Sunday, June 25, 2017

“What a panda thinks when you tap on his window glass”

When I go to the zoo I like to imagine what the animals think of us humans, because I already know what I think. I picture a panda sitting on the ground clearing bamboo branch after bamboo branch like corn on the cob. He stares idly at the crowd pressed up against the observation window and he ponders:

Who on Earth told her that blouse was attractive?

Yeah, just keep tapping on that glass, kid. We’ll see what happens.

I wonder what evil curse caused such widespread hairlessness.

I wish I had a mate I could nudge and then head-gesture at the guy in the short-shorts.

Kid, seriously. Pandas are not known for throwing their poo, but you are moving it waaay up my to-do list.

Sriracha bamboo. Somebody send me a scientist who can teach me how to hand-sign that, stat.

Dude, I literally spend 12 hours a day eating, but you look like you've got me beat.

You people act like you've never seen adorable before.

I am coming for you in your dreams, tapping boy.

Take the glass from the window and this whole scene would have a very different vibe.

They say there are only a couple thousand of us left on Earth, but the world is peopled with sunscreened yokels from sea to sea. Need I explain further my atheism?

That little girl! Her eyes so full of love and wonder. Now I feel guilty.

My “keepers” are not bad guys, but would it kill them to “accidentally” drop a burger in this mofo now and then?

You know what creeps me out? Giraffes. Oh man. Weird. 

Stop eyeballing my bamboo, dude. The churro cart’s behind you.

Why is it you all have words on your clothing but you still talk so much?

I know your parents dragged you here and you really just want to see the kangaroos, but could you at least fake looking fascinated?

You are looking at my opposable sixth finger, aren’t you? Just a nub, really. Not legit enough to call a thumb, but it works. Some say it’s proof of evolution, but let’s not open a can of worms. Ooh, is that a rainbow sno-cone?

Bamboo. Seriously, you kale freaks should come on board. 

Aaaand we’re closed. Good. Maybe now I can finish that haiku. Let’s see.

Panda in the zoo
Mating once every two years
Hey, no pressure, right?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

My father's balled socks, and other things I miss

It's funny the things you remember about your dad once he is gone. 
He had this sock drawer. In it, his socks were balled together like little fruits, different colors, so alien to my own socks, all white, which got folded in half in long flat lines by my mother. 
He did a lot of domestic chores differently than she, who was eight years his junior. "I was balling socks when you were still in diapers," he would say, or "I was already making beds when you were..." 

He had hankies in the drawer too, those red patterned ones like cowboys wore, or white for when he might need to blow his nose in church. Hankies were from a time when men wore hats. Gone, like my dad. 
Hankies and hats seem like vestiges from another era, when the planet was still cooling, maybe, and men had a lot more head colds. These days, aside from hipsters, the only hats men wear are ball caps, as if we are all inexplicably, as a gender, off-season outfielders. 

My dad never wore a ball cap in his life, but he did have a "rain hat," an old brown Indiana Jones style fedora he wore doing outdoor work in bad weather. It looked like rats had made an appetizer of the brim, then realized they could do better. 
In the summer he would wear his "fun hat," one of those floppy cloth fishing hats into which you are supposed to stick your fly fishing lures. Before leaving on a family road trip, he would appear in it. Without it, the fun could not officially begin.

My dad did a lot of physical labor, and eventually his work shirts would get thin and begin to have holes and rips in them. Maybe we kids grabbed him once and accidentally made one of the holes bigger, and then he said go for it; I can't remember. But my sister and I ripped the old shirt right off him, tore it to shreds, as if he were some geriatric Incredible Hulk, too infirm to bust out of it himself. Ever after, whenever one of his work shirts got threadbare he would don it so we kids could rip it off him. 
I am going to assume your family had this tradition too.

The saddest day I know of is the day you go without once thinking about your old man. This is not one of those days. 
. . .


Sunday, June 11, 2017

So much to know; so little time

I am in my fifties, and I am just beginning to realize that I may not be able to know everything before I kick off. If I see a new book on genetics I think, "That would be a fascinating field," before I remember I am on a rather short actuarial leash. 

The Centers for Disease Control say I only have another decade, while the government says expect 25 more years, probably just so they can keep collecting my taxes. Uncle Sam deals in hope, but he deals from the bottom of the deck.

I guess it is true what they say. Actually, my memory is starting to go, so I can't remember what they say, but you probably can. It's pithy. I remember that it's pithy. 

When I was 18, I was proudest when I won a track race. Now I am proudest in that moment when a person I know is approaching me but their name has evaporated from my brain pan, and I only have two seconds, and I'm toast, and then it pops into my head and I deliver. Small victories. 

My cuticles are fantastic too.

I thought memory problems were supposed to come later in life, but I forget where I heard that. 

I know people my age who sometimes refer to themselves as in the "second half" of their lives, and I would love to source that math. We are down to the final third, kiddos, and that's if we're lucky; that's if the Grim Reaper treats his gig like government work.

There is so much I still want to know about red pandas and kinkajous and the Byzantine Empire. Manatees. The films of Julie Christie. String Theory, fennec foxes, all 10 plays in Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle. All of Dostoevsky and Twain. FabergĂ© eggs, dark matter, the composition of the Earth's core, why nature made naked mole rats nudists, the Fermi Paradox, why a whiff of my first girlfriend's shampoo on a total stranger can still put my heart in my throat. 

I know 25 years sounds like a lot, but not when you want to know everything. I may even have just enough time to come around to jazz, but I am cutting it awfully close. 

I mostly want to know why, since there is so little time, I spend so much of it checking whether anybody "liked" my post about that puppy chasing fireflies. Shouldn't I BE that puppy, aloft, reaching, gobsmacked with wonder?

. . .

Sunday, June 4, 2017

An interview with the world's best loved font

I am here today with Times New Roman, a font which is used to create words in most newspapers and school assignments. 

GW: Welcome, TNR.

TNR: Thanks. This is a little weird. I've never been interviewed before.

GW: Why do you think that is?

TNR: I'm a font.

GW: Explain to those who might not know what a font is.

TNR: I'm a typeface. Notice how the end of my letter "t" is a little curly? Not everybody can pull that off.

GW: And supposedly that makes you easier to read than some others.

TNR: That's just hype. But you know, you repeat a thing often enough...

GW: Teachers often insist their students use Times New Roman when writing school assignments. This seems to be true across the entire country. Why do you think that is?

TNR: I have a great agent. 

GW: (laughing) Is that it? How about a shout-out?

TNR: Yo, Morty! You go, dude! See you at the thing next weekend.

GW: The thing?

TNR: Bill Gates is having an exclusive little thing for serif fonts in the Bahamas.

GW: Serif fonts. You mean the fonts that have the curly letters.

TNR: Yeah. My man Courier will be there. Bodoni. Palatino. 

GW: I take it Comic Sans is not invited.

TNR. Ha ha. Comic Sans! There are sans-serif fonts and then there are SANS-SERIF fonts. That dude is deeply without serif. And usually purple. Third graders love him, though. I'm not hating.

GW: What do you think makes a great font?

TNR: The ability to be bold. 

GW: It's true. Some can't be.

TNR: I will never understand that.

GW: Me neither. How hard is that?

TNR: Right?

GW: So you are the default font, the Coca-Cola of typeface. What's the downside?

TNR: People only use my 12 point size. Branch out, folks! Have you checked me out at 8? I still look sharp. My 72 point is strangely slimming. People are always like, "Have you lost weight?"

GW: Do you have any rivals?

TNR: Calibri is the default in MS Word, but people always switch Calibri to me, which does not engender a lot of good will. Luckily I only see him once a year, at Burning Man, and he's usually hammered. Nobody likes being number two.

GW: What's next for TNR?

TNR: We're contemplating Times Really New Roman. Each letter would have an embedded tattoo. That's just between us. 

GW: Now that's bold.

TNR: It's just TNR being TNR, baby. 

. . .