Forgotten Places Near Wild Space

Sometimes a forgotten part of the galaxy provides a bit of perspective about the universe we all sometimes miss and the luck involved in surviving it.  After a series of misfortunes, our hyperdrive motivator quit working. 

Seeking the nearest star system, we happened upon Batuu. The planet was sparsely populated, even after all the long years and history that ran through the place. 

The center of that history, The Black Spire Outpost offered services to repair our simple star-hopper, and perhaps other diversions while waiting. 

After negotiating a fair deal for the refit, a local told of a scavenger hunt of sorts. Littered throughout the spaceport were crates ancient and new, unclaimed and without an owner. With that in mind, we set out for the Black Spire proper.

After discovering a small crate containing an ancient and perfectly preserved Anoobas skull, we were quickly rewarded. I fear I have no holos of the skull. It was to be a present, and its giver didn’t want any documentation lest the receiver might know of it.

Collecting credits for finding the first item in the fun new game we had discovered, we came upon the main docking bays.

The influences of a millennium of being one of the last posts before the Wild Spaces were readily apparent. Imagine our surprise when we saw Corellian YT-1300f light freighter docked there.

We joked that it was the legendary Millenium Falcon, but clearly couldn’t be. Still, we had our holos taken in front of it as a joke for our friends in the start system back home.

We found another interesting crate, but it only had an old Mon Calamari spacesuit. We left that where it was, the evidence that it hadn’t been cleaned making that decision all the easier.

Feeling peckish, we retired to a small restaurant in a small bazaar near the docks. The charming Ronto Roasters cleverly prepares offerings, roasted by a pod-racer engine.

Opting for what I was promised was fresh Ronto that was raised on Batuu, I ordered the Wrap. While not the un-processed and un-frozen Ronto I was promised, the lovely slaw atop the well-roasted Rondo meat and sausage more than made up for it.

I also chose what they called a Tattooine Sunset to drink since every scan told us to steer clear of the local water. I am not sure why it was called such, as the color only vaguely resembled the great twin sunset on Tattooine. As if the drink’s creator had a vague idea that Tattoine had a sunset and it involved two suns.

After eating, I was enamored with the small bazaar. Ancient artifacts mingled with modern contrivances in place gently shaded from the heat of the day, the suns over Batuu heating the old giant, petrified trees that give the Spire its name.

Stomach full, we walked the market, mostly listening to all galactic languages spoken and standard calling out above it. We, of course, stopped to marvel at the Black Spire Obelisk. After taking part in the old tradition of rubbing the Obelisk for luck and declaring, “Til The Spire,”, we continued our adventure.

After viewing some of the local landscape and fauna, finding many rewards strung along the ancient, but still well-used encampments.

Again, we were surprised by a ship’s appearance. An unmarked black x-wing fighter was nestled away from the Spire. Having seen a share of First Order soldiers while in the Outpost, we all made nervous jokes about being in the middle of a battle between the Resistance and First Order.

Still, we took the opportunity to return the Spire and check on the status of the motivator. As we drew closer, BB40 started to have difficulty translating the locks on the abandoned cargo.

After getting reassurance that our ship would be ready that evening and finding directions to the nearest droid depot. After working out we upgraded BB40 to be able to interface with even the most difficult lock.

The attachment cost a pretty penny and required discretion. With BB40 upgraded we were eager to try it out. BB40 quickly unlocked a treasure of Armaralite, worth a small fortune in some parts of the galaxy, but easily enough to keep our little adventure going.

Seeking a buyer for the gemstones, we found another street aligned with shops of all kinds, some even buying rare things. Imagine my surprise in one shop, I found the exact skull that I had, recovered, for sale at ten times the price I had negotiated earlier.

I did not wish to make a scene, but I could barely hold back my irritation. The owner, not wishing to upset his other customers, hustled us into the street, and let me tell you that I gave him what for once outside.

 Before he could explain himself, I turned to find two First Order stormtroopers demanding to know what we were doing. The shopowner accused us of being a nuisance, and possible thieves, or even worse, scoundrels. 

I tried to protest but found myself clasped in restraints and whisked away to a newly-arrived Star Destroyer. Thrown in a call, I was designated Resistance scum with the other prisoners, even over my very vocal entreaties.

What ensued after that will haunt my dreams. I cannot even bear to speak of those events, wild as they were. But the Resistance scum safely delivered us back to the Spire as night fell.

The beauty of The Black Spire Outpost is to be found at sunset. The three suns setting cast long, almost multidirectional shadows across the streets and plazas. The spire lights up and the soft lights glow.

After celebrating our good luck at Oga’s Cantina and toasting “Til The Spire,” we had a long drink, mine a surprisingly fresh Bantha milk-based cocktail.

Our minds comforted by the drinks, we journeyed back to our ship, stopping and finding other prizes in the shadows of the deepening night.

The trip to this fascinating would prove to be far more rewarding than we imagined when we opened the last case and discovered a full box of old Republic credits.

It was worth enough on the open market to get us to our next destination and next adventure. Until then, consider The Black Spire Outpost for an offbeat, but potentially enriching, visit. 

Until next time, “Til The Spire,” and “May The Fourth Be With You,”

The Anti-Flavor

As white as a sammich gets

The classic bologna, Kraft single, mayo on white bread is about as white as food can get. Let’s examine this delightful gustatory creation.  

To begin with, it’s very soft and is easily masticated with just enough mayo for it to slide down your throat. It has a slight firmness to know you are chewing something, with only a hint of resistance. 

Like the light pressure to the teeth, the taste is light as well. It has enough salt to let you know it’s there, but other than it tastes like, nothing.

That isn’t fair, it has a distinct lack of flavor. It is the anti-flavor. The only real way you know you ate a bologna sandwich is that your stomach feels like you ate something, but even that is debatable. 

Sure, you can put mustard on it, but why not have a sandwich of just mustard? Or even a better sandwich? A bologna sandwich with mustard is a mustard sandwich.

You are not eating bologna, Kraft single, with mayo on white bread for the excitement. No, the venerable bologna sandwich is for a simpler, less reflective moment, when you just want to choose something that requires no risk.

I mean bologna sandwiches are an expected taste, not an acquired one. A sandwich made with mustard or having exotic fixings and finishings, just makes the whole thing uncomfortable. The humble anti-flavor enhanced by salt is reassuring. 

Familiar nourishment in your sack lunch, the sandwich that a harried parent threw together as you headed out the door. Why yes, it did sit in your locker until lunch. Although, that probably produced the most flavor your bologna with Kraft single ever had.

I guess I came to bury the bologna sandwich, not praise it. It is true that it is simpler to relegate this choice between two pieces of bread as just another one of a thousand choices we make each day. Just one more motion we are going through.

A bite of a slightly resistant, fluffy, white bread sandwich with enough mass to qualify as food, but tastes almost like something. It is exactly as satisfying as you want it to be and as comforting.

Why So Serious

It’s hard to be funny when things aren’t much fun anymore.

It has been a rough couple of years. It has been hard to find a bright light in the gloom of a pandemic and the general insanity engulfing the world. Humor is even in shorter supply. Unless you count snark, which is readily available on the social media of your choice.

Finding silly Tik-Tok videos, or other amusements, I guess we are trying to laugh it all off, a little humor going a long way to assuage our collective anxiety.

But what is funny anymore? For me, I prefer a pie to my own face than a punch to someone else, no matter how much we all may think it is deserved. 

So we pile on, good and bad, hoping for some escape. Some of it will always ring hollow, like all jokes at someone’s expense. So what is funny? Is it slapstick, which is sometimes accused of punching the wrong people, literally? More cerebral? Self-deprecating? 

I find making fun of myself (with my incredible shrinking ass) funny. Better to be the butt (so to speak) of my own jokes than to be someone else’s. To be honest, I have always been a little uncomfortable with punching down… (record scratch)

Since I started writing this post last week, Russia declared war on Ukraine. Things are even less funny and it feels even direr (Grammarly says that’s a word. Doesn’t sound right to me). My position is all war is bad, and my heart is there for those suffering. I recall a M.A.S.H. episode where Hawkeye spoke of war:

Hawkeye: War isn’t hell. War is war, hell is hell. And of the two of them, war is worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure that, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to hell?

Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in hell. But war is chock full of them. Little kids, cripples. old ladies. In fact, except for a few of the brass (ED: and Presidents, PMs, and politicians), almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

Even a great comedy took time out from being funny, because it’s often hard to find anything amusing when people are dying from disease, starvation, and war.

At the same time, finding escape isn’t a bad thing. A moment to take your mind off the awfulness of the world. So, what is funny? Anything that makes you laugh is all I can tell you.

What I think I am trying to say is; Worry about your fellow humans, do what you can to be a helper, and find something to soothe yourself when you can, including humor. 

I will close this before we all get too depressed with a dad joke. Whether it’s funny is entirely subjective like all humor (which is where I was going with this post). But it calms me, at least when I get a good groan.

Why do seagulls fly over the ocean? Because if they flew over the bay, we’d call them bagels.

Sports & Me

The men in my religious congregation came over to watch the big game on a Sunday back in 1978. Dallas was playing Denver. They were all rooting for Dallas. I had never once seen them watch or even talk about football, let alone discuss having a favorite team. 

They all stood around, drinking beer, and acting like what they thought behavior at a big game party should be. The religion I was raised in didn’t do those kinds of things, so the weirdness was to be found from top to bottom that Sunday.

I don’t know if sports were ever officially banned in our religion. It was something our family never thought about. I don’t think we even owned any sporting equipment unless you count rifles and fishing poles. Those were more about getting dinner than having fun.

When I think back, it all seemed so strained, like they were trying to figure out what a football fan was. Though it happened that one day and never happened again, a seed of sports fandom had been planted in me. 

By 1982 it was in full root. First, the Angels with Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew came into my life. Sitting in a box on the third baseline, tickets from mother-in-law’s boss, drinking warm beer on a hot Tuesday evening is a fond memory. 

I still rooted for the Broncos, still mentally defying the men from that Sunday. It was the age of Joe Montana and in Cali, Niners fans were everywhere. They were a winner and my Broncos not so much, but that fortune would soon turn with the drafting of John Elway. The Raiders were in LA, too, those bad boy silver and black uniforms.

Living in the LA area in 1982, 83, 84 was the birth of the Showtime Lakers. I fell in love with that team and would remain a basketball fan throughout the ’80s & ‘90s. Until the Jazz got bounced by Michael Jordan two years in a row, that is(a lot of teams got Jordan’ed. No shame in that. Also, Jordan pushed off.) I am finally just getting over that.

So blah, blah, blah. What does all this jock talk mean? I like watching athletes and marvel at how they develop their bodies and practice their craft to do what seems inhuman. Athletes push through the boundaries of the kinematic.  Their craft is physical and those that excel at it I find endlessly fascinating. 

Yes, many of them are coddled and some aren’t very good people. This is not to excuse anybody of the shame of athletes’ crimes being covered up or the obvious racism of leagues, teams’ ownership, and often fandom as well.

This is where sports are a reflection of our society. That mirror shows the systems of oppression in sharp relief. The obvious issues of abuse of all kinds can and should be called out. The financial stakes alone, guarantee people will cheat.

I do admit to trying to ignore the whole bread and circuses aspect of it. The risks that are taken on the behalf our entertainment shouldn’t be. At the highest levels of sport you hope it is something they love, and they are informed as to the risks.

Athletes spend hours in the gym and training facility, honing skills most never will have. Like a musician practices their music, repetition makes the extraordinary ordinary. When it comes time to make the big play, they don’t have to think about it.

We marvel when an athlete makes a flawless move. The right choice. It is as if a crescendo in a symphony is suddenly interrupted by a solo, under a single spotlight. One moment. Frozen in time. The Catch. The Called Shot. The Immaculate Reception. The Hand of God. It will become woven into lore.

Isn’t that what we want from Sport? Isn’t that what we want from Entertainment? 

Even very religious men took a moment to do the same, on that Sunday in 1978. It never happened again, as far as I know. Every year at this time, I reflect on that and how it became a road to what they might, now, consider a false god.

I have no rooting interest in the big game this year, but, like we often do in sport, I am trying to ignore the host country’s human rights abuses (they say alleged 🙄) and watching The Winter Olympics. When we want to talk corruption and dishonesty in sport, the IOC is trailing only FIFA in that category. This is the dichotomy of sport shown again, through no fault of the athlete. Olympic athletes train for four years, often only having that one chance to compete at the highest level.

What I want is to see things I could never, ever do. It is a tribute to the athletes I like, that they put up with the shit that comes with being a superstar sportsperson. That they subject their bodies to its extreme limits, their minds to react to razor thin margins, to perform at the peak of their skills. For that they will be woven into legend. And we will bear witness.

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