Monday, December 22, 2014

Damocles Had Nothing To Do With It. It Was Cassandra All The Way For Sippican

Cassandra, daughter of the king and queen, in the temple of Apollo, exhausted from practising, is said to have fallen asleep; whom, when Apollo wished to embrace her, she did not afford the opportunity of her body. On account of which thing, when she prophesied true things, she was not believed.
THE GAS TANK OF DAMOCLES (first offered in 2012) 

Let me wax philosophical about my wife's gas tank.

We drive old vehicles. I don't like driving old vehicles. The reliability of your transportation is paramount. Old cars break down. Buying a new car is a form of insurance against risk. But real insurance against risk is unavailable, or illegal, for such as us, with one exception -- personal avoidance of risk at all costs.

My wife saw a piece of metal hanging below the car that looked as out of place as an honest man in Congress. One of the two straps that held the gas tank from dragging on the road had rusted clean through and broken. The other strap looked as reliable as cell phone service in a tunnel. Something must be done, and immediately.

My family never goes anywhere much now. We cannot hope to weather much bad luck with our own meager resources, and we cannot rely on others, so we keep our heads down. We were lucky that we discovered the problem in our driveway, instead of on the highway. You might think us daft for being grateful for a broken gas tank strap in our driveway, but we were. We were doubly grateful that it wasn't February, as well. So we offered our hosannahs. Now what to do?

In a fiscal landscape that made any sense, I'd pay a mechanic to repair the car. There's a fellow down the street --walking distance, what a luxury for us ---and he's honest and could use the money. He's my neighbor. But I poked around and found out that the repair would cost maybe $750 at a dealer. The mechanic down the street might only command half that, but it's still too much. I'd have to fix it myself.

I do not enjoy fixing my car. I've done it, back when I was young and Gerry Ford and Jimmy Carter were desolating the landscape, but I have no natural ability or affinity for it. But I went to Amazon, and found the correct parts, and ordered them, and crawled under the car and fixed it. My older son is old enough to help now, thank goodness. I am somewhat infirm in certain ways, and to lay vaguely upside-down under a car yanking on rusty bolts nearly overcame me. But after two days of effort interspersed with trips to the fainting couch, we had replaced the parts. The repair will outlast the car.

I did not earn money by fixing my own car, of course --just the opposite. The mechanic did not earn money. The people who rely on the mechanic to earn money will not earn money, and so forth. Ultimately, through a process which must be deduced, because it cannot be observed, this lack of commerce will ultimately filter its way through the entire economy to the point where someone will not buy what I make because I didn't hire the mechanic. It's the circle of life, except it's the circle of the death of commerce.

I am barraged daily with references to Helicopter Ben running the Treasury printing presses day and night, and thereby causing inflation. It's an insane idea. When the velocity of money sniffs zero, there is no inflation. The Fed makes money and gives it to the government, who lends it to itself, and none of it ever makes it into the wild where a car mechanic and his downstream brethren might get ahold of it. For productive people in today's American economy, the money might as well not exist. The bill for it will exist plenty in the future, of course. But when the velocity of money is zero, the future must be entirely discounted. It's a meaningless concept, like watching an unplugged clock.

The term velocity referring to the passage of money through the alimentary canal of commerce is very descriptive, and apt to my circumstances. The economy is in exactly the same shape as my wife's gas tank -- filled with fuel which only makes it sag on its rusty underpinnings further, making it more difficult to fix, and dangerous to be underneath, but you must bang around under there anyway because there's no other choice.  Nervous Nellies endlessly warn me that if it was all released at once, it would explode, but that eventuality is remote compared to going hungry because we can't drive to the supermarket until it's fixed. Above all, the fuel isn't taking you anywhere because the whole apparatus is busted, and the process to fix it is busted, and if you want it fixed you better do it yourself because nobody outside a building with a seal on it has any money.

It's hard to work under the gas tank of Damocles.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Interview in Hovels and Shovels Magazine

Knowing that my regular readers are curious about my current circumstances, and probably eager to finally get a glimpse of ol' Sippican, it occurred to me to save time for everyone by reprinting a copy of my recent interview in Hovels and Shovels magazine. The publisher has graciously agreed to let me reprint it here by not returning my emails, texts, phone calls, and one registered letter; and by turning off the lights when he saw me pull into his dooryard last night. 

A subscription to Hovels and Shovels comes free with every fill-up at the West Paris McDonald's recycled grease tractor-fuel depot, or you can find it at news stands everywhere in the New Sweden area. Besides this stunning 3 x 5 glossy print of me relaxing between tantric stump grinding sessions, there's a centerfold picture of June Lockhart in her Reynold's Wrap jumpsuit from Lost In Space in there, too. Hubba hubba. Enjoy:

Catching Up With Sippican: The Man, The Myth, The Man Some More

By: Edna St. Vincent Malaise
Photos by: Paco Manraybanne 

Hovels and Shovels: Thanks for taking time out from your grueling schedule to speak with us. We're curious. Why the compression bandage on your right knee?
Sippican: It's an old candlepin bowling injury. It acts up on me when I genuflect. It also signals the coming of winter and tax bills. 
H&S: Taxes and winter. Are those two things related somehow?
Sippican: Well, the tax bills last all year. Winter is only eleven months long, so I don't see the connection. 
H&S: I see. On to another topic, your neighbors say you're a very spiritual man. 
Sippican: It's a damn lie. I drink as much Allen's Coffee Brandy as the next fellow, but I haven't been up in front of a judge in almost a fortnight. 
H&S: I see. Do you have a favorite Allen's Coffee Brandy cocktail?
Sippican: Well, there's the Lewiston Martini. That's coffee brandy and milk. I'm partial to the Burnt Trailer, myself. 
H&S: What's that?
Sippican: Coffee brandy and Moxie. 
H&S: What's it taste like?
Sippican: I don't know. No one can ever remember. I imagine it tastes like a Welfare Mom. 
H&S: What's that?
Sippican: Coffee brandy and Diet Moxie. 
H&S: Let's move on. 
Sippican: Last time I was told to move on, I ended up in Maine.
H&S: Change the subject, I mean.
Sippican: You're the doctor. 
H&S: It's currently four below zero. You're wearing shorts.
Sippican: Yes, but not to worry; they're lined. 
H&S: With what?
Sippican: Me.
H&S: Is that an LL Bean hammock?
Sippican: Never heard of him.
H&S: You never heard of LL Bean?
Sippican: I don't care for your tone, young lady. Ask him if he's heard of me. If he says yes, you can call me a liar, but not before.
H&S: Are those tribal tattoos?
Sippican: I get that question a lot, especially when I'm being frisked. No, my mom used to buy all my clothes at Marden's, and I accidentally put on one of my shirts when it was still a little wet. It's been fourteen years, but it's starting to fade a bit, I think.
H&S: That's an interesting book you're reading. Translating the Word of God
Sippican: Well, I used to guest-post on God's blog, and I wanted to make sure this Beekman fellow didn't take any liberties.
H&S: God has a blog?
Sippican: Yeah, but it's on Weebly, so pretty much no one reads it.
H&S: What's on God's blog?
Sippican: Recipes, mostly. 
H&S: Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to us. 
Sippican: You got any jumper cables?      

Monday, December 15, 2014

For Some Inscrutable Reason, Google's Robot Reads This Story Every Day


From: The Devil's In The Cows, by Sippican Cottage
 Oh yeah. Just.

"Accommodated." Beautifully put. The place is full of men never cracked a spine except in a fight, and the proprietor puts up a sign that reads: ACCOMMODATED. How about: PUT UP, and PUT UP WITH? Farmed? Stacked like cordwood? Buried like a Pharoah's handlers -- still alive but not going anywheres?

I climb the steps feeling like those Aztec fellows must have felt on the way to the top of those big stone wedding cakes they were partial to, in line to have their hearts tugged out -- we were both born to appease some god with a perpetual toothache. The world is more of a theoretical place now, but that just means you can have your heart extracted every day and it grows back for the next. Like Sisyphus in the school book. No, that's the guy with the rolling stone. No matter; it's the same sort of story, anyhow.

There's no call for stacking one stone atop another right now, never mind just rolling one around. The last stone we got to push uphill got rolling a pretty good clip, and a body got winded real fast chasing it down the hill. After a while, perhaps a regular guy can be forgiven for thinking he might like to stop and rest a spell, then try again later. By the time he's picked himself up and dusted himself off, that rock has rolled all the way out of sight. But even a man prone to fooling himself can't help but notice that the place he chose to stop and rest has a row of bottles behind the counter.

The house itself is like a woman grown old, missing a few teeth, gone thick and manly. But you can tell the ruin used to be something. The old frame shows something of the heretofores. I heard tell a captain of local industry built it to prove to everybody that he had finally made it big in this old world. He said prove it to everybody, but really meant to himself, I'll bet. The bank took it from him the minute a dark cloud appeared on the horizon, and showed him that the world has no opinion. Now find somewhere else that'll accommodate you. The old dust-catcher and soul collector is currently accommodating the men who heard about the fishing or the potatoes or the blueberry farms or the logging. Trouble is, they heard about two decades ago.

The inside shows nothing of the exalted past except the ghostly outlines on the plaster where every bit of the extravagant gimcrack was removed. If it was worth a damn, they pulled it out and reassembled it in a big, new house in Washington, D.C.; no doubt to prove to someone else that they'd finally made it in this world by presiding over the desolation of a lost one. Fitting.

The bank stuck a hard guy behind a counter in the front hall that doesn't care if you pull a razor or a roscoe or a long face or whatever. He collects the money if you got it, our your scalp if you don't. I like him, though, because he treats me the same as the rest. We do our business and he pushes the key across the pockmarked counter and there's no accusation in it. No kindness. Nothing.

It's the nothing you crave. It's -- accommodating.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Sippican's Christmas Roundup 2014

I'm very grateful to a lot of people for a lot of things. Life is hard, I guess, but so many people are kind to me on a regular basis that I've decided that the world is a pleasant place filled with nice people. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Some of the nicer people I could mention are readers here, and they support my sons' efforts via the PayPal tipjar, and you should think about laying some lucre on them this Christmas season. 32 Degrees North has old skool decorations, ornaments, cards, and gifts, the kind we adore here at the Cottage. Every year like clockwork they send my children Advent Calendars, which brings a big smile to their faces and a wistful tear to my eye. They've got Easter stuff, too, which is like Christmas with sightly less snow shoveling, so I like it even better. Go there now, there's no time to waste: 32 Degrees North. 

Our friend Nora Gardner sells lovely dresses that make the guys go hubba hubba on Wall Street without stepping over the demure/brazen hussy line once. Nora's a bright young lady, and she's better looking than the pretty models she's got showing off her dresses, which doesn't seem fair, really.  Her stuff is made right here in New York City.  Nora Gardner

Now for a bit of a ticklish topic. I've gone out of business. Sippican Cottage Furniture and Fastique are no more. I've sold furniture on the Internet for ten years now, which I'm pretty sure is longer than the Internet has existed, but it's dead, Jim. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that's ever purchased anything from me in the past. Many of the people that read this blog are former customers, and I am profoundly grateful for your friendship and patronage.

I have four tables left over, including one Evangeline Table. If you check up at the logo at the top of the blog, they're listed on the navigation bar. Sorry about the pictures; they actually look a lot better than that. You can purchase the tables using your existing Amazon accounts to check out, using a buy now button at the bottom of the page. Shipping is free anywhere in the US, but when they're gone that's it. Many thanks, and Merry Christmas.

Direct links to the tables, if you prefer:
Evangeline Table [Update: Sold, thank you! Many thanks to our friend Charles S!]
Cinnamon Mount Lebanon Table [Update: Sold! Thank you to our friends Thud and Anh!]
Honey Pot Mount Lebanon Table [Update: Sold! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Karen in Massachusetts!]
Walnut Mid Century Modern Table [Update: Sold! Merry Christmas to old friend Paul K!]

Apparently, My Children Have Recorded The Second Best Version Of The Theme From Mondo Cane (More)

I often tell my children, who call themselves Unorganized Hancock when they're performing music, that there's no shame in being Number Two. Over the years the Sippican tribe has often been referred to as Number Two, by many people, and in many different fields of endeavor. It's colored our outlook on life. People respect us because we're Number Two, in a much more fundamental way than if we were Number One or something. I've often heard people caution others, "Look out, don't step on number two," which is a sure sign of respect, bordering on fear.

Anyway, when the Heir and the Spare recorded the Theme From Mondo Cane (More), I told them that was the most Number Two sounding thing I'd ever heard. I mean, it sounded like pure Number Two to my ear. It was that good. Bobby Darin was Number One with that song, so there's no shame in immediately being called Number Two, kids. He's dead, but he's still good. I got to poking around on these here Intertunnels, making sure there weren't any rivals for the Number Two title. I saw Frank Sinostril doing it, but even Nelson Riddle fell asleep halfway through that one. There was some sort of Portuguese fellow doing seventy-five versions of it, and I loved the way he seemed to exude his own hair gel, like a Lakers coach or something, but he'd have to get a lot better to reach the coveted Number Two echelon. Judy Garland did it back when she was still having an eyebrow pencil war with Joan Crawford to see who could influence drag shows in Provincetown, Mass. the most, but it seemed decidedly third-ish to my ear.

Then I found these two stalwart gentlemen, who knocked it right out of the park. It was a foul ball, but it cleared the fence. I think the trumpet turned blue because it's holding its breath trying not to let any air out of the bell, but other than that, the production values are very high. I've suggested to my wife that we buy some of that furniture with mirrors where the wood is supposed to go, so that when the kids record videos in the dining room like these guys do, we can get a better look at the Number Two process while it's happening. 

Anyway, we hope we are a magnanimous tribe, we Sippicans. We like to show courtesy to others. So it's our pleasure to, for just one day, bestow this version of The Theme from Mondo Cane (More) with the honorary title of Number Two. It's so very Number Two.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Time To Take The Sippican Cottage Basic Human Decency Test

Once a year I like to offer the public the Sippican Cottage Basic Human Decency Test.

It's free to take. 

It's not multiple choice.

It does not require a Number 2 Ticonderoga.

It's an open book test. I suggest the 1967 Lewiston White Pages. You know, for the plot. But if you need to look anything up, you've failed already.

The test will be graded on a curve on the road I live on. 

OK, are you ready? Open your examination books. You have two minutes and ten seconds to complete the test.
  • Listen to the music video
  • If it doesn't make you smile, you fail
  • You fail utterly
  • You need a checkup from the neck up
  • You need to go to a mental hospital to get an estimate
If you pass, you're a fundamentally decent human being and you can go about your business. If you failed, I'm coming to look for you, and not with opera glasses, either. I pray that God will turn your hearts, but if he can't, I hope he turns your ankles, so I can recognize you by the limping.

Unorganized Hancock on Facebook, YouTube, and Bandcamp

[Update: The paradigm for the Sippican Cottage Basic Human Decency Test is Kathleen M. from Connecticut, who religiously contributes to our PayPal button. There's a statue of Kathleen in the Basic Human Decency Museum. Many thanks, and Merry Christmas!]
[Up Update: Many thanks and Christmas wishes go out to our friends Thud and Anh for supporting our boys. Their children are much better looking than ours, but we don't hold it against them]
[Upper Update: Many thanks to Francis O., also from the UK, for his contribution to the boys' efforts, and for his kind words. Merry Christmas!]

Saturday, December 06, 2014

I Get Swag

There are only two important videographers working in the milieu today: Knox Harrington, and Stamford Waffles.

Knox won't return my calls because I borrowed his Autobahn records and brought them back scratched, so I hired Stamford to make this video mashup for me. He doesn't come cheap, either; he's demanded 11 years of room and board so far, and I had to set him up with a Flip camera and a Playstation 2.

It was worth it.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Here's Wishing You An Adequate Generic Christmas

Well, when Black Friday comes, I generally strike all the big red words from my little black book instead of going shopping. Any whiff of Christmas before Thanksgiving gets my back up. It gives me restless leg syndrome. Not the kind they advertise on late-night TV, either. The kind where my leg gets restless to, as James Joyce so ably puts it, put a fong in your arse at the cash register. I'm trying to buy a single 1-1/2" plastic pipe coupling at the Aubuchon, and everyone in front of me is buying four fake Christmas trees and paying  with a check on an out-of-state bank. In October.

But now it's December. Surely I can put aside my peeves and petulance and get with the program. Jolly up. Top it off with Christmas Cheer. Remind myself that the lumps of coal Santa brings for guys like me have a lot of BTUs in them, and last a good while in the stove. It's a win/win season for me, even if I do assault a few people in a checkout line.

There's no better way to swing into the true spirit of Christmas than with Unorganized Hancock. They wrote and recorded this original Christmas song last year, and called it the Generic Christmas Song, and like I told them, they only work once, but they can cash the checks forevermore. Christmas songs have no sell-by date.

Little known fact: The Ghost of Jacob Marley is actually Irving Berlin, returning from the grave to tell the RIAA to haunt you for listening to White Christmas without a permit. But my boys wrote this little ditty, so no one can sue us, except maybe for emotional distress or something else that doesn't show up on an X-ray very well.

The wonder of Generic Christmas Song is that it's the only recording by Unorganized Hancock that you can purchase and download for your MP3 player, or your iPod, or whatever those things with the fruit on them are called. Just 0.99, and all the proceeds go to a good cause: Us.  You can pay more if you like, or you can listen to it for free on YouTube if you're broke losers like we are. It's all good.

Merry Christmas! Tell a friend. 

Unorganized Hancock on Bandcamp

[Update: Wow! Many thanks to our friend Gerard at American Digest for putting the boys on his front page, and sending them a filthy lucre care package by overpaying on Bandcamp for their song. Merry Christmas Gerard!]
[Further Update: Thanks to Patricia and Cindy for overpaying for the boy's song on bandcamp. It is greatly appreciated]
[Continued Updates: Merry Christmas to Kathleen M. in Connecticut, our children's most stalwart supporter. Many thanks!]
[Some More Update: Super-duper thanks to Charles E from the Land of Enchantment for his generous support of our boys via the PayPal button. Merry Christmas!]