Friday, July 31, 2009

It Should Be A Cool Summer

All predictions (pre: “before”; diction: “speak” = Wild guess based on examining entrails of sheep) are for a fairly mild summer, far below the heat we generally experience.

Thus, according to the soothsayers of “let us not look for trouble, else we find it,” this takes care of all that liberal Global Warming claptrap. Mother Nature, whose calendar is not measure in months, nay, not even in years, speaks to us in the wisdom of the centuries and says, “The north and south icecaps aren’t melting because it’s too cold.”

One cold week in June, one cool summer in ’09 … that barely shows up on Mom’s radar. But when you see the global temps have risen .75 degrees C in the past hundred years, that means something. Not much for us; a lot for the planet and a warning from Ms. Nature. When we hit +3C, the party is officially over.

We can have our talks. We can have our agreements. We can have our treaties (as effective as those with the Indians). It’s like having talks on a driverless bus which is heading toward a cliff and debating whether or not someone should be appointed to step on the brakes, if so, who should be first, will they be paid, etc.

It should be a cool summer, so we can put all this hogwash about global warming out of our minds for another year. It should be a cool summer, so all those liberals can go back to their ivory tower university think-tanks. A Princess cruise ship had to divert its northern itinerary two weeks ago because of icebergs too far south.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Blogfather

If you know how to properly operate the obituaries, you already know I’m still running loose out here somewhere. And if operating those aforementioned obituaries is beyond your limited capabilities, turn on WRKC in the morning and have a guy operate them for you. –Mark Cour

Mark is the self-described “Blogfather” of the local scene, perhaps the earliest and most influential of the political voices using up electrons in his attempts to move the city forward. Some agree; others do not. But it was nice of him to mention me.

I do this radio program aimed at the visually impaired and homebound; we read the newspaper’s local items, columns of interest and, of course, the obituaries (also known as the Irish Sports Page). I think: “I’d rather be looked at than viewed,” or, “There lies the atheist in the funeral parlor, all dressed up with no place to go.”

A passing in the family always brings up issues. It’s not that issues are created by the passing, but simply they were a layer or two underneath and with the passing they have come to the surface – for better or worse. Sometimes they are good: memories and stories we can now share. But they might be old resentments.

Now that Mom, Pop, Sis or Bro are gone, almost anything can happen. “Where did this come from?” someone asks. It didn’t come from anywhere; it was always around, but hidden under the family rug.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fourth Post From The Ship

Hmmm; K-Mart is still around, better known as “Gold by the Inch.” But, hello, here’s Mirabella, in which the clerk doth display jewels worthy of royalty. Or:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree.
To such a deep delight 'twould win me, that with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air! That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!

Ice, in this case, meaning diamonds and other fine pieces of “Please, darling, I need that for formal night and during the year when I simply must be adorned properly for the formal events we attend as part of your business.”

(Park West over-priced art auctions? Hah; pikers. We’re dealing in the five figures.) Got twenty big ones you want to blow? Madame might wish to choose this necklace, that studded ring. Here is one priced just south of ten. Ahh, it’s you.

Just beware: It’s really not duty-free, despite what you’re told.

(Let that ring flash like the Morse lamp on the Titanic as you taste the choicest of foods in the Pinnacle dining room.) Oh, you shouldn’t have; yes, dear, I should for you are my one and only. “I’m sorry, waiter; is my new expensive ring blinding you?”

“Ah, so lovely. What was that indiscretion, dear? I forget.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Third Report From The Ship

A friend wished me the equivalent of “Calm seas and prosperous voyage.” Problem is, if the seas are calm, there isn’t any wind and the voyage won’t be very quick or prosperous. You needed action to keep those famous tea and spice clippers moving along and that means some rough seas and high winds. No drinks by the pool.

Which brings us to the last day of our cruise when those familiar little white bags appeared in and outside the elevators. You know the poem: “The bags were hung by the elevators with care / in case the nausea was too much to bear.” It was for my roomie, as well for some guy in the middle of the Lido.

My family’s belief, as maritime people for 370 years, is something on the order of “It’s not rough until the engine bolts tear loose.” I didn’t think it was rough at all; rather, it was boringly calm most of the time. My opinion may, or may not (…not…) have been shared by the pax from Kansas, but their “green” was my “smile.”

The tender rides were not tender on our sitting parts. At least, the second day (the “down” trip on my b2b) in Bar Harbor, which was the only port where we had to rock and roll in the chartreuse yacht from ship to port.

I really wanted to see some water over the ship’s bow.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Second Report From The Ship

[ring …ring. “Hello, this is your wake-up call.”]

Huh? Who asked you? Oh; I did, last night. 8:40, dining room closes at 9:00; get dressed fast, go to the opposite end of the ship and up three decks.

“Good morning, sir. Alone?” You bet alone. “Yes, table for one,” I mumble in the haze of morning. These guys are pretty chipper for this time of day; I wonder when they get up? Don’t tell me they are up at 6:00.

One person checks me in; another shows me to my table, pulls the chair out and places my napkin. So far, so good.
I could get used to this.

Waiter #1 brings water. Waiter #2 brings the menu. Waiter #3 brings coffee. Waiter #2 brings the apple juice. Waiter #4 brings the pastries. Waiter #3 refills the coffee. Waiter #1 tops off the water. Waiter #2 brings the pancakes. Supervisor asks if everything is alright. Waiter #4 asks if I would like another pastry.
I could get used to this.

I sit at my private table for one and read the New York Times ship edition. I catch the eye of waiter #3 and instantly he fills my coffee cup and waiter #1 rushes over to fill the water glass and asks if there is anything else.
Suddenly, I am used to this.

Now I think of the folks back home. But not for long.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

First Report From The Ship

Well, it started out with a 4:10 a.m. --four [blank] o’clock in the [equally blank] morning -- bus to NYC. Let me tell you: Only a cruise would have me getting up at 3:00. Let the Second Coming take care of itself.

On the bus at 4:10am, off the second bus at 2:30pm. I wanted to kiss the ground when I got to the ship, but if you’ve seen the Boston waterfront, you don’t want to even look down. Just get out of the taxi, avoid anything that doesn’t look like concrete, and enter the terminal building, where everyone sounds like John F. Kennedy.

“See your ticket? Thank you, this way.” “See your passport? Thank you, this way.” “Check in is to your right.” “See your ticket? See your passport? See your boarding pass? Thank you. Here is your room card; enjoy your cruise, gangway is to your left.” “Welcome to the ship; see your room card? Thank you.”

There is only one daily program on the counter in my cabin; things look good. There is only one of anything; things look better. “Steward, who is in here with me?” “Ahhh, Mista Tom, you all alone. Enjoy.” You bet your @ I’ll enjoy. Two beds pushed together, my music in the room, bathroom to myself, all the closets, both of them.

It’s an inside, but behind the "window drapes" is a light, so I can also pretend I have a view. Of the wall. But I can watch the bow camera on the tv set which doubles as a “night light” after the sun goes down and a wake-up as it rises.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"Things At King's" Will Be On Vacation

No, I do not blog on vacation. I'm a writer; this is a vacation ... do the math.

Vacations are to vacate. Get the **** out. [There are many words containing four letters which will convey the appropriate feeling you wish in that short sentence.]

When I get into the bus and the driver pulls out, there is nothing I can do about anything. I am now unconnected to my day job, so there is little to be gained by thinking about it, hashing over arguments, wondering about things.

They are left back at work. They missed the bus, they missed the ship. I am all alone out there on the water with everything left behind. Escapism? Not in the least. It’s called “coming up for air.” Or letting our brain air out and come back refreshed with some perspective on matters.

It can be wonderful for the introverts of us to lie on the Sky Deck and watch the stars those millions of miles away. Or maybe millions of light-years away. An occasional small bit of rock, called a meteor, which comes streaming through our atmosphere, set on fire by the friction.

For the more extroverted, some dancing and whooping it up inside, times to blow of steam and not have to worry about what people might think. After all, you’ll never see them again, so what’s to worry?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Want To Be In These Competitions?

Pig Racing: Porkers with names like Shakin Bacon, Sty Stallone and Jean Claude Van Spam burn up an oval track while the crowd squeals in delight.

If pigs can't quite fly, they can dive -- gracefully, we might add -- and there are competitions to prove it, such as one at the Royal Melbourne Show in Australia.

Toilet Seat Toss: Think of it as the redneck version of horseshoes. In fact, it's an integral part of the annual Summer Redneck Games in East Dublin, GA.

Ironing: "The latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt" requires contestants to take an ironing board to a challenging location -- like the Antarctic, a mountain top or underwater -- and attempt to lay waste to unsightly wrinkles. Ironing can also be done while bungee jumping and snowboarding.

Pack your trunk and head for Nepal as The World Elephant Polo Association will be celebrating its silver jubilee in November. It's a truly international sport with an annual world championship. Teams of three-four pachyderms (plus drivers and players) compete for more than peanuts in two 10-minute chukkas on a pitch that's about the size of a soccer field.

[Credit: Sports Illustrated.]

Monday, July 06, 2009

Questions I Want To Ask God

Do you miss not having a birthday?

When did you think up the idea of creating the universe?

Were you trying to create a chicken when the Big Bang happened?

You know the punch line to every joke ever told, to every joke that will ever be written. Do you have to fake laughter when they are told?

When you get angry, do you shout “Peopledammit”?

Did Jesus intend to save us, or did he end up on the wrong planet by mistake?

Did Mary and Joseph ever … uh, let’s skip that one.

You know when the world will end. Could you drop a hint? I’d like to take a personal day when that happens.

Would you really send a 12-year-old boy to hell for whacking off? Or is that a lie the church tells us because it’s hung up about sex?

Is there One True Religion, or are we all part of it?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Was My Apartment Ransacked?

It sure looks like it. But how can you tell? My guess is "no; that's just how it looks all the time." Maybe I really should tidy it up.

Problem is, where do I start? In the immediate future, I have a cruise to think about. As one item, there is the matter of arranging for a bus ticket from NYC to Boston. That took a bit of time while I figured out the Greyhound schedule, but it’s all printed out now; I also need to bop down to the bus terminal for a ticket to and from NYC.

I do have some laundry to do, which I might as well take care of right now. [pause] Ok; one phone call and one laundry-start later and it’s time to triage the room. There are some shirts that need to be hung (for no crime in particular). [pause] Ok, that’s done and I’ll see which will end up in my overnight bag for the trip. One bag; that’s it.

I also have to pack for the trip, coming up in just a few days. I have a desk drawer marked “Next Cruise,” which holds the general needs and when I have items to go, that’s where they end up. The ship has a self-serve launderette; I pack enough for six days and do the first five days’ wash on the sixth. Keep the bag light!

What’s nice to remember is this: what’s left hanging around will still be a faithful friend and will be here when I return. It won’t lose interest in me, it won’t decide somewhere else is more interesting. There will be no “keep in touch” note, no “we’ll have to call each other sometime”; it will still be here.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Thoughts On The 4th

Not only is it the 4th of July here in the states, but also in Myanmar (formerly Burma), Chad (in Africa), Kerguelen (an island claimed by France, exactly opposite us if you dug a hole deep enough) and Albania. It comes between the 3rd of July and the 5th of July. Actually, the 4th of July occurs everywhere in the world.

Don’t go to bed angry; stay up and plot revenge.

My parents never went to bed angry; once they stayed up for six months.

I once heard an egg say to the chicken, “Do you love me, now that you’ve laid me?”

We consume 52 pounds of chicken and 240 eggs per person, per year. What do you think might happen if we go to our judgement only to find that God is a giant chicken? Would he accuse us not only of mass murder but also of late-term pregnancy termination?

Speaking of God, heaven and, thereby hell, do you think if any given classical orchestra conductors have lived really bad lives, they will be condemned to lead 100-piece groups consisting only of accordions? Or banjos?

What’s the entertainment in hell? Endless re-runs of “My Mother, the Car”? Maybe Conan O’Brian? How about “Howdy Doody”? Possibly back-to-back infomercials from late-night tv for ever and ever.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Noah Count For The Weather

Had some rain today. Either that, or a lot of people in the clouds had thousands of fire hoses aimed at Our Fair City running maximum volume. I should check the river gage tomorrow to see what’s up at the bridge. Right now, it’s barely risen, but what we’re measuring is the water coming down from the Southern Tier of NY State.

The average flow for this time of year is 4,000 cubic feet per second; right now, it’s running 17,000 cubes. Something must have been going on around June 22, because we hit 40,000 cubic feet per second, with a height of eleven feet – pretty good for this time of year. Right now, it’s barely 5.5 feet.

You get a lot of water up around Binghamton, a lot of snow melt all at once, and we can be looking at 30’ coming down the river. The levee on our side goes to 42’, slightly lower on the other bank and I don’t know why; it could be the river takes a sharp curve here and the water tends to pile up on this side.

I’ve seen a couple of high-water events on the river where we were told, basically, “Head for the hills.” Both times there was a fear the dykes would break due to the water pressing on them for an extended length of time. Nothing happened and we were allowed back the next day, safe & sound.

Someone said, “Are you near the Susquehanna?” and I replied, “Our address is River Street; any other questions?”

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Only One Digit Was Showing

Some person with a neat imagination looked at the red “don’t cross” hand at the corner traffic signal and saw something nobody else had seen before.

The Finger.

The perpetrator took some electrical tape and covered up the index finger, the ring finger and the small finger ... leaving only the thumb and the middle finger sticking out. It was amazingly subtle until you noticed it; then you could see nothing else when you approached that intersection.

It was a wonderful show of midnight talent, of vision and planning, perhaps even the surprise that Those In Authority would not notice it. Or, having noticed it, would say, “My thoughts exactly.”

Eventually, person or persons unknown caught wind of this wondrous re-making of what had been, till now, something between a joke and a political statement.

“Vandalism!” they probably shouted over their coffee and donuts. “Since we can’t finger the suspect, we must suspect the finger has been irreparably damaged. Send the police, the fire ladder truck and the public works people there at once!”

So they removed the electrical tape and the magic was gone.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Blue Jay At My Window

I’ve never seen a blue jay begging. This one has been hanging around in the tree branches outside my office window, then I noticed it was walking back and forth on the air conditioning unit; finally, it was standing on the windowsill looking at me. Well, look all you want, Mr. Jay, because the soup kitchen is down the street.

One thing I am not going to do is ask my friend Brenda, down at the pet food store, what these feathered bipeds would like as their entrée. Whatever it is, they can find it in the wild, as all the other birds do; no feeders shall from this window hang, no bear-attracting suet will tempt those beasts to devour our neighbors’ children

Robins are meat-eaters (sorry, PETA readers, but they are carnivores and I’m not about to scatter veggie-worms around my backyard), the smaller birds are grass-seed eaters and will go straight to bird-Hell where angels with lawnmowers will torture them forever. Blue jays belong in the sticks, although it’s nice to see one at my window.

What I definitely do not like to see is one of these nicely-decked-out jays sitting on the sill, looking at me, wearing a napkin, with silverware all lined up in front of it, a glass of water and an expectant smile on its face. That’s going a bit too far. That is presuming I will be at its peck and caw (bad pun, meant for crows).

Maybe those stupid bird toys where it leans down into the water, goes back up, then down into the water will disgust the thing sufficiently.