Month: November 2012

The Summer of Jon

Picture of George.

I am a George. There are Kramers, Jerrys, and a few Elaines out there, but I am a George. Now, I don’t mean that I act like George Costanza or want to be George Costanza, I simply mean that I enjoy humor that is uncomfortable. Kramers are people who like slapstick, Jerrys like observational humor or situational humor, Elaines are…I’m not sure of what Elaines are but I just started drinking coffee this morning and my iTunes update has me in a bit of a tither. (What happened to my interface? I am now going to have to spend ten minutes figuring out where everything is again. If you are reading this from a work camp in China my problem probably sounds minor, but let me assure you iTunes updates take a toll on the human soul.)

The Summer of George is one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld. George freed from all of his responsibilities, plans to spend the summer in self-indulgent activities. It is the fantasy of many adults and a fantasy that I will be living for a month this summer. I have taken on a few additional work responsibilities at the old salt mine and will be getting some extra cabbage at the end of December. I should take this money and invest it in green energy or find a PO Box in the Cayman Islands to send it to, but instead I am going to ramble. By yourself? Yes, by myself. Don’t you have a family? Yes, and they are encouraging me to go which either means they love me or they can’t stand me.

Where am I heading on my Summer of Jon? Well, since I don’t have airline tickets yet I will give you a rough outline: Reykjavík, Oslo, Norwegian Fjords, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Munich. I have been to a few of these locations before, but this time I will be able to travel “Jon style”: Cheap hotels, getting lost without getting in trouble with my family, eating occasionally, walking fast, spending zero time looking for bathrooms, and seeing at least ten sites a day. (You might see why no one wants to travel with me.) While the details are still up in the air, I did receive the first real evidence that this trip will be taking place: my suitcase.

I will be traveling for about 30 days and taking one carry-on bag. Is this foolish? Maybe, but it isn’t like I am going to be attending the Opera in Vienna in coat and tails. Now if someone wants to meet me in Vienna and take me to the Opera, I would be happy to send along my measurements, but what I want to see in Vienna hangs on a wall and isn’t going to care if I wear shorts and a T-shirt. What I want to see in Oslo is a painting of a dude holding his face standing on a colorful bridge. You don’t need to dress up to order the best hot dog in all of Europe. (Reykjavík if you were wondering. There are three reasons to stop in Iceland: the hot dogs, the Blue Lagoon, the countryside of Iceland.) This trip will be an informal, come as you are , event.

Let the planning for the summer of Jon begin. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!

An Evening With Mr. Sedaris

Why would David Sedaris come to Port Angeles, Washington on his 40 day 38 city tour? Is he a Twilight fan? Did Seattle disappoint him on his last tour? Has he seen the peak of his career as a writer and will soon be reading at your local casino? No, David Sedaris came to Port Angeles (PA) to read because Hugh (if you are a Sedaris fan you already know who Hugh is) has a brother who lives in PA and they were celebrating Thanksgiving there. The local community celebrated their luck by filling the 2,000 seats in the PA auditorium for a pre-Thanksgiving reading.

Sedaris is one of those rare writers who can read as well as he can write. Most writers are reluctant readers. I don’t mean to imply that they can’t read, it is just not something that introverts enjoy doing. Sedaris enjoys being on stage.

To hear his nasally, high-pitched voice coming out from a human being as opposed to a car radio was a bit odd at first, but like all great works when confronted with the original the human mind has a way of adjusting all the information it has taken in previously about the masterpiece. And Sedaris is a masterpiece. For example, I can never look at a Vermeer painting in a book again without wondering if it is the size of a postage stamp. Bigger isn’t always better, but little paintings have never impressed me. I spent a good 30 minutes in the Louvre looking for Vermeer’s Lacemaker painting only to find it. I was underwhelmed. Sure it was a good painting, I couldn’t do it, but come on…get a bigger canvas.

Maybe a Surrealist painting would have been a better example because the reading was a surreal experience. Sedaris took the stage carrying about 40 pounds of paper in a bunch of folders and then spent 90 minutes selecting things to read from this pile of papers. He announced early on that he wanted to read things that Hugh had not heard before. His choices revolved around his father, but like all Sedaris essays his initial topic of a colonoscopy might lead to a five-minute rant about republicans threatening to leave America if Obama was reelected.

What I found fascinating was what a little hive of activity Mr. Sedaris was during the reading. If I were trained in the field of psychology I might be able to give you a brief diagnosis, but instead I will give you an inaccurate description of what he was up to: He is a fiddler. Even while he is reading, he is fiddling. He might read a sentence or two, gauge the audience response and then write something on the page. There was no pause, he just wrote while he was reading. Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t sign my name and talk at the same time. There were also brief shots of Bianca breath spray every so often and enough repeated motion that the diagnosis of OCD entered my head.  By the end of the evening I had decided that Sedaris was a modern version of a Charles Dickens’ character: Strange, but all-together human and possible.

Sedaris did announce that he has another book coming out soon, he described it as the things that would get published if he died, but I did not notice a diminishment in quality. His observations were as funny as my favorite book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. The audience in PA agreed, Mr. Sedaris has not lost a step.

Who Died and Made You King of My Blog?

Somewhere buried deep in the American Dream is the idea that everything is for sale. Everything. If you can put a price on it the hope is that someone will buy it with their hard-earned money. We Americans love our money, we love to talk about money, we love to spend our money, and we especially like to get something valuable while spending little. Even our history classes emphasize what a bunch of cheap asses we as Americans are. Our purchases of New York City, Alaska, and all the crap that came with Louisiana are not only discussed, but the great bargain is emphasized. “We bought all of Manhattan for a pile of rocks and two chickens.” (This is not a historical fact, so if you are an eighth grade history student who searched ‘how much did new york cost?’ and ended up here, do not put this information into your report, go to Wikipedia like all researchers do.) I don’t remember how much any of the land we “bought” from other people actually cost, but I do remember learning that we really ripped off the previous owners. While we should probably be ashamed, we aren’t.

This culture of bargain hunting will be on display the next few days. People are already lining up at stupid stores like Walmart because MallWart will be open on Thanksgiving and there will be cheap stuff there. I will not be joining my fellow Americans in line. I won’t step on any faces to get the last Tickle Me Elmo. I am a bit sickened by the whole thing. Those families who work in Alarmwart won’t be getting a super Thanksgiving, those people sitting in the cold waiting for some piece of junk that will get tossed out in a couple of years won’t look back fondly upon the Thanksgiving spent elbowing other bargain hunters in the throat. “Remember the Thanksgiving when we sat on lawn chairs outside of Walmart? Oh, those family outings were such great memories.”

No doubt the crowds of people will trample someone to death and then we will all wonder why? Why do people do that? They do it because someone sold them the idea that having a great bargain is about as close to buying love as you can come to in this country. Why search for meaning in the universe when it can be found on aisle 45 next to the mops?

Hopefully history classes in the future won’t be emphasizing how the American Experiment came to an end when we ran out of the latest video game where the players shoot each other, but I have a feeling that Roger Waters was right all those years ago when he wrote the lyrics to his solo album Amused to Death: Our culture is obsessed with war and profit. (Available for purchase on iTunes and apparently on Amazon.)

Why did I sit down to rant this fine morning? Did I forget to drink my coffee? Well, really this rant stems from one thing and that is that my blog has been hijacked by some jackass. No doubt the jackass is not an actual person, but some computer program that places ads on blogs. These ads aren’t there to sell you anything, there are only about 20 people in the entire world who read my blog, but the ads are there to annoy me. They are there to get me to pay. I am being blackmailed into getting rid of those ads by paying WordPress. I don’t know how much it would cost to get rid of the ads, because I don’t like to read when I am angry. I know that WordPress is a company and that they should be allowed to make money, but I don’t want to be involved in their little money-making scheme. If WordPress wants to charge me to use their cyber space, then I suppose they have that right, but blackmail? Blackmailing me isn’t going to work.

Gangster style with my Icelandic cash money.

Broken Belongings

Those things that send you into a downward spiral.

Those things you despise.

Those things you hide deep inside.

Those things that tear at you.

Those things that bite at your soul.

Those things that crush you.

Those things that you wish to kill.

Those things will age into something else.


Those deceiving weaknesses will not bow your head forever.

Those things will turn, will blossom, will mellow,

You will not become those things.

That lump of unforgiven angst will not weigh you down forever.

That pain will form into something.

Something unbreakable,

Something flexible,

Something strong,

Something resolute,

Something beautiful and brave.

What I Learned in My CPR Class This Year

Every couple years I renew my CPR certification because I am concerned about my fellow man. Okay, that is a lie, I renew it because I do some coaching on occasion and I need to know how to put a band-aid on someone’s forehead when they get elbowed in the noggin, and it is some kind of law. Anyway now that we have determined that I am not Gandhi, I thought I would pass along some of the gems of knowledge I learned last night.

1. Anytime there is an amputation find a size appropriate bag. Now this makes sense, if you find a thumb on the ground put it in a small plastic bag. Big plastic bags make it harder for the doctor to find the missing thumb. You also don’t want to put a large limb in a small bag. It won’t fit and you don’t want to have to chop it up to fit it in the zip-lock baggie. Oh, you should also keep it cold, so don’t put it in your pocket.

2. Bandsaws are ineffective at severing larger limbs. You can always zip off a finger with a bandsaw, but for the really big stuff you will need a chainsaw or chop-saw.

3. Your number one priority when helping anyone injured is to avoid being vomited on. This was emphasized many, many times. Always help someone with their mouth turned away from you. If they are going to vomit you can always put a bag on their head. Do not use the bag with a severed limb and do not put the entire bag over their head, that could cause them to stop breathing.

4. CPR has changed. When I first started this training the idea was to give five compressions for every breath. Then the ratio went to 15-1, now you do 30-2. These changes don’t make me too confident in science in general. Let me explain. The human body is something that we all have and it should be easy to study. By now we should know how it works, but apparently how we work is still a scientific mystery. So when a scientist says that they know that Black Holes exist because they figured it out by using mathematics I must admit I am a bit skeptical. If science can’t figure out the simple stuff, like how often to break somebody’s ribs in an attempt to save their life, then what hope is there that Black Holes really exist?

5. Tylenol is an effective poison. Too much Tylenol is dangerous, don’t drink it even if it tastes good.

6. Never use ipecac to induce vomiting. See rule three for some guidance on this one, but after years of telling people to throw up after drinking poison we are now deciding that it is more important to call 911 and let the professionals take care of it. If you live in the boonies and don’t have 911, then inducing vomiting is probably okay, but realize just because someone is vomiting is no reason to rest on your laurels and relax. The vomitee will still have remnants of whatever has caused them to toss cookies in the first place, so get an ambulance ASAP.

7. Giving the Heimlich Maneuver to someone can be done a variety of ways, but always have the victim point their face away from you. See rule three for further guidance. Now the instructor said he had never given the Heimlich to someone who had not passed out from lack of oxygen. I, on the other hand, have done the Heimlich many times to someone who had not passed out yet. I worked next door to someone who had a tiny-tiny throat and would get stuff stuck in his pencil sized tube of an esophagus about twice a year. I began to wonder if he did it on purpose just to get a big hug from me.

8. If you get something large stuck in your body, don’t pull it out right away. Wrap something around it and then go to the hospital. If the object is stuck to something else (rebar in poured concrete) call the professionals and have them come to you. Don’t remove yourself from the rebar, call 911 and wait. If you start to go into shock, elevate your legs, wrap something around your head (not a plastic bag) and try to stay warm.

Is the world a safer place after my little adventure to CPR class last night? Maybe, but the world does sound much more dangerous in a CPR class.

15 Quick Notes For the Next Election

1. Remember to buy more batteries.

2. Move to Ohio or a state where my presidential vote counts. The problem is that most swing states are not inhabitable.

3. Get rid of any phones I have. Buy long-range walkie-talkies to talk to my family if needed.

4. Find a television that turns the channel when a political ad comes on.

5. From September to November, 2016, live in another country.

6. Eat more veggies.

7. Go to the doctor at least once in that time period.

8. Build a fall-out shelter for approaching zombie apocalypse.

9. Read Ulysses.

10. Say that you read Ulysses.

11. Learn the names of stars and constellations.

12. Download an app that will tell me the names of the stars and constellations.

13. Build an Ark instead of a fall-out shelter: Maybe a fall-out shelter that floats.

14. Get in tip-top physical condition.

15. Join the Illuminate so my vote really counts.

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