Thursday, August 12, 2010

An interrupted blog

It's such a beautiful day here in Alaska. The forecast is for about three more beautiful days. Hang on...

"Hi folks. Welcome to Ketchikan. What can I help you find?"
"No thanks, we're just looking... Thanks."

Ok back to my blog. Hang on...
"Hi folks..."

Ok, this requires a different format, if people are going to keep walking in the door:

Elias: (He spies two people walking into the door, interrupting his blog writing. It is a very VERY old man with a huge smile and gleaming white dentures, with his wife, very similar in age, but minus the smile) Hi folks. Welcome to Alaska!

Old man: Answer me a question here, son. You're a furrier, right? Well answer me this. I've got a question for ya. (The old man with the gleaming white smile approaches the $25,000 chinchilla coat) How much is this coat right here? Right here, son?

Elias: (This is an easy question, and Elias is ready.) That coat, sir, retails for $25,000 dollars. (He says this proudly and with the confidence of knowing that this is, in fact, the correct answer.)

Old man: Hey HEY now, but look at these pelts. These are glued together, right?

Elias: (He thinks for a second... are they glued? No, they're sewn. He's seen a hundred mink coats, the pelts let out and sewn. But chinchilla? Are they glued or sewn? Sewn of course, who would glue furs together? That's absurd!) These pelts are sewn together sir, by professional furriers in Chatsworth, California.

Old man: No, hear me now, these are glued. Glued and sewn! (He says this with the brightest smile, a smile that would blind a bat.)

Elias: Well sir... (glued and sewn? Surely not. I'm the furrier, who is this guy? But then again, he is very old and most likely wise... maybe he knows something I don't? No, stick to your guns! They're SEWN!) Sir, I assure you that we use no glue in our manufacturing process. Yes, we are manufacturers. We make these goods! These are chinchilla pelts sir, the finest pelts when it comes to fur, and the most expensive. I assure you we would not subject such goods to glue. We sew these. And by the way, this $25,000 dollar coat is on sale for only $12,500. And that's before the 10% discount! Why, you could walk out the door with this coat for a mere $10,000!

Old man: (The old man has moved on to the rex rabbit coat, apparently oblivious to all of the previous expounding by Elias) This is the finest fox I've ever felt!

Elias: Sir, that is rex rabbit.

Old man: What's that?

Elias: Rex rabbit sir. It's in the same family as the chinchilla. Not like your domestic rabbit, the kind you probably saw 40 years ago. Those shed. These don't shed... it's a much more dense, durable fur. Almost like chinchilla.

Old man: So Rex is still alive, is he? Well I'll be damned!

Elias: (Rex? Ok, either this old man is senile or he's messing with me.) Yes sir, Rex is alive and well. He supplies us with these rex rabbit coats! Alive and kicking, sir.

Old man: Well, that's about what I figured! (He and his silent wife head towards the door) Still alive, eh? Well don't that beat all!

Elias: Yes sir, it'll take more than a couple of world wars to do in Rex!

Old man: (laughs) Well, I thought so! Have a good day there, ok?

Elias: And you enjoy the rest of your cruise sir!

Old man: Now hang on there, son. Do you have any... starts with a B...

Elias: Beaver?

Old man: Nah, not beaver...

Elias: Broadtail?

Old man: Nah, not that either... lets see, starts with a B...

Elias: (what else starts with a B?) Uh... fitch?

Old man: EXXXX-Actly! Fitch! So, do you have any of that?

Elias: Actually, right there at the door, sir, that coat is mink with fitch inserts.

Old man: (examines the coat intently for a few seconds) So it is! Fitch, right there! See, honey? (he motions towards his wife, indicating the coat. She remains silent) Fitch! Well I'll be.

Elias: Yes sir, fitch. Mink with fitch inserts.

Old man: (walking out the door) Well, I thought so! Ok, we're off! Come on honey.

Elias: Enjoy the rest of your cruise!

Ok, back to the blog. By the way, what did you folks (assuming anyone is reading this) think of that? Quite an encounter, huh? Kind of fun, yeah? Alright, now I've forgotten what I was originally going to blog about. But that's enough, I think.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A realization

Why do I worry? Why am I depressed? Why do I despair? These are useless feelings. I just realized that in the midst of worry, sadness and despair, I can be happy because God is with me. This feeling will probably fade, but it's at moments like this when God talks to me that strengthen my faith, and gives me hope that eventually everything really will be ok, just as God promised me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Power - by Daniil Kharms

Faol said: "We sin and do good blindly. A bailiff was riding his bicycle. Suddenly, when he reached the Kazan Cathedral, he disappeared. Does he know what he was meant to accomplish, good or evil? Or take this case: an actor bought a fur coat. It could be supposed that he did a good deed to the old woman who, needing money, sold him that fur coat. Yet he also most likely did harm to another old woman, his mother, who lived with him and usually slept in the entry hall where the actor used to hang his coat, because the new fur coat smelled so unbearably of mothballs that one day the old woman, the actor's mother, was not capable of waking up, and she died. Or again - a graphologist somehow so soaked himself up with vodka and did such things that Colonel Dibich himself would not have been able to make head or tails of it, what was good and what was bad. To distinguish sin from good is very difficult."

Myshin, poring over Faol's words, fell off his chair. "Hoho," he said, lying on the floor, "hi hi."

Faol went on: "Let's take love. It can appear good and it can appear bad. On one hand, we are told, 'You should love,' and on the other hand, we are told, 'You should not coddle.' Perhaps it is better not to love at all to begin with? But we are told, 'You should love.' But if you love - you will coddle. What are we to do? Perhaps we should love, but not in that way? Then why do all nations use one and the same word to represent love like that and also love that is not like that? Another young actor loved his mother and also a very young, plumpish girl. And he loved them in different fashions. He would give the girl most of his pay. his mother was hungry quite often, but the girl drank and ate enough for three. The actor's mother lived in the entryway on the floor, but the girl had two nice rooms at her disposal. The girl had four coats, the mother one. And lo and behold, the actor took this one coat from his mother and spoiled the girl, but he did not coddle his mother. He loved her with a pure love. However, the actor feared his mother's death, though he did not fear the death of the girl. And when his mother died, the actor cried, and when the girl fell out the window and also died, the actor did not cry, but found himself another girl. It follows that one values a mother as unique, like a rare postage stamp, which one cannot replace with another one."

"Ho ho," said Myshin, lying on the floor, "Khokho."

Faol continued: "And this is called pure love! Is such a love good? If it is not, how is one to love? One mother loved her child. This child was two and a half years old. The mother would carry him into a park and set him down in the sand. Other mothers also brought their children to the same place. Sometimes as many as forty little children were bunched together in the sandbox. And one day a mad dog rushed into this park, ran right up to the children and started to bite them. Mothers, including our mother, rushed to their children, screaming. Sacrificing herself, she leaped at the dog and grabbed her child, as it seemed to her, out of the dog's mouth. But when she had snatched the little boy away, she saw that it was not her child, and she threw him back to the dog in order to seize her own little boy, who was lying right next to her, and save him from death. Who will answer my question: did she commit a sin or did she do a good deed?"

"Hyu hyu," said Myshin, rolling on the floor.

Faol went on: "Does a stone sin? Does a tree sin? Does an animal sin? Or does only a human being sin?"

"Hm hm," said Myshin listening to Faol's words, "shup shup."

Faol went on: "If only human beings sin, this means that the sins of the world are to be found in the human being himself. Sin does not enter into human beings, it only comes out of of them. That is similar to food: human beings eat good things and evacuate bad things out of themselves. There are no bad things in the world, only that which has passed through human beings can become bad."

"Mnph," said Myshin, trying to lift himself up from the floor.

Faol continued: "I have been speaking about love. I have been speaking about those states of ours to which we apply the single word 'love'. Is that a mistake in the language, or are all those states one and the same? The love of a mother for her boy, the love of a son for his mother, the love of a man and a woman - can it be that all those are one and the same love?"

"Definitely," said Myshin, nodding his head.

Faol said, "Yes, I think the essence of love remains the same regardless of who loves whom. Every human being is given a certain quantity of love. And every human being seeks to apply this love somewhere without taking off his little fuselages. The revelation of the mysteries of the transformations of the petty qualities of our heart, similar to a heap of sawdust -"

"Get!" Myshin shouted, jumping up off the floor. "Out of my sight!"

And Faol crumbled like a pile of bad sugar.


An excerpt from 'The Old Woman' by Daniil Kharms - translated by George Gibian


"I want to ask you something," I said finally. "Do you believe in God?"

A horizontal wrinkle appeared across Sakerdon Mikhailovich's forehead, and he spoke: "Some actions are impolite. It is impolite to ask a man to lend us fifty rubles after we have just watched him put two hundred into his pocket. He either has to lend us the money or refuse, and the most convenient and pleasant manner of refusing is to lie and say that one doesn't have the money. You saw the man had the money and hence you deprived him of the possibility of refusing you simply and pleasantly. You deprived him of the right of choice, and that is a dirty trick. That is an impolite and tactless action. And to ask a man, 'Do you believe in God?' - that too is a tactless and impolite action."

"Why," I said, "that's quite different."

"I'm not comparing it," Sakerdon Mikhailovich said.

"All right," I said, "never mind. Just excuse me for asking you such an impolite and tactless question."

"All right," Sakerdon Mikhailovich said. "I simply refused to answer you."

"I wouldn't answer either," I said, "but for a different reason."

"What reason?" Sakerdon Mikhailovich asked weakly.

"You see," I said, "I don't think there are people who believe or who don't believe. There are only people who want to believe and people who want not to believe."

"That means that the ones who want not to believe already believes in something," Sakerdon Mikhailovich said, "and those who want to believe already, beforehand, don't believe in something?"

"Perhaps, even in mortality," I said.

"So why did you ask me if I believe in God?"

"Simply in order to ask you, 'Do you believe in mortality?' It sounds sort of stupid," I said to Sakerdon Mikhailovich, and I got up.

"What are you doing, going away?"

"Yes," I said, "it's time for me to go."

Here is the entire story, albeit a slightly different translation.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Last night I awoke to the sound of screams. No, not my own... I was sleeping peacefully. They were coming from outside; I could hear them through the open window. At first I thought it was just some drunk person yelling his head off, because the screams were just inarticulate howls. The screaming stopped for about half a minute, and then I heard a woman screaming. Then the man started screaming again. They screamed together for a while, and I began to realize that these weren't just inarticulate howls; they were screams of anguish, of dire pain, of heart wrenching agony. And I began to make out what they were saying:


I jumped up and looked out the window. The screams were emerging from a house about 150 yards away and up the hill. I could make out the silhouettes of two people moving behind curtained windows, moving frantically back and forth.


I grabbed the binoculars but still couldn't make anything out beyond the two shadows moving inside the house. I stood there and watched for a long time, until the screams finally abated and the shadows stopped moving. I never heard sirens and emergency vehicles never showed up, at least, not while I was still awake. I finally went back to sleep and dreamed that I was watching the death of a dear friend tangled up in power lines as I dialed 911.

A worldwide phenomenon

Apparently it's not just restricted to the 7-Eleven on Oak St. in Denton Texas... as I have consistently observed here, people from all over the world seem to experience a sudden drop of at least 50 IQ points upon entering stores. From this wide sampling of data, I can only extrapolate that this must be a worldwide phenomenon... ranging from beer and cigarette vendors to high dollar retail stores that sell $25,000 chinchilla coats, including all variations in between and all cultures, both male and female.

I consider this valuable data. How does one go about acquiring a Nobel, I wonder? I could sure use the money.