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June 04, 2007

Tempting Fate

I took a walk in the rain one day
On the wrong side of the tracks
I stood on the rails till I saw that train
Just to see how my heart would react
Now some people say that you shouldn't tempt fate
And for them I would not disagree
But I never learned nothing from playing it safe
I say fate should not tempt me

I take my chances
I don't mind working without a net
I take my chances
I take my chances every chance I get

The other night I saw a ghost. Like a late season winesap she stared tartly at me from behind a Sam Adams, unrepentantly wrinkly on the outside but promising a crisp, sound sweetness beneath the wry exterior.

"Booze, she writes, is "the social glue of the human race." As soon as humans stopped wandering around looking for berries and settled down to raise crops, they started creating wine and beer and, not coincidently, civilization. "Probably in the beginning, we could explain ourselves to our close family members with grunts, muttered syllables, gestures, slaps and punches," she writes. "Then, when the neighbors started dropping in to help harvest, stomp, stir and drink the bounty of the land, after we'd softened our natural suspicious hostility with a few stiff ones, we had to think up some more nuanced communication, like words. From there, it was a short step to grammar, civil law, religion, history and 'The Whiffenpoof Song.' ''

She's in favor of joy but she feels it's under attack. She wrote the book as a protest against the decline of social drinking and the rise of broccoli, exercise and Starbucks.

"I was getting sick and tired of being lectured by dear friends with their little bottles of water and their regular visits to the gym," she says. "All of a sudden, we've got this voluntary prohibition that has to do with health and fitness." She pauses. "I'm not really in favor of health and fitness."

When I younger it seemed like there were rules for everything. I can remember it taking forever to get ready to go to church, or to prepare my small sons for a trip to the Commissary: faces scrubbed, hair freshly combed and parted neatly, socks turned down, shirts with collars only. No t-shirts or blue jeans.

The world I remember was slower, more leisurely, more confining in some ways but once you got past the basic rules of everyday existence, much freer in others. As I had when I was small, I let my children roam where they would. They made mistakes, played in puddles, climbed everything in sight and mostly amused themselves outdoors. TV wasn’t allowed during the day. When they complained of being bored I shot back, “Well, then you must be boring. Go find something to do. Read a book. Play a game. If you’re that hard up for something to do, there are always chores.”

They generally found something intensely interesting over at the next door neighbor’s house.

Little by little as we've become more affluent, more comfortable, more complacent, we seem to have become more risk averse. We don't let our children get dirty anymore; we torture them with hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap. We don't let dogs kiss them on the face. No one I've ever known has died from having a puppy lick them to death. We don’t let them succeed or fail in school – we manage their little academic careers as though they were being groomed for Madison Avenue or a place on the New York Stock Exchange. As the restrictions on what we see and hear on cable TV and movies have lifted, the restrictions on what we say and do in public seem to have multiplied. We are relentlessly mature, unremittingly moderate in thought, word, and deed. Reading about Barbara Holland, I’m remind of all the childish pleasures we reluctantly relinquish as we grow older. Or, not:

"We sang in bars, we sang in cars," she says. "My mother always sang in the car. As soon as she turned the key in the ignition, she started to sing.

I still do this. I cannot imagine driving without music. If I’m alone in the car I’ll turn the volume up until I can feel guitar chords beating against my body, flying down a ribbon of highway surrounded by wind and sunlight and memories:

Somehow I always imagined this part of my life as a tranquil time. Instead, my emotions are no more well-behaved than my hair. I've been trying to grow it out but it annoys me when I'm working. So I tried putting it up in what I imagined as a sleek, sophisticated chignon. But my riotous curls possess no natural dignity - even hairspray doesn't keep little wisps from escaping and curling up all over the place when it rains. Now it seems all the wayward emotions I kept so tightly throttled while raising my sons are escaping too and annoying me with their unruly nature. The carefully cultivated patina of calm reasonableness is still there, but it doesn't seem grounded in anything very substantial. Just under the surface lies treacherous ground. I never know when I might be seized by an avalanche of unpredictable and unwelcome feelings I can't let show.

I remember being sixteen - wanting desperately to be a writer. Fighting against the urge to give in to what I viewed as the irrationality of the creative side of my nature. The more I wrote, especially poetry, the more wild I became. I still have things I wrote that year - some of my best work: filled with passion and longing and sometimes despair, and often a brittle joy that lit up my world like a thousand Roman candles. It seemed an unstable basis on which to build a life: so insubstantial and self-centered. I wanted something more... permanent. I didn't see anything good coming from staying on that road.

Sometimes in my more rebellious moments I wonder if adulthood is just the sum of all the things we have given up? Then I look at my children and my life and I realize how ridiculous that is, what we trade for all those small, guilty pleasures.

Still, I can’t help wondering if we haven’t traveled too far down that road, become too addicted to safety, to comfort, to plenty? I wonder if it isn’t those moments when we skirt the razor's edge that heighten the senses, awaken us to delight and bring bittersweet awareness of just how much we have to lose and how precious each and every moment on this earth is?

Suppose you were to smoke because you love the small shock when the nicotine enters the veins; like a cold, brisk gust, it hurts a little but focuses the mind. It's the risk you come to love, the small heroism of defying the odds. There is a name for that kind of negative aesthetic pleasure: It's technically known as the sublime.

It could be argued against Brandt that rather than instituting an international regime of tobacco control—a "global governance"—as he recommends, we should learn once again in America to respect the freedom to smoke, realizing that among the commonly indulged adult pleasures, it is one that may be less debilitating and unproductive, more generally satisfying and useful, than others all too readily available.

Life is a bit of a crap shoot, isn't it?

But that's the glory of it. After you've squeezed every last bit of risk out of living, what is left but predictable humdrum routine?

I've crossed lines of words and wire
And both have cut me deep
I've been frozen out and I've been on fire
And the tears are mine to weep
Now I can cry until I laugh and laugh until I cry
So cut the deck right in half
I'll play from either side

I take my chances
Forgiveness doesn't come with a debt
I take my chances
I take my chances every chance I get

Posted by Cassandra at June 4, 2007 05:04 PM

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I'm so glad to hear that you've dropped your objection to the horses. :)

Posted by: Grim at June 4, 2007 06:02 PM

Start running, horse boy.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 4, 2007 06:08 PM

Hey, what's the matter? For once we agree entirely. Isn't it nice? :)

Well, I would have called the post, "Grim was right all along," but that's really a quibble. :) :)

Posted by: Grim at June 4, 2007 06:26 PM

*smiles* I can hear that gal singing now....

Posted by: Foxfier at June 4, 2007 06:35 PM


You are entirely too full of yourself today and I know why.

Men. Can't live with them and if you kill them someone always finds the bodies.


Posted by: Cassandra at June 4, 2007 06:35 PM

Oh, sure. Write a post called "Tempting fate," and the first time somebody comes along to do it, there you go again. :)

Posted by: Grim at June 4, 2007 06:38 PM

This is why horses sit on you, isn't it? And they are probably female horses :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 4, 2007 06:43 PM

You know the truth is, I've never had a problem with a female horse. Neither mare nor filly has ever spooked under my hand. They seem to like me.

Posted by: Grim at June 4, 2007 07:09 PM

I've never had a problem with a female horse. Neither mare nor filly has ever spooked under my hand. They seem to like me.

The horse is a strange creature and no mistake.

*running away*

Posted by: Cassandra at June 4, 2007 07:20 PM

No argument from me there. The horse is a strange creature indeed. :)

Posted by: Grim at June 4, 2007 07:26 PM

It's a fine line between bravery and stupidity.

It's fun watching Grim just dance all over it.

*munches popcorn*

Posted by: Yu-ain Gonnano at June 4, 2007 07:30 PM

The horse is a strange creature indeed. :)

I deeply resemble that remark, sir.

Posted by: My Friend Flicka at June 4, 2007 07:45 PM

Barbara Holland has written a great book entitled Endangered Pleasures. Each short chapter discusses her view of a different "vice", bacon, naps, martinis, cigarettes, etc. I like her and would like to enjoy a stiff drink and a cigarette with her.

Posted by: Sloan at June 4, 2007 09:11 PM



I remember being in 8th grade and having my boyfriends come home with me after school in the Spring. I used to love more than anything else to make them a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and then watch them eat it. I made the best one in the whole world. I piled so much bacon on it. It was absolutely obscene.

But soooooo good.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 4, 2007 09:24 PM

And would you believe I never had a martini in my life until this year?


My daughters in law got me drinking martinis. But now I am trying those boofy ones - every weekend when I go out I have to drink a different one. I am working my way through the entire menu of ridiculous martinis, one at a time.

I consider it a challenge. So far I haven't had a bad one but my luck is going to run out sooner or later.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 4, 2007 09:28 PM

I get the gist--beleive it or not, since I used to romp around the Santa Ana river bed until the tamed it and turned it into a golf course--- but not the alcohol. I got a 3inch gash and a buddy who sits in a mental ward who was other wise a brilliant physicist until hs GF died in a flaming wreck because of the 'harmless frivolity brought about by booze'. BS. BS. BS. BS.

Yeah, I do advocate kids going out and playing. My 'navigation sense' came from that. As did knowing when things were going sour and it was time to skedaddle. But I also got more out of it than that. THe concept of playdates offends me. Kids who spend all their time with parents seem to be missing something imo. There's something missing in kids lives today that comes from the overly risk adverse attitudes of parents. (They even took out the 'dangerous' stuff from kids' playgrounds---only to have kids find even more dangerous stuff to do on the 'safe' stuff.)

BUt spare me the odes to booze. Too many cut marks on my arms and hands, and too many graves, for me to buy that BS. I'm not a tea-totaler(for others, I don't allow booze or 'butts in my house) but the Cocktail Party with its wake of broken bodies and lives is dead. And I for one am enjoying dancing on its grave.

You don't need The Sauce to let you be that carefree or to frolic. You don't need an excuse to let your inner goofball out. Embrace the inner 12 year old, but don't bribe him/her out with sauce. That's so stupid, imo.

But, to say we're anti-social? How can bloggers say the medium is anti-social? The whole point of blog communities is to BE social with like minded folks instead of hanging with neighbors you can't stand. Freedom. Comes with a price don't it?

Posted by: ry at June 4, 2007 10:03 PM

Yeah, I think Grim was right.

However, mmmm....bacon....

Posted by: Eric Blair at June 4, 2007 10:04 PM


Yes, freedom does come with a price - that was the point of my post.

If you drink, you don't get behind the wheel of a car and run it into someone else. You also don't sit at home alone and drink. That's why, although I happen to enjoy drinking, I don't drink while my husband is gone and I'm alone in the house. I am not particularly afraid I'm going to turn into a raging alcoholic. It's just ordinary prudence. If a line is here and you know you don't want to cross it, why go there?

It's really not brain surgery. As I said in the post, if you obey a few basic rules, maybe you can let up once in a while. It's the fact that you DO follow the rules most of the time that allows you that freedom. But when you throw the farging rule book out the window and don't want to admit there are any rules at all, that's when you get scared of life and start chasing your kids around with hand sanitizer because you don't have enough freaking sense to set limits and accept consequences.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 4, 2007 10:17 PM

"But spare me the odes to booze."

Well, as to that, you'll probably want to avoid this old post, then. And this one of Cassandra's (to which most of us were a party). And, er, country music. And Irish music. Well, folk music of any kind, really. Bache, bene vienes, gratus et optatus, as the Medievals used to sing.

For all the harm that people have visited on themselves with booze, there is that much joy, too. Joy is rarer than pain in the world, and so more valuable -- even as a measure of gold is worth more than an equal weight of lead.

Posted by: Grim at June 4, 2007 10:45 PM

Well, I won't argue the point :) I'll just take my lonely glass of orange juice off to bed.

Good night, and thank you for allowing me to bore you for another day.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 4, 2007 10:55 PM

I like to indulge in the occasional "adult beverage", but also to do so in moderation...riding a Harley inebriated is none too bright, and would doubtless prove fatal in relatively short order. Even if I'm just going to be home for the evening, drunkenness just isn't my "cup of tea".

I'm definitely with you on the tunes while in motion too; the 4-way speaker system on the aforemention Harley cranks 'em out rather well, and the MP3 player I have patched into same holds well over a thousand songs. I reckon that I probably look pretty funny to my fellow motorists when I sing along...

Posted by: camojack at June 5, 2007 01:19 AM

Well ry, the way I see it, booze is like guns. That people who use booze and hurt themselves and others, doesn't mean that the booze is the culprit. It has no will of it's own.

Some people drink to excess and get behind the wheel, some people just can't keep their booger-hook off the bang switch.

Others enjoy the occasional relaxation afforded from a good mint julep, martini, or scotch, some enjoy putting lots of little ragged holes in defenseless sheets of paper.

The booze, just like the gun, didn't cause either to happen.

Posted by: Masked Menace at June 5, 2007 01:42 AM

Way I look at it is we're all gonna die one day no matter what we do. I'll have my BLTs, rock climbing, smoking the occasional pipe or cigar, shooting, driving too fast, & drinking, thanks. (Needless to say, the drinking part is not combined with anything but the stogies...) As I've seen quoted somewhere else, The point of lifes journey is not to arrive at the grave with a well-preserved body, but rathere to skid in sideways, totally worn out, and shouting, "Holy $#!+, what a ride!"

Posted by: Cybrludite at June 5, 2007 02:44 AM

That made me smile, this morning.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 5, 2007 12:27 PM

IT isn't just the booze. It's the other crap along with it too. 'I can be wylde when liquored'. 'Can't hold me responsible of sleeping around on you, I wuz drunk.' It's the attendant BS.

And Mr. Grim, yes, I listen to the Fennians quite often. Just like I listen to System of a Down often. You don't have to agree with the lyrics to enjoy it, sir.

Nor do you have to drink to sing like a mad fool. Why use the excuse. If it tastes good fine, be smart, but somehow linking The Sauce to the ability to have a good time is bad logic. You can have the frolicing parties without having everyone loaded. If people were willing to accept that the stuff they did was really them, not the booze, and that it was okay to shove the best man into the pool because it WAS funny. It's like people use booze to excuse juvenile behavior---which is bad, but the other elements as well just make it so much worse. Just be juvenile and live with it. But noooooooo, we must have an excuse. Have to have the facade of serious adult that we can only let down when on the sauce. We must be sophisticated, and sophisticated people can be silly when drunk---it's in the rules. Crappola, I say.

No need to be chit faced. Just be silly.

There's a difference between saying 'Yeah, we need to be incessant worries less' and 'We'd be incessant worriers less if only we were allowing ourselves to get good and loaded.' The latter is what the lady in the article is pushing. Which is what I'm up in arms against. BS. Total BS.

Posted by: ry at June 5, 2007 05:23 PM

Not to mention pan-frying chicken in onions. I mean, that's livin'.

Posted by: RiverCocytus at June 5, 2007 05:35 PM

By the same token, Ry, many, many people do all those bad things without touching a drop of liquor... and some drink to excess and never do anything bad.

So again, is it the liquor, or are they using alcohol to excuse bad behavior? You want to force people not to drink just because *some* use it as an excuse? What about people who use their parents as an excuse? Should we ban parents? Or throw them in jail when the kids screw up? That makes just about as much sense.

To me, that's BS. Just don't use alcohol as an excuse for your irresponsible behavior. Period. You become intoxicated voluntarily, therefore it is not an excuse to do something you know is wrong when you're not drunk. Period. I've been tipsy plenty of times, yet somehow I've never cheated on my husband, or done any of a million other things I know are wrong when I'm sober. Wonder how that happens?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 5, 2007 05:37 PM

Ah, B.S. ry. All things in moderation. Gettin' a little sauced once an awhile isn't bad enough for you to be worth losing the good parts of it.

Seems like these days we've switched from tolerating lesser evils for greater goods to tolerating greater evils for lesser goods.

But cooking bacon? Dude. It comes with its own grease. Its. Own. Grease. Apologies to any orthodox Jewish folk, but, oh man.

I mean, cook bacon, right? And then cook something ELSE in the hot oil. Like, peppers, or onions, or chicken. Oh man.

Now I'm hungry.

Posted by: RiverCocytus at June 5, 2007 05:38 PM

Sir, I am deadly serious even when drunk, I assure you. Nor do I think a man should drink to intoxication in any event. Of course, "intoxication" can be one drink for one man; and ten for another.

I'm sorry you've had more of the pain and less of the joy that flows from the barley grain. For me it has been mostly joy; I see nothing wrong with it, so long as a man uses it as a man ought. For joy, that is, for song and pleasure, to lubricate the wit and to energize the mind.

Posted by: Grim at June 5, 2007 05:39 PM

I've reminded myself of a joke (a deadly serious one, to be sure).

Cass, how many drinks does it take to make a good Scot drunk?

Only one, of course -- the problem is that no one ever remembers if it was the fourteenth one, or the fifteenth one.

Posted by: Grim at June 5, 2007 05:41 PM

Man, think of telling the grain-grower what he can do with his own grain? Fair use, y'all.

Posted by: RiverCocytus at June 5, 2007 05:41 PM

Anyway, let's not argue, please?

I am tired and it's a beautiful afternoon. And I promise not to get drunk and shoot you if you promise not to hide my Coronitas after I mow the lawn.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 5, 2007 05:41 PM

Just a shot in the dark here, but responsibility for one's actions, maybe?

Oh wait, it's 5 o'clock somewhere. =;-}

Posted by: bthun at June 5, 2007 05:42 PM

My gosh things are moving fast in this thread or I did not refresh the page before posting my previous comment which was in reference to Milady's

Wonder how that happens?

As usual I find myself in agreement with those who come down on the side of responsiblity and moderation, maybe because I'm excessively moderate or moderately excessive, wait, I have to clarify that one with Walkin' Boss.

Posted by: bthun at June 5, 2007 05:57 PM

ry, there is no doubt that alchohol abuse has caused much misery, and continues to do so. I do not see where anyone is advocating getting brutally drunk, or alchoholism as a life - it isn't.

Posted by: Mark at June 5, 2007 06:08 PM

You missed the part where I grabbed Ry's tuckus and broke out in a rousing chorus of "Why Don't We Just Get Drunk and Screw"...

I think I may have unintentionally created a Hostile Blogging Atmosphere. I can't figure out why he keeps coming back though...

*running away*

Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at June 5, 2007 06:18 PM

Is Ry a snuff-queen? I don't think that's true...

Posted by: bthun at June 5, 2007 06:26 PM

BWAAA, HAAAAA, HAAAA.....Princess Leia is in top form.

Jeez, this thread has mushroomed. I'm glad most people keep their hands off motor vehicles and guns when drinking. I hunt a lot and will not tolerate some idiot boozing it while handling firearms around me. If it is on a private club, they are gone - public land, I'm gone.

Cybrludite, are you a rock climber? What part of the country are you from. I was looking for some of my hero shots of Lover's Leap, near Lake Tahoe and everything is 50mb image scans with very small climbers on a big rock.

Posted by: Mark at June 5, 2007 06:28 PM

Once upon a time when I was working in London I heard a Limey...er...English Friend state that "The Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich might be the only truly notable creation that the United States has given the world..."

Musta been one of you'rn.

Posted by: Nolan School at June 5, 2007 06:42 PM


Here's some stuff on Lover's Leap, Traveller Buttress


Here's The Line (a moron shot)


Here is Labor of Love ~ 20 ft right of The Line


Posted by: Mark at June 5, 2007 07:14 PM


I was a bit of a rock climber back when I was in shape and living somewhere well above sea level. A good way to try & work out my fear of heights. I could probably still rappel, but I really doubt I could still do the Spiderman thing.

Posted by: Cybrludite at June 6, 2007 02:24 AM


I climbed these about 10 years ago. They are classics. I just turned 58 and have a bum rotator cuff from the climbing gym. It is fun to climb. My best partner is a geezer (I will hear about that) and has taken two bad falls, which include a broken wrist, ankle, and vertebrae - all while climbing with his son. It is a fun sport until you screw up, or get too old. I am still thinking about the local gym to finish off my left shoulder. Crater in!

Posted by: Mark at June 6, 2007 05:42 AM

We don't let our children get dirty anymore; we torture them with hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap. We don't let dogs kiss them on the face. No one I've ever known has died from having a puppy lick them to death. We don’t let them succeed or fail in school – we manage their little academic careers as though they were being groomed for Madison Avenue or a place on the New York Stock Exchange.

I run into this a lot, and have discussed it perhaps ad nauseam at Grim's place. Suffice it to say that as a Scoutmaster I have for years seen kids enter my Troop only to run afoul of their parents when they find out that we let the kids get filthy, we take them to dangerous places (such as rock climbing), and we let them make mistakes and fail (safely - no permanent damage, although skinned knees and the occasional cut finger are part of the deal, I figure).

Sometimes the kids quit because they're not used to failing and can't understand that the idea is to get back up and try harder - they never had to try hard to succeed at anything else, since Mom and Dad had made sure that all bumps were pre-smoothed out. Sometimes Mom (never Dad, sorry, except one stay-at-home Dad) pulls the kid out because we just aren't organized enough, we don't meet their standards for ultra-safety, and since we let kids go at their own pace their kid isn't going to make Eagle by the time he's 13 unless HE wants to. And that's just not good enough for their Junior Master of the Universe.

Then we wonder why the kids all act as if they are the center of the universe, and why they don't want to move out until they are 30. Mom, your kids are probably going to get homesick when they are 11 and go away to summer camp for the first time. No, I'm not going to let them call home. No, he can't take his cell phone. No, he won't die.

Oh, and Mom - when your 15-year old son gets homesick and cries when he can't call home - there's something wrong. Very, very wrong.

Posted by: RonF at June 6, 2007 05:10 PM

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