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Still There (From 2007)

Ever work in a factory?

If you’re reading this page, the answer is likely no. I remember reading that if you are at a gathering of college educated persons, not one of them will know personally anyone who is not. They can cast around for the name of the plumber or something to make their working class bona fides, but it’s not the same thing. With a few exceptions, educated persons don’t know people who are not, and vice versa.

I am not fixing to hold myself up as any sort of example of anything. I don’t fit in anywhere and so am useless as any sort of ruler to measure such things. I drift along through many sets of people, and belong to none, really. Maybe I should be a writer. I have no fixed perspective.

I have worked in a factory. More than one. A big old brick building with tall windows and a punch clock and battered formica tables and two vending machines in a break room. Union, some of them, too. I know what it’s like. A lot of people who have never known work talk about the loss of belching smokestack factories like it’s a plague of locusts or something. If they ever worked in one they might feel differently. I can’t properly describe the sensation of eating your lunch out of a paper sack and reading an inexpertly printed missive from personnel (they used to call it that without shame) telling me, just 19 years old, that all I had to do is work another 49 years putting the same tiny screws into some holes while looking at a gauge, and I could retire with a little pension.

They never understood why I left. My fellow workers, grown old and crabby in the traces, tried to get me to explain, which I could not do without insulting them, and then, frustrated, barked at me that I’d be sorry. I never was. The factory has been shuttered and dark for decades now, and they all lost their jobs. The world is a shark and must always swim. I recognize the charlatans that say the shark must stand still no matter how they tart up the presentation. Numbskull Canutes want to rule the world.

There can be dignity there, in a factory. If there is work that is not dignified I have not seen it. You must bring the dignity with you, as in all things. It will not be supplied to you. It cannot be taken from you if you will keep it.

That picture is taken in 1940. There is certainly dignity in that picture, along with hard work and danger and a wage, and it shines right through. Old Kenyon’s Johnnycake Mill in Usquepaugh, Rhode Island. I used to visit the towns around there often in the summer. And the place is still there.

Kenyon’s Corn Meal Company

It’s marvelous it’s still there after centuries. The shark must swim. It does not devour all its young, though.

Round Of Golf Fails To Cure Crohn’s Disease. Again

Rockbottom, Massachusetts:

Area man Josh Mulders reports that the four-man charity scramble he attended on Thursday of this week at The StoneLedge Links of the Pine Point Country Club at Tall Oaks Gated Preserve Community failed to eradicate Crohn’s Disease for the second straight year. Mr. Mulders reports that in addition to failing to find a cure for “some sort of disease or something,” the tournament failed to meet many other expectations of the participants. “This place sucks, and the open bar only has well drinks,” he said.

“I thought it would be like a day off, without wasting a perfectly good sickday to play golf,” Ted Sandringham, another local Springsbury participant reported, “but my supervisor kept calling me on my cell and asking me where I kept everything. And the golf dweebs are so uptight all the time they say they can hear my phone even when it’s on vibrate.”

Sandringham, the designated “fore-man” of his group, pushed a bit of Ziti Carbonara around his plate and added: “And the one time my wife called, she heard the drink cart broad talking dirty in the background to the young kid from shipping. That’s two nights on the couch for me, easy, and I didn’t even get a glass of water from the skank.”

Another avid duffer and concerned citizen seated at the same table also reported: “The Porta-San near the tenth tee box is a horrorshow. I mean, really. Whoever that guy is, he should stay out of Taco Bell and the liquor store for a coupla days. Whoah. Who the hell goes out in public with your bowels in an uproar like that?”

Tournament officials were at a loss to explain how two successful outings in a row had failed to cure the disease, despite raising a total of almost $1100 for the Crohn’s disease charity, after expenses. Food and beverage steward Alan Koop, when interviewed after the silent auction of Jerry Adair memorabilia, offered: “It’s a shame that disease, the Chronin thing, is so tough. Everyone says they liked the scallops wrapped in bacon. It’s a mystery, I guess.”

Club President Geoff Malabar thinks the club might be trying to do too much. “We had Rides for Tots, Make-a-Wish, Breast Cancer, that goofy art place in the vinyl-sided defunct church, whatever they call it, all on the same day as the Clone disease thing. There’s only so much we can do to solve all these problems, at least until the zoning board gets off the dime and lets us fill in that wetland for another nine holes.”

Malabar was then interrupted by the sound of crashing dishes from the kitchen, and took a moment to smooth over the problem through the pass-through, in flawless Spanish, and then returned and warmed to his theme: “What with me comping four of the seven selectmen over and over, you’d think it’d be a done deal by now.” Malabar seemed to muse for a moment at the staggering responsibility resting on his shoulders, and continued: “Hey is that a tape recorder? Are you from the paper or something?”

Perhaps overcome with emotion for Crohn’s sufferers, Josh Mulders seemed to be fighting back tears near the soon-to-close open bar: “My boss kicked in $1500 on my sayso, because I told him it would be a good way to network for our business. But I just threw that out there to get a chance to play at a private club for a change. How the hell my boss thinks I’m gonna sell boiler circulator pumps on the back nine is beyond me,” He said. “I am so fired on Monday.”

Great Moments In Vaguely Disturbing Advertising: Kickin’ It Italian Style

My Italian is kinda sketchy at this point, and the rat-a-tat delivery wasn’t helping, so I gave up and just let it wash over me.

Nothing sells coffee like a deranged Gumby-and-Pokey-class depiction of a concentration camp for coffee beans. Pointing out that the competition’s product will make your heart jump out of your chest is a nice, if subtle touch to end on.

They missed the obvious slogan, though: Have-a HAG bring you your coffee in the morning!

Sippican Cottages And Bungalows

Sippican Cottage Furniture is featured twice in the August/September issue of Cottages and Bungalows. Neato.

I always appreciate the attention. I’m a small business in a ferocious fiscal climate and need to cadge attention where I can get it.

They always send you a complimentary copy. Most everybody in the magazine and television world have been very professional and thoughtful, in my experience. When I was featured on NECN they even sent me a disc with the appearance on it.

I’ve never paid to be featured in magazines or other media. I’ve received some rather creepy overtures in this regard. Some of the surreptitious pay to play arrangements in the big shelter mags, and especially TV, seem like borderline fraud to me. We’ll pretend to like you if pay us. Most of the home improvement shows now have the smell of: “Hey mister, do you want to buy speakers out of the back of my van?” A long time ago, I was hired to testify as an expert witness in a lawsuit against the host of a major home improvement show that was taking kickbacks. It does happen.

I hadn’t seen Cottages and Bungalows until my furniture was featured in it. It’s a really good magazine. There’s something interesting on every page. My wife likes it even better than I do. Many houses are too fussy and sterile for my taste, and I think for the occupant’s taste, too, though they don’t always realize it. We are a casual society. It’s unlikely you’ll be happy living in an operating room.

You can buy a copy at many newsstands or Target, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble, or Borders. Or you can buy a single copy or a subscription here. I know I will. And if anybody buys anything much, I wouldn’t mind advertising there, too. See? They are good businesspeople over there at Cottages and Bungalows, even though they’re honest.

PS: They have a forum, too.

Slipping From Caricature To Cartoon: ComicCon 2009

[Editor’s Note: Pictures are from a slideshow of the ComicCon 2009 hosted on Rotten Tomatoes]

The comic book convention. Hmm. I wish to tread lightly here. If a wag is supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, I can’t see how being mean to these souls is appropriate. I do not wish to harm the harmless. They wouldn’t care anyway. Their worldview is all about embracing derision. Not strong in the face of criticism, exactly. More like learning to like the taste of sand.

When faced with cultural trends, the default attitude is plaudits or vitriol, nothing in between, and never ambivalence. 99% of the “analysis” I read and see, isn’t. It’s a poorly disguised, already-held opinion drifting on the sea of culture looking for any dock to bang against. Everyone and everything at the ComicCon is nothing and nobody to me. It is prominent enough for me to pay attention to. That’s it. I have no (Triumph the Insult Comic) dog in this hunt.

These are grown people. There are a few people who have dragged their children along in matching costumes, but the kids don’t look all that interested. Kids just put a plastic pail on their heads and become knights-errant. They don’t spend twelve forty-hour weeks making a Watchmen costume trying to impress a Princess Leia who’s a bit broad in the beam for the metal bikini but wears it anyway. Kids like fun. This is not fun. This is serious.

But, as they say: “Why so serious?” It’s a convention based on comic books. Don’t blame me if I look at the way you’re behaving seriously trivially seriously. I’m not the one that demanded that comic books be called “graphic novels” and entered into real school curriculums here and there as if they’re important. I haven’t mistaken George Lucas for St. Augustine and Robert Heinlein for Paul of Tarsus. Hell, I haven’t even mistaken George Lucas for a competent filmmaker.

A kind of incoherence has crept into the language. School teaches students never to learn anything by rote, and to rely on your judgment alone when you’re trying to spell arguement. So I’m unlikely to be able to ask you what’s up with your overriding urge to dress up like it’s Halloween every day, and you’re four years old forever. You’ll just answer in that Internet singsong about reigning in loosers that definatly need to seperate themselves from you right now before they beg another question. I can’t find things out by talking to you. I must watch and learn.

People are people. Fifty years ago, people made elaborate train set worlds in their basement, model airplanes, and ships-in-a-bottle. They spent countless hours perfecting their ping pong stroke and their horseshoe arc. Hell, I made a decidedly flammable popsicle stick ashtray and gave it to my parents, who did not smoke. People have always wasted their time trying to amuse themselves.

But beware: the Shriners wore funny hats and drove in parades in little cars, it’s true. But the Shriners weren’t founded solely as a way to gather together to wear funny hats and drive little cars. When your child can be admitted to a ComicCon Hospital and be treated for third degree burns, for free, then 160 pounds of Catwoman in a 120 pound suit can snicker at their fezzes, not before.

It’s said that no real head doctor would offer an opinion of any person based solely on what they read in the paper or saw on the TV about them. But I’m an amateur, so I’ll let it rip. If a goldfish got to wishing, he wouldn’t wish he was just on the outside of the bowl glass. He’d wish he had fangs and wings and breathed fire and shat bullion and mated with mighty morphin’ megasexual mates ten at a time. Then he’d go bump into the glass on the other side of the bowl.

I spotted this on a Flicker page of a StumbleUpon correspondent:
Dollhouse 1920. Made for my mother from an old packing crate. The embossed lettering is still visible on the back of the roof. Made by her father, Andrew Sebastian K., who died a few months later.

That story is right up there with Hemingway’s six word masterpiece: For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

That man grew up. He married and had children. He made his children toys from whatever was handy. He made his meager (as is everybody’s) offering to posterity and launched it, luckily, before his time was over.

What a looser. He could have made himself a bitchin’ Nosferatu costume and gone to WarrenGHardingPalooza instead.

Watching The King Family On TV

Hey, wanna watch the King Family on television?

AW HELLS NO!!!11!1!!1! Not that King Family!

There was a King family back in the sixties, although they weren’t related. Albert King, Freddie King, and BB King. BB outlasted the others, so everyone knows him, but it was Albert that adumbrated an entire style of playing. Hendrix and Clapton and Stevie Ray and dozens more in their turn worshipped at the altar of Albert King.

Freddie King, too, to a lesser extent. When I hear Clapton or Jimmy Vaughan, I hear Freddie first and foremost. But Freddie’s dead, since 1976, and everyone’s mostly forgotten about him.

Here’s Freddie with his biggest hit on The Beat in 1966. The emcee places an unfortunate pause in his introduction while he mentions Dallas, JFK, and shooting. Smooth sailing after that.

You Look Good, Like A Captain. I Salute You

Ah, the week in public comments at the Santa Cruz City Council and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. It’s like a national treasure, truly.

Whose soul is not stirred by the sight of a windmill looming on the horizon? But if the fair Dulcinea ain’t showing up, who can blame the man of steady mien if he doth assemble his Panza Division anyway, and transfer his attention to anther fair maid, and her $209,000.00, $209,000.00, $209,000.00, $203,000.00, $203,000.00 $194,000.00, $203,000.00, $174,000.00, $198,000.00, $193,000.00 $198,000.00 $193,000.00 $194,000.00, $187,000.00, $187,000.00, $184,000.00, $184,000.00, $184,000.00, $184,000.00, $184,000.00, $179,000.00, $182,000.00, $164,000.00, $173,000.00, $172,000.00, $172,000.00, $178,000.00, $171,000.00, $168,000.00 …

Panza Division” copyright 2009 Sippican Cottage, all rights reserved. Snicker.

Can You Hear Me

If the rain comes they run and hide their heads.
They might as well be dead.
If the rain comes, if the rain comes.

It rained all night, and hard. All day yesterday. It seems to rain all the time, but of course that’s not possible. But seeming matters, for we are animals. There has been no summer to speak of. July is the average hottest month here. We may never have summer at all.

The hottest temperature ever recorded here in Marion was 100 degrees, in 1975. I’m fairly certain we have never touched 80 even once this month, though it is the average high temperature we should expect here in July.

When the sun shines they slip into the shade
And drink their lemonade.
When the sun shines, when the sun shines.
Rain, I don’t mind.
Shine, the weather’s fine.

It is an interior life I live, anyway. I see four concrete walls all day, lighted by dreary fluorescents, and by the time that’s over so is any daylight, so you get a kind of submarine vibe in your life.

One searches for meaning everywhere, including where it is unlikely to be found. It has occurred to me that the vital thing is the promise of something. The availability of many things, whether you care to use them or not at any given time, matters. The car in the driveway serves a purpose far beyond the time you’re actively driving it. The car itself is just a hood ornament on the important thing: Mobility. I could leave and go elsewhere if I wanted to or needed to is a profoundly important idea. It is why it captivated the American psyche.

I can show you that when it starts to rain,
Everything’s the same.
I can show you, I can show you.
Rain, I don’t mind.
Shine, the weather’s fine.

We are hectored. Persons whose intellectual cupboard resembles a penthouse refrigerator — empty because they know they’re going to eat in a restaurant for every meal — are wondering why you have food in your larder. Telling you that you don’t need a lot of things. These things are a burden and you’d be happier without them. You’re not using them right now, so they are of doubtful utility. They demonstrate your existential car is useless by pointing out that you don’t drive in a circle around your astral abode all the time. Wouldn’t you be happier on the transcendental tram?

No. A real adult lives for the promise of things.

Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines,
It’s just a state of mind?
Can you hear me, can you hear me?

Month: July 2009

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