Thursday, July 27, 2006

No Means No

From " Dear Thumper" in

Dear Thumper,

My daughter Krissy is going off to school this September, and it's her first time leaving home. She's very intelligent and mature, but it's natural for a parent to worry. She's taken an off-campus apartment in Boston, and the neighborhood she's in looks pretty rough.

I know that this is one of those stages in the parent/child relationship where I have to let her leave the nest, and I've resigned myself into letting her sink or swim on her own. The house will always be open to her, and she knows that she can call us for any thing, any time. We'll be less than an hour away.

Still, I don't want her waking up in the middle of the night as some big Mafia hood kicks down her door and carries her off to a child slavery ring operator, who will have her locked in a cage in Thailand somewhere, only letting her out to entertain groups of sailors for $4.54 American a day and a lunch of lukewarm rice that she'll be too sore to eat. A mother worries about stuff like that. 

With that in mind, I'd still like to start her off on her own with as great an advantage as I can give her. What sort of things are simply Must-Have for a teenager out on her own for the first time? I'd like to cover the whole gauntlet, from simple things like "properly filling spice racks" to more complicated things like "repelling the intruder/rapist."

- Heidi


Dear Heidi,

I'm sort of spoiled, so most of the punch bowl/silverware/curtain recommendations I make would be frivolous spending for an 18 year old. There's no need to buy her a set of highball glasses that she and her friends are only going to fill with beer and bounce quarters at.

Martha Stewart most likely has a site where you can find out what sort of salt-n-pepper shakers you should get her, and my kitchen isn't stylish enough for me to differ with Marty's opinions on interior design in a public forum.

Martha's show very rarely deals with matters of home security, which is sort of surprising for an ex-con. It's a big void, and one that must be filled to keep her show interesting to a modern audience. I can see it now... "Today we're knitting some nice security-camera covers that look like little ducks!"

While not wanting  your daughter to be forcibly sodomized by some big Dominican burglar is universal, there is a very unexploited niche market in the realm of home security for teenage daughters out on their own.


- First off, you need to secure the door. Most city apartment doors are designed to be kicked in easily, so that a landlord and two detectives can get in quickly if need be. Your daughter will want a decorative door with a nice etched-glass window, but you know the world better than she does. She may as well open a McRapeme franchise with only a glass door between her and that guy from Saw II.

Which brings me to the good people at the Lasco International Group. The motto on their "armoured doors and window page" is "You need a door that can stop attacks ranging from sledgehammer blows to AK-47 blasts." These are the people I want protecting my daughter.

A nice etched glass door- your daughter's side coated with Lasco's patented transparent glass/polycarbonate laminate that someone can stand 5 feet from and blaze away at with a .44 and not get through- puts a stylish-yet-functional accent on her first apartment. Your daughter's safety should be worth a lot more than $108/sq. foot, especially when that money will ward off close-range fire from an M-1 carbine.

Lasco also makes windows, and Dad will love their Handyman special for an armoured car that would make 50 Cent nod his head appreciatively. Lasco Intl Group - Do-it-Yourself Armoring Kits

You don't want to go too crazy at this store, because it's eventually cheaper to just pay the guy at the bank to let her sleep in the vault every night.


- She's gonna have to walk down the street at some point, and Lasco, to my knowledge, doesn't make a big, mobile safe. Still, there's no need to make it easy for some cult to snatch her off the street, brainwash her, and have her robbing banks to finance the Iraqi Resistance. That stuff makes the whole family look bad, and the people around town will be forever whispering critiques about your parenting skills behind your back.

There's no need for that, because Krissy can nip it all in the bud herself- while you watch Law And Order in blissful ignorance- if Daddy should only love her enough to spend a little paper at

Girls are smaller than men, and therefore more susceptible to a physical assault. We make up for it by being smarter, but there are many situations where brains matter very little. I can take all the karate I want... I'm 5 feet tall, and I'll be knocked onto my back in all but the most carefully choreographed circumstances in which I collide with a fully-grown man.

Self Defense Products help us equalize all that, and- if properly utilized- get your daughter home having tea with only a slight delay. You'd be surprised at how easily you can obtain military-level weaponryif you have the foresight to get yourself a post office box in New Hampshire.

Most people recommend pepper spray as a non-lethal sidearm weapon, and they aren't wrong to do so. Pepper spray is made from a concentrated mixture of the cayenne pepper hot sauce that Americans are so fond of wrecking their dinners with. It's a bad thing to get in the face, and will cool all but the most PCP-induced lustful advances.

I myself prefer their GuardAlaska bear repellent, which is an "invincible" mixture that has been tested for 6 years in America's own Great White North. Also composed of a cayenne pepper concentrate, this stuff shames the Mace products that only have 10% chemical by volume. Bear repellent packs a satisfying 20% whallop that will probably melt the face of the guy who attacks your daughter to the point where he'll have to go find an opera to haunt.

Now, there are some moral gymnastics that must be performed when using a pretty dangerous chemical- one only meant to repel a 9 foot grizzly bear- on a human being. Your daughter will inflict a cruel attack on her assailant that will most definitely scar him for what little life he has left. The way I look at it... once she's unraped, any leftovers are someone else's problem. Eff him.

A very reasonable $27.95, and it comes in a fancy carrying case that could fit easily on a belt or purse. It's about the size of an I-Pod.


If your daughter is more into wet work, there are many knives out there that a young lady can carry without looking like a Crip. A street-legal pen knife will take out an eye, and can be hers for only $12.95. Even cooler is J & L, Knives, Lipstick Knives. Stylish AND deadly.

No means No, although it can also mean Noooooooooo if your daughter manages to discharge a taser shot into her attacker's testicles with J&L's Z Force stun-gun. The $19.95 model is designed to fit into even the smallest of hands, and the 100,000 volt payoff will make a rhino stop in mid-stride and start twitching like Joe Cocker.

If you really love your daughter, you'll go with the $30 model that deals out 300,000 volts of righteous empowerment. They only require a 1.5 volt battery, and you'll need the New Hampster mailing address.

- If you have a lot of money to spend on accessories, why not hire a bodyguard for her? Trained to be unobtrusive, they are much sought after among today's teens as a status symbol. While a Secret Service-type might be a bit costly, you can hire from a bevy of paramilitary types for fees that are more than reasonable when viewed in light of someone maybe eviscerating your daughter.

You can go many different ways with a bodyguard. Ex-military guys are polite, know how to kill with their hands, and can get your daughter out of all but the most colossal foul-ups that teen girls get into. They also cost more than hanging around the neighborhood she lives in, finding out who runs the local organized crime racket, and paying him to make sure she's taken care of.

Unless her neighborhood is under the stewardship of a mere thug, the local boss will strike an honorable bargain that will have someone from the "family" in her doorway with a cocked pistol about 15 seconds after she raises her voice about anything.


- She's never really out of your sight if you can somehow hold her down long enough to surgically install a radio frequency tracking device into her shoulder. While she'll put up quite a struggle, she'll eventually come to appreciate that it is much less cumbersome than the ankle bracelet/dog collar radio tracking device.


- telephone voice changers are a lot of fun. Many pervs use the phone book as a sort of shopping list, calling any female name in the book until he hears a bubbly teenage voice on the answering machine saying the Wrong Things, a la "Hi, I'm not home alone right now, although I'll be helpless later this evening in my ground-level flat with the broken slider."

With this toy, she hits a switch, and can leave a message in Mr. T's voice. "Hey... I can't come to the phone right now... the pitbulls and I are out practicing with the assault rifle."

This strategy goes well when paired with the bodyguard, and will put off all but the most obsessed callers.

Got a problem? Ask Thumper... help from her is like letting someone have sex with your brain! Send any questions to "Dear Thumper" c/o

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Cape Cod Tunnel Is Flooding

Gas $$$ in The Vineyard
This  photograph was taken today at the foot of Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.

Thought you all might like this....

I go to the Christmas Tree Shop in Sagamore today, for "storm supplies" (I ended up buying a spice rack). As I'm leaving, I thinks to myself, "Self.... you'd better gas up the SUV in case the power goes out tomorrow."

So... I pull into the little CITGO station at the bottom of the hill. There are several people there as I do so. Three of them are fueling up their fishing boat (grand total... $207.86), and one other guy is in full military dress. I hopped out of the Jeep to settle the bill with the pump jockey.

The fishermen are the typical old salts you see all over Cape Cod. The military man is perhaps 18, and he walks over to the salts to get directions to the Coast Guard Station. I swear that I saw the fishermen exchange a quick glance at each other, then they turned their attention to the young man.

"Down on the left, about two miles..... first day?"

"Yes, Sir... I report today."

"You know there's a tropical storm coming, son?"

No, Sir."

"Jesus, boy... where you from?"

"Iowa, Sir."

"Iowa! What the hell are you doing in the Coast Guard?"

"I wanted to see the world. I've never been anywhere but Iowa, Sir."

"Oh... you'll see the world, all right... you'll see it like this (he begins to bob violently up and down, to mimic the seasickness-thing that boats do). Ever been on a boat?"

"Yes, Sir... my father took usfishing on the lake every weekend."

"That's a lake, boy... you're going on an ocean. Whole other animal."

The second fisherman jumps in at this point. "Do they still tie cadets to the back of the cutter and drag them, as a sort of initiation?"

"Not in a storm... they lose too many sailors overboard. They'll just leave him on the deck. You know how to swim, son?"

"Yes, Sir. I, ummm (he pauses, figuring out that this will draw derisive comments from the sea dogs), , was in the YMCA as a kid."

"That's a pool, son. This is an ocean. Big diff'ence."

"Just remember," says salt #3, "you don't have to swim faster than the shark. You just have to swim faster than everyone else around you when you see the shark. That'll add 8-10 minutes to your life expectancy."

"The shark'll grab him right off the side of the boat. They wait for the seasick ones to lean over the side, then CHOMP!" He puts the heels of his hands together, and makes his fingers look like teeth closing violently.

I don't want this story to be too salty, but I will say that the kid was buying this hook, line, and sinker. I actually saw him blanch a bit. The sea dogs had this kid over the barrel, and they were sticking it to him like Deliverance. I almost expected the kid to begin squealing.

You know I had to get in on this.

There was a rosary hanging from my rear-view. It was in the car when I bought it, and I left it up... even though I'm not at all religious. Now, I know why I left it. I ran over to the kid, gave him a rather emphatic hug, and began speaking to him in a  tongue that was all French... I was banking on him thinking I was Italian.

"Oh, you poor imbecile. Can't you see that these men are trying to scare you?"

If you've read Dracula, think of the part where Harker says he's going to Castle Dracula, and the gypsy girl puts a crucifix on his neck and beseeches him not to go.... in Romany. Where Harker thinks he heard the word "undead" in her speech, I saw a chuckle from one of the fishermen which showed that he picked "imbecile" out of my speech. "Imbecile" in French is "imbecile," btw.

I even hung the Rosary around his neck. If there is a God, I'd bet that even He would see the humor in it, and not penalize me for "improper use of a Rosary." He'd probably get in on the joke Himself, with a few well-timed thunderbolts.

A very religious young Italian woman and three old New England sea dogs are going to be too much for anyone from Iowa to handle, especially where he was already pretty nervous about his first day on campus. P.J. O'Rourke, on driving through Iowa... "Corn corn corn Wal-Mart corn corn corn Nebraska."

Too much culture shock is bad for a kid who is now convinced that he has about 12 hours to drown, get eaten by a shark, or both. I felt badly for the ruse, but I got over it quickly enough.

After the kid left, the pump jockey related a tale about another recruit who was reporting earlier that day. They'd had a similar conversation, and the attendent had asked if the kid had ever been on the ocean before.

"Sure have.... I grew up on an island."

"Really? Which one?"


Oh Goody... A Tropical Storm

Tropical Storm Beryl takes aim on poor little Monponsett. If you want to go for the Full Smurf Experience, I'm about at the little notch where Cape Cod meets mainland Massachusetts. just above Martha's Vineyard.

Don't waste too much time worrying about Thumper, though... I'm on a hill, and this looks to be no worse than a powerful nor'easter. My bay rarely gets waves, and it takes a true monster storm like 1938's Great New England Hurricane (known to NYers as "the Long Island Express") to wreck houses on Buh-Bay.

There's a chance that it will swing south and east of us, too. Unless there's a lot of lightning, I'll try to get outside to get some pics of it. It's not like this is Katrina or anything... and Smurfs don't scare easy.

I love storms. While an Ahhhnold movie or a scary news story doesn't frighten me, a tropical storm has that "I'm coming to get you" aspect that 9-11 lacked for me.

I was teaching in Boston on 9-11. The kids had behaved well first period, and they had all finished a rather ambitious assignment I gave them... so I took them out for a smoke. We liked to lie on our backs in the grass near the pier and- no joke- watch the airplanes. While I have no way to know for sure, I'm pretty sure that we watched both of the doomed flights go over us.

Shortly after, I was checking some AOL stuff during my off period, when one of the kids in the computer room suddenly went "Oh, sh*t!" I checked his comp.... and sure enough, there was a plane hitting the WTC. My first thought was "drug-test the pilots harder." Then #2 hit, and I knew we were at war with someone.... and that this particular someone wasn't playing by the rules.

The next few hours were spent calling parents, and dismissing the children. Anticipating that the traffic would really suck in a few hours, we elected to split the kids up among the staff and drive them home ourselves. Stuck in traffic, with a baby in my belly (Gabrielle... I was about 2 months preggers at the time) and a car full of kids who I had to get home.... that was when 9-11 really hit home for me. We were a car full of kids looking up in the sky, wondering when the next jet was going to drop.

Once I had dropped off the last of my urban kids, things eased up a bit. The last kid (who lived in Easton, near Mo Vaughn) and I were able to haul ass down Route 24, cranking pro-war music (Search and Destroy, Let The Bodies Hit The Floor, War Pigs, etc...) as we got further and further away from that big target that Boston appeared to be.

Soon I was in Monponsett, which has nothing to upset even the angriest terrorist. I really couldn't see Osama pointing at a map and saying "We must destroy Halifax, Massachusetts!" Once I was home, the terror of 9-11 was pretty much over... and my thoughts turned to the poor victims, and the families of those victims.

After stuff like that, a tropical storm is small change. It may even miss us- I'm waiting for Channel 7 to commit themselves to a forecast, so that I can begin preparing for whatever the exact opposite of their forecast is. I can remember Harvey Leonard before the Halloween storm in 1991.... "Hurricane Grace is way out to sea, no problem, you may see a little wind." 12 hours later, my house was gone.

Beryl doesn't seem to have that kind of moxie, and my primary feelings toward her are "Bring it on, b*tch! Let's see what you got!" Maybe I'll eat those words, but I'll try to get out and get some pics if I can.


Some Cape Cod hurricane facts:

- Cape Cod gets brushed or hit by a hurricsne/tropical storm every 5.6 years.

- We get a direct hit every 33.75 years

- We're "due" for a direct hit from one by 2010.

- The last official one to hit us was Hermine in 2004, which brushed us with 40 mph winds.

- We rarely get a big, Katrina-like category 4 or 5 storm.

- Pilgrim records speak of a 1635 beast that broke "hundred thousands of trees."


Other storms of note include:

- The Great New England Gale of 1815, which occurred before the word "hurricane" had become common in American English. I can't find the link, but Governor Winthrop of the Pilgrims used a poorly-spelled version of the word to describe the 1635 storm. This storm was noted for destroying the bridge over the Neponset River in Dorchester.

- 1821 and 1893 also brought monster storms to New England.

- We took shots in 1944 (the Great Atlantic Hurricane) and 1954 (Hurricane Edna). If you like the seawall look that the South Shore towns like Duxbury and Scituate have, thank these two storms. Old timers in Duxbury told me that the seawall was finished maybe a week before Edna hit.

- We just missed getting a true whallop in 1961, as 120 mph Hurricane Esther turned south of us. This is notable because the storm was battled by cloud seeding, a now-discontinued practice of dumping what I believe is dry ice into the center of the hurricane in an attempt to rob it of power.

- I was alive for Gloria, although I was about 8 years old. It was "fun" to me, although it probably wasn't fun for 99% of the Cape's population.

- What many people consider to be the worst non-Katrina/Andrew storm ever hit us in 1938. Known as The Great New England Hurricane or The Long Island Express, it pretty much effed over everybody from NY to SE Massachusetts. Blue Hills- quite a ways inland- recorded a 186 mph gust, which was the highest non-tornadic wind speed recorded in the world until they built a weather station on top of Mount Washington. Again... old timers tell me that this was the only storm to fully flood Hideaway Village in Buzzards Bay, where my cottage is.

- What about Bob? Hurricane Bob beat Cape Cod like a mouthy cotton slave in 1991, and it knocked out power for a week. I was in Duxbury for this one, just far enough to the north where I was body-surfing when it hit (between high tides- it did no damage at all in Duxbury). Less than 45 days later, I was homeless after the Perfect Storm.

So... keep an eye on the news, and prepare to batten down the hatches. In the same vein, don't cancel any afternoon tee times just yet.... this could end up being nothing at all. Keep your head up.

Monday, July 17, 2006


So Long, Old Friend

I found out last night that my former boss, friend and SBL original Bob Wooldridge died in a terrible accident on Saturday afternoon. He was skateboarding with his son and was struck by a car in the street in front of his house. I don't have the words to express how sick I feel about this right now, and I can't imagine what his family and closest friends must be going through.

More: AOL coworkers Joe and Jeff, who also worked for and/or with Bob over the years, have this and this to say about him. SBL listener and participant Diecast Dude has this. I thank them all for the memories. Yet even more Bob here: Hummingbird Mind: On the Death of a Friend and MoBetta with ...and Into the Black. But wait- here's more: Head Butler - Products

Update: We paid tribute to Bob at the end of tonight's SBL. The show can be heard here and we start talking about him at the 58-minute mark. "Highlights" include us playing a song from Bob's favorite band, the Replacements, as an outro.


It's strange losing a friend from AOL. I've known Bob for 2 years, but never more than as an IM or a cute comment in my blog. Still, Bob was always on the Buddy List, and he was never grouchy when you said hi.

In case any of my other font friends wonder if you'll be missed when you're gone... I've been crying for about an hour now.

No one deserves to go, but few deserved it less than Bob. I can pretty much tell you that this blog would have been dead last summer if Bob didn't talk me back into it, and encourage me to keep writing.

Bob made you feel good about your writing. "I'd hire you in a second if I could" sounds AOL employee-ish, but when Bob moved to, he started nagging me for articles. Here's proof; News

Bob was a Cape Cod kid, and he always planned to move back here. I'm watching the sun set over the bay right now. There's no joy in it for me, and a lot of the wind has been sucked out of this blog, for that matter. I may be back.... the future is a big space, and I'm only worrying about finding a place to cry in private.

Good bye, friend... thanks for believing in me. You'll be missed.



Sunday, July 9, 2006

Only In The Bean

Only in Boston can you be killed this way:


- Shot for throwing a snowball

The Boston Massacre was set off by a bunch of kids taunting some British soldiers. It all started with a child taunting a Brit soldier about an unpaid bill. The soldiers called the boy over, and then clubbed him in the head with a rifle butt..

This pissed off his friends, who then started throwing some snowballs. A crowd gathered, and the snowballs became mixed with litter and fireplace logs. Many in the crowd were the menacing sailors and dockworkers who worked the harbor.

A log hit a British soldier, who discharged his weapon. The rest of his platoon also opened fire, killing 5. Three of them were longshoreman types who had pushed to the front of the crowd- including sailor Crispus Attucks, the black dude you read about when this is discussed.

It upset a lot of people who were already pretty upset with the English. Ever wonder why the Declaration of Independence and Bill Of Rights never freed the blacks or gave women the vote, but made sure that troops won't be quartered in your house? This is why.

Nothing like it was seen until the National Guard went hippy-hunting in Ohio in 1970 or so. My parents were dead before I could vote, but they made sure that I knew to "go the other way when men with rifles suddenly appear" before they went to that other level.


- The Great Boston Molasses Tragedy

Yes, this actually happened. 2 million gallons of molasses were in a tank that collapsed. The tank exploded, sending a 15 foot high wave of molasses oozing down the street. Once it got you, there was nothing you could do about it- you were stuck. it was powerful enough to flatten buildings and elevated subways.

Also... you know that expression "Slow as molasses?" False. This stuff was moving at 35mph. The fastest human sprinter goes about 22mph. Molasses could give Jesse Owens a head start, and still trap him like a fly in amber during Jurassic Park. It took 6 months to clean up, it made the harbor brown, and you can still smell molasses there on hot days.

This is right up there in "Ways I Hope I Don't Die."


- Jump off the Tobin

We almost had a jumper off of the Sagamore Bridge (pictured above, one of only two ways to get a car off Cape Cod. The Tobin is higher and uglier).

The most famous leaper was Charles Stuart, who killed his own pregnant wife. He blamed it on black teenagers, leading to every black guy in town getting yanked out of his car and searched at gunpoint for a few days. Once they figured out that Stew himself did it, he pulled over on the Tobin bridge and took the Big Jump.

Hitting water at 150 mph is going to do terrible things to your body. You really can't blunt the effect by assuming Olympic diver-type postures. I'd say that those cliff divers you see are right about at the highest you can successfully jump into from. Even if you do live, you'll be busted up... and will probably drown.

Suicide is the territory of life's losers, and there's always a chance that a loser will plan their suicide poorly. The bridge jump is an exception- it's sad to see someone who chooses a death try that has a backup plan, as it makes you think about what they might have accomplished if they had stuck it out.


- Shot in eye with rubber bullet during Red Sox victory parade (Ooops.... that should have been "Only in Boston in 2004  can you be killed this way)

Again... when the men in riot gear are at the north end of the street, head for the south end.


Weekend Assignment #119: Boston!


Sunday, July 2, 2006

People saying "Mayday"...cause Mo is kicking like Pele'

I hung out on the beach and caught Onset's wick-wick-whack fireworks last night.  It wasn't that bad, but we were fairly far off, and there was a stiff breeze off the water. Whahhhhhh....

Click to make your own displayThere was a bit of a fireworks war between Onset and some private citizen in Buzzards Bay who may have been in New Hampshire recently. They were the left and right of my viewpoint. Onset probably took it with their finale, but the outlaw probably provided a better show over the half hour I was paying attention.

Anywho... click here for some fireworks: Lady Liberty Fireworks

Good news! Little Katelyn from our poll-fixing efforts last month got her Lou Brock/Carlton Fisk clinic, as well as her fatfat check. The ol' ballfield should be looking a lot better soon. Lou doesn't have a high opinion of using gravel on baseball infields, and I can sort of understand that myself.

Baseball greats present $20,000 check for field (June 30, 2006)

I'm sort of a seriously parochial sports fan, to the point where I resent being called "Yankee" by a southerner... although not for the reason they want me to resent it. I just hate that team.

Still, this was a fun test. It determines the level of Yankeedom or Rebelese in your speech. Give it a shawt!

Are You a Yankee or a Rebel? - alphaDictionary * Southern Accent Test

France beat Brazil at the World Cup yesterday, thus depriving us of a Portugal/Barzil slobberknocker in the semi-finals. Portugal had earlier eliminated David Beckham and England. The winner of France/Portugal gets the dudes who walk out of Italy/Germany.

People are stoked, although I still feel that the worst guy in the NFL is still better than the best guy in World Cup. - 2006 World Cup