Thursday, December 31, 2009

For Dr. Suess at the End of Time

Adieu to the Aughts. You were hot.

You were not--not for nothing--a boring plateau, a glaze of stasis or a
    vapid star fucker.
Rather electric, this metric of progress; implosion of towers,
   re-moulding of truth,
You fooled us supremely, you laughed at the notion
that oceans of soldiers would change the night darkness,
the nature of things, the way of the world.
You were cool.

You played thrice a night, to standing-room buzzards
who circled the theatres and pecked out some eyes.
You summoned the urges and dirges of hankerchiefs,
suddenly swollen with torrents from widows
and knobbly-kneed tow-heads whose Game*Boy screens showed them
blue murals of heroes who could not bake bread.
You did well.

Not that we care--our noses in smart phones, our hearts in arrest, our
   thuggery branded by Ronald Artest.
Our holiday sentiments nicely wrapped up, the puppies of yesteryear
   fighting for phantoms of what used to pass for a classy romance.

The frothing of talking heads whipping up amnesty lacking a decent
   man's commonsense ancestry.
Ridicule heaped upon saintly relationships, gay penguins traded like
   black-and-white poker chips.
Hummers and bummers and Terri Schiavo and Sham-Wow and cable
    and Bush's Iago.

Thailand has marzipan! Congo has gruel. Media moguls burn drachmas
   for fuel.
And then ride on elephants shod in the latest, in Prada, in Dolce,
in Emo the fey-est of good little bad boys and nastier ladies, living the
   good life but paying in Hades.

How meaningless, time, the space that we're given,
so be nice to each other, attention is riven
in dirt road and skyscraper, polygraph muckraker, Vonnegut's
   caretaker, jockey Wil Shoemaker.

How meaningless, time, the bed that we've made,
with pointers from Einstein, what Asimov bade
us: Beware of the charlatan, false prophet's
pompous decrees of such utter stupendous stupidity.

Ending is hard. Don't you agree?
Off you go, then, my song's not for free.

To paraphrase Velma Kelly, Happy New Years, Suckers!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Putzing on the Ritz....

A funny thing happened the other day, during an *epic* roadtrip to my uncle's house in Tolland, CT, from my parents' winter hideaway in Florida. It was a saga, a three-act play, a journey fraught with detours. It involved changing weather patterns, calculating traffic algorithims on the fly, repairs (had to get a new transmission in Clark's Summit, Pa.), but I persevered, kept my eye on the ball, tried not to be selfish whenever I was stacked up with a bunch of other citizens, all of us merging into a single lane, minding the rumblestrips, obeying local laws. It was less than perfect, believe me, but with compromise, we all got to our destination.

Almost all of us, that is.

At the very end of the trip, after having chewed up over 1,100 difficult miles, having expelled myself from I-84 with an audible "Pop!" who should be standing in the middle of my lane but U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, with his hand stretched out like the Supremes? So, like all Americans in December 2009, I Stopped in the Name of Lieberman.

I asked what he wanted, and he said that he wanted to be the King of Everything--and barring that, then the Overlord of The Free World, but if he couldn't achieve that, then definitely the Viceroy of Relevance, but if that post were already filled, then maybe just maintaining his current job as U.S. Senator, but with the expanded powers of the Under Secretary of Transportation for the Off-Ramp of Exit 67 at Connecticut State Road 31 and the Wilbur Cross Highway.

It was a logical turn of events, he explained to me. On a particularly slow day on the Hill, he was struck with this brilliant idea that only vehicles with employee stickers from the The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., ought to be allowed on secondary roads in Connecticut, and since the Dept. of Public Safety was weathering a hiring freeze, no one would be available to preserve smooth motoring for the insurance workforce of Tolland, in their immortal quest for profits--his constituency, you see--if he didn't roll up his sleeves and do it himself, because he thought it was the right thing to do, what he was elected to do, and did I have my ID card with me?

As it happens, for me that particular document was quite a few miles back, long forgotten at the corner of I'd-Never-Do-That and You're-A-Complete-Schmuck. So I nicely pled my case to the senator, telling him that, actually, secondary roads ought to be open to ALL Americans, becuase they provided excellent options when other, larger, more expensive avenues were hopelessly clogged--not unlike I-84. Nope, he smiled grimly. That's going to take my permission, and I'm just not gonna grant it. Your heroic slog of 1,100 miles was for naught, because I am exercising my power to stop you. (And the millions your allegory represents, for those playing at home...)

So what could I do in the face of One Mad Senator? Nothing to but phone in my regrets to my uncle, wheel the Studebaker around and look for a road I *could* take -- a Public Option back in the Sunshine State, that self-same place where the "Al & Joe, On Ice!"ctm  show made its last appearance, to standing-room crowds, in November, 2000, at the Miami-Dade Dinner Theatre. Florida Supreme Court, Jeb Bush, Exec. Dir.

What a waste of time, money and goodwill, I thought, as my Studebaker wheezed back onto the one-size-fits-all, might-is-right world of Interstate 84..... What a goddamned annoying citizen this man has become.

Don't get me wrong. A decade back, I was thrilled at the prospect of a Lieberman Vice-Presidency. He had Moxie; he could be the Bad Cop to Al's Good Cop. His ascension would also bring long-overdue religious diversity to the Executive Branch. And he was Al's man. How, after all, could Al lose? He was a by-god shoe-in after the Go-Go 90s....... (cue a five-minute clip of the longest traffic accident imaginable)

Let it be known that I don't blame Joe one bit for the eventual devolution of the 2000 Election. But I do blame him now, for the un-anesthetized spaying of Health Care Reform.

Seriously, Connecticut. Really? Your guy is holding peoples' lives hostage here. You need to take away this crudely-fashioned badge of "Independence," clean house, vote boyfriend out, and then take a 15-yard penalty AWAY from the polling stations and STAY THERE until you all come to some kind of concensus on a candidate who Plays Well With Others instead of a politican whose two-sheet playbook consists of One: a recent history of talking out of both cheeks of his ass, and Two: lying down in the road and becoming the Most Lifelike Pothole on the Bridge to Progress.

Allow me to be your check and balance here. Outmaneuver him now, before he invents another Party of One. (Angry Grandpa Party? Fiddler Crabs for Connecticut Party?)

Because just as sure as Bugs Bunny drew a 21 on one card, come 2012, we're all going to be a bunch of Daffy Ducks, our un-insured tailfeathers singed to the bone, our eyes bloody and red, screaming in exasperation, "I'm a Fiddler Crab... Go on and shoot me, why don't you? It's Fiddler Crab Season!!!"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Take Out a Small Piece of Notebook Paper....

Hello out there in the Blogosphere, from all of us here, which is to say me, at BlaiserBlog. It's been over a fortnight since I've crossed anyone's radar, and so in honor of the rent, and other bills that come due on the First, I offer the following Quiz--inspired partly by hi-larious quizzes you'll find at Bike Snob NYC --in the hopes of upping your quotient, today, of Zany OptimismCTM. Please remember to phrase all your answers in the form of an essay...

1. If one had a very, merry Un-Birthday in Unalaska, would you:

A) Disappear in a puff of logic

B) Reverse the aging process

C) Maintain a very exclusive dis-invitation list

D) Get no presents and be cold.

2. Is it sexier to:

A) Set phasers to stun

B) Go to DefCon 3

C) Build a better mousetrap

D) Have a V-8

3. You have never been involved in a drag race.


4. Hillary Clinton is to diplomacy as:

A) Rachel Maddow is to straight women *

B) Margaret Thatcher is to "The Full Monty"

C) Anna Nicole Smith is to puff pastry

D) Jeanne Kirkpatrick is to Katherine Hepburn.....

5. You remember who Jeanne Kirkpatrick was:

Thanks for playing, and always try to keep in mind that if God didn't intend Pennsylvania school kids to get the first day of deer season off from school, he would have given the deer opposable thumbs so that they could shoot back...

* Lest it be misinterpreted, Let it be heretofore known that Rachel Maddow is probably one of the sexiest people on the planet, attractive to everyone, be they Republican, Democrat, or Bokonist... Or, to quote my great college friend Rachel K., "What straight woman wouldn't sleep with Winona Ryder?"

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment

Monday blahs got you down? Here's a tonic -- a M. Neil Kramer and his Great Interview Experiment. Each commenter on his well-wrought site interviews the previous commenter, via email, and then posts the resulting piece on their own blogs, thereby introducing their readers to a new voice while simultaneously getting introduced themselves on someone else's blog. All the interviews will eventually be posted at his site.

This kind of tripartite random joy is the Internet at its best, for me. It feels good that we can still surprise each other, in good ways. I found Neil when I needed a good pumpkin pie image for my last post. I borrowed one from the excellent  WouldaCouldaShoulda and found Neil on her blogroll.

When I joined the bandwagon on the GIE, seventy or eighty people had already commented. My subject is Lesley, whose blog is Perigrinations and whom we already hate (but in a good way): Many of us claim we'd *love* to live in France, but Lesley actually does.

So: Question 1: You maintain the interesting lifestyle choice of the ex-patriot. You are Scottish born but have lived in France for many years, and your continuing airport adventures during homeland visits often show up in your blog. What are a few nonflying issues that come with the ex-pat life? And specifically as a Scotswoman living in France?

I've never really liked that word expatriot - by concentrating only on the fact that one lives outside of one's country of birth, it just doesn't seem to cover the whole range of complicated loyalties that can be true of someone who has choses to live elsewhere. So, I'd say that yes, there are a lot of issues that come up for people like me - it's basically a question of compromise and trying to get the best of both worlds: finding the middle way between two cultures without neglecting either of them, encouraging the children to speak English as much as possible when clearly French is their first language, deciding which team to support when France plays Scotland, expermimenting with Franco-Celtic fusion cuisine. ......

Question 2 is about language. In your blog, you mention some translation jobs you have. Have you ever done this in a live instantaneous setting -- translating at a meeting or broadcast?

In the interpreting business there are two types of job : consecutive translation and simultaneous interpreting. In the first, you have a notebook and take copious notes while waiting for a natural break in the speech, then you translate usually while standing in front of the audience. In the second case, you're in an interpreting booth and as one set of words comes in your headphones you instantaneously spout the translation out into the microphone. I far prefer the second option because I can pull tortured faces without anyone seeing me and my memory doesn't have to be any better than a goldfish's. So, yes, I've translated a lot of meetings (but no live broadcasts yet)

Question 3 -- The Scots are lovely people (who, not for nothing, make some damn fine whisky!), and have, to my ear, a bewitching accent. I can't think of any other native English speakers whose speech can be simultaneously glorious, and yet COMPLETELY incomprehensible to me! (Take no offense, I just haven't spent more than a few hours at a time with the Scotspeople I've met, so my ear isn't finely tuned.) Forgive my ignorance, but is there great variation in the Scottish accent, and do you guys ever have difficulties understanding each other?

We really don't! Although there are many different Scottish accents (an Aberdonian sounds nothing like a Glaswegian and a Fifer's accent is very different to a Highlander's), I can't think of a single instance of mutual incomprehension.

Question 4 -- Anyone who spends more than a few minutes on Peregrinations will quickly notice your talent for photography. What camera (s) do you use, and what subjects catch your eye?

I'm not a great photographer, really. I have a Lumix bridge camera and I keep telling myself that I should be more adventurous and learn about things like depth of field and that sort of thing, but I find it all a little confusing. I tend to like photographing things rather than people, and especially old, rusty dilapidated things.

Question 5 -- You have no fewer than 805 books listed at an online library, linked to your blog. Wow. I'm assuming you have read them all, and I'm wondering if you can share your top 5 with my readers, and also give us five words apiece about those five authors. Hey -- it's Question 5.

This is difficult! I've chosen five that all have a Scottish connection:

Whereabouts by Alastair Reid (poet, Borges translator, Scot, father)
Findings by Kathleen Jamie (Scot, poet, observer of nature)
Night Falls on Ardnamurchan by Alasdair Maclean (Scot, chronicler of Highland twighlight)
Morvern Callar by Alan Warner (novelist, young, Scot, trippy, Oban)
No Great Mischief by Alistair Macleod (Canadian-Scot, gaelic-speaking ancestors)

Question 6 -- Peregrinations and BlaiserBlog, by apparent coincidence, use the very same template from Blogger. What would you guess are the chances of me interviewing someone with the same blog template as mine, and do you believe in luck?

I delight in coincidences, but I'm not sure that I believe in luck. What can I say other than that we both have impeccable taste!


And if anyone would like to read my interview, I advise you to "point" your browser toward DIA and the devilishly clever Giving Umbrage. Thanks again for reading, and always remember: Global Warming is just God's way of saying that Dick Cheney hates Polar Bears almost as much as he loves Freedom...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Longest Musical Piece Ever, or The Efficacies of Pumpkin Pie

Cubicle Zombie by Andrew Brandou

My Web surfing has been larthargic at best for the last two weeks, and so forgive an anemic entry here at BlaiserBlog. I meant to title this post with a third element--something about conspiracy theorists, but y'know, my better judgments conspired against me, and we're stuck with two. Perhaps it'll get better as we go.

Betcha didn't know that a 639-year piece of music is being performed RIGHT NOW, and now, and now, as we poured this morning's orange juice, topped off the dry-cleaning chemical wells and swallowed the Whopper du jour--having it our way at Burger King, hearing it our way at Fox News, and subesequently heaving it our way, after Burger King and Fox News have it their way with our upper gastrointestinal tract.

He's an ex--Navy Seal who is working through a proctology residency at a Hawaiian hospital--new this fall on CBS, he's Magnum, GI !!!

But seriously folks, there's an organ that was built during the 100 Year's War, just before Richard II was born (no, not the guy with the hump. That was the other guy)--nearly 100 years before Mozart was crawling up his mother's skirts on his way to the keyboard bench--in a cathedral in Halberstadt, then part of the Prussian province of Westphalia.  Time passed. Empires rose and fell. The area "enjoyed" Napoleonic management for a spell, and sometime later, weathered Allied bombing--still, the cathedral organ kept blowing. What better instrument, carryers of the avante-garde torch must have thought, for stretching a 20-something minute John Cage piece out to absurd lengths? The note changes in this piece seem to be happening about once per year--in 2008, one such change apparently drew a crowd of about 1,000, thus underscoring, if you'll pardon the pun, my lifelong hunch that most Europeans have too damn much time on their hands.

This "ambitious" undertaking is on track to swell to a rousing finish sometime around 2640, whenupon it'll be a global event for whatever's left of humanity; the baton will be no doubt be wielded by Buck Rogers IV; and the slow-music movement will have gained so much (slowly-built) momentum that Julliard scholarships will be routinely awarded to snails. Unless of couse, the ghost of Frank Zappa comes back and pulls off what the B-17s couldn't: blowing that mother to smithereens, just 'cause. We're all playing to an indifferent cosmic audience anyway, aren't we?

And now, in an attempt to cleanse the digital palate from the acrid bit of nihilism above, It's PUMPKIN PIE TIME, FOLKS!!

    Image Courtesy of Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Pumpkin pie is to Nic Cage* as conspiracy theorists are to _____________.

a) Harold Pinter

b) Harold of Hastings

c) The Old Grey Mare

d) The Old Gray Lady

Pumpkin Pie/Nic Cage/conspiracy related anecdotes gratefully received below. Thanks for reading, and always remember, if the Good Lord had meant for David Hasselhoff's pop music to chart as well here as it did in Germany, it would have been better music. Much, much better.

* There are things in life that people tend to love or hate, with no in-the-middle. Both pumpkin pie and Nicholas Cage, in my experience, fall into this category. Nic Cage, to my knowledge, is not related to John Cage. If anyone else shares this theory, by gum we've got ourselves a conspiracy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Badass is the new Green

There are motorcycle guys, and then there are motorcycle guys. And then there's Van Asher, who hunted snakes at summer arts camp, and who is an excellent example of why "oner" shows up in the The New York Times  crossword puzzle. Ain't no one like Van Van, the Snake Man.

I met Van in the summer of '81 during my second summer at Camp Ballibay. Here are two memories: One of him wearing a knotted necktie as a headband ("My mother told me to wear a tie on Sundays!") Another cheerful comment when I got back from an off-campus trip without telling some of my couselors I'd be missing rehearsal: "Hey Blais! Everyone wants to kill you!"...perhaps the first time someone my age had called me by my last name. And the guy's name was Van! Exotic stuff for a kid from a one-stoplight town.

Fast forward to our adult lives. Van is all about helping the other guy: Van worked several years for the Needle-Exchange Program; is a motorcycle safety instructor; is training for EMT certification. Despite his Facebook manifesto (if you have fewer than four wheels, Van will race and--quite possibly--crash you), there's no one I'd rather have drive my bus, in the aftermath of calling 9-1-1.

So lend a hand to Wingnut Cycles --an organization for which Van is both a principal and test pilot, and a group of fellas who mean to fight the good fight from behind the bars of a tricked-out bio-diesel chopper. No matter what your culture, they will counter it. Cue Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," as the shot pans across a solo motorcycle tearing up the Brookyn Bridge, and our boat sinks slowly in the West.

All images in this post courtesy of Wingnut Cycles. Except the one of the cheeky 6th-grader flipping you off.... I took that one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

That was no woman, that was my fastball!

BlaiserBlog Ketchup 2 of 2

Or....What better time to finish a recap than when the Yankees have just lost a game? (Last night's ALCS Thrilla in Calilla...)

August 28th at Baltimore, 11-5 Sox

Baltimore sports a lovely park on the harbor, but don't fall into the Chesapeake--I hear there's a nasty multistep decontamination process. Pity, that. I didn't pity the club-level all-you-can-eat hot dog fest, however, nor a terrific national anthem by operatic tenor dude.

There were so  many Sox fans at Camden Yaads that day, that my Baltimore friend commented the stadium had never seemed that full! I felt bad for the O fans, shown up in their own house.

At this writing, the boys of summer are down to but three squads, and my beloved Sox are not among them. I'll have to wait for next season to stand up and holla, "Lowell for Senate!!!" my war-cry in Baltimore.*

Here are a couple more of my B'More photos that I like.

If I ever get a serious camera, I'll branch out from this grainy motif....
I am so not into the flash.

The Flash, however, is pretty boss.

My dad, who turns 81 soon, is called "Flash" by the head groundskeeper** at the Corey Creek golf course. I just love that!

 * Lowell photo cribbed from some other dude's blog. Wow! And you should check him out. He's apparently in 7th Grade and a really good writer.

** Full disclosure: Greenskeeping Dude is a high-school classmate. Even cooler.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I know my work is subpar, but at least I'm slow!

BlaiserBlog Ketchup 1 of 2...
This took too dam long to write, so I'm just postin' what I got, and I'll work on the rest latah!

It's mop-up week here at BlaiserBlog. Often, as I roll through life slightly out of control, tumbleweed-style, potential blog topics sprout from the earth at my feet, eke out a brilliant half-life in my half-brain, and wither from a cetain lack of aqueous thinking.

Some of these thoughtlets deserve to live on. And so, to cheer up yesterday's inner Wedensday's Child (and here would go a micro-treatise on the western archipilagos and the International Date Line, if I knew when the hell it means...) I offer a smorgasbord of intrigue, a pu-pu platter of platitudes, a Whitman's Sampler of witticism, and yesterday's trash.

Sublime, it should be noted, is the opposite of trash. If you've not heard of Midsummer Night Swing, consider the following: For three weeks of the high Manhattan summer, Lincoln Center becomes an essential destination. Most evenings, at 6:30 P.M., a mass hajj of dance lovers coalesces in Damrosch Park and collectively takes a lesson in tango, salsa, West Coast swing--the style changes daily.

Two sets of live music follow--with a DJ sewing the gaps. You want Chubby Checker? We got Chubby Checker. Ask Big Bad Voodoo Daddy for the car keys; drive to a world beat. Hang your head out the window like a hounddog in the breeze, and watch everyone put their schooling into practice, whilst shaking what their mommas gave them.

I've been fortunate to operate a lighting console there for two years running. Rain has only been a factor once or twice on the expanding MNS stage.

 This year, impresario Bill Bragin opted for a stage couched in the bandshell and an expanded moving-light package. The results were pretty cool.

Let's Play Two!

 In other norts spews, I finally made it to Fenway Park, thanks to a very generous welcome-to-your-40's gift. In fact, the 2009 has been my breakout season as a baseball fan. I wear jerseys; I visit parks.

Fenway is a national treasure, nestled, as it is, on the banks of the Charles River like a massive organic wild mushroom. But it's small, and intimate on the inside, almost Hobbit-like.

Jon Lester pitched a gem against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. Beer was drunk, hot dogs eaten. Sox roll to a 3-2 victory. Even got to see Papelbon who, despite blowing the last game of the season on Sunday, was a marvel--a panther of a pitcher, languid and deadly.

  To Be Continued.....

Monday, October 5, 2009

She Blinded Me With Vinyl

I make no bones about hating i-Products, maintaining suspicions on mp3 formats and generally whinging about the deteriorating-mazationings of actual, physical things that I can touch. When Y2K hit, my response was to start buying up manual typewriters, like some kind of ironic literary survivalist. When Douglas Adams wrote words to the effect that "And you thought digital watches were pretty neat," I was that guy, but I would have preferred things had stopped with Ms. Pac-Man and that four-player Dungeons & Dragons game, Gauntlet. However, Time Has Passed, and now Elf needs food, badly.

Food for thought, that is, and music that requires neither one, nor zero. (Note that analog music reaps metaphorical benefit from the other 8 digits.) The awesomest sound I've ever heard from a cone was in my parents' basement, when my audiophile brother, Matt, was testdriving a dbx-encoded jazz LP. (Think Dolby Z-Cubed...) I know crates of records are a pain to lug around, but it's not only worth it, it's essential.

And so.... I invested in two classic Technics 1200 turntables, and a mixer.* The Technics 1200 Mk2 is the shark of turntables.... essentially unchanged by evolution for millions of years (OK, slightly more than 30, but you see my point.) The rig is powered by the Panasonic dual-cassette Boom Box with which my parents bundled me off to sleep-away college in the late 80's.

Its left channel is intermittent, and comes and goes like Mary Poppins--when the wind changes. Sometime last week, it healed itself again, and I'm living large in stereo. One has to make the most out of an uncertain world.

And so my 9-year-old son and I are nurturing a weekend ritual: Sunday brunch a la vinyl. A most recent utterance: "Daddy, what's Styx?" ** (He already has something of a foundation in mythology, so he knows about Achilles and the River. Now he's learning about the concept album, a concept that's all but gone the way of the dodo.)

Here's what else I'm finding so fabulous about this trend: Not only is it a joy to dance around with your 9-year-old to rockin' tunes, but his ear horizons have stretched global. That is to say, up to now, he's never thumbed through all the CD's to find something new and interesting. But put him in front of a crate of vinyl, and he's doing exactly that, and here's why: It's fun. It's fun to put the needle on the record; it's fun to play with the pitch, or play a Bruce Springsteen album on 45 rpm so that the Boss sounds like an indignant chipmunk; it's fun to look at the photos on a jacket sleeve--many of them are as large as an entire CD case, nevermind the ridiculous dwarf-photos that show up on someone's i-Product.

Maybe the point is that running around with earbuds and paper-thin music players belies an essential truth of music: Rock is large. Power chords mean more when played on a 12" disc. The Magical Mystery Tour is trippier when flipping through the "24-page full color picture book" included inside. In fact, I'll go ahead and say it: Digital is synthetic.

Disc-uss below: As always, thanks awfully, for reading. And remember, if my busmates on our senior class trip to Washington, DC, hadn't ruled the music choices under threat of extreme violence, I might never have come to fully appreciate AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long, which we listened to, in its entirety, 37 times straight.

* Full disclosure: the mixer also sports two CD players with adjustable pitch. When we're playing vinyl, we play vinyl. When he graduates from Mixing 101, we'll entertain other media. I'm not a total crank...

** And lest one think I'm a purveyor of cheesy pop music alone, get hip to other parts of my vinyl catalog: Bob Dylan, Marlene Dietrich, Lady Day Holiday, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bil Cosby, as many Beatles as my son can eat.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good Morning, Good Day, Hardboiled Eggs, and a Dolly Parton 45.

This is just a check-in, a sonar ping, a call-and-response. Some days, one needs to lift one's head above the water, like a playful dolphin on the Jersey Coast, and say a quick hello to the neighbor body surfers. The porpoise is not only to catch a quick breath of salt air, but also for the sheer thrill. It's autumn, and there are even more women hunters in the woods--haven't you heard? They're apparently more patient than their male nimrod counterparts, and more interested in meat than trophy--a darn good way to slice it.

I'd like to present Wilkes-Barre as a concept this morning. You have to work to get there--anyone accustomed to reflexively peeling Northwest on Route 380, you're missing a great chance to hang in Pennsylvania's most European small town: There are a lot of hills, and the streets, which are small, don't line up. Consequently, it's a lot of fun to get lost.

From the City, it's through the Water Gap and then north on an unlikely spine, the Northeast Corridor of the PA Turnpike. From there, it's only one exit--but soft! One exit on the Extension is an 11-mile tunneling into Luzerne County. Like most everything west of the Hudson, Wilkes-Barre's environs sport a wasteland of box stores, strip malls, and the standard complement of Thank-God-it's-Restaurant kinda places, but in this case, it's more like a retail moat. Once you brave the alligators and the slime, it's quite cozy and charming on the inside. The mighty Susquehanna runs its length, and other interesting bergs are on the other side. They appreciate Poker in this region--two establishments welcomed our cash game, one in our own, free, wood-paneled room. Drinks were inexpensive.

The Red Sox disappointed this weekend, to say the least. Fortunately, it won't mean Jack when we ice the American League Wild Card. Homefield advantage notwithstanding, the postseason landscape is when Major League Baseball hits the Refresh button. There is still another month of hotdogs, leather gloves and shivering fans. And thank God for that.

Thank God, also, for the late great William Safire. His politics were revolting to me, in many ways, but he was a wordsmith nonpareil, and a buddy of the journalist Daniel Schorr's, and that's good enough for me. Let us remember him.

Thanks for reading, and happy autumn, and please try to remember that although Andalusian/French brother Jean Reno--a nonpareil of badassery--occasionally makes a stinker, only YOU can prevent forest fires...