Monday, May 21, 2007


My parents thought it would be cute, when I was a child of six or so, to dress me in the native garb of my people.

The effect of this idea of cuteness was not unlike stencilling "teeny weiner" on your stomach with an appropriate arrow and making the boy go shirtless into his first grade classroom.

Which is to say mortification set in within ten to fifteen minutes.

The outfit chosen for me was a pair of Lederhosen. For non-teutonics, these are shorts made of hard leather with intergral suspenders. They are not to be confused with Leiderhosen which are the ones the zipper got stuck on when you were making out with Shirley in middle school. Nor are they to be confused with Liederhosen which of course were featured in the hit film "The Sound of Penis."

I of course could not have been born Scottish for I would have sooner worn a kilt with no britches than clothing last featured in a beerhall putsch. You can scarcely wonder how so much crap came out of Germany as half the male population has their balls squashed into pants that should have stayed on the cow they came off of. Aren't they the least bit distracted? This of course makes me wonder what part of the animal's skin is used to make Lederhosen. The stiffness and unpliability make me think head, just behind the horns or the part that gets bashed in by hammer in "Miss Cow's Visit to the Abbatoir." However, the thickness and tear resistance (lord knows I slept with chainsaws trying to get these things to rip so I wouldn't have to wear them) leads me to believe that they came from the skin right around the beast's sphincter.

While most of the other little kids were running around with snot-encrusted sleeves, their brother's hand me down knickers and keds, I was being marched around like a fascist escapee from "Its a Small World"

Worst part of it all was, I first previewed these damn gestaponts at the World's Fair. Like I had wandered out of the Lebensraum Pavillion.

The first day of the fair was meticulously planned. The old man had business visitors in from, where else, the old country. Once they had cleared customs and everybody was fairly certain that another war criminal hadn't gotten out unchecked, we drove them to their hotel where they "freshened up." For German businessmen this means changing out of the mercilessly starched white shirt, tie and suit into the mercilessly starched white shirt, tie, and other suit. Oh, and put a fresh coat of polish on those shoes. The sun's reflection off them only blinded the passing bird and didn't immolate him as required.

Then we were to drive to the local Indian reservation. These were the sixties and they were still Indians and native nothing. White folks were trying to figure out what they were still doing here. I have no idea what the visiting businessherren expected. Perhaps teepees, some sort of campfire and ponies lulling about. What they got was pretty ratty shacks, a couple of 55 gallon drumfires and some junk cars lulling about. So they did what every dumbass tourist does, they took pictures out of the car window.

Being six, the concept of shame didn't extend out beyond being dressed like a Hitler youth. Had it, I would have comandeered the car from the old man and shown them how a '67 Olds can lay rubber. As it stands, I think I just sort of wondered what this ride had to do with the World's Fair. I guess somewhere in Queens, years ago, some bunch of idiots drove through Bensonhurst before going to the World of Tomorrow exhibit.

I don't really remember many of the other exhibits from that first day. I do remember being dropped off at the on site daycare so the adults could go see interesting things. Back then, it wasn't called a daycare. Sort of a kiddie corral. Urchin repository. Buy yourself a few hours of peace and quiet. Whatever, once I got over the horror of believing that I was being left there never to be picked up again I found things to be not too bad. There were craft projects ad infinitum and all anybody asked was that you keep yourself busy and occupied. Hell, I was an only child. Keeping busy and occupied was what I did, usually with no more impliments than a finger and a few assorted boogers. Here I had vats of glue and all kinds of things to get stuck to each other. Being abandoned sure could be worse.

Of course, it could be better too. Remember that I still had these fucking lederhosen on and I thought, after the glue adventure, that I'd treat myself to a romp in the sandbox.

Boy was that a life's lesson when sandy grit got to be the only intermediary from me to chafing pants. I think I taught myself erosion that day with my nuts playing the part of the ever-changing seashore. To think we might have stopped the Axis simply by insisting they dress the part and take long walks. The birthrate would have plummeted.

So parents, celebrate your ethnicity. Quietly and in a non-vestmented way. Halloween is for dressing up and even then, let us pick the costume. When we're sweating a few gallons per hour behind some latex Black Lagoon Creature mask, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.

Bunny on.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This Old F*****g House

As the music cues up the big red pickup pulls up to the house and several cinderblocks on ropes are thrown out the passenger side window in vain efforts to stop the thing.

Hi, I'm the Caustic Bunny and on this episode of This Old F*****g House we're going to go over the summer projects due the knob and tube palace. For starters, we're going to turn this truck over to the gods of smelting as we're not dumping a master cylinder into something with a frame that has the consistency of salad croutons.

Lets start with the outside of the place though. Yes, there's some re-pointing to be done as wind, water, neglect and an original mortar mix that was no doubt sixty percent confectioner's sugar-based have all taken their toll. Of course, water damage is exascerbated by the perennially leaky gutters and downspouts. Looks like we'll be taking silicone seal and our abject fear of heights to see them this year. Oh and we've got four windows that need to be re-glazed, just in case you weren't having fun yet. Naturally, they're on the second floor, taking them in from the inside of the house will result in casements fit for no more than toothpick wood, so you're going to have to ascend that ladder and do it all from the outside. Oh, did I mention one window is right near where the electricity from the street feeds to the house? Don't reach out for a handhold without looking first.

Of course, the garage needs new trim and you want to put the toolshed extension on for things like hoes which now fall off their perches and belly flop across the hood of the car. And the garage door needs replacing. The wood there is absorbent enough to sop up a small rainstorm. The door then gains about 460 percent more weight and won't open. Not even for the door opener on the space shuttle.

Oh, and let's take down those screwed-on plexiglas sheets that protect the accent windows around the chimney? A quick cedar frame and proper glass belongs there. Do that in your spare time.

Ok, lets step inside, shall we? The kitchen cabinets are still the color of a fart but it doesn't look like we'll be re-doing them this year. The bathroom is in more dire need. There are abandoned public restrooms in Minsk that have more comfort appeal. Its got to be gutted. New floor, new tub and shower, new something other than shelving contact paper for wall coverage. Yes, I know, we were hoping the mildew would form some sort of free form art pattern but I think that that's a stretch.

Of course the floors all need refinishing. I think the last time they might have been sanded with some sort of hobbyist's tool more appropriate to making ships in a bottle. These are all what I would call "luxury" projects. Something to do after the war zone of the bathroom has been finished. Not that the bathroom is hard, but it has to be gutted and, as it is the only bathroom I have, I still haven't figured out where I might be able to, ahem, take care of things during the course of construction.

Still not sure what the hell to do with the basement. For starters, it needs cleaning out. Figure this way: I moved in almost two years ago. If I haven't unpacked it yet, chances are pretty good I don't really need it.

Well, that just about sums up the summer projects. If this were a real PBS show, I'd have help and a good corporate sponsor. As it stands, Tom is off with his wife fishing, Norm is down at the local bar and the rest of the crew are at the community pool hoping for a heat wave.

So for now its just me, The Caustic Bunny setting up for the season. I'll be back with progress reports on the old place as things get done or undone as the case may be. I do have to get after that power cable that runs out to the garage too. Seems its just buried au naturel and this weekend, planting arbor vitaes, marks the second time I've almost made love to it with the tip of a shovel.

Up comes the music, quickly drowned out by power tools and cursing. Roll credits.



Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Springtime for Jersey

I had this nightmare where I lived in New Jersey. No. Wait, that was real.

Another post out there reminded me of how the seasons in Jersey used to change. I lived in the northern part of the state so right now anyone who lives south of Trenton is chuckling and carrying on about how that serves me right.

Winters up there were cold and long and wet. The place was the color soggy fireplace ash. You'd get off the bus from New York at night, the door would close on your overcoat belt and the thing would be pulled out of its loops as the bus drove off leaving you with a last splash of gutterslush for the inside of your shoe. Hobble back to your apartment, turn on the fifteen minutes of heat you can afford after rent, food, gas, commuting costs and the mysterious sucking force New York used to exert on your wallet. This is the one where you take your billfold out for a fifty cent New York Post and suddenly you're down seven more bucks.

Spring came between 7:40 and 8:10 on May 9th and then you'd head right into your first heatwave. At 8:12 guys would be out on the sidewalk saying things like "it ain't the heat, its the impending humidity."

In summer things changed. The place was the color of soggy fireplace ash in an ninety five degree heatwave. We'd usually run to the mall for diversion and entertainment. You could pretend you were having your whole vacation there. Sharper Image was like a low rent Epcot and Banana Republic's changing room was as dangerous as certain South American countries. Trouble was the mall was where the rest of North Jersey went to so the crowds you had been squeezing through on Third Avenue all week were the same crowds you now crushed by on the way to Cinnabons. Only they weren't dressed as well and seemed a little more clueless. I guess that was to be expected. The smart ones got on a train to Connecticut Friday night.

Jersey really couldn't help being isolated from the natural world. It was 1952 before they began to realize they had paved the northern part of the state under the GI bill back in '48. Helpful pictures of flowers and grass were posted at train stations and highway billboards so children would have something to mentally refer to if they were talking to their cousins from South Carolina. You didn't want them picturing something with teeth when Jessie from Greenville mentioned the blossoming magnolia tree.

High school kids would try to go cow tipping but usually couldn't afford the twenty percent that being that close to New York demanded. And even then the service was mediocre at best.

It's spring here now. The evening air is warm and folks are out for walks. Flowers are blooming in front yards and will be until everyone who got to a calendar too late picks them for a hasty Mother's Day gift. Uh, I'd have gotten you a card but I'm saving a tree.

People are opening doors and windows and commenting how now they can finally get the ham and sauerkraut smell from New Year's Day out of the upholstery. The cat is assaulting the back screen door because she is imminently threatened by the bunny in the back yard eating my cilantro plants. Life is good.

Think I'll tear up a square of asphalt. Just to ensure we don't go too Jersey.

Bunny on.

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