The Roar, The Smell, The Feel, and the Flavor of the Greasepaint…

The natural woman is a beauty.  So, is the beautiful woman a natural?  Sometimes she is.  The girl who knows herself to be pretty might let go of the crutches of enhancements once in awhile, or not use them at all.  And the unassuming one without pretentiousness that leaves it alone can be wonderfully alluring, and not even know it.  But the painted woman, exotically so or not, can also be attractive.  When tastefully applied, certain shades and highlights can attract in a fascinating way, even perhaps be temptingly erotic.  Leave it rare or medium-rare, and not overdone.  Remember:  Overdone is not necessarily well done.

In fact, the incorrectly done can look clownish, obviously exaggerated, and even plastic when seen up close.  Some ladies mark and draw all over themselves as if to be seen across an arena from the back of a chorus line, but up close take on an almost ghoulish appearance rather than girlish–untouchable, almost dirty, glaringly advertising that a deception is afoot.  All the obvious accouterment gives it away.  If your mascara has big lumps in it, a man might think you got your face too close to a bucket of roofing tar.  In that case, he might want to hire you to help him work, but not necessarily want to dance with you.

Oh, by the way, don’t overdo the artificial aromas, either.  Teenagers, lacking the experience of years of proper practice, mingle in herds as if they are all trying to out-smell each other assuming it to be of some benefit.  At that age, to be irresistible to a boy is not nearly as difficult as some young ladies presume it to be.  To be sure, a lot of the perfumes and colognes available and sold everywhere from salons, department stores, and even service stations, are rather offensive smelling to men, unless it has motor or gun oil in it.

By saying men might find your store-bought fragrance to be unpleasant, I let a cat out of the bag that might otherwise suffocate.  It’s an amazing truth well hidden behind an avalanche of advertisements.  And the lie sells by the ounce.  The industry does not want you to be aware at all that what you’re buying costs a thousand bucks a gallon.  Most of the time, you’d get better mileage with about twenty-five cents worth of soap and water.  To bathe might be nice, but natural pheromones override fraudulent ones almost every time.

But don’t worry about it.  Once you’ve gotten their attention, they will put up with the odor of it even if you sprayed it on with a fire hose.  If it is a disagreeably odor-some distraction to them at first, be certain men are tough, and will charge full steam ahead as if going into battle given half the chance, or even the hint of any chance at all of a victorious outcome.  A good rule of thumb is the more you pay for a perfume, the less the man will care for it.  But other women will be jealous of you if they get a whiff, which, if you’re being honest with yourself, may be why you have it on in the first place.

I remember a young age when the boys were having to learn how to use their voices as hormones began to erode their ability to sing soprano.  During that time, the girls in my school peer group began to experiment with base makeups, eye shadows, and lipsticks.  It seemed customary to not paint the entire wall, but to abruptly stop at the chin-line so as not to get it on the collars of their blouses.  But I was willing to let them get it on mine, if I’m recalling correctly.  Yes, I was, and a bit curious about the taste of that lip gloss as well.  At that age, the game seemed to be to transfer all the paint from her face to mine, and wear it home almost as if it were a trophy, even though the prize won was only a kiss and the hint of a possible future promise.

One night I came in having spent the absolute best part of the evening in pleasant company.  As soon as I walked in the door, my father said:

“My God, son!  Don’t you carry a handkerchief?  Wipe your face before your mother sees you.  And learn to launder your own shirts from now on so I won’t have to see her cry.  Mercy!”

In theater, makeup is a part of the illusion, sometimes exaggerated to allege youth, or to confess age.  From any proper aesthetic distance, without makeup, the audience might just see washed out and almost shapeless faces in the bright lights, with features of any definition remain unnoticed.  Up close, the illusion doesn’t work.  And once the colors are known to be artificially applied, the illusion is broken, and all who see know that what is in the package is covered by more wrapping than required to make it pretty.  Other than that, it’s just ceremonial war paint, so be mindful of that as you head out the door to do battle.

I began performing as Mark Twain almost forty years ago at this writing, portraying him as a man in his seventies.  Back then, I needed the crutch of lots of makeup to be convincing.  Today I still spend hours in the makeup room, but not to put on much makeup, now.  No, I need the extra time just to fasten the buttons on the vest of the costume, as over the decades it seems to have shrunk tremendously around the waist.

So, to paint or not to paint?  Ladies, that is up to you.  But be ye not deceived about the benefits of it.  Please accept that you do it to declare something you might subconsciously feel necessary to compete with the other girls–not so much to outshine them at attracting the boys, but to declare rank.  If you even for one wild minute presume the boys will not be attracted to you sexually without a thick coat of mud on your face, you will be mistaken.

Want to make sure to be attractive to a man when standing close enough to see each other’s face?  Just make eye contact, and hold that gaze a bit.  And just as you break the stare and look down as if to blush, smile at him.  He will read your direct attention as an inspection, and read your smile as a clear sign of him passing it.  All men are vane in that way.  And if you court that vanity and if he likes you at all (and trust me he does), after that you can then drag him about by the nose if you wish.  You’ll not need to spend a penny at the makeup counter, trust me on this, as well.

One more thing:  Don’t play dumb.  They best thing that conveys, if there is any benefit to it at all is, you might be easily persuaded to make hapless decisions, or even stupid ones.  And if you think that is what the boy is looking for, go out and find another boy.  They’re around.  A new one is born about very twenty seconds–that’s more than four thousand of ‘em a day.  Just be careful you’re not the one birthing a disproportionate number of them all by yourself with no one wanting to stay around to help.  But that’s another story entirely, isn’t it?

 

Done Your Best? Was it Good Enough?

” ‘I have done my best’, that is about all the philosophy of living that one needs.”                                                               ~ Lin-yutang
*****

I might wish to disagree with the message, because it implies it is acceptable to believe all that we have already done is, and always was, the best we could have done.  So, I would not encourage others to accept it as true unless I was convinced that their average or even their worst was the best they could do.  Since we speak of the past, their worst may have been the best they did, bot NOT necessarily the best they could have done.

Besides that, why would we want to say: “This is about the only philosophy of living we need”?  By that, should we throw away all the other philosophies?  What about the brilliance of Bertrand Russell?  Should we throw out Epicurean philosophy, too?  Without it, Thomas Jefferson and many of his peers (if he had any) would not have pressed the American revolution as they did, I’m fairly certain of that, but I could be wrong.

While we’re at it, should we throw out John Locke?  Daniel Dennett?  Descartes?  Spinoza?  Maybe throw out some of Plato, but not all of it.  We might want to keep the “Allegory of the Cave” story that he said Socrates told him about.  I think as lot of people need a good dose of that.

Perhaps  Lin-yutang’s core message is to call for people to think better of themselves generally, and to pull away from the “conditioning” that has convinced them of what they are not capable of doing, or even not worthy of doing.  It’s that kind of conditioning that causes people to have a low threshold of self-expectation, and keeps them from even believing they can do better.  But please don’t presume too much about that believing stuff.  Believing and truth is not always an equation.  But at the same time, neither is NOT believing always an equation with truth.  That being said, believing you can accomplish something is far more motivating than believing you cannot.  You know that yourself from experience.  We all do. 

The person who does believe, and always has believed what they are doing is the best they can do, or could be doing, is either delusional or extraordinary.  Either way, to “admit to yourself that you have always done your best” is to say you believe you cannot do better than you have already done.  Also it says that whatever you have already done could not have been improved upon no matter how much effort or thought might have been applied.  I’ve spoken with people who were severely depressed.  That’s what they believe.  They believe they’ve already done the best they could.

Oh, they don’t believe their “best” was okay; no, not at all.  What they believe, what is the ever present frustrating sensation that pulls them constantly further down, is that the very best they have ever done about anything…was pathetic.  And that belief often brings them to the very brink of self destruction.

“Best” is often arbitrary, isn’t it?  It is a perception of value.  And when it comes to values, not everyone always agrees about what is the “best”.  Maybe better than just accepting or settling for whatever mess we make of a thing, we consider what we’d have to do to fix it.  Often we can’t fix everything at once.  But when we understand what is necessary, and work to incrementally increase the quality of our average efforts towards that end, we’ll have some hope of reaching it.  Otherwise, we can hope it doesn’t matter, but then we’d usually be lying to ourselves.  So, no.  To always claim I’ve done my best would come short of a proper philosophy of living if for no other reason than it would not be the truth.

“Sometimes it is not enough to do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”                                      ~ Winston Churchill

Robin Williams is dead. More importantly, he lived.

We often miss the deep back story if it has not been shared with us. Every person on earth has a back story.

“There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.” ~ Mark Twain

*****

“O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head;

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;

From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.” ~ Walt Whitman

*****

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play ‘goes on” and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
~ Robin Williams as the character, John Keating in the movie: “Dead Poets Society”

*****

The Captain cannot now rise up.  But can he not?  Perhaps he learned things that could not be unlearned, thus taking him down a dark corridor previously traversed by Ernest Hemingway, whose death many have tried to explain, but most done with pathetic misunderstanding.  I cannot always fairly be the judge of what depression truth and knowledge will bring upon another.  I suspect Robin Williams had a profound understanding of things far more complex and much deeper than many people can even imagine.  Death is a part of life, and while death may end a life, it does not negate it.

I do feel Whitman’s poem (posted above) was used quite powerfully in “The Dead Poets Society”, a performance given by Williams, like so many of his other performances, so close to his awareness of circumstance.  In the story, he got through to a small group of young men, but in doing so, fell victim of the narrow-minded bullying hand of “status quo”.

In real life, Robin was loved by millions.  He was a masterful wit and performing artist.  But was he really only understood by few?  Some have said of genius that it is perhaps entirely understood by nobody else living.  While I can presume why it could be said, I do not entirely believe it so.

And to some degree, that is also fair to say there has been a great deal of misunderstanding about lots of bright people, particularly of the philosophers that gave birth toThe American Revolution.  In some ways, it was possibly often best to not expect the masses to grasp the depth of the tyrannies you oppose and why you opposed them, but to just listen enough to get a feel for what you’re about–that, at least for a bit, so that some of the good you intend to be a benefit to them might shine through.  But what is kept from them intentionally will not be heard.

The privacy desired by any man so much in the public eye is often filled with trouble, just as are the very reasons he would want to be allowed some private thought.  I will not likely to ever fully understand why Robin chose to end his story as he did, but it isn’t my place to know it.  Except for one thing, and that I can be brought face to face with the sobering concept that some things can seem insurmountable even at, and possibly because of, levels of extreme brilliance.  I do not necessarily always hold with Phil Donahue’s explanation that: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  While it is permanent, other than the permanence of it, no other solution may ever surface.

So often, Mr. Williams spoke out against tyrannies that suppressed the very thinking of people in such a way that it would suppress the right of self determination about ones own private life and behavior.  He was against suppressions that harmed people due to the power of largely accepted dogma and narrow-minded traditions.  And when he did so, he also felt the ridicule of the bullies who oppress others with their powerful myths.  So, we must suspect there were times, not at all unlike the times many of us feel so overwhelming, that we have to keep something inside sometimes that by being kept inside, makes us sick because of the poisons in it.  Perhaps he found something in common with another great wit and deep thinker:

“Death, the refuge, the solace, the best and kindliest and most prized friend and benefactor of the erring, the forsaken, the old, and weary, and broken of heart, whose burdens be heavy upon them, and who would lie down and be at rest.”  ~ Mark Twain

Robin Williams will be remembered for so many things he did, and for things he said.  But what we will not generally remember en masse will be the deep thoughts he held that remain now forever unsaid.  And some of those who remember, will from time to time…rise up.  If that is not true, it will be a pity.

“If a group of people hear a tree fall in a forest and nobody talks about it afterward, how do we know that anyone heard it?” ~ Matthew Stewart, p 34, “Nature’s God–The Heretical Origins of the American Republic”

So, you think you have either an “A” or “B” type personality?

“I know nothing more annoying when people I don’t know jump to conclusions on my person based on nothing but gossip or speculation.”                                                                                                                                    ~ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, actor, producer and screenwriter

*****

I’m no fan of the simplicity of using the either A or B personality formula.  It is not very academic or scientific.  A and B type personality assessments were intended to determine the likelihood of a person having a coronary.  You can look it up.

It is a poor tool for determining overall temperament, character analysis, social style, or general personality.  Unfortunately, in the business world, it has been used as a screening tool, with an assumption of some iron-clad rule that one type is more likely to succeed than the other, and that the template works the same for all jobs in all industries.  That would be not only incorrect, it would be foolish.  Here’s your real A/B:

“One group of people believes everything can be divided into one of two groups.  The other group of people doesn’t.”

Never treat supposition as fact.  That would be no more scientific than using a coin toss to make all important decisions.  Also, be cautious of the risk of falling prey to illogical deductive reasoning:

“All safe motorcycles have at least two good wheels.  My lawnmower has at least two good wheels.  Therefore, my lawnmower is a safe motorcycle.” 

That’s right, factual perhaps in the statements, but the conclusion is ludicrous; not very scientific at all.  So, if it isn’t scientific, what is it?  Emotional?  Well?  Don’t most people make decisions because of what they feel more than by what they think?  Yes, they do.

A good example of the is when a person buys a car.  No matter how analytical they thought they were during the process, the decision to buy is ALWAYS an emotional one.  The only plausible argument with that would be that what you are feeling does go through your mind.

Most people who try to measure behavioral qualities of other people by using generalized cookie cutter templates might find some of the erroneous conclusions they will draw to become problematic; even harmful.  This mistake is also a common occurrence with self-assessments, too.

When a person reads a profile of themselves they like, and considers it flattering, they will want to believe it true whether it was in the astrology section of todays newspaper, or a fortune cookie.  Believing such things allows thinking to not seem so necessary.  And people do prefer a set of beliefs far more than they do the idea of having to logically analyze empirical evidence, or even look for it.  Modern psychology has come up with much better tools, but using them does require some thought and effort.

Look at people as individuals instead of using some presuppositional tool to put labels on them.  Folks are likely to resent labels, especially if they believe they came by superficial means.  Don’t forget about the times you have felt you were judged incorrectly or wrongly by someone who was obviously being prejudicial.

So it is with that in mind that I ask you to please be cautious about using any simplistic template where any of the descriptive labels used will be seen by the people you are “judging” as judgmental. When they discover what you’ve concluded or said, it is very likely to come across to them as unfairly critical, narrow-minded, condescending, or possibly rude if not mean-spirited.

Some folks prefer simple explanations, or at least the appearance of them.  By that measure, they will think this A/B tool is wonderful.  Those go for the simplicity of it are likely to quickly pack it away in their toolbox along with the other belief disorders they have collected over the years.  And that toolbox usually holds things folks have learned to believe on their own by jumping to conclusions, or have been taught to believe in accordance with the leap some other person or persons want you to take.

But as I’ve said before, what people believe to be true to in fact be true, is not now, nor has it eve been required.  But be careful when it come to challenging what other people insist they believe.  They might attack you, or even kill you if they feel it necessary to, not so much for themselves personally, but that their beliefs be kept safe.  For without ideology, idiotic or otherwise, you cannot have war.

House Committee Says No Benghazi Coverup. Fox Immediately…Says Nothing.

The House Intelligence Committee now says there was no Benghazi cover-up.  Fox News Network, which has aired hundreds of comments while the committee did it’s work, did not immediately respond at all.  Not a word.  Why do you think that a subject that was constantly on their agenda seems to have vanished so quickly?

The Australian Rupert Murdoch made a lot of money with a fake film about space aliens–even making part of it appear to be taken from old 16mm film stock to appear to have come from archives.  It’s an effects trick.  Evidently, his point was that you can sell anything to gullible people.  And, he did.  Lots of folks today still think it was a true story.

How does the news industry–newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, make money?  They sell advertising to sponsors.  What do sponsors want?  From a business point of view, they want circulation or coverage to be large enough to be effective in selling their commercial messages; they want the target market to be made up largely of people who can and will buy, and particularly they want viewers and listeners who are eager and happy to believe messages brought to them by that media.  For example, a company that sells sporting goods is much more likely to place their ads in “Field & Stream” than in “People” magazine.  Another thing the sponsors also often want is to be able to “like” the kind of format, layout, or programming of the medium that carries their name with it.

Consider this:  If you wish to attract an audience eager to see pictures of motorcycle gear, place your ad with media that covers motorcycle stories.  If you know an audience that is traditionally superstitious and fearful, scare them, and point out to them hope: tell them where to run for safety.  If you know them to be dogmatic, sell them dogma.  If you know them to be gullible, oh please, please please hurry and get your message in front of them.

Rupert Murdoch had a plan to make lots of money.  He would get it from other people who had lots of money by selling them stories they liked, and making it appeal to the subset of those easily swayed to want to believe those kinds of stories.  So the people with money saw it as a win/win in advertising: get a format they liked, and get an audience eager to believe things they see and hear through that format’s presentation.  Bingo.

Rupert founded The Fox News Network in 1996.  He promised advertisers and sponsors their messages would go out to people that can buy, and that those people will be eager to believe ANY messages they see and hear on that medium.  That was eighteen years ago at this writing.  Since then, they have never broken a single news story.  No, not even one.  Try to find one if you wish.  It will be a futile effort.

Here’s a kicker.  Most of their audience is so loyal that not only do they watch them exclusively for “information”, but when a story gets busted as false or misleading (a normal everyday occurrence?), they STILL BELIEVE IT just like those gullible people that still believe Rupert’s space alien video was real.  Benghazi?  A terrible and sad situation.  Has Fox been honest about what they have chosen to broadcast on the subject?  No, they have not.  But what about their audience?  Even though the House Intelligence Committee now says there has been no coverup, what do you think Fox’s loyal audience will continue to believe?   Imagine that!

Are the Tories trying to reverse the American Revolution?

“Most revolutionaries are potential Tories, because they imagine that everything can be put right by altering the shape of society; once that change is effected, as it sometimes is, they see no need for any other.” ~ George Orwell

“I greatly fear some of America’s greatest and most dangerous enemies are such as think themselves her best friends.” ~ Nathan Hale

“Whatever the motivations of those who seek to use the federal government against the rest of us, they too have launched an unbridled and unprincipled political war against their fellow citizens.  From the perspective of history, in other words:  They are the new King George.” ~ Rob Natelson

*****

In the mid-nineties, Carl Sagan estimated that about 95% of our population is scientifically illiterate. And as such, based decisions on superstitions and fears that the bullies who control them might become unhappy. Right now, a lot of people in congress and the senate-both democrats and republicans, feel pressured to do the bidding of powerful people who put up the money for their re-election campaigns and “Leadership” PACs.

The results of these practices have given the reigns of government to the very people (The Tories) our founding fathers staged a revolution against. The intent of the revolution was to not allow The Tories to continue undermining personal freedoms, and over-taxing working people to sustain the luxurious lifestyles of the entitled and often idle affluent class who were protected by both royal decree and by the theocracy of the Anglican church.

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” ~ George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (1789)

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.” ~ Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man (1791)

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.” ~ James Madison, General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1785)

“While we are under the tyranny of Priests [...] it will ever be their interest, to invalidate the law of nature and reason, in order to establish systems incompatible therewith.” ~Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man

“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”  ~ Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1779)

Today, legislators (many of them have David Koch* as a benefactor) often yield to the pressures of religious extremists who wish to force everyone to be under the control of the agenda of their own personal dogma–founded not in reason, but in superstition.  They also seem eager to reward corporations who would economically benefit from the measures of that kind of social control.  Additionally, some that avoid their fair share of taxes resulting in a disastrous burden on the poor and working class, get government contracts as a reward for their briberies.

This is the epitome of corruption which overrides the idea of one man-one vote. It begs the question of who these legislators truly represent. And now we have a Supreme Court, supposedly our council of the sage and wise, that upholds the rights of corporations above those of individual human beings.

“Unless you become more watchful in your states and check the spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that… the control over your dearest interests has passed into the hands of these corporations.” ~ Andrew Jackson

“All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law,” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” ~Dwight Eisenhower

*Why might you think some people feel the following represents some of David Koch’s agenda going back even as far as 1980 ?

Repeal all laws that restrict campaign contributions (in other words, allow legal bribery to continue unrestrained?), the privatization of all public roads and highways (or, allow the entitled landed gentry to set up unrestricted toll booths everywhere?), shutting down the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration (because they interfere with unbridled profits by making corporations accountable to public safety and health?); the Department of Transportation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Aviation Commission, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all publicly funded schools and colleges, all aid to poor, the US Postal Service, and stop all state and federal programs intended for protecting the environment (open all public lands to unrestricted use by the lumber, coal and petroleum industries?). End all regulations of the pharmaceutical, banking, petroleum, manufacturing, and insurance industries, repeal the Occupational Safety and Health Act, all usury laws in all states (no legal restrictions on what interest,exorbitant or otherwise, can be charged?), and the repeal of any laws that might allow employees to sue their employer for discrimination, especially opposed to allowing women equal pay when doing the same work as men, even though it has been federal law since 1963.

Were not a lot of these points a part to the platform when he ran for vice president back in 1980?  Have you seen any change in his agenda since then?

These measures might prove quite profitable to 1% of the people, but not necessarily so good for the other 99%.  A lot of folks can see through the ironies and inconsistencies in modern day political rants, which are common not only in campaigns, but all over social media as well.  Yet as it is with many other social pressures, many people are quite fearful of offending their peer group by disagreeing with them.

Even so, the practices of what some of their peers seem to espouse are in great conflict with the principles so many people insist they hold so dear.  Some of you must suspect the hatred for the poor and disadvantaged that seems to spew constantly from many outspoken “leaders” of the religious right might appear to be in contention with the intent of what those so called leaders insist make up their foundational teachings.

“Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians – you are not like him.” ~ Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

Crabs and The Buzzard Hunters

The dock behind the rental house only stood over water at high tide.  At low tide, it stood over mud.  We checked the time of the tides constantly all week while we were there, as we were going to have a good time even if it killed us.  So with that in mind, one or the other of us would ask periodically:

“What time is the next high tide?”

As luck would have it, high tide would come the first night before three O’clock in the morning.  So I woke by instinct to walk out to the dock and set the crab traps.  I think I took a flashlight with me, because I didn’t fall off the dock into the water.  I remember hearing them go “sploosh”, then I walked back to the house and crawled into the bed thinking I would jump back up in a couple of hours to check the results.  But the sandman had me, and the ocean didn’t wait around for me to wake up.

As the sun peeked over the horizon, high tide had slipped back out to sea leaving the crab trap and dip nets resting on the muddy marsh bottom.  Besides covered with some reeds, a few were courting nearby oyster beds to make retrieval a bit of a chore.  One small straggler remained in the trap even though the rest of his company had joined ranks with other crabs at the edges of deep water piers further down the Beaufort River.  In spite of what some folks think, if a crab can get into the basket, he can also get out, except for the few who have not been regular about doing their crabanomics homework.

The smell of the ocean and the brackish water of the marsh bordering the river bank caused me to take a deep breath.  I was happy to be enjoying such aromas which brought back memories of recent years as well as many all the way back to childhood.  I loosened the top of the trap to let the lone crab who was not quite legal from point to point be allowed to return to the water.  He hissed and spit showing no proper gratitude, and motioned with his pinchers that he’d gladly take me on if I’d risk to reach a hand towards him.  I did not.

Not yet having had coffee, I made quick work of pulling all the crab-catching equipment up on the dock.  There’d be time to deal with it later, as I intended to lower them all back into the water with the next high tide.  It was a private dock behind the house we were staying in, so I figured the stuff would be safe enough for a while.  However, when they were disturbed a little later, it was not human hands making mischief.

From the window of an air conditioned den, I saw the buzzard.  At first I didn’t realize he’d already taken care of the chicken backs and necks in the dip nets.  What I saw was this large raptor tugging at the big trap, and had pulled it about three feet if not four further down the dock than where I’d left it.  Seems the column of bait in the center of the trap can’t be accessed from the top, so the buzzard was trying to find a way to somehow turn the cage over to improve his reach.  With all of his full and devoted attention given to the crab trap, the buzzard could not manage to turn it over, but turned it around several times, never improving access to the coveted delicacies packed in the bait column.

As he tried to pick up the cage, his wings were employed in the process almost as if they had fingers.  I say “almost”, for if they did, the crab trap’s position would have been no obstacle to the bird.  He was using every engineering tool in his head, but without fingers and thumbs the best strategic maneuvers still resulted in no tactical satisfaction at all.  I think I saw him shrug his shoulders a couple of times and appeared to be mumbling something that would be congruent to his frustration.  I’d imagine by then the buzzard’s muttered utterances would’ve challenged even his breath for a horrendous lack of social propriety.

It was time to continue Lila Bea’s and Sir Benson Zipper Dee Doo Dah’s education, as neither one had ever seen a buzzard up close, so I called them to come take a walk with me.  At first they took no notice of what was going on out on the dock.  There were things to smell and pee on, which is the whole point of a walk as far as a dawg is concerned.

A buzzard’s business is no less intense or purposeful.  This particular buzzard was so well absorbed in his occupation that the dawgs and I were able to walk more than halfway out onto the dock before having our presence acknowledged.  The acknowledgement came on the heels of our announcement, a courtesy handled by the dawgs so that I’d have no need to ring a bell or say a word.

Zipper, though large for the Boston Terrier breed, is a small dawg.  Yet he cranked up a deep baritone growl that sounded like a V-twin motorcycle engine idling sans mufflers.  Lila, almost twice the size of Zipper, responded in a higher Soprano pitch she often uses when excited.  Lila Bea seemed to recognize the bird.  To my surprise, she began calling his name loudly:

“Hey, Ralph!  Ralph!  Ralph, Ralph!  Ralph, Ralph, Ralph!  Hey, hey, hey, hey!  Ralph!”

That must’ve been his name, because he turned around sharply to look at us directly.  From the glare in Ralph’s wide open left eye, it’s possible that he was not expecting company, and up ’til that moment, had been completely unaware of our approach.  He turned to give us a gander with the other eye, and also to step back a bit from the two approaching dawgs, when one of his feet got tangled in a dip net that moments before he’d been using as a place mat or salad bowl.  While graceful in the air, buzzards on land are seldom asked to choreograph a ballet.  And when tethered and tangled, they can take clumsy to a whole new clownish level.  I’ve never seen a dance quite like it, or at least not a sober one.

Ralph’s beak was fully cocked as he quickly lifted his wings in the manner you’d expect from spinnakers of sailing vessels in a strong downwind.  He lifted his untangled talon assuming momentarily the position of a martial arts expert, which I’m sure he was.  This visualization caused both dawgs to put on the brakes just long enough to give ol’ Ralph the precious time needed to free his other foot from the strings of the netting, and took to the air with such ease and gracefulness that it would seem anybody could do it.

Zipper was so impressed with the apparent simplicity of flight that I had to give a firm tug on the leash to keep him from flying off the end of the dock in pursuit of Ralph.  Lila was pulling hard too, but was trying to mount the side rails of the dock hoping to grab the bird by the tail as he went by.  She had him in her gaze, and followed his movements as he circled around to take a safe perch in one of the live oak trees behind us.

Ralph peeked through the curtains of Spanish moss, thus giving away his position.  Lila made a bee-line to the base of the tree to announce his presence.  The barking must’ve been sufficient to warrant Ralph leaving his perch and again take flight.  He swooped down onto the top of a dock running out from the adjacent property.  But there was no stealth in the maneuver, as both dawgs spotted him right away.

Lila went on perfect point due to ancestral traits, and Zipper used her as a guide to determine which way to dash off in hot pursuit.  He wanted that bird as much as he’d want a tennis ball thrown anywhere, which is to be expected of the breed.  Ralph saw us all coming towards him, but by the time we reached the other dock, he’d glided back over to ours.  Both dawgs shifted gears and took off after him again, sending Ralph back up into the live oaks.  The camouflage kept me from spotting him right away, but Lila knew exactly which tree limb he was on, and did her best to try to climb up after him.  Zipper was temporarily distracted by a squirrel, but I’m sure the buzzard could still hear his motor running.

The ping-pong tournament between the two properties continued for a while.  I took to hiding behind the house with the dawgs until he got close, then let them go running out onto the dock to flush him airborne again.  Finally, Ralph decided to go somewhere else, perhaps to get a rest.  I went out to look at my crabbing gear.  The dip nets were stripped of any sign of bait other than a couple of chicken bones polished so cleanly you’d think they were put to a buffing wheel.  The bait in the big trap was intact, but something else caught my eye.

The old cage trap used to belong to my father when he lived just across the river from where I was now staying.  I stood there staring at the weathered old trap and thought about the many seasons it has sat in my back yard seeing water only when it rained.  The chicken wire construction is coated with a black rubbery  skin to protect it from the salt water.  It’s bent up in a few places, and near one corner the black coating shows a bit of red paint, faded now over the years, but still noticeable.

Just as I now store it outside, so did my father when he didn’t have it in use.  It’s usual place to rest in his back yard was under a live oak tree right behind his workshop.  One autumn, a good many acorns had accumulated all around and under the trap, and a squirrel managed to get himself turned around in it and couldn’t figure out how to get out again.

Dad had been doing long term battle with the squirrels over matters concerning bird feeders, so this fella was a prisoner of war.  And as a prisoner, he had to be marked in some way.  Having just finished putting a coat of bright red paint on a toolbox he had repaired for a neighbor, Dad decided–since he still had the can of spray paint in his hand…well the squirrel was soon sporting a bright red high gloss glow-in-the-dark bushy tail.

As soon as Dad was sure the paint was dry he released him, and for the next several weeks enjoyed hearing the neighbors give report of seeing a most unusual squirrel with a red tail.  He took pleasure in leading them to believe he doubted their tail tale, and suggested it was just an angle of the light, or that they must be hallucinating.

The buzzard incident taught me not to leave baited crab nets on the dock, so from then on at low tide I’d carry them up to the house and hide them in the trash can.  You can imagine the smell, so I’ll not describe it to you.  With them secure, I’d be able to rest between tides and even sleep some at night.

That very evening in the middle of the night we heard what sounded like a herd of deer galloping across the roof, and knew it was way too early in the year for Santa Claus.  But other than that seasonal oddity, deer don’t generally run on the roofs of houses, and additionally they don’t go about knocking over trash cans to get to rotting chicken parts, either.  It is just not their custom.  But raccoons will do both.

Thank goodness the dawgs were kenneled safely inside the house, otherwise I’m sure we would’ve made the six O’clock news.  Later in the week we took Lila and Zipper to the beach to see how they would like surfing.  The Yellow Lab was cautious.  She managed the breakers timidly, but the Boston Terrier thought I was trying to drown him, and said so.

All in all it was a good week, and in spite of a few crazy moments, it was one of the more restful periods I’ve had in quite a while.  As is normal, you hate for a vacation to end, but it’s always good to get back home.  The next morning, hoping to coax me to get out of bed early and make a pot of coffee as I’d been doing on vacation, Brenda asked in a calm voice:

“What time is high tide?”

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