Saturday, July 22, 2006

On the Road of Life there are Doughnuts

Last weekend I packed three generations of bunnies into a car the size of Utah and went venturing far afield. It was not unlike taking "being hit on the head" lessons for eight hours.

We made it. In good time and in good shape and the kids got tossed in the pool and because they had behaved themselves so well, their stone swimming belts were benevolently left behind.

Some of the benefits of driving a vehicle with its own capitol and legislature is that someone in Riyadh loves you. Another is the advantageous sitting position of being upon high and staring down at all the lowly others on the highway who had the misfortune of driving something that cannot blot out the sun. Its a seating height you can only get by strapping one of Mom's favorite Windsors to the roof of the '89 Taurus and grabbing your ski goggles 'cause it's Junebug season. Hey, just tell the Trooper you're auditioning for Granny in "The New Beverly Hillbillies."

You start to class drivers into two basic groups; boring and on their way, and those with a story to tell. The first are the ones you see all the time. Dad's got the wheel at the ten and two, Mom is looking for NPR on the radio, kids in the back playing Othello's tragic reliance on Iago. Or single guys and/or gals with a dorm room full of crap, or just on their way from the Seven Eleven with this week's losing lottery ticket. The cars are generally clean and bland and well taken care of and you smile and nod and go on your way.

Then there's the other group; these are the ones you wish you had tinted windows for because they are as alluring as a traffic accident in that they are truly awful but you just can't help but look. The black and rust pickup, three across on the bench seat, driver's got the wheel with his beer belly and they might have 18 teeth between the lot of them. There are chainsaws falling out of the gateless back and you don't want to know what's under the tarp. Sure, they're hogging the left lane doing all of fifty nine in a sixty five but let's just pass them on the right. Just this once.

A '91 something or other sedan-it could have started life as a Pontiac but has had enough Ford, VW and Nissan parts grafted on you start to wonder if the horn says "Fire Good!" when you blow it-comes up on your right with a driver that might have fresh parole papers stuffed in his shirt pocket and the woman next to him has emptied some Wal-Mart somewhere of an entire inventory of hair curlers. The children, they look to be in their late thirties, are stuffed in the back amidst partially completed taxidermy projects and have their faces pressed to the window glass with pleading expressions not unlike suffocating guppies. Lets pull of for a stretch break NOW guys, comes out of your mouth as you slam the turn signal like a cockroach on your breakfast platter.

Lastly there's the out of work oversize load escort vehicle. Its a beat to hell minivan, approved by New York State, for what I have no idea. The "Oversize Load" sign on the roof is folded down but one look in the front seat and you feel that that's in error. Someone of indeterminate sex turns around and starts rustling in the back seat. You hope in vain that they are adjusting a child's safety harness and are rewarded when they come back with the treasure of a couple of cold Genesee's from the chest. Aha, it must be lunchtime because it is that hour and plastic things are being unwrapped, their coverings added to the collection on the front dash that would call out the Department of Health if you had it at home. As you pass, you note that she's at the wheel with her thumb stuck through a sticky bun so she can hang on to the wheel and free the other hand for a Marlboro that no doubt will get launched at the next cop. Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy here but this bunch make rednecks look like the next graduating class at Stanford.

Are we there yet? Something you catch yourself saying a lot. To yourself. Under your breath.

Bunny on.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bed and Benevolence

All things being circular, I seem to be straying away from anonymous hotel rooms where nobody knows you, fewer people care and you generally don't get hauled to the sheriff's office if you get caught dancing to Motley Crue in your underwear in the parking lot with a woman named Mia.

Not that that's ever happened in exactly that order but you know the kind of places I mean; they answer the phone with a service mark sentence instead of hello and are just as happy to hand you back your Amex card and process your charges even though the magnetic strip on the back of the thing has been colored in black indelible marker 'cause you kind of put in one too many drink orders at the Foxy Lady.

"Hi and its a great day at the place not named after one of us who also happens to be the capitol of France!" Code for; "Get me out of this place, I was hoping to be a full time events planner by now!"

I've gotten back to the rustic charm and twentieth century simplicity of the bed and breakfast. Somewhere I haven't been since the Reagan years.

We used to be afficionados of these quaint little country hideaways with their charming, personable hosts who usually have more quirks, hangups and skeletons in their closets than people named Hannibal. Then you've got to figure the buildings they house you in themselves where you plug your electric razor in and Poughkeepsie goes dark for a few hours. Not that there are blatant code violations here but the liquor picturesquely kept on the eighteenth century sideboard is almost always gone with the fire inspector's annual visit. I've pelvic thrusted sinks because I completed the circuit on errantly wired but charming nonetheless bathroom light fixtures. Folks I have known have hailed rural fire companies with their ham-fisted efforts at lighting the perfect romantic fire. Hint: Ball up the newspaper, don't lay it out as a sheet atop the kindling or it will, as it did, majestically sail up the flue like heaven's spinnaker and plug the flue like one of Uncle Arthur's mammoth turds.

I'm glad to say that I got smart and stuck to gas fireplaces for my suggestive blazes but, alas, between turning on the nozzles and finding the damn jets with the extra long match, I pretty much almost fried my eyebrows off in the accumulated propane.

Probably the worst part about bed and breakfast's, aside from owner-innkeeper types who really should successfully finish couple's therapy before they trot their disfunctional relationship out for the general public, are the bathroom facilities. And the aforementioned Sparky Housecurrent episode aside, I'd rather have plates of eggs slam dunked at my table by the Missus while the man of the house drunkenly opines about the rednecks in town than face another 1903 water closet retrofit.

These are rooms with enough porcelain to outfit most morgues and water temperatures to match. Hot water is a myth, room temperature is a prayer. We once stayed in a place in Quebec where, as a nod to perfect bilingualism, taps ran both Cold and Chaud. What's more, the plumbing looks like it was designed as a Cyclops maze during one of the more spastic fits of Victorian design. I ran across something like this last weekend. A World War Two era U-boat could have been prepped to dive before I figured out how to get the suggestion of hot water out of the faucet. The plumbing was so foreign it reminded me of staying with a buddy who never got around to fixing his shower and as such getting clean meant plugging the bath faucet with a whittled champagne cork and a cat's cradle of rubber bands. He was lazy, these folks at the inn meant it.

Once you did cajole water out of the pipes, the stuff was so high in iron, that your ankles began to rust. I drank a glass of tap and some must have gotten into my fillings 'cause I had BBC Caribbean service playing between molars most of the night.

Things have a funny way of overlapping though and, as I'm back from my journey to a place where folks think a transom is just as good as a 12000 BTU air conditioner, my good sister is resting her head in a charming little cabin somewhere in upstate New York where the mosquitos have more nose art than the Enola Gay and breakfast comes with a tranfusion of O negative.

Ah the dog days.

Bunny on.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nope, It's Still Iowa

Every now and again I ruminate on the metaphysical or just plain wax weird and this is one of those nows.

Got to thinking about the concept of heaven this morning, and what actually drove it was remembering the panic I felt about the place when I was a kid. Back then, heaven was a physical place that pretty much, big people, adults in normal speak, went to. I was terrified of dying young and going to a place that was filled and probably outfitted by adults. I envisioned a huge, eternal waiting room. Kind of like a doctor's office where the kid's corner had a coloring book with most of the pages filled in and the rest torn and maybe a toy wooden pull duck with one wheel off center. I could simply not envision eternity amusing myself by pulling this parapalegic water fowl around for amusement. Not when they're making the Boss Hoss Silver Special Mustang as a Hot Wheel down here.

The old man had a beer glass with some undecipherable prattle on it about beer and heaven and so on. It also had a pretty nice graphic of some Bavarian looking types rolling around on clouds in what looked to be a heavenly scene. Get it? There's beer in heaven, you're happy, don't worry you can drink all you want and the men's room is, well...

Now this vision didn't impress me much either since I was pretty much a chocolate milk devotee at the time. So what if there's beer in heaven? It only attracts Bavarians and who needs more of them around? Next thing you know they'll be soaking manna in vinegar overnight the way they do with all their dreadful food down (or over if you want to be mystical about it) here. And one more thing to pull a string of disbelief. Going back to the beer glass graphic, these guys were all in lederhosen and that just killed me right there. Mom and Dad once put me in these testicle eroders and its a wonder I'm interested in women at all. I got sand down them once and sang soprano until the age of fifteen. The point being, if this is heaven, you're not going to be wearing these ball rasps.

A friend of mine once recounted how she mis-spelled Lederhosen (translated loosely: damn these things chafe!) Liederhosen (song pants) only to have a copy editor catch the error and spell it Leiderhosen (unfortunate pants).

A lot of people envision heaven as this cloudy, mystical place where you meet your ancestors and timeless questions are answered. Now, I know the caliber of relative I have here and quite frankly, the lot of them there can go disappear into another fog bank. Although I would like to ask the old man what he was thinking when he broadsided a three foot stack of cinderblocks with the Chevy. That was right after he put motor oil in the radiator. Not one of his better days.

And as to meeting those who have gone before you, forget it. If I go, I'm going to be among those waiting impatiently until Sandra Bullock and Sigourney Weaver get here. Can I have a show of hands? I mean, this is heaven, right?

Now if that doesn't put a song in your pants, nothing will.

Bunny on.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ahem (light on the starch)

I have, to this date, laundered:

-a tee shirt shilling Lasik surgery. I am still bespectacled, but a visiting college buddy, at least one that is not currently preserved in amber, seems to see just fine.

-the cutest little running socks, lined in powder blue and lime. I run, but my socks haven't seen the color white since the first Eisenhower administration.

-a thong.

-probably not mine.

-dancing monkey pattern confirms the above.

-a tee shirt touting an endangered species something or other and not restaurant, even though everyone knows Gila monster tastes just like chicken. Or rattlesnake.

Guys, I don't have a problem being your beautiful laundrette, but could you at least leave a couple of quarters on the kitchen table?

Bunny on, and easy on the bleach.

A Cup, A Cup, A Cup, A Cup

Last year, I was in Vancouver and had coffee around four in the afternoon with my friend Kathryn. It was a big, decorated mocha expresso double latte foamy with a chaser concoction that was artfully decorated in foam swirl art and the damn thing kept me up counting ceiling tiles in the drywall above the hotel bed.

I do coffee. From time to time, it does me. I like it polluted. Dirty as hell with cream and about a quarter pound of sugar in it. I like it strong too. You should be able to strip paint or polish chrome fenders with coffee and I can with mine. I've been approached by several alternative fuel companies for my coffee recipe as they want to start running the space shuttle on the stuff. Thumper likes her coffee a little weaker than mine and as a result cuts an average cup with tap water. I ask her to do this out of my line of sight for, as much as I've renounced organized religion, this sort of thing is an affront to a higher power somewhere.

Not that I'm against organized religion, its just that I like the suspense of not knowing who's going to say mass on a weekly basis. Hey, he's been headlining here since the seventies. Isn't it time to bring some other players out of repertory?

My coffee is a conscious rebellion against the stuff they pass off as coffee in the office. I am convinced that this is actually hot water that's been shown a picture of a bean. It's like airport highballs. You could put out a fire with a straight up whisky at LaGuardia.

I used to, immediately after college (that's the Cretacious era for those of you who are paying attention), own a fairly simple and honest coffeemaker. It was actually an upgrade from a dorm coffeemaker that I had bought and brewed about four small cups at a time. That machine was fine in that it was small, compact and just the thing for a New York City dorm suite. When I made coffee, I had to put my roommate's Selectric out in the hall. Things were that tight. The thing, as I said, made about four cups at a time. Immediately after school, when I was first working in the big city, four cups didn't get me into the shower. So Master Coffee was replaced by Mister Coffee and things were fine. It was an honest brewer. You put java in the filter, Jersey water (filtering out the medical waste, these were the eighties) in the reservoir, flip some switches and ba-doom; Joe a few minutes later.

This worked for a few years until I got married, moved in with her (yes, I tried to preserve my options) and my mother decided that a young couple couldn't cope with a coffeemaker that JUST made coffee! No no no! We had to step up in the world so when Christmas came around, we got a new, fancy, European pot that had more disclaimers than an Enron IPO. This thing timed, brewed, remembered (You haf had zwei too many tassen! Ztop drinkink now!) and woke us up with the smell of fresh coffee and fried circuits. Yes, less than one year into our tortured lives, Kaffeefuhrer blew out it's main heating element that made fresh hot coffee into tepid mud as it sat in a cold, New England kitchen. Wonderful. We took Schickeljava to the local repair joint, were referred to a special repair shop that was described as "just a little out of the way" but in truth an Argentinian plane crash in the Andes was closer and Coffee Fritz got repaired for about the cost of a new Mr. Coffee.

But repaired it was and Java Schultz served us for another few years until he got brew Alzheimer's and forgot when to make the stuff. One thirty in the morning on a Saturday? How about some coffee? Seven P.M? Never a better time! Off to the small kitchen appliance graveyard he went and we were off on the hunt for another maker. Found a Krups, which of course is a European consortium that used to make armarments but is lighter and friendlier now and has found a product line that doesn't make B-17 pilots toggle release switches in ceremonial flyovers.

Krupsy, for a few years, did what it was supposed to do, was easy on the eye and we had gotten him at a relative bargain price. Sort of like the EU. Then one day we left a geneaology book open and he traced his lineage back to a Fliegerabwehrkannone and we were toast, right along with the Mitsubishi toaster. Krupsy started a misinformation campaign that made Enigma look like a hidden word contest in the Sunday supplement. He shorted out his LCD display and gave us characters that looked more like heiroglyphics that the programmed time for coffee to start brewing. You either want a hot cup at six tomorrow, or this way to the secret temple of Isis. I was never clear on that.

Today, I'm back to a good old American Mr. Coffee. Simple, honest and able to boil up my brand of diesel strength Joe without any more attitude than Johnny Damon at Fenway. It has the designer asthetic of 5/8" copper plumbing pipe, it doesn't brew it up at a select hour for more than one day at a time and it keeps coffee in a POT and not a swishy carafe, or something else that might need an accent because it can't say in six letters what we can say in three. So there, and good for you America. You can brew up my Joe any Wednesday after lunch.

Happy Birthday.

Bunny on.

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