The Horse Head Rorschach Test

Every day, the pleasant burghers of Bensalem, Pennsylvania who drive past the Parx Casino and Racing complex are confronted by this gigantic sculpture of a horse’s head precariously balanced on the tip of its nose, which is placed out in front of the casino right next to the road.  

It’s a fine rendering of a horse’s head, as horse head sculptures go — but what do you think of when you see an enormous horse head on your drive to pick up Krispy Kreme donuts? Do you focus on the fact that the head is severed, and think of The Godfather?  Or do you, like the animal-loving Marquette Warrior, conclude that the horse is happily taking a drink of water?  Do you wonder how, from an engineering standpoint, they got the massive structure to balance like that?  Or, do you focus on the totally discordant, out-of-place element of a huge green horse head on an otherwise undistinguished, soulless suburban commercial strip, and idly wonder if it was left by aliens?

In such ways does public art challenge us.

Important Photo Tips

Somewhere out in the world there are people who like to have their picture taken.  Perhaps they are models, or just selfie-obsessed narcissists.

nikonsmashed-700x445Then there are those of us, like me, who hate to have our pictures taken because it always is a depressing, illusion-destroying experience that instantly makes me resolve to go on a severe diet and begin an aggressive workout regimen.  My passport photo, for example, makes me look like a cross between a homeless person and a bloated zombie whose had far more than his share of living brain tissue.  It’s amazing that the immigration officers of any country, including the U.S., that look at the photo would allow me to enter.

Is there anything that can be done?  (Anything, that is, other than actually losing weight and becoming more “toned” so that multiple chins aren’t evident when the shutter clicks?)  Fortunately, according to professional photographers, there are some simple, immediate things you can do when you get your picture taken to make you look slimmer and therefore better.  The pros say, for example, that you should stand at a 45-degree angle to the camera.  Don’t squish your arms against your body.  Stand up straight and don’t slouch.  Be sure to wear dark colors.

And above all, keep your chin our and hold your tongue against the roof of your mouth, which is supposed to tighten your neck muscles and therefore reduce your multiple chin count.  Having the photographer to take the photo from straight on, or from an angle slightly above your head, also is supposed to cut down on overexposure of that unslightly, bulging neck flesh.

So there you have it!  There’s no need to actually work out — just stand ramrod straight an at an angle, keep your chin thrust out like Mussolini, and always appear with arms akimbo.  Dodging the camera works pretty well, too.

Mint In The Morning

This morning I woke up with “morning breath.”  That’s what we call it these days, where we promptly take steps to try to get rid of that hot, coated, somewhat slimy feeling on our teeth and tongue that comes from keeping your mouth closed during a good night’s sleep.

mint2When you think about it, “morning breath” is really just the absence of minty freshness that we all expect to achieve as a result of our time standing at the bathroom sink, brushing and flossing and gargling and swishing.  We want to feel that frosty sensation and experience the rush of cool air when we inhale after a vigorous encounter with toothbrush and toothpaste.  And, thanks to the effective advocacy of toothpaste commercials, we are vaguely embarrassed to have “morning breath,” and we wouldn’t dream of walking outside and inflicting it upon people we encounter in the unsuspecting world.

Yesterday I went to the grocery store and needed to pick up some toothpaste.  Although there are the dozens of different toothpaste offerings, purportedly geared toward sensitive teeth and teeth whitening and plaque prevention, virtually all of them involve flavoring with spearmint, or peppermint, or some combination of the two.  The same is true of mouthwashes, and even dental floss is offered with mint flavoring.  Yes, mint is what we want, and mint is what we must have.  Have you ever gone to the dentist’s office for a tooth cleaning and had the oral hygienist offer you a choice of mint versus, say, cherry toothpaste?  Cherry?  Yeah, right!  Nobody wants their mouth to taste like a cough drop when they rise from the dentist’s chair!

Mint is supposed to have lots of health benefits, from aiding digestion to pain relief.  That all may be the case, but it’s that blast of arctic chill that we crave.  We must have mint in the morning!

Chatterboxes

As we boarded our flight from Houston to Columbus last night, I noticed that an older guy in the row across from us was switching seats so a young woman could sit next to another young woman.  “What a nice gesture by that guy,” I thought.

By the end of the flight, I was cursing him.

These two high school students talked non-stop during the entire plane flight, in that kind of high-pitched, high-speed Valley Girl patois that you just can’t ignore no matter how hard you try.  And believe me, I tried. They apparently were returning from some kind of field trip, and they were raring for a complete download.  It was an extraordinary exhibition of yakking.  I can’t imagine flapping my gums for a solid two-and-a-half hours, even if I had something important to say.  These two girls clearly weren’t concerned about that; no incident was too small, no event too mundane, no observation too trivial to escape their prattle.

How do you feel about holding hands?  I’d rather put my arm through the guy’s arm, wouldn’t you?  I don’t like it when they try to put their fingers through your fingers.

I really prefer rum-and-cokes.  I bet I had five of them.

I’m one of those teacher’s pet students who never gets into trouble even when I do something wrong.  One time I literally punched a guy and nobody did anything about it.  And I was like, whatev!  I’m a good student and I guess I get to do what I want!

Omigod!  My knee got so sore.  And when I looked down at it, there was a red mark on it!

The little snippets from the torrent came flooding over to our side of the plane, and by the end of the trip you could tell that everyone within a three-row radius was gritting their teeth, hoping that the flight would land before their brains turned to mush and restraining themselves from bursting out:  “For the love of God, could you please stop talking!”

But there were no outbursts, because people heading back to their homes in the Midwest are polite to a fault.  But when the plane landed, you could feel an inner cheer from our fellow travelers, and as we walked through the quiet terminal, on one of the last flights of the night, we all shared a single thought:  silence never sounded so good.

Sand Dollars

The basic Belizean unit of currency is called a “dollar,” but the $20 bill has a nice picture of a younger Queen Elizabeth on it, rather than Andy Jackson.  And if that’s not jarring enough, the dollar coin is a weighty hexagon — also with the Queen’s visage.  It would be a cool ball marker on the golf course, but it doesn’t seem like real money, does it?

After a while, you really don’t care.  It’s beach money.  Call it sand dollars.  You’re not taking it back to the states with you, and then trying to exchange it at some midwestern bank branch with a befuddled clerk trying to figure out the “exchange rate.”  If you brought it back, it would just end up in that box with the weird change in it, right?  So spend it while you can.  On your last day of Vay-Kay, head down the beach to that nice bar where the beer was especially cold, and give the barkeep and the cook an especially generous tip.  They deserve it!

The goal, ultimately, is to spend every paper and metal scrap of vacation currency before the departure plane leaves the runway.

Not An Afishionado

My doctor has long been after me to eat less meat and more fish.  It’s easy to rationalize ignoring his heartfelt advice — which is what most of us do with doctorly advice, when you think about it — in Columbus, Ohio, which is more than 100 miles from any substantial body of water.  It’s not exactly the fish capital of the world.

In Belize, though, there is no viable excuse or rationalization.  So, I’ve been eating seafood until it’s coming out of my ears.  Ceviche.  Grouper.  The whole red snapper shown above, complete with head, eyes, and little bones that you pick out of your mouth.  And lots of shrimp.

It’s all fine, I guess, and I suppose I’ve added a few minutes to my lifespan by adhering to doctor’s orders.  But to my mind the highlights of my Belizean culinary experience so far were the stewed chicken I attacked on Tuesday and a flavorful jerk chicken sandwich yesterday.  

Nothing satisfies like meat.

On The Bumpy Road To San Pedro Town

This morning we had a hearty breakfast, then decided to borrow some bicycles from our resort and pedal the five miles south to San Pedro.  Our bikes were of the old-fashioned, balloon-tired, single-gear, pedal brake variety, with a top seated cruising speed of about 5 mph.  (Standing, you might get it up to about 10 mph, and give your keister a respite, besides.)

The design of the bikes turned out to be welcome for two reasons.  First, there’s lots of interesting things to see on any tropical roadway, and if you zip by too quickly you’ll miss some of it.  Second, the road was unabashedly rustic in spots, and too much speed would do nothing but produced bruised kidneys and sore wrists.  Slow moving, wide-tired bikes that could navigate between the potholes were the preferred mode of transportation — better than small cars, golf carts, or even motor scooters.


On our ten-mile round trip we learned that Minnesota is not only the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but also a brand to be reckoned with in the dentistry field in Belize.  We rolled past condos under construction and dive bars on the beachfront, learned that bikes aren’t subject to the apparently occasional toll charged to cross the bridge north of town,  were mystified by the exchange rate between Belizean and U.S. dollars, and for refreshment bought warm fresh water delivered in a sealed plastic bag.  All were part of the many charms of the bumpy road to San Pedro town.