Monthly Archives: December 2008

Sounds Alpacas Make

There are only 5 – 7 thousand alpacas in North America, but somehow my sister and I found a pen of them. This is what we heard from the far side of the chain-link fence…

These are the sounds alpacas make

“Individuals vary, but Alpacas generally make a humming sound. Hums are often comfort noises, letting the other alpacas know they are present and content. The humming can take on many inflections and meanings, from questioning to a high-pitched, almost desperate, squealing when a mother is separated from her offspring.

My sister at the alpaca cage

“Alpacas make a variety of sounds. When they are in danger, they make a high-pitched, shrieking whine. Some breeds are known to make a “wark” noise when excited. Strange dogs—and even cats—can trigger this reaction. To signal friendly and/or submissive behavior, alpacas “cluck,” or “click” a sound possibly generated by suction on the soft palate, or possibly in the nasal cavity. This is often accompanied by a flipping up of the tail over the back.

A white alpaca had a sly smile

“When males fight they also scream, a warbling bird-like cry, presumably intended to terrify the opponent. Fighting determines dominance, and therefore the right to mate the females in the herd, and it is triggered by testosterone. This is why males are often kept in separate paddocks—when two dominant males get together, violent fights often occur. When males must be pastured together, it is wise to trim down the large fang-like teeth used in fights, called “fighting teeth”.

A fluffy camelid also known as alpaca

“Although alpacas may try to bite each other, they only have a bottom row of teeth, so damage is usually minimal. When fighting they will often tangle others necks and attempt to push each other around, but they settle down after a week, as they establish dominance.

Dont even try to spit on me camelids

“When alpacas breed, males make a similar noise called an “orgle”. This is thought to possibly stimulate ovulation in the female. This can sound like a warbling or gargling noise in the back or the throat, possibly generated by movement of the tongue.” All the camelid information is courtesy of Wikipedia.

*There was no Saturday fashion this week. I wore a drug-rug sweater from Amsterdam that is two sizes too big along with ordinary blue jeans and dirty brown Converse sneakers. Ow, my leg.

Lo, Saturnalia!

The solstice and the potlatch and the Christmas and the sun-worshiping and the Saturnalia are over and done at last. The business of America can go back to being just business, transactions for transactions sake, with the Yeshua-stuff relegated back to Sundays only, just for the hardcore. The gifts I had bought for my family came in at the buzzer; the large cardboard box arrived in the mail on December 22, the day I left Cambridge for Connecticut. Here is a picture:

My holiday picture featuring the wholesale Snuggler

Let me tell you how I really feel about the holidays; I would like to call shenanigans on the whole thing. Maybe quitting smoking and drinking contributed an extra “je ne sais pas” to my foul attitude about the holidays this year. The darkest times of the year went flying by when I was in a blackout stupor. At least that’s how I “remember” it. This year time crawled like an injured daddy-long-legs but I have held on to my stone-cold sobriety throughout. In retrospect, it does feel like an accomplishment. But there was plenty of darkness, all the way up to the break of day.

On Christmas Eve, my sister needed to do some last minute shopping. Being a good brother, I agreed to accompany her, and insisted that we go down the river to the Heart of Darkness of American commercialism, Walmart. It was totally packed and took about ten minutes just to park… Despite my repeated warnings, my sister was almost trampled on the way In because she used the Out door. Inside, people never even looked one another in the eye; instead their gaze fell only on half-empty shelf after shelf. To me, Christmas is proof that human beings are not an intelligent species… okay, I’ll hold my horses.

The best part of our Xmas Eve trip to Walmart came in the check-out line (how many of my stories involve the person at the cash register as a main character? I blame the Republicans.) Whilst my sister did pay, the bell-ringing for the Salvation Army got insanely loud. Loud enough for me to begin giggling uncontrollably as my inward-inflected negativity found a target in the external reality. I began to crane my neck trying to see the source of the high volume bell-ringing, and I began to get visibly excited. The woman at the cash register was on my level, or lower, and began to gripe loudly about the behavior of this Salvation Army bell-ringer:

“If he comes in here with that bell one more time, I’ll show him where he can ring it!” Of course I egged her on, asking questions in my outdoors voice. “He is harassing the customers! He says to them, ‘If you can afford to be shopping, you can afford to give to the Salvation Army!'” As she said these things my laughter was rising, and so was the amplitude of the bell-ringing. On the way out (this time my sister rightly used the Out door) I made sure to make eye contact with the zealous bell-ringer in his negative elf costume, and I smiled at the absurdity of it all. Walmart did not disappoint.

The irony is that in the car I had three trash bags full of clothes and immediately after this dream-like sequence I dropped off those bags at a Salvation Army donation box. Its not that I am callous human being, but rather its callousness’ opposite, my sensitivity, that is offended by the jacked up nature of the Western holidays. In the biblical Roman era, the solstice was celebrated much the same as it is now. Perhaps then its totally appropriate that the Snuggies I bought, from a TV infomercial, as my primary gifts to give out this Saturnalia, bare more than a passing resemblance to a toga.

Snuggies are kind of toga meets hospital gown

The Amazing Technicolor Uncle Buck

This Saturday what with the three day snowstorm and all I decided to take a taxi to work and not even deal with digging out my car and driving it. Also, I thought it would be neat to wear this technicolor flannel shirt that I had purchased at the Davis Square Goodwill Store back in November. I’d been waiting until the time when it felt right to wear it, and for me that time came today. Unfortunately, only around one hundred people, hearty New Englanders to the last, came in to see its glory.

Looking out the window like a curious cat at the snowfall on Cambridge St*

Sunday the 21st of December is the darkest day of the year and the first day of winter. Saturday was so dark it didn’t even feel like Saturday, or any day. It felt like Land of the Midnight Sun. These first two pictures were taken at around four o’clock, while there was still some waning light outside, reflecting off the fallen snow. The last of these three shots was taken at five o’clock, and its pitch black outside.

Incidentally I finished my 10 days of pro teeth whitening and I like my teeth*

In this last picture, the hat and coat belong to Lady C but I thought I’d try them on for fashion’s sake. Lets just say the inside of her brown coat is made of an irresistible faux-fur, cozy like the inside of a Disney-created beaver lodge, and I had to wear it. The hat, to me, is reminiscent of the title character in the film, Uncle Buck, played by John Candy:

Just the sight of this hat angers a lot of people**

Buck Russell: Do you think she hates me?
Maisy Russell: With a passion.
Buck Russell: Really? Do you think it’s the hat?
Maisy Russell: No.
Buck Russell: No? A lot of people hate this hat. It angers a lot of people, just the sight of it. Ah, I’ll tell you a story about that on the way to school.

*credit for the first two photos goes to Lady C, and thank you for lending me the outerwear
** photograph and styling courtesy of B Rocka

Great Bouncing Icebergs

Yukon Cornelius: Open up. Isn’t a fit night out for man nor beast.
[Enters]
Yukon Cornelius: Here’s the man
[Brings in the Abominable Snowman on a leash]
Yukon Cornelius: and here’s the beast.

The abominable bumble

The robo-call from the City of Cambridge came in Thursday evening and I was on the receiving end. A snow emergency was approaching, the deep-throated RoboCop informed me. The next morning, mere hours before the first flakes were scheduled to fall, I was at Rite-Aid, purchasing emergency Apple Jacks and picking up last-minute ADD medications. The lady at the cash register had seen it all before, while out on the street police cars cruised slowly by, cops on bullhorns leaned out the car windows and warned the populace.

Els coming in from the cold

The pharmacy at Rite-Aid was mobbed, and no one’s medication was less of a priority than mine, but I passed the time petting a cock-a-poo, and talked to its owner about schnoodles and labradoodles. ADD meds or not, I had paid close attention to the perilous warnings of heavy precipitation, and wanted my car parked snugly on the neighborhood’s safe street. Minutes before two PM, that is where it went. With Apple Jacks, documentaries, and a bad knee suffering from “Too Much, Too Fast, Too Soon” syndrome, I planned to ride out the storm in my bunker.

Right on time, the sky started belching snowballs. The snowfall fascinated me, and like a cat I sat by the window for nearly an hour, watching. Then my friend Eliot called over, and we made plans to meet up at the halfway point between our two homes. I knew enough to bundle up with a hat, and two hoods, and two jackets, and I pulled my socks up. On one bad leg, like a one-legged snow beast, I hobbled out into blizzard.

4,000 Blankets Groaning in My House

On the Guilford Green with a black dog and a black coffee

There was a funny kind of synergy in the universe this week, as if string theory had just been linked to Squigglevision. I had been in a bookstore of new age and the occult, with many long basins of crystals separating the man at the cash register from the patrons, and asked him about a book called, “The Gift.” I had first heard about this book in the NYT Magazine, in an article titled, “What Is Art For?” In that article, Lewis Hyde, author of “The Gift,” who lives and works in Cambridge, brings the NYT writer out to Walden Pond for a timely discussion on copyright.

At Seven Stars, the new age bookstore, the man at the cash register was eating celery sticks and answering the non-stop questions of a particularly chirpy occult woman, but I managed to interject. In an affirmative response to whether or not they carried, “The Gift,” he indicated that the book was about crop circles. Honestly, who are crop circles a gift for? Not the crops. That’s what I thought when he told me he had, “The Gift,” a book about crop circles, and I walked away.

After that, I went looking for “The Gift” in Rodney’s, another bookstore in Central Square where this time the person behind the counter thought I may be looking for the Danielle Steele novel of the same name. Being labeled a Danielle Steele fan was not my cup of tea but I will take the blame; I did not have the crucial authors name with me at the time. A day after meeting celery stick breath, I found myself in Lorem Ipsum, in Inman Square, with all the correct information about the title of the book and who wrote it; they did not have it.

Beware of dog

Dejected but excited to be out of work early and about to pick up a pork sandwich down the street, I scanned the titles on their shelf of vinyl albums. At the restaurant we have a dish called, “Uncle Bud’s Trio Platter,” that contains ribs, pulled pork and brisket; all three of the smoked meats we serve. The name “Uncle Bud” refers to the owner, Chris Schlesinger. Well, what do I see on this shelf of vinyl but the name, “Uncle Bud,” and I got excited thinking the album might be called “Golden Platter,” or something fitting as such.

Well, the title of the album in full is “Uncle Bud’s Hospital Experience,” and its a born again sermon about Bud’s recovery from getting hit by a truck in May, 1919. I bought it, because on the back was written a prayer old Bud said each morning… “O Lord, give me a backbone as big as a sawlog, and ribs like sleepers under the church floor. Put iron shoes on me and galvanized breeches, and hang a wagon- load of determination in the gable end of my soul. And help me to sign the contract to fight the devil as long as I have a vision, and bit him as long as I have a tooth, and then gum him till I die!”

Thats my kind of scene; I bought the album for $1. One oh five with tax. Its nice to have all that wisdom on one record (gum the Devil after you’ve lost all your teeth biting him), which I will probably gift to Chris Schlesinger this holiday, despite its technical imperfections. It says right on the back that “the recording of the sermon, which was recorded on pre-World War II equipment, is not up to present-day standards, but modern methods of filtering out distracting sounds have made the record easily understandable.” Could have been truncated to, “Recorded in Squigglevision.”

The ideas of art being a gift that is given freely, and time or more directly patience being a commodity in the gifting economy, fascinate me and I want to know more. Armed with crucial information, such as the author’s name, I will track down this book, “The Gift.” Thats why our eyes are evolutionarily positioned together in the front of our heads, so that we can identify, stalk, and pounce on prey, like books about gifting. Those books are like crazy-rare gazelles.

Of we go to find Nemo

In the meantime I did a Google search and found the Wikipedia article about Potlatch,” which seems to be a main topic in “The Gift.” All I can say so far is that I would love to gift my loved ones 4000 blankets, a totem, or even just a new stereo, but that I don’t yet understand why I want to do that so badly. So badly that I already ordered four (not 4000) snuggies from a dangerously spam-riddled website, because snuggies are the new blankets. The NYT beat me to the punch of this blog entry, with an article in Tuesday’s Science section.

Tips from the Potlatch, Where Giving Knows No Slump contains such useful information as the one-upping between chiefs that involved cutting copper worth thousands of dollars, throwing coppers into fires, and the giving of super-valuable coppers to hated rival chiefs. “A 1934 textbook, “Patterns of Culture,” quotes a chief talking about a prized copper named Dandalayu:

“Furthermore such is my pride that I will kill on this fire my copper Dandalayu, which is groaning in my house. You all know how much I paid for it. I bought it for 4,000 blankets. Now I will break it in order to vanquish my rival. I will make my house a fighting place for you, my tribe.” In so many words, the chief seems to be saying that he is going to fight for his people by giving, biting others with generosity til’ the teeth fall out his mouth and then gumming them to death with the softness of thousands of blankets.

Saturday Fashion Show Part Five: 100% Uncut Monkey

This week’s fashion statement features a black 100% cotton uncut corduroy shirt thats soft and very touchable. Some people say it feels like velvet or velour and some people say it feels like a velveteen velour. Tastes good too.

“Give me a second to fix my shoulder-monkey.”

Plays with monkey

Funny thing happened with this monkey. Dave tried to give it to a little kid but the parents gave it back. It was probably too dirty. Everybody has handled the monkey at this point.

Protects baby monkey

Tidying up after apocalyptic van accident.

They call me Mr Fixit

Robot Nap

What are robot suits for?

AdamYamaguchi: robotic suit is for greater strength, mobility..
Arthur: I thought the robotic suit was for being awesome
AdamYamaguchi: arthur…that too
AdamYamaguchi: thanks everyone

Here is Roxie guarding her biggest bone and favorite toy

That was the end of the West Coast group chat following the Vanguard presentation of Japan: Robot Nation, on Current TV. Right before he left the chat room, young journalist Adam Yamaguchi finally acknowledged me. It was the only time in the past 48 hours I have felt starved for attention. Down at my aunt’s in CT, a young and rambunctious cocker spaniel follows with gleaming eyes my every move, and will cry if, for example, I shut the door to go to the bathroom.

Her name is Roxie and she demands attention much like a black hole demands matter. She has a toy called a Wubba that is virtually indestructible and she will chase it and bite it and bite my hands while pretending to play with it, for literally hours. When I am not doing chores what I would like to do is simply examine magazines, or idly watch an NBA game, or talk to my aunt and Grandma. A calm dog would not preclude any of these activities but this puppy’s mother was an agility champion and she has the need to jump hoops and dash tubes and bite things. Like magazines and Grandmas.

I, for one, am hoping she will grow out of this youth and restlessness.

Otherwise I might need a robotic suit just to keep up with her.

Saturday Fashions 4: Medium CK Blue Button-Down Shirt with 36 Inch Elastic Waistband Khakis

The title of this blog post may just say it all but in the body of this post I’d like to take my rationalization for this week’s outfit as far as I can. The night before, I asked Shanana (my partner in Saturday hosting this week) if she would like to go all Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat or something more conservative. For her own reasons, she chose conservative.

Now then, I knew when I posed to her those two paths which general direction each was leading, in terms of my outfit. The technicolor dream-look we shall all visit on a later date. The conservative look involved a size-medium Calvin Klein blue button down, and I didn’t know what pants but my initial idea was to go with corduroy. Unfortunately, the brown cords that I had in mind smell sour, as if somethings alive in the cut lines of the corduroy itself, like a corduroy yeast baking a corduroy bread. Plus they were wrinkly.

So I considered partnering this nice shirt (which I bought at the Hole in the Wall used clothing store for $7.) with blue slacks. But it was way too much blue. Even Chess Records couldn’t handle so many blues, it was icky. That’s when I had the idea of going with dark khaki trousers and a beige teeshirt. My friend Dave says that its gotta be a white teeshirt or nothing, but I put myself in Vern Yip (Deserving Design on HGTV) and used the beige as an accent color. Dave dismissed that as being ridiculous. I can just picture Vern Yip getting ready to tell me that not only is he redesigning my bedroom, but he’s also doing the living room as a bonus because I deserve it!!

Except that my whole apartment is more or less one room.

The idea was comfort first, fashion second. That would be the idea that lead me to partner my newly picked-up size-medium CK blue button-down with the $8. 36 inch elastic waist band khaki trousers that I bought at Target. The thing is, I love elastic waistbands, but I knew such a mammoth pair of pants would not be flattering. And you know what? Frankly, my dearies, I don’t give a damn. Closest thing to sweatpants I own; felt right all night. What do you think of this week’s outfit?

Conservative collar and relaxed waist

Oops I crapped my 36 inch elastic waistband pants

The Third Coast

The Flag of Thunder Bay Ontario

This year has been a journey for me, like a long hike up a tall mountain. On the first day of January 2008, I renounced alcohol and that, as Robert Frost once said, has made all the difference… With more money in my pocket and a clearer head, I quickly realized that I needed my own place to live. I accepted guidance in the housing department from my boss / chef the Lord, and I moved into a basement studio outside of Harvard Square. Living by myself has allowed me to get to know myself.

Now its December and I am working towards a strong finish for this transformative year. Steps have been taken to eliminate all the negative substances from my body. I have discovered that the path I need to walk must be separate and apart from all that shit, or I will too easily slide back into the rut of addiction. The only thing I am willing to put into my body is marijuana, and in Massachusetts, in the November election, marijuana was decriminalized. So I ain’t no criminal.

What I am doing for myself sure enough feels right, but the hard work is only beginning. My good friend B told me of a promise she made to Life, one that I want to make publicly so that I’ll never forget it: Life, I’ll never hide from you in fear. What you bring to me may be unpleasant, but I will not break and run from it out of fear. I will accept the unpleasant side of life and not flinch and hold my ground and in doing so will I be better able to appreciate all that is lovely about life on Earth. The promise is made, and my word is my bond.

Whats in store for 2009, besides a new Prez and a new hope for America? After wintertime, when the season swings back to warmer temperatures, I would like to head out on a boat to the middle of the Great Lakes. It would be a spiritual mission to acknowledge the parts of me that have been damaged. You see, I ran away from my problems when I was 17 years old. I went to Chicago because I didn’t know how to cope with my mom and her problems, and didn’t return to the East until she passed away. Even returning, its taken five years to get my mind right. I remember walking down to the water’s edge in Grant Park, out on the rock jetties by the aquarium, staring out into the darkness of Lake Michigan trying to make sense of my life at that point.

With a wiser mind, and a more open heart, I would like to travel to that void to symbolically confront the fear I’ve been running from since I was a child… My mom took me to my first psychologist when I was 8 years old because I was too terrified to sleep alone in my room at night. The psychologist asked me to write down my three biggest fears, and two out of the three were that my mom would die. I still have the piece of paper, but I no longer have a living mother. Its time now for me to reconcile the fear and pain with love and hope, for my future’s sake. Out there, on the inland sea, in the middle of the scars carved out by receding glaciers,

yes I can.

Fever Scan

The Fever Scan strip on my forehead reads 127 The Fever Scan strip on my forehead reads 127

Yesterday I went to the doctor and told her about my fevers and the blood that has been coming up the mucociliary elevator shaft thats otherwise known as my upper respiratory system. She said that its all par for course, but at my insistence issued a rapid strep test and administered a flu shot into my arm. The strep test was negative and my arm is still sore from the shot. The most my doctor would concede is that, “Its been a little rough,” a sentiment which you will find me generally agreeing with.

Today I took a 3 hour bath while listening to NPR on my laptop. Into the tubs I brought Jamaican ginger beers and cups of tea and glasses of water and it got very very hot. To the point where I am still delirious and sweating out the badness though now bundled up in multiple layers of wintry clothes, in my apartment which is about eighty degrees. I’m sweating it out, literally. The only plan I have for tonight, other than watching illegal movies (of course) is to go to Subway for several foot-long sandwiches so that I don’t have to leave my den again anytime soon.

The doc may have been impressed by my internet-learned medical vocabulary describing the source and transportation of the buckets of bloods detritus and mucus mucks that my cilia have been raking from the blackness of my lungs. Which despite my misery, are turning if not a whiter shade of pale, at least a pinker shade of pale.

mucociliary /mu·co·cil·i·ary/ (mu?ko-sil´e-ar-e) pertaining to mucus and to the cilia of the epithelial cells in the airways.

mucociliary blanket
a blanket of mucus overlying cilia beating in a watery sol on the surface of the respiratory mucosa.
mucociliary escalator
the nonimmunological defense mechanism involving ciliary action and flow of mucus from bronchioles, through the bronchi and trachea to the larynx, by which particulate matter is removed from the respiratory tract. Called also mucociliary ladder.
mucociliary ladder
see mucociliary escalator (above).
mucociliary transport
the effect of the operation of the mucociliary escalator.

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