The Brother and the Puppet: Something of a Fable – Act III


In addition to losing all recess privileges for the next two weeks, John’s puppet would also have to spend one whole week eating its lunch in the principal’s office (both sentences to be served concurrently). The puppet would report to the cafeteria and go through the lunch line as usual; but as soon as it emerged from the assembly-line serving queue it would be marched humiliatingly across the room, out of the cafeteria, and down the long hallway to Mrs. Moline’s office, tray in hand.  It might as well have been made to wear a folding sandwich-board sign reading “I think it’s funny to make old ladies cry.”

You see what happens? (
You see what happens?

How very surprised the little puppet was to learn that not one person in a position of authority gave so much as the tiniest shit about its pleading explanation that it was in fact John who had made him say that terrible thing to Ms. Driscoll; and this, to the puppet’s way of thinking, represented a full-scale breach of the social contract that, even if only implicitly, ostensibly brokers the tenuous peace that allows puppet and lay-folk to co-exist in relative harmony.  But there was nary an ear willing to hear, embrace or even consider this argument.

Once upon a time, Highlands Elementary School used to stage frequent puppet shows. (
Once upon a time, Highlands Elementary School used to stage frequent puppet shows.

At any rate, though, Mrs. Smith, the office secretary, was nice enough; and the principal, Mrs. Moline, almost never spent any time in her office- at least not during the lunch hour; so it wasn’t like the puppet was doing what anybody could reasonably call “hard time.” Mrs. Smith would talk to the puppet all through the lunch period, never once telling it to be quiet, and even listening, rapt, as it regaled her day after day with colorful tales of deeds of tomfoolery, oblivious irreverence, and puppetry run amok.  Throughout the lunch period, students and faculty alike would lean and peer curiously into the principal’s office as they passed by, drawn thither by the reckless ballyhoo of Mrs. Smith’s loud belly-laughs echoing all up and down the hallway.  The puppet did not mind in the least having such an enthusiastic and captive audience as Mrs. Smith for the week.  There were way worse ways to spend 45 minutes of one’s day, admitted the puppet to itself at one point.

Dance of the Sugar-Plum Puppets. (photo by J. Speredelozzi)
Dance of the Sugar-Plum Puppets.
(photo by J. Speredelozzi)

At the end of Friday’s lunch period, the puppet’s sentence in the principal’s office had at last been served in full.  Freedom beckoned.  The puppet collected its tray and various other lunch-related sundries, and prepared to return to the world of its fellows.  The puppet then bid a fond adieu to its one-woman laughing gallery; and as it walked out the door of the office, Mrs. Smith stopped it and said “Don’t tell your mother or your teacher I said this; but this has been by far the most fun and entertaining week I’ve ever had in this office, and I’ve been sitting in this chair for almost twenty years.  Now try to behave yourself.  Take care, Derek.”



Previous chapter: (ACT II)


The Brother and the Puppet: Something of a Fable – Act II

Today's word of the day is "parabola" (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Today’s word of the day is “parabola”
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)


One day John sent his puppet to school with a very specific script in its throat.  At the time, John was in the 8th Grade, and the puppet was in the 3rd Grade.  During the recess period which followed immediately after lunchtime, the puppet spent some time running around the schoolyard, getting into this and that with its friends, as was its wont; but through it all the puppet never forgot the purpose for which it had been sent to school that day in the first place.

And so it was that, after a time, John’s puppet, accompanied by a few of its mates, went striding boldly right up to Ms. Driscoll, the substitute recess lady (who bore more than a passing resemblance to Alice’s drill-sergeant cousin Emma on The Brady Bunch), promptly reared back like a pitcher going into his windup, then snapped forward like a spring-loaded cord suddenly cut, and loudly bellowed “Guess what I heard about your Momma!!!”, directly into Ms. Driscoll’s instantly shell-shocked face.  And just to be abundantly clear about this, the puppet didn’t merely say these words; it didn’t just shrug its shoulders and meekly speak them under its breath- aww hell no.  No, the puppet, fully committed to its task, really leaned into it, delivering its message like a cream pie right in the face of this poor, sweet, unsuspecting (and, as it proved, extremely fragile) middle-aged woman. The puppet damn near knocked itself to the ground from the sheer force of its delivery, wobbling like a Weeble in a straw house blasted suddenly to pieces by the determined breath of a hungry wolf.  John would have been so proud!! Proud to see his trusty little puppet carrying out its directive with such a high degree of obedience and precision, which only a truly committed puppet can muster.

Oh, Emma- we never knew ya. But we did know Alice, who you actually also are. So there's that. Quite the paradox, indeed. (
Oh, Emma- we never knew ya.
But we did know Alice, who you actually also are. So there’s that.
Quite the paradox, indeed.

A moment of utter silence followed, like the deep breath before the plunge that happens just as the rollercoaster train creeps across and crests the apex of that first big hill.  This deafening silence, which completely permeated that part of the playground which had been within earshot of the puppet’s brazen exclamation, sucked in and consumed all sound within its range, as if into the vortex of a spinning black hole.  The only sound that could be even faintly detected from within this aural dead zone was that of children playing on the far side of the playground, the sound utterly remote, as that, heard from underwater, of kids frolicking around the perimeter of a swimming pool.


Looking as if somebody had just come running up behind her and violently jammed the business end of a ski pole up her ass , Ms. Driscoll stood there stone still, her mouth a tightly-sealed valve of disbelief, her eyes a pair of perfect round dilated circles of incredulity, her eyebrows a pair of sharp-pointed parabolas reaching for the sky like a set of Ronald’s Golden Arches, and her face and neck blown back as if she had just had a scorching-hot blow dryer thrust into her face at full blast.  For the poor little eight-year-old puppet, who couldn’t have- shouldn’t have- known any better, the entire space-time continuum came to a screeching halt.  All went black.

Poor Ms. Driscoll, that sweet little old lady. Say, that reminds me- what did you hear about her Mama? (image property of
Poor Ms. Driscoll, that sweet little old lady.
Say, that reminds me- what did you hear about her Mama?
(image property of

(to be continued)


Previous chapter: (Act I)

Next chapter: (Act III)

The Brother and the Puppet: Something of a Fable – ACT I



Once upon a time, way back in the day, my older brother John used to have this toy puppet that he would play with constantly.  And boy, did he ever make that puppet say the damnedest things!

As you may know, a puppet will give voice to any words that are put into its mouth by its controlling puppeteer.  One particularly good thing about a puppet is, it never questions or contests its barking orders in any way- you just wind it up, pump the words into it, and sit back and watch hilarity ensue.  It’s a very good system for self-amusement, it really is.

John’s puppet first came into his life in the middle of the summer of 1973, originally as a gift from God to the entire family; but by, oh, around 1980 or so, John had pretty well co-opted the puppet as his own plaything/whipping boy.

I can’t say for sure whether the magic lay primarily in John’s skill as a puppeteer, or in this particular puppet’s natural aptitude for serving its appointed function as a conduit for John’s words; but whichever it was, John soon learned to wield that puppet like a true, seasoned virtuoso of the art.  You just wouldn’t have believed the ventriloquistic mastery with which he would ply his craft- throwing his voice behind this puppet of his and, just like that, infusing it with the very breath of life!  Before your very eyes!  It sounded exactly as if the words were actually coming out of the puppet itself!  Seriously!

Like a dog, the puppet seeks ever for the approval of its master. (Image by ViciousCritic)
Like a dog, the puppet seeks ever for the approval of its master.
(Image by ViciousCritic)

Now this puppet must have really wanted John to like it or something; because the thing would just go around trumpeting every little thing John ever told it to say, regardless of the breadth of the array of possible consequences that might arise as a direct result of the issuance of these mandated utterances.  The puppet never considered any of this before speaking- absolutely never!  I mean- why would it?  It was a puppet for god’s sake!  For all the good times that John fashioned for himself and his friends through the use of his puppet over the years, I’m not sure that he ever actually respected the thing; but then John didn’t have to.  After all, it was his fucking puppet.

Now understand- as long as this puppet did whatever John told it to do, John treated it well enough, I suppose.  But anytime the puppet would give him any lip at all, about anything, it would swiftly find itself suffering from any one of the following three fates: 1) suddenly thrown to the floor and quickly imprisoned in an agonizing figure-4 leg lock, one of the most humiliating and utterly inescapable wrestling moves in the trade; 2) using John’s grasping hand as the engine, repeatedly punching itself in the face while being incessantly and maniacally taunted with the question “Why do you keep punching yourself in the face?”; or 3) immediately pinned to the floor and unable to move, while a barrage of disgusting farts was unleashed upon its poor little suffocating face, at point blank range. The only thing that could stem this onslaught of flatulence and afford the puppet even the slightest fighting chance to get up off the floor was for it to first request, repeatedly, sometimes even beg for, the prompt dispatch of additional dollops of vile intestinal gas directly into its face, and then, after a handful of these had been issued, to profusely thank its master for having been given the opportunity to enjoy this face full of rank ass.

The Figure-4 Leg Lock is way less sexy in real life. (image property of
The Figure-4 Leg Lock is way less sexy in real life.
(image property of

And what’s more, the puppet had to sell it, too- it had to make John believe that it meant everything it was saying.  If John detected the slightest hint of insincerity in the puppet’s delivery, well… let’s just say the puppet learned pretty quickly how to frame its words convincingly in these situations.  When the puppet had finally humbled itself to John’s satisfaction, if it was lucky its torture would end for a time.  But as I said, most of the time the puppet just did whatever it was told.

(to be continued)


Next chapter: (Act II)

Down in a Hole: Trekking the Grand Canyon – Chapter 02

I totally got that chick's number. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I totally got that chick’s number.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Day 03: 

One Too Many Mornings

It always sucks to get up before the sun- it’s cold as shit, everybody’s crotchety, nobody looks their best (except ugly people), and everyone just wants to flop back to the horizontal; and yet still, someone has to make the coffee.

The mornings way up here on the 7,000-foot Coconino Plateau are slow to warm up.  We all stumbled around camp, sorting gear with ice-numbed fingers, chapping our thighs on frozen toilet seats, and everybody whispering loudly so as not to wake up the hundred other people all sleeping within earshot in adjacent campsites, even though most of them were tucked away comfortably in their campers and Winnebagos.

No matter how long you think it’s gonna take to make your way through the list of morning tasks, it always takes an hour and twenty minutes longer than that.  There’s nothing you can do about it- even artificially adding that hour twenty to your time estimate beforehand won’t make a difference- you simply cannot trick fate and time like that.  So just suck it up and start packing your bag- there are only 13 hours of sunlight remaining to the day, you’ve got a schedule to keep, and you’ve got a long way to go.


Bobby!! Cindy!! (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Bobby!! Cindy!!
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I Came in From the East with the Sun on My Ass

The caravan rolled out of camp just as the sun was cresting the eastern mesas.  For all our running late, however, it sure was a nice time of day to be driving eight miles along the rim of the Grand Canyon.  The rising sun was doing such inspiring things with the light that I insisted on stopping off at Hopi Point for a photographic survey of the environs.  The team acquiesced without protest, though.  After all, they could see, too, that an opportunity to gaze down into the deep gorges below, amid the shifting shadows of sunrise, was not one to be passed up lightly, and certainly not just to save five minutes.  I applied the same logic a few minutes later, when I pulled us into Pima Point for another look-see.  Here we were looking down at Hermit Canyon, the very terrain into which we were about to descend- on foot; so there was even an added measure of interest on account of that, not that any was needed.  While we stood there at the brink of the overlook, the Colorado River, a tiny sliver of which was faintly visible some four or five crow-miles off to the northwest, at a bend near the outlet of Shinumo Creek, caught its first direct sunlight of the day, suddenly appearing as a reflective ribbon of light cutting through the bottom of an otherwise lightless lower canyon.

But the evening’s camp, still some 11 miles and 4,400 vertical away, wasn’t getting any closer while we stood around jerking off on the rim.

We headed off to the trailhead.

(to be continued)


Previous chapter: (01)

Next chapter: (03)

Yosemite Rising

This is at least a $30 view.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Well, the economic crunch is finally hitting the National Park System (somebody do something!)

Yosemite is increasing park fees by 50% next year.

Get the story at:

Yosemite National Park Set to Jack Up Fees

This one, too, I'm thinking. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
This one, too, I’m thinking.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Down in a Hole: Trekking the Grand Canyon – Chapter 01

Day 01: 

I Came to a High Place of Darkness and Light

We almost never even made it out of California.  An untimely accumulation and subsequent bottleneck of disparate stressors had fashioned the tail end of the week into one of those times when sanity seems to hang by no more than a withered string of frayed dental floss (the cheap kind), and oppressive darkness, not merely indifferent, but straight-up malicious, seems to close in from all sides.

So what if it's blurry? I was blurry at the time. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
So what if it’s blurry? I was blurry at the time.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

But always in some dank, shadowy recess of your mind lurks the un-snuffable kernel of awareness that this ship will not soon right itself without at least a little help from you; and so, seizing upon this self-evident truth, you peer resolutely, yet still haltingly, out from the darkness at the nascent realization that after a truly terrible week what you need more than anything else is a vacation.  And with that the ship begins to slowly tack around, seeking for and at last catching a favorable tailwind; and so shifts the darkness aft, receding behind you as your paddles cut the water, in a long and hurried flight.


The Black Desert Eats Up All Your Failures

But it was definitely touch-and-go all the way from Bakersfield to Kingman.  Just as well, I guess- it’s not like there’s much to do out there on the night-blackened asphalt arteries of the Mojave Desert other than obsess.  About whatever (obsessor’s choice).  Well, that and steamroll bunny rabbits at 95 miles an hour (don’t look at me- she threw herself under my wheels).

Yeah whatever, man. You should see the Mojave Desert in the daytime. Seriously. (image by Satan)
Yeah whatever, man. You should see the Mojave Desert in the daytime. Seriously.
(image by Satan)

When the failing moon finally dropped behind the Juniper Mountains at around 4 AM, it was as if the night was saying “Get there, already- my shift ends soon; and once that happens, I won’t be able to protect you.”


By the Time I Get to Arizona

It was around 5:15 in the morning when we finally eased the truck into its parking spot at the Mather Campground on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I really hoped we had the right campsite.  The sky was beginning to lighten; and the last thing I wanted at this hour was to wake up some random family of strangers by setting up a tent in their site amidst the blinding glare of headlights.  I wasn’t 100% positive that I even remembered which specific campsite number I had booked; but 144 gave me less pause than any other number I could conjure, so we went with that and hoped for the best.

You know the world's gone to hell when the elk start huffing gas. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
You know the world’s gone to hell when the elk start huffing gas.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Day 02: 

Grand Canyon Village, Etc.

I awoke two hours later to hear Katherine talking to Robin and Bud.  Apparently we had chosen the correct site.  Not even close to well-rested, I got up anyway and greeted the team.

Later that day, at the South Rim Ranger Station, I basically had to sign our lives away in full, acknowledging that I (we) understood the grave peril inherent in any trip along the Boucher Trail (say it with me: Boo-shay) before the rangers would issue us our backcountry permits.  As the trip “leader”, I also had to acknowledge that we all understood the stark reality that, in the event of injury or disaster of any kind, rescue might very well be not at all possible.  And most importantly, I had to absolve the park of any and all liability, should the shit go sideways on us (an ironic choice of words, I suppose, considering the locale).  A wild hand spasm etched an amorphous inky scribble across the bottom of an official government form, generating a wretched and absolutely illegible script, which nevertheless seemed to satisfy the brass as legally binding.

"... And then she said..." "Ohmygod, no way!! That bitch! I hate her!" "Blah blah blah blah..." "Are you going to the pep rally?" "OMG, totes!!" (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
“… And then she said…”
“Ohmygod, no way!! That bitch! I hate her!”
“Blah blah blah blah…”
“Are you going to the pep rally?”
“OMG, totes!!”
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We would be venturing down what the National Park Service calls “arguably the most difficult and demanding of the south [rim] trails.” The literature goes on to warn: “The overall condition of the trail… presents an obvious hazard… Map reading skills are essential. The Boucher Trail is best left to highly experienced canyon hikers.”  Yeah well, no problem- I made my bones as a backpacker back when you were still hanging on the teat.

We spent the rest of the day dealing with various last-minute gear needs and taking mellow walks along the rim of the canyon, surveying the abyss into which we would be venturing early the next morning.

Nom nom nom. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Nom nom nom.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

That night we kept it to a dull roar- lighting a small campfire, eating an early dinner of Mac and Cheese with pancetta, arranging and distributing gear, and getting to bed relatively early.

Tomorrow begins the ass-kicking.

(to be continued)


Next chapter: (02)

New Years 98/99: A “Trip” Down “Memory” Lane – Part 01 (Early Evening)

The night began innocently enough; and by “innocent,” I mean “not innocent at all, yet still not as non-innocent as was typical of me and my crew in those days.”  Meeting up early in the evening at Chances, our go-to San Francisco watering hole while it endured, a few of us got an early start to the night’s festivities with several rounds of stiff mixed drinks at the bar, and later headed out to make cameos at a few parties- but not before stepping into the restroom to “powder our noses”.

Before the Olsen Twins discovered drugs and anorexia, they were child actresses. (photo property of Wikimedia Commons)
Before the Olsen Twins discovered drugs and anorexia, they were child actresses.
(photo property of Wikimedia Commons)

With our eyes all popping out of our heads, and our appetites temporarily medicated out of existence, myself and a choice posse of aspiring funsters began to make the rounds of the neighborhood.  I have a vague recollection of standing around with a bunch of strangers on the tiny back “porch” (read: 3×3 landing where people would go to smoke) of some random house party.  This “porch” had a pretty good view of the Painted Ladies, which, if you don’t know them by name, are those colorful, picturesque row houses that are frequently held in media circles to be representative of the San Francisco architectural aesthetic.  If that doesn’t help jog your memory, maybe this will: they’re the same houses featured in the opening credits of that dumb-ass show Full House, from the 80s and 90s.  I’ve never been a fan of sitcoms (at least not since I outgrew Diff’rent Strokes sometime in the late 80s); but I’ve always reserved an extra dollop of animosity towards Full House.  I always wanted to kick the shit out of Bob Saget for being such a humorless douche; and seeing how wildly popular his brand of “comedy” had proven (between that show and America’s Funniest Home Videos) did not help to slow down the rising tide of disdain for mainstream American pop culture that had been growing in great leaps and bounds within me ever since the end of high school.

John Stamos is another guy who could use a slap. (photo property of Amusing Planet)
John Stamos is another guy who could use a slap.
(photo property of Amusing Planet)

Anyhoo… so we were on this back stairway landing at this New Years Eve party.  I seem to remember somebody walking around festively handing out cups of Sangria, heavy on the wine and brandy.  At some point I went into a bathroom and attempted to set up lines of coke for myself and my friend Rico; but I idiotically forgot to thoroughly wipe down the sink counter; and so as soon as I laid out the powder it was absorbed and consumed by the water on the vanity- vanished, gone without a trace.  It didn’t help that the surface of the counter was white- not that it really would have made all that much of a difference if it had been a different color that contrasted better with white; but at any rate, there was no hope.  Suddenly, after a millisecond of tentative knocking, the bathroom door opened (read: before the would-be enterer had been green-lit for entry), and in slipped our friend Scotty, hoping to get in on the fun.  Nothing makes you popular at a party of twenty-somethings like a baggie of white.  Scott opened the door to find Rico and me bent over and desperately licking the surface of the vanity, lapping up the candy-flavored moisture.  Even though there was still more blow in the bag.

(to be continued)

Addicted to Dogs

Who Let the Dogs Out?

I did, goddammit.  And I’d do it again.

The Sphinx.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
But is she cold?
Oh no no no
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The High Sierra Pean-Wolf (coat not included)
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
P1060845c - Copy
I know there’s a message here; but I can’t quite tell what it is.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Taming the Pean-Wolf.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

As you can see, I have nothing to “say” at the moment.

And that’s okay, I suppose.