Monday, March 29, 2010

Pootsie: The Early Years

(Not Pootsie)

Unlike most Irish-American Catholic families, I do not have six sisters with names like Mary, Margaret, Mary Margaret, Margaret Mary, or Kathleen. Boy, would that have been a mess. With six sisters and a mom in the house, I would never have known we had a bathroom.

“Where are you going, honey?”

“Out in the yard, Mom.”

“My goodness, it’s fifty below zero out there!”

“Can’t help it, gotta take a dump.”

“Don’t be silly. There’s a perfectly good bathroom right upstairs.”

“You’re kidding! WHERE? You better tell Dad ’cause he’s out in the bushes trying to shave.”

My parents blessed me with just one little sister. Pootsie. That was her name, Pootsie. Not her official name, of course, the one she had to use on important documents like spelling tests and love letters to movie stars.

Actually, Dad was the only one who called Pootsie Pootsie. Mom and I called her Cathy, which was sort of her real name, but not the real real name that’s on her birth certificate. I cannot use her real real name because, even though she lives two million miles away in New York, she would poke me in the eye if I did. It is a moot point anyway, since Cathy had her real real name changed officially to Cathy ages ago, so now her real real name is Cathy.

I don’t see anything confusing about that, do you? I mean, it’s not like I had five other sisters calling themselves something different every fifteen minutes.

* * * * *

Even though I’m two years older than she is, my sibling got all the good stuff—brains, looks, and personality. She even got the boobs, which really pissed me off because I wanted them. There I was, waiting and waiting, while Cathy popped ’em out just as easy as microwave popcorn.

Everything, you see, was as easy as microwave popcorn for my sister. She never had to study because she just seemed to know shit automatically. Memorizing The Baltimore Catechism? No problem. By the third grade she had all five hundred answers memorized, while I was still working on number six during my senior year in college. It was the same thing with the multiplication tables.

MOM: “Cathy, what is 1,642 times 2,928?”

CATHY: “4,807,776. Gee, Mom, that was an easy one.”

MOM: “Chuckie, what is 4 times 3?”

CHUCKIE: “Let me see now, 4 times 1 is 4, 4 times 2 is 8, 4 times 3 is 27, no, no, that’s not right, wait a minute, I’ll get it, don’t keep pestering me, I need time to think, a lot of it, and boy, is it hot in here, I really have to go to the bathroom, and don’t stare at me like I’m stupid, this stuff is hard, I’ll get it sooner or later, let me see, 4 times 1 is 4, 4 times 2 is . . .”

Cathy got all the talent, too. She can’t play the bassoon worth a shit, only because she never took bassoon lessons, but she was a child singing-and-tap-dancing sensation. Well, I don’t know if she was a sensation, but she was pretty good. She sang and tap danced in local shows, many of them at nursing homes, and I remember that she made those lonely old folks feel young again, at least for a little while.

* * * * *

Lest I make it sound like my sister was some kind of perfect child, she wasn’t. Far from it. When she was three, she had chronic tonsillitis. Either yank them, the doctor said, or else she could kiss show biz goodbye by the time she turned four. Problem is, it was her rotten tonsils that got my perfectly good ones snipped too.

DOCTOR: “Looks like Pootsie has a problem with her pipes and I’ll have to pull ’em.”

MOM: “Oh dear Lord. What about Chuckie’s?”

DOCTOR: “His are perfectly good, but I might as well rip ’em out at the same time. I’m having a big two-for-one sale down at the hospital this week, plus I give S&H Green Stamps.”

So Cathy got her singing voice back, Mom got a new toaster with the shitload of Green Stamps from the hospital, and all I got was a sore throat that has been acting up ever since.

* * * * *

Other stories about my only sibling:

Clean Underwear

Singing for Salvation

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Useful Tip for Embedding Videos

I've noticed lately that Blogger has changed the way it embeds videos from YouTube: it no longer allows videos to extend past the posting area into the sidebar. This is a good thing aesthetically, except Blogger does it in its usual sloppy way: it just cuts off the right side of the video if the video width is greater than 425. A good example is a video Map posted a few days ago. Half of the video is missing (except in feeds, where vids are shown in full width).

To illustrate, I downloaded The Muppets doing their spoof of the movie Pulp Fiction by using the YouTube embed code as shown:

This is the result because the embed code width says 480:

Fortunately, the fix is easy. Note the little blue thingy (technical name: thingy), next to the embed code. Click on that and a whole new world opens to you:

1) The 480 box is highlighted in blue, so just click on the 425 box. The embed code will change.

2) If you don't want all the "related video" crap to muck up your video's ending, uncheck the checked box.

3) This is also the place where you can play around with border colors if you so desire colored borders.

Here is The Muppets video after I adjusted the width:

Since different blog templates have different posting widths, width can be adjusted in the HTML embed code. My template can handle about 440, but I leave it at 425 because, as we used to say in the government, "It's close enough for government work."

Any questions will happily be answered by someone other than myself.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: Rooftops of Tehran

Rooftops of Tehran, Mahbod Seraji

NAL Trade, 2009
ISBN: 9780451226815
368 pages

Multiple-choice question: This book is about
1) Shah Pahlavi's secret police.
2) Love.
3) The people of Iran.

Answer: Yes.

I may flunk the making of test questions, but this first novel by Seraji deserves an “A”. In the tradition of The Kite Runner, and to drag out the most clichéd of all clichés, I could not put this book down until I had read the last blank leaf.

The year is 1973. Pasha, the book’s narrator, and Ahmed, his life-long friend, are both seventeen. This, then, is a coming of age story or, as a Doctoral candidate in creative writing told me, a bildungsroman—defined as the moral and psychological development of the characters.

Pasha, a bookish boy, has a mentor whom everyone calls Doctor. Doctor is an avowed Communist, beloved by all in the neighborhood because he is a radical, and betrothed since birth to Pasha’s next-door neighbor, Zari. Pasha falls in love with Zari, who will forever be unavailable to him. But how does he stop love, a love he did not ask for in the first place? This is his bildungsroman: he cannot stop thinking of this seventeen-year-old girl, and at night he agonizes over his guilt and his desire for the forbidden.

Ahmed, who provides comic relief and a well-tuned sense of the absurd, has a girlfriend whom he courts in the traditional Western manner. Shah Pahlavi was Muslim, but he modernized Iran by doing away with the burkqua and arranged marriages. He was also a dictator and could not allow radical groups, mostly Communist, to exist. SAVAK, the secret police, hunted, imprisoned, tortured, and killed dissidents—one of whom was Doctor.

Doctor’s fate is not only devastating to Zari and Pasha, Ahmed and Faheemeh, and all the parents and relatives; all the neighbors who live in the alley (street) are outraged too, that such a horror has happened to one of their own.

This is where Seraji shines. In addition to creating characters I could not help but like, he peppers the book with stories of the Iranian people to balance the stinging salt of the heavier themes. He points out that Iranians are Persians, not Arabs, and their language is Farsi, not Arabic. Despite hundreds of years of oppression by both invaders and dictators, the people are unusually kind, gracious, and form friendships for life. They love the beauty of their country, which is predominantly mountainous, green, and the land fruitful. They love their rooftop terraces too, where they can gaze at the stars or watch the activity in the alley.

Through flashbacks, Pasha relates stories of his and Amed’s childhoods, their days at school with teachers whose cruelties rival those of Catholic nuns, of Ahmed’s often brash and hilarious antics—and of odd relatives who are comical because of being odd.

The love story: I’m not going to say one word, not one peep, not even if you send me an email begging me to reveal it.

For me, this little gem takes it place beside the works of Khaled Hosseini and Jhumpa Lahiri, even though Seraji’s writing does not rival either one of them as poetry in prose.

And about the rose on the cover. It has a very special meaning ...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Skinny Guy

I can see, by gazing at the time in the lower right corner of my computer screen, that it's time once again for one of my scribblings. And whoever in the back just blew that raspberry, please go to . . . somewhere else.

* * * * *

I’ve always been a skinny guy. L-o-n-g and skinny. Bill the dentist used to marvel at how long my teeth were, back in the days when I had ’em. X-ray technicians marvel at my long lungs, barbers at my long ear hair, and my dragon-breathed piano teacher at my long fingers.

But being the male equivalent of an anorexic runway model hasn’t always been so marvelous. Especially during kidhood. I was an easy target for bullies, so I had to outsmart them—not too tough (excluding the fear factor) when you consider the average I.Q. of a bully is twenty-seven. I knew all the street corners where they skulked, squatted, and scratched, so I mapped out an intricate route from school to home that eliminated corners altogether.

I took right turns, left turns, about-face turns, turn-about turns, roundabouts, circles, crop circles, S-curves, switchbacks, diamondbacks, up one side of the street and down the other, dirt paths, paths of least resistance, diagonals, Diagon Alley, blind alleys, bowling alleys, Kirstie Alley, railroad crossings, crisscrosses, double-crosses, cross dressers, crosswords, crosswalks, sidewalks, jaywalks, and the road less travelled.

I always arrived home safely but I was dizzy and seasick, an hour or two late for supper, and had smoke coming out of my socks.

High school was better because the bullies were too busy sneaking smokes and copping feels to bother with me. And the girls—well, they were a lot less male-skinny-conscious. I mean some of the girls actually liked me for me. Not the cheerleader-Britney Spears-type of course, but even in my hormonal teens I preferred a girl who had a brain and used it for something other than holding up her teased hair.

The main thing about being skinny is that people feel a compulsion to point it out to me, as if I’m totally unaware that I’m thin. “GEE-SUS CHRIST YOU’RE SKINNY!” they bellow, looking at me as if I escaped from a circus sideshow. “Don’t you ever EAT?” they ask. Of course I eat, but with some qualifications: I do not stuff my big mouth at the almighty troughs of McDonald’s, Frito-Lay, and Coca-Cola.

That is something I have never understood. It seems perfectly okay to tell a skinny guy that he is skinny, but how often does someone walk up to a fat guy and bellow in his face, “GEE-SUS CHRIST YOU’RE FAT!” Or ask him, “Don’t you ever STOP eating?” I guess if you’re a fat guy it’s always a “gland” problem—a physical malfunction of some sort—regardless of a fat belly caused by beer, a fat ass caused by sitting on it, or a fat head caused by sitting on it.

Well, to all of the truly fat guys out there, there are a ton of advantages to being skinny:

•I can crawl through the dog door whenever I forget my keys.

•I have absolutely no use for miracle diets or Dr. Phil.

•Martha likes it because she gets eight-tenths of the bed.

•I use less soap and water when I shower, which makes me environmentally friendly.

•I can buy off-the-rack in clothing instead of off-the-tent in sporting goods.

•I don’t need four gallons of Gatorade to get me to and from the mailbox.

•I can see my pecker any time I need it for something.

It used to hurt when people derisively called me skinny. It hurt a lot. I likened it to weakness as a male and I felt ashamed of myself.

I hurt no more, though, about people with thin minds. I realized a long time ago that if people don’t like me solely because of my physical appearance, then I cordially invite them to fook themselves. Like the bullies they were as kids, they are missing out on knowing a decent human being beneath these bones. Let their shallowness and their judgmentalism be their problem because

I like me just fine.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Dark Side of Vamplit

I'll say here at the beginning that I'm the very last person to condone banning or telling people what or what not books to read. No one has appointed me The Supreme Censor—I’ll leave that to the religious zealots and parent committees—and I would never impinge upon anyone’s freedom of choice.

That said, I do have a personal opinion of all the books I read (as we all do), and I pass some of those on to you as reviews. I also express my opinion on books I have not read, such as those ghostwritten for Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin. In no case, however, have I ever said, “Do NOT read this book!”

So quit blathering, Charlie, and get to your point. Okay, my point is this: I have absolutely nothing against vampire and zombie stories or the people who read them, but I do object to using real people, real events, and classic literature as the premise of, and foils for, creatures that do not exist. Here is a sampling, none of which I have (or will) read.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith

Smith, whom I believe started this trend with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, would have us believe that Lincoln’s mother died by a vampire when he was a boy of nine. He made a pledge of vengeance to track down and kill vampires, a vendetta which he secretly pursued throughout his life. According to Smith, slave owners were the allies of vampires.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, by W. Bill Czolgosz

In this mangling of one of my all-time favorite books, Czolgosz’s premise has a mutant strain of tuberculosis bringing people back from the dead. Some are vicious and sent back to Hell, but the good ones stick around and work. Huck’s companion Jim is a good one, until a new strain of TB turns him into … you guessed it. Get this, though, from Amazon’s product review: “With so many zombies on the market, the slave trade is nonexistant [sic].”

Release, by Nicole Hadaway

In my opinion, this is the worst of the three. Hadaway, in an original story, uses the Holocaust as her venue. Miranda Dandridge is a vampire and, along with her friends, save children from the concentra- tion camps. Using the Holocaust, the real horror of all horrors, as the backdrop for the exploits of “good” vampires is a disgrace to both the millions of humans who died and those who survived.

Geeze, Charlie, lighten up! These books are for fun! Don’t you have a sense of humor?

Yes, yes I do. Once or twice a day, in fact.

What I don’t find humorous is this partial review by Buddy Guy for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim:

. . . One might argue that this is a great way to introduce a new generation to some great classic authors. Sure, zombies are needed to lure them in, but I like to think that it is the story that keeps them coming back for more.

More what, Buddy? More skewed classics that downplay or eradicate slavery by weaving fictional fiends into their fabric? Why not destroy Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (since this book is in the public domain too), and blame werewolves (along with vampires and zombies) for slavery?

If it takes zombies to lure a new generation to the classics, I don’t have much faith that the newbies will scramble to read the original Austen or Twain, or seek out biographies of Lincoln, or search for books on slavery and the Holocaust. With the dumbing-down of America’s “school” systems, lures will catch fish but not many teens and young people.

And that is my opinion.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bohemian Rhapsody

What better way to start the week off than with a video of Queen and The Muppets? Well, a cookie or two would be nice . . .

[Lisleman at A Few Clowns Short of a Circus posted the all-Muppet version of the Rhapsody this morning. To Lisleman: Theft is the sincerest form of flattery. If you believe that, you're a clown.]

Friday, March 12, 2010

Small Films 2: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

A year ago, in March 2009, I started a new regular feature I called “Small Films: Those that Passed Under the Radar.” I must be pretty regular, then, because it’s March again and here's #2 in the series.(#1 was A Little Romance).

* * * * *

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les parapluies de Cherbourg) (1964) (In French with English sub-titles.)

Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo

Writer & Director: Jacques Demy

Music: Michel Legrand

Genre: Drama/Romance

Awards: Golden Palm (Cannes)

Ladies, Gentlemen, and fellow Wormites, this is my favorite movie of all time. And I cry every time I watch it, to the point of serious dehydration. So what is it about this film that turns me into an emotional train wreck?

The story is as simple as a love story can be. Seventeen-year-old Geneviève (Deneuve was twenty at the time of filming) and Guy (Castelnuovo), a handsome auto mechanic, fall in love. Hard. And without any cutesy Hollywood comedy lines to distract from or impinge upon their love.

Geneviève works in her mother’s umbrella shop, where they live in the back rooms. Guy lives with his dying aunt, who has a daytime caregiver, Madeleine. For a few hours each evening, though, Geneviève and Guy stroll through the streets of Cherbourg or sit in a café holding hands.

But in matters of love, no matter how deep they may be, some tragedy must fall. Guy receives his draft papers: he is to serve in the war in Algeria for two years. The lovers are bereft, to the point where Guy takes Geneviève to his bed. The going away scene is an emotional killer, and Michel Legrand hits us with his signature theme, “I Will Wait for You”, making it even worse.

Don’t believe me? This is an 87-minute film, but there is an intermission following this scene so the audience can have a good cry-a-thon before the second half begins. (I saw it in three different theatres, so I know.)

I hesitate to tell much more of the story, other than life has a tendency to change.

This film is a small masterpiece thanks to Demy’s writing and directing. He uses color everywhere, giving Geneviève’s and Guy’s love a magical quality, a visual metaphor of what they see in each other. It’s in French, the language of love, and every time I hear Catherine Deneuve sing Je t'aime I get goose bumps.

Did I say sing? Yes, I did. The entire movie is sung, not spoken, to Michel Legrand’s wonderful score (he was nominated for an Oscar, but The Sound of Music beat him to death). Like The Phantom of the Opera, this is faux opera. It takes a little getting used to, but not much. And for the record, Deneuve does her own singing.

So what is it about this film that turns me into an emotional train wreck? I am a die-hard Romantic, capital R, and I truly believe that a good and pure love is possible.

[The film has recently been restored, including Dolby stereo, so the DVD is available.]

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Charlie Does Bingo

Scribble, scribble, scribble . . .

* * * * *


“You know, Martha, I need to get out of the house for awhile. These white-on-the-bottom, green-on-the-top walls remind me of a penitentiary.”

“They wouldn’t be green-on-the-top if you hadn’t flung your spinach at them the other night.”

“I hate spinach.”

“Do you want to go to bingo with me?”

“I don’t know anything about dice.”

“That’s craps with the dice. Bingo is with numbers and it’s really easy; a whole lot of dumb people play it. And you get to use colored marking pens, too.”

“Numbers, huh? I know numbers. And I love colored marking pens. Are you sure it’s easy?”

“It’s a snap. TRUST me.”


“I thought you said we were going to bingo, Martha.”

“We are at bingo.”

“No we’re not. Lookit: there’s nothing but old ladies here. Hundreds of them, every place I look. You tricked me into coming to the church basement, didn’t you. And someone’s gonna start preaching at me from that funny-looking pulpit over there, aren’t they.”

“That’s the caller’s stand and this is a bingo parlor, you dumb shi . . . never mind—you already know it.”

“So teach me how to play. It’s easy, right?”

“It’s a breeze, just like I said. Now listen up and put that dauber down.”

“That what?”

“Dauber. For marking out your numbers. It’s a big marking pen, but they call it a dauber because you ‘daub’ the color over the numbers on your paper so you know that you have those numbers after the caller calls them. The caller shows each number, one at a time in the monitor, and then—”

“What monitor?”


“You don’t have to yell at me, you know. I can’t learn when you yell at me. Plus it scares me when your face gets all red, just like that dauber there. Why didn’t I get a red dauber, by the way? You bought me a green dauber when I really wanted a red dauber, but you bought me a green dauber anyway. What? Why are you staring at me like that? What? Maybe you should close your mouth before something nasty flies in there and reproduces.”


Daub. Daubdaub. Daub. Daubdaubdaub. Rest a minute. Daubdaub. Daub. Daub.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m daubing. You told me to daub the numbers I have on my card, remember?”

“The number in the monitor is O-68. You’re daubing I-30. You’re supposed to daub O-68.”

“I don’t have O-68, so I’m doing I-30 instead.”

“You. Are. A. Dumb. SHIT!”

[Old lady chorus]

“Geesus, who stepped on their wrinkled old tits? Why is everyone yelling at you, honey? This really is a church, isn’t it. You tricked me. But come to think of it, I’ve never heard old ladies cuss like that in church—unless I wasn’t listening. I do that in church, you know. I don’t listen. I sleep. Have you ever noticed how I do that? How I fall asleep in church? Boy, I sure wish I could figure out a way to fit preaching inside a pill for insomnia. Why, I’d be rolling . . .”


“You think I’m a pain, don’t you. That I’m no fun.”


“You think I’m an asswad. Stupid. A clown. Childish. A dumb shit.”


“Well I’m not as dumb as you think, Missy.”


“I can always tell when you’re not talking to me because you don't say a word.

[Derisive snort]


“Will you start talking to me again if I agree to give you half of the $25,000 jackpot I won?”

[Derisive snore]

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Vintage Trade Paper, 2009
ISBN: 978-0307454546
608 pages

From's review:

Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there's no turning back. This debut thriller . . . is a serious page-turner . . .

From the blurb whores:

What a cracking novel! I haven’t read such a stunning thriller debut for years.
—Minette Walters

As vivid as bloodstains on snow.
–Lee Child

First published in September 2008, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is still on the bestseller list.

As I sit here inserting book hype, I seriously wonder what the hell book I read with the same title, cover, and author. With ghosts of The da Vinci Code still haunting me, it feels like déjà vu all over again.

I am a seasoned mystery and thriller reader, or I should say I was: at 600 pages, the book’s length should have tipped me off that it was too long by half—the first half, to be exact. Description, description, talk, talk, yammer, yammer—you get the idea. If the book had been edited and pared down to 300 pages, then this would have been a good book.

Story-wise, Mikael Blomkvist is a disgraced financial journalist hired by Henrik Vanger, retired scion of a family-owned industrial conglomerate, to solve the disappearance of his niece Harriet nearly 40 years ago. To say that Henrik is obsessed with Harriet is an understatement. To say that the Vanger clan, all of whom except one live on an island north of Stockholm, are misfits all, is a double understatement.

Mikael not only has Harriet’s story told to him in detail by Vanger, but then we, the reader, get to go through it all again as Mikael reads 40 years-worth of binders compiled by the old man. Mikael cannot come up with clue one, and he needs help badly.

Enter Lisbeth Salander, 24, the young woman with the dragon tattoo, body piercings, and a brilliant but very troubled mind. She is a computer hacker extraordinaire, a keen observer, and she is the one who gets the story finally rolling.

I had other, more serious problems with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in addition to bloatation. There are many more characters than I’ve mentioned, but Larsson didn’t create even one that I could give a fig about. To me, they were merely paper characters on a paper page. Lisbeth had the potential to be fascinating, but Larsson only gave hints here and there to her “trouble.” A ward of the state at age 24? Why? Beats me.

Once the story starts to take off, Larsson commits the sin of coincidence. Serious, Dickens-type coincidence that is difficult if not impossible to believe. Larsson resorts to computer jargon and programming that is also difficult to believe and understand. Lisbeth may be a computer wunderkind, but this was over-the-top stuff.

I strongly believe that Larsson was a misogynist. Women are sex objects (including Mikael’s best friend and married boss), there is rape, incest, and torture, white slavery by Vanger’s nemesis Wennerstrom, and Lisbeth performs oral sex on her Ward so she can receive her money allotment. The only “pure” woman in the book, according to old Vanger, is his beloved Harriet.

I give the book 3 out of 5 stars: 2 for Larsson writing it and 1 for me reading it, but then I have to deduct my 1 star for falling for the hype, again, so the revised total is 2 out of 5 stars. And forget about me reading the other two books in the trilogy. Fool me once, fool me twice . . .

[Please remember that this is my opinion only; your results may differ at home.]

Friday, March 05, 2010

Riding the Sled

Now that the Olympics are over and you're missing them, here is an absolutely true story. The denoument is a little shaky since I don't remember our exact words, but I think it's kind of clever.

* * * * *

The Event: The First Annual Brother Fraternity-Sister Sorority Winter Drink, Dance, and Tickle Festival Field Trip. We were social young animals in our late teens and early twenties, not to mention that out mental elevators did not stop at every floor.

The Time: January 1966, ten-ish in the morning or thereabouts.

Where: The Olympic bobsled complex, Mount Van Hoevenberg, Lake Placid, New York.

Why: To experience the thrill of riding a sled down the side of an icy mountain where serious injury or death was possible.

The Waiver: Each rider had to sign a waiver stating that, in the event of serious injury or death, we agreed not to hold the State of New York (the owner) responsible for the serious injury or death. The minute I signed it, I felt like dead man walking. Or rather, like dead man doing poo in his pants.

There was no way I could back out, though, because the only girl amongst us chose me for her partner. Quite forcefully chose me, nearly pulling my right arm out of its socket. “Hey, watch it, that’s my pitching arm!” I barked, knowing that I couldn’t sue the State of New York for a dislocated shoulder. “Oh, are you on the baseball team?” she asked. “Nope, ping-pong,” I replied.

The Preliminaries: Our “ride” was a four-man model—in our case, a three-man-one-woman model—stripped-down to just the bare frame with gear shift-like knobs to hang on to. There was a professional driver, the redhead behind him (did I mention the girl had two tons of beautiful red hair?), then me (the ping-pong pitcher), and finally the professional brakeman. The verbose driver gave us our instructions: “Just sit there.”

The Ride: Only the two pros pushed the sled before jumping on, so we got off to a slow start. The run was straight for a bit to gain speed, and then we came to the first turn. A baby turn as I soon found out, but scream city anyway at suddenly riding sideways.

Like many things, the reality was quite different than watching it on TV. Down there on the ground the walls of ice looked HUGE and all encompassing, like a cocoon. All I could see was ice coming at us, faster and faster, while the wind slapped me in the face and every bump, hundreds of bumps from re-frozen ice and other sleds, rattled through my entire body. Fresh and smooth Zambonied ice? No fooking way.

Just when I thought I was getting used to sliding sideways on either right or left curves, we came to the famous


where the sled went nearly upside-down to the left and then immediately upside-down to the right before straightening out. Even though the team didn’t take us close to the lip, it was a thrill and a ½.

Finally, after the last curve, we came out of the cocoon to sunlight, trees, people, and a cloud of snow as the brakeman stopped the sled on an incline. With nary a word to us, the pros picked up the sled, carried it to the dump truck transport, and rode back to the top to be with their own kind.

I found out later that our top speed was 40mph, but mostly in the 35mph range. The sledders, lugers, and skeletons of today are insane, not to mention lunatics. But for me, riding a bobsled was the craziest thing I’d done in my young life, and I loved every minute of it.

The Denouement:

Your freckles are wind burned,” I told Red.

“Yeah, so are yours,” she laughed. “I didn’t know they had pitchers in ping-pong.”

“Pitchers!” I exclaimed. “Lettuce go to the lodge and quaff a couple.”

I was on familiar ground now; this was, after all, the Tickle Festival.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

No More Trouble

Playing for Change is a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.

I have featured Playing for Change videos before* to extremely lukewarm response.

Street performers from around the world, however, who play for change tossed into battered tin cans or guitar cases, believe the dream of world peace through music. They have hope, no matter how far-fetched it may seem.

I have hope too, that someday long after I'm gone, the world will come together as the brothers and sisters that we all are. Call me what you will, but without hope mankind is doomed.

This is the fastest 5 minutes you will ever spend watching a video. It features Bono, whom I don't think normally plays for change.

(When video starts, change 360p to 480p for HD.)

*Here is the other post I did on Playing for Change. "Stand by Me" was their first video and is still my favorite.