Out of Kilter

Ken Carpenter's Out of Kilter has hit the web. The same original blend of history and humor. None of the editorial restrictions.

Month: February, 2014

The incredible shrinking bladder

            Age can be a funny thing if it doesn’t drive you nuts. Take the bladder, for instance. In my case, please, take it and replace it with a football or something. It has shrunk to the size of toad’s eyeball.

            Such was not always the case. When you’re a little kid, it is a good thing your bladder is oversized, because it is really easy to get sidetracked until somebody else points out that you are squirming like a worm on a hot griddle.

            Suddenly, “Oh yeah!”, you head for the nearest bush, tree or whatever to take care of business. If there are any other squirmers around, and no grown-ups to put a halt to it, you soon have a line of boys counting down to “Go!” If you happen to be the one that reaches the target of the moment, say that dandelion out there about ten feet, you are king for a day.

            Not that you earned anything, except maybe a temporary and undignified nickname of some sort, but you won something. Small victories should always be relished like a rare treasure, even if it is only King Urinator for a day.

            Not that it has much to do with it, but many groups of young boys have names for their willies, or at least they did in the good old days. Ours had Mortimer, Bosephus, Sid and several others that don’t instantly come to mind. Aren’t you privileged to be the recipient of such information?

            Anyway, as is my way, I decided to do a little research on shrinking bladders. I was surprised to find conflicting reports on the shrinkage of aging bladders. One 2005 University of Pittsburgh study had the audacity to suggest that “the idea that your bladder shrinks as you get older is nothing more than an old wives tale.”

            No doubt the study was carried out by 20-somethings who can drink two quarts of water, a 20-ounce Coke and a liter of OJ and walk around a mall for two hours before it crosses their mind that maybe a short trip to the restroom would be in order before the drive home. My bladder aches just to think of it. Be back in a minute.

            They studied 95 women between the ages of 22 and 90, and in their wisdom decided that bladder capacity rarely changes. Instead, they decided, many women are just cursed with an overactive bladder. In fact, there are apparently over 17 million Americans with overactive bladders.

             I take exception to a bladder study that does not include any men. What? Are they afraid we will all tell them the name of our willy and want to engage in peeing contests?

            Well, we might, I admit, but it sure would liven things up. I am here to tell you right now that my bladder no longer holds what it used to. I only thought I knew how to squirm when I was a kid.

            A blue whale’s bladder holds five and a half gallons. Some creatures have all the luck. If I was around all that water all the time I’d never do anything but urinate.

            I found one site that claims that bladder capacity in a 30-year old is two cups and in a 70-year old about one cup. It seems more like it should be four cups in the youngster and a half-cup in the codger, but at least someone agrees with me.

            I am guaranteed to make a run for the nearest facilities when I get around a running garden hose. A torturous home supply store I went in last year had a gurgling fountain set up in the yard section, and I swear there was almost an exodus of aging witnesses to it ambling toward the restrooms.

            While on a drive last week I was suddenly hit with a ‘too much coffee’ twinge that quickly turned painful. I hit the gas and writhed my way down the road until I reached a convenience store. Five more minutes and I would have pulled off the road and hit the brush.

            As I quickly walked in, trying not to look desperate, I noticed the fellow in front of me walking in a tight-cheeked manner that looked familiar. He was obviously in distress, and in a panicky voice he asked the first man he reached where the restroom was.

            Steered in the right direction, he picked up the pace, and I thought I heard a mumbled, “Please Lord” pass his lips as I was forced to trail in his footsteps. Luckily I knew the facilities well, and was pleased there were enough urinals and stalls to handle four customers. I was not especially pleased to be shadowing a man who appeared to be suffering some kind of intestinal distress though.

            I walked in behind him and he wasted no time hitting a stall door on the run, slamming it behind him and immediately releasing a string of cussword prayers because his suspenders were apparently not co-operating. The fear in his voice was very clear, and the race was obviously on to see if he could drop trousers in time.

            I did my own rush trip, substantially less panic stricken, to the urinal and did my business as quickly as possible. The uproar behind the stall door will forever haunt me, but I will not reveal any of that.

            It does remind me that I have never shared my own experiences with Irritable Bowel Syndrome though. Stay tuned.


Black Friday, blessedly gone for another year; make that nine months

Some people wait all year for Black Friday, the all commercial all the time day after Thanksgiving. Customers will start lining before midnight in front of some retailers with monster deals, which is most of them. When the doors open you move your behind or get squished, your choice.

            In 2008 a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a stampede of 2000 people when the doors opened at 5:00 a.m. Most of the shoppers were totally unconcerned with his fate, refusing to slow down even when it was obvious he was badly hurt.

            My hate for Black Friday crowds started long before that, but this incident was just more proof that I am not a “shop until you drop” kind of guy. If you drop, you might not get up.

             This year was no exception, especially for one woman who really, and I do mean really, wanted one of the available Wal-Mart X-Boxes. In her shopping frenzy she pepper sprayed the crowd, inside the store, having lost the ability to comprehend that she would also be peppering herself. She made her escape, minus the X-Box, but later turned herself in.

            It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “spicing up the deal”. 

            The origin of the term “Black Friday” is supposedly meant to show that retailers officially begin to show a profit for the year on that day. When accounting was done by hand, red ink indicated financial loss, so it was a big deal to finally get ”in the black”.

It is also estimated that many retailers register 40% of their annual sales from Black Friday on, so I’d say only being in the black during the holiday season is not too hard to choke down. That is assuming that there is truth to the tale.

            There is another theory about where Black Friday came from, and I think it is the more legitimate. Police in Philadelphia back in the early 60’s came up with it because the day after Thanksgiving was such a disruptive and heavy traffic day, complicating and endangering their lives more than any other day of the year. The name began to spread across the country around 1975, but the “in the black” theory for it is still the most popular.

            Not in my book. Crowds of pushy, zombie-eyed, carnivorous shoppers might be the cat’s meow from a retailer’s viewpoint, but they are my worst nightmare. My Black Friday is reserved for the day before the night before Christmas, which is normally when I do my shopping. Maybe I pay a bit more, but I rarely get any bites taken out of whatever flesh I have showing.

            Employees of the major retailers have their own opinion of where Black Friday comes from. They work long, frustrating shifts that often mess up their Thanksgiving plans, so how much blacker could it get?

            Around the late 19th/ early 20th century, big city department stores started sponsoring day after Thanksgiving Day parades that were a major part of their Christmas advertising, enticing folks to shop after the parade. It might not have been known as Black Friday, but it was as black as black could be.

Eventually an unwritten rule was reached that the major advertising push should be set back a day, and the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was in 1924. This moved corporate-induced shopping frenzies into the big leagues and it has not looked back since.

            In 1869 two nefarious gold dealers tried to manipulate gold prices and managed to cause the market to crash. It was known for many years as Black Friday, the first ever reference, but has nothing to do with the present version. It just happens to have the mass-misery quotient in common.

            The claim this year is that there were 152 million Black Friday shoppers in America. I was not and never will be one of them. Shopping is supposed to be fun, not survival of the fittest.

            Besides, my pepper spray is expired.




























The love nibble of the bed bugs

            Bed bugs have become one of the trendiest blood suckers around, even more so than the popular movie vampires. It is not that they are admired or, Lord forbid, lusted after, but in the 21st century they are likely to show up in any high-class hotel at any time, especially in New York.

            Filthy rooms do not draw them and moral decay does not attract them, so bums and perverts are no more likely to find out how much the bed bug bites than you, Mr. and Mrs. Average, are. Bed bugs travel wherever they can hitch a ride, and once there are what you might call them entrenched guests. If there is occasional blood and a tight crack to sleep in, it is home sweet home. The class of citizen means nothing, and rich snobs are as tasty and handy anyone, though more capable of shelling out the dough for hotel rooms and a professional bed bug killer to take over their house for a while.

            Problem is, a bed bug can go over a year without eating, so abandoning a place does not mean they won’t be around when you come back. If they can eat, they will suck blood for about five minutes once a week, then scurry, or waddle, back to their hideout.

            Male bed bugs are complete cads, making male cads almost amiable by comparison. When they eat they get sexually excited, and bed bug sex is not normal, if there is such a thing as normal bug sex. Male bed bugs perform “traumatic insemination”, which is labeled as such because their “hypodermic genitalia” just pierces anywhere it wants to, ignoring any attempt at finding the female organ that was most likely designed for the act.

            Anyway, this creates a lot of sore spots on the long-suffering females, shortening their lives, and also wounds a lot of careless males who happen to get in the way. The males all deserve a vicious little impaling occasionally, given their unsavory habits, but it doesn’t change their ways when the table is turned.

            The females still get impregnated, no matter where they are stabbed, They lay about five eggs at a time, and several hundred in their lifetime.

            Bed bugs resemble a lentil, but don’t think of that the next time you eat lentil soup. I doubt there are any bed bugs in it.

            Bed bugs can’t fly, and neither can their close relatives, “bat bugs” and “bird bugs”. They can crawl like a bugger though.

            DDT, which is toxic to all living things, wiped out billions of bed bugs and tons of other things in the middle of the 20th century. It was finally made illegal in the USA in 1972, and bald eagles, for one thing, started making a comeback almost immediately. So did bed bugs, though they did not really begin to flourish until the 21st century.

            Their numbers are growing yearly, and New York City is the capitol of Bed Bug Ville. The rest of the world is scratching along with them, but supposedly all the air traffic through New York keeps them well supplied.

            One hotel employee, told to search a New York hotel room after a bedbug complaint, searched the bed closely and found none. When he turned he looked at the suitcase on the floor and over 200 bed bugs had already moved up on it. It was like one of them gave a little “Toot, toot, the taxi is here!”

            My Grandma was renowned for her bed bug sniffing talent, which is not a common gift. They are said to have a peculiar coriander-like odor in a heavily infested residence, which makes me itch to think about, but apparently most folks can’t smell the fiends.

Grandma didn’t need an infestation to smell them, she could sniff out even small numbers. During the depression, it was almost a daily occurrence for tramps and transients to stop by the farmhouse to look for a day’s work or bum a meal. Grandma was not one to shy away from a chore, and she considered it her duty to give strangers a good sniffing to see if they passed the bed bug test.

If they didn’t they never even got on the porch. She still fed the transients, but they stayed well away from the house. I can’t imagine it was much fun sniffing them even if they had no bed bugs. She came from sturdy stock.

            Bed bug sniffing dogs are getting popular now in the big cities, though said to be expensive. How much is an itch worth, anyway?

            I’ve never seen nor been fed on by a bed bug, and I probably just cursed myself by saying it.

            It has been said that I have a bad habit of doing that.

A note to cone heads; buy a hat

Bald heads have been attracting attention ever since the first time sunshine reflected off of a hairless dome. Rest assured, some smart aleck caveman noticed it and shouted out “Hey Chromey, put a sock on it! Ha ha ha!”

            Not everybody is so rude anymore, but there is one thing that hasn’t changed. Make that two things. Cures for baldness still make big money and they don’t work any better now than when Hippocrates first advised bald men to put a paste of pigeon poop on their shiny noggins in 400 B.C.

            Before going any further I should point out that if there were a sure fired cure for baldness, I would be in line for it right now. I point this out because I do not want a mob of hairless men chasing me down the street for making fun of them.

            Why, just yesterday I gave my wife a good shock by requesting that she measure my bald spot. Her look of surprise changed quickly to a prolonged cackle that inspired the goats and chickens to reply enthusiastically and at least two of the dogs to howl at the neighbors.

            Meanwhile, I patiently waited with tape measure in hand and obligingly pointed my cranium toward the light when she regained her composure. She soon announced, in a voice that verged on the smirkish, that my bald spot is two inches by two and a half inches.

            She also asked if I wanted my forehead measured, and I testily replied that I could measure it myself, thank you very much.

            Not that anybody cares, but I appear to have lost about an inch of hairline through the years. When the light is right, the reflection from my forehead could illuminate a Broadway stage.

            Ancient Egyptians were very concerned with baldness, and bald heads were considered shameful all over the ancient Middle East. Skulls were anointed with ointments and salves of all kinds and fortunes were spent in the futile attempts to stave off hair loss.

            4000 years later, things have changed very little. Charlatans through the ages have always been adept at taking advantage of human frailty.

            Of course, there are those to whom bald is beautiful. I suppose Yul Brynner had something to do with it, albeit in a belated manner.  He was very popular in the 1960’s, when the “long hair” culture began.

Ironically, those of us who sported shoulder length locks back then are now the ones who are most likely to be shelling out money for Rogaine or ultraviolet scalp treatments.

It just doesn’t seem right that some guys with a full head of hair are now shaving it bald. I agree, it would simplify the grooming process. There are other things to consider though.

You would have to have a fairly big head, for earning the nickname pinhead would seem to nullify some of the expected benefits of a shaved cranium. Make note, cone heads should avoid the bald look.

It wouldn’t do for the stylishly bald to neglect their head shaving duties either, otherwise they would look like a baby bird. Strange, and I do mean strange, women may be compelled to rub it.

There is a product called Headlube that provides a dome with the choice of Glossy or Matte finish. I suppose it is geared more for bald men than balding men, but I would personally not consider it to be anybody’s business if I wanted a Matte finish forehead or bald spot.

Even in the 1800’s cowboys spent their hard earned money on worthless “Snake Oil” to encourage hair growth. When that failed they took to rubbing grease into their hair, causing it to look thicker. That they even care strikes me funny, for they are seldom seen without their cowboy hats anyway.

Wigs have been relied on to hide baldness since Egyptians first invented them, and they are still popular. Some men actually have snaps inserted into their skulls to keep their toupees from becoming Frisbees.

I find it interesting that eunuchs who were castrated before puberty do not go bald. It seems like a high price to pay for a head of hair, but to each his own.

I think I’ll just stick with a baseball cap.

The attack of the flaming bacon bombs

            I know people who would kill for bacon. Don’t laugh, it’s true. If they had been lost in the woods for a week and suddenly found their way to your campsite, and you denied them the pile of bacon on your plate, they would murder you and gobble the bacon.

            Several months later they would be ruled innocent by a very understanding jury that bought the Temporary Insanity plea. This same jury would have sent out to Wendy’s every day for 12 Baconnaters, six luscious strips of bacon on a half-pound cheeseburger. Wendy’s sold 25 million in its first eight weeks on the market, and would gladly pay half of a Human Baconnater’s defense bill as wise advertising.

            Over two billion pounds of bacon is made in the U.S.A. every year. It is one of the oldest specially prepared meats in history, with traces of it found from 1500 B.C. The word bacon is said to come from the German word “bacho”, which means buttock.

            No wonder men love bacon so much.

            Men have no monopoly on bacon love. I think my sister’s favorite meal, the one she would choose on Death Row as her very last supper, would be a pound of crispy bacon. Sorry Sis, the truth had to come out sooner or later.

            There is a T-shirt saying “I’d be a vegetarian if bacon grew on trees.” Of course, even vegetarians don’t go without their own form of bacon, even if it is made of soy products. It looks, acts and tastes like a baconish impersonator, but it might still be called a bacon cousin just because of its desire to be so.

Right here I am going on record as an enemy of fake bacon bits, like the things in a jar that you are supposed to put on a salad. It is not so much that they are hideous, but you taste them for like four days. Urp!

            “Bringing home the bacon” is a famous expression whose origin is a little uncertain. Some say it comes from an old 12th century English custom that awarded a side of bacon to any couple who had celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary and the husband could swear before the congregation and God that they had not argued for a year and a day. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’d lie like a rug for a pound of bacon, so I doubt they were all honest. 

             Another possible version comes from European peasants in the 1500’s who could rarely afford to buy pork. When they did, they would hang it up to show off to any visitors, showing that they were able to “bring home the bacon”. To really show off, they would cut off slivers to share with the company, and then sit around and “chew the fat”.

            There are a lot of different bacons made around the world, and naturally American bacon is renowned for being made from the fattiest part, the belly. Americans could care less, we like being fat.

            When Jon Stewart of The Daily Show heard about the new bacon-flavored mayonnaise product, Baconnaise, he just had to make a comment on American gluttony and sloth: “for people who want heart disease, but are too lazy to actually make the bacon.”

            Bacon may actually get a little bit of a bum rap when it comes to fat. It has no trans fat and if fried crisp and drained it only contains about 30 to 40 calories per slice. That makes a few slices on their own healthier in terms of calories, salt, fat and cholesterol than a hot dog, hamburger or glazed donut.

            Of course, who just eats a few slices of bacon? Nobody! It is so much better heaped up on something!

            My dear wife is making us some dark chocolate-coated bacon to go with dinner tonight, so I can strut around like a real man and brag about my bacon fueled fervor. It actually sounds good, as does a maple bar with three slices of crisp bacon layered on top. I’ll be having one of those soon too, though I doubt it will be more than a bi-yearly treat.

            Bacon products are getting out of hand though, in my humble opinion. Bacon-infused vodka, bacon ice cream, deep-fried bacon, bacon soda-pop and every kind of bacon pastry you can think of. As I mentioned, make mine maple bar.

            For the woman who has tried everything in the world to attract a man short of dressing in cellophane, there is a very interesting option out there. It has always been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and now the Fargginay Company has found a way to make it easy. They are selling two versions of Classic Bacon Fragrance perfume, either one of which can make a man drool from 100 feet away.  

            Oddly, they are marketed to both sexes. If you run into a member of the opposite sex who is wearing the same stuff, well, let’s just say it is a match made in a frying pan.

            There is a good chance they would both have some Bacon Drink Tabs in their pocket. These effervescent tablets add fizzy bacon flavor to any liquid you add them to, and my stomach churns at the thought.

            Mark “The Human Vacuum” Lyle set the modern bacon eating record by scarfing 54 slices in five minutes. I don’t know why, I must be getting jaded, but that barely impresses me.

            In closing I must make some mention of using bacon as a weapon, though in truth it was bacon on the hoof called war pigs. A siege in 266 B.C. was led by one country’s vast army of war elephants, putting their foe at a disadvantage for of elephants they had none.

            The besieged army of Megarians (Who?!) doused a bunch of pigs with combustible resin and set them aflame, then drove the flaming, squealing swine towards the massed war elephants of Antigonus II Gonata (Anti, is that really you?).

Apparently elephants hate flaming, squealing pigs, so they bolted in terror, killing bunches of their own soldiers and ending the siege. I feel just awful for those poor, heroic hogs.

That terrible waste of bacon brings a tear to my eye too.

Mobs, packs, gangs and gaggles: Run!

Since the beginning of life on Earth, creatures of all kinds have discovered that their chances of survival get a big boost if they hang around with a band of their cronies instead of living as a loner. If nothing else, when a bigger, badder predator showed up there were at least a bunch of tasty cousins running away that might draw its attention.

            These different groups of animals have drawn a mind-boggling number of labels for their gangs. Oh, excuse me, elk and buffalo clusters are known as gangs, though a gang of buffalos can be an “obstinacy”. I can see why with those thick skulls.

             A flock of ravens is called an “unkindness”, but their cousins the crows are called a “murder” if they have the audacity to assemble. If buzzards congregate it is a “wake”, magpies are a “gulp”, doves a “pitying”, finches a “charm” (yes), jays are a “scold” (indeed), lapwings (?) are a “deceit”, eagles a “convocation”, larks an “exaltation” and owls are a “parliament” (how cool is that?). There are many other bird flock names, the most widely known being a “gaggle” of geese.

            By the way, if anybody refers to you and your friends as a gaggle, do not take it as a complement. Just tell them “At least we aren’t a ‘cauldron’ of bats, pooping upside down for a living.”

            Apes, my not so distant cousins, are called a “shrewdness” when in a band, and baboons are a “congress”. A gang of gorillas, by the way, is actually called a “band.” How that happened I have no idea.

            A posse of bears can be called a “sloth or sleuth”, depending on how sneaky they are being. That is my opinion anyway.

            Cats are a “clowder”, not to be confused with chowder (gag!), at least in this country. Kittens are a “kindle, litter or intrigue”, and litter works for puppies too. Cuties works for me in either case. In case you are interested, a pack of curs is a “cowardice”, but I admit to some confusion about curs. In my book, a gang of unkempt, smelly, slithery acting humans could also be a cowardice of curs.

            A herd of donkeys is a “pace”, elephants are a “parade”, ferrets somehow earned the name a “business”, foxes are a “skulk” (chicken killers!) and hyenas are, of course, a “cackle”. One of my favorites is a “bloat” of hippopotamuses.

            Some rare common sense called rhinoceroses a “crash”, giraffes a “tower” and the hard working moles a “labor”. Lemurs are known as a “conspiracy”, and I’m sure it must be their habit of big-eying intruders around trees in the dark. I used to know a guy who should have been known as Lemur.

            Porcupines, “Duh Ralph!”, are called a “prickle” if they have a meeting. It must be rare, I’ve never seen more than one at a time.

            Goats are a “tribe” or a “trip”, and kangaroos are a “troop” or a “mob”. The word mob reminds me, I am done squealing on animals and think it is high time for a few human remarks.

            There are countless names for a crowd of people, with rabble, horde, mass, throng, crush and mob being among my favorites. Numerous times every year a supposedly orderly group of humans will panic and begin to stampede, mashing dozens if not hundreds to death.

            They do it more frequently than supposedly stupid herd animals do. You could swear we are part lemming, but there is one problem with that.

            The universal belief that lemmings commit mass suicide by leaping from a cliff is a myth. I will leave you with that thought, and the tidbit that a multitude of lemmings is called a “slice”.

            Stay tuned.  

Old bones make no bones about it

A friend of mine whose thirst for trivial things rivals my own told me an interesting tidbit the other day that I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around. There is a species of jellyfish, the hydrozoan, that is the only known animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth.
Through a process called transdifferentiation the creature can regenerate its entire body over and over again, reverting to its polyp state when it tires of being an adult. Naturally scientists are on it like funk on a monk, hoping to either get rich or live forever, or both.
I’ll admit that adding another 50 fruitful years might be tempting (just think of all the mortifications I could add to my list!), but living forever just sounds really, really tiring at this point. I turn 60 in August so thoughts of mortality tend to hover around like a pesky fly occasionally, but I think I’ll be quite content to shoot for the longevity record for humans in the Guinness Book. After all, it is only 122 years and 164 days.
Jeanne Louis Calment was born on February 21, 1875 and died on August 4, 1997. There have been three claims made that would have surpassed her age, but none were sufficiently documented. One was for 168 years and one was 157 years, so I see why they were of dubious repute.
Jeanne married a rich man at 21 and never had to work. (Note to self, lazy is good, rich doesn’t hurt). She spent her entire life in Arles, France, and became famous for the first time at age 113 when it became known that she had met Vincent Van Gogh in 1888, in her uncle’s fabric shop. She described him as “dirty, badly dressed, disagreeable, ungracious, impolite, sick, smelly and very ugly.” (Note to self, don’t stink, they never forget).
At 114 she made a brief appearance in the 1990 film Vincent and Me as herself, becoming the oldest person to be in a movie. She broke that record five years later when a documentary about her life, Beyond 120 Years with Jeanne Calment, was released. (Note to self, it’s OK to be a ham sometimes).
Though Jeanne did not work, she was active. She took up fencing at 85 and rode a bicycle until she was 110. (Note to self, don’t be too lazy).
Under the heading of “What The Heck?!!!”, a company called Musidisc released Time’s Mistress, a four-track CD of Jeanne speaking over a background of rap music, in 1996. (Note to self, die now, they will make a spectacle of you!) The thought saddens me.
She was a tobacco company’s dream, smoking cigarettes for 96 years. Unspecified sources say she never puffed more than two per day, but I’m always suspicious of such claims because they sound like they are trying to hide something. I bet she did a pack a day.
Jeanne credited her long life and fairly youthful appearance to olive oil, which she dumped on all of her food and rubbed onto her skin. She was also pleased to brag about her weekly consumption of one kilo, 2.2 pounds, of chocolate, and her daily imbibing of port wine. (Note to self, Yahoo!)
For the record, 2.2 pounds would be about 17.5 Snickers bars every week. (Note to self, Yahootie yo mama!)
The record age for a dog is 29 years 5 months for an Australian cattle-dog from Australia named Bluey, who expired in 1939. The oldest cat, Crème Puff, lived from 1967 to 2005, an amazing 38 years 3 days! I don’t know what breed she was, most cats are Just cats, so we’ll just say she was Texan.
The two longest documented lifespans in history belonged to a tortoise and a Koi. The tortoise, Tui Malila, was given to the Tongan royal family by Captain Cook in 1777. They cared for him until 1965, when he died of natural causes at 188 years old. Crikey, that makes my bones ache.
The Koi, one of those fancy Japanese carp that eat out of your hand, was named Hanako. It died in 1977 at the ripe old age of 226 years! (Note to self, eat more fish).
I could go on and on, this subject fascinates me, but I’m getting older as we speak so I’d better quit before I expire.
For now, I advise you all to eat more chocolate, swill more wine, and learn a little French. C’est la vie means “such is life”, so spit that out if somebody points out that you have wine stains on your shirt and chocolate crumbs on your chin.

Packer, the All-American Cannibal

I want to stress right off the bat that I am not obsessed with cannibals. The fact that I wrote about them two weeks in a row means nothing, except that I am often too long winded to say everything I want in one sitting. If you come to my house to eat, we might eat pork because it is my favorite. I promise it will not be “long pig”. The Anasazi, a Native American tribe in the Southwestern United States, were the only known cannibals from our country. Except, of course, for famous and not so famous individuals and groups. Alfred G. “Alferd” Packer is the most renowned of “accused” American cannibals, and the only convicted cannibal in Colorado history. He got a tattoo of his name, which was misspelled, but he liked it so he went by Alferd from then on except for official documents. He and five other prospectors made an ill-advised trek, fueled by gold fever, to Colorado in the winter of 1873-74. They became lost and snowbound in the Rocky Mountains, and a surprisingly hearty Alferd was the only one to survive and show up in Gunnison, Colorado in the spring. Naturally he headed for a saloon, where he ran into some members of his original group of 21, which he and his companions had left the previous winter. They had shown the good sense to refuse to tackle the mountains during the winter, and none of them believed his story of self-defense to explain the absence of his tasty companions. He did not help his cause by changing his story every time he told it. Tradition and rumor said that the following colorful death sentence was handed down by Judge M.B. Gerry a few months later. “Stand up yah voracious man-eatin’ SOB and receive yir sintince. When yah came to Hinsdale County, there was siven Dimmycrats. But you, yah et five of ’em, damn yah. I sintince yah t’ be hanged by th’ neck ontil yer dead, dead, dead, as a warnin’ ag’in reducin’ th’ Dimmycratic populayshun of this county. Packer, you Republican cannibal, I would sintince ya ta hell but the statutes forbid it.” While entertaining and widely believed, this tale was not true and Judge Gerry’s words were actually much more educated. “Close your ears to the blandishments of hope. Listen not to its fluttering promises of life. But prepare to meet the spirits of thy murdered victims. Prepare for the dread certainty of death.” Packer, however, escaped the local jail and spent nine years free before his recapture. His death sentence was reversed at that time and he was instead sentenced to 40 years. He was paroled after two by the State Supreme Court on a technicality, and he then became a vegetarian and lived until 1907. The short order grill at the Student Union on the University of Colorado campus is named after Packer and has an annual festival called Alferd Packer Days. The contests include a raw-meat-eating contest. There have been books, plays, documentaries and movies made about Alferd. It seems likely that he will be remembered long after other American cannibals are forgotten. Chomp, chomp.

Do You Want Some Bob With That?

I have always liked a good cannibal. Actually, I should clarify that, because as far as I know I have never met one. They are cool in stories, books and movies though, at least to me. There are three kinds of cannibalism. Survival cannibalism is eating other humans in an emergency situation, such as the Donner Party in the 1846 Sierra Nevada mountain range or the 1972 Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes. In case you are wondering, don’t be on a plane with me that crashes in the Lost Mountains. If we run out of food I’ll be sitting there with a fork waiting to outlive you so I can have some Bob Tartare. Gastronomic cannibalism is the non-survival type, meaning they are basically too lazy to hunt animals so they dine on the slower members of the tribe closest to them. That’s OK though, they are likely the ones that caused their slow cousins to disappear too. Some cannibals will eat the brain for knowledge, the heart for courage and the legs if the victim was fast. Most just gobble everything, with the bones roasted and ground for medicinal purposes. Sadistic cannibals are the psycho serial killer types who eat their victims because they are freaking nuts. Jeffrey Dahmer was a prime example, and this brand of people eater will never go away. Autophagia, eating one’s own body, is not even classified as a mental disorder in the USA handbook for such things. Wait a minute, let me help them out with their classification. They are nuts too! The word cannibal comes from the Spanish word Canibales, which was their name for the West Indies tribe of cannibals named the Carib. The Spanish had trouble with the letter R back then. The scientific name for cannibalism is anthropophagy. For some reason that word makes me hungry for rump roast. Hmmmmm, must have had a caveman cannibal somewhere in my bloodline. When humans first developed past the Neanderthals, being smarter and faster than their big-headed cousins, archeologists theorize that they dined on Neanderthal meat quite often. They were probably much easier to hunt than a mastodon, as well as more tender, so I don’t doubt it. Survival of the fittest is at the heart of cannibalism. Human meat is said to taste like pork and is mostly prepared the same way. It was, and is, referred to as “long pig”. I say IS because cannibalism is not dead. Certain tribes in the heart of New Guinea and Africa have found it difficult to give up their old piggish ways. A paragraph from Fredrick O’Brien’s 1919 travelogue of French Polynesia, “White Shadows in the South Seas”, highlights an interesting view of island cannibal life. “Upon it (the island) once stood the temple and about it were enacted the rites of mystery, when the priests and elders fed on the ‘long pig that speaks,’ when the drums beat ‘til dawn and wild dances maddened the blood.” I don’t know why he wasn’t on the menu. Just lucky I guess. ( Next week: “Packer, the All-American Cannibal”) Packer: The All-American Cannibal.

Me and the Boy