Thursday, May 29, 2008

Assembly Required


We have a neighbor – single mom to a four-year-old. She works full time, owns her house where she lives with her sister and the kid. She can install molding. She knows how to demo sheet rock and clean it up proper. Ceiling fan? She could do it.

She made fun of me this weekend because I chose to use an innovative technique to attach the front panel of my deerproof Plant Containment Unit to the body of the thing. She would have used a hinge. I went with the plastic zip ties. Because I moved AWAY from the upper east side, thank you very much, and I don’t need a hinge to open the damn thing. That’s what the can is for. I use another zip tie to close it.

I hope that when Lopsides crashes through her yard chewing on a cucumber, wrapped in chicken wire, the lashings and tomato stakes that make up my garden fence trailing from his farkakte antlers, that I am there to take a picture to share with you, O Internet.



In our town, on May 28th each year, the A/C Man comes through the main street on his great waggon that is drawn by four and twenty white oxen and piled to the canvas with the shiny bodies of sparkling new air conditioners. These his strapping sons heave down to the children of the town who give their tuppence to the sister, a barefooted redhaired girl in gingham who prances along with a tin pot for the money and who always keeps the change. The town children don’t seem to mind; it is the season. Hoisting their massive metal burdens to their narrow shoulders they stagger gamely home up the side streets on the hill, calling to their parents “Mother, Father, come see! It’s the Haier Koolblast ZX90! Do come, and bring baby Zillah, I’m sure she’d like to see her face reflected in its surface!” And the parents come, leading the little ones, who gurgle at the corrugated knobs and who must be chided for trying to lick the glistening side panels.

Then the Dads collect a few choice items and, with a prodigious will and profusion of sweat, take the window sashes out wrong, attach the brackets like a crazy person, slam the fucking thing into the godDAMN window frame, remove it because it’s WRONG, bend a couple of pieces of metal to fit around the projecting thing in the non-standard window, then carefully put…it…backDOWNONTHEIRMOTHERFUCKINGPINKY and finally shove a piece of plywood into the open space above, drive several screws into it haphazardly and assume they’ll figure it out in autumn. Fuck. They need a beer.

The A/C Man eats last fall’s thawed venison with the mayor and they laugh late into the night over a tankard of mead while watching Blazing Saddles on the TiVo. His children tend the air conditioners, making sure each has its ration of freon and straw, before they fall asleep under the wain, dreaming of sunshine and shade.



When the Chattanooga Iron Works closed down, the men walked the high-summer streets forlorn, their denim-ticking overalls picking up the red clay dust, until they came to Herd’s Garage. Clement Herd sat out front on a crate happy as a pig in shit and they stood around and one of them pulled out a mason jar half full and they passed it until finally someone said “Clem, why the hell are you so all-fired happy?” And Clem pulled out the blueprints for the cast iron and steel Char-Griller Super Pro Charcoal Grill/Smoker and all the men threw their caps in the air and they opened the shop that very week.

And, much later, I got one of those and I put it together. And I made this:

May all your parts fit snugly, and may all your washers be included in the original packaging this summer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Summer's Here. Time to Perspire.

Life is hard. Avoiding it shouldn't have to be.

Maybe this sounds familiar. You arrive at work, boot up your computer, get coffee, hit the john, make some cereal, reboot your computer, get another coffee, eat your cereal, wash your bowl, check your personal email, check your RSS feeds, check Twitter, get another coffee, check your work email, realize you're late to a 10:00 meeting, attend the meeting, check your personal email, check Twitter, check your work email, launch Word, launch Excel, launch Adobe Acrobat, close Excel, open the Word document you were working on last, check your personal email, go to lunch.

And before you know it, the whole day may have gone by with you slaving away accomplishing things, no one thanking you, the world still on its axis, and at 4:48 or so, when you start to pack up, you think "why am I knocking myself out like this?"

There's a better way.

You can slow down.

You can get more from each moment.

And a new blog, Perspire About the Little Things, can show you how.

Instead of the scene I've just painted, imagine instead that you arrive at work and then spend a few minutes staring off into space, reliving the commute. Instead of rushing to boot up your computer, maybe you take five minutes to retrace the steps your career has taken to get you to this point -- 9:05 on a Tuesday, seething over a cluttered desk, about to switch on your electronic overlord for another mind-numbing eight hour shift churning out money for other people. Or you take a little time to reflect on how the clerk at the little coffee stand put the lid on with the sip-flap directly over the seam in the cup...why do they always do that? Are they trying to make it dribble?

When you truly focus your attention on little things like these, time takes on new character. It passes more quickly, but you get less done. No more leaping from task to task like a chinchilla on bennies. No more rushing from room to room in your mind trying to straighten tottering piles of stacked information about products and services you don't understand. No. You are focused. Deliberate. Intentional.

Because Perspire gives you the tools you need to choose how you'll kill time. Simple tips, succinctly communicated. When you start reading Perspire About the Little Things regularly and put just one or two strategies into practice, you'll be amazed at the change you'll experience. And if you incorporate them all, you'll change your whole identity.

You'll never again have to wonder where the day went, or why the report on the Jenkins account still isn't up to date, or who was your biggest enemy at summer camp that one year. Because you Perspired, you'll always know where you stand, and you'll be able to look back at the blank periods in your day -- in your week, in your year -- and know that you decided how they should be spent.

On the little things.

You have the power to change. Start today, and check back on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rock Star

I didn't realize that we weren't going to finish the race until pretty late the day before. By that time I'd purchased the makings for a stellar Elvis belt -- rhinestones, glitter, pleather -- and was resolved to stick with the Presley troupe for most of the course.

Which is how it played out. We launched our shopping-cart barge into a sea of kooks, got treated like Kings for four and a half miles, then I changed into running gear and made my way to the beach, after the course was closed, through a couple of police barricades and past a surprising number of live bison. From the time I started I was the only one running. For a stretch I was the only one on my feet -- never have so many gotten so wasted for so little. I covered the last two miles solo, through Golden Gate Park's eucalyptus and pines, and was the last to cross the finish line as they dismantled it.

My knee didn't bother me once, nor the next day. I'm back, baby. Long live the King.

Pictures of me and the Elvis phenomenon and the race itself.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

World's Least Convincing Elvis

Please click the image to see the original, so I'm not just stealing it.

© 2008 Jérémy. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Flowers in my hair. Thin flowers.

Tomorrow I follow in Mark Twain's footsteps and fly to San Francisco to visit friends and run the Bay to Breakers. While running, of course, I will be dressed as Elvis Presley, who disliked hippies, mostly, but did lots of drugs and sang about Love.

Mark Twain famously said, of the Bay to Breakers, "I think that much the most enjoyable of all races is a steamboat race; but, next to that, I prefer the gay and joyous mule-rush." He finished in 44:30, about a six-minute mile, and was so mad at not winning that he rent his gold lamé shad suit asunder and attended the after party in nothing but a boater, socks, and garters. Of that party, he said "It is not nakedness that gives the sense of immodesty, the modifying the nakedness is what does it." He then began attempting to get everyone else to take off their clothes, slurringly admonishing anyone who would listen that "Modesty antedates clothes and will be resumed when clothes are no more. Modesty died when clothes were born. Modesty died when false modesty was born." And everyone was pretty cool with that and several traditions were born.

Elvis, on the other hand, said of Mark Twain, "cats were born to give you acne," then stumbled into a completely disjointed version of "I've Got a Woman" before launching into his famous tirade against newspapers and newspapermen, particularly Twain. Presley's time in the Bay to Breakers was a sad showing in his later years; he finished his final race a full seven minutes slower than the PR of 50:36 set in 1952.

You can read about the race here. I would like to return to many comments lauding my time, whatever it may be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Punchline: I get a speeding ticket

I used to tell the following joke when I was a kid, to virtually anyone who would come by. The first script I’d ever memorized: “Once there was this guy, and his plane was on fire. So he pulled the cord and nothing came out but strings. Then he pulled the emergency spoke and nothing came out but strings. Then this BIIIIG FAT moth flew by, and it said ‘I can’t believe I ate the whooooole thing.’ ”

So I’m driving to work Monday morning – because on what other day would this happen? – along the gently winding double-yellow-line road through the wealthy woodland suburbs of Westchester. This is my secret back way to work that avoids highways with the first name “I-”. It’s a perfectly driveable little road. Very nice, actually, with gentle slopes, plenty of visibility, and large houses on vast spreads set well back from the road behind sturdy stone walls.

Sort of in the middle portion of this back road there’s a speed zone where the limit is 25 miles per hour; a speed limit I’d thought was reserved for nursing-home parking lots or golf courses. Shoot, there are toll booths you’re allowed to roll through at faster than 25 miles per hour. But I gather the plutocrats of [REDACTED] don’t want non-Lexii to bypass the highways at the expense of their early-morning serenity. So 25 it is.

Now right in the center of this slow-mo zone, or slowmozone, as it will henceforth be called, is one of those gizmos that tells you how fast you’re going. I never read it, because who cares? But Monday morning, a mile past this gizmo, just at the clubhouse for the country club, there’s a cop standing at the side of the road, and he motions me to pull over.

And nothing. Came out. But strings.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Soda, Pop

I've been to the bar Soda two times. The first time was about a month ago, for the post-memorial drinks and Mac slideshow in honor of a departed friend, at which no eye was dry and no future seemed quite right to anyone in attendance, without him.

The second time was this past Wednesday, when a kind insider included me on an email announcing drinks and a book signing for Things I Learned About my Dad (in Therapy), where Heather Armstrong, her husband Jon, Alice Bradley, Doug French, Sarah Brown, and Greg Allen (whom I didn't meet...was he there?) would all be in attendance, sitting in a small circle, entertaining the occasional reader who dropped in with stories of human cannibalism, climbing K2, writing novels with q-tips dipped in the jet-black ink of the elusive Architeuthis hartingii, and raising toddlers.

It was sort of like that, toward the end. When I arrived, however, there was a line snaking through the room, the books were all sold out, people were waiting to have non-books signed, and clusters of people who'd already been signed were still settled into booths rehashing their experience. Heather and the others were clearly enjoying real, prolonged face-time with actual readers, and the process aspect of the meet and greet had stalled. I reached this conclusion as I stood aside, waiting to greet my friends in that tiny circle of celebrity: society has reached the point where there are bloggers who need "people." Make of that what you will. It was a little more settled at the end, although even then, when we headed off toward the next venue for this month's Cringe reading, at which Alice and her husband were to perform, Heather and Jon were still on the sidewalk in a scrum of fans. Time and again, the crowd turned un-anonymous, as some long-time reader, commenter or Goodreads connection came forward to one of these folks to say "oh hi, you sort of know me." Perhaps best of all, Heather B. was there to have beer and marvel at the madness.

In traffic, and recognition, and self-identification as a blogger, I am orbiting at the very outermost fringe of that crew. But I've had a couple of tastes of it recently, and there's definitely something there. Whatever that means, I know this: Soda will never be just a bar for this blogger.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Freeing up hard drive space

This weekend, five years after first buying a house, I went to Long Island to remove stuff from my old bedroom. In addition to the boxes of D&D materials, comic books, and letters with which I could not part, there were many items whose only value lay in their status as visual reminders of themselves. If that makes sense. So I took pictures of some of them, then set them free.

Then I posted the pictures on Flickr, natch.

Friday, May 2, 2008

So Much to Say, All of it About Spring, and I am Lazy at the Very Thought of it

Where to begin? First, my in-laws' neighbors are clearly harboring a fugitive Nazi (hello, Mike Godwin!).

I was driving the Lad to a playdate and got there early, so drove around a little more and saw a cooler with a sign posted reading "organic eggs, $4/doz." A week later, a food-conscious woman who eats with me brought home a dozen of them. They are multicolored and utterly fabulous. I have three books on raising chickens out of the library now.

I had dinner with very talented people in New York City and they made me feel like one of an elite tribe.

Recently we ate at Woody's, an all-natural, grass-fed, mostly local beef, all-local-produce burger joint in a nearby town and boy howdy let me tell you that you should go to Woody's, even if you're a vegeminarian, because they even have a portabello sandwich for which one might opt to die. The burgers themselves you will also offer to die for, but! You don't have to. Just pay.

We went to Florida.

There's much to be said about the books Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and The Omnivore's Dilemma, and I've said a little something about each at

At the tail end of a shitty April, in which bad things befell wonderful people and we had a scare of our own, my sister had a son, and he is quite beautiful. So spring gets another chance.