Thursday, May 31, 2012

What a Day

A day that starts out with you dealing with government bureaucracy is destined to end poorly, and my brothers and sisters, this one was no exception.

I had to make an appearance at the Thomas P. O'Neill Federal Building in downtown Boston today.  It was going to be so easy.  Easy in, easy out, maybe lunch with Josie (who works just a few hundred yards from there) and back home. I was brimming with optimism that turned out to be entirely unwarranted.

I was at the Federal Building to get a passport renewed; mine expired about two months ago, go figure.  Also - and this should be no surprise to those who know me - I procrastinated to the extent that I had to get it renewed in person, which was more money.  They also saw fit to levy a $40 "security fee." This apparently served to separate me from $40 quite securely. Between all the rigmarole and hassle it ended up costing me over $200.

But I was not done spending money.

Because apparently, completely unbeknownst to me, I parked in a commercial-only zone. And I got ticketed.  So the city of Boston profited from my visit to the tune of an additional $55 - pretty fucking expensive for a parking ticket, but whatever.  I looked up and indeed saw a sign that said commercial only that I didn't notice.  So it's not like I got hosed or anything; as a matter of fact the meter cop called me  "honey" and told me I'd better get a move on as a wrecker was pulling up ready to tow my ass. So I needed to get going, so going I got.  Goodbye lunch with Josie! (That's assuming she was available and willing; I never discussed it with her).  I got in and got going.  Arrivederci,  Boston!

But I was not done spending money.

As I was driving home, I noticed that my car started sounding louder than normal.  I couldn't place it, but I knew that I'd heard that noise before.

When did I hear that?

It seems to be getting louder.  Every time I pass a car I can hear the reflection of my car making all kinds of noise.

What the fuck is that?



Flat tire. And now, what I have is better described as several strands of rubber loosely arranged around a rim that is making contact with the highway at 50 mph.

So it's the side of the road for your old pal Crafty.  At very least, I have most of an iced coffee and my Kindle to keep me company until help arrives.  Help, in this case, is triple-A, those evil thieving bastards who wouldn't replace my obviously defective battery.  But - they got there in about 45 minutes, threw my space-saver on, and off I went. So that's probably another $100 for a tire, or perhaps two, because I should probably buy them in pairs.

But I am not done spending money. Maybe.

It might just be the fact that there's a donut on my car, but about halfway between where I blew (hee hee) the tire and home, my ABS light comes up and my OBD computer tells me that I need to do some worrying about my brake system.

So far this fucking day has cost me $400, and if I need to get a new ABS assembly I might as well just buy a new car.  If there were ever an instance where I should end a post in three letters it is this one.


Monday, May 28, 2012

I Fucking Hate Poker

What a day at the cash game.  It started with sweet sweet triumph:  I got AA on the button, it was folded to me, I made a standard raise (1.50), SB raised to $4, I raised to $13, he shoved, I called, he had JJ, my aces held up and boom! quick double up.

After that, I could do nothing right. My top 2 pair were munched by a pocket pair that hit; my nut straight on the flop was counterfeited by runner-runner flush; my AQ lost to AK; the list goes on and on.

With those hands I could at least console myself that I didn't lose THAT much dough; I didn't do any donkey overbetting.  But I did actually end up losing all my dough.  Which ain't good; I'm so poor I can't even pay attention.

The hand that felted me was this: Seat 2 is UTG+2, standard raises. I am in seat 6 and call with Ad9d. It's just me and him.  Flop is 9 high crap - no straight draw, no flush draw. Dude bets into me reasonably heavy. I figure nobody who has caught a hand with that board that could beat me would bet heavy on the flop - an overpair or a set would check the flop and wait for me to be a donkeydouche. So I put him on two high cards, making my TPTK way ahead. So I shove - at this point I was so battered that I was under $20 - and sure enough, he calls with AKo.

Do I have to even say what happened?  Dinkus catches his 3-outer on the river and gg Crafty. I got my money in as an 88.5% - 11.5% favorite; how much better do I have to fucking play? I called his hand perfectly and got him to call my shove. And he STILL wins.

You know, these last few weeks, maybe a month or two, win or lose, hands have been holding up.  When I won, it's because I had the better hand all along.  When I lost, I didn't. I can deal with that - even if I lose by doing something stupid and can recognize and learn from it. So maybe, since the poker gods have looked upon me with whatever favor they deigned to spare me, I'm now unused to the cruelty that the game can show. And today Dame Fortune bitch-slapped me like I talked bad about her mama.

It's been a frustrating evening.  I fucking hate this game sometimes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Two Things I Swear I Won't Forget

I'll start with the less important one first, if that's all right with y'all.

I mentioned just a few posts ago that baseball came to my consciousness in 1975, when the Red Sox made the playoffs for the first time in my young life.  My brother and I recorded game 1 of the ALCS between the Red Sox and the A's (this was before VCR's; we tape-recorded the audio), and we listened to the play by play of the end of the gane over and over again.  Dick Stockton, who'd go on to careers and CBS and Fox, and Ken Harrelson, who would be the nauseating homer for the ChiSox, were behind the mic.  The last play was a "soft pop-up" to foul territory near third base. Petrocelli made the easy play and Stockton boomed "and he...MAKES THE CATCH! And the Red Sox have won the first one in this..." Unfortunately that's where we stopped recording, so that's the only snippet of the play by play that is in my memory. The world probably knows his call of Carlton Fisk's extra-innings home run clanking off the left-field foul pole in the 1975 World Series. But I'll always have that little stupid memory of the very end of game one of the LCS, and I bet my brother and I are the only ones who do.

But to this day I have a soft spot for Dick Stockton.  Yesterday he called the Fox game between the Red Sox and the Rays.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a walk-off home run and I got chills listening to his call.  After all these years it still is good to hear Stockton announce a Sox win.

The other thing I won't forget is that it's Memorial Day.  You know, I personally think that people give a gravity to Veteran's Day that they don't give Memorial Day, and I think that's a shame.  Because Memorial Day commemorates not "just" those who served and fought, but those who fought and fell for their country. Hordes of draftees, almost against their will serving their country but doing it with courage, wide-eyed, knowing their peril.  And, you know, in World War II at least, there were lots of mmissions that were designed to delay the enemy with no real expectation of actually stopping them.  A company of soldiers being told, for example, to hold a bridge as long as they can to give the larger batallion time to move.  Basically a suicide mission; don't get killed unless you have to.

And killed they were, by the hundreds of thousands.  Half a million men - the future of the USA - died in places they'd never heard of before, like Okinawa, Midway, the Ardennes forest, El-Alamein, and Normandy.  And they should be remembered with reverence, and honor, not necessarily with a barbeque.

Remember these men and women. They served their country and paid the ultimate price for it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

History Friday: The Christmas Truce

Part I: The Runup to Disaster

For this story to make sense, you have to understand the differences between World Wars I and II.

World War II was a noble war, a war that inflamed the passions of the home front and the soldiery of all the Allied countries.  France was conquered; England was buckling under Hitler's constant assaults; and the United States had to fight two wars, both of them "just:" They virtually alone had to fight the Japanese in the Pacific (sure, Britain helped, but mostly just enough to get their asses kicked by the Japanese) as well as quarterback the war against the Nazis.  Able-bodied men lined up at the enlistment stations by the tens of thousands to fight the "Japs" or the "Nazzees", as the vernacular of the day had them.

But World War I, or The Great War as it was called at the time, was fought because of paper.

The story starts with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which not only comprised the two eponymous countries but also both sides of the former Czechoslovakia, Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Slovenia, and big chunks of other central-European countries like Romania.  It was a giant empire and at the time - 1899 - one of the world's eminent powers.

The Crown Prince of the Empire, a cat named Rudolph, committed suicide, leaving his cousin Karl Ludwig as the heir apparent.  Rather than take on his responsibilities as Next In Line, he decided rather to die of typhus - everyone makes choices, I guess. That left his son, the then-36 year old Franz Ferdinand, as the Royal Dauphin. He was given the title of Archduke and groomed for the eventual throne.

He spent 15 presumably happy years as Crown Prince, did Franz Ferdinand; despite his increased responsibilities he continued an aggressive schedule of leisure pursuits such as hunting and traveling, and waiting for the sitting Emperor, Franz Joseph, with whom he did not get along, to die.

However his happy life was put to an abrupt and ugly end on June 28, 1914, when an anarchist named Gavrilo Princip, who was a member of a group called Young Bosnia, shot the Archduke in the neck; he died a few minutes later. Princip was only 19. Being underage he did not receive the death penalty but was given a 20-year sentence; he served less than four years of it before succumbing to tuberculosis and malnutrition in prison. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was 50.

At Princip's trial, it came out the he had received help from a number of members of the Serbian military. This not only incensed the Austro-Hungarians but also gave them an opportunity to stir up conflict with the Serbian Empire, whom they viewed as a threat.  They wrote up a series of corrective and punitive actions that Serbia would have to accept called The July Ultimatum, most of which were nothing more than blatant attempts at humiliation that the Serbians would never accept. Winston Churchill called the document "...the most insolent document of its kind ever devised."  When they did in fact reject the Ultimatums outright, Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

Now Serbia had a treaty with Russia, and knew that she would ally herself with Serbia. After a month of posturing and dirty politics, it shook down that Russia, Great Britain, and France were allied against the Austro-Hungarians and Germany, each nation declaring War against the other side starting July 31, 1914. The Great War had begun.

Part 2: The Fighting and the Truce

So now you had, on the war's northern front, the French and the British fighting the Germans, none of whose soldiers were passionate about the cause. In fact the Allies found that they had much more in common socially with the Germans as opposed to the more Eastern-European peoples like the Serbs, with whom they were nominally allied.  Still, soldiers they were, and they dug giant trenches and fired at each other, the front lines moving inch by inch back and forth.

The common thinking among the soldiery was that the war would be coming to a swift end, being fought as it was over "a scrap of paper" - the treaties that bound one country's fortunes to another. So they were dispassionate about the cause as well as ambivalent towards the enemy himself.

Even before Christmastime, the war was remarkably civilised according to today's standards; they often agreed to cease-fire at certain times to recover the bodies of the dead. There was also an unspoken agreement between the two sides that if soldiers were outside the trenches working or exercising that they would not be fired upon.

About a week before Christmas the British forces would start hearing Christmas carols being sung by the Germans.  Before long the British were singing their carols back to them.

On Christmas Eve, the German side, in addition to singing its carols, decorated their trenches with candles and any other such cheer as they could contrive.  They also started shouting Christmas greetings to the British (and to a lesser extent the French), who would shout them back.

Then, remarkably, the soldiers of both sides started walking, tentatively at first, towards no-man's land. They shook hands, exchanged greetings and small gifts. Along the entire front, which stretched from the North Sea all the way down to Switzerland, over 100,000 troops laid down their arms and observed Christmas with their nominal enemies. In several areas someone would produce a soccer ball and the two sides would play a spirited game together.

Bruce Bairnsfather, a military cartoonist, remembers things this way:
"I wouldn't have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything. ... I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons. ... I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange. ... The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile [German], who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck."
The two sides would often observe joint burial ceremonies, after which neither side would feel much like creating more carnage.

So Christmas Day turned into Christmas Night, and with the exchanging of gifts and pleasantries exchanged, the kick-arounds of the soccer ball ended due to darkness, and the dead buried with honor, both sides returned to their trenches, but in many places neither side chose to take up arms just yet. In many places the truce resulted in dramatically reduced hostilities until the New Year.  There are several tales of each side deliberately firing over the heads of the enemy.  One story, perhaps apocryphal, tells of a British soldier accidentally firing low and killing a German soldier.  The Brit shouted his apologies to the opposing trench for the unintended death.

Well, eventually the Generals finally got a hold of their troops again and demanded that the soldiers do their job, which they eventually did.  One soldier's account of the resumption of the hostilities had his commanding officer firing three times into the air, hoisting a flag that said "Merry Christmas," and rising out of the trench to salute his counterpart in the German trench.  When they got back into the trench, the German commander fired into the air, and the truce was over.

The war did not end quickly. In fact it was 1918 before the US entered the war and tipped the scales to the Allies' side. The eventual use of poison gas by both sides would dehumanize the enemy, putting to an end any subsequent attempts at truce.  But for one day, both sides in a horrible conflict put down their guns and extended a gesture of peace and goodwill to the other, and created a small oasis of humanity in the ocean of war that Europe had become. For those who took part, it created an indelible impression that they kept with them for the rest of their lives.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Well, Typhoid Tootsie is once again in the bloom of health.  However - and I swear I saw this coming - she has given her upper respiratory cha cha to your obedient servant, The Crafty One. Coughing, sore throat, pulmonary discharge the color of St. Patrick's Day, malaise and misery.

I hate sick people. Well, that's not entirely true.  I guess right now I just hate Toots.

Taking Care of Tootsie - and a Cleaning of the Craniattic

* Toots has a horrible cold, and a sinus infection in the bargain.  So I've been taking care of her as best I can.  It's not that onerous a task; really all she needs is to be kept in water and chicken broth, so my exploits as a caregiver lay mainly unexplored. Unfortunately it kiboshed my plans to attend, for the first time, a storage unit auction that was taking place in the next town over, and now I have to wait until next week some time. She's had the last two days off to be miserable, but she sounds a lot better today and an even better sign is she picked a fight with me.  She'll be back to work tomorrow.

* It took the better part of five weeks, but yesterday was the first day I've had completely without pain from having broken a couple of ribs.  I can breathe as deeply as I want, bend any which way my disgusting, gargantuan, ooze-filled body will let me, sleep on my right side, sneeze, cough, everything.  This particular long dark nightmare of the soul is, at long last, behind me.

* I just watched the Red Sox' ceremony commemorating the 100th birthday of Fenway Park.  I have to say I'm just a sucker for that kind of stuff.  They invited everyone who ever wore a uniform for the Sox to come back and be a part of it. From the most transient baseball B-player that ever passed through town on the way to baseball oblivion, to icons whose names will never be forgotten, every last one of them who showed up were honored.

For me, baseball came to be in 1975.  When the Sox made the playoffs and swept the A's in the ALCS, I had just turned seven. And the starting lineup of that squad is still burned into my head: Yaz, Rice, Lynn, and Evans in the outfield (spelled by Carbo); Petrocelli, Burleson, Doyle, and big Cecil Cooper patrolling the infield.  To see those guys, and the players of the '80s and '90s, that toiled in unheralded mediocrity, stand up and take one last bow in a Red Sox uni, was quite a touching sight.

* I leave for my cruise June 10th, a mere 17 days from now, with my wife and my mother.  If I don't come back, please remember I'm fond of you all, except for those of you of whom I am not fond.

I'm actually looking forward to it, not the least reason of which is that the ship spreads a $1/$2 cash game, my wheelhouse.  If things go the way they went last time, the table will be full of amateurs, slicksters with Fancy Play Syndrome (hey, Chi!), and youngsters trying to impress their arm candy who are sweating them and making faces when they see his cards. And every last one of them will be half in the wrapper on cheap cruise booze. I hope to make back the cost of the cruise; I really think it's a realistic goal. And shit - now that the cruise sails out of Boston, I might just take it all four times next year, get me a cheap indoor cabin instead of the suite I need when Toots is sailing with me, and make some VERY relaxing money. This I promise: I will return and regale all with tales of the table, whether the sweet side or the bitter.

Also they have a kind of steak they call "flatiron" that has all the flavor of a strip but is tender like a filet.  I really have to be careful because six or seven of those and I start getting the grumbellies.

* I have developed several guilty television pleasures recently: Storage Wars, Criminal Minds, and Duck Dynasty have become excellent ways to waste all kinds of time. Which is good, because even though Scrubs is on 35 times a day, one does want for something different.  I've never been a big TV guy, other than televised sports, of course. But as I get older (more indolent?) I find my quality standards dropping, dropping, dropping. And if there's a show that makes a half-hour go by without me having to think in any possible way, that's 30 minutes well-spent.

* History Friday's topic is still up in the air.  Finalists include the origin of the Jeep, the Hatfield-McCoy feud, and the 1914 unofficial Christmas truce.  Anyone have opinions or suggestions?  And yes, Carmel, I will shortly be doing one on Operation Mincemeat but it's long and involved and because of all the names and dates it will require research. So: later.

Well I suppose that's enough: it's 1:30 and I wanted to get some early sleep tonight. Fat chance of that, but I'm gonna try. Stay cool, cats and kittens! And remember: I think you're all grand.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sure, It's a Shithole - But It Was MY Shithole

Observant readers of TBC's blog and my little chucklefest may have noted that as the Rootin' Tootin' TBC Traveling Train Wreck pulled into Cleveland, I made a few suggestions as to where he may wish to stay, should he decide to stay put for more than a month or so, recommended a good restaurant that I know for a fact serves milk, and generated a knowledge of Cleveland that only a local would know.

This is because for six years, Cleveland was my home, and they were six reasonably happy years. And yes, the years I lived there, 1994-2000, coincided with a certain city renaissance, but I do not cling that tightly to the theory that its rebirth was mostly my doing.

And yes: Cleveland, as it is right now, has ebbed pretty low. And when I got there in the mid-90's it wasn't a whole lot better. But even then, as now, Cleveland had, and has, a lot to like about it.

Cleveland is:
  • Inexpensive to live.  There are several suburbs of Cleveland that are inexpensive and full of housing stock in good condition in good neighborhoods. Two-family homes pepper just about every area in every suburb so there is plenty of rental stock, but a young family just starting out can have their choice of 40 different houses under $100,000 pretty much anywhere they want to.

    When Toots and I moved there we bought a beautiful old 1500 square foot arts-and-crafts home in a suburb called Garfield Heights, with leaded-glass built-in cabinets and windows, hardwood floors, gigantic crown molding, a butler's pantry, the whole bit.  It cost us $75,000.  Our mortgage payment was $503. My mother was more or less on the next plane when she heard the news; she could not wrap her head around the fact that in the United States there was a place that was not riddled with crime, drugs, and vermin that could be had for 75 grand.  She was surprised, if pleased, when she saw the evidence.
Our first house, Garfield Hts, OH.  That monster on the left is a Rose of Sharon bush apparently left alone for years.

They carpeted my living room, the philistines.  But check out the leaded-glass windows and the fireplace detail
Beautiful leaded-glass cabinets, and at the top of the photo you can see the fixture Toots and I bought at an antique shop
How many houses built in the '20s have a huge walk-in closet?

  • A Top-Tier city when it comes to entertainment and services.  The city's largest hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, is recognized the world over for its cardiac and oncology care.  When I lived there the news would run a story about this Sheikh or that Eastern European despot dictator flying to Cleveland to be treated by the Clinic every other week, seemingly. The Cleveland Symphony, if that's your bag, also has a world-wide reputation - for years its lead conductor was Christophe von Dochnyanyi, one of the world's foremost. More to my taste, the Indians play at a beautiful, spacious ballpark with excellent sight lines and inexpensive tickets - and, by the way, $10 parking. Plus football, basketball, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - all downtown within a few blocks of each other.
  • The proud owner of an extensive city park system.  Nicknamed "The Emerald Necklace," Cleveland's Metroparks system provides the city proper and almost every suburb with well-funded, well cared-for and lovingly used parks.  There was a park entrance at the very end of my street, not 200 yards away from my front door, and Tootsie and I would go there and (if you can believe it) walk a lap around its path, a measured two miles, at least three days a week.  Strolling it took 20 minutes; I could do it in 15 which would leave me dripping with sweat, which because I am who I am, smelled and tasted like tapioca pudding.

    I miss the parks a great deal; they really added to my stay there.
See why they call it a necklace?
  • A carnivore's dream. Situated as they are at the sort of Eastern Entrance of the Mid-West, the meat to be had there is way better than anything found here in New England (although we kick their ass in fresh fish, of course). They have this place, the West Side Market, where you can buy any kind of meat in any kind of quantity you wish.  Want a whole pig?  How about two pounds of goat shoulder? No prob.  Plus a produce market 1000 feet long, several specialty kiosks selling wares like bread, teas, spices, smoked meats, just about anything you could ever want.  A Saturday morning at the Market was always a good time and I always left with my belly full.
What's not to love?

Relax - it's just spices and stuff

This is a map of about half the place, to give you an idea of scale

I could go on, I guess - C-town, as we call it, has a lot more going for it than this. But she takes a pounding in the press, does our Cleveland, and someone needed to point out that even though it's not exactly Cleveland's Golden Era, she's a good old girl - a tough old broad of a city who can take a good whupping and still be standing at the end.

 And for whatever it's worth, I loved it when I lived there, and I love it still.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

God Help Me, I Just Love a Smart Girl

When I was a youngster, the single most important criteria for female companionship I had was: was she willling to fuck me? I couldn't have cared less who or what she was, as long as she had a vagina and was willing to let me explore it with body parts, vegetables, rolled-up magazines, or whatever I chose.

As I grew older (and after spending a torturous summer with a girlfriend who was so breathtakingly stupid that I thought she honestly might have been a little retarded), I developed an affinity for those women who could hold up their end of a conversation.  My hit rate went down, but that was ok by me; for me it had started to become less about how many, and more about how good. And how good became a direct function of how smart.

That's how I picked my girlfriends; it's how I picked my wife; it's how I pick my friends.  Yes, I'm an intellectual snob. My friends cut across the political spectrum, the financial spectrum, the ideological spectrum.  But they're all smart.  If they're not smart, eventually they stop being my friend.  Sorry if that makes me a bad person, but that's just how it is.  

That's why one of my favorite television personalities is Tina Fey.  She's pretty, if not gorgeous, but what she is, is smart.  Smart like a whip - a very smart whip.  I just finished her book, Bossypants, a more or less autobiography, that cemented my impression of her that if she's not the single most intelligent woman in show business, she's god damned close. I love her.  Oh, the things I'd do to her.  And afterwards, I might just leave her recognizable.Note 1

Sometimes I wish that I could gravitate towards the lesser lights of the world; I could be the oft-invoked one-eyed king of the blind. But I just can't help being turned completely off by a lack of intelligence.

What kind of man does that make me?  I've already confessed to intellectual snobbery, but that's a facile definition anyway. I'm asking perhaps a more subtle question, or maybe the question is actually much more simple: am I a "bad" person for not wishing to associate with people of less-than-average intelligence?

My Dad used to tell us, over and over again, that we were peasants; we came from peasant stock, and peasants we would always be, any current circumstances notwithstanding. But does the fact that I don't really respect lower intelligence make me an elitist shitbag, the kind of person that my Dad warned us all against becoming?

Note 1: Hey, Tina Fey's lawyers: Calm down.  That was a joke.  Unless Tina becomes a zombie, because...well, that subject has been addressed already.

Friday, May 18, 2012

History Friday: The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa

The moaner, Lisa

As near as the art world can figure it, Da Vinci's classic painting The Mona Lisa (actually called La Gioconda) was painted about 1509 or 1510. Among the little that is known about this masterwork is that Da Vinci prized it over most of his other works; unlike most of his commissions, which were turned over to his customers immediately after being finished, he held on to this one for years; it was found among his possessions after he died in 1519.

Over the years there has been much speculation as to whom the woman with the enigmatic smile was based upon; for years it was thought she was the wife of a nobleman.  The current thinking is that it was a self-portrait; she was compared to a sketch of the artist and the similarities were eerie, according to those who saw the analysis.

The muted colors and murky background are due to age; Da Vinci used bright colors and gave the portrait a much lighter tone. But the Louvre's art restorers are loath to attempt any kind of restoration, because instead of being painted on canvas, Da Vinci painted her on a wood panel, which of course is far more susceptible to expansion and warping due to humidity, and they don't want the wood, or the paint on it, to crack. So there it sits, its worst hurts given a careful cleaning once a year, when a team of 30 specialists hover over her for a nervous hour before they have to restore her to her temperature- and humidity-controlled sarcophagus. 

She's currently on display at The Louvre, in Paris, behind a bulletproof plexiglass enclosure.  The room where she sits is under 24-hour surveillance; cleaning crews are specifically selected and extensively backgrounded before they're allowed to clean the room where she lives.  They are exceedingly careful with their prize, because even though they'd love the world to forget the fact, she was stolen once before, and was missing for years, before a small-time crook, more idiot than master thief, tried to sell it back to an Italian museum.

It was actually an ingenious plan. August 21, 1911, a worker in the Louvre named Vincenzo Peruggia hid in a broom closet until after closing, then took the painting down, cut it out of its bulky frame, hid it in his workman's tunic, walked past a preoccupied plumber and a dozing security guard, and disappeared into the Paris night.

But it was not he who masterminded the theft.

That honor goes to Eduardo de Valfierno, who knew a number of fabulously rich art collectors who wanted the Mona Lisa for their very own.  Valfierno stood to himself become fabulously rich, and so he came up with the caper, by which the Mona Lisa would be stolen...

...and kept, safe.  He never was going to sell the real Mona Lisa; he was going to sell six forgeries to six different patsies, each one believing that he got the prize beyond price, the Mona Lisa, which every newspaper in the world announced had just been stolen.

Before the theft, Valfierno hired a forger, one Yves Chaudron, to make six copies of the Mona Lisa, and had them shipped to the various countries where his customers were - a good move, since after the theft it would be orders of magnitude more difficult to do so.  And one by one, he referred to the thefts in the newspaper, convinced each of them that they were in fact now the proud yet secret owners of THE Mona Lisa, and took them for a huge chunk of their fortunes.

Since he had no use for the original, he never contacted Peruggia after the theft to pick it up.  Peruggia kept it in the false bottom of a steamer trunk for a few years, then tried to sell it to Italy's Uffizi Gallery, asking for a reward of 500,000 lire and a promise to never return the painting to France.  The curator of the Uffizi, recognizing the seals of the Louvre on the back of the painting, was convinced that this was indeed the original and notified police, who collared Peruggia when he tried to hand it over to the museum. After a brief tour through Italy, the painting was restored with sufficient pomp and circumstance back to France and the Louvre, where it sits today.

Peruggia would only serve four months in prison for his crime; he was considered a hero in Italy because of his nationalistic opinions toward the painting. 

Valfierno would never answer for his crime.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Flatulent and Fatuous - A Crafty Southpaw Two-fer

Relax, the can wasn't yet open
Ask anyone who has spent any amount of time with me: I can be an exhausting hang, especially if you've heard all my jokes before. Getting my friends to laugh - like my pal Ken, who himself is quite funny, and Josie, who has heard every single funny thing that's ever come out of my mouth twice - is a miracle on the order of the 2004 ALCS.

Getting Tootsie to laugh is like the fucking loaves and fishes.

So today it was one of those "open up a can of dinner" days. We had one can of tuna fish, and one gigantic can of white-meat chicken - and incidentally, it's scary how alike the two products taste, which makes me think that 75% of the taste of tuna is the can it comes in. In any event I wanted to open up just the chicken and make us both a nice sammich. So I take the two cans over to Tootsie and show them to her, asking if she wants tuna or chicken. She says, "tuna, please," to my chagrin. So I put the can of tuna behind my back, say "let me sweeten the pot for you," and with a completely deadpan expression, fart loudly on the can of tuna.

Toots started laughing hysterically, which needless to say was not the reaction I expected. But when it happens, why, it's worth every weird smell that can of tuna took on. I expect that the next time tuna is on the menu there'll be a callback to this joke, and depending on if I've consumed any dairy recently it might still be funny.

Apparently, Conservatives know little about supply and demand

So I went up to Enn Aitch today, to see my pal Michel. And as I usually do, I stopped at a little gun shop where I've poked my head in before and am a tiny bit recognized. I asked if they carried a specific type of ammo - subsonic, it's called, meaning it doesn't break the sound barrier so it's apparently almost completely silent. It's really only good for target shooting because it has very little power since it's so slow. Anyway the manager of the store indicated that his supplier was out of them, as well as many other items which had been flying off the shelves. I said something like "oh, that's too bad," and another guy there at the store (gun shops are notorious for hangers-on, buying nothing and doing almost nothing, unless you consider chin-wagging an activity) makes with this nugget of wisdom: "It's the goddamn Democrats' fault."

Really, sir? Look, I can understand you probably don't like the left side of the aisle, especially with you being a second amendment booster and all, but do you really believe that it's the Democrats' fault that a few items are out of stock at a warehouse? Come on. Are you that clueless, so clouded with hatred of a political position that you just blame them for everything bad that happened today?

And I'll tell you something else, you conservatives: the hidden secret of your struggle is that last piece of legislation that could even be remotely considered anti-gun was the law, passed in 1999, mandating trigger locks on handguns. The horror! No, the truth is that nobody, but NOBODY, is gunning for your gun. The second amendment to the Constitution is perfectly safe. You have no state-sponsored enemies. But I guess it's better to keep the NRA's membership riled up, threatened and angry, notwithstanding the fact that there's currently little to be angry about. Sure, there are rules surrounding ownership of firearms. That's how it should be: they're dangerous things and you SHOULD be subject to a background check before you can buy one. But when you pass that background check and wait the interminable Federal waiting period - oh what, did I say "interminable?" What I meant was "ends as soon as the background check is complete, which in many instances is immediate, and CAN NOT BY LAW EXCEED THREE DAYS, even if the background check is not complete" - they hand you whatever firearm you desire, and bid you have fun, safely, with your new possession.

Now, you can call me an old Massachusetts lefty, but also remember I'm a gun enthusiast, and the son of a gun enthusiast, and I am in favor of every law that makes firearm acquisition and ownership a safer thing. And any true gun enthusiasts who choose to believe that laws designed to increase safety are threats to the second amendment are just rabble-rousing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I Have Followed My Own Advice

If the fucking zombies come, by god and sonny jesus, I'll be ready.

For I have purchased the ideal weapon to fight them: I am the proud owner of a Ruger 10/22 carbine, with a black synthetic stock, and factory-installed fiber-optic sights for pinpoint accuracy under low-light situations (because, as we all know, the zombies are most active at dusk).  I picked up the rifle, an extra 25-shot magazine (for the love of all that's holy, don't call it a clip at a gun shop), and a brick of 500 rounds of ammo for under $300 total.
My arsenal, such as it is.  Top: Mossberg 340.  Bottom: Ruger 10/22

And over and above my ability to withstand the coming apocalypse, I couldn't be happier.  My current firearm was only barely sufficient to protect my wife and the house, and zero fun as a sporting rifle.  It's an old Mossberg 340, a bolt-action .22 with a balky 6-shot magazine.  It has great sentimental value to me; it was what my brothers and I used to get our NRA certifications when we were kids, and when my dad passed it was the only firearm from his arsenal that I took. But it's inaccurate, too heavy for Tootsie and starting to rust and pit from age.  And because it's so heavy and such a pain in the ass to fire, it's a horrible choice to go traipsing around in the woods with.  Wherea s the Ruger is a semi-automatic, so there's no bolt to work, it's smaller and lighter by far, and it's so accurate that at 25 yards I can shoot a full mag in a grouping the size of an Eisenhower dollar. Unlike the old Mossberg it's huge fun to shoot and easy to clean - which is important because for some reason, .22 rounds in general, and of the kind I picked up specifically (Blazer, it's called, standard velocity, 40 grain load), are filthy and will cake black gook in the barrel and ejector if you don't stay on top of it. There are 100 different gun cleaning kits out there but I'm a purist - give me a kit by Hoppe's any day and conversation closed.


Hoppe's (pronounced HOPP-eez) has been cleaning guns since Jesus hisself done shot the Sheriff. It comes with a bottle of solvent, to clean the gunk, a bottle of oil, to lubricate things after you're done, a few different sizes of little cloth squares, and a pushrod to go through the barrel.  The clever bit is, the pushrod has a handle that spins free, so that as you push the rod through, it actually spins along with the barrel rifling, so that you don't scratch anything or even wear down the rifling at all.  You take a cloth, soak it in solvent, attach it to the pushrod, and stick it through the barrel.  The cloth comes out filthy.  You do that until it comes out clean.  Then take a big cloth square and hand-clean the opening, where the ejector stuff is.  Then you do the same thing except with oil, wipe down, wash yer hands, and you're ready to shoot again.  In and out in 10 minutes. Yes, you could field-strip it and clean every piece individually, but that's really only necessary maybe a couple times a year. But you should quick-clean a firearm using the above method every single time you use it.  You really ought not put away a firearm dirty.  Will it fail if you skip one cleaning?  Probably not.  But don't.  They're precision machines and they're well-built but like any machine, gunk will foul a mechanism and that's the very last thing you want, right?   So spend ten minutes and clean your weapon.  Then clean your rifle *wink*.


Whenever I start to think that I may want a bigger, louder, more powerful firearm, I realize that the last time I was at the range I spent an hour and popped 110 rounds through her - which would have cost me over $100 if I had an AR-15, for example.  And really, in the end, 90% of what I do is aim, fire, repeat, look at the holes in the paper.  And I'd rather that cost me a nickel a go instead of a buck.

One thing you should know about me: I'm a namer of things.  I named my first new car - "Jessica," after the song (had I named it for the girl who I screwed rotten in her, I'd have named it "Psycho Carole." Well, opportunity lost).  My every day guitar, my Epiphone PR-5E, which you've recently seen me play, I've named "Dulcinea," because it is worthy of that level of beauty, and also because the quest for musical knowledge is, if nothing else, quixotic. Look it up if you don't get the reference. I've named pipes and bongs, too, but I've forgotten their names, man.

I'm thinking of giving a name to my 10/22, and I could use some help.  She's sleek, streamlined, beautiful, and could kill a grown man in under 3 seconds. She's easy to be around, needs little attention, performs flawlessly, and fits my hands like a dream. So right away most female names are out.  BA-ZINGA!

Anyone out there like to do a little plinking?  Give me a shout, maybe we meet up at a range and spend a couple hours shooting through six dollars' worth of ammo.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Crafty Southpaw's Rules of Thumb

  1. The more asshole drivers you encounter on your commute, the worse a driver you are.
  2. You should ignore any attention paid you by the opposite sex if that person is in any way paid to interact with you.  Think waitresses, sales people, real estate agents, strippers.
  3. The only thing worse than having bad pot is having a lot of bad pot.
  4. Never give money to a spare-changer who is clean-shaven.
  5. A horn is a non-specific thing; a well-aimed finger leaves little doubt.
  6. The best way to get rid of someone for ever is to loan them money.
  7. Nobody loves you the way you think they do; whether it's more or less is almost immaterial.
  8. A good first question to ask when having a political discussion is, "how far is this going," because neither one of you will change your mind and you both know it, so you might as well set the boundaries up front.
  9. Sushi from any place other than a sushi restaurant should be avoided at all cost.
  10. Some part of you knows right away whether to trust someone or not.  Listen to that little voice, it's almost always right.
  11. Those who think that mankind is the only species who kills for sport have never owned a cat.
  12. People who pass by the ancient shaky veterans who are selling those poppies on Veteran's and Memorial Day without throwing a buck into their can are assholes, and you should plan any interaction with them accordingly.
  13. The worst tippers are those with a lot of money.
  14. Paranoia is just narcissism through a dark mirror.  You really need an inflated self-perception to believe the government is after you.
  15. The single most lethal way to hurt someone who loves you is to ignore them.  
  16. The love of one's God, and the belief that he is the only true God, has caused more deaths since the beginning of time than anything else in the world. Nationalism - the love of one's country - ranks second.
  17. Physically knowing how to play an instrument yet without heart or feel is as close to true musicianship as house-painting is to portraiture.
  18. A woman with a tattoo showing has another that doesn't show when she has clothes on.
  19. You should never pay more than $1.99 a pound for any vegetable at any time.
  20. Madison Avenue and the advertising machine are as close to a totalitarian dictatorship as this country will ever know.  We are enslaved but don't know it, and would refuse to believe it if shown the truth.
And finally:

"The lion will lie down with the lamb - but the lamb won't get much sleep." - Woody Allen

"Every guy down there [on LA's Skid Row]...every one I spoke to, a woman put him there." - Tom Waits

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.  Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Friday, May 11, 2012

Never, Ever Buy a Battery From AAA, Ever

If it's defective, they won't replace it.  They're kind of a bunch of dicks. Now I have to find another roadside assistance company because as a rule I don't give my money (or, more accurately, Tootsie's money) to a company that has wronged me. Suggestions welcome.

Must be something in the Water

Gotta love North Carolina.  One fine day I was driving from Charlotte to Greensboro and I saw this lovely sign on a church.  "PROCLAIM YOUR FAITH," it thundered. "KEEP YOUR DOUBTS TO YOURSELF."

Wow.  Kinda takes your breath away for a minute.

And it was these same North Carolinians who recently passed a law - the 30th such law in the country - modifying their State Constitution to ban gay marriage.

I'm asking you for the moment to ignore any feelings you have one way or the other on the matter.  Full disclosure, I'm a live-and-let-live guy myself, but whatever.  What 30 states have done is taken their Constitution - the document borne of the need for a recognized Supreme Law of the Land to protect its citizens from an over-aggressive government - and used it to strip rights from a group of people because of what they believe.  That's a 180° variance from the true value of that document, and that saddens me way more than the gay marriage issue per sé.

Now that we've established how awful it is to use the Constitution to strip rights away,  it's time to discuss the issue of gay marriage itself. Who still cares about this?  It's 2012, for the love of Buddha. For you to have any dog in this fight you either need to be gay, be the family of someone who's gay, or a goddamned party planner.  A bunch of fat white guys sitting around a legislative chamber looking to distract its citizens from issues of true import have no right to enact such a monstrously discriminatory law.

And hell, let's not forget that homosexuals vote, and they comprise between four and five percent of the population, depending who you talk to. If you don't think that 4% is a number worth fighting over, ask any politician that has ever courted the Jewish vote, which represents about 3% of the vote.

The whole thing bewilders me.  It's a discriminatory, stupid, time-wasting effort.  And one with little political upside: those lines have long been drawn. Coming out in favor of gay marriage, as did President Obama recently, was a brave choice and will shift the political landscape slightly,  but staying with the script doesn't change anything. The legislators that pushed this swill down the trough of politics won't make any new friends; at best it will solidify those they already have.

Seriously.  You anti-gay lawmakers have an opportunity here and now.  Society is experiencing a tipping-point when it comes to this issue: we straight folk are starting to feel apathy toward the whole thing and are wondering what the fuss is still all about. Make some new friends.  Here, I'll give you something face-saving you can say.  How about:

I personally believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, and optionally his slaves and his gun. But I do not believe that government is best served legislating this aspect of life; it is a matter best left to the religious institutions that sanctify marriage before God.  The civil act of marriage should be made available to all our citizens, especially those who love Jesus.

You can also salve your conscience by knowing it's the right thing to do, but I'm not sure to what extent you give a shit about that.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Red Sox Suck, All Skill No Luck, Josie's Good for a...Present

So Sunday I took a trip up to Points North to pick up Josie so we could meet up with Cranky (aka Little Buddy) who would be there with her wife The Skipper (aka Skip, aka Chip, aka Sparky...I could go on) and take in a little Red Sox baseball.

The day did not start off auspiciously.  We needed to change our plans a little bit right out of the gate because half of the Back Bay Fens would be shut down due to an annual assuaging of the collective conscience called the Walk for Hunger.  Walk for hunger?  Give me a fucking break.  You want to solve the hunger problem?  BUY SOMEONE A SANDWICH. Make sure the soup kitchens are stocked.  Volunteer to be a ladle boy.  Don't tie up one of the most congested cities in North America by making a big show about how much you fucking care.  And whatever happened to the best charity being anonymous, anyway?  But man, am I digressing.

The whole point is that rather than drive in to the park we had to take the train (for you locals, that meant driving to Wellington, grabbing the Orange Line to Haymarket, switching to the Green Line and waiting for a non-E train, then getting off [tee hee] at Kenmore).

Before we left, Josie reminded me that she had gotten me a present a few weeks back.  Well since Sunday was the first day I'd seen her in that few weeks, she took this opportunity to hand it to me:  a holder for my Kindle.  A little thing; an inexpensive thing.  But a thoughtful thing.  I was touched, no bullshit.  It was a really nice gesture.  Jesus, just when you think Josie's kind of douchy, she turns around and does something nice that brings a lump to the throat. It goes to show you never can tell.

Anyway, after sufficient demonstrations of gratitude, we were off to the train. The first funny thing we saw was a young family, maybe three kids plus mom and dad, who were obviously taking public transportation for the very first time.  Josie and I had a good laugh putting words into their mouths about their experience.  "See, honey?  This is how the hobos and winos travel the city.  Isn't it exciting?"

But we got to the park more or less without incident.  I was able to impart a bit of homeless-guy wisdom onto Josie ("never give any money to a spare-changer who is clean-shaven") in the bargain.  We went in the wrong door and ended up walking pretty much the entire way around the park, in the wrong direction, to get to our seats.

The company was outstanding.  Josie self-professes a shyness around people she's meeting for a first time, but if that's really true she conceals it well.  I have no such difficulty, it probably wouldn't shock you to hear.  But at our table there were two people whom we hadn't met yet: Cranky's wife Skip, and her brother Russ.

The Skipper struck me as very much similar to Cranky: smart, cynical, sarcastic, in short my kind of folks.  I enjoyed my time with her and was impressed with her attitude.  Here's a woman who's caught kind of a bad break in life but faces her challenges with stoicism and humor.  And of course, Cranky is just as impressive as a caregiver, both physically and emotionally. Here's a couple who've been together for 30 years and they still use terms of endearment to refer to each other. It was endearing to watch.

Cranky's brother Russ reminded me a little bit of someone out of my own family, right down to the beard.  He was a lot of fun to talk to.  When he discovered I was Jewish he broke out the only Jewish joke in his arsenal, which I hadn't heard and which was genuinely funny.

So: notwithstanding the fact that the Sox lost, taking 17 fucking innings to do it, and that the left half of my face got sunburned, everyone had a great time.

After we left, Josie and I decided to stop somewhere for a quick bite to eat.  We had settled on Five Guys, right near her house, but for some reason we both got seduced by the Chinese buffet next door.  We were heartened by the fact that it was packed, and had a bunch of Chinese folks in it.  However the reality quickly set in that it fucking sucked, and we passed up an opportunity for a delicious Five Guys greaseburger for bad fryolator cuisine Chinoise. Well consider it a lesson learned; we're never doing that again.

Finally I wanted to regale you with a little poker news.  I wasn't going to post about this, but then I saw that Josie tweeted her having nailed Lightning with a Very Grumpy hand, so I figure it was OK if I told a tale or two out of school.  We were playing a .25/.50 cash game on BCP and I start noticing that, even more than usual, Josie would play every hand that I was in.  Two of those hands were impactful:  Holding a suited K3 in the SB I standard raised (remember, I don't call shit anymore).  Josie called.  Flop connects on my 3.  I bet out and Josie calls.  Turn gives me a third 3.  I bet out again and get a quick call.  Same thing on the riv.  I end up winning a good $12 or so on the hand, Josie had A10 which didn't improve.

The last hand was kind of more of the same:  I had KXd.  Flop gave me top pair, four diamonds, and a gutter to a straight.  I bet, she raises, I move her in, she calls.  Turns out my King was good; Josie had nothing and was trying to bluff me off the hand. So I felted her and did a little happy dance inside my head.  Why?  Because that NEVER HAPPENS TO ME.  With Josie, even when I make the right decision, her otherworldly luck holds out.  Not this time Shmosie! Who's the whore now?? That's still me, just making sure you knew.

My final hand of the night was against Lightning.  I had KJs and the flop came KQX. I bet healthy but Lightning snap-shoved.  I thought for a while and decided my top pair wasn't good.  Hey Light, if you're reading this, what did you have, buddy?

So there you go.  I'm open for all praise and approbation.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wherein I Keep a Promise

I know I owe you all a Fenway trip report, and I swear that's coming, but I need to clear up an earlier commitment.  Forthwith then, Norwegian Wood.  A few clunkers in the first verse, but hopefully you can forgive those.  Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Quick: You're at a Gun Shop. The Zombies Are 20 Minutes Away. What Do You Buy and Why?

Last you heard they were just over that hill over there, shambling their way across the desolated landscape. You and a bunch of survivors have found an Gun and Ammo shop whose owner is about to bug out as well but offers to sell you one firearm, whatever ammo he's willing to part with, and whatever random crap that's on the shelves that he's not taking.  You have the cash to make whatever transaction you wish. The shop carries a decent selection of the more popular brands of firearms and there are still at least two or three boxes of ammo of just about every caliber left.

What do you take? Let's go over some of your options:

You could get yourself a shotgun, like this one.  They'll do the job with one shot if you're within fifteen feet or so, but a shotgun that can hold five shells is considered high-capacity.  The ammo is physically large, so you can only carry so much of it (you, my friend, are on your feet and your backpack holds all your possessions).

A high-powered rifle, like an AR-15, is a legitimate choice.  Most high-cap magazines can hold a dozen or more rounds at a time, and you can take one down with one shot, usually (even though you should always double-tap, just in case).  

You could get a handgun, like the M1911, which was US Army standard-issue for almost 75 years, and which is still in use today.  Easy to carry, nice and compact, the clips carry a decent number of rounds.  The larger ones have some good stopping power, but range is a factor and accuracy beyond 25 feet requires skill the average layperson doesn't have. Plus whereas compactness is nice, there's no point in concealment - everyone is either armed, already dead, or a zombie - so you're giving up a fair amount of power. Plus they're tougher to keep clean than a long firearm.

Or you could choose what I would choose: None of the Above. Because you're looking at it the complete wrong way if you're trying to determine your wisest course of action.

The reality is that the best gun in the world is rendered useless if you don't have any ammo.  Real life isn't like a video game, where one magically comes across a glowing pile of ammo that magically fits your firearm every two minutes of gameplay.  In real life, you tag a few goddamn zombies and you run out of ammo, and you hole yourself up in that barn over there and wait for the zombie horde to overtake you.

So you need to choose a firearm where the ammo is small, cheap, and plentiful.  And nothing meets those three criteria better than .22 caliber long-rifle ammo. Your idiot friend who grabbed the AR-15 has to pay 20 bucks for a box of 20 rounds, if he can ever find a box of 5.56x45 ammo (doesn't it just roll off the lips?).  So he takes a couple of boxes of ammo and his brilliant choice turns valueless in 40 shots.

Whereas that same twenty bucks buys 500 rounds of .22LR ammo, and every gun shop in the known universe stocks a dozen boxes of 500 ("bricks") for the delight of target-shooters, plinkers, and zombie-hunters everywhere. So whereas the AR-15 guy is fending off the horde by using his rifle as a bat, you are still armed and dangerous.

So we've determined that you should get a .22 rifle.  Which one do you get? Well picture what life is like for you now. You're living a  nomadic life, travelling from one lonely destination to another, keeping one step ahead of the zombies and scavenging the countryside and the partially-eaten bodies of those who came before you for what you need.  You should get a rifle of which many thousands of specimens exist, that is easily customizable, for which spare parts exist in many places and are easily switched out.

For anyone who is a firearm enthusiast they already know which rifle I'm talking about: the Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic.  Introduced in 1964 it represents the gold standard of small-caliber firearms. Because there are literally millions of them out there,  accessories and spare parts like firing pins, ejector assemblies, etc. - stuff that will wear out over time - are carried in not only gun shops but just about every sporting-goods store, along with spare clips and boxes upon boxes of ammo. It's light, reliable, easy to clean, easy to carry, and deadly accurate.  And sure, a .22 round doesn't have a lot of stopping power, but since you have so much of it and it's so cheap, you can put four in the zombie bastard's eye socket just like that - bap bap bap bap! - and drop that undead prick just as nice as you please.

The standard clip is 10 shots (and which, in a triumph of ergonomic design rarely seen in 1964, sits flush to the rifle when loaded, so that you can't see it), but one of those ubiquitous accessories I mentioned earlier that every gun shop would carry is a 25-round banana clip.  I'd definitely grab a couple of those.

So there you go: At the gun shop scenario at the top of the page, for some pretty short money, I'd've armed myself with a Ruger 10/22. Best decision. I would have given the old guy who owned the shop $400 or so and walked away with one of the world's most reliable firearms, 2000 rounds of ammo, plenty of clips in case they come at me in numbers, and a decent shot at replenishing my supplies as I wander the apocalyptic remains of the U.S.A.

My idiot buddy who chose the AR-15 died an hour after the zombies came, by the way. I took his gold watch and a pound of beef jerky that he had.  Hey: you do what you gotta do when the zombies come.

The Best Medicine, besides C. sativa

I wrote this last night, and was wondering why no one was reading it - then I realized I never hit "publish."  Mah bad.  Enjoy!


You know, it's funny: I started this post with the intention of regaling you guys with some of the funny stuff that Jos and I said and did that were funny enough to induce tears - tears that sprung to both our eyes, actually.

See, I have this theory.  Not a theory, really, more like an outlook, which is simply this:  those times where laughter just completely overtakes you, renders you incapable of doing anything requiring abstract thought or rudimentary coordination, paralyzes you with gales of laughter, are as rare as they are precious. As we get older it happens less and less;  or perhaps closer to the truth is that I've come to appreciate them all the more. It's a tonic, a soothing balm on the open wounds inflicted by life. And rare they most definitely are: I figure a year with 20 of those magic moments is a damn good one.

And that's great, and I was all primed and ready to share; the only problem I have is that I can remember precisely one remark I made that send us into that state (which state, for the sake of convenience, I will henceforth term "Laughter Outer-Space," or LOS).

So you guys are pretty much fooked, and that's a pity, but here's one thing I remember:  As Jo mentioned, I gave up a seat to a lady, right before which we did the Dance of Politesse:  Oh no thank you, no really, I just couldn't impose, please I insist, well thank you and if your friend will turn the other way I'll give you a handy for your trouble. You know the dance.  You've all likely been on both sides of it a thousand times. Well I said to Josie, loud enough fr chair-woman to hear me, "wouldn't it be funny if, had the dance gone on for another round, me ending it by saying" - and here my voice became a menacing, throaty, serial-killer growl - "'I SAID SIT DOWN!'" It sent Josie into LOS immediately, and chair-woman laughed quietly to herself. Auntie Jo, do you remember any details?  email me if you do.

In closing, and because I feel bad about not remembering any of the really good stuff, I'll give you guys a little tidbit about Josie that you may not know:  when something strikes her funny and she isn't expecting it, she will execute a perfect Danny Thomas spit-take, and since for years I sat to her left at the poker table (and since I was often the source of the funny), I've been drenched by an aerosol cocktail of Diet Coke and Josie spit many more times than once.  I find the whole thing endearing as hell, which is a little weird if you think about it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I Made Josie Cry Today

...but I'll let her tell you the details, if her eyes are dry.  Me, I'm too tired.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Change of Plans

I hope you'll forgive me but I'm going to hold off on telling you about Anus.  Some of the things he did quite literally broke my Dad's heart, and insofar as today (Saturday) marks the fourth anniversary of his passing, I just don't have it in me to rip a family member.  He hurt as much as I did, still does, and I just can't do it today.

It's tough to explain, but days like this, I just feel the weight of the world really acutely.  I feel that everyone who is still in my life is abandoning me, that everything of value in my life has evanesced into nothingness, because I've pushed it all away from me.  The people closest to me - those who love me, or loved me, the most, have all pulled away because they just can't take it any more, and you know what?  I can't blame them. I know I wouldn't want any part of me in this state.

I'll be fine in a day or two.  You'll have to forgive these little descents into the abyss. I'm always a little ambivalent as to whether or not I should write about them: on one hand it's whiny and self-serving, but on the other hand to ignore it, to not even acknowledge it and pretend that I'm just hunky-dory, is disingenuous.

The Crafty Southpaw is acerbic and funny and artful, sure: but some days I'm just Gary. And some days it's not a lot of fun being Gary.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The People Haven't Spoken - But Screw You Guys Anyway

Actually, when I say that the people haven't spoken, that's not precisely true.  Because...

That's never even come close to happening before.  And I always felt that you guys were a communicative bunch - felt fortunate that you guys choose to comment as often and thoughtfully as you do. So thanks for that, and keep it up - I really dig the sense of community here.

However, it would seem that there was, based on the deafening silence that greeted Josie's choices of what I should next write about, less than full-throated enthusiasm for her ideas.  JT, bless his ivory-ticklin' heart, actually stood in the firing line and said what I'm sure you're all thinking: that whatever else could be said about my options, they're better than the "short Sicilian's" (his words, not mine).

God, I'll miss him.

Anyway, I thought for a while about what to do, but before I came to any concrete decision I got this comment from Carmel:

I want to know what kind of crazy Jewish folks are. You tell me why you hate your brother, I'll tell you about the time I tried to kill one of my brothers.

Up to that point, having been released from my obligation to write about one of Josie's choices, I was going to write about something that wasn't on any list, but lookit: A lady put me to a challenge, and a lady spoke up with her preference.  And what man dares to call himself a gentleman who does not honor the simple requests of a lady, if it's within his powers to do so?

So I'm going to tell you a tale about my brother.  And it won't be the angry, bitter, vitriolic, hateful, invective-filled polemic that you might have enjoyed years ago; like every experience, time has added its perspective to things.  I'm just going to tell you who he is, what happened, and how I reacted to it. You can draw your own conclusions as to the measure of the man.  Do we have a deal?

Good.  Give me 24 hours to get it done right. I'm going to call him Anus, because he spews shit for a living.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Some Housekeeping Chores, The Next Post is Yours, But No Strippers or Whores

I. Housekeeping

Few items on the ol' cleanup agenda:  First of all, I am just flat-out sick and tired of spending my whole day in either discomfort or pain.  One wrong move, as they say, and the ouchies come tumbling out of my ribcage.  If any of you are doctors, I could use an explanation as to exactly what is causing that pain.  Either way, I'll be happy to see it in my rear-view mirror.

Secondly, I owe an apology to...Very Josie.  Actually two apologies.  The first is for stealing the cushion of her work chair, though I will say that the rumors that I was found sniffing all the delicious out of it are completely unfounded. The second apology is that I just today found a comment she left me about ten days ago in Blogger's spam file.  It has since been published. Check it out: it's about, er, some damn thing or another.

The final housekeeping item is this: The realm of the Crafty Southpaw has been extended to 20 followers.  As always, my followers seem to sign up in bunches.  For almost a year I had 8; then within maybe two weeks I grew to 16.  There it sat for months until someone else signed up about two weeks ago,  and then last week I got three more in rapid succession.  So: welcome aboard, NumbBono (whom I remember from the BDR days), M. Prosk, Stump, and most recently Vegas Linda Lou, whose book Bastard Husband: A Love Story is the most recent addition to my Kindle Fire.  The book is funny and poignant in perfect proportion, and her blog is a fun read too.  Linda, thanks for your email, it was very gracious of you.

All you new types, feel free to comment on my posts and thanks for reading me.  It is (obviously) because of y'all that my blog is increasing in popularity. In fact, the page hits I've gotten in the last 30 days represent 1/6th of all the page hits I've ever had, despite the fact that my blog has been up and running since 2007.

II. Pick the Next Post

Once again I am suffering a touch of blog post logjam, so I'm giving the subject of the next post to you.  Here are your choices:

  1. My adventures in umpire school, which was on the last list
  2. Part I of a new feature: Shit I Find Fascinating.  Some topics to consider:
    * Shortwave "numbers stations;"
    * A brilliant bit of World War II deception called "Operation Mincemeat;"
    * The Army that Never Was: The Story of FUSAG, the First US Army Group; or
    * Genius, Catcher, Spy: the Moe Berg Story (teaser: he was a backup catcher for the Boston Red Sox; his manager, noting his brilliance, quipped "he can speak five languages, and he can't hit in any of 'em")
  3. A video of me playing "Norwegian Wood" on my guitar
  4. My brush with greatness: I sit next to an LPGA champion on an airplane
You'll notice that there's no smut of any kind on this list.  Apologies to our friend Rob, who is so breast-obsessed that his motto is "I'm thirsty."

Also, if one of you sends me a particularly passionate plea to write whatever post you advocate, I will deliver props by the carload. And if you don't want me publishing your choice, just say so in the comment and anonymity is guaranteed.

Finally, and by way of closing this post, I had ice cream today for the first time this calendar year.  It was, I must admit, yummy. Let's hope I've retained the ability to process dairy, or nobody is going to have a pleasant night's sleep here tonight.