‘Peeps’, no likey me,
not because I’m obnoxious –
~ Tim Burchfield
You are no friend, friend.
You only pretend to be a friend,
always with the passive aggression,
always with the snide retort.
Let me tell you about friends, friend.
Friends don’t hurt for fun,
or rip each other’s guts out for sport.
Friends don’t laugh at your pain,
enjoy your embarrassment,
exult in undermining your satisfaction,
poo-poo your gains,
remind you of your past failures,
winnow out your weaknesses,
all the more, to underscore.
A friend won’t hobble your confidence,
with the teasing jibe,
the unwarranted witticism,
the stinging barb,
the bad report.
That’s not the role of a friend, friend.
That’s what family is for.
~ Tim Burchfield
But for the green light emitted by the radar screen, it was dark in the wheelhouse that enveloped the sea air that enveloped the two men. The Captain was taciturn, and concentrating on his course correction. Young Jack Kerouac was the greenhorn on the boat. He had been holding forth, now, for a bit yet.
“I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it,” confessed young Jack. “I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic Mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like the action of the wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water,” Jack opined. “I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled,” gushed Jack. “I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t die…” ** Jack paused, taking a long drag on his cigarette. An orange glow illuminated his dark eyes, one green and one red, like the the running lights of an oncoming push boat, bitterly relentless and unswerving. What was the old adage about ships passing in the night? Red right returning.
But for the comforting drone of the twin sixteen diesels down below, a relative silence enveloped the two men. Finally, the Captain craned his neck to take in the kid, perusing him with a salty eye, and half a grin. Jack was slouching against the hatch, silhouetted by the moonlight washing back and forth over his lanky form, draped in bliss and youthful profundity. Jack was blowing smoke rings, and tapping his foot, as if listening to a cool jazz riff.
The captain pursed his lips in his signature expression, sucking up all ‘the silence in the room with withheld witticism, and unspoken irony. After a bit, he picked up his spit cup and spit, loosing a stringy stream of steaming brown treacle, observing, “Talk a lot, don’t you?”
~ Tim Burchfield
** (From Jack Kerouac, holding forth, ‘on death’.)
I have always had difficulty doing sums in my head, it’s always been that way, for me. Because, by the time I, ‘carry the three’ I’ve forgot whatever numbers I had (sort of, but shakily) ‘had’, in my mind originally. So I’ve ‘borrowed’, ‘appropriated’, if you like, oh alright, stolen outright, with appreciative impunity, an idea which might just do the trick for me, and that is this: from here on in, when I think of a numeral (that’s ‘number’, to the rest of you ‘number-dolts’, like me) it will have an assigned color (when I ‘picture’ it), and just for fun, a ‘texture’ as well, and, even, sometimes, for memory’s sake, a fragrant (or otherwise) ‘smell’ as well.
So, for the sake of clarity, picture if you will, that from here on in, all ones are orange, with the smell and texture of a citrusy orange peel. Savory One, how we love you, now: how fragrant, how juicy, how delectable, how ‘singular’!
Twos are yellow, and fuzzy, and seemingly everywhere at once, like featherweight baby chicks. Charming yellow tweety twos, tweeting to beat the band, oh, dear! (Oh, and voracious, and insistent, and demanding, and rather smelly, in great numbers, too, if you wanna know. Sorry!)
Threes are chartreuse, and froggy, with big round eyes, and shiny wet froggy skins. ‘Ribbity’ threes, making their creeky sounds.. from ‘down yonder, just past the old willow tree (as all ‘our amphibious froggy friends are want to do), with their midnight thrumming serenade… “three!!… threee!! …threeee!!!”
Fours are more formal, and come in multiples, like polite policemen, sporting their evenness and conformity, in a fetching comfortable serge, like a well pressed uniform, in crisp blue colors, and cool combinations thereof. Of course, there are many blues. Which, did you ask? You choose.
Fives are like the desert, sandy as (heck), and brown, or beige and warm to the touch, and smell vaguely of horned toads, with their round bellies, and flat flinty backs, and horny-toad skin. And little beige eyes that stare undaunted (not knowing what to think), but fixedly, up at you.
Sixes are sexy, in slinky silk negligees, and red as a fire engine, with ‘come hither’ sensibilities, and voices like sensual susurrations in a private suite, for just the six of you. So far, the easiest to remember – go figure, “Hey Sixy, whadda ya say? Hey, you, too, integer baby. Looking good!”
Add one part white to that number, and you get a pink seven. Sensible seven. Yeppers. Seven dwarves with seven pink…noses. (*grins*) (Or whatever, suit yourself, after I’m done here, it’s over to you.)
Just so’s you know, sevens are rubbery, and smell like an eraser. (Sorry, silly sevens, somebody’s got to.)
Eights are plump, like round purple plums, in succulent curvy bunches, with taught shiny skins. Be careful with eights, now, and don’t gobble ’em up too quick, or you might just get the ‘purple eight step’, from what you just ate. Just ate.
Nines are the uptight Victorians of the bunch, buttoned up tight, in their conservative black dresses, up to their long scrawny necks – who peer down at you from their lofty moral perches, and have well groomed, black eyebrows, ‘plucked’, as it were, with which to superciliously lean over you, and think you not at all amusing. (Too bad for you, but who just tolerate me, because of my ability with tea. Am I lucky, or what!)
Oh, nine, we don’t deserve you, but we’re glad you’re here…no really. (*wink*)
Heh, Nines…can’t live with em, can’t count to ten without ’em…whaddaya gonna do…?
Which brings to mind decimals, and multiples of ten, the like of which, as you well know, couldn’t be made at all, without the trusty ‘civil servant’ of the numeral world – the unassuming ubiquitous zero. I like mine in gray (or ‘grey’, if you go that way), I don’t know about you. Very conservative, and unassuming, these. And zeros are amenable, and roll with the punches, if you please. Zeros don’t get easily bowled over. They are the ‘dependables’ of the number set, but don’t add much to the conversation, it must be said, except as a placeholder, and want for nothing, if you get me, but do know their import, and innovation, and universal applicability. Good old zero, always there when you need one, whispering little nothings, that make all the difference. You gotta love ’em!
So now, with zero’s friendly participation, let’s make a ten, shall we?!!
Are you as breathless as I am?!! (Golly.)
Did you picture ten in all of its orange, and gray, glory? Ones are what, again? That’s right, juicy juicy orange, and zesty delicious. Roll that cosmopolitan gray circle right up next to that one, and, voila! A ten, me boyo! Wow! The Bo Derek of numbers, a perfect ten. What a sensation! (I think my knees are shaking. Is it noticeable? Well, color me numeral enthused, I’m cool with that.) The big one-oh! It was love at first sight. Ten out of ten.
So, after that little introduction, imagine my ease with remembering numbers, from now on. And combinations of numbers are so vivid, to me, now, that, believe it or not, I can now smell them, too.
Which are my favorites?
Well, honestly, there are so very many, and how they entice and imbue me with captivating interest, and ‘realness’ – I can count the ways.
My joys are, dare I say it? Multiplied. Now, I’d hate to do a ‘spoiler’, so you do the math. (Now, I can just think about numbers, and get wet. Oh, I’m just exuberant, don’t get upset. Still. I’ll just say this: over fifty, and it gets pretty darn good. Oh, yes, and get this: spritely Seventy will curl your toes!)
Oh, and sixty-nine is a hoot! (I seem to recall.) Oh, yeah…!!
So. Now that you’ve been introduced, I’ll leave you to it. Enjoy your new friends, if you like, now, it’s up to you. Nothing to it.
(Consider all sorts of numerical combinations, a ménage a trois, if you will…or an hundred and one combinations, my little Dalmatians. You can count on me. For my part, I certainly will. )
Happy days! I’m a number devotee, from here on in, and then, sum. An ‘aficionado’, as it were, as they say in Spain.
But I still won’t do numerology.
(Color me credulous, if you like, but I ain’t that dumb! Nosirree.)
~ Tim Burchfield
This is a two-fer. Don’t know what a two-fer is? Sure you do: it’s a two ‘fer’ (for) one. Can you tell I spent my formative years in retail? Yep, my claim to fame in high school was head Pamper stacker, a graduate of H.E.B. U. Don’t know what Pampers are? If you’ve had kids you do, and if you haven’t, they’re disposable diapers, and H.E.B. is a grocery store (chain), owned by the Butt family: that’s true.
Where was I? Oh, yes, a two-fer.
I came home today with a couple of gems, one on spuds (that’s potatoes, or potato, in the singular, from the Spanish, patata, variant of the Taino, batata) and the other is, a surprise. Trust me, it really will be. Something maybe nobody has ever thought of, besides maybe me, and quite possibly only interesting to me, but we shall see, shall we?
But more about the potato. Or more specifically, freeze-dried potatoes. Yep, just like the ones moms like mine used to make when they saw commercials in the sixties about meals for twelve cents a serving and thought food made in the wink of an eye, was just the thing for a civilized society. Instant potatoes, I think they were called, on the box. Almost inedible, to my brother and sisters, which I thought just wonderful, as that meant there would always be plenty for me. My secret? Lots of butter and plenty of salt and pepper. Yummy!
Why are you telling me about instant potatoes, I can hear you asking, and well you may, so I shall tell you, immediamente, as they say. But now, for some history, and the punch line, to boot: freeze dried spuds are an ancient Peruvian invention, and not a product of NASA, such as Tang, fruit roll-ups, and squirt-able cheese, as you might think. And here’s how.
The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C., of which they developed over a thousand varieties, and still do utilize, even today. But freeze-dried? How did that come to be?
The potato, from the perennial Solanum tuberosum, is the world’s fourth largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize. The problem with this delicious source of nutrition is their vulnerability, to moisture, and molds and fungus, and other spoilers. So the clever Peruvians would carry their crop of potatoes high into the Andes mountains and let them freeze. Then, after thawing, they would become sort of squidgy and malleable, in a very useful way. This, they would squash into a paste, and smooth it in the sun, over a wide flat rock face. The dried product could then be stored in fired clay pots, almost indefinitely. Add a bit of water, and bring to a boil, and voila! Instant potatoes. (Add pepper and salt, to taste, of course: the Peruvians were an advanced ancient culture, not savages.)
Okay, now for your big surprise, since you made it this far. Have you been waiting, with bated breath? (Short for, ‘abated’, breath: short for ‘shortness of breath’, nifty, nay?) I can tell. Well, wait no longer, your moment has arrived. Listen, my friend, and you shall hear.
I shall amaze you with my forward thinking and ingenuity. You know, if you’ve ever had to paint the outside of your house, or wooden deck, how, by spring, the places where the paint has peeled, and must be repaired and/or re-painted is more than evident, but by springtime, everything is soggy and wet, and the exposed wood is too, and too soft to scrape the old paint off, effectively, so you end up having to wait until the rains have stopped, and the wood has dried sufficiently to be able to paint, and by then, it’s getting (by winter standards) downright hot and sticky, and the black flies are biting, and the no-see-em’s are out for blood, and absolutely making you crazy? (What are no-see-ems? Imagine gnats, in their thousands, swarming, and biting, your ears, neck, and, well, any exposed area, except when you swat them, your hand finds a bloody trickle, lovely. Plus, you can’t see them, generally, hence, the name. Don’t worry about finding them, they find you.) So, anywhoo, here’s my stroke of near genius: winter paint prep. Yep, you heard it here first. Yes, dear friends, no fuss, no muss, no waiting for wet wood, no bleeding neck, and best of all, no sweat.
As to scraping, it’s winter weather that makes the paint peel anyway, with the cold, expansion and contraction have made cracks in the paint, and water has got into those cracks, and when the water freezes, the expanding ice (under the paint) just pushes it away from the wood.
Soooo, what better, on a cold and sunny winter day, than to get the old scraper out, and as they say, make hay? Have I actually tried out my hypothesis, to test my theory? Just got in from outside, now just warming my pinkies over some hot tea. Did it work? Guess.
Only one problem. Dog walkers. Who stare at you as if you were juggling chain saws, instead of scraping your front deck. “Hello there,” I chortle, “lovely weather, innit.” And off they wander, with only the occasional head shake, and pitying look back.
Not to worry though, as a card-carrying member of the much esteemed, ‘Creative Class’ (and, it goes without saying, the Wile E.Coyote aka, ‘super-genius’ Appreciation Society, W.E.C.S.G.A.S., or, ‘Wexgassers’, as we, mirthfully, call ourselves), I’ve grown quite accustomed to that.
~ Tim Burchfield
I remember when I first moved to ‘upstate’, New York, when dressing in ‘layers’, for winter, seemed abhorrent to me: “Oh, no, that might make me look, ‘puffy’!” Oy.
Nowadays, it’s Mr. Michelin Man, all the way. (Or, ‘Sir Bibendum’**, as he was originally known, if you prefer: I know what I look like, underneath.)
So what, if ‘suspenders’ are the only thing keeping my pants from falling to my feet?
It was nineteen degrees (F) out there two nights ago. ‘As long as I’m warm,’ says this South Texas boy, ‘so much the better for me.’ And so it goes.
So much for vanity.
~ Tim Burchfield
**((Bibendum, commonly referred to in English as the Michelin Man, is the symbol of the Michelin tire company. The slogan ‘Nunc est bibendum’ (‘Drink up’) is taken from Horace’s Odes (book I, ode xxxvii, line 1). He is also referred to as Bib or Bibelobis.))