Thursday, April 28, 2011

Submarine Races and Other Things I've Fallen For

Yes, the links are safe, and you need to click on them for this post to make sense.

Ok, readers, raise your hand if you've ever been gullible. No, your other hand. I'm just kidding; raise the hand you raised first.


Other than just now, have you ever been gullible? Ever felt truly duped? Of course you have. Some of us, however, were born with a specific, yet-to-be-determined, malignant gene that allows us to be taken very special advantage of. I was apparently born with it, along with a backup gene for it.
Gullible would truly have been the perfect name for me. I'm still considering the legal switch over to it, so when I write my memoirs, they can be oh, so cleverly titled, Gullible's Travels.

Here then, is a list of the things that have made me the perfect foil for P.T. Barnum, with appropriate explanations as needed:

Santa Claus

You may think that we've all been duped by this sneaky, rosacea-suffering gift giver. And most of us have. But you stopped believing in him when you were nine or ten years old - twelve on the outside, at most. Try this on for size: 14*.
Was it because I wanted presents, and the ones from Santa were better? Hell, no! It was because Santa needed to be real. What good is he if he's fake?
So, yeah. Santa. Chunky Bastard.

Submarine Races

This one really pissed me off. I spent my summers in the (formerly) little village of Sea Isle City, NJ. Side note: the city is a lesson in how not to do zoning, as it is now a virtual garbage dump of low-rent, fiberboard condos and filth.

But back to the good old days, when it was unspoiled. When it used to have fabulous submarine races! When I was a kid, my older brother used to go to the races all the time. I begged and begged for Big Bro to take me with him, but he said I couldn't go, because you had to be 17 to get in. Besides, he reasoned, our mom wouldn't let me stay up to watch them, because they didn't start until ten pm.

I was crestfallen (god, I've been dying to work that word into something for soooo long!). But I figured that I could get to those races somehow. I knew, from listening carefully to the older kids, that they were always held in the back bay, and you watched them from under the bridge that led onto the island at 41st Street. That was a short, five block walk from our house. All I had to do was convince my mom that I was going to a friend's house for a while and all would be fine. I'd be home by 11 pm.

So I did it. One Wednesday evening in August, off I went. 14 years old**, full of confidence and holding my new Sears binoculars, I executed my genius plan to see the races. I even got there early, so I wouldn't miss the start! Plunked myself down under the west side of the bridge (even brought licorice for a sub-watching snack) and waited. I'd like to skip over the details from here, if you don't mind. Let's sum it up: seemingly endless waiting, mosquitos, darkness, arms sore from holding binoculars, not a submarine in sight, Sea Isle City police officer, short ride home, infinite embarrassment.

Even after this, I still fell for my brother's explanation that they never held the races on Wednesday nights. I was, in fact 18 years old before I knew the truth. And it was my little brother who had to tell me.

Ads in Old Kids Magazines

What kid wouldn't want a Real Elephant!? Or X-ray glasses, or his very own Real, Working Submarine!? I sense a sad, submarine-centric ability to be duped in me. Yeah, the advertisements in some of my favorite old magazines were doozies. In fact, I now realize that the "magazines" were, in fact, nothing more than barely coherent vehicles for the cheap ads. Even the best of them, like Ranger Rick, were nothing but shills for the ripoff artists in the back pages. Do I seem bitter? Let me 'splain.

Years of salivating over ads for BB Guns, exploding cigarettes, fart bags, rubber vomit, "sure win dice", real Indian Headdresses, and the like had primed me for the Holy Grail of prizes: that "real, working submarine". For a kid who loved Jules Verne's adventures, nothing could compare to having your own submarine! It was described as "seven feet long", with a real periscope and portholes, and...get was made out of genuine 200lb-test material! Awesome!

Knowing I couldn't go wrong with this, and having covered every possible angle of where something could go wrong, I went to work on my father to scare up the $9 I'd need. How could he possibly argue with a real submarine for only nine bucks? Our swimming pool was 30 ft. long, so I'd have plenty of space (I cleverly calculated the 23 ft. of maneuvering room) to motor around. Our pool was only seven feet deep, so it would be safe if my sub sprang a leak. Besides, it was constructed from 200lb. test material, so it would hold up under the most vicious Depth Charge assault. I was golden! Pops tried to reason with me, but I was an unstoppable force, my logic was rock solid. He caved and said he'd give me half. I cut out the ad, gave dad the money, and he cringed while he wrote out the check. I would only have to wait five weeks to learn why he didn't want to have his name attached to this scheme.

The big day finally came, and I was positively spastic with excitement. Ralphie's Old Man had nothing on my ecstasy of the moment. The box was huge, and heavy. We dragged it into the family room. I made sure we put it near the French Doors leading out to the pool so we'd have an easier time launching her. I had already come up with a name for my sleek U-boat: Nautilus 2. Of course it was lame, but it was perfect. The box cutters came out, straps were removed from the cardboard container and the cargo was revealed!

Revealed to be more cardboard. Cardboard? Cardboard! What? The? Heck?

A lesser man would have said, "I told you so.", but my dad understatedly mused, "Huh! I guess corrugated cardboard is 200 lb. test material."

My real submarine was, in fact, real, in that it existed in time and space, and it worked, in that the cardboard periscope went up and down through the hole in the top, but it was otherwise, let's say, unsuitable for aquatic adventure. It may have been the first time that I was consciously aware of being the ultimate Boob. Rube. Dupe. I was the owner of a cardboard submarine.

We still assembled my prize in the family room, and yes, I climbed inside my cardboard tube and tried valiantly to play Captain Nemo, but the wind was really out of my sails. The Nautilus 2 was going to make me the laughingstock of the neighborhood if something wasn't done quickly. So my little brother and I took her out for her maiden voyage in the pool, to be used as target practice for our cannonball contest. She lasted a good ten minutes before succumbing to our chlorine-tainted Davy Jone's Locker.

I'd like to say that this was the end of my days as the most gullible person on Earth. I'd really like to say that. But we all know better, don't we? I'm more educated now, a little jaded, and vastly more cautious about things in the back of magazines (I'm not falling for the "Draw Tippy the Turtle" thing!), but everyone who knows me knows that I'm good for a laugh or two. Scary pop up face on some YouTube video? Call me.

Lastly, I fell for this, but in my defense, so did thousands of other people.
Hot Headed Naked Ice Borers.

You would have, too. But Santa wouldn't have. I know, because he's a close, personal friend of mine.

* This is technically measured in Dog or Cat Years, because I still believe in Santa, and if you do the math, it works out about right.

**In people years.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Song For The Day

Happy Earthday to you!

Happy Earthday to you!

Happy Earthday dear Eeaarrrth!

Happy Earthday to you!

(and many mooooooooore!)

The blue arrow in this photo is pointing at Earth. Yes, Earth. That's not just a bluish-white pixel. Please read below and consider keeping it in mind.

The Pale Blue Dot, by Carl Sagan.

"The Pale Blue Dot" image, 1990,  courtesy of NASA
and the Voyager 1 Space Probe.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's Not You, It's Me*

The blog has been bogged down lately.

Are you buying that? Please do, cause I'm selling it. I don't want to say that I've been bogged down, because that's such a common excuse for not writing. Sure, I'm busy, but we all are. And yes, it's hard to stay one step ahead of the screaming masses of fans** who always manage to find my hideouts and who tear at my clothes, but that's no excuse either.

Truth is (and if you can spot the 'truth' anywhere in this post, I'll give you real money), I have been totally unmotivated. To the writers out there, you know, the real writers who are so lovely and kind for reading this drivel, I ask you this:


I forgot the question I was going to ask.

Well, if you guys think of it, just shoot an answer over to me. it probably had to do with writing, or some jazz like that. You know, writer's impotency or something. Make something up.

That's it! Just remembered it!
(which technically means that I should delete all that other stuff, but it's good filler, so it stays).

Writers, when you've written something that is technically good, fairly interesting, makes a concrete point, or is otherwise worth reading, but you hate it and feel like it's total green snot, do you still publish it?

I come at writing in a different way than I approach my photography. In photo world, I shoot everything that inspires me. In writing, I try to create things that I would like to read. Totally different mind set, but with a similar goal of creation. However, I am so often disgusted with my writing that I literally trash it. Or bury it, hoping that I'll change my mind later and like it. Usually, that never happens.

So what do you all do if that happens to you?

This is not a secret cry for approval, or a way to get people to ask me to publish this stuff. That IS the truth in this post. I just want to know if it happens to actual, literate human beings with writing ability.

Lastly, it is why I am slowing down on meaningful blog posts. I don't like doing meaningful too much. Makes me want to take myself seriously, and that is a joke wrapped in irony. But since you've been gracious enough to hang with me, I thought I'd share it with you and say thanks.



By the way, in bigger news, there are some very positive things happening with Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow. We received a phone call last night from Dubai. No shit. As in from the UAE. Wolfgang's instructor (Yanni - no, a different one) was there, performing for some sheiks or something, and he wanted to talk about the inimitable's future.

Seems that the conductor of the 'Must Remain Unnamed' Symphony Orchestra has taken an interest in Wolfgang's career and wants to mentor him, which is good news/bad news. Good news is he told Yanni that Wolfgang is the real deal, and should be groomed for the world stage, like yesterday. Bad news is he's Icky. Let me rephrase that. He's ICCCKKKYYYY. You take the bad with the good, I guess.

This was important enough for Yanni to call from his comfy suite in the Burj Frickintalla***

So, we've got lots to think about. My perspective is that this can only cost me a truckload of money. Things like this always do, initially. But I figure if Wolfgang gets to the big time, he'll be able to afford to put me away in a nice long term care facility or mental institution. I'm pulling for the latter, because I hear they have Dish Network.

I'll keep you posted.

*It's really you, but I didn't want you to get offended and stop reading at the title.
**Fail to show up for a personal appearance just once and people seem to think they should get their money back. The nerve!
***Really high skyscraper with a view of Central Park West - from the city of Dubai. Told ya it was tall!

Friday, April 8, 2011

This Title Sucks

There is no longer a Pennsylvania Academy of Music, so we are searching for ensembles and higher musical education replacements for Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow.

Hoping that the adage Nature abhorret vacuum is accurate (although the cause of this is a human-made debacle). And I'm really hoping that Mencken is right, with Nature abhors a moron. Because we surely don't need another moron to take the place of the ones who were responsible for the collapse of the Academy in the first place. Wondering if it is my time to step up or not. Scary thought.


Short story completed, but publication on hold indefinitely. 


I was able to step into  a world of my own making for a time recently. Having always been struck and motivated by the quote, "You are the author of your own life story." I had the opportunity to write a short chapter of my own with the trip to Florida last week. It was marvelous. The feeling of being free from the strings that we are always attached to, and the freedom from the pulling of unseen hands was incomparable. Ask yourself, "When was the last time I felt truly free?".  Until last week, I could not answer that. The feeling had been lost and the memories had vanished like shadows into the darkest crooked passageways of my mind. 

Regaining personal freedom is powerful. Akin to, but much stronger than seeing your whole life in black and white and suddenly lifting the shades to see full, brilliant colors everywhere. You catch your breath, then feel pure oxygen flowing into your lungs, clearing your brain of fog. Knowing you own it gives it even more power. Food even tastes better, it tastes like something. 

Each day, I outlined my story as I saw fit. I went where I wanted at my own directive. I created a living narrative, populated by characters, places, and things that I decided upon. I wasn't bound to the vagaries of the populace, or work, or even family. The authorship came naturally, unforced and welcome. No hesitations, no indecisiveness, and never at the expense of another person. 

Measure the amount of freedom in a life by drops of water and I owned an ocean of the most buoyant, fresh, clear water imaginable. 

A chapter with a definite end, but not a bitter one. Life continues on, but there are no unspent tokens from the amusements of that week. A victory of will that leaves me strong and determined to create more like it. I'll share brief glimpses of it here through photographs and words like these and hope that you will experience the audacious authorship of your own chapters as well.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Blog on Hold

Folks, there may be some long time gaps in between blog posts here. For a little while, hopefully not too long. Lots of things coming together to make this take a back burner for a bit. So either I will write in short bursts, or take much longer to post something vaguely worth reading.

Hope to get back to regular writing as soon as possible.

In the meantime, feel free to browse through the many previous blog posts I've written and comment on them. Or laugh at them. Or me. Both, if you'd like. Lots of material there.