Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Feed Me, Seymour!"

"Is that your stamen, or are you just happy to see me?"

This is a corpse flower, so called for its odor of rotting meat in order to attract flies and beetles for pollination.

I first heard about these when I quite young. At the time I had not smelled a corpse, so I was curious to sniff the flower - because I sure didn't care to seek out an actual corpse. I never got the chance to see the flower until the other day.

In the intervening years, I worked for awhile as a mortuary transportation driver, which led to a job in a mortuary as funeral director. I had plenty of opportunities to smell dead bodies, ranging from "starting to get ripe" to full-blown, fly-blown "Holy Mother of God, let's hurry up and get this over with, and hand me the Vick's VapoRub!"

Then I heard that College Town College had one of these things in its greenhouse, and that it was about to bloom. Now my curiosity was to compare its smell to that of real-live corpses, as it were. I smelled it on its second day of blooming, and I think it was beginning to fade. The smell wasn’t very strong, and it had only a faint resemblance to decomposition to my jaded nose. Maybe the similarity was greater on its first day.

I was just glad I had finally gotten to see (and smell) one of these amazing plants…wait for it…in the flesh!

Nothing to Write Home About

Don't Expect Too Much

There is nothing actually wrong with either the name of this soon-to-open eatery or the sign itself, so that is why I didn't post this in The Punctuator, where I usually post amusing signs. I just found it very amusing for its no-frills attitude, right down to the stenciled letters.

Maybe the owners didn't want to get anyone's hopes up that this might be some sort of fancy, gourmet Vietnamese cuisine. I've often suspected that most of the dishes available at a typical Chinese restaurant are not what the typical Chinese person (in China) eats everyday. If this is really the intent of the owners, I say kudos to them, although I might have picked a less banal name - but I am at a loss to think of one. Any ideas?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stranger Danger!

"No Rimpys Allowed"

A minor incident at the pool/park today with Lil RC and the Grandrimpyettes which should have been just an amusing and slightly embarassing anecdote turned into the socially mortifying experience of being questioned by the police.

I went to the restroom to change into my swim trunks, and accidentally entered the women's. I wasn't familiar with this particular restroom, and the only sign was on the outside of the propped-open door, so I couldn't see it. No one was in there, and I was changing in a closed and locked stall when I heard
female voices starting to gather outside the stall. I had finished changing, so I sheepishly stuck my head out and said, "I'm in the wrong bathroom, aren't I?"  I apologized heartily as I dashed out.

When I got down to the pool, I told the girls what had happened. And that should have been the end of it. However, there was a kind of weird-looking guy within earshot, but I paid him no mind. Then the girls started moving toward the middle of the pool. I called after them that maybe we should move our stuff from the nearby bench. They didn't hear me, so I got out and gathered up all the towels and flip-flops and whatnots and moved them down to the other bench. I noticed the weird-looking guy was kind of looking at me funny, but still I paid him no more attention than one normally would a random oddball with a staring problem.

A short while later I noticed a police officer strolling along the side of the pool. He came over to where I was loafing in the water and asked me if I could talk with them for a few minutes. He asked me to step out of the pool so we could speak away from the kids. I figured this must have something to do with the bathroom incident, but I couldn't believe anyone would have called the cops about such a trivial thing. I certainly wasn't guilty of any other indiscretions of which I was aware.

The officer started off by asking about what happened at the restroom. I explained it to him - what there was to tell of it. He then asked me if the kids I was with were mine. I gave the simple and mainly true explanation of "adopted daughter and granddaughters", instead of the more exacting and complex details of the relationships (adopted in our hearts if not legally, and step-granddaughters). There was a little boy playing near them, and the officer asked if he was also mine, but of course I had never seen him before. I ended up identifying my "kids" once more for that officer, and again for another cop while the first one ran my ID. No less than four policemen had appeared. Things were starting to feel a little weird, to say the least, especially their interest in my relationship to my accompanying family members. I also had the discomfort of having several dozen people watching and wondering why the police were questioning the dripping wet middle-aged man in the tie-dye tank top and Hunter S. Thompson hat.

The first officer finally explained that it was kind of an odd call, but the caller said that they thought that I was harassing the girls. Eventually they seemed satisfied with my story, and after they determined that I didn't have any outstanding warrants or wasn't a registered sex offender of whatever.

While I was talking with the police, the wierdo from earlier walked past us. After the police left, I figured that the weirdo had heard me telling the girls about the restroom incident, and then when I was calling and chasing after them, he somehow construed that I was hassling some strange girls. Admittedly, I probably don't look like I'm related to any of them: a Hispanic girl (with blue hair, no less), a blonde 10-year-old, and a Hmong six-year-old, but really now - did any of them look like they were being bothered by me?

So I don't know if this guy (or whoever it was) just thought he was doing the right thing (better safe than sorry and all that, right?) or if he was just a fucking idiot with an itchy cell phone finger. Either way, a nice day at the park with the kids turned into an extremely uncomfortable experience for me. I hate people sometimes.

Friday, June 14, 2013


This is a box of toilet paper. I wondered why anyone would name a company that makes sanitary supplies "Waxie" - because if there's one thing I don't want my sanitary supplies to be, it's waxy. Turns out, the company name is taken from the last name of its founders.

It's a good thing their last name wasn't Sandpaper.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Drinking and Fishing - Part I

"Last call! Forever!"

The image above is inside College Town's famous Towne Lounge. The Towne Lounge was an institution. It was a good old-fashioned grungy "whiskey" dive bar, one of the last of its kind.  I used to spend many hours there in my misspent youth, so I guess I could say I misspent many hours there in my youth. It was usually seldom very crowded. The bartender, Randy, was a scary ex-Marine who would regale you with stories of how many people he had killed in Korea. Randy would get as drunk as the patrons. It was fun to watch him progressively confuse people's drink orders. No one usually complained, partly out of fear of Randy, but mainly because, well, why would you? Booze is booze. It was even more fun when Randy would get so drunk that he would forget to charge you. Definitely no one complained about that!

I hadn't been inside the TL for over a quarter of a century, until my great mate Steve visited from Australia. We had a few drinks there. There weren't many people there that night, even for a Friday night. A sad little duo sat in the corner, poorly playing sad little country ditties on their guitars. They did, however, have T-shirts for sale, and Steve couldn't help purchasing one, mostly to memorialize the surreal nature of the evening.

It had been known for awhile that the current owner, Woody, had been wanting to sell the bar. I think his reason was that there just wasn't enough business, and if that night was typical, I don't blame him.
I remember reading in a local paper that one of the hurdles to his finding a buyer had something to do with the particular liquor license of the TL or something like that.

Then in the middle of May a large sign appeared on the bar's front window announcing that its last night would be the 31st of the month. I don't know if Woody found a buyer, or if he just decided to pack it in. Either way, an iconic bit of College Town would be shutting its doors after some 48 years. I determined that I must have at least one drink there on its last night, conveniently a Friday.

I got there about 10 PM. Apparently many people had the same idea I did. The bar had more people in it than I had ever seen before. Many of the town's characters were, including both of our more well-known transvestites: the 6'4" muscular black one, and the 300 pound white one. Sad that the last night should be probably the TL's biggest ever.

My budget for the night was twenty dollars, a relatively lavish sum for me, especially since last-night drinks were selling for even less than Happy Hour drinks. I didn't intend on getting blotto. For one thing, that's not really my thing anymore. It used to be, to a self-destructive degree. Marriage and parenthood fixed that.

Another reason I didn't want to get tore up was that I had promised to take the youngest Grandrimpyette fishing the next day. I used to fish a bit when I was a kid, but fishing definitely isn't a regular thing for myself or GR2. For some reason, she has expressed an interest in fishing practically since she learned to talk. I often took her with me when I made trips to our old Walmart in Former Hometown. Whether I was there for something automotive, or I was indulging her desire to visit the toy section, or path invariably took us past the sporting goods section, and she always wanted to pause and gawk at the rows of fishing poles and talk about wanting to go fishing. Call me a racist (which I'm not), but I think it's something in her Hmong blood.

Well, that same weekend was the annual Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs event. The people responsible stocked an extra large amount of catfish in a local small lake, and kids 14 and under could come and try to their hand at landing a fish. There was a limit of one fish per kid, and no permit required. All tackle and bait and even the cleaning of the fish would be provided free. What could be better?

Well, you know how good intentions go. I got wasted enough at the TL that around midnight I was falling asleep at the bar and was asked to leave. At least I wasn't tossed out for being obnoxious, which used to be a common reason, although never at the TL, oddly enough.

I could have called Step-Rimpyette for a ride, but I decided to walk the approximately 1.5 miles home, mostly to clear my head. That was the longest mile and a half of my life. It's funny, but one effect of being more mature is that when I am drunk, I seem to be a more self-aware drunk. I was staggering along like an idiot, yet I was totally conscious of how silly I must have looked, and I didn't care. I still tried to maintain what dignity I could, however. Middle-aged me on too much beer reminded me of Hunter S. Thompson's statement about ether in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

“[...]it makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel... total loss of all basic motor skills: Blurred vision, no balance, numb tongue - severance of all connection between the body and the brain. Which is interesting, because the brain continues to function more or less normally... you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can't control it.” 

I was traveling through one of College Town's oldest and stateliest neighborhoods. I lurched past the semi-mansions of doctors, lawyers, university administrators and descendants of town founders. Many of these streets were built long before the Americans with Disabilities Act changed the way sidewalks are made. There are several corners with half-hearted efforts to make them wheelchair accessible. This usually consists of a sort of quarter of a metal cylinder covered with cement bridging the drop from the edge of the curb to the asphalt. One of these "ramps" presented me with considerable difficulty. I made a few faltering lunges at it before I successfully made it down into the street without falling flat on my face. I think I actually threw my hands victoriously into the air, as if I had just made a record-breaking ski jump.

As I along, I had time (what with all the extra distance spent in weaving) to contemplate the previous period in my life when I would slog back to my lonely room in this same north-of-campus neighborhood after a night of debauchery at the Towne Lounge or one of the way too many other bars in downtown College Town. Usually some stranger's property got destroyed or stolen along the way. Sometimes I woke up in the morning in possession of less clothing than I had started the previous evening wearing.

Now, a life time later, I could still contemplate those sort of stupid drunken urges: "Oh, look how easy it would be to bend this car's antenna over", or, "Say, wouldn't I be much cooler with my clothes OFF!?" Fortunately, on this warm very early first morning of June in this foul year of our lord 2013. that was as far as those urges went - just urges.

When I finally arrived home, several of the more insomniac and night-owlish members of the family were still up, including my lovely wife and several daughters. They had left some supper for me. I devoured food and shared my thoughts of the evening with my family. It occurred to me as I was talking that the reason for such a difference between the me of 30 years ago and the me of now didn't really have as much to do with age and any conceptions of maturity, as it did with the difference in those key words "lonely" and "family". Now I have lots of people who love me to come home to. Before I had only myself in that lonely room. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

In the next installment: Hooked on Hung-over Fishing.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Penny for Your Thoughts

The woman in the middle looks worried. I'd be worried too if all my crew mates were spooky identical Lincoln heads.