a fire? Do firemen have some kind of record of where hydrants are in a specific area? Seriously, this one is weirdly tucked away in a back corner, but I guess the bright red color stands out enough against the green weeds that it makes it easy to find.

It also reminds me that the cul-de-sac where I grew up didn’t have a fire hydrant for several years. I’m not even sure where the nearest one was but, fortunately, there was never a fire so one was never needed. At some point, though, some realist must have realized this was an oversight on the city’s part and some workmen came in and dug a trench in the street about four feet long and six feet deep. Then they left it for at least a week, maybe longer, and all the kids who lived around there–six or seven of us–would dance around it and jump over it. None of us got down in it, though, since we didn’t think we could get out again, especially after it rained and it filled up with about a foot of muddy water.

Then there was the neighborhood dog, Freckles. Freckles was a large Springer Spaniel, a wonderfully sweet dog, and self-appointed protector of the kids. He’d be the sire of my wonderful dog Friskie, but that’s another story. Freckles was also goofy and, being a Springer, loved nothing more than chasing tennis balls. One day we were taking turns throwing a ball for him–we had to take turns because Freckles never really understood the “retrieve” part. He’d chase a ball, grab it, run around with it, and eventually drop it somewhere else.

The ball bounced into the trench and Freckles thought about it for a moment then jumped down in there. All of us panicked because we were as protective of Freckles as he was of us, but he was quite happy down there, dancing around in the muddy water with a tennis ball. We were trying to figure out how to rescue him when he hopped back up by himself and danced around us with a big grin that clearly said, “Do that again!”

 It’s common knowledge that dogs love fire hydrants–technically any upright object, but hydrants are a popular target. Freckles, though, was sorry to see the hydrant installed because it meant the trench was filled in. He was an eternal optimist.

That hydrant is still there. I think it should have a memorial plaque honoring Freckles.

Source: Google Street View


I’m not a big symphony or classical music guy. Thanks to Sesame Street and Bugs Bunny I know some of classical music’s greatest hits, but I’m more of a fan of something I can dance to, even if I won’t dance in public. But I have friends who are fans of classical music and even opera, and it’s kind of cool to be able to share with them that I live in a town with a world-class symphony and, just as important, a world-class performance space, the Schermerhorn Center. Not long after it opened a rock star, who shall remain nameless because I can’t remember her name, performed there. During the sound check she sat in every section and listened to her band. Her verdict was, “There’s not a single bad seat in here.”

Now, though, its world-class conductor, Giancarlo Guerrerom is retiring, which makes me wonder if they’ll do a new version of this commercial he did for the symphony ten years ago:

And maybe like me you feel a little irked when he gets to “soporific” and his response is this:

Yeah, I get it, “soporific” isn’t a word you likely use every day, even if you work at a sleep clinic, but it seems like a missed opportunity. Let’s start with what soporific is, and the world-class source for definitions, the Oxford English Dictionary.

Seeing a tuxedoed symphony conductor stretched out on the stage sound asleep, maybe in an oversized bed, would be funny and educational, and I wish they’d gone with that.

Then there’s this:

It’s hard to see but he’s popping the top of a Yazoo Dos Perros. At the time Yazoo was the only local beer in Nashville, and it’s still very good, but if they filmed that today he’d have almost a dozen to choose from.

Because we’ve also got some world-class beer here.

Oh Deer.

A deer wandered into our backyard. I’ve seen them in the front yard. One was even standing in the middle of the driveway one day when I came home. Before I could decide what to do–my options were waiting, honking the horn, or getting out and yelling at it, which I didn’t want to do because it had large antlers and those are scary when they’re on a deer and not mounted on a hunting lodge wall–it moved into the neighbor’s yard to feast on their tulips.

The deer in the backyard was an entirely different thing because our backyard is fenced and, with a few exceptions, like squirrels and chipmunks which can go through or over the fence, or the time I opened the backdoor and found a couple of raccoons on our patio which then slipped away over the fence into the night, or, more likely, into the neighbor’s garbage, the fence keeps out wildlife. I’ve seen deer in the wooded area behind the fence, and that seems the best place for them.

The weirdest thing about the deer in the backyard was how nonchalant it was. It didn’t have antlers–my wife reminded me it’s the wrong time of year for that, and it was probably young too. It must have jumped over the fence but by the time it came into my purview it was just casually strolling along. It stopped to munch on some dandelions then went over to the big tree that stood in the middle of the yard. To me there was still something really strange about it, about wildlife coming that close to the house. I know there are also possums, coyotes, and foxes in the neighborhood. There’s one house a few blocks away that has a really big yard, and in a corner by the road where there’s a culvert that’s overgrown with weeds we saw a family of foxes one day. The people who lived there put up a sign near the culvert that said “Slow–children at play” with a picture of a fox. A few blocks away in another direction there also used to be several acres of farmland that had been left to grow wild and it was a home for a lot of animals. Then it was all turned into a shopping center and the animals now move among our homes–the ones that survived, anyway.

There are still wild places, but suburban sprawl keeps on sprawling, pushing those places away, but the deer wandering across the backyard was a sign of nature pushing back.

Get Out Of My Dreams.

I took a full week off from work and, thanks to Memorial Day, got a bonus Monday too. It’s the longest time I’ve taken off from work since December. I’ve taken a day or two of vacation time in between but, mostly, I’ve been working straight through. It’s hard to explain why that is. I’m an hourly employee which means I’m only supposed to work forty hours a week—that’s all I’ll get paid for, and anything over that is overtime which has to be approved by my boss in advance. In spite of having worked my way up through the ranks for nearly thirty years I’ve never reached the level of being salaried—which I’m okay with. I’ve seen too many cases where “salaried” means working sixty, seventy, or even eighty hours a week, and while the pay for those positions may be a little higher I don’t think any of them are worth double overtime.

At the same time I get anxious about stepping away from work. Nothing’s certain anywhere—sometimes we’ll try to find the silver lining of being overburdened by saying “It’s job security” but there’s no such thing. Downsizing has happened before. It will happen again. I’ve seen incredibly qualified, hardworking people get axed because the managers, to their credit, really tried to be fair and objective and used a “last hired, first out” policy to decide where to make cuts. But I’ve also seen downsizing used to target underperformers too.

And yet I was completely relaxed the whole week. I didn’t feel a need to turn on my computer and sneak a peek at any critical emails I might be missing, or even to try and clean up spam. I knew it’d all be there when I came back, and it’s all part of the job—all part of the forty hours a week I’m paid to put in.

The one funny thing is some time late Monday night, or early Tuesday morning, I dreamed I was working. Maybe there was some lingering anxiety back there and it surfaced during REM. Most of the time thinking about work annoys me when I’m off the clock. The only work dream I should have is that I’ll be able to quit my day job, right? This time, though, I was okay with it. Almost every job has its mundane tasks that require so little thought that we can allow our minds to drift. I can take a moment to notice the hummingbird that’s come to my window feeder before I go back to whatever work-related job is in front of me. It’s okay that work and life blur together a little bit.

At least as long as I don’t get fired for saying that.

There Has Got To Be A Twist.

A Ninja Turtles pinball machine isn’t that surprising. They’ve been around since 1984. A Godzilla pinball machine is even less surprising—Godzilla’s been smashing Tokyo since 1954. But a Mandalorian pinball machine? That’s got to be from 2019 at the earliest. Everything old is, well, still old, but it’s blending with the new, and that’s really cool.

I love pinball. As a teenager in the ‘80’s I remember going to the video arcade with my friends and while video games were cool enough—I was really good at Q*Bert—I was also drawn to the pinball machines that, even then, seemed a bit neglected. Even the new ones had a retro quality. After all The Who’s Tommy had been around since 1969. What really appealed to me, though, was their tangible quality. Even if I couldn’t touch the ball it was still real and really rolling around just under me, not on a screen. And unlike video games a pinball machine has thousands of moving parts that can act in unpredictable ways, raising the element of chance. Pinball is also all about focus: you have to ignore the flashing lights, the sounds, and just concentrate on that one silver ball. Or silver balls if you go into multiball mode.

The coffee shop where I found these pinball machines also has tournaments, game nights that bring people together, which just adds emphasis to the real-world nature of pinball. It’s been a long time since video games left the arcade and went into the home. For a while LAN parties were big events but it seems like they’ve dropped off significantly, and services like Twitch allow people to watch and even comment on a gamer’s progress. Some people even get a certain amount of fame and make a living that way. There’s still something, well, real about pinball, and people coming together to play it just emphasizes that.

It also reminds me of one of my favorite pinball experiences. Near where I work there used to be a place with a couple of pinball machines. I’d go there on my lunch breaks with a few quarters. There were always the same three guys gathered around the same machine. I knew they were college students but they always seemed to be there. We never talked but I felt like I got to know them. Then one day I went in and just one of them was there alone. We nodded at each other and took turns playing the two games. Finally I asked him, “So, where are the other Lone Gunmen?”

 Without batting an eye he shrugged and said, “In class.”

These guys, if you remember them–they’ve been around since 1994. Source: Wikipedia

Not Working At The Car Wash.

The roof of our car was covered with tree sap. It’s one of the hazards of late spring and not having a garage and also parking under a maple tree that later this year will drip fluffy cat tail seed pods all over the car. At least those rinse right off with every good rainstorm. The sap just sticks there and makes the roof brown.

I thought I’d take it to one of those nice car wash places—not the automated ones with the giant roller brushes that thunder over your car while you sit in it, although I think those are fun—I just have to remember to roll up the windows before going through one, but that’s another story.

At the car wash place I left the car in what I thought were the capable hands of a whole team of cleaners, and I figured it would be at least half an hour before they’d be done. It turned out to be less than ten minutes. The car looked great and when I got in the whole interior was clean and smelled faintly of vinegar. 

It wasn’t until I got home that I could see the roof of the car from our patio. It was still brown and sap-covered. It was an expensive lesson but now I know there are a lot of things that will remove tree sap from a car roof, and that fancy car wash places are one thing that won’t.

Source: Wondermark


Who Did This?

Most graffiti is anonymous and I’m okay with that. A lot of graffiti is just scribbled tags and, well, this is just my opinion but it’s not very good, so even if it’s interesting to me I’m okay with not knowing who did it, and I’m okay with it being removed. Sometimes there are some really well-done pieces but they’re still graffiti, and as much as they might brighten up a bland area I get it. You can’t just let anyone throw up anything on a wall anywhere anytime or we’d descend into total chaos.

And then there’s this.

I really, really, really want to know who did this. I have a million and one questions for them—maybe more because every answer just leads to more questions. I’m not sure if it is graffiti. The artist responsible has a pretty prominent signature on there, but it’s not one I can read so I can’t think of a way to contact them. And this puts me in kind of a tough position. It’s in a public park. I could contact the parks department and hope this is an authorized piece and that they can put me in touch with the artist.

On the other hand if it’s not an authorized piece then I’ve just let the authorities know it’s there and they’ll probably send out someone with a can of gray paint, which would be a shame. To avoid that I’ve tried some of the usual social media sites with no luck so far, but someone out there knows something.

And I hope I’m not drawing too much attention to it because, you know, if someone did this on their own I think we can need a little chaos.

What I’m Saying…

Sometimes an idea or memory gets stuck in my head and, because there’s so much empty space, pings off every corner nonstop, and the only way I can get it out is to talk about it. Recently it’s been an expression I heard adults use when I was a kid: “like it’s goin’ out of style”. This was a simile used to say someone was doing something really energetically, which, if you’d asked me as a kid what it meant, that’s exactly how I would have defined it because I was a weird kid with much too formal diction. Anyway I’d hear an adult say something like, “Roger was eatin’ those crackers like it was goin’ out of style.” If that sounds bizarre, well, welcome to my world–I understood what they meant but there was still something really weird about the saying. Why would crackers, or eating them, go out of style? And if it was going out of style why would Roger want to eat a bunch of them? Was he eating up all the crackers before they got pulled from the shelves to make room for newer, more stylish crackers? It wasn’t just eating either. Raking leaves, washing the car, playing basketball–if someone was doing something really vigorously they were doing it “like it was goin’ out of style”.

At least “like it was goin’ out of style” was an expression I understood. An expression that completely baffled me was “going out of town”. As school wound down each year my friends would tell me their family was “going out of town”. What did that mean? We lived in the suburbs which, as far as I was concerned, was already out of town, since I thought of “town” as pavement and skyscrapers–what was, technically, downtown. My family went “on vacation”, which I understood because, even if we left town, we went to another town.

To get back to “like it was goin’ out of style” it occurred to me that I don’t hear that expression anymore, and haven’t heard it in a really long time. Like leisure suits and the nightmare-inducing live action shows of Sid and Marty Krofft it seems like it ended with the ’70’s. It should have gotten a final burst of use before disappearing but instead it seems to have faded away.

Unlike some of the relics of that era I think it’s an expression that needs a comeback so I’m going to start using it again. Every chance I get I’ll be using it really energetically, really vigorously. You know how I’ll be using it.

Memory Wipe.

We bought our current car, a Honda CRV, in 2019, at the same dealership and, in a completely unplanned coincidence, exactly twenty years after we bought our first Honda CRV, which ran great for almost two decades until it suddenly died in the driveway. I’m not trying to shill for Honda here but I have a feeling if we’d just replaced the fuel pump, the only part that had a sudden expiration, it might have run for another twenty years.

Instead we decided to just get a new one, in spite of the slightly different design making it a little smaller on the inside.

Not all parts are equally durable, though, and I’m pretty sure we haven’t replaced the wiper blades on the new one since we bought it. They were starting to disintegrate and, having reached the point where they wouldn’t wipe away water so much as annoy it, I decided to get new wiper blades.

I had vague memories of replacing them on our previous car, and I remembered it involved a lot of snapping and swearing in the driveway. As I was struggling with the front blades I asked my neighbor, “Do you have any experience with wiper blades?”

And that’s when I remembered I’d asked him the same question when I’d previously replaced them, and he gave me the same answer: “Only when it’s raining.”

Even though we’d both checked carefully the guy at the auto parts store sold me the wrong size blade for the rear window so I had to go back and replace it, and when I did I asked if he could help me.

“Oh sure,” he said, “I’ll try and remember how to do it. The only thing I really know is those rear wiper blades are a pain to replace.”

I think I had the same conversation with a guy at an auto parts store the last time. That’s when I realized that companies can get away with such terrible, annoying, hard-to-work-with designs for wiper blades because as soon as we replace them we forget how difficult it is until the next time.

What’s In A Name.

Source: Wikipedia

A friend of mine sent me a link to a review of the film Black Knight and then he added, “Why can’t they review films sooner? It came out twenty-two years ago!” And I swear it took me a good ten minutes to realize he was making a joke. Even then he had to send me a picture of the poster for the 2001 film Black Knight and when I went to the review I understood that it was about an entirely different film that was just released, in 2023, in case anyone stumbles on this in the future, also called Black Knight.

Let’s start with the first problem: this is the internet. People review old films all the time. A review of Arsenic And Old Lace just came up in my recommendations. The review was posted May 12, 2023. The film being reviewed–and, let’s face it, “re-view” is the perfect term–is from 1944, with Cary Grant, and directed by Frank Capra, names that, depending on who you are, you may or may not recognize. People are discovering or rediscovering old films, films that may have been really popular in their own time and that may have even continued to be popular for decades beyond it but that have since been largely forgotten, all the time. Also you can look up the oldest, most obscure film you can think of and chances are you’ll find fans of it. The internet is a timeless space where the past is never really past.

Source: Wikipedia

And there was more than one Arsenic And Old Lace. It started as a stage play. The 1944 film was followed by three subsequent remakes. They were all done for television, but still that brings me to the second problem which is that, even if you don’t count remakes, lots of films have the same name, which most people know even if they’ve never been directed to a Disambiguation page in Wikipedia. There’s even a 1954 film called The Black Knight—the definite article is the only thing that distinguishes it from the other two. Well, that and it stars Alan Ladd and Patrick Troughton who a lot of people forget had a successful career even before Doctor Who was an idea.

And that brings me to the third, and most sobering, problem, which is that most movies are going to be forgotten. It doesn’t matter who starred in them or even how good they are. Most of their stars are going to be forgotten too. That goes for everything, in fact. Writers, painters, sculptors, composers—let’s face it, some will have a moment in the sun, if they’re lucky, and some might get discovered after they’re gone as things go in and out of fashion, but most will disappear. Even the ones who get preserved in some way—in the backrooms of museums or on dusty library shelves—represent only a fraction of all the people who ever created something.

We’ve lost a lot. We’ve preserved a lot. Is the glass half empty or half full? It depends on what you call it.

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