Night Of The Living Entropy

RpodInPark

[Just to give you the right perspective.  We are a small fish in a large sea of RV’s]

[en-tro-py n, pl -pies  1 : the degree of disorder in a system  2 : an ultimate state of inert uniformity]

     —Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, 2014 ed.

I recently completed reading Deep South by Paul Theroux.  He is, arguably, the best travel writer working today.  His Great Railway Bizarre set a very high standard for that genre.  In Deep South, he begins by reviewing the styles of other travel writers.  Historically, he says, the wanderer often writes of how hard the journey is and complains a great deal of the difficulties encountered.

“The local food was exotic but I had to close my eyes to take a mouthful.”

“The insects swarmed into my eyes and nostrils and ears in uncountable numbers.”

You get my point.  Theroux was saying that to complain was to miss the point of the journey.  A good book about a great journey is supposed to impart a flavor of the local dialect, food, and geography.  Most importantly, to me, is trying to listen to what a stranger has to say…listen for their story…listen to the local legends of the back roads and byways.

Sorry, but I’m going to turn away from Theroux’s fine advice and complain.  Not about where we have traveled but instead, of how we have traveled.

When people see our r-pod, the words we hear most are: “Oh, how cute is that?!”  I admit that it is indeed cute, but it doesn’t do a thing for trying to fit months of clothes, books and stuff into something that has rounded ends and no room for closets.

While Mariam has been away for a few days in New York City for meetings, I fully intended to work on my novel and have room to spread out and just think.  It didn’t work out that way.

Let’s start with this table I am writing this post from.  This space is either a table (for writing and eating) or its a bed…but it’s not both.  It takes time and effort to make the table into a bed…time I could be out looking at a cow, a horse or listening to a local tell me a tale or two.  So, to save me that effort, I’ve taken the bottom bunk (which is about three steps away from the table/bed, and moved the clothes (remember, no closets) to the table (when I’m not writing or eating), or to the top bunk, which is already piled with…stuff.

RpodTable

[My writing desk and dinner table and bed]

I will admit the lower bunk has a real “mattress” so that my back pain in the morning is not as intense as usual.  But, the back pain has been replaced by the pain on my forehead from knocking it against the bottom of the top bunk.  Laying in bed at night is a particular (and somewhat morbid) challenge.  I propped my head up on a pillow to read.  I looked up and saw the wood panel above me.  I measured the distance from the tip of my nose to the bottom of the top bunk.  I held my fingers apart and measured.  It was just shy of 4″.  I felt like I was the guest of honor at an open casket funeral.  Now I know how Bela Lugosi felt between takes of Dracula, while he waited for the cameras to be moved.  Now I know how Bela Lugosi feels now.

Bunk

[My sleeping arrangements]

BathroomDoor

[There is a bathroom/shower behind these towels]

About fifty feet from where I’m siting, is a large blue mobile home…a bus-like affair.  A woman ties her little black dog to the BBQ pole and goes off to do laundry or drives away to shop.  The dog yelps and barks until she returns.  And, I’m supposed to concentrate on maintaining a narrative line in my novel-in-progress?  I can’t.  I’m easily distracted.  So, I escape to a nearby Starbucks.  We have a ‘card’ so when I buy a Cold Brew or a hot dark roast, I feel like it’s free.  I sat yesterday in an overstuffed leather chair and began to take notes on my characters when a large number of students from the University of Texas at Arlington came in.  At a table near me, three young men were huddled around a laptop.  One of them was telling the other two about his new idea to create a website to help other people find websites.  I realize that this could be the next Zuckerberg, but he didn’t have to tell the entire coffee-house about how many pixels he was planning to use, or what CSS meant.

I came back here.  The dog was inside, but I could still him/her barking…in that plaintive yelp that means: “I’m annoying everyone around here, but I’m so cute!”

I waited for darkness.  There was a beautiful crescent moon in the western sky (I thought I was in the west??).  I decided to do a load of soiled clothes in the nice warm laundry room.  I was hoping to catch the State of the Union speech (our TV has no reception), but a heavy-set woman was watching a martial arts movie.  She had a cough that would frighten a brown bear.  I didn’t want to catch some strange Texas respiratory ailment, so I darted back and forth to the r-pod and the laundry, trying to win a game or two of Scrabble with a high school friend, Jackie B.

Which brings me to our car.  The rear hatchback has been stuck since early December, 2015 while we were in Florida.  Just for fun, I tried pushing the button and much to my surprise, it opened!  I lifted it up and a bag promptly fell out and a bottle of red wine broke on our bumper.  I sprayed WD-40 all over the latch and succeeded in mixing that with the spilled wine.  That’s why I was doing laundry last night.

I didn’t have a banner day on Tuesday.  I wish I was back in Vicksburg, sitting in the back of The Tomato Place and chatting with Mallory, Luke and Angela.  Life was so much simpler a week ago.

But, y’all know where I’ll be on Friday night.  I’ll be in Austin, doing the Texas 2-Step…making strange squeaks with my rubber bottom soles.

My birthday is coming in May.  I want a new and bigger RV…and I want a pair of cowboy boots.  Just like the ones I had when I was five years old.  I wasn’t in Texas, I was in my backyard.  And, my dog, King, didn’t bark…to much.

PinkRoseOfTexas

[“You can’t lose if you close a blog with flowers”. My grandfather once told me.  These are roses,  They’re not yellow, but they’re from Texas]

Playing Scrabble On Facebook With Your Daughter: The Agony And The Ecstasy

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There is on odious, evil and insistent karma that floats and follows me everywhere.  Like gnats on a hot afternoon in the Adirondacks, they follow me about in my own yard to plague my very soul.  Gnats (or is it the equally noxious black flies?) that have been known to drive a tundra dwelling musk ox to commit suicide.  I have lost sleep.  I dread the coming of nightfall because of the waiting nightmares that will make me wake up screaming and soaked with my own salty sweat.

And, it’s not the heat in the room because it’s -38 F outside our thin pane of glass.  The interior of our  house sometimes looks like a set from “Dr. Zhivago”.  But that’s okay, after all it’s only the end of April.

What am I paying for?  Why can’t I await the Final Judgement to pay for my moral laxity?  What is it that plagues me so deeply and causes me to see the whole world in different shades of gray?

I am about to confess for the first time the reason for my anxiety and self-doubt.  You see, several years ago, I made a dreadful mistake.  I am making this public, here on my very own Blog Platform on WordPress.

I challenged my daughter to play Scrabble on the computer.  The computer is necessary because she and her husband, and my grandson live 3,000+ miles away, in Orting, Washington.

Oh, you say, isn’t that grand.  A dad playing perhaps the most famous and popular word game in the English-speaking world with his daughter. (Please don’t ask about Candy Crush Saga!)  What a great bonding experience…you say.

In theory, you have a point.  But in practice, the naked facts speak for themselves.  She beats me far more than I beat her.  In fact, her current win percent, in late April, 2015 is 59%.  Mine on the other hand is 45%.

Some back story is needed here:  My daughter wanted to attend a small private Liberal Arts college in the Northeast.  She did.  So, we both have undergraduate degrees.  I, on the other hand, came within four credits to completing my M.A.T. degree.  But, after I began teaching full-time, I took graduate level courses in many different locations, accumulating enough credits to equal a Ph.D. (Which I don’t have, but that’s another story.)

To further complicate the issue, I am 25 years older than my daughter.  I read a lot.  She reads a lot.  But if you do the math, I have 25 more years of books under my belt than she.  At my present reading rate, I have read approximately 576 more books than my daughter.  I don’t know how many books she reads per year but if you subtract her total from my total, I still have the advantage.

Not only that…I am a published author.  Doesn’t that count for something?  Apparently not.

Here is a “typical” game between the two of us:

I open with EYING which is worth 9 points.  She will come back with YTTERBIAS which, as we all know, is worth 14 points.  After studying the board for 20 minutes, I’ll put up SAD (4 points).  She will play BOBBEJAAN (22 points) before I can get back from the bathroom.  That’s probably a Bingo, so it’s really worth about 125 points.  Now, after 4 moves, the score is 139 for my daughter and 13 for me.  You don’t have to be a bookie from Hialeah to know where the odds are going.  And, speaking of Bingos, she has 76.  Is it worth mentioning that I have 30?

Can anyone out there feel my pain?

One time I jokingly made a mention about how can she beat her dad so bad after I spent years changing her diapers.  I even paced the Waiting Room like a good father does on TV while she was being born.  Her reply was that I should be proud of her education and brains.

Believe me, I am very proud of her in so many ways.  She’s very smart and very well-read, it’s well known.  But, does she have to be so morally correct and not “allow” me to win?  That would be nice once in a while, say on my birthday or Father’s Day.

When I recently mentioned this to her, she said something to the effect that it is part of the American Dream for the younger generation to become better Scrabble players than their forefathers.  Did I miss something in Civics Class in high school?

So, it must be something I did to get this karma-thing following me.  Did I not mash her peas enough when her little baby teeth had more gums than teeth?  Was it because I woke her up from a sound sleep to let her see Bob Dylan in a rare TV appearance on Letterman sometime about 35 years ago?

Then it hit me.  I remembered what it was I did that brought the negativity of the Universe upon my head.

I recall the night.  It was in 1983.  The place was Danbury, Connecticut.  I took her to see “Superman III”.  It happened there, right in front of her eyes that I did a despicable thing.  Something I have felt profound shame about for 32 years.

I am confessing this in public, right here on my Blog site.  Now the world can judge me for what I really am.  Now the blackness of my soul will be visible for all to see, like a goiter on my neck.

I looked into the ticket seller’s eyes and lied about my daughter’s age.  I shaved a year off her age to save $2.00.  Yes, she saw and heard the whole thing.  Yes, I did this thing.  Yes, I am sorry.

But, I can’t turn back the hands of time.  I must bear this smudge of sin, so awful and so wrong, that proper folk should turn away from me in horror, like I am some kind of vocabulary-challenged Quasimodo.

I must carry this until my walk on this earth is complete.  Then I will have to take the Ultimate Consequences at the Gate of St. Peter.

But, the problem is not completely solved.  None of the above explains why my daughter’s husband beats me almost every time we play.  The rare time when I do win (both times) I feel like having a tee-shirt made up with the message: “I BEAT MY SON-IN-LAW AT SCRABBLE”.  On the back, I’ll print his Social Security Number.

I will end this with another short confession.  My wife and I drove all the way to Orting, Washington to visit my new grandson and his parents.  But, I had a second motive.  I was determined to locate the Scrabble Dictionary they used.

I couldn’t find it, but I have my ideas.

The only place I failed to look was the bottom of the dirty diaper pail.

 

The Scrabble Game at the End of the World

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This title of this post is something of a misnomer.  On an oblate spheroid like the earth, there is no “end”.  It’s been said that an ant crawling around on a basketball can do so forever…infinity…it’s just stuck on one dimension, but still.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the concept of the “end of the world”, not in a rapture sense, of course, is really quite fascinating.  Think about it.  If you were a merchant seaman or solo sailor and you sailed off the end of the earth, it could ruin your whole day.  And the water.  Where does the ocean go at the end? It must flow off the edge like a celestial waterfall beyond human comprehension.  But where does the water actually go?

But I digress.

For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, we tend to think that’s where all the action is.  I mean, who really lives in Paraguay except escaped ex-Nazi’s?  We’ve seen these fascinating photos of Antarctica, but we all know those pictures of Robert Falcon Scott, Shackleton and others were probably taken on a sound stage somewhere in Nevada.  But, several months ago, I happened to take on a Random Player in my search for a Scrabble partner.  I was getting tired of getting beaten, endlessly and without mercy by my son-in-law (isn’t there some kind “handicap” situation given to gray-haired fathers-in-law?), my daughter and my wife.  All of these people, who are supposed to love me in some way, always found ways to put letters on the screen to make words that I truly doubt really exist.  I’m a well-read literate kind of guy, but some of the words, Bob, my son-in-law, came up with stretch credulity to the limit.

So, my new friend, I’ll call her Jackie (mainly because that’s her real name), happens to live in Australia.  Now I never played Scrabble, board game or otherwise with a citizen from Australia, ever!  I checked out her stats and saw she was only a few points ahead of me on the win percentage. Everyone else was about double my score.  Here, I thought, is someone who won’t play and run (one woman I challenged as a guest had something like 7,000 games and about 400 Bingos.  She beat the crap out of me and never played me again).  Jackie and I played a few games and we were more or less equally matched, though she beat me more than I did her.  We kept playing.  It got me thinking about Australia and I began to recall how at one time I thought of going there to see the country.  Then I found out just getting there would cost a billion dollars.  The flight alone takes about as long as a lunar mission.  Maybe someday…

I started recalling what I already knew about the place.  I know that Olivia Newton-John is an Aussie as well as several other actress/actors, I just couldn’t think of their names.  The only one I was familiar with was Crocodile Dundee.  I thought the character was interesting and fun to watch in the movies.  Then I found out that Crocodile Dundee was based on a real character.  That’s fine until I read the “real” one was shot and killed by Australian police in a stand-off.  He must have been an interesting guy…not that many people get taken out by the police during shoot-outs.  America, however, is nicely endowed with such characters like this, like Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger.

As a retired science teacher, I had a pretty good handle on the wildlife that lives in the Outback…but they don’t have names like the rest of the world.  We have bears and deer.  Germany has wild boars.  Africa has lions and elephants.  But in Australia!  Why can’t they just have regular animals with regular animal names?  No, the Aussies live amidst such creatures with names like: Galah, Frilled Necked Lizard, Dingo, Rainbow Larikeet, Phascogale (?), Osyter catcher, Quokka, Quoll, Dugong, Yabby, Wallaroo, Numbat and the Emu (great for the N.Y.Times crosswords), to name just a few.

And, what is it about the rabbits?  They brought in a brace of rabbits some decades ago and they bred.  Boy, did they breed.  When you say someone f#%ks like a rabbit, you’ve got a really hot ticket on your hands.  Then the rabbits ate all the grass in one part of the country so they had to build a rabbit-proof fence.  If you look at an aerial photograph of those areas, one side of the fence is actually green (that would be the grass), and the other side is denuded of any vegetation (that would be due to the fact that the rabbits ate everything).

Jackie and I are still playing against each other, sometimes the games are nail-biting and some times she buries me…every so often, I bury her.  After all, I went to England several times so I know what a QUID and a BLOKE are.  I’m just so smart.

Why am I telling you all this?  I consider it my mission in life to prepare people…that’s why I became a teacher.  So, if you ever find yourself playing Scrabble against someone from Australia, keep your Official Dictionary handy.

And, if you ever travel there, wear boots.  You just never know what’s down there by your foot beside rabbit crap.

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