Summertime by JB Proof

Summertime is the new song from the artist JB Proof (who happens to be my fourteen-year-old son). Instrumental, contemplative, easy-listening. He had zero help from me, which was a deliberate choice on both of our parts.

I’ve been writing and recording music in various genres for decades now (am I truly that old? yes), but this youngster is something else. The question of talent vs hard work vs inspiration is a difficult one. You can go around and around for days on that problem. JB is a mixture of talent and hard work. He definitely has a unique knack for melody and chord structure, but he will also happily sit at the piano for hours, practicing and writing and practicing some more.

When you join talent and hard work together, you end up with a potent mixture. A God-inspired mixture, in my estimation. I’m VERY interested to see where JB goes with this. He has a great many other songs in the pipeline…

Summertime on Youtube.

Summertime on Amazon.

Skunks in the Garden

We have skunks in the garden. A mama skunk and several baby skunks. So far, they haven’t sprayed anyone or anything. Thankfully.

From what I’ve read, skunks tend to hang around if there’s a food source. We’ve inadvertently provided them two: cat food, if we forget to take it inside in the evening, and fruit that has fallen to the ground from our various fruit trees–apples, pluots and apricots.

I’m not sure how to trap a skunk. I’m not sure I want to trap a skunk. At any rate, the skunk family is officially now my first line of home defense. Skunks are nocturnal. If a home intruder comes creeping around at 2 in the morning, I trust he will enjoy his encounter with skunks as they pursue their regular activities of chasing bugs and trundling about the garden.

One of my fondest memories from high school involves a skunk.

In junior year biology class, each student was required to produce an animal skeleton. This was the big project of the year. We all had to find a dead animal, remove all the soft material (fur, skin, musculature, etc) and then mount the skeleton on a stand. You know, just like the big dinosaur skeleton installations you see in the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Except much smaller and without the vast crowds of people streaming by.

Some of the students in my class applied a very generous interpretation to the verb find. One boy found a neighborhood cat, whacked it on the head, and then stuck it in his family’s freezer chest. Another student found a goat (procured, bought?–I’m a little hazy on where the goat actually came from) and then helped it meet its Maker.

Reflecting on the class assignment, I now realize that our biology teacher, Mr. W, probably hadn’t thought through the implications of just blithely instructing us to “find” an animal. He probably should have given us some parameters. Such as: find an animal that is already dead and that you didn’t kill. I do remember that he said no fish. That would’ve been to easy. We could’ve simply gone to the fish department at the grocery store.

“One rainbow trout, please. I’ll debone it at home, thanks.”

As for myself, I didn’t want to do something as boring and mundane as a cat or a dog. I wanted something more exotic. Dinosaurs, of course, were out of the question for several reasons. Driving home with my dad one afternoon, I spied some roadkill on the side of the asphalt. It looked in very good condition. Probably assassinated by a gentle, glancing blow from a small, electric-powered vehicle driven by an animal-hating elderly lady with bad eyesight.

A skunk.

Obviously, this skunk had wandered far from his garden. Inspiration bloomed like the proverbial light bulb and I asked my dad to pull over. He agreed. His agreement points to yet another example of an adult not thinking through implications (adults, parents in particular, aren’t as infallible as you might assume).

However, he did point out that the roadkill was a skunk and skunks smell. But, he had a great solution. Being a farmer, he had a lot of random stuff in the car trunk. Including one of those opaque, plastic five gallon buckets. Complete with a gasket-lined lid that snaps securely closed. He said that would contain the smell.

After about one mile further down the road, we realized the plastic bucket, even with the efficient gasket, did very little to contain the smell. And what a smell it was.

I placed the bucket far away from our house that evening. We lived on a farm, of course, so there was plenty of space. The next morning, the bucket didn’t seem to smell at all. Dissipation had magically occurred. Reassured, I brought the bucket with me on the bus to school. Our bus was always sparsely populated, even by the end of its route, so I put the bucket in a front seat and then sat in the back.

Again, another interesting example of adults not bothering to think through implications. The bus driver neglected to wonder why this kid had a five gallon bucket and why he sat as far from the bucket as he could.

At the next stop, a seventh grader named Gary got on. He sat in a seat either behind or in front of the bucket seat. I can’t remember that detail exactly, but he was quite close. Several minutes later, he threw up. By this time, the skunk odor in the bus had gotten quite strong. Magical dissipation, contrary to my assumption, had not occurred.

The bus driver hurriedly stopped the bus and put the bucket in the outside storage compartment. One of those side flaps that tilt up between the two wheels. And then, off we went to school.

When we arrived at school, I headed straight to the biology classroom with my five gallon bucket and the prize inside. It wasn’t biology period yet, but I had to get rid of the bucket. What happened next was probably the most fascinating example in this entire sequence events of an adult not thinking through implications.

Mr. W, our biology teacher, had been taking all of the different animals we students brought in and placing them on trays on the flat roof of the school building. His idea was that then flies would lay eggs in the corpses, the eggs would hatch into maggots, which would then eat the corpses clean. Voila, clean skeletons.

His idea wasn’t bad. It was the execution, no pun intended, that faltered.

Mr. W placed my skunk on a tray and put it up on the roof. This roof, mind you, was of a fairly large building that contained many classrooms: biology, maths, chemistry, as well as the school library. Mr W, possibly moving too quickly due to the odor and not wanting to throw up, put my skunk tray right next to one of the main air intake vents for the building’s ventilation system.

After about ten minutes, doors flew open everywhere as classes hurriedly exited the building. Even from beyond the grave, the skunk was punching above its weight.

In case you’re interested, I did see the project through to completion. The skeleton was in excellent condition. I was able to reassemble it into a standing pose. Mr. W gave me an A.

I think I very much deserved that A.

Other people also deserved good grades. The bus driver for not getting mad at me. A lot of my fellow students and teachers for not getting mad at me for the smell in the building. My dad for putting up with his car smelling like skunk for months afterwards.

Anyway, I view the current skunks in our garden with nostalgia. As long as they don’t get hydrophobia. Then they’re out of here. With extreme measures.

Farming in the Dark

One of the advantages of living on a farm (and in this context I’m defining advantage as curse) is that farming often happens in the dark. Such as 4 in the morning, when the harvest prep crew fires up their machines about two hundred feet away from my bedroom window. Which is what happened last night.

EAT MORE BROCCOLI

A field of broccoli is thriving away on the south side of the house. Green, sturdy, healthy–just waiting to be cut, boxed, cooled and shipped off to a Costco near you. But that means time for harvest. And I’m not always at my cheeriest when woken up at 4 in the morning, startled awake by the rumble of a John Deere. At least, this time, the crew considerately did not turn on their ranchito music as well.

I threw on a jacket, glasses and boots, went outside to have a terse word with the crew, but then thought better of it. Perhaps I was calmed by the beauty of the night sky. And it certainly was beautiful, with the moon low down over our roof. I stopped to marvel and take a photo. Of both the moon and the machines. I said nothing to the crew. They probably would’ve been bewildered by me. Everyone on a farm gets up early, they would’ve been thinking. 4 am really isn’t that early.

Just think of all the work you could get done if you got up at 4am every day.

COMPETENCE

A long time ago, I spent some time working in Thailand. One of my housemates was a Thai fellow who got by on three or four hours every night. He told me he’d lived like that for years. Very cheerful, energetic fellow. Seemed to be in good health, as far as I could tell. His eyes didn’t twitch. No tremors. Not that I’m a doctor, but I can usually detect when someone is criminally insane, has broken limbs, or has a sucking chest wound,  so I’m somewhat competent medically.

24-4 is 20. 20 hours of productivity. Think of all the broccoli I could pick in 20 hours. Think of all the broccoli you could pick in 20 hours.

Winchells Open All Night

So Winchell’s is open all night. That’s twenty-four hours a day, each and every day of the year. For those of you who don’t know, Winchell’s is a doughnut chain in the United States. It’s all over California, but I’m not sure about the other states.

At any rate, my interest in Winchell’s, other than their glazed blueberry, is the fact that a Winchell’s  would make a decent place to run to if you were being chased by zombies at one in the morning. It’s always going to be open–right?–so you could make for those bright yellow lights with equanimity that the door will swing open as you sprint through.

I have it from an excellent source (yes, better than the New York Times) that zombies are allergic to chocolate-glazed old fashioneds. There are decent odds that you’ll always find a good supply of those in the racks. That and a good pitching arm should keep you safe.

No need to thank me.

Speaking of silly things that complicate our lives, some genius in Bloomberg just wrote a piece titled “Inflation Stings Most If You Earn Less Than 300k. Here’s How To Deal.” I’m torn over this one. Should I laugh or yell? I’ll do both. I think an excellent tonic for idiocy is a return barrage of laughter, but some yells volley well enough too.

I’ll take one for the team and give you a quick run-down of the so-called Bloomberg piece. Doomberg, Bloomberg–is there a difference? It begins with an acknowledgement of inflation and how it is affecting gas and food, etc etc yawn. We’re all painfully aware of that. But then Professor Teresa Ghilarducci then goes on to explain how those in lower income brackets can soften the blow. Spoiler alert: here’s where it goes down the rabbit hole to Alice in Wonderinsaneland.

Professor Ghilarducci, an economist at the New School of Social Research (where is that and what steps should I take to make sure my kids don’t go there?), says that people should control your budget. That is nothing short of revolutionary, of course, right up there with making sure your zipper is hoisted high after application of pants.

She then goes on to encourage all of us to take more public transport. I suppose that advice is decent for those of you in urban settings. Doesn’t really work out here in farming country. “Excuse me, Mr. Bus Driver, can you take the dirt road on the right after Mr. McIntry’s wheat crop on the lower forty before the old windmill, and then just down three miles and a hard left, but watch out for the brown bull in the pasture there, as he often gets out.”

And then, ha! the good professor descends into culinary advice. Such as steer away from pricey meats and try meat substitutes like beans and lentils. Beans and lentils? For the humble folk, you say? At this point, she gives some rather mysterious advice which I will quote in its poetic entirety: “Plan to cut out the middle creature and consume plants directly.”

Hmm.

Images come to mind of cropping the grass. Cropping it directly, with the fresh dew on it. That’ll be breakfast. A quick nibble of the office potted plants for lunch, the ficus is particularly delicious, and then home for dinner with a plate of succulents, which are, er…succulent, high in fiber and an excellent source of water. As Grandmother is fond of gifting you succulents every Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Jr Day, I’m sure you’ll be in good supply.

At this point, Professor Ghilarducci’s worthy list of advice, almost as inspiring as Ben Franklin’s better treatises, veers into truly noteworthy territory. She remarks that many people acquired pets during the pandemic (that whole loneliness and isolation thing, right?). Regretfully, she points out that pets sometimes necessitate expensive medical treatments, so you might consider skipping chemo for Fido.

Ship Fido off to the glue factory as part of your inflation therapy. We have a call in to Fido to inquire about his perspective, but he’s probably too busy hunting up Ghilarducci’s address on Google to respond.

And they wonder why more and more people are growing skeptical of higher education as a choice.