Wednesday, August 01, 2012
One for the Money
Hello. Anybody still around? Oh good, you're both here. I have been a complete failure at this blog. I didn't have an excuse for months, but now I do. I'm doing a regular blog for the Car Talk guys over at cartalk.com
It's the same old nonsense I've done here, but over there they pay me! I know. I hardly believe it myself.
See you over there. Drive carefully. Especially if you have high speed.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Today I bought my first Megamillions lottery tickets ever. Why now? With a 640 million dollar jackpot I figured it was worth it. So I bought 5 tickets. Holding five tickets lowers my odds of winning to a promising 35,200,000 to 1. That's the same odds as me getting struck by lightning 61 times. But here's the thing -- It's a cool and sunny day and there are no storms of any kind in the forecast before tonight's lottery drawing. So I'm not going to get hit my lightning even one time, which means that surely I will have to win the lottery. If you don't understand that math, then there's no helping you.
Now all I have to do is decide how to use the money. The kids will get raises on their allowances for sure. I'll probably get new tires for the van even though I could milk another summer out of them. But that's just how you roll with that kind of money. I'll buy something nice for the wife - maybe a Senator or something. The rest, of course, I'll probably spend on tools. It's almost enough to get everything I want.
Stay tuned. Tomorrow, when I win, I will post about how it feels. I'm guessing it will be great.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
My Day in the Cuckoo's Nest
"You can't go inside 'cause there's bees in it"
Further, the iconic conveyance of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters sat behind the barn with the llamas beside it and bees, in fact, in it. The little kid who was showing me around belonged to the girlfriend of somebody at the Kesey farm outside of Eugene, OR. It was 1987 and I'd met Ken the night before at a book event in town. I thought I was meeting Shakespeare. He thought he was meeting that folksy guy from Alaska he heard on NPR. Jesus Christ, I thought, he knows I'm alive.
I'd read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in high school and it was already a ten year old book then. Still, I remember feeling like I was the one who discovered it. Great books do that to you. Especially when you're young. Sometimes a Great Notion was even better, I thought, and probably the reading most responsible for my eventual migration west. I wanted to work for Hank Stamper. Or some notion like that.
My day on the Kesey farm was made up of a tour of the llama pen and the broken down weedy bus, then a trip with some canoes over to the river. The Pranksters Ken Babbs and George Walker joined Kesey and his son, Zane, myself and the kid and we paddled down the Willamette for the afternoon. There was no acid test. No drugs at all. In fact, my cigarettes annoyed Kesey and he asked me not to do it. He was a pretty clean-cut guy -- more interested in talking about his corn and hay than any of the questions I'd brought along.
I stayed the night and his wife, the legendary Faye, drove me to the airport the next morning. She tried to talk me out of inviting Ken up to Alaska to do some shows with me. "He'll do it." she said. "But it keeps him from home and the money doesn't usually make it back." I invited him anyway, but half-heartedly, and it never happened.
I saw Ken only one more time after that -- five years later at a reading in Portland. He was all grace and generosity, and once again invited me to join them. I couldn't do it then, but really wished I had. I wanted him to see I didn't smoke anymore. Or drink. He's the last guy I ever thought I'd want to show that off to.
I think of this today because of a story I heard on NPR this afternoon about the 50th anniversary of the publication of Cuckoo's Nest. They played clips of some old interviews with the now deceased Ken and I was struck, again, at the warmth of the man. And the depth. I was lucky to have met him. Even luckier to have read him. Go out and do it if you haven't already. Do it again if you have.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
New Year's Restitution
It's said that resentment of other people is like you drinking poison in hopes that they'll die. So in the interests of starting fresh with this brand spanking new year I would like to ease the petty resentments built up over the past twelve months:
Driver in the white Subaru two months ago on Western Ave. -- please forgive me for whatever it was I did that caused you to pull up beside me and the boys on the way to school then scream through the window while you flipped us off. I in turn will stop searching for you and fantasizing how I'll punish you. We're good now.
I forgive all of you who have written me with your cancer and car crash stories to get my autograph or a book which you put on eBay two weeks later for seventy-nine cents. It's embarrassing for both of us and I know you'll forgive me for trying to bid up the price.
To the coyote who ate our cat -- we forgive you. Everybody has to eat. And just so you know; our new cat is nothing but gristle. And she carries a gun.
To all the mice in the basement -- this isn't over yet. Be afraid. Be very afraid. (the author apologizes for this ungracious remark, but it needed saying.)
To the inventor of the blister pack -- I'm sure you are insanely rich and living somewhere surrounded by personal assistants who open your products for you. I therefore forgive you for not understanding the carnage you have spread through the world as we try to break into your clever achievement with teeth, knives and screwdrivers - dislodging dental work and self-administering deep puncture wounds and jagged lacerations.
Santa Claus, I forgive you for bringing our 8yr old a full drumset. He's actually pretty good and it's more fun than you'd think to play old Credence songs with a third grader.
And the weather. I'm so done with being annoyed about you. The rain all summer; hurricane Irene; that other storm-with-no-name right after; the balmy fall and snowless Christmas; and today -- the first glimpse of a new year shrouded in fog and still as an action toy trapped inside a blister pack. I'll break into it somehow. And start anew. And mess some things up. And apologize about a year from now. Forgive me.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
More about The Moth
As some of you Twitterers might know, the story I did for The Moth last month in Burlington, VT is the featured podcast this week. It's about me and my dad and some of the things we did and didn't do for each other before he died this past year. You can download it at the link above and you can also find it at iTunes. If you like a good story - even if you don't like mine - subscribe to the weekly Moth podcasts. There is some amazing stuff going on there.
Standing on that stage in Burlington and telling such a personal tale, almost a confessional, in front of 1500 strangers was one of the highlights of my performing life. Until the moment I walked in front of the microphone a big part of me thought I was making a mistake. It was too personal. It was too revealing of a very low point in my character. It would make me choke up.
It was all those things and more and has made me very happy. If my dad had been around to hear, he would have been ashamed from the criticism and embarrassed of the praise and I realize that I could not have told the story before now. I've told parts of it before -- you can hear the extended story of my college drop-out and near-death accident that followed on Exploded, a fragmented monologue I performed almost 20 years ago. But I never got down to the conclusions of the experience because 20 years ago I did not yet know what they were.
Scars, it's said, are the tattoos of experience. But they are often a hieroglyph, and it takes some study to figure out what they say to us.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Waiting for the Clown Car
It's Sunday morning and I promised myself I would do a blog entry today. Not because I have anything to tell you. Not even because I feel some professional obligation to entertain or enlighten -- if that were even possible. I promised to blog today the way a manic-depressive promises that today is the day he will get out off the sofa and do the dishes. Not because the dishes really need doing -- they've been there all week -- but because doing them will get him on his feet and moving again.
I recognize that my blogging and tweeting habits look like a manic-depressive cycle. Perhaps in some deep brain chemistry=inspiration=ironic construction=mildly entertaining remark, it is. But I don't think so. The truth of the matter is that for varying periods of time I find the world delightfully inept and the people in it endearingly flawed. Myself included. During these stretches I feel a great camaraderie with my fellow human beans and am compelled to sit ringside with you at the circus pointing out the antics of our fellow clowns as they dance around the elephant poop.
And then there are times when all there is is elephant poop. So I promised myself I'd blog today just to see what happens. Maybe the clown car will come and nine of them will pour out with shovels and brooms to clean up. With any luck one of them will step in it.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Can't Get Here from There
It dawned on me today, about dawn, that my failure to post anything regarding our recent flooding out here might be taken as an indication that we are in peril. Let me assure those of you who have expressed an interest that my family and I are high, dry, and enjoying an oddly pleasant stretch of post-Irene sunny weather. Our little town of Dummerston was by and large spared any great damage, and our historic covered bridge - the longest span in Vermont - is still spanning the West River, which two days ago was within 6 feet of the deck. If you've seen the footage of some of the other area historic bridges that did not fare so well you will appreciate, as we do, the pessimism of whoever it was decided to place our bridge 8 feet or so above the 100 year flood mark. When you see a 150 year old bridge floating down the river you can rest assured you are having a 100 year flood.
Although Irene let our town off easy, those around us are not doing so well. There are bridges and roads out all over the county and the old Yankee koan You can't get there from here is not as paradoxical as it used to be. At the moment, and probably for the foreseeable future, our neighbor towns of Wilmington and Bennington are best reached via Montreal, Canada. Downtown Brattleboro is still digging through the muck on their lower end and I believe you can now buy mud boots at Sam's Outfitters with mud already on them.
I serve on our local Selectboard and as a seasoned municipal official of little or no influence I was alarmed to discover over the weekend we have some rather awesome powers to declare local disasters and close and open bridges. I'm not sure I ever declared anything before Sunday, but I found it enjoyable -- oh, and humbling. You're always supposed to say humbling as an elected official when you exercise awesome power. Closing and opening bridges is kind of fun (and humbling) too, but you can overdo it in a hurry. The townspeople took it upon themselves to move the road cones on the covered bridge out of their way on Monday morning, and they're pretty much driving around everything else too. If that's not a sure sign of being back to normal, I don't know one.