1999 Notebook: Interval XXIII

30 July 1999
Too Drunk to Swim
The media seems obsessed with another dead Kennedy and The Terrible Curse of the Kennedys. Why this is, I do not know. An inexperienced pilot flying over the ocean at night in a single-engine plane with one foot in a cast making a difficult approach into a small airport seems more like an act of sheer stupidity than a terrible curse. I suppose it could be argued that sheer stupidity is The Terrible Curse of the Kennedys, but I'm not going to make that argument.

Instead, I will repeat some tawdry gossip; that's probably The True Terrible Curse of the Kennedys. Some years ago--a quarter of a century plus, in fact--a friend of mine had an affair with Ted Kennedy. The next morning she found his eyeglasses beside her bed. When she called him to find out how to return his glasses, he told her not to worry because he had a spare set. She later heard that he traveled with dozens of pairs of glasses. Perhaps he still does; I don't know.

When I think about another dead Kennedy, the first thing that comes to mind is the musical quartet, the Dead Kennedys. And when I think about Kennedys, water, and death in the same thought, I think about the Dead Kennedys performing Too Drunk to Fuck.

Now, it doesn't take much imagination to conclude that a title like Too Drunk to Fuck would offend not a few people. (Actually, most things offend not a few people, but that's an irrelevance.) According to popular lore, when it was suggested to Mr. Jello Biafra that he might consider using a different title than Too Drunk to Fuck, he cheerfully suggested Too Drunk to Swim. After that, Too Drunk to Fuck didn't seem quite so objectionable.

Ha ha, ho ho, and hee hee!

31 July 1999
Smoking on KLM 55
Oh! Oh!

Someone's been smoking cigarettes on KLM flight 55, and the flight attendants suspect the man sitting next to me is the culprit.


The man sitting next to me is an Indian national, a computer programmer (assembly language, even!) from Bangalor; he's en route to get his big, juicy slice of the American digital pie. We've been having a nice drunken conversation; he's quite an amusing fellow. If you must know, I most appreciate his use of the colonial English, thank you very much indeed.

But meanwhile, back at the interrogation ...

"Sir, may I inquire whether you were smoking in the lavatory?" asked the junior flight attendant.

"Yes, madam, you may indeed inquire," he replied. "I would also like to make an inquiry, if I may be permitted to do so. Why do you knowledgeably refer to the water closet of this vessel as a 'lavatory,' when on every other vessel people equally knowledgeable about such matters as is a trained professional as yourself, describe such a sanitary convenience, almost without exception, as a 'head'?"

"Sir, did you or did you not smoke a cigarette in the lavatory?" asked the annoyed junior flight attendant.

"The truthful answer to the question which you have posed to me is, in fact, actually, no," the programmer replied.

"Sir, you were in the lavatory when the smoke alarm went off. Are you telling me you didn't smoke a cigarette in there?" asked the increasingly annoyed junior flight attendant.

"Madam, I can assure you that my response was truthful, an honest response that I would be most pleased to confirm with a tobacco-free kiss that would not only put your mind at ease, but would also provide unexpected pleasure on an otherwise tedious flight," the nerd offered.

"Beware of geeks bearing gifts," I helpfully added.

I don't think the exasperated junior flight attendant heard me before she left to call for the soon-to-be exasperated senior flight attendant.

The programmer flashed a broad smile. "This, my friend, is the occasion upon which the upper atmosphere becomes a sea of great mirth," he said.

The senior flight attendant found rough sailing in the sea of great mirth. Her demands for a confession were met with increasingly detailed offers of a kiss, "in which you may experience not only the absence of tobacco fumes, but also many of the ancient pleasures that India offers the unaccustomed western palate."

After several repeats of an obviously infinite loop, the flight attendants retreated, defeated. My new friend's strategy proved quite successful; the thoroughly exasperated flight attendants were too embarrassed to even smell the suspect's breath.

"So," I inquired, "did you smoke a cigarette in the head?"

"In honest fact, yaar, I did not smoke a cigarette, I smoked three cigarettes!" replied the triumphant programmer.

"Well then," I replied, "I admire your chutzpah in bluffing the airline droidettes. One sniff and they'd have nailed you."

"Not at all," rejoined the geek. "Although I have, in fact, admitted that I did indeed smoke the tobacco in question, I failed to note to any of the parties that the nicotine fix I so pleasantly desired was, in fact, delivered through my anal orifice."

"What a clever strategy," I replied. "But, with all due respect, I must ask why."

"Aah," replied the programmer, "that is indeed the question. And indeed, the answer to that question is, in fact, yoga. The control one gains over all one's muscles is expedient in obtaining the desired quantity of nicotine in a perhaps somewhat unusual fashion, but also for annoying the all-too-inhibited flight attendants. It is to laugh."

1 August 1999
Everybody Must Get Cannabinoids
I was grateful when a friend pointed out an article in Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, vol. 96, pp.5,780-785, a publication I rarely peruse.

Andreas Zimmer, at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, found that every mammal studied has receptors in the brain for cannabinoids. (I thought cannabinoids might have something to do with the chemical that induces people to eat the flesh of their own species, so I was relieved to find out that cannabinoids are just the active ingredients in marijuana.)

The sadistic scientists experimenting on animals at the National Institute of Mental Health conduct a variety of wretched experiments on miserable animals. The report in question was based on breeding genetically engineered mice without cannabinoid receptors. The mice seemed healthy at first, but a third of them mysteriously died before they were six months old.

According to Zimmer, "Without these natural cannabinoids and their receptors, we are more likely to suffer from some catastrophic, lethal centrous-nervous-system failure."

Heads up! Make of that what you will.

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2 August 1999
Pizza Geometry
In an unprecedented development that had nothing to with cannabinoid receptors, we had leftover pizza tonight. Most curious, most unusual.

I took the two large pieces of pizza to the lab, where I was presented with a physics conundrum. How could I fit two mostly triangular slices of pizza into two perfectly square bags?

The problem was surprisingly easy to solve. I simply chopped off the narrow end of each slice; I was then able to fit each slice into one bag.

I thoroughly enjoyed my rare minor geometric triumph.

3 August 1999
Inflated Time
A friend of mine told me she was going to make Lienotypes from some of her old negatives.

"I wouldn't bother," I cautioned. "I wasted about two weeks trying that approach twenty years ago. It didn't work very well."

"You wasted two weeks?" she asked. "That's too bad. Given inflation, a week was worth a lot more then."

4 August 1999
A Bit of a Palestinian
I asked Julian if he wanted to see the Tony Littlejohn show at the Museum of Modern Art. I explained that I'd heard the show featured a variety of detritus suspended in glass.

"I think I'll give it a pass," Tony replied. "I'm afraid I'm a bit of a Palestinian when it comes to that sort of thing."

I think he meant, "Philistine," but I appreciated his candor.

5 August 1999
Elbow and Nipple Soap
I asked Jennifer what she'd bought on her shopping trip. (Jennifer lives on a small island, and when she visits me at my city laboratory she invariably spends a day or two shopping.)

"I didn't come up with much so far," she answered, "just elbow and nipple soaps."

"Soaps, plural?" I asked.

"Of course," she replied. "You wouldn't use the same soap on your nipples and your elbows, would you?"

I mistakenly replied that I always have; that proved to be a big mistake. As a result of my ignorance and/or honesty, I had to endure a well-intentioned lecture on the difference between elbows and nipples.

6 August 1999
Three Weeks and Counting
I called Morrie after getting back here. He told me things were quiet at his place. He told me he had maybe three weeks to live.

And so it is that one of my dearest friends and mentors is about to leave me.

I'm devastated. I've always been fairly good at dealing with death, but thinking about one of my closest co-conspirators dying--within three weeks--has transformed me into a puddle under my desk.

I'm taking the rest of the day off.

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7 August 1999
Judith Kilpatrick (snaportrait)
Judith is a friend of mine.

8 August 1999
You Will Be Toad
You can't park around here, everyone knows that.

And so it was that I had to park the Laboratory Reconnaissance Vehicle in what is colloquially known as a "grey space." The parking space in question was apparently legal, except for a large sign warning that "ALL ILEGALLY PARKED AUTO-MOBIELS WILL BE TOAD."

After I'd parked there, a woman came out of the Wombat Boutique; she pointed to the sign, and told me I'd have to move my truck.

"What's the problem?" I asked. "Will you turn my Laboratory Reconnaissance Vehicle into a toad if I park it here?"

"You can bet on it, creep-boy," she replied

I thought she was joking, but I drove away anyway, just case she knew what she was doing.

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart