Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Temple of Peace and Tranquility

Jing'an Temple
Take a 30 minute walk from Lakeville Regency apartments, where Westerners make their high-rise homes, past Xintiandi Mall, where you can buy high-end clothing, across Huaihai Road, choked with taxis, buses, and cars, take a left on clamorous West Nanjing Road, go past swanky Plaza 66, where Nike and Prada have their Asian headquarters, and you will come upon the Temple of Peace and Tranquility.

3D fresco depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha
Jing'an Temple has stood here, a lotus flower amid the changeful waters of Shanghai, for nearly 800 years. (Coming, as I do, from the youngest part of the Western World, it is strange to think that while Europeans were jousting with armor and lance, golden-robed monks were even then burning incense in the courtyard and bowing to the Stone Buddhas.)

Ornate woodwork

The temple has been razed and rebuilt more than once in that time. Most recently, in 1972, it was partially consumed by fire. But just as the essence of being is rebirthed, so too, the temple.

More fresco
Buddha in the Hall of the Great Hero

Incense offering

Pungent smoke fills the courtyard

I dreamed of eternity
Golden lions

Fresco on an exterior wall

Tower in the courtyard

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ni hao, Shanghai

Modern city
Archeological evidence suggests that human settlements were first established on the site of what is now Shanghai some 7000 years ago. For thousands of years, the as-yet-unnamed settlement existed as an agricultural village of little import.

Hustle, bustle
All that changed in the 1400s when the Ming Dynasty dredged the Huanpu River and built a wall around the town to establish a bastion against Japanese pirates.

What could possibly go wrong?
From there, it was nowhere but up. Today, Shanghai is home to 23 million people, the largest city in the world and the economic gateway to its most populous country.

Residential alleyway
One wonders what those ancient farmers and fishermen would think, were they to see what has come from such humble beginnings.

Laundry day on Zizhong Street
Having arrived here in the early evening on Thursday (the wee, wee hours Thursday morning, Portland time) I set out with Brother Calee to see the sights on Friday.

Friendly construction worker
Shanghai possesses an odd duality of clean streets and dirty air.

The clean streets are a consequence of China's "socialist paradise." Everyone here has a job. If no jobs are available, the government will provide one for you. Thus, every street has a uniformed street-sweep equipped with a primitive broom who patrols the sidewalk, sweeping up litter, dog feces, and food scraps.

The air, on the other hand, is exceedingly dirty. Americans, conditioned to breathing clean air, will notice the difference. The air pollution index here runs between 150 and 200 most days, which is "unhealthy" according to the US Consulate. Walking the surface streets, breathing car exhaust, coal smoke, and dust, one's throat and sinuses become irritated. Calee and I both had fits of sneezing at different times. When we arrived home for the evening I felt as if I'd spent the day working in a fiberglass factory.

Pedal power
Unlike other major cities I've visited (Delhi, India is foremost in my mind) there is no sense of menace in Shanghai. Apart from "loose women" and pickpockets, there is no worry about crime. (Say what you will about authoritarian governments, they do keep the streets safe).

Ironic, when you consider how I spent my college days
In the Sinan Mansion district, Calee and I visited the Memorial House of the Shanghai Office of the Delegation of the Communist Party of China. (Ain't that a mouthful?) This traditional upper-end house was the place where Zhou Enlai, Chairman Mao's right-hand man, set up shop in the tense days following the surrender and expulsion of the Japanese at the end of the Second World War. The civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists had paused for the duration of the Japanese invasion, but now that they were gone, tensions rose again. Comrade Zhou and his coterie used this house in Shanghai as their headquarters, while Chang Kai Shek's Khoumintang occupied the house across the street.

Comrade Zhou
The truce didn't last, of course. Comrade Zhou was expelled from Shanghai and open hostilities broke out again. We all know where it went from there.

Made-to-order Chinese crepe
There is more to tell, but I'll save that for future posts. In the meantime, enjoy these photos that hopefully offer a passable glimpse into the vast, undefinable organism that is Shanghai today.

Modern architecture

Tyranny of petty authority

New face, ancient city

Sidewalk gamers

Eggs for sale

Today's special: Live turtles and bullfrogs

Eel spaghetti, anyone?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bound for Shanghai! Farewell, Western World...

This time tomorrow, God willing, I'll be high over the Pacific Ocean, bound for Shanghai, China. Shanghai is the biggest city in the world by population. Home to 23 million souls. The entire population of the state of Oregon could not occupy even a fifth of that city.

As an experienced traveler, one thing I know for sure. Whatever preconceptions and ideas I'm carrying around will shatter on impact with the reality. That's one of travel's most sublime rewards. As Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

Yesterday, I discovered that I needed a travel wallet to contain my passport, credit card, and tourist visa that I could wear under my shirt. (They're essential for passport-clinging Americans.)

Maty took me to the mall. She knew where to look. We went through Ross and Radio Shack and I was starting to think we might not find one. But Maty would not give up. And, of course, her instincts were right. We found exactly what I was looking for on the far wall shelf in Marshall's. It was the only one they had, and it was hidden behind a pile of women's handbags. $4.99. Maty has few rivals when it comes to shopping skills.

Farewell din-din at Nikola's on Broadway
From the mall, we went to Nikolas on Broadway for my bon voyage dinner. I had kibbeh, she had lamb shawarma, and we shared baba ganouj appetizer. Our triumphant supper was tinged with sadness because we'll be apart.

That evening, and again today, my pretty little Rose City was basking in Sol's glory. The gloomy times seem far away.

It's so hard to leave when she's like this.

China, I come.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book review: The Angel's Game

The Angel's Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, serves as prequel to that author's successful novel, The Shadow of the Wind.

The Angel's Game is set in Barcelona in pre-Civil War Spain of the 1920s and 1930s. It's the story of a young writer, David Martín, who works his way up from errand boy at the local news rag to become a successful novelist. Although Martín is widely-read and prolific, for various murky (and sinister) reasons, his name is unknown to most of his readers. As he struggles to find his identity, Martín is approached by a mysterious Faustian figure, Andreas Corelli, who promises to make him famous and wealthy if Martín will use his writing skills to help Corelli "invent a new religion."

No sooner does Martín accept Corelli's bargain than a series of mysterious events --gruesome murders, unexplained fires, destroyed careers --begin to occur around Barcelona, all of them somehow connected to Martín and his literary ambitions.

Just as with the earlier book in the series, The Angel's Game is populated with colorful, well-drawn characters (even minor characters are well-described and as often as not, completed with elaborate backgrounds that provide depth and insight). Zafón has a penchant for complicated plots that weave and twist like the alleyways of Barcelona's Raval Quarter, where much of the action takes place.

But unlike the earlier novel which seemed to jump between comedy and horror, The Angel's Game is more cut-and-dried Gothic horror. There is less humor and more darkness, less levity, more foreboding.

Which is not to say that The Angel's Game lacks Zafón's trademark witty, sharp-edged dialog. Much of the book's menace and satire occurs between quotation marks. And nearly every exchange between characters includes some pearl of homespun wisdom.

In addition to his dialog, though, Zafón is a master of narrative voice. Consider this excerpt:
A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price. 
My first time came one faraway day in December 1917. I was seventeen and worked at The Voice of Industry, a newspaper that had seen better days and now languished in a barn of a building that had once housed a sulfuric acid factory. The walls still oozed the corrosive vapor that ate away at furniture and clothes, sapping the spirits, consuming even the soles of shoes. The newspaper’s headquarters rose behind the forest of angels and crosses of the Pueblo Nuevo cemetery; from afar, its outline merged with the mausoleums silhouetted against the horizon—a skyline stabbed by hundreds of chimneys and factories that wove a perpetual twilight of scarlet and black above Barcelona.

On the night that was about to change the course of my life, the newspaper’s deputy editor, Don Basilio Moragas, saw fit to summon me, just before closing time, to the dark cubicle at the far end of the editorial staff room that doubled as his office and cigar den. Don Basilio was a forbidding- looking man with a bushy moustache who did not suffer fools and who subscribed to the theory that the liberal use of adverbs and adjectives was the mark of a pervert or someone with a vitamin deficiency.

Any journalist prone to florid prose would be sent off to write funeral notices for three weeks. If, after this penance, the culprit relapsed, Don Basilio would ship him off permanently to the "House and Home" pages. We were all terrified of him, and he knew it.
Sets things up nicely, doesn't it?  But apart from the opening paragraph of this excerpt, Zafón doesn't write much about the exaltation and the sense of fulfillment that comes from producing a successful piece of writing. (And by "successful," I mean something that the writer feels adequately conveys his thoughts, rather than "successful" in the commercial sense.)

As Zafón describes it, being a writer is a hellish existence. He covers well all the fear, the guilt, and the doubt that comes with the calling.  His descriptions of Barcelona evoke images of Hell itself, and the ending leaves the reader with an ominous foreboding that the worst is yet to come.

There is a third book in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven. It's on my list. I can't wait.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wasteland of principles

In the 200 block of SE Clay Street, a husk of building stands surrounded by a 6 foot high security fence. Rusted steel struts prop up the graffiti-splashed walls. Broken glass and debris litter the cracked concrete of the floor. Weeds sprout through the cracks.

I heard somewhere that this ruin is the remains of an electrical supply store consumed by fire over a decade ago, but I've always known it as a ruin. I surmise that the reason it has stood this way for so long is because of some petty law suit. Disputes over insurance claims or the like.

Somebody somewhere is making a stand on "principle" and the net result is that inner Southeast is saddled with a hazardous eyesore.


And doesn't this ruined building epitomize the current state of our nation?

Just yesterday, the US Senate failed to invoke cloture on a bill that required background checks for gun purchases. This bill had the support of over 90% of the public, included 70+% of NRA members. It was a bipartisan bill, put forward by two Senators, Manchin (D) of West Virginia and Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania, who, up to now, were considered "Second Ammendment proponents."

But the NRA, took a "principled" stand and put the hammer down on their Senate lackeys. They threatened them with public denunciation and a downgrade of their cherished NRA legislative ratings. In doing so, they were able to intimidate 48 US Senators (of both parties) from doing the right thing.

In order to avoid the perception of yielding even an inch, Senators cast "principled" votes that stand in contrast to common sense, to sanity.

But the gun registration bill isn't even all of the story. The long list of unfilled federal judgeships, the xenophobic obstacles put in the way of immigration reform, the obstinate refusal to authorize federal spending for infrastructure repair: all of this reveals how petty and stupid (yes, stupid) are the people of this nation. (And I'm including myself.)

Everyone wants to make a stand on "principle." No one wants to give an inch. And while we're beating our chests and shrieking at each other, our national landscape comes more and more to resemble the dilapidated husk on SE Clay.

Yay, America!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mitch and John shoot the breeze

SceneSunday, April 14th, 2013. A private bar in Ronald Reagan National Airport. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sits alone in a booth that looks out on the tarmac, gazing out at the planes making their approaches. Speaker of the House John Boehner enters the bar and sees McConnell sitting by himself. Boehner approaches.

Boehner: Back to work on a Sunday night, eh, Mitch? No rest for the wicked.

McConnell [still gazing out the window]:  Have a seat, John.

Boehner [looking around the empty bar, then sitting]: Why not? There's nobody here to hold it against me.

[McConnell cranes his neck around to shoot Boehner a mournful look.]

Boehner: No offense, Mitch, but you're about as popular as a can of spam at a health food convention.

McConnell:  Last week was a long week. 

Boehner: Poor, old Mitch. The good people of Kentucky can't see how hard you work, eh? Digging up dirt on popular television actresses takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. I wouldn't want to call your constituents a bunch of ingrates, but...

McConnell:  Go ahead and have your fun, John. You won't be laughing long. There's a freight train bearing down on you. 

Boehner: Don't I know it? It's bearing down on all of us. I'm working under the assumption that we'll be giving campaign speeches in Spanish come 2016.

McConnell:  That's not what I'm talking about, Mr. Speaker. Open your eyes. Didn't you see what happened with the gun control debate?

Boehner: I wasn't gonna bring it up, Mitch. Believe it or not, I'm not that cruel. I know you got embarrassed. Break all the rules by joining Rand Paul's filibuster only to have it blow up in your face? Fourteen fine Republican senators voted with Harry. Broke my heart to see you lose control of your caucus like that. 

McConnell:  Mr. Speaker, would you honor me with a favor?  

Boehner: You know I worship the ground you walk on.

McConnell:  When the background-check railroad hits the House floor, remember this moment. You can laugh now, but before you know it, it's going to be you up there holding hands with Wayne LaPierre. Nobody is under any illusions about the grip you have on your caucus. And, John, if things like this even matter any more, the voting public wants this to happen.You think I'm unpopular? Let's talk again in two months.

Boehner: That's the difference between me and you, Mitch. I know I'm sitting at the wheel of a clown car. You keep forgetting.

[Senator Rand Paul enters, espies the two men and approaches.]

Paul:  Hey, Mitch. Some fun last week, eh? So how are we gonna top it this week? I've been toying with the idea of filibustering the immigration thing that Rubio's working on. That ought to get McCain's blood pressure up!

Boehner [chuckling]: Anyway, I've gotta go. See ya in the funny papers, Mitch.

[As Boehner walks away, Paul takes a seat across from McConnell.]

Paul:  Now that I've got your ear, Mr. Leader, let me bounce a couple more ideas off of you...

[McConnell dabs at his eyes with a white linen napkin.]

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book review: Hawthorn & Child

Keith Ridgway's Hawthorn & Child is a perplexing novel. That is, if you want to call it a novel. I'm not so sure the designation fits. Rather, Hawthorn & Child is a series of vignettes that, taken together, offer a disturbing and complex vision of dirty, seamy (and terrifying) London in the 21st century.

To the extent that the book has any discernible protagonists, they are the two eponymous mid-level detectives. Hawthorn is a lonely gay man, prone to fits of spontaneous weeping; Child is a hard-edged and sour black man who is losing the last vestiges of hope. But while many of the episodic chapters in the book feature one or both of these characters, many do not.

I selected this book for my book club solely on the strength of an article Ridgway wrote for the New Yorker that I read last summer. I was greatly impressed by Ridgway's prose and his clear articulation. And Hawthorn & Child demonstrates that his abilities on those scores are genuine. Consider this passage, which describes how an (unnamed) pickpocket and his girlfriend drifted in to sadomasochism:
They couldn't talk. They were not good talkers, either of them. And once, long ago now, she had bought a notebook for a course. It lay empty and forgotten on the kitchen table until one afternoon, when she had gone out to the shops and he was worried that she would be killed by a bus or by lightning, he opened the notebook and he wrote lines about how he loved her, the way he loved her, about his fucking heart and crap like that, about his body brimful and his scrambled head. All that. She came back from the shops. He left the notebook where it was, and he didn't mention it. And it wasn't until about a week later that he noticed it again, and he flicked it open, and he saw his lines followed by lines from her. She'd written words that she had never said. He sat down. He read them over and over for a long time. Then he wrote a paragraph for her to find.

This went on for ages before either of them said anything about it. But he thought that maybe they touched each other differently. It was like the book freed stuff up, allowed it to happen, that the tenderness was covered, they had it covered, they had all the love and kindness and gentleness covered, and the sex became something else.
Simple language, but deep thoughts. Much more is implied than described. These are signs of a skilled writer.

One of the more frustrating challenges of the book is that, with each new chapter, all of which are presented in limited third-person perspective, the reader must discern who is the subject. Many characters are not named. The reader must distinguish each by his thoughts.

The stories within the book vary widely. There is a coming-of-age story about an art-loving girl who finds love with a misfit schoolboy. There is the story about the aforementioned London pickpocket who drives a car for an Asian gangster and who delves into S&M sex with his girlfriend. There is a story of a religious psychotic with an interesting theory about the "lost years" of Jesus who finds himself in a strange house with a sleeping infant as the police surround his hiding place. There is an entire chapter that cuts between a gay orgy and a police action during a riot.

As I read, I expected that Ridgway would somehow tie all the stories together to illustrate some theme or leitmotif. So when I finished, I was perturbed to realize that there was none. London's Guardian newspaper referred to Hawthorn & Child as an anti-novel, and I'd say that's an apt description.

Ridgway, it seems to me, is trying to break new ground with this book. And I admire him for that. Hawthorn & Child is not like any other novel I've read. But I was vaguely dissatisfied at the huge gaps in the narrative, at the lack of resolution.

Ridgway's skills demand that I give him another try and I will. There's something worth investigating here.

What's this cat trying to get at?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Who is Lucifer?

Prideful Lucifer
Lucifer, morning star, son of the dawn, is an important figure in Christian mythos. Lucifer is one of the archangels. But unlike his holy brethren, Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, Lucifer became enamored with his own glory and succumbed to Pride, the deadliest of the 7 deadly sins. For his crime against God, he was cast from heaven and became known ever after as Satan, the devil.

It's a fascinating story. But, like so much of Christian belief, I can't accept it as literal. If there is truth to be had, as far as I'm concerned, it is by examining the story as metaphor.

But I put the question to a good friend of mine, a practicing Christian and a man of considerable intellect. "Is Lucifer a personality?"

His reply: "I'm agnostic on that."

"What about your church?" I asked.

"I think they're agnostic on that, too."

An honest, if dissatisfying answer.

South side of Saint Stephen's Catholic, up on 41st
I've known people who believed that Satan is an actual personality, the chief of the Bad Guys. I've known people who lived in fear of such a being. I've known people who claimed to worship such an entity, too. (There was a young woman who lived a few doors down, when I was renting an apartment in Cedar Mill. She had a necklace with a medallion on which was emblazoned a red pentagram. She was a nice enough woman. She seemed lonely.)

But in my reality, Lucifer is a metaphor for the evil that exists in all of us: our propensity toward self-infatuation, our lust for power, our malignant indifference toward everything that is not us.

Christians, please weigh in! Muslims, as well! Is there an actual devil? A living personification of evil? Or is it something different?

Odd synchronicity: I thought about the devil all the way up Mount Tabor this afternoon. On the way home, I stopped in at Fred Meyer to pick up a rose for Maty and some kalamata olives. When the cashier rang me up, she glanced at the receipt as she handed it to me.  "Oh, look at that!" she said. "Must be your lucky day!"

I examined the receipt. Single red rose: $1.99. Kalamata olives: $4.67. Grand total: $6.66.

"That's interesting," I thought.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Portland's Senegalese Community celebrates 53 years of independence

This last weekend, the Senegalese Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington held their annual celebration of Senegal's status as an independent nation. The festivities occurred at the Senior Center in Portland's Hollywood District on Saturday night.

Senegalese ladies in their finery
Planning and preparation for the event began months ago. The pace of activity started at methodical and worked its way up to frenetic in the final days before the party. As is always the case with these events, the Senegalese women (plus Anna and Lisa, the American spouses of Senegalese men) spent the several days prior to the event cooking like madwomen. My wife, Maty, had light cook duty this year, due to her recent surgery, but she still whipped up a big batch of African rice and ginger juice.

(Ginger juice is a very spicy concoction of ginger, mint, pineapple, and other ingredients. The first time I tried it, I made the mistake of taking a huge gulp. I lost my respiratory abilities for several seconds. Did I mention ginger juice is very spicy?)

Sabe Kan provided high-energy entertainment prior to the banquet, laying down infectious rhythms and performing captivating mbalax dances.

Here's a little sample of their high-energy performance.

The food at the banquet was, as usual, fantastic. In particular, the mafé (African peanut sauce), was outstanding. My friend Dave Hauth, who's become a fan of West African food, commented on how lucky I am to have a Senegalese wife who cooks me up these dishes regularly.

Crowded dance floor
Attendance was good. In addition to the Senegalese folks, the local Gambian community was well-represented and I encountered people from Burkina Faso, Congo, and Guinea as well.

And there were lots of North Americans. Many of the Senegalese people have American spouses, of course. But in addition, they invited coworkers and associates. One of the objectives of the association is, as President Adama Goujaby put it, "to import Senegalese culture," and this party serves that objective well.

One aspect of this party that I find enjoyable is listening to the music of the various languages spoken at the event. You'll hear English, of course, and French. But also, you're likely to hear Wolof, Mòoré, and other African languages. My Wolof vocabulary consists of less than a dozen words, but I've developed enough of an ear for it that I can at least distinguish it from other African languages.

Na nga def (articulated as "NON gah dev") translates to "How do you do?" That, friends, is the extent of my command of Wolof phraseology.

Maty and I with Maman Goujaby, plain tuckered out
Everyone seemed to have a great time, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how much we all missed Elimaan and Mbarou Mbeng and their family. The Mbeng's moved to Kansas City to pursue a work opportunity. They were an important part of the Senegalese community here in Portland and we miss them.

I've been affiliated with this community every since I had the extreme good fortune of finding my wife. It is good for the heart to be part of a community that is thriving, that is maintaining its identity even as it integrates and adapts to the life and customs of the Pacific Northwest.

Party on, Senegalese folks!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Domestic terrorism in Texas

Last Saturday, March 30, 2013, Texas District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were murdered in their home by an unknown assailant. McLelland was allegedly shot as many as 20 times. (Read more here.)

Earlier this year, on January 31, McLelland's deputy prosecutor, Mark Hasse, was gunned down in a courthouse parking lot in broad daylight. (Read more here.)

There is also speculation that the murder of the head of Colorado's prison system, Tom Clements, may be related to the Texas murders, but no connections have yet been established.  (Read more here.)

By any definition, this is terrorism

As of this writing, speculation is that a white supremacist group, the Aryan Brotherhood (sometimes referred to as "ABT"), may be behind the killings. In October of last year, a multi-agency task force secured Grand Jury indictments against 34 members of the ABT. It is surmised that these killings may be retribution for the legal takedown.

White supremacists are a real problem in this country. They've tried to make inroads here in Oregon, but without much success.  (This ain't Texas, folks.)

But whoever are behind the murders, whether it is indeed the ABT or a Mexican drug cartel, they've picked a fight with the wrong people. Right-wing gun-nuts brandishing their phallus enhancers and proclaiming themselves to be the last line of defense against tyrannical government would do well to watch what happens.

A few weeks back, right-wing freak James Yeager, CEO of something called "Tactical Response," a company that trains civilians in weapons and tactical skills, proclaimed (on Youtube!) that if restrictions on gun ownership went "any further," he would "start killing people." Smart thinkin', James! The result of this foolishness was that Yeager's weapons permit was revoked by the state of Tennessee, depriving him of his means to make a living.

But Yeager got off easy. When law enforcement catches up to those responsible for the Texas killings, the best the murderers can hope for is to spend out their lives isolated in a maximum security prison.  And law enforcement will catch them. They don't let things like this slide.

Watch and see, gun nuts. You're about to get a sharp lesson. I wonder if you've got the wit to grasp it.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The old dog's guide to springtime sight-seeing

Apologies to any who might be offended by this post. It's April Fool's Day. Try and take it with a sense of humor, eh?

This last weekend, Portland folks were treated to two full days of splendid spring weather. Temperatures in the 70s. Colors like madness. Everything woke up. Cherry and apple blossoms, bulbs and flowers. Young folks on Hawthorne Boulevard.

As beautiful as it is, this is hazardous weather for springtime walking.  Especially if one is an old dog. The potential for neck and back injuries as one traverses the sidewalks and parkways of my neighborhood is considerable. Trust me on this.

About this time last year, when springtime awoke, I was walking west on Hawthorne, coming home from a hike up Mount Tabor. I espied two young women in tank tops and spandex, out jogging along the sidewalk. They, too, were headed west, about half a block ahead of me. They were athletes with strong shoulders and lean bodies. Their hair was pulled back tight in pony-tails.Their long determined strides bespoke confidence and health.

Outside the Watertrough Saloon, a middle-aged fellow sat smoking a cigarette. He was bald as an egg, with an enormous paunch. His eyes were obscured behind dark sunglasses. As the two young women passed him, he turned and glanced down the street after them.  

Aha! thought I.

When I walked past, I simply couldn't resist. "Well, was it worth a second look?" I asked him.  He grinned and guffawed. "Busted!" he said. "One old dog can always sniff out another," I said. We both laughed.

My bald-headed, sunglass-bespectacled friend with the enormous paunch needed work on his skills. There are ways to do these things so that they aren't so obvious.

Early detection is key. As you walk, keep an eye on the sideway before you. The ideal range for first detection is about three-quarters of a city block. When you see someone that meets your criteria (shorts, sun dresses, or the like), immediately drop your eyes to a point on the sidewalk about 5 to 10 feet in front of you. The goal here is to appear as if you are lost in thought, pondering some weighty matter as you make your way down the sidewalk.

When the subject enters your field of vision, raise your eyes slowly. This is your opportunity to observe. As you bring your eyes up, you mustn't pause until you reach eye level. Therefore, make sure you take in all there is to see on the way up. When you reach the eyes, affect an expression of mild astonishment, as if, wrapped in your own thoughts you had not noticed the other person approaching.

It is vital that you be ready for the eyes. There will be eye contact. The subject is testing you to see where you're looking.

When eye contact is established, smile. The smile is key. It is not a leering smile. It is not a lascivious smile. It's a friendly, unassuming smile. Nine times out of ten, the response will be a smile returned.

This, my friends, is how to successfully enjoy the beauty of spring without coming across as a lecherous old dog.

And gentlemen, you're welcome.