Prayer of the Fast Guns

Fast on the draw...

Fast on the draw…

It’s glamorous to be a fast gun. Everyone knows you can shoot down the ones who rise to oppose you. They think you don’t ever need anyone else. Sometimes even the people you need. Why we intone our lonely prayer.

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—

The author is Poe, the title is “Alone.” I forgot to add the ending. Amen.


I've always been looking out for the one who needs looking out for.

I’ve always been looking out for the one who needs looking out for.

You wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes in horror at the things you did in your youth. Like I did just now.

Don’t ever let your children hitchhike or think that it’s an acceptable mode of transportation.

But I’ve done it several times. Learned some things along the way. I’ll tell three quick stories. One humbling, one funny, and one I’m convinced is a world record.

Thought I knew everything about driving. Until I got a ride on a tractor trailer. Nothing like you think it is. Harsh harsh ride. Every bump hits your spine. No big deal. The big deal is that when you look out the windshield, you feel like you’re two lanes worth of wide. How does the driver make any decision about where to go, how to avoid all the other cars?

Funny. I had a GMC Jimmy when I was consulting with General Motors. The gas gauge was for shit. It said there was an eighth of a tank when the tank was empty. I KNEW this. But I ran out of gas between Findlay and Lima Ohio, which is precisely 25 miles from anywhere. I was so furious with myself that I got out of the car, slammed the door, and started walking, still cursing myself step by step. I informed myself that I deserved being stranded in the middle of nowhere and it would serve me right to walk for hours and hours… when suddenly I became aware of a kind of chugging sound behind me. I looked over my shoulder to discover that a huge tractor trailer was plodding behind me on the shoulder of the road. He was waiting for me to realize that he was rescuing me from my rank stupidity. He drove me to the next town and dropped me off at a garage that could get me back to my car. Don’t tell me people aren’t good.

World Record. One of those stupid ideas. I hitchhiked from Cambridge, Mass, to Poughkeepsie, New York, to visit my sister in college. She thought I was nuts. Then I hitchhiked back. Somebody dumped me on the New York Thruway, whereupon I was almost immediately picked up by a New York State Trooper. He looked at my duffel bag, asked if there were any drugs inside, and when I said no, he believed me. Then he drove me, at speeds averaging between 90 and 110 mph all the way to the Massachusetts border. No way I could have driven myself faster from Poughkeepsie to Cambridge than I got there that day.

Mine has been a blessed life. In almost every way.

The High and the Mighty

Stay in your seats. Everything's going to be okay.

Stay in your seats. Everything’s going to be okay.

Outstanding movie. The kind you’ll only see after your wife is propped up in her brace in the media room and you try to find something to put you to sleep late night on the back cable channels in the lonely bedroom. The High and the Mighty. Relic of a terrible, awful Tea Party type time when men wore ties everywhere and women cared what men thought of them.

The kind of airline disaster movie we couldn’t make today. No crash, no death, no outright heroics. Because emergencies (gasp) don’t always result in catastrophe. John Wayne, Robert Stack, Robert Newton, Claire Trevor, Jan Sterling, Sidney Blackmer, Laraine Day, Phil Harris, and multiple other character actors who make the Airport movies look like the expensive clunkers they were.

Not all the endings are happy. Everyone lives, but some will never be the same. I used to think only John Ford ever got a real acting performance out of John Wayne. This movie is an exception. Yeah, he slaps the pilot, but his best moments are when he’s calming the passengers. And if you’ve ever been in a bad moment on a plane, you wish he’d been there to allay your fears.

Great music too.

I take it back about Orphan Black

We all look alike. But we're NOT all alike.

We all look alike. But we’re not all alike.

All deerhounds DO look alike. Watch the linked video to see how true that is.

I made a mistake thinking Raebert would be like Psmith. He’s nothing like. And I made a mistake thinking Orphan Black was like so many of BBC’s nihilistic end of world nightmare series. I was wrong. Turns out Orphan Black is also a deerhound in her way. Bear with me…

As you may know, the missus is incapacitated. She’s literally not allowed to move. Broken arm, yes, but she’s not permitted a cast people can write quips on. The bones can’t be set. They have to be persuaded to remain where they are with only a brace to help keep them there and her pain to tell her if she’s moving in a way that could require displacement and surgery.

Why entertainment becomes critically important. I have her planted in front of the TV. Ordered to immobility. Why I reopened the question of the BBC series Orphan Black. If it could be diverting, there were at least eight hours of drama for her to enjoy. While she dozed, I watched again the pilot that pissed me off. It was off-putting, lots of sleazy characters, a little bit lewd, and everything I hadn’t liked the first time. But this time I was more patient. The writing was crisp, the editing not at all bad, and the premise was, finally, gulp, intriguing. Grumble grumble. The acting not’s so bad either.

Upshot. When my wife woke up I invited her to watch the pilot again. She’s going to be immobile for eight weeks. Does wonders for patience. So, enough of our personal travails. Here’s the real lowdown on Orphan Black, which we have now watched eight of nine broadcast episodes of (on demand) with maybe two or three left to go in the season.

Absolutely brilliant. I was completely wrong in my early dismissal. In my defense, it’s positioned as a BBC series. It isn’t. It’s almost purely Canadian. The best series I have ever seen from that nation. It’s an old-fashioned morality play disguised as a hip, modern sci fi psychodrama. The Brits could not do this thing. Their taking credit for it is an entertainment crime.

I’m not going to give you any spoilers. The rasty, nasty beginning is merely a setup for jerks like me. Truth is, the heroine is exactly who she has to be to survive the situation she is walking blindly into. The lead actress is a wonder, playing multiple parts with extraordinary finesse. There’s also the most attractive gay character I’ve yet seen in movie or TV, the foster brother who is both femme and manly without making himself an oxymoron.

The premise is clones. Imagine suddenly finding that there are nine of you, exactly like you genetically, and someone is trying to kill you all. You’re an experiment, nobody can be trusted, and half of you are dead already.

What’s amazing is the questions the series raises in the course of potboiler action and sometimes absurdist comedy (as clones fill in for one another with artful coaching): What constitutes a human soul? Not at the end yet, but the answer is already implicit. And it’s subversive in the extreme to the totalitarian impulse that we are all merely units in a utopian fantasy. They can rig the plot at the end yet, but the gist of the content is clear. And I am inspired.

More importantly, my wife is not hurting when she watches.

She Hurts…

...but I'm here.

…but I’m here.

As I told my wife’s daughter last night, I’m prone to getting a case of the “dreads.” The certainty that something terrible is going to happen. Had it the day before
Psmith died. Had it before the wedding we attended over the weekend. I was delighted that nothing bad happened there. Then yesterday happened. My wife fell and broke her arm. I was too far away for a rescue. But we got her home anyway.

She feels awful. When you get hurt it hurts. A lot. The good thing is that I’m a better nurse than you might think. So she’s in good hands.

What’s more, she is delighted at how everyone else around her responded. The staff at the hospital in Maryland were wonderful. A social worker even called her this morning to inquire, and I could hear secondhand over the phone that she was genuine in her concern.

We are, still, Americans, and we do take care of one another. How that monstrosity in Oklahoma resulted in so few deaths. America. WE are the miracle. Don’t you ever forget it.

What Not to Wear on Your Head

I really think it looks natural.

I really think it looks natural. I’m a Republican congressman you know.

All right. It’s bad enough that none of the New Media conservatives has a copy editor or even a secretary who knows how to spell. I get it that it’s one of our virtues that Republican congressmen and senators are mostly used car dealers. But do so many of them have to look like it?

If the Koch Brothers are so sinister and Machiavellian, can’t they organize a SuperPAC for the purpose of making these 80 IQ glunks at least look presentable?

Stacy and Clinton are out of a job now. I bet they could be purchased to do makeovers of the dumbest looking politicians outside of Trenton, NJ. Don’t laugh. I bet they could.

No. I guess that won’t happen. The difference between conservatives and Republican politicians. Conservatives are too smart to run for office. Republicans are too dumb not to. No doubt, something they learned at the Bobby Joe Law School and Hair Supply Company, Inc.

Liveblogging Raebert

Talk to the paw.

Talk to the paw.

Told you he finally ate breakfast then grumped a bit. Then he slept like Rip van Winkle for several hours.

The modem went down, so I had to go mess with it. When I got back, Raebert was gone. I found him on his bed in the bedroom. He never goes there till 8:30 at night, his preferred bedtime for everyone.

I tried to jolly him out of his mopery, but Elliott complicated everything. Actually, Elliott’s as upset as Raebert about the weekend. He’s been knocking everything off every flat surface he can find. (Who said boys are easy?) When I was talking to Raebert, Elliott thought he should, you know, spark Raebert up a bit with his paw. Raebert’s paw is bigger. He swept Elliott (his friend) completely away with one sweep of his front left leg. End of conversation.

The pic above dates from a few minutes ago when Raebert plodded from the bedroom back to the couch with Elliott in dour attendance.

But as I was writing the update, Elliott moved on to the bathroom to knock my razor off the counter, and Raebert returned to the bedroom and flung himself down there with a majestically self-pitying groan.

My wife said it best. They’re making us pay. And doing a damn good job of it too.

UPDATE: He came back from the bedroom, got on the couch, grumbled when I petted him, removed himself to his own personal love seat (deerhounds have those), and then returned to the bedroom, where he’s sulking now.

UPDATE 2: Yeah. More back and forth. But we had a talk. After which he licked my hand. Elliott teased him and he was okay with that. The clouds might be lifting. Except that Mommy is late. Because she broke her arm in Maryland. I know. Life is a total bitch, isn’t it? Why I’ll be abandoning him yet again this evening, at a time he’s not used to, to rescue Mommy from the train. Context. Who cares about Raebert’s snit? He’d better be thinking, as I am, about how to help Mommy get some sleep tonight. So there.


They went away and left me.

They left me all alone forever.

So we went away for the weekend, to a family wedding in the Poconos. Which meant Eloise, Molly, and Raebert had to spend three nights in a kennel. (I told you about the Bordatella shots.) Everybody reacts differently, of course. Eloise was the only one who knew immediately what was up when we got there. She refused to greet the nice lady in the lobby and hid quivering behind my leg, then planted her little tush on the doormat and refused to budge. Fortunately, she only weighs 17 pounds, so resistance was futile.

Molly may have suspected, but she wasn’t sure till they led her away.

Raebert had no idea. He was still a yearling the only other time he’d been boarded, and that place wasn’t this place. The new people were making a fuss over him, which he’s used to and finds reassuring. He trotted off with them as if he was about to get his nails clipped. No problem.

Coming home was a different matter altogether. Eloise was ecstatic. Molly was relieved but had made friends (“she’s the sweetest thing ever…”). Raebert was bathed, brushed, handsome in his complimentary bandanna, and clearly stunned by the experience. They said he didn’t eat much. The groomer raved about his coat and, mostly, his calm. Only had to put the muzzle on him during the roughest part of the combing. Not because he was aggressive but because he turned his head back a couple times, and those are really big teeth he has if he wanted to use them.

Back home, Eloise and Molly immediately fell back into their routines. Crisis over.

Raebert, on the other hand, has mostly slept, occasionally making noises like the horse in the previous post‘s video. He’s been so crashed that you have to look to see he’s still breathing. The first night he didn’t want dinner. He wanted to be upstairs with us, where he didn’t even want treats but took one to make his mother happy. He’ll be all right tomorrow, she cheerfully predicted.

Now it’s Wednesday, and he’s still exhausted. He didn’t get up for breakfast and when he did get up he just got on the couch next to me for another hour and sighed. We’re thinking he didn’t sleep at all when he was away.

But he’s had breakfast finally, and now he’s sort of awake, making grumbling noises.

I wouldn’t say he’s mad. Disappointed would be a better word. Which is pretty mature, given that he’s three.

Ride Again.

Not a big fan of Redford. But I liked this movie. Girl loves horse. Girl and horse experience terrible trauma. Girl loses leg, horse goes loco. Girl hates horse and life in general. Enter Horse Whisperer. One learning point. Horse also loved girl. In the accident that cost her leg, he was trying to protect her. He failed.

In one way or another we all fail. Death and loss hold most of the cards. But dogs hold better cards, all the royal ones. We burn slowly for a long long time. They burn bright briefly to light our way. They were never going to be there the whole way through our lives. So why are they there and why are we here? Why do we put up with each other? Why do we love each other so devotedly?

Their mission is to remind us of the continuum. They make us little gods in training. What God sees. The generations roll over, and every one of them is lovely, some more, some less, like a mountain range. We behold their journey from youth to old age, their wisdom at the end, their acceptance of the transition to what next.

You lose them, you mourn them, and then you renew them with the ones you welcome after them and love thereafter.

Life is not one horse to ride but many.

Trial Roundup

I really really loved him.

I really really loved him.

Jodi Arias. She’s crazy.

I have no idea what happened, except that I didn't do anything.

I have no idea what happened, except that I didn’t do anything.

Amanda Knox. She’s dumb as a box of rocks.

I thought I, uh, was thinking. My mistake. Actually, I was blotto.

I thought I, uh, was thinking. My mistake. Actually, I was blotto.

Ojay. Heeey, everybody. I’m still here. I did it. Not that. But something.

Thought it was time to do some real reporting for a change. It’s my duty and privilege to serve my readers. I know I’m not Nancy Grace, but I’ll show you what she won’t: her wardrobe malfunction. Now who’s your go to tabloid court reporter? Exactly.