The older I get, the less I like lawns. Every time I see an expanse of mowed grass, all I see is the tangled riot of natural beauty that could have been.
dimensions seem to box us in but space grants no quarter we squat like dimples on the face of it
“You got the CBS and the ABC, Time and Newsweek, they’re the same to me…” from True Stories soundtrack, David Byrne and Talking Heads. I liked this film and soundtrack so much my friends were beginning to wonder about me. Just kidding. They always did wonder about me.
”A Face-lift for your Low Functioning Similes”
Subject: “Like taking candy from a baby.”
I assembled our crack team of analysts as soon as the boss transmitted the new assignment. We can usually hammer out a simile makeover in one session as my people are some of the best in the field.
Our team consists of Kaplan, a portly and opinionated cab driver; Peggy, who used to work in human resources at a large insurance firm until they downsized; Weber, a freelance cartoonist; and myself, the sole liaison to our secretive employer.
We convened within the hour to our usual rendezvous at Starbucks and went to work. We use the free and open brainstorming method to get started. Almost immediately Peggy suggested that there was nothing wrong at all with the original simile. This evoked affirmative murmuring from around the table. “It’s a classic,” she continued, “what do they expect us to fix?”
“You know how it is, Peg,” I said . “If they knew what they wanted they’d just write it themselves.” We never knew who the client was or what they intended to do with our output.
“Might I suggest,” Kaplan said with a raised finger as he shoved half a pumpkin spice scone into his face. We waited patiently as he chewed and finally dispatched the pastry with an audible gulp. “Perhaps the client doesn’t like the fact that babies have all this candy. Sugar is not good for infants.” Or portly cab drivers for that matter. This was politely left unsaid.
Peggy nodded eagerly in agreement. “High fructose corn syrup is the devil. Candy is loaded with the stuff.”
Weber jumped in. “All the more reason to take the candy away. Perhaps they want something more high concept. The action is pretty straightforward. You have a baby with candy. You steal the candy. Conclusion? It was pretty easy.”
Peggy brightened noticeably. “It’s easy to steal from a baby because we are bigger than them and can outsmart them and overpower them, but is that the easiest thing you can think of? It would be easier to not steal from a baby.”
“As easy as doing nothing at all.” echoed Weber.
Kaplan let out a harrumph. “Too easy.”
“Yeah,” replied Weber, “there’s nothing left to call back the original. We fix similes, we don’t create new ones from whole cloth.”
“Why aren’t we into that market, anyway?” said Kaplan. “Nobody wants new similes? Seems like we could use some new ones.”
“We’ve been over this before,” I said. “Find us some clients and we’ll start knocking them out.”
“I think Peggy’s on to something though,” said Weber. “Babies aren’t total pushovers. They can scream and they can grip the candy with those tiny hands. And they have filthy diapers and germs. I’m not sure I’d want candy that’s been anywhere near a baby. The client is right, this simile is weak.”
“Like taking candy from a dead baby,” Kaplan blurted. Peggy gave him the look. The one she’d given him many times before.
“Okay, look,” he continued, “of the many types who like candy I have to say that babies are the most vulnerable to potential smash-and-grabs. Cry as they may and the diapers notwithstanding.”
“Like making babies and eating candy.” I offered.
“Noted,” said Weber, “though I’m not sure I like the shift in tone.”
“Let’s break it down,” Kaplan said. “We have three points of departure. You have the candy, the baby, and the act. We can change any two by my estimate and still have call-back to the original.”
“The baby’s got to stay,” Peggy said.
“Second,” I said, raising my hand.
“Third,” added Weber.
“Fine,” said Kaplan. “Now, what can we do to this baby that’s totally easy? What can we do that just screams effortlessness. Come on people. Get a cappuccino if you need one. Find a gear and let’s get this thing done.”
It wasn’t often that Kaplan took command like that. Everyone sat up and took note. His pastry was gone and he seemed antsy.
“Then again, you could take candy from the break room refrigerator,” I countered. “That’s completely easy.”
“Someone else’s candy?” asked Peggy.
“Well, easy if you possess no trace of a conscience,” she said.
“Are you implying…”
“Who here has, or has had, a baby? Anyone?” Kaplan asked impatiently.
Silence around the table. “Good grief we are the barren lot aren’t we?”
“I had an abortion once,” Peggy offered shyly.
“I payed for an abortion one time,” I added helpfully.
Then Weber let fly his brilliant coup de grâce. “Why don’t we just give the candy to the baby.”
Kaplan sat up straight and pointed his stubby finger at Weber. “My god. It’s perfect. Completely removes the negative connotation while retaining full call-back.”
“Like giving candy to a baby,” repeated Peggy. “That is slick.”
“Table that and let’s vote,” I said.
The motion passed 4-0 in favor. Like I said, my people are the best. It was almost as easy as, well, never mind. I formatted the report and placed it in the hollow tree trunk in the park at midnight per my standing instructions. We were positive the client would be thrilled. We’d taken a stumbling half-functional simile(1) and transformed it into an almost certainly improved simile.
1. The wanton use of similes in literature is a cautionary flag.
This was written in 2014. I think I may have submitted it to McSweeney’s at one point.
Significant fallout on Saturday as heavy rains fell the night before. Drove to Galveston early and spent the day gathering migrant bird sightings and photographs. The east end of the island was blanketed with Baltimore Orioles and scores of other species. April had been comparatively weak until now. Bird postings to decrease in frequency henceforth.
Indigos and catbirds are a safe bet each spring, the catbirds were especially numerous. Happy to get a decent shot of the male Painted Bunting, much less seen than its brilliant blue cousin.
Underexposed photo of subject in the shadows, not taken in moonlight! I love all the thrushes.
I took a break mid afternoon and then checked out the East End Lagoon and Apffel Park, both packed with migrants. Parked by a mud hole along Apffel Road and it was like attending the theater. Yellow Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole.
The chat did NOT want his picture took, no sir.
Imagine stopping to rest after a great journey, exhausted and sopping wet, and then people line up to take your picture. I was happy that the weather did not give strong headwinds this time as this causes extreme fatigue and fatalities. Rain is enough to bring them down at landfall. Given clear skies and a tailwind, they generally head further inland to more isolated fields and forests. Pretty much the story of this April with so many inactive birding days.
Happy to log a female, which I had never seen before.
My take is warbling, but I could be wrong. Opinions welcome, please comment below.
I drove down before sunrise to avoid the traffic and to enjoy the feast of color and light that greets us most every day on the gulf. Thanks, as always, for looking!
All photos (CC BY SA) 2021, Galveston, Texas. Corp Woods, Lafitte’s Cove, & East End locales.
Pardon me as I unburden myself of a bunch more bird photos.
Did a double-take seeing a Cattle Egret out on a sandbar with a large assembly of terns. April at Bolivar Flats is never disappointing. Royal Terns and the two on the left are Caspian. Probably Forster’s Tern in the foreground.
The local population of this Central and South American species has increased steadily over the span of my short birding career, based on the frequency of sightings. Texas Monthly has a feature article for those interested.
All photos (CC BY SA) 2021, taken in Texas, Spring 2021.