Tuesday, May 17, 2016
This poem was written for my friend Jack, a Scotsman living in Australia. I knew next to nothing about Rugby...OR Scotland...before befriending Jack. This was my gift to him, for sharing his culture (and friendship) with me.
Seth Bessey was a rugged boy from out in western Maine.
A quiet lad, hard-working; he never did raise Cain.
His parents were quite proud of him; with honors he left school.
But that did not keep others from thinking Seth a fool.
You see, our Mr. Bessey – an easy man to teach –
Just happened to develop an impediment of speech.
T’is something not uncommon, but when speaking should be crisp,
It was so most unfortunate that Bessey had a lisp.
Of course, had they envisioned such a problem for their son,
Seth’s parents would have dumped his name for ANY OTHER ONE.
Alas, t’was almost three whole years before their son did talk.
Suggestions they rename him THEN, quite simply made them balk.
And so, this strapping boy of theirs, cursed with this appellation
Quite dreaded having strangers ask him of his designation.
His face would flame, his hands would sweat, he’d murmur, “It’th Theth Bethey.”
The spit would spray, the strangers flinch— it really was quite methy!
His classmates had been cruel, as children often are.
And after twelve long years of taunts, Seth wanted to go far.
He applied himself to research; for he was college-bound,
And after much due diligence, some relatives he found.
He wrote a nice long letter (for sure, he dared not call!)
And asked if he might stay with them, commencing in the fall.
University was near them; he’d pay room, board and berth,
If he could just be welcomed in their Scottish home in Perth.
He thought it serendipitous (a word he’d NEVER utter!)
That he could name their village and not suffer blush or stutter!
He’d found a town that suited him! In comfort, he’d say ‘Perth’,
And when he did, there was no call for sniggering and mirth.
The Fitzgeralds answered speedily. They housed almost a dozen!
But if he wanted, he could come and bunk in with his cousin.
Of room and board they would not take, but Scots are known as tight!
Instead, they’d make a barter! For their Rugby team he’d fight!
It sounded like a bargain, though Rugby was a mystery.
But smart young Seth was confident. He’d read up on its history!
He packed his bags; he kissed his mum; he shook his pappy’s hand.
And then he climbed aboard his flight and left his native land.
He disembarked the aeroplane in grand old Edinburgh.
His rugby book read end-to-end, his education thorough.
With open arms young Seth was met by cousins Garth and Mabel.
To say their names without a lisp, he happily was able!
His kin then drove him home to Perth, (though on wrong side of street!)
And soon enough, there was a mess of kinfolk for-to meet.
A Mary and a Maggie, a Maura and a Beth…
So far, the names pronounceable by their new cousin Seth.
There was a boy named Peter, another one named John…
But wouldn’t you just know it! His roommate’s name was Sean!
With sinking heart, he met them all, then lifted up his sack,
But Sean — he gripped Seth’s shoulder and said, ‘You can call me Jack!’
His roommate, cousin…and now friend had already perceived
That Seth did not like ‘Esses’ and thus, made him feel relieved.
As soon as Seth was settled in, Jack said ‘Let’s hit the street!
‘We’ll find a pub and have a drink; I’ve mates that you should meet!’
Although young Seth had ne’er imbibed (for what would Mother say?)
He followed Jack along the roads that skirt the River Tay.
They walked along the South Inch, came to the old Ice Factory…
Bells Whiskey, learnt the boy from Maine, was more than satisfactory!
They gathered mates and bottles and to Railway Bridge they went.
Carousing over River Tay – his first Scotch evening spent.
The next day, Cousin Jack…he laughed! Said “Lad, you don’t look frisky!”
Seth groaned, “I am tho very thick of Bellth Fine Thcottith Whithky!”
So Jack took pity on his friend. To keep him feeling hale,
When they drank at The Foundry, he restricted him to ale.
And over at Grey Friars, t’was vodka they did guzzle.
While at the City Nightclub, he put red wine to his muzzle.
But Jack knew more than drinking and he showed young Seth the land.
There were so many lovely spots Fitzgerald had at hand.
They toured inside Scone Palace, where many kings were crowned.
St. John’s Kirk they did visit; the church was much renowned.
The Museum of The Black Watch; The place where they made glass;
Distilleries where they made Scotch to knock you on your ass.
Jack made his cousin feel at home and when Seth dared to speak,
He never mocked or laughed at him, or made him feel a freak.
He let Seth talk quite slowly, as his cousin did finesse
A language almost absent of the pesky letter ‘S’.
To Dundee Uni they did go, to get put through their paces…
North-easterly they drove each morn, the sunrise in their faces.
And after classes every day they’d gather at the pitch.
A sport Seth had deemed easy – was hellish and a bitch!
His Scottish mates were skeptics… this Seth was just a Yank!
They plotted to be hard on him, to see just how he’d rank!
Though Seth had not played football (for his lisp had made him shy)
He was an awesome worker and a tough and rugged guy.
He’d never kicked or thrown a ball, he’d never played a game.
But he could split ten cords of wood, and put the rest to shame.
He could throw a calf for brand; a garden he could spade.
And he could pile a thousand bales! Yeah, he would make the grade.
Jack gave him many pointers. “The referee’s the boss!
“Don’t ever, EVER give him lip, or we’ll end up with a loss!
“Be sure you wear the best of boots to stabilize your ankle.
“For once you leave the game, you’re OUT – and that can really rankle!”
“We’ll start you as a forward, since you’re a beefy chum.
“Make sure you give it all you’ve got, when we’re awarded scrum!
“And please, do NOT pass forward towards the other fellows’ goal!
“For Dundee needs a win or two to save our loving soul!”
“Be careful with your knock-ons! And with foot the ball is hooked!
“With hands, don’t touch the ball in scrum, or our asses will be cooked!”
Seth took his words at value. Jack was a pro at ruggers!
But all Seth really cared to do was thrash those other buggers!
A couple of the other mates had mimicked how he spoke.
At now, at eighteen, Seth was sick of being someone’s joke!
They’d hinted that — because he lisped — he would be ineffectual!
Now Seth was gonna screw ‘em good – and it was nothing sexual!
A Wilson, a McGregor, a Rawden and a Fife
Were about to get a lesson that they’d carry throughout life!
Testosterone was flowing as the game went into play,
And all that Bessey cared about was entering the fray.
The rules, well…they meant nothing! He wanted them to scream!
Instinctively he took out HALF of that opposing team!
And then, the ball was in his hands! His legs were pumping high!
He crossed the goal, pushed down the ball, and got the game’s first Try!
“Take THAT, you Thcottith thithies in your thilly thriped thockth!”
He flashed a sheepish grin at Jack. “What idiotic talk!
“I think when next a player be for a beating begging…
“I’ll call him ‘Gaelic weakling-- in daftie banded legging’!”
He slung his arm around friend Jack and walked him past the mound
Of rugby players lying there in pain upon the ground.
“That game hath left me feeling parched. How ’bout we find a nip?
“There mutht be thome Bellth Whithky that I could thlowly thip!”
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Researchers Say Spinach and Blueberries Improve the Mental Abilities of Rats!
Naturally, this headline caught my attention. I've always been interested in rats, and most particularly in their mental abilities! It’s apparent to me that these rodents aren't nearly as smart as they ought to be -- and I have first-hand knowledge of that fact. I recall one rat from my childhood who, if his mental facilities had been up to snuff, would have turned tail and run when presented with the grim visage of my mother staring squint-eyed down the barrel of a twelve-gauge shotgun. Instead, this pest returned the stare and met its demise on our cellar steps.
The stairway didn't fare much better than the rat -- but that's beside the point.
It's obvious to me that our tax dollars are well spent in performing experiments on rats. Don't they deserve to have improved mental abilities? If rats were smarter, maybe they'd know enough to ring the doorbell when they wanted entrance to a house, instead of fighting their way through the less-than-sanitary conditions of a home's sewer pipes. Surely they would prefer to make their appearance on the front porch, instead of poking up through the water in the toilet bowl, especially when they can't be sure whether or not said throne is in use at the time. I wonder, too, how many times they have almost reached their goal, only to hear a thunderous WHOOSH that signaled a speedy trip back down the pipe to the rodent's point of origin.
What really interested me in the article was how scientists go about testing the mental abilities of rats. I have always associated rat tests with mazes, but not a single mention was made of that time-honored puzzle. Instead, the scientific conclusions were arrived at by another test. I quote the article in question.
"Rats fed with a normal diet that contained 2% freeze-dried spinach learned to associate the sound of a tone with an oncoming puff of air faster than those fed regular rat chow.... The test measured the interval between the sound of the tone and when the rats blinked."
Several questions come to mind. The first is, well…is there truly such a thing as rat chow? Is that something you can pick up at the Farmers' Union or at Agway? What is the size of the market for such a chow?
I confess to calling rat chow by another name: De-con.
Then, I wondered how these scientists induced their subjects to eat spinach. I know of only three people who actually like the stuff, besides Popeye. But then I remembered that these subjects were rats... rats that crawl through sewers...and I realized that spinach was probably a real treat.
As far as tones and puffs and blinking -- well, this seems like a bit of wishful thinking on the scientists' part. How can they be sure that the rats' blinking wasn't just an involuntary action? Maybe rats are prone to dry eyes, especially if they are confined to cages that are constantly being buffeted by blasts of air from well-meaning researchers?
Perhaps rats were already smart and they figured out that if they blinked properly like any respectable rat should, they would continue to be fed that delicious spinach instead of ordinary, humdrum rat chow.
Reading on, I learned that the antioxidants in spinach blocked the effects of free radicals. I'm assuming that free radicals are people like the members of PETA, who no doubt became enraged upon discovering that rats were being puffed at with air, and began campaigning for their release. Apparently, as long as the scientists can continue to supply their rats with spinach, these free radicals will stay blocked and the rodents will remain status quo in their exalted position as scientific subjects.
It seems that blueberries fight the decline in rats’ memories. Another valiant effort! What a joy to realize that part of the money that we send to the government each year supports this heroic endeavor. I can imagine the benefits now....
"Hey, Ralph! Do you remember that puff of air we got on December 12, 1996?"
"Sure do, Rudy! We flared our nostrils and blinked three times, just to mess with their heads! What a riot! We set them back six months, that time!"
"Yeah, Ralph, but at least it got us off that diet of freeze-dried spinach we'd been on for nine months, and into blueberries, instead!"
And this, my friends, is how our government allocates those tax monies we faithfully send to them each year on April fifteenth.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Here, in “Writers Crushing Doubt,” hosted by Positive Writers, I’ll share how I crushed an overwhelming doubt and inadvertently won an award from the Maine Press Association.
I’d taken part in a local fund-raiser. On-stage before 100 friends, I read portions of my manuscript titled, “No, I’m not Pregnant…I’m just Fat – But Thanks So Much for Asking!” The crowd hooted and clapped, loving the tidbits I shared from my book.
To my delight, the owner of a neighboring bar asked me to repeat my performance at her establishment. Riding high on the triumph of that first recital, I agreed. Of course I would! I was a rising star.
I was the Big Dip. I just didn’t know it yet.
The proprietor neglected to tell me that my ‘act’ directly followed another. I arrived at the Plaza, ready and rearing to go. The swinging doors to the pub were closed but emanating from within were the sounds of raucous laughter and fervent applause.
“Excellent!” I thought. “Someone is warming up the crowd for me!”
The bouncer invited me to sit on the lobby’s sofa to await my turn. I sat. There was nothing to read except the local telephone directory. So, I opened my manila folder and reviewed my manuscript…
The manuscript I’d written about being fat.
Suddenly, the doors to the bar swung open. A stampede of forty men poured through. Leading those men were two women. Two naked women.
I should be more precise. Those ladies most certainly were not naked. They were bedecked in g-strings, pasties and high heels.
Nope. Not naked, at all.
Now, I have nothing against nakedness. We rural Mainers run around naked all the time! But we would never be caught in the nude wearing high heels. Rubber boots when we’re swamping out stalls, sneakers when we’re mowing fields – but never heels!
I was immediately nervous. I looked at the wall behind me, spying the poster I’d overlooked. A bachelor party! These women were strippers! No wonder the crowd had sounded so enthusiastic.
Now that the show was over, the men weren’t content to let the ladies leave. They crowded round them, practically falling over my feet – and their own – as they tried to get the ladies' phone numbers, tried to book ‘private’ parties…It was all quite ridiculous, really.
All that commotion over high heels!
I was completely ignored. It didn't matter that I, too, was a woman. Those girls were in a league of their own. I couldn’t compete for that male attention. I wore sturdy combat boots, not stilettos! And while I wore a “C” cup, I would never fit into a size “G” string! The closest I’ve ever come to wearing pasties was the time I had a bout of atrial fibrillation and was hooked up to an EKG monitor. Somehow, wires sprouting from metal nodules slapped haphazardly under and around my mams hadn't evoked the same response as dangling tassels.
The girls were standing with their alphabetized floss directly at eye-level. As curious I was to know what good it did (and where exactly it disappeared to) I couldn’t stare. That would be rude.
I picked up the phone book and pretended to be engrossed in the Yellow Pages.
Never have I felt so idiotic. I smiled politely when one beefy, red-faced man tripped over my military boots and landed in my lap in his attempt to get near enough to a dancer to give her switch a toggle. I scuttled sideways as another gent realized I had the best view in the house, and he plopped his sweaty bum next to mine.
I was completely out of my element! Embarrassed, uncomfortable, at a loss with what to do or say. What kind of conversation could I hold? I couldn’t talk about the weather because it was cold – and I was not going there! And the scenery? My view consisted of an intricate shaving pattern – and a tiny mole – displayed candidly in front of my eyes.
I wanted my mommy!
Finally, I was rescued. The proprietor appeared at my shoulder. She invited me inside. The bouncer hustled the girls away, and the wild and woolly men were escorted back into the saloon. They forlornly watched the starlets glide away to their dressing room.
Suddenly, I was on! There I was – frumpy me – dressed in bulky sweater, jeans and thick-soled boots…and what was I doing? I was talking about the trials and tribulations of being FAT to forty sexually-charged men!
Nobody laughed. No-one clapped. When I got to the segments which had made my first audience scream, not one of those men cracked a smile.
They’d just been entertained by dancing, tasseled, stringed beauties in high heels who offered lap dances – and I was cracking jokes about being FAT!
I wanted to die. Was my writing that bad? Remaining on stage was agonizing. Excruciating. When I finally got out of there – when I reached the safety of my truck and slammed the door shut – I swore I would never write another word as long as I lived!
But, then…something wonderful happened. Before I’d even managed to pull my truck onto the road, I was laughing; crying, giggling, snorting with hilarity! Oh, my God! I could see myself from the perspective of those men. Who needs a cold shower when you have Karen Bessey Pease? Got a little sexual frustration? Just stick Karen in front of a mic. Instant deflation!
It was an hour’s drive home. I cackled every single mile, every single minute of it. By the time I reached my homestead, I was okay. More than okay…I was pumped! I knew that painful, horrendous experience had great value and potential. I envisioned readers laughing as they lived the evening vicariously through me. Sure, it was awful! But it was also funnier than hell.
Laughter. It’s a gift, a tonic, a life-saver. The best medicine in existence. Sharing laughter through writing is how I crush my doubt…and write again.