Friday, July 31, 2009

Quick Service or Fast Food?

So today I was in town, and I stopped to eat at the fast food joint. You know, burger, fries, Coke. Must be about the only fast food joint within 60 miles of my home.

Sitting at a table and eating, I noticed a little postcard sized survey had been slipped in between the salt and pepper shakers. "How often do you eat at a quick service restaurant?" Ummmm, say what?!

"How would you compare this quick service restaurant to other quick service restaurants?" Hold on, hold on, what in the world is a quick service restaurant?

Oh, okay, I get it... "quick service" restaurant is a euphemism for "fast food" restaurant. See, if we say "fast food," that conjures up connotations of fast, greasy, low budget, nasty, plasticized food.

Whereas if we say "quick service"... well, "quick service" is surrounded by no such malodiferous cloud of connotations. Mainly for the reason that, before this poll was concocted, nobody in the history of the English language had ever heard the term quick service restaurant before.

Euphemism: a change in words, neologistic, like pulling the carpet out from beneath the other person's feet.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Oh, glory! Another one of my wondrous migraines. I took today off from work, just glad I work a job with a flexible and rearrangeable schedule. Spent much of the day in bed. Slept half the afternoon.

Now I'm sitting here wrapped in a wool blanket (yes, it really is that cool in these parts this summer). Headache has passed over, leaving me feeling (as usual post-headache) dreamy and drifting and lassid. The nausea that often accompanies my headaches has also passed over, so if I know what's good for me I'd better concoct a solid and filling supper.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oddly Enough

The other day I had occasion to spend some time in the company of a fellow I'm loosely acquainted with. And he was behaving very oddly.

Talking, talking, talking, like a compulsive motormouth. One contrived joke after another. Jokes, observations, remarks, anything to avoid a moment's silence. Sort of like a running-off-at-the-mouth stand-up comedian, you know?

And the strangest part of it was, he was talking as if he were black. I don't think he was even consciously aware of it, but his pronunciation, his dialect, his wording, his elocution, were all thoroughly African-American. A fellow in his thirties, blond, Germanic, a lifelong Northerner. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on with him.

Then I realized, oh yeah, he went through a divorce within the past year. That explains it. That usually explains a lot. Like the old friend of mine, about as straitlaced as a fellow can be without being in the least a bluenose, and he got divorced and spent the next six months falling into bed with unknown women he met at parties.

Nonstop jokey babbling, in a novel accent that just doesn't fit the speaker. Chalk it up to divorce. It makes sense, which is to say it doesn't make sense, but for precisely that reason it does make sense.


The unseasonably cool summer continues. Usually by this time of the year we're into highs up in the 90's almost every day. This year it's been mostly highs in the 70's -- a July with highs mostly in the 70's, sometimes only in the 60's -- so that yesterday when it got up into the low 80's it seemed like a heat wave.

In fact it's looking as though we may finish out the month of July without it ever once getting up to 90. Unseasonably cool.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I had the fun today of riding on a float in a parade in town. The float belongs to a community service club I'm a member of. Four of us sat up on the float and waved to the crowd, countless hundreds, as our fifth sat in a pickup and towed our float down the main drag. Huge crowd this year. Sunny out (yes, I was careful to use sunscreen) but unseasonably cool, as our entire summer has been.

Afterwards we pulled a tarp over the float, and the pickup driver and I stopped off at a tavern for lunch before dropping off the float in its shed. Then back out into the remote countryside where I live (the pickup driver lives about another two miles over beyond me) and I sacked out and took a nap the rest of this afternoon. Beneath a wool blanket, thank you, yes it is that cold in these parts.

Now I'm eating supper, and looking forward to a leisurely evening. This really is the way to spend a Saturday, and as my schedule often runs it's all too seldom that I get to spend a Saturday this way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Birds Singing

Woke up this morning, windows open, house cool, and from outside I could hear the birds singing. Twit twit, twit twit, twit twit CHEE chee tooo! Twit twit, twit twit, twit twit CHEE chee tooo!

Except for a few obvious ones like the owl, I can't tell you which bird song goes with which bird. But it's imprinted on my memory, many of those songs I hear today are identical to the bird songs I used to hear out the window when I was visiting my grandparents, back when I was a kid. Back when I was a kid who lived in town, visiting my grandparents out in the countryside at their farmhouse.

Now here I am, grown up, and living far, far out into the countryside, living on a gravel road miles from the nearest small town. And I wake up in the dawn on a cool summer morning, and out the window I hear those very same bird songs that are imprinted on my memory from so long ago.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Slow in the Morning

I've had the past two days off. Now it's back to work, and I find as usual that I'm very slow to get going in the morning. Stumbling around, a cup of coffee, two cups of coffee. I just don't feel like I'm in motion.

And I've been this way most of my life, about as far back as I can remember.

I'm most definitely not a morning person. And, in recent years, not so much of an evening person either. More like a forenoon and afternoon person.

It strikes me that our society is not structured to accommodate the fact that many of us work better at one time of the day, and not so well at other hours. Clockwork punctuality, and one time of day same as another, befit a machine-driven society. I've always felt that a culture of siesta and mañana was more built to a human scale.

Monday, July 20, 2009

That's One Small Step for a Man

Forty years ago today, I was a kid and I remember watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I remember the picture on the screen of the old black and white TV in our living room, hard to make out what the picture was all about if you didn't already know.

And I remember "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."

As a kid I was a tremendous fan of the space program. Strangely enough, a lot of kids in my class were not. They, and a lot of adults too, took a peculiarly negative, angry, sour, curdled attitude against the space program. As if the space program was dangerously unsettling to their flat-earth view of the universe. As if the space program were a fire, a dirty nasty filthy unclean fire that must be put out.

It's been a long time since I've run into anyone who takes that view of the space program. I suppose it's been a background element in our lives for so long now... Meanwhile, I remember what I was doing forty years ago today. I was glued to the television, in rapt fascination at signals coming to us from another world.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite

So I learn this morning that Walter Cronkite died. And just days short of the fortieth anniversary of the first manned moon landing. I remember when I was a kid, and I watched the Apollo 11 mission on TV. I watched Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. And I remember Walter Cronkite's coverage of it all, including the way he kept talking, talking, talking over everything. I remember watching those historic moments, live from the surface of the moon, and thinking to myself, Dammit, Walter, can't you just shut up and let us watch?

I remember when Walter Cronkite was an oracular presence on the CBS evening news. There's nobody like that anymore in TV news. Nobody who is the medium, whose presence validates the message. In fact, who watches the nightly network news anymore? Hardly any young adults. And not I; not that I'm that young, I've got plenty of grey in my hair, and I'm old enough to remember back when. News coverage is from all over now, a lot of it online, and less of it from TV, or from the print newspapers (which keep dying off one after another). I still subscribe to a few magazines, and I do get some of my news off the radio. But for the most part, the old media, and those like Walter Cronkite who personified the old media, are dead or dying.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Stylish" Clothing

At a church picnic the other evening, and one of the things that struck me was how "stylish" the clothing of so many of us was, compared to back when I was a kid. We're talking "stylish" informal, shorts and tee shirts and (it was a cool evening) some sweat shirts. But back in the day I would've been wearing blue jeans (probably patched) and an utterly unstylish plaid shirt, not shorts of stylishly voluminous cut and shirt with logo.

Forty years ago, at least in the small town where I grew up, people did not dress for style. They simply did not. The clothes they wore were, for lack of a better word, forgettable.

Forgettable and utterly unstylish. I also remember how my mother used to pick out my clothes without even consulting me as to my likes and dislikes. They paid for it; if it fit, I was going to wear it, and that was that. Nobody in those days thought of consulting kids on which clothes they might prefer. You should just be glad you have a roof over your head.

Even if it was the norm in those days, I think my mother was doing me no favor; and let's not get off into how my folks raised me in general without any real preparation for making my own decisions as an adult. Clothing, the truth is, through most of my young adult years I bought my clothes with little or no regard for whether I liked them. As long as it was serviceable and cheap, as long as it fit, that was enough, never mind if I might have bought clothing I liked better just as cheaply. I was past forty, really, before I got onto the notion of consulting my own likes and dislikes when shopping for clothes.

Of course at the opposite extreme there are those who are slaves to fashion. No danger, though, that I would ever fall into that category. Even though these days I may wear Carhartts and a sweatshirt with manufacturer's logo, inside of me you'll still find that boy who used to dress (like everyone else) in patched no-name jeans and a brown plaid flannel shirt of indifferent cut.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Roadside Towers

Sunday afternoon I made the long drive to town to visit an old friend and neighbor who is currently residing in the nursing home. It was on the way back -- the part of the drive that's on a state highway -- that I noticed six separate radio towers alongside the road in less than two miles.

I repeat, six radio towers, evidently part of five separate installations, along the highway in a less than two-mile stretch.

Whether some or all of them were cell phone towers, or what, I have no idea. I only know that in the past few years such towers have been proliferating on the landscape. Why, from my house out in the remote countryside it's surprising how many towers, with their blinking lights, I can see on the horizon on a clear evening. Most of those towers were not there just a few years ago.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Laptop Battery

So a couple of days ago I got a new battery for my laptop. Old battery had gotten so it wouldn't hold a charge any more, way of all things. The new battery was delivered from across the continent in less than 24 hours, and it really is a wonder.

I am free once again to be online from anywhere around the house, out in my back yard even. Battery lasts a full three hours. I was so used to being tethered to my desk, with my laptop plugged in, that I'd forgotten what it was like.

No, a new laptop battery is not cheap. But this is the best investment of more than just pocket change that I've made in a long, long while.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Codname Beardgoat

Back thirty years ago there were various people I remember seeing around campus repeatedly. No idea who they were, but they stood out.

One such fellow I remember, he had severely parted blond hair, lank and straight and dull. A sparse, scraggly, untrimmed beard. He was tall and thin, with a scrawny neck and a prominent yodeleedle adam's apple. Dark eyes sunk back into sunken hollow eye sockets. The type who wore a motheaten cardigan sweater twenty years out of style. Oh, and on his bony finger he wore a gold ring that might've looked in style for a fellow twice his age back around 1910.

I came to think of this odd duck as "Beardgoat," no doubt because of his scraggly beard. And then the heading that attached itself to this name was Codname Beardgoat. Not "Codname" as in "Codename." More like "Codname" as in "Codpiece."

And then there was something about how Beardgoat would shift into an alternate mode of reality, a "fight mode," going into combat like a stop-motion kung fu slide show, shift from still shot pose one to still shot pose two to still shot pose three, all to the sudden tune of Bachman Turner Overdrive's Roll on Down the Highway.

Thirty years later these quizzical memories of Beardgoat come drifting up in my mind. I suspect underlying the micro-life-details of many of us are intricate little webs of nonsense like this. Stream of consciousness, and one step beyond...

Sunday, July 5, 2009


As I discovered all over again yesterday during our Fourth of July festivities, one great shortcoming of sandals is their tendency to catch a pebble between the sole of my foot and the sandal. Then, be it a tiny pebble or a larger pebble, agony.

Unless the sole of my foot were tougher? Maybe this is what I get for never going barefoot.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Yes. Fourth of July events in the area. I'm going to be taking part. In some small way even helping out with the activities. All culminating this evening, of course, in a fireworks display.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

With a Moon and Stars on Your Attic

Driving the long winding road into town yesterday, I passed as I always do by this big old house. Yellow house, dark brown trim. And a funky touch: on two sides of the house, up must be at attic level, is a big rectangular block of brown wooden trim around a window.

Window, a semicircle. And cut into the big rectangular block of brown wooden trim is a moon and two stars. Yellow moon, yellow stars.

Two windows with trim like this. Funky moon and stars surrounding a semicircular attic window. To me a little touch like that makes the house. I wonder if it was back in the sixties, or somebody from the sixties, who added that funky moon and stars touch to that house.