Thursday, January 29, 2009

Escutcheon Me

Do you know what escutcheon means?
I know I get sidetracked by these words I read, but I figure at some time I should actually learn them rather than saying to myself, "Eh, it doesn't really matter."
Context will tell you it's a sign or insignia or some such. And so it is.

The template on a lightswitch
(ornamental, of course)
and the name plate on a ship's aft
(engaved there by force),
They, too, are bravely clutchin'
to the word "escutcheon."

Sorry about that.
But it's a set-up I had to put you through
to connect "escutcheon" to both "QE2"
and "Baby Phat."

Special Lunch

As a reward for working my Coop shift, I sometimes go out to lunch on the way home.
Today was one of those sometimes.

A Special Lunch

Tomato-onion soup is okay for the group.
But I, the leader-type
eat tripe.

Some pear cake for dessert really cannot hurt.
But it pales against the hype
of tripe.

Yes tripe, tripe soaked in wine,
drenched in garlic so divine.
Tripe, wait, are you cow or swine?
Yes tripe, tripe as they dine
underneath the Tuscan pine
Tripe, now I am truly thine.

For now my lunch demands, "Hey, belly, please expand."
What's that? What smells so ripe?
Oh. Tripe.

Yes tripe, tripe soaked in etc.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coco Tuesday

Today he had cupcakes in class, which we made and frosted yesterday. And when we left, well:

He had sugary treats where he usually has lessons
but the whole thing felt wrong in its essence.
"What?" he asked me, "No presents?"


Two thoughts, not meant in an unfriendly way, regarding his sluffing off of the mortal coil.

What, only 76? The thought stretches belief.
So prolific, all slackers heave a sigh of relief.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Madge Monday

Today was/is Coco's birthday. Julie and I celebrated this weekend by watching all of Minority Report, a DVD we were watching when the contractions got too heavy to ignore, which meant that Julie didn't get to finish it until a few months later - and she never really paid that much attention to the beginning in the first place (can you imagine?). I hope I've meandered enough in that last sentence to detract from any inquiry as to when I finished watching the movie. Okay, it was the next day, but ssshhhh - I had to get stuff from home, didn't I? And get Madge to see her little brother - and eat mommy's hospital food.
Anyway, because his birthday happened on a Monday this year, she had the great and generous idea to give him his presents a day early so he could play with them at home without any time pressure. The winning argument for me was that it would be easier to get him to school today, which it was. Yay, Madge!


The advancing age of our family members (other than the adults) demands
that our tracking of incremental temporal advancement expands.
They're no longer midgets
for Madge needs two digits
and Coco must use both his hands.

And daddy can't get limerick endings out of his mind, sorry.
I will try again.
That rhythm must be fixed:
two numbers spell out 10
and two hands spell out 6.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

fudged pronunciation

I read some of 1,001 Nights to Madge a while ago, maybe 43 nights' worth. Tonight I ran across one of its pesky words again, in a different context, and I realized that I never really learned how to pronounce it correctly. I finally looked it up; of course I couldn't get a single, easy answer.


From Turkish and Persian the word is derivin'
and yet there's no harm in faux-southern-style, "DIE-ven."
Yet you might assay mid-Atlantic elan
and try to pronounce it "di-VAN" or "di-VAHN."
And though I researched it, I'll still be a slouch.
I'll just say Couch.


Considering how good my chocolate-chip cookies taste,
I have a wasp-like (even WASP-ish) waist.

the speech

Lovely speech, really, which is why my quibbles are minor. First: you know there's no pleasing religions, so why even try?
I think he said something like (meaning: I looked it up but am pretending that I just happened to remember it correctly after one hearing): "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers."
That's just a big can of worms, isn't it? Sure, he included Hindus, but why did they get grouped with Jews? And why do the Muslims get to ride shotgun while the others get the back seat and those of us who'd like some evidence sit in the rumble-seat? First I thought the order might be reverse historical, since it seems that Hindus were around first, then Jews, but that gets the Muslims and Christians reversed. Then I figured it might be by numbers since Muslims probably outnumber Jews here as they do worldwide (I don't know). But if it were really representational of the U.S., it should probably be "We are a nation of [and here the joke would be funnier if I knew all the different brands, so let's just say:] Baptists and Anabaptists and Protobaptists and Pre-opbaptists and Post-recoverybaptists and Episcopalians and Counterpostantineoreformipalians and ... "
Most truthfully, though, from the point of view of any one of the religions, it ought to be "We are nation of true belivers, false believers, and non-believers." That should cover them all.

And my other quibble is with the line, "we will work tirelessly to [...] roll back the specter of a warming planet."
What kind of a novice psychic attempts to roll a specter? We all know specters need to be sucked up with proton packs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Coco Tuesday

The day was spent inaugurally. The kids' school showed the inauguration more or less live. But, thanks to the educational funding (perhaps even that of previous administrations), the AV didn't really work and they could only hear, not see.
In either case, the Kindergarteners weren't invited, so I joined the class and walked with them to a classmembers' house so we could all watch there. The attention span of five- and six-year-olds is better than mine, though, so, in order to keep things lively, I kept raising my hand to ask if I could go to the bathroom. Nah, actually the whole thing went rather smoothly, but we did wind up leaving before Obama's speech ended. I guess I'll read it later.

The kids were great
and picked up on the cheering.
They couldn't wait,
"When is Barack appearing?"
Then he'd orate
and boredom was appearing.
But then, "Hey, wait!
Why are our parents tearing?"

Good *sniff* night

Monday, January 19, 2009

Madge Monday

Our previous two winters here have lowered our snow expectation bar considerably (from the Chicago and Minneapolis standards we had temporarily suspended in the Bay Area), so we were completely excited about the half-inch or so we got today. I say “we” but today was a day off, so it was a bit difficult to drag Madge away from her newfound vampire romance and out of doors. It helped that she ran out of books in the series – the fourth installment arrived later this evening. But I finally got her outside and we had a blast.
And, honestly, among the many cute things you get to see in kids, the flushed exhausted look they have when coming home from a fun outdoor activity in the cold is wonderful, especially because I had some hot chocolate at the ready.

One of the selfishly fun things you do as dad
Is think ahead about how the then grown kids
Will think back on all the fun they had.

But will they remember all the things I did to please –
Like ruining my coat to make a muddy snow angel and patiently assisting snowball manufacture only to be the target and going up and down and up and down and up and down the hill and dragging the two of them in the sled even though people had already salted the sidewalks and I had to lunge across grating asphalt so it may as well have been summer for all the sweat that poured out of me –
Or will they say, “Remember that time Daddy let our toes freeze?”

Friday, January 16, 2009

Da Plane! Da Plane!

Admit it. If you’re anything like me, you’re kind of jealous of the people on the airplane that watered* in the Hudson. (*I’m not sure “landed” is the proper term, and water-landing seems oxymoronic.) I mean, the event covered several things I’ve always been curious about.

Why I Envy Passengers On (And Now Off) US Airways Flight 1549
(or, Welcome to Fantasy Island)

(First off, before you all call me depraved,
Let me state I’m glad all aboard were saved.)

My curiosity can’t be denied.
An engineless jet, does it drop or glide?
I know how a swim feels when it’s hotter,
But what’s it like in near-freezing water?
And while we’re on topics that cause shivers,
Just how nasty is the Hudson River?
And who among us doesn’t want to test
What it feels like to poof up a life vest?
And, reading seatback emergency cards,
Who hasn’t wanted to yank those doors hard?
And wouldn’t it be a great source of pride
To go, feet first, down th’inflatable slide?
(You know, I need to read over the news,
To see just how many removed their shoes.)

And, lastly, of all desert islands to choose,
I think with Manhattan you simply can’t lose.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yet another farewell to Bush

I just had the joy of looking through a book of Bushisms. On the one hand, his sayings could be good practice for my SAT writing class, such as “Is our children learning?” or “he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.”
On the other hand, they’re just infuriating. If her were a minor figure in a sitcom, they’d be amusing, maybe. But he was or will soon have been the President.
I once had an idea of collecting them with commentary and calling it

The Dubya Sutra: The Diamond-Hard Head of State Speaks

Some of his utterances, after all, have attributes of Zen koans in the sense that a mind tied to the ten thousand things of daily life can not get a grasp on them and therefore, by cracking our reliance on meaning and logic, we might achieve (or reach or whatever the non-word might be) satori.

For example:

A PUPIL asked BUSH: What is trustworthiness?

BUSH: Well, I think if you say you’re going to do something and you don’t, that’s trustworthiness. (8/30/00)

Commentary: If you think words and actions are linked, think again. Or, better yet, neither think nor act. Merely speak. The silent BUSH can’t finish his nap.

But that whole goofy idiot thing, whether an act or not, just gets too frustrating for me to confront without anti-depressants.
And then there’s also the incredibly rabid way in which his sayings get bandied about. It’s scary. I get the feeling he said them on purpose as a sort of lightning-rod to diffuse the more rational reaction of dethroning him and that, in raising our bile, he won that attempt. Or, in his way of saying things, he “catapulted the propaganda.”
I’m not sure I’d know how to distance myself from that bile. Maybe I’ll collect the sayings of our new President instead.
I’ll start with my favorite, which is: Click Here To Donate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Went to the library today. I know, alert the media.
Not only that, but I got to be obnoxious by pointing out to the librarian that a book was not just misfiled, but mislabled because, clearly, a chess book would not have a 974 in the Dewey decimal system. That's for current events or US politics or wherever I was looking for a book of Bushisms ("is our children learning" etc.). It should be 794, by games and dance and those kinds of fun things. Man, I'm even annoying myself now.
But wait, this post gets better. I picked up Billy Collins' latest book of poems and found gastropod in it, a word he had to look up. Of course I had to look it up, too.
I'll save you the trouble. It's the kind of creature a snail is.

The reason I bring it up is that my copy of the Random House Webster's Dictionary has some rather poetic elements in the definition. All they need are the proper line breaks:

Snails, whelks, and slugs,
having a single shell, often
coiled, reduced, or undeveloped,
and moving by means of a
w i d e
muscular foot.

or even a slight alteration:

Poems, songs, and speeches,
having a singular idea often
coiled, reframed, and developed,
and moving by means of a
w i d e
muscular foot.

(In case you hadn't guessed, I love the idea of
MOving by MEANS of a MUScular FOOT,
since a foot, after all, a poetic unit of...
oh, jeez, there I go again, pointing out discrepancies in the Dewey decimal system)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Coco Tuesday

We stopped TaeKwonDo today. I had paid in advance for three months and told them to think about whether they want to keep going or not and, despite their apparent enthusiasm, they were both for stopping. The bad thing for me is that we missed the deadline for signing up for YMCA activities. Maybe I'll just have them do knuckle-push-ups every Tuesday and Thursday for about an hour while I do a crossword or something.

The teacher, with her student creed,
attempts to mold a loyal breed.
"Winners never quit."

Pushups, situps, jumping jacks,
iron legs and ramrod backs.
"Quitters never win."

She helped their will and body grow;
they stand up straight and loudly crow:
"I choose to be a winner."

(Just not in TaeKwonDo.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Madge Monday

Apparently the saga continues.
Julie went out to brunch with Madge and her friend - a girls' thing, while Coco and I went to a birthday outing to the Intrepid (an aircraft carrier that is now a museum of itself, sort of like a Las Vegas act). The brunch was at Two Boots, where one of the main attractions is that kids can see the kitchen and get lumps of pizza dough handed to them. And Madge, with her new-found what-is-my-body-and-how-does-it-work book knowledge...

My daughter used the pizza dough
to sculpt the body parts belough.
Her artist's "kenis"
knows no "fina"
than a pizza -
and -

Luckily an adult was there to censor the work-in-progress.

Friday, January 09, 2009


I generally enjoy that our apartment is so, uh, compact. Cozy, that's the word I'm looking for.
But sometimes...
Since Madge is getting near ten and her body is beginning to develop, we got her some books and started telling her about things.
Us to doctor: When does a kid start needing deodorant? Is nine too young?
Doctor: No. Pre-puberty is anywhere from eight to ten.
When the smelling salts did their trick and I remembered what time zone we're in, we decided it was time for me to learn a little something about the female body; up to now I've been groping in the dark.
Metaphorically, of course.
Anyway, Madge is a good student. A friend of hers was over today on a playdate and Madge was sharing her knowldege.
And here is the result:

The same room is the last place where a father wants to be
when he hears his daughter saying,
"A period is when you bleed as you pee."
And the bedroom is the terminus of daddy's quiet stroll
when he hears his daughter whisper,
"And do you want to know what goes in that hole?"

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Just so I stop thinking of this great line of Frank Sullivan's, I'll write it out of my system, I hope.

You ask What will I do tonight?
I have two kids, so play and fight,
twice each, with her and him.

I don't make plans, for if I did
they'd only change, because a kid
Rules with an iron whim.*

*the idea of the "whim of iron" is stolen from Sullivan.
I wanted to twist it so it would be borrowed, but I couldn't rhyme sensibly with "my will is too anemic"
and I didn't want to intoduce the idea of a will that's so scary it makes his heirs stand on end


In case you didn't know, I tend to stay up late on Wednesdays and it makes me a little loopy by the time I turn off the laptop.
So here goes. When I was reading to Madge tonight I couldn't get over the way the word "plinth" felt in my mouth. Say it. See? (I also stumbled over the proper pronunciation of "brazier," but that's another issue.)

Plinth. The word: Plinth.
I wonder what I'll do with it
And how impressed you'll be
When I do get through with it.

I tried to make it rhyme....
What a plinthing waste of time.

Since rhyming is too hard

I gave it some more thought
and this is what I got.

The Romans and the Greeks
were architectural freaks.
They thought frolicsome fun was bad
so any happy free space they had,
they went and made it solemn
by planting endless columns.
That's why they say:
(now please forgive me, it's very late in the day)

"Give them a plinth, they take a yard."

Okay, I concur.
As puns go, that one's dumb.
So, would you prefer
"Someday my plinth will cumb"?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Coco Tuesday

Coco loves going to school and said today that he wants to sleep there, too. I asked how and he said he'd bring a sleeping bag.
But unfortunately the new DS - darn that Santa, who tends to bring the toys which we, the parents, frown upon - is making him a bit of an irritable zombie when he's not in school.

My five-year-old acts like a teen:
He never keeps his bedroom clean;
Says, "Gmmphmmnn know what I mean?";
Drinks soda till his teeth turn green;
Has angry spells with pouts between --
Because of that Damn Screen.

But when he's off of the DS,
He's just a kid: his room's a mess;
Says "Hunh" for "what?" and "no" and "yes";
Has quite a sweet tooth, I confess;
But LIKES TO CUDDLE (more or less) --
Because of that incess-
ant tweedle doodle eedly boodle meedle meep meep bshh bzzt xchip pluup grink blink bloobeedoop iggledabonk finally finally FINALLY
giving me a moment's ress-

Burris and the Senate

Well, looky here:
Burris turns up for the Senate and they won't let him play.
I wonder how long before the jokes flow about a black man refusing to give up a seat, followed by a demand for a senate boycott - how racist: shouldn't it be a mancott?

In history - both class and thing -
this phrase has a familiar ring:
Those who don't know, they must repeat.
Now (wait a second, what was it about a guy on a bus not getting up for a pregnant lady? or a pregnant lady not getting up for an elderly person? or the bus being delayed because it picked up too many wheelchairs? or no, I know:)
something about race and giving up a seat.

Anyhoo, I'm sure that they'll find out whose coats those are and he'll be able to sit down in no time.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Madge Monday

We're back in school, like the Obama kids, only with a smaller convoy.
And this morning went smoothly, thanks for asking. It was a close call, though, until Madge remembered that she had computer class today, which made it all okay.
But, man, was I at a loss what to put in their lunches today.

Packing lunches,
heaps and bunches
hasn't been on my horizon.
Planning ahead
and buying some bread
is a thing up to which I won't wisen.*

Hark, what's that I see among all the food clutter?
A loaf of white, praise be, I'm sold.
And right there's a smidgen of peanut butter.
Oh, dad-gum-it, foiled again:

*but only because "to which up I won't wisen" looks even worse.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Stimulus Package

Third-Quarter Spending

The economy is ailing
And analysts are wailing.
They know just why the world is ending:
Third-quarter spending.

But I refuse to see such gloom,
So this I am intending:
Where they see dung I’ll find a bloom
In third-quarter spending.

The gumballs at our movie store
Are more than ornamental.
When you find a yellow one
They give you a free rental.
I put two coins in the machine;
Madge gets red and Coco green.
You see what is impending:
Some good third-quarter spending.

At “Peep World” up on 33rd
Near 7th Ave, I think,
Is where some guys just can’t, well, uh,
You see, it’s too much drink.
They put two coins in the machine
And limply shrug at what they’ve seen.
But wait, something’s un-bending.
That’s good third-quarter spending.

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year's Challenge

To the chagrin of all you readers, I'll be trying to put my posts in verse. Not all, don't worry.
It'll help me keep in shape, I think.
Here's the first, inspired by how stranded we felt a week ago when the buzzer stopped working.

Ring For Service

Our doorbell and our intercom
Have buckled under stress;
The stress of endless ringing from
The mail and UPS.

We cannot talk, we cannot hear.
When friends stop by, we’re rude.
And now we face our greatest fear:
We cannot order food.