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Oops, I did it again...Not actually sorry if you did click on "Baby Shark doo-doo-doo..."
Settle down, go on, do...I have a handful of consolation tracks.
Palate cleansers if you will.
Do a little dance.
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Can anyone argue that humans come with music and dance already pre-loaded?
As anyone who knows my fondness for Archie MacPhee will testify, I am liable to announce a propos of nada: “Sharks have no bones!”
It was a catchy tagline from a catalog some years ago. And true.
Shark are all cartilage and attitude. And, as one might discover on a foggy January wander along a beach – teeth.
Sharks continually shed teeth and grow more. Row after row of them.
Walk down the right beach and tune your attention to the y-shape, and dozens of teeth will appear.
Which makes sense, because sharks have been swimming about for millions of years. And some grow up to 35,000 teeth in a lifetime.
I suppose someone has done the math, but it’s a lot of teeth underfoot. One might say, the opposite of hen's teeth, even.
I snapped a photo of the television while awaiting landfall of Hurricane Eta. It's not unsurprising that local newscasters, who should certainly know better, position themselves near a body of water and start casting news.
If it's not a weather person suited head to toe in Goretex, announcing that the waves are throwing the yachts around violently (in the background, a tranquil day at a marina, the boats bobbing languidly under an overcast sky), it's some would-be Jim Cantore shouting about the force of the winds when it's, you know, breezy –– but not brutal.
In this photo, I love the cognitive dissonance: this newscaster was talking about how Tampa Bay residents were battening down their hatches and frantically preparing for the storm, while in the background, the usual cast of fishing characters are lounging on the pier, baiting their hooks and hoping for a good bite.
Come on, man.
P.S. This is not to say we don't have anything to worry about. People die from hurricanes, and houses are washed into the sea. But hyperbole is flat out unnecessary.
Tell the story that is, not the story that sounds more exciting. And that's my wish for the new year.
Doesn't everyone have this impulse to shuffle chunks of granite or marble or gneiss from one place to another?
Perhaps the rock-moving thing is in the blood.
Heaven knows there are stone workers by the shovel-full up the family tree: tin miners in Cornwall, copper miners in Tennessee, the odd silver-miner crushed in freak accident in a Colorado mine.
His reserved "hello" morphs into a grinning, winking welcome. "Oh! If only..." he always ends up sighing. Charming Aunt P makes conquests left and right.
I know she had the quarryman and his crew move and readjust rocks over and over and over again until she had her flagstone patio just the way she liked. It's to her credit that the quarryman made it beautiful and remembers her fondly.
You have to listen to them or learn to live with some half-assed, unbalanced construct.
What can be more beautiful than an elegant old stone wall? Running mostly straight, like a seam across a landscape -- ooh, ahh.
Before google was a verb, we passed one North Country blizzard by pulling "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" –– stanza by sing-song stanza –– from imperfect collective memory.
I remember the blue light of the overcast sky reflecting ice into the dim living-room. The sinking presence of cold at the glass. And the dozens of running, stumbling starts it took for one of us to finally say the poem complete from start to finish.
* My favorite Sumerian quotation is "there is nothing new under the sun." Which, as it turns out when I research the citation, isn't Sumerian at all but Ecclesiastes. Huh.
My second favorite Sumerian quote? "What kind of a scribe is a scribe who does not know Sumerian?"
My favorite skipper eventually called it: mad dash.
It will seem quaint someday how we drove north in a self-contained little world of snacks and Lysol wipes with a U-Haul full of Would-Be Farm equipment and furniture.
It will be just another page in the Quarantine Chronicles how we isolated and monitored.
Perhaps we'll remember how we could only hope our precautions and cheerful masks will have made a difference.
But it seems instead that this is the year we are reminded that Mamma Nature not only holds all the cards, but that she has sharp teeth, and claws at the end of a long reach...
If it wasn't the black bear emptying the bird feeder (effortlessly snagging it with a claw and pouring the contents –– like the crumbs from the bottom of a potato chip bag –– right down the old pie hole), it was porcupine eating the gazebo. Or birds flying down the chimney.
And how does one deal with a 300-lb black bear with a penchant for black oil safflower seed? One puts a decorative cow-bell –– an inexplicable tourist purchase finally coming into use –– onto the formerly lovely red metal feeder.
Pavlov's crazy dog at the midnight clank, one dashes onto the screened porch closest to the feeder, shouting and clashing together an aluminum saucepan and lid. The noise was like nothing I have ever made before. It worked.
Though of course the raccoons followed the bear in the violation of my bird feeder. They are less shy of human attention. After some weeks of interrupted sleep, I decided the easier –– though not unproblematic solution was to take the feeder inside at night. Now I only rouse myself to chase things off the unscreened porch. Which happens a lot.
And how to address the ongoing porcupine issue? Porcupines eat bark and tree parts...unless of course they develop a taste for pressure-treated lumber.
Fair's fair. The porcupines were here first. I tried putting rows of hardware cloth around the perimeter, but Mr. Linton took the reins. We call the gazebo The USS Monitor now. The damage has stopped.
Sidebar fact: tom turkeys sometimes get really worked up by the sound of a carborundum blade working through metal roofing sheets. I guess it sounds like a big sweet gal of a hen.
And as for the bird, we were sitting on the couch in front of the cold wood stove when we heard a gentle tapping on the glass window on the stove door.
A youthful house-wren politely requesting a hand.
Of course it panicked. All birds do, when confronted with the inside of a house. It flapped into a window, and then briefly fainted in Jeff's hands. But it eventually regained its senses and flew off, rewarding us for a few weeks –– possibly –– with extra noisy morning songs.
You know how it goes. Everything peaceful and chill.
Maybe the iPod is playing the soundtrack from Hamilton. Perhaps you're watching Rabbit TV (a limited lineup, but endlessly entertaining). Maybe you're cooking on the newly functional propane stove. Anyway, it's relaxed.
When EEEEEEEEEE. and EEEEEEEEE. and EEEEEEEE!
The noise is designed to either wake you from a sound sleep or possibly drive you in-freaking-sane.
Whichever. It works.
Okay, you you press the reset button. Two minutes later –– just as the old heart-rate is returning to normal –– EEEEEEEEE! and EEEEEEEEEEE!
My handsome gallant saves us, holding a thumb over the button repeatedly. It becomes clear that the damn 10-years-guaranteed, never-needs-batteries, save-your-life-and-required-by-law has gone rogue. It will not stop alerting us.
It EEEEEEEs in the bathroom. It EEEEEEEEs outdoors.
Jeff eventually puts it into the van, so it could, as he said, "Simmer down."
All during dinner, an errant wind gave us brief hope, and then, faintly, EEEEEEEEE. and EEEEEEEE.
Dishes done (in a sink! with running hot and cold water! cabin life is better and better!), Jeff betakes himself off and the next thing I notice is that he's taken out the 50-year-old .22 his father gave him.
Whatcha doing? I ask.
He points, and I hear a faint EEEEEEing across the field. He's put the damn thing into a tree. I admire the dispatch with which he handles tech troubles.
A clean through-and-through, and by golly the thing has stopped EEEEEEEing.
The test button suggests that it's still working, but I'm taking it back to the local hardware store where we bought it.
I don't mind explaining why.
A title like that and you're still reading? Bless you! I hope I can make it worthwhile.
As a rule, I prefer to share stuff I adore. Rare finds. Unlikely but likable things. Unexpected pleasures. Books that I think deserve a wider readership, for instance, or experiences that I'd like to encourage others to have.
But that basic human urge to share the other side --the irresistible impulse that says, "Jeepers, this stinks! Sniff it!"
Is there a Germanic term for this instinct , like schadenfreude? There ought to be.
It would be generous to imagine that our impulse to share things revolt the senses is like –– as the old phrase has it, trouble shared is trouble halved.
But I don't guess kindness is any part of the underlying motivation. I believe the reason we love sites like cake wrecks and people of Walmart is NOT to reduce the shock one feels. Sharing amplifies that shock but also, like a clever party-goer, scrapes off the offending image or scent onto someone else. Here, look, isn't it awful?!
So when I say the three worst songs in my music history are as follows, I am not simply trying to entertain.
And as a bonus, because back when irreverent reporters waited for results or otherwise idled in the Sports Department of The St. Petersburg Times, the game we played was to pick the line-up for the band that was playing in Hell.
Karen was always on the skins.
For those hoping for an overview of the 2020 Everglades Challenge...that story is still coming. The team is safe, which is the main thing, and engaged in their next adventure. I hope to post a report early next week.
Meanwhile, something completely different from that...
We spent a long weekend in Manhattan recently –– summary: a bunch of us were were going to Italy to celebrate Sarah's birthday. Along comes Covid19, and poof! Manhattan it is!
The gang took taxis and subways, saw shows and shoes, walked Times Square and wandered museums. It kind of felt like every activity was going to be retold with the preface, "Back before the Pandemic, you could..."
Anyhow, wandering at will through the chic-chiciest of boroughs, especially wandering with artistic types like my companions, made me look twice or three times.
A few highlights of what caught my eye...
It's a thing we've enjoyed every now and then now for decades: an afternoon slouch on the couch watching whatever dope crap Jeff selects.
Back in our early courting days, we were en couchant watching some Voyage of Sinbad or another. You remember the kind of movie: claymation, sparkly costumes, "exotic" locales somewhere in the hills east of Hollywood.
In any case, our heroes were bundled to the teeth, trudging across a featureless frozen sea when Jeff pipes up with, "Oh-oh, watch out for the giant walrus."
Jeff can flatten the affect right out of his voice so while it seems like a warning, the phrase comes out completely without urgency. He spoke to the television screen again, "Oh, no, look out for the giant walrus,"
Me: What in the world are you talk ––
And at that moment, on the little rounded screen of my apartment's television, an enormous walrus broke through the styrofoam ice and speared one of Sinbad's less fortunate companions with a long tusk.
My astonishment was complete. I said, "You've SEEN this before?!" Honestly, watching it for the first time seemed faintly ridiculous, but it did have novelty value going for it.
Little did I know that Jeff's tolerance for ridiculous movies was nearly as deep as my own ability to grouse about them while nestled next to him on the sofa.
It's kind of a match made in heaven.
I have a high tolerance for foreign language music. Here are a couple of selections that are fairly heavy rotation.
The first is from that marvelous animated film The Triplets of Belleville.
And, though it's hard for me not to reference John Prime's infectious Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian, some Iz cannot go awry. Especially when a person has been studying the uke for a few months now...
And to round out the trio, I was torn between a short documentary about Dancehall music in Japan (after all, I went down this rabbit hole, might as well bring back a treat...) and an Australian video that shows you how to sing Despacito using English words, which is, by the way a work of genius.
Remember the television ad, "If you can spell socks, you can speak Spanish!"? Somebody certainly has not been measuring out his life with coffee spoons!
Anyway, none of that is on my actual playlist. But this is:
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