Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rhapsody, Part 9: local news

Rhapsody on the Theme of Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 9
Local News

Jentel Artist Residency Program

Banner, WY

The Sheridan Press Options, Friday, August 10, 2007
Sheridan Area Looksee
Saturday, Aug. 11: Sheridan County Rodeo--Sheridan County Fairgrounds. For more information, including times, call Jeff Way at 655-9285
It doesn't seem just antiquated but willfully perverse that to find out what's going on at the Rodeo today I am asked to call an actual person. Earlier today I was looking for a print shop in Sheridan where I could have the novel printed so as to have something to show for myself when James comes to get me tomorrow night. I found the Web site for Sheridan Quick Print, whose contact page reads:
Quick Printing is a family owned and operated Print Shop that has been serving the Sheridan Wyoming area for 70 years. Established in 1938, QP serves all of northeastern Wyoming. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, QP can upload any file electronically, print your documents and mail the finished product to your door.
The wonders of modern technology notwithstanding, the contact page lists only a phone number and a snail mail address. You cannot email these people. My interest in the rodeo is abstract--the Sheridan County Fair wore me out. You may be wondering, as I am, how any of this relates to my vocabulary exercise. How the hell am I going to work the word "homburg" into this anemic discursion on northern Great Plains cultural practices and communication technologies? The word as described seems awfully close to fedora, though the homburg is supposed to be more sharply rolled on the brim and lacks a pinch somewhere. Rodeo, rodeo--maybe I was hoping for a connection with cowboy hats.
Buffalo Bulletin, Thursday, August 9, 2007
Diversions: From the Bench
Justice court
Johnson County Circuit Court
Magistrate Paul Jarvis and Circuit Judge John Sampson fined the following:
--McMurtrey, Tim Alan, Cheyenne, speeding 85/75, $105 fine.
WTF? I thought you could go ten miles over the limit and get away with it (which I was NOT doing when I hit that deer, Mom, so relax). I love that "From the Bench" is in the
"Diversions" section. There is a refreshing honesty about journalism in that.
--Williams, Shirley E., Casper, speeding 87/75, $110 fine.
--Hill, Richard A., Gillette, speeding 83/65, $84
Math question: Shirley is going from Point A to Point B at 87 mph in a 75 mph zone. Dick is going from Point C to Point D at 83 mph in a 65 mph zone. If Dick's ticket is $26 cheaper than Shirley's, how much did Dick save per mile per billable hour expressed in terms of Halliburton's tax savings if the vice president gets his corporate welfare provisions passed?
--Causey, Jessica R., Buffalo, violating fishing regulations, $110 fine.
--Malyurek, Lucas Paul, Gillette, failure to provide orange skier down flag, $60 fine.
What, no fine for skiing in August?
--Williamson, Lamar G., Sheridan, failure to provide life jackets, $110 fine.
Safety first, bitch.
--Humphries, Bridget. V., Sheridan, speeding 100/75, $220 fine.
Damn, girl, where's the fire? Wait, I know:

Sun setting through Little Goose Canyon fire
Big Horn's biggest since '96 -- 200 acres burned by Friday afternoon
as seen from the Jentel driveway

I'm sure I had a way of working in the word "fence," as in a receiver and seller of stolen goods.
I'm sure I have no idea what it was. Oh yeah--I was hoping "From the Bench" would provide some thieves. Maybe I'll have better luck with "Rolling Log" (also in Diversions):
Officers responded to a fight call.
Ministerial aid was provided with a room for the night.
A sick squirrel was reported at local business.
Officer found a dog at large on West Brock Street.
Officer responded to a local business where a 3 year-old girl had collapsed and was having seizure-like symptoms.
An adult male was arrested for entering a motel room without permission. He was charged with criminal trespass.
Officer was asked to talk to a rude subject at the city pool.
A noise complaint was received.
Officer assisted EMS with an intoxicated 71 year-old male that had fallen and cut his head.
A man was yelling and punching holes in a door at a local motel, officer arrived and arrested the individual for property destruction and breach of peace.
Person reported that an RV pulled into their lot and pulled a tree branch off of the RV and dumped it into their lot and left. Subject was contacted and information obtained. Subject returned and cleaned up the mess.
A man called to report someone had tied a black Pomeranian dog to his truck. Officer retrieved the dog and transported it to the animal shelter.
A transient was reported asking patrons for money. Officer arrived and advised him to stop. Subject headed for the Interstate.
Person reported that a dog was getting into garbage in the 700 block of Klondike.
Officer picked up a gray tiger-striped cat.
Business reported a gas drive-off.
Officer talked to a kid playing in a cardboard box on the street in front of a business.
Officer observed a group of youngsters running away from a parking lot. One subject was arrested for minor in possession of alcohol.
A dog was hit by a vehicle and the reporting person asked if the city could possibly put a speed limit sign back up.
Person complaied (sic) about five dogs chasing him when he left on his bike.
Officer picked up a friendly black, white and tan cat and took it to the shelter.
Traffic control was provided for the trike parade.
Person reported someone stole a fanny pack with a camera in it from a motel lot.
Do local authorities have the goods on the Sheridan County camera-in-fanny-pack fence?
Person reported someone was bleeding and covered in blood and asking for a ride. Officers responded and patrolled the area but subject could not be located.
A noise complaint was received that sounded like a fight. A large group of people were having fun but since it was after 2 a.m. they were advised to stop making so much noise.
An accident involving a car and a deer resulted in the car receiving a hole in the gas tank.
A complaint of horses being neglected was received.
Assisted EMS with a person who fell off a horse.
A family member requested a welfare check on his father. Everything was fine and officer advised man to call family member who requested the check.
A caller reported a civil dispute.
Person reported picking up a sick hitch hiker and wanted an officer to show him how to get to the hospital when he arrived in Buffalo. Deputy led person to the hospital.
Officer picked up a bike and placed it in the storage area.
A large snake was reported. Officer collected the snake and released it in the country.

these horses are not being neglected
I whistled from the slow mvt of the Brahms concerto
and they all came over to listen

It's probably not premature to judge this idea of combining local news and my vocabulary exercise a total failure. One would think that in the above catalogue of human frailty I could find a use for the word "atavism," but the items are so gnomic and irreducible that I can't even comment on them in my own inferior vocabulary. Atavism is a word I know but periodically forget, and the act of forgetting, reverting to a prior state of ignorance, is inherently atavistic, come to think of it, so now I'm off the hook.

Now what words are staring me down? Several that were not in the OED: "tocking," "flaques," "thrillhound," "snik." Perhaps somebody with a superior vocabulary is making shit up. Sombebody is entitled, but I'm getting impatient, because in very few words I'll be done with Canto One of the Rhapsody and it can't happen quickly enough.

My Faerie name is Scribble (no relation to the DJ), and I'm a fan of word games, so I feel I should know "scrabble" which is sometimes used as its rough synonym. The OED has three separate entries for scrabble, one of them referring to the board game, and that's not including "scrabblement," which describes perfectly this fiasco of a blog entry ("Writing of a rambling character like that of a madman." Don't try using it in Scrabble, it's Obs.).

So "scrabble: A scrawling character in writing, hence, a document composed of such characters. Also, a picture composed of or characterized by hastily executed line work." In the US it's also "a scramble; a confused struggle, a 'free-for-all'" and, as a verb, "to make marks at random; to write in a rambling or scrawling characters; to scrawl, scribble." See? But my vocabulary idol uses it to mean "of an animal: to scratch about hurriedly with the claws or paws; hence, of a person, to scratch or scrape about with the hands or feet" and "of a person, to scramble on hands and feet; to stumble or struggle along." And I think that's why I don't like the word, because I wish they'd just say scramble. Actually, the idol uses it to mean "to scratch or rake (something) up, off, out, etc. hurriedly; to obtain by scratching or raking about." I'm still not in love with this word.

I won't get into a discussion of "scribble," but I do want to call attention to the following words: scribable (suitable for writing on), scribacious (given to, or fond of, writing), hence also scribaciousness; scribblage (scribblines, ephemeral writing); scribblative (pertaining to scribbling); scribblatory (tending to cause scribbling); scribbleable (scribable); scribbledehobble (a nonce word titling a Joyce notebook); scribbledom (the practice of scribbling); scribbleism (scribbling); scribbleomania (the mania or craze for scribbling); and scribble-scrabble (in a scribbling manner).

Now I can sense the robins and lawn bunnies outside cheering me on toward the scribblative finish line. But every word resists use--we're in Wyoming and at nearly six in the evening it's too friggin hot to wear anything made of twill. I've enjoyed parts of this canto, but this home stretch has been a downright plutonian experience. Perhaps it's the heat and my refusal to turn on the AC, which I imagine as tantamount to focusing the sun through a magnifying glass the size of Wyoming on the polar ice caps and its starving, drowning bears. What is it with the fabrics? There are no tartans here either. This isn't the conclusion of the canto, but its truncheon. In one entry I've followed the trajectory of my residency here: from enthusiasm and dedication to burnout and apathy in an afternoon.

G-d bless my vocabularian, the final word isn't in the OED. I'm apparently not the only person wondering what the hell it means and suspecting it's Yiddish for a big wallop (Mom, did your parents ever threaten you with one of these?). I had just begun that sentence when I noticed a box elder bug on my foot. I took the first novel of my vocabulary idol and zetz the end of that glorified cockroach.

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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 8

Jentel Artist Residency Program
Banner, WY

Is the artist retreat a kind of harem? We laze around in luxury, preparing our offering of bliss for whomever is on the other side of the purdah. We know that not everyone's offering will be accepted, at least not all at once (barring a spectacular party), but by virtue of being in the group we feel chosen, and burdened. I am burdened by bug bites, including one itchy bleb on my right wrist from my trip to the pond last week when I crushed a mosquito just after penetration. He left something behind--maybe more than one thing. West Nile is in the area, I saw a headline.

Worse things than bugs can bite you--take this baby rattlesnake Kristen and I saw on our way up Snake Hill to the Thousand Acres. He might have been six inches long, thin as a child's pinkie, his black rattle more cirrate than segmented. He slithered away from us on our way up the hill and was waiting, coiled (but not rattling) on our way down. The babies are scary because they discharge all their venom--most adult bites, according to Lynn, are actually dry. Lynn also described shooting a snake clean in half and watching the snake continue to strike. Kristen almost stepped on this one. We also saw two screech owls.

Speaking of the wildlife (which is all I seem able to speak of after getting in trouble for my now expurgated New York blog with a person or persons who was/were unhappy to discover him- or her- or theirselves written about), I have been misidentifying mule deer as antelope. I figured this out after swimming in the lake with Jessica, when we pulled over to look at some truly bizarre looking animals and realized they were anteope--white underbellies and rear ends, faces that look like African tribal masks (don't tell me it's the other way around, I'm not that gullible). The confusion stem in part from the fact that there are two types of deer in this valley, white-tail and mule, and very few antelope compared to the fields along the highway, where they're common. The confusion also stems in part from the fact that I'm a clueless city boy.

Now I'm desperate to see that antelope herd again. Is there a jacklight that works for these exotic creatures? I was thinking of creating a little mojo hand out of found animal parts--a feather, a porcupine quill, a bone from that virtually intact bleached ribcage on the side of Highway 14. Probably a mule deer's.

I do know what horses look like and there are some beauties in this valley.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 6

Jentel Artist Residency Program
Banner, WY

Since this is a vocabulary exercise, I'm going to throw a question out there: what is the word for those little bowls carved by trapped pebbles in stony riverbeds, the kind that look as though God came down with a ball-peen hammer and indented the stone while it was still just slightly molten? It took me a minute today to remember that a porcupine has quills, not spines. Yesterday I saw my first porcupine outside of a zoo, right in our driveway as I was riding my bike out to the road. At first I thought he was a clump of grass that had been uprooted and deposited in the red gravel, and I was going to move him. Then he moved, and craned his neck around to have a look at me. He had a cute black face, and his quills lay back as though windswept. I never realized how green they were, as though the god of field grasses had tupped a black possum. I did a little mudra, the kind that usually works with dogs, to convey my good will but it was lost on him. He shambled toward the tall grasses as I got my camera out; he was unhurried and kept his quills aimed at me. I wondered if they were the same quills that had to be removed from one of the colony dogs last week.

The evening light was thrown far across the western sky, elusive through the thin spots in the cloud cover as phosphenes glimpsed by rubbed eyes. The rains had compacted the dirt, so scaling the hill was twice as easy, like swinging a fungo bat, and I wanted to keep on riding, into the night. Lightning over the eastern hills turned me back.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 3

Technology dates us and the imprint is language. George called it an "icebox." I still refer to "records" that I own when in fact I'm referring to CDs. Some expressions endure though they make less and less sense over time (like the people who use them): "waiting by the phone." Now we cannot but wait by the phone. The only exception is the young sot, the free man, stumbling down Valencia Street, who is too drunk when he leaves the house to remember his cell. Such a nice double-entendre there, even if you refuse to sentimentalize the unwired, the state of nature, the alcoholic. Technology hasn't made us any happier, they say. The slapstick terrorists converged to destroy a data center, but nobody took them seriously. "We have TNT," they warned people who continued their cell phone conversations, their IM chats, their file transfers. But TNT is just slightly older technology, trinitrotoluene, with hard "i"s, nails in a bomb, like the erections implicit in "sodomite" and "catamite." Yesterday I alternated between "African American" and "black" when describing the suspects to the cops. These kids had thrown a stink bomb down the hill and hit an Indian guy walking with his two young daughters. His pants smoked and his skin burned. I immediately picked up my cell and called 911. The operator, a black woman, was the first to ask me the suspects' race. "African American," I told her.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 2

I'm thinking about all the things that rubbed off from friends and lovers: words, expressions, musical taste, broader snobberies, accents, most horrifyingly. That is one thing that had better belong to you. But I borrowed everything, everything, though Megan drew the line at her bras. Still, it wasn't so much what I borrowed as what was carved into me. I think of them all as the lathes against which I was shaped. I wear terribly fancy suits when I go out, even just to Dolores Park to walk my dog--a vintage English gabardine suit is my favorite, don't ask me where I got it. Sometimes I feel out of place among so many sweatpants + t-shirt ensembles, ballhugging bikini bottoms on these global-warming, estival May days. I have an undeserved reputation as an exhibitionist. Deep down I am excruciatingly shy.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part I

My mentor of mentors praised me once. She said she approved of the way my words were articulated, one to the next. "It reminds me of what Isaac Stern once said about music, that it was the stuff between the notes." Mortar and hinges. Cartilege and tendon and fascia enlaced, one to the next. I always thought Isaac Stern was full of shit, and not just because he ground me into the New Haven asphalt with his custom-made Italian heel after I played the Bach Chaconne for him in his room at the Taft. He was full of shit because of the way he played the Beethoven concerto--yes, as though he were telling a story, but he's not telling the right story! This is an opera about the beauty and muscularity of human thought, and his is the story of a lumbering, ponderous formality. It's not without its own beauties, but honey, whatever I did to the Chaconne at least I didn't slip it a Roofie. Heifetz played the Beethoven concerto with passion and elegance so powerful his recordings leave a slipstream behind them, into which we fall, amazed and ennobled. It's funny, I've only just realized--I haven't heard anybody's recording of the Beethoven concerto in more than ten years, maybe fifteen. I can't start now, James is asleep on the sofa, and I don't have the Stern recording with which to keep him that way.

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