Crappy Hollow Park

Here’s a description of Crappy Hollow Park:

Crappy Hollow Park is a malevolent pit of despair cored out of the stenchiest, most noxious part of the county landfill. There are plenty of jagged metal edges to harm your children. The park has over 470 varieties of pestilence-carrying flies to contaminate your potato salad. Founded last Thursday during an excavation of some illegally discarded x-ray machines and the remains of a missing hobo, Crappy Hollow Park is pain and suffering for the whole family.

I think I’ll go to Happy Hollow Park instead.

The Hobbit

After a long, hard day of slaying dragons, the last thing I want is to come home and find the Sackville-Bagginses trying to auction off my belongings. I thought I wouldn’t have any further use for my trusty sword (except maybe for buttering scones) but it turns out they slice through other hobbits quite nicely. Much more easily than through those stringy-fleshed orcs. Anyway, with my ring of invisibility those pesky relations never knew what hit them. Now what do I do with all of these Sackville-Baggins chunks?

An alternate history of mobile devices

My new smart phone has a button I have to press if I want to use it as an actual telephone. Which reminds me that not so long ago I would have been very perplexed if someone made the absurd suggestion of taking a photograph with a telephone or anything else that was not a camera. I suppose it was inevitable that the telephone instead of another household device evolved into today’s digital Swiss Army knife, but that was a chance occurrence? Could we today be carrying iToasters around with us, taking photographs, and occasionally pressing a button when we wanted some toasted bread?

In 1987 Steve Jobs pulled over at a rest stop on the Interstate. He plugged his toaster into the car’s cigarette lighter. Because of his fondness for buttered toast, he had adapted the appliance to work in his car while he traveled. Suddenly, while he was waiting for two slices of enriched white Wonder bread to toast to a golden brown, an escaped elephant from a nearby zoo dashed across the Interstate. Cars swerved to avoid the rampaging beast. The elephant paused on the grassy median, raised its trunk and trumpeted. Three more elephants lumbered across the northbound lanes and joined the first. “If only I could take a photograph and send it to my friends at Apple,” Job cried. His toast popped up, each slice making a little somersault before returning softly to the toaster slots. Jobs looked down at his appliance. The delicious aroma of toast filled the inside of his Ford Escort. An idea was born.

If only Steve Jobs had really, really liked toast.

Hurrah for General Tso!

Speaking of General Tso’s chicken, I made up a story a while back about its origins.

During the Long March, the weary and hungry Red Chinese soldiers grew tired of eating spoiled rice. They were beginning to lose their determination. “Cheer up!” said their cheerful general, General Tso. “Soon we will achieve a glorious proletarian victory. We might even have a little bit of fresh chicken for dinner!”

“Hurrah for General Tso!” cheered his men.

Weeks went by and the soldiers grew hungrier and hungrier. Now all that was left to eat were lichens and mosses.

“Cheer up!” said General Tso. “Soon we will achieve a glorious proletarian victory and there will be two chickens in every pot!”

“Hurrah for General Tso!” cheered his men.

When the Red Chinese soldiers reached Yan’an, there weren’t even mosses and lichens left to eat.

“Cheer up!” said General Tso. “Soon we will achieve a glorious proletariat victory and there will be enough succulent fried chicken with a sweet, vinegary red sauce for all the workers!”

The next day, Chairman Mao found some of his Red Chinese soldiers eating steaming bowls of tasty morsels made with a sweet and vinegary red sauce.

“I’m looking for General Tso.” asked Chairman Mao. “Where is he?”

The soldiers each raised a chopstick with a piece of succulent meat. “Hurrah for General Tso!” they cheered before taking a bite.

“Hurrah, comrades!” said Chairman Mao. “But where is General Tso?”

The soldiers raised their bowls and cheered again, “Hurrah for General Tso!”

“Hurrah, comrades,” said Chairman Mao, becoming annoyed. He was tired from a long day of giving syphilis to teenaged girls. “Now where is that confounded General Tso?”

“You must be hungry, Comrade Mao,” said a captain, offering the chairman a bowl and a pair of chopsticks. “Have some of ‘General Tso’s Chicken.'”

“Oh, all right,” said Chairman Mao. He was quite hungry and took a bite. “My goodness,” he said, “This is delicious. I taste apricot, ginger, garlic, and vinegar. But where did you get chicken? We haven’t eaten fresh meat in months.”

“It’s ‘General Tso’s Chicken’, Comrade Mao,” the captain said with a wink. “The secret ingredient is… General Tso.”

“Hurrah for General Tso!” cheered the Red Chinese soldiers.

How to kill a mockingbird

My name is Scout. It’s a dumb name for a girl but then Jem is dumb name for a brother. My father’s name is Atticus. He’s a bad-ass lawyer with a shotgun. He shot the rabid dog. He shot that freak Boo Radley when he finally dared set foot outside. He shot Calpurnia just for shits ‘n’ grins. Anyway, he taught me how to kill those bastard birds that wake us up every morning. Fucking mockingbirds.

The mayor and the alien

Gilligan Pistachio emerged from his mental fog. The intercom buzzed a second time. Miss Zweig, his sexy secretary, was calling to him in Brooklynese.

“Mistah Mayah.”

Gil picked up the handset. “What is it?”

“Mistah Mayah, an alien scientist is here to see you.”

Gil opened his mouth to answer but didn’t say anything. Alone in his shabby office, seated behind a big oak desk and under a bare incandescent light fixture, Gil had been drinking. Besides the phone, desk blotter calendar, pen, and the martini glass, there wasn’t anything on the desk except Gil. He was slumped over it in a dejected pile.

“My career is in the toilet,” he thought when he plopped into his executive swivel. He had taken the necessary ingredients for his drink from the bottom desk drawer and spent the morning slowly sipping away. There wasn’t much to do anyway. The village was dying and there was nothing he could do about it.

Why would a scientist want to talk to him about aliens? Why would a scientist come to Terminal Moraine at all? Gil decided he did not want to talk to a scientist about aliens, to anyone else about aliens, or to scientists about anything else. He wanted to talk to developers and lobbyists about lining his pockets. But, he was the mayor and it was his job to meet with people, and there wasn’t exactly a line of fat cats waiting in the lobby. Gil finished his drink and returned the glass to the drawer marked “Important Files.” He pulled a folder from the drawer and a pen from his pocket- might as well look busy. The folder was labeled “Traffic signal specifications.”

“Yeah, go ahead and send him in.”

Gil was surprised he didn’t start screaming when the space alien hopped through the open door. The first thing he thought was, What on Earth was Miss Zweig thinking? It wasn’t quite one of those skinny, big-eyed aliens of cheap souvenirs from Roswell. The alien was squat, about three feet tall, bluish-green, and naked. The alien and Gil stared at each other for a moment, Gil through his ubiquitous John Lennon sunglasses, the alien though two vertical slits on its tear drop shaped head. It didn’t occur to Gil that the alien was waiting for him to say something polite like, “Hello, my name is Gil” or “How can I help you?”

Instead Gil poured it a martini.

Right brain

I’ve moved my poems, short stories, and other creative works to the Right brain category. I want this site’s content to be driven by the blog posts (the blog functions as a database) rather than static pages. If you are looking for something, use the search function in the sidebar menu.

Artwork and some other things are still at the old site. I’m still trying to find ways to migrate content from there to here. It’s a process.

My visit to a Pennsylvania commune

“God bless the food!” That was how dinner began.

Nine people sat around the table, holding hands. After the prayer was said, everybody released their hands from the circle and began serving each other. The usual pleasant dinner table chatter started up, more pleasant than usual, perhaps, because of the guest.

“How long will you be staying, Jacob?” asked Eleanor, the older woman sitting across the table from Jacob. She was short and petite with graying shoulder-length brown hair. Her brown eyes were steady and seemed to penetrate right through his flesh (“Dark brown eyes, like a puppy dog, but they burn their way to your soul, don’t they?” Lucy would later comment to him.) The question was pleasantly stated, but Jacob sensed an earnestness, or suspicion, in her question. Eleanor was the matriarch of this house; she was guarding her adopted family.

“I’ll probably leave tomorrow after breakfast,” Jacob replied, smiling. “I know you all have work to do, I have to get back home.”

“Where are you from?” asked Jennifer, the tall young lady sitting next to him.

“New York.”

“Have you always lived there?” she asked, speaking slowly.

“Well, I grew up on Long Island, and I lived in Florida and New Jersey for a while, and now I live in New York City, where I work.”

“Where on Long Island did you grow up?” asked Henry, Eleanor’s husband. He was about sixty, tall and thin with short white hair and a white beard.

“Do you know the Island?”

“I lived in Northport for eleven years.”

“Really?” said Jacob. “I grew up in Smithtown. My parents still live there.”

“Excuse me,” interrupted Jennifer, handing Jacob a slice of whole wheat bread. “Could you pass this down to Eleanor to get toasted?”

The dining area was small, but with large windows that admitted plenty of light in the spring evening. The immediate view from the second story of the old mansion was a cherry tree whose young leaves and flowers were animated by a light breeze and several neurotic little sparrows. Around the tree was a circular driveway. Behind it was a long, narrow road that wound its way down the hill. Beyond that was a nice view of the Pennsylvania countryside.

The dining room opened up into a living room space, where there were three yellow couches arranged around a coffee table. The walls were painted white, and decorated with framed watercolors of plants and birds. There was one large, incongruous painting mounted on the wall just behind Eleanor. It was a reproduction of one of the works of Heironymous Bosch. The happy watercolors cowered in deference to it. Beneath the Bosch sat the residents of Apollo House and their guest around the circular table, set with simple white plates and teacups, shiny silverware, pitchers of water, baskets of breads, and bowls of raw vegetables. Next to Eleanor’s chair was a very big, very old toaster. Anybody who wanted their bread toasted passed it around the table to Eleanor. The polite sounds of the Friday dinner on the quiet Pennsylvania farm commune were punctuated from time to time by Eleanor, seated against the dark backdrop of naked sinners, demons, and wild animals, placing a piece of bread into the ancient toaster, and toasting it with a loud, creaky “KA-CHUNK.”

At the end of the meal, everybody held hands and, shaking them with each syllable, said “Thank you for the meal!”

1998. This is closely based on my visit with Debbie who was working at a Christian-utopian community for mentally challenged adults. The names are different and there was no Bosch painting.