This is me, all the time.
Step 1. Find a bird skull
Step 2. Take it home
Step 3. Think of things Benjamin Franklin would say about the bird skull situation
A bird skull saved is a bird skull earned.
A bird skull in the hand is worth two under the bush.
A bird skull a day keeps the doctor away.
Waste not a bird skull, want not for a bird skull.
A bird skull could conceivably gather moss.
Well, folks, this is an epic comic of epic length by American Captain standards. I don’t know what I was doing, I guess I just really didn’t want to work on my thesis.
I hope the way I have posted it will work, but bear with me if it doesn’t - I have a few more tricks up my sleeve. One is putting it on its own tumblr page, which is here: http://americancaptaincomic.tumblr.com/52
But without further ado:
Everything about this is beautiful and correct.
— Perelandra, by C. S. Lewis
Birthdays were always important in our house. Our tradition was to wake up early on the morning of the big day, sneak into the bathroom to light the candles on the birthday cake, and then wake the birthday boy or girl by singing “Happy Birthday” and opening presents in bed. Dad’s birthday was especially good for this, because in February the mornings are so dark that the candles on the cake seemed extra bright.
The famous birthday story that gets told over and over again is from when I was a toddler. Mom had baked a chocolate cake for Dad’s birthday while he was at work, and she wanted it to be a surprise. My mom loved surprises, especially when it was a surprise she had in store for someone else; if anyone figured the surprise out in advance, she would feel so let down. So to cover up the aroma she cooked a spicy meal. Dad got home and we sat down to eat, and we got all the way through the meal before I looked at Dad, smiled, and said, “Caaaake.”
But here’s the birthday I remember best from when I was a kid:
It was my birthday, and I had opened all of my presents. The three of us, along with our cats and dog, were just hanging out in my parent’s bed, playing with the wrapping paper and eating breakfast. One of my presents was a plastic cell phone filled with candy, and when you pressed the buttons it would make phone noises. Someone — probably a cat — accidentally pressed the button that made it ring, and without missing a beat my mom picked it up and said, “Allo? Yes? OK — it’s-a for you, it’s-a da Pope!” And it was so funny, and so random, that we still sometimes say it when we answer the phone.
Camping was one of my mom’s favorite things in the world. We went two or three times a year for most of my childhood, sometimes by ourselves, and sometimes with another family. We always got a big bag of licorice jimmies from a Holiday store in Fridley before we left. Mom was happiest sitting by the fire, eating peanuts and tossing the shells onto the coals. During the day she would sit and read while Dad and I took the dogs for long walks, and at night we would eat marshmallows and tell scary stories. She and Dad slept in two sleeping bags zipped together, which I always thought was so romantic. She was always the first person to get up in the morning, and I would lie on my air mattress and listen to her footsteps fade down the gravel road while the trees cast moving shadows across the tent.
Our favorite place to camp was at Wild River State Park. We always camped in the same campsite — A19. It was at the end of the first loop in the campground, and surrounded by thick woods. Only 20 feet away the woods opened up into prairie, and at night the sky was huge and black. Wild strawberries lined the roads everywhere, and the frogs and crickets were so loud I could feel the sound humming in my chest. One year I figured out that some of the trees lining the campsite were wild plums, and even though they were hard and green I picked a few, hoping I could get them to ripen somehow — I tried leaving them in the sun, boiling them, and burying them in the coals of our fire, but nothing worked. I still think about going back at the right time of year and picking some to bring home.
The last camping trip we took was also the most eventful. I was going to Skovsøen, the Danish Concordia Language Village, and my parents decided that we would stay at Bemidji State park the night before, and they’d stay for a little vacation while I was busy singing songs and learning to conjugate irregular verbs. We brought our beagles, Polly and Sukey, with us.
When we got there it was the middle of the afternoon, and it was starting to get pretty windy. I was in a bad mood because I had been stuck in the back seat with the dogs for hours and hours. They liked to walk across my lap so I had to protect my legs with my pillow, which meant it was pretty much saturated with dog drool by the time we got out of the car. Mom and Dad were kind of cranky too, mostly from listening to me complain about the dogs for the entire trip. Trying to set up our tents in the wind didn’t do anything to help, because by the time we got one up the other would collapse and we’d have to start all over again. Everyone was pretty fried.
After a few hours of trying to unpack and set up camp the tornado sirens started going off, and just as a park ranger came to tell us where to go to weather the storm we realized that the dogs had made a break for it, and all we could see were the white tips of their tails wagging farther and farther into the underbrush. Dad and I went off in pursuit of them, leaving Mom at the campsite to try and get some of our things repacked. Fifteen minutes later we had the beagles wrangled and in their kennel, and we set off to the emergency shelter in the visitor center.
When we got there Dad had to argue with another park ranger about whether we could bring the dogs into the visitor center, which of course had a no-dogs policy. My dad eventually prevailed, saying that they were in their kennel and would be quiet, and that he wasn’t going to leave the dogs outside in the van to get blown away in some storm. We spent the next few hours sitting on the cement floor in the dark, watching National Geographic nature documentaries featuring Dudley Moore as the voice of an animated globe. Finally the all-clear was given, and we retreated back to our wrecked campsite in the dark.
The next day my parents dropped me off at Skovsøen, and over the next couple of days my dad sent me a couple of letters about how the dogs had broken out of the campsite again after I was gone — as he put it, the dogs were defecting to the wilderness just as I was defecting to the Danes. He even drew a couple of pictures in the margins. Mom hardly ever wrote me letters at camp, but I think that was mostly because I never replied to them when she did.
I still like to think of my mom sitting next to the fire with a big stick for moving coals and branches into place, with her feet resting on the edge of the iron fire ring and her hat pulled low over her eyes to keep the smoke out of them.
Anonymous asked: In June you said, "Over the next couple of days I’m going to post five of my favorite memories of her, and eight of the things I think she would have missed the most." You also said “I don’t talk about her as much as I used to, partly because I don’t think many people want to hear about it anymore…” I do. Please post your five favorite memories of her and the eight things you think she would have missed the most. .~
To be honest, I’m still working on them. It’s taking a long time, much longer than I thought it would, because it’s difficult subject matter for me — I love these memories, but they still make me pretty sad. It’s unpleasant. But I am working on them, and one of these days I’ll make a concerted effort to get them posted — Christmas time was one of my mom’s favorite things, so I’m naturally thinking of her more now anyway.
Thank you for letting me know that you’re interested, I really appreciate it.
What does it say that we can’t even use the word “fairness” without alarm bells ringing in our heads?
When talking frankly about creating a world where the most good is done for the most people can get anyone branded a socialist, something’s up, and I beg you to think long and hard about what that something might be.
Beautiful. Read this.
A service in malls that allows a customer to hire a personal shopping assistant/friend to help select clothing. Rates would be hourly or daily depending on the customer’s needs and schedule, either by appointment or walk in. Services would include measurements, bra fittings, color palate and body type analyses, personalized “look-books” based on items the customer bought or gravitated towards. Services would be a la carte or bundled. Special group rates would apply for parties or businesses.
There could be different kinds of experts depending on the need — a swimwear expert to point women towards the best/most comfortable swimsuit, a business wear expert for those looking to update their work wardrobe or going into an interview, a prom expert to help teens find the best dress or tux for their budget. All “agents” would be trained to analyze fit, so, in the case of jeans shopping, women wouldn’t end up with a pair of pants with a crotch seam that was too short leading to a camel toe.
Some positions would be seasonal — more staff would be required during the holidays than other times of the year — but some locations, such as the Mall of America, would have more staff year-round.
I’m thinking this would be like a What Not To Wear kind of thing, but instead of signing up for the chance to be embarrassed on TV people would just make an appointment and have someone with them to provide guidance, a gentle second opinion and generally provide emotional support for people who get stressed out while shopping.
I always think I’m going to enjoy a sucker way more than I ever actually do. I’m probably over thinking this, but if it weren’t for their abundance of superior flavors I’d forswear Dum Dum Pops for Jolly Ranchers in a heartbeat — those awful paper sticks get so slimy by the time I’m done, and they start to disintegrate, and if I’m having a bad day I’ll chew on them too much and get paper bits stuck in my teeth. There’s a point of diminishing returns, where I’d like to just chomp down on that last little nurdle of lollipop and be done with the thing, but it’s still too big and I don’t want to chip a tooth so I keep sucking on it even though it mostly tastes like wet paper. Maybe if they were just a little bigger it would make a difference, or maybe it would be worse because it’d be in my mouth longer, and thus it would get even slimier. For a while I was using wire cutters to snip the sticks off and eating them like that, but the tiny pellet of stick left in the sucker was even worse by the end than having the whole stick there because the raw edge really let the moisture from my mouth penetrate the paper, and there was nowhere to go with it because without a handle I couldn’t just take it out of my mouth to let it dry a little. I have in the past just smashed them with something heavy and pried the sticks out of the candy shards, and it was pretty satisfying because smashing things is fun, but then everything gets dusted with candy powder and stickiness ensues.
(I also used to buy big bags of jawbreakers and smash them with a hammer before eating them. They tasted better that way, I’m not sure why.)
Charms Blow Pops kind of side-step this problem by replacing that last little bit of hard candy on the stick with bubble gum, so right as the stick starts to be a liability enjoyment-wise you can chew through the final crust of sucker to the gum. Unfortunately gum is not meant to be crunchy, and I was never really able to get past that. Toostie-Pops have a similar problem, but at least you can just continue to suck on the tootsie roll center until it disappears, which is not possible with bubble gum. Still, I often find myself thinking, How many licks does it take before I can be done with this stupid tootsie pop?
Tootsie Roll Caramel Apple Pops are actually pretty good, not just because they’re delicious, but because I could always get around the stick issue by licking one side of the sucker exclusively until I could pry the stick out of the sucker. This would leave a big flat piece of candy, and the caramel would mold itself to the top of my mouth so I could still talk with it in there. This was particularly useful during high school when we weren’t allowed to eat candy during class, and teachers would frequently make you spit whatever you had in your mouth out into their hand — which, what the hell is that all about? Who is being punished in this scenario? Is that a strategy they teach you in teacher school, or is it something every teacher comes to on their own? Anyway, I never had that issue with Tootsie Roll Caramel Apple Pops. The only downside is that they only come in the one flavor. Time to try something new, Tootsie Roll Industries. Seriously, try thinking outside the box here.
Thank God I never see Saf-T-Pops anymore, with their rings of loosely plied paper that might as well be newsprint. What a nightmare. Between the tortured spelling and the idea that some adult somewhere was like, “SUCKERS AREN’T ‘SAF’ ENOUGH, THE STICKS ARE A CHOKING HAZARD SO LET’S MAKE THEM FLOPPIER AND MORE ABSORBENT AND WHAT THE HELL I’D LIKE TO BE ABLE TO HANG THEM FROM A CARABINER FOR WHEN I TAKE MY SMALL CHILDREN ROCK CLIMBING,” they are completely irredeemable. I think the only places you can even get those anymore are banks and particularly crappy dentist offices.
Anyway. I think I’m done with lollipops for now. I’m too old, I guess. Not quite old enough for Nips or Werther’s Originals, but too old for candy that comes with a handle attached. Pretty sure I can keep my candy in my mouth at this point, and if I can’t it’s because I’m done with it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my hands.