Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Bargain Hunter

I think this is a good time to repeat this classic fable.

Wandering through a fog so thick it is difficult to make out the shop lights,
A lone tourist finds himself in a back alley, antique shop on the edge of San Francisco's Chinatown. Picking through the objects strewn carelessly about the cluttered shop, he discovers a detailed, life-sized bronze sculpture of a rat. The sculpture is so interesting and unique that he feels compelled to pick it up and as he holds it, finds it difficult to put it back down. Though not much of a collector, he reluctantly asks the shop owner what it costs.

"Twelve dollars for the rat, sir," says the shop owner, "and a thousand dollars
more for the story behind it."

"You can keep the story, old man," he replies, relieved at the bargain price,
"but I'll take the rat."

The transaction complete, the tourist leaves the store with the bronze rat under his arm. As he crosses the street in front of the store, two live rats emerge from a sewer drain and fall into step behind him. Nervously looking over his shoulder, he begins to walk faster, but every time he passes another sewer drain, more rats come out and follow him.

By the time he's walked two blocks, at least a hundred rats are at his heels.
The fog is quickly lifting and people begin to point and shout. He walks even faster, and soon breaks into a trot as multitudes of rats swarm toward him from sewers, basements, vacant lots, and abandoned cars.

Rats by the thousands are at his heels and, as he nears the waterfront at the bottom of the hill, he panics and starts to run full tilt. No matter how fast he runs, the rats keep up, squealing hideously now, not just thousands but millions; a tide of rats pouring from every part of the city and closing in behind him.

Trapped at the edge of a pier, the tourist makes a mighty leap up onto a light post and while grabbing hold, drops the bronze rat. It lands with a bounce on the pier and tumbles into the Bay.

Pulling his legs up and clinging desperately to the light post, he watches in amazement as the screeching tide of rats surge over the end of the pier and follow the bronze rat into the sea, where they swiftly sink and drown.

Shaken and humbled, he somehow makes his way through the returning fog back to the antique shop.

"Ah, so you've come back for the rest of the story," says the owner.

"No," says the tourist, "I was wondering if you had a bronze Republican Senator.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


My German grandfather's birth name was Rock. His mother's maiden was Meerholz. They died together in a distant accident when my grandfather was a child and he was taken for adoption by his mother's family, and his name changed to the matrinominal Meerholz, which may have been shortened on arrival in America to Merholz. (Please, no T)

Playing Around with Google Earth I came across the name Meerholz in a town in Germany. Meerholz translates to sea wood in English and I have sometimes used the pseudonym B.J. Driftwood. Looking the town up on Google, I found that a vacant plot of ground in this little village now stands, after Bulgaria and Romania joined on January 1, at the geographical center of the European Union.

Make of it what you will.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Squirrel hunt

I parked in a large lot behind a block of stores and let Charlie loose for a little stretch and marking. Suddenly a squirrel appeared on the open ground, Charlie zeroed in and the chase was on. The squirrel zigged and zagged but couldn't shake Charlie, breathing down his neck and barking in his ear.

I chose not to interfere during the chase. It looked to me that Charlie could have seized the squirrel if he so wanted, and I was ready to reach in if he started to lunge, but harassment seemed to be his only interest. And animal observation was my interest.

I would guess it was basically over in ten to fifteen seconds when the squirrel finally found a power pole and started his climb. He actually slipped back to the ground after a foot or so but quickly regained his grip on the wood and scampered to a safe height, from which he loudly chided or taunted Charlie, who merely seemed to shrug and sauntered off to pee some more.

It was pleasing for me to see that although Charlie often barks at and charges toward squirrels, birds, cats, motorcycles, leaf blowers, etc., it seems to be no different than when he does the same thing to dogs, from which no harm has yet derived. Just a bit of sport.

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