I am now inspected before I leave the house.  It began with my somewhat humorous acquiescence - 'she thinks I can't dress myself - HA!'-but has somehow become an expectation, more explicit, that I will submit to examination by the fashion-police before I step out into society.  I am not being checked to see what I have on under my raincoat, but it is an attempt to monitor my appropriateness for appearance in the greater world.  I am like a fading brandname that could be tarnished by one misglued label. My entire life I have sought to make it explicit that I was the offbrand-guy. Maybe my shelf-life is expiring?

There is, so far as I can tell, a checklist:  hair and beard groomed?  clothes without stains or holes?  color-coordinated? visible areas of skin clean?  Yeah, that is about it.  The family name, my honor, our reputation are all saved now.  At 35 I could go out with check marks against me in every box and be considered cutely eccentric.  Today I am become a rogue-dotard.

Always is a very big word and I use it with caution; it, like never, should probably never be used in personal conversation, or at least always avoided.  I make an exception here:  at initial inspection I am 'always' found wanting.    Maybe it is just my recalcitrance pushing forward, but there is forever some hole in a T-shirt that I hadn't thought significant, some stain in my jeans - 'hey!  isn't that the color the kitchen got painted two years ago?', or a color clash.  I don't throw out clothes; I wear them out.  Hell, the paint stains probably reinforce threads weakened by years of use and prolong the life of the garment.  And what is a hole but the slight absence of integrity?  And if that absence doesn't literally cause the fabric to part and drop from my body then what cause is there for concern?  Ok, ok - I do get it:  no stains and no holes.  I can do that.  I guess - mutter, mutter...

The color part is what kills me.  Who is the examiner to say that one shade of red cannot be worn with another?  Maybe red shouldn't go with purple - I am truly not sure, but red with red?  Gimme a break!  I don't begin to understand colors.  They are just eye-candy, things we look at - like flowers.  They are supposed to make our brains happy.  How can they clash?  It is like the angels dogfighting in the clouds - the stink of burning feathers, unimaginable.  In the 'right' universe this dichotomy does not exist.  The rainbow wraps us in vibrating arms and we dance in our chromatic plentitude. 

The other day I failed inspection and appealed to Zoe.  'Dad.' she told me 'you look like a homeless person.'  Ah, the ungrateful child...  Women want style; they want to look good.  Actually, they just want to get laid - metaphorically speaking.  It all comes down to that, to the propagation of the species, the huge inborn urge to bear progeny and fulfill the destiny of the race, of all races, all species, to see one more generation infect the planet.  Show me the senile, drooling hag in her wheelchair - and she will want to 'look good.'  What??  She expects Valentino to mount her in her tubular contraption and inject her womb with the next Mozart?  Give it up!!!  We don't have to look good.  There are enough nubile bodies out there bearing the fruit of frantic coitus - that single-parent reward for looking good, to keep the earth infested for aeons.  Let the rest of us just be comfortable.  Having a vasectomy should give me innocent-bystander status and let me out of the genetic loop.  I don't need to look good!!

A T-shirt I have owned for several years, one with a couple of holes, small holes, and some fraying on the collar is an old friend, a staff to lean upon in this frenetic world.  I am comforted when I wear it.  It speaks to me of the stoppage of time, the way cotton felt on my skin when I was a man ten years younger, all the fine days and places I spent wearing it.  Appearance, looking good, has gained an importance quite beyond the value of the person inside the clothes. It just isn't fair.  And yes, it is true, I am whining.  The web of the world of women determines so much of how I spend myself. 

Zoe came home the other day and remarked that she had never been anywhere, and she has been everywhere, where so many people went about dressed in sweats.  I saw my chance - 'So,' I casually asked, 'I fit right in - don't I?'  I got back a steely-eyed look:  'Dad!  That is not a good thing!'

I wanted to go to town in a favorite button-up shirt, purple with 3/4 length sleeves.  Pat looked at me in horror; 'That was in style for about 5 minutes in 1969.'  Not wanting to challenge the dress code so egregiously in the future I ripped the shirt off from top to bottom; buttons flew about the room.  'Good,' Pat said 'I can use that rag to clean my shoes.'  Women should never be made enemies of; they are implacable.

My impression is that we, males, have about two functions:  we impregnate the females, and we bring home food.  Beyond that I see that we are, at best, an embarrassment.  At worst I think we constitute a lethal nuisance. And maybe we haven't proven that we deserve better epithets than those.

Having previewed the foregoing the editor spoke three succinct sentences:
'We (The Z person has become an ally) are only trying to do what is best for you.'  'We want you to be taken seriously.' 
'In some countries the police set homeless people on fire.' 
I guess that says it all.

Don says women, even drooling hags in wheelchairs, are driven by a desire to appear fuckable.  I don’t think so.  More basic than the urge to reproduce is the prime directive to remain alive.  We know, as the Ugly Duckling knew, that the swans have a right to kill us if we are not beautiful.  Many of us are not beautiful and oh, we live in fear! 

Forget about Beautiful Souls.  Ask any chubby, untan-able, acne splattered teen what a Beautiful Soul is worth.  Any time the pack gets bored it may turn on her, and the pack has a very short attention span.  Her Beautiful Soul is Styrofoam against Uzis.

When we pluck our eyebrows or polish our toenails, we aren’t engaged in a pathetic attempt to flaunt our non-existent charms, we are trying to hide.  “Look!  Shiny toenails, barbered brows!  Leave us alone now.  Let us live!”

We try to throw a camouflaging mantle over ourselves and those we love.  If our husbands venture abroad looking like garden gnomes who dress from free-boxes….       

Years ago when I lived the California-life and heard about people in other parts of the country who needed oil-fired furnaces, with boilers, and fuel tanks, and tanker trucks delivering fuel oil thru the winter in order to survive I was somewhat aghast.  Even in New Mexico, where it actually did get cold and snowed, occasionally, we didn't fret much as a cord of wood would get us thru the winter; an airtight woodstove in a small adobe is a snug sort of thing that the mind wraps easily around, not part of an alarming process that includes far-flung countries, huge ships, nasty refineries and all that encumbering logistical nonsense; between you and a tree there is only a whisper of distance.

Now that I have lived in Maine for several years and experienced actually heating with oil, having to deal with bursting pipes and empty tanks, and a furnace that fails to come on when the power is out in blizzard conditions I am still appalled at the complexity of keeping the box in which I live habitable. There is no getting used to being so reliant on the whims of Arabian princes, upheavals in kingdoms all the way around the world, typhoons, local ice storms and falling trees on the roads.  Unless you grew up with this and accept it as the given order it seems too tenuous, too marginal.  Just like a knife or a gun, the weather can kill you; nobody told me that when I was a kid in L.A. Things happened on the news, they happened far away, catastrophes and outages, lethal non-events.  Our insulation was disbelief.

Last year we put in the tandem wood-fired boiler to back up the oil system.  This year we have replaced the old oil furnace with the spiffy new super efficient model - $5500 installed.  I don't know how long it will take to actually make back what we just spent out of our oil savings, but it is good to think that we can now produce the same heat with half the oil.  That must be progress - right?  I am not sure, myself, but I do have high hopes that we move in the right direction.  Home ownership is a bumpy road.  We have spent about $50,000 on infrastructure improvements and repairs in the ten years here.  Makes rent look cheap.  But can the renter plant apple trees, or get a hive of bees for the yard?  Or just dig a hole for the transcendent hell of it?  It was a much younger man who could fit all he owned in trunk of his car, box the compass and stiff the landlord on a whim.

The proximate cause of the new furnace was listening to the damn thing go off all summer several times a day.  It was seeing the oil truck pull up and drop another hundred gallons into my tank.  All this in the name of keeping a tank of water at 160f on standby - in case I wanted to wash my hands or dishes needed doing.  The new furnace is on-demand with hot water.  It only fires up when a personal request is sent to the basement via small copper wires.

Having Zoe around, and Pat going off to California soon, got me to thinking about being a grandparent.  It isn't something I have yearned for.  Not something I obliquely suggest to my own offspring pining, behind my offhand manner, for the magic of pregnancy. I don't think I would be much of a grandparent.  Kids aren't all that interesting; the older they get the more interesting they become.  I like having grown-up kids.  What would I bring to grandparenthood?  Not a lot.  The zeal I had as a father for raising independent-minded, questioning, self-reliant children who had a sense of their own value is gone.  I am not sure I had much to do with how they turned out.  Who did I think I was that I could mould another human being?  My children are not frames of reference by which I can judge myself.  At this point it seems more realistic to judge that fate is the arbiter in their being, not anything I intended.  The one thing that pleases me in the outcome is that I like them. 

My best friend has always been the woman I was with; I stood in her shadow as she stood in mine for as long as we stood side by side.  Sex pales in comparison.  I have had two wives and maybe two or three times that number of friends in my life.  My children are becoming my friends.  Between parent and adult child there is some huge space that is too-often cluttered with the detritus of stale emotional claims - decades old, half-forgotten, rarely rational.  Baggage you might say.  Old tapes I would say. Either way we drag them with us, encumbered.  Unless the claims are open-hearted with gratitude for the other's ongoing presence they may be more hindrance than use, wishing-well debts and fortune-cookie fantasies. I should live so long that my children and I learn enough about each other to be real friends, without the blackmail of blood's call. 

I never got to that point with my own parents, and it is a personal deficit for me. It's not a wound, just a raw spot that itches. My mother was a will-o'-the-wisp whom I could never pin down, never quite get a read on; she had more disguises than Sherlock Holmes and played roles only Shakespeare could write.  My father was just an abysmal asshole.  I never knew how to get more with either of them.  Maybe it wasn't possible.  But with my kids it might be.  I hope so.

Let's talk about fungi.  Why am I, going on 66, suddenly fascinated with how life fits together, the incredible jigsaw of organisms?  Bees fascinate me; I won't go into their complexities here, but they are quite the wonder.  Fungi are similar in that they impact so much around them, and act as a singular organism in the doing. They manage to seem so inconsequential - they have the disguise of nastiness:  never make eye contact with a fungi our mothers told us.

Remember the scifi movies of the '50's?  I loved them!  "Them!" yes, that was a good one, the ants that drove on Los Angeles with such savage tenacity.  It was a staple of the genre that these movies put free-born mankind up against some monstrous entity in which all the individuals were subsumed in a collective consciousness, or if not conscious at least a collective intelligence or will.  While they might superficially appear to be composed of individuals these were organisms composed of soulless robots in the grip of the master brain.  Individuality could not exist, and we all knew it was the most important thing in America. The metaphor, for our American Culture, was the 'godless communists'.  These were cold war movies meant to show us that the individual "always" prevailed against the collective.  The American can-do individual was worth any ten dirty commies in a pinch.

What if we were lied to?  What if the collective was actually the salvation of life's ability to succeed on this planet?  I ask this because I find in studying nature that things like the fungi, one of which can cover thousands of acres, there are lessons to do with cohabitation and cooperation that we never dreamed of in our political assessments. While human individuals run awry, desolating landscapes, collectives like the fungi labor to heal the forests.  I must go back and re-read The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.  It is worth a look if you ever wonder how we differ from our best friends, our dogs or cats.  We are most certainly individuals, but individuals without any sense of order, any natural discipline, and the big difference is that we can really screw up bigtime, because we have big, big brains and very narrow vision.

I have planted the 100 Pearl Oyster mushroom plugs that I ordered from www.fungiperfecti.com and the 100 Lion's Manes that arrived as a freebie.  At Starbucks I have become a staple, like cranberry scones with a mocha grande.  When I arrive the manager greets me.  Young women rush to tell me how assiduously (not their wording) they have bagged grounds thruout the day awaiting my arrival, afraid I would not come.  This is very strange.  I can only believe that my collecting grounds awakens in them some sense of what is possible if we move beyond the 'throwaway society'.  Do I dream?  No.  These people do realize that some things can be reused to good effect, not just tossed into the ashbin of history. They are somehow buoyed by the fact that I collect their free coffee grounds, their waste, and I amend soil, and grow food, and make an increase for all of us that the financial engineers will not in a thousand years accomplish.  Am I a zealot?  Well, maybe...........

Hundreds of pounds of wet grounds have come home to rest in plastic tubs in the basement.  I empty the bags out into a tub, shake the grounds loose from the filters, put the filters in the next empty tub, and on top of a few inches of filters I spread a few inches of pure grounds.  The mushrooms will grow on any cellulose based medium, but it is easier to monitor my placement of the plugs if I have only grounds on top.  The Pearl Oyster mushrooms are the easiest of all to grow, the most forgiving, the most adaptable.  Coffee grounds suit them fine.  The Lion's Manes?  I don't know, but I will find out.  The basement is filling with plastic bins of coffee grounds inoculated with mushroom mycelia.  And I see growth after a week or two.  The threadlike mycelia spreads across the damp grounds in a whitish blur.

The key seems to be to get the mycelial mat to spread as rapidly as possible.  Then, with a shock, like flooding the medium, perhaps the fruiting bodies - what we call mushrooms, can be instigated to bloom.  The mushroom plant itself is this complex network of filaments just beneath the soil's surface.  A single square inch of soil can contain a mile of mycelium.  The fruiting body, the mushroom, is simply like an apple, or a tomato, the plants effort to reproduce.  We eat their young and smack our lips.

It is very exciting.  When I get my first flush, mushrooms arising, I will take some to all the Starbucks people.  Pat says if I do that they may start growing their own and I will get no more grounds - nothing could please me more.

It is time for my rant.  You are warned, because I am sure some of you like news of the chickens and dogs and my paltry gentleman-farmer exploits, even my observations of the waywardness of the folk I meet, but you don't relish the rants.  So, stop reading.  Go about you business.  I am off on a tear.

I have been out blowing leaves; it is now too dark to see them skitter and swirl, but while I could my mind was boiling on every small tornado I raised, spinning madly.  I was wondering about what constitutes journalism, most especially the internet-sort.  The first question would be:  is it really journalism if you post online?  Can a blogger be, in any sense, a journalist?  An untrained citizen offering opinions without the cover of corporate sponsorship?  Experts are working on the definition right now.  This link is where my info comes from:


The writer, Mish Shedlock is a sane and knowledgeable individual familiar with economic matters.  I read his blog daily and pretty much agree with his contentions, which are that not all is well in our republic.  In this essay we find two entities at loggerheads in the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  One site has attempted since 2007 to give the public realistic info on the housing/mortgage situation, information that is not generally covered in the mainstream media nor generally accepted by those in control of financial matters:  Implode-Explode's site, ml-implode.com .

On the other side of the legal debate is The Mortgage Specialists Inc (MSI).  This company can boast the following record:  "The charges include 14 counts of fraud, 20 counts of incomplete records, 15 counts of dishonest and unethical practices, and three counts of destruction of records,"  and, "Massachusetts and New Hampshire regulators OK'd a settlement under which Mortgage Specialists will keep licenses in both states but pay $725,000 in fines."  This sterling outfit has injunctions against the Implode_Explode site restraining them from reporting defamatory comments or making any allegations without revealing their sources on the basis that they are not journalists.  The judgment handed down will affect everyone who writes on the web.  While I don't claim to be a journalist, maybe a diarist, I hate to think that the day may come when my own, and everyone's, opinions posted online will be subject not just to law regarding defamation but censored for offending crooks.

I am disappointed on so many fronts.  The President disappoints me.  A year into his administration nothing seems changed from when an ignorant oaf ran the country.  We have a young man with a beautiful family and high ideals in office, but what is different?  I voted for him.  I had hopes.  But we appear to have a system that can replace one sort of icon with another and not miss a step in its march toward profitability.

Today the N.Y. Times ran its online edition with the headline:  "Broader Measure of Unemployment Stands at 17.5%".  The paper confirms that this figure is a more accurate picture of unemployment, not the government-trumpeted 10.2%.  These are depression-levels.  But our president is reading the TelePrompTer which tells him that the 'recession' is over and we are in the grip of recovery. I see his mouth moving, but he absolutely knows this is not true.  How could he not?  Why is he being dishonest with us?  I truly wish I knew; I would like for there to be some excuse for his behavior.

The contrarians I read have told us that hell was on the way for the last couple of years.  The government claimed it wasn't so, and now they say it is over anyway.  Is hell over for the unemployed former homeowners now living in shelters?  Millions have lost job and home. Are they getting bonuses from bailed-out bankers?  No.  They are getting screwed by unethical companies that the government defends and supports.

I could go on; I won't.  It does become too much.  So, adios to all of you, and we trust you remain with head above water, as do we. pat and don, etc.
                                 The  center  of  gravity 
                         between  a  man  and  a woman                                                                           is  always  shifting.
This page was last updated: November 8, 2009
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