Swirling Tracts

by Peter Bellwood

Starting on a lighter note, here’s the best supermarket tabloid headline I’ve read in recent memory: “Haunted Toilet Claims Third Plumber in Eight Years. Experts believe the commode could be porthole to another dimension.” Why not, indeed?

In the words of Fernando Lamas — brilliantly channeled through Billy Crystal — “I may look marvelous … but I don’t feel marvelous.”

Despite looking marvelous, I’m manifesting a bizarre assortment of ailments, beginning with dizziness, weight-loss, the yips, hair not standing on end falling out, fragmented memory, prickly feet, malfunctioning limbs, partial deafness — which means, to stave off bitter analysis, despair, thought reassemblage and sobbing, I must resort to surrealistic doggerel:

“To reach one’s back tooth, one has clearly to reseat one’s jollies. It is part of the strange sequence of strife. Anyways, most people try to sweep away the solemn trench when it’s too great that the only wings one never forgets are one’s tea-cakes. You have a bewfully underfull space. Fruits are for the abstemious, one of the great tracts of the swirl, like torchlight or opening time, or the deflection in stark waders of that tinkling bell that calls the loon. It takes mincing for those that flaunt it. It is only callow steeples that do not trudge the clearances. The sods have been food for you, but let the sods live, and they wake to slay. You will become yellow, wallow-freaked and deep-fried. Helen of Troy treats us to seventy crumbs of rubbish, our shins fail and our senses need some pot. We disintegrate into windeous muppets, taunted by the reverie of the rations by which we are too much betrayed, and the exquisite salvations that we had not the luggage to yield to. Ruth! Ruth! There is only playing the lute for Ruth.”

Doggerel ends.

Apologies for that outpouring. Was it a transcribed James Joyce fragment? Or did I write this? Was I under the influence of Bolivian marching powder? I think I wrote this. Maybe long ago, when I lived at the beach. I discovered it culling boxes of clippings going back 23 years. I don’t remember writing it, but it looks like my handwriting. It may have been written by someone else, and if that someone else sees this and demands credit, I’ll gladly hand it over. And of all the women I know or used to know, I don’t believe any of them were named Ruth.

Okay, so I’m a testudineous (1) scurryfunge (2), ramfeezled (3), even a snollygoster (4), a veritable smellfungus (5), some even label me a slubberdegullion (6), an obvious anonymuncle (7), tending to brabble (8), a veritable ninnyhammer (9) blatherskite (10). (Definitions at end of column) And that’s only the half of it! These days, I’m living so far beyond my income, we may almost be said to be living apart — a line first used by e.e. cummings. Meanwhile, in Northern California, this tabloid headline: “Love-Struck Rhino Tries To Have Sex with Volvo — While Terrified Family Trembles Inside.”

And further south,  “Young girl blown out to sea on pair of inflatable teeth rescued — by man on inflatable lobster.” Two lifeboats were launched to rush to the aid of the child. Said Coast Guard spokesman Ron Pottle: “This sort of thing is all too common.” Really … ?! I’d love to have an inflatable lobster. If anybody’s got one for sale, give me a call, after which I’ll be alert for the siren call of young beauties in distress being blown into my embrace on sets of inflatable teeth. Bliss!

My agitated state may have something to do with the recent election. There’s a sign in the middle of Meiners Oaks on El Roblar, just this side of Farmer & the Cook: STEEL PLATES AHEAD. Sounds like some kind of armor.

Come to think of it, we may need armor, if only to ward off never-ending barrages of “alternate facts.” Ain’t life grand?


1. testudineous — slow, as in “my computer is ridiculously testudineous”

2. scurryfunge — hurriedly tidying one’s house before cleaner arrives

3. ramfeezled  exhausted by overwork, a synonym for ‘forswunk’

4.snollygoster — someone unprincipled but shrewd

5. smellfungus  someone who always finds fault, an all-round curmudgeon

6. slubberdegullion — a wretch or scoundrel

7. anonymuncle — an unknown writer, a failed novelist

8. brabble — to bicker, quibble

9. ninnyhammer — a piffling fool

10.  blatherskite — someone who won’t stop talking utter rubbish.