Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Day I Bribed Voters With Taffy.

The man appeared to be in his 50s.  He had a drinker’s rosy nose and watery eyes as he emerged from a bar in the strip mall where I had my field command post for voter registration and petitions entrenched:   two folding chairs, a small table,  a ration of coffee in a thermos and my lunch in a sack, plus a big dish brimming with wrapped taffy as bait for grownups with  sugar powered  kids in tow.
I recognized the man for what he was: an alcoholic.  Social drinkers are not half blitzed at ten o’clock in the morning.   I know.  I wasn’t a social drinker either, and I can spot a kindred spirit at 50 feet on a clear sober day.  I snipered his attention as he made eye contact and asked if he was a registered voter.

“No, I hate politics,” he said, emitting a fog of   80-proof breath.  My nose told he  was  a scotch drinker, and not the good stuff either, but the kind  you can buy by the half gallon for under ten bucks.

I reached for a registration form and a term limits petition, asking if he was a resident of Sacramento County.

“Yeah, so?”

Fine. If he hates politics, then he’ll be interested in throwing the rascals out under the term limits petition I just happen to have right here. I told him to have a seat.

He sat down.  I explained that if is not registered, he can’t legitimately complain about Premier Hussein Obama of Kenya or Commissar Better-Red-Than-Dead Pelosi taking away our guns and forcing women to abort their unborn darlings if he’s a conservative, or about Lunatic Right Wing Evangelical Bliss Ninnies in Congress if he’s a left wing remnant of the screwball Sixties.

“I hate ‘em all.” he said.    I changed the subject.    You can only push an alcoholic so far, so I asked if he had been in the service, sensing he had.

“Navy,” he said.

Same here.  We compared sea stories and swapped lies for a few minutes.  He relaxed and I started asking questions and filling out forms, giving the man what alkies want as much as they want booze:  attention

 He wound up registering as a Republican and signing all four of my petitions: the term limits for state legislators; the dedication of vehicle registration fees to road repair; the limiting of state park admission fees to the upkeep of state parks; and a sin tax on tobacco that ups the cost of a pack of smokes to over six dollars per pack, supposedly for cancer research.    I say supposedly because, for all I know, the tobacco tax monies will be siphoned off for bullshit conferences in Nassau.

We both had a feeling of accomplishment when he left after doing his civic duty and boosting his blood sugar with a handful of taffy.  I was also four dollars richer.  I may be a lifelong Democrat/Indepedent/Commie Pinko Kneejerk Liberal, but I'm also a flinty-eyed realist.  The Republicans paid a dollar per signature.  The Democrats paid twenty-five cents, the cheap sonsabitches.

Next a nice lady of advanced years and bottle blonde hair, clad in a leopard print jacket and matching shoes, strolled by.    I recognized her as a volunteer at the branch library where I pay my overdue fines.  I asked:  Candy, little girl?

“Mike!  What are you doing here?”

Being a nuisance.   Sign my petitions or no taffy,

“What are they for?

I explained each one.  She liked the term limits petition, which she signed, but declined the taffy.   In return, I promised to run up another overdue tab at the library.  That’s my small way of  helping to keep the system open, since library funding is always the first to be cut when the semi-literates in local government go on budget cutting sprees.

I really did not want to stop the next man who walked by.  He was and elderly black man wearing an I Heart Jesus cap and what appeared to be a five pound silver crucifix on a chain around his neck.    I figured    I might be in for an ecclesiastical mugging right there on the sidewalk, but I stopped him anyway.

He did not preach.    He did not proselytize.    But he did sign my petitions and invited me to attend Sunday services at his AME Baptist church.

“We have a young Caucasian minister, no more than 30 years old, ” he said.    “He sticks to the Bible and doesn’t act like a fool in the pulpit.    The deacons didn’t want to hire him at first, on account of his age and his race, but now they all like him.”

He declined my taffy offering, but slipped me a schedule of Sunday services and resumed his journey to Calvary, or maybe just across the parking lot.    To him, I imagine, they were the same thing.    I supposed he was on his way to Calvary and redemption every day, every   hour and every minute of his life.

Another Christian stopped by later, drawn by the taffy heaped in my Holy Ashtray Of Wrapped Candy Offerings.    He was also black.    He appeared to weigh about 250 pounds and had the wide permanent smile and vacant look of a mildly chronic mental defective.

"Hey, O.G!” he said, meaning Old Gangster or Original Gangster, a polite term young blacks use to address old farts like me.    “Are you a Christian?” he asked.

No.   Not at all.   But I did not say that.  I just asked if he was registered to vote.  His mind was elsewhere anyway. judging by his answer:  “Is that candy free?”

Sure.    Help yourself.

“What are the yellow ones?”

They’re banana flavored.

“How about the blue ones?”

They taste like Windex


Those are licorice. I don’t know why they’re blue.

He pocketed a handful and smiled down at me for a minute or two.    I said nothing.    A group of teenaged girls accompanied by an adult woman with a baby carriage began setting up a cookie kiosk nearby. Girl Scouts, dammit.    The little dears have a way   hijacking my potential petition signers.    But this time they rescued me.    I made eye contact with the saintly blockhead and nodded in the direction of the cookie Scouts.    He took the hint and left to make a raid on their thin mint stash.  

I was left alone to contemplate what Christ said about the least of His  bretheren and the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus.  But I did not think that any road to salvation, and especially to Damascus these days, is lined with taffy and cookie vendors. That would make slow going for pilgrims seeking green pastures, still waters, and a house of many mansions.

New Face For An Old Queen - rerun

The boss called. “Mike, can you do a medical run in the morning? Eight o’clock pickup?

“Oh sure. Where to?”

“The surgery center in Cameron Park. Take the sedan. You’ll pick up a patient and his caregiver at that gated complex near Hurley and Morse. Know the one I mean?”

“Ooooh yeah. Geezer Gulch. Everyone there was born during the Taft Administration. The gate never works right. Yes, I know the place.”

“Good. Be there at eight. The guy is supposed to be in surgery at nine. You’ll wait, then bring him and the caregiver home.”

“What’s his problem?”

“Plastic surgery of some kind. People coming out of plastic surgery don’t want anyone to see them, so keep that in mind.”

“Got it. No bar hopping on the way home.”

“Good lad.”

The caregiver met me at the gate. The keypad code to open the gate did not work, and the patient was not answering his phone. I expected as much, except for the caregiver.  She was not a Filipina. Almost all caregivers attending the elderly are from the the Philippines. I suspect they are grown there as crops, like plantains and mangoes. But this caregiver was a large white woman with a smoker’s cough and a messy car. Empty cigarette packs and fast food wrappers on the dash. She couldn’t get the gate code to work either. So far, events were unfolding in a normal limousine fashion. The clock was ticking, traffic was increasing and no one could reach the patient.

Then the world’s oldest living queen appeared at the gate. It was our patient. His age was indeterminate but very advanced. His hair was a shade I have only seen on the backs of orangutans.

“Hello,” he said in a voice so faint that it could’ve had feathers. “You were supposed to come to my door.”

I explained that his gate code didn’t work, so we couldn’t get to his building, and we had been trying to call him on the phone.

“Oh I had the gate access disconnected and I never answer my phone,” he said with the screwball logic of the elderly. “You should have come to my door. I’m 84 years old and I don’t like walking long distances.”

I’m accustomed to dealing with dotty seniors. I’m almost one myself. You can’t win. I simply apologized for my careless ineptitude and gave the old fruitcake the pleasure of being magnanimous and forgiving, then boarded him and his caregiver in the car. The caregiver asked, “Well, John, are you looking forward to getting your facelift?”

“Oh my yes,” John said, "I’m having my eyes done and my jaw done too.”

There is no vanity like elder vanity. And no one, not even an opera diva, is more self-absorbed about appearances than an aged homosexual. Not even me, and I’m pretty vain. I even admit to considering a face lift myself, looking in the mirror at the roadmap of life's turnpikes and dead ends on my once pretty little face, but discarded the idea. I might wind up with eyebrows permanently raised in astonishment, like Bob Dole after his facelift, or emerge from the surgical suite looking like a bald Joan Rivers.  I'll just make do.

That night I drove the boss and his guests, two married couples, bar hopping in the 17-passenger Ford Excursion. The couples were in their late 30s. The women wanted to dance. The men did not want to dance. The women had a lot to drink. The men had a lot to drink. The more the woman drank, the more they wanted to dance. The more the men drank, the more they did not want to dance. The women found other dance partners. The men found more alcohol.  This was not going to be a happy evening. What is it with women and dancing anyway?  To me it's just a zipperless sex and not nearly as much fun as the real deal.

Their last stop was Harlow's on Sacramento's busy J Street. I dropped everyone off and hunted for a parking spot in limousine limbo, where I waited for the boss to call on my cell phone.

At such times we limo drivers catch up on our reading. We snooze. We review our lives. We reinvent memories. I was accepting my third or fourth Medal Of Honor from President Kennedy when the boss summoned me back to Harlow's. I double parked at the curb, taking a slight pleasure from boxing in Honest Mohammed's Jihad Taxi. Mohammed would try to hijack my passengers by grabbing their luggage when I drove airport shuttles. Now it was payback time.

The boss met me at the curb. “They’re fighting.” he said of his guests. No surprise there. The women had been housebound with kids for years. Their men were 90-hour-a-week piledrivers of high commerce. They now find themselves married to strangers. Worse, the strangers are drunk.

A voice shouted my name from a high place. I looked up at a second floor window to see one of my last week’s passengers dancing by the open window; a tall, beautiful redheaded stripper moonlighting from her job at Hooters. She was part of the entertainment in Harlow’s private party room upstairs.

“Hey, Mike Browne!” she yelled again, and did something interesting with a water bottle as she danced.

 My boss was impressed: "Wow! Do you know her?"

“Not really,” I said. “She and her friends chartered a stretch a week or so back. I think they all work for Hooters. This one is probably freelancing.  Just your basic, average Catholic girl trying to make bare ends meet in a bear market economy.”

“I’ve got an end I’d like her to meet,“ he said, staring up at her water bottle ballet. “She seems to like you.”

“Naah. She’s just playing. I’m older’n her daddy.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” the boss said. “Maybe you could wear makeup and look younger.”

“Or I could dye my hair orange and get a facelift.'


“Never mind.”


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Happy Holidays, dammit

Okay, look I'm not a fan of Christmas and after having been a radio d.j. for more years than was healthy, I'm even less of a fan of Christmas music.  But there's always an exception.  In my case, a connection.  Two of them; both connected to this very recording:

Yes, this is a clickable link.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas singers unlimited - YouTube

Other songs follow the above, some seasonal, some not.  Some good, others, well...

This group started in the 50s as jazz vocalists known as The Hi-Los.  Later they were billed as The J's with Jamie, and finally became known by the late 60s as the Singers Unlimited, mostly doing advertising jingles. The basso of the group is the Ho Ho Ho guy in the Green Giant commercial.

Anyway, back to the story.

In 1967, the financial backer and producer of the Singers Unlimted, whose name I've forgotten, visited his friend Dean Elliot, the chief engineer, musicologist, polyglot linguist and my mentor at a radio station on California's north coast.  He brought the master recording of the above cited album and played it for us. I was captivated and slack jawed with awe over the sound quality.

So I was one of the first, if not the first, to put it on the air.  In Eureka, pop. 28,000.  Not exactly a Number One With A Bullet market, but one that appreciated the good stuff, and the album is the good stuff.

Fast forward to Sacramento airport at Christmastime in 1985.  I'm waiting in a long slowly moving line of holiday travelers at the United Airlines counter, shuffling along next to a college age girl.  Okay, young woman.  Ah hell,  I'm too damned old to be P.C.

Okay, so the YW and I get to chatting.  Turns out she's a music major at the University of the Pacific in nearby Stockton. The subject of Christmas music comes up.  I mention that I was former disc jockey who was not fond of the genre, but said one of the finest Christmas albums I'd ever heard was by a group called The Singers Unlimited.

Then she looked at me.  It was her turn to be slack jawed.  "I have the album right here," she eventually said, tapping her backpack on the floor with a sneakered foot.  "My dad is the lead singer." 

Once again the words of Jim McCulla of KABC and my radio guru from years ago, came to mind:  "You never know who you're talking to."

True enough.  Now I am not a very big person.  So, this time of year you should be especially nice to not-very-big-persons.  One of us could be one of Santa's elves who is not a disgruntled ex-employee, but one who's been delegated to making a list and checking it twice.  (Has anyone actually seen a gruntled ex-employee?  Just wondering.)

Or if the elf you encounter at an airport really is a disgruntled ex-employee, he/she may have a bomb in a pointy shoe.  Or maybe a recording that will give you a fresh perspective. So be nice.


Mike, great news that you'll be okay for the foreseeable future.  There's that.The rest of your Tomatoman Times is fascinating to the point of fooling me into thinking I am with you during these experiences, at times. You dasn't keel over on any of us. We never change, Mike, only our bodies do.  And only  the way we find avenues of survival.  Kudos to you for your tenacity and the wit which has obviously seen you through some extremely challenging insults! – Amanda


It has been awhile since I have had the pleasure of reading “The Tomatoman Times”.  You always manage to put a very big smile on my face.  I am VERY happy your test came back okay.  Those of us that have smoked or tasted the occasional drinky always worry about the adverse reactions our bodies my throw at us.  Stay well.  – Carol M.

Friday, November 13, 2015

In response to Senator McCaskill

In response to the comments of  Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) suggesting that men shut up regarding womens' issues, I thought I'd revisit a T-Times post I sent in March, a futuristic piece entitled "When Womyn Rule America."  Who knows?  It might be a better world.  Then again, maybe not.  Just ask an Arab about former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir or a Pakistani about Indira Gandhi.

The following is a likely transcript from of the House Subcommittee On Equal Rights in the not-so-distant future. The issues under discussion are two political hot potatoes: One would give men the right to vote. The other is even more radical. It would allow men to sit anywhere they want on public transportation and not restrict them to the back of the bus. The committee chairwomyn is Rep. Shulamith Firestone Franklin Fonda (Republicrat - Womynnesota). 

Chairwomyn: The chair recognizes our esteemed sister, Congresswomyn Gloria Peterbilt, who has a martyr’s burden of representing that wishy washy, fence-straddling, knee jerking, testosterone polluted state of Calipornia. I suppose you’re going to play devil’s advocate?

Rep. Peterbilt: Well, the voting rights thingy is a non-issue in my house. The male unit will vote the way I tell him to vote, and anyway, the only things he reads are recipes, horoscopes and fashion tips. Anything else, especially something as complicated as a ballot measure, is just beyond the little dear. But isn’t it about time we allowed male units unrestricted seating on public transportation?

Chairwomyn: What for? So they can plunk their brutish bodies down anywhere they want on the bus? Don’t be absurd. Just because you don’t care who violates your sacred space, think of how your mother would feel, or your daughter, for Goddess’s sake, if some hairy lout reeking of Aqua Velva presumed to be so…so….uppity…as to actually sit next to her innocent flowering Sheness! The mind reels!

Rep. Peterbilt: Yes, I can see where that might be troublesome for some unenlightened souls, but a properly trained male unit would never presume to sit just anywhere on a bus if the back wasn’t already overflowing with nattering giggling male units.

Chairwomyn (sighing): I know, I know. They get really annoying in a group. That’s why I stopped my male unit from having Schtupperwear and clingerie parties at our house. All those chubby male bodies stuffed into Speedos like cheese blintzes, cooing over plastic food containers. Worse, they whine about their personal circumstances. How we don’t understand them. How don’t care about their needs. How we expect them to have sex at what they consider inopportune times, like at a funeral or on a windswept beach in the rain. Hell, a little wet sand up their butts may have a cleansing effect, so what’s the problem?

Rep Peterbilt: Excuse me, Madam Chairwomyn, but we were discussing voting rights and public transportation. There are political and social reasons why we should allow male units voting rights and equal seating under the law.

Chairwomyn: Oh for Minerva’s sake, what the hell are they?

Rep. Peterbilt: As for the voter franchise, the political reason is voter apathy with absentee ballots mailed prior to primary elections. Many indifferent womyn just turn the ballot over to the male unit like a Sudoko card and allow him to mark it up with a Crayola. I mean, they are already de facto voting anyway. Why not register them in the hope that they may create a landslide mandate when directed by their womyn? Two votes for the price of one. And maybe they’ll feel responsible enough to stop marking ballots with crayons.

Chairwomyn: I know. Makes the ballot boxes all waxy. Still, we’re working on some attack ads showing the effects of male units being allowed even a sub rosa voice in the outcome of national elections. Unrestricted seating on buses is just for openers. Soon they’ll protest being required to sit in theater balconies. Who knows? They may even insist on having their brainless entertainment legally broadcast on national television. Imagine having a nice weekend ruined with games of baseballs or footballs blaring out of your TV. Anyway, what’s the social reason for giving male units the vote?

Rep. Peterbilt: A declining birthrate among the desirable demographics
Chairwomyn: You mean eligible voters not on public assistance. Go on.

Rep. Peterbilt: My staff is seeing an alarming trend. An increasing number of my constituents write that their male units get sulky during womyn’s estrus cycles and refuse to sleep with them. Instead of getting in bed, their male units curl up in tight little balls on couches, like armadillos, and cry all night about not being treated as equals. That includes open seating on buses and being able to vote.

Chairwomyn: Well, have your constituents tried distracting their male units away from substantive issues with chocolates and new shoes?

Rep. Peterbilt: Many reported doing both. Didn’t work. They think chocolates make their butts look big. That made them whinier than ever. As for new shoes, have you tried shopping for shoes with your male unit? They can never make up their minds. They try on everything in the store on before settling on a pair of pumps they could’ve picked up at a factory outlet for half the price.

Chairwomyn: Okay, so how will giving male units equal seating on the bus, not to mention the vote, arrest the decline of the retail shoe market and benefit womynkind?

Rep. Peterbilt: It would be the first step, so to speak, in giving them full citizenship under the law.

Chairwomyn: What the hell for? Look, if we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Everyone knows that all male units are good for is spending money and being decorative. Other than that, the little dears are just plain useless. They can’t even take out the trash or kill a spider in the bathtub. One other thing, if you care to hear about a really alarming consequence of giving male units the vote
Rep. Peterbilt: And what would that be?

Chairwomyn: Male units in Congress, that’s what! How does that grab you?

Rep. Peterbilt: Oh nonsense. That would never happen. Never
Chairwomyn: Oh? And why, by all that’s holy in the name of Athena, not?

Rep. Peterbilt: Well, even equality has it limits.

Chairwomyn: Don’t count on it!. They may even try to put a male unit in the White House! Imagine that!

Rep. Peterbilt: Oh please, Madame Chairwomyn, I mean really! Surely, even in the great state of Womynnesota, you’ve heard the word “ninny”?

Chairwomyn: I have. Usually applied to misguided Calipornians. I say we table this issue and let it die in the Rules Committee, along with that lunatic balanced budget and arms reduction bill. Let’s move on. What’s the next agenda item?  


Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Hospital Visit

This week The Lady Karen took me to the VA hospital for a lung scan ordered by my primary care doctor.  The doc wants to see if my lung trouble, from decades of smoking, is something worse than mere shortness of breath. 

Last week the primary care doc spotted a spot on one of my lungs that she did not like the look of, and ordered an x-ray scan of everything from the waist up. She also wanted to hear what the pulmonary people had to say about treatment. So I had two appointments that day, two hours apart.

The first appointment was with a radiology tech to have my lungs scanned for unwelcome critters. The tech was a big male bouncer in scrubs.  He needled me with a syringe full of a radioactive cocktail to see if I was carrying any little lung bugs that would show up on the scan. Then he had me lie on a stretcher for an hour in a darkened exam room. By myself. Not even a book or an old Sports Illustrated to read.  Just me and my vivid imagination, dammit. So I feel asleep. We old farts do that.

Upon awakening I was walked to a room full of equipment from the Starship Enterprise, including a great big tube that looked like it could launch torpedoes. For this procedure I had to drop my pants and undies to my knees and lie on a stretcher, thinking some guys pay big bucks for this kind of abuse from someone named Mistress Whiplash, but instead I was politely bullied by Tech Bouncer, who inserted my partly naked bod on a stretcher into the tube, like a torpedo in a WW2 submarine movie. I felt like saying “swoooosh,” like a launched torpedo but didn't. Tech B also jabbed my finger and an artery to Dracula some blood for a diabetes test.

The torpedo run took 15 minutes as the scanner x-rayed my innards. I had a second appointment two hours later with Dr. Duc Ha, the lung guy.  He's Vietnamese.  Imagine growing up in country torn by war, speaking at least two languages, and earning a degree or two in medicine, then practicing his art for a fixed income in hospital full of limping, wheezing and doddering penniless military vets. I admire him.

Since it was around noon, and I hadn't eaten anything in the past 24 hours per doctor's orders, or had anything to drink for the prior six hours, also per doctor's orders, Lady K wheelchaired me to the hospital cafe where I had an artery clogging cheeseburger with fries and glug-glugged a deliciously unhealthy Coke.

I pulled out my wallet and handed it to Lady K to pay for our lunches at the cashier's register. She ignored me and my wallet and sprung for the meal. I didn't argue. I didn't feel like wasting time with even a token protest before getting at my gourmand's meal.

Next was an appointment with Dr. Duc Ha for the prognosis. A lot of Asians work for the VA here in San Diego.  I noticed the same thing up north.  They're very efficient without being brusque.  No matter what they do to you, they're polite about it.   Lady K who had patiently waited in the hallway working a Sudoko puzzle while I was being a torpedo, wheeled me through a labyrinth of hallways to Dr Ha's cubbyhole for the test results.

Dr. Ha was accompanied by two other physicians -- one a token minority white male, the other an Asian lady --  when he delivered my prognosis.  The spot on my long abused lungs is not cancerous. It's just a spot, but he wants another look-see in three months. And I don't have diabetes either.

I felt like celebrating with a carton of Oreos while reflecting on my state of grace, grace being defined as undeserved good fortune, and the kindness and compassion of my friend, The Lady Karen Simons.


Mike, some of the more interesting (and telling) essays I've read have been by physicians who were themselves subject to a battery of 'tests' in a hospital setting, and of course those who could and would write about the experience for publication might tend to be more insightful, but the common thread seemed to be a new since of humility about what "they" put "us" through routinely  -- Hadleigh SJ

I frickin' hate doctors, hospitals and tests. Glad you're clear. -- Lady Writer

Well, I suppose I'd feel the same way if I was a lady with all those complicated hidden lady parts that get poked, prodded and spread wide with cold metal instruments during "routine" pelvic exams that would send the burliest of men screaming for an exit with his hands fig-leafed protectively over his hanging jewels.  Call women the weaker sex, my ass! MB

Quite accurate!  Female friend of mine got the same fright in January after four decades of 2 packs of mentholated Dunhill cigs a day. Scared to death she was when the spot was discovered.  She went through the same exams as you did and was finally declared perfectly healthy. Next thing was the booze. A bottle of whiskey a day for 20 years, until she "quit drinking" and got plastered each day on white wine for 10 years. Past 4 p.m she would hit furniture and tumble to bed by 7p.m until the next day. An ex saved her life, accepting to have her back if she stopped drinking. Since last July she's been on alcohol-free beer.  Now, I realize what I didn't have to go through for giving up smoking 27 years ago. Not a single puff ever since. As for booze, were it not for the religious bullshit, I'd be an almost perfect Mormon. Forgot to say how happy I am to know you'll still be around for quite a while – Gerard

Well, for awhile anyway. MB

My condolences for your fright and hospital indignities, but you ain't got nothin' here, Tomato. One day, when the "monetized blog" that our friend Mrs. Summers insists I launch is up and running (yeah, right), I will regale you of my many hospital experiences over the last few years. I'm surprised I'm still alive, but I've kicked the oxycodone to which I kept getting reintroduced. -- Mike L.

Thank goodness you're ok! – Pamela

Whew-- glad the spot was nothing more! You have a good friend there. – Linda F

Ah, so happy it all turned out well for you my dear friend. Hang in there! -- Lynda A

Having just experienced a 44-minute trip in 'the tube', I feel your pain, although if they had suggested I drop my drawers, there would've been trouble. Thanks for waiting until the last fucking second to tell me you did not have cancer. Scared me to death. --Linda V 

Well, that's what I was thinking -- you waited until the last fucking second to tell us you are okay. I wasn't sure I could hold my breath that long, but I made it. Mike, I am very glad you are okay. One reason is that I want to thoroughly enjoy your writing for a long time to come.  I forbid you to cheat us out of it for a long, long time. -- Zoey

Glad the news was good. Stay well! – Soy

Me too. Thanks ever'buddy for your kind words. MB

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Making Peace With The Pacific

The ocean can be sarcastic as hell. I mean, last month I moved to San Diego from California's version of Omaha with palm trees, Sacramento. When I arrived, Ocean talked to me in a bored snotty tone.

“Well, well, well,” Ocean sneered. “Look who's here. The ungrateful little wretch I carried all the way to Asia without drowning when he was a young ungrateful little wretch. I even threw in a pair of dolphins to show the way, otherwise that fat gray tub in which he was riding would have gotten as lost as Columbus did, the ninny.”

“Hello Ocean. Nice to see you too. Killed any Japanese lately?”

“Try, just this once, not to be a smartass,” Ocean said with an exasperated sigh. “They knew they were in tsunami country when they built their flimsy bamboo houses right smack on the beach. Too tempting a target. Same with that lunatic nuclear reactor that I swamped to show them the error of their ways. But never mind that. What brings you to my shore, you aged ex-sailor boy you? Got a death wish?”

“Not today, but thanks for offering. Besides, you'll recall that I'm descended from Norwegian sailors and the seagoing Native Americans of Southeastern Alaska. So my fatal attraction to you is genetic.”

“Oh yeah, the sardine eaters and foul tempered canoe jockeys with hyphenated names. So, you moved here because your wretched landlubber's heart is filled with love for little ol' me? I'm flattered right down to my tide pools, dearie me.”

“You do have your good moments. After all, Balboa named you Pacific, or peaceful..”

“Yeah, that was before I smacked him around some. Then Pizarro came along and accused him of some made up charges, and Balboa lost his head back in Spain. See? No good deed goes unpunished.”

“Oh?  Since when are you such a moralist?  And with a cliché at that. Tsk tsk.”

“Moi?  A moralist?  Perish the thought, laddie buck.  And keep your girlish tsks to yourself. If the headsman's ax or the lousy medieval mutton and pork diet hadn't nailed Balboa, I might've.   Moralist?  It is to laugh. Ha ha. After all, I got Magellan.”

“Beg to differ, Ocean. Filipino warriors killed Magellan. Maybe they thought he was an evil spirit, or maybe he groped someone's sister.”

“Yeah, well, let's get back on point here, kiddo. So what brings you to my fair shores?”

“Some friends who thought I'd be better off in closer proximity to you, for some reason, rather than slowly baking amid the pesticide ridden fields and the furnace heat of the Sacramento Valley in summer.

“Ha!” barked Ocean. “And will you stroll my shore with your 'trousers rolled,' like T.S. Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock?”

“Oh probably. I'll even dare to eat a peach, like Prufrock didn't.”

“Fine,” Ocean said. “Just don't spit peach pits in my waves. Don't pee in them when wading either, even with your trousers rolled."

“Don't tempt me."

"Don't provoke me."

"Deal," I said, and ate a peach.


Comments, critiques, corrections -- maybe cash -- are welcome:

Very funny!  -- Shannon

I hope you kept your pit and your, well, you know, in your pants. -- Beaty

You're no fun.  MB


Question, why is FOX news so bad?  Is it because they lean toward the Republican side or am I wrong on that?  -- CM

Fox boss Roger Ailes was the head honcho on the Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes presidential campaigns.  He adopted the motto "fair and balanced," when making the Fox network a megaphone for conservative values, even though its broadcasts are neither fair nor balanced.  The slogan has succeeded in constipating liberals and making them grind their teeth in their sleep, as Mr. Ailes intended. MB

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Big Change

As I was saying, before being interrupted by the passage of months and some nice people who forcibly U-Hauled me and my Betta fish out of my Sacramento garret and into a San Diego condo, change is inevitable.

I hate change. I mean big change. Little changes, like underwear, are okay in moderation. But now and then a big change will tsunami its inexorable way into the most placid of lives, however hysterical the resistance of the placidee.

I mean, my new home is a beautiful place in a beautiful city, but a childhood of being frequently bunted between the far north and the deep south with a foray to the midwest by adventure stricken parents gave me a ironclad longing to stay-the-hell put and screw the adventure. I wanted permanence, goddamnit, and thought I had it in pleasantly dull Sacramento.

“Har de har har” the Fates laughed. The sonsabitches do that to the complacent and I found myself piloting an 18' truck in a two vehicle caravan down I-5, San Diego bound. Me, Mr. Don Simons and Mr. Rip (my tropical Betta fish) were in the truck. Mrs. Simons was driving my car, a 1986 Snitt.  That's what I call it.  

See, I always wanted to “leave in a snit,”  so I made up a fake automaker which I claimed made the car, adding that I  planned to eventually trade up to a Huff.  The car is actually a Honda Accord. I don't have right letters for Snit or Huff, but maybe I can fabricate a metal logo to read Doodah instead of Honda, but that's a project I'll procrastinate later. Anyway, because of the 55 mph speed limit imposed on trucks, and a big detour around L.A., we took two days to reach our destination.

I have a brief history in San Diego, a rite of passage due to failing high school grades and a runaway social maladjustment that landed me in the Navy right after my 17th birthday. Aside from a case of pneumonia in boot camp, which I aggravated by sneaking cigarettes in an isolation ward, I had good memories of San Diego, especially for its proximity to the fleshpots of Mexico where bartenders weren't fussy about IDs.

These days my only interest in Mexico does not extend beyond a beef burrito at a Taco Bell. Seems I've become more provincial and less worldly. What an old fuddy-duddy. But I draw the line at completing the Sudoko puzzle in the San Diego Union-Tribune, wearing my khaki pants halfway up my scrawny chest, or grumbling because the local PBS channel doesn't carry Lawrence Welk reruns. Even fuddy-duddies have their vanity and delusions of an embroidered youth.   I never liked Lawrence Welk's music anyway.  

San Diego has a lot more to offer than Sacramento for even the fuddiest of duddies.   An ocean, for starters. The Sacramento Valley is short on oceans, even though it was once the bottom of an inland sea. Some cynics who are less than enchanted with state government wish it was still submerged.   Not me.   Live and let live I say, but please, no more changes for awhile.   At least not in what passes for my back yard, a small balcony the owner optimistically festooned with live plants. I'm not a plant person.  In fact, I have a plant killing black thumb.  But maybe that will change too.   

Oh, and the above photo with an airplane?   That was taken during a visit to San Diego in April, before I was permanently moved as the only ex-pilot to be hijacked to Soutrhern California.



You needed a change.  I'm thrilled for you.  -- LadyWriter


Wow..that's quite a change!! Hope you enjoy the weather, the water, the winter, the wonderfulness, and all the rest that SD has to offer. Email me if you get lonely in your new digs. I wish you the best -- Sac is poorer without your presence! (Getting hard to breathe up here with all the NorCal fires...cough, cough!)   -- Cyn


The zoo, the zoo!  All I know about San Diego is that it has a great zoo. No one, in our age bracket should have to make a major move. It is very unsettling. Glad you made it though. Go to the ocean, it's worth a look-see!  - Beaty


As a member of the Internet Fuddy Duddy gang, I couldn't sort out how to comment on this one. Anyway, it's wonderful writing, and LOL stuff. You should send it to the SD Union-Trib or Cal mag or re-jigger it a bit and send to NY Times.  -- Tim

California Magazine went belly up in '87 after publishing a some columns of mine.  But its demise wasn't all my fault.  Honest.  MB


I love San Diego!   I lived there twice - once for five years across from the ocean in OB/Sunset Cliffs, and another time in Pt. Loma area.   -- Tab


Maybe I've got one more move left in me.     Excuse me while I procrastinate another year.   -- Zoey


The indignity of it all... to be hijacked in a road hugging four wheeler instead of a bi-wing open cockpit or P-41 Mustang! --  Kent