Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Borderline. Feels Like I'm Going to Lose My Mind.

Our next door neighbor has lost something.    

We can't be sure what it is, but we've narrowed it down.  

It's definitely one of the following:
  • her iPod
  • her hearing
  • her marbles
We know one of the above is gone, because for the past three weeks, she has been playing the Classic Rock Station.  All day.  Very loudly. On a boom box outside her house.  Aimed our way.

Don't get me wrong.  We all love a little Classic Rock.  But it turns out, that's all there is.  A little.  So they keep playing the same songs over and over again.

It's like a having our very own Guantanamo, right across the garden gate.

If I hear The Last Train to Clarksville one more time, Cheez observed, I am going to take the next train to Gresham.

It turns out it's never the last train to Clarksville.  Because sometime in the next six hours, there's going to be another one blasting by.

Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs, and what's wrong with that?  Let's just say, if Paul McCartney really wants to know, I'd be happy to express it to him.

What's most amazing about this whole phenomenon is that our next door neighbor is not the Camaro driving, pot-smoking, mullet-sporting dude you might imagine, when you are hearing Mungo Jerry's In the Summer Time for the seventieth time.

Our next door neighbor is a retired lesbian school teacher from Montana.  

And yet she is blasting the most heterosexist, misogynist music I've heard since I had a fling with that sweat-pant and t-shirt clad bad boy in my high school.  The one who went on to pledge DKE, get expelled from college, and become a hedge fund manager.

As a hormone-harried adolescent, it seemed so romantic when he gave me a cassette tape with lyrics o' longing like

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
And wouldn't it be nice to live together

Who knew older could mean "retired on my PERS pension with no reason to leave the house today"?  

That what we wouldn't have to wait for was hearing the same two damn Credence songs over and over and over and over again?  

And that live together would actually refer to living in separate buildings yet in close enough proximity that I can here every twangy microtone of the theremin, even with my windows closed?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I had an uncle named Sol.

This does not make me special.

Most Jews have an Uncle Sol. Not that it's religiously required. We just have some sort of group aptitude for it.

Less like a bris, more like a hankering for lox on a bagel.

My Uncle Sol was named Sol Cohen. This did not make him special.

I am guessing the majority of Uncle Sol's are named Sol Cohen.

Or were. The Uncle Sols (or should that be Uncles Sol?) of this world are dwindling in number.

Uncle Sol was a mysterious figure in my childhood. The youngest of my grandmother's siblings, by the time I came around he was already long ago retired to Florida.

Or maybe Arizona.

Some place sunny where old Jews end up.

Uncle Sol would venture forth from this land of Polident and early bird specials, along with my Aunt Trudy, for roadtrips back to the sacred Jewish homeland (i.e., New York), whenever some family member had a wedding or a funeral or a similar simcha.

I have a very distinct remembrance of Uncle Sol at my bother's bar mitzvah. Or my bat mitvah. Or maybe both. He kind of upstaged us at those events, because he served as the cantor.

Cantor is the Jewish term for the person who sings all the prayers at a Jewish service.

He served as the cantor is the Jewish term for my mother got out of paying a real cantor to do the service. Saving a dime being, in and of itself, an important Jewish rite of passage.

Anyone, Uncle Sol was short and thin, that sort of old Jew. And in his cantorial role, he wore a navy blue dress shirt. A white suit and white tie. And white patent leather shoes.

He looked like a very bad mobster.

Or an even worse John Travolta wannabe, circa Shabbat Night Fever.

Although just thinking about Uncle Sol doing the hustle is enough to give a person the Heebie Bee Gees.

Sol's simcha services didn't just start with the chanting of the prayers. Because on those roadtrips, he and Aunt Trudy would stop for a session or two at Elderhostel.

Elderhosteling is just like Youth Hosteling. Except that instead of a backpack, you have back pain. And instead of smoking weed with rolling papers a-burning, you sow the seeds of esoteric learning.

In Uncle Sol's case, this esoteric learning included a course on food garnishing.

Garnish is a great thing for an old Jewish man to do, since it kind of sounds like it's some mysterious Yiddish-language activity.

I don't want to cause a shonda, but emes, last time I saw him, he was looking a bissel garnished.

(If you have no idea what that means, don't fret. Just take another bit of your mayo on wonderbread sandwich and turn up the Prairie Home Companion. I'm sure you must think that's a laugh riot)

Since my parents' on-the-cheap approach to simcha celebrations included having our bar and bat mitvah receptions in the backyard, Uncle Sol's newfound skills came in quite handy.

He carved watermelon fruit baskets.

Apple swans.

And an exceedingly disturbing hard-boiled egg and black olive penguin.

The other day, as I was biking home from the food co-op, I came upon a free box, or really several plastic bags and two boxes of free stuff, left at the side of the road by what, from the contents of the bags and boxes, I can only surmise was an incredibly avocationally-motivated drag queen.

S/he sewed! S/he accessorized!
S/he cooked! S/he crafted!

And s/he practice the Fine Art of Garnishing.

They say practice makes perfect, so perhaps s/he had already perfected those carving skills to the point of not needing the how-to book, because that was right there in the free box.

Or at least it was until I snagged it.

So if you see a sharp glare and hear a strange murmuring, that is just me, donning my white patent leather shoes and refreshing myself on the words to the Kiddush, and ho-ho-haTikvah-hoping there will soon be a bris to which I can take my melon baller.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Shot a Moose

I shot a moose.

I was hunting, upstate New York, and I shot a moose.

Okay, okay, so that wasn't me.

That was Woody Allen.

It's an honest mistake. Between the shnoz and the glasses . . . all us people look alike.

Really, I wouldn't shoot a moose.

I have nothing against moose.

I love moose.

I also have nothing against moose hunters.

Not per se.

I've even partied with moose hunters.
Note actual bull moose antlers on the wall.
From a bull that was killed by our host, Trent.
Don't be fooled by the perspective.
The antlers are bigger than the pile of empties.

Though the moose hunters' pile of empties is certainly not inconsequential.

My squeeze the Cheez is, after all, a Newfie.

And Newfies would never turn down moose meat.
Though they would hunt down moose meat. And they do, every chance they get.

Environmentalist/pescetarian/city dwelling Hebe that I am, it's always a little weird when we go to visit the Newfoundland and Labrador relatives. Because they kill most of what they eat. At least, most of their protein sources.

It is very hard to kill vegetables in Newfoundland and Labrador, as none of them grow there.

Or almost none. If you are a potatocidal maniac, you can probably work yourself up a heckuva slaughter.

Alton Rumbolt, pictured above in his baseball cap, is only an avocational moose hunter. He is a professional fisherman. So whether it's a workday or a day off, he's pretty much kicking a protein source to the curb.

Not that there are curbs where he lives. Or paved roads.

He does lay off the protein assassinating while serving his community. Alton is as a member of the town council of Mary's Harbour, Labrador.

Here is the full roster of town officials for Mary's Harbour:

Mayor: Ford Rumbolt
Deputy Mayor: Larry Rumbolt
Councillors (note colourful Canadian spelling!): Alton Rumbolt, Bradley Rumbolt, Darron Rumbolt, Harvey R. Rumbolt, and, lest ye think nepotism has a stranglehold on the town, Janice Sooley.
The Town Clerk is Glenys Rumbolt. If she is unavailable, fear not, as Relief Clerk Sheena Rumbolt can step in.
Albert Rumbolt runs the Maintenance Department, Jeffrey Rumbolt runs the Fire Department, and Bradley Rumbolt runs the Recreation Department — which means he oversees the Raymond C. Rumbolt Memorial Recreation Centre.

I can't say that they are all of them moose hunters. But I have my suspicions. You know how it is with smalltown politicians up in the frozen North.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Emfatic on National Security

Security is a weighty matter.

Take, for example, the waddling bandit.

In case you haven't heard of him, here is what you need to know: He is a bandit. And he waddles.

Over a period of three years, he waddled into thirty different banks and waddled out with great sums of cash. But then he got caught. According to yesterday's AP report:

Shirley Ann Van Houten says she saw a man park on a side street and go to the Liberty Bank office in Springfield, but there were plenty of spots available on the main street nearer the bank. When she saw the man return from the bank with a bag, she jotted down the license plate number and called 911.

Just to be clear, we live in a country where it is suspicious to take any but the nearest parking space.

A country plagued by an obesity epidemic, yet where it is inconceivable that a fat guy might intentionally park a little farther from his destination just to waddle off a few extra calories while doing a normal, non-criminal errand.

And indeed, a country in which someone who turns in a fat man on suspicion of park-and-waddle has those suspicions confirmed, to the tune of a $10,000 reward.

Fat men have me thinking about surveillance this week.

Mike Daisey is a fat geek. He even played a fat geek in a Microsoft training film. The character was named Fat Geek.

He was in a scene with Bill Gates. Who is a rich geek.

Imagine the onscreen chemistry they must have had.
Nowadays Mike Daisey is an autobiographical extemporaneous monologist.

That is a big fat way to say he sits around and rants about what's wrong with the world. Just like me! The difference being he does it onstage and is rather famous. I do it on this blog, and . . .

Daisey's latest show is called If You See Something, Say Something. Which used to just be the unspoken M.O. of people such as Mike Daisey and me, who rant around town. But now it is the official security policy of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Which is really quite amazing. Mostly because if you have ever ridden on a NY subway, you know the smart thing to do is No Matter What the Hell You See, Keep Your Mouth Shut. (unless maybe you see some soft and cuddly as kittens dudes with dreadlocks, in which case write the New York Times at once).

Daisey's show is about the difference between postwar America, in which the Department of War morphed into the Department of Defense, and our nation experienced its largest ever peacetime military build up, and post 9/11 America, in which the Department of Homeland Security morphed into existence, and our nation experienced its largest ever privatization of the military and surveillance of just about everyone, including of course we its citizens.

These things do not make Mike Daisey a happy man. Especially since none of us seems to be any safer.

Daisey was more or less preaching to the choir by doing an anti-Bush administration monologue in Portland on September 11th. But who am I to hold back on the hallelujahs?

I for one am worried that Al-Qaeda is going to develop some kind of fatal foot fungus, then wipe us all out by releasing it in the airport security line.

It's not just the fear of a massive death toll in airports across American that terrifies me.

It's the possibility that my last meal might be Cinnabon.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Crouching Playwright, Hidden Flip Flops

Here's a phrase I wasn't ever expecting to use:

My weekend got off to an amazing start because of a man wearing cargo pants and flip flops.

I know, you are thinking that perhaps I got lucky at a sports bar. Or just at the airport bar.

That would be something, I suppose.

Though not actually something good.

But more mind-blowing than these disturbing possibilities is the bona fide truth. Saturday morning, I went to a performance art workshop led by a man wearing cargo pants and flip flops.

It turns out he is a flipping genius.

Despite the sartorial je ne sais quoi (or more actually, il ne sait couture).

Tim Crouch — whose name I keep mispronouncing as Crooch, a sign I have truly acclimated to Portland — is a Brit playwright/actor (People always look at you when you say that, like you're indecisive or something he complained. What? Couldn't make it as an actor, so you thought you'd try the writing thing?).

He used to just be an actor. Then he tried writing a play.

No need to call out Frank Rich, as Crouch gives his own review of the work. It was a miserable piece of shit.

I do not think he is exaggerating, although all I know of the m.p. of s. is its title. Vanya Kundilini.
Happily, he gave up on that one, had a pre-midlife crisis (age 38, thanks for asking), got involved with some hippie dippie alternative to the Boy Scouts which inspired him to write another play entirely, about a boy who raises his arm above his head and never puts it down again.

The boy is played by Mr. Crouch. Who does not raise his arm above his head at all during the performance. The boy's family are played by random objects collected from audience members at the beginning of each performance.

You're right, it does maybe still sound like I was drinking at a sports bar.

But I'm pretty sure that when reference is made in a sports bar to a urinal:
1. It is not an allusion to the work of Marcel Duchamp
2. It is not pronounced your-RHINE-all

Piss me a German river, that is one heckuva fountain!

Not surprisingly, the actor-turned-playwright is concerned with the relationship between author and authority, specifically in terms of how meaning is made in theater.

By not putting my arm above my head during the performance he explained I let the audience coauthor the action at the heart of the piece.

This reminded me of when I was 7 or 8 years old, and my sister won tickets to a concert by some Israeli folk-rock group at the Westbury Music Fair.

When you're Jews on Long Island and it's the 70s, that is a hot night on the town.

Which makes you wonder why my sister took me.

But she did. I remember very little of the show, except for a rocking version of the Shechecheyanu and the moment at intermission when a couple three rows in front of us was making out passionately, and I stage whispered to my sister in a "funny Jewish accent" (not my usual one, this was put on for extra comedic effect) Please Harry, we're the audience, not the show.

Which I've always thought was pretty hilarious for a 7 or 8 year old.

It turns out, though, Tim Crouch disagrees. The audience is the show. Or rather, the audience makes the meaning of the show, at least in part.

Sounds like a fish out of water. Or really a Stanley Fish out of theater, although Crouch did proclaim theory all a load of bollocks. Which is why he had the sense to drop out of a Ph.D. program when some other great macaronis, I mean great minds, of our generation did not.

None of this can explain how unbelievably brilliant and moving Crouch's play England, which the Cheese and I saw tonight, is.

Suffice it to say, it is the best play ever written in which two actors (one male, one female) simultaneously play the same patient dying young from prolonged heart disease.

I could go on about how in the very earliest Greek dramas there were only two characters, the protagonist and the antagonist. How having two actors play a single character at the same time in a modern play sets the protagonist/antagonist tension within the character's own divided psyche - divided specifically between Eros and Thanatos. How the audience is transformed into the chorus through the intense interaction of the actors with audience members. How the literal sacrifice at the heart of Greek tragedy, the scapegoat, becomes writ large in this play about who dies for whose resurrection.

But I won't.

Instead I'll say: do not judge a playwright by his footgear, or you'll just find yourself flipflopping along.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mark of McCain

I swear, when it comes to the Republicans, the material just writes itself.

Unfortunately, it does not edit itself in iMovie, so I did screw away the whole evening putting this together.

Turn the volume up and enjoy.

And please share it with all the Obamaniacs you know.

You can also link to it as www.youtube.com/v/ob94GvDruEs