For the week starting: 7.10.2008

"How the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings."
Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice [V.i.67-70]

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can Cancer: It was a gas-convenience store, halfway between Austin and San Antonio, perhaps one of the most deadly stretches of interstate — in the world. The guy behind the counter was kind of bored. I filled up the car I was driving, paid for the gas, bought a lottery ticket and looked down at what the kid was working on.

He had a notebook open, and he was story-boarding — plotting out characters and actions. For a film, maybe just for a comic book, but a plot and outline, in visual form. Life should always be so easy, to have a plot and outline, maybe with characters with little bubbles over their heads? Telling us what to do, where to go, what to say. Life isn’t that easy. Life doesn’t come so scripted. The Cancer life, in as much as I would like to make it easy for you, I can’t.

What you get to do, as time goes marching forward, you’re like that clerk in the gas station, you get to write your own story line. You get to choose what the character are supposed to say. You get to pick the words, how they are spoken and by whom. The only little catch, what looks good on paper? On the story board? If life were a comic strip, it would work out fine. I’m less sure that it will work out like you want, but it is birthday time, and it should work out better. If not, you can just adjust that script.

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leo Leo: I took a shower at this girl’s place. Woman. Female, whatever. Girl to me. In the shower, there was, I can’t make this up, "honey oatmeal soap." I took a whiff, smelled really good. Like, smelled good enough to eat. I was wondering, and I had to ask, "Yes, honey-oatmeal, it’s really good for your skin." Like, you could tell me? I think that’s some kind of girlie marketing gimmick, and I should admit, it seemed to work. Besides that, I did feel rather refreshed, and I must admit, I smelled better, too. The telltale aromatic blend excited my taste buds. Made me slightly more hungry. The slightly intoxicating effect of honey, I suspect, is what made it work. Looked and felt like an all-natural soap, but I’m of a suspicious mind: it might not be. Might just be the correct balance of chemicals that smells like an all-natural soap.

Do I really care if it was all-natural, all-chemical, or some combination? Not really, as it was a one-shot deal. From what I know about Leo, though, I would suspect that the soap was carefully marketed to select individuals as an all-natural, chemical-free soap. My little adventure with soap, is it important? Yes. As the week unfolds into the long, hot summer days, think about that marketing. Read the label. Me? I was just impressed with one shower. But I’m not a picky Leo person who needs to be pampered. You are. Is that soap really good for you? Or is that (insert item, trifle, healthcare product) what you really need? Give it the Leo whiff test, first. By that standard, though, even that soap was good.

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vir Virgo: It was a traditional Latin American pastry selection. The layers of the pastry themselves were so light, so tender, so flaky, they didn’t interfere with the flavor of the caramel filling. That’s what was so important, the tender flakes of pastry, the crunchy (yet not crunchy) layers in between. Mars is like that filling, the caramel, sweet and sticky and altogether too rich filling. Saturn is the flakes of pastry in between.

A really good chef knows how to balance the "so sweet it hurts" material with the right amount of pastry, layered in between. Can’t have one without the other, that’s the point. That’s also the way this week, how it works, striving for the correct balance.

Mars, all about energy, get up and go. Saturn, all about get up and stop, think it over, assume it is too much to deal with and give up. That one pastry chef, the woman who built that pastry and caramel concoction the other evening? She’s a Virgo. Struggled for years to find the perfect balance. She’s go it. She’s doing well with this Mars and Saturn influence. Can you do the same? Imitate some of her action, try to strike that balance point. It can be had, if you work at it.

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lib Libra: Jupiter jogs you, just a little. Is this good or not? That’s really up to you to make the call. I want it to be a good push, but once again, that’s up to you. There really is more pushing and shoving you along than just Jupiter, but that’s just the easiest planet to hang to the blame on.

With Mr. Jupiter, it’s a matter of realizing that some of this energy doesn’t happen along in a friendly manner. Doesn’t hit at an even pace, doesn’t gently nudge you in one direction. There will be lots of stuff, yanking and pulling on you. All at once Over here, over there, this, that, no wait, this and that, at the same time.

This could be worse, and we could be bored, here in Libra. We wouldn’t want that, not us, would we? So when the push and shove starts in this weekend, just turn it to its good side. See the best. It really can be a quite a lot of fun, as long as you don’t let it wear you out.

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scoScorpio: Life really should be pretty good by now. It’s not that it’s great, it’s just that, except for one slice of the sky, the rest of the Scorpio-type of folks should be enjoying the dog days of summer.

One, rather thin slice of the Scorpio contingent is a little lost, a little adrift in a confusing situation that just fails to make any sense whatsoever. But other than that narrowest of Scorpio margin, the rest of you are doing well.

The loss and confusion? I can’t help with that. In fact, this is one of those times when consulting with a fakir, a reader of the night sky such as I, and/or any other kind of a medium (I’m large these days), any kind of consultation other than your own Scorpio good counsel? It’s a waste of time, money and energy. We can’t shed anymore light onto a situation than you can figure out for yourself. Usually, I would tend to suggest getting a reading from me, but this week? Skip it. No one knows better than your own, Scorpio self.

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sagSagittarius: I was paying for a typical Mexican meal (breakfast tacos), Tex-Mex to some, at a local place. Satisfied, satiated, and all summarily happy, I idly waited at the counter while the cashier rang me up. There was a large display bowl of pralines. Store-bought, store wrapped, little cellophane wrapper was imprinted with a bakery’s name. On the inverse side, there was a long list of ingredients, butter, grease, lard, sugars, unnatural sweets, and so on. Store bought candy. I skipped it.

Later the same day, in another TexMex place, I was paying for a supper, and I picked up one of the pralines there. Not "store-bought," just wrapped in a sheets of kitchen plastic, fastened on the back with a sticker — which listed the kitchen’s name, and the ingredients. Butter, brown sugar, egg and Mexican Vanilla (extract). Simple list. I bought two of the pralines. All-natural ingredients, means it’s better — and not from a factory bakery? Even better. And it was better.

The advantage of the home-made kind of candy is that there’s no ingredients that are bad for you. Me. Nothing that will cause problems with radiated food, or unnatural sugars that just turn into body mass. The point is to read the ingredients. I tend to favor places that are not part of a chain, not mass-marketed, and not as bad — in this example — the candy wasn’t full of chemicals and preservatives, growth hormones and every other manner of bad things. Read the label. Look for something that is simple and pure. That’s where our Sagittarius selves are happiest. This week.

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capCapricorn: There was an image on the side of a truck, I thought the advertising was comical, and yet, pointed in a way I could use. I took a half-dozen shots of the side of that truck, bent on using that image as a basis for a visual arts project. I was going to cut and copy the letters to rearrange them in a form I could use — spell out ASTROFISH.NET — and use the tag line. All of this was foremost in my mind while I was walking. I got home, plugged the camera in, I downloaded the images, answered the phone, and I forgot about the project.

I remembered it a couple of days later, and as I fired up PhotoShop to work on it, thought about the details, the design, and the image I would be presenting. Way too much work for the expected reward. I’m at a point where, when I take the digital image, I can manipulate the pixels until there’s nothing left of the original, or I can just skip that kind of magic, and let the original image remain.

The amount of work involved doesn’t justify the output. Or the output requires too much work. It’s some formula like that. Too much work for the rewards. Stop and think about it. You’ve got a project, an image, or maybe it’s different kind of project, but you have to stop and ask yourself, "Self, my Capricorn self, does the effort required really match up to the output?"

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aqu Aquarius: "Tres leches" is a traditional Latin American dessert. Wonderful stuff, and I’ve seen it artfully prepared a number of different ways. It’s basically a spongy cake, usually prepared without butter, then soaked with cream, condensed milk, and sweetened condensed milk. Or heavy cream, milk and condensed milk. Or some weird combination — but it’s a light, white cake, with milk, usually three kinds. Tasty and yet, not really that filling. Then, there’s always one who has to buck the trend, one who has to go over the top.

A widely recognized yet remarkably humble Austin eatery offered that Aquarius edge: the Quatro Leches dessert. How do yo stand out from the rest of the crowd? How do you move yourself one step above the milling masses? What can you do to make yourself noticed? Add one more leche to the stew, I suppose. Or the cake. Having done so, if the product is really good, and at that one place, it is really good, then let its weight carry the day. But name it something that will garner some notice. In some circles, that might not be understood, but in a marketplace overrun with (really good) Tres Leches, add one more. Quatro Leches. Since your Aquarius self is already a quality product, doesn’t much matter. Just quietly tack that new name on, and see how you get the attention. Got Milk? Add more milk? Milk it for all its worth?

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pis Pisces: I was in a high-end department store. In Austin, at one mall, I’ve found the easiest way to get to the Apple store is to use the Nordstrom’s entrance, cut through, and it’s a shortcut that works for me. Less likely to lose the car. Because I was, obviously, with a female, and because Nordstrom’s has a shoe section — there was a necessary stop there for shopping. For a "strappie thing with a heel about this high, sort of sparkly, sort of not, kind of casual and dressy."

To shoe girls, that means something. To me? Nothing, but I’m obviously a philistine in this area. I happened across one set of women’s shoes, and this cracked me up. Little slipper-looking things. With mirrors. On the toes. Including a large, beveled, oval-shaped mirror on the toe. Facing up. I suggested that model shoe, and it was suggested that those shoes would — with the mirror on the toe — be the closest I was getting what was under the dress. Ever. Kind of nasty put down. Sort of a "slam the door in your face" way of dealing with me and the situation, perhaps it was my puerile humor. Then again, maybe this is more of a Pisces thing. While I was not the Pisces in this situation, I’d think about it. You get a chance to slam a door, just like that.

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ariAries: Cruising down the interstate, or, in my frame of reference, up the interstate, as I was headed north, I kept noticing spurious and stray material on the roadway. We were headed north that afternoon, and I handed a piece a paper to my date, "Here, please write down ‘dirty laundry’ so I remember the note." What it was, a lot of clothing had either been ejected, dropped, or fallen off a vehicle. Imagine, if you will, various articles of clothing, in varying degrees, stuck along the median, along the concrete barriers, or sort of flapping in the road itself, like road kill.

I kept that note, and I kept that image. Mars, Saturn, they are going to make it so some of your dirty laundry might end up like that, sort of fell off the truck. I’m not saying that you’re going to be airing your dirty linens. Or that you private attire will be scattered for all to see, no that’s not really the message. It’s just that, when you’re not paying attention? Maybe a suitcase tumbles off the back of the truck, unbeknownst to you. What can you do to prevent this? Go back and check to make sure the latch is latched, the door is shut, and the load is lashed down — good and tight. Otherwise, I might be coming along, wondering how these items of clothing wound up next to the barrier.

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tau Taurus: It was cruel. It was just plain mean-spirited, if you ask me. I was dining with friends, and the place was almost empty, except for a couple at a two-top, by the window. The waiter, host, and dessert chef, all the same guy, seated us by the dessert counter. It was a long, cool-feeling refrigeration unit, and in its reflection, our faces. Like kids with their noses pressed to the glass, looking in a toy store.

The desserts were amazing concoctions, whipped and swirled, and piled high with fresh fruits, cheeses, pastry layers, and chocolate. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, cream caramel whipped between layers of chocolate, chocolate with vanilla icing, chocolate with chocolate icing, layers and layers of goodies. Cookies, creme brulee, kiwi pie, lime cocoanut pie, pan dulce, all there. I was able to maintain some semblance of decorum, at least, at first. I ordered a small entree and little dinner salad.

I was mocked, but then, when the final course came, it was a rich pick. There were three of us, and we wound up with five desserts. Some for there, some to go. "Lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself," isn’t that how it goes? Some things an be resisted, others? Can’t be missed. Like seating us next to the dessert counter. Taurus: fight the good fight, but if the sweets (or whatever temptation) wins? Face it: you were outnumbered and out-gunned.

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gem Gemini: I was listening to a Gemini complain, he was the first guy in on Saturday morning, time to open the shop and make coffee for customers in need. Like me. I owed, like two dollars and four cents. I handed him three singles. Because I’m cheap and ornery, what I do, if they hand me back the ninety-six cents, I’ll pocket the change and stuff a dollar in the jar. But if they toy with me, I’ll shortchange the tip. I’m irascible like that.

So the guy handed me back my dollar, told me not to worry about the four cents, the night crew hadn’t left him any change. I asked who the night crew was, and he said it was him. While he’s not the owner, I think this one manager cares more about the business than the owner himself. He’s a Gemini, he’s dedicated. Or maybe he like the paycheck, or the tips, or the customers like me with our bad jokes and poor tipping habits.

After I got my double espresso, hey, it was a rare Saturday with no fish and no work, I noticed that the manager was up-ending the tip jar, scrounging for change. It’s a little bit of double duty in Gemini, not unlike that one guy. Close the store one night, open it the next morning. Long hours. In Gemini, the hours are long. The pay, it isn’t so low, but it’s not all about the money. Or maybe it is. I assumed he was digging for change in the tip jar.

About the author: Born and raised in a small town in East Texas, Kramer Wetzel spent years honing his craft in trailer park in South Austin. He hates writing about himself in third person. More at KramerWetzel.com.