YouTube.....

.... you know, I am a man who is quite naturally just 'aware' of things.... but having said that, I have to wonder just what software The Powers That Be are using to try to figure us all out.....

.... after logging onto my YouTube page earlier today, I was presented with the following videos as "recommended for you"...... behold, gentle rubberneckers..... and decide for yourselves.....

... first up, does anyone speak Italian?... I mean, WTF??....

... and then, next in line?... sure, my first car was a 1951 Mercury, but wow.......

... and then, YouTube offers up this.......

..... now, Waits?.... I'm down with him... all day long........ "don't you know there ain't no Devil, that's just God when he's drunk.."......... now THAT is the true heart of a philosopher........

... YouTube, eh?..... what the HELL must I have been searching for them to think those videos should be recommended for ME?.. except for the Waits tune, of course......

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Moons.....

.... while out in search of nachos this past Friday, I flipped on the car radio and was surprised to find it tuned to the University of Tennessee's station....... obviously allowing The Missus to pilot Blanche every so often is a bad, bad thing.... since I am SURE that my little ride is a fan of ZZ Top and AC/DC...... anyway, after a few snippets of classical music finished, a caramel-voiced fellow lit into some poetry... it was one that I had not heard before, and I enjoyed it very much..... so much so that, when I pulled Blanche into the driveway, I sat in the car contentedly listening until the gentleman finished his reading.....

.... so, since I am in a sharing mood today, here it is..... it seems to be meant to be read aloud... and slowly.... quietly, almost...... I do hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.......

Complaint by James Wright

She's gone. She was my love, my moon or more.
She chased the chickens out and swept the floor,
Emptied the bones and nut-shells after feasts,
And smacked the kids for leaping up like beasts.
Now morbid boys have grown past awkwardness;
The girls let stitches out, dress after dress,
To free some swinging body's riding space
And form the new child's unimagined face.
Yet, while vague nephews, spitting on their curls,
Amble to pester winds and blowsy girls,
What arm will sweep the room, what hand will hold
New snow against the milk to keep it cold?
And who will dump the garbage, feed the hogs,
And pitch the chickens' heads to hungry dogs?
Not my lost hag who dumbly bore such pain:
Childbirth at midnight sassafras and rain.
New snow against her face and hands she bore,
And now lies down, who was my moon or more

.... I don't know.... it just struck me as earthy honest, and heartfelt....... and that most of us truly don't know what we have until it is gone..... or, perhaps instead, that we should spend more time telling those that are our moons just how much we care for them while they are still orbiting..... so to speak.....

.... either way, I enjoyed it...... and it is always nice to learn something new... .

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Water....

... so, I've been reading (and enjoying) this site called "Shit My Drill Instructor Said"..... and I swear, the memories that all Marine recruits share are hilarious.... well, hilarious NOW, of course... at the time?.... yeah, they probably weren't so funny.....

.. anyway, I was reminded today of a fellow in my platoon who had the most unfortunate name..... his name was Wannamaker.... and I believe that he was from Boston, if memory serves....

... I arrived at Parris Island at the very end of May 1990...... so, I was there all of June, July, and August - months that provide coastal South Carolina a taste of what the surface of the Sun is like when it is pissed..... most of the month of July was "black flagged", as I recall, and the heat was causing recruits to drop like flies..... as a result, our Drill Instructors made us drink a canteen of water every morning while standing on line, three canteens of water - one right after the other - after evening chow, and another canteen of water before bed.... it wasn't just a lesson in hydration, they also used the water as a "training tool"....

.... for instance, after evening chow when we were forced to drink our three canteens?.... everyone puked.... everyone.... hell, we'd just had a big dinner, cleaned our rifles, shit, showered, and shaved.... we each had two canteens that we'd been issued.... both full of water at all times..... it's simply a question of doing what you are told to do... no matter what the consequences...

..... after chugging both canteens down with a count out of "one!, two!, three!", we were all ready to heave.... and for those staunch souls who didn't puke just then, the order of "double-time to the head and fill those canteens!" would surely induce the vomiting..... it's hard to keep from puking when you're running after drinking that much liquid..... but, inevitably, some didn't..... so, the third canteen of water usually did the trick in convincing the stalwarts to puke as well.....

... I wrote here once about hitting my "Heavy" DI mid-chevrons with a lettuce & water laden stream of vomit, if y'all remember..... he was pacing by me from right to left as I finished my second canteen....

... anyway, this wasn't supposed to be a post about puke..... my ability to digress is increasing as of late, I guess....... but, no.... this post was supposed to be about Recruit Wannamaker.....

.... see, one of the side effects of drinking three quarts of water in two minutes before going to bed is, well, that you are going to need to have a tinkle before morning..... and a very, very serious tinkle it will be.....

.... the problem is, you see, that once lights are out, no recruit is allowed to go to the head... and indeed, it is the Fire Watch's duty to make SURE that you are all snug in your little beds until morning..... and it was under such circumstances that poor Wannamaker's name became the bane of his existence....

.... once we'd finished our vomitfest and field day'd the barracks, we were ordered to bed at attention.... and we lay that way for our protestant prayer, our catholic prayer, and our Rifleman's Prayer were all finished, and until told to "adjust"... after that, the lights went out and we were allowed to go to sleep.....

.... around three in the morning - nearly ever morning - I awoke with my bladder literally bursting at the seams.... I'd slowly raise my head and check where the Fire Watch was on his rounds, and when the time was right, I would slide off my top bunk and slink over to the wall..... we were garrisoned on the second floor of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion's brick building..... I'd hide between the windows until the time was just right..... and then, drawing upon the ancient skills of my distant Cherokee ancestors, I would ease myself along the wall until I was three or four beds away from where MY rack was....

.... and over the course of three or four minutes - and depending on frequency of the Fire Watch's ploddings - I would stealthily piss out of the second story window every morning rather than risk the fury of a Drill Instructor for being caught in the head after lights-out....

.... hey, it worked for me.... and I always figured that if someone on the first floor caught a whiff of the smell, they'd blame the recruit four beds to my right anyway...... heh.....

... but alas, poor Wannamaker..... honestly, I don't know what his deal was.... either he was a very heavy sleeper, absolutely terrified of what the Drill Instructor might do to him if he were caught in the head, or just wasn't smart enough to think of peeing out the window, but every morning in July and most of August, he pissed himself while on line for the morning count-off..... I swear to god, every single morning...... just like clockwork, Wannamaker would piss himself....

..... I'm sure that the DI's EXPECTED us to overcome, adapt, and improvise.... that was the purpose of our training!.... me, I pissed out the window..... others snuck to the head and peed very, very quietly.... others?.... hell, I have no idea what they did, but they certainly must have done something!...... because it was only Wannamaker who gently pissed himself at attention each morning at 4:45......

.... after the second instance, he was called "Watermaker" for the rest of his time on the Island.....

.... this is all of no consequence, of course, just simply the wanderings of my mind after reading about "getting out of the rack and getting on line" today..... and yeah, we all had nicknames assigned to us by our Drill Instructors..... mine was "Diamond"...... maybe one day I'll tell that story as well.....

... but, god damn, at least my nickname wasn't Watermaker....... still, though, he graduated with the rest of us "orignals" from Platoon 3072..... we started off in May with 72 recruits.... and graduated in August with 41..... including 11 pick-ups..... my goodness, what a time.......

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Journeys.....

.... a few days ago I found myself out on the patio reading deeply from General Gibbon's book Adventures on the Western Frontier... the tropical heat that has plagued us here recently has slaked a bit, and the shade of the dogwood trees make for an excellent locale during a late-afternoon reading.... especially whilst waiting for dinner and the cocktail hour to arrive..... the flagstones and gravel seem to remain cool with only the slightest of shade.....

.... I'd been given the book as a gift years ago, and had read it cover to cover immediately..... it is beautifully written in a dairy type of style, and it truly is a view of the American West that is unique..... any history fans out there, I highly suggest you pick up a copy....... it's definitely worth the effort due to its honest depiction of one man's experiences with the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Nez Perce....... something that most of today's history books are woefully lacking in..... and certainly something that you will never find in Hollywood, either..... it's like all the greatest of stories, you only truly know what went on when you talk to (or read about) someone who was actually there - boots on the ground.... or stirrups, as the case may have been....

.... it is odd, I guess, but I sought it out from the shelf specifically because of something that I noticed on my little day-planner calendar from The History Channel a few days ago.....

.... here, check this out....

August 20 Friday

1804: Corps of Discovery suffers its only death.

The Corps of Discovery, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, suffered its first and only death on this day in 1804. Sergeant Charles Floyd, a native of Kentucky, was among the first to join Lewis and Clark on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. By the end of July, Lewis and Clark reported that Floyd had become ill. He died in the early afternoon and was buried on a high bluff overlooking a tributary of the Missouri River. The expedition's two captains named the stream Floyd River and the hill Floyd's Bluff.

... I re-read Gibbon's book and was amazed at his description of "following Lewis & Clark's" footsteps through the Rockies..... how he'd found their old camps - some 70 years old - and could still make out where they had discarded tins, and built their campfires..... and I read on about how he and his men marveled when they first saw Yellowstone......

.... and yet the land was still dangerous and laden with discovery - even last late as the 1880s..... hell, I guess it still is now, if truth be told....... but here is the twist, folks....

.... Lewis and Clark set out in 1803..... and they mapped their way all the way through the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean..... two years they were gone..... through an unknown land full of Native Americans, bears, blizzards, mountain passes, rand iver crossings too many to count...... and out of their entire party, only one man died on that awesome adventure..... and his death was most likely due to disease, and not the local flora, fauna, or freak accident...

..... I'm sorry, but I sit here now in awe that so many intrepid adventurers could spend two years roaming a dangerous, unknown landscape, and all return safe and sound - save one.......

.. how many of us now could do such a thing?.... pick up a rifle, shoulder a pack, and set off from Pittsburgh towards points unknown, reach the Pacific Ocean, and return across a continent again?......

.... well, according to Wikipedia, this hardy fellow was up to the task a good few years before Lewis & Clark, but still...... what a journey........

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Mules....

... since the burning of my Aunt's home a few days ago, I have been prowling the family archives in search of old photographs to replenish her collection.... it's been an interesting trip down memory lane, to say the very least.....

.... while it has been heartbreaking to think of her loss, the time spent with my own stash of old family heirlooms has helped soften the blow a bit.....

... I'm off to meet her for lunch this afternoon, and I plan on presenting her with about two hundred assorted copies that I have made.....

.. here's one of my favorites....

... meet my maternal Grandfather... circa 1935.....

grandpa_small.jpg

... my Aunt's ole Dad... and his mule, of course...... surveying the edge of his tobacco patch near Madisonville, Tennessee.......

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Rain....

Watermelons and June
Cantaloupes in July
Gathering clouds, hot skin, and exquisite anticipation
Cool rain, naked bodies, and laughter
Wishing it would never stop
Falling heavy and loud amid the rush
Washing the dust of innocence away
Leaving only damp, happy children
Who wanted more

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Horror.....

... in a slight break from the norm, I give you a small slice of what my evening has been like....... Transvestites, Transylvanians, and Meatloaf........ can you imagine an more surreal evening?.....

..... honestly, though, I think that "like a Masai in the rain" is one of the best lines ever written..... anywhere........ at any time......... especially when sung by some guy in drag sporting tights........... I mean, c'mon...... art is art, but Art can take many different forms.........

...... and I will never forget how it freaked my poor Father out on his deathbed when I played him the video of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" for the first time......... had he been able to write at that point, I feel most assured that he would have had his will re-written........ but, alas, he couldn't.... and he didn't.......

.....anyway, it was a very evocative tune to listen to tonight before heading for bed........

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Begging.....

..... damn, but I am depressed..... anyone know any good jokes?...... preferably about Eskimos?.......

.... I wonder if grilling up three or four nice lamb chops might break the Saharan monotony that nature has been baking me with as of late.... then again, one normally would frown upon such foolish endeavors as manning a grill when the heat index is a hundred and nine.....

.... anyway, I'm off in search of a way to sear this lamb-flesh that doesn't involve me breaking a sweat...

... oh, and as for Leviathan, Athos, and Curly?.... they're still alive... and appear to be doing quite well in their tiny little tank..... after a week of feeding, they are no longer skittish when I approach their watery enclosure... in fact, they've actually learned to "beg" for food when I approach..... I stick my giant head down near their tank, and they instantly start nibbling at the surface, swimming down to plead with me with fishy little eyes, and then break for the surface again.... it is kinda cute in a surreal sort of way.....

.... anyway, I'm off...... I just heard the Missus clinking ice in a glass - and that can only mean one thing...... the Gin & tonic hour has arrived.....

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Ireland....

...... spent the later part of the afternoon cooking dinner and watching "The Commitments" again..... AND absolutely loving the music as it came.......... here's one that I had forgotten about......

... and he is one of the actual cast working it over hardcore.......

.... not bad tunes, no?........ I've certainly spent worse afternoons.....

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Context....

.... you know, the fact that marketers are taking classic songs and editing them beyond all recognition to suit their devious purposes really harshes my mellow.....

.... I mentioned a few months ago at how enthralled I had become by Mr. Cohen's "Hallelujah" as performed by John Cale.... a song, which if you follow the link, read the lyrics, and listen to Mr. Cale sing, you will realize is a hardcore, adult, sexy, romantic, tragic, and incredibly complex song about all of humanity..... and most definitely NOT intended for children....and yet most of you will have only heard that song - albeit a hugely sanitized version - in the movie Shrek.....

... the song questions love, it questions the drives that spur us on in life, it shows the frailty that we all know lurks inside us, and it also shows a questioning of God, his love, and just what we mortals mean when we utter the word hallelujah for a myriad of reasons...... and yet, it is in Shrek......

... I agree with it being in the movie for only one reason, I suppose... and that is that it exposes more people to the art of Mr. Cohen.... and much as a youngster discovering any soulful artist is a good thing, the exposure that Shrek provided is a very, very good thing...... even if they did cut ALL of his adult lyrics from the song in the movie.... if it creates curiosity for more of an artist's work, then so be it.....

... however, Dell Computers has tried to sneak one over on us as well recently.... did anyone notice?.....

.... their latest commercial uses the old WW I marching song "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag"..... and it then goes on to show various young kiddies toppling over as the head to school from carrying around huge laptop computers in their school backpacks.... and it is thusly that the market their newest, lightweight notebook computers...... presumably so that parents will wander out and buy new notebooks to keep their kids from being crushed under the weight of their school work and embarrassed in front of their little pubescent peers..... and hey, that's cool... it's a catchy tune, after all...... but it IS a WW I marching song.....

.... we're all likely knowledgeable of the first verse, yes?....

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile!

... this is the part that Dell uses..... it then cuts the rest of the lyrics and simply does an instrumental while the kiddies alternately fall about their backpacks, or grin with glee as they open up their new notebooks....... but what really is interesting is the line in the song that directly follows - deleted by Dell's marketers.....

While you've a lucifer to light your fag, smile, boys, that's the style!

...... a lucifer?.... British slang for a match, folks...... and a fag?.... that's a cigarette........ sure, I can understand Dell not wanting to foster children to light up a cigarette whilst waiting for the school bus, but c'mon..... that song is NOT a children's song.... it is a song from a different time, place, and culture.... and as such, it is a part of history..... and now it is a part of history that will forever be misconstrued by thousands of children who'll think that it was written by some Manhattan Marketing Jingler, instead of it being a song meant to cheer-up hundreds of thousands of men who were marching off to battle......

..... I don't know, perhaps I'm just in a ornery mood tonight, but that just pisses me off......

.... there are icons of our history and our culture that are debased every day, I guess, so why is this any different?..... I don't know.... it just strikes me as the dumbing down of art, history, and in the end, thought....

.... we shouldn't allow political correctness to damage our art..... that song, like Cohen's song, has a place, a context, and a history..... jingle writers should get off their asses and write some damned jingles instead of robbing the archives of our collective cultures......

... and don't even get me started on the Windows 7 commercial where the dorky college freshman is sitting in the hallway outside of his room watching DVR on his computer while his senior roommate is boning his "special tutor" inside...... personally, I can't believe that Microsoft hasn't been asked to pull that commercial yet.... I'd imagine that every parent that has a daughter who tutors, a freshman son, OR has a kid who is a complete geek is frothing at the mouth every time that one airs.... and yet, it plays and plays.......

.... I'd have NEVER made it in the marketing world..... I simply cannot imagine a world where the "troubles" of a WW I combat vet - with the shelling, poision gas, shell shock, and trench warfare - remotely compares with the "troubles" of a toddler with a heavy laptop.......

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Truth....

... you know, the longer that I live, the more I realize just how little I know about most everything......

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90.....

.... I had the opportunity today to attend my Great Aunt Louise's 90th birthday party, and I enjoyed myself entirely too much.....

... the event was held just a stone's throw from The Ancient Family Plot where most of my ancestors from the past two centuries are buried, and I thought on that a lot when I wasn't eating birthday cake, wandering the grounds smoking cigarettes, or swilling unusual punch.....

..... at one point an aging cousin labored up the hill to where I and another cousin were chatting..... she paused at the crest of the hill and addressed me, "young man, what is your name?"...... "I'm called Eric, ma'am..... and you must be Delores, yes?"......... "Oh!.... why yes I am!..... I thought you were overseas!?.... and the conversation continued down that road for a while....... it is always thus when such large families meet up, I guess....... everyone goes their own way once they reach a certain age, and it is only seldom that we all get together again.... and yet we somehow always remember each other slightly - if not always correctly..... but that is the way with memories, isn't it?.....

..... but as she started to leave I said, "so, you never moved back to Florida, eh... you and your family stuck it out and stayed here in Tennessee all these years?"....... she smiled a white-haired smile and said, "no..... my next move will to right over there, Eric...... ".... and she pointed towards the tiny cemetery where her AND my ancestors are all hanging out....... it was odd, sobering, and somewhat comforting at the same time........ so I nodded at her and smiled...... "It's not such a bad place to be, you know?...... the trees are lovely..... there are always fresh flowers..... and I bet Uncle J.R. is an absolute hoot when Halloween rolls around every year...."...... she laughed, gave me a hug, and told me to quit smoking...... that's family, no?...... even if you haven't spoken in 15 years, any woman older than you considers herself a surrogate mother to you when yours isn't within earshot....... and hey, that's OK....... it is As It Should Be...... after all, this IS the South.....

.... Aunt Louise's birthday bash was held in the basement of the New Church, and we all filled it to near capacity.......... but across the tiny 1 & 1/2 lane road that runs between the two building sits the True Church..... a small, stone, plain structure that holds more memories of my family than many can even remember..... births, funerals, weddings...... my own parents were wed there back in 1969 (and I still have the Kowloon-bought suit in my closet that my Dad wore that day.)........ ... my Mother's parents were married there....

.... I took a few photos, but they didn't turn out that great, so I will leave you all wondering........

..... but all that I can say is, after a great many conversations with a lovely group of people, well, may we all live to be 90 years old..... and be half as loved as Louise was today.......

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Dumas.....

.... I now have three koi living in my living room encased in a tiny aquarium........ they are called Leviathan, Athos, and Curly..... descending in size, of course......

..... when first asked what I should call them, I said, "Leviathan, Titan, and Olympian"..... when asked again later, I simply replied, "Moe, Larry, and Curly"...... and again - later along after the second trip to WalMart to buy the final parts of the aquarium - I was asked again....... "Athos, Porthos, and Aramis"......

..... as you can tell, the decision making process in my household is somewhat a'shimmy.......

.... I have become these creatures' caretaker.........

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Missing.....

..... living in the wilds of East Tennessee is always a bit of an adventure, and since I have now received inquiries about the fate of our skunk from two separate directions, I'll spill it...

.... firstly, I will preface this story by saying that a skunk is a fearless beast.... and every other animal in its right mind offers them an extremely wide berth - and for good reason as we all know.... however, having said that, I DID attempt to introduce my skunk to the hereafter - and I would have accomplished the mission had the little bastard showed up just thirty minutes sooner than he did.....

... as skunks go, I suppose that he was luckier than most.... I'd say he was clever, but I haven't enabled my psyche to admit that I was outwitted by a rodent yet, so I'll stick with the "luck" angle..

... anyway, I laid my trusty .22 rifle out and began waiting for the skunk to arrive for breakfast, lunch, or supper.... as it turned out, he must have had a hard day in the woods because he didn't show up at my house until just after 9pm.... this completely messed up my plan for his demise, though, since I had envisioned dispatching him with a highly-accurate, scoped .22 rifle shot to the noggin once he'd exited my garage....

.... well, I positioned myself down my driveway and to the right of the house so that I would enjoy a clean lane of fire between the edge of my house and the woods to the back and side.... standing there in the dark holding my rifle, I realized the folly of my picking a weapon that sported a scope, but by then it was too late...... the skunk was on the move and I didn't have time to run back inside to collect my .12 gauge....

.... I ended up finding the black animal through my scope in the dark for only a fraction of a second, and I fired off three quick rounds..... the skunk fled into the steamy night, and I ambled back inside feeling absolutely crestfallen that I had missed him/her.... I was particularly unchuffed because, up until that night I was 8 for 8 with that rifle..... I'd only fired it eight times since I'd owned it, and each shot had brought down a furry woodland creature of one sort or the other....

... I checked the ground for a blood trail the next day and found naught, so I suspect I only frightened it...... but, I am happy to report that it has not been seen nibbling cat treats since...

.... so, now y'all know what happened to (or didn't happen to ) the skunk...... you guys have Bou and Zonker to thank for the update....

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Time....

.... I'm in a bad mood tonight, so I thought I would share one of my favorite Tom Waits tunes......... enjoy.....

... and by the way, the fish are still alive...... tomorrow I am off to search for supplies.......

..... so far?.... wow..... koi must be able to crap their bodyweight every 12 hours........ and they also must like the seafood buffet bar in town........ they'll eat shrimp like it's cotton candy............ amazing.......

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