Growing up in the Midwest, in or around Chicago, I would hear the phrase “Indian Summer” annually and about this time of year. As a kid, I approved. After all, the word Indian was just half of the phrase “cowboys and Indians,” an occasional area of concern of mine in the imaginary sense. Somehow Indian Summer evoked war paint and translated into any foliage that might be changing hue, early as it would be for that phenomenon.
The term was also closely associated with the beginning of the school year. One would have been back at school for a few weeks, maybe, long enough so that all of it would no longer be a novelty — the teacher, new classmates, maybe new girls if you weren’t in Catholic school, and, oh yes, new subjects to study. At this point in the school year it was time to get started with some serious diversion during dull subjects like, say, economics. Shortly after taking in the words “supply” and “demand,” I tuned out and would pass notes to Tracy Cunningham, a tomboy with a prole sense of humor; Justin Cleveland, a class clown with an inaccessible (to me) sense of humor; and maybe one or two others. The contents of these folded or crumpled little “kites,” as they are called (I’m told) in prisons, were drawings, often obscene if they came from Justin C., and jokes from a joke book or attempts, usually failed, at original material.
What brought much of this to mind today in early September as I swelter, yes, veritably swelter in 97-degree heat and unusually high humidity, was an email I received from Thailand. This electronic mail would have received the highest of unofficial/back-of-the-class marks from Tracy, Justin, myself, others, a kind of Pulitzer in the category of eighth grade or freshman year note-passing, for content, style, originality, etc. The screen missive was from Ken Minahan, an excellent blues guitarist living and playing in Thailand with a substantial fan base for his musical gifts and his long white hair and beard à la Edgar Winter (Kenny is far more devilishly handsome). They call him the Snowman. Ken Minahan and I played in the same rock band together in 1968 and ’69, touring around the Midwest as Faith (formerly Michael and the Messengers). Ken was and apparently still is a bit of a maniac.
From the other side of the world, Kenny writes:
“If you yelled for 8 years, 7 months and 6 days you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee.
(Hardly seems worth it.)
“If you farted consistently for 6 years and 9 months, enough gas is produced to create the energy of an atomic bomb.
(Now that’s more like it!)
“The human heart creates enough pressure when it pumps out of the body to squirt blood 30 feet.
“A pig’s orgasm lasts 30 minutes.
(In my next life, I want to be a pig.)
“A cockroach will live nine days without its head before it starves to death.
(Creepy.) (I’m still not over the pig.)
“Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour
(Don’t try this at home, maybe at work.)
“The male praying mantis cannot copulate while its head is attached to its body. The female initiates sex by ripping the male’s head off.
(Honey, I’m home. What the...?)
“The flea can jump 350 times its body length. It’s like a human jumping the length of a football field.
(30 minutes. Lucky pig! Can you imagine?)
“The catfish has over 27,000 taste buds.
(What could be so tasty on the bottom of a pond?)
“Some lions mate over 50 times a day.
(I still want to be a pig in my next life...quality over quantity!)
“Butterflies taste with their feet.
(Something I always wanted to know.)
“The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.
“Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people.
(If you’re ambidextrous, do you split the difference?)
“Elephants are the only animals that cannot jump.
(Okay, so that would be a good thing)
“A cat’s urine glows under a black light.
(I wonder how much the government paid to figure that out. )
“An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.
(I know some people like that.)
“Starfish have no brains
(I know some people like that, too.)
“Polar bears are left-handed.
(If they switch, they’ll live a lot longer.)
“Humans and dolphins are the only species that have sex for pleasure.
(What about that pig??, Do the dolphins know about the pig?)