A Memory (not quite appropriate for Memorial Day)

I have a multitude of things to do — like mowing the yard and planting some clematis — and even some places to be, one of which in fact has already started (the grammatical connection for that “one of which” isnʼt quite correct, but, hey, itʼs the 21st century), but I havenʼt put anything on the blog for so blamed long that I thought Iʼd take a minute or two to, um, “express myself.”

Work took me away from home a week ago for two days (it was supposed to be four) to Winneshiek County to help one of my coworkers finish her region. It was a pleasant change, even though I had to be away from home and The Lovely One, partly because my temporary new partner wished to do the trap setting (so I got to practice the computer work and paperwork — precisely the reverse of my usual partnerʼs procedure), partly because I got to see some pretty new scenery north and east and west of Decorah, partly because I got to eat out twice with my sister Margaret. It was really fun seeing her, even though she had to drive from my hotel to each restaurant (La Rana Bistro and Koreana Japanese) because we government employees are not allowed to put anyone but another government employee in our GOVs. (So if Janet wants to see what it is I do exactly, she would have to follow along in her own car.)

On Wednesday, I drove home in heavy rain and took the wet afternoon off since Janet was home (more on that ahead; partly she has been suffering with bronchitis). Thursday I cruised for fallen traps through northern Clinton County, and on Friday I checked some to the north in Jackson County. This week I get to be off today and tomorrow so I can work solidly Wednesday through Saturday. (I am not sure how that works for the paid holiday I am enjoying today. Is this going to be a 50-hour week? Another day of comp time for Wakdjunkaga!) I will be learning (and doing) the process of checking each trap for bugs, which includes how to extract a bug from the Tanglefoot glue and place it in a dissolving solution (intended to dissolve the glue, not the bug) and then into water for shipment to Des Moines where experts wiser than I (and better paid, I am sure) will determine if what I thought might just possibly be an emerald ash borer is or not. This new training means that once again I will be with a partner, my immediate boss, John. I will also be with him on Friday and Saturday (the Saturdays through June being a surprise about which I wasnʼt warned in my job interview) to visit campgrounds and check peopleʼs firewood (and talk to them in general about the emerald ash borer issue).

But enough about work. I have intended for weeks to talk briefly about Janetʼs bossʼs Big Birthday Bash. Having just written about the event, almost exactly a month ago now, in a letter to my brother Stephen, I think Iʼll just steal what I told him for the rest of this blog post. Enjoy!

The Big Dual Birthday Bash

More than kindly, Shirley Jones paused after her performance (splendid and perfect!) to have her picture taken with The Lovely One.

Of course, The Lovely One worked on preparations for six weeks (or more) in advance, even though supposedly it was his kids who were throwing the party. She worked up the invitations lists (and I believe actually sent the invites or at least made sure they were all addressed and ready for boss Johnʼs daughter to take to the post office). Mostly (and most importantly), she did the negotiations for the entertainer (Shirley Jones, once that decision had been made) and the arrangements for the entertainerʼs contract to be fulfilled (sound, stage, lighting and housing for Shirley and her stage director and accompanist). All that required a lot of phone calls and plenty of arranging.

She was (at first) pleased to find out she herself (along with me) had been invited to the party, but pretty quickly figured out her presence was mostly in a working role (mine, too, as it turned out). As the party (with Shirleyʼs performance) was to be held at the Dubuque County Club, with an hour of open bar beforehand and a sit-down dinner climaxed with the performance, there was plenty of technical work to be figured out and accomplished. Janet had to find the guys to do the tech (going as far as Cedar Rapids finally) and arrange with the country club for time (all on the Saturday of the party) for them to get in and build a stage, hang lights, run cables, rig a video presentation (thatʼs how Shirleyʼs show begins, the video working as her introduction) and hang curtains (Shirleyʼs contract called for black curtains behind the stage area). Janet also had to arrange for a piano tuner (and movers, as well, since the country clubʼs grand was not located in the room where the party would be) to tune the piano (Shirley sang to piano only) twice (before and after rehearsal at 2:00 PM the day of the party).

As the event grew closer, she and John arranged that she and I would get to stay on Johnʼs dime overnight at the Julien Inn (also where Ms. Jones, in the hotelʼs only suite, and her entourage were put up) after the party, as it became really, really clear that Saturday, April 30, was going to be a working day for her. And, naturally, it was.

Janet had told me that we had to be up early on Saturday the thirtieth for party preparations (we were in Dubuque and at the Country Club about 9:00). What she (nor I) had not anticipated was that I would get sucked into the work that had to be done. Without too much detail, we both worked on John and Aliceʼs fresh list of which guests were to sit at which tables (a list the power couple had worked up the previous night). Over what should have been a lunch hour, Janet (with me) raced back to the office to type up the list for the Butler children to use in creating place cards and for posting in the bar/lobby for guests to peruse before the doors were opened for dinner at the party. Once that was done, we raced back to the Club to be ready to verify the piano was tuned and be present for Ms. Jonesʼs rehearsal (at which John, Alice and both offspring with spouses — having placed the place cards — were present, too). During rehearsal we figured out that not only would Janet be leaving the dinner to dress Miss Jones (her stage manager couldnʼt because she had to remain with Janetʼs tech guy to run the video, and the “dressing room” was the lady golfersʼ locker room way across the building and downstairs), both of us would have to work the house lights for a part of one song when Shirley came off the stage into the audience to sing directly to John and Alice.

Driver Cal, the greatest of great guys, is third in line, with stage manager/director Trish and Miss Jones to his right and accompanist Ron on his left. Fantastic people, all.

Finally, about 4:20, we headed over to the Julien to check in and change into our but-recently-purchased party duds (a new suit for me and a new blue dress for her) for the evening.

We were back by 6:00 at the Club (having descended to the bar at the hotel for a brief drink and moment of relaxation, finding Shirley there as well, eating a salad that she had connived with the — otherwise unhelpful — staff to make for her). The party went smoothly (although Janet got to eat exactly nothing from her meal, the start of the starʼs dressing coinciding with the arrival of food at our table). Shirley was wonderful (both as a person and as a performer, even nearly eighty herself), and we finally got back to the hotel and sacked out about 1:00 AM.

The only person to work harder than Janet from Friday afternoon through Sunday noon was the company driver, Cal, a great guy, who had on Friday picked up Shirley and then her two staffers from the airport and on Saturday driven various of them various places throughout the day. He (and his wife) attended the party, having delivered all three of the performance trio to the site, and then, after it was all over, drove Ron, the accompanist, all the way to OʼHare for a 5:30 AM flight back to California, drove back to Dubuque, and delivered Shirley and her stage manager, Trish, to the airport about 10:00 AM Sunday (i.e. no sleep at all whatsoever for Cal until about noon on Sunday).

Afterward, Janet determined she had put in better than two extra days of work in preparation for and over the party weekend (not counting my “voluntary” time and effort, either). Time she took on this past Wednesday and tomorrow, Tuesday, while John (and Alice) are vacationing on safari in Africa.

So it goes.

 — Finally! I have wanted to talk about that fine event for weeks and weeks (literally, it turns out).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Feeling Simply Rapturous…


We finished our territory, my partner and I, this week, wrapping up the last few “grids” in Clinton County (which we had skipped, thanks to floods and such, a few weeks ago) on Tuesday afternoon. We placed nine traps in nine sites in Dubuque County Tuesday morning and then drove south along the river (lovely drive that Highway 52 through Bellevue, so appropriately named) to tour the northeastern portion of our neighbor to the south for our final few traps.

Then I got to revisit the very southernmost portion of Clinton County (again) on Wednesday to actually put traps up on my own (my very first full day of that, and my one and only). During that visit southward, I met the Iowa DNR guy that noticed one of our very first traps had been placed (not my selection) in a hackberry tree (and which I removed to begin this past week). He was really pleasant and assured me that I had indeed selected an ash for the trap I was hanging as he drove up. An amusing farmer with a big mustache also hiked over to ask about the big purple trapezoids, wondering jokingly to himself if they werenʼt some kind of performance art.

Finally, on Thursday I did a heck of a lot of paperwork, particularly a chore I imposed on myself of transferring the dots which indicate our traps to the actual county maps (that I can read, unlike the special USDA APHIS PPQ maps that my partner has littered with her indications). I had anticipated about a half or two-thirds day of work, but instead spent several more than ten hours hunched over portions of maps and respective sheets on individual trap sites (although as I took eye-relieving breaks, I only counted ten). I also arranged my hotel and travel stuff for an upcoming week of work away from home. And the guys redoing our kitchen floor showed up to finish that job (sort of) while I strained over my maps and trap sheets.

Now I start to revisit those traps to check for bug corpses glued to the sticky exterior and attempt to figure out which (if any — pray not) might be emerald ash borers.

However, before I get to do that (on my own) I am transferred for a while (on the road again) to northeastern Iowa to help get the last 45 traps for a county up there done. Thus I get a new partner for a week and new scenery to enjoy, plus a few dozen traps that I will never have to take back down, too. And a few chances to visit with my sister, where she lives, as well.

The weather sounds unimpressive (both cold and rainy) for my extended excursion, but weʼll see (this past week was predicted wet as well, and I never had to don the raingear).

But first, this weekend marks our anniversary! The Lovely One and I will have been wed for twenty-eight brief and rapturuous years tomorrow/Sunday. So we intend to do a little celebrating (and, sigh, shopping). With that said: Time to go!

(After all, if the earth ends today*, as foolish, weakskulled nutjobs predict, the anniversary itself — and my subsequent trip northwards — will never happen. Best to enjoy today. Carpe diem, all!)

* or not, as the linked website instructs us…

 — My apologies to Facebook friends, who have already enjoyed the joke this title repeats today.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Iced Songbirds to Go

Hereʼs the start of a story that has percolated in my head since the night in Seattle, several years ago, that Janet and I had the pleasure (unanticipated, at least on my part) of hearing Eartha Kitt perform, sadly just months before she died. I kicked my idea around in my hinder thoughts until two weeks ago, when Janet had completed her work (well, most of her work) for, during and after her bossʼs Big Birthday Party (a story I still need to tell in this forum). I donʼt mean to reflect at all on the Celebrity Performer brought in for That Event, but somehow, as She enjoyed a celebratory martini after her show and the end of the party, and as The Lovely One chatted up Important Folks at the party, the story resurfaced insistently. I sat in a quiet corner of the bar, sipping a Johnnie Walker Black (which I had been too simple and foolish to specify earlier in the evening) and composed the following five hundred words…

The working title for the short story (series?) is the title of todayʼs post.

The time had come to haul the old broad out of cold storage. DeMint trundled his way down the lowest corridors of Le Grande Canal seeking the berth of tonight’s grande dame. As usual, he silently thanked his lucky stars for the elementary and ancient concept of alphabetical order, and as he so often did, cursed under his breath aloud that so many of his most popular corpses had surnames from the final third of the letter sequence…

Manischewitz, Markowsky, Mingo…

Neruda, Oppenheimer, Ott…

Pascal, Pomme, Shelley…


He sighed, a sign of his disloyal respect (loyal disrespect?) and pressed the blue icon on the touchpad outside her coffin to begin the reanim process. Once again. In one hundred and thirty-seven minutes Sharynn Sterne would sing again, her seven thousand eight hundred and fifty-seventh immortal performance. (Assuming he hadnʼt at some point forgotten to record a couple.) For the assembled miners of Sigma Calyx IV, which couldnʼt be buried much further, more remotely or less significantly in the back of beyond.

With an almost inaudible hiss, her resurrection began.

Having done his part for the next two hours, DeMint shuffled off to the cold level lounge to access the records net and pour himself more than a few cold ones. Down in the depths among his cold ones.

He loved them both. The beers and the broads, best on ice, less nice at room temps. But both the broads and the beers needed rewarming now and again. If only to keep other broads, his immortal songbirds, and better beers cold and refreshing and ready to serve.

He had negotiated eleven days with the mine unionʼs entertainment czar to reach an agreement of appropriate financial reward for an acceptable star revived out of yesteryear. As usual, as he had come so very long ago to expect, they had demanded performers of several magnitudes greater significance than his humble star freighter maintained. As though the handlers of such stellar celebrities would deign to cruise the nether depths of nowhere near such an insignificance as Sigma Calyx IV. When was the last time any starship had dropped orbit about their frozen mineral hell and offered to put on a show? That telling point had at last, long last, diminished the czarʼs expectations to a reasonable realm where an agreeable accommodation could finally be accomplished.

Not much reward financially for one of his most remembered Chillahs. Chilled Thrillers. But with unrefined fuelstuff thrown in, sufficient to get him and his cold coloraturas effectively out of this hell. Finally. So the deal had been struck and the time had come for Sharynn Sterne to sing again.

Now all DeMint had to do was convince her to cooperate.

By the time I had penned the last paragraph (yep, sitting at my little table with pen in hand and small yellow pad of mini-legal paper before me) it was nearly 1:00 AM. So there it rests (but at least I have gotten the written word digitized now).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Going It Alone

Work continues, obviously. This week I put in almost 50 hours…

I went out on my own, working, for the first full day on Thursday. I spent the day restoring or replacing traps which had blown down from their locations in trees. My partner was finishing a few things in Dubuque County (and replacing one or two downed traps herself) before heading back home (for her) to do nine placements for Linn County.

So I got to go out by myself. I had done a few hours on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons (her travel time to and from our region where I actually live) but never a full solo day. I did all right, but not everything went smoothy or well.

First, I discovered that the “trap sheets” we create for each trap need to be in some order other than the one my partner had established (personally, I think it was merely the order in which we had placed the traps). Numerical order, as each two-mile by two-mile square has a unique number, seems most logical to me, if only because that system would make it possible to quickly locate a specific grid without unnecessary and extensive  searching through a whole countyʼs set of sheets (over a hundred, or even fifty more, for each our of three counties). I wasted nearly twenty minutes in two cases right off, heading north from home for several resettings, trying to discover the right trap sheets (for the detailed map we/she had drawn of the exact site) when numbered order would have sped me to the right sheet in almost no time. So at the end of the day I spent a half hour reorganizing the Clinton County sheets (and I will do the same for Jackson to start my Monday).

…could actually be my (current) GOV…

Second, my GOV continues to act up. Not the vehicle itself, but the dashboard display* (that which went beserk, sending the speedometer into nonsense mode, as the tachometer has always been — “always” since I met the GOV, at least). This whole week the “Service Engine Soon” indicator (the almost most worthless warning light a car designer could under-imagine) has been on, so I finally asked for permission to take the GOV in for service (well, for a price estimate for possible service) on Friday, and I stopped by the local Chevy dealer to set up an appointment midmorning on my solo Thursday.

Third, not long after I left town again, heading south this time, having finished replacing a downed trap on Clinton Countyʼs 280th Avenue, I somehow, accidentally, locked myself out of the running vehicle. Even my cell was not in my pants but tucked next to the emergency brake. I was utterly stranded, on my own, out in the country on a gravel road.

I couldnʼt believe it. Nor understand how it had happened. I had thought that one reason we left our vehicles running as we placed and replaced traps was to avoid just this ridiculous issue (I know that my pickup wonʼt allow me to lock myself out while the key is in the ignition). Naturally, panic set in. And the darkening skies bespoke the rain that was on its way (fortunately, although I didnʼt know that in advance, not to actually arrive until Friday and today — what a dreary pre-springlike, unsummerly weekend this has become).

However, I did think I could see some outbuildings around a big bend to the south, perhaps a half mile or so distant. So, the GOV being ironically as secure as possible, even though the engine was running, I set out down the road afoot. The place didnʼt look too promising as I arrived, only sheds, a car and stuff visible until I realized I was overlooking the earth-sheltered house beside the drive. I had to wander rudely out “back” beyond the house to find a door, but fortunately, an older man (than I) answered and actually let me use his phone to call 911.** The surly operator did dispatch a deputy sheriff. I hung up and returned the guyʼs cell, thanking him profusely for actually responding to my knock and helping me. Then I went back up the road to my GOV.

Although my savior had to leave to work on a house for his daughter, he did return in his truck when the Sheriffʼs office called him back to let me know that a big accident had taken all the deputies. And he left me a tarp under which to huddle if/when the rain came. (Now thereʼs a Good Samaritan, one of my favorite people of all time!) I paced up and down the roadside, adding perhaps six or eight thousand steps to my daily count, my mind wandering into sick realms of possibilities and dire fantasies (I had just watched Criminal Minds the previous night, on which the serial killer of the week made use of people being out of their usual patterns and comfort zones to kidnap, torture and eventually kill them — for instance).

Time does seem to expand under stress, and I couldnʼt read the dashboard clock through the tinted windows of the GOV, but I guessed that about an hour later a deputy showed up and very quickly, very professionally (even somewhat sympathetically) solved my problem for me. (I donʼt think he spent more than a minute performing the entry to the vehicle, while I was distracted, probably appropriately, with some paperwork to complete on his visit.)

I was on my way about a hundred minutes from the time I had last paid attention to the time. And I completed all my other trap replacements before conducting the GOV to the auto dealerʼs service entrance for its visit.

And that “service” situation is a whole ʼnother story, brethren and sistren.

* (its speedometer went awry as I drove it home originally from Des Moines a month ago, although it settled back into normal operation again within a day or two, and I just use my personal GPS device to provide my actual speed)

** The 911 operator scolded us, me in person, for using that number for my predicament — evidently not an emergency (a situation I had hesitantly anticipated). But neither of us, my rural savior nor me, had any idea what other number to call!

And, yes, the best I can guess, I actually tripped the lock myself, accidentally, when inserting my extendable pole from the rear hatch along the passenger side to the front. Now I make sure the pole tips downward as it passes along the side of the vehicle, and I also turn off the GOV and keep the keys on my person.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Second Thoughts from Momsʼ Day

Yesterdayʼs post* ended with a bitter pill: “the restʼs just sin.”** However, some reflection, inspired by coincidence and dueling theologies, has made me think twice about the idea of life as merely utter error and inescapable sin. Perhaps I have been overly programmed by my culture to misperceive reality too darkly.

I have mentioned that with the new job and its eleven-hour days***, I have fallen depressingly behind on reading the periodicals to which I subscribe. I try to skim through the weekly Science News, Time and Newsweek as they arrive (or at least within the next week), but the TLS (also weekly), The London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books (along with Discover, Smithsonian, National Geographic, The Atlantic Monthly, Scientific American and others not leaping to mind right away) have become a horrible stack of journalistic information and insights unsounded and unread. So, having awakened an hour after Janet on Sunday morning, I sat with a cup of (caffeinated) coffee to try to read a few book reviews, pulling from the top of the stack the London Review for April 14, 2011 [Volume 33, Number 8] and beginning with the first review, “Whatʼs next?” by James Wood, examining After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory by John Casey.

The so-called Christian Dextreme: take science and twist the facts away… (Click the pic to see what I mean.)

The book sounds intriguing, and the review was stimulating. The point it raised that made me reconsider the end of my sonnet is what Wood, expanding and reflecting on Caseyʼs arguments, said about the Pauline/Augustinian invention/interpretation of Original Sin as indicating the utter depravity of human nature, redeemed only by belief in the sacrificial and beneficial nature of Christʼs suffering on the cross (that is, Faith). Furthermore, according to the classical reading of St. Paulʼs sour views, Salvation is available only by Grace, and God has mysteriously reserved that gift merely to an elect few (known, [super-]naturally only to God since before creation). From Paul through Augustine through Luther and Calvin, the eerie doom of humanity to hell is reinforced.

Without our loving Godʼs (capricious?) boon of Grace, even multitudes of the Faithful are destined for hell. Period. No further discussion permitted. No arbitration possible. (Gee, thanks for that, among so many other miserly-sphinctered rulings, Saul of Tarsus.)

Nothing one can do on oneʼs own can redeem one.

That dour theology is essentially at the heart of my grim little poem, which is what gives me second thoughts. What both the reviewer and the original author perceive, however, is that such a dire worldview has only slowly evolved historically (and temporarily, too, as current popular theology, outside the vile extremes of fundamentalism****, has more or less discarded that Pauline dark destiny in favor of a kinder, liberal, more Pelagian perception). Without the tightassed theologians of salvation-by-grace-alone, we humans have generally held a more generous and forgiving view of frailty and error. (Hey, weʼre all only human, after all.)

Maybe my emphasis on maternal love as the only redemption in the face of such patriarchal parsimony isnʼt off the mark…

However, I meant originally, as I began to type, to explicate my own little Jesusʼs-age-old poem, and I havenʼt done so. Maybe, work permitting, tomorrow. But for now, having never quite finished Woodʼs book review, perhaps I should read on to the end.

* (a sonnet, by the way, rhymed very tightly but oddly as ABCAABCADAEEAD — with C and B being nearly identical, except for a final consonant)

** (incompletely, as it turned out, when The Lovely One summoned me to depart for the Wal and some necessary purchases, including potting soil for those plants she had bought the day before)

*** (days which are now, with me having a half-hour commute at the beginning and end of each, perhaps going to extend more toward twelve hours, I fear)

**** Ironically/coincidentally/interestingly, Time made a cover story, the same week as my London Review issue, out of an evangelical (presumably, therefore, fundie) minister writing a popular book on the (possible) nonexistence of hell — utterly upsetting the fundamentalist applecart (because without hell, thereʼs no stick for the Appointed Authorities to beat the sheeple into the party line) and earning the author the brickbats and outrage of the Dextreme SelfRightous.

My brother-in-law, Brian the minister, once observed, “Itʼs a fine and splendid thing to get called ‘pastor’ by the congregation, but that title doesnʼt say much for the flock…”

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Mothers Day

Having spent Saturday with Janetʼs folks in our annual Motherʼs Day celebration (involving a wicked lunch on really good but caloric and often fatty foods and a shopping trip for flowers to be planted over the next several weekends, the restaurants and now the greenhouses varying over the years), I want to take a short space to commemorate my own absent parents, particularly, of course today, my mom. I lost both parents in just over a year back in 1982 and 1983, my mother holding on through cancer to attend our wedding (The Lovely One and mine) only to succumb a few months later, over Labor Day weekend (better known as Old Threshers in Mt. Pleasant). My father followed at Christmastime a year later, the victim of his own handiness with automobiles, sadly. As everyone tends to say, I still miss them both and each.

This is a poem I wrote while my mother was still alive, but I donʼt think she ever saw it (I never was real quick to share my verse in the old days, particularly among my family).

My mother lives on in many peopleʼs thoughts and memories, but I have enshrined some of her in parts of Aunt Sarai in Stars in Heaven, not the least the love and attention that character devotes to my surrogate in the story.

I see it as a mate to the poem I once wrote thinking my father had suffered a heart attack or a stroke… And itʼs my post for this Motherʼs Day, entitled…

Motherʼs Day

Body wracked with quick endless motion,
knife-filled electric nervewind tears cold-keen
through intricate path-patterns, exorcises me:

human hurricaneʼs wailing implosion
shreds, slices, splatters, cracks controlled emotion.

Autumn iceblasts sleet forgotten hollows clean
and scream away warmth of rational debris,
reveal me bare to air’s acid corrosion.

The insincere wind shrieks silently within,
racing a hundred burnt-end lazy notions
like splintered leaves spat down empty boulevards,
slapped and snapped, shattered epileptic shards.

The disease of existence takes no potions
but that girl-breath brush in youth. The restʼs just sin.

Written on Mothers Day

14 May 1978

What do we know? A little consideration and a bit of serendipity resulted in some interpretation on this piece, tomorrow.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Editing After the Fact

I have to assume I am the only one who cares, knowing how I myself read other peopleʼs blogs, but I want to mention that old Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog undergoes real-life editing — by which I mean editing after the post. (How close are we getting to post hoc propter hoc here?) It happened yesterday. It usually happens every time I reread an old post and notice what I should have noticed the first time around. Itʼs happened almost every time I place a post that I havenʼt scheduled in advance (thatʼs because I get excited to get done and donʼt proofread quite as closely or carefully as I should — tisk tisk). And with the new (how long will I keep saying “new?” do we wonder) job, those same-day/same-time posts are pretty frequent, even regular.

Now this post is an advance-schedule item, as my nonAmerican readers should be aware (those being the ones who can visit my words of unwisdom instantly when the post appears at 2:02 AM Central Daylight Time). Even so, it isnʼt one that will get all the proofing or completing it may need, as I am typing madly away (listening to various incarnations of Eric Claptonʼs guitar wail from iTunes). Itʼs nearly time for The Lovely One to appear after work (and I have already cracked a Guinness to celebrate the end of another lo-o-o-ng work week), so whatever I complete on the quick and dirty here and now will become the post.

My time is short because I didnʼt have all that much time on my “day off” to write anything. I spent yesterday (by which I mean “yesterday,” the day before the post appears, Friday, May 6) not entirely at home, as I took off for lunch with Janet (yay us!), and two guys were here installing new flooring in our kitchen* (a project that thanks to a mis-order wonʼt be complete by Monday, as we had at one time — yesterday morning — anticipated). So it was a distracting day. I did write to my brother Stephen, a letter that isnʼt done yet (I said already it was a distracting day) because I stopped to whip out this froth of nonsense and stream of consciousness. The post that appeared yesterday originated between 10:00 and 11:00, starting, as always, from nothing whatsoever, and this one followed when I got stymied at just how to explain several things to Stephen, things I could also perhaps explain here one day, memory and intended activities and outcomes permitting.

This one frothed out partly because I observed all the red dot-underlines beneath typos in the letter (and continued with quite a plethora** more here in this document). Errors made me think about proofreading and reflect on the nearly dozen changes (all minor) that I made to yesterdayʼs post between its appearance and 2:30 PM. My confession of post-publication edits isnʼt the best advertising for someone halfheartedly attempting an editing business***, but it is true (and I do take the care to make things perfect, even months or perhaps years afterward — when I catch the mistakes, that is).

Not that you care, gentle reader, but sometimes itʼs fun to check back again later. Just to see what changes. And how.

Now itʼs time that The Lovely One arrived, and I owe her my undivided attention. So this is it. Uncaught errors, extra spaces, typos, mispunctuations and all.

* What, oh my droogies? Did you think I was working for the pleasure of it? Or the pain, in my case? No, itʼs for the cash, purely and simply, so that my beloved can make all the renovations her greedy heart desires. After all, the Census work gave us our new driveway and the new furnace (not to mention a big TV)**** a year ago. USDA is going to fund a new bathroom job and also this kitchen floor work. (It already bought me an order of books from Library of Americashhh! donʼt tell Janet: she doesnʼt read the blog, so what she doesnʼt know, you know, wonʼt hurt…)

** If time and failing memory permit, I have a whole post on “plethora,” a word that pleasantly arose in actual conversation one week ago today… (the post is actually about the events of Saturday, April 30).

*** …work I would rather do than hang traps on trees, I hesitate to admit. —— Clients? Clients?

**** Find any errors in those links, brothers and sisters?

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


The aches and pains about which I complained recently only grew worse this past week of work. That’s partly because Iʼm so old, I suppose, but also because of a glitch in the system that only grew worse as time went on.

The glitch first occurred two weeks ago Thursday, my first few attempts to set traps on my own, just a brief week into the process (and literally a week after I first got guided through the procedure in the field, my introduction to the actual job). My partner had headed home (she lives in the area of our work, at a hotel, for the four ten-hour working days and then returns to her own abode and her husband for the long weekends), and I decided to fill out my full day by attempting to place traps in two open (untrapped) squares in the area we had worked that week.

I hopped in my GOV and headed south. I had a bad time locating any ash trees where our maps indicated formerly trapped ashes were (this problem is relatively common: my partner usually considers whether the county or the local farmers have taken down the stuff in the ditches since last year, although I donʼt always see any signs of such activity). I passed by a farm where a lovely ornamental ash stood in their yard (we are permitted to ask about trapping trees in peopleʼs yards but generally go for ashes along the roadside/right-of-way) and found a scrubby little tree atop a ditch on the fenceline (and I hoped in my inexperience this small thing might actually be an ash and not a walnut nor a boxelder nor a hackberry nor an elm* nor a…). I parked, put on the GOVʼs flashers, and got out and around to the back end of the Trailbalzer to assemble the trap (that last step being a series of tasks at which I am genuinely becoming proficient, although I still hesitated and worked to get everything just right that day). Then I pulled out my pole and carted both the assembled trap and the pole up the ditchside to the lonely little tree atop the rise on the Iowa prairie.

Thatʼs when the huge wind blasted me and tried to tear the trap from my hands. Still I persisted, slipped the trap over the hook atop the pole, and attempted to extend the pole upward at the tree with the windblown trap flying sideways. Three times the trap blew away off the hook and I had to fetch it, the last being the critical incident. In the big wind, the pole, fully extended, flexed and arced like a bow as I struggled to raise it and the trap aloft. On this third failure, the pole actually bent in the gale (of probably only 25 mph, sadly). I realized the small arc had become permanent when I tried to slide the various elements back within each other to collapse the pole and replace it in the GOV. The collapsing process had become a struggle as I had to force the now slightly bent pole pieces into each other.

And thatʼs how I had to work for the next week and the next (this past week) — pulling and twisting mightily just to extend each of the aluminum tubes and pushing with full strength to force them back within each other once a trap had been placed. The same extreme exertion extending the pole and returning it to its collapsed condition for every trap we placed (and I am not even whining about the issues that arise getting a trap up into a tree and successfully hooked over a branch, particularly challenging with messy, excessively branching ash trees**). And we have been trapping about twenty-five trees each day.

So my pathetic muscles and my ancient joints grew more and more sore with each exhausting day. Also my aspirin and ibuprofen intake increased (failingly) in direct proportion to the excruciating pains.

Worse, whenever I had to fully extend the pole (and with the trees that my partner remembered trapping previously, thatʼs about one in five over the past few weeks) not only was that a demanding chore in itself, but if the wind was blowing briskly or hard, the pole bent more, so the effort of collapsing and extending grew worse daily. Until yesterday when it grew impossible. After a particularly high branch (the lowest we could even reach with the pole on that particular tree), I couldnʼt push back or pull out the top extension more than about eighteen inches at all after about 10:00 AM. I took to removing the hook on the end just to get the pole to fit in her GOV for the trip to the next site.

Fortunately, after a whining phone call to my boss, we arranged for me to pick up a different pole from our supervisory tree tech out of the Quad Cities. Now I (along with both my aching, painful [possibly “tennis”] elbows — and wrists and knuckles and…) am looking forward to doing some less difficult trapping next week.

* …And we have actually had local residents point out to us that we have placed an emerald ash borer trap in a walnut and an elm (and weʼre pretty sure that more than thrice the previously trapped “ash” identified by its colored spot on our maps was probably a walnut).

** One sign for me that we have truly found an ash is to observe that there is far too much “junk” growing helter-skelter among the possible branches to make  hanging the trap at all easy. Walnuts are much “cleaner” trees.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Forgotten Inspiration

This one is for Janet, mostly because I wrote it about her once upon a time. And also because as of today, she has survived the big birthday party that I mentioned a while back…

The setting is our first apartment together, the one on maple Street that my father enjoyed so much (and which I donʼt think my mother ever visited).

forgotten inspiration

The house resounds with your noises
(and sometimes still your silences)
subtle often but also definite—
floorboards creaking with footsteps
doors opening and closing
upstairs down
stair steps too
running water, coffeemaker gurgles

Found in a notebook 1/10/99


©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.