Just Living My Life, Dave-Style

As I was walking out the door on Wednesday morning, I realized that I had forgotten my cell-phone, and so I went back into the kitchen to retrieve it . . . and as I walked by the counter I noticed an overturned yogurt container, a spoon, and an open magazine-- it took me a moment to process the tableau-- and then I realized that this was my mess, that I was the culprit, and I told my wife that I couldn't believe I could be so rude and slovenly -- which made her laugh-- and the odd thing is this: I was genuinely surprised that I didn't clean up after myself, and -- before I saw the evidence-- I certainly believed that I cleaned up after myself once I was done with my breakfast; if someone interrogated me, I think -- even under the strain of torture-- that I would have insisted that I had rinsed out my yogurt container and threw it in the recycling bin, put my spoon in the dishwasher, and put my magazine away in some acceptable magazine storing location . . . yet I did none of this, and so I am starting to wonder about the ramifications of Just Living My Life, Dave-Style.

The Car: Much Faster Than A Horse

This Thanksgiving, we were able to resurrect an old tradition -- one we haven't done in a few years-- we hightailed it out of Jersey to visit our friends in Bolton Valley, Vermont . . . and, as usual, I was astounded by the amount of traffic we had to endure in order to escape New Jersey on Wednesday afternoon, and I was also -- as usual -- astounded by how much the terrain, culture, and weather can change during a seven hour drive; Rob and Tammy don't live IN the mountains, they live ON the mountain -- five miles up a treacherously steep road . . . their house is even in elevation with the ski lodge . . . and so on Monday, we essentially drove from winter back to fall . . . when we left their house, it was a near blizzard, and several times we nearly slid and fishtailed to our death, but by the time we got back to Jersey, it was fifty degrees and sunny, and we were able to hit some tennis balls down at the park.

My Team Is Losing . . .

In Hanna Rosin's new book The End of Men and the Rise of Women, she uses the stark contrast between how her son and how her daughter get organized for school as the anecdote that illustrates her copious statistics . . . girls are far more equipped to handle the rigors of modern education than boys, and so while her daughter makes to-do lists for tasks that lie weeks in the future, Rosin is doing everything in her power "not to become her son's secretary," and this dichotomy now continues from elementary school right through college, where women outnumber men on almost every campus and certain elite schools are practicing "affirmative action" for the boys, so that the male/female ratio doesn't get incredibly skewed (and I can already see this trend in my own house -- I have two boys-- and the rule is that "the homework isn't done until Mommy checks it" because Daddy is incompetent, overlooks things, and doesn't read directions).

Heady Topper: I Am Undecided

On our Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Bolton Valley, Vermont, there was much mention of the legendary Heady Topper Imperial I.P.A -- a locally brewed and canned beer -- and everyone seemed to have an opinion on it; most folks loved it, and were willing to rush over to the tiny Alchemist Cannery in order to grab a few cans before they sold out, but others were vehemently opposed to this beer that "tasted like a pine tree" and so I decided to try it for myself . . . we swung by the brewery, but they were sold out (of course) so I had to make do with a sample, and while I certainly didn't feel that it was "world class", I did like the first few gulps, but then it got a little sharp and hoppy for my taste . . . I prefer New Jersey's Hopfish IPA . . . which is ALWAYS available at Pino's in Highland Park, and so though it doesn't have the legendary allure of the beer that is impossible to buy (the demand for Heady Topper is so great that it costs $3 for one can and $72 for a case, there's no price break for bulk buying) I like the fact that I don't have to plan my day around an alcohol purchase . . . which seems like a pathetic pursuit for grown man with a wife and two children.

Hurray For Zman! Hurray for Man!

It's a good thing Sentence of Dave super-commenter Zman recommended that I read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's utopian feminist novel Herland, because otherwise when Hanna Rosin asked the question "What does the modern-day Herland look like?" in her new book The End of Men and the Rise of Women, I would not have understood the allusion, and I would have felt like one of the men she was describing: disempowered, penurious, and uneducated . . . I would have felt like a man in one of the 1,997 metropolitan regions of the country that James Chung studied (out of 2000) where young women had a higher median income than young men (and if you want more statistics like that, read the book, as it is chock full of them).

There are Two Types of People

No matter how stupid the idea is, I love it when an essay start with the premise "there are two types of people" and so I will follow suit; there are two types of people: 1) people who talk during movies 2) people who don't . . . and I am a number one all the way: movies are MUCH more interesting when accompanied by my insightful commentary.

Five Years Of Sentence of Dave!

I have been writing this blog for so long, that I can't really remember much that happened before its inception (I refer to these events as pre-Sentence of Dave) and along the way I have evolved my style from its simple and clutter free roots to my current prolix bombasticity . . . my syntax has gone from grammatically correct to convoluted elliptical absurdity, and my diction -- which was once precise -- now often includes superfluous lexical garbage, such as repeated usage of the word ersatz and repeated misusage of the word miracle . . . and all this time, my dedicated fans have stuck with me, and so I would like to offer my sincerest thanks . . . I hope I can wring five more years of material out of the theme "Dave" . . . more fragmented logic and half-baked ideas, more awkward moments, more useless opinionated capsule reviews . . . I'd like to thank all the guys at Gheorghe:The Blog for inspiring this "spin-off" and especially Zman for his diligent and persistent commenting over here; and I'd like to thank my wife, children, and colleagues, both for providing material and for pointing out when I have done something really stupid, which is always the best content of all.

One Man, Two Bags . . .

My dog has gone from being a one bagger to a two bagger, and while this is a good thing in a baseball game, it's NOT such a good thing during his 5:30 AM consitutional . . . if my stomach wasn't empty, that second load would certainly cause an early morning upchuck.

Happy Thanksgiving

For the greatest Thanksgiving monologue in cinematic history, go to the seven minute mark of this excerpt of Pieces of April (and then, as a bonus, Katie Holmes gives her synopsis of the holiday as well) and if you have the time, watch the entire movie -- simple, elegant plot and an excellent ensemble cast.

First World Problems

Now that our power is back, I am happy to say that the worst problem in our house is a universal one -- and though I didn't flush the toilet with malicious intent Monday evening, I was quite pleased to hear my seven-year old son Ian, who was in the shower, use the proper tone -- the tone his Dad taught him --when he screamed, "WHO'S USING THE WATER?"

The Nerds No Longer Need to Get Revenge

 I asked my son Alex what he was doing on the playground with his friends, and he told me -- without any shame-- that they were playing a game they invented called "Dalek tag," which had a number of rules, all revolving around references to Dr. Who . . . my boys love the new version of the show and so do a few of their friends, but the rest of the kids had never seen it, yet they were still willing to join in . . . this is a big change from when I was a kid-- back then, if you made up a game based on campy sci-fi television, then you didn't advertise this to the entire playground (unless you wanted a serious beat-down).

Weekend of Dave!

Catherine and I attended two parties over the weekend . . . Friday night was the Third Annual Scary Story Contest and Saturday night was a Beer Pong Birthday Party -- and I won Best Story at the Story Contest and at the Beer Pong Party, I held the table for several hours with my silent and stoic partner Bob, who was prone to diving on the floor for difficult shots, and then when we were finally unseated, my wife and I returned and held the table until the party ended . . . so quantifiably, this was pretty much the most successful weekend of my life, as it was rather easy to measure how well I did at each party . . . I wish all of life was so concrete and simple, with transparent rules and immediate gratification, but now it's back to the confusing, ambiguous daily grind of life, where there is no apparent way to keep score and no easy way to figure out if you are holding the table or winning the contest . . . by the way, would anyone like to play darts with me at the Park Pub on Thursday?

Did Dave Defend His Title?

There was a big crowd this year for Liz and Eric's Third Annual Scary Story Contest, and I was feeling some anxiety because I wanted to defend my crown . . . last year, I lucked out because two excellent stories were read back-to-back and, coincidentally, these two excellent stories were very similar in plot -- so I think they cancelled each other out, and so I was able to take the cash with this gross and silly tale ; this year the stories were all varied and all excellent . . . the theme was "it's the end of the world . . . as we know it" . . . and I was buried at number three in the order, so I didn't think I had a shot to win, but, miraculously, I pulled it out . . . most likely because I got a very good reading from my colleague Adam (and sadly, I repaid him the favor by kind of butchering his story, which he wrote in the dialect of what he described as "an elderly black man" but my interpretation sounded more like Benjy Compson from Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury . . . oops!) and so I won Best Story and took home the big cash prize -- and this despite the fact that my voice was easily recognized, the anonymous reading made no difference . . . on one of my ballots it said, "This is so Dave, I hate you Dave, and I hope you don't win again" . . . but the person still felt compelled to vote for my very silly story . . . and I am quite proud of the fact that I even garnered a few votes for The Scariest Story (no mean feat for a guy who is extremely skeptical of spooky stuff) and at the end of the night, as a bonus (someone called it "dessert") I read aloud my eight year old son Alex's story-- he wanted to enter the contest and win some money and so he dictated a story to me minutes before we left for Liz and Eric's house  -- I think the babysitter thought the whole family was batshit crazy -- and, coincidentally, his story is quite similar to mine, which says something about my depth and sophistication as a writer . . . you can read both stories over here at Gheorghe: The Blog -- and thanks again to Eric and Liz for a fantastic party, and for all the writers, readers and attendees . . . definitely my favorite party of the year, and if you can ever attend, I recommend it: we sit in their spooky wood panelled basement in the dark, sip beverages, and listen to the stories -- and this low-tech fun is entertainment enough -- but then when you add the gambling to the mix, it makes for a truly memorable evening.

Hot Things and Stupid Decisions

Last Wednesday afternoon, my son Ian walked into the small bathroom off our living room,yelled "It's so hot in here!" and then ran out; I went to confirm this and he was right, it was so hot that you could feel the warmth radiating off the sink and toilet porcelain . . . and then I noticed that knob for the baseboard heater was turned up all the way . . . someone had turned the knob ALL the way up and this person must have done it in the morning and then closed the door to the bathroom, so the electric element had all day to roast the room-- and it certainly wasn't Ian, unless he was a very good actor and feigned his surprise at how hot the room was -- so I called over my other son, Alex, and showed him his handiwork, and he said, "I didn't know what it did!" and I said, "Then why did you touch it? Don't you remember when you shut off the furnace?" and though I was incensed for a moment, my anger subsided pretty quickly, because I remembered that several weeks ago, when my wife went away on a Ladies Weekend, I came down to the kitchen one morning and found that an area of our counter was extremely hot to the touch and then I noticed that the seltzer bottles and the coffee maker were also quite warm and this was because I left the toaster on all night (and so I implored my wife to let me get a digital toaster, because I have problems with the analog knob on the one we have, but she was having none of it -- she told me to learn how to use the knob, and I will have to give the same advice to my son Alex . . . and this raises an extremely deep philosophical question: if you are a knob, can you learn how to properly use one?

The Road in the Sky

Peter Heller's new novel The Dog Stars returns to a postapocalyptic world similar to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but this story is a tenth of a percent more fun than The Road, if only because Hig has a loyal dog named Jasper and loyal -- although grouchy and obsessively paranoid-- friend named Bangley, and Hig has infinitely more possibilities than the unamed father and son in The Road . . . though his world and his emotions are limited by the end of all things, he still has his plane to fly and new places and people to discover, even if the places are desolate and people are ruined . . . my favorite scenes are those of him flying, they are detailed and could only be written by somone as actually versed in adventure as the author, Peter Heller, who is a writer for Outside, National Geographic, and Men's Journal.

It's A Miracle That I Convinced SomeoneTo Marry Me

Right now in my English class we are the "Process Analysis" unit, which is a fancy way to describe a "How To" essay -- and so I made the kids get up in front of the class and describe some simple but interesting process to the class . . . how to hit a forehand, how to tie a slipknot, how to do a pirouette, etc. -- and I told them I wanted them to try this informal teaching activity so that they didn't end up like me . . . back when I was in graduate school, I applied to teach for The Princeton Review -- they were paying seventeen dollars an hour back in 1993 -- and I aced the SAT practice test and made it to the second stage of the interview, where you had to teach a group of people some simple process of your choice . . . I suppose they wanted to see how well you could give instructions and interact with a crowd . . . and the folks before me taught simple lessons on "how to cure the hiccups" and "how to draw Mickey Mouse" and then I got up in front of the room and taught people about "the evolution of the wing," a topic that always fascinated me . . . because half a wing doesn't seem to confer much of an evolutionary advantage to an animal, but an entire wing opens up entirely new vistas for a species to thrive in . . . and there are several theories on how this came to be -- one involving heat-regulation -- and, needless to say, this turned into a typical Awkward Moment of Dave . . . the room fell silent, in awe of my pathetic geekiness and my complete misinterpretation of the assignment, the audience, and what other human beings like to learn about . . . and (also needless to say) I did NOT get the job.

Good Thing This Belt Wasn't a Bunny Rabbit

My black leather belt got stuck in one of the loops of my blue jeans, which really annoyed me, and so I gave it a Lenny-esque yank and ripped it in half.

Little Nozzle Hides Out in My Kitchen For Three Years!

Three years ago, we completely remodelled our kitchen, and there are still some features that I haven't utilized . . . because I haven't noticed them yet; one such feature is a little silver nozzle on a hose that lives on our sink: you can pull it out and spray water at something from close range . . . and if I didn't see my wife using it the other day, I probably would have gone to my grave without noticing it.

The Sandy Seven

The "freshman fifteen" has been debunked, but I can attest that the "Sandy Seven" is real . . . I'm wearing it around my middle -- I attribute the weight gain to the concurrence of several unavoidable events 1) I had to finish all the food in my refrigerator before it spoiled 2) living in darkness results in alcohol abuse, laziness, and over-sleeping 3) once a few people in town got power back, it caused a chain reaction of dinner invitations, and so, as a direct consequence, more gluttony and alcohol abuse 4) once we got our power back, it was reason for celebration, which, of course, involved over-indulging in every way possible 5) the post-traumatic wind-down from the stress of Hurricane Sandy involved even more drinking and bingeing on Halloween candy (and if you could pro-rate Sandy's weight gain over an entire year, you'd be talking about the Freshman 180).

A Cinematic Analogy Both Succeeds and Fails in the Same Moment

I liked The Brothers Bloom, but I didn't love it -- it is definitely a film with more style than substance, which also describes the brothers themselves, who are extremely adept con-artists; we tour Eastern Europe with them, and the scenes are shot beautifully, but they happen so quickly that they actually lack drama . . . and for me to say something moves too fast means it must really be moving fast, because I don't have much of an attention span for slow films (Stalker almost killed me) but there is one thing I did love about the movie: Stephen's running gag -- when he meets someone, he always asks them to think of a card, and then he whips out his deck, cuts it, and presents the person with what should ostensibly be the card -- but it never is, he's not telepathic and he's always wrong, and so his brother asks him why he constantly repeats this pathetic failure of a trick, and Stephen says, "If I do it enough, someday it's going to work on someone, and then it will be the best damn card trick in the world" . . . I love this statistical approach to magic; I use the same method when I see an old student: I always take a guess at their name -- whether I am confident about this fact or not -- and while I often miss the mark, when I do get it right, they are always impressed . . . the other day in the library, I recognized a "kid" that I taught long ago . . . I recognized him despite the fact that he was a good thirty pounds heavier than when I taught him, and was also sporting a beard, and so I took a shot at his name and said,"Sebastian?" I said, and he turned his head and smiled, impressed that I remembered his name; it turns out that he's now thirty years old, which is wild in its own way, but when I explained my philosophy on guessing names and my analogy to The Brothers Bloom, I think I totally confused him . . . and, of course, I was breaking a cardinal rule of magic: a good magician should never reveal his tricks.

This Land Is Herland, This Land Is Your Land . . . and You Can Have It

Recently, my colleagues and I have been speculating as to what the world would be like if women were in charge, and I lamented that no great sci-fi book or movie has explored this topic; a friend suggested that I read Herland, a utopian novel from 1915 written by feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman . . . and so I did: three male adventurers discover an isolated land where a group of women have created a civilization without the influence of men -- their last contact with men was thousands of years earlier -- and now these women reproduce by parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction -- virgin birth -- and they don't seem to have any sexual desires or miss fornicating with men . . . and sorry Cliff Clavin, these ladies do NOT "hail from the Isle of Lesbos," all their sensual emotion is directed toward the exaltation of motherhood . . . and religion, society, education, economics, science, and all other fields spring from this motherly philosophy, which has nothing to do with coddling children and everything to do with raising them . . . and if you're not good enough to raise a child, the village takes the child away from you . . . and if you're not good enough to have a child, then you are required to not bear young . . . and while this world is peaceful, logical, educated, practical, rational, and successful, it is also rather boring, especially the drama of Herland, which lacks conflict and originality, and art in general -- which seems conspicuously absent -- and the complete void of competition, whether in sports, business, or society . . . Gilman shows her lack of understanding of men when the three adventurers "marry" three women of Herland . . . as two of the three men are able to adapt rather easily to the fact that their mates are more like sisters than lovers, and have no sexual desires, only a yearning to reproduce sexually and become venerated as mothers of a new stock . . . I don't think most men are advanced enough to shed their sexual instincts; the third man, Terry, tries to rape his bride, and he is banished from Herland, and here Gilman shows at least some understanding of the male anatomy, as when Terry attempted to have his way with Alima, she kicked him in the nuts in order to subdue him . . . as a novel the book is rather boring, but as a window into how a fin de siecle feminist imagined a perfect society, it's very revealing . . . and it seems Charlotte Perkins Gilman is in agreement with my wife as far as a "final solution" for men.

"How Music Works" Explains How Music Works

David Byrne's new book How Music Works is impressive on many levels: the book itself is a work of art -- it has a black and white minimalist cover (which is slightly mushy to the touch) but inside there are all sorts of color visuals: photos and lyric sheets and pie charts and medieval sketches -- and Byrne covers it all . . . how context affects music; a history of CBGB's; the recording methods of The Talking Heads; a precise breakdown of how much money he made on his last two albums, with pie charts and all expenses and profits laid out for the curious reader; a tutorial on what elements are necessary to create a music "scene"; plenty of music theory and philosophy; some art history; a quick history of recorded sound, from Edison to MP3's . . . and his writing is clever, precise, and clutter-free . . . plus he got me to start listening to King Tubby . . . ten burning houses out of ten.

A Blogging Miracle!

Yesterday, my editor over at Gheorghe: The Blog commanded me to write something -- and I suppose he had a right to do this, since my school was closed for the ninth day in a row and I was home all alone . . . and so I prepared by taking a two hour nap and then I sat down and wrote a post about The Three Types of People You Meet During Hurricane Sandy . . . and then I checked in here at Sentence of Dave and I found this comment from the prodigious commenting machine known as Zman . . . a bona fide blogging miracle! . . . while I was categorizing all humans into three classifications, Zman had done me one better and divided humanity into a mere TWO groups . . . and he did it on my home turf -- and beat me to the punch by several hours -- while I was completely unaware, obliviously posting my thesis over at Gheorghe: The Blog . . . and if this doesn't qualify as a genuine blogging miracle, then I will live on a pillar for the rest of my life . . . like this guy.

Bonus! Dave Categorizes All Humans!

If you're like me, then you like when people simplify things enormously . . . so head on over to Gheorghe: The Blog, where I use my incisive observational powers to explain The Three Types of People You Meet During Hurricane Sandy . . . perhaps you are one of them.

There Are Job Openings in Oooguruk!

I highly recommend Jeanne Marie Laskas' new book Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make the Country Work, and my favorite facts from the book are:

1) that Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders -- who must attend two grueling practices a week, and must "make weight" at each practice weigh-in if they want to make the squad that will be on the field that week -- get paid a paltry seventy-five dollars per game;

2) there are ten polar bear cages placed around the Pioneer Natural Resources Oil Rig on Oooguruk Island, which is just off the shore of Alaska's North Slope . . . but the cages aren't for the  polar bears . . . they're for the people working at the camp :if you see a polar bear, you ring the alarm and then scurry into a cage and lock yourself inside so you don't get eaten;

and my favorite opinion in the book comes courtesy of Joe Haworth, who works at  Puente Hills Material Recovery Facility and Landfill; he said, "Look, environmental consciousness is not a religious thing . . . it doesn't have holy precepts that say you can't touch a plastic bag or you're a horrible person; it's more: get a grip and find a balance . . . life's organic, it's smelly and gooey . . . get past it, it's just science; I think as we get more people reconnected to science through recycling, we get them to understand the magic of this planet . . . they've forgotten the magic, and the truth is, it doesn't take that much connecting to go WOW! . . . it' like lying on your back in the mountains, looking at the stars . . . being able to go WOW! and holy mackerel! . . . it really doesn't take a lot of study to appreciate this place."

Dave Feeds Hurricane Refugee!

In the days after the hurricane, the lines were long at the grocery store, as most people didn't have power and could only buy a little bit of food at a time . . . and so when the woman in front of me started to panic because her credit card wouldn't swipe, I stepped forward and saved the day . . . I said: "Why don't you put your card in a plastic bag and then swipe it?" and both her and the cashier nodded their heads -- they had heard of this technique, but I am assuming that because they were so traumatized by Sandy that neither of them thought of the "bag method" . . . otherwise known as the Aiken biphase modulation scheme -- and so the cashier gave the desperate woman a grocery bag, and she encased her card in the grocery bag and then swiped it and BAM! . . . credit was granted and there was much rejoicing; when the woman thanked me, I humbly said, "No problem," but, of course, everyone in that grocery store knew that they were in the presence of a true hero.

Meet The Neighbors . . . Yikes.

Hurricane Sandy inspired much communal sentiment in our neighborhood -- we live in a small town and so we are already friendly with the majority of our neighbors -- but folks really came out of their shell in the aftermath of the hurricane . . . and so when I rounded the corner with my dog and walked past the grouchy old man's house with the immaculate lawn and giant RV, I wasn't particularly surprised when he walked out of his garage and spoke to me -- though he had never gave me the time of day before this -- and I took him up on his offer to "give my dog a biscuit," which he pulled out of a bin in his incredibly crowded but organized garage, which was full of ham radio equipment, tools, and miscellaneous unidentifiable clutter; it turns out that he is a Lab lover and recognized that my dog was part Lab, and so these biscuits in his garage were reserved only for folks with a Lab (he had no dog of his own, and in retrospect, this strikes me as odd that he had a large container of MilkBones at the ready) and then he lured us into his backyard -- he said, "You want to see something?" and, of course I did, and he showed us a raccoon he had recently trapped, which was in a cage and had one weirdly cataracted blue eye and he said as soon as gas was available, that he was going to drive the raccoon out into the country and release him, and then he told me that he had trapped "at least five hundred possum" over the years and that he had taken on a mission to "keep the borough clean," and that meant trapping squirrels, possum, skunks, raccoons, and other wildlife and then driving this captured wildlife far away -- even to different states! -- in his RV and releasing the wildlife back into the wild . . . and about this time I was beginning to feel like that raccoon in the cage, and I was wondering if the old man was going to trap me and drive me far away in his RV, but while we were talking the power, which had returned for twenty minutes, went out again, and so we had to talk about that, and then he started confiding in me about his neighbors, who were maliciously channeling their gutter spigots at his property, in order to wash away his yard, and then he showed me the retaining wall he was building to thwart their evil plan, and then-- finally!-- I was able to make my escape . . . and I'll be glad when this catastrophe is over and people go back to their normal, misanthropic ways.

Seven Reasons a Snow Day is Better Than a Hurricane Day

1) You can't sled on wet leaves;
2) you can't make a rain-man (unless you're Dustin Hoffman);
3) kids are tempted to swing Tarzan-style on downed power lines;
4) you have to walk the dog;
5) drinking hot cocoa is more fun than trying to consume all the seafood in the freezer before it defrosts;
6) it's embarrassing when a giant limb from your tree falls on your neighbor's house;
7) no power means no TV which means your children will eventually suffer a head injury (seriously . . . and now not only does Ian have a giant lump on his head -- Alex slammed a door into it -- but he also scraped all the skin off his Achilles tendon when he stepped into a hole that was obscured by leaves and contained a very sharp drain culvert . . . school needs to reopen!)

Hurricane Sandy Zeugma

Hurricane Sandy survivors in my neighborhood have decided that the best coping mechanism for a cold dark powerless house is to find someone with electricity and drink all their cold beer . . . so Hurricane Sandy has not only severely damaged New Jersey's infrastructure, but it has also severely damaged our livers.

I Hate When People Say This

Anyone who says they like every kind of music doesn't like any kind of music.

Blueberries grow in Maine, but where do Boo Berries grow?

Chapter Two of Jeanne Marie Laskas' new book Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make the Country Work describes how migrant workers "rake" wild blueberries in Maine . . . this is the jackpot of migrant piece-work: a good raker can fill one hundred boxes on a good day, and at $2.25 a box, that adds up to over $1300 dolars in a week -- far more than a migrant can earn picking peaches in Georgia, or oranges in Florida, more than gathering mushrooms in Pennsylvania, or tomatoes in New Jersey -- so the migrant in the "East coast stream" dutifully picks those other crops, but Maine is the prize at the end of the rainbow . . . and the odd thing is, in the area of Northern Maine where the picking happens, the unemployment rate is 12%, yet no natives pick . . . they used to pick, it was a communal, agrarian thing, but now the work is considered too hard, and though the money is good, it is left to the migrants -- who are supposed to be documented . . . but it's rather easy to fake documentation, as one said, "E-Verify is a joke," and so the increased security on our border -- the beefed up border patrol and federal agents -- actually has a paradoxical effect: it keeps migrants in America longer, because they are afraid to go home and visit, for fear that they won't be able to get back to work in America, or that it will be too costly to sneak across the border . . . so this often homeless underground of migrant workers that provide us with such cheap produce are trapped here, making pretty good money and wiring much of it home to Mexico or Peru or wherever . . . Eric Sclosser details the West coast version of this "shadow economy" in his book Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market and it's the same situation, strawberry picking is good cash, but no white folk ever last more than a day at it . . . and the thrust of all this is that I really shouldn't complain about the seventy descriptive essays I have to grade (but maybe if I got paid by the piece, I would work harder and faster at it).

F*&king Failure and F*%king Triumph

I was very angry Saturday morning -- I tried to do some music recording, but my MIDI keyboard was creating some kind of massive feedback loop in my Sonar X1 digital recording software, and so I tried to look up how to fix it, but all I ended up doing was swearing a lot . . . and so I tried to fix my son's ceiling fan -- he decided to swing from his bed on the light fixture's pull chain and ripped it out of the switch and broke the fixture, but the replacement fixture did not fit into the fan . . . so I brought the broken fixture to Home Depot and a nice dude helped me, he actually went and got a screwdriver and took apart my fixture and showed me how to insert the new porcelain light mount into the old metal fixture (my favorite part of the the tutorial is when I asked if I needed to change the wires to the pull switch and he said, "You don't need to fuck with those, they're fine as they are," and so I followed his instructions and didn't fuck with them and he was right, they were fine) and, thanks to his help, I was able to fix the light (I was never so excited as on my trip up the stairs, after flicking the fuse back into place in the basement, when I thought I noticed extra light coming from my son's room . . . I was actually scared to get to the top of the stairs and find that I might have failed, but my instincts were right, it was extra light . . . f#%*ing triumph!) and then, perhaps inspired by my first mechanical victory, I realized that perhaps it was my drum tracks, which were routed through the MIDI Omni port, that were bleeding into the the other tracks and creating the crazy noise loop, and my instinct was once again correct, and I fixed that as well . . . and you might consider this miraculous, that I fixed two things in one day, but it wasn't higher powers at work; it was all me . . . I was skillful, adept, and persistent, and I'm pretty sure this will never, ever happen in my life again.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.