Out Of The Pun, Into The Fire ~ Early Evening Thoughts

(update 8-19-2007) I received a delightful e-mail giving me authorship information on the 2003 winner Gary Roma of http://www.ironfrog.com/. He will be publishing a book soon of his stories, including Love Letters. Thanks Gary for bringing me up to speed.
—-

Each year, in Austin TX. there is an O.Henry “pun-off” where contestants compete to win the best of that years puns. While this years winners have yet to be punsted posted I did find some rather delightful puns and stories from previous years.

I posted some winners of the actual contest before, but these were voted on by the Save The Pun Foundation members as best stressed puns.

from Best Stressed Puns of 2004.

Ascent..An aroma.
Brisket..To speed something up.
Castrate..To evaluate all the actors in a movie or play.
Dollop..To dress up attractively.
Exposed..A retired model.
Forthcoming..Three visits weren’t enough.
Germination..The birthplace of Beethoven.
Hi-fidelity..A devoted couple.
Institute..A spontaneous session of wind and brass instruments.
Logarithm..Tapping out the beat of a tune on a tree trunk.

From 2003: Love Letters by Gary Roma – see updated version —>HERE<—

Words are just lucky letters. How do letters get lucky? They go to bars. Let’s listen:

A consonant goes into a bar and sits down next to a vowel.
“Hi!” he says, “Have you ever been here before?”
“Of cursive,” she replies, “I come here, like, all the time”
He can tell from her accent (which is kind acute) that she is a Vowelly Girl. He looks her over. She’s short and has a nice assonance.
She sure is a cipher sore I’s, thinks this consonantal dude. He remains stationery, enveloped by her charm. “And what an uppercase!” His initial reaction is so pronounced, he doesn’t know what to say. He is, at present, tense. Admiring her figure of speech, he falls into a fantasy.
He pictures a perfect wedding: They exchange wedding vowels.
The minister says, “I now pronouns you man and wife.”
They kiss each other on the ellipsis. “I love you, noun forever,” he whispers. The conjugation is in tiers. In a word, they are wed.
He awakens from his daydream and proposes a dance, but she declines.
Ferment there, she looks like she’s going to bee [sic].
“Gee, are you okay?” he asks her.
“I’m, like, under a lot of stress … I’ve got a yeast inflection.”
“I knew something was brewing.”
He calls the bartender. “Listen, bud, my beer is warm.”
The bartender takes the bottle and empties it in the sink.
The dude watches as his hops go down the drain.
“Let’s go outside,” he says to her. “I’d like to have a word with you.”
“Are you prepositioning me?”
“I won’t be indirect. You are the object of my preposition.”
“Oh my God, you’re, like, such a boldfaced character!”
“I see your point. But I’m font of you. C’mon let’s go.”
“Do I have to spell it out? You’re not my type, so get off my case.
Reluctantly, he decides to letter B. “Now my evening lies in runes,” he laments. He leaves, hoping to have letter luck next time.

And last (but not least) from 2001:

The Peter Pan club? Never. Never.

The quarterback club? I’ll pass.

The compulsive rhymers club? Okey‑dokey.

The Spanish optometrists club? Si.

The pregnancy club? That’s conceivable.

The Self‑Esteem Builders club? They probably won’t accept me.

The Agoraphobics Society? Only if they meet at my house.

And Then They Arrived ~ Early Evening Thoughts

It would be nice to be managing a larger complex, I decided on Wednesday. My frustration level was almost at optimum, and I was waiting for maintenance to happen. Most large complexes have their own dedicated (to the complex ~ I won’t deal with how dedicated to work they are!) people that are supposed to accomplish miracles in a short space of time.

I had been waiting for some not-so-minor things to be accomplished. Waiting, waiting, waiting. It was much as the furniture story I posted the other day. This time, however, there were no fingernails to chew…they were gone. There was no one to yell at ~ well, no one who was part of the solution to the problem anyway.

Finally, I pulled in the “big gun” and made a phone call. To who will remain behind a discretionary curtain – but needless to say, help was promised within the hour. Now, we all know how that can go ~ one hour stretches into three or four and then into a day. I was prepared. Within the hour, as I was standing outside getting some air…a truck pulled up and it was reminiscent of a cop movie. Four burly guys flew out of the truck, one charged up to me ~ put out his hand. He shook mine in a vice-like grip, asked what needed to be done now and as I was stammering my response (yes, my hand hurt!) they were off on their missions.

I have since dubbed these folks my personal SWAT team. They accomplished in two hours (!!) what had not been accomplished in two days. I would have done a victory dance, but was afraid I’d fall in the bushes or the street ~ so I admirably restrained myself.

Today they were put to the test. I had three drains in three apartments that were backing up and overflowing…not a good sign. The SWAT team were dealing with issues at three complexes, but assured me they would be here today to get more magic done.

I should have simply trusted them – but … so, when they weren’t here in the morning, I started trying to find out what was going on. It’s not as if there weren’t other things that needed attention, but I was getting some/most/a little of those done as the day went on its merry pace.

It was now afternoon. And one of my more delightful (sort-of) tenants was coming into the office at increasingly shorter intervals to let me know that 1) no one had arrived yet and 2) the water was still backing up and 3) to give me a running tally of how many “buckets” he had taken from the sink and dumped in the toilet.

Of course, there were the usual phone calls, tenants and prospective tenants sandwiched in around getting paper work done (remember, in a weekly rental apartment I do everything I had a month to do before in 5 days…and then get the privilege of doing it all over again the next week!).

Finally, I was making phone calls at increasingly shorter intervals to find out what ~ if anything ~ was going to happen.

4:14pm came around and my SWAT team arrived…this time with only three members. There was the same exit from the truck as before, the same bone crunching handshake … and they piled into the work. And by the time I left for awhile at the end of my day, they had accomplished all they set out to do, and all that I needed them to do. A good feeling.

Now, I’m not sure what the tenant is going to do tomorrow without a reason to come in and give me reports ~ but perhaps (given his …ahem…advanced age…more than mine) he’ll spend the day recovering.

As for me? Tomorrow brings new challenges, ideas and keeping up with what needs to be done.

I don’t get the SWAT team back until Wednesday ~ but that is alright, as I can rest comfortably in the knowledge they will be here and will get things accomplished!!

Maybe I better watch out – they might start doing my job as well … Now that’s a thought ~

–I’m still unable to publish pictures … hopefully in the next few days …

The Beginning -Complex Tales ~ Early Evening Thoughts

I had promised a number of posts ago, to start telling the “complex tales” about where I’m working. I’ve found my life once again full of delightful (and some not-so-delightful) people who can make my day more interesting than I ever thought possible.

Several weeks ago, when I hired on ~ one of the problems was maintenance…or rather the lack of it. We tried Toby in the job – and that didn’t work out. I did have someone that lived at the complex who was versed in some of the skills that were needed, so it was decided to give him a try.

One of the first things anyone managing or doing anything at an apartment complex learns is how to drill a lock. Yes, sometimes you have to change locks for legal reasons (usually having to do with an eviction) and there is no key. It is not difficult to do – unless you don’t do it correctly.

It was the end of the day, and R said that he would drill the lock for me – we were taking possession of an apartment that someone had vacated before the police were going to arrive. As he had never done this before, I showed him where to drill (there are two places) and how deep to drill (drilling for oil will only complicate the process). He repeated the where and the what for ~ and I started on my way home. I had to walk to the train to had downtown and then wait for a bus to carry me home. I had no sooner gotten to the train station when the first call came from R. Disaster evidently had struck.

I turned around and headed back to work. I arrived to find a very frustrated newbie maintenance man, metal shavings all over the porch – and a lock that looked as if it had been hit completely in the middle by a meteorite…there was a one and one half inch crater in the center of a three inch lock.

Now we are in a mess. The purpose of drilling in two places is to get the pins to loosen and eventually drop off and the lock gently, quietly and sweetly comes open. If not, you have to continue drilling in a circular pattern around the lock hoping that the screws from the inside will eventually drop out and you can twist the lock open.

Literally 12 ~ yes ~ twelve holes later, one of the screws drops – but the lock pins are holding strong. I now have a newbie maintenance man with steam coming out of his ears and if not-gentle conversation from him could have melted the lock ~ it would have.

I decided that the time for direct action had finally arrived. I really didn’t think the second screw was going to drop, the pins were there for the duration and I really didn’t have anymore time to mess with it. Since the drill was made of metal – I delivered several strong blows with the side of the drill to the lock casing ~ and the second screw dropped. And we were home free…except for the 2nd lock. Looking at R I asked if he was OK doing he next one. He assured me he was and with a quick motion of the drill, he began. It was success!!

I took out the sword of management and dubbed him “no longer newbie” on the spot…and again wended my way home. I also would never admit to him that the first lock I ever drilled on a vacant apartment ~ we ended up kicking the door in because I made such a mess of it. I have SOME pride left after all!!!

—more to follow

Pant, Pant, Puff, Puff ~ Late Night Thoughts

A quick update ~ and I apologize for not posting Friday as I said I would. This was an absolutely wild, crazy, frustrating, amazing week. Monday was just the tip of the iceberg about the job that I had taken. When I finally got through some of the paperwork, I found that the corporate office (deliberately lower case), my boss and myself were operating on completely different figures. I had one set, my boss another and accounting a third. Unfortunately, the office was in the midst of updating how the accounts are done and posted.

We know how much fun changing anything can be, this involved approximately 15 properties of various sizes, shapes and states of being. And this was…fun was maybe one of the words I might have used this week.

I also have (finally) seen the apartment that goes with the job, and am seriously considering moving into it.
Not that it would add any more confusion to what’s already going on ~ right??

I put in quite a few hours this week (as in over 56) – and I think I ran myself slightly down in the process. Today I have felt a cold trying to take over (sooo not going to happen!!). So, as my dear friend SGB said to tell everyone: I’m not doing a lengthy post tonight ~ I’m going to bed with a hot number (and that’s my temperature!) (What were YOU thinking?) and a dose of “Theraflu.” ….

I should be back on track tomorrow ~

THE JOB

Imagine that
the job were
so delicate
that you could
seldom-almost
never-remember
it. Impossible
work, really.

Like placing
pebbles exactly
where they were
already. The steadiness it
takes… and
to what end?
It’s so easy
to forget again.

Kay Ryan

–crazy doesn’t cover it magnet
http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/HPM/BM1162~Crazy-Doesn-t-Cover-It-Posters.jpg
–Job Poem by Kay Ryan
Published in the New Yorker Magazine dated January 31st 2000

A Last Minute Suggestion ~ Late Night Thoughts

If you are looking for a last minute Father’s Day gift (for me, of course!) ~ look no further … from Bloomberg.com.

A diamond-encrusted platinum skull by Damien Hirst will go on sale for 50 million pounds ($99 million) in London. The price compares with the $8 million hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen paid for the artist’s pickled shark in 2005.

“For the Love of God” is covered entirely by 8,601 stones weighing a total of 1,106.18 carats. It will form part of the exhibition, “Beyond Belief,” at the White Cube, Mason’s Yard gallery next month. Other works will go on show at Hoxton Square.

A sale of the skull for about $100 million would put Hirst, 41, on a price level with Pablo Picasso and Gustav Klimt, dead artists who produced some of the 20th century’s most famous works.

White Cube won’t release an image of the skull (I have an image below) or discuss security, gallery spokeswoman Sara Macdonald said in a telephone interview. She confirmed the 50 million-pound price, reported in the Sunday Times on April 29. There’s a private view on June 2 and the exhibition will open to the public from June 3 through July 7.

The show will include two new series of works. “Fact Paintings” depicts the birth of Hirst’s son Cyrus by cesarean section in August 2005. “Biopsy Paintings” are based on images of 30 different forms of cancer and other terminal illnesses.

Twelve new sculptures will include seven formaldehyde works from Hirst’s “Natural History” series. “Death Explained” presents a tiger shark cut in two, displayed in separate tanks.

“In this exhibition, Hirst continues to explore the fundamental themes of human existence — life, death, truth, love, immorality and art itself,” White Cube said in a press release.

The U.K. artist employs about 80 people in studios and administration, having added 30 staffers to handle coming shows, his spokeswoman Jude Tyrrell told Bloomberg News in March.

Assistants help create art ranging from medicine cabinets to pickled animals to butterflies stuck in gloss paint, she said.

Actually – when you scroll down to see the skull … it’s really kind of creepy. Perhaps the pickled fish would be a better idea? Or as my Mother would say: “Just one more thing to dust!”

Porpourri – Answers From Earlier ~ Very Late Night Thoughts

I realized that during my brief time away, I had forgotten neglected to give the answer to the puzzles I had posted. I have given myself twenty lashes with an old Games Magazine and here are the answers ~

First Puzzle ~ (sometimes called “The Vowels Holy Holiday”)

“In an old church in Westchester county, N.Y., the following consonants are written beside the altar, under the Ten Commandments. What vowel is to be placed between them, to make sense and rhyme of the couplet?”

P.R.S.V.R.Y.P.R.F.C.T.M.N.
V.R.K.P.T.H.S.P.R.C.P.T.S.T.N

This one is missing all the “E”‘s that would help it make sense.

PERSEVERE YE PERFECT MEN
EVER KEEP THESE PRECEPTS TEN.

Second Puzzle ~

A new bride was required by her husband to show him all her correspondence. She did manage to get important information to her best friend, with the following letter.

Revealing the Secret

“The key is to read every other line!!”

I cannot be satisfied, my dearest Friend,
blest as I am in the matrimonial state,
unless I pour into your friendly bosom,
which has ever beat in unison with mine,
the various sensations which swell
with the liveliest emotion of pleasure,
my almost bursting heart. I tell you my dear
husband is the most amiable of men,
I have now been married seven weeks, and
never have found the least reason to
repent the day that joined us. My husband is
both in person and manners far from resembling
ugly, cross, old, disagreeable, and jealous
monsters, who think by confining to secure –
a wife, it is his maxim to treat as a
bosom friend and confidant, and not as a
plaything, or menial slave, the woman
chosen to be his companion. Neither party
he says, should always obey implicitly;
but each yield to the other by turns.
An ancient maiden aunt, near seventy,
a cheerful, venerable, and pleasant old lady,
lives in the house with us; she is the de-
light of both young and old; she is ci-
vil to all the neighborhood round,
generous and charitable to the poor.
I am convinced my husband loves nothing more
than he does me; he flatters me more
than a glass; and his intoxication
(for so I must call the excess of his love)
often makes me blush for the unworthiness
of its object, and wish I could be more deserving
of the man whose name I bear. To
say all in one word, my dear, and to
crown the whole — my former gallant lover
is now my indulgent husband; my husband
is returned, and I might have had
a prince without the felicity I find in
him. Adieu! may you be as blest as I am un-
able to wish that I could be more
happy!

Third Puzzle ~ (probably already known to anyone who’s taken a training class!!)

Wood,
John,
Mass.

It was delivered to John Underwood – Andover, Mass.

Once A Pun A Time ~ Early Morning Thoughts

On May 19th, Austin, TX will play host to an annual event of non-earthshaking proportions.

THE O. HENRY PUN-OFF:
AUSTIN’S THIRTY LITTLE SECRET

A little history is in order – starting with the ISTPF -International Save The Pun Foundation (who knew??):

Founded by the late John Crosbie in 1979, the International Save The Pun Foundation has become the world’s largest and fastest-growing apocryphal society. Since one person in five in North America is a functional illiterate, and since everywhere the little red schoolhouse is full of too many little-read students, the Foundation exists to arouse a greater interest in reading by encouraging people to have fun with words.

To quote from their history:

The current chairman of the bored, Norman Gilbert, is a financial planner based in Toronto, Ontario. He first subscribed to the pundit in 1984, after hearing John Crosbie in a radio interview, and has never looked back. When John died in 1994, Norman acquired the rights to the Foundation from John’s estate, the transaction taking place, appropriately, on April Fool’s Day.

Under Norman’s leadership, the Foundation’s 1,600 members continue to stumble onward, spreading the good (and sometimes not-so-good) words, and scattering their gems of linguistic libertinism about them like Johnny Appleseed, although perhaps not always with the same level of appreciation. Hysterically screaming “Up the pun!”, this unruly band of rebels may be found waving tattered copies of the pundit, and storming the barricades of grammatical rules and regulations around the world. From Australia to Zimbabwe, wherever they are erected by the steadily retreating phalanxes of pedants and self-appointed guardians of our language, the barriers are falling, and people are having fun with the language, thanks to the unceasing efforts of Norman and his plucky crew.


With great hesitancy, I bow to my love of words – and my admiration for the truly awful pun – and present two of last years winners of the pun-off.

There is a time-limit of 90 seconds for contestants…to which can be added 30 seconds making a total of 2 minutes. Quite long enough to listen to a string of puns I would say. There are two divisions: Punniest of Show and High-Lies & Low-Puns – and each division is limited to 32 participants.

AURAL SEX
(hint: read it carefully)

The graffiti on the PLATHroom wall was simple: “For hot one-on-one word play, call 1-800-WORDCORE.

And so I call, and she answers, and she jumps right into it.

She says, “Are you ready for some aural sex?”

And I say, “Oh, yes!”

And she says, “What are you drinking?”

And I say, “A tall tequila mockingbird, what are you drinking?”

And she said, “A nice vodka milkSHAKESPEARE. You sound so buff…have you been working out? I can tell you have tight vocabs. I’ll bet you have a huge dictionary.”

And I said, “Oh yes, indeed, it’s the Oxford English Language Dictionary. 151 pounds of pure…definition.”

And she said, “I want you to give me multiples right now!”

So, I purred, “Onomatopaea!”

And cried, “More! More!”

So, I moaned, “Supracalifragilisticespialidocious!”

And she said, “Don’t fake it. Give it to me RILKE.”

So, I whispered, “Antidisestablishmentarianism…”

And she screamed, “Affirmative! Affirmative! I want you to rap for me! Now!”

And I said, “What? Rap? I can’t rap!”

And she said, “But rappers are SO sexy!”

And I said, “I can’t rap! I was a Lit Major!”

And she said, “Oh, go PLATH yourself! I know you’ve got a superior WHIT, MAN, so just pull out your DICKENSON and start KEROUACKing now!”

So, I said:

“Uhm… Yo…

My words are warm wool slippers, put your poor, cold feets in
they’ll lock you up like Alexander Solzenitzen!

I’m cooking up lyrics like I was a chef, see?
I’ll give you Rhymes and Punishment like Dostoyevski!

Before you step to me, you better back the heck off,
‘cuz I’ve got more plays that Anton Chekov!”

She said, “You need to slow down, why you be Russian? By the way, you sound a little gay… Are you a homophone?”

And it was then that I realized this wasn’t really working for me. We were just two relationships passing wind in the night, crashing into the same GINSBURG.
–Eirik Ott (copyright 2006)

AN ANIMAL DICTIONARY

Four years ago I stood here and presented an ABC primer on animal puns. Since Richard Lederer and I now have a new book out (titled THE GIANT BOOK OF ANIMAL JOKES), I thought it would be appropriate to present an all-new alphabetical primer on animal puns, with completely different animals. Here I go:

I will not cast ASPersion on my previous performance, but I will BUCK the trend of not using the same theme. I just hope it doesn’t become a CATastrophe and I start DRAGON my feet. And I hope no one will feel any EEL will towards me, as I just want to have a lot of FAWN. In fact, I’ll GOAT to any length to keep these animal puns going forever and HEIFER. I’ll tow the line and try not to give up an INCHworm, as I dig for more animal puns. If I have to search for animal puns at night, I’ll use a JACKAL lantern. My goal, as always, is to keep up the KOALAty of these animal puns. If I can offer any tips to anyone, just LEMUR know. If you’re not sure, merely MULLET over for a while. But don’t be bashful; because, in this case, no news is bad NEWTs. If I’m ever in your neighborhood, I’ll stop by for a visit if OPOSSUM by your house. And I’ll drive carefully, since I don’t want to be accident PRAWN. If I come, I promise not to QUAHOG the conversation. You must think I’m a RAVEN lunatic to keep up this SHRIMPly awful animal punning, when in fact it actually makes me THRUSHed with delight and URCHIN to tell even more. So, are you VIXEN to invite me over? If so, I think WEEVIL have a good time. We could sit around and talk about the death of some skate and ray fish, commonly know as X-
RAYS. Or we could dress up, go out, and YAK it up. Finally though, if a female is invited, she should be sure to wear (as the French say) ZE BRA.
–Jim Ertner (copyright 2006)

Potpourri ~ Late Night Thoughts

I thought I would be able to move from a rather “silly” Saturday to a more sedate Sunday. However, a couple of friends decided I needed some puzzles and such to liven up my day. The first item, however, I found by myself …

From a science post I found:

This compound, C4H5As, is known as arsole.

When it’s fused to a benzene ring, it’s called benzarsole.

And yes, the poster and I DID go there.

“In an old church in Westchester county, N.Y., the following consonants are written beside the altar, under the Ten Commandments. What vowel is to be placed between them, to make sense and rhyme of the couplet?”

P.R.S.V.R.Y.P.R.F.C.T.M.N.
V.R.K.P.T.H.S.P.R.C.P.T.S.T.N

(And you thought I would automatically post the solution? – I’ll post it tomorrow)

Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausen- berger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen- ­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer- ­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum- ­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­derneurasse­von­ver- standigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht-­ vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior, was born in Hamburg in 1904.

It’s not known whether he worked at the Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeam- tengesellschaft —
(the office that governed steamboat passage on the Danube)—
but he certainly should have.


A new bride was required by her husband to show him all her correspondence. She did manage to get important information to her best friend, with the following letter.

Revealing the Secret

I cannot be satisfied, my dearest Friend,
blest as I am in the matrimonial state,
unless I pour into your friendly bosom,
which has ever beat in unison with mine,
the various sensations which swell
with the liveliest emotion of pleasure,
my almost bursting heart. I tell you my dear
husband is the most amiable of men,
I have now been married seven weeks, and
never have found the least reason to
repent the day that joined us. My husband is
both in person and manners far from resembling
ugly, cross, old, disagreeable, and jealous
monsters, who think by confining to secure –
a wife, it is his maxim to treat as a
bosom friend and confidant, and not as a
plaything, or menial slave, the woman
chosen to be his companion. Neither party
he says, should always obey implicitly;
but each yield to the other by turns.
An ancient maiden aunt, near seventy,
a cheerful, venerable, and pleasant old lady,
lives in the house with us; she is the de-
light of both young and old; she is ci-
vil to all the neighborhood round,
generous and charitable to the poor.
I am convinced my husband loves nothing more
than he does me; he flatters me more
than a glass; and his intoxication
(for so I must call the excess of his love)
often makes me blush for the unworthiness
of its object, and wish I could be more deserving
of the man whose name I bear. To
say all in one word, my dear, and to
crown the whole — my former gallant lover
is now my indulgent husband; my husband
is returned, and I might have had
a prince without the felicity I find in
him. Adieu! may you be as blest as I am un-
able to wish that I could be more
happy!

“The key ____________________”
(Oh dear, I’ll have to post this solution to this tomorrow also.)
– Charles Bombaugh, Facts and Fancies for the Curious From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1860

In The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical (1882), Frank H. Stauffer describes a letter with the following puzzling address:

Wood,
John,
Mass.

It was delivered to ____________________.
(Ah, once again the answer posted tomorrow!)

Squeeze A Grape (The Finale) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

The Finale (Chapter one) (Chapter two)

Our train car still overflowing, was beginning to settle down. We were still crowded beyond belief, still trying to find ways to get comfortable and the village was still encamped around the bathroom. Evidently, my maneuver with the drag queens had given me a small bit of notoriety, and there were no longer complaints or grumblings when any of us had to use the bathroom. And the car was still connected very close to the engine. A coal fired engine.

At this point, some of the negatives of the situation were becoming very overwhelming – especially to the students. They had put up with the train station upheaval, the conditions – and all the people. However, even their willingness to be adventurous was being tried to the limit.

The train pulled into a station for a quick stop. That was when we discovered that the Cirque De Woodystock was about the enter the free market zone. From that point on – until we reached our destination – the wheels of commerce had joined our group. I think I would have welcomed the dancers back. During this time we were treated to vendors getting on at a stop and getting off at the next. We were all wondering why the passengers weren’t doing that as well.

We had booze sellers – of both the hot and cold variety, no ID check required. My immediate answer was no – which had to be repeated several times to the older students. The villagers in front of the bathroom were very glad to see that vendor. We had people selling various food items – some identifiable and some (most) not. Roasted nuts proved to be very popular among everyone in the car. At some point two fruit vendors got on the train and walked the aisles with bananas and such. We had vendors with dishes, cooking pots of all sizes. We had someone selling a rubber band ukulele and something I had not seen before nor since – a tin can guitar. There were at least two booksellers, I think. (Remember, at this point we all have been without any or much sleep, food had been sporadic and no one had been near a shower for awhile. We were “the sweaty unwashed masses.” ) One of the booksellers realized the breadth of his audience ages. He tried to sell children’s books to the students and to the adults – in full view of the students, he offered a selection of adult books. The covers of some would have been cause for immediate arrest in the US.

While the phenomenon went unnoticed at first – a couple of the more alert students picked up on it, and acted accordingly. At some of the stops, passengers were getting off along with the various side-show people that had made our long night more interesting. As this occurred, more spaces became available around us. Students and adults would gradually move into the available spaces and could actually begin to move limbs that had been immobile for the entire evening. A few changes in luggage placement and several more could actually stretch out and attempt some sleep.

Eventually, the vendors seemed to be gone. The sun was coming up over the horizon, and with it the new day – surely our stop couldn’t be too far from now. More and more of the puppy-pile bodies were disentangled and finding spots to claim as their own. The last vendor, I remember was selling a new invention: the safety pin (!?), and had gone to…wherever these vendors were going. Not, I’m sure where several of the people in the group had wished they would. At last, I thought I might have a chance to get some sleep – in relative peace and quiet.

Any chance of that was abruptly ended by a very loud, repetitive “alms for the poor” type chant/song from the other end of the car. And I do mean very loud and very repetitive. When there was a pause for breath, the chat was punctuated by the “tugga-tugga, tugga-tugga” of a damaru. (A small hour-glass shaped drum, with a hard object attached to leather or such, allows the drum to sound by moving one hand back and forth.) Some damru’s are very lovely and sell for quite a bit of money. In this case, the drum was home-made and had a very distinctive sound…”tugga-tugga-tugga-tugaa” followed or preceded with the very loud, very repetitive “alms for the poor.” I was convinced that I was going to be trapped forever on this train, in some kind of Twilight Zone existence, doomed to repeat all the nights activities – over and over.

As the alms seeker made his way toward us, I realized that he was “blind” or so I thought. When he arrived so I had a closer look … he gave the appearance of having had some terrible problem with his eyes. They weren’t clouded by cataracts or such. They were covered with a very white, somewhat wrinkled film. It had small folds in it, and covered the entire eye – something he made sure that everyone still left on the train had a very good look at.
Then, I remembered a piece of trivia I probably would have been better off forgetting. When I was in college studying drama in all its forms. We had gotten an article about Lawrence Oliver and one of his earlier performances of Oedipus Rex, the great Greek tragedy. He was looking for a way to make coming onstage after blinding himself more real and horrifying to the audience. Evidently, he did some experimenting and took the inside membrane of a chicken egg and put it on his eyes. It was translucent and allowed light and some shadow in – and gave exactly the same appearance as I was now looking at. My suspicions were confirmed when we reached the next stop and as he was getting off, he reached up and pulled the membranes off his eyes and walked away having had a “miracle,” and made money in the process.

The next stop would be ours, and we began the process of gathering up what was left of our energy, relocating luggage and preparing to get off the train. The schools auditor/financial officer was to meet us.
He and his wife had left after we did and were flying to meet us before they left on their vacation. By now, we understood what being in a car close to a coal fired engine meant. We were literally covered with soot. It was in the hair, clothes, on the skin. I felt as if Sherman’s Army had “marched to the sea” barefoot in my mouth.

We got off the train and gathered on the platform looking, I’m sure, as a very dispirited band of ragamuffins setting out to the new world without a penny to their name. We were met by absolute visions in white. Absolutely blinding white. The financial officer and his wife – who had spent two very relaxing days waiting for our arrival – were walking toward us with big (rested) smiles on their faces. Their clothes were crisply white, their smiles glistened with white – I think even their hair had turned bright white. I will not repeat what one of the students said under their breath behind me, but suffice to say I didn’t correct her either.

“And so, did you have a great trip?” were the first words out of his mouth.

For the first and only time in my life I contemplated murder most foul.

“Squeeze a lemon and you don’t get apple juice” was a popular saying a few years ago. The meaning was quite simple – whatever I am inside, is going to come out during stress and strain. Whatever masks or identities I wear — when the going gets personally tough, whatever is within – whatever I hold as “me” is probably going to “shine” when the push becomes the shove. Miss Marley (an elderly lady who lived at the school – and was the oldest resident of the school) always told me – “When you squeeze a grape, you don’t get wine. It’s got to be mashed around a bit first.”

Squeeze A Grape (Chapter Two) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

–Chapter Two (Chapter one here)

We are squeezed into a train car along with a lot of other people, and the train is heading down the track. Normally, there would be the soft lulling sound of the train, the track and the gentle rolling of the car. This time, I’m looking over at bodies of students, and adults looking like some kind of huge puppy-pile – involving arms, legs, heads and luggage. The group camped in front of and around the bathroom were highly protective of their space, and resented having to move for anyone. But, at least, with some grumbling they were willing to eventually move. And the train continued to head down the track. I mentioned earlier that we were one of the cars close to the engine. A coal fired engine.

As the late afternoon turned into evening, people had made peace with the situation – somewhat, and were beginning to settle into a resigned manner of getting as comfortable as possible for what was obviously going to be a very long night. I looked around and realized that if someone were to take a picture, we would look as if we were advertising a multi-cultural performance of “The Lower Depths” (a play by Maxim Gorky). I didn’t dare chuckle about it too loudly, as trying to explain where my mind was wandering unaided would be too difficult.

A few hours passed…

I started to come to the realization I was about to “lose it.” As in – completely lose it. I felt I had reached the end of my patience, understanding – you name it. Something had to happen, or something was about to happen. I think almost everyone has reached that point at some time. In this case, the idea of losing it was actually quite a delightful idea. I had this crazy picture of a madman (me) tearing through the train compartment luggage and all flying in my wake. At that moment, there was a commotion from all those camped in front of the bathroom door. They were actually laughing and whooping and such…and pointing to the door of the bathroom. I found this interesting, as I hadn’t seen (or heard the loud complaints about) anyone going in – let alone coming out.

Imagine my total shock and surprise, when two VERY lovely Indian ladies came (evidently) from the bathroom. And I do mean lovely. They were in beautiful sari’s, jewelry with their hair impeccably done and make-up absolutely perfect. Bollywood (Bombay) film actresses was my first thought, which was immediately followed by the question of what would film actresses be doing on THIS train and that was followed by the thought that I must have lost my mind, or gone into total hallucination. These lovely ladies gently moved their way through all the encampment and ended up in front of the first compartment and myself. At that point, they leaned over and put on their dancing bells. These bells are wrapped around the legs of dancers and the legend has it that a superior dancer is able to ring each bell individually.

By now I was sure I was suffering from a gigantic hallucination – however, the students continually asking me what they were doing and/or going to do, convinced me that this was NO hallucination.

The attaching of the bells finished – the two began to sing a Hindi film song, and to dance (well, dance with as much room as was available). The “encampers” had reach a state of almost football game excitement. As in, they were shouting and being very loud – with much shoulder and back slapping. The students and adults (to say nothing of the rest of the train car) were now completely awake, and all thoughts of how uncomfortable they might have been – had been forgotten as they watched this performance.

I thought that this interesting tamasha (a Hindi word that really has no easy English translation) might simply be moving down the car – a sort of impromptu entertainment. But, it soon became apparent that they had no intention of moving…until they were paid for their performance. As I was looking at the ladies, I made other discoveries. One of them had 5 o’clock shadow beginning to peek through the make-up and the other had a bosom that seemed to be moving in different directions – and slipping slightly -occasionally. Of course, the adams apples should have been my first clue. And the students – who are never as naive as people think they are – had begun to figure this out as well. Now, I was in a quandary. There is no set price for these performances, and it’s true – they will not stop and will not move on unless they get what they think is a good price. As I had mentioned earlier, the trip was tightly budgeted – and there was no money for extraneous performances such as this, which I wasn’t sure I would be able to explain with any degree of rationality to the administration.

So, I did the first thing that popped into my mind.

I got up, and precariously stood on the bench I was sitting on, and began to imitate them. By this time, our entire end of the car was in complete uproar. To say nothing of the students and adults. However, I was now committed – and there was no turning back. I tried to match them gesture for gesture, hip bump for hip bump. I guess that one of them decided to humiliate me by reaching over and grabbing my rear end. We used to refer to that as a bah-poo (accent on second syllable) . As I was told, that’s the affectionate pat one gives a baby’s bottom, and in the wonders of Hindi – it can also be a term of endearment (and you thought English could be difficult). So, there I was trying to keep from being a total fool (probably too late for that) and was having my rear bahpooed by a drag queen in a crowded train in the middle of somewhere.

Again, I did the first thing that popped into my mind.

I whirled around, stuck out my hand and demanded 5 rupees. I repeated it several times (each time pointing to my rear). “Five rupees.” They finally figured out that I was either 1) completely crazy or 2) completely crazy and serious. They gently took their leave of the first compartments and moved on down the train car. And I was five rupees richer.

–the finale tomorrow