— From the Fool —
My friend Joe is no fool. He wants that to be clear. ‘You’re a fool,’ he yells at me. I agree.
But what happened was this.
He used to read all the news and watch the news on TV and dream about the news which was worse than the chainsaws they do in the movies. But he wasn’t scared. “I’m not scared,” he yelled.
In the news were the terrorists and robbers and yoga and even worse, so he got a dog. A big ugly Doberman with fangs and a crew cut. He made a sign that said HUGE FUCKIN DOG. “Do they read English?” I asked.
That stumped him. He worried that they wouldn’t read it and then charge in and suicide-bomb the dog and he’d be defenseless. So he bought a gun.
But then he heard that the Feds were going to take away all the guns. So he booby-trapped his toilet. An intruder might have to use the toilet, so he put a burglar alarm on it. He had to pee out the window. “I’m not scared,” he yelled.
Joe didn’t look very happy. He just watched TV news and fed the dog and peed out the window. I don’t know if he moved any of his bowels. You don’t ask friends unless they bring it up first. I guess the dog took care of the household crapping.
He was really mad at the terrorists for not speaking English so he could put up his sign.
But one day on the news it was so awful that he couldn’t contain himself so he ran for the toilet and sat down yelling “I’m not scared” and the toilet went off with a screaming siren that freaked the dog who charged him with all its fangs and he shot the dog eleven times then fell off the toilet and broke his hip.
Next time, he says, he’ll do it bigger and better.
— From EF —
Weeding is once again a dominant item in my life. I once asked somebody the definition of a weed. “Any plant that’s where you don’t want it to be.” There are things like burr clover and what I call velcro-weed that get uprooted every damn year, and I just yank ‘em with no apologies. I spent years trying to get poppies established here and there; now they’re everywhere, and I do apologize when I pull them out of the garlic bed. Self-heal came out of nowhere one year, and I didn’t know what it was. Turned out it was exactly what I wanted for where it put itself. You never know.
Things change, and sometimes that means letting some things go as you embrace what comes into being. That’s been the story of our life. I wanted a front yard of solid dichondra and did a complete re-seeding each spring for three years. Not happening. When I let go of that obsession, our current little hobbit-land established itself: moss, ferns, forget-me-nots, creeping jenny, baby tears, and in places, hardy dichondra back as a volunteer.
I heard a news report on a community dispute over their library’s process of weeding, a strange word in connection with libraries. Some school libraries are forever trying to get rid of Catcher in the Rye and Huck Finn, of course, and nowadays higher learning is being told it should get rid of some “ethnic works” because they foster antipathy, but this was a run-of-the-mill public library.
If you think about it, all libraries have to do periodic weeding, getting rid of or replacing damaged books, evaluating volumes of outdated information, and questioning whether a book that hasn’t been checked out for twenty years really deserves shelf space. Libraries do this, and they have strict guidelines. Often the weeded books go to carts, and anybody who wants them, takes them. Sounds fair.
But a significant criterion is how often a book has been checked out, so poetry, philosophy, botany, and birding have to compete with incoming popular novels.
I had a vague notion of Don Marquis’ “Archy and Mehitabel” columns, but was recently gob-smacked seeing what was actually there. Archy the cockroach jumped into print in 1916, a year before the US entered World War I, and prowled with his alley-cat buddy Mehitabel until Marquis died in 1937. They threaded their way through war, female suffrage, prohibition, the great depression, and the rise of fascism — a pretty challenging course.
My friends, this stuff is brilliant. Our Fool appreciates it greatly. (I could almost describe it as survival tips for the plague years, but we already used that title.) Dark as it is, it is slam-dunk funny and astute, and our culture hasn‘t learned anything from it yet. CB checked out a collection from our county library, and he’s been reading to me as I fix dinner. I take great care with sharp and pointed objects, because the belly-laughs are pretty high-octane.
What if Marquis had been weeded? In one California library, Canterbury Tales has reportedly disappeared. Our species has its history, legends, myths, often woven into amazing works of fiction that are our hope chest, our dowry. I shiver at the notion that this might all be reduced to tweets.
— From CB —
When the alarm honked for the second time this morning, my first thought was, did I earn a Theater merit badge?
Being in my seventies and having earned my living in theatre all my life, this wasn’t really a burning issue. But that span of time in the morning is a strange, shifting limbo. I wake up usually around 7:00 or 7:30 a.m., drowse for an hour or so, feeling sweetly indulgent. Then the alarm sounds and I punch Snooze, fall into a deep abyss, then I’m jerked up by the hangman’s noose of the second alarm. During that roller coaster, oddities rise to the surface. Sometimes a sudden illumination about the play or novel we’re working on. Sometimes a flash of memory. Sometimes remembering I forgot to take out the garbage.
And today it was the Theater merit badge.
From age 11 to 14, I was a very gung-ho Boy Scout. An Eagle Scout at age 12, and continuing to accumulate the little round patches on my merit badge sash right up to the start of high school, when everything changed. Some of the badges I never aspired to — Beekeeping, for one — but Bookbinding, Basketry, whatever they called the one on Bugs, I was ravenous. And somehow I remember the little round patch with comedy/tragedy masks.
Problem was, with theatre, I don’t think I knew it existed. I’m sure I’d never seen a play. My concept of dramatic art was cowboy movies and anything on TV. In 8th grade I had a walk-on part in the class play, but it certainly didn’t impel me into a life on stage. So how could I have ever aspired to a Theater merit badge?
Yet I never pursued my early start in bookbinding, basketry or entomology, and it may be that my memory of an embroidered tragedy/comedy patch is like the sensation of a phantom limb that I never actually had. I could find out easily. My mom preserved a box of my much-honored childhood. It’s out in the storage area of the shop. I know the sash is there. I could just go and climb up the ladder and look, in much less time than it’s taken to write this. Why don’t I just do that?
Maybe I’ll jerk awake tomorrow morning with the answer.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2014