Jan 30, 2007
When the Washington Post dubbed their town "The Armpit of America," the town council of Battle Mountain, Nevada, decided to roll with the punch. Raking the bottom of the cash drawer in the town treasurer's office, they managed to scrape together enough spare change to buy ad space on a handful of billboards scattered over several hundred miles along Interstate 80, which swings low like a sweet chariot along the town's southern outskirt. The billboards begin with the Post's quote, then they urge travelers to "Make Us Your PIT Stop!"
Other slogans they have used include: "Battle Mountain-- Halfway to Everywhere," which is the logical positive-spin way of saying "about as far as you can get from Somewhere," and "Battle Mountain-- Base Camp for Nevada's Outback."
That last one is probably the most descriptive. The town lies indolent and insolent in the middle of a sprawling, flat valley whose far-flung fringes are rippled with gray mountains half-buried in the horizon. It is a town that sometimes seems to have fallen through a hole in time. Oh, you never quite forget you're in the twenty-first century, of course, but you are easily reminded of the Old West... or the Great Depression.
Naturally, there is a truckstop there. If there wasn't one, well, I probably wouldn't be telling you about the place. I might mention the billboards... but that'd be about it.
The truckstop is still where it was in those bygone days when U.S. 40 was called U.S. 40 and it was the major highway through these parts. Now the super-slab roars past the edge of town, forgotten 40 wears some innocuous state highway number utterly lacking in character, and the truckstop --dusty and spare, like the rest of the town-- sits tucked a long half-mile from the Interstate, across the street from the Union Pacific main line and in the shadow of a grungy old marble-maze-looking industrial plant of some kind.
Inside the truckstop is a sandwich shop. It's open twenty-four hours. That isn't germane to the story, but that's okay: Nothing I've said so far is.
The woman behind the counter smiled and said, "Hi. What can I get ya?"
"Hi," I said and smiled. It wasn't that smile that any number of women have called That Smile, but it was still a pretty good one. "Umm," I said, and frowned at the menu in apparent indecision. I didn't really need to look at the menu. I already knew exactly what I wanted. I have found, however, that knowing exactly what you want makes other people ill at ease. My hesitation was an attempt to be disarming. Finally I said, "Uh, could I have a foot-long, ham, salami and cheese, on white, please?"
"Sure," she said, moving to the bread rack. "On what kind of bread?"
"White," I said. I tried to say it distinctly without seeming to.
She pulled out a white sandwich loaf. "Six inch or foot-long?" she asked.
In my head, I played back the mental tape of me ordering. I didn't do it to make sure I'd actually said, "foot-long," but rather to see if I could figure out how in the world she'd missed my saying, "foot-long." I didn't come up with anything.
Outwardly, I occupied myself with trying very hard to appear as if I hadn't even considered the question until just that moment. Then, as if just reaching a decision, I said, "Let's make that a foot-long."
She set the loaf on the counter and cut it open. Then she walked over to the big, glass-doored refrigerator where the meats and cheeses were kept. "Ham, salami and cheese?" she asked.
"What kind of cheese?"
"American," I said proudly, because that's what I am: A red-blooded, red-neck'd, red-state-raised, red-meat-eating American who, therefore, has no taste in cheese.
She grabbed a big ol' hunk of ham and took it over to the slicer, shaved off a big-boy portion (because that's what I am), put the hunk away and arranged the shavings onto the bread. She repeated the process with the salami, albeit in a smaller portion. Then she grabbed a block of Swiss cheese and sliced off two fairly thick chunks.
They were about six inches away from my sandwich when she asked, "You did say 'Swiss', right?"
A voice inside my head said: No, I did not say 'Swiss'.
Another voice --also inside my head but in a slightly lower timbre-- said: Just say yes; we're in a hurry. Don't make a big deal out of it; you can eat Swiss.
Out loud I said to the woman, "Yes. Yes I did." I smiled and nodded.
I'm not making a big deal out of it, the first voice said. I'm just saying I asked for American. More importantly, I'm wondering just what the hell is wrong with this woman.
You do realize you're talking to yourself right now, don't you?
Yes, I do, the first voice answered. If I didn't realize I was talking to myself, that would be something to worry about.
You do realize that if you didn't realize--
Shut up. We're being asked another question.
"Uh, just lettuce and mayonnaise," I answered out loud. I watched her slather some mayo onto the face of the top bun, sprinkle a wad of chopped lettuce into the crevice, then reach for the pepper shaker.
"Pepper?" she asked. "Salt?"
"No," I said. I probably said it a little more emphatically than necessary, but not much.
She paused with the pepper shaker held over my sandwich, tilted at a slight angle. She looked down at it, as if contemplating the spiritual meaning of a ham and cheese sandwich with or without pepper. She seemed to be fighting the urge to put pepper on it anyway, despite my objection.
I-swear-to-god, I thought, if she puts pepper on there, I'm gonna demand she makes me a whole new sandwich.
My other voice said: Grow up. What's the big deal? So there'll be pepper on your sandwich. You don't mind pepper that much. Let's just get the sandwich, get out of here and back on the road.
This whole situation is emblematic of a larger problem in our society, you know. I mean: Here I am, the only customer in the place, and she, quite frankly, doesn't have anything better to do right now than to make my damned sandwich any damned way I want it, but she either can't... or won't. It really says something, don't you think?
You're a bit of a hypocrite, you know.
I know, but so is everybody else. At least I'm aware of it, and try not to be. There's only so much a man can do.
You gonna write about this on One F's blog?
Naw... nobody likes these kinds of stories.
It was a relatively small fast-food place, somewhere in the Sierras. There were three large TVs hanging from the ceiling, hulking over the room like 'roided-up vultures. When I walked in the door, Paula Zahn was on all of them, running one of her hard-hitting, cutting-edge reports on the latest fly-by-night, disposable fashion statements made by the most recent awards-show parade of superficial celebrities.
I'd like to think I could have ignored it. Yes, I'd like to think that as I took my place in line I could have remained disdainful and disinterested and just a little bit smug, had the woman doing the voice-over not said: "Skin, skin, skin, skin, celebrity skin, skin!" Or, um, words to that effect.
I am, after all, a red-blooded American boy. So I looked. Even though the reasonable and rational part of my brain told me I wouldn't see those areas of skin that the Christian Right --and their lapdog, the Federal Communications Commission-- says I can't handle seeing on basic cable, I looked. Even though I have proven to myself time and again that I am simply not capable of actually undressing a recorded image of an attractive woman through sheer mental energy, I looked.
Jennifer Aniston walked onto the screen and stopped, and a lightning storm of paparazzi flashbulbs started their staccato strobe. She was wearing --trust me, this will shock the hell out of you, so if you aren't already sitting down, you'd better-- she was wearing something low-cut. I shuffled forward in line and then leaned against a handy column, all the while focusing hard on that narrow tease of a slit that plunged down to her... um, well, it, uh, it plunged down to somewhere, I'm sure-- somewhere below the smooth, graceful, globe-like curves it was designed to showcase.
I stared in concentration. I knew it wouldn't work, but I stared hard and concentrated anyway. I tried to reach out with my mind and grasp and pull the edges of that peek-a-boo slit just a little farther apart, just for the hell of it. I do the same sort of thing at home with the TV remote. I put the remote on the coffee table and then, when I want to change the channel, I spend about fifteen seconds with my arm outstretched, trying to "call" the device to my hand. Hey, let's face it: If I'm ever going to move anything by telekinesis, it will probably be a remote control.
I don't know how long I'd been doing that when I suddenly realized someone was trying to get my attention. I looked at the woman behind the counter. She was grinning at me.
"A number eleven," I said.
That's right, I said a number eleven. I don't mind ordering my food by the numbers. I don't mind it one damned bit. In fact, I rather like it. Think whatever you want.
"Do you want the regular size, or...?" she asked.
"Just the regular size," I nodded. I stepped forward. She punched some buttons on the register and told me the price, with tax. I pulled out my wallet. As I dug out the money, I overheard the TV switch from covering all the beautiful women at the awards show to covering all the beautiful men at the awards show.
I started to hand over the appropriate number of bills, but now it was her turn to stare at the TV. The beautiful men, you know. Quietly, I folded my wallet and put the money down on the counter. I didn't want to disturb her concentration by watching her watch TV --who knows? She might have been close to a breakthrough-- so I spent the next several moments glancing around at nothing in particular.
After a short while, she kind of shook herself and looked at me. She grinned and apologized. I shrugged and said it was alright. She took the money and put it in the register, counted out the change and dropped it into the palm of my outstretched hand. As she did she said, "Trouble is, none of those men are real." Her eyes flicked up to my face and she frowned slightly. "You know what I mean?"
I grinned and nodded. "As a matter of fact, I know exactly what you mean."
Seldom do I agree, you see, with much or many of the top five or ten so-called sexiest women that the movie industry and the fashion industry and the entertainment media are always telling us is our collective ideal of beauty. Maybe nobody does. Or maybe they do, but only because they are weak-minded.
The check is in the mail.
The male asks the female for a snatch of life by the tail.
And oh, what tales she could tell 'im
about all the sails she's had to till-- um,
that is to say, she has for sale.
A whale of a good time, girl?
The wail of a good-time girl.
You've probably heard that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Alexandra, has gone and made a documentary film about Christian evangelicals.
I heard a clip featuring that frocking, defrocked hypocrite Ted "How Is It That Nobody Could Tell Just By Looking At This Creepy Little Elf That His Loafers Were Light" Haggard, in which he said that evangelicals actually have better sex lives than anybody else. (Or words to that effect. Sorry, but I can't remember word-for-word the latest line of buy-bull shinola being perpetrated by this mass of snake-oil salesmen-- mostly because I'm trying so very hard not to hear them at all.)
As proof, he turned to a group of fellow churchgoers --all men-- and asked how often they had sex with their wives. They all replied, "Everyday. Sometimes more than once." Haggard then asked what percentage of the time their wives achieved climax. The men --and again, I stress: All men. The modern church probably does allow women to speak, but I'm sure it's frowned upon because it would distract them from their baking-- the men all said, "Every time."
Good for them, I guess, but I fail to see how it proves anything. I mean, speaking as a man, I can assure you that every sex partner I have ever been with climaxed every time, too. So how, I ask you, how does that make a Christian evangelical's sex life better than mine?
Dick "Chancellor Palpatine" Cheney is on the prowl. He has granted three interviews to name-recognized media outlets in the past month. In one of them, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the U.S. has done many great things in Iraq and that he expects many great things in the future.
Translation: "Well, my cronies in the business and industrial sectors --particularly the ones with big government contracts-- have reported several good quarters in a row, now, and in some cases, there's even talk of a stock split at the end of the fiscal year. What more do you want?"
P.S... Get ready to grab your ankles and brace yourselves, Baseball fans, because Bud Selig has that gleam in his eyes again. There are very loud rumors afoot that the Commissioner's latest idea for grinding the Grande Olde Game into the biblical dust and ashes from which Alexander Cartwright so painstakingly legislated it is close to completion.
I'd say more --and probably will, at some point-- but right now I have a day job to get to...
Jan 24, 2007
Jan 23, 2007
Well, well, well. Howdy y'all. I am just checking in to let you know I have been right about everything but Peyton Manning. But last I checked he has still won as many Superbowls as Rex Grossman. Now one of the two will win.
A well fought game although I have lost all respect for Reggie Bush. Pointing at Urlacher will just get your receivers killed. It reminded me of the mid-90's Knicks taunting Jordan. Why would you entice the greatest? Why? Well, now you lost. And you deserve to lose you classless bitch, Bush.
Now we got two weeks of hype and 3 hours of the game of the year.
I will also be making a major announcement in a few weeks. Anyone that knows how to start a Presidential exploratory committee please contact me. Thank you.
Jan 19, 2007
Saints at Bears (-2):
"America's Team" my ass. I don't see how the government being inefficient can possibly decide the outcome of the game. I think this game will be a very high scoring game even if the weather is as crappy as they say it will be. I think home field will help quite a bit. I think that the weak secondary and blitz first defense of the Saints will cost them the game. Grossman has the ability to be a fantastic quarterback when the moons line up right and the tide stays low. I am going with the Bears 34-24.
Patriots at Colts (-3):
I will say it again. Payton will choke. This time I do not think that his defense will be able to bail him out like they did last week. The Patsies are a great team that takes advantage of others mistakes flawlessly. Patriots will win 17-12.
Alright, let's play some football!
Jan 15, 2007
Don't put money where my mouth is. Although I was 3-1 in my predictions I was way off in scores. I will try again this weekend and let you know (with 75% certainty) who will be playing in Superbowl 41. For the record, Mr. Manning did choke but the Colts got themselves one of them newfangled New England kickers and life just gets easier. The only game not decided by a field goal was the game which had 7 field goals made in it. Both New Orleans and Chicago squeaked one out. Good for the Bears to be at home next week, they might have a chance. Finally, you heard it here first, San Diego could not top the Patsies. Next Friday I will give you more predictable predictions predicated by a plastered and potted prognosticator. OK, I will stop now and not just because it is a little hard for me this morning.
When I first looked at the title of the piece I was ecstatic. I thought we were going to get the old Saul Bellow treatment. Give some props to one of the best Chicago writers that has graced the papyrus with a feather. Nope. But I will add a Bellow quote just because I was psyched for a moment:
A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.Good stuff, no? If I were discussing politics still there might be a little something-something in there for me to use.
After reading the piece, I opted to do a little research into this "society" that so readily plagiarizes from our very own Blasphemes author. Maybe some good verbal shots across their bow and I could finally attain my lifelong dream of getting in a war of words with a think tank. This would be a battle I would win. Think tanks almost never resort to a "Yea, well suck it, Chachi!" as that would be my main ammunition. It's hard to rebut one of those. Just ask my wife.
So I go to the American Dialect Society's web site and I laughed my ass off. They win. They steal, sure, but they do it well. They see no point in stealing bad material and that is what makes them a society, I think. Killre is an original but they stole from a great many originals to comprise a full list. Some of the other categories and their winners were:
- Most Useful: climate canary - an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon.
- Most Unnecessary: SuriKat - TomKat's kid. The runner's up for this category are great "the decider" was the person who makes decisions for other decision-makers and "Fox lips" which is the crazy gloss and outlined lips that female Fox news anchors seem to all wear.
- Most Outrageous: Cambodian accessory - Angelina Jolie's adopted child (you see how they grew on me?). Runner-up was sudden jihad syndrome which is "an outburst of violence from a seemingly stable and normal Muslim." Also on the list was firecrotch (redheads croth), tramp stamp (tattoo on the small of a woman's back), and macaca.
- Least Likely to Succeed: grup - a Gen-Xer who does not act his age. Boo. But look at the runner-up: "stay the course." Again, if I were doing politics . . .
I am not doing politics so let me tell you all a little story. Jack and Jill were brother and sister. Jill had a little glass ball that she used to play "fortune teller" with her friends. Jack liked to take the ball and play "bowling for strippers." One day Jill told Jack that he could no longer play with the glass ball because his game was gross. Jack grabbed the ball and rolled it into the pond. For a little while they both pretended that they did not care. Then one day they did. And they began to aggressively look for the glass ball.
For years, friends of both Jack and Jill would keep diving into the pond looking for the glass ball. Some were bitten by snapping turtles. Some drowned. They tried lining up in a line and going across the pond together in a sweep but to no avail. Too much time had passed and the ball was likely gone forever under the moss and gunk that collects at the bottom of a pond. So Jack and Jill got as many friends as they could for one last attempt. While the friends lined up asking questions like "What should I do?" or "Should we start before it gets dark?" Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
There. I did not say there would be no confusion. Just no politics.
Be it never forgotten that the great Florida Voting Debacle of 2000 and its subsequent Florida Recount Fiasco was but one prominently ugly symptom of a far more rampant and widespread disease...
Be it never forgotten, Brothers, that the right to vote is a truly great and grand gift, fought for and bestowed upon us by the wise and exalted Founding Fathers...
Be it never forgotten, Sisters, that the right to vote is great and grand and was fought for and handed down unto you by wise, if unjustly less-exalted, Women...
Be it never forgotten, Bruthuhs an' Sistahs, that the right to vote is great and grand and was fought for and handed down unto you by wise Women like Rosa Parks and exalted Men like Martin Luther King...
...and be it never forgotten that the right to vote is supposed to be more precious than a three-day weekend.
Be it never forgotten: The symbolism of the hanging chad-- that of the tragically, tragically low number of us who actually bother to cast our ballot, even fewer take it seriously enough to not be sloppy about it...
Be it never forgotten: The symbolism of the butterfly ballot-- that if you sloppily elect incompetent and/or crooked officials, or passively allow them to be elected, you will get incompetent and/or crooked governance...
Be it never forgotten that His Obstinacy King George the Dubya was elected in 2000 because there were enough 'swing' voters --just barely enough, but enough-- who found him more likable than Al Gore, even though they knew damned-well (or should have) that Gore was more intelligent and better qualified...
Be it never forgotten that America was stupid to value likability over intelligence and qualifications...
Be it never forgotten --I beseech you-- be it never, ever forgotten where choosing a president based on that sort of criteria has since led us...
Be it never forgotten: Last week's lasting image of The Smirking Marionette-- knuckles whitened by a death grip on the podium, eyes rounded by a mixture of fear and blank confusion, staring down the barrel of the teleprompter as if it were Dick Cheney's 28-gauge and stiffly stating, "Now, Ah'm not sayin' that Ah screwed the pooch, but a lotta people think that the pooch got screwed, an' Ah can't deny it --heh, Lord knows Ah've trahd-- but, as President, Ah'm the one in charge of whether or not the pooch got screwed, so... *shrug* ...y'know? Ah mean... y-ya can lead a pooch to water but, uh, b-butcha can't make 'im a horse..."
Be it never forgotten that his very presence in the presidency is an embarrassment...
Be it never forgotten that his presence in the presidency makes us all look like fools...
...and be it never forgotten that it is our own damned fault.
Be it never forgotten that the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were not carried out by "Islamic fascists" who "hate our freedom," but by people who --with reason-- hate our government's policies in the Middle East, and who use religious zealotry as a political tool...
Be it never forgotten how we all lusted blind and desperate in our zealous hatred and near-religious patriotism in the wake of 9/11 to go Kick Some Arab Ass...
Be it never forgotten that their argument that Israel has no right to exist --unpragmatic as that argument might be, at this point-- is every bit as logical and has every bit as much merit as does our argument that Israel does have that right...
Be it never forgotten: Our self-righteousness...
Be it never forgotten that our invasion of Iraq was opposed by the United Nations, a body whose very existence was the brainchild of past American presidents who brought more dignity and respect to the office --even despite their failings-- than this pretender has ever possessed-- men who fought and fought hard when it was time to fight, but who preferred not to...
Be it never forgotten: Our fervored fear of being attacked again...
Be it never forgotten that our invasion of Iraq was, from the very beginning, unwarranted; that it was, from the very beginning, rationalized only by a handful of half-cooked lies; and that it was headstrong and headlong and personally motivated...
...and be it never forgotten: Our fevered fear of being branded "unpatriotic," or perhaps even "blasphemous," for saying so at the time.
Be it never forgotten that our subsequent occupation of Iraq has been both criminally clumsy and downright criminal-- a mission that has accomplished little more than the exponential destabilization of the entire Middle East, the elimination of one old Bush family nemesis, the increased fat-cattedness of already-fat cats with government contracts, the blood sacrifice of thousands upon thousands of dedicated American lives and body parts on the front lines of a foreign civil war, and the equally inhuman sacrifice of untold multitudes of collateral innocents...
Be it never, ever forgotten that the blood of thousands upon thousands upon multitudes --from the very moment he gave the green light for Operation Shock and Awe (which is, without question, far and away the single most childish code name ever given to anything, anywhere, in the entire history of spoken language) to this very moment and for years to come-- the blood of thousands upon thousands upon multitudes will now and forevermore stain the hands of George Walker Bush, as well as the twisted, sinister hands of Dick "Chancellor Palpatine" Cheney and Donald "Dummy Rummy" Rumps-felt and Karl "The Offensive Coordinator" Rove and every other hate-mongering, fear-mongering, war-mongering bastard in This Blinkin' Administration who manipulates all the well-worn levers that make The Smirking Marionette walk and wink and blink and smirk and trip over his own tongue and stick his foot in his mouth...
...but be it well-understood: Some of that blood is on our hands, too.
Be it well-understood: I have hated this piss-poor example of a caricature of a president --this screeching, smirking, mugging little chimpanzee who denounces the Theory of Evolution while at the same time defecating in his own hand and flinging the product at gawking, pointing onlookers-- I have hated him and all of his big-moneyed string-pullers on both an intellectual and visceral level since about four seconds after he first announced his candidacy...
...and be it well-understood that I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq from the very day then-Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations and said, in effect, "Well, I'm sure we probably do have evidence of WMD... they just won't let me see it."
Be it well-understood: The nation-state of Iraq is, at this point, a wobbling, teetering, 60-deck house of cards, and now is not the time to hold our breath and slowly pull our hands away, cross our fingers and quietly walk backwards, gingerly switch off the light and leave the room...
Be it well-understood that if, through the dark rectangle of the open doorway, we merely hear, but don't actually see, the ticking-clicking-clattering collapse of that house of cards, it won't mean that we don't have one hellacious, godforsaken, red, white and black mess all over the table and floor in there...
...it will just mean we weren't actually in the room when it happened.
Be it well-understood: Staying in Iraq at this point isn't about supporting our Great National Embarrassment, the president-- although there are, still, 735 days left in his current term...
Be it well-understood: Staying in Iraq at this point isn't even about supporting the troops in the field-- nor is it even really about some grandiose, empty notion of making their sacrifice worthwhile...
...it's about cleaning up our mess now, instead of later.
Bud Selig must --oh, how it pains me to say
this-- Bud Selig must also stay. (See Bellow.)
Ahhh... Blasphemes: Proudly warping the young minds of tomorrow through the use of semi-obscure polysyllables.
Believe it or not, there's other evidence that there are people taking notes here at our little whine and cheez party...
On August 7th, in "An Open Letter To One-F," I rather pointedly asked which would be a better nickname for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: "The Mayor of the Green Zone," or "The Large Kurd Cottage Cheese." (One F's response to my letter, which was titled "Task at hand," was posted two days later.)
According to a news report I heard a couple/three weeks ago, reference to al-Maliki as "The Mayor of the Green Zone" is now the running joke in Baghdad.
I am unsurprised --and surprisingly unbothered-- by the fact that I have received absolutely no credit (other than the credit I am now taking) for dreaming up that line. Such is the way of such things.
You might recall that in the days leading up to last November's mid-term elections, there was a great deal of talk and deliberate obtuseness over Senator John "Hari" Kerry's botching of what was not a very good joke to begin with aimed at George W. Bush.
You might also recall that on the eve of said elections, I publicly skewered Senator Kerry right here on this very, uh, blog-thingy and even went so far as to suggest that the inclusion of the word "us" in the punch line would have made the target of his punch a little less open to interpretation.
That was not his story at the time, though. No, his addle-minded entourage said at the time that the real botch was in his leaving off an entire phrase:
"Just ask President Bush."
Ahh, but that didn't stop Senator Great Wooden Chin from telling Larry King more than a month later that all he'd done wrong was leave out "one little word... the word 'us'."
Again, I'm unsurprised.
This time, though, I have to admit that I'm a little bit bothered-- bothered that the man who will go down in history as "The Guy Who Was Such A Putz That He Lost To George W. Bush, Even After America Had Already Had Four Years of George W. Bush" has to steal even his jokes. I'm bothered, too, by the fact that a United States Senator would have to steal those jokes from a self-publishing (and, heh, self-promoting) truck driver.
Now, I would take the time to call Senator John Kerry a Thief and a Liar, but to do so would be patently redundant. After all, by referring to him as "Senator," you already know he's a member of Congress.
I don't know if you've ever noticed this since I so often indulge my penchant for all of that subtlety and literary nuance for which truck drivers are so well-known, but I have, from time to time --not often, but every now and then-- called for the removal from his cushy little gig that symbol of all that is twisted and wrong in the universe: Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. I've never really kept track, and such references are always so understated and ill-defined, that I couldn't really tell you exactly how often I've made some passing mention... but I figure it's at least, you know, like, four or five.
Usually, I try to give ol' Bud a little nickname. For those of you who are curious, I have repeated myself a time or two, but usually I come up with something new. Among my own personal favorites are: "If That's Senator Mitchell on the Phone, Tell Him I'm Not Here" and "Shhh... Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet... I'm Hunting Wabbits."
Last August 28th, I pointed out the following rather cosmic coincidence: "Bud Selig is Major League Baseball's ninth Commissioner... and should be 'Plutoed'." To the best of, well, to the best of pretty much anybody's knowledge, this was the first-ever usage of the word 'plutoed'.
Why do I bring it up? Because...
On January 5th, 2007, the American Dialect Society met, deliberated, voted and selected my verbal creation, "plutoed," as their Word of the Year for 2006.
Hooray and Halleluja! 'Bout damned time somebody noticed.
The American Dialect Society is a 117-year-old organization that --as their name suggests-- basically keeps their finger on the pulse of the American dialect of the English language. Refreshingly, they don't seem to take themselves too seriously. They have been awarding "Word of the Year" honors for 17 years, now. Stephen Colbert's "truthiness" was the winner last year; Yours Truly's "plutoed" was this year's.
Obviously, this is a great honor. I, um, I do have some questions, however...
First of all, uh, just where is the awards banquet?
Better yet, where's my invitation?
Oh, and how big is my statuette? I need to know if it will fit on my mantel, or if I should build a separate shrine.
Most importantly, is there a cash prize? I mean, it seems like I should at least get, like, a twenty-dollar gift card for one of the big bookstore chains or something.
Oh, yeah... Uh, why didn't your press release mention me? Or Blasphemes? I mean, come on. Where's the credit, people?
Well, anyway, I'm sure I'll be hearing from you soon. Looking forward to it.
As for Bud Selig, I've decided that he should stay in office... for a little while, anyway. There's a fair chance, you see, that Barry Bonds will indeed hit a 756th career home run. If and when that happens, rest assured, the sacred ritual that is the Game Being Played will be interrupted in favor of a pompous and circumstantial ceremony in which --right there in front of Cartwright and everybody-- some representative from the Office of Major League Baseball will have to get down on his knees and delicately smooch Bonds' needle-marked [jackass].
I want Bud Selig to be that guy.
Then I want him tarred and feathered.
Jan 12, 2007
In italics are the Vegas odds and bolded at the end of each analysis my predicted final score. Good luck. Bet small.
Indianapolis at Baltimore -4:
Sure as the sun will rise in the east and Madden will fawn over crybaby Brett Favre, the Indianapolis Colts will take a page out of a first time whore's playbook and choke on the big one. They almost were able to do it last week against the dreaded Kansas City Chiefs who learned that it is hard to run the football and pat yourself on the back at the same time. Baltimore's defense is tenacious and it will shut down Joseph Addai and the Colts' running game. That puts us right where we are every year at this time. The Colts relying on the arm of Peyton Manning. And although an awesome arm, it does not seem to be a clutch arm. Not in the post season. They will have their chances to win (they always do) but they won't (they never do.
Indianapolis 21 Baltimore 31
Philadelphia at New Orleans -5:
This could be the hardest game to call yet it will not be the closest. Someone will get trounced and I am unsure who. New Orleans is playing in a very excited Superdome at the end of an amazing season. Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in the midst of a career year. Reggie Bush is a rookie phenom with moves that would make Michael Jackson cry like he just found out the kid was 18. They are explosive and deadly. Philly on the otherhand is a slow and steady churner. Garcia makes few mistakes and Westbrook is the best rounded player in the NFL. Donte Stallworth is back at his "home" stadium to show his (ex)fans what they have lost. I would have picked Philly until last week. With the loss of Lito Sheppard to a dislocated elbow I don't see how Brees can be stopped.
Philadelphia 10 New Orleans 34
Seattle at Chicago -9:
It is said that there are two kind of people in this world. Those that think everything is divided into two (black and white, good and bad, etc.) and those that don't. In Chicago, we too have a bipolar problem, Good Rex and Bad Rex. Which will show up? Grossman has the most games in the NFL this year with a QB rating over 140 (7) and the most under 40 (5). Which one will show up in Soldier Field on Sunday? It doesn't matter. Seatlel is a beaten up weak team with no secondary and a QB and RB that are far less than 100%. The Bears defense just got back a secondary that has been sorely missing for a few weeks now. The Bears defense could win this one alone. But they will not have to. I predict a good Rex this week. A Rex so good that the papers will scream how a Superbowl bid is all but done. It will make the future hurt just a litle more. But not this weekend. This weekend the Bears win.
Seattle 10 Chicago 21
New England at San Diego -4 1/2:
The game of the week. Roll the dice and call me Nathan Detroit. this one needs some thought. LaDanian Tomlinson is the most prolific runner of the year. Tom Brady belongs in Yellowstone he is so reliable. Both defenses have stregths and weaknesses and both offenses have some question marks. I think I need to go with experience. A hunch but Brady likes these kind of games and I do not know about Phillip Rivers. A rookie cannot keep up. If it gets away from the running the Chargers are sunk. But will it?
New England 24 Dan Diego 17
Jan 11, 2007
Last night, the President of the United States of America, stood in the White House library to trick us one more time. Rove put him in the library because if he were to deliver the speech from the Oval Office Americans WOULD BE REMINDED OF THE FALSE PROMISES that proceeded this series of false promises. It also was not in any other room that would be recognizable as having a feeling of power. He didn't want to remind us.
How low have we sunk? You know what else was not in the speech. Do you know what symbol that once referred to power and hope and dominance and good was missing? The symbol that now is a somber reminder of failed promises and the lives and treasure wasted in the name itself? The American Flag. Absent because we might be reminded of previous lies spread from this President's mouth under the shadow of a giant flag.
And what took the flag's place as a backdrop. No slogans. No troops (thank God). No members of any party. No 'Mission Accomplished' banner. A simple, ornate water pipe. A bong.
And looking like the scared and unsure child that he is, the President tricked us again. The conversation we will have now is to surge or not to surge. To call it a surge or an escalation. A month ago it was to stay or to go. We lose.
I am now no longer going to worry about it. I will opt to enjoy the rest of my life in the empire that we have become: Rome II. I will now write strictly about music, dancing, games, books, drinking, and general fun historical facts. But the political thing is over. I mean it. Over.
Until the presidential campaigns start.
Jan 8, 2007
I have been in awe the past few weeks listening to this special breed of politicos glossing over the sacrifice in both life and money of Americans with callous and surreal explanations. The type of shit that would have flunked my sorry ass out of the Debate 101. I have a few examples here I would like to share with you. Feel free to share your faves in the comments section. The pickings are plentiful this time of year.
Example #1: Fran Townsend (Homeland Security Advisor) to Ed Henry (CNN W.H. Corr.)
"HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick! This is the kind of argument that gets children beaten. Honest to Betsy, I had to go to the original transcript (link above) to ensure that this is truly what came out the mouth of our HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR.
TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure."
I have some follow up toast for Little Miss Looney Tunes to spread some of the old neo-con raspberry jam on. How many have fucking died chasing Ozzy through the dry deserts of Afghanistan to have their lives irreversibly changed forever? Besides Pat Tillman. Do you even keep track of that shit? Let me guess. No. That would not be a homeland security question. You were busy taking breast milk away from mothers to stop terrorism and shampoo bottles from models to stop, I don't know, the twinge of anger I get when I see a full head of hair. Pleasure me with one more question: What color is the fucking alphabet in your world? I know the answer will be equally as inane as the question but at least I won't care.
Example #2: Joe Lieberman (Senator from Connecticut)
"Even those opposed to the surge, he said, “ought to at least let us try it.”Holy Joe, you are a more dishonest than most snake oil salesmen. I single handedly blame you more than anyone else for each and every death that has occurred in Iraq. Allow me to explain Mr. What's-the-worst-that-can-happen Asshole. You lost the election for Gore. You were only nominated VP because you bad mouthed a President who got a hummer in office then defended a President who has killed thousands in a meaningless war which has made more terrorists and the US more hated and less safe. You voted and defended this war repeatedly. And now that it is going badly and over 3000 have died you want to send more men and women into battle "to at least try it."? You half-wit. The worst that can happen is more death of United States citizens. How does that sit in your tin yarmulke you little war-monger. And you got reelected? What has happened to my beloved home state of CT? Killre has given up on the Cubs? Well, guess what, I give up on the state of Connecticut. Harder to spell but equally as moronic.
“The worst that could happen,” he continued, is that this policy could become another partisan flashpoint in Washington.
"But One F," Joe would argue, "don't you see? This is just a political flashpoint."
Joe, you snail-stain, not everything is about you. Families are being torn apart because of your "let's give it a try" attitude. You, sir, have no decency.
Example #3: President George W. Bush (43rd President of the United States)
"I will not withdraw [from Iraq] even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me."Well first of all I am glad that he not taking advice from his drunken, hooligan daughters. Either that or his drunken, hooligan daughters are no longer supporting him. It's good to seem him toss the side the opinions and cares of every single adviser, military personnel, diplomat, congressperson, friend, former president, and expert and be happy to know that he has the love of his murderous wife and a dog. I have some advice which you can ignore, Mr. President. The dog would love you if you vomited on the carpet. In fact, if I know my dogs, he would probably like you more for having fed him. Maybe someone in your corner would support you if you did the right thing. Try it. Not much fun but you do sleep better at night.Alright. That's it rave over.
Jan 7, 2007
In case you missed it, one of Illinois' native sons wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times last week. Retired General John M. Shalikashvili, an alumnus of Bradley University and a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for an official end to the Pentagon's official ban preventing gays and lesbians from serving in the armed forces and, consequently, to their unofficial policy of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell."
It should perhaps be noted that Shalikashvili's tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was from 1993 to 1997, when "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" was adopted.
Bill Clinton, you may remember, sought to have the official ban lifted, only to have the issue, uh, blow up in his face. Clinton's suggestion was vociferously opposed by up-standing, god-fearing, all-American, family-valuing types who are --let us make peace with the truth, Brothers and Sisters-- Just Plain Better than the rest of us. You know: People like Mark Foley... or any of the dozens of political types who, when they get down on their knees and pray --as they so often tell us they do-- have to be careful not to do so too near their closet, lest the skeleton that's in there slip them an all too welcome bone. In other words, real, uh, straight shooters.
In the Times article, Shalikashvili first admitted that he'd supported maintaining the official ban at the time, mostly because the idea of lifting it was so controversial. He then said that "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" was a "compromise... [that] was a useful speed bump that allowed temperatures to cool for a period of time while the culture continued to evolve."
I like that sentence; I really do: "While the culture continued to evolve."
In other words, "Even ignorant people can learn, if you give them enough time."
Shalikashvili's main thesis was this: "I now believe that if gay men and lesbians serve openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces."
He also opined that it was "inevitable" that the ban will, eventually, be lifted.
I agree. In fact, my math says it will happen sooner, rather than later. We know --by both their actions and their words-- that This Blinkin' Administration doesn't like homosexuals and seeks to discriminate against them. We also know --by their actions, which run contrary to their words (bald-faced lies)-- that This Blinkin' Administration has absolutely no respect for the men and women serving in the armed forces and seeks to use them as cannon fodder so that Halliburton can pocket more of your tax dollars. It seems only logical, therefore, that they would decide to use more members of one group to swell the ranks of the other.
II. Yours For the Asking.
Apparently, at least one National League franchise has heard the news...
You might recall that Yours Truly --having become disgusted (again) with the doings of the [Censored], [Unutterable], Bogus [Stool-heads] and, in particular, their choice of "Loopy" Lou Pinella as manager-- is shopping around for a new ballclub to root for this season. Imagine how full of myself I became, then, when I received in the mail a fan magazine from the Los Angeles Dodgers, a.k.a. Baseball America's "Organization of the Year."
Imagine, too, how much it amused me to note that the cover photo was of Nomar Garciaparra being mobbed by his teammates as he touched home plate after one of --yes, I said "one of"-- his game-winning home runs. On the inside cover, an open letter from a couple of the higher-ups in the organization also mentioned his game-winning grand slam on Fan Appreciation Day-- a game that One F and I and several others attended in connection with the First Annual Blasphemes Convention.
How I remember that day! How I remember being chauffeured to the ballpark and escorted directly to our luxurious block of seats along the first base line... Okay, actually, we caught a ride from a friend and wandered three-quarters of the way around the ballpark before finding that we'd been stuffed into a little bat cave of a concrete crevice in the right field corner. Not "The Batcave," mind you, "a bat cave." Big difference.
The magazine also features an interview with --get this-- near-Cub Rafael Furcal, a.k.a. the "Man Who Broke Derrek Lee's Wrist." After that, pretty much every page exhorts me to "Get Your Tickets Now!"
Patience, oh, Blue and Lah-lahd ones. If I think your ballclub looks good on Opening Day, don't worry, I'll be among the first ones on the bandwagon.
Bud Selig must go... sooner, rather than later.
Jan 4, 2007
Jan 3, 2007
- Watching Fox News last weekend I saw the "Death of a President" banner across the bottom of the screen and honestly thought it was for Saddam. My wife then informed me it was for Ford. I said, "Pardon?" and chuckled to myself.
- Can't help wondering after seeing this if Jesus' second coming will be in the form of a Kimono Dragon. If so, and the church won't let it in for Easter Sunday, will he cast a curse on the church? I hear that kinda thing happens in Chicago but I am unsure about London.
- This dude walks around with the original rules of basketball in a beaten up attache case. Quote of the piece you ask: "One time I thought I left the rules at a Hooters in Kansas City." I did that with a wedding ring once.
- Remember that guy who is now a Supreme Court justice? Well, he has a cause. Seems that Judge Roberts believes that there low pay has created a "constitutional crisis." It is so hard for a judge to live on between $165,200 - $212,100. Eating only Ramen noodles for a lifetime appointment can make you do stuff like approve of torture and believe in Executive branch complete rule even when you are in one of the other three branches.
- The history of religion in 90 seconds. A Cap'n type special.
Jan 2, 2007
Underneath this paragraph, you will find my first contribution of 2007. I apologize for the length-- I know what a drag that can be. In an attempt to make it more reader-friendly, I've broken it into "chapters." Hopefully --if you feel even slightly compelled to slog your way through it, but aren't able to do so in one sitting-- this will make it easier to find where you last left off...
I have a friend who calls them Stupid, Useless Vehicles.
That designation would only be a little bit clever if all it did was express his disgust with the flocking, dumb animal, herd mentality of a great majority of the people who own them-- not because they're sporty (they aren't), not because they're utilitarian (ditto), but because they're trendy. Likewise, it would only be a little bit clever if all it did was articulate his frustration with the inconvenience and, yes, very real danger they pose to the rest of us due to their size and the fact that they are so often operated with such an appallingly high mixture of ignorance and arrogance. What makes the phrase "Stupid, Useless Vehicles" truly clever, though, is how accurate a description it is.
By now, no doubt, you have heard the heroic saga of the heroic James Kim, the heroically citified San Francisco tech writer and editor for CNET Networks and heroic father of two who heroically got his heroic self --and his family-- heroically stuck in the snowbound Klamath Mountains of southwestern Oregon. If so, then you have heard how he heroically sat on his heroic [posterior] for seven heroic days, waiting heroically for someone to come along and save his... well, his heroic [posterior] before finally, heroically, wandering away with some vague, aimless, heroic notion of either walking heroically out of the wilderness or dying in the heroic attempt.
In case you haven't heard: He died in the... heroic attempt.
No, dammit, I'm not talking about those three Extreme Idiots who died in a snow storm on Mount Hood, which is also in Oregon. That was a different situation. Those guys knew what they were getting into. They knew it was dangerous. The danger, in fact, is why they did it.
James Kim, however, didn't know what he was getting himself and his family into. And therein lies my point: He should have.
In the days that followed James Kim's death from hypothermia, the disappointed searchers choked up over the tragedy of it all and echoed each other in calling him a hero. The media, of course, took to that syrupy slop like the pigs they are, and it was juuust starting to become nauseating when something newer, and therefore shinier, caught their attention and they completely forgot about James Kim as if he had never lived. Or died.
While all the cameras and microphones were still available, however, Oregon State Police Lieutenant Gregg Hastings held forth with a definitive press conference in which he said that what had happened to the Kim family was tragic and regrettable, but it was just one of those things. Then he rather pointedly proclaimed, "James Kim did nothing wrong."
Uummm, actually, Lieutenant, James Kim did any number of things wrong.
What's more, I think you know that.
You just won't say so, because you don't want to speak ill of the dead.
I, on the other hand, feel no such compunction...
On November 17th, the Friday before Thanksgiving, James Kim packed his wife, Kati, and their two daughters and what he thought was enough luggage for about ten days into his silver-colored (gray) Saab four-wheel-drive station wagon and left San Francisco, headed for Seattle. He had already made several mistakes before he even crossed the Bay Bridge.
The first one, of course, was buying a trendy car.
The second was believing Saab when they told him his trendy little car was a "four-wheel-drive station wagon." In the words of Bugs Bunny, "But there ain't no such animal." Seriously: Four-wheel-drive station wagon is an oxymoronic phrase. Someone should file a class-action lawsuit against Saab for claiming such a thing really exists. Buyer beware: Trendy little cars are not designed to take the family off-roading, armed only with their tourist clothes. They are designed to be trendy. Period.
James Kim's third mistake was not packing properly for the trip. Consider: His destination was Seattle, 800 miles due north and the unofficial capitol of the Pacific Northwest-- widely acknowledge to be a particularly rainy region. The trip was to last from mid to late November, which is the rainy season on the left coast-- with winter just around the corner. Yet James and his family took along very little wet-weather gear, and virtually no cold-weather gear. Big mistake-- even if nothing had gone wrong.
Nothing went drastically wrong the first week. The Kims cruised north, then north and, finally, north: Up through Shasta country and over majestic Siskiyou Pass into Oregon and then on across the wide Columbia River into Washington State. They spent most of that first week with relatives in Seattle, staying through Thanksgiving Day. On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, they said their good-byes and headed south again.
It's roughly 170 miles from Seattle to Portland, where they had lunch with an old friend. It's about that same distance from Portland to Roseburg, Oregon, where they stopped for dinner. They ate at Denny's. If they had known it was the last hot food any of them would see for more than a week, they probably would have been more selective.
As I said before, this was the rainy season. On that fateful Friday night, as the Kims finished dinner and headed back onto the highway, a massive storm front was whipsawing in off the cold north Pacific, deluging the coast and low valleys with rain, and dumping large amounts of heavy, wet snow in the mountains.
Four miles south of Roseburg, James Kim made his key mistake-- the one where the whole trip started to go bad.
James and Kati were planning on spending a day or so at an upscale lodge (another oxymoron) near Gold Beach, Oregon, on the now darkened and wind-whipped Pacific coast. To get there, they planned to take State Highway 42 west from Interstate 5. It was a route that would deliver them to the coast highway somewhere near Coos Bay, where they could again turn south. It wasn't a bad plan, but James missed the turnoff.
Despite the fact that I see this sort of thing every damned day, I still find it unfathomable. Because, you see, James Kim did not miss a "turnoff."
It's a matter of connotation. Use of the word "turnoff" in this instance is imprecise, even misleading. It's a toss-up whether the few media types who bothered to tell this part of the story chose that word by accident, because they are sloppy reporters, or on purpose, because they feel that misleading the public is perfectly alright so long as it makes for a "better" story.
A "turnoff," I think you'll agree, calls to mind a pocked and narrow country road, jutting sharply away from another country road stark and sudden and gone, several miles outside of Nowhere Junction. If you're lucky, a "turnoff" might have one tiny sign marking its existence. It is nailed to an old wooden post over yonder. On a dark night, you'd have to stop and get out and tramp through long roadside grass and bramble and shine a flashlight on it to read it.
In short, a "turnoff" is easy to miss.
What James Kim missed that night, however, was not a dark, narrow, half-hidden country road. No, he missed a big ol' honkin', football-field-wide, very well-lit exit ramp off of a major Interstate highway.
One can only assume that the main reason he missed the exit was because, more to the point, he missed the exit signs: At least two --and more likely three-- big, bright, cloverleaf-green highway signs, taking up more square feet than the average domestic kitchen, lit by two or three or maybe even four flood-lamps and embedded with reflective material. The damned things practically glow in the dark.
Especially the lettering. Yes, that's right: The signs have writing on them-- tall, white, reflective letters and numbers in an easy-to-read font, set in sharp contrast to the rich green background. Those of you who've ever taken half a dozen split seconds to read one already know this: They can be chock-full of information...
Exit numbers, for instance. Exit numbers that, by absolutely no coincidence whatsoever, correspond directly with the nearest mile marker-- so you can almost never go more than about 65 seconds (usually less) on any Interstate without knowing how far away your exit is...
Highway numbers and/or street names, so you'll know which road this ramp takes you to...
Map/compass directions: North, south, east, west-- so you'll know which direction you'll be going...
Many highway signs list major destinations along a given route. Coos Bay, for example, or Pompey's Pillar or Fancy Gap or, uh, Ninety Proof or --I don't know-- Comcast (or DirecTV or whatever that town in Texas changed its name to)...
Some signs even have broad-brush diagrams of the interchange, like simplistic, large-scale maps hanging over your hood. Most of them have, at the very least, a large, canted, extremely phallic-looking arrow, leaning like the Tower of Pisa, explaining in the most basic symbology that if you want to go this way, then you should go... this way.
No, brothers and sisters, James Kim did not miss a "turnoff." He missed a major-league interchange. If I were to characterize it not as a "mistake," but as a "blunder," how would that be for connotation?
As I said, missing the exit for highway 42 was a key mistake. Had it not happened, the Kims' vacation would have proceeded largely as planned. The next mistake, though, would compound the problem.
I don't know how far James and Kati Kim drove before one or both of them realized they'd missed their exit. I don't know if Kati was the only one to look at their Official Oregon Department of Transportation Highway Map, or if James looked at it too. I don't know the dynamics of their relationship: I don't know whose decision it was to keep going south. I'm gonna hang it on James, though, because that's the kind of guy I am. It was, perhaps, the most crucial decision of the trip. Indeed, it may have been one of the most crucial decisions of their entire life together... because it was the wrong one. Rather than backtrack and pick up Highway 42 West on the second try, James decided to keep pressing south and try to pick up a thin gray line on the map called Bear Camp Road, outside the small town of Merlin, Oregon. The map, by the way, had the following notation regarding Bear Camp Road: "May be Closed in Winter." Perhaps the Kims missed the notation... or maybe they just chose to ignore it.
It was getting late when James piloted his Saab four-wheel-drive station wagon down the grade known as Sexton Mountain Pass and took the exit toward Merlin, about three miles away. Having grown up and lived in a city all his life, he may have expected to find an open gas station in town. Then again, it might not even have occurred to him to look for one. In either case, he neglected to fill his tank before leaving the Interstate. Another crucial error.
They found Bear Camp Road without any trouble, and turned west. For the first eight or ten miles, the road closely followed the Rogue River. They passed the tiny town of Galice --a hamlet, really, barely a speck on the map-- and the road veered away from the river and began to climb into the rugged Klamath Mountains. The rain quickly turned to snow, and it came down fast and wet.
At some point early on, on that winding, climbing road, James and/or Kati spotted a roadsign that gave them pause. It was the kind of sign that is usually squarish and bright yellow with stark, black letters-- the kind of sign that begins with a word like "Attention" or "Warning." In this case, the sign warned that the road they were on was subject to closure due to heavy and/or drifting snow. It was the same thing the map would have told them earlier, had they heeded it.
They decided to turn around.
You might want to read those two sentences again and let them sink in. I'll wait.
They decided to turn around... but they couldn't.
James Kim, it seems --the man who thought there really was such a thing as a "four-wheel-drive station wagon," the man who was quickly learning the hard way that trendy, sport utility lites are merely trendy and not much else, the man who took his family the better part of a thousand miles due north in the latter half of November without wet- or cold-weather clothing, the man who had failed to properly read a key highway sign, and a map, and a gas gauge-- James Kim, it seems, couldn't execute a simple three-point turn when his life literally depended on it. Not even with the benefit of (light-duty) four-wheel-drive, nor the fact that his was the only vehicle on the road.
Unable to turn back (unbelievable as that sounds), they kept going-- higher and farther into the mountains. They had put Galice, that last little niche of humankind, about 10 miles behind them when bad luck took over: They, uh, they missed a turnoff.
This time, it really was a missed turnoff. Bear Camp Road forked. James could have stopped the car and tramped through the wet, driving snow and wiped off the tiny brown and white sign that was nailed to the old wooden post like an afterthought. Having no --ahem!-- having no wet- or cold-weather gear, however, it would be understandable if he was reluctant to do so. Even if he had, it might not have done any good: The sign is a bit confusing. It stands in the middle of the Y formed by the two forks and has the word "Coast" on it, followed by a squat little arrow that points... straight up. Hardly definitive. Besides, the sign is so small, and the snow was coming down so heavily, it's unlikely that either James or Kati saw it at all.
They could have tried to turn around, again. The intersection of the forks afforded more space to maneuver. Hell, maybe they did try... but couldn't.
They could have simply parked there at the fork and waited until morning. But it had been a long, long day (and night) and it was snowing unlike anything they'd ever seen. They were tired, anxious, lost... and low on gas.
The fork to the right seemed to be the wider of the two. James and Kati presumed that it must be the main road, and that's the way they went.
It isn't the main road. It's just a logging road. Blazed by a major logging company and used by the forestry service, it is poorly maintained. Usually, access to it is blocked by a heavy gate: Two yellow-painted, pipe-like, iron arms --each one braced by a shorter, angled, pipe-like strut-- stretch across the road, coupled to each other by a simple padlock. On that Friday night, however, when the Kims made their wrong turn, the gate was swung wide. Sometime in the hours or days preceeding their arrival at the fork, some numb-nuts had cut the padlock with a set of bolt cutters. I don't know what other sorts of vandalism was then perpetrated by said numb-nuts in the vast tracts of wilderness beyond the gate, but rest assured it was almost certainly pointless and unimaginative.
James guided the Saab down the steadily deteriorating road for nearly 10 more miles before coming to another fork. To his eye, this one was unmarked. (Actually, it is marked, but you have to be privy to the forestry service's mapping codes to make any sense of the marker.) Frustrated, exhausted, James finally gave up and parked the car for the night. It was sometime after 2 a.m. Saturday morning, November 25th.
Much has already been written and said about the Kim family's subsequent encampment, so I won't go into too much detail. They stayed in that spot for more than a week. That far out in the boondocks, of course, there wasn't a flicker of hope for cellphone service. Thoroughly miserable weather dominated the entire week. James, Kati and their two daughters hunkered down and hoped. They ran out of gas. They ran out of food. They began to run out of things to burn for heat, and they began to run out of time.
They say --whomever They are-- They say that if you are ever stranded like that, on the back side of nowhere, in some rugged and largely untamed wilderness with your car --which apparently happens more often than you'd think it does, proving once again that America is a stupid country-- you are supposed to stay with your vehicle. There are two main reasons given for this course of, uh, inaction. The first one: Shelter. The second one: Searchers will be able to find your car much more easily than they'll ever be able to find you, whether you are out wandering around in circles or, worse, temporarily sequestered under a makeshift lean-to.
As I see it, though, there are times when this strategy simply doesn't apply, because it presupposes that you are being looked-for. James and Kati Kim had no solid reason to expect that anyone was looking for them-- certainly not right away, and certainly not in the Klamath Mountains somewhere off of Bear Camp Road.
They consulted the map. A lot. There wasn't much else to do (except, of course, get the hell out of there). It was a highway map, not good for pinpointing their position on some logging road in the mountains, but it was all they had. Already tired and lost when they'd headed in, they had virtually no sense of distance or direction. Studying the map, they concluded they were about four miles from Galice.
Four miles. Even in bad weather, at high altitude, that is not an impossible hike. It would be an easier hike, of course, if James had had --ahem!-- the right clothing: Boots, heavy coat, hat. He had none of these. What he did have, though, was a suitcase full of everyday clothes. If he'd have put on, say, three pairs of socks and five or six shirts and fashioned another shirt into a hat... Well, some people will tell you that layering is better protection against the cold, anyway.
Instead, James Kim chose to wait.
And wait. And wait.
And wait. And wait. And wait.
And with each passing hour, his family's circumstances grew more dire.
Finally, on Saturday morning, December 2nd, after more than seven full days of waiting, he decided to do something. With more hope than knowledge, he told Kati he'd be back in about five hours, and started walking. He never returned.
James Kim had a far longer hike ahead of him than he realized. He and Kati had estimated that they were about four miles from Galice. In truth, the town lay nearly twenty miles away. Even Bear Camp Road, where they had made their wrong turn and where there was at least some chance of being seen and picked up by a passing motorist, was nearly ten miles.
James only made it about half that distance --five miles-- along the logging road. Then, for reasons that will probably never be known for sure, he abruptly turned left and stumbled down a steep embankment into the deep canyon cut by Big Windy Creek.
Some have speculated that he mistook the creek for the Rogue River, or that he realized it would lead him to the river. Disheartened by the length of the journey, and knowing that the river ran past the town, he may have fooled himself into thinking that following the river would be shorter, or easier. If that was his thinking, he was wrong.
Another possibility: James Kim was immeasurably fatigued. He wasn't a hiker. He wasn't used to the high altitude. He had already spent seven torturous days fighting the cold and the wet and the worry, subsisting on a diet of wild berries, melted snow, and unanchored hope. He may have made his abrupt turn from the road simply because he was light-headed, even delirious.
Or there may have been a much more concrete reason. Searchers later found bear tracks along the logging road. No-one, in this day and age, is a good enough tracker to ascertain whether or not the bear was on the road on the same day, let alone the same hour, as James Kim was... but it's a possibility. A chance encounter with a wild bear would be daunting, to say the least. While a black bear --which is the type found in those parts-- is not as big, bad and belligerent as, say, a grizzly, they aren't exactly even-tempered, either. The undisputed king of his turf, a black bear is bigger and stronger than a man, several times over. And he knows it. He's also faster in a footrace, a better swimmer, a better tree-climber, and can sense fear and weakness more acutely than a professional poker player. Having a high-powered rifle with you would improve your chances, a little. It had better be a damned good shot, though, or you'll just make him mad.
If James did encounter a bear, and if the bear acted threateningly toward him, then a controlled plunge --of nearly seventeen hundred feet!-- into Big Windy Creek Canyon may have seemed the best avenue of escape.
Once he was down there, he couldn't get out again. He didn't give up, though. Reports vary, but James walked approximately thirteen miles in all. Most of those miles were arduous: Through the log- and rock-strewn canyon bottom, in and out of near-freezing water.
The search for the Kim family began on Friday, December 1st. It had been more than six days since they'd exited I-5 and headed into the mountains.
James began his ill-fated trek the next morning, unaware if or when a search had gotten underway. He told Kati and the girls he'd be back by early afternoon.
Two days later, Kati and her daughters were rescued. They had been stranded for more than nine days. The helicopter pilot who first spotted them said he'd been following footprints in the snow. The footprints were James'.
Two days after that, James' body was found in Big Windy Creek. Virtually trapped inside the canyon, the terrain had forced him northward-- back in the general direction of the car. He froze to death, in fact, less than a mile from his family.
Now, don't get me wrong...
The effort James Kim put into saving his family --once he finally did decide to do something about their plight-- was, indeed, heroic. And his death was a tragedy.
What makes it a tragedy, though, is that it was so stupid and useless. And I take exception to the contention that "James Kim did nothing wrong." Of course he did. Some may call me a blasphemer for saying such things. I refer those people to the big word at the top of the page.
Besides, not pointing out James Kim's mistakes --if only so that others might learn from them-- is far more blasphemous than doing so.
P.S.... Bud "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" Selig must go.