Shields Up, Hoes Down

Lapsus Calami …Cougars, both kinds…Women behaving badly…Giant African snails…Non-shocking headlines…

“The women are the real labourers; for the entire business of digging, planting and weeding devolves on them; and, if we regard the assagai and shield as symbolical of the man, the hoe may be looked upon as emblematic of the woman…with this rude and heavy instrument the woman digs, plants and weeds her garden.”

–The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazier. 1890

Lordy. Sometimes you just happen upon an historical piece of nuanced writing that just seems so wrong, so strange, so shaky in its interpretation, and possessed of such an unstable edifice that one minor slip of the text will result in an explosion that lays waste to peace and understanding among men and women for years to come. Put yourself in the shoes of Sir James Frazier. You are a scholarly European. It is the eve of the twentieth century. You’re crafting an important study of humankind’s fledgling understanding of the world around them. Then, you just happen to report on an old culture that associates a woman with the gardening implement that will become a homonym for reckless promiscuity.

“I meant shovel, I meant tiller, I meant… eh… auger,” Sir James would cry out, but at that point it would be hard to hear his plaintive wails as he ran as fast as his knickers would carry him, toward the woods maybe, with the angry mob of women behind him. As a group they will only take so much abuse, and so it should be no big surprise when the modern news headlines begin to reflect a certain feminine unrest. Yet now I know that when the deal goes down, and I find myself on the rack because of a woman on the edge, there is one person and only one person I have to blame.  Sir James Frazer.

I have recently come upon the full text, without the redaction, of Bridget Anne Kelly, former senior aide to Governor Chris Christie. To say the least, I wasn’t surprised.  “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she wrote. “That guy Sir James Frazer used to go there, you know, to Fort Lee, during his trips to America at the invitation of President Benjamin Harrison. Frazer used to hang out at the Alderman’s Public House in Fort Lee, drinking whiskey and calling women hoes. We all know what a rat bastard he was, and now Fort Lee will realize it, too.”

It didn’t stop there, though. When Miranda Barbour was taken into custody recently after luring men to their death through phony Craigslist ads, she was overheard admitting that, “I just pictured Sir James Frazer sitting next to me every time some greasy weasel thought he could have his way with me. I’ve killed more than twenty-two men, but every time I begin stabbing I always see the same face; the face of that guy that called me a ho in that big book that I’ve never read. Maybe it was a hoe, but whatever. We all know what he meant.”

The evidence was piling up. Sir James Frazer’s off-hand remark had even set off an international debate on human rights. The Russian all-girl punk band “Pussy Riot” said, through a translator that, “When we were arrested for hooliganism in that orthodox church, we just figured if Sir James Frazer was going to label us, we should exceed his expectations. Break things up. That is a hoe’s job, be it in a field or in the realm of free speech. What do you think now, Comrade Frazer?”

And finally, and this is the really scary one, the wildly psychotic Joanna Dennehy, after going on a knife-wielding rampage in Britain that left three dead and two wounded, said, “I’m just crazy. That’s it. No ifs ands or buts. Hope you’re happy, Frazer. I had five victims. You’ve had millions.”

This last one had me up nights, pacing. Even though Ms. Dennehy is in custody a continent away, just to know that somebody so blatantly insane is alive and ready to kill again the moment she is able can be unsettling. She stabbed an innocent man walking his dog, after all. I’m a dog walker. I don’t pay attention to every person that happens to pass me. This fellow, polite British guy to a fault, was reported to have tried to reason with her as she was shoving her knife into him.

“You seem to have dropped your weapon into my back,” says he.

“I’m trying to kill you,” says she.

“I must admit I find that rather rude.”

More to the point I was feeling a bit guilty for some type of vague misogyny. I eventually chalked it up to an article I had been reading recently about a sudden spike in the number of cougars in the Hollywood Hills, Griffith Park, to be exact. I had to read about two paragraphs before I realized they were actually talking about the giant cats and not about bored, mature housewives. Even with the large glossy photo of the brown-coated mountain lion on the opposite page I still wasn’t ready to accept the article’s wildlife content, figuring at first it was just some symbolic representation. Remarkable adaptation skills, these cats have, and for that matter, so do the housewives. It is not easy to find that one’s habitat has been encroached upon by whatever modern design an impatient population has impressed upon it, be it a six-lane freeway that cuts off one’s hunting territory or a nineteen-year-old centerfold with intentions on your rich movie-producer husband. I have nothing but respect for these women and still I felt targeted. In the crosshairs. Marked.

Furthermore, because of some legal wrangling within the Georgia courts it was proving difficult to get a hold of my sleeping medication, because apparently they use it to euthanize criminals. When some people are shot up with sodium thiopental they die. I get a decent sleep for about five or six hours. So I’ve been sitting wide-eyed, night upon night in front of my window, watching for Joanna Dennehy, scouring the news for reports of her bold escape from prison.

What I noticed, instead, was that there seems to be a growing infestation of giant African land snails in Texas and Florida. They can eat through houses and can carry meningitis, said a report. Someone should tell these mollusks that of all the places an African snail can wind up in, Texas and Florida sometimes are not pleasant for anything African, and not to be surprised if they are blown to slimy pieces by a pistol-packing white guy in fear of his life when the gastropods inch up slowly and begin to menace.

Luckily, there is a Giant African Land Snail Science Symposium in Gainesville to deal with the infestation. They’ve shown they are serious too, by bringing in the legendary Doctor Dolittle, who apparently is one of the only leading zoologists to actually be transported from the south pacific to England on the back of a giant snail, if my memory of the 1967 Disney classic serves me right. The doctor has proposed a daring plan to introduce the “push-me, pull-you” into the environment to eat the giant African snails, or barring that, using the old line from the movie The Man Who Knew Too Much, “Just get a Frenchman.” (Paraphrased.)

Other than that there was one headline that seemed rather predictable. In fact, I will list it here among a few others of my own creation. See if you can spot it.

“Snake handler dies from snake bite.”

“Man who routinely plays Russian Roulette dies from bullet to the head.”

“Arsonist dies after getting trapped in house fire he set.”

“Area woman who likes to drink poison dies from ingesting poison.”

“Man who eats big piles of shit dies from e. coli.”

(Answer: First one.)

More Alembics to come.


Atlanta’s Ice Cataclysm (Take 2)

Sturm und Drang on Atlanta’s Public Train System…Bad Day For Weather and Music

It’s nice to witness a feel-good story once in a while, firsthand, without the petty buffering of the news media dancing it across the television, getting in the way, numbing all the visceral emotion that travels in lockstep with being an actual eyewitness. But if the news media had reported the story, the headline would’ve certainly been something to the effect of, “Pile of Anonymous Puke on Marta Train Brings Disgusted Passengers Closer Together.”  It was a headline I could see in my head and pretty much smell at the same time. I’m normally not a public transportation user, not for any particular reason except that Atlanta’s rail system (Marta) is a little oversimplified. One track goes up and down. One track goes left and right. It is slightly more accurate than the public catapult the city employed before the rail lines went in. But, like the catapult, if you happen to be heading to a destination on the train’s trajectory, hop on and enjoy yourself. There is usually some form of strange entertainment afoot. Be it doomsday enthusiasts, would-be hip hop artists, white nomads reading aloud from disintegrating copies of Nietzsche or people selling Grey Goose for a third of the price, there is something for everyone.

In this case, when I stepped on the train, one whiff suggested the county morgue had relocated to Car #3, westbound, as the doors closed behind me and I tried to both get away from the smell and find a seat. Duped by some strange power of convection within the train’s air system, I ended up walking in the direction of the offense, until a kind old woman stopped me and said, “You don’t want to go over there.”

She was right. The back two rows of the car were empty. It seemed someone had gotten sick in the corner and then fled. People got on and off the train-car as we hit our stops and a strong camaraderie built up between those who knew and others who were well on their way to the empty seats to hastily throw themselves into the mess. With jokes and warnings, we, the occupants of Car #3 of the public transit system, built an atmosphere of amity and goodwill, collectively warning newcomers on the train to stay away from that “fucking nasty puke-filled seat, over there, now,” because someone must’ve “been getting DOWN, boy,” or sitting next to some “ugly ass mofo,” or “been eating at my baby’s momma’s house.” There was a sudden battle of the one-liners. Some people were clever, a few vulgar, and as usual one opportunist cropped up. A fellow started trying to charge a dollar per warning, reasoning that he had saved the would-be “vomit-slider” ten dollars for a dry cleaning bill, but he was undercut by about a dozen others willing to do the job for free, which was the same problem the Joad family had in “The Grapes of Wrath” in a way, so don’t let it be said that nothing can be learned on public transportation.

I settled back after a few minutes, opened up the newspaper I had brought more to hide behind than to read, and flipped through.  I was on my way to pick up my car from the night before since I had gone drinking, gambling that the second winter storm in three weeks was going to sweep in and out of Atlanta like a ghost, betting that the governing officials were making too big a deal out of this one because they got caught with their pants down the last time around, with the abandoned highways looking like something out of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” But in fact my car started to get buried pretty quick in slush and I figured I’d jump on the train, stay off the roads, and play it safe. Atlanta drivers are generally not known for calm reactions to precipitation, particularly the freezing kind.

“You mean to tell me that the ice usually in my freezer is now outside all over the CE-ment?” someone might say. The reasoning, then, is to drive faster than normal so the kinetic energy from the tires actually heats up the ground underneath and melts the ice under the wheels. This ends up being a bad idea, and you’ve got a nice little arrangement of cars pointing every which way along the side of the road.

Flipping through the newspaper I was at least relieved not to be living in West Virginia, where another toxic spill of “coal slurry” has washed into a river. I’m not sure what “slurry” is but it doesn’t sound good, although it is said to have a strong licorice smell. This one was from a plant owned by Patriot Coal. The one last month was from a concern called Freedom Industries. I smirked at the jingo monikers, but had to admit they will come in handy when the Public Relations people are spurred into action. The commercials will run up and down prime time, with a deep, movie-trailer narration. “Freedom Industries and Patriot Coal spilled some ‘MCHM’ into the Elk River and Kanawha River, respectively. We apologize. But you know what happens when you mix freedom and patriots and water? You get Freedom Water. Mmm, mmm. Taste that freedom. Taste that patriotism. Tastes like licorice candy. Don’t let the environmentalist crooks take the freedom out of your water. Don’t let them take the patriotism out of your faucets and taps. Without water you die. Without freedom, you die. Without freedom water, well you just do the math.”

Good point, I thought. The whole thing had put me in the mood for some licorice flavored Sambuca. Or Anisette. Or Fernet. Basically I just wanted a drink and damn if I wasn’t going to get it.  What was next, whistleblowers trying to take the licorice out of my booze (which wouldn’t be a big deal now that I thought about it) or worse, try to take the alcohol out of my licorice? (Now that is unacceptable.)

My car sat, unharmed, un-towed, un-dismantled, or ‘mantled,’ maybe. No, not the right word. My car was alright, anyway, from the night before, so I ducked into the bar to finish reading the paper and have something licorice flavored. Not only had it not been a good week for the environment, it had been a bad week for music too. A man named Universal Knowledge Allah, (what was with the names?) age 36, had stolen a five million dollar violin, a rare Stradivarius. That’s like stealing a portable mansion. Mr. Allah, or Universal, probably figured a five MILLION dollar violin would be pretty easy to fence. There is probably a ton of them on the market, laying around old music stores and high school band rooms, and plenty of people willing to just fork over seven figures for a hot fiddle. Most likely Universal Knowledge will be found guilty when he goes to trial, and might I suggest as part of the stipulations of his sentence he must change his name to Limited Brain-Function Quasimodo. The weirdness continued, as I read about one of Japan’s most beloved symphonic composers, all the more remarkable because he was deaf, Mamoru Samuragochi, who after composing some of the most beloved Japanese symphonic music, turned out not to be a composer at all, or deaf, for that matter. He had hired a ghostwriter to write his songs for him and apparently threw in the deaf hoax because of his admiration for Beethoven, which seemed to me to be an even more tedious undertaking than pretending to write symphonies. If he liked Beethoven so much he could’ve just walked around with big ruffled shirts and plus fours instead of having to play deaf, which may have been his undoing. You can get someone else to write symphonies all day long, but apparently somebody suspected Mr. Samuragochi was being less than forthcoming about his hearing when one of his peers spotted him walking down the road and said, “Hey Mamoru,” and he turned and said, “Hey yourself.”

More Alembics to come.

An Open Letter From Johnny Americana To the National Institute of Health

Note from the Blog Custodian: Since “paddytheduke,” the normal blog contributor, is away on some type of mission of mercy for Mitch and Murray, he has given his full blessing for the ensuing post. Mr. Johnny Americana, an eager old friend of “paddytheduke’s,” has requested the use of this platform to demand the money he is owed from the National Institute of Health for participating in their nine-day flu study, as seen in this news segment ( In short, Mr. Americana would like to collect his $3,000 volunteer fee for donating his time and his health in order to be clinically infected with the flu virus for quarantined observation. Mr. Americana, while pure of purpose and honorable of motive has always had the somewhat debilitating deficiency of being obsessed with too-good-to-be-true opportunities while paying no real attention to context. We fear further, that he is not alone, that it may be a common problem, somewhat generational. Mr. Americana’s letter is posted as a courtesy and we wish him the best of luck. Take it away, Mr. Americana.

An Open Letter To the Double-Crossing Bastards at the National Institute of Health.  Dear Dr. Anthony Fauci, or as I like to call you, Dr. Cheat-and-Swindle:

I am angry. Very angry. Outraged, even. Sick with rage, righteous fury and some type of warty pustules on my lower buttocks. Let me state my case formally. It has been several weeks, and still, and yet, I have not been paid for sacrificing my very valuable time and putting my precious health on the line so you and your quack medical team, with your crude and poorly constructed “laboratory” experiment, could sicken me with reckless infections for your morbid interest. First thing is first. When I was approached to be one of the paid participants in your government study to test the body’s response to the influenza virus, I said “Come on in, wee beasties, the water is fine. I’ve got white blood cells, macrophages, T-cells for your tiny asses.” Furthermore, my body is toned and waxed. Girls at the gym stop and watch me push weight around like it owes me money. I am a picture of health! What is some little piece of protein going to do to me? I eat protein for breakfast. Really I do, actually. Be it egg whites or  microscopic viral replicants, protein is protein.  In addition, I was promised $3,000, a sum which I had planned to use to start my video portfolio for an important audition in an upcoming reality television series called Who Wants To Marry A Transvestite? My money has yet to arrive, my video portfolio is missing an important montage, and don’t think I won’t sue if my one opportunity for superstardom passes right by me.

To make matters worse, I was promised that the illness wouldn’t last for more than nine days, but here it is three weeks later and I am fevered, delirious, nauseous, and dripping like a faucet. (A leaky faucet, Dr. Wiseass.) I am still very sore. It has been a humiliating experience through and through. You call yourselves doctors? You dare claim to be part of that noble profession that seeks to free humanity from the specter of disease? When I get through with you you’ll wish you flunked all your pre-med courses and went to beauty school.

When I arrived for the preliminary assessment after agreeing, at that truck stop, to participate in your little study, I immediately began to suspect that something was wrong. I was charged a $400 processing fee (refundable, apparently) from a fellow in a dirty white coat who introduced himself as Dr. Lou Brissity, and then I was made to fill out a rather comprehensive questionnaire that I felt was highly inappropriate and intrusive. For instance what was the point of asking if I had any bondage experience? Or do I like to be choked? Or was I sexually turned on by humiliation? What does any of that have to do with how my body reacts to the flu?

Dr. Brissity, after telling me I was lucky enough to be chosen as a paid participant, introduced me to his assistant Nurse Lana (I don’t think that was her real name, by the way. She giggled and said it was an anagram, whatever that is. I figured her name was probably Anna or Graham. By the way a leather nurse’s outfit and fishnets? Very unprofessional.) Where was I? Oh yes, Dr. Brissity had me meet him and Nurse Lana down at that Motor Inn near the airport, the one they found all those dead hookers behind. I thought we would be dealing with a hospital environment with a sterile quarantine. Instead, this place was dirty. Real dirty. Not only was the room not sterile, there were dirty towels all over the place, the distinct smell of excrement and one guy in there that was dressed like a sheik who said he didn’t speak any english, but now that I think about it he told me he didn’t speak english in perfect english.

Dr. Brissity prescribed some anesthetic that smelled a lot like tequila and made me a little loopy, before assuring me I was ready for the influenza dosage. But, he said, in order to avoid injury to myself, it was standard procedure to tie me up and gag me with a horse’s bit and bridle. During all this, mind you, Dr. Brissity never washed his hands or wore gloves. I mean really, what type of institute are you guys running? I’ve never seen so much body hair and cheap costume jewelry on anybody, much less a doctor.

To get right down to it, and this is the worst part, I never imagined a person could be infected with the flu in quite that way. It seemed all too primitive and savage, really. Nurse Lana turned rather aggressive, whipping me with a razor strop and calling me such names.  I don’t care how good of a nurse you are, there is no need to tell me to shut up and that I deserve punishment. I’m just trying to help, after all. When I complained with loud braying noises through my gag Dr. Brissity just kept saying, “Hey, who’s the doctor here?” but I still don’t see how wearing that bit in my mouth and being flogged like a mule helped the flu virus move through my body. Come to think of it I’m not even sure I was given the flu. The flu has never caused me this much itching. One would think that trained medical professionals from the National Institute of Health would be courteous, reassuring, methodical? Let me tell you, Dr. Fauci, I was berated and beaten over the course of several days. I thought there would be monitors for my vitals, oxygen levels, breathing and such, but that scumbag doctor only had one machine, like something a road crew would use to break through concrete, and all the while threatening to bury me with the others if I didn’t shut up and obey him, my master? Since when do you guys get off being called “masters” just because you went to medical school? Maybe they should offer a class in humility?

I will be expecting payment immediately. If I don’t hear from you, Dr. Brissity or Nurse Lana within twenty-four hours I will have to march down to the Allergy and Infectious Diseases department of your depraved institute with a news crew, the kind that stalk parking lots with bulbous microphones and make a lot of bad noise for you and your government frauds. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m a reasonable man but you can’t just approach someone at a rest area, offer to pay them for research and then just jerk them around.

Yours Itchingly,

Johnny Americana.

P.S. If any of those photographs are published I demand a percentage.