Monday, August 28, 2006

but will there be a bowtie?

I've noticed that at least one person a day winds up here in a fruitless branch off of this particular search.
These Internets is a strange and lonely place.

Friday, August 25, 2006

pelee island, part 2

I remembered two things from the crash:

1. Thinking and perhaps even shouting Why me, O Lord? as I went down. This is typical. I have many accidents and find that it is better to call out something along these line—perhaps even a Why do you hate me, Jesus?—while they are occurring just in case death is imminent. Many people like to repent just before dying, but I find that repenting implies an admission of wrongdoing.

2. Feeling and hearing what I can only assume was my left arm coming out of the socket. I quickly stood, brushed myself off, checked the severity of my skinned knee, and then noticed numbness in my left arm dangling there beside me. It had gone right back into place after the crash and looked to be fine, but I couldn’t feel it. Then I could, and it hurt. It hurt considerably. I walked around shaking it off for a minute or two. The pain wore off and it seemed to be fine, thus depriving me of the opportunity to see what socialized medicine is all about.

However, it has started hurting a bit since our return. Do any doctors know if this is something that should be checked out? If so, do any socialists know if my injury is still the responsibility of the Canadian government?

Just thought I’d ask. It might be awkward to have my arm fall off in the middle of some random everyday activity. Also, it would render this room full of musical instruments tragically useless. Then again, I could perhaps sell them all and have enough cash for a kick ass bionic arm with rocket launchers, assorted can openers, and maybe even an animatronic hand puppet.

However, I’m finding it difficult to think of how “one arm bandit” can best fit onto a license plate.
But I digress. I think I was speaking at this point of the negative aspects of our vacation, and there was no more negative draw back than the Canadian mosquito.

They are whiney and insatiable little bastards who seemed to have a particular bloodlust for visitors or maybe just visiting Caminos. Native islanders and even travelers from the northern states complained about them, but Mrs. Camino and I never noticed anyone else swatting them with the same zeal we used to defend ourselves. We could generally go about in the direct sunlight with little problem, but wooded areas and any outdoor setting at or after dusk could not be ventured into for long without earning a great deal of itchy welts, scratches, and other assorted battle scars.

martin houses
The natives try to defend against the bastards by setting up purple martin houses or allowing barn swallows to build against their houses, but it does little to stop them. Mrs. Camino and I supplanted television by driving along the back roads ten or fifteen miles an hours while listening to books on tape and would encounter mosquito swarms in some areas that looked in the headlights like a heavy snowfall. Flipping to the high beams at these times filled the entire windshield with sky obscuring cloud of hungry mosquito. This never failed to elicit horror movie gasps from each of us.

The Canadian person is quite different from the Canadian mosquito. Though they seem to show a lack of respect for the American flag (much to the offense of Tim Morgan), or at least a preference for their own flag, they have learned to speak the American damn language, with the notable exception of the inhabitants of Quebec, who perhaps learned French just to piss us off.

Still, you’ll find the average inhabitant of Pelee Island to be quite laid back and immediately friendly. Everything is a bit more simplified within their tiny confines, and they seem to genuinely enjoy having the company of tourists. As you can imagine, each of the one hundred and seventy five residents know one another quite well, and it is understandable that they would be so welcoming of new blood.

I didn’t take any pictures of Canadians while on my trip. I went to Morocco a few years back and tried to take pictures of Moroccans but found that many of them would immediately dive out of the way of the camera, as being photographed went against their particular sect of Islam. Once I learned this I would sometimes use my camera to help thin the crowded alleyways of the Kasbah or simply for my own amusement. Remind me to show you some pictures I have of blurry scattering tunics sometime.

Still, I can’t help but feel that I played some minor role in our unfortunately poor relationship with the Islamic peoples of the world.

Anyway, I would like for our relations with our neighbors to the north to go a little more smoothly, and thus left the people unphotographed. However, you can view the rest of my vacation slides here.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

making the most of our time together

Cats, I've found, are essential to maintaining one's sanity while battling insomnia, as is the ability to make tiny hats out of construction paper. However, one cannot expect the first to always appreciate the second.
Bastard just ate his sombrero.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

pelee island, part 1

canadian garage
In the western end of Lake Erie lies a cluster of nine islands, primarily named for poultry, that comprise the southernmost inhabited point of Canada. However, the islands of Hen, Chick, Little Chick, and Big Chicken are mostly uninhabited, though one would think they either contain or resemble chickens in some way. I wouldn’t know, as we stayed on Pelee, by far the largest of these islands and the only one of any real significance, other than the fact that these smaller islands played crucial roles in that blessed rum-running underground railroad from Canada into the states during the prohibitionary years of our nation’s dark past.

Known for primarily for its wine making and summer tourism, Pelee is a quilt of nature reserves, vineyards, and wheat fields dotted with a handful bed and breakfasts and beach houses. It encompasses roughly forty-two square kilometers, but you’ll have to decide for yourself what this means in terms of miles.

merlot vineyard
The metric system doesn’t bother me like the Celsius scale. I’m horrible at judging distances and often have just as much trouble communicating in miles as I would with foreign measurements. However, the supremacy of the Fahrenheit scale is undebatable.

One hundred degrees in Fahrenheit is damn hot, but this same heat measured in Celsius gives us only a whopping thirty-seven degrees. We have the psychological advantage of our heat waves rising into the triple digits. Once it has gone beyond the hundred, we know that it is effing hot. This also works on the other end. True, the Celsius zero marks their freezing point and serves as a reasonable boundary to the unreasonable cold. However, our zero is much colder and strikes fear much like our triple digit heat. We know that zero is effing cold and that to venture below that into the negative would be fucking cold.

But I digress.

Within these kilometric confines reside some one hundred and seventy five permanent residents and few occupational choices. In fact, many work multiple jobs on the island. It’s quite natural for your waitress at one of the islands few restaurants—one can easily exhaust the dining options in less than a week—to be your guide at the winery or cashier at the marina the following day. Everyone, as our host at the Tin Goose Inn told us, has to work nine jobs, and even then has to find work on the mainland for the three months that the island stays frozen over.

the tin goose inn
I liked the liked the Tin Goose, but my limited experience with bed and breakfasts gives me little to compare it to. I imagine that your average B&B should lie somewhere between an episode of Newhart and the Waltons with perhaps a slight dash of a P.G.Wodehouse story thrown in, and that was pretty much what we had.

I prefer staying in more historic places while traveling, but one of the drawbacks to this is a misconception I’ve picked up from watching fat too many of those haunted hotel shows on the Travel Channel. I fully expect to see the ghost of an old woman, Civil War soldier, or pirate standing at the foot of my bed if I wake up in the middle of the night. I therefore keep my eyes shut if I happen to wake up before daylight. Still, I like to think there’s a pirate ghost waiting patiently there for the chance to frighten me—perhaps twisting his face ghoulishly in anticipation when he sees me stir and is then let down each time I refuse to sleepily glance in his direction.

Anyway, there was neither ghost nor Internet access nor television at the Tin Goose, and most of our time within the one hundred and eleven year old house was spent reading or breakfasting continentally before heading out to wander around the island. The mornings downstairs were quiet during the week and a bit more crowded near the weekends. The guests were mostly families from Ohio, Michigan, and mainland Canada, with the occasional British accent thrown in among the Colonists. Tennesseans are a slight oddity.

We had dinner at the restaurant there one evening and it was pricey, though worth it. Our host was also a gourmet chef who easily distinguishes the Tin Goose from the primarily fried perch and chip establishment that make up the majority of the island’s other culinary offerings, though there is certainly nothing wrong with that sort of thing.

Another place I would recommend for travelers to Pelee would be Connorlee’s Bakery. Though only opened during the day from Tuesday to Saturday and nights on the weekend, it is the best place to get lunch and coffee. They use vegetables from an organic farm down the road and provide picnic tables under the trees out front where their lethargic cat lazily watches you eat.

Did I mention that there are no fast food restaurants on Pelee? In fact, there are no chain stores of any kind. Gasoline and groceries have to be purchased at the island’s Co-op located on the northern shore across from the Canadian mainland, and most items still have to be ordered. Some islanders prefer to take the two-hour ferry every couple of weeks to shop in Kingsville or Leamington in Ontario.

Another thing missing from the island is a police force. There is not even a policeman, Mounty, or Barney Fife figure roaming the streets.

Neither are there garbage men, as residents drive their garbage to the dump every week.

The only sign of anyone being employed by the town was the guy whose responsibility it was to maintain the roads. We encountered him on each of our drives, and just seemed to drive around in his pick-up all day filling in potholes with shovels of gravel and then pouring tar over them. I didn’t notice him having another job anywhere else despite the fact that probably less than half of the roads on Pelee are paved.

Half the people on Pelee move about by bicycle, and we spent a day exploring on a set of these particular bikes built in the bike shop/bike rental place across from the ferry dock.

dorky bike
They are designed so that the rider sits upright and are therefore more comfortable, though, as our host put it in his thick Windsor accent, “They make you look kinda dorky, eh”. I suppose they do, though they are comfortable up until the point one, while flying along some ATV trails on the way to see some glacier grooves on a remote limestone beach, hits a rut and goes flipping over the handlebars at an alarming velocity.
That would be me. One minute the weather is perfect and I’m gliding down a trail worn through the middle of a relatively flat glade, and the next, as if tripped perhaps by the foot of some unseen and understandably frustrated pirate ghost, though there is not sufficient evidence to cast blame in any direction, I find myself awkwardly intertwined with the dorky bicycle in the most unflattering heap in the middle of the trail.
Coming soon: Pelee Island, part 2. Will our Rex get to experience socialized medicine? I don't care either, but he will probably tell us. Also, there will be considerable rambling on the subject of the Canadian mosquito.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


The bags have been packed, the back has been shaved, and the pets are filled with the skittish uneasiness of the impending kennel visit. It is vacation time, and Mrs. Camino and I are headed north where the air is a bit cooler, though unfortunately measured in Celsius.

Feel free to write an epic in the comments section in my absence. Here's your opening line:

Vespa the Resilient, having earlier slain Mr. Chuckles, the friendly and much loved Dragon of Perpetual Joy, in error, presently emerged with understandable trepidation from the cave, though she carried with her the head of Roy, a bastard of a dragon and the one listed on her contract with the village, which she fulfilled with the use of a rusting door from a 1969 Dodge Charger, a box of the leading brand breakfast cereal, a copy of Band on the Run on vinyl, and considerably more effort and skill than was required for the late Mr. Chuckles.

Friday, August 11, 2006

pictures of kitty

The Wonderdawg has kindly asked to see my desktop, and I am obliging. Actually, there isn't much to my desktop to be seen. It is a small and cheap yard sale quality particle board desk that holds little more than the keyboard, mouse, and monitor, and here is my view from it.
Click to embiggen, as always.
Trust me, some actual planning and decoration went into the rest of the house, but the Rexroom resembles my college apartment. It's just a bonus room above the garage. I have things to go on the walls but I'm waiting for more things and perhaps some new furniture before I go to the trouble of putting them up. I'll give you the full tour once it is made presentable, but here, from left to right, is the corner I see from where I sit on August eleventh of twenty aught-six.
First is a small edge of the all important television, followed by my grandfather's antique Silvertone deluxe portable crank phonograph. This sits beside my old college Wal-mart nightstand, which currently holds an eggcrate of records and my Crosley Stack-O-Matic. Next is the upright bass lying in front of the coffee table that graced my childhood home throughout the eighties. It holds assorted guitar accessories and an amplifier. The amplifier holds a Jesus candle from Dollywood that I like to have present when recording. This is followed by shelves of randomly stacked CDs and a telecaster. Last is the aforementioned and sparsely inhabited desktop. Aside from the keyboard and monitor, we see only a speaker, CD, and a 3-hole punch with the name "Kitty" taped in the center. I don't recall having ever used this 3-hole punch or why it sits on an otherwise nearly uncluttered desk. One would assume that it was taken from someone named "Kitty", but there is a very real possibility that Mrs. Camino simply decided to give our 3-hole punch a name.
On my monitor is a picture I took at Ft. Morgan in Mobile a few years back. You will also notice the glare from the window just behind me. Carl Weathers is currently curled up unseen at my feet and refusing to come out and pose for the picture.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

uncle wilbur gives the finger

I smashed the birdie finger on my right hand between two concrete blocks yesterday. Actually, I was about to smash it when I jerked it away at the last moment. However, my normally catlike reflexes failed me, and my fingertip remained and thus became partially pulled away as I jerked my hand back, leaving a small flap of fingertip that took a moment to begin trickling blood. It was one of those hold your breath moments where you wait to see the amount of blood for an accurate assessment, thinking both How bad is it? and I can't believe I did that. They soundtracked the visions of an amputated digit dancing in my head.
The blood tricked, and I ran into the house screaming like a small and embarrassing child--which was unfortunate, as I was mowing and doing other assorted yardwork during the most unforgivingly hot time of day precisely to appear as a bad ass.
The cat and dog gathered behing me at the sink as I cleaned the wound and used very loud and unsuitable language. Some might call that concern on the part of the Camino children, but I know that it was purely because they could smell blood and were hoping that my possibly impending death meant they could very well feast like kings upon my corpse until Mrs. Camino got home from work.
Anyway, I survived. I may have to use a pick while playing guitar instead of my preferred method fingerpicking for a while, and some of you may have noticed that I'm typing a bit slower that usual, but the finger is healing well.
It reminds me of a story about the uncle of a high school friend.
There were actually two uncles in the story, and we'll call them Wilbur and Hank.
These two brothers enlisted for World War II at the same time and were both sent to Europe to essentially be cafeteria workers at bases in England and then mainland Europe as the war progressed. However, Wilbur was not proud of this and instead wrote back to his family with tales of purely fictional skirmishes against the dreaded Hun as they made their way to Berlin. Hank was coerced to play along, and the two brothers emerged from each battle victorious and unscathed until Wilbur happened to lose a finger. It was the middle finger of his right hand, and he lost it, according to the letter he sent home and the story he told up until his deathbed, while giving a German the finger.
His platoon and a platoon of Germans had been sitting in opposing foxholes across a small field in a tense but quiet stalemate for sometime. Wilbur stuck his head up one day and found a German looking back at him. He decided to give him a typically Alabamian gesture of recognition while obviously underestimating his adversary's marksmanship. However, having his middle finger shot off gave him the necessary adrenaline to leap from his foxhole, storm across the field, and kill this particular German with his bare hands--which now consisted of only nine digits. The rest of his platoon quickly followed, and the surprise move left them victorious. Wilbur was again a hero.
What had actually happened was this: Wilbur accidentally cut off his finger while peeling potatoes.
He swore Hank to secrecy, bought a bona fide German helmet off another soldier, and returned with the story and what he reported to be the helmet of the man who shot off his finger.
Wilbur died of cancer some half a century later. While on his death bed, he gathered his family around and confessed the true story of how his finger was lost, as he didn't want the lie to somehow effect his impending afterlife.
"We know", his wife said. "Hank's been telling that story every time you leave a room for the last fifty years".

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

another elevator story

I sometimes fear that I’m cursed with an air of sympathy. Total strangers will sometimes tell me their stories, and, though my brain sends me signals like dispatch them quickly with talk of the streets filling with the blood of the nonbelievers, I can do nothing but appear to listen and sometimes even go so far as to feign interest. It is my cross to bear, and I occasionally must bear it even on the dreaded elevator.

I stepped onto the hospital elevator to bring Pa Camino some pants for checking out about the time a group from the smoking section had finished and decided to return to their various loved ones. There were four stocky older women who resembled Mount Rushmore and a man who I swear was Dickie Betts from the Allman Brothers’ Band, though he probably wasn’t. They made for a fragrant ride up.

Anyway, Teddy Roosevelt was the talkative one. I believe she may have been the wife of the patient they were visiting, as she was going on and on about someone named Marlin while the others looked on stoically, perhaps quiet because years of experience had taught them that their chances to talk were few and far between. George Washington, who seemed like a sister of Marlin, was obviously the designated nodder, as she went on like a giant George Washington bobblehead. Jefferson threw in an occasional “yep” or “right”, while Lincoln mutely showed recognition by raised eyebrows. Dickie Betts seemed equally mute.

So it was that we all showed a bit of surprise when he snagged a break in Roosevelt’s monologue to throw out a “shore is a purty hospital, ain’t it” just before stepping out at the second floor.

Mount Rushmore didn’t step out. They were headed to my floor, and the remark of an outsider had in a strange way brought the other outsider into the understood “conversation”. Unfortunately, I was that other outsider.

Roosevelt resumed. She continued looking down the row of the other three as she talked, but this time her gaze extended to the quiet guy behind Lincoln holding a pair of pants.

“I don’t care if it is a pretty hospital,” she said. “A hospital is still a hospital, and I don’t ever want to see the inside of another one as long as I live. No, once Marlin is up and walking again we are out of this place.”

Lady, I’m just a guy on an elevator with some pants, my brain said. However, my face seemed to anticipate all the fun times we were all going to have with Marlin just as soon as he got out.

Poor Marlin. I don’t mind talkative people, but Roosevelt had the uncanny ability to fill the air with the most uninteresting collection of words. Most talkative people sometimes stumble onto things that are worth hearing just as buckshot generally hits its intended target, but Roosevelt’s routine seemed to be nothing more than a stating of the obvious.

Then again, perhaps this Marlin is actually the one cursed with incessant gabbiness and what I was seeing was nothing more than Roosevelt’s lifetime of pent up conversation. It had been suppressed for so long and now, perhaps born of a “freak throat accident” that the loquacious Marlin suffered while in his sleep, was awkwardly attempting to find its legs like a newborn farm animal.

I hope so.

Monday, August 07, 2006

the pride of the boro

Number one in the hood, G.

Friday, August 04, 2006

theory of elevation

Pa Camino is in town having some massive back surgery that is to leave him hospitally confined for at least a week. It looks and sounds painful as hell, and the other day I found myself in the awkward position of having to look out the window and make small talk while the nurse gave him a morphine shot in the backside.

There’s the batman building; it’s not going to hurt you.

Anyway, he’s recovering well and should be moving about as well as any other sixty year old man in a couple weeks time.

Ma Camino was a nervous wreck leading up to the surgery. I sat with her at the hospital for ten hours while the surgery took place on Wednesday and then enthusiastically volunteered to run back to the hotel when she noticed that she had left some medicine there. It is on Broadway, and I parked and left the Caminomobile in a highly illegal manner rather than pay some obscene parking fee for the short time it was going to take me to run in and right back out.

So it was that I took the elevator. I don’t normally do that, but time was of the essence and…Well, here’s the beginning of a post that was being composed in my head as I awaited the descending elevator. I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to actually writing it, but it would have gone like this:

I don’t care much for elevators. I don’t like heights, confined spaces, or other people, and this is unholy trinity, in my experience, is what the elevator is all about. Therefore, I will generally take the stairs when the destination is within ten floors and the stairwell is unencumbered by an automatic fire alarm.

…and so forth. Riveting stuff, I know. Anyway, I was lost in composition as I stepped onto the thankfully empty elevator and didn’t see the large man in the navy blue jumpsuit bounding across the lobby and lunging onto the elevator just before the doors closed. He had a crazy look in his eye and he leaned toward me.

“You get to be my guinea pig,” he told me.


I assumed the utterly useless crane stance from the first Karate Kid film and almost didn’t hear him elaborate by telling me how he had just finished repairing the elevator or ask why I was standing like that.

“Just stretching”, I told him.

I then went on to sarcastically express reassurance at being the first to try out a recently repaired elevator and learned the hard way that one should never do this to a professional elevator repairman. Gus (or the man who was simply wearing Gus’ yellow stenciled navy blue jumpsuit) proceeded to lecture me on the safety of elevators, focusing mainly on the rigorous standards and burdens placed on all who toil in this, the world’s safest form of transportation, from engineering to maintenance.

“An elevator won’t fall,” he said, “but you might get stuck on one for a while.”
Personally, I’d prefer the fall.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

new directions in literature

Our Rex, perhaps as a result of having landscaped a couple of days in this soupy and oppressive heat wave to the point of having his brain rendered the consistency of a soft-boiled egg, believes that he has invented a bold new form of writing, but I imagine you have already gathered that from the title. You shouldn’t believe him. He will tell you with a straight face that his new and sophomoric hobby of taking Wikipedia articles on oddly named animals or assorted insects and replacing the subject with the names of semi-obscure television personalities, then smoothing the work by changing the pronouns, verbiage, and perhaps even a bit of the scientific terminology, is not unlike the “sampling” techniques employed by various forms of techno and hip hop music, but you and I know that this is not the case. He has yet to name this new genre of writing, but I have thus far suggested “schizophrenia”. This did not meet with his approval.

At any rate, I thought that you should have some sort of warning before being subjected to a bit of this.

The following is a perfectly useful entry on the Wandering Albatross that has been modified to read as an article on the actress Joyce DeWitt from "Three’s Company". There is no redeeming value in it. It makes no sense, and I beg of you to look away. But if you insist:

The actress Joyce DeWitt (Joyusses DeWittious, the actress) is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. She was the first species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan Albatross and the Antipodean Albatross (in fact a few authors still consider them all subspecies of the same species). Together with the Amsterdam Albatross she forms the Wandering Amsterdam-DeWitt Albatross species complex. The actress Joyce DeWitt is a member of the genus Diomedea (the great abatrosses), and is one of the best known and studied species of bird in the world.
The actress Joyce DeWitt has the largest wingspan of any bird, up to 3.5 m. The length of her body is up to 1.35 m with females being slightly smaller than males, and she might weigh from 6 to 11 kg. Her plumage varies with age, but is white overall on breeding adults except for the tips and trailing edges of the wings. The actress Joyce DeWitt is the whitest of the Wandering Amsterdam-DeWitt Albatross species complex, the other species having a great deal more brown and black on the wings and body as breeding adults. The large bill is pink, as are the feet.
She feeds on squid, small fish and on animal refuse that floats on the sea, eating to such excess at times that she is unable to fly and rests helplessly on the water.
She lays one egg: it is white, with a few spots, and is about 4 inches long. At breeding time she occupies loose colonies on isolated island groups in the Southern Ocean, such as Crozet Islands, South Georgia, Marion Island, Prince Edward Island, Kerguelen and Macquarie Island. Her nests are large cones built of vegetation that are 1 meter wide at the base and half a meter wide at the apex.
Sailors used to capture the actress Joyce DeWitt for her long wing bones, which they manufactured into tobacco-pipe stems. The early explorers of the great Southern Sea cheered themselves with the companionship of the actress Joyce DeWitt in their dreary solitudes; and the evil fate of him who shot with his cross-bow the "Joyce of good omen" is familiar to readers of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The metaphor of "the actress Joyce DeWitt around his neck" also comes from the poem and indicates an unwanted burden causing anxiety or hindrance. In the days of sail she often accompanied a ship for days, not merely following it, but wheeling in wide circles around it without ever being observed to land on the water. She continued her flight, apparently untired, in tempestuous as well as moderate weather.