Thanks Carla

My eldest daughter almost talked me into adopting a one-eyed cat. He was the type of creature that could only be loved by someone benevolent like my child. I said no, but if I would’ve said yes, he would’ve been named One Eyed Willie, because as a Goonies fan, it would’ve been the axiomatic choice. HEYYYYY YOOOOOU GUUUUUYS!

One Eyed Willie was one of the cats up for adoption at the Humane Society over by Walmart. We take our daughters there by way of bribery if they’re patient while the wife and I peruse the thrift shop next door. We walk in and battle back the ambient barks and meows with an affable hello to the girls up front. There’s a transparent box on their desk for donations. I always put in a five. And I make sure they see me do it, kind of like we all do when tipping at a coffee shop. That way, they know I’m not just stopping by to let my children harass their kittens. But like I said, the kittens only have to deal with the harassment if my children let me and the wife shop.

Just like a Goony, I feel like a treasure hunter at the thrift shop. Once, I found a cutting board with a big “J” on it. I have an extensive collection of German steins thanks to the thrift shop. I even found a framed copy of “The Irresistible Waltz” by Vivaudou. I paid twelve bucks, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth fifteen trillion. The wife is more pragmatic in her shopping. She usually buys clothes which she wears for a few months before dropping them back off as a donation. We both have our routines. We walk in, give each other a high-five, and then split up like a football team after the huddle. Or at least, we used to. Now we walk in together and find the mannequin with a moustache to see Carla’s latest “work.” Carla is the ridiculously nice woman at the checkout counter.

Here’s her first installment; I’d say this is an obvious protest against bourgeois consumption and its effects on the next generation:

Child

This one besmirches nudity and our misplaced idolism:

Iron Man

This one is just a nice cross-dresser standing next to a chicken and holding some GMO broccoli:

Cross Dresser

Would you believe that someone actually complained because of this last one? Apparently, someone took a break from their thrift shopping to gripe about the fact that a male mannequin was garbed in a dress. For fuck’s sake; art critics piss me off. And despite my sarcastic tone, that’s exactly what Carla is doing. She’s making art. Sure, it’s a bit ironic that a mannequin is being treated inhumanly at a thrift shop benefiting the Humane Society, but whatever. I think it’s awesome. Art is one of those things that just pops up at times. Carla’s efforts should be applauded despite the fact that she’s blurring the gender lines associated with an already androgynous mannequin. And that’s why I sat down to write this. So… dear Carla, as a long time and avid patron of your thrift shop, I’d like to say thank you for the smiles.

Respite

There’s a place in Key West that uses ice cubes made out of coffee in their iced coffee; my caffeine has never been so undiluted. A couple cups will give you that chemical aftertaste that lets you know you’re awake. It’s like unalloyed crack. Down the street, there’s this slightly obese guy who dresses up like Darth Vader and plays the banjo after the sun sets. He’s throwing distance from a skinny man who dresses up like Spider-Man and plays the sitar, but I don’t think that they’re friends. They’d be mortal enemies if their two fictional worlds existed together in some other dimension, and tourists only have so many dollars to dole out for a picture, so competition would dictate that they’re advisories at best here in this dimension. By day, the streets ruled nightly by busking superheroes are given over to wild chickens. I know that they’re wild because they shun my attempts to pet them and they speak some odd form of chicken dialect that differs from that of the domesticated hens that I have cooped up in Colorado.

The Gays and Russians also deserve mention. Each group seems to rule Key West alongside the strutting roosters. Rainbow flags outnumber those with stars and stripes. There are drag queens everywhere, and they’re just as delightful as you’d expect. One even called me “sweetie” as I walked past her haunt with my wife. It felt natural and unforced (I’m obviously a sweetie) so I said hello and kept walking. The local paper told me that Russian mafia owns most of the local T-shirt shops which is strange because Hollywood paints them a bit more nefariously. The Russians are a bit cold though, cold and ubiquitous. There’s so many of them that the “all sales are final” sign in the Salvation Army thrift store is translated into Russian. I walked by plenty of Russians and not a single one of them called me sweetie, but in their defense, I was a bit reticent to offer up my own terms of endearment. But I nodded my head to a guy wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Putin’s face. There was something written in Russian underneath the picture, but I couldn’t read it (the only thing I can read in Russian is “all sales are final”). Who knows, maybe those odd backwards letters said something satirical and maybe I missed out on having my first Russian friend. I’d like to think that his name would’ve been Vladimir.

I’m a bit sad as I type this. My iPad is glowing lambently beneath my fingers and I’m on the plane headed home. It’s a home lying dormant under a pall of snow and my foray into the tropics was too short lived. The wife and I went to celebrate belatedly our thirteenth wedding anniversary. We went to escape the cold and tedium of home. We needed a break. If not for the children we miss and the fiduciary responsibilities to which we’re enslaved, we wouldn’t be on this plane. Key West is perfect and I don’t doubt that we’ll live there sooner rather than later. We rode our rented bikes all the way around that island as we fell in love with the idea of calling it home. We walked with the butterflies and greeted the sunset with tourists who spoke in countless tongues. We ate out, we dined in. I prepared exotic fish and couscous in our vacation rental which we ate after appetizers of charcuterie; aged cheeses and expensive smoked meats paired with dry crackers and capers. But the meals prepared for us bested mine.  We ate shaved filet, served raw with aged Parmesan. We ate soba noodles with pickled vegetables, Philly cheesesteaks, fish tacos, and tart Key Lime Pie. We checked every box on the quintessential tourist check list. We went to the southernmost point in our country, cooked our bodies on the sand until we looked like parboiled crustaceans, and we went to Earnest Hemingway’s house by way of pilgrimage. There’s a fountain outside his front door and I dipped into it the tips of my ten fingers knowing that he had probably done the same at some point. There’s a Catholic Church just down the street boasting a font of holy water, but I know that I wetted my soul with the real stuff.

To me, our trip, and the piece you’re reading now, represents a necessary respite. Time spent in warmer weather away from where you were is nothing less than a panacea. I finished a semester of higher education not long before we left, and I start another one the day after this plane lands; I’m in a liminal state of peace that’s about to end. And it’s far too soon because I swear the classes I’m taking are guilty of language abuse. They force me to use all of these flowery words as tools of analysis. I write and write and dedicate my words to political science or anthropology or argumentation and the papers I turn in cause to shrivel up and die any creativity that might be put to prose. It’s almost like if one were to look closely enough at my college papers, numbers could be found hidden amongst the letters, numerals betwixt the consonants. I’m drawing lines with my diction when I should be painting pictures. But I’m not doing that now. I’m writing just for the joy of writing, and during this brief period, I’m doing things just for the joy of doing.

In these last few weeks of nothingness, this wonderful winter break which foisted itself up like an island in my life, I’ve done all sorts of odd and rebellious things. For one, I grew a beard. And I mean a real beard. As all that coarse hair took root in my face, atavistic, primal urges took over. I felt the need to fell trees and wear plaid shirts. My wife said that I looked a bit Amish though. Whatever. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t also feel the need to churn some butter or drive before me a team of horses pulling a carriage. Before I finally shaved it, a liquor store attendant even tried to give me a high five after yelling out “hell yeah Chuck Norris!” And when I finally did trim it back, I took my time and used my clippers to make myself look as ridiculous as possible. I cut here and there to create an old west look, and then there and here to look like Hulk Hogan. I had a Magnum P.I. mustache long enough for a laugh and then shaved it off before anyone was the wiser. It was by far one of my better bathroom experiences.

The pilot just turned on the fasten seatbelt sign for our final decent. I can see that sea of compressed sodium, of burning argon, in the countless bulbs below which remind me of our species’ industrious nature. There’s no end to it in sight. I know this’ll be my last chance to write something non-scholastic before summer dawns, so I’m going to end this piece with utter disregard for a cogent conclusion. I’m going to write about kombucha:

Kombucha, if you don’t know, is a nonalcoholic fermented tea that can be found in any organic grocery store. It has that perfect blend of pretension and deliciousness; snobby asses such as myself can’t get enough of it. I even went so far as to start making it myself for a few months. I’d brew a huge batch of exotic tea on the stove like some hippy witch over her cauldron. I’d mix in the sugar and let it cool. It has to be cool because the next step is to add the “scooby.” If the tea is too hot, the scooby will die; it’s this slimy, snot-like jellyfish thingie which floats on top of the sugared tea. It’s comprised of a bazillion bacteria cells which I’m sure share some sort of collective conscious (my auto correct just tried to change “bazillion” into “bagel lion”). You just let it sit there and do its thing for a few weeks. It metabolizes the sugar and carbonates the tea, filling it with billions of probiotic little creatures which you then drink like some death crazed giant with no regard for the life forms you’re quenching just to quench your thirst. You can then remove the scooby and put it in another batch. It’ll grow and grow until it’s a gelatinous beast that’s capable of carbonating any amount of tea. At the height of my production, I had four BPA free containers of the stuff fermenting in my pantry. My scoobies were like little malodorous pets with which I shared a symbiotic, albeit high maintenance, relationship. But I eventually gave it up because my scoobies died while I was away in Alaska. They ran out of sugar. I let fall my end of the symbiosis. It’s better to buy the stuff one bottle at a time anyway. It lets you flaunt your esoteric tastes in front of all the strangers at your local organic grocery store.

As a side note, I just realized that my iPad isn’t in airplane mode. I’m just going to leave it as is because I’m straight up gangster. Anyway, how odd is it that we humans use cultures and bacteria in our food? We do it with yogurt and cheese although I have no idea how it works with either (I’m pretty sure sorcery is involved), and I’ve done it myself with kombucha. I bottled up another life form, fed it, let it fill my tea with gas, and then consumed the end product. That’d be like aliens scooping us up, caging us, feeding us, and then eating our farts. Shit… We’re landing. Tomorrow, I’m going to start my classes and catch up on work. You won’t hear from me for a while, but I’m glad you took the time to hear from me today. We’ll talk again the next time I take a breath after swimming down deep in the things from which respites are needed.

Key West

Wednesday

Last Wednesday was weird. Everything below was at least inspired by something that happened. The Navajo girl really sang and shook her seeds, the man really wanted to go to Cuba, and the hummingbird really sang and swooped. But a lot of it is fictitious; I obviously didn’t die in the shower, I went to work but came home early, and the black widow came out at night and died under my rubber mallet. I hope you enjoy:

 

Wednesday

The Navajo girl walks out of the gas station shaking her bag of sunflower seeds like a giant rattle while singing a native dirge. It’s low and guttural and sonorous but she just sings louder when we make eye contact. She’s roughly attractive, almost Asian in her features, but we both look away. She gets into a late eighties Mercedes and closes the door. I finish filling up and pull onto 550 heading south on my way to Albuquerque. Sublime plays on my radio. I pass a hitchhiking man wearing a sombrero and holding a cardboard sign that says “Cuba” in Sharpie. Sure, Cuba is a shitty little town that’s landlocked right in the middle of New Mexico, so his destination is plausible, but he looks like he’s going to the Cuba with classic cars and illegal cigars. The weirdness of the day smacks me and I flip a U-turn; it’s best to stay home on days like this.

I drive home and strip out of my shirt. There’s a lawn chair in my back yard amongst the bugs and cat stench; I missed out on a tan torso while living in Alaska so I make up for it now. Hell, I used to make fun of the dudes that’d walk around with their tattoos and abs, but as it turns out, that’s only because I didn’t have tattoos or abs. I’ve got them now, five and six of each respectively, so I lay out. I set the alarm on my phone for ten minutes. I give my back the sun first, and then flip when my phone beeps so my front can also brown. I’m no better than a grilled cheese in a frying pan.

A male hummingbird is doing aerial acrobatics over my head, but he’s doing them for the diminutive female that’s perched on my humming bird feeder. God they’re incredible little creatures. He sings a warbling song that distorts under Doppler’s laws as he flies by. I do my best to picture him as his mate does; slow and perfect, but I can’t. My brain is too slow, or too big.

Something tickles my leg so I look down. A black widow is slowly walking up my leg, across my shin and over my knee, on her way up my body. The beads of sweat must be like puddles; my leg hairs like hurtles to a track star. What the hell? They’re supposedly nocturnal. They aren’t supposed to fuck with you unless you fuck with them. The golden rule is instinctual for the black widow. It’s too late now. Maybe I should’ve stayed at work.

The spider raises her front two legs in the air, almost like she just doesn’t care, and starts waving them around. I see her fangs and her red hour glass tattoo. I realize that she’s about to strike as the warbling song of the hummingbird gets louder. Jesus it’s stentorian. He swoops down and plucks the spider from my leg with his needle nose beak. It hurts, but only a little bit. There’s a small bead of blood. Maybe my hero grazed me with a tiny talon or maybe the spider got in her bite. Either way, it’s time for a shower. My phone beeps and I’ve cooked for ten minutes on both sides.

The water starts washing over me and I think about the hummingbird as the steam softens my skin and my sight. What the hell was that anyway? Don’t hummingbirds live off of nectar? I guess maybe they need the occasional dose of poisonous protein to round off their diets. Or maybe that act of salvation was the feat that sealed the deal for his voyeuristic lady friend. She’ll have to have his babies now. Any hummingbird suitor that’s tough enough to kill a black widow is good enough for her nest.

I stare at the shower wall and see a single hair from my wife’s head stuck on the tile. It was probably on the bar of antibacterial soap. Someone must’ve picked it off and stuck it to the wall. It makes me smile because it’s in the shape of a perfect ampersand, but there’s nothing to the left or right of it; nothing and nothing. And that’s when shit gets weird. I get light headed, maybe I locked my knees for too long, and I faint. My body crumples into a fetal position on the shower floor because that’s the only way it fits down there.

I shake it off and stand. But when I rise, I do so in the desert, which is absolute bullshit because this is exactly the place I was trying to avoid after seeing that man on his way to Cuba. Whatever. I look around. There’s a tree in front of me that looks to have grown out of the ground, grown right back into it, and then died. It looks like some odd and bark covered serpent that’s swimming through the sand and sage brush. It’s a dead arch of wood. The land through and beyond the arch is in focus. Everything else is blurry. Again, whatever. I get down on all fours and crawl through.

Tree Tunnel

 

***

I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

The Odds

My daughter makes hypocrisy cute; hers is an innocent type of dichotomy that hasn’t yet been corrupted by ill intentions and the evil bullshit that comes with age. To her, death is an anathema. She’ll go out of her way to save the lowliest little bug that scurries dangerously close to my feet. She’ll cry at the thought of an injured animal. She’ll sit contently in the cabin of a fishing charter for which I paid handsomely and refuse to catch a fish; she’ll even refuse to eat the fish I caught because the horror is still fresh in her mind even though the rock-hard fish in the freezer isn’t. But when it comes to steak, you better watch the fuck out. She’ll dive across the dinner table to steal bloody scraps from your plate when you look away. Isn’t that cute?

We recently took her to a crawfish boil at a friend’s house, and at first, she refused to get out of the car. The thought of boiling alive thousands of little baby lobsters brought on some sort of tree-hugging paralysis. The wife and I tried to hold up her hypocrisy so she might see it:

“Catelynn, stop being ridiculous; you loooooooove eating steak and steak comes from cows.”

“Yes dad, I know. But cows are all clumpy and ugly and I don’t know who killed them and I don’t have to see it happen.”

“What about sushi Catelynn? The majestic blue fin is cute and you’ll eat the crap out of a rainbow roll. And a crawfish is just another type of fish, right?”

“I. Don’t. Care. I’m not going to a party where they kill crawfish and I’m not eating them.”

She eventually got out of the car. Her eyes were wide and her ears were perked. When she finally found the large stainless pot that was bubbling and reeking of Cajun seasoning, she frowned. I guess the carnage wasn’t quite what she expected. I introduced her to the host (who’s hand she shook with a scowl) and he asked if she’d like to see the live ones. She said yes.

We walked past all the drunken revelry and over to a huge cooler; he threw back the lid. My daughter sucked in a breath that spoke volumes. He picked one up, gingerly to avoid the pincers, and handed it to me before closing the lid and walking back to the bubbling pot. I looked down at my daughter, with budding tears in her emerald eyes, and sighed in the presence of such innocent beauty.

I asked her to follow me in that long suffering tone fathers develop after a few years, and we walked back to the car. I looked around inside until I found an empty Starbucks cup. It was huge and transparent so it’d make a perfect temporary home (as a side note, venti was big enough; trenta is just ludicrous). I filled it up to the green mermaid with tap water and dropped the lucky-as-shit crawfish into safety. My daughter spent the rest of the time at the barbeque, all three hours, staring into the cup and falling in love with “Starbuck the Crawfish”; we all smiled as we watched on and gorged on Starbuck’s cousins.

Starbuck

Sixty dollars later, Starbuck now has a luxurious life in a bubbling tank on my daughter’s bookcase that’s filled with glass rocks and spinach. He has two meals a day and a rock under which to hide. He has multi colored LED lights overhead and the love of my daughter. I’m sure to him, she looks like a monster. She’ll press her face up against the glass and smile; he’ll raise his claws and puff up in warning like a rooster or a peacock… or a frat-boy. It’s a wonderful relationship.

But what were the odds for Starbuck? Probably one in a bajillion. He came from a crawfish farm slash rice patty in Louisiana and he was born to be eaten. That farm ships out thousands of pounds per day, all over the US, but Starbuck came to Colorado in a sack with thousands of his brethren. He survived the flight when many didn’t. He clawed his way to the top of the cooler, but not too soon; our host had been cooking for five hours before we got there. He was picked up and handed to the only person there that would’ve saved him. He survived the ride home to New Mexico in a cup and he lived. A piece of food day before yesterday; a beloved pet today.

And what are the odds for my daughter? We recently went to a painfully long induction ceremony; our daughter made it into the junior national honor society. She sat amongst one hundred other kids that made the grade and we were all treated to a protracted speech from an old lady that touched on all the clichés. “I see a bunch of brilliant kids with dreams that’ll one day go on to be great blah blah blah.” Sure; some of those kids are going to make it, but the truth is that quite a few of them aren’t. For every future doctor on that stage, there’s also a future felon; for every success, a failure. It’s cynical but it’s also simple statistics.

Will my daughter make it? Will she claw her way to the top of the bucket at the right moment? Holy fuck I hope so; I’d die to ensure it. There are days when I have my doubts. Not because I lack faith in my daughter, but because I’m all too aware of how pernicious this life can be and I simply don’t want her to face it. But when I think about her staring into that cup and falling in love with a crustacean, when I think about her walking past all those drunken men at the boil to save a single life, I realize that she’s going to be just fine.

CJ and Starbuck

I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Monsters in Vegas

I felt pretty good about the fact that I was in better shape than anybody else in the gym right up until the sixty year old transvestite walked in and put us all to shame. The dude was ripped. He had twice the muscle definition as I did and his boobs were bigger than my wife’s; I have a solid six-pack and my wife is a girl so it was pretty impressive on both fronts. And I knew he was a he as opposed to a masculine she thanks to the skintight grey leotard he was wearing. I suppose he could’ve been smuggling a water bottle or something but I doubt it. He walked in with his argyle socks and ballerina shoes and looked around the gym trying to figure out where to start. He had permanent make up and a grey topknot and no fear whatsoever. He stretched and then started throwing a fifty pound dumbbell around as if it were a paperweight. I shrugged my shoulders and thought “Well, this is Vegas. What did you expect?” I went back to my pull-ups and didn’t think about it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with being the second buffest guy in the gym even if number one is twice as old and wearing a sports bra.

 

I finished my workout and headed back up to the room to meet my wife and children to plan the day. As a side note, if you would’ve walked up to me five years ago and told me that I’d go to bed early in Las Vegas so I could fit in a six a.m. workout, I would’ve accused you of being retarded. Things change. My wife and monsters were awake so I told Terra about the tranny just to make early morning small talk but then I heard my oldest daughter laughing at the story, and that’s when it hit me; I voluntarily brought both of my daughters to Vegas. All of the women in my family were on spring break; one from Montessori, one from middle school, and one from college, so we’d decided to load up the car and drive the eight hours to sin city just for the hell of it. But now what? Questions would arise, and thanks to my anti sheltering policy, I’d have to answer them. I just wish it didn’t have to start with a conversation about what I meant by “smuggling a water bottle.”

The Strip

We headed out, and about ten minutes into our trek, one of those shady but silent men on the street tried to hand me a small brochure advertising the best “escorts” in Nevada. Seriously? I’m not sure exactly what we were looking for that morning but it definitely wasn’t prostitution. Maybe the dude missed his orientation at whore-business-card-handing-out-school but I’m pretty sure a thirty-something year old man walking with his wife and two daughters isn’t in the target demographic. I kept walking and for once, my oldest and most ridiculously observant daughter didn’t see anything so I got to avoid our first conversation about “really bad choices.” But it came about a mile later.

 

The bums came out around ten a.m. and started plying their trade. Some were busking with harmonicas or guitars, others proclaimed to be veterans with camouflage coats as evidence, and some relied on creative signs: “Too ugly to prostitute; too stupid to steal.” I almost gave the last guy five bucks just for his proper usage of homonyms and semicolons but we just walked on by. My oldest, Catelynn, wanted to give a rather jovial bum with a guitar and a bandana something so I gave her a couple bucks. Why not? She ran over and put the money in his hat with a smile and he said “Thank you pretty lady! Stay in school or you’ll end up like me!” then he looked over at me and said “You’re welcome!” I thanked him and we continued on. I started chuckling because somehow, I had just thanked a bum for letting me give him money. The next day, we walked by the same guy a little after ten thirty a.m. and he had already drained most of the forty ounce beer in his hand. It was cheap and wrapped in a brown paper bag because I guess he’d felt the need to reinforce a stereotype. I turned to Catelynn and said “See? You bought that man a beer.” I could see the wheels turning behind her frown.

 

It wasn’t fifty feet later that we passed by a bum in a leather vest that had track marks and needle sores all over both of his arms. It looked as if he moonlighted as a cactus wrangler. My daughter stared at him and his bedraggled sign that simply said “please help” as we walked by and then asked why I didn’t give him anything. “Would he just buy beer too?” I asked her if she noticed the sores, and I knew she had because her observation skills are almost creepy. She said yes, and guessed that maybe he’d walked through a swarm of mosquitoes (she frickin’ hates mosquitoes). I told her exactly where they came from, and that every dollar that went into his coffee-can would end up in his veins. She didn’t ask to hand out any more money for the rest of the trip.

 

I was still thinking about heroin so I didn’t notice the bikini-clad flamingo girl that was running toward us. She bent over to look into my stroller and in a dulcet voice, she asked my youngest, Kinley, for a high five. She was spangled in sequins and almost falling out of her top so I’m sure it’s a mammary Kinley isn’t going to forget. Kinley gave her a tentative high five and the flamingo girl bounced along her way giggling “welcome to Las Vegas” over her shoulder. Great; now what? Should I sit my children down on the curb and explain the pitfalls behind daddy issues? Should I take Kinley to the clinic and get her disinfected just in case?

 

The entire trip was like that; good, but awkward. We took the kids swimming every day after our forages and if I didn’t watch out, I’d find myself swimming with both of my monsters in a manmade lake of twitterpated douche bags. We’d be wading and splashing and minding our own business, and then be inundated with a wave of pheromones smelling slightly of coconuts and Bud Light. There’d be a group of men to one side doing a line dance in the pool (I shit you not) and a group of women to the other giggling way too loud and doing their best to still pull off bellybutton rings. The DJ would shout “to the left to the left to the left” as the bass pumped and I’d do my best to get my daughters to the tiled shore before they’d be swept under by the riptide flowing out from the mating rituals.

 

Our children started suffering from sensory overload pretty early in the trip. We’d take them to see sharks and jumping dolphins and albino tigers; we went to carnivals, we ate and shopped constantly, we rode roller coasters and watched light shows. But as soon as we’d get back to the room, the kids would start pacing and staring at the confining walls like inmates on death row. “Dad I’m bored. I don’t think I can sit here anymore.” Jesus. But I guess that’s what Vegas is designed to do: continuously funnel the guests through a turnstile of constant consumption. And that’s what we did. Terra and I aren’t big gamblers, we only blew two hundred bucks (half of which wasn’t ours), but the three day trip still put me back about two grand. So be it. The lesson Catelynn learned via someone else’s track marks was worth every penny.

***

Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Monster

 

The Parasite

I remember looking down at the gelatinous little parasite and hating it instantly. It was putrid grey and about the size of a quarter; it had the consistency of cold snot. It was long dead, the saw that had quartered the cow I was butchering had taken care of that, but I was still repulsed by the thing’s existence. The little bastard was curled up cozy as can be in a slab of steak I was trimming and as soon as I realized what it was, I hacked it out with one of those white-handled butcher knives and threw it in the trash with the rest of the offal. But could it still infect me some how? Was it now, at this very moment, soughing off eggs or disease that couldn’t be contained by the trash can? Had I accidently touched it? Should I run to the bathroom and scrub my hands until they turned pink? Should I set fire to everything in sight to save the rest of humanity and scream like a girl while running for my life? There’s just something insidious about a parasite that irks me on a visceral level. I hate the little bastards.

 

I’m really only afraid of three things; parasites, sharks, and AIDS. The latter two are pretty easy to avoid so if I had to choose one of the three that bothers me the most, it’d be parasites for sure. As a side note, can you imagine how scary it’d be if there was such a thing as a shark with AIDS? Holy crap! I’d never swim in the ocean again. Actually, last Halloween, I wanted to dress up like one. I was going to get a shark costume and pin one of those AIDS awareness ribbons on my dorsal fin. Boom. I’d be the scariest thing ever. Anyway, back on track. I think my fear of parasites dates back to elementary school. Our teacher passed around a large capped beaker containing a huge tape worm and some cloudy formaldehyde. I froze up when it made it to my desk. The thing was long and flat and troglodyte-white with hooks for feet and an evil maw that it used to hang on inside your gut. The teacher told me that it couldn’t hurt me because it was dead and pickled, but I sure as hell didn’t trust him. How could anybody that kept monsters in jars be trusted?

 

Parasites personify every trait that we’re taught to hate; “parasitic” is an adjective always associated with villainy. They shun symbiotic relationships, they take but never give, they enter through deception, and they only leave through death. And if anything, my fear of them has been growing over the years just like a… well, like a parasite. So when I came across that evil little monster while cutting up a cow, I nearly stripped out of my white apron and left. But I couldn’t; I was doing it all for the edification of my young.

 

The wife and I had decided that we needed to show our oldest daughter where our food came from, so when we got a somewhat serendipitous invitation to help butcher a cow, we agreed. Our daughter knew that her burgers came from cows, her bacon from pigs, but it was a superficial type of knowledge. I imagine such knowledge could even be deemed inadmissible as hearsay. So we drove over to a friend’s house to help butcher a cow. Actually, all the unsavory tasks had already been accomplished. Someone else had shot the cow, skinned it and drained the blood; it had already been quartered and aged in a meet locker. My child would be getting the Cliff’s Notes version of death and butchery.

 

As soon as the work started, I could tell that our daughter wasn’t going to learn much. To her, she was just handling a bunch of steak that came from something roughly shaped like the back of a cow. In fact, she loved every bit of it. She got to use knifes like a grown up, and steak is probably her favorite thing to eat. She inherited the appetite for red meat from her mother, and standing next to the two of them as we cut steak after steak, I fully expected them to give in to the blood lust at any moment and start devouring the meat like a couple Velociraptors. It never happened.

 

The day was pretty uneventful until I came across the parasite, and even that didn’t really bother my daughter. “Uh yeah dad, just cut it out and cook the steak. Totes no problem.” Totes no problem my ass! Whatever. We took our share and left after a ranch style lunch of simple dishes that dated back to a more simple time. Cooked steak with salt. Red beats on a white plate. Cut lettuce with dressing and cheese. But as I was eating and as I was driving home, I couldn’t shake the chilling feeling that came from the dead parasite. In a way, it had infected me; part of it was living in my mind and I couldn’t dig it out. Its purpose had been fulfilled.

 

All of this was inspired by a friend’s blog. Her name is Savannah Grace and I’ve written about her work before because frankly, it kicks ass. She’s a globe trekking author with more talent than most, and she recently came across a cow that was tied up in the back of a taxi cab somewhere in Africa. How awesome is that? In a way, I’ve always been secretly jealous of Savannah’s life because she’s constantly surrounded by fodder for writing. And she uses it well; her style is relaxed and easy to read, almost like a conversation, and every bit of her life’s experience is interesting. The picture below is one of her next to the cow, but for the full experience, you’ll need to go read her blog here: http://www.watkinstravel.blogspot.com/2013/03/steak-for-breakfast.html. There’s also a video on her page, but I should warn you now, it’s a bit graphic. But the story is poignant, and if you’re a fan of travel blogs, Savannah’s is one of the best out there. So please check it out.

 

And please support Savannah buy downloading her book “Sihpromatum” here: http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-ebook/dp/B008YZ0184/

Cow in a Taxi

Wrought Ferrous

I once trained a trout to swim backwards, but only because I had radioactive materials at my disposal. I worked for a company that used radiation in down-hole equipment to take surveys while drilling oil wells, and the specifics are boring as hell, but in short, we’d have to calibrate the equipment in the shop with a small radioactive source that was about the size of a tootsie roll. I’d have to open a little shielded metal box, back up as quickly as possible, and let one of my coworkers grab the source with a long pole and then stick it into a long tubular tool for calibration. Then we’d submerge the tool in a large tank full of water and start doing all sorts of scientific stuff. It always felt as if my intestines were writhing around inside of me while the source was out in the air, but I’m sure it was all in my head. We’d use cesium or cobalt which are both rather scary elements, but I had my trusty TLD badge and the assurances of my supervisor that everything would be just fine. No big deal.

 

Eventually the long hours got to us and we got bored. Seriously though; if you could experiment with radiation, would you do it? Yup. We caught a few trout at a nearby lake and brought them back to the shop and dropped them in the tank. The thing was 40’ by 8’ by 6’ so the little guys had all sorts of room; the surface of the water attracted all sorts of insects so they had plenty of food. We started thinking that our experiments were bunk until the little guys started swimming backwards, which I had always thought was impossible, but nobody told that to Chernobyl or Fallout Boy (I was pretty proud of the names I came up with for the two ill fated fish). Anyway, they managed it by holding their tails perfectly still and swimming only with their pectoral fins.

 

The fish eventually died and we had to drain the tank to clean it. Our operations manuals didn’t specifically address the possibility, but a few of us started thinking that fish crap might foul up the calibration process. After the tank was drained and cleaned, I took a picture of it. Then I copied the picture and made it into a negative, juxtaposed it against the original picture, and entitled it “Yin Yang.” I won an “honorable mention” in a small-time photography contest with the piece, and it all snowballed from there. I started taking all sorts of pictures around the shop of odd industrial things that most people wouldn’t recognize; my ultimate goal was to self publish a book of photography entitled “wrought ferrous” but I never got around to it. I’ve decided to take about half of the pictures from that old collection and post them here just for the hell of it.

 

Yin Yang

YinYang

9 Log

9log

2006_08_23

2006_08_23

Amphitheater

This is just a device used to measure o-rings, but it reminded me of an amphitheater from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Amphitheater

Ape Man

The lubricant most often used in the oilfield is copper based; this is what a new five gallon bucket of the stuff looks like when you take off the lid.

Apeman

Auger

Auger

Bent CD

Bent CD

Blood

Blood

Blue Tooth

Blue Tooth

Bored

Bored

Box

Box

Buff

Buff

Chain

Chain

Coast

Coast

Depth

Depth

Drip

Drip

Fangoin

Fangoin

Fish

Fish

Fishnet

Fishnet

Flapper

Flapper

Floor

Floor

Frost Forest

The Alaskan winters get so cold that little forests of frost start growing up from the snow on the ground. I took a picture of it.

Frost Forest

Grate

Grate

Hoist

Hoist

Melon

Rainwater had collected on top of a drum of kerosene; I hit the side with a sledge hammer and snapped a picture.

Melon

Moon’s Wave

Moon's Wave

Mouse

(You’ll have to click on it to see it)

Mouse

Rift

Rift

Riggor

Riggor

Salt

Salt

Scribble

Scribble

Shark Skin

Shark Skin

Superman

Superman

Telescope

Telescope

Whytube

Whytube

 

***

 

Anyway, I write and sell books (that have absolutely nothing to do with photography) and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q  If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI