Neal’s Hero: Arroyo Vet Hospital

Q: WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN you lose your wallet, the roommate’s got the car all day, and the cat has a mysterious slash on his tail which he won’t stop licking and leaves bloody smears on the chaise-longue???

A: What I did was call Arroyo Veterinary Hospital, who told me to sit tight while they sent someone over to pick him up, fix him up and hang on to him until this afternoon. These are the same people who oohed and awwed over our little woojums last time and who put him up during the week we got flooded in February.

That’s ARROYO VETERINARY HOSPITAL, who have no idea they’ve been so lauded. Local heroes: people who do their job well and graciously. Thank you.

Pithyism #1:100

IT IS DIFFICULT TO BE a friend to people and be a friend to their Institution (whether school, religious body, ideology, non-profit or dinner arrangements) when the Institution distracts from its intended focus: people.

Fiction: The Little Green Man Who Didn’t

HE WAS DANGLING FROM THE upper corner of my typewriter window, upside-down and scowling, when I first saw the Man from Mars.

That’s what he was, no doubt about it. He was three feet tall, emerald green where the spacesuit didn’t cover him, and with more-than-vestigial antennae sprouting from a large bulbous head. His expression mingled disappointed with disbelief, as though his worst hopes had been realized about a minute before he appeared.

“I cannot believe you people,” he was saying. “Just can’t believe it.”

“I’m not sure I believe in you either,” I said.

He climbed down around the sill until his scowl was level with my eyes. “That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Would you mind opening the window?”

“I would,” I said. “How do I know you’re, you know … not part of some invading force?”

“Because I can’t even open the window by myself,” he said. “The latch is on your side.”

“So it is,” I said, and raised it.

He stepped into the room. The spacesuit was ribbed silver and sans helmet, although a tubed canister on his back suggested its existence somewhere nearby. Most likely in a flying saucer, of course.

“This is why I contacted you,” he said, looking up at me with hands on glistening hips. “You remember.”

“Remember what?”

“Remember me. Remember us. The little green men from another world. Few do these days. I mean, you still use a typewriter. And not for irony.”

“I like to pound the words into the paper,” I said. “It feels like I’m sculpting them.”

“Whatever. You still remember the Old Ways.”

“I thought I was the only one who used that term. You mean, of course, when the future was shiny and worth a damn?”

“When there was a future. These days it’s all zombies, and mutants, and vampires, which are by the way the most pretentious of all the undead.”

“No question there,” I said. “But what do you mean?”

“What was the first post-apocalypse you remember?” he asked. “Mad Max, wasn’t it?”

“No, Road Warrior,” I answered. “I missed the first film somehow. But I had a subscription to Heavy Metal. The Church of Moebius.”

“Whatever. Remember the world situation then?”

“Sure. 1980s. Ronald Reagan and the Evil Empire. We kept expecting nukes to drop every evening.”

“Right. Sure did take off, though, didn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Post-apocalypticism. It’s a very seductive look: dead cities, mutants trading in the wrecked underbelly, black trenchcoats, green lighting. It’s very easy. Not like futurism — optimistic futurism, anyway. See the connection now?”

I didn’t, and said so. He looked at me with patience.

“You weren’t expecting the future anymore…” he began.

My heart froze.

He looked at me in sad silence.

“My God. What happened to us?” I asked. “This is why there’s no jetpacks – we’ve torn down all the launchpads and replaced them with franchised dead things.”

“That is about the size of it,” he said. “That’s why I’m here — to say goodbye, to someone who’d miss me.”

“But wait! What about Roswell?” I asked. “Flying saucers are still part of the brain politic.”

He stepped to the window, put a leg up. “But those saucers crashed,” he said. “And you people autopsied the occupants. See?”

Then he was gone.

I hope he comes back.

Biblical Note: No Idiots Need Apply

IT HAS COME TO THE attention of Metaphorager.Net that certain hatebrained wink-and-gigglers are selectively quoting vv. 8-9 of Psalm 109 to express their disdain for the President With The Suspicious Middle Name (simply paraphrased, they’re calling for his death). While I’m not one to upset the otherwise noble Lower North American art of president-disdaining, I really hate to see some of my favorite books hijacked by idiots. So it appeals to the Cosmic Jokester in me to discover that Psalm 109’s second and third verses say this (in the Artscroll translation):

2. For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful have opened against me, they have spoken to me the language of falsehood,
3. And with words of hatred they have encircled me, and attacked me without cause.

(“God?” Please. Save us from those who think they know You. The rest of us are tiring of the irony.)

Pithyism #23

ALL GREAT TRUTHS WERE ONCE heresies, but not all heresies become Great Truths.

N.B. I might have inadvertently nicked this from someone else, but ISTR specifically coining it after some New Age sweetness-and-lightster tried to convince Sputnik and I to junk our cars and levitate instead

First Day Of School, Again

CHIEF AMONG MY DEEPEST DELIGHTS and terrors is teaching young Jewish people about their heritage.

It’s a delight because I’m a born teacher, meaning that I love to learn things and share what I’ve learned (usually learning more in the process). I also love and grok young folk, especially in the 4th to 6th grade range, since they are old enough to begin questioning things, sharp enough to spot BS and still imbued with the essential sense of wonder.

It’s a terror because they pay attention to, pick up on, remember and react to the slightest word — and because much of what they carry with them about Judaism will be because I handed it to them. It’s a similar terror to the reporter’s eternal “Did I get it right?” insecurity without which none can refine their art, but hundredfolded. Sometimes I feel like the captain of a shipful of precious eggs, which I suppose I am.

This is my tenth year teaching, and my first new class in some time (my immediately previous students were with me for three years). The reason I began teaching in the first place was because my own Hebrew school experience was so stultifyingly hideous that I had to leave Judaism for 23 years before I could learn to appreciate it as one of many complex, deep and mysterious expressions of what some call “God” — one which is mine through inheritance and intent, inextricably intertwined with my world- and self-understanding. My teachers taught me not to ask questions (despite that asking questions is the fundament of both Judaism and childhood in general), and I want “my kids” to know that not only are there no stupid questions, there’s nothing in the world that can’t be — shouldn’t be — questioned.

Including, and especially, the teacher.

We’re All Clones (Except Me)

A RECENT FACEBOOK POLL (OF which I generally conduct one daily) revealed that few people have experienced the mindbreaking awe of encountering their own body double.

Let me assure you: No matter how often it happens, it is a very weird feeling, as it undoubtedly was for one such Other Me I spotted across the BART tracks late one night in the Walnut Creek station (we kept looking at each other nervously; he in sports jacket and briefcase, me in long hair and T-shirt). It likewise may be or have been weird for those other Other Mes I’ve seen in newspaper and book photos (mostly Afghanis, Pashtun and Russians, but once of a forced-smiling Jew in a Nazi-overseen road crew).

To date I have yet to converse with myself, although I once got into an argument with a fast-food cashier who swore I was the beverage guy “making fun” of her.

Perhaps an ancient ancestor was emphatically fecund, or otherwise genetically impressive. But I tend to think this communal physiology is more construction than consanguinity (a fine word, but of too-little conversational relevance, meaning “relation” ). My DNA was crafted among the Eastern Europeans on my mom’s side and Russia and Germany on my dad’s; on my dad’s side I’m also a Levite, those touchy servants of the ancestral Temple, and I sometimes wonder if the Other Mes are too.

But my bigger questions concern the fluidity of identity: How much of who “I” am depends on what I look like? Where I came from? And just how unique are we all, anyway? If someone looks like me and acts like me, I might be tempted, a la the mad monk Nasrudin, to tie a balloon to my leg to tell us apart, were it not for my inner sense that I’m the one wondering about him. But what if he thinks he’s me? Well sir, I should hope my friends would know the real me (the one who’s writing this now, or did before you read it) well enough to help me do the same when needed — especially in that waking fuzz when I don’t know who I am, only that it’s time to feed the cat.

As I say, few people have experienced this phenomenon, but those who know, know — as do, of course, those who only look like them. Everyone else will just have to take our word for it.