Monthly Archive for November, 2008

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As God is my Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly

These words were spoken by Les Nessman on the ancient TV show “WKRP in Cincinnatti”. He was running a Thanksgiving radio promotion and released a huge rafter of turkeys out of an airplane, where they plunged to their deaths. It was a funny show, but it belied the truth: turkeys CAN fly. They just suck at it.

As we enter the Thanksgiving season, it’s a perfect time to tell you a story about Easter. It was 1996 and I took my then-GF Griffin camping out on San Juan Island. Easter Sunday broke with warmth and sun; I could sense the welcome glare burning blue through the tent fabric. Griffin was fast asleep, but I was awoken by the sun and by some strange sounds. I had to get up anyway to prepare the ultra-secret Easter basket I had prepared for Griffin, so I quietly slipped on my boots and exited the tent to see what all the clatter was about.

And there, high in the trees, were turkeys! They were gobbling and grunting and being all turkey-like. I was stunned. I walked up the path to the car and prepared the Easter basket.  On my way there, I saw the turkeys still in the trees, and I thought of Les Nessman. Les! You should have thrown them off a crane! They would have been fine!

I snuck back into the tent and snuggled up with Griffin. “Happy Easter, baby! I brought you a basket. And guess what? TURKEYS CAN FLY!”

She was all groggy, but the smell of jelly beans and chocolate bunnies brought her around in no time. We went outside to behold the majesty of nature: turkeys flapping and flying in the trees! Oh, the wonder! The thrill!

As you and yours prepare for Thanksgiving this year, be sure to remember that, as Ben Franklin once said, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad immoral character: like those among men who live by sharping and robbing, he is generally poor, and often very lousy. The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.”

That’s right, America. We should be roasting eagles this year, not turkeys. This noble bird has swagger and pomp. It warbles and clucks all day long, even if no one is listening. It tends to be fat, and has a very small brain. The turkey, therefore, is all-American.

Happy Thankgiving.

My Biggest Peeve

This is Meridian. It’s Bellingham’s ugly, crappy “strip mall” hell. Unfortunately, I work in an office park in this area. I hate it. I honestly believe this car-centric, wasteful, ugly, shitty form of development is a harbinger of the end of America. There are very few places in the United States that are not infected with this kind of idiotic and grotesque commercial nightmare. One of my favorite writers, James Howard Kunstler, refers to it as a “technosis externality clusterfuck”. Here’s his talk at TED in 2004:

James Howard Kunstler Dissects Suburbia

I agree with every thing said in that video. Kunstler may be a loose cannon, but on this subject (Peak Oil and the the End of Suburbia) he is right on. What’s so frustrating is that almost everyone agrees that this is Not Good. Only an aesthetically bankrupt moron could look at suburbia and strip malls and say “This is good. I like this. I want this.” Yes, there are many such morons. But they are easily outnumbered by the Americans who say “I hate this shit, too. But it’s overwhelming. Where else will I live? Where else will I shop?”

They have valid points. In the last 50 years, corporate superpowers have raped the American landscape. There is almost nowhere left to hide. No cookie-cutter development is too blank, no strip mall too hideous, no civic center too brutal. The Greed-heads have descended like locusts and converted all of America from a community-minded group of Main Streets into a fearful swath of isolated brains crammed into a sprawling surburban same-scape.

Now, Bellingham is lucky. We have two “Main Streets”: our downtown core and the Fairhaven district. They were built prior to WWII, when civic design was driven by a desire to make neighborhoods walkable and attractive. They were built on a human scale where people could live, work, shop and recreate within walking distance or a short trip on public transportation (in Bellingham, it used to be trolley cars).

Fairhaven in Fall

Fairhaven in Fall

Fairhaven has become a magnet for locals and tourists. All the businesses are locally owned. Franchises and corporate giants are verboten. Historic buildings butt up against reasonably attractive condominiums. Isn’t it telling that places that eschew corporate retail become destinations? Don’t you think we deserve better than the soulless garbage heap at the top of this post? Why do we put up with this? Where is the outrage when another scumbag developer waltzes into town to take a dump on our city, profit handsomely, then leave?

This may all become moot. When Saudi Arabia eventually lets the world know that its production has peaked, our car-centric infrastructure will very suddenly become an albatross around our necks. All those millions of square miles of tidy suburban developments (and their adjoining lifeless strip malls) will become the most undesirable places to live. The big question will be: can we retrofit this unsustainable sprawl, or should we just plow it under? When gasoline becomes $20 a gallon, these questions will become very real indeed.

Kunstler summed up suburbia very well: It’s the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.

We in Bellingham are lucky. We’re comparatively compact. We even have a usable shipping port (which is about to be retrofitted into a marina to support all those luxury yachts that no one will want when Peak Oil finally sets in).  We are surrounded by good arable land. We have plenty of rainfall. Our electricity is 100% renewable hydro. We have some suburban sprawl, but it’s not big enough or far enough to be unservicable when cars become useless.  We are lucky.

Ever been to Phoenix?

Technosis Externality Clusterfuck.

Good Kitty!

I like dogs. But I just don’t want to live with dogs. It’s a practical thing. The smell, the mess, the destruction, the noise. For me, they outweigh the pluses: a true buddy, a travelin’ pal, a little brother. Instead, I like cats. Yeah, yeah, I know. “Oooh! The middle-aged bachelor has a cat! How surprising! FAG!”

Well, they see my kitty rollin’, they hatin’. Fine. But my cat is different. My cat is the best cat ever. Heard that one before? It’s all lies. Krazy Kat Ladies all say their cat is the best ever. But they’re wrong – MINE’S the best. Want proof? Here we go:

1) My cat has never – NEVER – peed or pooped anywhere but outside or in her box.

2) My cat gets disciplined once and remembers. “Biting Ted’s toe at 3:45am” is no longer in the behavioral pattern.

3) When I get home from work, she leaps from her window, bounds up to my car, then leaps onto the hood as I  park beneath the car cover. From behind the windscreen, she meows loudly, “You’re home! Awesome! Let’s play! Hooray!” How cool is that?

4) You can’t herd cats, but you can walk them. My cat is a female, so her territory is tiny. She never ventures more than 50ft from her window. That is, unless I take her for a walk. Then she will venture – at my heel – around the grounds, inside the Manor, and far out into the woods. She loves these walks.  No leash necessary – one whistle and she’s back at my side.

5) My cat fetches. Nuff said.

6) My cat has no interest in human food. Not even tuna! She never begs.

7) My cat is unaffected by catnip. She is beyond the cat drug culture.

8) Cheap toys: her favorite is the balled-up cover sheet from a Netflix delivery.

9) At night, when I’m reading in bed, she’ll snuggle up on my chest and stare right at my face, purring madly. If it’s a bit cool, she’ll gently rake a paw on my shoulder, which means “let me in”. I’ll lift the covers and she’ll settle in, her chin resting on my arm, purring away madly. It’s too cute for words.

10) When the lights go out, she leaps off the bed and quietly goes to her chair. It’s Teddy’s snoozy time. She’ll be quiet and respectful until I awake (which she detects with preternatural accuracy).

So, rather than go on about me, I give you my cat. The best cat ever.

My pal, Fudgie:

At home

On the prowl