Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Wrestling Alligators

Myakka River, Florida

I bought a black fedora to mask the bad haircut.

Today we rented a canoe to explore the Myakka River. It is estimated that over 1,000 alligators live in Myakka Lake and in the river that flows out of the lake.

The smaller gators slide off the river bank as we pass, like in an old Tarzan movie. The big boys just stare at us even if we pass within two or three feet. Some are about 12 feet long and weigh 600-800 pounds.

The wind is very strong and the river keeps changing direction. We keep getting blown into the riverbank. Mrs. Phred expresses her dissatisfaction with my steering ability.

I decide that I need to rejuvenate her respect so I leap from the canoe to wrestle with a 800 pound, 12 foot gator. We splash and roll in the center of the river. I'm on his back and rub his belly to put him into a cationic, hypnotic state. I ask Mrs. Phred to take my picture with the vanquished gator, but the camera is in the back of the canoe and she is afraid of turning it over. By the time I get back in the canoe, the gator wakes up and submerges.

We see a few swamp birds and stop for gator stew on the way out.


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

My Real Name is ZaZa

Sarasota, Florida

Vivian Grace entered the world today at 2:25 PM, somewhere north of nine pounds. She is our seventh grandchild. We asked to be designated as "Zada" and "Bubbie", which are traditional Jewish names for grandfather and grandmother. Unfortunately, grandchild number one mangled that to "ZaZa"...so it goes.

You may wonder about Zada's new haircut. I asked for 1/2 inch, but my haircut lady was apparently mathematically challenged. When I visited Mom today, she asked if I had fallen asleep in the barber's chair.

I drove the van back from North Carolina after finishing the paint job on the new addition. I was pulled over in Waldo, Florida around midnight by an Alachua County sheriff's deputy. He was a nice young man who explained that my license plate light was out and that he was hoping that I had been drinking so that he could make his DUI quota. Waldo has always been known as a speed trap.

I'm not sure how it came up, but the young man kept me in a Wendy's parking lot for over an hour telling him stories about navigating in the Air Force. Apparently, he wanted to join the Air Force instead of the sheriff's department, but it is too competitive today. Back in the day, they were recruiting "Cat IV" airmen by the carload. Those are the ones that score in the bottom quartile of High School graduates on trainability tests.

He let me go after running my documents though the computer.

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Tile Man

Wake Forest, North Carolina

The tile man is pivotal. You can't finish the plumbing until the tile man is done. I can't finish painting. The carpenters can't finish the trim. The 3-day floor tile project turned into four weeks. The shower looks like it might extend out indefinitely. The tile man keeps changing due dates and how long things like the final floor sealant should dry.


Meanwhile, the baby is due Monday. I have the rooms I can access painted with multiple finish coats on everything, but we can't move in the furniture because there are no carpets and the tile man is contracted to install them (after the tile).

The tile man spends a day installing tile and then rips it all out because he sees an imperfection. He spends hours sorting and examining tile pieces so that he can be satisfied that adjacent tiles are esthetically satisfying. I begin to suspect that he doesn't like to go home and is trying to extend this job indefinitely.

It all reminds me of a 1979 underground movie called "The Plumber:

''The Plumber,'' is both comedy and nightmare. It watches the title
character arrive insolently at the household of two thin-skinned academic types
who haven't summoned him, and follows the process by which he dismantles their
bathroom and drives them half-mad.

The story begins innocently enough - despite such ominous shots as that
of the plumber's black-gloved hand pressing an elevator button - when this
bedraggled longhair arrives at the door and persuades the young wife (Judy
Morris) that her bathroom needs fixing. Soon, though, she suspects there may be
something amiss. Strange noises are coming from the bathroom, the sound of
someone singing. She begins to suspect the plumber may be taking a shower.

''It's what you can't see that counts in plumbing,'' he cautions her,
in one of the many intimate conversations that he initiates and she would just
as soon not have. At another point, he confides that ''the drains in this
building are clogged with hair.'' Soon he is no longer content to annoy her in
conversation, and has begun to hack the bathroom to smithereens.

All this culminates in a dinner party the ambitious husband gives for
several visiting dignitaries from the World Health Organization, one of whom has
the bad luck to need to visit the lavatory. The dignitary is so badly injured by
falling debris that the husband plies him with brandy, thus turning a dull
evening into an unexpected social triumph.

The point here is that the line dividing civilized behavior from more primitive kinds is so thin as to be nonexistent. To emphasize that, the apartment walls are decorated with artifacts from New Guinea. One of the characters an anthropologist and the soundtrack is filled with the noise of tribal drums. There is also an evident social caste dividing the plumber from the academic couple.

The surprise ending is that the academic woman studied cannibalism and contracted a rare brain disease, similar to Mad Cow, that comes only from eating human brains. She got the disease in New Guinea by becoming too closely involved in her work. In the end, she consumes "the plumber", brains and all, with a mad self-satisfied leer.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Snowflakes and Leonard Cohen

Wake Forest, North Carolina

It's one AM. I can't sleep. The snow is making a quiet, white blanket over everything.



I stand on the back porch and stick out my tongue to catch snowflakes in the dark. Did I get two exactly alike? They tasted the same.

My work here should be finished in two or three days.

The Silver Meteor pulls out of Raleigh every day at 8:34 in the evening. I hope to meet a few degenerate gamblers in the club car. Put on the coffee pot, Mrs. Phred. I'm coming home. Look out for the northern headlights of a southbound train.



When the train left the station, there were two lights on behind: the redlight was my baby and the bluelight was my mind.

Back on the inside, Leonard Cohen has a special going on public TV. Dance me to the end of love. He's wearing a hat. I wonder how I wold look in a dark suit and hat?