Thursday, August 27, 2009

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

About 30 miles into the desert east of Bend sitting on top of a mountain you'll find the Pine Mountain Observatory. Operated and maintained by the University of Oregon the three massive telescopes are capable of peering deep into our universe. On weekends, the public is allowed to visit, camp out on the mountain, attend a lecture and look through the telescopes. Even without the telescopes the sky is blanketed with more stars than most people will ever see. It's exactly the kind of experience that can truly expand anyone's intellectual curiosity. Or so I thought.

The lecture was held in a tent and was moderated by an astronomer and volunteer at the observatory who obviously loves his field and had put a tremendous amount of time into preparing a show that would be stimulating, entertaining and educational. After the lecture we headed up to the telescopes. On the way up the hill, our astronomer stopped and directed everyone's attention up to the magnificent star filled sky. To help us locate points in the sky he was explaining he used a green laser pen he had in his pocket that we were able to follow to exact points in the sky. When he was done pouring his heart out about the wonders and expanse of the universe he asked if there were any questions.

The lady next to me: "Wow. That laser is really cool"
Our intrepid teacher: "Thanks"
Lady: "So how does it work?"
Teacher: "I don't really want to get side tracked about the laser right now. Any questions about the lecture?"
Lady: "Yeah, where did you get the laser?"
Teacher: "I really would like to stay on track here."
Lady: "Sorry...But it really is cool."
Teacher: "If you all look up this way you'll see Polaris. Who knows what other name Polaris goes by?"
Lady: "Do you sell those lasers in the gift shop?"
Teacher: "No. We don't sell them in the gift shop."
Lady: "Can I get one online?"
Teacher: "I don't know."
Lady: "Really. You don't know. I thought you were an expert. You can get almost anything online."

Eventually we got to one of the huge telescopes. This thing had to be about 20' long and 4' in diameter and must have cost millions of dollars. We were waiting in line to take a look and, naturally, it was very dark. The person operating the telescope introduced himself and explained how the telescope worked and told us we were especially lucky to be there that evening because Jupiter was visible and we would be able to see not only some of its moons but also its rings. An incredibly rare opportunity. "Any questions before we get started?" he asked.

From the pitch black darkness beside me. "Yeah. Do you know where to get one of those lasers? The other guy didn't know. They're really cool."

Just kill me now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Like Um Big and Dumb

Central Oregon is known for it's gorgeous weather and mostly insect free living. In fat, the only bugs we had attracted most of the summer were these big, fat dumb flies that were so listless I'm pretty sure even former heavyweight boxer Jerry Quarry could have hit one. Or, as P.J. O'Rourke once said about the challenge of making fun of the visitors to Dollywood. "It's like hunting dairy cows with a high powered rifle and scope."

Bottom line. I could pick them off at will. That is, until a new breed of fly appeared around late July. Smarter, faster, smaller. Like when those German Messerschmitts first showed up during the war. These little bastards seemed to know what I was going to do before I did it. Jab, jab, right hook. I couldn't touch them even with my new state-of-the-art fly swatter from Bed Bath and Beyond.

I think I'll just let them eat until they get fat and dumb.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nurple. It Rhymes With Purple.

I don't know about the rest of you but I've had it up to here with the word purple. "I'm so cool. Nothing rhymes with me. Go ahead, try. See, I told you so. I'm special, so special." Well, fuck you purple. That's right, you heard me. Fuck you. Now that I'm living up here in Oregon in a state of semi-retirement I finally have time to do something about this grammatical oversight. It's not like it's such a difficult problem that we've had to wait how many hundreds of years to solve. Let's just come up with a few new words that rhyme with purple and start using them. Write a few poems, pound out a few songs. It's easy. Here are my first two new options to get things rolling.

Churple: The sound a person makes when they let out a small, quick laugh. Like a bird chirping. For example, "Upon hearing the punch line, the young lady churpled".

Nurple. A man doesn't have a nipple. Of course not. That's why we're allowed to look at them in movies and in pictures. A man has a nurple. For example, "I could see Juan's nurples through his fishnet tank top".

Done. And don't think I don't see you hiding in the corner orange. You're next.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

It's easy to get depressed when you see what's going on out there with war, famine, drought, the economy, pollution and crab grass. But every once in awhile you come across something that is so positively life affirming that you just have to smile and think to yourself, "We just might make it after all".

Melanie and I had a night like that recently. We were visiting the Oregon coast and when dinner time arrived we knew we wanted to find a slightly tacky, nautically themed restaurant with great food. A toothless old guy who was wearing rubber overalls covered in blood and fish guts directed us to The Sea Hag in Depoe Bay. Wedged in between about 20 gift shops that all sold pirate paraphernalia The Sea Hag was exactly what we were looking for.

On the walls were fishing nets and star fish. Hanging from the ceiling were fake blowfish and lobsters, each table had its own captain's wheel and the floors were covered in saw dust. To cap things off, there was a blind piano player in the back playing things like "New York New York" and "My Way" while tipsy locals and tourists danced and sang along.

After we had settled in a bit I became aware that there was only one waitress in the entire restaurant and she was serving about 11 tables as well as taking and making the drinks, chatting up the customers and handling the cash register. That's a huge amount of work for one person but she wasn't finished.

I was watching her go about her busy routine when the piano player stopped for a break. On the stereo the song 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' started to play. Without missing a beat, our waitress walked behind the bar, picked up two padded drum sticks and started to play along on all the glasses and bottles. There were even some bells and cymbals and whistles tucked into the bar for extra effect. She travelled from one end of the bar to the other playing it like it was some sort of huge musical instrument. She had it all perfectly time out so that when she reached the end of the bar the song ended, she put down the drum sticks, picked up her pad and went off to take an order from a party of four that had arrived in middle of it all.

It was impossible not to smile. And to top it off, the meal was the best seafood I have ever had.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We love you.