Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Travis Is Working On His E.P.R.D.
(Earliest Possible Release Date)

The Haiku Poet of Cell Block H

I was going to work on a blog piece tonight involving moral and ethical issues a writer faces when they take their material from other sources. Unfortunately, that has to go on the back burner, because I heard back from my friend Travis tonight. Throwing Hammers

Earlier in the day, I had received an e-mail on some other issues pertinent to his imminent release from the hoosegow. I'm starting to worry about Travis when his e-mails are full of things like "I jammed the roscoe in his button and said, "Close your yap, bo, or I squirt metal." Time to apply myself more toward his E.P.R.D.--Earliest Possible Release Date, before there's a booty call for boof.

In the first e-mail of the day, Travis had asked me to send him a care package. I just heard back from him, wondering if he's going to be getting those things. Since they've banned smoking in the jail (like everywhere else), there are new forms of currency, and in his jail, it's Pepperidge Farm. I think I've got you covered, Travis:

"For you cell's mini bar"

"Two Milanos for phone time"

"Here's your "G's"

"...but you asked me for pole dancers."

"O.K., right, you said "Hoochie Girls"

Travis? Consider it done.

* Pirate photograph pirated (I couldn't resist) from http://throwinghammers.blogspot.com/

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Happy Chinese New Year

Gung Hay Fat Chow. It is the Year of the Dog. If you were born in 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994 or 2006, you were born under the sign of the Chinese dog. Some famous dogs:

"I can keep a secret. Can YOU?"

People born in the Year of the Dog possess a deep sense of loyalty,
are honest and inspire other people's confidence
because they know how to keep secrets.

"It's lamé, people. Lamé! Not gold."

They care little for wealth, but always seem to have money.

"What do you mean, I can't have my own money?"

Dog people are somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn and eccentric.

The Life of the Party: Debbie Downer
"You'd better finish those green beans.
People are starving in India."

They can be cold emotionally and sometimes distant at parties.

"I'm a Hound Dawg."

Dog people make good leaders.

It is the Year of the Dogcow -- MOOF!

Postscript: I've been talking to my friend Travis, Throwing Hammers while he's in the slammer, and he seems to be bearing up well for a "much needed rest." They must be giving him internet acccess, because today Travis sent me his latest in response to the above picture of Elvis, inspired by today's blogs of Direct Current and Rhinestone Cowgirl: DirectCurrent
Rhinestone Cowgirl

"It's gold, people. GOLD! Not lamé."
(Photoshop by Travis)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Somewhere In D.C.

Occassionally, people make mistakes

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Oy Vey Vulcan

"Live long and prosper."

I know this lady is who 94-years old, still living on her own, and she loves keeping up with current events. She worked on Capitol Hill in her youth, back when Congressmen had two staff members, or one. She has subscriptions to Village Voice and Rolling Stone and is probably their oldest subscriber. Recently she asked me if I would find a book she wanted to read called Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish by Abigail Pogrebin. The book is a series of 62 essay interviews with prominent Jewish-Americans who talk about how being Jewish fits into having a public life. The lady's rabbi was using this book for a series of study and teaching at her synagogue's adult education class. I flipped through the book to read some of the interviews before I passed it on to her and it was engrossing.

William Shatner is Jewish? Who knew? But so is Leonard Nim
oy, and it was his interview that fascinated me the most. Nimoy was born into an Jewish Orthodox family in Boston. When he went to Hollywood, his looks got him cast into parts where he would play the heavy: the bad Mexican, the bad Italian, but as he says, "I was very happy to get the work thank you very much." His parents were never impressed with his career, not even after he achieved success. To paraphrase Nimoy, his mother said, "So you're a Captain. You were always a Captain to me." At Star Trek conventions, he has been known to tell the story of the Vulcan hand greeting which is a raised hand with forked fingers--the index and middle fingers sandwiched together and the ring and pinky fingers similarly aligned. This, Nimoy says, evolved from his Jewish childhood.

"Y'varechecha Adonai!"

Nimoy says he invented the hand signal based on seeing the Boston rabbis do it when the priests would offer up a "theatrically done blessing." The men in his synagogue would cover their heads with prayer shawls, "...and they were shouters--they were old, Orthodox shouting guys," and about six of them would get up to face the congregation, chanting in a mystical way which started with humming. They would be swaying and chanting and humming and some old guy would shout out Y'varechecha Adonai!" Then the whole group would chorus it back, and little Leonard found it "spooky."

Leonard Nimoy photograph of Shekhina
with the Hebrew letter Shin

Nimoy says, "So the congregation was all standing, and my father said to me, "Don't look." And in fact, everybody's got their eyes covered with their hands or they've got their heads covered with their prayer shawl, the entire congregation, but I peeked, and I saw these guys doing this. To this day I'm not sure why my father said, "Don't look." Nimoy feels that it ties into the traditional belief that during the blessing the Shekhina--the feminine presence of God--enters the congregation to bless them, and you shouldn't see God, because the "light" could be fatal to a human, so you close your eyes to protect yourself. He said, "My father never said "Close your eyes because God is coming. He just said, "Don't look."

(I had a friend looking at the draft of this piece and it triggered a boyhood memory for him. He said when he was a little boy, his father would take him to the barber shop. There were nude calendars on the wall, and he would try very hard to not g
et caught looking at them. One day the barber complained that he was keeping his neck too stiff, so his father said, "It's all right. Go ahead and look.")

Later, after the Star Trek television series ended, Nimoy was trying to think of a way to incorporate photographing nude women with the symbolic hand (the Hebrew letter "shin") and the idea of Shekhina as invoking the feminine spiritual presence. He said, "I feel less judgmental of that presence than I would of a male presence. To the male God, I say, "What are you doing, where are you, what are you thinking? Why are you letting these things happen, looking the other way or saying, "Go ahead, work it out for yourself, guys." But this whole feminine thing. I don't have that expectation because for me it's not an all-powerful patriarchal figure, it's a maternal figure, it's a loving figure, it's even an erotic figure." Nimoy's books was published in 2002, and it is appropriately enough titled, Shekhina.

Judaism is a monotheistic religion which is strongly connected to the sense of a patriarchal God--Yahweh, but it may surprise many people to learn that from the conception of Judaism there has always been a goddess that continues to play an important part of the religion. The term is best known as Shekhina, which is a Talmudic term describing the manifestion of God's presence on earth. The word does not appear in the Bible, but Shekhina is bound to extremely ancient traditions which still manifest themselves into the present, including Shabbat Hamalka the Queen, the Bride of God, which is celebrated every Friday by Jews all over the world as they light their Sabbath candles, and by tradition, the candles must always be lit by women.

If you study the Vulcan hand greeting, you can see the symbolic Hebrew letter shin represented by the placing of the fingers. Often this Hebrew letter is portrayed in flames as it is the Divine Revelation and the essence of change. Shin is continuously in a state of motion, much like fire. So...from the coal of the earth to the flame of spirituality from rocking chanting oldsters to gauzy goddesses to boldly go where no man has gone before. Highly logical.

"There will be no use of the Transporter on the Sabbath."

Friday, January 20, 2006

...But Prince Albert Did It!

"The things I hear in beauty shops"

Conversation overheard in a beauty salon between a mother and her sixteen-year old daughter (who already has pierced ears and pierced navel):

Daughter: "I'm getting my tongue pierced."

Mother: "Oh, no you are not. You can get your nose pierced, but you aren't getting your tongue pierced until you are eighteen."

Daughter: "YOU have a pierced tongue, why can't I?"

Mother: "I didn't get my tongue pierced until I was 21."

...and I am sure someone out there is reading this and thinking, "Yeah? So?"

~~I wanna girl, just like the girl,
that married dear old Dad~~

Thursday, January 19, 2006

WaPo Kid Faks On EdPo

Edgar Allan Poe
Always Wore Black
& Enjoyed Tippling

Today is the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, one of America's most famous authors and poets. Although his pecuniary resources were generally scanty and precarious during his lifetime, his popular works have never been out of print. Poe even has a National Football League team named after his best known work, The Raven. He has become a virtual icon with his image appearing on coffee mugs, tee shirts and refrigerator magnets. Halloween episodes of The Simpsons have also included appearances and references to his works. Happy Birthday Eddy, you Angel of the Odd. You have finally hit the big time.

  • Eddy, as he often signed his letters, was a show business kid, born in Boston, Massachusetts on this day in 1809. His name at birth was Edgar Poe, and his parents were traveling stage actors. On the back of a miniature portrait of herself, Edgar's mother Elizabeth wrote, "For my little son Edgar, who should ever love Boston, the place of his birth, and where his mother found her best, and most sympathetic friends."
  • His mother died in 1811 when Edgar was two years old. His father died two days after his mother and that death is shrouded in mystery as he was not near his wife at the time of his death in Norfolk, Virginia. Poe was taken into the home of John and Frances Allan of Richmond. His sister was adopted by another Richmond family, and his brother went to stay with a set of grandparents in Baltimore. He was never legally adopted by the Allan family, but Poe incorporated their surname into his own name. He rarely signed his name Edgar Allan Poe by the way, but rather Edgar A. Poe.
  • Poe's early education took place in London, England and in Richmond, Virginia. In 1824, while attending the William Burke School in Richmond, young Eddy swam six miles up the James River against a heavy tide. His schoolmaster followed in a boat, in case he needed help.
  • Poe attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1826. Unfortunately, broken by gambling debts, he had to leave college. Poe then enlisted in the Army and two years later he obtained an appointment to West Point. He wanted out of the military so he deliberately stopped attending classes and chapel. He got his wish and was court martialed in 1831.
  • Chicks dug him. His broad forehead was considererd a mark of intelligence. His "keen visage" was "pleasing and prepossessing."
  • Edgar was the original Man In Black. Take that, Johnny Cash. He seemed to prefer a black frock coat and a black cravat...tied into a loose knot.
  • There is a lot of controversy about whether or not Poe was an opium addict for at least part of his life. It should be noted that four of his fictional characters were addicts. His abuse of alcohol is well documented. In 1849 while residing in Richmond, Poe joined the "Sons of Temperance" (his generation's AA) whose members abstained from drinking alcohol. He did this because he wanted to marry a widowed woman who loathed his drinking to excess. It didn't take, and they didn't marry.
  • Poe wrote for Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, a precursor to Maxim. In 1841 another publication called Graham's Magazine published Murder in the Rue Morgue, which is now considered the first modern detective story.
  • In 1836 Edgar, age 27, married his cousin Virginia, age 13, in Richmond Virginia. Great Balls O' Fire. He didn't catch the hell that Jerry Lee Lewis did for doing the same thing.

Poe's Grave, Westminster Hall & Burial Grounds
509 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, Maryland

  • Poe died in Baltimore, Maryland on October 7, 1849 from an alcohol related incident and possible mugging at the hands of electioneering hooligans. He was beaten and left lying in the street, found by a friend and taken to a hospital. He was not wearing his own clothes when found, which lead to the belief he had been forcibly conscripted into taking part with multiple voter practices by an election gang. Baltimore politics were rough in those days.
  • Edgar's young sister Rosalie died indigent in a poor house in Washington, D.C., and she is buried with the nuns in Rock Creek Cemetery.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

He Speaks With Forked,
Spooned and Knived Tongue

"It is not corn. It is maize."
Tonight I was asked to call someone that my brother and I have known for some time. An older gentleman. I had been told he was in the hospital with ongoing respiratory ailments and could use some cheering up. The person in question has a longstanding history of being a pathological liar, someone I have learned to distrust over time, so what followed did not surprise me. While discussing his current health concerns, his nurse came in to check on his various "levels," and I was asked to stay on the phone and wait until this was done, despite the fact that it was a long-distance phone call, so I waited and listened.

Cherokee Alphabet Written in Syllabary Form

I heard him say to the nurse, "My grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian." (That part is true). Then I heard him say, "She taught me how to speak Cherokee, and I am one of the few men who know how." THAT part...not true. I sat during this exchange, just baffled, wondering what makes people offer these things up to strangers when there is no necessity to do so, other than it's pathological and not really within their control. If I had been that nurse, I think I would have forced the issue by stating, "Say something, then." Instead, I sat on my end in pained silence.

Chief Sequoya
Inventor of the Written
Cherokee Language

Chief Seqoya of the Cherokee tribe (1760-1843) is credited with the invention of the Cherokee written language, or as it is has been referred t
o by the Cherokees, "talking leaves."

How do we spell "asshole"?

When I got off the telephone with Cherokee Nation, I called my brother t
o tell him I had fulfilled the request. I told him what had transpired and he said to me, "How do you say "asshole" in Cherokee?" I went to a Cherokee-English dictionary online and couldn't find "ass" or "asshole," but I did find "buttocks". That word is "ti." Forked tongue, or liar, is "di-gu-tsu-gi," and the word for disgusted is "o-si-nv-ye-lv-s-gv-na," which I am.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Know When To Fold 'Em
Or Butt Out

I had to be out on the road yesterday (cue to Willie Nelson), and while I was on the move I popped into a local Tastee Diner for a repast. Welcome to Tastee Diner

Tastee Diner-- Laurel, Maryland

I was told the restaurant was under new management and Michael (management) came by my booth to make sure I knew the new rules. As of Sunday, January 1st, there was no longer any smoking in the restaurant, but amenities were provided outside.

Thank you!

It's interesting to reflect on these cultural changes since Prince George's County used to be one of the largest tobacco growing areas of the world.

Tobacco Drying Barn

If you are down in the lower part of the county, you can still see tobacco drying barns out in the fields, and I re
member being taken out of the city to witness a tobacco auction as a child. It was fascinating.

Auctioning Tobacco

I was sure the manager was going to launch into a diatribe with me about how this ban was going to affect his restaurant, since it's heavily populated with truckers and blue-collar workers, but instead he told me he was glad they had banned smoking as it's "an addiction, and if someone can't make it through a meal without having a cigarette, then they have serious problems." I told him my issue in restaurants was people talking on cell phones and how annoying it was to listen to someone prattling off during digestion. Apparently they haven't banned the use of walkie talkies in restaurants since I was sitting between booths of truckers, and I got to hear all about road diversions and shifting loads and other such fascinating matters.

I would have posted pictures of the food, but I was told the chef was very protective of his cole slaw recipe. Tina the waitress let me know that she thought it was too sweet, preferring a little more vinegar, but I was reassured that it was made fresh "twice a week." There was also a screaming match in the kitchen about a bowl of barbeque sauce being held on reserve for a special customer, so I guess these creative types can get quite touchy.

Directly across the street from the Tastee Diner is one of the last remnants of Western Civilization as we know it: The Little Tavern.

Harry F. Duncan founded the Little Tavern chain in 1927 in Louisville, Kentucky, but in 1928 Harry and his wife Doris moved to Washington, D.C. where they established the first Little Tavern shop at 814 E Street, N.W. Using a Baltimore design group, the Duncan's came up with a design for a hamburger stand based upon traditional Tudor cottage architecture. In 1939, Washington had about 21 Little Tavern Shops with almost 50 located between the Baltimore and Washington corridor. Their motto was "Buy 'em by the bag." If you've never had one, I can tell you my running joke has been in calling them "little gray balls of death."

The Little Gray Ball of Death...and Coffee
Harry F. Duncan

There are three surviving Little Taverns. Two are in B
altimore, and this one shop in Laurel. If you study the picture below, you can see the word "hamburgers" in neon. A friend, when being told of this blog piece, told me an interesting bit of trivia regarding this particular building. The "hamburger" neon for this building is still using the original red glass for the neon, where they fed clear neon through colored glass, rather than the more contemporary method of coloring the gasses through clear glass tubing.

Since 1928. Wowza!

I hit the road to get back into D.C. and almost immediately had to come to a screeching stop. I had to blink. Could it be?

Route 1: A Great American Highway

The last of the Kenny Roger's Roasters in Washington??? I got out to poke around, knowing how The Playaz would love seeing Kenny on America's Number One Highway.
Playaz Ball
Kenny once sang "Something's Burning," but it sure wasn't happening at Roasters. Sorry, Gentlemen Playaz.

Kenny's Is Klosed...And Being
Rennovated Into An El Pollo Loco

Once I was back in Washington on my home turf, I started running some errands before I went to see the film, Munich. Talk about irony:

Former Little Tavern, Now Paolo's
Wisconsin Avenue, Georgetown

Check out the little building to the right, on the corner. Does the shape look familiar? It should. It used to be a Little Tavern.

While I was out and about I passed the Georgetown Post Office, and it made me think of another type of auctioning that used to go on in Washington. This is a piece of Washington history you will never hear from the tour guides.

Post Office, 1215 31st Street, Georgetown

If you are in Georgetown, and you walk by this building, look down at it's base along the front and you will see what is revealed in the picture below. Do you see those black doors? Those doors lead to a cell that housed slaves being held for auction. Every time I pass the post office, I look at those doors in awe and shudder, thinking about a part of Washington's past I am sure it would just as soon forget.

Monday, January 02, 2006

2006? Craps. It's A Dice Shoot.

Dice Man from Schoenbartbuch,
an illustrated manuscript from Nuremburg, c. 1600

I called a friend in St. Augustine, Florida this morning, and we were talking about how things in life can change so quickly. Another friend of ours had left Washington to move to Scottsdale, Arizona, stayed there a short while, then shifted to Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. Once she got to California, all of these dramatic shifts happened in her life: health, family, work, yet when I heard from her at Christmas the card was a photograph of the sea with a breezy "ping me in e-mail so we can catch up." I got the real story this morning from the St. Augustine friend who was more in the know than I was.

Over the weekend I had been thinking about my previous year and ongoing problems I am dealing with that would carry over into 2006, as well as that big "unknown" of the future. Ironically enough, a friend here in Washington had given me a book for Christmas called, Dice: Deception, Fate & Rotten Luck, written by sleight-of-hand artist, Ricky Jay. After hearing about the California friend's multitude of new issues facing her this year, I started thinking about the randomness of change and what we can have land on the table as our life plays out.

In the book, the small chapters cover the history of dice, deceptions with dice, and when a die dies. Jay has a vast collection of dice, and many of the pieces were made of celluloid. These cellulose nitrate dice were the industry standard until the middle of the 20th-century at which time they were replaced by the less flammable cellulose acetate which has a greater stability rate. As you can see from the photographs, celluloid dice can dramatically decompose: the dice stay stable for decades, then crystallization begins on the corners, spreading to the edges. Nitric acid is released in a process called outgassing, and the dice split, crumble, then implode. Mr. Jay had a photographer who specializes in studying decaying objects photograph his collection, and I have included some of Rosamund Purcell's pictures of the dice along with this piece.

The modern rules for craps are: a player rolls two dice. If th
ey total seven or eleven, he wins; if two, three or twelve are rolled, he loses. Any other total rolled out is called his point, and he must then try to throw for his point. If he rolls his point before seven comes up, he wins, if seven comes up first, he loses. Crapshooters often think if they handle the dice a certain way, it will alter the outcome of the game. I wonder what random rolling techniques I will be shooting and how it will affect my odds this year.

"Going for the winner five on the front line.
Air Force One. Let it ride."

NPR : Ricky Jay: Crumbling Dice

** Dice Photographs by Rosamund Purcell
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