Man Faces Charges for Having Sex With Picnic Table

FOX News!!!!!!!!!

"Ohio police have arrested a man who was caught on tape allegedly having sex with a picnic table.

Art Price Jr., 40, of Bellevue, Ohio, was arrested after a neighbor videotaped him engaged sexually with the metal table, according to a report on FOX19.com.

Price was seen on four separate occasions, always between 10:30 a.m. and noon, having sex with the picnic table, Bellevue Police Capt. Matt Johnson told the TV station.

"The first video we had, he was completely nude," Johnson said, noting the table in question had a hole in the middle intended to hold an umbrella.

Price, a married father of three school-age kids, faces felony counts of public indecency because his house is near an elementary school, according to the report."

The Commish

Anybody else catch Bush in the box last night during the Nationals/Braves opener? The poignant truth hit me hard in the gut: he should have just been MLB commissioner. He seemed to feel it too; staying longer than he needed to and speaking wistfully, casually. Really, he was more likable than he's been ever since, you know, he got into the business of demeaning our democracy.

I read too much into it, I know. But seeing him from this angle-- not a new one, an old one--I felt empathy for the guy. He talked about his first game at the Polo Grounds, about eating hot dogs at Arlington with the family. Morgan asked him if he might consider buying a team again. "I think I'll just be a fan," the president replied.

His first pitch was about 7 feet above the plate. Wide to boot. Throughout his appearance, the president was playful but insistent: he had thrown a strike.


Oddest Book Title Award

LONDON — Good advice? Maybe. Oddest book title of 2007 — that's official.

"If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs" has won the Diagram Prize for the oddest title of the year, The Bookseller magazine announced Friday. Big Boom, the apparently pseudonymous author, calls it a "self-help book, written by a man for the benefit of women."

It's a book, he writes, that is "raw, honest and about you," distilling "the sweat off my back, the wrinkles in my forehead from anger and thinking all the time."

The title triumphed in a public vote over runner-up "I Was Tortured by the Pygmy Love Queen" and the third-place finisher, "Cheese Problems Solved."

"The winner, 'If You Want Closure,' makes redundant an entire genre of self-help tomes," said Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller. "So effective is the title that you don't even need to read the book itself."

The title joins a pantheon of past winners, including "Weeds in a Changing World" (1999), "The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories" (2003); "Bombproof Your Horse" (2004); and "The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification" (2006).


Ha Ha!

A 1995 study found that 'poets died younger than fiction writers, non-fiction writers, and people in the theatre.' A 1997 study "found that Japanese writers were more likely to die young than other eminent Japanese." Kaufman used a statistical tool called Tukey's Honestly Significant Difference test "to determine which differences were significant in each culture, by gender, and overall." The numbers tell the story. A poet's life, on average, is about a year shorter than that of a playwright, four years shorter than a novelist's life, and five-and-six-tenths years less than that of a non-fiction specialist. Kaufman's study ends, as do the lives of many poets, on a sad note.

He writes: "The fact that a Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton may die young does not necessarily mean an introduction to poetry class should carry a warning that poems may be hazardous to one's health. Yet this study may reinforce the idea of poets being surrounded by an aura of doom, even compared with others who may pick up a pen and paper for other purposes. It is hoped that the data presented here will help poets and mental-health professionals find ways to lessen what appears to be a sometimes negative impact of writing poetry on mortality and mental health."

Take that, Hoks!


from The War Journals of Hillary Clinton, Vol. 1

Oh boy, is this ever rich. The purest kind of forehead smacking, why-didn't-I-think-of-that stuff I've read in a while. Well played, tBone at Balloon Juice, whoe'er ye may be (is it our t-bone?!)...

There was a grunt and a clatter of equipment as Sinbad threw himself down at my side. Sweat glistened on his bare arms, and I could see tendons contracting and relaxing as he squeezed off bursts from his M14. The motion was hypnotic, like a snake about to strike. Perhaps, when all this was over-

No. Concentrate. Focus on the mission. Survive.

A shout from my left drew my head around. Sheryl Crow, guitar still strapped to her back, had taken cover behind a haphazard pile of decaying corpses. Her hair, once lustrous, now lank and greasy, was held back from her eyes by a dirty red headband. Her slim nostrils flared in the dirt-smeared oval of her face, seeking air free of the funeral taint shrouding the airfield. Still, I saw a fierce exultation in her expression that I knew mirrored my own.

Her lithe, nimble fingers stroked the top of an M67 frag grenade, strumming a chord of impending doom. With one quick, economical movement, she plucked the pin free and sent the deadly payload sailing toward the ridge concealing our enemies. My eyes traced the arc, willing it to fly true, to rain death on-

"There!" Sinbad shouted. "The convoy!"

Read the rest...

Update: It seems someone reposted this piece last night at DailyKOS and it was promoted to front page. Unclear if it was the original author. If it wasn't, you know you're good when people flat out steal your stuff!

Does anyone protest at WBC funerals?

Everyone's favorite jackasses, the Westboro Baptist Church (aka GodHatesFags.com), have announced their intention to protest the Sueppels' funeral.


Thank God for six people dead in suspicious circumstances (5 by "an active shooter") in Iowa City, Iowa!God sent the shooter.In punishment for Iowa's sins, and in retaliatory vengeance for Iowa having persecuted WBC. Dt.31:19.WBC to picket their funerals.Yes. WBC will picket their funerals in religious protest and warning; to wit: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Gal. 6:7. God Hates Fags! & Fag-Enablers. Ergo, God hates Iowa; and these 6 people died for Iowa's sins.Furthermore, the evil State of Iowa has persecuted WBC for preaching the truth to Iowa, and has thereby "sown the wind, and is reaping the whirlwind." Hos. 8:7. This message is to be preached in respectful, lawful proximity to their funerals - in full compliance with all laws.Beware of Iowa - Land of the Sodomite damned.


Tragedy in the IC

This morning, at about 6:45, I heard lots of sirens. I didn't think much of it, since Iowa City has a high sirens-to-actual-emergencies ratio, but it turned out to be something bad. A guy who was recently indicted for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hills Bank to support his cocaine habit shot and killed his wife and four kids. He was then on the loose for a spell, giving the University of Iowa a chance to test out its HawkAlert system for something other than weather, before he rammed his minivan into a signpost on 80 and died in the flames.

Everyone at Core Fitness and the East Side Java House this morning was very upset - apparently, the wife was a regular at both spots.


Statement from Provost on MFA Theses

Here's a statement from the interim provost, Lola Lopes, on the MFA situation.

Statement from the Provost Concerning MFA Theses

In recent days a number of people have been upset about what they believed was a plan by our library to publish the creative thesis work of students in our writing programs on the internet without their permission. Let me say as simply and clearly as I can, there is no such plan nor will there be. I regret sincerely that we did not convey this message when students and faculty first voiced their concerns.

For some time now our library, like most major academic research libraries, has been exploring ways to make its collections more accessible by digitizing some materials. As part of that process, there has been discussion about the possibility of making graduate student dissertations and theses available in electronic format. But any such process must be preceded by developing policies and procedures that allow authors to decide whether and when to allow distribution.

On Monday, March 17, I will begin pulling together a working group with representatives from the Graduate College, University Libraries, our several writing programs, and all other constituencies who wish to be part of the process. Under the leadership of Carl Seashore in 1922, Iowa became the first university in the United States to award MFA degrees based on creative projects. Although this has been a rocky start, I like to think that Iowa will again lead the way by developing policies and procedures that safeguard intellectual property rights while preserving materials for the use of scholars in generations to come.

Mmmm ... toadstool ice cream pops

Yum! Nothin' says "tasty treat" like an Amanita muscaria ice cream bar! T brought these home the other day.

The text translates as

Autumn Bars

Fall treat with delicious vanilla
ice cream, crackling candies, and crispy
cacao fantasy on top

They weren't bad. The list of ingredients, thank God, did not include ibotenic acid or muscimol. I did read carefully before eating. I wouldn't put anything past the Dutch -- especially since I found one of these growing here last October.


Thesis uproar makes it into the Daily Iowan

Thesis Policy Sparks Uproar

One interesting thing to note again is the apparent disconnect between the Graduate College and the librarians about scanning theses.

Short version --
GC: yes.
Librarians: no.
GC: the librarians must have misunderstood our edict.

Update: It's also in today's Press-Citizen. The dispute between the GC and the librarians is raised here as well.


So, I'm guessing no Farsi ...

This is a line from one of the "model's" pages at The Emperor's Club:

She also "speaks six of the world's leading languages fluently."


Theses and Google Print

Many of you likely received this email from Kembrew McLeod via Thisbe, but if not, here you go. If you would like to oppose this project (which does sound rather dodgy) email him ASAP at kembrew at kembrew dot com.

Short version: graduating MFA students must sign a release form in order to graduate - this form says that their theses will be posted in full online.

(Apologies for the formatting - I deleted a couple of other people's names in case they didn't want them out on the global interwebs)



Apparently, the U of Iowa has entered into a deal whereby MFA writing theses will be placed online, in full, as content fodder for Google's ad-driven Print project. You know my positions on copyright and open flows of information, but this policy -- which requires students to sign off on this if they want to graduate -- seems really misguided.

There is a meeting about the policy this Friday, March 14, and I'm trying to gather opinions about this plan from other writers, so I thought I would check to see how you would feel about this, if you were a student. Also, feel free to pass along this email to any other concerned>> writers; tell them they can email me their opinions -- kembrew at kembrew dot com -- by Thursday, March 13.

I'll include an email I have written to the person who is representing the MFA students in the meeting on Friday, in case you want more background:

[Name of person representing MFA students],

After doing research on this issue over the weekend and informally polling several writers, editors, agents, UI writing program alums, and copyright experts I know, I can unequivocally say that this has to be one of the most poorly thought out, misguided, and perhaps truly stupid and irresponsible policies this university has attempted to ram down down our throats. (Where's the transparency? The clause just magically appeared on the deposit forms? Amazing!) I urge you to convey these sentiments to [the dean] in your meeting on Friday, because this policy cannot stand, particularly for MFA theses. Here is why: I think students who write creative theses (or translation works, and probably other kinds of writing that need to be considered) should have the option to withhold their work from an open access, online form of distribution -- though they should of course continue to be published as hard copies with the libraries.

On one hand, having a scholarly thesis or dissertation available more widely is a win-win for everyone -- the scholar who gets quoted, those who stumble across a dissertation on a topic they are researching, etc. On the other hand, I think creative work is qualitatively different. I can understand why some wouldn't want that work circulating widely and easily, for either artistic or economic reasons. That is because we are talking about different worlds -- the economies and professional norms of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, journalism, essay writing, academic writing, and other genres are all quite different -- so I can see why students (and faculty) are uncomfortable (or angry) about this. They can't all be lumped together with a uniform university publishing policy. You know my positions on copyright and the importance of free flows of information, but I also understand why some writers would want to keep control of their texts, because in many instances, theses aren't really considered completed works in certain fields. It's more of a process. God knows, I wouldn't want some of my grad school essays and papers being published, or my senior undergrad honors thesis published widely. When I was a student I saw this sort of writing as more of a fulfillment of the degree, and a learning process, rather than a publishing contract. Inversely, there are instances when a MF (or translation) thesis may in fact be the final product, more or less, and I can also understand why they do not want that work published in this way.

Speaking to this concern, I talked to my literary agent about this yesterday, one who represents both marginal academics and well-known authors, and who has been in publishing since 1972. Her first reaction was that this mode of distribution would be a cause for concern for some book editors, and might cause them to pass on a manuscript. It's not like she's wing-nut RIAA copyright lawyer; she supported me in getting Random House to distribute a free pdf copy of my entire book, Freedom of Expression. However, that was a decision I made on my own, because it worked for me. I'd hate to see a blanket policy imposed on other writers.

Anyway, it's not as if any student attending the University of Iowa has entered into a publishing contract with the school, so why does the university have the right to publish their work and use it as content fodder for Google's ad-driven Print project? Especially when students are paying UI tuition! As a labor issue, this is totally unfair and exploitative.

I'll be forwarding you some outraged emails from UI alums and nationally known writers, as well as one from a copyright expert, who is also known for his championing of libraries and open flows of information. [He] feels this policy is "alarming," as he put it, while responses from other writers contain four-letter words that probably shouldn't be included in an official university email or memo. I'm also passing along [another person's] endorsement of the NWP students' opposition to this plan.

Best, Kembrew


Cognitive dissonance

I saw this headline when I came into work this afternoon: Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring. Hello, cognitive dissonance! I can't get over it. What a fucking idiot. I mean, COME ON. I hope he resigns immediately so that elected Democrats don't look as hypocritical as elected Republicans do. (Also, Eliot Spitzer's wife is hot and smart. What the fuck?)

I don't know if you guys are like this, but every so often, I imagine running for something. Like water commissioner. And then I think back upon my really rather benign past and decide that if I were to run for office, the press would dig up a damning photo of me, like the time I went as a uterus to a Halloween party in college. Or any number of drunken photos. Or snippy emails I sent before I realized that email lacks the nuance required for difficult interpersonal situations.

My point is that don't you think that if you're in public office you might want to, I don't know, eliminate your illegal activities? Especially when you MUST be in the sights of all the huge financial-services firms you (rightly) forced into changing their underhanded ways?

Turdblossom dissed in the IC yesterday

From the Daily Iowan:
Boos exuberantly punctuated the UI Lecture Committee's introduction and dozens in the audience stood, turning their backs when President Bush's former deputy chief of staff and top aide took the stage. A woman charged up an aisle, her hands shaking, as she called for Rove to be arrested. And in a row near the front, a veteran told a different 84-year-old veteran to "F--- off" when he asked him to stop shouting.
Did any of you go to this? Very unusual rudeness shown by IC citizens. But then Mr. Rove was an unusual deputy chief of staff.

Bad line of the week

"'And what, exactly, is this supposed to be?' I say, poking the lump of red Jello-O. It jiggles outrageously, like a breast I once knew." -- from Water For Elephants

Anything you've read lately struck you as really, really bad?


Clearly, I was born 40 years too late

I'm going to go smack around the girl at Dunkin' Donuts now.

Stuff White People Like

You all may already have seen this site, but if not, I present to you one of the items on the list of Stuff White People Like:
It’s no secret. White people want to be writers. Why wouldn’t they? Work 10 hours a week from a country house in Maine or England. Get called a genius by other white people, and maybe get your book made into a film.

Every single white person harbors this dream. No matter what they tell you, all of them have at least one chapter of a novel stashed away somewhere.

Being a marginally crafty race, white people will often seek out every possible route to achieving this goal, and one of the most popular methods has been writers workshops.

These are expensive mini go-to-school type vacations. Where you talk with a published writer (often someone you haven’t heard of, but they have a book on Amazon) who will tell you how they became writers. If there is time, they will listen to you read your stuff and tell that you it’s good but it needs work on a) structure, b) characters, c) dialogue. Then they will collect their check and go back to their country house or studio apartment in New York.



So I'm an Obama delegate to the Johnson County Democratic Convention, which is on 3/15. I just received the rulebook, and in looking through it, I found a couple of interesting things:

1. When you show up at the convention, you go into a preference group, like at the caucuses. But you do NOT have to go into the preference group of the candidate whose supporters elected you at the caucuses.

2. There are viability rounds like at the caucuses. So if a candidate's supporters don't surpass 15% of the seated delegates at the county convention, they either have to realign or just remain nonviable and not be able to seat any delegates at the district or state conventions. This could be interesting - what will the Edwards delegates do? He got 30% of the delegates at the caucuses, after all. And I think Richardson got a few, too.

County delegates translate into a smaller number of district and state convention delegates, which in turn get translated into a smaller number of Iowa delegates to the national convention. Seems as if whatever projections are out there for Iowa delegates to both Clinton and Obama could change.

For more info, see here.

Profile of Elizabeth McCracken

in the River Cities' Reader. She'll be doing a reading at Augustana College March 13.


The Importance of Print

As I tie-in to the lying gangbanger ("O.G. Homie"? Someone really bought that?), I bring you a photo of the press corps' current office for the Clinton campaign. Looking at it, I'm kind of astonished anyone would try so hard as to lie or whatever to be a writer of any sort. I guess it's a way to obtain love, fame, and respect without having to learn how to play guitar, throw a touchdown, or sing. That's pretty much the only explanation I can come up with.

This explains a lot

From a Cracked article on weird things that happen to be true:

"In 1933, group of wealthy businessmen that allegedly included the heads of Chase Bank, GM, Goodyear, Standard Oil, the DuPont family and Senator Prescott Bush tried to recruit Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler to lead a military coup against President FDR and install a fascist dictatorship in the United States. And yes, we're talking about the same Prescott Bush who fathered one US President and grandfathered another one."


Publishing, a Complete Tool Shed

This kind of stuff makes me want to suit-up in my Fireman uniform and get book burning.

From Gawker:

"Before her publisher Penguin Group realized she was a liar and recalled her memoir, Margaret Seltzer gave an interview on Penguin's website and, probably, in press kits distributed to book reviewers. The interview is chock-full of quotes from Seltzer about her life as an impoverished gang banger raised in a Los Angeles ghetto by a foster parent called "Big Mom." The statements of course look absurd and hilarious, since everyone now knows Seltzer was raised by her biological parents in a nice suburb, where she attended private school and was not a member of a gang at all. Go read Seltzer's lies, issued under her pen name "Margaret Jordan," while they are still up on Penguin's website, or just take in highlights, after the jump.

One of Seltzer's cheaper tricks is a frequent use of urban black slang, which she probably inserted into her speech to bolster her claim of having grown up in South Central LA instead of, like, the San Fernando Valley:

Q: How did this book originate?

A: During my senior year of college one of my professors told me a friend of hers was working on a book and wanted to interview me. I declined. I wasn’t interested in the whole “South-Central-as-petting-zoo” thing. Then my home girl said the teacher might mess around and fail me for rejecting her friend, so I ended up calling the author and doing the interview. She was real nice and asked me if I had ever written anything. I ended up giving her one of a number of short stories I had written for my brothers’ kids and for the kids of my homies serving life sentences. ...

Q: What makes the difference between someone who is able to move up and on and out of the inner city and someone else who follows the trajectory into crime, juvenile detention, prison, and so on?

A: I wish I knew. I’ve got my homeboy who’s doing life who wrote me, “You and OG homie are the only ones who made it out.” Well, OG homie is now locked up. And I can’t even judge.
Requisite irony:

Q: What was it like for you going back and digging up all those painful memories of your childhood and teen years?

A: It was heart wrenching. And the amazing thing is that no matter how many rounds of edits I sat down with, it was heart wrenching each time. Sarah McGrath, my editor at Riverhead Books, said, “Every time I hit a certain page I cry.” I told her, “If you only knew! I hit that same page and cry every time too.”
The more blatant fabrications are also fun:

Q: What was the scene that affected both of you so much? A: It was the scene in which my little sisters and I were walking home from the Korean grocery store and Nishia dropped a carton of milk. It burst open and the milk streamed into the gutter. She burst into tears, begging me not to be mad as she stooped down trying to scrape it all back into the broken carton. I told her I wasn’t mad. But I was. That was a half-gallon of milk wasted and two dollars gone. Even now, as an adult, just thinking about that—thinking about the choices you were given as a child that weren’t kid choices—makes me want to cry. ...

Q: You were 16 when you cooked your first batch of rock cocaine. What led you to do that?

A: Our water had been shut off because Big Mom couldn’t pay the bill. If your water is cut off social services is going to come and say it’s bad living conditions and take the kids out of there. Where I was was cool. I was with people who loved me. I didn’t want us to be split up so I was trying to be part of the solution. That meant bringing in money and getting the water turned back on. Once again that’s not a choice kids should have to make. I knew it was not right—cooking up rock. I knew I was contributing negatively to the community. But the water got put back on the same day. The reward was there. To go from wearing third generation hand-me-downs to wearing name brand everything—when you’re a kid that stuff matters.

Then there are the odd things Seltzer just can't remember. Like the sexual abuse she said she suffered as a child, which in the Q&A she implied was something she "barely remembered." Or the question below, where her repeated shrugs get more than a little suspicious:

Q: Do you think it was a good thing you were removed from your parents’ home and put into the foster care system?

A: Who knows? Who can say? What would have happened if I hadn’t been put into the system? To answer that you have to enter the realm of speculation and I try not to get caught up in “would have,” “should have,” and “could have.” What I can say is that I’m a strong person and that I’m very proud of the person I am today. I don’t have a lot of room for regrets, especially over choices I didn’t have.

Seltzer was also tired of her 'hood being stereotyped:

Q: What’s the biggest misconception people have about South Central, about gangs, about the ghetto? A: Where to start? You meet someone and they ask where you’re from. If you say South Central they immediately ask if you were in a gang. Of course not everyone was, but then you’re embarrassed when you have to say, “Yeah I was.” And then they ask if you ever killed anybody. What? Who would ask that of anybody? There’s this whole misconception that we’re all cold-hearted killers, drinking forties out of paper bags, driving around in low riders—Bloods looking for CRIPs; CRIPs looking for Bloods—trying to shoot each other all night long. At one point I was showing my agent around my old neighborhood. We were shooting a video for the book. She said it was so much nicer than she thought it was going to be and that people were so friendly. We went to a local park and this couple walked up to us. I could see the camera crew suddenly got nervous. In my head I’m thinking, what do you think is going to happen? But then the couple was nice and all I could do was smile.

Sometimes you wonder why anyone believed Seltzer, particularly while listening to her weaker, more simpleminded lies and tricks:

Q: Throughout the book, when presenting dialogue, you write in slang. You also replace the c’s in many words with k’s. Why?

A: You have to find a balance. You want to make the book understandable to the average reader in the suburbs but you also want it to be realistic. I’m not going to walk into a store and say, “Hi. How are you doing? Nice to meet you!” I felt if I did that in the book something would be lost. And I want people to understand how deep-seated the hatred really is between CRIPs and Bloods. CRIPs celebrate C-days rather than B-days (birthdays) and Bloods smoke bigarettes not cigarettes. The hate is so deep that, as a Blood, you automatically change the spelling in words with a c in them.

Then there are the downright weird lies, where it seems like Seltzer is making it up as she goes along and lets herself go off on a tangent. Like in her story about the cop who buys pit bulls from gangster dog breeders:

Q: My understanding is that you’re an “inactive” gang member—that you’ve been given permission by the gang to step down from activity but are still considered friendly, and thus protected. Is that the case?

A: Am I “inactive?”

I don’t know. There’s really no such thing. I breed pit bulls and just took some down to Los Angeles for this guy. He said, “I saw your photo on My Space. You’re a Blood, right?” I told him I was a Blood once upon a time. He said he’d never heard of such a thing as an ex-gang member. I asked where he was from and he told me he was a police officer. "
If any agents are reading this, I am currenty shopping Mens Rea, Bitches! Devora Feces et Morimini: Tha Fo Shizzle Truth-o-dillo o the Krazy Gangsta Gs, Boy!!!: The True Story of A Law School Faculty Member.

The not-so-little differences

Over the past year we've accumulated first-hand examples of startling cultural differences between people we're meeting in Holland and Americans. From casual scatology to graphic sexual innuendo to pointed insinuations about one's significant other, folks here are much more willing to venture willy-nilly into bluntness, regardless of present company or circumstances or how well they know you. A counter-intuitive discovery, given the stereotypes. But consider the following:

I was asking our tax guy's assistant to explain a surprisingly large bill we got from the city. "This number is the property tax," she said. "And this is, how do you call it -- foulness?" "Garbage." "Yes, garbage. And this is for the foul water -- you know, when you flush and the turd goes down?"

T was talking to a colleague about a writer whose work she is editing. She said he wasn't very clear, wasn't good, even though he appears to be the top of his field. Guy says, "Well, when you are in the toilet and have to pee you must pull down your panties, and so must he." We're guessing this is some Dutch version of everyone having to put their pants on one leg at a time.

First class back from the holiday break, one girl in T's Dutch lesson took one look at another and exclaimed, "______! You got fat!"

An acquaintance offered his opinion that when T first arrived, she didn't look so good, but now she's better looking. This was while talking to both of us. He felt free to cheerfully speculate, "Now, if I slept with her, how long would it take you to forgive me?"

Another acquaintance cautioned me that if T did not do well on her impending Dutch test, I should "give her a good spanking." He proceeded to illustrate by holding my imaginary wife over his knee and playfully swatting her with his palm. He felt it necessary to add a little dance to it, shuffling sideways and swaying his own backside to some sort of interior soundtrack as the performance went on for, I thought, a tad too long.

Then we have a fellow -- a cross between Cap'n Crunch and Captain Kangaroo, but more "pirate-y" -- who never fails to seek us out and make some suggestive remarks. "My moustache is curly from oral sex," is a typical one. He claims to be a shaman and, recently, has identified our spirit animals. "Yours," he says to T, "is a big bird, an eagle. Always flying, high up in the air!" His eyes are wide, his arms open. "You want to go, go, go, and try new experiences.

"Yours," he says, turning to me and frowning, "is a little black bird -- a crow. He flies lower. He is dark. He is closed. He looks up and says, 'Oh, there's that big bird again.' He thinks the big bird is eating him. You want to try new experiences, but you say to yourself, no, I don't want to. I think you should try! She is flying very high and very fast, and you are low to the ground, flapping and flapping." He brings his hands up to his shoulders and flaps them pitifully. "And this is what I see between the two of you." Big friendly hands on our shoulders, he suggests getting together for a 'session.'

"I will give you my Web site." He writes down the URL on a coaster -- which I will not be linking to. "Don't scare!" he says, "but it is BDSM. That is my thing."

I cover my face with my hands, peek with desperation at my empty glass, and cry out down the bar, "Can I, for Christ's sake, get a beer down here?" Our interlocutor's twinkling gaze moves, like a minute hand, from me to T.

"Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism," he clarifies. "I am a master. Everyone knows me. But it's only ... if you want it." He then mentions -- so, so casually! -- that another acquaintance of ours is his 'submissive.'

To T: "When you are under me..." -- this is helpfully illustrated by some gentle arrangement of his hands -- "I never do anything you don't want. I have a rope. Many people," glancing at me, "are afraid of such new experiences. But I say, try it, and if you don't like it, don't do it!"

My beer comes, and I down about a third of it. "I'm not afraid," I say.

"No, not afraid. Just closed, like the black bird."

"Well, I'm not sure you're on the right track here."

I'm not even sure what that means. I don't want to take offense, since I believe none was meant, but I'm not sure how to ease him off this topic. T, meanwhile, is ready to bust a gut.

He raises his palms. "It's just -- what I feel."


Eventually he drifts away, leaving in his wake bafflement, titillation, squirming, hushed comparison of notes, and unbidden mental images of the Quaker Oats guy in studded black leather wielding a riding crop. In my best moments I like to see myself as a worldly and sophisticated ambassador of good will -- a friend of ours here calls us the "unamericans," meaning atypical -- but by gosh if I'm not often reminded that deep down I'm just a small-town Midwesterner, picking my way through a slightly alien land.


Possibly final primary predictions

What do you think will happen tomorrow? I'll go out on a limb and say Obama wins Texas, Ohio, and Vermont, and loses Rhode Island by 4%. In this way he puts the thing to bed. Clinton concession by Friday. And ... um ... free beer everywhere.


A Little Trouble with the Facts

Last night in Amsterdam, fellow 'Shopper ('06, I believe) Nina Siegal read from her recently published first novel A Little Trouble with the Facts, which PW calls "chick lit meets Raymond Chandler" and her Dutch publisher calls chick noir (the book is being translated into Dutch). A packed house and many questions after her reading of this glamour/gutter crime novel's Chapter 1, about a former big paper style queen, demoted to obits, who gets sucked into investigating a suicide. Nina came to Holland on a Fullbright to work on her second novel, which features characters from a Rembrandt painting -- and decided to stay.