Monday, November 2, 2015

The Plum Burglar

There were seventy-three plums missing from my plum tree. It’s a dignified tree with purple leaves that casually stakes its claim to the far corner of my backyard. I’ve pruned, fertilized, and watered this tree for over fifteen years and, for at least twelve of those years, the tree has been named Mrs. Spiegel. The lovely, grey-haired Mrs. Spiegel admired the tree from its inception and requests a small bag of plums every season, “Just enough to make a nice pie.”  I’m no plum hoarder and willingly give Mrs. Spiegel a generous share at harvest time. And when people come to my door asking for donations for various causes, they always leave with a handful of fresh plums. Nope, you couldn’t call me an uncharitable plum miser.

But when someone (Sandra Prickett) sneaks into my yard and picks a couple bucketfuls of plums....that’s overstepping the plum-hospitality boundary. So, I began leaving notes on a clipboard attached to the tree. Included was a pen affixed to the tree with a small they do in banks.
The notes commenced on a daily basis:

–Me: Dear Sandra Prickett, There are 73 plums missing from my tree.
–Sandra: Are you accusing me?
–Me: Your cigarette butts, lipstick-covered Camel Menthols, litter the crime scene. There’s now an ashtray next to the tree for your convenience.
–Sandra:  Who counts their plums, anyway?
–Me: Me.
–Sandra: I just needed some plums to make a pie.
–Me: 73 is enough to make ten pies.
–Sandra: Do you want them back? I’m not especially fond of  purple plums anyway. I prefer the red ones.
–Me: No, your cooties are all over them.
–Sandra: Are the plums organic?
–Me: They are radioactive.
–Sandra: Not funny, and what's with the mousetraps hanging from the branches?
–Me: They’re merely decorative reminders to the occasional kleptomaniac.
–Sandra: Pretty goddamn stingy, aren’t you! Some things are meant to be shared!
–Me: Good Point. My porch light burned out so I walked over to your house and took your bulb. I’m not especially fond of those swirly CFLs. I prefer the warm glow of tungsten.
–Sandra: Your nuts!
–Me: Now you’re getting it. But they’re plums, not nuts.   

The notes have ceased, but the ashtray in the plummery is bent over, cattywampus-like. Two additional plums have gone missing, but I’m giving Sandra the benefit of the doubt and chalking it up to a larcenous squirrel. Just the same, her continual lurking around Mrs. Spiegel gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Bird in the Van

It’s nesting season and Lem Skibbler can’t drive his van, a rusted-out 1992 Ford Aerostar, formally blue, now faded to the color of an overcast sky, and spiced up with a bumper sticker proclaiming “Free Mustache Rides, See Driver for Details.” Every spring, and into the summer, a bird or two makes a nest in one of the sizeable rust holes on the side of the van. Among members of the Kildare Bird Club, the van has been dubbed “The Roost.” The Roost rests in Lem’s driveway, and once a bird has established a home, the van doesn’t get moved. This occurs from May through July. The members of the bird club are grateful for Lem’s charitable consideration of our feathered friends. There is, however, one hitch. As they say, everything has a price, and the price of this good deed is Lem must be driven around town to a variety of destinations during the three months while an assortment of birds have moved into his van.

This year, a family of robins has already taken up residence in a melon-sized rust-hole located just under the passenger side window. Lem didn’t notice the nest until he took a short drive to the Jiffy-Stop. The mother bird followed him, squawking and throwing a general bird-fit throughout the entire trip. So now, the van sits parked, the mother robin has settled down, and Lem needs a ride to....everywhere.

In an effort to support anything bird related, the Kildare Bird Club has undertaken the burden of offering Lem a ride to a hodgepodge of destinations during nesting season. Lem is assigned a different driver every week. A colorful chart, titled “Thank Goodness for Us,” divides the task among all five club members.

Though we appreciate Lem’s bird-loving spirit, it’s been necessary to limit the amount of rides to the strictly necessary. No more going back to the store because of a not-completely-thought-out comb purchase or the wrong kind of beer-nuts. And no more exchanging shampoos just because of a disappointing scent. The lemon-scented shampoo works just the same as the agave, and that’s science, and if anything, the Kildare Bird Club is all about science. Also, no more driving over to Chad’s Taco Shack to see if the beguiling Lalou is working the drive-up window. Just the necessary, like food and medical appointments. And dropping in at the medical center to browse their selection of magazines does not count as an appointment.

I was the first driver on the Thank Goodness chart this year, and with the guidelines in place, the task appeared less tedious than the whimsical journeys of years gone by. A once-a-week trip to the store and maybe a small errand was all I expected. Until Lem called one night at about ten o’clock.

–Lem: Yeah, I’m going to need a ride to Club Olé.
–Me: It’s kind of late, isn’t it?
–Lem: I meet my girlfriend every Wednesday at eleven o’clock.
–Me: Can’t she come to your house?
–Lem: No, she’s working. At the club.
–Me: Can’t she drop by after work?
–Lem: Well, no. She doesn’t know where I live.
–Me: She’s your girlfriend, and she doesn’t know where you live?
–Lem: Our relationship is kind of a secret. They’re very strict at Club Olé. They don’t allow their employees to date the customers.
–Me: That sounds like a violation of something.
–Lem: She’s a performer, and you know how show biz works.
–Me: Oh.
–Lem: She depends on me to be there every Wednesday. So how ‘bout it?
–Me: What’s your girlfriend’s name?
–Lem: Sin.
–Me: Cindy’s a nice name, down-to-earth.
–Lem: No, Sinful, as in forbidden stuff.
–Me: What’s her full name?
–Lem: Miss Sinful, but I call her by her nickname, Sin.
–Me: Miss Sinful, that’s what it says on her driver’s license?
–Lem: That’s her stage name. You’ve got a lot to learn about show biz.
–Me: What’s her real name?
–Lem: She can’t tell that to anyone. It’s show biz rules, man.
–Me: So, she’s your girlfriend and you don’t know her name.
–Lem: Let me clue you in on a secret: no one in show biz uses their real name.
–Me: Do you give her money?
–Lem: Of course I do. I support the arts, like those PBS dudes, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
–Me: Do you write her a check?
–Lem: No man, dollar bills...a whole bunch of ‘em.
–Me: So she’s a dancer.
–Lem: She prefers to be called a visual artist. She uses the human form as a canvas.
–Me: Perhaps she’s using your wallet as a canvas.
–Lem: Look, bird boy, if you don’t want to go, I might have to take The Roost.
–Me: OK, but I’m just dropping you off. No more waiting in the parking lot like last year when you spent three hours dancing the hokey pokey at Susan Gup's wedding.
–Lem: Maybe you and that bird posse should think about getting hip to the know, become an enthusiast like me.

Patience is often the hallmark of a successful birder.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Find the Black Guy

Allan Blick has some great ideas, and this time I think he's knocked it out of the park. Allan has been a film maker for most of his adult life. Some people call him a hopeless amateur, but there's plenty of hidden meanings in Allan's films. Sure, his last one, the highly-charged political sci-fi, "The Cabbage that Threatened to March in Skokie" didn't fare well at the box office (the box office being Allan's den). But that was apparently due to the ill-advised usage of the phrase "Threatened to March" in the title. He said he learned his lesson and will re-release it during the summer blockbuster season with a new title, "The Cabbage that made Skokie Uncomfortable."

This time, though, he's onto something. His latest project, "Find the Black Guy," is a contemporary offering along the lines of the ever-popular children's book, "Where's Waldo." Allan's inspiration is driven by the lack of nominations for Black actors in several Oscar award categories. In sympathy with the plight of actors of color, Allan has already hired a Black guy for the key role. Granted, it's a non-speaking part, and he only appears on screen for three seconds, but it's the focus of the film. Allan has his fingers crossed that an award lingers in the young actor's future.

The rest of the cast is a bunch of White people, and as Allan likes to say, he keeps his already-strained-budget in the thrifty arena by not hiring the likes of Meryl Streep and the rest of her over-priced ilk. A whole host of regular, unemployed, White people have already signed on for the project. And, as usual, Allan pays his cast in gift cards that cannot be redeemed for alcohol. He prefers a sober cast and makes a definitive proclamation at the beginning of every project not to call him "Al."

The story is more like a puzzle-quest for the viewer. The object is to find the Black Guy in the movie. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but I will say, having read the script, he appears somewhere towards the end and, be forewarned, it's a fleeting glimpse. Some film buffs will find it necessary to see it twice to verify the sighting. Sort of like when Alfred Hitchcock used to appear for a passing moment in his films.

The setting is Highland Park, Illinois, an insular and leafy White suburb of Chicago where people claim to reside in order to send their children to the best schools. Allan says this is a self-entitled code for "no Black folks allowed." But he says it makes it easy to shoot street scenes without Black people accidentally creeping into the shot and ruining the premise of the movie.

Even as the shooting is set to begin, Allan is working on a follow-up script, a low-budget western, tentatively titled, "Find the Indian." This one proves to be even more puzzling for the audience. It is up to them to determine what kind of Indian they are looking for: an Indian from the continent of India or a Native American Indian. Allan believes this will be an action-filled nail-biter, and, frankly, challenging, depending on the perspective of the audience.

I've already invested in "Find the Black Guy" by purchasing six family-sized bags of chips and a case of beverages for the cast; soft drinks, as per Allan's request. This assures me of a highly sought-after prize, a front row seat in the over-stuffed cushy chair in Allan's screening den. Allan says there's still room for more investors, but keep in mind, the cushy chair has been reserved.