Brotherhood....

..... word.....

I spent the better part of this evening watching a familiar stranger. A handsome fellow, by all accounts, I studied him while he was busied with chores and outdoor tasks.

I knew him once, I think, but the memories are old, faded, and only half-seen now when I close my eyes and try to remember. It's like some badly misquoted line from a Robert Frost poem. You know the type. The ones where way leads to way, Grandsir Stark sips his whiskey from the depths of some ancient, open cellar, and leaves fall deep in the silence of a frozen wood; abstract, distant, and left more than just a little bit cold for the watching.

Today, though, I watched as sunlight trudged its way through a fresh canopy of leaves. Laboring to heal the freshly mown grass, the light moved almost as he did. And I sat and watched.

I found it quite painful to watch him after a while, and I focused on the smell of the freshly mown grass, the bird's song, and the hum of the motor. And the light, of course. It had the most unsual dappling as it found the earth, the grass, and the flowers.

The oddest thing was that he never made eye contact with me. He never spoke a word. He saw me, I'm sure, but he never stopped, never asked for a drink of water, and never ceased in his movement. Even after all of his tasks were completed and he was preparing to leave, each question that I put to him was answered with a simple "yes", or "no".

"Would you like a drink of water?"
"No", he'd say.
"Would you like a Coca Cola?"
Again, his reply would be "no".

And he would go on about his tasks disdaining any further interruption.

I will never understand how it is that we can be so far away from someone, and yet still be so close. And vice versa, of course. But also in being so close, we actually feel that much more terrible. If only for feeling so very, very far away.

Brotherhood is such an odd thing after 12 years apart.

..... and they say that the truth is stranger than fiction?.......

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Busy......

..... so, tell me..... if you bite your fingernails..... and then chew them up & eat them...... does that make you a cannibal?......

..... and what of those nervous times when you nibble the inside of your cheek and then let the nibblings slide down your throat?......

.... I mean, what exactly is the definition of a cannibal?.....

.... and before y'all ask, no..... I had chicken for dinner tonight....... and only a few finger nails......

..... oh, and by the way?....... people could (and should) write REAMS of notes about "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde"...... I've watched it twice over the past two days, and it is awesome.........

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Vietnam.....

...... good evening, rubberneckers...... I hope that you are all well....... as for me, I'm tolerable lately..... and quite pleasant at other times........ but all in all, overall, I'm idling down quite nicely considering that I spent most of the day batting insects & re-working flower beds.....

..... having said that, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to toss out here for you wonderful people....... so, I shall simply choose a few hard words from a book I've been reading off and on for the past few days....... I hope that you enjoy.....

OK Corral East

Brothers In The Nam

Sgt. Christopher and I are
in Khanh Hoi down by the docks
in the Blues Bar where the women
are brown and there is no Saigon Tea
making our nightly HIT - 'Hore Inspection Tour
watching the black - digging night sights
- soul sounds - getting tight

the grunts in the corner raise undisturbed hell
the timid white MP has his freckles pale
as he walks past the high dude
in the doorway in his lavender jump-suit
to remind the mama-san quietly of the curfew
- he chokes on the weed smoke
- he sees nothing his color here
and he fingers his army rosary - his .45

but this is not Cleveland or Chicago
he can't cringe any one here and our
gazes like brown punji stakes impale him

we have all killed something recently
we know who owns the night
and carry darkness with us

.... a poem by Mr. Horace Coleman

..... I don't know about you guys, but I thought that pretty much rocked...... and that ole Horace would have been a helluva guy to share a beer with.....

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Family....

...... good evening, boys & girls...... and say hello to Emma Jane SWG and William Tecumseh Sherman SWG..... my paternal Great Grandparents..... he - a pastor in the small mountain town of Tellico Plains back around the turn of the century, and the youngest son of a Civil War veteran...... and she - the delicate middle-daughter of a Ducktown, TN politician & businessman..... here they are.....

ggrandparents_small.jpg

..... a few things of note before I head off to the dogwood-shaded patio for the evening to visit with a gin and tonic......

.... notice Great Grandma's beltline?..... it's practically itty bitty..... not too shabby for having popped out four little'uns earlier in life... and her hair?...... my Father once told me that when she died, her hair was of such a length that if she were to take it down fully, 6 inches of it would trail the ground behind her as she walked.....

..... I reckon that the photo was taken around 1930 or so...... and that is genuine Cherokee National Forest/Appalachian mountain laurel in the background, too....... my goodness.... nothing says hillbilly like a healthy stand of mountain laurel at the edge of your property....... it makes me proud, it does......... I guess that nearly a hundred years on - and having lapped the world at least four times - sitting here now, I'm probably less than ten miles from where that photo was originally shot...... the world is full of circles, I suppose........

.... anyhoo, I'm off to enjoy the evening....... I hope that you all manage to do much the same...

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Memorial....

.... in between thunderstorms today, I've managed to hold down a bit of patio furniture out back and dig into an old anthology of American War Poetry...... and since today is Memorial Day - a day for remembering those sacrifices of our Warriors - I'll share a few lines that I myself enjoyed out under the dogwoods this afternoon......

.... this first selection was written by a young George Washington.....

The General (Edward Braddock) received the wound of which he died; but previous to it, had several horses killed and disabled under him. captains Orme and Morris his two Aides de Camp having received wounds which rendered them unable to attend, G.W. (Washington) remained the sole aid throughout the day, to the General; he also had one horse killed, and two wounded under him - A ball through his hat - and several through his clothes, but escaped unhurt.....

"The shocking Scenes which presented themselves in this Nights March are not to be described - The dead - the dying - the groans - lamentations - and cries along the Road of the wounded for help (for those under the latter descriptions endeavored from the first commencement of the action - or rather confusion - to escape to the second division) were enough to pierce a heart of adamant, the gloom and horror of which was not a little encreased by the impervious darkness which in places rendered it impossible for the two guides which attended to know whether they were in, or out of the tracks but by groping on the ground with their hands."

George Washington, on General Edward Braddock's defeat by combined French and Indian forces in 1755, from Washington on Washington.

..... and a hundred or so years later, Walt Whitman had this to say......

"The dead in this war - there they lie, stewing the fields and woods and valleys and battlefields of the South - Virginia, the Peninsula, Malvern Hill and Fair Oaks, the banks of the Chickahominy, the terraces of Fredricksburg, Antietam Bridge, the grisly ravines of Manassas, the bloody promenade of the Wilderness; the varieties of the strayed dead (the estimate of the War Department is twenty-five thousand national soldiers killed in battle and never buried at all; three thousand drowned; fifteen thousand inhumed by strangers or on the march in haste, in hitherto unfound localities; two thousand graves covered by sand and mud, by Mississippi freshets; three thousand carried away by caving-in of banks, etc; Gettysburg, the West, numberless battles, camps, hospitals everywhere; the crop reaped by the mighty reapers - typhoid, dysentery, inflammations; and - blackest and loathsomest of all - the dead, and living burial pits - the prison pens of Andersonville, Salisbury, Belle Isle, etc)..... The dead, the dead, the dead, our dead - "

Walt Whitman, "The Million Dead, Too, Summed Up", from Walt Whitman's Civil War

.... to every family who has sent someone off to war, you have my utmost gratitude and respect....... and for those who have died for our freedoms?.... defending us?.... may we continue from now until the end of the world to be a nation that is worthy of your sacrifice........

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Plastic.....

...... you know, in the great, sweeping, over-arching Circle of Life that we're all part of, I will be the first to happily admit that I don't know a whole lot when it comes to the 'Bouncy Castle" department......

..... and yet, as all Good Men are bound to continually quest, I do have quite a few unanswered questions.... particularly regarding the inflation/deflation of "bouncy castles'.... indeed, as I write this, two bouncy castles that my neighbor has had deployed in his back yard across the way for the past two days are in a weird, floppy, formless stage of early inflation...... odd, of course, to see such things so limp and decidedly un-bouncy, especially when they are both completely bouncy by lunchtime....

.... so, what gives?.... as a bouncy castle novice, I naturally assume that once your castle is made bouncy you would endeavor to keep it bouncy until you & your children were finished with all of your bouncing activities..... isn't it such a huge waste to deflate your castle every evening??..... perhaps his castles have leaks?..... is the deflation done on purpose for safety reasons?..... does he mean to make his bouncy castle unusable once the Sun goes down??..... lest some neighborhood miscreant steal silently through the night and then bounce gleefully unsupervised in the darkness?.....

.... I tell you, I just don't know..... but logic seems to dictate that once you achieve a certain level of turgidity in your bouncy castle, you would do your best to ensure that it remained so.......

..... then again, perhaps I err in my thinking.... maybe he is a fan of Dali and finds giant, distended heaps of multi-colored plastic aesthetically pleasing to view as he has his morning coffee?..... perhaps watching his bouncy castle slowly re-inflate every morning is a source of base, manly satisfaction?.....

..... I just don't know...... but the whole scene just seems strangely perplexing......

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Photos.....

..... I have labored, you know?....... figuratively & literally....... six thousand photographs, trips to foreign climes, backyard mosquito swatting, and what to post?....... very, very little that is not (on one level or another) more than just a little bit belittling.....

..... good lord, here's an example...... I awoke the Missus yesterday morning and she immediately retired to the deck with a book in hand to await the arrival of her bacon and eggs..... and halfway through the cooking, there came a frantic series of pecks upon the full-length glass of the back door...... so, as you do, I laid my spatula aside and set off to investigate...... and indeed, it seemed that she had something to show me......

..... and after a few minutes of pointing, eeew'ing, squinting, and squatting on the deck like Johnny Bench, I finally saw it....

..... a large, hideous, hunter spider had a daddy longlegs by the forehead and was slowly sucking his brains out.... hell, I was traumatized........ the stout little one holding fast over the large spindly one whose legs were doing that wavy "come hither" thing that Vincent Price used to do in movies sometimes when he was luring some hot, scantily clad B-movie starlet towards a place she'd ought not to go ...... it was mesmerizing....... the little one - with its fangs buried deep - adjusted them every so often..... pumping the left, then the right.... then the left again...... all while the frail, dainty legs of its victim clawed and scraped at the empty air....... running away in slow motion - but getting nowhere fast..... soooooo, yeah.... life and death while the bacon sizzled and the eggs bubbled........

.... I mean, just imagine my level of startilization at having been faced with such a sight as that?......

.... and good god, people..... startilization isn't even a word!....... but it sure as hell FELT right to write it.........

.... anyway, here are three still shots (and one action shot!) of Scotland's National Sport...... what?.... y'all didn't think that I would actually be taking photos of tourist attractions, pretty scenery, or famous buildings, did you?....

.... a fine pint of 80 shilling beer in the bar of The Kildrummy Castle Hotel...

drinks1_small.jpg

.... a fine pint of John Smith's Bitters at the bar of The World's Smallest Hilton in Ballater..

drinks2_small.jpg

.... a gentle Speyside single malt in its native environment...... de-corked, of course...

drinks3_small.jpg

.... an anxious group of fine, fine gentleman.... upstanding, all.....

drinks4_small.jpg

...... hey, a boy has got to stay hydrated, no?..... especially when on vacation!.....

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Burns....

.... well, I'll be damned..... that was FAST......

.... no sooner are we back from a nearly 10,000 mile bone-crushing round-trip, we find via email that the next expedition is already booked..... and it appears that County Clare, Ireland will be host to a September invasion by our combined Scots/Americano/Bangladeshi forces..... mercy, folks......

.... anyhoo, I shall begin tossing up some photos shortly.... but in the mean time, I'll share this little tidbit that was waiting in my inbox this morning from Ms. Cheese...... check this out....

The Scottish Military Field Hospital


The new commander in Iraq hears that a Scottish regiment has a specialized field hospital that's doing fantastic things with the troops. He wants to know what is so special about the place, so he arranges a tour.

When he gets to the ward, it's full of patients with no obvious sign of injury or illness. He's perplexed, so goes up to the first bed and greets the soldier there.

The patient replies:

"Fair fa your honest sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin race,
Aboon them a ye take yer place,
Painch, tripe or thairm,
As langs my airm."

The general is confused, so he just grins and moves on to the next patient.
That soldier responds:

"Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat an we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit."

Even more confused, and his grin now rictus-like, the commander moves on to the next patient, who immediately begins to chant:

"Wee sleekit, cowerin, timorous beasty,
O the panic in thy breasty,
Thou needna start awa sae hastie,
Wi bickering brattle."

Now seriously troubled, the general turns to the accompanying doctor and asks, "Is this a psychiatric ward?"

"No, not at all," replies the doctor. "This is the Serious Burns unit."

.... heh heh heh...... I don't care who you are, that right there was funny......

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Shape....

.... well, I'm back..... and it appears that my latest jaunt overseas has seen me weighed, measured, judged, and found to be just a wee bit lacking..... and so I sit before you today a semi-changed man....

... I say "semi", of course, because the plans are still in the preliminary stages.... but it does appear that I may very well begin to change my hedonistic, sedentary lifestyle for something a bit more befitting a Gentleman of My Caliber..... well, at least that's the plan at the moment.....

... I mean, imagine my utter shock upon finding out that my Brother-in-Law - my usual, faithful, earnest, and eager compadre in all things debauched - was rising at 6am every morning for cross-country jogs!..... I tell you, it was enough to make one immediately order a plate of bacon & a gin and tonic just to keep the Earth from spinning off of its axis....

.... and my Father in Law?..... his garden - full of flowers, heather, and various shrubberies - is absolutely immaculate..... indeed, if one cared to cast their eye in any conceivable direction they would be greeted with firm stems, delicately moistened petals, fragrant blossoms, and expertly manicured blades of grass.... and I made a mental note this morning as I strode across Hell's Half Acre with my cup of coffee to never, EVER send him any more photographs of my OWN meager attempts at "gardening".....

..... that said, though, the trip went well..... fine food, excellent company, exotic locales, and lashings of fine single malts ensured that smiles were never far from anyone's expression.....

..... but now it is back to the grind of Normal Life..... and perhaps the occasional bag of lawn fertilizer and a jog now and then...... then again, maybe I should just wear baggy clothes and hire a gardener......

.... photos to follow soon!.... most notably?.... The Kildrummy Castle Hotel, Melrose Abbey, The Scott Monument, and Abbotsford.....

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News of the Weird...

Ever wonder what Donald Duck asks for at the tattoo parlor? Wonder no more.

Donald, of course, is the pre-eminent avatar of syndactyly - fused toes. Hes a duck, fercryinoutloud. But people turn up with webbed feet too... and not all of them live in Louisiana.

He cannot get a nipple ring. Hes a duck, fercryinoutloud, and nipples are a privilege extended only to us mammals. And earrings, or those loathsome tin cans that some folks jam into their earlobes, are also off-limits, because a duck (fercryinoutloud) has no earlobes.

A tattoo? Dont be stupid. You wouldnt be able to see it under all those feathers... and since feathers are constantly falling out and being replaced, it makes no sense to tattoo them anyway.

But Donald can get one of these.

Two thoughts: One, Acidman would be appalled, were he still here. Doesnt this girl know to apply some red toenail polish? Two, Im surprised Velociman didnt find this and write one of his patented diatribes about it. Maybe this post will inspire him.

[Cross-posted at Blog dElisson.]

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Friday Random Ten - Straight White Guy Edition

Those of you who visit my site on any kind of regular basis are familiar with my Friday Random Ten posts, in which I slap up a randomly-generated list of Choons from my Little White Choon-Box, i.e., my iPod.

Eric, despite the fact that he is a Blogger to the core (and thus is at least a little bit self-indulgent), is not quite so self-indulgent as to want to post his own Friday Random Ten. The fact that he lacks an iPod also may have something to do with it.

But we can fix that. Following is my own take on what a Straight White Guy version of a Random Ten might be, packed with an appropriate assortment of Tennessee Tunage... selected Strictly at Random! Let's listen:

  1. Chocolate Jesus - Tom Waits

  2. Big in Japan - Tom Waits

  3. Illegal Smile - John Prine

  4. Donald and Lydia - John Prine

  5. Hold On - Tom Waits

  6. Jabberwocky - Tom Waits

  7. Sabu Visits the Twin Cities - John Prine

  8. Get Behind the Mule - Tom Waits

  9. My Shit's Fucked Up - Warren Zevon

  10. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Warren Zevon

It's Friday. What are you listening to?

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Jean Shepherd -- "King Levinsky Day"

Elissons post, below, about the great Jean Shepherd fired off some dormant neurons in my cruller, taking me back to April, 1966, more precisely April 21, 1966. It was on that day that Jean Shepherd made his third of his six annual appearances at the college I was attending at the time to celebrate King Levinsky Day.

King (Kingfish) Levinsky (born Harris Krakow) was an up and coming boxer of some note until he was dispatched in 1935 by Joe Louis in the first round. One of many Jewish boxers (who knew?), he continued to box after his loss to Joe Louis for four more years for a total of more than one-hundred professional bouts. He ended up selling ties and watches on the street in South Beach. (Photo of King Levinsky).

I remember that on that April day in 1966, the students presented Jean with a set of boxing gloves to commemorate King Levinsky Day, and that evening many of us tuned into WOR to see if he would mention he appearance at the school earlier in the day, frankly doubting that he would.

As it turned out, early in the show he offered a Brass Figlagee with Bronze Oak Leaf Palm with special aluminum cross tor someone to call and identify the sound he [was] making. A listener immediately called and identified the sound as 14 ounce Championship Everlast Boxing Gloves that were presented to him earlier in the day at the college in celebration of "King Levinsky Day." Sure enough, the caller had been one of the students in the audience that afternoon.

Each time I saw him, he positively captivated the audience and, of course, never used notes. I dont believe Ive ever heard a better story teller.

Hat tip to Elisson for reminding me of it all.

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Jean Shepherd, At Your Service

Eric is a trusting soul, yes he is... here he goes off for a lengthy trip around the sacred home of Scotch whisky, leaving the keys to his Bloggity Crib in my grubby mitts... trusting? Nay, brave...

Perhaps I give him too much credit for bravery, though. After all, there are limits to the desecrations a guest poster will permit himself on a site owned by someone who carries a Big, Sharp Knife... and who owns a small arsenal of Projectile Dispensers...

Anyway, having done with all this preamble, what I wanted to share with you rubberneckers is something I discovered quite by accident a couple of months ago...

Those of you who read my site will know that I am a long-time admirer of Jean Shepherd, the writer/raconteur/radio host whose collected stories, cobbled together, became the beloved Seasonal Fillum, A Christmas Story. A few months back, I found a few old photographs I had taken of Shep at the Overseas Press Club back in March of 1970, which in turn impelled me to do a little Internet Research...

...during the course of said research, I uncovered something about Shep that I had not known... that he had recorded, sometime back in the 1970's, a collection of Robert W. Service poems...

...now, rubberneckers, the plot thickens... because we all know that poetic recitations in general, and poetic recitations involving the works of Robert W. Service in particular, hold a special place in Eric's heart of hearts...

...and so I am happy to share with you Jean Shepherd's inimitable renditions of Service's fine poetry... enjoy... and think of our red-headed friend, traipsing about the Grampian Hills as you do so...

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Jersey vs. Tennessee

Our friend, Uncle Eric, the Straight White Guy, asked if I might leave some of my droppings here while he and his fair lassie run around the Highlands, or Lowlands or something.

Soooooo, having spent some very excellent times in the great state of Tennessee, I thought I might do a stream of consciousness comparison between the two states.

Cool Things About Tennessee:

Low taxes. (Of course, any taxes are low in comparison to New Jersey)

Biscuits and Gravy (These do not exist in New Jersey, but Taylor Ham doesnt exist in Tennessee)

Easy to buy, carry and shoot guns. (In Jersey, all three of these things are a major hassle)

Peeps are very friendly (In Jersey, not so much)

No New York Drivers (We have a shitload of them)

Just about zero snow (We have plenty of the shit)

Moonshine (An acquired taste, but we dont have it in Jersey at least, not that I know of)

People named Jethro (In Jersey, anyone named Jethro would have to know how to fight pretty well)

Cows (We have them in South Jersey, but they seem to be everywhere in Tennessee. Im always taken with how big they are)

People pronounce the name of the food store Buy Low and BAHlow. (We, of course, have no accent.)

They sell Shiner Bock there. (Not here)

Sweet Tea

Hush Puppies

Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka

Peeps really wear overalls

No serious mobsters

Not so Cool Stuff About Tennessee :

No ocean

No Italian restaurants worth a shit (We have zillions)

Major pain the ass to buy booze. (We have tons of liquor stores. Hell, I can walk to one.)

Far from Manhattan (Nice place to visit, but thats it)

Cant get a real pizza.

No real rye bread.

No real Italian bread.

No Italian hot dogs.

Thats all for now.

Yo, I said it was stream of consciousness. I only have a limited supply of consciousness.

Note: Obviously, I have to be re-trained on Movable Type!

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GMT.....

..... well, the bags are packed..... and tomorrow The Missus and I jet off to visit her folks in bonnie Scotland for a few days.... I've asked Jimbo and Elisson to drop by once in a while to make sure the linens are fresh..... but otherwise?...... well, I will be incommunicado until the morning of May 16th.....

.... if anyone needs me, please page the concierge at The Cragendarroch Hilton in Ballater and ask for the guy with the crew cut sipping a Gin & Tonic at the table overlooking the swimming pool or snooker table....... (unless, of course, it is after 7pm Greenwich Mean Time...... then simply ask to speak to the guy with the short, red hair who is nursing a Scotch and gazing wistfully at Lochnagar while the Sun sets down into the west over Ireland...).....

..... anyway, with that, gentle rubberneckers, I'm off.......... and I hope that you will all fare well.......... goodness knows that I will certainly be thinking of you guys while I'm away........

..... definitely.....

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Orbison.....

.... no posting tonight - been veddy, veddy busy....... but I DO have an earworm for you....... check it out...

.... see, wasn't that nice?...... I'm off to begin the preliminary packing for the latest overseas adventure.........

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Green....

..... I was awoken by rumbling thunder this morning at just past 4am.... I so love a good storm...... the curtains of the Master Bedroom are quite heavy & thick, so I nabbed up my pillow and headed through to the couch in the living room to watch the light show and the approach of morning.... I lay there watching the storm for a good fifteen minutes before the couch finally took hold and dragged me back to sleep....

..... by the time that I finally rolled over again, the thunder and lightning were gone.... and a warm, windless, slow rain was busy washing everything clean as I made my coffee....

.... The Jungle is Back....

.... three days ago the trees were barely hinting of color - and the dogwoods were gigantic balls of pure white..... and now?.... this steady drizzle is methodically picking each dogwood's petal....and beneath each tree it looks as if a thin blanket of snow has fallen..... and surrounding everything else, is Green - vibrant green - shining wet with the rain.... the first, new, plump leaves of the year...... and the back yard is surrounded on three sides with walls of this thick tangle.....

.... good lord..... half the year my home has 7 rooms.... and for the other half, it has 8..... my Green Room is back......

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