15 August 2006

Not optimum blogging conditions

Last Thursday I spent an hour recapping the first few days of my trip, and when I hit "send", it went away.  Twas the only annoying part of the trip so far.  Tonight, I can't get the supposedly complimentary wireless Internet to work, so I am on dial up.  I forgot how slow dial up is.  I am really, really spoiled.

So I have zero patience for anything right now.  As such, I present a brief synopsis of things I have seen and/or experienced since last week:

1. Thousands of lightning strikes.  I am not exaggerating.  For my first trip into the deep desert, I have seen more water here than I have in Chicago this summer.  The monsoons move in from Baja California and soak New Mexico and Arizona.  By far, the lasting image of this trip will be the lightning.

2. Last Thursday, when the news about the uncovered terrorist plot was the top news story all over the world, the LA 11 PM newscast starts off with . . . a car chase.  OJ Simpson was not involved.  Gotta love LA.

3. I saw a scorpion today, no more than six feet from me.  I was in the desert.  It was at home.  I left.

4. I don't get the concept of roadside memorials.  I've seen at least one hundred along the sides of the roads that I have been on.  Do people visit these sites instead of graves?  Not to make light of any tragedy, but what's the point?  It's incredibly distracting to be motoring along a tight curve and then see a huge cross planted just off the road with balloons, stuffed animals, and whatever else people felt necessary to leave there.  Great, someone died here.  I'l put both hands on the wheel.

5. I'm going to the Grand Canyon tomorrow.  I have had about 1000 WOW moments so far.  I expect that to triple (at least) tomorrow.

No spell check.  Hate dial up.

07 August 2006


Ah. my two favorite words.  I am sitting in a motel room in Salina, Kansas as I write this, having just driven through one of the more spectacular thunderstorms I have ever witnessed.  I've seen pictures of lightning hitting things, like the Sears Tower, but until tonight, when I saw a radio transmission tower take a direct hit, I never saw lightning strike something live. 

I am slowly making my way out to Los Angeles to visit some old friends.  With not much going on in the homefront, it seemed like a good time to get away.  My wife understands that I have the travel itch and at times I need to scratch it.  I consider myself lucky to have such an understanding soul mate, although she is probably happiest about the fact that I didn't expect her to go with me.  She considers forty-five minutes in the car to be excessive.  Opposites, as they say, attract.



04 August 2006

Give it a whirl

While I am on the topic of obsessive/compulsion, let's dive into something else that has captured my attention lately.  In the last month or so I finished reading "Possible Side Effects" by Augusten Burroughs, and while all of the ten or so essays in the book are well worth reading, a small detail in "Getting to No You" (yes, the spelling is correct) has securely fixed itself into my brain.

It's a piece about Burroughs meeting and arranging dates online, particularly one man (yes, he's gay, and yes, I'm sure James Dobson is well aware of this) who he knows right away he has nothing in common with, but he can't bring himself to not agree to a second date.  At the end of a horrible evening, Burroughs finds himself in the man's apartment, looking for a way to tactfully leave, when his date starts to tell him how he has recently discovered spirituality and religion, and how it has changed his life.  He excuses himself and reappears shortly, wearing some type of thick cotton dress.  Then he begins spinning, and when he stops, he tells Burroughs that he is studying to become a Whirling Dervish.

I swear, my life has not been the same since I read those two words.  Whirling Dervish?  What kind of religion calls it members Dervishes?  And why do they whirl?  Intrigued, I found the answer here (if you too are curious).  And then I moved on, or so  thought.  But instead I have become obsessed with the phrase "whirling dervish."  It's as foreign a coupling of two words as I can imagine.  Well, maybe not.  I forgot about "compassionate conservative."

Anyway, it's not what a whirling dervish is.  It's just about what the words sound like together.  Whirling.  Dervish.  If someone had walked up to me on the street and asked me what I thought a Whirling Dervish was before I read the essay, I don't know what I would have said.  I probably would have guessed that it was a bird. Yes, the elusive Whirling Dervish, sleeping all day only to emerge at night to taunt the fruit bats in a spinning spectacle of confusion. I do know this: it's far too mesmerizing of a phrase to be construed to just a religion. 

What if instead of calling it a "split-finger fastball", Bruce Sutter has been a little more inventive with naming his out pitch?  "OK, here we go.  Two outs, bases loaded, the count is full.  Here comes the pitch... swing and a miss!  Struck him out with the Whirling Dervish!"  The sporting possibilities alone are endless.

What about politics?  Who came up with filibuster?  Wouldn't "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" be that much better if Jimmy Stewart went into a 24 hour whirling dervish at the end?

So I've spent many a moment in the last few weeks challenging myself to come up with a better use for "whirling dervish", and I think it came to me just this past week:

Most every night I go for a bike ride around nine PM, and I have developed a certain route that takes me a few different neighborhoods of the town I live in.  Just to the East of my home is a small enclave that I would gather is about sixty years old.  It's only three blocks long and has no sidewalks or streetlights.  The homes in this area are split almost 50/50: half are huge homes that have been built recently, multi-story brick homes with four car garages, enough outside lighting to land planes in fog, built in lawn sprinkler systems and huge entrance doors that cost more than I paid for my first car.  The other half are ranches, the homes that were built when the area was first settled.  Throughout the summer I have seen a sample of the people who live here, and every ranch seems to be occupied by folks in their "golden years" while the new homes are full of new families, where there are as many cars in the garage as there are people sleeping in beds at night.

The ranches are dying.  Many have for sale signs in front.  The one that has a "sold" sign also has a sign next to it, advertising that a builder will soon knock it down and put a much bigger house there.  And soon, when I ride past, there will be an orange fence around the lot.  That's the sign of death for a ranch.  It will be nothing more than a hole soon.

It's weird sometimes.  There will be a single ranch in the middle of the block, bordered by two huge new homes on each side.  I imagine in the dead of night that the homes stare down on the ranch with and say "What are you waiting for?"  And the ranch says nothing, because it knows that it's history once whoever is inside dies or moves away to the retirement home.  It's just a matter of time.

Last week I noticed another for sale sign, and I found myself saying "there goes another whirling dervish."  I have no idea why I thought of it like that, but I like it.  The whirling dervishes of this town (and many others around it) are disappearing, replaced by the modern day upper middle class mansion.

I'm not really bothered by it, but that is exactly what is happening.  And I used to reside in a whirling dervish myself, selling it when it became apparent that the land was worth more than the building, so who am I to judge?

I'm sure that there is some connection between religion and the real estate market here, but I don't see it.  I'm just happy I found a suitable use for whirling dervish.  I know I'll never be able to find one for "compassionate conservative."




I can be a bit obsessive about things.  For example, since I have seen trailers for the Oliver Stone World Trade Center film for the last week or so, I can't get Coldplay's "Fix You" out of my head.  The fact that this song plays a prominent part in the trailer makes me not want to see the movie.  To be honest, odds were slim to begin with that I would have seen it; there's no way I will see it now. I have questions: couldn't Stone have used a song I liked?  And why does every third movie released since 2000 have to have a Coldplay song in the trailer?

The obsessive part of this is that I can't get the damn song out of my head, so I wind up thinking about it all the time.  I remember reading an interview not long after their last CD was released, and Chris Martin said that he wrote the song in the aftermath of watching Gwenyth Paltrow deal with the death of her father.  Hmm.  Funny how that goes-you write a song about the grief of your spouse, and it turns out to be an anthem for Nicolas Cage getting pulled out of a huge pile of rubble.  I'm sure Martin visualized that when he wrote it.

A while ago I wrote about how much I hate it when songs are used in commercials, and that, as a rule, the lyrics should have to be changed to fit the product being schleped.  I think the same applies here, and the words to "Fix You" should be amended to reflect the theme of the movie.  I can see all sorts of bad-taste scenarios here, an opportunity to outrage every right-wing pundit by writing a song parody dealing with 9/11.  To wit:

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Actually, those are the real lyrics to the end of the song.  I find the second line particularly interesting.  What is that supposed to mean?  Has Martin been putting phosphorus in Gwen's coffee every morning?  Maybe I was wrong about the whole thing.  Maybe the song in its original form fits in to the theme of 9/11. 

Never mind.  I just hope Ollie's check to Chris doesn't bounce.  It's worth every penny.