Cool Saturday. Rain at night. Can’t be outside. Sunday: BLAZING. Ninety degrees. Seven PM: rain. Hail. Great peals of thunder, making you think why does anyone ever try to write a description of thunder? As in, the thunder split the sky like a great ripping of a burlap sack that contained a farting dragon. Thunder is self-explanatory. There’s no other sound like it. No one ever hears thunder, and thinks holy crap, what was that? In the genes, in the most ancestral memories, recognition of the heaven’s ominous magnificence. Thunder is wonderous.
It’s best when it precedes the storm; when thunder happens during the storm it’s a bit excessive, unless it’s working closely with its long-time collaborator, lightning. When those two have their timing down, it’s magic. Flash! CRRACK boom rumble mutter. But when they leave and the rest of the night is just rain, it’s like seeing a play on Broadway after the star actors have left, and have been replaced with 90s sitcom actors.
Good weekend so far. Long. Friday I did a morning video with a state patrol officer, then went home to write the column and another piece, but around noon I realized I had to do something about my dyshydrosis. Don’t google it. Trust me. I get this every year when the weather gets warm; I get blistery digits. I’m not one of those pale folk who can’t take the sun, but for some reason this happens now and then. Itches like hell and looks like I was conducting a Mozart scherzo with my hands stuck in beehives.
So: off to Target. There are no useful topical ointments or unguents; you need a gatekeeper to prescribe the proper creams. People complain about the medical system, but really: got in right away, said “hey ho, dyshydrosis,” doctor checks the database, phones in a script to the pharmacy, and I’m good.
Here’s the problem. The steroid cream was nine dollars.
Insurance covered one dollar.
There was simply no reason for this. Why should it pay for anything? If I have some fabulous plan that covers everything, great, I guess, but for a plan to cover one dollar of a nine-dollar bill, that’s nonsense. There’s probably another dollar in paperwork behind that. Multiply by hundreds of millions of transactions. I would have been perfectly happy if the clerk had said “your insurance doesn’t cover this,” and I asked why, and she said “because it’s nine dollars for something that itches."
STOP! Matson Line. Last night, for grins, I revised an old site devoted to the SS Lurline. My friend Michael Walsh was on the ship as a kid, and sat down to play the piano in the lounge; another passenger listened and gave him tips. Sammy Cahn. Occasional meetings of marvelousness and wonder: that's what cruises are, when they're good. The site is here. There's a kicker on the penultimate page, and you'll see why I updated it.
Sunday was yard day. The boulevard is dead, and nothing will grow but weeds - salt, rocks thrown up from vehicles, insufficient sun. The neighbors planted their boulevard with hostas, so we’re going to extend the idea. This meant renting a tiller and digging up the boulevard. So: off to the hardware store, thirty bucks for two hours. Took two of us to put it in the Element, which made me think “wonder how I’ll get this back,” but heck, that was two hours away! Got it out, which is different - holding and lowering isn’t the same as grasping and lifting. Started it up: gar gar gar gar gar gar/ Fed it some gas. OH MY GOD it bit into the dirt and took off, and I’m trying to manhandle it to keep it from driving down the hill, and the vibrations are already liquifying the cartilage in my shoulders. Stopped. Rethough this.
Okay, if it’s going to take off when the blades hit the dirt, then let that work for me. Go to the curb, point it up, gar gar gar gar gar and sure enough, it walked itself up, and then gravity took it down. Repeat. Short shallow strokes over and over, and finally:
All the way up to the vehicle.
I just have too damned much boulevard. Most people who have that much boulevard just pay someone to do it all, and look out the window one morning at the burly fellows doing your bidding, and nod and go back to tea and the New York Times, but that’s because they live in mansions by the lake. I just have an absurd lot that results from topography and late 19th century urban planning ideas. I have this land because there wasn’t any possible way to build on it, so they just called it one lot and said “have fun wit that hill there. Sledding in the winter. Whee!” And indeed, whee, but on days like this you understand the appeal of retiring somewhere Arizona-like where you don’t remove rocks from the lawn, rocks are the lawn.
As long as there’s a little patch of grass in the back. We all need a patch of grass. I have no time for the people who sneer at the American Lawn, and think “it would be natural and better if it was all spurge and chickweed and cattails and big natural weeds. You control freaks with your bluegrass and fescue! Yeah, well, fescue too, pal. For your lawn, go ahead. But judge not another man’s desire for an even lush emerald carpet. A neighborhood of emerald lawns freshly shorn is a thing of great green beauty.
Then I planted grass seed on the hill I’d chewed up. Didn’t you plant last year? you ask. I did. Nothing came up. But the dirt’s deeper and more . . . roughed up, so I have hopes. Used the spreader, wondering as I always do why someone doesn’t come out with an Onan brand spreader; probably because it requires two hands to operate.
An amusing little mystery: The Missing Juror. An innocent man is convicted of a crime:
George McCready, who specialized in upper-class rotters who are usually cheated out of something, and bitch about it bitterly. The poor man’s George Saunders.
So he goes to prison, whereupon he loses his mind. Most of it, anyway. When the conviction is overturned he goes to an insane asylum, where he commits suicide by hanging himself AND burning up everything in his room, just to be safe. Since it’s a movie, they assume the body is his, even though - as we learn later - the last person to check up on him was never seen again.
Meanwhile, the jurors who convicted him are being killed, one by one, in spectacularly conspicuous ways. Into this mix comes a mysterious man with an interest in criminal justice:
At this point you’re wondering does the movie think I can’t tell it’s the convicted guy? It sounds like him; difficult voice to mask, and he doesn’t even try.
In the end a crusading newspaper reporter solves it all at the last minute and the last juror isn’t killed, which is great because shes prettier than the rest, and that would be a pity.. The reviews describe the movie as “noir” because it’s in black and white and has a mystery. No. It’s just a B movie. They made millions of them.
Afterwards, a short:
They made a series of shorts in WW2 suggesting that Nostradamus predicted the defeat of Hitler. The lengths to which they made the quatrains fit was as amusing as other attempts to tease prophecy ouf this nonsense. If you take the initials of one of Hitler’s self-bestowed titles and put the last letter in the first place then it spells an untranslatable French pronoun!!!! in the previous line! Okay, , that person will be bothered by two things that could be translated as breeds of dogs, and these dogs are often used for hunting, and who was given the title Master of the Hunt? GOERING! So he will kill Hitler. It’s in the book!
I remember reading about Nosty when I was a kid, and being freaked out: the fighting shall be against Hister! Whoa, that's Hitler, right? Because Nosty always couched his prophecies with oblique sleights-of-hand. He could have said "Hitler," but that would be too obvious. Say "Hister," and no one will know what you mean until later. Thanks, pal. If he'd said "HITLER" we might have had a heads-up.
Hister was a river in Germany. Speaking of which: if I was a Chinese cartographer working on maps for export, I'd make sure there as a city in China named Tipping. Just so people could pull it out at restaurants and use it to disprove the sign by the cash register.