Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the month “February, 2017”

Alistair and Alexis Go to a Concert

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I leaned over to Alexis and whispered, “Who are we here to see?”

I thought I caught a hint of rolled eyes, but she marshaled herself admirably.  “It’s not so much who we’re here to see,” she said in a whisper.  “It’s who we’re here to hear.”

I nodded thoughtfully.  I glanced around the symphony hall that was slowly filling up with people.  The women wore nice dresses of black or regal colors.  They all glittered with jewels and precious metals and their hair was impeccably coiffed.  The men generally wore black or blue suits except for the occasional rebel that wore tweed sportscoats with patches on the sleeves.  I’m surprised such subversives were admitted.  I’m quite sure the management doesn’t care much for ruffians and vagabonds.  I couldn’t help but notice that the men in tweed were unaccompanied by the fairer sex.  Who wants to be seen with a vagrant wearing herringbone?

“So, then who are we here to hear?” I whispered to the lovely little Mrs. Callington.

“Vivaldi,” she said simply, for she was distracted by looking all around us to see if she knew anyone.  She certainly seemed more intent on seeing someone than hearing them.

I nodded, again thoughtfully.  “I am pretty sure he is dead, isn’t he?” I asked.  “It would be quite a miracle if he were to show up on time given the circumstances.”

“He’s not here in person,” she whispered in exasperation.  “They are playing his music.”

“Well, that’s wonderful,” I said, nodding my head approvingly.  “I’m sure he would like that, God rest his soul.  What a nice way to honor the deceased.”

“They play him every year,” she said.  “It is tradition.  The third concert every season is Vivaldi.  Really, Dear, I’d think you’d know that.  We have been season ticket holders for years.”

“Ah,” I said.  “I didn’t know he was part of the regular rotation.  Third concert every year, eh?  Good for him.  He deserves it.”

“Oh look,” she whispered suddenly, putting her hand on my arm just above my wrist to simultaneously get my attention and to tell me to shush.

“What am I looking at?” I asked, trying unsuccessfully to follow her gaze to see what she was looking at.  All I saw were well-dressed concert goers looking for their seats, obviously eager for a generous dose of Vivaldi.

“There is Tricia,” she whispered, and flicked her chin almost imperceptibly towards a knot of people looking for their seats.

“Oh, jolly good,” I exclaimed in an approving whisper.  I had no idea which of the 20 or 30 women who lay in the direction of Alexis’ nod was Tricia.  Or how we knew her.  But I’ve found it best in these situations to just play along.  “It’s good to see her up and about.”

“I can’t stand her,” said Alexis through clenched teeth, her grip tightening on my arm.

“Nor can I,” I said, quickly changing teams.  “Can you believe her gall at showing up here tonight?  What would Vivaldi say?”

The little woman glanced at me in what could either be exasperation or amazement that I was somewhat able to keep up with the batting lineup.

“It’s not so surprising,” she said.  “Her husband is Herb Blakely of Blakley’s Better Bitters.  They are one of the patrons of the symphony”

I perked up.

“Blakley’s?  The beer magnate?”

“Yes.  And she is insufferable about it, even though she merely married into the family.”

“How dare she!” I said with high dudgeon, for I thought that’s what the situation called for.  I’ve found it’s always best to stay on the good side of someone with a high and unpredictable temper, particularly if that person is within arm’s reach.  “Although,” I said, striking a more contemplative tone, willing to see both sides of the situation, “If one simply must get married, one could do worse than marrying a titan of the ales and spirits industry.”

“It’s not that she married into the family,” she said, still gazing with gimlet eyes at the group which contained the odious Tricia, “It’s that she lords it over everyone as if she were royalty.”

“The nerve!” I said hotly. Then, with what I considered to be an acceptable length of pause, followed with, “Do you suppose the bar in the lobby is stocked with Blakley’s since they are a patron?”

“How can you possibly be thinking about beer at a time like this?”

I drew myself up, cut to the quick.  “Hey, I am on Team Vivaldi,” I said.  “I’ll buy one of his jerseys in the lobby after the show.  I’m perfectly fine without a rejuvenating tonic.  I am perfectly content to sit and have my fill of Vivaldi for …what would you say … 20 minutes?”  I put out feelers for what she thought the duration of the concert might be.

“The concert lasts for two hours,” she said, her face in a bit of a frown.

“Two hours?” I asked, shocked.  “Just how much music did this Vivaldi fellow write?”

“He wrote hundreds of concertos and sonatas and even some operas.”

“Hundreds?” I asked, aghast.  I may have paled a bit.  “Who could possibly have had time to compose hundreds of anything back then?” I asked.  “Weren’t there plagues or wars or inquisitions that took up a lot of peoples’ time?”

But my little dimpled daffodil had other things on her mind.

“I am going to go over and talk to her,” she said.

I may have been a bit confused at this point.  “I thought you couldn’t stand her,” I said.

“I can’t.”

“Well then that makes going over to see her seem a little … well … fatuous.”

“Not at all.  Have you forgotten that I have been put in charge of the big charity fundraiser next month?”

“Of course, I haven’t forgotten,” I said, looking hurt that she would think such a thing.  “But what exactly are we raising funds for again?”

“For the Polk Inn restoration.”

“Ah, yes,” I said.  “How could I forget the ol’ Polk Inn restoration project?  If anything around here needs restoring, it is the Polk Inn.  Why, just last week I was telling Jeremy at the club that the ol’ Polk place was becoming an eyesore and in need of some major restoration.”

But I was talking to myself.  My Lovely Little Dahlia had gotten up and approached the abominable Tricia with purpose.  It was obvious she was willing to set aside her distaste of Tricia for her enthusiasm for the Polk Inn restoration.  Which, now that I think about it, just where in the heck is the Polk Inn?  I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it before.  However, this was no time to spend contemplating dilapidated old piles of brick and wood where Washington may or may not have slept.  The time had come for action.  To think was to do and, just like a hare would do if the cobra were to look away for a moment, I bolted and in a moment, I was in the lobby, one foot on the brass footrail, my forearms against the highly-polished bar.

“I’ll have a pint of Blakely’s, please, Barkeep,” I said.

“Yes, sir,” came the reply and he turned to pull the amber fluid into a pint glass.

“Oh, you like Blakely’s do you?” asked the whiskered man beside me.  He looked for all the world like a sea captain from the days of Clipper ships.  He wore a navy-blue blazer with gold buttons on it, white shirt, blue slacks, and blindingly polished black shoes.  He had a slightly nautical air about him, possibly due to his thick, gray beard.

“I must say, I do,” I said, hoisting the full glass of it in a sort of toast.  “I’ve always said that if there’s one thing that goes swimmingly with two hours of Vivaldi, it is a pint or two of Blakely’s finest.”

“I’m glad you like it,” said the nautical-aired man.  “Grandfather would be pleased.”

“Grandfather?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.  “I say, you’re not related to Vivaldi, are you?”

“Oh, goodness no,” he said.  “I’m about all Vivaldi’d up.  If the wife drags me off to one more of his operas, I think I might just become a hermit.  Last month she dragged me off to see “La verità in cimento” and I seriously contemplated jumping from our box seats and making a run for it.”

“So, no relation, then?” I asked, having picked up on his coolness towards the Vivaldi family.  Perhaps there was an old family feud still going on between his family and the Vivaldi’s.

“Not a bit.  No, the grandfather I was referring to was Grampa Blakely.”

My eyes widened.  “So …. So … you’re …”

“Yes, yes,” he sighed.  “I’m one of those Blakely’s.  Herb Blakely, to be exact.”

“Well, if you don’t mind me saying it, you sound a lot less happy about that than I would be if I were one of those Blakely’s.”

He shrugged and took a hearty drink of one of his own beers.  “People think ales and spirits is all fun and games,” he said, almost sadly.

“A common misperception,” I agreed sympathetically.

“But it is just like any other business,” he said.  “My days are filled with accountants and lawyers and marketers.”

I shuddered.  There but for the grace of God go I, I thought to myself.  I patted him sympathetically on the back.

“I’m sorry to hear that, old man,” I said sympathetically.  “A man in your position should be able to enjoy the fruits of your labors without having to deal with such things.”

He nodded and glanced at me appreciatively.    “You seem like you understand my situation.”

“I do.  I do,” I said.  “I avoid lawyers and accountants and marketers like the plague.  Of course, I am handicapped somewhat by having married one.”

“Which?  An accountant or a lawyer or a marketer?”

“I can’t really remember,” I said.  “But she is one of the three.”

We both sipped contemplatively on our Blakely’s while leaning against the bar.

“What you need,” I said finally, “Is something else to take your mind off of the unsavory characters you are forced to associate with.”

“You mean like a hobby?”

“No, something more than a hobby.  Something that will give you purpose and a sense of fulfillment.”

“What do you suggest?”

I looked around, trying to think of something.  It was at that moment I saw my diminutive daisy stalking purposefully and with pique into the lobby looking for me.  In desperation, my mind tossed me a lifesaver in the form of an idea.

“You should take on a project that will challenge you and yet fulfill you.  For instance, you could take over the restoration of the old Polk Inn project.  Now there is a project worthy of the talents and energies of a man like you.”

He stared off into space for a moment as if trying to imagine himself leading the resurrection of a moldering pile of old lumber and masonry.  I could feel Alexis’ footsteps drawing ever nearer.

“It would be just the thing to bring you back your joie de vivre,” I said, trying to push him over the edge.

“Maybe you’re right,” he said, warming to the idea.

“Buttercup!” I said brightly to Alexis now that she was in our midst.   She was about to give me a speech on temperance, but I jumped in quickly before she could build up a head of steam.  “I’d like you to meet my friend Mr. Herb Blakely.”

“Blakely?” she asked, her eyes widening and all of the ire draining out of her.  She suddenly became the solicitous flower that I had married long ago.  My stock just went up considerably in her eyes.

“Yes,” I said, as they shook hands.  “And furthermore, he has agreed to take on the Polk Inn restoration project.”

There are few things in a man’s life that fills him with a sense of accomplishment and victory like avoiding a dressing down by his petite jolie fleur.  Of course, the antidote to that feeling of warmth and happiness is two hours of Vivaldi.

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Jack Be Nimble

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I strode purposefully into the conference room where my staff was already assembled.  About half of them were looking at their phones and busily swiping left to right or up and down, depending on whether they were looking for a date or catching up on what their friends were doing.  The other half were talking quietly among themselves and laughing a little, no doubt talking about what they did last weekend or are planning to do next weekend.

“Okay, people,” I said as I closed the door to the conference room.  “Let’s get busy.  The customer will be here tomorrow afternoon and we need to get this presentation polished up ASAP.”  I sat and hooked up my laptop to the overhead projector.  “I don’t need to tell you how important this presentation is.  We have been selling them for three months on how we are nimble and agile and can meet their specification quickly.   Now –”

“Um, Jack?” said Dave, raising his hand slightly as if we were still in high school.

“Yes, Dave?”

“I noticed the company logo …”

“Yes?” I said.

“I noticed that it’s the wrong color blue.”

“Wrong color blue?”

“Yes, sir.  The logo is supposed to be Pantone 2132 XGC, the logo in your presentation is Pantone 2387 XGC.”

“Um … yes.  Thank you.  I’ll make a note to have it updated.”

“It’s in the header on every page.”

“Noted,” I said, making a note on my legal pad.  Then I straightened back up,  “And so, we’ll just move on past the title page …”

“Jack?” came Mary’s voice.

“Yes, Mary?” I asked.

“The title font is Cambria and it should be Century.”

“Um … yes … okay.  Thank you,” I said, making a note in my legal pad.

“And the body font throughout should be Times New Roman,” said Tim.

I glanced up over my glasses at him.  “Very good.”  I made another note.

“The title page needs to have our company’s security and privacy markings,” said Ellen.

“Yes.  Fine,” I said, trying to hide my mounting frustration.  “But I think it’s important that we move on to the actual content of the presentation.”

Having silenced them temporarily, I moved off of the title slide and to the first slide.

“Now on this slide,” I said, “I want to grab their attention.  I want to get across to them why we are uniquely positioned to quickly …”

“Um, Jack?”  It was Dave again.

“Yes, Dave?”

“Your bullet list contains diamonds.”

“Yes?  Is there something wrong with diamonds?”

“Diamonds are not on the company’s approved list of bullets.”

“You don’t say.”

“Yes sir.  I would suggest either dots, circles, squares, open squares, or pips.”

“Pips?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well.  I’ve made a note to have that corrected.  Now, on this first bullet, I’m going to state how we can meet their schedule because of our agility …”

“Jack?”

“Yes … Mary …”  I said, finding it difficult to mask my growing frustration.

“The hanging indent on your first line should be a half inch …”

“Listen,” I said to the room at large.  “We are never going to get through this if we just focus on formatting issues.”

There was a moment of silence and I was about move on when I heard a small voice say, “Nimble is misspelled in the second bullet.”

                                                              *

Seven hours later the door of the conference room opened and we all filed out, totally exhausted and dejected.  We had finally gotten through the three-page slide presentation and had cleaned up all the formatting, font, and color issues.  I would just have to review the content at home that evening so that I could make sure it was okay before the customer presentation tomorrow.

I’d call a quick 8 am meeting tomorrow morning with the engineering staff so they could review it.  That should work out okay.

This Is Progress?

what-year-is-f8ypbf

So I was at Fry’s Electronics over the weekend picking up a few things for my latest foray into Nerdville.  My 20-something year old daughter was with me, but to save her the boredom of looking at nerd toys and the embarrassment of being seen with her dad, I said she could go look at other things while I browsed in “my” department.  We met back up after about 15 minutes and to my great surprise, she said she wanted to show me something.  I was taken aback at her enthusiasm.  I didn’t think Fry’s carried anything that would be remotely interesting to her.

She walked me across the store to the consumer electronic section and showed me with great excitement . . . . (dramatic pause) . . .. Polaroid instant print cameras.

polaroid-camera

I felt like the meme above.  What year is this?  Not only have all of the CDs been replaced with vinyl albums, but now Polaroid cameras are actually popular with the youth.

I said, “Why do you need one of these?”

“It’ll just be fun to have a camera I can use with  my friends.”

I thought for a moment that I must be going insane.  These words came from the girl that exchanges literally thousands of pictures a year with her friends via Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook.

“You have a camera,” I said.  “It’s in your phone.”

“But this one [meaning the Polaroid] is just better.”

“Your phone takes pictures that are literally thousands of times better than that Polaroid.”

“Well, it’s just fun.  I’d really like to have one.”

I gazed at the garish monstrosity from yesteryear (redesigned to be sleeker and more colorful and more expensive).

 

I did some quick math.  At roughly $75 for the camera, and $25 for one box of film that takes eight pictures, you’re looking at $100 dollars to take eight low-resolution pictures that smell like a toxic waste dump.  I told her that each of those pictures would cost her $12.50 each.

But she would not be dissuaded.  She had already entered the Irrational Zone.  I just shook my head.

What year is this, indeed!

 

Dante’s Prayer

One of the most beautiful and haunting songs ever created.

Loreena McKennitt – Dante’s Prayer

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Warning: Graphic Content

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I have a confession to make.

I am a graph paper junkie.  All of my adult life I have had a bizarre attraction to it and a fascination with it.  I get unnaturally excited when I see it in stores.  I often will buy it even though I have a drawer full of it in my home office.  I don’t care much for loose-leaf graph paper, but if I see a tablet or notebook or journal or any type of bound graph paper, it takes every bit of willpower that I have to not buy it.  And, frankly, I don’t have that much willpower.  Thus, the drawer full of graph paper.

You may be wondering how much graph paper I use on a weekly basis.  Well, on an average basis, I use approximately zero pages a week (give or take).

Then why this unhealthy obsession with graph paper, you may ask.  I’m not sure.

I remember using it in college when I was studying electrical engineering, but even then I don’t think it had a particular hold on me.

The only explanation I can come up with is that when I graduated from college and got my first engineering job, one of the grizzled old engineers who was my mentor showed me a magic trick.  He gave me a blue-lined pad of B-sized (11″ x 17″) graph paper and a mechanical pencil with blue lead in it.  Blue lead!  I was absolutely blown away.  Since I was a poor boy from Mississippi, he might as well have handed a monkey a pocket watch.  I turned it over and over in my hand, fascinated, but somewhat clueless.  He had me draw out a simple schematic with the blue pencil.  Then he had me go over some of the circuit with black pencil, tracing over some of the blue lines I’d just drawn, but leaving some of the blue lines intact.

We then went into the copier room and he ran the page I’d just drawn on through the copier.  When the copy came out I was blown away to see that it had copied only the black lines.  The blue grid of the graph paper did not show up, nor did any of the blue lines I’d drawn.  Only the things I’d drawn in black were on the copy.  This was the greatest magic trick I’d ever seen!

After that, I designed my circuits exclusively on blue-lined graph paper with a blue-leaded pencil.  Then I’d trace over the bits I wanted to keep with a black pencil.

Ever since then, I have had my addiction to graph paper.   With the advent of computer aided design, I have virtually no use for graph paper any more.  I rarely make photocopies of any kind.  Whatever I do, I do in the computer.  But my addiction to graph paper remains.

Do any of you have any unusual addictions like this that you can’t explain or help?

Alistair and Alexis Attend an Auction

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“I say, James,” I said, by way of addressing James, who was busy chauffeuring like nobody’s business at the moment.

“Yes, sir?” came his response from the front seat in the cool, calm, unflappable manner which has no doubt made him a legend among chauffeuring circles.

“What say we swing by The Gryphon’s Nest for a snifter?”

He glanced at me briefly in the rear view mirror and then returned his gaze to the road, a move that separates the professionals from the rookies.

“Do you think that is wise, Sir?”

“Wise?” I asked, philosophically.  “I don’t know about wise, but I think it is damned necessary.  I will leave the question regarding its wisdom to the philosophers.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Would Plato have thought it wise?  Aristotle?  Spinoza?  No doubt they would have had their doubts.  As for me, of doubts I have none.  Swing by the ol’ watering hole, if you would be so kind, James.”

“Yes, Sir,” he said.  And then after a moment’s hesitation, said, “I was only thinking …”

“Thinking of what, James?”  I asked, my mind a little distracted about what Spinoza would have thought of The Gryphon’s Nest.  No doubt he would have enjoyed their hot wings and their 100-inch ultra-high definition television.

“I was only thinking that Mrs. Callington was expecting you to meet her at the auction.”

“Which is precisely why I need the snifter, James.  One can’t just simply go to an auction without being fortified.”

“Yes, sir,” came the professional, if somewhat pointed response.

“One needs bracing.  A little gusset for the spine.”

“Yes, sir,” he said again, which was his way of saying, “It’s your funeral.”  And perhaps he was right.  What are auctions if not the funerals of the detritus we no longer want or need?  James must be in a particularly philosophical frame of mind today.

Still, when I arrived at the auction an hour later after a brief stop at The Gryphon’s Nest, I believe that my course was the best and I was gusseted and well-oiled to be able to endure the auction.  A snifter or two of Kentucky’s primary export had braced me to a considerable degree for the ordeal that was no doubt to follow.

“Where have you been?” hissed Alexis as I sauntered into the auction venue.  This was her normal greeting for me.

“I’m fine, thank you, Dear,” I said warmly, for I was full of bonhomie.  I kissed her cheek.

She eyed me for a moment with wild surmise.  “Have you been at the Crow’s Nest?”

“Gryphon’s Nest,” I corrected.  “The Crow’s Nest is a bar.”

“Well, what do you think the Gryphon’s Nest is?” she asked.

“It is a pub.”

“It’s the same thing,” she said.

I was about to correct her and explain that a pub is far more sophisticated and effete, but there was the sound of a gavel and a deep booming voice saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you please.  The auction is about to start, so if you could take your seats, please.  Thank you.”

“Never mind,” she said.  “Let’s go take our seats.”

She turned and walked towards the array of chairs that were nicely padded, but were still the sort of chairs one finds in a hotel banquet room.  Except that we weren’t in a hotel banquet room.  We were in the ballroom of Drimble Manor, which had been converted for the occasion.  The occasion, of course, was the dissolution of the Drimble estate, prompted by the untimely (though not entirely unexpected) passing of the senior Mr. Drimble, the founder and chief executive scoundrel of Drimble’s Kibble, the high-end dog food for snooty dog owners.

I sat next to the lovely Mrs. Callington and smiled at her.  She was looking quite lovely this evening in her prim pencil skirt and white silk blouse, black stiletto heels, and patent leather belt.  Her jet-black hair was pulled back particularly tight this evening, reflecting the lights of Drimble Manor like moonlight on an inky sea.

“You look … lovelry … lovel …ry …. level .. ree ..tonight,” I whispered, then added as an afterthought, “My dear.”  I thought it was a good save.

She suddenly rolled her eyes as if someone had stepped on her toe.

“Good god,” she whispered.  “How many bourbons did you have?”

“Just … just … the two.  Or three.”

“Well for god’s sake, don’t stand near any open flames.”

I looked around but didn’t see any flames of any sort.  “Yes, dear,” I whispered.

“And don’t bid on anything.”

On this topic, I was quite prepared to speak.  I leaned back over to her and whispered.  “Not … not … not to worry, my Delicate Cherry Blossom.  I pursued … perused … the catalog, my beer … deer … dear.  There was not a shingle … single .. splinter of furniture, not a single slosh of paint on canvas, not the first shark … sherpa … shard of glassware, that caught my eye.”  I pointed to my eye pointedly, so that she could get my point.

She put her hand on my pointing finger and lowered it back down onto my lap.  “Well just make sure you don’t bid on anything.”

I put my finger to my lips as if I were shushing myself.  “Not a single bid will I make.  Other than for your affections.”  She rolled her eyes.

At that moment, the auctioneer gestured towards a painting.  “Our first item up for bid this afternoon is a lovely painting by Amaud Desrosiers.  It is an abstract entitled, “Jolies filles à la plage”1.   The opening bid is two thousand dollars.  Do I hear a bid?”

I scrutinized the painting.  There were straight lines and garish colors, like geometric shapes run amuck.  There was no balance among either the elements nor the colors.  And, my French may be a little rusty, but I did not see either filles nor plage.  A better name for this monstrosity might have been “Boîtes mal dessinées2.  I was incensed.  What was monsieur Desrosiers trying to pull here?  Did he think we were plebeians?

Où sont les filles?3” I whispered to Alexis, my dudgeon quite high.

“Shhh!” she shushed sharply.

“Où sont les filles?!”, I repeated a little louder, for perhaps she hadn’t heard me.

“Oh my god,” she hissed at me, “You’re not even French!  How are you speaking French all of a sudden?”

“We have a bid for $2000,” said the auctioneer.  “Do I hear $3000?”

I let out a derisive little breath.  I whispered to my lovely Alexis of the beautiful scowl.  “Can you believe someone bid on this poubelle4?”

She glowered at me.  “You!  You bid on it,” she said in a sharp whisper.

“I?” I gasped, metagrabolised5.  “That’s impossible.  I would not bid on such … such … “ I gestured towards the piece of offending art looking for the correct word.  “Such rubbish.”

“We have a bid for $3000,” boomed the auctioneer.

“For god’s sake,” said my petite little Alexis of the smoldering glower.  “Stop flapping your arms.  You’ll bankrupt us.

*                                          *                                             *

Later, on the ride home, I confided in James.  “She was quite right to be so upset, James.”

I saw his eyes in the rear-view mirror glance back at me for about an eighth of a second, which is the correct amount of time for someone of his professional demeanor to look at an employer who had bid on poubelle against the better judgement of his better half.  A glance that had lasted any longer would have been untoward.

I looked around me on the rear seat of the limousine.  In addition to the execrable “Jolies filles à la plage”, there was a Schovajsa  glass vase that weighed about 20 pounds and probably would not hold a thimbleful of water, a Louis XV chair that looked as if it were upholstered in curtains salvaged from a defunct brothel, and an art deco figurine of a woman that was so exquisitely rendered that it would most likely take some additional explaining to the lovely Mrs. Callington over and above the seventeen hundred dollars I’d accidentally bid for it.

James looked back towards the road, but his eyes had said everything in that eighth of a second that the irascible Mrs. Callington had said quite verbosely over the course of the ten minutes we sat at the bursar’s desk settling up our account.

I was beginning to understand how the now-defunct Mr. Drimble had ended up with so much flotsam over the course of his 98 years.  An accidental gesture here, and intemperate wave of the hand there, and suddenly one’s ballroom is full of dubious artwork.

Perhaps we should have an auction of our own soon.

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©2017 by biffsockpow.wordpress.com

 

 


  1. Pretty Girls at the Beach 
  2. Poorly drawn boxes 
  3. Where are the girls? 
  4. Trash 
  5. Mystified 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Saturday Morning Ramble

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It is just before 8 am on a Saturday and all is quiet; the kind of quiet that occurs when it has snowed during the night.  Everything is silent and muted.  But it didn’t snow last night.  It just is oddly quiet.  I hear no leaf blowers, no lawn mowers, no trucks backing up with their strident beeping, no vehicles with inspection-failing exhaust systems, no sirens in the distance, no planes flying overhead.  And since it didn’t snow during the night, I have no other conclusion to draw other than I have been struck deaf.  And yet I can hear the clicking of the keys on my laptop.  Very strange.

But moving on to other, more interesting topics (or, more accurately, less uninteresting topics), today is Saturday.   (That wasn’t the less-uninteresting topic.   I was just transitioning away from the things-are-oddly-silent paragraph.)  It has been awhile since I’ve had one of these Saturday morning rambles.  Though I am not a morning person, once I am awake and once I have somehow teleported out of the bed and next to the coffee pot downstairs (since I can never quite remember how I got there), I am awake.  And if all the world is quiet (as it somehow is today), I am usually able to bang out a page or two of quality writing.  This, obviously, is not one of those mornings.  It is quiet, true enough.  But the brain is struggling to come up with anything other than commentary on the ambient noise level.

This is doubly strange because I took a lavish dose of Flonase last night before bed and so was able to breath through the night at nearly 60 or 70 percent of full capacity.  Typical flow rates without the aid of modern over-the-counter medications is about 20 to 30 percent.  My point being that I received adequate amounts of oxygen through the night and so should have woken up with the brain firing on all eight cylinders.  Instead I am finding it idling roughly on the side of the road with the hood up and blue-ish white smoke billowing from somewhere deep within the tangle of wires and tubes and things.  All I can do is stand there and stare at it contemplatively and stroking my chin whilst pretending I know something about car engines.  But all I’ve really manged to prove is that I am bad at metaphors.

So, I will spare you any more of this morning ramble in which I can only seem to speak of night breathing, a mysterious lack of noise in the neighborhood, and abstruse car engine metaphors.  I will hopefully be back later today with something better to offer you.  Perhaps something in a short story or an amusing anecdote.  However, based on this particular post, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Have a great Saturday!

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Wednesday Night Edition

cricket

If I haven’t written much in my blog the past few days, it is because there hasn’t been much to write about.  Now, I know what you’re going to say.  You’re going to say, “Well, Biff, that’s never stopped you before!”  And you’d be right, of course.  A lack of interesting material has certainly never deterred me from writing absolute blather for several paragraphs.  And tonight will be no different, so I apologize in advance.  You might want to put on your smock and safety glasses.

It is unseasonably warm here in Dallas today.  (Weather talk is the last refuge of the desperate writer).  It hit a high of about 80 F (26 C) today.  This is wreaking havoc.   I saw a mayfly yesterday, which is a full 3 months early.  Usually they are on back-order until at least late March.  So, if I see a June bug this week I will just have to throw up my hands dramatically, or maybe even melodramatically, and exclaim, “Well now I’ve seen everything!”  Or perhaps, “This is madness!”  Or maybe even, “OMG!  There’s a June bug tangled up in my hair!”  Getting a June bug in one’s hair is every Southerner’s worst nightmare, even more than rattlesnakes, black widows, or rabid raccoons.  Getting a June bug tangled up in your hair will make you injure yourself in horrific (though admittedly comical) ways.

In other signs that it is entirely too warm outside, there were crickets outside wailing so loudly last night that I thought the compressor in the air conditioner was about to go out.  I went outside to investigate and found out that it was not a compressor about to losing its bearings (who isn’t?), but just a lonely cricket.  But that boy could fiddle!  I wished him well on his romantic pursuits, turned to go back inside, and nearly tripped over a bunny.  All that was lacking was a faun and a skunk to be able to recreate the spring scene from Bambi.  As I walked back inside, I could smell the hyacinth blooming … or perhaps it was the generous dose of Flonase I had taken a few hours earlier in a desperate gambit to do a little breathing before turning in.

But it’s just as well.  I’ve discovered that too much oxygen makes me hallucinate.

 

 

Ripping Good Time

rippingtons-let-it-ripp

It is a great day today.

While browsing the clearance CDs at Half-Price Books tonight I found a CD by the Rippingtons (with Russ Freeman) that I don’t have.  It is called “Let It Ripp” (2003).

Man!  I love The Rippingtons!  When I invent my musical time machine that allows me to go back in time to see great bands in concert, the Rippingtons in 1989 and 2003 will be my first and second stops.

I’m listening to “Avalon” at the moment.  Simply awesome!  What sax!  I am a big fan of Jeff Kashiwa when he was with the Rippingtons.  I thought he tore it up on the title song of the CD “Tourist in Paradise” (1989).  He left in 1999 and I didn’t think he could be replaced, but Eric Marienthal is awesome on sax on this CD.

This CD is now in my top ten favorites.  I can’t believe I’ve lived this long and have never heard this CD before.

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P.S.   Here is a link to my favorite Rippingtons song, “Tourist in Paradise“.  And here is a live version that is pretty cool, too.

 

 

Pye in the Sky

skyscraper-and-moon

Eric got on the elevator and pushed the button for his floor.  The door closed and the elevator ceased looking like an elevator and looked instead like a tiny little room of wood and mirror and brass.  Some quiet orchestral music lilted unobtrusively from speakers hidden somewhere behind the wood or brass.  It sounded vaguely familiar.  He concentrated on it for a moment and then realized that it was one of his favorite songs from high school, the one he used to listen to with the windows down on his car, the song blasting at full blast on the stereo, while he drank beer and traded insults with his friends.  He shook his head.  It was practically unrecognizable now.

Eric’s ears popped familiarly and he glanced up at the big red numbers on the LED display.  The dashes had turned to numbers.  The express elevator didn’t even start counting floors until the 40th floor.  Now it was 68.  75.  80.  84.  88.  The elevator slowed imperceptibly then stopped, very smoothly.  The doors opened and he stepped out onto the marble foyer of Terra Firma Architectural Associates.   His wingtips clicked on the highly polished marble.  The door beeped pleasantly in a sort of subdued greeting as he scanned his badge and then opened for him.  The marble gave way to plush, thick carpeting.  He was now surrounded by cherry paneling, chrome accents, and a sort of 1940s art deco vibe.  Helen was at her post at the high, curved receptionist desk.

“Hello, Mr. Pye,” she said brightly.  Her eyes were preternaturally blue.  Her hair was always perfect.  The perky little flip at the back would probably remain unperturbed in a hurricane.

“Hiya, Helen,” he said, smiling at her.  Then he looked down at the carpet.  He avoided looking at the large glass windows that revealed a panoramic view of the city all around them.  The view stretched out in every direction to the horizon.  But he did not look at it.  He walked quickly towards his office, keeping his eye on the carpet or the potted plants or the art hanging on the walls.  He only glanced upwards when someone would greet him and he would smile and return their greetings, but then he would look back down at the carpet.

He scanned his badge at his office door and when he heard the click of the lock he pushed his way into it.  The light came on as he entered.  But it needn’t have bothered.  The vertical blinds were open.  Sunlight streamed in through the lightly tinted windows.

“Dammit,” he murmured.  The cleaning crew had left his blinds open again even though he had left them explicit directions a dozen times to keep them closed.  He set his briefcase down on the carpet and felt his heart beating quicker as he edged slowly over to the cord of the blinds.  He kept his eyes shut as he pulled on the side of the cord that closed the blinds.  By the time he got them closed and had blotted out the view of the city below, his pulse was racing.  He felt hot and flushed and a little nauseous.  He sat down in his high-backed leather chair and pulled himself up to his desk, his back to the window blinds he’d just closed.

Just then, Tina, his assistant entered his office holding a long tube.  “Good morning, Mr. Pye!” she said brightly.  “How are you this morning?”

“Fine,” he said, though not convincingly.  He slipped his finger between his collar and his neck and ran it along the inside of his collar, as if loosening it.  “How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you.  I brought this blueprint for you to look at.”

“That’s fine, Tina.  Thank you.  Just put it over there on my light table.  I’ll take a look at it in a minute.”

“Yes, sir.”  She set the drawing on the table and turned to face him.  She was all smiles and perkiness.  “Don’t forget about your ten o’clock.”

“My ten o’clock?” he asked, loosening his tie just a little and unbuttoning the top button of his shirt.

“Yes.  The crew from International Architect will be here to interview you.”

“Ah.  Yes.  I had forgotten.  Thank you.”  He looked at her for a moment.  “Does it feel warm in here to you?”

“No sir.  It is very comfortable.  But I can turn down the thermostat if you like.”

“No.  It’s fine.  I just feel … a little …”  He paused and was stock still as if he were listening for some faint noise.  “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“It was like . . . kind of a light popping noise.  Almost a ticking.”

“I didn’t hear anything.”

Eric stared at the “executive toy” on his desk, which was a chrome pendulum mounted on a mahogany base.  He stared at it intently for several moments.  It was completely motionless.

“Yes.  Okay.  Thank you, Tina.  That will be all for now.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Pye.  Don’t forget.  Ten o’clock!  The world wants to know all about the world’s youngest designer of skyscrapers.”

“I don’t know why anyone should be interested in anything like that,” he said as he popped open his briefcase and began removing papers.

She looked incredulous and amused.

“Not interested!  Of course they are!  Just imagine … 28 years old and sitting on the 90th floor of a building that you designed.  That’s pretty amazing!”

But he wasn’t listening to her.  He was frozen like a rabbit that had heard a twig snap nearby.  His eyes were glued on the pendulum on his desk.  Tina stared at it as well, but it wasn’t moving even the slightest little bit.  He was quite pale.

Tina shrugged and turned to leave.  Geniuses were so strange.

“Tina … one more thing.”

She paused and looked back at him.  “Yes, Mr. Pye?”

“Tell the crew from International Architect that I will … um … meet them in the coffee shop in the atrium on the ground floor.”

Tina stared at him a moment and then said in her practiced professional voice.  “Yes sir, Mr. Pye.”

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