Dear Friends and Loving Family,
As most of you know by now, this year the Slattern family left behind the stress, grime and outstanding bench warrants of New York City for a fresh start in sunny San Francisco! After all that fuss and nonsense about young master Slattern’s alleged “hacking” and our subsequent
flight to adventure in Kazakstan, the Slattern clan was feeling the need for some sun and fun, so when a position opened up in the San Francisco sorting facility of the good old USPS, Mr. Slattern jumped at the chance. Sure, it was a lateral, some might even say downward, move, but as you might expect, the taint of a mail fraud accusation — even a baseless, trumped up one — tends to linger, and so the family got behind “the old man” and packed up the truck and a-moved to Beverly. Well, actually Oakland, but you get the picture.
Upon arriving on the left coast, we soon settled into our charming little bungalow by the freeway (handy off and on!). Out here they call this kind of property a “project house,” and what a project it’s been. Luckily we left the spot welder and acetylene torches back in the NYPD impound room, safely beyond the reach of our family contractor, Uncle Fred. With just a hammer and a handsaw, he worked miracles shoring up the place. I’m pretty sure ours is the only bungalow in the East Bay with flying buttresses, but when the big quake hits, the Slatterns will be ready. “Bring on the tremblers!” says Uncle Fred. Of course there’s more than a little left to do, but with only two rooms, the list is quite manageable. Isn’t it lucky we thought to hitch that pop-up trailer to the minivan before we left? Between the
shack house, the trailer and the Caravan, every member of the family has a little corner to call his own.
With his domestic tasks complete, intrepid traveler Uncle Fred has begun to explore the city and seems to have found his niche at a little cafe over in the Castro where he spends most days nursing a cappuchino and watching the world go by, happily surrounded by like-minded free spirits. As an added bonus, his inner thigh psoriasis is responding beautifully to all that sunshine. And I’m absolutely thrilled to have finally found a use for all those orphaned socks in the laundry basket!
Grandma, too, has found her “peeps” in the wild west. Upon arrival, it was for her the work of minutes to master the bus schedule and make a beeline for Haight-Ashbury, where she’s pretty sure she spent a blissful couple of years back in the Sixties.
You’d think an octogenarian with a walker might have trouble with the transfers, but the old girl says she’s “found a new spark.” We think the spark is her friend, Mr. M-dot Six, whom she met over at the senior drop-in center. It’s so sweet. Every week they take the Cannibis-Rex senior bus to Big Sur together and spend the afternoon chasing trails and chair dancing to the sweet sounds of yesteryear — bootleg Dead, the Airplane, the Stones. Apparently, Mr. Six has the lyrics to Panama Red tattooed on his back, which makes bus sing-alongs a whooping good time.
Between work and his five-hour round-trip commute each day, Mr. Slattern is busy, too. He’s finding the workers-first spirit of San Francisco a welcome change from the grind of New York’s rigid rules and regulations, and of course the six-hour work day is quite a boon. Between the city-mandated karma breaks and his drive time, he’s made real progress with his Kazakh language tapes. As he says, “With this family, you never know when a trip to a Central Asian non-extradition state may be necessary, and next time I want to know how to order a goddamned whiskey and something other than goat.” He’s such a panic.
Young Master Slattern seems be settling in despite the upheaval and detentions of the last few years. A real trooper, our boy is following his court-ordered technology ban to the letter, which made it much easier to refute last week’s loose talk and allegations about connections to the DPRK. Now, instead of working on computers, he spends his off-time at the local gym practicing the martial arts, something called UFC. I’m not sure what it is, but he tells us it’s a very spiritual, energy-focused multi-disciplinary sport. We’re just glad he’s found a new
obsession hobby. As an added bonus, his baby-fat love handles and computer-screen slouch are both things of the past. We are told the concussive damage passes quickly and is seldom cumulative, so it’s all good.
As you may have heard, our daughter decided to stay in Kazakhstan as Mrs. Nikolai Nikolaiovich, at least until the twins arrive. Last time we spoke, the newlyweds were planning to join us just as soon as the confusion about Nik’s status could be resolved with Homeland Security. Apparently, owing to some business with camels and rocket fuel, his name landed on a watch list, but he is sure it’s all a misunderstanding. What else is new for this family?
As for yours truly, I soldier on. The freeway noise, at first a constant sensory assault not unlike living in a running clothes dryer, has become, for me anyway, more like the sound of waves breaking on the shore, a kind of white noise with diesel fumes. It lulls me to sleep at night, and in the morning the jake brakes and air horns gently rouse me from my Ambien-induced slumber. The doctors out here are lovely and generally agree that my alopecia is most likely stress-induced and temporary. They seem to feel the bald spots on my head will start to fill in on their own as soon as the Lithium kicks in. The good news is, no need for another bout of residential treatment — or ECT — for your favorite slattern!
Once again, we wish all our friends and family (even the ones who no longer speak to us, or accept our calls, or send money) a happy and healthy holiday season. For those of you still in touch, we can best be reached at General Delivery, Daly City Post Office. Or through the Red Cross/Crescent. Happy New Year, everybody!
You cannot petition the lord with prayer, and it really pisses Dr. Calculus off.
When I was back there at the University of Maine, for some reason, Jim Morison was still remarkably popular among the undergrads, despite the fact that he had already been dead for almost a decade. See?
To this day, I still have flashbacks of being awakened in the wee hours by the exhortations of Jim and company as they blasted from the refrigerator-size speakers that took up more space than the beds in one of the more notorious rooms down the hall. Apparently volume was crucial to a successful trip, as was repetition, because even now, I can recall the words to that song. To the letter.
Now, with the psychedelic experience often come unusual compulsions, such as the need to undress in public, or at the very least in the company of several of your closest friends and/or acquaintances. Or so I have heard. Of course the streaking craze of the early Seventies had been largely consigned to memory by the time I began my long, hazy journey through academia, though like all exhibitionistic indulgences, it has enjoyed periodic resurgences and upticks in activity ever since.
But as I say, back in the day, it wasn’t widely practiced, other than by a couple of incorrigible undergraduate nudists on campus, more often than not after a long evening of consuming grain alcohol mixed with Kool Aid that was served by the tumbler from a garbage can. Understandable of course. As such, I did spy the occasional exposed member or naked cheek of a weekend evening; however, the practice of stripping down in public was exclusively the domain of the student rather than the faculty.
And so it was with some interest and no little surprise that I happened upon the story of the Michigan State math professor who melted down to such an extent — in the classroom — that he felt compelled to strip completely naked and utterly nude in the middle of a calculus lecture. Now I’m no math whiz, but I’d have to say that if anything could make me lose my grip on reality, not to mention my underthings, it would be having to teach an advanced mathematics class. So I sympathize. Or is it empathize? I can never remember. Anyways…take a look.
What I love about this article is the reference to keeping your socks on by the student in the classroom. If you’ll recall, one of my state’s most colorful scandals involved the charming Eliot Spitzer, aka the “Luv Guv,” who was found to have availed himself of the services of a bevy of sex workers, and subsequently lost his dream job. Like the mad calculus professor, he too preferred to keep his socks on, though if the press accounts are to believed, he lobbied his escorts heavily for unprotected sex. Now that’s a thrill seeker.
Here’s what I don’t get. It wasn’t until Professor Crazy stripped naked that the students became fearful. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems unlikely he could conceal a weapon once he was down to his birthday suit. Who knows, maybe there was a shiv in his sock or a telltale scab on the nether regions that posed an infection risk? Unlikely, you must admit. So why then, would a group of healthy twenty year-olds fear one paunchy un-armed math professor? The photo is a bit grainy, but he’s clearly no Arnold Schwartzenneger.
In fact, a quick scroll through the Facebook would indicate that the youth of today are far less inhibited about being caught naked on film than any previous generation. One might conclude, therefore, that this professor’s little trip to Crazy Town should have been no more traumatic than a night in the frat house for his students. Perhaps it wasn’t the nudity, but the existential crisis that got them all in a lather. Maybe it was the notion that not only can you NOT petition the lord with prayer, but He doesn’t actually exist at all that put them in a tizzy. Or maybe it was just the calculus. Would have done it for me.