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We Interrupt This Program

7 Aug

The floods came in the form of a brown invading army. A tidal wave of earth and water swept away everything that was man-made. What seemed to be sturdy houses having withstood the weather throughout centuries and machines made from metal, were taken along for the destructive ride of the calamity brought on by water that parts of this world had never before experienced. What caused it. No one seemed interested. News reports didn’t probe it. They showed the destruction on loop—houses reduced to fragile sticks and red brick melting back into soft clay matter, cars pushed along and flipped around and around like helpless toys in a tumultuous bathtub. And nowhere in the natural destruction being televised were there people to be seen. I wondered why, briefly, before I connected to reality: they were all under the army of the brown flood waters. They were all drowned and hidden. Kept secret by the earth water as they, along with their homes and possessions, were hustled away to wherever the tidal wave of soil and new history and geography was headed.

What caused all this. Who was responsible? But no one answered. Here is all this heartache. Here is all this catastrophe, the news reports showed on the screen. Isn’t it awful. Isn’t it horrifying. The images implied where all those people missing were: hush hush. Tossed around, drowned, lungs filled with silt. Hush hush. The cars floating on top, spun around comically like toys and kept the bodies being carried along safely underneath. Away from people’s horrified looks. We can’t give them that. It would be too much for the big, flat screen.

Rain. It was rain that moved gigantic chunks of earth. It was rain that was to blame. Not us. Rain. It just miraculously fell and fell, and none of us could stop it. Some tried by collecting as much as they could in barrels. Fools to think they could help relieve the maelstrom advancing. None of us had a say in the falling of it. How could we be blamed for the rain.

The devastation stretched from the northwest part of Germany into neighboring Belgium and Holland. This wasn’t punishment, like some religious followers were claiming that Sunday in churches and temples. This was just consequence. Same images of destruction were being broadcast from those Germanic lands, as well, to their people. The reports identified each country with banners dissolving at the bottom of the screen, but it all looked like the same land. To have to think about borders seemed obtuse. You are here. Now you are elsewhere. And you only know that because some invisible demarcation line tells you that. Or the lower-third banner on the screen.

My long-lost father and his Bibles lives somewhere in the area that was being swept away. I know only that much about him now. He lives somewhere in the northwest corner of Germany that seems to no longer show signs of humanity had ever existed there. So I wonder if he has been evicted by the flood waters, along with the other unfortunates. The deluge, according to the reports, came suddenly and without any warning. It just appeared and conquered and took everything along to wherever it was intent on going. I have rotating macabre versions of my father being brought to his knees by the nature he so convincingly believes God made. These kinds of people are lucky—the ones who believe.

I find it strange that I am somewhat jealous of these believers. These mortals clutching their family Bibles, cut down by their mysterious God, going along merrily underneath wet, angry earth. Floating away to their Promised Land.

But . . .

Hush hush.

SPOILER ALERT!

14 Jul
  • Disney Pops Popcan Japanese Lollipops
    cost: 99 rupees ($1.50), quite small in size–I was expecting something bigger, nice peach flavor, really beautiful packaging
    expiration date: February, 2027

  • Fruit & Vegetable Japanese DYI Candy
    cost: 180 rupees ($3.00), chewy candy, colorful packaging, fuse 2 flavors together to get new flavor
    expiration date: September, 2024

  • Koikea Pride Soy Sauce Potato Chips
    cost: 260 rupees ($4.00), 262 calories, made in Japan, comes in this interesting packaging
    Crunch and Munch Not Just for Lunch!
    expiration date: July, 2023

  • Energy Drink Bubble Candy
    cost: 115 rupees ($2.00), made by Coris in Japan, 93 calories, tastes quite nice
    Let’s Just Go For It!
    expiration date: November, 2024

  • Tarami Orange Idli
    cost: 150 rupees ($2.25), interesting packaging, small orange slices in juice in small plastic cup, tastes interesting
    expiration date: December, 2022

  • Yamazaki 3-Color Dango (Japanese dumplings)
    cost: 150 rupees ($2.15), 3 in each package, gooey texture, colorful, chewy
    ingredients: sugar, superb new powder, starch, sorbit, glycine, pH adjuster, coloring (monascus, gardenia, cochineal), enzyme
    expiration date: shown on package (YYYY/MM/DD)

  • Shinkansen Candy (Shinkansen: name for a Japanese bullet train)
    cost: 120 rupees ($2.00), packaging also assembles into fun train whistles that whistle at different frequencies
    Right on Track!
    expiration date: February, 2025

  • Yuzu Pepper Chocolate
    cost: 50 rupees ($0.80), very unique, pepper has a greenish color to it, interesting packaging, made in Japan, 52 calories, tastes really good
    expiration date: shown on package (YYYY/MM/DD)

  • Sweet Potato Gummy
    cost: 180 rupees ($3.00), comes in this really colorful packaging, some very unique ingredients, 167 calories
    expiration date: July, 2024

(inspired by one of the most relaxing, gentle, and peaceful channels on the Internet Check it out!)

. . . in which I play tennis with David Foster Wallace

4 Jul

Indulge my imagination for these next few minutes. See, I think David Foster Wallace and I would’ve gotten along like, what’s that saying about peas and pods? We could’ve totally been besties. Bros! So much in common. Close in age (he born in ’62, me in ’69). So many of the same authors we hold dear. So many of the same things that make us laugh. And, of course, our mutual love for tennis. Including table tennis (do not, under any circumstances call it ping-pong). Sure he was a much more imaginative writer than I could ever hope to be. Sure his encyclopedic brain leaves mine in the dust. Sure he was a ranked junior tennis player in the 70s while I, just a mere dilettante with limited lessons, only had experience playing tourneys in the small town outside D.C. I lived in during the Reagan/Daddy Bush/Clinton years. But see, I learned my game from the batch of players that came along in the late 80s/early 90s and revolutionized the sport. I learned my game from the likes of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier. Yea I learned from incessantly watching them on TV but still, man: I played with equipment made from Kevlar, not wood or aluminum like my buddy Dave (see, we’re on these kinds of terms. I call him Dave, he calls me Al). I had a Western forehand and hit off my back foot (see previous comment re: Kevlar racquets). I even managed a (meager) 91-mph first serve. Sure it hardly ever landed in and my follow-up 2nd serve was a disastrous 50 mph horror show that usually stood up for my opponent to kill for an outright winner, but . . . just indulge my imagination. It’s summer, it’s hot as Hades, and there isn’t all that much to do inside a well air-conditioned house (thank Gadd) aside from reading or watching the new season of Borgen. Oh and . . . Wimbledon is on, right?

I have a good feeling Dave would’ve definitely kicked my butt on the court, knowing what I know about his style of play. And not even that, just by virtue of him having been a ranked junior player he would’ve destroyed me. But I bet you I could’ve taken two games from him. Maybe. Yea, ok, two games. Yea, 6-1, 6-1 seems pretty fair for a Dave vs. Al match-up. And lordy how much fun we would’ve had banging about that little yellow-green sphere. He with his bandana wrapped around his forehead, me with my Andy Roddick sun visor pushing up my lush mane of hair (yes, I once did have a decent head full of follicles).

The “style of play” I’m referring to that would have surely made mince meat of your narrator is the relentless, cannon-fired-from-the-baseline, consistently hit and brilliantly placed ground strokes Dave was known for in his tennis-playing heydays. He was, what we call in tennis, a wall. Everything came back at you, no matter what angles you may have found, how hard you may have hit, or how cleverly you may have placed that 2nd serve kicker. Dave was a patient machine that punched everything back with about 40+ added mileage per hour. On top of that insufferable consistency that will melt down an opponent within 3 games, he—as any tennis player with any sort of success, even at the junior levels of the sport—could see mathematical angles on the court and place the ball within maybe half a degree of aforementioned angles that only in my dreams I could conjure.

But, still. Indulge me in daydreaming while I watch the pros go at it on the flawlessly manicured lawns of Wimbledon. And maybe factor in the idea that Dave is a kind, charitable bro of mine and feels all sorts of feels for my amateur delusion of tennis grandeur (and perhaps also those of fiction writing). So Dave lets me take 2 games off him in the quick match (Total time: 17 minutes! For those not familiar with match duration, this is possibly the shortest 2-set tennis match in history.).

But in reality, it would be a miracle if I could muster up winning 2 points, never mind games. You see, I have very little patience on the court. That, coupled with very little skill, makes for eliciting an unforced error on every 2nd ball that comes back at me from Dave. Hence the quick match and the generous number of points I allow myself in my fantasy to win off Dave.

But hey, it’s a fun thought experiment. This friendly little match is a birthday gift (53 revolutions ’round the Sun few days ago) generously handed to me by my partner via a lovely handwritten note in a birthday card. She (my partner) is known to conjure up the most imaginative and personal gifts on special occasions for everyone in our little family. There was that year that, unbeknownst to me, she conspired with jazz musician and bandleader Al Strong to pull me up on stage during one of their gigs and sit in on drums with them for a number. (Apologies for the quality, this was years ago and shot on the first iteration of the iPhone in very low lighting.)

Well, all right, even this “tennis match with Dave idea on the handwritten note from my partner” is my own sorry-ass Walter Mitty attempt at escape. But can you blame me. It is the 4th of July, a celebration of the inception of this current dumpster fire of a country in which I currently live. Outside is literally (OK figuratively, but literally if you’re living in California) ablaze with temperatures that have, as of late, averaged in the mid- to high-90s (heat index: 105/6 +). We, citizens and non, are standing together today divided by one thing or another—our respective biases stoked by television opinion shows and politicians whose only aim is to become Instagram influencers. And keep hold of power forever.

So you’ll allow me this little 17-minute foray into the realm of tennis fantasy (or insanity). I deserve this break. Believe me, I do. You don’t know what it’s like to live in my head every day. Or, if you’re one of the four returning readers of this here column, maybe you do. If so, I will gladly take your pity. And any other spare change you may have.

Happy Fourth of July, ‘Murica. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. And watch your fingers tonight. Those fireworks are no joke, man. Have you seen some of those accidents on Reddit?

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