Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Whenever I watch shows or read books about the exploits and...interesting living conditions of my ancestors in the soggy pastoral landscapes of northern Europe, I'm always struck by the amount of work that went into, well, everything. Want water to wash with? You better start out early, chump, because you've got a long day of schlepping water ahead of you. New socks? Yeah, you might as well forget about that, unless you're jonesing to shear a sheep, clean the fiber, card it, spin it, and stitch until your eyes bleed. Oh, I forgot: everyone just wore wooden shoes stuffed with straw, anyway. Never mind. You see, there was a shitload of stuff to do, pardon my French, and all this work really didn't leave a lot of time for the invention of such trivial things as the number zero and the chimney, until we a) pinched it from the Arabs in about 1200, and b) figured out a speedy 1100 years after Christ that if you funnel smoke in a contained structure through the roof instead of letting it hover in an impetent cloud just above your head, your eyes feel A LOT better. Better late than never, I guess.

But whatever people lacked in convenient technologies, they more than made up for in a freakish ability to be multi-faceted when it came to the daily repairs and a general knowledge required to, well, not die. At least not until all your teeth fell out first, at any rate. Unfortunately, I did not inherite said trait, at least not in it's positive form. For, like the Golden Rule, the Handyman Principle, as I have just named it, comes in two flavors: the positive and negative. OK, if you'll just be patient with me. I've got to geek-out for a second. You see, Jesus' Golden Rule represents its positive form: "Do unto others as you would have them to unto you," while Confusius articulated it in what is generally called "the negative form:" "Do not do to others as you would not have them do to you." Whew. OK, I'm glad I got that out of the way, because I feel a lot better. Oh, and don't worry, this will all come up again later. Maybe. I'm not getting graded on this, so what do I care if there are loose threads sticking out of it.

The positive form of the Handyman Principle means what it sounds like it should mean: you fix crap. Somethings's broken, you play with it, then it's healthy again. The negative form, of which I am a proud owner, works pretty much in the reverse: something is healthy and, before I'm done with it, it's broken. Or, something is broken, I play with it, and a microscopic screw launches under the couch or between the floorboards, never to be seen again, leaving said object worse off than when I found it. So you can understand the glee I experience everytime I look at the brand new, shiny toilet seat in the bathroom, the toilet seat I installed all by my lonesome a couple of days ago. I wish I were kidding, but everytime I gaze upon that white-painted wood, whether it be in passing, or through use, I become giddy and think "damn, I did that! Me, the guy who, three weeks ago, managed to fall OVER the steps leading out of the Continuing Education building, scraping off two inches of skin from my right knee. Me! Hot damn!"

I feel as if I have, in some small way, redeemed my fellow Geeks, those uncoordinated legions who have, throughout history, shouldered generations of people with the burden of faning interest in the speed of a dragon fly's wings in flight, the multiple uses of a sheep's bladder, or the name of Gandolf's sword in "The Hobbit." It's "Glamdring, the Foehammer." Ugh. Christ. Who have I been redeeming, again? Oh, that's right, Geeks. Ahem.....

Rejoice, ye pale basement dwellers, for your star has risen! I have installed a toilet seat! Cast off your coke bottle glasses and follow me into the su.....ummm, air conditioned living room and take your place at the table! The world is your frozen pizza! And the time is come to claim it!

Amen, Brother. Amen.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

To start off, do I have to tell everyone how happy it makes me to see a small reproduction of Blackbeard's flag on the wall next to my computer? I really shouldn't have to, since I have made my love of pirates plain, but just in case you haven't picked up on it yet: Man, oh man, oh man, I have a small Blackbeard flag on my wall! I went to Beaufort to the Maritime Museum and saw the artifacts from the "Queen Ann's Revenge," Blackbeard's flagship that sunk just to the south off the coast. They were mostly the standard relics people pull up from places like that, black and twisted from the sea, the flat metal surfaces deformed, raised as if frozen in mid-boil, but these were from Blackbeard! Man. So you can understand why I went and bought a little copy of his flag. He was a murderous bastard, but God, does he make a good mythological figure!

I spent last weekend at the beach in my beloved Old North State, sequestered on a small island in the Outer Banks. If I were a liar, which I am, I would say I owned the place, but some lies are just ridiculous; I don't think I could believe myself if I said it. The family of a friend of mine has a little beach cottage down there on the Sound side, so a small group of college friends trucked the five hours down East to bask a bit before the Real World starts up again and ruins everything. What did I do there? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, which is, of course, what you're supposed to do. It was glorious.

Before I went to Germany, I had always been a bit prejudiced against flat landscapes, but I have to admit that my time there has given me a greater appreciation for the vertically challenged regions of the globe. I don't think I could tell you what exactly it is I've come to like about it, but it's reassuring somehow. I like the wide flats of grass that bend and their lighter bellies when the wind blows and the tall sea birds that hunt there. I like smelling salt and the deep stink of mud at low tide, or how the fisher's nets reek as they lay on a warm dock to dry. I like walking in the heavy mists that blow in ahead of a storm at night, the low clouds that carry with them the scent of drying sea weed and the dead things that watch up before the rain comes, and how the birds run to the other horizon and hide in low lakes and channels. And I like for the sea to put me to sleep at night. Man, I miss Fehmarn sometimes.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

It's been awhile since I've sat down with enough motivation to write anything, and I've got to say, I've been busy. Oh, don't worry; I'm not actually going to tell you about any of it, I just wanted you all to know that I've been existing pretty steadily during the last month or so. Speaking of the last month, that's about how long I've been home from Germany, which is just starting to feel something close to normal. Keep in mind that "normal" has always been a suspect word as far as I'm concerned, but I guess that's just because I've never really met anything normal. OK, that was a lie. I've met plenty of normal things, but I just tend to get creeped out by them. You know what I mean, the person who is so totally unobjectionable and likeable in the way they dress, talk, act, pray, laugh, eat, express opinions, and tell jokes, and so on, that there's nothing to dislike. You can't help but like everything about them, and I hate that. It drives me mad. If there's not something about someone that makes me just a little crazy, I can't stand to be around them.

Luckily, things aren't that normal yet, just a bit boring, to be honest. See, I don't have a job yet, and school hasn't started, so I spend a lot of my time purging the Jedi Temple in "The Revenge of Sith" video game, a process that I like to think of as the self-flagellation of geekdom, because....Look, I think we all know how I feel about the new Star Wars movies, so let's just spare ourselves a bit of ineffectual rage and move on, shall we? To put it simply, wearing a horse hair shirt has never been my kind of thing, and neither is sitting on the couch eating grocery store sushi while imagining myself with force powers and, most importantly, a lightsaber, while not-so-silently cursing George Lucus for murdering a long chunk of my childhood, It gets old, believe it or not.

So I've drunk a lot of coffee in the past four weeks, and I do have to confess that I am a huge fan of reading in a coffee shop, not only because it's, well, a good place to read, but because I get to watch all the people who come in and eavesdrop on their conversations. I guess that's why it's taken me this long to finish "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea," but I did it. The squid scene is fantastically cool, by the way. Just thought I'd let you know. Oh, the rest of the book is good too, but the squid! Man! A SQUID! Anyway, I've had a lot of coffee, read a lot, and sat around and had shamelessly geeky conversations/arguments with my room mates, and by room mates, I mean Ben....If Batman counts as a super hero, so does Zorro, but that's all I'm going to say about that. Really. That's all.

That's basically all I've been up to. I'm at home right now taking care of all the animals, and it's kind of nice. I can sit around, read, watch a bit of television, then head out and feed the dogs. It sounds cute, but it really isn't, not with six. One or two, that's kind of charming, but a hot, panting, and eerily moist mass of six hysterically hungry dogs leaping and pressing itself against you crosses the line from pet to some writhing outback abomination that locals tell stories of while huddled in a dim, candle-lit tavern set by a sunken road and surrounded my bleached and rattling dead trees. But my family buys pets according to the Sam's Club school of thought: "why buy one dog, when you can buy six at half price? A gallon of pickles, six dogs, it's all the same." It really wouldn't be that extraordinary if it stopped there, but it doesn't, as tradition would dictate. We have, according to my last count, six dogs, two miniature donkeys, three Llamas (yes, Llamas), six chickens, one mule, about six horses (I can never remember those), and, most recently, 30,000 honey bees. This last one kind of surprised me, and I believe it to be a physical manifestation of a secret, subconsious death wish held by my father. It's kind of like the book "Sphere," only without the alien. And the spaceship. You see, my father has, among other things, the unenviable ability to get stung anywhere, anytime, providing there is at least one stinging insect in the immediate area. So he buys 30,000 bees. That makes sense, right?

The truth is, very few things do make sense, least of all a dog, and we allow, no, INVITE them to live with us, and you know what? I love it. That doesn't say too much for the human race, or at least this one, but whatever....dude. I'm going to take the little French Bulldog outside on a leash later, walk her in circles, and say all kinds of nasty things when she refuses to go to the bathroom. She'll look up with the most calculated pitiful face seen on the American continent since Nixon's "Checkers Speech," and I'll melt, pat her on the head, then swear some more.

Ah, love. It's something else.