A Great Alarm, From My Dreams


I had been figuring to continue my talk about alarming things. I mean alarming to me. And particularly about things alarming to a wakeful mind that’s as rational as you get around here. Then I went and slept. If we accept that dreams can be warnings of what we must face, then I’m up for something big soon.

For this dream alarm to make any sense at all I should tell you we haven’t met our new neighbors. All we know about them is that they maybe exist. We’re not sure. The house next door is a rental. Sometimes we’ve had great neighbors. Like the ones who were pointing out the adorably silly look of this kitten’s tail, and said someday they’d bring us a pie from work. Those were great neighbors, everything you could hope for. They never even did bring us pie and that’s fine. We were happy to be thought worthy of pie delivery.

But that was a long time ago, and different renters have come in, and left, a couple times over. We’re sure that the last set of renters left. We noticed them less and less, then we noticed we didn’t notice them at all, and that’s how someone leaves, right? We’re not completely sure there’s new ones there, though. The evidence for is that someone goes in and leaves lights on, and there’s sometimes a car in the driveway at some implausible hour like 4 am. The evidence against is there’s not a curtain in the entire building and we dont see furniture either. But someone’s gone raking leaves there. It has to be at least someone who knows what they want out of the place. The point is that I don’t know our neighbors, if we have them. Any interactions we’d have with them would be our first, as far as I know.

So the dream scenario starts with me in the dining room, puttering away on the computer, probably writing this essay only even later. And then looking out the back to see that something’s knocked over part of the fence. This would be very annoying to have to deal with, so I did not. At least not until I looked again later and saw the whole fence was gone. That would be a problem I couldn’t ignore, which is why I did. And before you get all smug about how you’d be more active about this let me point out that you’re a lying liar who’s lying to yourself, by whom I mean me. If someone came in and stole your backyard fence you’d do anything to not deal with that too.

Which is fine except that a couple minutes later, I saw that the neighbor’s house was gone. More, all the houses down the block were gone, replaced with what looked like the clubhouse for one of those golf courses they make retirement communities out of these days. This annoyed me since we have some pleasantly old houses in the neighborhood, getting on a hundred years now, and they might be utterly ordinary Dutch Colonial things but there’s value in having an ordinary neighborhood in kind-of respectable shape. Plus it’s ridiculous to put in a golf clubhouse without a golf course. But on most of what had been the neighbors’ driveway was now a pool.

Offisa Pupp, berating a magician: 'You and your magic! You've got all Coconino County upset making things vanish. That mouse vanishes. That brick vanishes. My jail vanishes. Even that dear Kat vanishes. Everybody vanishes. Everybody ev --- ' Pupp vanishes. The magician, rolling over to sleep: 'I'm still here.'
George Herriman’s Krazy Kat for the 16th of January, 1942, and reprinted on Comics Kingdom today, the 5th of December, 2019. I feel peculiarly called out by all this.

Recounting this makes me realize that if the neighbors’ driveway had been replaced with a pool, then there’d be no good place to put the ladder for when I change the storm windows out for screens in spring. Our houses are close together and we use the neighbor’s driveway under the well-established legal principle of “I dunno, we’ll do this in the middle of the afternoon when they’re probably at work, if they exist”. That I was not worrying about how to take the storm windows down should have warned me that I was not in my rational mind. Whatever conclusions you draw about me, as a person, from knowing that self-assessment, are correct.

Anyway I was willing to put up with the neighborhood going missing and the fence being stolen, especially with the nice fountains spraying out of the ponds. This until I felt the water spraying on my back. Now the walls of our dining room were gone and I had to say something. I knew that our neighbor was responsible, somehow, and also knew who our neighbor was, and got a bit shout-y. The neighbor tried to point out that he’d left many of the walls in our house intact. Plus now we had the benefits of a covered patio for our dining room, which didn’t satisfy me because I was thinking of the heating bill. “Where do you get the nerve to STEAL our BUILDING WALLS”, I shouted. As I remember I put in the word “building” in order to make clear I was not this upset about the fence going missing, in case someone would mistake a wooden fence for a wall. And I wanted “building’s” but couldn’t make that work.

Also, and this is a real thing that really happened for real, in reality, I was yelling loudly enough in my dream that I was also saying this in real life, waking up my love. After listening a while to find out where this was going, my love woke me up. This was disorienting, and then I realized: oh, yes. Realizing that all this was a dream answered most of my questions about the situation I was in.

Anyway, if all this is a harbinger of the relationship we’re to have with our neighbors, if and when they exist, I think we must say they are very alarming neighbors indeed. I shall have to insist on actual pie delivery before they swipe any walls.

In Which I Am Alarmed By My Neighborhood


I do not have pictures of this year’s leaf harvest for reasons that will soon be obvious. It’s not the most obvious thing: we did have a bunch of leaves. Start anywhere in our yard and walk eight feet in any direction. This will neatly faceplant you into a maple tree. Not the kind of maple tree that makes syrup you can use. I mean use as syrup.

But what normally happens come autum is all these leaves fall. They gather on the lawn and attract more leaves. I had plans to do something about this. I figured to run the leaves over with the lawn mower. I mean while the lawn mower is still mowing. This way I turn an unmanageable heap of leaves into an unmanageable heap of leaf chunks. But I never got around to it. This wasn’t my fault. Like, there was a lot of rain and you can’t go mowing down wet leaves. That leaves you with wet leaf chunks. How are you supposed to get anything done like that?

Then this guy knocked. I mean on the door. Our door. He was holding a bunch of paper leaf bags, and he had two rakes bundled against his back, held to him by his jacket. He asked if I wanted the leaves raked. And, here, I thought hard about this question. I mean, on the one hand, I could avoid spending hours puttering around the yard, cursing my inability to wear gloves in that way where my hands feel less cold, raking stuff up into two fewer leaf bags than we need for the job, and freeing up my weekend to do fun things instead. On the other hand, to say yes I’d have to talk to a person.

Well, I took the risk and let him go at the leaves. He really knew what he was doing, too, working swiftly and efficiently. I guess if you do a lot of yard-to-yard leaf raking you really pick things up. At least once you have a good rake. He probably had good tools. He seemed to know what he was doing. In maybe an hour the yard was cleared of leaves and we had five neat bags of lawn stuff, sitting on the extension, waiting to be picked up. Yes, he’d taken the rakes out of his jacket and used them like normal.

So, Sunday, we were out doing fun things and not worrying about the leaves. I admit even if we stayed home we wouldn’t have been worrying about the leaves. But while we were out, all our bagged leaves disappeared. They hadn’t gone getting scattered back on the lawn or anything. They were just off to wherever bagged leaves go.

Which is great but then how? The first explanation is that the city came and picked them up. But the city picks up leaves on Tuesday. Maybe Wednesday if they were quite busy on Tuesday. Maybe Thursday if they were quite busy on Tuesday and found Wednesday was a day they just could not. I could see also some eager types collecting leaves on Monday, before everyone’s set their leaves out, and so getting it done more quickly. But a Sunday? Who’s doing leaf work on a Sunday?

But the other explanation makes even less sense. Who would just go up to our lawn and take leaves? I know our neighborhood. You can’t get people to take a coffee table that’s in fair shape off your lawn. Who would take bags of leaves? If they’re hoping to take them to the store and get the deposit back on the leaves good luck. The machines at the front of Meijer’s take forever to handle even clean, dry leaves. Wet bagged leaves? It’s just not worth it.

So if they didn’t take the leaves for the deposit, then we have to suppose they just took the leaves to take them. It’s a somber thought to imagine we live in a place plagued with leaf thieves. But then my love pointed out you could call them “leaf thieves, or for short, leaves”. That’s made me smile about every 35 minutes nonstop since we discovered the leaves back on Sunday, and it isn’t showing any sign of losing its power. So it’s not all bad. It’s just peculiar is all.

Bridged Gapping


This was a while ago but I was thinking of a Reuters article that said police in Russia accused a man of stealing a bridge from a river crossing in the Ryazan region east of Moscow. (I know that’s a lot of setup to a sentence. I’m sorry.) And I realized that I hope he did it. Imagine being accused of something like that if you hadn’t done it. It could take hours to even understand the accusation. You can try yourself to see how hard it is to answer by going to anyone you happen to know has not stolen any bridges from the Ryazan regions near Moscow lately and accusing them. (Be careful. Many people thinking they’re joking will confess on the accusation. Insist they show you the stolen bridge before calling the authorities.)

I bet they accused him first thing in the morning, too, when he was barely awake and hadn’t even got all the drops of toothpaste goo out of the corners of his mouth. I just know that’s how they’d accuse me if they ever wanted to accuse me of stealing a bridge, and I’ve never even been to Russia.

Continue reading “Bridged Gapping”

Nothings Worth Mentioning


News comes across this desk — it’s actually a very portable desk, designed to be tucked into the carry-on luggage and unleashed in-flight when nobody is expecting you to whip out that little drawer with all the old Snapple Facts bottle caps — from a correspondent in Indiana. It seems that nothing was stolen today from both a bank in Angola, and police investigating the initial report found that nothing was also stolen from a pharmacy and a bowling alley nearby.

This combines with earlier reports of nothing being stolen to form one of the biggest streaks of thefts of nothing that the country’s seen in years, ever since the gathering of modern nothing statistics started. That was in 1977, when rhetorical concerns about the pollution of everything lead to the tracking of nothing in previously unimaginable detail. But now there’ve been reports of nothing being stolen in cities across the United States, and for weeks.

Let’s put this in some perspective: if the current streak of days of nothing getting stolen extends another two days, reaching fourteen in all, this will nearly double the previous record streak of seven days and two hours. If it goes longer it could even treble the previous record, which would be good for uses of the word “treble” in the non-clef dialects of American English.

However, this could be hard throughout vast sectors of the economy. Think of all the people who’re involved in the making of nothing, or who ship nothing from place to place, who market it or sell it, or those who collect it in the hopes of getting in on the big bubbles of nothing that make the modern economy so fun and vacuum-friendly. If we can count on nothing being where we expect it to be we can enjoy a general confidence in the orderly working-out of the world. We don’t have to keep going back to check on it; we can resort to compulsively checking on nothing for the fun of it.

Now, though, this streak of nothing thefts throws the world into a very minor chaos, as if it didn’t have enough. It’s getting to where you can’t even keep a bit of nothing just to appreciate, or to sprinkle with sugar and slip into someone’s ear, without getting nervous about whether it’s still going to be there in the morning. The fears of this are going to get all the worse early in the afternoon, since morning is then as far away as it gets and there’s so little peeking ahead to make sure it all works out.

Few people take seriously the threat of nothing being stolen. Many police dispatchers will claim they’re sending nobody out to investigate a missing nothing, although they’re joking. A lack of nothing can easily overfill your day. Suppose you had a chunk of nothing in your guest room, over by the chair, where served among other things as a block against a ten-foot cube of goldfish crackers popping into being. Next imagine someone sneaks in and makes off with your nothing, quickly fencing it on the big nothing black market over on No Bay Drive. That’s fine for them, but now you’ve got a thousand cubic feet of goldfish crackers in the guest room, and there’s no finishing all that before your company arrives. Worse if they’ve already arrived, since you just know you left the goldfish cracker shovel in the back of the guest room, after last time.

Yet even having the problem so vividly explained leaves questions. For example, suppose you did want to steal a lot of nothing. How would you transport it? How would you load it? What’s the most nothing you could swipe at once, and where would you keep it so as not to attract unwanted attention? In short, is there nothing to be done about nothing, and if there is, what nothing is it?