Friday, April 29, 2005

Last Call...for Charity.

Isn't the world a better place now that our post titles are centered? I mean, I could get, like, out there, and make them bold as well, but then I'd just be showing off, and besides, that might be enough to make this blog popular and stuff, and who needs that?

Okay folks, one final annoyance regarding the post at top: the Walk to D'Feet ALS is tomorrow. Dublin Saab in civilian alter-ego will be graciously walking along with me. After that, the post up top finally leaves and my ALS web page comes down. So for anyone who would like to contribute but has been procrastinating, or who would just like to read a few facts about the disease, please click here. Then, click on the "click here to sponsor me button" to contribute using a credit card. We are a mere $45 shy of my (revised) goal. Donation is win-win: you'll get to feel like the good people you know you are, and those that don't know already get the scandalous thrill of finding out my real name. What could be better?

My thanks again to those who have chipped in thus far. There will be a formal post of recognition following the event that will stay up top for a while, as you all did patiently suffer through two months of the one that's there now. Pictures will be posted following the event.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tales o' Racin' Mopeds

Let me tell you a story. When I was fifteen years old, my delinquent friend Kevin and I hung out with this eighteen-year-old loser by the name of Erich Meier. Erich's parents were perverted German immigrants who, like good Teutonic parents, had bought their son a 35cc Puch moped. One typically bored afternoon, Kevin and I stole the moped and took it out for a joyride, during which I rode it over a speed bump and broke something important, so that the poor Puch no longer ran. Erich was none too pleased with this, but gave me a reasonable out: I could buy his broken moped off him for a fairly modest sum. He didn't ride it anyway, so it was win-win for him. I accepted, because: A) Erich was much bigger than me; and B) Kevin, for all his many adverse qualities, was not a bad mechanic. With his help, the Puch ran again, and I had an uncool but incredibly fun toy.

I went out of town for a few days after my acquisition, when, true to karmic form, my brother Jason and his delinquent friend stole my moped and took it out for a joyride, wrecking it and breaking something important so that it no longer ran.

Fast forward six years. I'm at Ohio State and have told my friend Michael the story I've just told you. He concludes we need to go to Cleveland and bring the damaged, dusty and disused Puch to Columbus to resuscitate it. We retrieve it, but in a beer-soaked repair session Michael breaks something important, and the Puch, having had enough of this kind of thing, wisely never runs again.

I was done with mopeds after that, eventually moving on to the more sophisticated dorkiness of scooters, some of which can actually meet local speed limits. But for Michael, a strange, festering sickness began.

Fast forward another nine years. Michael builds a two-car garage behind his new house. Soon it, and his basement, are filled with slow, two-wheeled mechanized oddities. He tries to recruit me into his recondite moped world, but I refuse. Soon, his condition has deteriorated to a point at which he begins to modify the bikes for racing. People actually do this. Michael is about 6'3 and in well exess of 200 lbs, so he's out as the potential helmsman in any moped contest. His lovely wife Melvina, co-dependent in his illness, however is not. Here she is in action.

The Magnificent Melvina, moped-mounted and maniacal. Posted by Hello

The event, in Michael's own words:

Here is Mel in heat # 2, she came in 3 of 5 in #1 and 4 of 7 in heat 2. She was not only the only girl in the moped specials class, but also the only female of about 70 racers in all classes (scooter, ysr, motard, and moped). She got acclaim from not only friends she raced against, but also strangers that became friends that day - everyone was a true sportsman. She has a 70cc kit with expansion chamber exhaust, underdrive front sproket, matched ports, and 110 race gas. We have also ordered/working to fabricate additional items to increase the bike's potential - 'specials' that she runs in is unlimited [modifications]. The winner rode a Puch.

Life is full of little ironies.

Welcome to America.

My brother Jason of One Sandal fame has returned from his two-month sojourn about SE Asia. He's probably experiencing the typical post-extended-trip-abroad readjustment blues, so you should all stop by his blog and say "hello and welcome back." I'm still sorting through the 8 trillion or so pictures he's posted to it, but one in particular stood out:

My brother, riding a freakin' elephant! Posted by Hello

That's him, back right. So what did you all do this Winter?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Why we should be Happy that Ants are Small.

Ants are vicious little bastards. Anyone who has encountered any of the biting variety knows this well enough, and besides, they're a notoriously annoying domestic hassle. But this BBC story gave me new cause to dislike these bugs. They're sadists on top of everything else. Or at least this kind is.
A fierce species of Amazonian ant has been seen building elaborate traps on which hapless prey are stretched like medieval torture victims, before being slowly hacked to pieces.

That's why I'm declaring today "celebration of elevated status on the food chain day." Okay, that title needs work if I'm ever gonna sell Hallmark on it.
Once the prey is well secured by jaws fastening all its extremities, it is stretched over the platform like an ancient sacrifice to the gods.

I do love how British journalists editorialize. It makes for some, er, questionable reporting on international events, but it's delightful for bug-writing. Sound like a suitably awful way for some unlucky grasshopper to go out? Wait; there's more:
"Small insects will be immediately dismembered and transported to the nest," said Dr Orivel. "But bigger insects will stay on the trap for up to 12 hours.

Ravenous and hateful ants conspiring to torture and kill cool green bug. Posted by Hello

So there you have it--twelve hours of innocent vegetarian bug suffering. Ants are murderously cruel and need the big old Shoe of the Almighty to come down on them. Since the Almighty doesn't seem up for it, you'll have to substitute your shoe. That's right; this is a call to arms. Smear every ant hill you come across; step on every blasted fire ant you encounter. Get out those magnifying glasses and start focusing the sun on them again! Pour Gum-Out on them and light them on fire! Drown them! Stick chewing gum on them and then pull it apart, watching their little ant compartments seperate! Reclaim every bug-killing habit you had as a seven-year-old and never should have let go. Now's the time, before they evolve into the size of dogs and eat us all. Ask yourself: do I want to be eaten by dog-sized ants? I know I don't. So get killing, and that right soon.

You know, I started out with the idea of a serious and reflective post on nature. Somewhere along the way it was highjacked by a wave of silliness. Ah well. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

In the Night.

So I was trying to leave St. Mark's twenty minutes into the liturgy, having once again accidentally gone to the Spanish Mass. Halfway up the driveway, I fell down and couldn't get up, or rather, fell again every time I tried. A couple of hispanic-looking guys were heading down the driveway the other way. I told them that the Mass was in Spanish and they shouldn't go. In totally unaccented Midwestern English, one of them said, "Man, they should really put that on the sign." They both turned and left.

I looked down at my watch. 5:20. I had only ten minutes to get to the Newman Center for the 5:30 Mass (always in English), and as it's over a mile away, I realized I had better hurry. But I was just walking so slow and I couldn't make myself go faster, so I realized I'd need to cut across Lydian Avenue to save some time. As I was heading down Lydian, I saw a tall, guant black dog, perhaps a doberman-shepherd mix, walking toward me. Knowing she meant harm, I looked around at the gnarled oaks, scanning nervously for a branch in climbing reach. None. I was doomed. But she just kept walking on by, with her furry, bouncy black puppy that I had suddenly noticed in tow. She strode off, but the puppy (which, oddly, looked like a cocker spaniel, and nothing like its mother), after sniffing around for a minute, locked its jaws onto the heel of my sandal and wouldn't let go. I took off the sandal but there the puppy hung, eyes roving and alert, happy-looking enough, but locked inseperably to my sandal. So I carried sandal dog up to Nelson road, where I saw a posh, well-dressed, fiftyish white woman with two hispanic children.

"I see you've found my dog," she said. "He seems to like you." Pulling out her purse she withdrew some bills and handed them to me, who, being broke until my tax return arrives, gratefully accepted them. "We're going to church. Meet us over on Eastwood later." And they walked off. I guess everyone was late that day. So, puppy-sandal still in hand, I started walking toward the intersection of Nelson and Fifth, not at all bothered that I had just taken a side street in Cleveland to cut through from Wilmington, North Carolina to Columbus, Ohio. I checked my wallet to see how much money she had given me, and found, miraculously, it had morphed from what looked like ten into about $140. Wow. Drinks for me tonight, I thought.

So I kept walking with the dog toward Fifth, and crossed when the light changed, being eyed suspiciously by the dense throng of traffic for holding a sandal with a black puppy attached. From his darting eyes, I could tell the puppy was getting skittish, and the last thing I needed was for him to take off running in traffic. I made it to the other side, where Amanda was walking her dog. I didn't know that Amanda had a dog, but asked if I could borrow her leash so I could keep track of the puppy until I took him back to Eastwood. She was about to hand me the leash when, sure enough, the puppy dropped to the ground and ran out in front of some cars. I bolted out after him, getting in between a black minivan and an early-eighties, gleaming white Toyota Supra, like the one my friend Jason used to have but much nicer. They both had tinted windows and headlights on, and I was sure they were going to kill me but they didn't. They stopped. The puppy then darted after a squirrel into the trees, and I realized now I had to catch the puppy and the sqirrel, although I wasn't sure why, even though they kept splitting off and going different directions. All I could think was that I'd have to give that money back to the nice rich lady, and I'd lost her dog and would have to move away in shame. Amanda caught the squirrel for me and put it in a shoebox, but I knew it would never substitute for the puppy, which was gone.

And then I saw Jamie standing there at the edge of the woods, watching, not saying a word. Honestly, I thought the intrusion was a little sneaky and rude, and so, a bit bothered, I marched up to him, pointed my finger, and said, "You're dead," in a very accusatory tone.

Quietly, like the dead, he replied: "Only sometimes."

This afternoon, I was trying to make heads or tails out of all of this, when I noticed the date: April 15. In three days my friend will have been dead eleven years. I don't think about him or how he died very often. It was a long time ago in a different city with a different group of friends, most of whom I no longer have contact with. But what I did realize is, be they young or old, we never really forget the dead. The loss they represent to those who considered them friends, parents, chidren, neighbors, is like a pinprick in the soul, that grows easy to ignore with time but never truly closes. It just lingers, and is joined in time by more and more pinpricks, until with age we are so riddled, the balance so skewed between the number of dead we know and the number of living, that it seems a matter of proper economy to join the bigger group. I think perhaps that is often why the elderly face death with such stoicism.

And so I thought of Jamie Best and Jim Metzgo, Pat Joyce and Lynn Dura and Chris Burrant, Jerry Wick and Chris Carlson, my brother's friend Hans, Amanda from the dream's brother, Kohler, Dusty--friends of mine, friends of my siblings, some close and some nearly strangers, and wondered "where did you all go? You were all so young."

I don't know if its easier to lose the elderly for their friends and children, but loss of the young just seems so painfully unjust. This is an illusion of the mind, of course--we don't sign 80 year leases at birth--but a potent illusion. It seems unfair to know, at 31 years of age, directly and peripherally so many people that didn't make it this far.

But I realized somewhere in pondering the question, that I already had my answer. Each of us may say to the departed, in moments of sorrow, "you're dead," and mean it as a sort of reproach. To which the dead, perhaps flattered at being long remembered, reply without injury:

"Only sometimes."