Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Antique Valentine
Valentine, circa 1938, from collection of Dee’s late Dad.

This business of Valentine’s Day - as I have often reflected on these Electronickal Pages - has always been a source of amusement for me, as well as an opportunity to make social observations.

It has, in this country at least, become a celebration of the restaurant, chocolate, flower, and greeting card industries - one of the occasions on which they can, almost assuredly, make bank. (There are no holidays unsullied by commercial interests these days, with the possible exception of Shavuos, which gets no respect.)

But that’s OK. It’s a day on which to celebrate love in all its forms: childhood affection, preteen crushes, teenage romance with all of its hormonal components, the love of family, and the mature love that grows out of long years.

Dee and I have been together, one way or another, for over forty-two years. We’ve brought two daughters from infancy (even from their embryonic existence!) unto full-fledged adulthood, and we have ridden the roller-coaster of marriage through relocations, job changes, peaks and valleys, challenges, fears, and delights. And we are, still, each other’s Valentines.

May you and your Valentines - whoever they may be - enjoy the day.

Monday, February 5, 2018


Manatee. [Photo: Wikipedia.]

I think that I shall never see
A thing as weird’s a Manatee.

In form, much like a giant worm
With skin so like a pachyderm;

A beast that makes God laugh all day,
Created, as it were, in play;

A Manatee whose back is marked
By prop of boat or tooth of shark;

With barnacle-encrusted bum;
Who lives in ponds with algae scum.

Poems are made by fools like me,
For fun, God made the Manatee.

Oh, those crazy manatees. Floridians love those suckers: sluggish, slothful aquatic mammals that are the direct opposites of the playful porpoise. In appearance, a manatee looks like a sort of mashup of a walrus, a seal, and a hippopotamus, but with far more docility than any of those species possesses. Maybe that’s the attraction for Sunshine Staters - hell, Jimmy Buffett is like a Tasmanian Devil compared to your average Sea-Cow.

It is said that mariners of bygone days would espy manatees floating lazily by and fantasize that what they were seeing were mermaids. This tells us a lot about the lack of qualified ophthalmologists amongst a typical ship’s crew, as well as providing us with a testament to what months of sexual deprivation at sea can do to the male imagination. Yeef on a reef.  

This week, thanks to my cousin Diane and her hubby Charles, I had an opportunity to see all the manatees I ever need to see, all assembled in one place: the cooling water discharge canal at Tampa Electric Company’s Big Bend Unit 4 power station. In wintertime, when the temperature of Tampa Bay falls below ~68°F, manatees are attracted to the relatively warm water in the power station’s discharge canal. It’s a rare instance of a process that both adds to the human carbon footprint and yet is a direct benefit to wildlife.

Most human-manatee interaction doesn’t do the manatee much good. Motorboat propellers inflict a characteristic series of slashes on those unfortunate manatees that happen to get in the way, a problem compounded by the sluggishness of the beasts as well as their near invisibility when submerged just below the surface. But at Tampa Electric, it’s just dandy: the manatees obviously like the warm water and the company can put on a good face for the environmentalists. Yes, there are humongous stacks and all kinds of scary looking power plant equipment there, but to be fair, most of the stuff coming out of those stacks is just steam. And yet, there’s a sort of Distraction Vibe going on. (“Pay no attention to those giant smokestacks over there! Look! Another gentle creature of the deep!”)

And let me tell you: There are a lot of manatees in that canal.

Just a small sample... a manateaser, if you will.

The water was absolutely thick with the bastards. You could almost imagine walking clear across that canal by hopping on the backs of them, like aquatic stepping stones: That’s how many of them there were. I had seen maybe one or two in all my previous sixty-five years of existence and never imagined such numbers even existed. It was a veritabobble manatee mosh pit. The place was manateeming with ’em. The photo above doesn’t begin to convey how many there were - it’s just a tiny corner of an edge of a piece of the whole canal - but it gives an idea of the sheer density of their population.

But I learned a lot. Including a bunch of stupid manatee-related jokes. Enjoy.

Q: What does a manatee drink?
A: A Martanateeni. Salt water, gin, and a hint of vermouth. Garnish with a skein of algae and a barnacle shell.

Q: When do manatees go to the movies?
A: In the afternoon, of course.

Q: What do manatees wear in the summer?
A: Manatee shirts.

Q: What do manatees wear in the winter?
A: Cardigans.

Q: What do manatees use to chew their food?
A: Manateeth.

Q: What’s a manatee’s favorite color?
A: Manateal.

Q: Who do manatees root for in the Big Game?
A: The home manateam.

Feel free to contribute your own dopey jokes in the comments!

Friday, February 2, 2018


Groundhog Day
©2006 King Features Syndicate.

Marmota Monax, raise your Head -
By your Example we are led.
When you inhale the wint’ry Air,
Will you retreat into your Lair
Affrighted by a Shadow Fell,
Or (much more likely), human Smell?
If by the Sun a Shadow’s cast,
Might you predict a frosty Blast?
Perchance a Cloud obscures the Sky,
An Omen that warm Weather’s nigh.
Compared to you, Science is “Blawney,”
O, Oracle of Punxsutawney.

Today is Groundhog Day, that peculiarly American institution in which the scientific underpinnings of modern meteorology are discarded in favor of the random meanderings of a large, confused, squirrel-like rodent. It’s a holiday that seems especially appropriate given recent political developments.

Today is also the Friday before the so-called Big Game, the term “Super Bowl” having been copyrighted, trademarked, or whatever. And yet Sunday’s festivities will be a letdown compared to the real action, which took place in Punxsutawney, PA this morning. It is then that Phil, the local Whistle-Pig, determined the weather conditions for the next three fortnights via the arcane art of Shadow Observation. And thanks to Pennsylvania’s clear skies, the news is not good: six more weeks of wintry weather.
I gave up on trying to get tickets years ago. Scalpers have jacked the prices up to where they are more dear than Masters passes... or Super Bowl ducats, for that matter. And that’s unfortunate, because the parades and pageantry in Punxsutawney put Mardi Gras in New Orleans to shame. (Also, fewer trombones. Phil doesn’t like ’em.)

Have you purchased Groundhog Day cards for your friends and relatives? Sent Groundhog Day flowers and chocolates to that special someone? Why the fuck not? What are you waiting for? And if you have not already booked a table at your restaurant of choice, it’s probably too late - the place will be packed with Groundhog Day revelers. You’ll have to fall back on Plan B, the ever-popular Groundhog Day Backyard Barbecue, where porkburgers are the entrĂ©e of choice (ground hog, get it?)

Enjoy the day... and may your shadows be few!

[Recycled from any number of previous publications in this blog. Hey, it’s Groundhog Day! Recycling is the whole point, innit?]