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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pulling a Trigger

Okay, so I bought a car because I'm too much of a pussy to tough out 90 minutes a day in blistering hot weather in a car with no AC on a highway that's louder than a suicide bombing at a Black Sabbath reunion.

I got this car checked out, thoroughly. Mechanical inspection, including compression. I asked the mechanic about the AC, and they did a vac & fill on it, because that was the best way they had of being sure it was a sound system.

Do you see where this is going? You do, don't you?

Two weeks after I buy the car, after three trips to Lawrence, only making an offer after getting my mechanic questions answered, and a round of negotiations that involved walking away, thinking it was probably no deal after all, the air conditioning craps out.

My first impulse was to drive to Lawrence and beat the curry out of one Indian grad student. There is a better chance that Rosie will turn straight than this guy didn't know he was selling a bum air conditioner that had just been charged up.

Or report him to Homeland Security. The feds won't know the difference: he's a small, brown man with an accent. If I say he's a terrorist, next thing you know he's deported to Pakistan, where I'm pretty sure they'll be able to tell he's not Pakistani, not Muslim, and not impossible to frame for the atrocities of Kashmir.

But instead, I called my mechanic. The guy I'd have taken it to if the car had been for sale in my sleepy little town.

But only I, nobody else could go to such lengths to buy an air conditioner with a Honda Accord attached to it and find himself back at square one in a fortnight.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Scab Face

Okay, I got an email from my friend Mike that he was playing Jardine's, Tuesday.

I don't get out much, okay? As in I was last in Jardines, one of the only places still open in Kansas City booking live jazz at all, back when Chuck Palahniuk was touring with 'Haunted.'

So I emailed him that I'd try to make it, and he said he'd buy me a beer. And I have this cool poster I made with a photo I copped from an ad for the Mutual Musician's Foundation, a big-ass thing, suitable for framing, though kind of an odd dimension.

Killed time before the gig at Barnes & Noble on the Plaza.

Time was when I went through a major bookstore and felt there was nothing for me on the shelves. I'd read it if it was of interest. I despaired of my own novel being published in a world so inclined to publish garbage and ignore art.

So here I am checking out Don DeLillo's new book, 'The Falling Man.' And I love DeLillo, with a couple of exceptions. I didn't dig 'The Body Artist,' I thought he missed on the autism thing, and I think 'Americana,' his first, is pretentious and too long for what it is.

I read the first two chapters, then decided to wait until I could actually finish it to get further in. Good stuff, what I read.

Then I see Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' is out in trade paperback. Hmmm, too much money but not as bad as a hardback of 'Falling Man.'

Still, I resist.

Then I spot a new book by Michael Lewis. I adore Michael Lewis, and I've read all of his stuff until this new football book, 'The Blindside.' Hell, I loved 'Moneyball,' and I hate, hate, hate baseball. So a football book by this guy, I could put it on a card...

But of course, I don't want to be putting shit on a card. Even good shit. It's like with new cars: if the bait wasn't good, no one would be in the trap. Look away.

Then I see the Yiddish Policeman's Union, Chabon's newest. And I read a couple of chapters of it.

And I spot 'Rant,' from my old buddy Chucky P. And I read a couple chapters in, and I'm pretty sure it's not another 'Haunted.' Dunno if it's another 'Survivor,' but I'd keep reading and hope. He has a disclaimer about the format up front, referring to biographical novels such as 'Capote' for comparison if the reader is frustrated. Personally, I think if you want a disclaimer like that you're not done with rewrites. Anything I have to be taught how to appreciate, maybe I shouldn't be that appreciative.

But maybe his publisher wanted that there. Who knows?

But I resist. Now I'm not even thinking of the credit card I could charge these books on.

The Post Secret book, well, I read his blog, I can resist that, even though it is totally awesome.

Then I spot a book called 'Bank' by David Bledin that looks totally up my alley. Then not one but two Jay McInerney titles.

I was a good boy, I left the store empty handed. Damn. When I had money to spend on books, I couldn't find one worth the paper it was printed on. Here I walked out on a half dozen plus. Including a book about lobsters.

The book about lobsters, I read part of it about superlobsters. That's the postlarval stage, where they swim like crazy. Thing is, it lasts like two weeks. They pick the bottom, they molt, and they never swim again. Kind of like getting married and middle-aged, the best part of their life is over and they can't get it back, even if they inject Human Growth Hormone, take steroids and gobble amphetamines. They are going to crawl on the rocks up to when they are dropped in boiling water to be scalded to death.

So I get to the club, Jardines. This is a post about going to Jardines, remember?

Pay attention. I'm only going to write this once.

So the band is setting up and it's not Mike. I'm four weeks early for Mike's gig.

The waitress wants my drink order. She has raccoon eyes, makeup so bad it must be intentional. I've been curious to try a Sidecar for awhile. I'm not even a hundred percent clear what's in a Sidecar, except I read a recipe once and it was too much trouble to stock the home bar to try it.

She brings me a martini glass filled with a murky, fruity liquid. It's delicious.

I drink about five ice waters to space things out. I know the waitress is probably wondering if I'll order food, which is not going to happen. The cheapest appetizer is $9, and I only have $15 on me to cover everything, all in. But the club is only half full, so one booze hound isn't the worst table she could have.

And I figure I'll stay for a set. I'd already ordered the Sidecar by the time I figure out my mistake. The Mo City Jumpers are the act tonight, a jump blues band I'd only heard of. It's not really my thing, but they do it well. And it made me realize why my music career never amounted to shit. Nothing to do with the injury, the misdiagnoses.

Jonathan Lethem nailed it in 'Motherless Brooklyn:' Everyone wants to be Scar Face, but they don't get they have to want to be Scab Face first.

And not just be willing to be Scab Face: they have to want it. You have to want to be a contender. The shit I struggled with studying jazz, it was the Scab Face stuff. I wasn't happy learning to play a cliché well, I wanted to jump straight to the bleeding edge, be the innovative figure I fancied myself. The result was, as it always is for such people, mediocrity.

So anyway, I'm taking pictures of the band as best I can in low light with my cheapie pocket camera. Then a dude shows up with the real thing, a Nikon D200.

The owner of the club comes and offers to pull the curtains so the band isn't backlit. They just don't do this for some asshead with a PowerShot in his pocket.

I noticed this photographer using his flash. I hate flash, personally, and try to never use it. He seemed to want to not use it, but he must not have been getting the shots he wanted without it. He wrapped his flash in a napkin to minimize the glare. I tried turning mine down, the 'flash output.'

I'm sure he got better pictures than I did. Mine tend to be blurry and noisy. Nightclub shots play hard against every weakness a camera like mine has.

The waitress wanted to know if I wanted a second Boozemobile, and while it was good, I feel the urge to try something different. I asked about a Mojito, another cocktail I've never had. They didn't have mint leaves, which are apparently de rigeur.

What about a Stinger? Why not? I'd never had a Stinger.. I had a vague notion that a Stinger had either gin or brandy as an ingredient.

It's brandy. And Crème de Menthe. I'm not a big one for mint, but this was quite pleasant.

So then I get my check, and remember I had $15 to work with, right? I'm thinking $5 or $6 a round, two rounds, still enough for a respectable tip.

The Sidecar was $13. The Stinger was $7. Plus tax. Plus tip.

For crying out loud, has it been that long since I went out? Last time I paid $7 for a cocktail was in Greenwich Village. Last time I paid $13 was, well, there wasn't a last time for that. I've never paid $13 for a round of anything, ever. Closest I've come is a $11 bottle of Trappist Ale, and that was a 25 oz bottle, not really 'one' round.

Remember that card I didn't get out in the book store? Sucks to charge booze, but it's better than trying to sneak out on a tab.

And yeah, I could have bought a book or two for what those drinks cost me.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

It wasn't my turn to have the girls for Memorial Day, but it kinda worked out that way.

Mo got it in her head that it was time to go to Daddy's, and there was nothing to be done. It was the only thing that made her happy. Luckily, the Artist Formerly Known as Frau Lobster doesn't get caught up in this somehow meaning she prefers me.

Because she doesn't. She prefers rhythm and regularity. If I show up at my Ex's house, no matter why or when, Mo is ready to get in my car. That's what you do. When her Mom shows up at my house to pick the girls up, Mo drops whatever she's doing and bolts for the door. If her Mom didn't prompt her to say goodbye, it wouldn't happen.

And she seems to have decided that it was the weekend and she should be at Dad's.

The first time this happened was only a couple months into the divorce and we didn't know if it was okay to give in to Autism or not. And that time was flat out shocking to me because in the latter years of my marriage, I'd gotten to be a very remote and stormy sort of father figure. Those first weekends and evenings where I had the girls on my own, Mo looked at me with what can only be interpreted as skepticism.

'You're going to take care of us?'

This time it didn't shock me, except that she's done okay for the most part with the other 'fourth' weekends. Whatever, it's not like my kids are ever not welcome at my house. I wouldn't even keep this house if it wasn't for them. But wherever I'm home, they're home as far as I'm concerned.

Memorial Day. Well, nobody I'm related to is buried here. A couple of friends, but I'm not sure I could find their graves.

So we went to 18th and Vine. To the Bird Memorial. What better memorial to visit?

Em was excited to go at first, then got a pickle up her but when we got there.

I had some ground buffalo I bought at the Whole Paycheck market, and I fired up the grill for lunch today. Even had rice cheese to melt onto the patties. And this time, I remembered to use a smaller measure. Instead of making 1-1/2 pounds into four patties, I made 2 pounds into eleven.

Then we hit the pool.

Last year, I bought a pool membership because Mo is a fish. And it helps me keep from being even bigger and fatter. At the end of the summer, though, my membership didn't look like that great a bargain. The season is so short, and individual admissions were so cheap, I figured I'd about broken even.

This year, they fixed that. They built a huge aquatic center and doubled the cost of the membership. And more than doubled those single admissions. $135 for the year is a lot, but at $15 per trip without a membership, I'll only have to take the honyocks once a week to come out ahead. It's still more than I can really afford, but I'll figure it out. I'll eat Ramen twice was often or something, because this can't 'not' happen.

And wow. They really did it right when they did this pool expansion.

The old pool is still there, and it was enough to keep me and my kids busy the whole summer last year, but ti's now like 1/4 of facility. Mo went off the diving board into the deep end once, and other than that, we didn't use the original 'pool' at all.

We were too busy with the lazy river and the waterslides.

The river is a mote with a fairly stiff current. They require you to be on an inner tube, but they also provide tubes. Mo didn't want to stay on one, that turned out to be an issue, but hey.

She did love the river when she would just sit back and chill. The problem was when she'd get excited and squirm out. Then she couldn't get back on the donut.

There are three slides. The yellow is for tubes only, and they do have two-person tubes, so me and Mo went down it. And lost it on the final turn, ending up face down and off the tube in the end.

The blue tube is open on top and it's the slowest. Mo wanted to stop on it, and while this is against the rules, it's physically possible. The white tube is closed 360, and it's wicked fast. Spiderman couldn't stop on it. It's flat-out scary.

The girls didn't want to leave. Including Em, who's been trying to make bargains with me along the lines of, 'Dad, we really aren't going to the pool so much this year, right?'

She can poo the Charlie Parker memorial, but she can't deny the power of water slides and a lazy river.

They both agreed that Daddy was messed up in the head when he said it was time to go.

Illegals II

After doing whatever it is you do when you pier a foundation, the Undocumented Workers were back to fill in the holes they dug and compact the dirt as best they could with pneumatic devices. Digging the holes with just shovels was daunting enough, but just being next door to this machine was too much for me.

I talked to one of the guys on the crew, commented that if it wasn't an honest day's work it would do until an honest day's work got here. He said it wasn't that bad, you get used to it.

I asked how much the gig paid, if it wasn't too much to ask.

$8 an hour. $10 if you get a 'license.' I don't know what license that is, his English wasn't strong enough for the conversation to go into that much depth.

But next time someone tells you these twelve million folks came here for a soft life, consider this dude, glad to get Fry Guy wages to tear his joints to hell on an impossibly physical job.

America was built on illegal immigration. For that matter, I'll bet this idiotic fence we're building along the Mexican border is being built by illegals in large part.

When people say they won't accept 'amnesty,' remember: any politician or radio talk show host in America has had it way too easy to pass judgment on these folks. If you wouldn't pick up the shovel and be glad of the $8 an hour, shut the fuck up.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

High Speed Dirt

Behind my house was a farm. Predictably, they switched from cattle and corn to so-called starter homes, those new but relatively modest abodes young married couples first get way over their heads in.

But sales have cooled off, and the immediate field behind me is fallow, just streets waiting for shoddy construction to resume.

Perfect place for RC cars. I've tried to point out to my honyocks that this is also an ideal rocketry range, but so far they haven't bought this reasoning. But these guys run their RC trucks and dune buggies back their a lot. They must live close, because they walk down.

They're pretty loud, being actual gasoline engines. They are spectacular in their way. I can appreciate how someone might get hooked on them. Same way someone might find himself driving around with a bunch of rockets in his trunk all the time...

Harriet Beecher Mo

Mo had her Wax Museum thing at school today. I didn't get to go, but Grandpa Calvin did, and he said each kid had a construction paper 'button' in front of them, and when you stepped on it, they'd recite one of the four facts about whoever they were supposed to be. They had Abe Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, and so on.

Grandpa Calvin gets a photo credit for this first pic, by the way.

Mo got to be Harriet Beecher Stowe.

She liked the costume, wore it through Wal-Mart this evening, to the pharmacy, walking the dog. I'm half surprised she didn't wear it to bed.

When I asked her if she wanted to take a picture of her costume, she stood up and twirled and twirled around the living room, impossibly proud of her Über-retro getup.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Okay, my neighbor has foundation issues. In my neighborhood, it's more of a 'when' than an 'if' you need piers.

So they've been out the past couple days digging hell up around his foundation. These holes are amazing. When they tell you Mexican immigrants are taking jobs Americans won't do, consider this.

Each of these holes (there are a good half dozen around one end of his house) is ten feet or so deep. They are down past the footings. There are tunnels connecting them.

They were dug by Mexicans with shovels, no hydraulics, no power tools, just muscles and a desire for a paycheck.

I don't know about you, but it's not a job I'd fight them for. Looking at these holes makes my back hurt. Looking at the amount of dirt a handful of Mexicans, most of them probably undocumented, moved with sweat alone I get tired.

This is where I come in on the hardcore open borders thing. I know I've ranted about this before here, but my ancestors did not ask for anyone's permission to come here. And if they had, being mostly Irish, the answer would have been no.

The slur 'Wop' came from a wave of Italian immigrants who were 'without papers.' A huge wave of people who are different, willing to work like crazy for small wages, etc., will always mean problems.

So yeah, there are problems that come from Mexicans coming to America in large numbers, but a wall is the opposite of a solution. We should tear down the wall we already have, not extend it across the scrub. The resources we squander failing to prevent them from coming would ameliorate all the problems their arrival could possible cause. We can solve the problems without being assholes.

And yes, when we break up a family by sending parents home and keeping their child because the kid was born in America, we are assholes. When we worry about whether it is rewarding lawbreaking to acknowledge the presence of people who will dig the equivalent of graves by hand in a country where people don't dig a flower bed without a gasoline motor, we are being assholes.

If I had to choose between digging a hole like that in one day, and staying in America, or sitting around all day and being sent to live in Mexico, I wonder how many days it would take for me to wonder if I should have stayed in America. Because there's no chance I wouldn't be in Mexico. Fat, white and unsure how to ask where the bathroom is.

No Return

Marty Graw was still hanging from the power lines yesterday, but today, just the nose cone and parachute remain.

The body tube must have fallen, but was nowhere to be seen. Whoever found it must have kept it for a souvenir. Shame is, I'll bet they aren't going to fit it with a new nose cone and flye it again. That was one of my favorite rockets, too, in part because I had such a good record of getting him back. He was so heavy and had so much drag he didn't get out of sight easily and he didn't drift bad under canopy.


This isn't strictly Indian, but it's probably more Indian than anything else. It's melting pot bachelor cuisine.

I had some China Black rice I boiled in chicken broth. It's got such a specific aroma, I wanted to do a Thai curry. It would have been the most fitting seasoning.

Alas, no coconut milk, no green curry in the house. So I went with red curry.

I toasted some flax seeds and pepitas by letting them heat in the skillet until one of the flax seeds popped, shuffling them occasionally to keep them moving, prevent scorching.

I sauteed a bit of onion and garlic, diced up a leftover grilled pork shop and threw that into the stir-fry and added the rice. A can of red beans, too.

I seasoned it with red curry (about a tablespoon, but I was just kinda eyeballing it), about a tablespoon of powdered ancho peppers, a dash of Tahini. I almost put a dash of sesame oil in, and maybe I should have, but I feared it was getting to complicated.

It is, as it happens, excellent stuff. Best stir-fry I've made in a long time. I named it after someone who impressed me, who is also Indian and yet also American. I don't know, maybe not so American as to use ancho in a curry, I think ancho is more Mexican, but whatever.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Weekend Launches

The fleet sustained heavy losses this weekend. I'm down to one launchable rocket.

We launched three times this weekend, actually. Friday night was pretty smooth sailing.

Saturday there was more wind. We lost Ribbon in a tree, and that was a trick. Veteran's Park is the tree-less-est park in the area, and yet Ribbon found a tree like it had a homing device in it.

And Marty Graw, he got caught in power lines, in plain sight but untouchable.

Sunflower, abbreviated by a saw-off, flew perfectly until her nose cone separated. The nose cone and parachute landed, I think, somewhere on Hickory street. The body and tail fins landed nose down hard.

Now I have to figured out how to build the fleet back.

Which reminds me: Saturday, we're going through Shawnee Mission Park. I stopped at the Marina to see what boat rentals cost. I wasn't planning on doing it that day, just wanted to know what all was involved.

I told Mo, 'Not today, but would you like to come take a boat ride sometime?' 'No!' she said. Okay, I'm not believing it, but a john boat with an electric outboard is $13/hr cash only. I wasn't carrying cash, so it didn't matter that this is extremely reasonable.

So Mo melted down. We were halfway back to the car when she said, 'YES!' Like her answer had been why we weren't heading out to sea.

Leaving the park, I spot the Rocket Guys.

When we got up to them, one came and asked me, 'Where's your rocket?'

Smart-ass response ready-made: Got four in the trunk of my car.

Then I asked, 'Are you the guys with the incredibly out of date website?'

I've emailed this club using the contact at their website, and I get a guy in Oklahoma. He used to be here, used to be involved, but that was three years ago.

I didn't get a launch of my own going at this point, Mo was still way too out of sorts over the boat thing. But I did get some good info.