Take the stairs to the shrimp box

Shrimp box is in a much better mood now that the kid is home from Hungary. The rains have started, cold rains that make the doorbell hum until it catches fire, so he took it apart preemptively, feeling a little like a bomb squad guy; and the gray cat has disappeared, and his wife (Shrimp box’s wife) is still in Japan, and his other daughter is in Vienna living her life, but the kid is home. He makes fruit salad for breakfast, honey dew melon and peach, and the kid eats some cereal too because she had missed cereal in Hungary, where her family stuffed her with everything else but cereal.

Shrimp box is glad to have meaning in his life again.

He wonders about the tortoise, and will it have to come inside now that it is getting colder and wetter.

Shrimp box listens to a video on Vimeo while taking a shower. He wanted drone music, but it turns out to be more metallic, and only by a band called Drone. Oh well. It sounds as if the vocalist is hollering ‘take the stairs to the shrimp box’ and Shrimp box decides to change his name to Shrimp box and to write a song with absurd lyrics, since he never understands song lyrics anyway.

The kid is so happy to have access to coffee again. Apparently Hungarian children do not drink it. She talks a lot in the car on the way to town.

‘I was reading old blog posts,’ Shrimp box says. ‘When I came home from America after going to my father’s funeral, you said, Boy am I glad you’re home, I forgot what you looked like. I only remembered that you had white hair, and that you’re nice.’

‘I said that?’ the kid is bemused.

The rain gradually peters out and stops entirely during their drive into town.

Fourth rule is, eat kosher salamis

The SWAT crisis negotiator stands out on the balcony having a smoke, thinking, someday somebody’s going to figure things out and replace me with a 14 year old girl.

He imagines a situation, fouled-up robbery, perps holding a couple dozen sobbing hostages inside a bank, surrounded by marksmen, talking tough until the 14 year old girl shows up. Then they’re all, Johnny, dey brought the goil! And Johnny’s all, not dat fast, Eddie, dey wouldn’t do dat. Not da kid! And Eddie’s all, sure looks like dat goil Slugger was tellin me about in da joint. And Johnny’s all, close the goddamn blinds, Eddie! Let me think!

And out front, someone hands the girl a megaphone and she’s all, Do you know who this is? Come out with your hands up! And my allowance is way too low and no way am I cleaning my room today, god, don’t be so old and boring, I’ll do it some other time! Would you like some pizza? I sure would. How about you call out for some?

Eventually they surrender, like always.

That’s what the SWAT negotiator imagines.

The SWAT negotiator is feeling pretty good, all in all, now that the hot weather is over. Boy, was it hot. Also, he now takes the back way into work, and home again. Windy little streets through wooded hills, so it won’t work in winter, but for now, it’s funner, and faster, than the freeway. No traffic jams, although there are a lot of cyclists you sometimes get stuck behind.

Life throws you a cookie now and then, he thinks.


A man feeds the cats, eats breakfast, feeds the tortoise, turns on the sprinkler in the back yard, and goes for a walk along the creek.

On the way there, he goes past a field of sunflowers, all looking the same way – to the light.

All but one, there is always one looking the wrong way.

There are bees on the faces of the sunflowers, going, I AM THE KING OF TEH WORLD!!!

The rising sun on the field of flowers looks real nice.

Then there is a loud swoosh.

The man looks up just in time to see a bird of prey slam into another bird in mid air, then fly away.

He has never seen anything like that, so close. Just a few feet away. What a show!

He hadn’t been expecting a swoosh like that when he left the house. What a nice surprise!

Life, he thinks, is a high school girl wearing a tiara and ball gown in the back seat of a convertible luxury limousine generously provided by the local Cadillac dealer, Miller Cadillac maybe, driving along at a walking pace like the rest of the parade, waving that parade princess wave and throwing handfuls of hard candies to the spectators (she aims for the children, mostly) along the parade route.

And the spectators are so concentrated on the mobile telephones in their hands, with which they are texting each other, that they miss the candy.

Ljubljana etc etc

My trip to Ljubljana last weekend was a lot less confusing than my previous trip five years ago because they have the Euro now. Otherwise I noticed few changes. They still like rollerblades there. The women are still charming and beautiful, the men are still long-legged and tall with smallish heads (i.e. exactly wrong place for me to buy clothes), all are well-dressed. I don’t know if all of Slovenia is like this or only the capital city, but they’re good dressers. The Viennese looked, upon my return, like cheap slobs.

Present company excepted, of course.

A couple days ago I wore my new suit. It differs from my old suits in several aspects. One, it is new and they are old. Two, it is not black. Three, it fits. I… sometimes you just reach the point where you say, you know, fuck it and buy clothes that fit and not that are the size you want to be to motivate you to get to that size. Boy, it was comfortable not feeling like a bumble bee squeezed into a wasp outfit.

Looking back on your life, it is like badly-made Swiss cheese, I was thinking just now, out strolling around the neighborhood. Mostly solid cheese, with a few giant holes in it so when you slice it to make a sandwich, you’re all, WTF is with this big hole?

And the ham is looking through, and the structural integrity of the sandwich is compromised, and a thick layer of mayonnaise and mustard is trapped in the hole, unless you fill it with a slice of pickle or tomato.

Also: my tortoise escaped. We’re going to hang posters around the neighborhood. We’re more concerned and upset than I had expected. The fact that it escaped was not exactly surprising – it’s been trying to tunnel out for the past five years – but it’s still a shock to see that it has gone over the wall.

Also: the kids are in the United States now. Hi, kids. Hope all is well.

50 things I failed to do before turning 50

I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish before turning 50. In no particular order, here it is, as near as I can recall. Contrary to the title of this post, some of them I actually accomplished. See the footnotes for more details.

  1. Fix the silicone caulking in the kitchen.1
  2. Sand and paint the fence.2
  3. Fix the downstairs doors so they don’t drag along the floor.3
  4. Start drawing Bug comix again.4
  5. Compose something for a string quartet for some kids.5
  6. Figure out my electric cello.6
  7. Get an amp for it.7
  8. Compose a percussion piece to be played by slapping spatulas on Dame Helen Mirren’s naked body.8
  9. Publish a book.9
  10. Publish a story.10
  11. Submit stories, at least.11
  12. Make a list of potential places to submit stories.12
  13. Write a list of 50 things I want to do before I am 50.13
  14. Lalalalala. No one reads these lists past 10, amirite?14
  15. Learn to paint.15
  16. Build a treehouse.16
  17. Learn to fly.17
  18. Learn to ride a motorcycle.18
  19. Learn to speak Chinese.19
  20. Climb Mt. Everest.20
  21. Acquire as many crossbows as a man needs.21
  22. Zombie sword. Zombie sword.22
  23. Lose 15 kg.23
  24. Learn ballroom dancing.24
  25. Learn wine basics.25
  26. Communicate with my father.26
  27. Make up with my wife.27
  28. Establish career as nude photographer.28
  29. Learn to bake bagels.29
  30. Learn to bake sourdough bread.30
  31. Drive across the USA.31
  32. Take the Trans-Siberian railroad.32
  33. Learn to scuba dive.33
  34. Learn to throw a knife.34
  35. Quit smoking.35
  36. Stop being depressed.36
  37. Overcome shyness.37
  38. Prostate exam.38
  39. Learn cello.39
  40. Learn basic electronics.40
  41. Throw a party for my friends.41
  42. Learn the art of invisibility.42
  43. Get rid of a bunch of junk.43
  44. Get the yard looking good.44
  45. Get a tortoise tattoo.45
  46. Make a few good friends.46
  47. Give away all my junk and move to a Zen monastery where they happen to teach you badass fighting skills, too.47
  48. Work from home.48
  49. Invent something clever.49
  50. Be illuminated.50

2fail, so far this year, although in my defense i have been waiting for warmer weather. will get it done this summer.
3fail, as last weekend’s houseguests can testify.
4fail. although i have been noting ideas.
5started to do this, but it was rejected as too difficult to play. it was minimalistic, with long stretches of repetition, and would have been too hard for the kids to keep track. instead, they composed a piece themselves, which is even cooler.
6am starting to do this. will be easier, i suppose, when i have an amp.
7working on this. many friends gave money towards this at my party, and I’m going shopping with a musician friend this saturday. some friends actually gave me a small, old guitar amp at the party as a joke. i tried it out this morning and despite its size, it cranks. but don’t tell alpha i already have an amp, or she wouldn’t appreciate me getting one suitably large.
8working on it. although i have the impression that the composition would be the easy part of  this project, and getting dame helen to go along with it would be more difficult, with her busy schedule.
9to do this one must write one first, which i was working on, although i recently took a break to write some short stories.
10working on this. strictly speaking, i have actually published stories, but that was many years ago.
11i’m submitting stories every week. so, not fail.
13working on it. this is a pain in the ass, though. any list i write is bound to be arbitrary. maybe i’ll reserve the right to change it as necessary.
14wow, you’re even reading the footnotes! respect!
15i have painted abstract paintings i and/or others like, but it’s more a therapeutic, mystical process at the moment than an artistic one. looking over another 50 list i just found, i see another version: “paint enough pictures to have an exhibition, whether or not i actually ever have an exhibition.” this would be a nice goal, actually, and i even know a great cellar to have an exhibition in, although the light is not so great, being underground and stuff.
16acrophobia and the lack of big trees made this impossible as a kid. although i have overcome acrophobia, a lack of big trees continues to vex me.
17won a flying lesson at the age of 11 in a contest of some kind and have liked the idea of flying since then. no time, though.
18fail. i decided it would be too dangerous.
19fail, or, if you accept a substitution of rudimentary japanese for chinese, success.
20fail, unless you accept a substitution of walking up mt. fuji.
21success, if you belong to the “a man needs zero crossbows” camp.
22fail, although this is a non-negotiable must. a H&K  repeating shotgun would also be swell, but i accept certain persons’ antipathy to firearms. also, it’s not like i really have any need for such a thing. it’s more an object to be admired theoretically, or from afar, like helen mirren.
23working on it
24working on it
25fail. switched to single malt for a while, because there was less competition. that is, fewer people could wax rhapsodic about whiskey than about wine. simply saying, hrm, iodine aftertaste, must be an islay and you were an expert, as long as you avoided actual experts.
26fail, for the most part. we were on good terms when he died, we were always on good terms, he was patient with me, but i have this feeling that i let him down without meaning to.
27this currently looks like success. no doubt the purely academic nature of goal #8 helps.
28fail. this was a boyhood goal, fueled less by aesthetic interests than you know.
29success. still perfecting them though.
30fail, but have not given up hope.
31fail, so far.
32success. 1986, i think. highly recommend it, if you don’t mind the idea of sitting in a train for 2 weeks. once would be enough for me, though.
34fail. have tried this, and learned that it’s harder than it looks. finding a place to practice is also harder than one would imagine.
36have been lucky in this regard lately. exercise helps. still sufficiently melancholy, but have not experienced extended uncontrollable depression for a long time. brief depression while exhausted or stressed, yes, but it has passed rapidly, lately.
37success. i made a speech at my birthday party. i am not going to start selling encyclopedias door-to-door any time soon, but i stood in front of 50 people, okay, friends but still, the idea would have filled me with terror recently, and told them what i thought of them. i told myself this was necessary given the occasion, so no one had to twist my arm. it really made me happy. i got choked up and had to stop before i’d said everything i planned, but it sufficed; and it was probably good that i didn’t sing “kilkelly, ireland” as i had briefly considered. knowing when to quit is half the battle. i subscribe to the opinion that it is a good thing to tell people what you think of them sometimes, at least if it is positive, and i appreciated having the chance to do this. looking at a roomful of people who had accepted my invitation and come, i was surprised to realize i had so many kind and thoughtful friends. i have been perceiving the world differently in the days since then, and not only because i’m fucking exhausted from 1. the partying and 2. cleaning (although the guests were extremely clean and well-behaved).
38really should make an appt. it’s been a couple years.
39working on it. here too, i’ve surprised myself by sticking to it, although i would suck less if i practiced more.
40fail, electronophobia. although a book i recently bought about hacking electric objects to make simple instruments is motivating me to pick up a soldering iron. i showed it to a friend who knows the vegetable orchestra, and she told me they have the same book and have been experimenting with it. that’s how cool i am!
41success. about 60 people came. my only regret was that i didn’t have enough time to spend more time hanging out with each person.
42fail, mostly. except in restaurants and with taxis. man, i get my money’s worth out of that joke, don’t i? but it’s true. however, i generally don’t feel the need to be invisible as much as i once did, which i think is a good thing.
43working on it.
44working on it, although i’m trying to train it to look good with a minimum of labor on my part. did put in a nice little vegetable garden this summer. if it works i’ll make a larger one next year.
45maybe some day.
46way exceeded this one, despite my rotten character. people are basically beautiful, and intelligent, and funny and talented, and they all like me. or are really good at faking it. i used to suspect the latter, but i’m getting over that.
47outgrew this one, i think
48have managed to avoid this so far. there are some serious pros and cons to this.
49This would be the Chaos Coefficient, if you ask me. As well as the idea that efficiency is good for individuals but bad for societies, in certain ways. C=(f+p)f is the formula for the chaos coefficient, where “f” is the number of family members living under your roof, and “p” is the number of pets you have. It is an approximate measure of the average chaos level you can expect in your life.
50i was super illuminated in the night of 8 may, because i had a sore back and took some muscle relaxant, expecting to go to bed early, but friends dropped in and one thing led to another and i felt awful just giving them one beer, but i was out, so i got out the jameson, and as they say on the warning label, do not mix with muscle relaxants. i was so relaxed that when my wife came out to the terrace to say hi, she thought i was my friend and gave me a hug and said welcome back to austria, nice to see you again. of course, the friend shares birthdays with me so we’re practically twins. and when i stood up, i fell right back down again, although i adjusted quickly. so illumination has its pros and cons, too.

Is this a message, finally, or just another day?

I saw Buddha in the road on my way to work this morning and stomped on the gas, but that fucker jumped out of the way just in time.

Also, guess what? My windshield cracked day before yesterday. I don’t even think a rock hit it, it just cracked for the hell of it. Just because I’m just that kind of cracked windshield guy.

And finally, in conclusion, thanks whiskey river for everything, but today, especially, for this.

What book(s)

have changed your life?

PS: The article about reading mentioned in the comments is located here.