Archive for December, 2009

Fish Domesticator

December 27, 2009

Wild or tame? Consult your local ichthyologist.

For millenia, humans have been content with just a few domesticated pack and pet animals.  A camel was all a trader could ask for, a team of oxen were prized by a pioneer on the Oregon Trail, guinea pigs were kept for their delicate flavor.  You would think that as the modern world supplanted the old, wild animals would be replaced with cuter, tamer versions– versions better adapted to city life.  In some respects, this has been the case.  The once cow-sized, flesh-eating raccoon has diminished in size to that of the adorable masked bandits with whom we are all familiar (though the caps made of their pelts have become much less impressive).  And alligators and crocodiles have adapted to the rich ecosystem of sewers.  But not all species have taken advantage of the changing world, and mankind, in our selfishness, has not stepped up to the task of domestication.

As a great lover of biodiversity, I knew that something must be done.  I spent a good two years simply lobbying the scientific community, begging on bended knee for researchers to think of the animal kingdom, but I soon realized that these “scientists” were concerned only with Nair-ing monkeys and dressing them in jackets made of experimental fibers, or turning sweet country rabbits into painted harlots.  The spectacle was, and is, sickening.

I struck out on my own.  I thought of mammalia, reptilia, aves and amphibia… but they all seemed to be years ahead, domestically speaking.  No… I needed to tame the craniata– the fish– for their own good.  I began with the lowly hagfish.  They seemed the most promising, with their two brains and four hearts.  I started small, with toileting exercises, but it wasn’t long before we were on to high teas.  The only real problem is that cucumber and watercress sandwiches tend to become soggy and fall apart in the ocean waves.  Lampreys and myxini, however, were one heartburn after another.  I only consider these partially domesticated, as they will slither onto your lap and enjoy being petted, but there is a high incidence among the two species of disappearing into the night, along with your vintage Harley Davidson.  I admit, this is my own fault for trying to breed in a love of choppers and fringed leather chaps.  This is the high price of being too successful at one’s endeavors, so keep it in mind.  In the meantime, there are plenty of wild fish in the sea crying out for domestication, and clever readers should get to work at this immediately (after you receive the grant monies, of course).

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Chief Bear Trapper of Denver International Airport

December 26, 2009

Another recent security breach

Denver being situated at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, one would think that the primary concern for the DIA Homeland Security would be grizzlies.  Wrong and double wrong.  The truth of the matter is that DIA is so rife with bears of all species that if Homeland Security were to occupy themselves with the constant onslaught of the Ursidae family, they would have no time for wanding travellers and looting luggage.  That’s why Jeannie-Fayelene Bakker (my personal bodyguard) and I were brought in to establish effective defenses.

The first order of business was to construct a bear stand with clear views of the surrounding countryside  (those of you who have flown in or out of DIA will easily recognize our bear stand, as we disguised it as a traffic control tower)  and high-powered telescopes for identifying potential insurrectionist clans tucked away in the high caves of the Rockies.  Jeannie-Fayelene is nothing short of a master in the field of Ursa Activities, having spent much of her 20s making a living as a traveling bear wrestler.  Thus, when she sees a bear ripping the guts from a trout with its powerful jaws, she knows an attack is imminent and gives the go-ahead to fire the long-range ballistic missiles.

Next, it was vitally important that we design a uniform.  After all– we needed something that would clearly identify us to air travelers as public safety personnel, but would also leave us somewhat inconspicuous to the bears themselves.  After three weeks of toiling, and many a delivery of fish-head soup, we lit upon the solution– bear suits.  The problem with this, of course, was obtaining bear pelts that hadn’t been entirely decimated by our security efforts.  We brainstormed yet another week and determined that in the interest of long-term public safety, it was necessary to allow the bears to breach the tarmac so that we may get close enough to mar the hide with a single bullet hole or a clean sword swipe.  We put the safeties on our weaponry but remained vigilant.  We wouldn’t have to wait long.

We saw the bears massing– Asian black and American grizzly, Sloth and Sun, Etruscan and Auvergne– and steeled ourselves, ready to play our parts in this ancient and epic struggle between hominid and caniform.  It was a fateful morning in September when the bears attacked.  It was the two of us against thousands, as our hired mercenaries deserted when they saw the surging ranks of the enemy.  But we were not afraid.  We knew that we had god and Krampus on our side.  With a pistol of righteousness in one hand and a sword of vengeance clamped in my teeth, I fought long into the night.  Though nearly 600 passengers were lost, and bears absconded with three commercial jetliners, in the end it was the bears who bellowed the “Retreat!” call.

Unfortunately, airport officials refused to approve our uniform design, citing “insensitivity to the recent bear-related tragedies” as their sole reason.  It was that brush with the mediocritizing wheels of bureaucracy that led to our joint resignations from the post.  We hear the latest scheme for security is a border fence around airport property.  As if a bear would be deterred by electrified razor wire!

More to the point, this incident was how Jeannie-Fayelene Bakker lost an eye and gained a beautiful four-claw scar across her face, and how I would up with three peg fingers.

Borschtman

December 22, 2009

Canning-- destroying native ways since the Oregon Trail.

I know that amongst my readers, there are only a few so lucky as to live in the remains of remote Pennsylvania bauxite labor camps and wake each midday to the sweet sound of the neighborhood borschtman’s call and the scape of his wheel-less sledge through the mud and gravel as he drags his still steaming borscht bucket through the streets.  On his feet, he wears the traditional rags secured with ropes (for traction on both: the floor of the barn, where he wakes at the break of dawn, crawls out of the horse’s stall, and fires up the borscht pit; and the ever muck-filled thoroughfares of the camp).  On a piece of twine ’round his neck he wears the crude wooden borscht ladle with its long, thin handle for maximum scooping of savory beetroot and broth.  Without a doubt, he is the most respected citizen in town.

I have often wondered what has become of the noble borschtman.  Once, nearly half the communities in the nation employed one, and many politicians got their starts as borschtmen back home.  Indeed, many a famous personage of yore has been quoted as saying that though they themselves may be in the company of the nation’s greatest borschtmen, the true power lay with the Capital Hill BorschtBriingar.

You have probably put two and two together.  In any case, I need not spell it out for you.  Though I was young (a mere 14), I had apprenticed with a woman who was said to be the nation’s premier borschtman– a woman who had traveled the world, heralding the first brewing of Dos Equiis, predicting the fate of S.A. Andree’s Arctic balloon expedition, and proclaiming the freedom of religion in Madagascar before retiring to a simpler borschtman’s life (rather fatefully, for me) in my own hometown.  Though I, ultimately, would never ascend to the heights of this great woman, I contributed many BorschtKallen, or Borscht Calls, to the cannon which are still used to this day.  So think of me, if ever on some wintry midday you hear the faint hoarse cry of, “Me borscht bucket black, borscht red borscht red!  Borscht bucket burn blacker, red beet borscht bread brown!”

Lottery Witness

December 13, 2009

There is a perfidious, silent takeover happening in our world today.  A certain segment of the population is slowly driving hard working jacks and jills to the unemployment lines.  It’s not children, thanks to the excellent prohibitions put in place when child laborers terrorized the nation– with their nimble little fingers and their ability to work long into the witching hours and their pointy little teeth and… oh, I should stop now before I work myself into a tizzy and have to take one of these prescriptions.  Which one?  This one?  No, that’s for dancing.  And this one is for eczema.  How did that wind up here?  Pancakes.  I’ll find it later.

No, it’s not children that are ruining the economy.  It’s the opposite of children.  That’s right– the elderly.

Once I enjoyed a successful career officiating over the nightly lottery, making sure that the the numbered balls were properly popcorn-ed around their plastic tanks and that the host wasn’t too inebriated to tell the difference between a nine and a six.  Not to mention the toll that being a celebrity took on my health.  There’s nothing quite like being accosted in the supermarket by women with juice can curlers in their hair and men in tiny shorts smelling of bacon.  I had to hire a boy to pick up my morning can of fruit cocktail, and he wasn’t old enough to read yet and he couldn’t reach the top shelf, so half the time I’d wind up with a jar of maraschino cherries instead.  I like maraschino cherries quite a lot, it’s just that I prefer to wait until 11 am before I use a full jar of them to make the most delectable Shirley Temple (or Roy Rogers, depending on the day of the week) you could possibly imagine.  It was difficult– hard on my health I’m telling you.  But I loved it.  There’s nothing like combining the smell of compressed air with the sound of hundreds of ping-pong balls and a few flashing lights on a rickety set.  It’s what heaven must be like.  But then, you won’t know until you’re over 68 and almost to the real thing anyway, so you won’t get to appreciate it so much.

One day, the studio decided to “cut costs.”  Why they couldn’t just fire one of their two anchors is beyond me– they were both insipid and I swear their hair was some strange lacquer and Nice ‘N Easy concoction.  No need for two.  In any case, there went my evening career, and in waltzed… the senior volunteer.  The next thing I knew, I was off the books at the library children’s room, too, unceremoniously booted out in favor of some en-dentured bat from the home down the street whose tastes leaned more towards ravenous caterpillars than the fine works of Machiavelli and Dante.  If you wonder what has happened to the youth of the nation, follow the money.  (Or rather, the lack of it.)

Anyway, I was so upset that in a moment of weakness I let the boy take the Dodge Challenger out for a spin, and what do you know he drove the thing into a waffle stand.  Talk about kicking someone while they’re down.  That car was in the shop for nearly two weeks.

Natural Remedies Pharmacist

December 11, 2009

Giving the wares a test drive.

We all like the feeling of giving back to others, of helping, as we would one day like to be helped when we are incontinent and require constant maintenance in order to keep the systems minimally operational.  That’s why I became a self-made pharmacist– to help.

It all started one day when there wasn’t enough carrot juice to make enough of my Tried and True— a whipped egg and cherry-carrot hangover cure– for all the guests waking up following my annual capybara surf party and barbecue bash.  (I will not tell you the most secret of its ingredients, but the third-most secret is a liberal dousing of cherry brandy.)  This particular year the bash had been Barbarella-themed, and as you can imagine it was one of the most uninhibited, near-feral of my capybara surf parties to date– even more so than my Downeaster Alexa capybara surf party, and that one was in international waters.  Thursday morning of this particular year’s capybara surf party, I made my way to the jacuzzi-side brunch cart to discover that my chef  had neglected to prepare the Tried and True.  What was I to do?  This concoction of mine was pivotal in getting the guests through the next six days of reveling.  It couldn’t be swept under the rug like so much Swarovski crystal.  I called my secretary, Mr. Polly, who was busily taking photos of the more famous of my guests through his lapel corsage as I had requested.  But this was more important.  “Carrot juice!” I told him, “Go buy 40 gallons of carrot juice!”  Then my bodyguard, Jeannie-Fayelene Bakker, and I returned to our polo match, because there is nothing in the world like drinking mint juleps from a goatskin and trying to whack a polo ball from the back of a gleaming palomino stallion that has been fed fine bourbon mash.

Alack, Mr. Polly misunderstood me.  Having only been my secretary for six years, it was understandable.  My life is too complicated for two people to keep all the details straight.  But when I awoke on Friday, in desperate need of the Tried and True, I discovered that I had invented a new hangover cure the night before.  Apparently, Mr. Polly had heard me ask for 40 thousand garra fish, which he promptly dumped into the pool, and which began feeding (as garra fish are wont to do) on the dead skin of those swimming.  It seems that when I jumped in the pool, I quickly became annoyed with the tickling mouths of the little garras, and began scooping them up and dumping them in a blender, the contents of which I soon added to the Tried and True.  And now it seems I’ve accidentally given away the most secret ingredient.  Ah well, it would have gotten out anyway, considering the number of lives changed by that one party.  A spa treatment and a flawless hangover cure?  Jane Fonda was so inspired that she went out and wrote some health book or something.

From that day forward, I continued to develop new and innovative natural remedies for all sorts of maladies– from cancer to the common syphilis– mixing them in ways that classically trained pharmacists would lack the creative verve to try.  Many can still be found in your local grocer’s aisles.  Can you guess which are mine?

Molybdenum Prospector

December 9, 2009

Behold the beauty of mining molybdenum, element of mystery and lore.

So you think the glory days of grimy, bedraggled, often toothless persons living in canvas tents next to holes in the ground are long past?  How little you know of our world!  What adorable naivete!  Perhaps you are thrown by the common misconception that the only precious metals are gold, silver, and rhenium.  There are so many metals to be prospected, so many to be pulled from the belly of the earth, and I long ago staked my claim to molybdenum.

I started small– extracting the molybdenum from wulfenite.  Like most of my pursuits, it began as a necessary outgrowth from another project, in this case being an industrial warplane welding materials supplier.  But I soon found that the call from the spirit of the metal was more than any welding materials supply business could handle– you should learn to recognize this, since it is almost always a sign to embark up on a new career path.  My trusted pal, my stalwart companion, Martyn Poliakoff, and I set off for the wilds of Co-Lor-Ado, where we were certain we would find our fortunes.  We brought hard tack.  We brought picks and wore pants that buttoned.  We knew it was necessary to pay homage to the fossickers who had preceded us.  Again, a common mistake that newcomers to the field make– refusing to heed to the proud traditions of the past.  In this case, button-crotch pants, and a hard day’s labor.

I would entertain you for hours with stories of how we double-handedly fought off claim jumpers, mountain lynxes, and injians (a regional mite).  I would wax on for hours about the time we were called in to weld 12.6 miles of train track in just 1 hour so that the Greeley-Alamosa Express wouldn’t derail on Crazy Peak, or the time that Berenstein, the Maneating Grizzly, nearly took ol’ Poliakoff’s life and favorite slicker.  But I sold the rights to this “perticular” portion of my life to one Willie Hearst, and still haven’t managed to get the rights back from his bank-robbin’ daughter.  Which is a lesson in and of itself.  No matter how drunk on shandies you are– never sell a portion of your life to someone you know to be a sponsor and endorser of zeppelins.

But all you need to know is that there is moneys in metals.  Pick a metal.  Any metal.  Even a noble gas, if you are that talented.  Hone your craft and extract, extract, follow your nose and heart, extract.

Pro Forkfighter

December 6, 2009

Amateurs.

Since fox hunting’s reputation has been sullied by the introduction of the British, there is but one noble sport left in which to indulge:  fork fighting.  It’s highly unlikely that any of you readers will ever be invited even to spectate, as fork fight bouts (formally known as frolics) are by invitation only, and invitations are only conferred to select citizens, citizens who have distinguished themselves in the areas of pancake, pea and pork loin manipulation.  And evaluation takes place surreptitiously– there’s no saying when or where you may be observed in the process of consuming any of these foods, so it’s best to up your chances by ordering all three at once.  (Doing so will also signal to any member of the Order of the Sparring Tines how serious you take the possibility of an invitation.  Think about it.)  And of the select who are invited to attend a frolic, even fewer will ever be given the chance to indulge in the sport themselves, thus becoming a member of the Order.

So it is in some sense luck that brought me into the fold.  Ignoring how, I’d rather regale you with tales of the circuit.

I remember my first frolic back in ’48– the frolic that earned me the title, “The Candy Kid.”  I was fast out of the corner, and my prior training as a contortionist proved to be my greatest asset as I dodged, ducked and writhed with the greatest of ease, a daring young kid on the fork fighting league!  It was my Marinelli bends, dislocations, head sits, and oversplits overwhelmed not only my opponent, but led the announcer to exclaim, “Why it’s like a mechanical taffy pull out there!  And this kid’s moves are sweeter than candy, too!  The Candy Kid  just won’t stop, and it looks like will spin all the way to a victory!”  And the name stuck.  After that first frolic, I focused on developing my fork skills, and was the first forkfighter to incorporate the now standard “foot forks,” to the sport.  I wish you could have seen how I could disarm an opponent on the way into and out of a head seat– whipping both feet at the right fork on the way down, then sending the left flying as I righted myself.  These moves are all a part of the coach’s playbook now, but back in my day there were no coaches and I flew solo.  In some ways, it’s sad to see the sport so codified, but I’m proud to have contributed to the cannon.

In the end I was my own undoing.  Call it destiny, call it what you will, but when I caught a glimpse of legend-in-the-making, “Quicksand Drill,” utterly decimating a short stack in a dining car between St. Louis and Portland, OR, I knew that the world of fork fighting was about to be turned inside out and on its head.  I may have recruited her, and though it may go down in the annals of history that I “mentored,” her, I’m here to say on the record that there was damn near nothing I could teach that kid.  She took to the sport like an oil slick to a duck.  I was at the top of my game, but it was a privilege to be unseated by her.  It was only right that she earned her own nickname during our title frolic.  The commentary this time, “The Candy Kid’s going down faster than a Canadian Mountie in a Quicksand Drill!”

If you’re lucky, and if you’re up early enough, someday you just might catch me and Quicksand keeping our games sharp just for kicks.  We usually meet up on Sundays behind the Falun Gong group in the park.  And then destroy some pork loin for brunch.

Engineer of Specialty Vending Machines

December 1, 2009

The ladies flock to one of my creations.

It all began with my modest vending machine business.  I’m always looking for new markets, and so it was that I could not content myself selling the usual confectioner’s concoctions and fizzy sugar waters.  I had bigger plans– soups and workout accouterments.  But where were the vending machines that could accommodate both a set of dumbbells and heated vat of minestrone?  Nowhere, I tell you.  I didn’t take matters into my own hands because I felt that initial spark of passion– it was sheer necessity that drove me to it.  But over time, I found I had an affinity for it, and the world began to take notice.

Of course, by this time my popular “Soup & Sweat,” machines had taken off, and a slough of copycats were trying to edge in on my clientele.  You surely remember “Pants on the Go!” and “Kolostomy and Kupkake.”  OK, both of these popular vending stations were also mine, but there were a million others of similar ilk and I knew that the smartest move was to make sure that they were answerable to ME.  The surest way to make this happen was to design and build the machines they needed myself.

And need them, they did.  I remember a rival company that had focused previously on pinball machines that tried to spring up in my niche– sure their machines were flashy, but they just couldn’t hold up when it came to the assaults of ravenous ruffians.  There were the usual claims that the attacks on the Genewdry Brothers’ machines were targeted, but nothing was ever officially proven.  I say that’s what they get for putting out a machine so adorned in colored lights, with such sparkling chrome and whilimagigs.  Like maggots to a decomposing carcass, the ruffians can’t keep away.

Many people have claimed  that my so-called “stranglehold” over the specialty vending machine manufacturing sector constitutes a monopoly.  Pishity posh.  There’s just not a lot of call for newer forms of vending devices, and most proprietors choose to go with a tried and true engineering firm.  If I were an industrial kitchen supplies company or a paper mill, it would be a different story.  Just stay out of the business– I wouldn’t want to see you fail so miserably that you wake up one day in Canada, and wind up gutting your horse and crawling inside just to stay warm some cold Yukon night.