2009 Notebook: Weak XXXVII
gratuitous image
10 September 2009
No. 3,874 (cartoon)
Why can’t you be serious?

Why can’t you be flippant?

11 September 2009
A Spanking Good Airline
I’m taking my first flight with the airline Jet Blue. My initial impression is that it’s the worst airline in the world, except for all the rest.

The frustrated mother—is there any other flavor?—in the seat behind me is dealing with her ill-behaved daughter by using the traditional method of threatening her.

“Fasten your seatbelt right now,” she demanded. “Do you want me to have the flight attendant come and spank you?”

Jet Blue flight attendants spank passengers?! That’s not a service of interest to me, but it’s nice to know that this airline is unusually willing to accommodate its passengers.

12 September 2009
Gringo Incognito
Franz introduced me to John Burnett tonight, one of the few investigative reporters left in the United States.

When John told us he was doing a story on brutal, murderous Mexican drug dealers, Franz expressed fear for his safety.

“What if someone recognizes you?” he asked John.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” I interrupted. “I’ve been listening to his radio stories for years, and I didn’t recognize him.”

John’s the kind of short, squat guy who’s indistinguishable from a million other hombres like him. I’m sure the Mexican gangsters won’t spot him.

13 September 2009
Not Looking a Goddess in the Eye
Julie’s a Sanskrit scholar; that gives her a perspective that’s a couple of millennia away from mine. One example involves divinities and writing. She told me that one should always describe a god by first describing the feet. After all, a pious person should approach a deity with a bowed head. In fact, a very reverent writer might not describe any physical attribute other than the feet.

I don’t believe in gods, but goddesses are another story. I never looked Julie in the eye for the remainder of our visit; I hope she appreciated the compliment.

14 September 2009
Living on Venom
Nancy’s grandmother Edith died soon after her hundredth birthday. Nancy’s ascribes her grandmother’s longevity to the power of pure, unadulterated vitriol.

She made visited her grandmother shortly before her centennial celebrations, a tribute that wasn’t really appreciated when her grandmother learned that Nancy was unable to stay until her actual birthday.

“Well,” she sighed, “perhaps you can find a way to make it to my two-hundredth birthday.”

Her grandmother’s venom showed up posthumously in an unlikely place: the collection of china plates and cups Nancy inherited. Many pieces of have a note attached noting the provenance. Thus we know that Uncle Walter “gave only four” plates as a wedding present in 1927, that Cousin Joe broke a teacup handle on Thanksgiving, 1953, and that a serving spoon “went missing” after her daughter’s family came for a Christmas visit in 1971, and so on.

Edith’s gone, but her enmity has been preserved.

15 September 2009
Believing What You Know Ain’t So
I was cycling down Hyde Street at great speed when I spotted an advertisement on the side of a bus at an intersection. The poster featured a Mark Twain quote, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

I was going too fast to read the rest of the promotion, so I don’t know if I’d seen pro-religion or pro-agnosticism propaganda. I’m not interested in finding out. And that reminds me of a bad joke, as so many things do.

What’s worse, ignorance or apathy? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

16 September 2009
An Unreliable Source
I found a curious entry in a new book, Wye’s Dictionary of Improbable Words: All-Vowel Words And All-Consonant Words. The entry cited fshht, a word I used in a notebook entry eleven years ago:

    There must be a more pleasant experience than smelling gunpowder after the diminutive hiss of a pistol’s silencer, but I don’t know what it might be.

    Fshht! Fshht! Fshht! Fshht! Fshht! Fshht! Fshht! Fshht!

I’m sure Craig Conley is a conscientious and competent editor, but I regret that I can’t respect—let lone trust—anyone who’d use me as a source.

17 September 2009
An Old War Story
I’m visiting Don, my late father’s eighty-six-year-old brother, in Florida. The state is a fetid swamp, but my uncle did a great job of helping me ignore that unpleasant reality by plying me with bourbon while we played pool. After I proved to be an unworthy opponent, we decided to simply drink and talk.

We agreed that we felt immortal when we were young, a premonition that seems to have some basis in fact since neither of us is dead. Yet. Don said that attitude was prevalent in the forties when he and my father were in the navy fighting the Japanese. Don told me a story from those days that involves the kind of bravery only the immortals and the suicidal exhibit.

My uncle was on a destroyer in the South Pacific when Japanese planes attacked his ship. They may or may not have been kamikazes; we were getting to the bottom of the bottle when he described the battle.

Don and his shipmates fired every gun they had at the approaching Japanese planes. Now here’s the heroic part of the story: American fighter pilots were flying directly behind the Japanese planes, trying to shoot them down before they reached the ship. In practice, that meant that the Americans were flying into the same lead curtain as the Japanese.

It’s a fine line between suicidal and heroic behavior; I’m glad I’m no longer immortal enough to approach it.

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©2009 David Glenn Rinehart