Archive for July, 2011

Damned Fortune Cookies

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2011 by tom


I have had a rough week, medcoma blah-blah-blah. I bore the crap out of myself. So I went to the doctor yesterday, and my meds are now straight. Hooray, correct meds!

While the lovely young Lauren, MD intern, was finishing trying to find something bad in my bloodwork, I mentioned that my left ear was a little wonky. She put the plastic viewing cone on the flashlight thing and jabbed it into my ear. Then she checked my right ear. Then the left again. Then she yarked in the garbage can.

“What the hell is in there?? That, that CRUD!”
“I clean my ears regularly! They should be free of crud and–“

She doused me with Holy Water. It didn’t burn, except for the drop that splattered into my left ear. Holy CRAP! OUCH!! This tendril of acrid green smoke curled from my ear.

Lauren pulled out her prescription pad. She scribbled out two notes and handed them to me, careful to avoid my left ear.

“The top one’s Amoxicillin. You can get that filled anywhere–Walgreen’s, CVS, Target. The second one…you’ll have to drive to Tampa.”
“Oh, the compounding pharmacy? I know where that is. My friend Jill–“
“Shut it,” she roared.  I shut it.
“In Disston Plaza, that totally dead shopping mall on Dale Mabry Highway, there’s a small shop called Alternative Catholic Emporium. Go there. Set this prescription and a $20 bill on the counter.  An old black man will appear behind the counter. Do not say a word. He will stare at you. You will stare back. It will freak you out, because he has no eyes, only empty sockets. Again, do not speak, and do not look away from his face. All at once, he will yell something to toward the back of the shop. At this point, take three steps back. Turn around once to the left, then bow your head and close your eyes. Some shit will happen for a bit. Then you will hear a gong sound, and you will find yourself alone in the shop. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU OPEN YOUR EYES BEFORE YOU HEAR THE GONG! There will be a brown paper bag on the counter. Take the bag, then walk silently from the store. When you get home, take an Amoxicillin, and put three of these drops in your left ear.”

I was shocked. “Are you kidding me? What the–“

Lauren waved her hand idly, as if brushing away a gnat. My voice was gone.

“Go now, and do this,” she said. “Go NOW!”

The shop smelled like patchouli, bongwater, jasmine, and poultry seasoning. Candles emblazoned with different saints & Santeria gods crowded shelves with bins of herbs, books, and rosaries of every description.

Oh my God, was it hard to stare into that old black man’s “eyes,” meaning “the sewn shut lids over where his eyes once had been.” In a deep lyrical voice, he half-sang/half-shouted something that sounded half-Cajun, half-Spanish. I took my three steps back, turned around counterclockwise, bowed my head, and closed my eyes.

I heard disembodied voices swirling around me, male & female & something not even human. They eddied about, then there was a bright burst of light and heat, and a gong sounded from every direction at once.

Then total silence. I picked up the bag, and walked quietly out to the truck. I came home, took a shower, and crawled into bed. I popped an Amoxicillin, then took out the small brown bottle.

I rolled onto my right side, and put three drops in my left ear.

Holy crap. My soul was ripped out of my body, and soared with the ospreys outside. I spotted a fish in the lake below, and swooped down after it. I felt my talons catch hold, and the tilapia was lifted out of the water. BLISS!!

I flew to the top of a streetlight, and dug into my prize. The fish was amazing! The pure, raw life-affirming flesh torn by my beak. I felt free, unencumbered by bills and worries and work…

…and I felt a hand gently slapping me on the face, that same deep melodic voice telling me to wake up. “Wake up, Tom. You need to wake up now.” The voice was smiling and reassuring, the hand touching my face was soft and warm, and holy Bast, it was…Wind?

“Holy SHH–“
“You’ll want ta watch your language until da medicine stops smoking. Da Lady doesn’t like the cussin’.”
“‘Da Lady’?”
“Da goddess-spirit in da potion prefers you keep it clean.”

I nodded.

“She’s always been like dat,” Wind/old black man added with a conspiratorial wink. “Also, de lady say you need to drink two big things of hot & sour soup, get me some scallops, and she would appreciate a pint of Hunan beef, extra spicy.”

I nodded again. The greenish tendrils of smoke thinned, and then stopped altogether. The were coiled up in a corner of my ceiling. I made the call, and just lay here, trying to make sense of what was going on, and I dozed off I guess.

The doorbell rang. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my wallet, and paid for our food. I brought it back into my bedroom.

“De Lady say to put on ‘Inception.'”
“She wants to watch a movie?”
“De Lady say Leo DiCaprio is hot.”

Um. Okay. I popped “Inception” into the DVD player. I opened the container of scallops for Wind.

“Loosen the cap on da medicine, and set it next to the Hunan beef.”

We watched the movie. I slurped and chewed my soup. Wind attacked his scallops with graceful fury. I didn’t look at the bottle next to the small takeout box. I really didn’t want to see how goddess-spirit eardrops ate.

The movie ended, and Wind told me it was time for more medicine. I popped my amoxicillin, and put the three drops in my ear. Crackling, then nothingness.

It was dark when I awoke. My ear felt much better. The ringing stopped. The pain and pressure were gone. I got out of bed and went in the bathroom. When I came out, Wind was lookin at me expectantly.

“Mraah?” His old voice. His food dish was empty. I poured him some Meow Mix and topped off his water.

The medicine bottle was empty. As was the Hunan beef carton. Not a drop left in either. I popped an amoxicillin and crawled back into bed. There was a crackling sound, the cellophane wrapped fortune cookie.

I broke open the cookie. “Cobb is living his moment, not looking to see whether or not it’s a dream. Live your life. And clean out your ears. Thanks for dinner.” The signature was illegible.

Damned fortune cookies.


Storms on Earth, Fire on Saturn

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 29, 2011 by tom


In this triptych, you see Saturn, the flamboyant Liberace of our solar system. On the left, it’s the familiar Saturn.

In the middle image, you see a shocking view of Saturn incinerating, burning up completely, until all that remains in the right picture is a wasted ember, a sad, pathetic remnant of a once mighty planet, its rings dark, dead.

Of course, Saturn is still out there, just Saturning along. It’s still tilted at a jaunty 26 degrees like Sinatra’s fedora, and it rotates once every 10 hours 45 minutes or so.

This triptych’s left picture is a visible light image shot from Australia. The middle and right images are thermal infrared and middle-infrared, showing activity at different levels of the Saturnian atmosphere, specifically the massive storm system in the planet’s northern latitudes.

Here on our planet, this past week has been just horrible, with the massacres in Norway, a talented young artist dying at 27, and a bunch of jackasses in Washington who seem to forget they work for us. (Ostensibly)

I’ve had a horrible week myself, with medcoma and deep depressions.

This world has suffered worse weeks, as have I. It would be easy to look at the middle picture and see a planet in flames. It would be easy to see the right picture, and lament that Saturn has burned up.  It’s the same Saturn in all three, just through different eyes.

Our world will recover. Maybe we’ll learn how better to spot murdering psycho lunatics like Anders Harvey Breivik before they kill. Maybe somebody will look at Amy Winehouse, and say “Yes!” to rehab. Maybe the Beltway Jackasses will look at those fighting and dying for freedom in the Middle East, and stop acting like Congressional budget talks are some kind of farkakte game at Honky Hills Country Club’s casino night.

As time passes, we’ll analyze this tempestuous past week. People Smarter Than Tom will look at our storms; they’ll look at events through different eyes at different levels, and maybe we’ll gain some soupçon of understanding.

If not, if my lovely metaphor breaks down, we can always use Saturn as a ginormous pool float.

Happy Friday. And let’s be careful out there.

(Thanks to Jay Major, former Voxer turned Astrology Guru Astronomy blogger extraordinaire. I think I saw this image first on his site. Visit him at )

Tweets, Teats, and Riboflavin: Monday Evening Mental Chex Mix

Posted in mental chex mix on July 19, 2011 by tom

*- Where the hell has 2011 gone? We’re beyond the halfway point through July? Gah.
*- This has been an odd year.
*- Quite honestly, I don’t remember much of it, due to stabbyfeet medcoma.
*- It’s like this: blurrrrrrrrrrrrrDINNER WITH NOTED CANADIAN, CUPCAKEIST AND AUTHOR, LAURIE!!!blurrrrrrrrrrrrr
*- Dinner with Laurie was during Spring Training (March 1st-ish?). We just finished the All-Star Break. Sheesh.
*- I love Laurie, because she credits my Mental Chex Mix as being examples of “lateral thinking,” as opposed to the more apt “squirrelly dumb stuff with no linear thought process.”
*- A couple weeks ago, I went to my doctor, and explained that we needed change my meds completely, because I was just not having any quality of life.
*- Specifically, I felt like I’d had a ridiculously severe hangover for eight months, without the benefit of getting flat-out shiftfaced every night.
*- We changed meds, and by damn, I suddenly woke up awake one day.
*- That’s an appalling sentence–I suddenly woke up awake one day–but it’s absolutely the truth.
*- Anyway, It’s been an interesting two weeks.
*- For some reason, my sandbar is only in the news for really crappy things, like providing the Casey Anthony Trial jurors.
*- Please, don’t blame my sandbar for her. It was the bonehead prosecutors. One of the newspapers interviewed one of the jurors, and he said, “We were just hoping and praying the prosecutor would prove the case. She did it. The prosecutor just didn’t prove it enough.” (Well, something like that.)
*- We also had Terry Schiavo back in 2005. Holy crap, that was a nightmare.
*- Then, back in 1996, we had massive race riots downtown, sparked after a white cop shot a black teen who was about to run him over.
*- QUIZ: The most lasting effect of these riots is which of the following:
A) A new era of racial understanding, where everybody loves one another
B) The rejuvenation of the damaged areas, and a new sense of community spirit
C) A respectful sense of cooperation between minority residents and police officers, or
D) Due to looking dorky on CNN, our local gendarmes are no longer allowed to wear shorts on patrol.

*- The answer is D, sadly. I think they’re crankier because of the long uniform pants.
*- The word “riboflavin” sounds like it should be more fun than it really is.
*- I do not mean to disparage “riboflavin,” not by the longest shot.
*- In fact, I have a deep and abiding respect for riboflavin. Riboflavin does all sorts of beneficial body health crap, which is fine.
*- However, riboflavin is the ONLY vitamin that causes ones pee to turn the color of watered-down Mountain Dew.
*- Hooray, riboflavin!
*- Still, it sounds like a ride at Busch Gardens. “We rode Kumba, the Python, and this new rollercoaster, the Riboflavin! It was so scary, I peed fluorescent yellow-green for hours!”
*- Whenever I can, I use the word “fluorescent,” simply because it took me decades to remember how to spell it correctly.
*- Which brings me to Twitter. I hated Twitter with a hot passion, until my friend Amily made me sign-up for it. It’s fascinating in a strange way. There’s a bot that you can follow, and anytime you put (sp?) after a word, it will tweet you back with the correct spelling. OR it will compliment you on having spelled the word correctly.
*- Plus, it was nice when Rosanne Cash wished me a happy birthday, and surreal when I found myself discussing Bob Dylan’s genius with Peter Fonda.
*- What happened was that Peter Fonda tweeted an obscure quote from “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” I tweeted a reply that that whole album, “Blood on the Tracks,” could be the perfect album, certainly in the top ten. Well, a day later, he replied, then we went back and forth for a truly fluorescent half hour.
*- I’ve been on an Audrey Hepburn kick recently. My local Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market has a bunch of Audrey Hepburn dvd’s for $5 each.
*- This “kick” really means that I bought “Roman Holiday” and watched it four times, then bought “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and watched it once.
*- If you’ve never seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, and Buddy Ebsen are all spectacular. Then…
*- Then there’s Mickey Rooney, playing a Japanese neighbor.
*- This is not Mickey Rooney showing amazing Method skills, like those that transformed 40-something Brando into an old Italian guy.
*- This is an unfunny, incredibly racist, sterotype performance, complete with ginormous buckteeth, bad makeup, and this grating “Miss Go-right-ry” accent thing.
*- “Teats” is a funny word, too. If a guy named Peter sold special winterized teats, Halloween candy, and upscale linens, the store could be “Pete’s Neat Sheets, Sleet Teats & Sweet Treats.”
*- The only time I’ve ever liked Mickey Rooney was when Dana Carvey impersonated him on SNL. He just seems like an arrogant little guy. I’ve never found him to be funny or talented, and it’s unseemly to me that he schtupped Judy Garland when she was his teenaged bride.
*- Really. That’s like the Yule Ball-hot Hermione ending up with Kreacher.
*- So we have this pleasant enough, beautifully acted romantic comedy, and then in the middle, there’s Mickey Rooney offending Asians.
*- Ask Laurie: I am the biggest, pastiest white guy in the world (from my toes to my teats ;)), and I was offended on behalf of Japan. Seriously. What a douchebag.
*- Then on top of that, we had people being spiteful toward the Japanese because they beat Team USA in the finals of the World Cup.
*- Good Lord, it’s just a game, and it’s not like Japan has had the easiest year.
*- Call me crazy, but I’d take having the #2 best women’s national quidditch team (or whatever the hell sport it is), and NO major earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear meltsdown, as opposed to Japan’s lot.
*- “Yay! We won a sporting event! We’re growing radioactive endemames, and our livestock glow like fluorescent riboflavin piss, but we did something impressive with a ball of some kind.”
*- “This recreational activty makes up for all the bad stuff…but we’re still pissed about that frakkin Mickey Rooney!”
*- I leave you with a photo of Princess in her Royal Cast. (Said cast is now gone, and Princess is back to, as Stacey put it, “normal 7 year old activities (in P’s case, running the world))
*- Perhaps coincidentally, the cast is the color of??????
*- Happy Tuesday.

(BTW, the correct answer was “one of those fluorescent highlighters.” What were you thinking? 😉 )

Where Have You Gone, Mandy Brocklehurst? (With apologies to Ginger Sister)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 17, 2011 by tom

Now that the final Harry Potter film is released, my friend, idol, and Maven Council VP for Mid-West Operations, Ginger Sister, posted a wonderful piece on what more she wants from JK Rowling.  (Hopefully, she’ll link to it if she comments)

One idea I liked was for a series of novellas about the Hogwarts faculty.  What epic journeys led a Professor Flitwick or Argus Filch to their homes in Hogwarts Castle?

Then it dawned on me: we do know some things about them, although nobody’s whole backstory.  I also realized I don’t know a novella’s worth about most of my teachers.

My school was very small, with 600 kids in grades 4-12.  It was like Hogwarts (only for dorks), in that the same Dr Malinsky who taught 7th grade science also taught AP Chemistry.

I wonder if one of the HP series’ charms (npi) is that our minds are drawn into not only the story, but that whole world.  JKR develops some characters more richly than others. To me, we then fill in the gaps with our own knowledge, sealing our imagined Hogwarts, et al, to the basic words on the page. (Think of the actual book as a denture plate, the fully realized story as an old toothless person’s gums, and our own experiences and histories as the pink goo that secures them together)

I apologize, but I had to use that metaphor.

A few questions i’d want answered: why would there ever be thousands of people in the Great Hall, as has been mentioned? At the first Sorting, there were “hundreds of faces.” Hundreds? Barely. There are 5 boys and 5 girls per year, per house, times 7 years/grades, times 4 houses=280 students.  The quidditch stands are always packed. How?  The Yule Ball in HP: GoF, e.g.: “there were about a hundred smaller, lantern-lit [tables], each seating about a dozen people.” Even half-full, that’s 600 filled seats from 280 HW students, and 12 each from Durmstrang & Beauxbatons?

Also, in HP: TDH, we learn that one can’t create food out of nothing, due to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration. Was that passed after McGonagall magicked a self-replenishing plate of sandwiches following Harry & Ron’s crash landing in Book 2?

And when did Hagrid–“Keeper of the Keys and Grounds” from book one–ever do anything with any keys? Filch had all the damn keys.

Most of all, whatever happened to Mandy Brocklehurst and Sally-Anne Perks??


I’ll tell you.

In book one, they were sorted along with Harry, Susan Bones, Malfoy, and friends, and then they were never heard from again.

As outcast girls sometimes do, they grew closer and closer, and found themselves distanced from their Hogwarts peers. They loved magic, and they grew to trust each other, to drive one another’s magical skills to new heights. They fell in love, two kindred souls, passionate and unfettered, yet physically yoked to the staid, ancient, black-work-robed oppressosphere that Hogwarts represented to such free spirits.

Christmas Break in their O.W.L. year, they took the Hogwarts Express back to London, but they didn’t catch their connections home. They hitched a ride to The Leaky Cauldron, touched the magic brick, and walked through the arch. They passed Ollivander’s, Madame Malkin’s, and Gringott’s–neither had access to her parents’ vault. They kept walking to Knockturn Alley, to Borgin and Burkes.

Inside they went, standing close for comfort and warmth in the chilly store. A stooping man with greasy hair came skulking from the back room.

“I’m sorry, girls. Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor is up in Diagon Alley, and the lesbian bar is–“


A jet of light shot from Mandy Brocklehurst’s wand, and smacked the oily Mr Borgin in his oily nuts with the force of fifty Doc Marten’s steel toed boots.

“Look, you withered slimeball. We are selling. You are buying.”

With a wand flourish, Sally-Anne Perks magicked their trunks open, and the contents floated gently to the counter.

There was a Pensieve, a number of delicate silver instruments emitting puffs of smoke, a case of boomslang skin, a collection of well-oiled ancient shackles & whips, a crate of Quidditch balls, and a very pissed-off poltergeist, bound with advanced magic and duct tape.

“This is the part where you hand over 500 Galleons, bow us from your shop, then lock up and go to St Mungo’s to have that ruptured testicle healed.”

Sally-Anne Perks’ soft voice was hypnotic. Borgin passed over 500 Galleons in a small sack. The girls held hands as they walked out, and headed to Gringott’s. They walked up to one of the high counters, and exchanged their Galleons for several thick stacks of American $100 bills, and one decent wad of British pounds-sterling.

They stuffed their coat pockets full of bills, and walked back to the Leaky Cauldron. Five “sex on the beach” shooters later, they walked out into Muggle London.

Mandy and Sally-Anne hailed a cab, paid extra for a speedy trip, and got out at Heathrow. They stood arm-in-arm, staring at the huge Departures board.

“Someplace warm,” said Mandy.

They saw their destination at the same time. A non-stop British Airways 747 flight was leaving in 60 minutes.  A pair of smiling young witches in love walked to the BA counter, and paid cash for two first-class tickets. The word “Imperio” substituted for photo ID’s and passports.  The girls settled into their posh leather seats, and toasted each other with complimentary first class Champagne.

“To us–“
“To getting the hell out of Hogwarts–“
“Where we were completely ignored after our First Year sorting.”
“Here’s to love–“
“To lust–“
“To magic–“
“To our new home–“
“To new names–”
“And new beginnings.”
“To someplace warm–”

They clinked glasses, and downed their Champagne in one.

In unison, “To Sunnydale!”


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