Sometimes you find yourself inside a joke. A blonde does something silly right in front of you. Maybe you’re even the blonde. You’re sitting in a pub, and a duck walks in, or a horse. You’re golfing, and Bill Gates, God and Tiger Woods play through.

But then space/time rights itself and, you know. Was that really a duck? You say.

I’m stuck in a joke at the moment. One of my favorites. You know the one about the traveling salesman and the farmer’s nasty, pulchritudinous daughters? That’s not the joke I mean. You know the one about the rabbi… the guy, who goes to the rabbi because his house is just too small for his wife and his kid and his cats and the turtle tortoise? And the rabbi says, but I thought your kid was in France? And the guy says, yeah, that’s the other kid. And the rabbi says, well, let someone stay over and he does, he lets his daughter’s friends stay over on the weekends and he throws birthday parties with a dozen eight-year-old kids but that doesn’t help so he goes back and the rabbi says, so let your father-in-law move in while your mother-in-law is in the hospital and he does but that doesn’t help so he goes back and the rabbi says, now that your MIL is out of the hospital, let her move in as well, she can occupy the sofa and dispense good advice and you can install one of those raised toilet-seat things in the downstairs bathroom and the rest of youse can use the upstairs bath and toilet because the raised toilet-seat thing is so scary-looking.
And the guy shrugs and tries that. Doesn’t help. Then the plumbing breaks and the downstairs bathroom floods and they have to turn off all the water in the whole house and go to work unshaven and unbathed until the plumber comes and fixes it. And his FIL can’t find the tortoise out in front of the house one evening when it’s time to put it back to bed so he goes out and helps him look for half an hour until his wife asks them what they’re doing, running their hands through the mulch and cursing, and they say looking for the tortoise and she says, Why? I put it to bed half an hour ago. And she laughs, and laughs.
And the guy, thinking how good it’s going to feel when the inlaws move back out, goes back to the rabbi and knocks on the door and Rod Serling answers and he asks for the rabbi and Rod Serling says, What rabbi? Perhaps you have the wrong door. And the guy goes back out into the street and it’s infinitely long and all the doors look exactly the same.

That joke.

Fahrenheit 451

For Novala (because she gave such nice answers herself, and is so delightful. Also, I reserve the right to change my answers).

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
The female sex android in a pulp paperback my father found on the bus once when I was a kid.

The last book you bought is:
Kafka on the Shore, Murakami

The last book you read:
Kafka on the Shore

What are you currently reading?
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace
The Passion, Jeanette Winterson

Five books you would take to a desert island.
A Moleskine
The Master and Margarita
Underworld, DeLillo
Finnegan’s Wake (I could finally read it, or use it to start fires).
One more book.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
My daughter Beta, because I’d be really interested to hear.
Two commenters to this post, chosen at random, because I can’t decide. Cookie, because Novala can vouch for him.

Has anyone else not done this yet? And Anne, who was actually the first person who occurred to me, which made me think she must have already done this a long time ago, and whose bookshelves I have seen with these eyes, and which contain books like you wouldn’t believe. So take it away, Anne.

A walk in the woods

We go to the river and walk into the woods until we don’t know where we are anymore, and then we keep going until we find ourselves again. That’s more interesting than retracing our steps and starting over.

It doesn’t always work. Driving in Brno last weekend, we kept going and found ourselves in a network of streets, the names of which all began with “Z” and were generally easy on the vowels, lined with apartment buildings with fewer windowpanes than windows and construction sites where no construction was going on, and not just because it was a Saturday.

So I guess the trick is picking where to get lost. Here, in the woods by the river, in the worst case, we could just follow the river to a town or a road.

We wander like this and talk to each other. We’ve been together nearly 25 years, and we just recently started doing this, getting lost and talking.

Research establishes link between drinking, existential crises

Alpha thinks I’m configuring her new e-mail account, but that went faster than I thought so I’m blogging. Today is a holiday here, see, and she would put me to work doing something else if she knew I had finished the other task.

We went to see Anne and her guys on the weekend. We enjoyed it thoroughly, and not only because my wife’s parents have moved in with us while they wait for my MIL’s cyborg knee installation to take. Once this knee heals, she’ll get the other one replaced, after which she might be able to run at speeds up to 60 mpH.

But until then, she’ll spend a few weeks on the sofa telling us how to do things. So we take walks, and make telephone calls trying to find a plumber to fix the leaky pipe, and go to the Czech Republic to visit nice people, and the stuff you do in situations like that.

Nine weeks of blogging gold in sight.

We went to see Anne, who just for the record had the most incredible blue eyes I’ve seen since 1976 (seen then in a woman’s head at the airport in Washington D.C.) and plus she is a spookily good palm reader.

The Czech Republic is as beautiful as Austria, and this time of year, with the lush spring growth, both are quite smashing. The Czechs seem to have more whorehouses, at least they have bigger signs than in Austria, but they appear to be clustered near the borders.

Czech fields are bigger. Maybe their farms are in general larger than Austrian ones. So this makes the landscape look a little different.

Brno is hillier than Vienna, and easy to get lost in because the street signs are not only in Czech, they’re also somehow hidden. So as we looked for Anne’s address, me driving and Alpha reading the directions to me, there was a lot of conversation like, “Turn right, no left, at the street starting with a Z. Does this street start with a Z?”

Also they have different currency so I was reduced to infantile tourism, where you don’t know anything and just go where people take you and pay what they tell you to pay. Alpha, on the other hand, learned Czech after about 30 minutes.

What can I say about the trip? We took a walk through the town, along streets and trails in the woods, making fun of participants in an orienteering competition running around with their maps and compasses. Around this time we discovered we were lost in the woods. Then we found a pub and everything was okay again. Not only okay: I discovered an idea I’m going to steal from the pub and become a very, very rich man with. But more on that at a later date.

I can’t give a good account of the trip here, because I’m still so hungover, a strange gin hangover where you don’t feel so bad physically, you just question the meaning of existence. At the same time, it was one of those visits where the kids get along, and your wife likes your friend and her husband, and you like her husband and you’re relieved everything turns out so well. You rifle through the books on their bookshelves and they all look interesting as do the CDs on the rack. The furniture is tasteful in a comfortable, agreeable way and they cook well and their son draws cool maps and takes knightly good care of Gamma.
The Murphy bed was cool. I slept well, although I suppose I would have slept well inside an industrial clothes dryer that night. The food was good. The neighborhood was charming. If only existence had a meaning.

Comment filter

I think I figured out why harmless comments are sometimes denied. Included on my blacklist are words such as c4sino, g4mes, b3tting and d3bt and similar words that are potentially harmless but common in spam. I hate to remove them from the list because they keep out a lot of the riff-raff. So try L33t if your comment gets denied. Unless you’re a sp4mmer.

Battleground Lake

There was a bottomless lake not far from where I grew up. It was where my parents’ generation went to have fun, and mine too, until they opened up the gravel pits closer to my house. Nowadays, there are other things to do. There are malls and stuff.

There was a high slide at the lake. A high tower with a slide leading straight down into the lake. I never went down it. I was a fraidy cat. Now that slide no longer stands, felled by liability laws, I guess. Instead, they may have a fancy fiberglass one spiralling around. But I don’t know this, I haven’t been there in years.

I went swimming there one summer when I was in college. I packed my pocket watch in a baggy so it wouldn’t get wet. I needed to know the time so I wouldn’t be late for my swing shift job at the cannery. The watch got wet anyway, and stopped, so I left way early just in case.

My brother let me try out his scuba stuff there one summer. Visibility was zero, the water was very muddy at the edge. I put on the diving mask and the tank and started breathing and stepped into deeper water and gradually sank and that, in combination with the lake being bottomless, freaked me out so I got back out of the water.

A diving platform was anchored 50 yards or so out into the lake. Kids swam out there and sunned themselves and jumped off. Laughter, water drops, sparkle, sun, skin. I’ve always been a good swimmer so I could swim out there easily, but I never did because I didn’t know the other kids. There was grass on the shore and I had a big towel.

About thirty big deer were standing around in a field right next to the freeway the other day. Several husky bucks with velvety antlers. A bunch of does. The evening light was clear and bright and the woods behind them and the grass in the field were this bright, fresh green. I slowed down to look at them. I wanted to strip naked and frolic with them, but that would have been a mistake on several levels.

I am standing on this diving platform. I am wearing heavy, steel-toed logging boots and a heavy coat and clothes. I got here by climbing down a ladder but now it’s missing its rungs and I can’t climb back up and were I to swim I would sink because of the boots and clothes. This is this dream I had a while back that won’t leave me. The dominant feeling is one of being fuxxored.

The lake is bottomless. Also, in the dream, it’s the ocean. And the boots are heavy, heavy as deep-sea diver boots. This is where the dream ends. But if I continue it this is what I do: take off the boots. Fold my clothes in a neat pile. Dive in naked. I’m a good swimmer, I just forgot for a second.


“Gamma told me last night that she tests whether you’re listening or not.”

“That’s nice.”

“She says she can say anything she wants and you agree to it.”


“She says the weirdest things she can think of, and you say okay.”

“Mmm hmm.”

“If you’re listening, she says, you catch on right away.”


“Otherwise, she can get you to agree to about five weird things before it dawns on you.”

“Cool. Hang on. Wait, what?”