Waiting for the Bus (in Henderson, NV)

It’s just a hole-in-the-wall convenience store

Doubling down as a bus terminal

On the road to the El Dorado.

Beyond a wall of warehouses and power lines

Projects the hazy image of Las Vegas

Against a screen of blue desert mountains.

It is already ninety and, with still half an hour

To kill, I go inside.

A decrepit office chair announces

The waiting room of damned passengers

Forced to sit for eternity wedged

Between bookcases of DVD porn

With titles like Drop Your Drawers,

Ass Candy and BodASScious

And a long showcase stocked like a

Museum of the tawdry with marijuana

Papers, bongs and pipes of all colors,

Detoxifying products like Urine Luck

And Ready Clear, a Venus de Milo-shaped candle,

Dagger paperweights and CO2 cylinders,

Radar detectors, gargoyles topped with

Little glass plates to serve up snort,

Long knives with silver and gold

Handles shaped like cobra hoods,

Even a corn cob pipe and bronzed shoe.

Over my head is a rack of Hustler, Playboy,

Penthouse and others harder still. 

There is no escape.

I try to pass the time with the local

Entertainment rag laced with

Lusty leather-strapped women advertising

Cabarets and gentlemen’s pleasures.

I put down the paper and clutch my book,

Reading it deliberately as if to

Cleanse myself of these primal images

With a baptism of pure words.

Just in time the bus comes.

I scan the islands of passengers

Scattered among the mostly empty seats:

A tidily-dressed retired couple,

Two young women in silver-sequined

Running suits, and a gray pony-tailed guy

With frazzled beard and vacant eyes.

Gazing at my fellow voyeurs,

I wonder what vices

And passions they harbor.

Together we travel in darkness

Afloat in a wanton sea of desire

That defies my sensibilities

As I delight in being part of it all.                                                                             ©Gene Twaronite 2013

Originally published in Wilderness House Literary Review, Summer 2013  http://www.whlreview.com/no-8.2/poetry/GeneTwaronite.pdf


How to Read a Pesticide Label … or Not

Now that it’s weed and bug season, people will be spraying chemicals into every conceivable corner of their homes and landscapes. Not only is pest spraying a vital part of the American economy, it has become a national pastime, surpassed only by football and ranting on Facebook. But before using any pesticide in your garden, bedroom or spouse’s cereal, it is important to read the label.  The fact that no one does so, much less knows how to read anymore, is no reason you shouldn’t. Since chemical companies use such labels primarily to avoid lawsuits, you might find some valuable information that you could use against them, like not specifying the hazards of using the product on cereal.

The first part of the label lists ingredients, which are given freakish chemical names meant to scare you like Superglamamine-nitro-megakill-triphosphate. If you read the fine print, however, you will see that only .000000000000001% of the product actually contains this chemical. All the rest is composed of perfectly safe inert materials like water, used kitty litter and a surfactant, whatever that is.   

The next part lists the important phone numbers to call. There’s a product information number to complain why the product left purple stains on your living room carpet and a medical emergency number to call when in the course of using the product you suddenly stop breathing. 

Invariably there is a warning to “keep out of reach of children,” so if you were thinking of having your four-year-old bratty niece that your sister dropped off for the weekend do the spraying, just forget it.

Then there are a whole bunch of prissy precautionary statements, like if you ingest ten gallons of the pesticide you might experience minor gas pain, diarrhea or complete paralysis. Look for a signal word in upper case letters; if it says “DANGER,” this means maximum toxicity and that is good because you are getting the most bang for your buck. There’s also stuff about environmental hazards such as killing fish or causing long-range permanent damage to the gene pool of all life on earth, but this is not your problem.   

This is followed by a terse statement that it is a violation of FEDERAL LAW to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling, which means you could be facing some serious jail time for using it to kill that nasty foot fungus.

Under “Storage and Disposal” is a warning not to store the chemical in food or beverage containers and to avoid contaminating foodstuffs, especially those you happen to be eating at the time. Recommended procedures for disposal are also provided, which at the very minimum should include triple rinsing the empty container, wrapping it with an impervious, all weather plastic, encasing this in solid concrete, and placing the whole in an unmarked bag and dropping it off at the nearest EPA approved Extreme Hazardous Material site or, if one is not conveniently nearby, in your neighbor’s trashcan.

The “Directions for Safe Usage” is a long overblown section full of stuff obvious to any normal, sensible person, such as mixing, filling tanks or aerial sprayers, and manner of application, which you can largely ignore. I mean, who doesn’t want to use pesticides safely? You do want to read the part about how much of the product to use per gallon of water. Plan on at least doubling or tripling this amount for more killing power.

You might also want to glance at the part listing the kinds of pests actually targeted by the product. Don’t worry if the pest you are trying to eliminate isn’t mentioned. Just increase the dosage. For really serious pests, like telemarketers, you may have to go full strength to achieve long lasting control.

Lastly, there is usually a section called “Re-entry Intervals.” This just tells you how long you should wait after application until it is safe to enter the area again. This is a personal judgment call. Some people are more chemically sensitive than others. If you suddenly start to bleed through your facial orifices and notice a dense green cloud in the area, you may want to wait a few minutes at least.                                                                                                                                      ©Gene Twaronite 2013                                                                                                                                                                                          Originally published in 5enses, July 2013  http://www.5ensesmag.com/the-absurd-naturalist-how-not-to-read-a-pesticide-lab

In Defense of Same-Species Marriage

While the issue of same-sex marriage plays out in the Supreme Court, we need to cool off a bit and find some common ground. For instance, we can all at least agree that marriage should be limited to members of the same species. Yet there are those among us, even now, cohabiting with partners outside their own genetic kin. It is only a matter of time before such unions become commonplace, threatening the traditional sanctity of marriage. That is why I propose a national Same-Species Marriage Act.

Polls show that most Americans are opposed by a wide margin to marriages between different species, even when it involves a beloved pet or favorite tree. Numerous research studies in the past 30 years have amply demonstrated that children growing up in households headed by two different species often display signs of emotional distress and confusion, especially with regard to their species identity. Furthermore, many religions consider procreation to be the main or even only purpose of marriage. However, in most cases, trans-species unions are far less likely to result in viable progeny. Thousands of years of recorded evidence have shown that nothing beats same-species coupling for overall reliability and safety in producing healthy offspring. And no successful interbreeding has ever been documented between humans and the plant kingdom, though it has not stopped some people from trying.

For the time being at least, I further propose that the law be applied only to marriages involving humans. While this might seem a no-brainer since, according to the best available evidence, marriage is an institution unique to our own species, we do not know this for certain. In all the extensive field studies undertaken to date, there have been no signs of outward behavior observed—rice-throwing or exchanging rings, for example—in the mating behavior of other species that could be definitively described as a marriage ritual, be it civil or religious. But just because gorillas, wombats, or skinks don’t talk about marriage doesn’t mean they don’t engage in such relationships. The deep emotional bonds observed between mated couples in various species such as whales, primates, and wolves points to the possibility at least of relationships as complex and meaningful as ours. Indeed, the cohabitation of ravens, who mate for life, might aptly be described as a form of common-law marriage, defined not by ceremony, but by the simple act of living together. The raven clan may have laws of their own recognizing such unions. Who knows, they might even have courts. That great animal behaviorist Rudyard Kipling first suggested the existence of such animal courts in his classic study The Jungle Book. The mere fact that we humans codify and publish our laws doesn’t preclude in other creatures the existence of hitherto unknown codes of conduct—the Law of the Jungle, for example—by which they live out their existence. As Carl Sagan and Bertrand Russell both have reminded us, in the absence of scientific evidence we should withhold judgment.

But what if two different, non-human species wish to live together as creature and creature? Take, for example, the Owl and the Pussy-Cat. Here we have two animals not only of different species, but of wholly different classes. They go off in a pea-green boat, cohabiting shamelessly for a year and a day before they are finally married by a Turkey “who lives on a hill” and who presumably holds some kind of religious or clerical office. But who among us is ready to cast the first stone at this pair of lovebirds? For two centuries have they danced by the light of the moon for us as a shining example of loving commitment. It is not for us to judge whether their union is morally right or wrong. 

The purpose of the Same-Species Marriage Act would be simply to define the institution of marriage as a legal union in which all parties are certifiably human—pure and simple. No controversy there. As to whether marriages between non-humans are valid, or whether they are entitled to the same rights as human marriages, perhaps we should leave these issues for future Supreme Courts to decide. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to resolve them.                                               ©Gene Twaronite 2013

Originally published in 5enses Magazine, June 2013  http://www.5ensesmag.com/the-absurd-naturalist-in-defense-of-same-species-marriage/