Monday, April 26, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
A few weeks ago, on a farm not too far away, Bessie started her day like any other weekday morning. She walked lazily to the milking machine before the sun rose and sat still as an underpaid dairy hand plugged her in with no regard for her personal privacy or feelings. The teatcups tickled more than normal and Bessie let out a discontented “moo.” The dairy hand slapped Bessie on the rump and moved on about his chores. If Bessie weren't so distracted by the soft suction of the machine, she might have felt put out by the worker's callousness.
Bessie wondered briefly whether producing less milk would make the dairy workers respect her more. None of them appreciated the sacrifice required by a cow of her age to pump out quality milk with such regularity. They ignored her entreaties, verbal and not, choosing instead to joke among themselves or pay attention to Coco, a Holstein with udders so productive, they could support the entire cream division of Bayview Farms.
Coco. That was a heifer. With perfect coloring and minimal muscle, she was a milk machine and the envy of trough nineteen. Worse, she knew it. Coco would prance around the field when she should have been grazing and graze when she should have been sleeping. But she produced. And because she produced the dairy hands let her get away with it.
The worker returned to disconnect Bessie. With a relieved “moo,” she trotted into the cool morning air to graze. Grazing was the best part of Bessie's day. She loved a patch of crabgrass near the south fence and worked with Dairy Queen and Mama Moo to secure it from the others. Together they would partake of the greenery and forget about all their troubles.
By noon, Bessie was chewing her cud. She neither despised nor enjoyed the practice. It was just something she did. She left the south fence area to be alone. She liked to chew her cud in private. Even Coco would go off by herself for this digestive exercise.
That afternoon it was back to grazing. Tonto and Nutless, a couple of steers from next farm over, had jumped the fence and were eating the crabgrass. Everybody regarded the steers as strange and they were ostracized whenever they ventured out. Bessie had had a bad experience with T-Bone a few weeks ago and didn't want to deal with any more steers, so she joined the others eating in a large plot of sown Bermuda. Bermuda grass was the fast food of the milk cow's world, but Bessie would still eat it occasionally.
Darkness came quickly and Bessie joined Mama Moo and the rest of the cows in the trot back to the milking machine. The worker was nicer than the man on the early shift had been and Bessie was happy with her treatment. She thought her day would end with a contented cud chewing session and sleep, when Dairy Queen approached her with an idea.
No. It wasn't right. She couldn't do that. She would get in trouble. When Dairy Queen told her that Coco had done it, Bessie mooed her assent. She was game.
Mr. Cranky Pants was a handsome stud who lived in a well-kept pasture a few miles away. He had been at Bessie's dairy once before and had caught her eye immediately. She had always thought about going to see him. Mama Moo explained that the steers had knocked the fence down when they left that afternoon. This was their chance.
Bessie was surprised at how easy it was to climb the fence. A couple of other cows had caught wind of the mischief and decided to tag along. Bessie was not sure how many cows were in their group, but it was sizable. She was excited about the adventure.
At first Bessie was concerned when the group moved into the middle of the road. It seemed to her that cows should be on grass or dirt, not pavement. But Dairy Queen started making funny trotting noises on the hard surface and Bessie was so caught up in the hilarity of the situation that she surrendered her fears.
They continued this way for a few hundred meters, occasionally making comments about the houses they passed or the other cows they saw sleeping in their pastures. Freedom felt so good until it hurt.
Bessie never saw the car that hit her. It struck her from behind, pushing her forward several feet. She suffered an involuntary and very unladylike reaction to the car's force. Bessie was embarrassed by that and happy that her friends scattered quickly and probably hadn't noticed. The car's owner looked upset and disheveled, but was okay. That made Bessie feel better. She had never wanted to hurt anyone.
Emergency vehicles arrived quickly. A police officer started asking questions and taking measurements, but never thought to ask Bessie how she was doing. Remarkably well, thank you, given the circumstances.
The car was towed away and the driver taken to the hospital for minor injuries, leaving Bessie all alone on the side of the road. With a grunt, she got up and trudged back the way she came, cautious to stay out of the road and clear of traffic. She hopped the fence again and curled up to sleep near the crabgrass. She hadn't met Mr. Cranky Pants, but she couldn't wait to tell her amazing story to the other cows, especially Coco.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
It was another typical, dreary day in my Organic Chem class. If Organic Chem was a type of weather, it would be one of those days in November when it's not quite winter or fall, but dark and blustery... and awful.
"Good God, dear sir, what happened to you?
Friday, April 09, 2010
A few months ago my faculty advisor asked if I enjoyed living with ambivalent purpose and suffering through the consequences of my wayward life decisions. When I answered with an affirmative informalism, he recommended I pursue graduate school. “The party continues,” he said with a gleam in his eye, “loans toll repayment and you don't have to get a job.” I was convinced and ran off write the graduate entrance exams. Fast-forward through an arduous process of alternately playing the vendor (“Look what I have to offer your school”) and the buyer (“But what are you offering that xyz school isn't, specifically can you offer me some money?”), I now have to make a choice between a handful of universities that, I am promised, will not disappoint the derelict.
To help make an informed decision, I have to actually visit the campuses of the schools in question. To that end, I am sitting on a scantily-cushioned waiting chair at Terminal C11/9 of Detroit Metro airport, an important regional hub in Michigan. My final destination is upstate New York. For this airport's size and puissance in the plane-flying world, it has surprisingly spartan food and entertainment offerings.
Fortunately for the Faithful Few, my walk through Terminal C did produce something more noteworthy than a rude giggle and a bottle of colored fizzy water. As I exited one of over a dozen moving walkways – “please watch your step...please watch your step” – I noticed a crowd gathered at the Martini Cove. Ever notice how airport restaurants name themselves after popular food or drink items? It's not The Watering Hole, it's Jose Cuervo's Watering Hole. It's not a Food Den, it's Coney Island Food Den. I think I had lunch in Minneapolis at the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich Shop, a glorified Subway.
The folks in the crowd were not waiting in line for overpriced and ostentatiously titled airport fare or even being remotely social. They were watching The Masters, a professional golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, which, in the immortal voice of Jim Nantz, is on CBS. Every year the world's best golfers compete to win a claim to a hideous green jacket by trying to out-golf each other. An explanation of the “sport” of golf is both beyond the scope of this blog and utterly boring, but it suffices to say that the game more slowly than a salted slug on frozen molasses.
The disgraced Tiger Woods was getting ready to putt. He took a couple of practice swings, shook his head as if trying to banish the mental image of mistress number eight and hit the ball. It didn't go in. Woods gave his best “I'm disappointed” mime as he fell to his knees clutching his metal stick in angst. Then he got up and finished the hole with an easy stroke for par. Golf clap. The crowd dissipated quickly as soon as Tiger's infamous image left the screen. The parting mass was clear evidence for the view that the “sport” of golf is very much benefited by Tiger's scandals. My anecdotal experience here in Michigan suggests that Masters viewership will be through the roof. The number of people who tune in this week or watch the final this weekend if Tiger is playing might even rival the Super Bowl. Sure, Bill Simmons probably said it before me, but you heard it here first.
I wonder if golf would be more popular it were broadcast by Scott Hamilton, the ice skating legend. Instead of talking about dimpled girls twirling in toilet-paper dresses, he'd be commenting on dimpled golf balls being hit into holes in the grass. Using his signature grunting, Hamilton would describe the golfer's movements with an encouraging “It miiiiight go iiiiiin....Oh it did!” He could partner with the sarcastic commentator from that NBC reality show where contestants run through obstacle courses (please volunteer his name in the comment section, I'm too lazy to hunt it down) saying things like “that must have hurt” or “he'll feel that in the morning.” Now that's TV that I would watch.
Interested in locating airport goers -- any in the terminal -- who were not entranced by Tiger's performance, I spied a woman reading Cosmopolitan Magazine (Playboy for women). Her devoted attention to the text's glossy pages was not deterred by replays of the unfaithful golfer. An elderly gentleman with a legal pad was busy scribbling something important-looking. He did not look up either. Then Tiger reappeared to challenge another hole. The old man set aside his notes and the woman put down her girl porn. Woods had center stage and I looked around the terminal to see everyone sitting in rapt attention. I could have hijacked a plane right off the tarmac and no one would have noticed until Tiger left the frame.
No one, not even Fred Couples (Fred who?), demands the undivided attention garnered by Tiger Woods. The entertainment provided by his return to golf is enough, even, to make a visit to Detroit Metro interesting. Bravo Tiger!
Monday, April 05, 2010
The last couple weeks, members of the faithful FCN few have been clamoring to hear the epilogue to my brief encounter. If my reference to classic British film was too tangential, let me briefly recap what happened on my first few Ashley Madison-esque dates with Claudia:
I got her number and asked her out. That part was epic. Then I found out she's married. That revelation took the shine off the “epic” and made it more “weird, scary and unfortunate,” at least that's how Bill described it. Bill, my workout buddy, was instrumental in my securing a first date with Claudia, so I'm blaming the debacle on him, at least until he is spotting me at the bench press and is responsible for the well-being of my trachea. Then I might cut him some slack.
While the comments on the Claudia post had given me wide latitude in my options, their general theme advised moving on. But I didn't want to rush into terminating things. I had to know if she was telling the whole truth about Marco. How separated were Claudia and Marco? Was he a dangerous person – a man prone to fits of violent passion against perceived competitors for his wife's affection -- or a calm, affectionate soul? I'd never met Marco and therefore couldn't be sure he even existed. Was he a myth invented by Claudia to test my interest? To test my integrity? His name – the first part of a common kid's pool game – was suspicious enough. Who names their children Marco? Mongolians? Kublai Khan's descendants?
We met for lunch at a mid-sized restaurant near downtown. I knew the owners and liked the food. If things hit the fan with Claudia, at least I would be left eating in a good establishment. As the mid-week traffic filled the restaurant to about half capacity, we took out seats. We didn't say a word to each other until the waiter, a man who's thin frame could hold precious little muscle even if it wanted to, left with our drink orders.
C: So...the French dip here is fantastic.
Claudia: Haha. [Nervous pause]. I dropped a bomb on our last date. You were weird afterward – understandably weird. What are you going to do?
The words of such distinguished commenters as DTH Rocket, Jonathan and Anonymous (1) echoed in my head. DTH's reference about the necessity of a certificate of divorce was especially puissant. I decided to explore it a little.
C: Look, you're married to the guy. Marriage is a sacred institution. It's a commitment of monogamy, fidelity and trust. A dissolved marriage is sad – a tragedy really.
C: Let me finish.
I didn't know what to say next, so I paused. An interminably earnest expression covered Claudia's attractive features. Cute lips that were so often smiling were now pursed in an expression of concern. I charged on.
C: I don't care about your past. People change; our stories change. There is nothing you could have revealed on our first date that would have kept me from asking you out again. Part of that is due the fact that you're super hot and that I have terrible luck in the dating world, but another part is that you are a really interesting person and we have chemistry. I can't ignore our chemistry.
Claudia: Aw, you're sweet. But you're right, C, don't ignore our chemistry.
I'd thrown my bone to Anonymous (2) and (3). Now it was time to say something determinative.
C: I think we need to put those feelings aside. Let's put ourselves in Marco's shoes for a minute. He's out there somewhere – probably at the batting cages, gun range or lifting weights – thinking about the ten he let get away and how he can reconcile after his mistake. The fact that there's no progress on your divorce after a year tells me something. Claudia, there's a man there who messed up royally but still loves you and wants you back. I will not be the fool that stands between a man and his beautiful wife.
Claudia: But Marco cheated...
C: I know, Claudia. And that sucks. You have to make a decision whether you are going to reconcile with Marco or divorce him. But until that decision is made, we can't date. And you shouldn't date.
Claudia: I'm sorry you feel that way, but I understand.
C: Hey, for what it's worth, if I were married to a woman and she were out gallivanting with a guy as hot as me, I would be upset.
I had done my job. I had cut things off in the most respectable and decent way possible. The ball was in her court.
My self-satisfied reverie was interrupted by a commotion near the door. The thin-framed waiter was trying to hold back a large muscle-bound man in his early twenties. Trying and failing. I'm not sure how tall the intruder was, but I estimate over 6'4”. He barged past the server and stormed toward where Claudia and I were seated.
“Marco,” Claudia whispered.
Remembering Papa G's advice, I sprung into action. I hopped up out of my seat, flipping it over into the aisle to block Marco's path, and fled. I knew there was a service entrance behind the kitchen, so I booked toward the restrooms and through a swinging door labeled “Associates Only.” Marco never saw where I went. I was safe.
I spotted the owner sitting at a desk doing paperwork. I paid him for our meal plus a generous tip, hoping it make amends for the commotion Marco had caused. When I explained the situation, he smiled a broad, comforting grin.
“Did you learn anything?”
I chuckled and smiled. I haven't heard from Claudia since that afternoon and it's just as well. I wish her and her man the best.