Life + Outdoors » North Coast Almanack

Nov. 1-17, 2010


Get thee outside on the night of Nov. 17
  • Get thee outside on the night of Nov. 17

Nov. 1. Tomorrow you will be asked to make a very interesting decision. The appeal of taking an illegal operation and bringing it into the bright light of legitimate commerce is what tempts many of us to vote in favor of it. One envisions clean, well-lit, ecologically sound greenhouses and coffeehouses, frequented by tourists and staffed by tax-paying workers who enjoy the same protections and rights of all workers, so much that they hardly miss the rolls of greenbacks slipped surreptitiously in their pockets along with their share of the trimmings. Whether such a day will dawn here or in Oakland or anywhere at all is an open question. One wonders, however, whether anyone who enjoys the dark and shifty life of an outlaw will embrace the job of running an up-front business, with its tedium of paperwork and endless quibbles over permits and contracts and finer points of law and etiquette. A rum-runner harbors no dream of operating an above-board establishment; if the rum were to run dry, smuggling some other form of contraband would prove more appealing. It is nonetheless unpleasant to live among rum-runners, which is why some of us hope to legalize their operation and let those with better business acumen take command of the high seas.

Nov. 2. Día de los muertos. It is unfortunate that the dead only get one day out of the year, considering that there are so many of them.

Nov. 3. Federal income tax was enacted on this day in 1913.

Nov. 4. Criticizing, dodging, amending, exempting and complaining about federal income tax began on this day in 1913.

Nov. 5. New moon, 9:52 pm

Nov. 6. We are halfway to the winter solstice. Autumn could be considered over as of today, but many hold that Thanksgiving is the official end of the fall season regardless of the movement of the celestial bodies. Another sign that the last golden days of autumn are slipping away: daylight savings time ends tomorrow, so set clocks back an hour before retiring to bed.

Nov. 7. The name Elijah Lovejoy is one that should be revered by newspaper reporters everywhere. He edited a small religious newspaper in St. Louis and preached in the Presbyterian Church. He sometimes wrote editorials criticizing the leadership of the major churches over the positions they took on an important issue of the day. Those opposed to him destroyed his printing press, prompting him to move to Illinois. In Illinois, his printing press was stolen and thrown into the river. He obtained another one, which was also dispatched to the river. A third printing press met the same fate. Each time, he resumed publication of his small, unpopular newspaper. On this day in 1837, he was shot and killed by those who disagreed with him, and the printing press was burned, broken into pieces and thrown in the river. The controversial stance he refused to stop writing about was the abolition of slavery.

Nov. 8. If a strong, medicinal yellow liquid brewed by French monks who don't speak to each other sounds appealing, lay in a bottle of yellow Chartreuse for the winter. One small shot after dinner is remarkably warm and soothing; surely some of the finer qualities in the Alpine herbs remain after distillation and bequeath their salubrious effects on the drinker. There is a green variety as well; it is monstrously strong and best approached with a mixer of some kind firmly in hand.

Nov. 9. March briskly down the street; today is not a day for dawdlers.

Nov. 10. A fear of lice is known as pediculophobia. Head lice are a gift from our cousin, the chimpanzee, with whom we parted ways about 7 million years ago. Body lice saw an opportunity when we started wearing clothing about 100,000 years ago, and migrated from our heads to the seams of our clothing, where they lay eggs and otherwise carry on the activities of an organized citizenry, venturing onto our warm bodies only when they require a meal. Pubic lice, we regret to report, are from a separate species more closely related to gorillas, suggesting an intimate contact with gorillas about which we dare not speculate.

Nov. 11. The season for planting fruit trees draws ever near. Dig a hole now if you're going to do it; the ground may be too soggy later. Mix in any rotten animal bedding, decayed kitchen scraps and other foul, disintegrating living matter, but leave half the original soil so that the roots will know what they've gotten themselves into.

Nov. 12. Hens lay eggs of only two colors: white or blue. A brown egg is a white egg on which the hen has deposited a pigmented coating of brown; the inside of the shell is still white, demonstrating that the brown color is only a superficial layer created as a by-product of its liver functions. Blue eggs are blue through-and-through, although the hen may wrap it in a yellow-ish brown coating, lending it a greener appearance. The making of an egg is a strange and mysterious process, one that takes only twenty-four hours to complete and occupies the thoughts of the hen ceaselessly. She builds it from the inside out, creating first the yolk, then the white, then a thin membrane, then, in the final moments, a hard shell with its unique color scheme. It is best not to disturb her during these final critical moments.

Nov. 13. We cannot bring toothpaste, nail scissors or oil paints on board an aircraft, but noisy and quarrelsome children are not only permitted, but given their own seats and oxygen masks.

Nov. 14. The problem of weeds sprouting in the sidewalk is such a minor one that it rarely rises to the level of public discourse. It finds its way onto no committee's agenda. It does not even come up in casual conversation. But walk and watch the ground as it goes by, and ask whether a well-tended walkway, free of dandelions and tufts of grass and blackberry brambles, wouldn't just make the whole neighborhood a bit more ship-shape. Sealing the cracks in the walkways is the only viable long-term solution. It is oddly pleasurable to deploy a caulking gun and a tube of cement sealer in this manner, but many other things are pleasurable too, which is why more of us don't do it.

Nov. 15. Earwigs are strangely drawn to the cardboard tubes found inside rolls of toilet paper. What you do with them once you've lured them there is your business.

Nov. 16. Southern families are busy now gathering the three ingredients necessary to make jalapeno cheese grits, a traditional holiday dish politely offered to the non-Southerners around the table who married into the family and understand that no offense will be taken when they refuse their portion. Some dishes are best shared among blood relations, leaving no extras for outsiders.

Nov. 17. The peak moment for viewing the Leonids meteor shower has arrived. An extraordinary show of these meteors took place in 1833, filling the skies across the entire eastern United States and convincing the uneasy citizens of this young nation that some sort of divine but inscrutable message had been delivered.

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