13 Ways Bush’s Goose is Cooked

by Steve, March 7th, 2007

It’s not a great time to be a Bush fan in America, as evidenced by near rock-bottom approval ratings (even before the Libby verdict was read). As the wheels start to fall off of the Bush administration, I thought it would be appropriate to take stock of the state of things. So here are just a few things that aren’t going so hot for our Chimp in Chief.

  1. Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former #1 confidant and adviser, is a convicted liar and obstructer of justice. Libby was one of the highest ranking and most influential members of the Bush administration, and his trial and conviction have exposed criminal corruption all the way to the top of the Bush administration. There can be no doubt, from testimony given and evidence presented, that Scooter Libby lied to take the fall for Dick Cheney and Karl Rove (and ultimately Bush). Juan Cole has an excellent illustrated history of the Cheney/Rove/Libby/Wilson affair.
  2. If congress convenes hearings about the Valerie Wilson affair, the malfeasance of all major administration figures could be cast in a most unflattering light.
  3. The White House response to the Libby verdict of continued stonewalling has brought criticism from the most unlikely of places: Scott McLellan. The man most famous for his non-answers to the Washington press corps now says this: “I would be advising the White House to get out there and find some way to talk about this in enough detail to answer some of questions that . . . are still hanging out there.”
  4. Oversight. The firing of federal prosecutors for questionable reasons (to put it in the best possible light) is just the beginning of what real congressional oversight will bring to light. That’s government working, folks.
  5. The mistreatment of wounded soldiers at DOD and VA hospitals has shown the flagrant disregard the Bush administration has for our troops. It also further exposes the lack of planning that went into the war in Iraq. All administration predictions had it ending long ago. Remember, we were going to be greeted as liberators! Flowers and candy bars! USA! USA! Somehow Bush didn’t plan on there being a little something called civil war erupting between ethnic factions once the strong man was gone. (Somehow the neocons neglected to read any history of the region before trying to remake it to their liking.)
  6. Iraq is going from bad to worse. More attacks every day in a growing civil war, and Bush remains in denial, committed to sending still more troops to fight and die in what most Americans now view as an unwinnable war.
  7. Which brings us to polls. The USA Today/Gallup Poll published Monday shows a solid majority of nearly two-thirds disapprove of Bush’s handling of his job as president.
  8. 59% of Americans believe going into Iraq was a mistake.
  9. Only 28% of Americans have any confidence the US will “win” in Iraq.
  10. Fully 84% of Americans think we need to withdraw from Iraq.
  11. One in five Americans think we should withdraw immediately.
  12. The members of our armed services have been used, abused and stretched to the breaking point. Members of the National Guard and Reserve, citizen soldiers who signed up for a weekend a month and a few weeks a year have had their lives upended with repeated and extended tours of duty in war zones. With so many communities touched in some way by this extended morass, it’s not surprising that…
  13. …only 13% of Americans think we should send more troops to Iraq.

If so many lives weren’t at stake, it might be enjoyable to see the chickens coming home to roost for the Bush administration. But the shameful truth is that they tipped off a series of events that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. Millions of people will continue to be affected by the long-term devastation that the Bush doctrine has wrought.

This damage will take many years to repair. But perhaps things have bottomed out. It’s difficult to imagine things getting much worse under Bush, so maybe — just maybe — we are beginning to see signs of the pendulum swinging back in the other direction. We can only hope.

War Must End (and Thirteen Imaginings for a Better World)

by Steve, March 1st, 2007

Note that I don’t say the war. I said War Must End. It’s the 21st century. Killing children as means to political ends can no longer be rationalized by sane humans. The future of civilization is at stake. We are at a crossroads.

There can be no disputing that the Bush Doctrine has been a complete and total disaster. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children dead, many more wounded, many, many more displaced, shattered and weary. Hundreds of billions of dollars (more than enough to insure our own nearly 50 million uninsured and fix our broken public schools) squandered on a futile war and its disastrous after-effects. And let’s not forget the equally disastrous side-effect: A recent study finds a nearly seven-fold increase in terrorism due to what it calls the “Iraq Effect”.

And right when you think it can’t get any worse, you find out much of the intelligence on Iran and North Korea is bunk, too.

The neoconservative doctrine of preemption may perhaps best be described as a cataclysmic failure of imagination.

It is time to stop the madness. All leaders who would attack another country unprovoked should be deposed. Let’s get past this bullshit and spend our treasure fixing what’s broke in our own house, not destroying our neighbor’s.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about. It’s still Thursday (at least in Portland), and Thursday Thirteen has been handed off and resurrected before it even hit the ground. Thanks to Carol and all the crew over at TT central for keeping this crazy blog meme thing going. In the spirit of hope and confidence, I give you Thirteen Imaginings for a Better World.

  1. Imagine a sudden outbreak of peace.
  2. Imagine that people will no longer tolerate spending two billion dollars — that’s two thousand million dollars — every week in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. Imagine we no longer need fossil fuels. We know we are surrounded by untapped, limitless energy.
  4. Imagine we know how to tap it. Cleanly, safely.
  5. Imagine you wake up one day and know there is no war anywhere on the planet.
  6. Imagine that same day realizing that much of what you knew yesterday is wrong. The things you were most certain about: those are the things you are most wrong about.
  7. Imagine discovering, suddenly and certainly, that you are much larger than your corporeal self, and have a direct, deep and literal connection to many people on Earth you’ve never met, and some you have, as well as to the Earth itself.
  8. Imagine the entire globe as a single, living organism working together, for once and forevermore, in harmony.
  9. Imagine that power.
  10. Imagine using all that power to reforest deserts, clean up all pollution, and feed and house all of humanity comfortably.
  11. Imagine that there is no hunger, no poverty, no crime.
  12. Imagine all these things actually will happen. Put yourself there and feel it.
  13. Imagine looking up at the sky, past billions upon billions of stars, deeply into the universe, and seeing — with perfect clarity — yourself.

    Watching yourself.

    Are you doing the right thing?

And with that, I bid you Good Night.

Thirteen Goodbyes

by Steve, February 21st, 2007

After 81 weeks, Thursday Thirteen founder Leanne is pulling the plug. The whole shebang has gotten really big, really fast, and I suspect that may have something to do with her decision.

I’ve never felt like I fit in especially well with the TT crowd, even though my first TT got me listed as a featured blog.

This despite my anti-war, anti-Libertarian, anti-religion, pro-feminist TT. Four weeks later, Leanne posted on my blog arguing against my slam of Mel Gibson after his anti-Jewish tirade. I guess I struck a nerve.

But I didn’t let this dissuade me. I continued to post TTs about war, politics and religion, probably pissing off most of the TT regulars, but that wasn’t enough. I had to go one farther by posting Thirteen Things I Will Never Blog About (and if I do, Somebody Please Shoot Me). This one even pissed of my wife, who generally understands my sarcasm. It also drew a gentle rebuke from Leanne.

Now, I’m not out to piss people off. I’m just what one friend calls a “sarcastard”. Not wanting to leave any raw nerves, I followed up with an entry about those exact 13 things I vowed never to blog about, which may or may not have put me back in the good graces of the founder.

Anyway, I’ve managed to find the three or four TT regulars who share my lefty politics, and I figure I’ve pretty well alienated the other 250 or so. Sorry about that. For all of you, here are my Thirteen Goodbyes.

  1. To all the dog lovers, so long.
  2. To the cat lovers, meow.
  3. To all the devout Christians, good bye and Godess bless.
  4. To all the posters of cute baby pictures, I hope your children grow up strong and don’t resent you for publishing their pictures on the World Wide Web before they were old enough to give you their informed consent. And I hope their friends don’t look them up when they are in middle school and tease them about pooping in the pool. And I bid you adieu.
  5. To the wives and families of soldiers fighting in foreign lands, I sincerely hope your loved ones return home safe and sound. I cannot imagine the gut-wrenching anxiety you must be going through. May we someday live to see the global outbreak of insurmountable peace, when all of humankind recognizes warfare as obsolete and shuns leaders who would wage it. Goodbye and Godspeed to you and yours.
  6. To the bloggers of ailments and injuries, may you have a speedy recovery. I’m sorry about your colons, knees, kidneys and gall stones. Adios.
  7. To the suburban dwellers, may your lawns always be green, your SUV fueled, and your children better dressed than the neighbors’. Take care.
  8. To the Libertarians, I hope someday you get a chance to live in a truly libertarian society. Like Somalia, for example. No government intrusion when there is no government! Good bye, have fun, and good luck!
  9. To the Republicans, it’s been a rough year, eh? Don’t worry, my friends, the Democrats will most likely fuck up the ’08 elections and hand it to Rudy or McCain. Farewell.
  10. To the Democrats, quit gloating. You didn’t win the ’06 elections, the Republicans imploded. Lot’s of luck in ’08, you’ll need it. See you in the funny pages.
  11. To the fellow travelers, hang in there. I really believe someday everything will be very different. See you on the other side.
  12. To all who have taken the time to read my posts and comment, thank you, and sorry I’ve been lame about reciprocating. I’m a bad blogger. Bad, I tell you! I love you. Stop by and see me sometime.
  13. Finally, to Leanne, thanks for hosting the hub. It’s been real, and some weeks my TT has been my only post. Sorry if I in any way contributed to the demise of Thursday Thirteen.

Thirteen Things I Love About Portland

by Steve, February 14th, 2007

Suddenly Wacky Mommy has a wild hair about moving from Portland to — get this — Iowa. Here’s the deal: I grew up in Iowa and left in my early twenties. She grew up in Portland and is still here. So somehow dragging me back to the place I fled as a young adult is okay, but staying in the town she grew up in is not.

Now, when I say Iowa, you have to understand, I’m talking about Iowa City, a.k.a. the Johnson County Free State. It’s got an inordinate amount of culture for a town of 60,000. Anyway, I never really considered it until I had kids and discovered how crappy and underfunded the schools are in Portland. Anyhoo, WM is pretty sick of P-town, and blogged all about it today. To counter her bile, I’m going to list Thirteen Things I Love About Portland.

  1. The weather. Nine months of rain just makes you feel, uh… wet.
  2. Libertarians. Low taxes. Crappy schools. Could there be a connection? Nah!
  3. The northern light. Ah, darkness at 4pm.
  4. The amazing traffic engineering that makes it impossible to get around town unless you already know where you’re going and exactly how to get there, turn by turn.

    Okay, seriously, I’m not as down on P-town as Wacky Mommy. There are many things I’ll miss.

  5. The professional theatre scene.
  6. The mountains.
  7. The ocean.
  8. The Columbia River Gorge.
  9. The greenness. (The flip side of nine months of rain.)
  10. The weather. Yeah, it goes both ways. It may be raining, but you can survive just fine without winter gloves or hats or scarves or boots. Or long johns or sweaters.
  11. The northern light. Ah, twilight at 10pm.
  12. Summer. The most perfect three months you can imagine. You can almost forget the nine months of rain.
  13. It’s the place I met my wife, and where my children were born.

So you may have discerned that I’m a little conflicted about leaving. Wacky Mommy’s champing at the bit, though, so we’ll just have to see what comes.

Thirteen Pieces of Music You Should Take The Time to Really Hear

by Steve, February 7th, 2007

Those who know me off-line (and some who have only read about me here) know that before I developed a mid-life obsession with playing hockey, I had an avocation as a musician. I’ve played out on alto sax, clarinet, bass guitar, string bass and guitar. Music is thus very evocative to me in terms of moods, times and spaces. I once had an argument with a writer friend of mine who insisted that language is more specific than music. My response is that music is every bit as precise; in fact more so.

Anyway, without any more rambling, here are Thirteen Pieces of Music You Should Take The Time to Really Hear:

  1. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony I know this is totally cliche to say, but this really is about as close to perfect as you can get with a musical work. As Homer J. Simpson would say, “This show has everything!” It was my favorite record when I was eight, and I still get goose bumps when I hear it. Wacky Mommy got me a nice CD of it by the Cleveland Symphony for x-mas.
  2. Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 A.K.A. “Pathetique”. I’m listening to it now, recorded by Glenn Gould in either 1980 or 1983 (stupid liner notes aren’t specific) on CBS Odyssey. Ludwig van and Glenn Gould are a formidable combination.
  3. I’ve often thought it would have been nice to have started out on strings instead of winds (my first instrument was cornet) and have become a cellist. Maybe that’s why I’m so fond of chamber music, especially string quartets and trios and piano trios and such. You can’t go wrong with Any Beethoven String Quartet. Pick one and listen to it uninterrupted. Then listen to it again.
  4. Any Brahms String Quartet. See above. Pay attention to form.
  5. A composer friend turned me on to Bartok’s string quartets when I was working in a sheet music store in Beaverton, Ore. I special ordered the score to read along with, but the best way to listen to his quartets is with the lights off, sitting perfectly centered between your speakers. I recommend Bartok’s String Quartet No. 5 Sz 102. Bela was writing rock ‘n’ roll in 1935. Then there’s Bartok’s String Quartet No. 3 Sz 85 which you shouldn’t listen to if you’re feeling anxious or touched. Old Bela wrote some choice cello lines in this one. (Note: If you’re not already comfortable with the string quartet, you should start with some Brahms and Beethoven, and turn on with Bartok when you’re ready to blow the doors off. Seriously. Work up to these.) I’ve got a nice recording of Bartok’s three, four and five recorded by the Chilingirian Quartet in 1988 on Chandos.
  6. I never appreciated Bach until I played Bach, first on clarinet, then on guitar, and finally on piano. There is a mathmetical precision to his rhythms and harmonies that are best understood and felt from the inside. With two voices, he could weave a tapestry with richly implied harmonies. With four voices he can lose all but the most intrepid listener. I can’t get enough of his simpler works, like the Two- and Three-Part Inventions, BWV 772-801. I have a recording by Glenn Gould, in which he reorders the pieces to better fit his interpretation. I’m so used to hearing them in this order, it sounds odd to hear them in the order in which they were written. This recording by Gould is on Sony Classical, recorded 1964. My wife requested that we play this CD for the birth of both our children.
  7. One final classical entry. If you like the two-part inventions, and the three-part inventions left you wanting more, take the next step to Bach’s The Art of the Fugue.
  8. But enough of the old stuff. Let’s move into the second half of the 20th century at least. Get right into it with Thelonius Monk’s Brilliant Corners (Riverside, 1956) featuring Sonny Rollins on tenor sax.
  9. Keep that inimitable Monk groove going with Monk’s Music (Riverside, 1957) to get a sense of the places the 32-bar popular song form can go. Deceptively cute melodies are backed by jagged swing rhythms and complex harmonies both sublime and strident, and give way to solos by Ray Copeland on trumpet, Gigi Gryce on alto sax and both Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane on tenor sax. Ruby my Dear alone is a clinic by Hawkins in playing the hell out of a ballad on the tenor sax. (Somewhere I think there’s an outtake of Coltrane playing the lead on this at the same session, but the CD I have today does not have that as a bonus track.)
  10. Moving up a couple years to 1958, you’ve got to get cool with Miles Davis Kind of Blue. Featuring Cannonball Adderly, my favorite alto player, trading solos with Coltrane, this record is so well worn that Davis’ solo on So What has become as important in recognizing the song as the head itself.
  11. Speaking of Coltrane, let’s move right up to 1960, put on a sweater and listen to some of his own compositions. John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, that is. A mind-blowing record in 1960, it can still open your eyes.
  12. Almost done, and it’s tough to figure what I’ll leave off… Definitely not Mingus Ah Um/Charles Mingus. Absolutely one of the most important jazz albums in my collection.
  13. Finally I leave you with a Latin jazz selection, Poncho Sanchez Cambios (Concord Picante, 1991). Go ahead and get up and dance to this one, featuring Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and flugelhorn. This is some of the funnest music I can think of to listen to. I’ve heard Poncho live a few times, and he puts on a hell of a show. These guys tour like mad, and there’s fairly high turnover. This is his band at a peak, anchored by the incredible bass and timbale combo of the Banda brothers, Tony and Ramon. There is nothing locked-in like the rhythm of brothers playing bass and drums (think Aston and Carlton Barret). If I ever got back into the music world, it would be playing (or composing/arranging) music like this.

Thursday Thirteen Ed. #78: Odds ‘n’ Ends

by Steve, January 31st, 2007

Odds and ends, odds and ends
Lost time is not found again

— Bob Dylan, “Odds and Ends”

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks here at Wacky Blog Central, so let me just lay into it.

  1. I migrated all our blogs to a new server over the weekend, and other than a few glitches, things have gone swimmingly.
  2. One glitch was that I made the mistake of using SuSE’s yast2 to configure apache, and it totally f’ed up my virtual host set-up. This caused all of Wacky Mommy’s traffic to be routed to this blog for a day. I fixed it by doing it the good old fashioned way: editing httpd.conf, and all its subordinate *.conf files with vim. I mean, seriously, yast2 totally f’ed up the virtual host configuration.
  3. Another glitch was that I didn’t set up the aliases for www, which meant if you put “www.” on the front of our blog URLs, you wouldn’t find us. (Why anybody — and by this I mean Web site owners — still uses www is beyond me. It made sense in the old days, when www.somedomain.com meant “a computer named ‘www’ on the domain ‘somedomain.com'”. These days, though, I would guess 99.9% of Web sites are virtual domains, so the www is just plain spurious. Subdomains can still make sense, for instance if you have a software package site, you can have mysoftware.com, docs.mysoftware.com, downloads.mysoftware.com, etc. But www is just silly. Of course it’s the World Wide Web. Why waste those keystrokes?)
  4. Another unrelated but stupid pilot error glitch was that I let this domain expire yesterday. Oh, man, I can’t believe I did that. I renewed and everything seems to be back in order. It is if you’re reading this, anyway.
  5. The dog had a massive “accident” in our home last night. Shudder. Thank god for the the following:
    1. Carpet shampooers
    2. Bi-O-Kleen Bac-Out
    3. A strong intestinal constitution (me, not the dog)
  6. The new TV device for the new computer doesn’t work as well as the old ATI All-in-Wonder. I’m not sure if it’s the USB interface (probably) or the hardware mp2 encoder, but there’s this horrid delay when watching from an external source (like a VCR). And the DVR software pretty much sucks. It’s cool to have a remote control, but damn, when you’re watching a recorded show, and you fast forward, it’s virtually impossible to stop and play again without it jumping to the beginning. Why the hell isn’t there a commercial skip feature? Basically, they haven’t made the effort to make this a fully-featured DVR.
  7. Did I mention the dog crapped all over the house?
  8. Yeah. It’s fucking horrible.
  9. On a brighter note, the sun’s been shining in Portland for several days. Cold, clear and crisp.
  10. We had “family art night” at school last night, which I was expecting to be an evening of sitting at grade-school cafeteria tables with the kids as they pasted things together. Instead, we were treated to a concert by Trashcan Joe. No glue, no markers, no glitter, no whining about not being able to make it look like the teacher’s example. Nice.
  11. Due to a snow storm two weeks ago, and a fever last week, I went nearly two and a half weeks without playing hockey. I finally get out on the ice yesterday and was pleased that I haven’t totally lost my cardio.
  12. I still haven’t cleaned up all the boxes from the new computer and misc. peripherals.
  13. We’ve got a Web server (this one!) in our bedroom. It’ll be there until I decommission the old server, which means migrating the mail server to the new Web server and a couple other virtual domains and…. and…. Oy. Maybe running our own blog farm isn’t such a great idea.

Busy busy busy.

Thirteen Things My Wife and I Disagree On

by Steve, January 3rd, 2007

meWacky Mommy and I have a lot we agree on, but there are a few glaring discrepancies.

1. Religion. She’s a pantheist. I’m a born-again atheist with pantheist tendencies (after starting Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, I’ve foresworn agnosticism). Right. We’re really not that far apart. (But isn’t a religious discussion a nice way to start things off?)

She joined the Unitarian church, which spurred my father to quip, “That’s not a church, that’s a social club!” My seven y.o. daughter calls herself an atheist (and asks, “what’s that mean again?”), but loves going to Sunday school. They eat snacks there.

A Christian friend asked my wife, “What’s your husband think about you joining the church?” and she responded with my joke about not needing to believe in God to be a Unitarian. You know, the Atheist club meets Tuesday nights in the fellowship hall. Coffee and donuts provided. Okay, it’s not really a joke.

Really, I’m fine with Unitarians. So far as I know, they’ve never started any wars or advocated communal violence against Quakers or anything. And they don’t go knocking on doors telling people it’s okay to believe whatever they want, because there are many paths to God.

2. Home decor. I shouldn’t get too far into this one at the risk of starting WWIII, but suffice it to say I deplore clutter and adore surfaces with nothing upon them. There are very few surfaces in our home without piles of papers upon them.

3. Dogs. Well, really, we pretty much agree now that dogs aren’t so great. But when she brought home the pooch in question, it nearly ended our engagement. Okay, all right, I love the stinky ol’ feller, but damn, a dog can really crimp your style.

4. TV. I don’t want to watch it, and I definitely don’t want to talk about it. Oh, okay, I like the Simpsons, Jeopardy, and hockey. And Frontline when I remember that it’s on. But trying to engage me in coversation about “My Name is Earl” is a sure way to bore me to tears.

5. Movies. I like art films, foreign films and documentaries. She likes romantic comedies.

6. Books. She likes chick lit; I like non-fiction.

7. Food. I’m an herbivore. She’s an omnivore.

8. Jewelry. I think it’s ostentatious; she loves sparkly, shiny things.

9. Education. She thinks Catholic school would be just peachy for our youngins (they don’t have nuns teaching any more! they don’t even pray so much!). I would just as soon drill holes in my head as trust my precious children to the Catholic church.

10. Portland. When we first got together, I was hell-bent on leaving Portland. She had a job she loved, and wanted to retire here. Now she is hell-bent on leaving Portland, and I’m comfortably employed and ambivalent about leaving. Go figure.

11. Loading the dishwasher. How can I convince her that my way is right and her way is wrong?

12. Yogurt containers. Me: they go in the recycling bin. Her: they go in the dishwasher, and then left to clutter the drying rack, and then get stuffed in a drawer with a bunch of other yogurt containers we don’t need.

13. Hockey. Now get this: last season, we had a 12-game package for the Winter Hawks. A couple games a month, mostly Saturday night dates. Well, you might guess this got a little old for Wacky Mommy by the end of the season, and you’d be right. So we decided not to buy another ticket package this season. Instead, we’d buy single game tickets, but also go to the theatre, symphony and opera, all of which I love. Now, get this: when it comes time for a date, I can’t get her to the theatre to save my life.

That’s right, folks, she’d rather go to a hockey game than a play.

I haven’t been to a play since last spring, and I’ve been really jonesin. “You can go by yourself,” is her typical response when I ask if she wants to see this play or that. The guys in the locker room at the rink don’t understand. They think I should be thrilled. But you heard me correctly: there is more to life than just hockey.

And with that, I bid you Good Day.

13 Trips to Mexico

by Steve, December 20th, 2006

And now for something completely different: A short story for Thursday Thirteen.

Thirteen Trips to Mexico

The first time Mark went to Mexico was as a tourist, Lonely Planet style. He carried a wilderness backpack full of enough gear and food to survive 2 weeks. He saw Guadalajara, Mexico City, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Merida, the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan. He encountered 72 Iowans at a remote Caribbean beach. He wore his beard and hair long, and wore Ray-Ban sunglasses. Children pointed at him and cried “Dios! Dios!”

The second time was on a lark, with a spur of the moment flight to San Diego and then trolley, foot and bus to Ensenada for a few days of oddity, including an inadvertant stay in a brothel.

The third time was to see Rory, an ex-patriate friend in Puebla, who lived in a squat concrete home clinging to an unstable cliff above a small river below. Though it seemed like the trucks on the road that curved above would surely lose their traction crash into Mark’s bed, none did. But the place did flood that night in a down-pour and soak his passport and return ticket.

The fourth trip was again to Puebla, and also to Acapulco on ilicit business, and finally Mexico City to tour the treasures of murals and ruins and history. It was in Acapulco, of all places, that the strange things began to happen. The light in the sky at first appeared as a bright shooting star, then abruptly changed direction, flew south at a steady rate and stopped dead. It hung in the sky for at least an hour while Mark bullshited with his companions on the roof of a half-finished house, then it moved steadily across the sky to the northeast, where it stopped again. Felipe, Rory’s brother-in-law, got nervous. “I think they’re watching us,” he said, half joking, half serious. They all laughed, then made their way down the shaky ladder into the darkness of the unfinished house.

All that was nearly forgotten by Mark’s fifth trip south, when he met Rory in Mexico City. Rory had phoned Mark urgently the day before, insisting he catch the next flight out of Portland to Mexico City. They met at the Hotel Monte Carlo, where D.H. Lawrence is said to have lived. Rory continued to be circumspect about the nature of his urgency until they passed a magazine vendor at Alameda Park and he bought a tabloid with a headline screaming “UFOs Over Tepoztlán”. “We’re going here,” said Rory. They boarded a bus, and fewer than 24 hours after leaving Portland, Mark found himself lying on his back in the courtyard of a centuries-old church, watching points of light bob and weave over-head. When he left Mexico City two days later, it was an unusually clear day, affording stunning views of the towering volcanoes Popocatépetl and Ixtaccíhuatl. Between them lay the Paso de Cortés, the high passage from which Hernan Cortes first beheld the glorious Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, then among the largest cities in the world. From the air, it was clear to see how the causeways of the Aztecs are still main thoroughfares of Mexico City, dividing the old city into four quadrants.

Again, the memory of the lights in the sky, though they were surely unexplainable, faded into the routine of life back in Portland. Then five years later, a sixth trip became necessary. Rory sent urgent e-mail, explaining that his mother-in-law had died unexpectedly, and he needed help moving her belongings out of her house before the squatter in the upstairs apartment pilfered them. This seemed completely implausible, but, it being December in Portland, a trip to Mexico sounded pretty good. Rory insisted on meeting him at the airport this time, and they took a cab to a bus station, and then a bus to Acapulco. Mark was confused, knowing Rory’s mother-in-law lived in Puebla. “Felipe has something you have to see,” was all he would say, as the first class bus hushed into the chill of the mountain evening.

Felipe was agitated when they showed up at his apartment on the southern outskirts of Acapulco. His wife and daughters suddenly left when the two gringo travelers showed up. Felipe was sweating in the night, though it wasn’t hot by Acapulco standards, and he produced a small plastic box. In it was a small white rock, that seemed to pulse with a gentle glow. “What is it?” Mark asked, looking at Felipe and Rory. “We don’t know,” said Rory, “but it showed up right after we saw that light in the sky.” Felipe hadn’t thought anything of it, though the judicial police had showed up the next day asking questions of Felipe’s mistress. Did she see anything? Was there anybody in her house that she didn’t know last night? Being accustomed to lying about her relationship to Felipe, she had simply told them no, and they went away. Felipe then found the rock on the roof a few days later. Now, seven years later, the rock had begun glowing and humming, and Felipe was convinced the feds were going to come back for it. He was further convinced that he couldn’t let them, but he couldn’t express why. Mark was still trying to figure out what this had to do with him, when Felipe pressed the rock into his hand. It felt warm, and it sent a tingle down his spine when he closed his hand around it. “You have to take it out of Mexico. They won’t look for it in the north,” said Felipe. A calm descended on Mark. For a moment everything dropped away, and he stood alone in empty space. In that moment, he saw his own birth, his own death, and his ascendancy into an all-encompassing light, and he knew he was taking that small stone back to Portland. “He’s going,” said Rory to Felipe. “Put it in your pants,” said Felipe. “There are sometimes checkpoints between here and Mexico City.” “He means your shorts,” said Rory, “Put it in your skivvies.”

The seventh time Mark went to Mexico was in his dream as he jetted from Mexico City to Portland, a small, glowing stone tucked awkwardly next to his genitals. In his dream, he was visited in his bedroom by two small gray creatures, who took him aboard their space ship. On board the ship, they flew instantaneously to Mexico City, but it was quickly clear that they had not only skipped across a great deal of space, they had also skipped across time. For from their vantage point above the Paso de Cortés, the little gray travelers gestured for Mark to see the great city of Tenochtitlan, built on an island in lake Texcoco. As they gestured, it was as if they were summoning the vision forward, and Mark could suddenly clearly see a great churning of humanitiy at the main temple, people running, Spanish soldiers swinging swords, and suddenly the sound came to his ears: the shrieks of terror and then, finally, the smell of blood, rich and pungent in his nostrils as the stewardess abruptly woke him to tell him he had to put his seat back into the full upright position.

The eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh trips were also like this, in dreams, in the four nights after Mark returned to Portland. On each subsequent night, he was shown historical events of central Mexico. On the fourth night, the gray men in their space ship took him to Acapulco, and showed him three men standing on a roof top. “What was that?” asked one of them. “I thought it was a shooting star, until it changed direction like that.” “Look it’s still there. It’s got to be a machine. It is flying under control, not falling.” Mark watched himself and Felipe and Rory on the roof from seven years ago, and listened to them puzzling over the light. When the perspective shifted again, and the three of them laughed nervously and left the rooftop, Mark found himself descending bodily, the small white stone glowing in his outstretched hand. He placed the rock where his own past self had just stood, then woke up suddenly, his heart racing. On the fifth night, he couldn’t sleep, but it didn’t matter. The phone rang. It was Rory. “They’ve arrested Felipe,” said Rory. “I think they’re looking for me. Is the…” Rory paused. “Yes,” said Mark. He took the stone off his night stand. “Yes, everything’s fine.” The phone line went dead, and the neighbor’s dog started barking. Another dog across the street was barking, too. Mark went to the window and peaked around the curtain. A car was idling in front of the neighbor’s house with its lights off. A police car was down at the end of the block on the cross street, and another one at the other end of the street. Suddenly, there was total darkness. The power went out all up and down the street, including the streetlights. Mark stood at the window, trying to figure out whether to make a run for it, or to just hide the rock and act dumb. Before he could decide, he was blinded by an intense beam of light from the sky. A voice came to him: “Freeze! Don’t move! We have the house surrounded!”

The twelfth trip to Mexico was in the custody of two US Marshals. They bypassed security at Portland International Airport and flew first class to Mexico City via Houston. They encouraged him to drink on the flights, and bought him drinks at the Houston airport, where two Mexican agents dressed in black suits joined them. “We need to speak with you about your recent travels,” said one of the Mexican agents, by way of introduction. “We think you might have some information we need about Felipe Cordoza and Rory Peterson.” Mark thought about the trip, several years previous, when he accompanied Rory on a trek from Puebla to Acapulco to buy a half kilo of pot from Felipe. This was the same trip when they’d seen the light in the sky, and Rory had made the return trip to Puebla with a large parcel of marijuana in his shorts, just as Mark would do with the small stone on the later trip.

The thirteenth trip was in Mark’s dream as he slept, handcuffed to a bench at a judicial police office in Mexico City. In his dream, he returned to Mexico in 2012 as Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent, first as a light in the Eastern sky, then descending into view of all humanity in multi-colored glory. “I return,” he said, “to take away time. Behold the All, the Everlasting, the One.” He held forth the stone, which began to glow more brightly and grow and grow, until it completely obscured him in the view of all humanity. It was like a sun in the night sky, but it did not hurt to look at. All of the people of Earth gazed upon the light and fell down before it and they all cried out as one: “Behold, the beginning of the end, the end of the beginning. The circle is complete and we are as One.” Mark woke up in his own bed in Portland and squinted at the clock. 8:30. Fuck. He was going to be late for work again.

Thursday Thirteen Ed. #69

by Steve, November 30th, 2006

meI’m going to skip the intro today and get right down to Thirteen Reasons I Get Fat Around the Holidays:

1. Halloween candy.

2. Stupid viruses that make me sick = no playing hockey.

3. Thanksgiving dinner.

4. Spending Thanksgiving week with the folks and eating ice cream.

5. It’s stinkin’ cold in Ory-gun. (Even while it was 65 and sunny in I-o-way!) Makes me want to pack on the pounds for hibernation. I want to eat even when I’m not hungry.

6. Travel time = no hockey.

7. Travel time = drinking time.

8. Hockey on TV = snacks.

9. Cookies, cake and candy. If they’re not at home, they’ll be at the office.

10. Short days, long nights, warm bed. Who wants to get up and exercise?

11. Rain. Nine months of it. Not a lot of walks or bike rides until July ’07.

12. Neighborhood progressive party.

13. Ah, to heck with it. I’m playing hockey today, and I’m bucking this trend!

Happy holidays all!

Disney on Ice, Ogie Oglethorpe and Me

by Steve, November 17th, 2006

meSo yesterday I’m going for a cuppa joe with my cubie neighbor, and he mentions that he and the clan went to Disney on Ice the night before. I called the wife, and before I knew it we had tickets for last night’s show (half price thanks to the Entertainment book). The kids, they loved it. Well, “love” may not be the correct word. They were a bit overwhelmed, I think. Little guy, who was dumbfounded throughout the show, finally broke his silence on the way home. “I will always remember this day,” he said.

The show, Disneyland Adventure Featuring the Incredibles, was (predictably) long on tech and short on literary value. The whole “On Ice” genre is a little weird to me to begin with. There’s always this sense of forcing together elements that really don’t belong together. At a basic level, there’s some really good skating, but the kids don’t care about that. Nobody cheered for the double and triple jumps these guys and gals were landing in costume in the midst of props and lights and smoke. Then there’s the awkward attempt at retelling part of the movie. The outline of the script could be done in 25 words or less. Most dialog serves only to setup the next action sequence. There is no irony, no appeal to grown-up humor, and no subtlety whatsoever. Just a ton of flash and sizzle. But that’s all I expected, really, having once before experienced Toy Story 2 On Ice.

Anyway, here’s a late Thursday Thirteen, which I will call Thirteen Things About Disney on Ice:

1. Disney on Ice is produced under license by Feld Entertainment.

2. Feld Entertainment got their start in the circus, as owners of Ringling Bros.

3. In 1979, Feld bought the Ice Follies and Holiday on Ice.

4. In 1981, Feld produced the first Disney on Ice show, and has held the exclusive license for Disney on Ice shows ever since.

5. Feld Entertainment employs 450 professional skaters in 8 shows touring continuously world-wide.

6. Who are these skaters? Good question… In the early days, they employed well-known Olympic skaters, but today you won’t find the names of the skaters anywhere. Not on programs and not on Web sites. I did find this one interview with a member of the chorus ensemble of Toy Story 2 On Ice. She’s been doing the same show for four years. Sheesh. What a grind that must be.

Ogie Oglethorpe7. After all these years, and with all that crazy, overwhelming tech (lights! sound! pyrotechnics!), it still comes down to the pinwheel. In this show, it was performed by “robot copy” Syndrome’s army. During this, I leaned over to Wacky Mommy and whispered “Oglethorpe fucked her, you know.” She said “Huh?” “It’s true,” I said, “I heard it from a couple of guys. Ogilthorpe fucked the last girl on the pinwheel of the lce Stravaganza. That’s her, right there.” Then I yelled towards the ice, “Get yer butt in gear, for the love of Mike!” (I recorded the whole thing on my cell phone! No, seriously, if you don’t get the Slap Shot reference, you probably think I’m a real a-hole.)

8. If you want to skate with the anonymous hordes of Disney on Ice performers, you need to be 17 and have a high school diploma.

9. If you can’t skate, Feld may have an opportunity for you in Animal Care. You don’t need a diploma for this one. One area of responsibility is “manure pickup”.

10. If animal poop is a turn off, you may prefer the Circus Nursery Attendant position. One of the duties of this job is “Directs children in resting and toileting.” But you get to run away with the circus.

11. Disney on Ice has been performed in 45 countries on six continents.

12. Feld Entertainment is the single largest employer of figure skaters in the world.

13. “Well after that, we don’t have to go to Disneyland,” said Wacky Mommy on the train ride home. “Yes we do!” cried little miss missy. Damn it! Stupid sexy advertising!