2000 Notebook: Transition XXXVI
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25 October 2000
A Decorative Young Woman
Since subtlety is frequently lost on me, I appreciated the cover of Decor magazine I found in a doctor’s office. There’s nothing subtle about Decor; its raison d’être is to sell expensive consumer items. It’s all there for one to admire, covet, and obtain. Simple stuff.

The front cover features a pretty young woman who appears to be about twenty years old, give or take a couple of years. Since young people rarely have the means to purchase expensive furnishings, I assume she’s there to serve as decor, an item to be added to one’s collection of status-enhancing possessions.

I’m sure there are more perverted periodicals out there, but I doubt that any of them are less subtle than Decor.

26 October 2000
It’s Punky Night Tonight!
Nigel invited me to a “punk night” party at his place tonight. Although I like Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, and the other classical ensembles of the genre, the idea of a “punk night” party seemed a little silly in this day and age. Nevertheless, a party usually means free drinks, so I gratefully accepted his invitation.

I showed up wearing a ragged old Telefunken t-shirt, jeans with a large new hole (football) in one knee, and heavy hiking boots. Even though that’s more or less my usual attire, I figured it would pass for a punk outfit.

I need not have worried.

When I showed up, Nigel handed me a glass of cider (unfermented) and invited me to help myself to some cookies. When I diplomatically observed that this was unlike any other punk night party I’d seen, Nigel corrected me.

“This is Punky Night,” he explained with a laugh. “It’s an old English tradition that goes back at least a quarter of a millennium, although I think it’s only currently observed in Hinton St. George and Chiselborough.”

“And beer’s not a part of the Punky Night tradition?” I asked hopefully.

“I’m afraid not,” replied Nigel, offering me a stale ginger snap cookie. “There is, however, the very lovely Punky Night song.”

    It’s Punky Night tonight,
    It’s Punky Night tonight,
    Give us a candle, give us a light,
    It’s Punky Night tonight!

    It’s Punky Night tonight,
    It’s Punky Night tonight,
    Adam and Eve won’t believe,
    It’s Punky Night tonight!

    It’s Punky Night tonight,
    It’s Punky Night tonight,
    Eee-ie, diddley-die,
    It’s Punky Night tonight!

Nigel followed up the very unpunk song with more of the English history lesson. The natives celebrate Punky Night by hollowing out turnips and squash, then putting a candle inside the vegetables. Nigel opined that Punky Night was probably the source of the North American practice of hollowing out pumpkins on Halloween.

I looked at the extinguished candle—a puddle of wax, really—inside Nigel’s shriveled turnip while I gnawed on the stale cookie. Even though Punky Night’s been around for two hundred and fifty years, I think the event could only be enhanced with a pint or two of bitter.

Eee-ie, diddley-die.

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27 October 2000
Shower in the Clouds
Carlos is addicted to tobacco cigarettes, so I escorted him to the roof of the laboratory, the only place in the facility where such a ridiculous practice is allowed.

Unfortunately, I went to the roof without a recording device, so I can only crudely summarize my friend’s impassioned dissertation on the clouds.

Look at these clouds, these purposeful clouds. They’ve finally reached land after drifting across the Pacific for weeks, but they’re not stopping; they’re not even slowing down. They could release their heavy waters on us, but they have other plans. These clouds are headed for certain demise in the Sierras, for no rain cloud has ever crossed those towering mountains. Once they hit the granite, they will transform themselves into deluges, snowstorms, even perhaps an avalanche or two. And after a quiet winter, they will quietly melt and make their way down the mountain to the myriad reservoirs that supply San Francisco’s drinking water. With these clouds, I shall shower myself then cook pasta in July.

Despite its many factual inaccuracies, I quite enjoyed the story, especially after a sudden torrent of rain forced us back down the ladder and through the hatch into the laboratory.

I’m taking my next shower in the clouds.

28 October 2000
Fingernail Time
I recently received a very long letter from Dr. Ralph Mangaluzzo from R. Parker Hospital; he inquired at great length about my fascinating experiment with “cuticle-based chronometry.” He asked about my diet, my medical history, my exercise regime, and even some rather personal questions about my sex life. (Mayonnaise and crème fraîche?!)

I sent the good doctor a brief note explaining that the “experiment” was really just a casual observation. I lied, and added that I had no professional scientific qualifications. I wished him well in his research, and figured that was the end of the correspondence.

A couple of weeks later, I received another letter from R. Parker Hospital, this one from Dr. D. Downey. Dr. Downey apologized for Dr. Mangaluzzo’s letter. It turns out that R. Parker Hospital is an institution for people suffering from severe cases of mental illness. Dr. Mangaluzzo is a patient of Dr. Downey, and suffers from “an obsession with using fingernails and toenails to measure time in all its dimensions.”

I did not reply to Dr. Downey. How could I admit to a renewed interest in telling time with my fingernails without risking ending up with Dr. Mangaluzzo as my mad colleague?

(Mayonnaise and crème fraîche?!)

29 October 2000
Not Suffering from Insanity
I had cocktails with Leonard tonight; that’s always a figurative and literal treat. (Leonard has more money than he knows how to spend, and always picks up the tab.)

When I told Leonard about my recent correspondence with Doctors Downey and Mangaluzzo, Leonard opined, “Almost any mental health professional would agree that you suffer from some form of insanity.”

“That’s not true!” I protested. “I enjoy every minute of it.”

And that’s that.

30 October 2000
The End of Email
I was surprised when Brad told me he had “sent a cable to Paris.” Even though I’m old enough to have used a telex machine, complete with paper tape drive, I didn’t know anyone outside of Mbandaka and Kismaayo were still using such devices.

Brad then explained that since almost every Internet connection involves “cables” at some point, he thought it was both an accurate and elegant description.

I agree. From now on, I shall cable my friends instead of emailing them.

31 October 2000
It’s Halloween Again!
It’s Halloween again, now what? My question is obviously academic. It’s time to put on a scary costume and join the merriment outside. Every day in San Francisco is Halloween, but never more so than on the last day of October.

I shaved, showered, then marinated myself in half a liter of Hai Karate “cologne” that I bought from a toxic waste wholesaler. I then put on a crisp, white shirt, a tie, and a pin-striped suit, then headed out the lab with a borrowed briefcase that one of my lab assistants got from Mike Roselle when he was too befuddled to even crawl.

“Whoa, man!” exclaimed Mañuel when he saw me heading out of the lab. “Somebody die or getting married or going to court or something?” (I was impressed that Mañuel was obviously familiar with the three possible uses for a suit.)

“None of the above, my friend,” I explained. “It’s Halloween, and I’m headed out to haunt and torture the zombies in the financial district.”

And that’s exactly what I did.

I walked around the rich end of Market Street, and looked for office drones in expensive suits. It wasn’t hard; they’re easy to find at the end of the day.

“Great costume!” I’d exclaim when I approached a fellow suit. “That’s hilarious! Is that from Jack’s Novelties, or from one of those mail order tailors in Korea?”

Before they had a chance to answer, I popped open my briefcase full of rotting old salmon heads, and exclaimed, “Trick or treat!”

I never did get a coherent conversation out of any of ’em. That’s just more evidence—as if any were needed—that wearing a suit more than a couple times a year makes you wacky. Wacky wacky wacky.

1 November 2000
Rainier Ale Just Makes Sense
Yesterday I bought—and consumed—one hundred and nintey-two dollars and twenty-one cents worth of drugs. That’s a lot of money to spend on drugs, although I hear stories that some people do it on a regular basis. I avoid buying drugs whenever possible, but I was reliably informed I really should invest in one hundred and ninety dollars worth of immunizations before going to India. It seems like a lot of money, but I suppose it’s cheaper than getting hepatitis or meningitis or whatever else lurks deep in that unfamiliar country.

Yesterday’s outlay did, however, yield a modicum of instant gratification. The two dollars and twenty-one cents paid for a lovely forty-ounce bottle of Rainier Ale. Although I know next to nothing about contemporary medicine, I would wager that the myriad chemicals that make Rainier Ale such a delightful concoction will kill any bugs, viruses, and other vermin that elude the more specialized vaccines.

Rainier Ale: it just makes sense.

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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart