Monday, April 28, 2014

I Could Not Stop Screaming

So, I go down to the chicken pen to feed the little hens today. I'm opening the metal trashcan where I store their food and I realize there is a four foot long black snake in the pen with its head through the wire, right by my foot. I started involuntarily screaming. I could not stop screaming as my entire physical body and psyche adjusted to the shock and horror of the situation! Logically, I know a black snake will not harm me - except to send me into post traumatic shock syndrome.  But my body continued to scream just the same.

From a safe distance, I observed that the snake had apparently made a meal of the little hens' eggs and was so fat that it could not squeeze through the fence in the same manner in which it had entered. I called the dogs over, hoping they would kill it, but neither dog was disturbed by the snake's presence whatsoever. However, the snake was very disturbed by the dogs, and tried to retreat to safety. Its only option was to draw its head back into the pen. The little hens realized there was a snake in their midst, and all of them began to attack that snake like tiny ninja warriors. This caused the snake to recoil and to frantically look for shelter. I have to say, watching the snake lift its body in an effort to hide beneath the chicken coop was one of the most disturbing things I have seen in recent times. It is creepy the way a snake can lift almost a third of its body straight up.

The damn thing took shelter INSIDE the chicken coop. Inside the coop - where I put my hands to get the eggs. Where those little hens shelter. Where I do not know how long it will be before I am brave enough to go inside the pen, and open the coop to make sure that serpent is gone.

I need a snake wrangler. I need a tranquilizer. I should probably consider moving back to the city - in a high rise apartment - a minimum of 15 stories above ground. I need to move to Ireland where there are no snakes, as long as that is true.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Signs - Some Good and Some Not So Good

When I get in my car, the same one with another four years of expensive monthly payments due, I am greeted with this array of good news. Change the oil soon. 16 miles left before the tank is empty. And yes, something is amiss with the engine. N i i i i i i i i i c e!

When I left my house this afternoon (with a maximum range of 16 miles) I discovered cowboy sign at the top of the driveway. My neighbors moved a herd of cattle and a few of the beasts must have tried to escape down my drive way.

I have always loved hoofprints. They literally marked all the years of my childhood.

Another sign of spring, at last.  Two unknown (to me) "weeds" with beautiful green flowers.

This is a normal intersection in Wabaunsee County, Kansas. It is aligned to the cardinal directions, and there is certainly nothing unusual about the location. You cannot be truly lost in Kansas. You may not know exactly where you are, but by simply continuing to drive due east, west, north or south, you will soon intersect another road, and then you will know where you are. Unless, of course, you come across this stack of confusing road signs!

Where the hell am I?

Lastly, here is a sign of the end of the world:  This is the one and only photograph I was able to capture of the full lunar eclipse. I have had my camera for over two years now. You would think I would understand how to set the aperture and the speed so I could capture something as beautiful as this. I even had the camera mounted on the tripod and the telescopic lens attached.

First, I accidentally took a photo of the tripod (with the tag still on it). Then I photographed the boards of the front porch. I took a brilliantly colored photo of the moon, full of light, but it was smeared all over due to movement of the tripod. Amazingly, I managed to get this one, single, beautiful, if too dark, portrait of the moon and the star, or planet, beside it.

The most amazing thing was the fact that at totality, I could rest comfortably in my own bed with a perfectly centered view of the moon through the south window. Magic!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Absurdity: 1. at variance with reason; manifestly false 2. ludicrous; ridiculous

Most of the free world has heard of the Westboro Baptist Church, founded by the notorious (and recently deceased) Fred Phelps. The members are the ying-yangs who believe that by holding shocking anti-gay day-glo signs in public, they are doing God's work. They believe picketing the funerals of American soldiers, people who have died of AIDS, or any unfortunate death that makes the news, is bringing God's message to the evil and lost. They travel widely, apparently able to finance these pointless excursions due to the tax exempt status as a church. Maybe there are actually enough nitwits in the world to send donations so they can picket. Who knows?

They are always on some street corner in Topeka, Kansas. They indoctrinate their children by giving them hateful signs to hold. I have often thought they put their children on the corners in order to keep themselves safe. Surely many people have fantasized driving down the sidewalk, gleefully seeing the signs fall as the ying yangs scramble for safety. No reasonable person would endanger the children, standing with signs referring to issues they cannot possibly entirely understand at such tender ages. The presence of those unfortunate children has protected the pea-brained adults probably more often than anyone realizes.

Westboro "blesses" every event in Topeka with their signs. At every concert, comedian, or public performance at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, the Phelps gang shows up with their day-glo signs to stand front and center, on the public sidewalk. They are not allowed to block the sidewalk, but they are an obstruction just the same, in my opinion. The general public knows they will be there and have learned to simply live with it, the way we all accept a certain amount of ugliness and discomfort - like hemorrhoids - or nose hair.

Of course, the Westboro "klan" was there for the Joe Bonamassa concert. It was such a pleasant evening that people lingered leisurely outside. Waiting for my family to arrive I witnessed multiple reactions as people discovered the ying yangs and their signs. There were many older ladies on the arms of their husbands whose faces showed embarrassment at the profane and indecent references. There were people being delivered by hotel shuttles who had to step from the the vehicle between the two rows of those ridiculous placards. (Most of the signs are enormous, too large to hold up, so they are constructed to rest on the ground.) When does their right to free speech infringe on our right to attend a concert without their pollution? Why must they be allowed to stand right in front of the damn theater? Across the street would be free enough speech for most of us.

Some people were so offended that they cursed the placard holders. People from out of town were shocked and dismayed... and puzzled. My favorite overheard comment of the whole evening came from a genuine cowboy, who stopped for a moment when he first saw a man holding one of the signs. "What the hell does Joe have to do with any of that? Dumb son of a bitch," he said wonderingly, shaking his head. It was that poetic, musical "dumb-son-ova-bitch" only a true Kansas man can lay out, reserved for people who are simply too damned stupid to walk and chew gum at the same time. It made me laugh.

As I sat there in the pleasant evening, anticipating the concert and time with my family, a flash of sublime clarity struck me. How absurd to think that shoving shocking signs in people's faces will change anything. It is absurd for adult human beings to invest their lives in such a pointless activity and call it God's work. It is possibly even more absurd to be disturbed by those signs.

Post script: My favorite sign of the night: "Topeka, City of Whores!" I'm down with that.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Joe Bonamassa Topeka, Kansas

Once again, life brings the world to my doorstep. I do not have to leave Kansas searching for treasure. Joe Bonamassa performed in the small Topeka Performing Arts Center the evening of April 9th. Without fanfare, he took center stage alone, and played a blistering acoustic piece that "announced his presence with authority". And then, he simply continued on into the night.

Channel surfing in the dark hotel wasteland of a sleepless night last year, I discovered Joe Bonamassa performing "Midnight Blues". I have been listening to Live from New York - Beacon Theater almost daily since then. I know almost every note and nuance. Recognizing each familiar melody as Joe brought it to life on the small local stage, I marveled to myself, "What good fortune. What good fortune!" The music I had never heard before was simply more of a very good thing.

I bought tickets for myself and my family fully six months prior to the concert. Neither of my adult children had been impressed when I enthusiastically shared a song or two from my CD, so I knew they were going to simply be polite. My own anticipation was dampened by the fact that it might be a long night for my unenlightened family. Another concern was the fact that Joe has been on the road, literally all over the world, for the last two years. What if coming to Backwater, Kansas on a Thursday night, to a partially empty small theater, (plus the Westboro Baptist Church picketers out front), was an excuse to have an off night? Who would blame him? But, oh no - we got the goods from the first note to the last. I report, with extreme personal satisfaction, all members of my party that evening were sufficiently stunned into seeing the Joe Bonamassa light.

It was not just another rock concert - not to me. There are excellent musicians everywhere - a dime a dozen, as they say. There is just something about that young man's artistry. It seems that his performance motive is pure. He plays his music simply because he loves it, because he was born to it. It is his gift to the world. What good fortune! What good fortune.
Joe Bonamassa
Topeka Performing Arts Center
Topeka, Kansas
April 9, 2014
photo by Anda Arms