Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day Seven

David Cassidy is dead.

Denise and I were setting up the above-ground, heated swimming pool for my seven new pet swans1 when we saw him clutch at the branches of the pear tree to keep himself from falling. We ran over and helped him out of the tree and to the ground. He was struggling to breathe, but he managed to whisper two words to me before his heart gave out: “swan allergy.” I have no idea what he was talking about, but perhaps his family or the media will will be able to explain those words’ significance.

Frankly, I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did, sitting in those freezing temperatures for a week without a bite to eat. Although, he must have known death was a possibility when he accepted the gig, since when I rifled through his pockets2 the only thing I found was a phone number for the “undertaker to the stars.” Two hours later, a hearse from the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel pulled up in front of the house, and we bade a final farewell to David Cassidy.

It took us a few hours to get the heated pool up and running, and I’m certainly not looking forward to our next electric bill, but I have to say: Those swans are mighty impressive. Backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly, they can do it all. I’m unsure if there’s a market for this sort of thing, but I’d bet people would pay to see Michael Phelps race against a relay team of swans.3

To make room for the pool, we moved the bricklaying geese to the basement – they were doing a piss-poor job on the patio, anyway – giving Sonya full reign of the yard once more. Not to worry: the swans are safe. Sonya is afraid of water and won’t go in the pool. She puts her feet up on the railing and dances around it on her hind legs trying to catch them, but all they have to do is stay out of reach.

Then, about an hour ago, a couple policemen stopped by and said we couldn’t keep the parrots on the porch any longer, something about county noise ordinances and a rash of complaints from the neighbors. They were going to let me off with a slap on the wrist, but one of them overheard the parrot mafia don say some rather unkind things about cops, and I got stuck with an unnecessarily large fine instead. I made sure to rattle some cages when I pulled the parrots from their perch on the porch and banished them to the far reaches of the garage.4

Anyway, the bricklaying geese are now in the basement building us some new stairs for the hatch. Two others are working on the plumbing, and I threw the last one down there as well after it wouldn’t let Marcelle come out from under our bed for a couple hours. It’ll probably start creating an uneven tile floor, just like it was doing in the upstairs bathroom.

I don’t have high hopes for any of the geese’s projects. I expect I’ll have to rip out everything they’ve done once Christmas is over and everybody leaves, and start fresh. Wait, they are all going to leave after the last day of Christmas, right?


1 Just what I needed: more birds! Yay!
2 As is the custom with any dead celebrity.
3 Or, failing that, smoke up with a relay team of swans.
4 I also put the song 867-5309/Jenny on a loop at high volume, to interfere with their Bluetooth conversations. So what if they’re only birds? I can still be spiteful.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Day Six

Damn it, I thought we were done with the birds!

The latest six arrived replete with their own supplies, and had made quite a mess of the living room before I got downstairs this morning. I tried taking their tools away, but they ganged up on me and pecked at my face, so I quickly abandoned that plan. Fortunately, by the time I returned from the emergency room, Denise had directed them to other areas of the house where they could be more useful.

She led the three bricklaying geese out into the back yard, where they are currently building us a new patio. Two others are laying pipe in the basement, and the last is in the upstairs bathroom, laying down fresh tile.

6 AM, 6th day after Christmas.

Their craftsmanship is extremely shoddy, seeing as how they have to do everything with their beaks, but I’m not about to disparage their work. I’ve already gotten enough stitches for one day.1

Of course, Sonya spent the day trying to catch the geese, so in order to allow them to get their work done, we had to tie her to the pear tree. In the tree above her, David Cassidy isn’t looking at all well. I could only get hold of one local doctor who does house calls, and he wasn’t willing to climb a ladder to do the physical. I’ll make some more calls in the morning.

In other news, when I went out to the porch to check on the hens and parrots today, one of the latter had stopped talking. At first I was excited — thinking that perhaps the other three would soon get tired and rest, too — but then I jostled its cage, and the bird fell, unmoving, to the base of the cage. Of course, just my luck, the dead parrot was neither the Verizon spokesparrot nor the gossip girl. No, ‘twas the Norwegian Blue: the stock broker, the least annoying of the four. Someone had nailed him to his perch.

As I carted his remains off to the trash bin, the parrot mafia don said, simply, “So long, snitch.”

1 In case you’re wondering... it’s eight stitches. Eight is enough.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day Five

Finally, a worthwhile gift! Each of the rings was expertly crafted, a beautiful golden brown, with just the right amount of breading. Best onion rings I’ve had in some time. It’s a shame there were only five of them.

The parrots, on the other hand, have been driving me batty. They gave me such a headache yesterday that I had to stick them out on the porch with the hens, where their constant yapping was at least muffled. I also spent half an hour looking for the phones their Bluetooths were connected to, hoping to shut them off (or smash them into tiny bits), but came up empty. The Bluetooths themselves are still going strong, too; the birds must have some covert spot where they recharge them overnight.

Anyway, I thought the Verizon parrot was bad, but the one who spent her time quarreling yesterday has since been chattering non-stop about boys and fashion and mother-sparkling Twilight. Oh, and I’m pretty sure I just heard the head of the parrot mafia calling in a hit.

The hens are finally eating (unlike David Cassidy), though it’s going to be expensive to keep them around.1 I found a tag wrapped around one’s foot that said they only eat baguettes with brie and camembert. Damn uppity hens. They eat better than I do.

1 And even more so for the parrots. Denise hinted that all their calls were being added to my phone bill.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day Four

We’ve reached day #4 of the David Cassidy hunger strike. He’s beginning to look a little gaunt, and gray in color. Denise thinks he may have snacked on some snow from a nearby branch when we weren’t looking, whereas I contend his only sustenance during his time in the tree has come by sneaking nips of brandy from a flask hidden inside his coat. Either way, we may have to call in a doctor soon. Or a lumberjack.

Nevertheless, I’ve found that I much prefer the silence of his company to the inescapable din now present inside the house. If only this morning’s new additions to our avian menagerie had come with a lifetime supply of ear plugs. I don’t see why anyone would ever want even one of these birds, let alone four. Yet, I now find myself the proud owner of a quartet of parrots, each ceaselessly yammering away on its own Bluetooth.

“Polly want a cracker. And a pizza, for delivery.”

I have no idea whom any of them are talking to, but one seems to think he’s a stock trader. All he ever says is, “Buy! Buy! Buy!” or “Sell! Sell! Sell!” Another is having what sounds like a heated argument with its mother. With yet another, if I didn’t know it was a parrot, I’d swear I was listening to an Italian mafia don discussing the storage of stolen goods. But the last one... the last one I truly despise: There are only so many times I can hear, “Can you hear me now?” before I feel the distinct need to strangle someone.1

I decided I’d try to channel my anger into something constructive, and grabbed some tools from the garage. I’d intended to pry the shells off of those poor little doves so they could fly free, but the moment I tried placing my hand on either one of them, they tried to peck my fingers off. Apparently they’ve gotten rather attached to their adoptive homes. I guess it makes sense, as they do provide decent protection from the cat and dog. Not that the cat’s going to come anywhere near them, with the foursome of parrots squawking their heads off, and Sonya often barking in reply; she’s got herself snugly ensconced in blankets upstairs.

Out on the porch, the hens may be wearing maid outfits, but they sure know how to make a mess. And I think they’ve caught whatever ailment David Cassidy has, since none of them have eaten any of the feed I’ve laid down for them. Interestingly enough, however, it seems that one of them has somehow developed a French accent.2

If I get any more birds tomorrow, I may just have to go out and purchase a real cat to help thin their numbers. Anyone know the going price for a Bengal tiger?

1 I've tried covering their cages, too, but that doesn’t silence them, either. Once swathed in darkness, the parrots only get louder. I figure they probably all signed up for one of those Night & Weekend calling plans.
2 Le cluck.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day Three

If I had to guess, I’d say they’re supposed to be French. I mean, I can’t be sure, since I’ve never been able to distinguish French clucking from any other type of clucking – despite all my years on the board of the GPC1 – but I don’t know why else the hens would be wearing those black-and-white maid outfits. They’re certainly not doing anything that resembles cleaning.

We’ve had to sequester the hens in the screened-in porch to protect them from the dog. Now that Sonya has three new walking, clucking chew toys, she’s lost some interest in David Cassidy, especially since he has barely moved the past two days. She’s currently whining and scratching to be let out onto the porch.

Marcelle finally ventured downstairs, too. She isn’t your typical huntress of a cat – she’s been known to be scared by string – but once we deposited the trio of cluckers onto the porch, her curiosity got the better of her, and she spied the doves for the first time. She batted at one a couple of times before it retracted its head into its shell, after which she soon got bored and headed back upstairs.

As for the hens, we tend not to keep chicken feed in the house,2 so I had to go out and buy a large bag of it for them. If we could get some fresh eggs out of the deal, that would be wonderful, but a little bird told me we might need a rooster for that to happen.3 And I’m not buying a rooster.

Of course, with my luck, I’ll find four of them under the tree tomorrow morning…

1 Gonzo’s Poultry Council, est. 1978.
2 Surprising, I know.
3 Actually, it was a rather big little bird that told me. His exact words were: “You’re doing it all wrong, son! You need a — I say, you need a rooster, boy, or you’ll never get eggs!”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day Two

Well, this is an improvement. Sort of. There were no new trees planted in the yard this morning, no Wally Cleaver or John-Boy Walton perched up above building a nest. Just a box with air holes sitting under the Christmas tree.

The doves sure are cute little things. Their cooing is adorable, as is the way they poke their little heads out when they’re hungry. I can’t help but feel bad for them, though, stuck in those shells.

Stuffing a peaceful bird into a shell? Not coo.

They have to be cramped in there; as far as I can tell, they have no way to fully stretch out their wings. Walking is also a chore: even if they manage to poke their feet out, the shells are too heavy for them to stand upright. Although one of them has figured out how to maneuver by pulling itself around using its beak, mostly they stay where they are and coo quietly. I’ve been hand-feeding them bird seed and giving them water to drink in a tiny saucer.

Speaking of feeding, David Cassidy still hasn’t eaten.1 Also, despite the freezing temperatures and threat of snow last night, he repeatedly declined our invitations to join us inside.2 In the end, we decided that the least we could do was provide him with a couple of thick wool blankets to help protect him from the cold. He wouldn’t take them from us, of course. We were forced to haul out a ladder from the garage and drape the blankets over his back.

Goddammit, celebrities piss me off.

1 Or spoken. Maybe his contract stipulated a non-speaking role.
2 Sonya wouldn’t come in, either, unwilling to leave her post beneath the man in the tree. We offered her double her usual amount of treats, but she wouldn’t budge. I had to drag her inside by her collar, with her straining against me the entire way. Once locked in the house, she whined loudly at the back door for hours until I couldn’t take it any more, went downstairs, and let her out.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Day One

Okay, so I kind of get the pear tree.

Ever since we chopped down that crabapple tree back in July, the back yard has felt a little empty. The new pear tree fills that void, and I’m certain its bounty next year will be much tastier than those damn crabapples ever were.

What I don’t get — and maybe, as a Jewish atheist celebrating only my third Christmas, this is just my ignorance of Christmas traditions shining through — is why, sitting halfway up the tree, is that guy who played Keith Partridge on the Partridge Family.

Admittedly, I’m relatively new to the holiday, but please, tell me: What does David Cassidy have to do with Christmas?

He’s been out there all morning, but has yet to move from that one limb. At first, Sonya barked at him, perhaps thinking he was some sort of giant mutant squirrel.1 Thankfully, she settled down after about ten minutes, but she has not left her post beneath the tree, nor let her gaze stray from the middle-aged man oddly perched up there. David/Keith hasn’t said a word, nor did he seem at all interested in the plate of bacon and eggs that we offered him earlier. He just sits there, shivering, locked in a staring contest with the dog.

Denise made some remark this morning about Christmas being 12 days long. That can’t be true, can it? She’s just hazing the new guy, right? There’d better not be another 11 like this one; I know for a fact that nowhere on my wish list did I write, “a plum tree containing Greg Brady.”

1 Or maybe that the mailman had hatched some nefarious new plot to penetrate her inner sanctum.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

F My Life

Why is it that every flippin’ time I try to take some frickin’ time off from freakin’ work, I get friggin’ sick? What the frak? It’s like my flickin’ body doesn’t want me to ever fraggin’ enjoy a razzifrazzin’ vacation.

If I only had 6 million mother-filchin’ dollars, I could frappin’ pay to get a healthy new body – they have the frizzin’ technology, for Falk’s sake. Then again, if I had 6 million mother-flappin’ dollars, I probably wouldn’t go to flackin’ work at all, and just take my forkin’ chances with the illness. Maybe without the frockin’ stress, I’d stay florpin’ healthy. Ooh, maybe I can get a froppin’ scientific research grant to test out this mother-fecklin’ hypothesis. Flock, yeah.

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis the Season

Throughout the month of December, its songs are on every radio station, its decorations in every window, its sales in every store front: Hannukah. The crass commercialization of the holiday has become so overwhelming in recent decades, it’s no wonder that few people remember what Hanukkah is really all about. Luckily, you have me to set the record straight. Thus, I present to you…

Hanukkah: A Primer

Note: Despite the use of the word Primer, this won’t be a tale of time travel that screws mercilessly with your head. Though I will be providing historical context to shatter some of the common misconceptions about the Festival of Lights, I’m actually referring to the other definition of primer: that first coat of white paint you lay down before applying the color you really want. After all, I need to whitewash all preconceived notions from your head to ensure that they won’t interfere when I paint for you the truth.

I feel I am uniquely qualified to speak on this subject because of my Jew-ish upbringing,1 my two decades as a devout Jewish Atheist, and my aforementioned aversion to the commercialization and materialism of Hanukkah.2 In short, you can be sure that I will remain completely impartial. But enough about me. On to the truthiness!

The Name
The correct spelling of the holiday is Hanukkah. All other spellings are pale imitations, bastardizations created when Jews entered America by way of Ellis Island in the early 20th century. Just as many traditional Jewish surnames were butchered by immigration officials over the years, so, too, were the names of their holidays.

Hannukah, like all Jewish holidays, arrives on a different date every year. You may already be aware that the length of the Hebrew year varies from year to year, but you probably didn’t know that this is a relatively modern convention, or that it was done on purpose. The calendars initially matched from beginning to end, but in the year 1873 AD the Jewish elders shortened their year as a practical joke to mess with the goyim. It was to be a one-year thing, but they soon realized that it also cut down on persecution: Since most of the Klan were morons, if they didn’t catch people celebrating Purim or Passover or Chanukah on the expected days, they couldn’t be sure the people were Jews, and therefore couldn’t, in good conscience, string them up. This is why, to this day, every two or three years the Jews insert a new month into their calendar. Plus, it keeps the Google logo creators on their toes.

Tradition states that the eight candles on the Chanukkah menorah are symbolic of the time when people thought there was only enough consecrated oil to keep the eternal flame in the Temple at Jerusalem lit for one day, but then, miraculously, another eight barrels were found stashed in a back room. This is a complete fallacy. In actuality, the candles symbolize the eight wise men who lavished Moses with gifts3 upon his birth. However, when the Crusades rolled around, the Jews learned that it was best not to one-up (or, for that matter, five-up) Jesus, so they started circulating the false story about the oil.

Along with the eight candles, typically a ninth candle, called the shamash, is added for good luck. And if, on the last day of Chanukka, you manage to blow out all the candles at once, that Christian kid you hate down the street will get nothing under the tree but a cheesy sweater and matching socks.

The dreidel game is a vast conspiracy among Jews to teach the ins and outs of economics to their children at a very young age, thereby eventually controlling all of the world’s finances. The game is traditionally played on Hannukka with gelt, which are coins either made of chocolate or solid gold, depending on how Jewish your family is. Each player in turn spins the dreidel, and then performs the action corresponding to the letter that lands side-up:
  • נ (nun) - You get a whack on the knuckles with a ruler unless you say three Our Fathers and four Hail Marys.
  • ג (gimel) - Shortened from “gi’mel,” or “give Mel.” Give cousin Mel one coin. If you have no cousin Mel,4 give one coin to the player who has seen the most Mel Brooks movies.
  • ה (hey) - Point behind the other players and yell, “Hey! What in the world can that be?!” While they’re distracted, take half the coins in the pot.
  • ש (shin) - Kick one of the players on either side of you squarely in the shin, then take one of his coins.
Play until either someone has won all of the coins, or all of the coins have been eaten.5

Also known as potato pancakes, latkes are made in commemoration of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, when they left with such haste that they forgot the yeast and were forced to eat unleavened potatoes. They are named after Andy Kaufman’s character on “Taxi” because his was the first realistic portrayal of a Jew on national television.6

So, there you have it. You now know all there is to know about Hannukkah. You're very welcome.

Now, what’s this “Christmas” thing I keep hearing about?

1 One whole year of Sunday School, bitches!
2 As evidenced by the fact that I own neither a menorah nor a dreidel.
3 Gold, silver, bronze, frankincense, frankenberry, falafel, tahini, and a pet tiger named Bobo.
4 What kind of Jew are you, without a cousin Mel?
5 This is more likely to happen with the chocolate variety, but anything’s possible when cousin Mel is involved.
6 Before “Taxi,” they were called “vigodas.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Little Help?

This is an appeal to you: my friends, my family, my friendly internet stalkers. Never before have I asked any of you for money,1 but due to recent circumstances I find myself in dire financial straits.2 I only hope that a few of you are feeling generous this holiday season.

You see, over the last few weeks I have been corresponding with an African prince by the name of Admir Alakbar. Because of corrupt officials and his country’s unstable government, he’s had trouble transferring his sizable fortune to America, and he emailed me requesting assistance. I’ve done what I can to help expedite the process, sending cash to cover legal expenses and to grease the palms of those crooked officials, but with each hurdle he overcomes, another roadblock is unexpectedly thrown in his way. To repay me for my kindness and generosity, he has promised to give me 10% of his fortune and bestow upon me the title of my choice: either Archduke or Grand Poobah. Unfortunately, my resources have since withered, which is why I am appealing to you now.

This may sound like a scam to you. Don’t worry; it’s not. I asked him. Admir assures me he’s from Rwanda, not Nigeria, so clearly everything is on the up-and-up.

Anyway, the last permit Admir requires will cost nearly $5,000, but I’ve already emptied out my savings and checking accounts, and the heartless souls at the bank won’t give me another loan. In my effort to help, I have also provided Admir with the other things he has asked for: my credit card numbers, my computer password, my sister’s maiden name, my shoe size, my high-school locker combination, the name of my mother’s first grade teacher, my cat’s social security number, and the complete 54-disc set of Stargate SG-1 on DVD. Yet, he is still shy the $5,000.

If you help me out, I will give you a percentage of my percentage of Prince Admir’s fortune, which he estimates is, and I quote, “$22.4 gazillion dollars.” So, clearly, any money you can give me will not be a loan or a gift so much as it will be an investment. Just think of what you can do with your share of my $2.24 gazillion.3 And if that isn't enough to convince you, I’ll also throw in part of my new title.

Thanking you in advance,
The future Grand Poo of Rwanda

1 At least, not since I requested an advance on my allowance back in the summer of 1984 to play a game of Dig Dug. (Lousy machine then ate my quarters.)
2 It’s a shame that word “financial” is in there, or else I’d get money for nothing (and my chicks for free).
3 That's a lot of games of Dig Dug...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo: An Epilogue

At the beginning of November I set myself three potential goals for National Novel Writing Month — 20,000 words or 20 days writing or 3 completed chapters — each objective easier than the last. So, how did I fare?1

For NaNoWriMo, stringing together 50,000 words qualifies as a “win.” I knew that was well beyond my reach, since I write too slow and procrastinate too much, so I set the bar at 40%, a level I had attained fairly easily the last time I tried back in ’07.

It seems I had under-estimated my ability to procrastinate.

I celebrated birthdays, watched DVDs, played board games, did yardwork, walked the dog, won money at the casino, ate turkey, did crosswords, and on five separate occasions took naps after work. I uploaded 54,000 words’ worth of pictures2 to Flickr. And I made bi-weekly sacrifices to the fiery wheel: During the month of November, I wrote nearly as many words in my blog entries (4,116) as in my novel (4,804).

That’s right: 4,804 words. I aimed for 40% and fell shy of 10%. Pathetic.

My second goal was easier: Spend time on the novel 20 days out of the 30. I reckoned that even fifteen minutes a day was better than zero, and writing regularly would help me keep the story moving forward. Instead, I managed half of that, a measly 10 days,3 and stalled in the story multiple times. To put it in perspective, in that same time period I managed to write 9 blog posts.

And then there was the gimme: My backup backup goal to complete 3 chapters. It should’ve been a cinch. I began the month with 10 chapters left to write, and the knowledge that each of them would be relatively short. Well, they were short. I still only managed to hash out 2.4 of them.

What it really comes down to is this: Blog writing is detrimental to my writing. I suspected as much. I’d formed that hypothesis long before I started at the Wheel, and for years it’s what kept me from throwing my pen into the ring, so to speak. If I spent time writing a blog, I’d spend less time writing my novel, right? So, what did I do the moment I proved my supposition correct? I blogged about it.


1 Like I’m going to tell you down here in the footnotes.
2 As opposed to Wordsworth on pictures: “Pictures deface walls more often than they decorate them.”
3 Not that I had measles at the time. Mumps, sure. And a touch of the plague. But not measles.