Sunday, April 26, 2009

Breakfast on a Beautiful Maine Spring Morning

Got bit by the first Black Fly of 2009 the other day. Squashed that sucker flat and did not even think about it until later. No big deal. Once Mud Season winds down, Black Flies and Peepers will quickly follow. Just another rite of Spring here in mostly rural Maine.

This morning early, I was sitting out on stone steps by the garage. The Sun was just peeking up solid over the trees to the East. It was the first truly warm morning since last July. The Black flies were already out in clouds. I sat and pondered this warm beautiful morning with that first fresh cup of coffee cradled between my hands. One of the little bastards landed on my forearm and dug in. Instead of squashing it, I flicked it off my arm. It landed right in that just poured cup full of coffee. I looked down at it as began to frantically backstroke on the surface. Flapping it's little wings and probably pissing black fly piss into my coffee. Little bastards. Dumbest damn insects on the planet in my opinion.

What to do? Do I pour it out and let the little bugger ruin that vitally important first coffee of the day? Do I try to fetch it out of there to save the cup? Then I remembered that in the course of any normal Black Fly Season, I will probably ingest, inhale or otherwise consume pounds and pounds of Black Flies before Mosquitoes move in and take over. So I drank the coffee.

As I dropped the cup from my lips, I looked inside. Hmm. Good. Fly is down the hatch. I imagined what sort of horror filled thoughts might be going through the mind of that fly as it traversed the gravity well to my stomach. I delighted in knowing it would suffer as stomach acids would consume it and break out the nutrients it might have within it to keep my body's energy level up. Then I remembered Black Flies must have no minds. They are so dumb, they cannot even find their way out from behind my glasses. Just keep beating themselves silly against the inside of my lenses until I manage to snag them and crush them out of their misery.

So it goes. The first true sign snow is behind us for a few months. Warm weather is here. Gardens are being tilled, grass is poking up and the the forsythia is brilliantly yellow. In the evening, the peepers begin their nightly song looking for other frogs to mate with. Life moves on it's predictable way and I once again get used to eating bugs.

Later....................

(444 / 10,882)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This Post Was Supposed to be About Coffee

Accidentally he regained his stride. Without a clue or an idea, somehow he relocated his center. For months his life had been out of sync. Off kilter and without direction. Oh sure there were duties, obligations, and those day to day situations he could not avoid. He side stepped what he could, putting off the inevitable for as long as possible.

About the time he was sure it was too late, he discovered it really is never too late. Starting where you are, you move on, put one foot in front of the other, deal with the task up front. It is but a matter of finding a gear, any gear to move forward in.

Nothing corrodes the soul like sitting in idle for too long. Comfort zones often become life sentences. Fear of the unknown or loyalty to the familiar can stifle Life's many pleasures along with Life's many evils. Erecting walls is often not selective. Much of what we should probably experience or would definitely enjoy if experienced is kept out along with the ugliness we seek to avoid.

I certainly fell into the comfort zone trap. Domestic bliss brought with it a whole new set of priorities. No longer could I chase whatever butterfly floated by. My life was part of another's and hers part of mine. Normal roads were traveled. Steady work sought, homestead founded, and family begun. One day led into the next. A child was born, was raised, and set free. Matters of importance centered on physical needs. Food, new school clothes, and gas for the truck replaced dreams that once flitted through on occasion. When the dreams re-visited, they were often not even given a first thought, never mind a second one. Immediate concerns about being a good parent, a good provider and a decent partner took their place.

It all changed the day the last chick left the nest. I was suddenly without a reason to exist. My job had been done. My purpose fulfilled. Time to wander off into the forest. And basically that is what I did for a period.

I sought excuses. I found them easy to find. Seems no matter where you look, a convenient excuse sits. I made use of them for far too long. Lost too much time wallowing in the comfort of my self pity. When I realized what I had done to myself, the cycle had been well established. Insidious and relentless, it kept me in emotional shackles. I could not find a way out. Life was busy all around me, but I had quit.

Today I sit wondering just how I fell into such a hole. And at the same time I try to understand how I seemed to have climbed out of it. Crisis has a way of re-adjusting attitudes and focus I guess. I will credit my troubled bike business with this latest goose to bring me back to the land of the living. Life's cycles move in mysterious ways. Ups and downs can visit without rhyme or reason. And often I will come out on the other side and wonder how the Hell I did it.

See Ya.............

(526 / 10,438)

50 Pictures

I really should be working on my business plan. Or I should be asleep. Even at 4:25 AM, fooling around on the blog creates pangs of guilt. I feel the need to utilize every waking thought to efforts to salvage my business. But you know what? Screw that. I can only be consumed by something for so long before I either explode, or walk away for a time. A sanity break. Or insanity break. Take your pick.

The other day I was reminded just how out of touch I was with the pulse of this shrinking world. I hit the Drudge Report for a quick overview of what was happening in the World and I came upon a link to the 50 worst celebrity pics of 2008. Say what you will about Drudge, but the man has figured out just what headlines to link to draw in the millions he does everyday. I visit because his political link list is huge and saves me the trouble of keeping one myself.

I punched up the 50 Worst Celeb Pics link. I was immediately tossed into the world of trash journalism I used to only see while waiting impatiently to check out at the local Piggly Wiggly. I took the time to look at each picture. When I finished, I sat back and realized I only recognized maybe 5 people out of the 50. Am I out of the loop or what? 20 years ago, I would have identified at least 20 of them. All those celebs begin to look alike when all I see are drunk pictures or naked body shots from 200 yards away. I did enjoy the picture of OJ in handcuffs while the verdict was read.

But all in all, perusing those images of celebrities not having the best of days, was like looking at some strangers family photo album. I felt no connection to most, and the poor quality of most images looked like an amateur took them. "Oh Look, here's our darling Ami smoking crack." People caught up in private moments that happen everywhere everyday. Yet, because these folks have done something famous, been something famous, or were born famous, somehow these Kodak moments of them living below their fame are worthy of being printed? I just do not get it.

Keep it 'Tween the Ditches..............

(385 / 9912)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Journey with a Drunk

I found the bottle of Black Label Jack Daniels the other night. I had bought it to take with me camping last summer. I was not looking for it. I was looking for something else. Just what I was looking for was forgotten the moment I laid eyes on that fifth with about 3 shots worth still inside.

I gave up drinking..... uh, I guess about the mid 1990's. I didn't think about it, I just decided one day drinking was not doing it for me anymore. Hangovers, obnoxious behaviour, and wasted money all suddenly seemed so foolish. 25 years as a hard likker drinker had finally worn me out. So I quit.

Okay so I have tipped a few since then. But I would guess less than a case of beer and way less than a quart of likker have passed my lips in the 12 years since I gave demon rum the boot. The occasional party, wedding, or those moments I just wanted a beer came up from time to time. But for the most part, I just stopped. Didn't anguish. Didn't even really think about it. Became a semi teetotaler.

And then I found that bottle of Jack. I picked it up, unscrewed the top, and passed the bottle under my nose. The sweet smoky aroma caught me and I just had to have a taste. I tipped the bottle back and let a small amount drain into my mouth. Wow! I was immediately questioning the poor judgement I used when I cut this elixir of the gods out of my life. Swishing the brown liquid joy, I swallowed and felt the old familiar burn and warmth the first shot always brings with it.

We all have weaknesses. Some of us have more than others, but all of us have something that makes us crazy. Of the many weaknesses I seem to embrace, hard liquor is most definitely one I have trouble controlling. Sour Mash and Single Malts are my favorites. I can consume them like they are water. I begin to drink because of the taste. At some point it turns into drinking for the buzz. And finally I black out and do things I would regret if I could remember them. I was often rudely reminded of this impolite tendency of mine by folks who regretted having me around when Mike's lights went out. The last time I blacked out, I made quite the scene at my nephew's wedding. My brother still has not forgiven me. Sen. Dick Lugar was there and apparently I was very rude. That was I think in 1991. Thereabouts anyway. Open bars are so dangerous.

Flash forward to tonight. As I sipped what was left in that bottle of Jack, I was immediately bummed there was only a token gesture left. And yet at the same time relieved. Not enough to get out of control, just enough to leave me with a good taste and a mild buzz. Forced moderation is about the only way I can handle moderation. And even then, when the appetite has been teased, I often will search out more buzz fulfilling substances just to keep the momentum of the whatever buzz I have at the moment. Probably a good thing I quit when I did.

Never underestimate the power of a determined drunk

Because the measly three ounces left in that Jack bottle left me wanting more of the same, I went exploring for more of the same. My wife still drinks. I knew she had some Cuervo Gold in the liquor cabinet. She likes the occasional girly drink of some kind that needs to ruin good tequila to make it. Yes, there it was. Up front, half empty and just asking to be drained. But wait! What's this? Hiding up on the top shelf covered in an inch of dust? By Jesus, it's a never opened bottle of Rebel Yell. Uh Oh. I see trouble brewing.

In the scheme of, or rather the hierarchy of my sour mash favorites, it goes thusly - Jim Beam when that's all I could get and what I wanted was a buzz and no fooling around. When in a more casual mode, Black Jack was my go to favorite. Reasonably priced, especially in St.Louis, and the quality was hard to beat. True sippin whiskey. Good, straight or on ice. Definitely sacrilege to mix it with anything else. But of all my favorites, my top tier pick even though it was often cheaper than Jack, Rebel Yell Whiskey has to be the one. More kick at 90 proof than Jack and it still had that special smoky flavor only those Scottish descendants from the South know how to tweak out of some corn meal and water. And here right in front of my half mast eyes was a bottle that has been aging for God knows how long. Going to sleep soon was put on hold.

I pulled the bottle out of the cabinet. Dust and cobwebs covered it. A quick wipe off with a wet rag and I was ready to crack the ATF seal, tip it up and take a good hit when I remembered my place. An unopened bottle of Rebel Yell could not just be cracked open and drained into open gaping mouths. There were rules about this kind of shit. A top quality sippin whiskey needed to be sipped from an appropriate vessel to achieve the full impact of the nectar so many slaved over to get into that bottle. It was a matter of respect.

While I contemplated the various ways to enjoy this fine whiskey, I looked the bottle over hoping to find some kind of date that would tell me how long it had been waiting for me to open it up. Hmm. A Maryland tax stamp. Looks like it was 1990 I brought this bottle home from a trip South. 19 years in the bottle after who knows how many years in an oak barrel in some dark dank warehouse in Kentucky. Excellent.

Now, to pick just the absolute perfect glass to waft it, whiff it, and swish it between my cheek and gum. I looked up to the forgotten shelf of alcohol glasses from my previous years of wanton imbibement. Pub glasses, wine glasses, shot glasses with clever and witty slogans on them and then I saw it. My silver gilded shot glass. The glass a lady friend from my loose dog single days bought me for Christmas or a birthday. It had significance at the time. Now it sat dusty on the shelf, the silver long gone black and just shouting, "Pick Me. pick me."

It is now 3:10 AM. I have made a serious dent in that fifth of Rebel Yell. I sit here drunken and disorderly trying to impart what it is like to be shitfaced after an absence from that scene for so many years. It's not like being drunk for the first time. But it's close.

As ever, moving onto something else, something hopefully better..............

Notes from the next day - Payback for being stupid

As I stated, the last time I remembered was 3:10 AM. I must have at least found the couch because that is where I came back into reality in a semi-comatose state around 7:30 AM. I immediately understood why I had given up alcohol in the first place. It was waking up like this after losing control the night before. My head was at least the size of a basketball. My tongue felt and tasted like the cats had taken turns using it as a litter box. And each eye seemed to follow their own path, one focused at two feet, the other at three feet.

Several cups of coffee and a handful of Ibuprophen finally performed their magic and both eyes fell into sync and my head seemed to shrink down to something resembling normal. My balance was still shaky and no amount of tooth paste and mouth wash was going to bring back that fresh mouth feeling. The crud was going to have wear off I guess.

I staggered through my morning rituals beating myself up because I still had to go to work ferchrisakes. I had to be presentable in a few hours, at least pretend to be among the living. Yes, I loved my demon rum. But the price it exacts because I have no control is not worth the full day of payback that follows. That bottle of Rebel Yell is back on that dusty shelf, hopefully forgotten until the next time I need a reminder of why I do not drink anymore.

Some lessons need to be updated brutally on occasion just to reinforce positive behaviour in the future.

Later....................

(1424 / 9527)

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Commuter

The man hoisted his winter bloated pear shape up and over the flimsy two wheeled contraption and settled gingerly onto a precarious perch. Shifting his copious weight to the left a little and then back to the right so as to not damage his procreation orbs, he slowly lowered his top heavy body onto a platform measuring about 6 inches wide by about 10 inches long. After a couple of tentative touchdowns he allowed the puny platform to disappear into his butt cheeks. The resulting sensation was not pleasant, but he figured he could handle it. He pushed down on the right crank arm. His first bike commute of Spring was officially underway.

This simple action was the culmination of weeks of procrastination, wallowing in guilt as the pear shaped man used any excuse handy to not begin this annual torture.

"Not warm enough. Oh, look there, looks like rain. Shit! Not enough time to do it today. Or I really should take the truck, I might need it to haul something, anything could happen. Never know when a truck might come in handy."

Yes, weeks had passed this way as the man continued his pear shaped ways and sought any reprieve no matter how flimsy, from the eventual pain and agony of that first warm season commute by bike. And even when all the delaying excuses had worn thin, he still dragged his feet. Went over the bike not once, but two or three times. Adjusted this, played with that. Wasted more time looking for the right gear to make it safely from home to the shop. Checked his tools, his tubes, his pump, and even made sure that five dollar bill was still in the seat bag. Didn't matter that it was only 8 miles one way, he had to know he had the gear to go on a three week tour ready and able. He often dreamed of not stopping at the shop one day. Just keep going. Don't look back. Pedal away from this life and into another.

As that first hill swept by at forty plus, the fat commuter man was grateful he had guessed right about his clothing choice. It was damn cool, but only his face seemed uncomfortable. His eyes teared up. He couldn't see. He just tried to keep the bike on the black ribbon in front of him and hoped no one was coming the other way. The bike wandered from one side of the road to the other. He caught a crack and almost stacked it hard. Somehow he held on. At the bottom of the hill he smiled.

This is what it was all about. The predictable pain he worked so hard to avoid and put off was forgotten as the joy of pedaling a bike re-dawned on his soul. Simple pleasure took it's place. The pedaling fool geared down smoothly as the bottom transitioned up again. By the top and out of breath, pain finding it's way into his muscles and lungs, he stilled grinned. Harder now, he stepped into it and punched up the big ring and blasted out onto the highway not even giving that four way intersection a second thought. Out on 109 he pedaled the ridge. A beautiful glorious view across Apple Valley stopped at skies so blue, it hurt to look at them. He stroked easy, he took his time. He landed in Springvale pumped and ready for whatever came his way that day.

Our hero conveniently did not consider that going home would be a different matter. He would cross that bridge when he closed up for the night. Right now, this moment, he felt alive again. In pain and out of breath, his face still laughed. Winter's cocoon had been shed.

Later..........

(630 / 8103)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Making Something from Nothing

Immersing myself into my business so completely has been interesting. Not only am I attempting to run something that would be better served with four hands on the tiller instead of two, I am also attempting to find some money to re-finance my business with. That means writing a new business plan. I remember now how much agony it was to write my first one 12 years ago. I am also working with the Small Business Administration (SBA) rep in my area and attending seminars on helping dumass small business owners navigate the labyrinth and mazes of the world of big finance.

My SBA rep did tell me I was managing the money I did bring in about as well as it could be managed. What I need is more sales. I have learned to make do with less sales. Both of us realize that in order to make more money, I have to spend more money. And not having more money is the problem. So my only alternative is to borrow it. To find money, I need to appear to have a better grasp of the future than I do. It's always about the future ain't it?

He has given me some serious homework to complete. First I have to study all those important accounting entries my shop has generated over the last 4 years. Then using the percentages of costs as part of the Gross Profit, inject them into a worksheet to predict my future based on projected future gross sales. While I would be happy with any positive growth instead of the slow downward trend I have been experiencing for the last few years, the SBA guy insists that I need numbers to woo and impress the Bankers with. And they need to be realistic numbers. I would prefer to pull them out of my ass, but he will not let me do that.

Mind numbing stuff for sure. Accounting, spreadsheets, cash flows and overhead are not terms I enjoy watching bump around the ole cranial void. They upset all the free spirits up there and before I know it, everyone is unhappy. Like someone turned on a spigot full bore and let it run, my mind is being poured into things and duties outside my comfort zone. It is interesting, but my unfamiliarity with this "next" level of business stuff leaves me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. And I still have to find the energy to be pleasant to customers, vendors, and keep the wrench turning turning. I will say this. The bike shop is anything but the same ole, same ole this year. If I survive this summer, I will indeed be patting myself on the back come September.

Keep it 'Tween the Ditches................

(452 / 7473)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reflecting

As we transition from children into adults, most of us go through similar phases. The phases of discovery, rebellion, re-discovery become part of what makes us the adults we become. Each phase brings with it a little more maturity of body and mind. Yet each experience is totally unique to each of us. Where we were raised. By whom were we raised. Small town, big town or all around - each and every one of us goes through similar changes but with the specific backdrops tweaking that experience and folding it into the character we ultimately develop as adults.

I was no different. I looked at the life of my parents and told myself, "Not me. I am going to follow my path, not theirs" I then actively sought a life completely removed from the traditional professional trades both sides of my family had been involved in for generations going back hundreds of years. I was not going to be a doctor, a lawyer.........a boss. I would carve my own way. Yeah right.

I did start out on a different path. Out of college, I pursued the blue collar life of an over the road truck driver. And for 8 years, I lived out of a suitcase and collected hundreds of hotel room keys. I saw things. I did things my middle class family would never have dreamed of. Yeah, I was showing them.

I had not considered that the value systems I had been exposed to as a child would eventually win out. At some point while pounding the highway between point A and Point B, I had a revelation. I was damn sick and tired of being on the road. I had had it with being alone. The time had come for me to leave this life of truck stops and clothes smelling of diesel fuel. I wanted to sleep in the same bed every night. Suddenly the idea of settling down became important to me.

I had become what I vowed not to become. I know it was no small satisfaction to my parents that they had been right all along. I just had more rebellion in my belly to work through before I understood that the Life they had been grooming me for was going to happen no matter what I did to fight it. It would be great to say I beat the system. But I didn't. I just put off the inevitable a tad longer than others might.

And now after almost 30 years of domesticated existence, I sit here waxing nostalgic about the Life I left out on the super slab somewhere. I could go back to it I guess. Trucks still operate the same as they did many years ago. But no. I have made commitments and promised myself to other endeavors. I am in a life long relationship that requires my attendance and focus every day. And even though it is a struggle sometimes, I have no regrets. What I have, I built for myself. Both the good and the bad.

See Ya...................

(511 / 7021)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another Resurrection of Sorts

My ability to find time to play on the computer has been cut back dramatically in the last few weeks. The bike shop has picked up. Since I am attempting to run it completely solo this season, I am putting in more time to make up for the lack of hired help. I have not put as much thought or effort into the blog recently. Seems my mind is into a different mode at the moment. The Business mode. Creativity is needed, but on different wavelengths than I use when diddlin and fiddlin on this blog.

I can never remember which side of my brain is the creative side and which is the get er done side. Two weeks ago though, the side I used then is definitely not the side I am using now. Thoughts do not wander off the reservation as much as they did a short while ago. I have the Loose Dog leashed to the sled and we're mushing it. So far, we seem to be holding our own.

I am now into my eleventh season at CRUM Cycles. I am absolutely amazed I have made it this far. Conventional wisdom says one should have at least $75,000 to start a bike shop. $100,000 would be even better. Proof I guess of the tired old saying, "It takes money to make money". In late 1998, I had maybe $2000 in bike parts, maybe $3000 dollars in tools, and a determination to give the bike business one more good shot before I gave it up.

I found a location in need of renovations. I found a bank willing to loan me $25,000 dollars. My future landlord would give me a break on the rent for the labor I invested in the renovations. The bank would give me 7 years to pay back the $25K. Full of myself, I was sure I could make this happen and in five years not be a renter, but an owner. In five years, my business would be debt free. That was the plan anyway.

My five year business plan was shot in the butt in the year following 9/11. Starting in 2002, our local economy began an odd cycle. I think it was that long ago we began a slow slide to where we are today. I only say this because that is when I began to have trouble at the bike shop. My speculation of future sales and the resulting purchases I made to meet them created a negative cash flow situation that I have not recovered from completely since. My purchases were not based on unrealistic projections. They were actually quite conservative. Yet my pre-season commitments at that time were too much for the business environment that followed. My shop has been limping along for basically the last 7 years as I am constantly playing catch up for the past due bills of the previous year. Had I been smart or less hard headed, I would have bailed in 2004. Cut my losses and found something else to do for a paycheck.

What I shoulda, coulda done is beside the point. I am here now with whatever bed I have made for myself these last 10 years. I still enjoy doing what I do, fixing bikes, selling parts, and talking about bikes with the wackos who ride them. But it has become harder to stay enthusiastic as each year pans out like the previous one. I am the captain of a ship taking on more water than the bilge pumps can pump out. I am still afloat, but with each passing summer, I sit lower in the water than I did before.

All of this soul baring is really just a notification of sorts. I am one more time going to focus all of my faculties on saving my business. One more time I will attempt to keep my shop from crashing on the rocks or just going down in heavy seas. So expect my visits to other blogs to be seldom. I will try to post here as often as possible. This writing thing is a wonderful release for me. But bear with me and don't take it personally if I am not the frequent visitor I used to be. More important shit is going on and I need to pay attention to it. But I will drop in from time to time. Right now, on this Easter Sunday, I am headed down to the shop to fix a couple of bikes for next week.


Later.............

(757 / 6510)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

From One Dream to Another

She told the three of us, "I wouldn't believe one word the three of you said. You do not strike me as the kind of people who would have a clue about burrowing in hard, digging deep, or have what it takes to really want to find the answer."

I sat across from her and listened to this. On either side of me were two fellows I did not recognize but I guess I probably should have. They looked familiar but for some reason I was drawing a blank about their identities. I looked from one to the other. Their blank faces told the truth of what the woman had said. We were all indeed clueless. I know I was. Her words made no sense to me. What were we supposed to be seeking that she was sure we did not have what it took to find? Who were these clowns on either side of me? And where the Hell was I?

I re-focused on the woman across the broad table from me. I tried to identify her, pin down a description to hopefully get a grip on who the Hell she was and why I was sitting across a scarred table from her. Her face was one moment a tranquil and pleasant face. I would blink or look away for a second and when I returned to confront her, her mug would be twisted in anger or be the bloated jolly face of a laughing fat woman. Sometimes blond, sometimes brunette. Each time I looked away and then looked back, it was a different face speaking the same words in the same tone. And still the three of us sat mute and hopelessly vacant of any clue.

At some point in this odd stand off, a window opened. A cool wet blast of air moved through the room. I shivered. I woke up. Fernando el Magnifico's furry face was two inches from mine. "Dude, it's five o'clock. I want you to play with me." Clamped between his jaws was one of the many plastic rings we took off of milk bottles. I closed my eyes trying to regain the dream that had caught my imagination. Another wet blast came through as Fernando again rubbed his cold wet nose across my cheek.

"Damn cat. Okay, okay. Gimme that ring." Fernando let go as I grabbed it. I tossed it as far as I could from my prone position. Fernando chased. I sat up and rubbed the left over sleep from my eyes. Fernando found the ring, picked it up and trotted back so I could toss it again. Another day on the planet begins.

Keep it 'Tween the Ditches................

(444 / 5763)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Happy Birthday Curly

Odd how some posts I concoct start off with the idea of keeping the post on the lighter side of things. Humor or at least subjects with little controversy attached being my goal. Often, no sooner do I get started with some research for a picture or background information, all the fun and humor get smacked out of me with the click of a mouse.

This morning's effort is a perfect example. Today is my birthday. I have had enough of them so instead of tooting my own horn, I was going to find someone else who shares this unique day with me. Someone famous or not so famous. But famous enough to have made some birthday list somewhere. By some vicarious manipulations, some of their fame might just rub off for a second or two.

At History Orb.com I found a link to 242 people way more famous than I who were born on April 9. I wandered up an down the list. Stopping when I recognized some name, or something caught my eye. At one point, the words "Columbine Shooter" grabbed my attention. All the fun reasons I was here got shot in the butt right then and there.

It never dawned on me that Evil could be born on the same day as I. But there it is. Eric Harris, one of the two Columbine Shooters was born on 4/9/81. 18 years, 11days later he and his buddy, Dylan Klebold died of self inflicted gunshot wounds. In their wake, they left 12 dead and 23 wounded people who had been just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. As it turned out according to to exhaustive FBI profiling and investigation, their act of terror was not even just payback for normal teen angst and mistreatment. They were hoping to make the Oklahoma Bombing look pitiful in comparison to their effort. They did everyone a favor by offing themselves.

Magnar Am not only shares my birthday, but my birth year also. Today we are both 57 years old. There is not much out there about Magnar. But way more than there is about me. Magnar is affiliated with some worldwide organization against hunger. And he obviously takes his Norwegian roots seriously. His discography does not seem to have made it out of Norway.

Magnar is a Norwegian Contemporary Classical Music Composer. The term "Norwegian Contemporary Classical Music Composer" came from some web site. I assume it is an official designation in the hierarchy of musical genre possibilities. The audiophiles out there just love to pigeonhole every type of music as specifically as possible. Why is that? Is it not enough to just say, the guy composed music for some Norwegians and leave it at that?

And last but no means least is one Earl "Curly" Lambeau. Curly was born on April 9, 1898. Curly was so good at football, he made it a career. He was the Green Bay Packers first coach and has since had a stadium named after him. He is certainly more famous than I. And apparently better at the game of football also. He coached the Packers from 1921 to 1949 and had almost a .600 winning average.

So Happy Birthday to all of you out there who were born this day. Even those of you dead and long gone. April 9 may just be another day in the life for most of us, but for some of us, it is another day but with a footnote.

Later...............

(585 / 5319)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Product Endorsement


It does not matter how I found this website. Through a convoluted series of brain skips and forks in the roads of my mind, I stumbled upon these folks in Massachusetts who make organic Earth friendly soap. I would call them Hippies, but well, first of all I do not know them. Second of all, we all know Hippies are too busy being stoned to take baths, so soap is not something dirty Hippies would be interested in. That is of course if you like to live off stereotypes. If so, then why would a Hippie make soap?

Anyway, their name is "Just Soap" . Their claim is their soap is organic, biodegradable, and handmade. Handmade? Well, not exactly. The owner found that mixing the soap to proper thickness by hand was a tedious and tiring chore. Mixing by hand necessitated smaller amounts of the pre-soap brew which meant his prices had to be high to compensate for all that hand labor.

Being a cyclist also, he decided to find a bike builder who would help him design and build a soap blending contraption powered by foot pedals. Their efforts apparently worked. He can now produce more soap in less time by pedal power. His prices are kept down. His commitment to Eco-friendly means of production are met. And I assume he has more product to sell and possibly live a little more comfortably because of it. Win/win all around.

My experience with handmade soap is limited. But so far, all I have tried has been a pleasant surprise over the mainstream soap I find at the super market. I will be ordering some of this soap. It looks like the best bang for the buck handmade soap I have seen. Most of the organic soaps I have purchased are more the size of motel room bars and way expensive. "Just Soap" seems to offer value along with a good product. They even age their bars for two months to harden them up so they will last longer. In addition, there are hints to increasing the life of a bar of soap.

I realize this endorsement is based on no more than a website visit. My plug is solely based on the method of production, I felt the urge to give these folks some props. At some point, I will follow up with my impressions of their soap. I am partial to oatmeal soaps. I think I will start with their version.

See Ya.............

(414 / 4734)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Man Up

Be a Man. Show some stones. Stand up like a Man.

I often wonder why these terms are used instead of finding more gender nuetral phrases. Is it that women are somehow lacking in the backbone department? Anyone who has dealt with more than one or two women in their life certainly know that having sand, showing grit and owning what they do, men are at best only women's equal in this department. Weasels and losers seem to be equally distributed across the gender lines. The weaker sex is by no means weaker. Physical strength maybe to some degree. But as far as having the ability to stand up and be counted, I generally find women waffle less than men.

I also think that without women, we men would not come close to our potential. Left to our own devices, most of us would park our sorry butts on some couch. Chips to the right, a beer to the left and a huge widescreen with some kind of sports violence playing to our imagined manhood in the center.

What a frickin joke this masculine mystique is. As is the equally stupid feminine mystique. Both genders have their predispositions but they are hardly mysterious. Well, I still have trouble sometimes understanding why leaving the seat up is such a big deal, but then that's just me I guess. Making sure it is down is something I do out of respect, not because it makes sense. From a strictly gender point of view, leaving it up is way more efficient and less wasteful of time.

Male and female brains utilize different chemicals in different amounts I have heard. Different sections of the brain are used by each of us. Okay, so men network more with that extended brain down in their britches than women do. Hey, it's part of that biological imperiative. If every connection had to have a candle lit dinner beforehand, I wonder how many people there really would be on the planet today. Underpopulation might be the issue, not over crowding.

Strength of character is by no means genetically implanted. Unfortunately, even though Americans are slowly giving women their due, in much of the World the marginalization of women continues unabated. Under the guise of religion, cultural traditions, blah blah blah, women continue to be second class citizens in much of the World. Some cultures regard them as barely human.

I think this oppression of women in various parts of the globe is done out of fear. Men are afraid of women. And rather than standing up and being men, many males in this World would rather deal with their fear of the other sex by creating rules that keep them in a safe non-threatening place. Set things up so they can't stand toe to toe with men. I think secretly many men know they would lose.

See Ya..........

(478 / 4320)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Promises - An Odd Progression

No matter how many words are spoken. No matter how many words are written. It just makes no difference in the scheme of things to come. People will do what they do, neverminding what they may have said or promised. We seem destined to fulfill preordained existences. No matter how much we try to alter the outcome, it comes anyway.

Promises never amount to anything unless they change into something else. Completed tasks, satisfied agreements fail to stoke the memory like a promise broken or not fulfilled. Why do we remember the disappointments more than the obligations met when it involves someone close? Might it be because we hope to educate ourselves away from breaking them again? And still as we hope this time being the one, we harbor thoughts that around every corner another broken promise hangs waiting for us to run into.

Wisdom comes with age I am told. Wisdom is acquired it is said. Takes time and patience to become wise. Some never take the time to become wise because they have no patience. Many think what they survive was not avoidable. That nothing they did might have created the World they have to deal with. They live Life faultless, always looking to others to scapegoat their mistakes, their broken promises, their self inflicted damage.

All these thoughts come to mind. Mixing and meshing on a merry go'round in my mind. I try to stay seated until it stops but reaching for the ring I fall off and have to hang on for dear life or I fear I will be flung off.

Clowns walk by with lighter than air balloons clutched in white gloved hands. They try to pass me some to lift me off this mind bending carousel. Many horses on poles fly by and the clowns have to withdraw their offered help. I grasp frantically with one hand and hold on with the other. As the whirling disk of poles, horses, blinking lights and hurdy gurdy music picks up the pace, I lose my grip.

Science takes over as the physics of something at rest no longer remains at rest. Tracjectorial math figured out by Physics Professors causes my mind to fly into some unknown place to once again abruptly become an object at rest. I consider why the clowns jumped out of the way after promising me so much with teasing balloons.

I don't blame the clowns. Not anymore. It was not their fault I was confused. It was not their fault I seriously considered the promise of a clown.

Later.........

(427 / 3842)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

We're Number One!

Forbes Magazine recently named it's picks for the top cities to live in the United States. Portland, Maine came out on top as the best city over 500,000 to live in. Portland is a great little city. If I had to live in a city again, Portland would be my first pick. Folks are generally friendly and it is easy to drive around or walk. It has good food, good drink, and it is on the water.

But Portland is not a city of over 500,000. As a matter of fact, the population of the city is only 64,000. Lee Nelson, Channel 6 news guy, brought this fact up on his daily blog. So how did Forbes decide that Portland fit into the category of 500,000 when the whole state only has 1.2 million people? Well, they used what is called a MSA measurement. Apparently the MSA population area comprises an area of linked population density. So basically when Forbes said Portland was number one, they really meant all of southern Maine. If this is the case, I live in the number one spot in the country according to Forbes magazine. The official MSA for Portland includes four counties. Acton is in one of them. I am an hour away from the city center in the sticks and about as removed from any notion of city living as one can get.

While Forbes draws upon the population of areas only remotely linked to Portland, they then only use statistics specific to the city itself to embellish their claims. By today's standards, Portland has a low unemployment rate of 5.9% and a fairly high per capita income. Head down the road to say Sanford and the unemployment rate doubles and the per capita income plunges.

I felt some pleasure at reading of Portland's rise to the top. But I find the honor to be not honestly won based on the criteria used. It is not Portland's fault. It is Forbes magazine. Tweaking statistics to fit into some kind of template, is not being very objective. All in all, I would just as soon they had not bothered.

Keep it 'Tween the Ditches................

(356 / 3415)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Sneaking Out

Marlin and I cooked up a plan one Friday in school. Matter of fact, a bunch of us rowdy ninth graders made plans to sneak out in the wee hours that night. Everyone hunkered together in the corner of the cafeteria during lunch talking jive about being bad asses and waking all the gentle folk in the neighborhood at dark thirty in the morning. Everything from hopping the news truck to stealing golf carts at the country club on River Road were seriously considered. Someone mentioned breaking into the school and trashing it. I nixed that idea quick. Vandalism and stealing never felt right to me.

At some point, it was decided to go on safari. We would all bring balloons, fill them with water and hunt moving vehicles. That scheme did not set off my warning, "this is a stupid idea" bell. So we all agreed, it was water balloon night. Yeah, must have been ten of us who made plans to bring balloons and meet behind Brown's Market. We could fill the balloons from the spigot that stuck out of the ground near the back door. Old Man Brown never turned it off.

About 11:30 PM, I looked in my parents room. Mom was propped up, mouth gaping open with a paperback on her stomach. A soft snore alternating with a wheeze told me she was out for the night. Dad was passed out in fetal position next to her. After piling pillows and dirty clothes under my sheets to hide my absence, I opened my window and climbed out on the front porch roof. I skittered down the front pillar and double timed it to Brown's. I hoped I was not too late to hook up with everyone.

This was going to be so cool. I had only ever snuck out with Snake and Jackie. We used to do it all the time. But Snake got shipped off to military school this year and wouldn't be home until summer break. And Jackie was farmed out to some school in Pennsylvania for what we all thought would be forever. Tonight was to be a new group effort. If everyone showed up, we were going to get out of control, I just knew it. And I couldn't wait.

What makes sneaking out so special to a fourteen year old boy? I can remember so many nights laying awake under my sheets fully clothed until the rest of the house was finally down for the night. Laying there almost shaking in anticipation of excitement and adventure I could not even visualize, but was sure would be there once I got outside. And usually coming home 4 hours later after a night of just wearing out shoe leather but still feeling good. Satisfied to just be out there, because breaking rules is what 14 year old white boys are supposed to do.

Marlin and I hooked up at Browns. He had been there awhile. We filled some balloons, smoked a couple of cigarettes, and wondered where everyone was. Tired of hanging around and disgusted that no one else bothered to make it, we headed up Old Georgetown Road and crossed to the NIH grounds. In the shadows, we worked our way North to the strip mall up near the Beltway. We were hatching some plan to toss the balloons at the cars whizzing by on I-495. Not much thought went into that plan. I guess it was good that it never hatched. While we hung out deciding where best to position ourselves, suddenly a spotlight found us. Cops! Shit! Marlin and I looked at each other. He bolted one way, I bolted the other.

As it turned out, my way was the wrong way. I wasted 20 minutes and all my breath dashing through yards, up alleys and hopping many fences. All the while two cops chased me on foot and I could hear cars coming in my direction from the other side of the block. I kept going until I could go no further. Somehow I had run in a big circle and ended up back at the shopping center and the wooden fence that separated it from the neighborhood. Had I been on my side of Old Georgetown Road, I would have lost them in a heartbeat. But this was a neighborhood I did not know well, so I had gotten turned around. I crawled breathless into the hedge that ran along the fence. I laid down and hoped the rasp of my breath did not reveal my whereabouts. When my body finally calmed down and I was considering the idea of moving on, 2 cop cars pulled up not 20 yards away. Four cops got out and began a sweep.

They were good. They were methodical. They found me. They handcuffed me and tossed my sorry ass in one of the cruisers. They were not very gentle either. One of the cops had tripped over a fence in some yard while chasing me on foot earlier. He torn up his uniform pants and the knee underneath them. He clamped the cuffs on, making sure it hurt when he did it. All he said was, "I couldn't believe you cleared that fence. Looked like there was two feet of air under your shoes. You were moving."

Now I was really scared. My first real brush with the law. Instantly, without even thinking about it, I knew my life at home was going to be Hell on Earth for the rest of my life. Dad would flail me, skin me alive, and then beat me senseless. I was in deep shit. 14 years old, handcuffed, sprawled in the back of a cruiser and headed off to jail.

At the cop shop, they quizzed me, frisked me again, and dumped me in the drunk tank. There was one other soul there. He was not just gloriously drunk, he was also gay. He perked right up when I came in. And even though I sat as far away from him as I could, he found ways to narrow the distance between us. I was creeping out. A horny gay drunk and me, a 14 year old virgin white boy. The cops loved it. Bastards. They had a grand ole time over my misfortune. It did not dawn on me nothing could happen, as this holding cell faced the busy part of that police station. There was always a cop in view. And now that I think about it, I think the gay guy was just having some fun at my expense. But it still creeped me out.

After about an hour, a cop came to the cell. He informed me my father would not be right down. He said my father was headed back to bed. He would deal with me in the morning. But only if he felt like it. I was astounded. I was sure my ole man would not miss the chance to head right down so he could ream my ass out for the next 4 hours. But he didn't come. That freaked me out. I had taken an immediate dislike of jail.

My initial shock of actually being behind bars progressively turned into a nightmare as I began imagine all the worst case scenarios possible. By 7:00 AM I was positive my ole man was going to leave me there through the weekend. I was one miserable kid. Thankfully the drunk gay guy had passed out and was not eye balling me or flinging slurred words at me anymore.

Dad came to spring me about 10:00 AM. I had been in that holding cell for nine hours anyway. When I walked out of the cell, I saw Dad and he saw me. The look on his face was all I needed to top off probably the most miserable night I had had in my short life to that point. I remember getting a lecture from the cop who I guess was the man there, but I didn't listen. I just nodded my head and mumbled yes sirs and no sirs and looked at my feet. Finally, I was in the car with Dad and we were heading home. The expected anger and yelling never happened. He never said a word. And he never mentioned it to me again until many years later when we were both half in the bag and I brought it up. He said he just couldn't get mad. I had looked so miserable, he figured I had been through enough to learn whatever lesson I was going to learn from it already. If he had blown up, it would have been only to make him feel better. Wouldn't have done much for me.

Later.............

(1459 / 3059)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Church of the Latter Day Mammarians

Over the last 30 or so years, there seems to have been more folks finding religion of one kind or another or just re-discovering the faith they were raised in. Born Agains, Found Agains, but not as many Lost Agains. Folks are flocking to the Big guy's door. Secularism is just not as hip at the moment.

A typical outgrowth of this resurgence in religion, is the predictable rise in numbers on the fanatical fringes. Islam and the Born Again Christian movement get the lion's share of the spotlight. But intertwined into this resurgence are shadowy religions that are growing outside the public eye.

One movement I began to notice back in the 1970's.

I first spotted the cone like buildings while trucking goods up and down the East Coast. Yurt like, they seemed to pop up overnight conveniently located at major interchanges next to the Interstates. Paid for with public money, their stated purpose was to house and contain sand and salt for winter dispersal of ice and snow or house highway maintenance equipment to be used on the many miles of roads that connect all of us.

My curiosity was tweaked. I did some digging. I staked out a few here and there. I pulled all nighters. I followed workers to and from work. I went to various halls of record and tussled with bored bureaucrats and followed the trails set up and paid for with public money spent on these recent additions to our landscape. Each tidbit of information by itself did not point to anything ominous. But added together and placed in a certain sequence..........Friends, we are facing a secret cabal intent on taking over.

Oh sure, during the day, they appeared to be harmless public buildings that fulfilled a public safety need. All a mirage. A cover. What I found after months of grueling and tedious research was a religious cult that once it's potential is fully realized will change the World as we know it. And all done behind the smoke screen of calling it "in the interest of Public Safety". Yeah Right.

With information scraped together outside the public domain, I have been able to discern a name, and what their immediate goal is. So secret are their secrets, I am showing immense courage just by exposing this much about them. Suffice it to say, my days are likely numbered now. This expose' will most certainly set into motion some kind of "accident" or "disappearance" that will remove any threat I might be to their nefarious machinations.

They call themselves the "Church of the Latter Day Mammarians". Their implied indication of being a religious group only hides their deeper and more scurrilous objective. They are the first wave of recruits who will be unleashed upon the World when the alien masters decide to take over. They are the grass roots arm of the NWO. They are run by humans under the direction of managers who have been burrowed deep for centuries into the crust of Io, a moon circling Jupiter.

In order to bring converts into the fold, they decided to play upon the human male fascination with the female bosom. A false religion was built around the perception that we only grow at the Breast of God. The bosom is the true well of humanity. Becoming a Mammarian is a sign one recognizes the breast's divinity in the scheme of all things cosmic. Life must be nursed and fed to become fully realized. What better symbol of the Earth Mother than a building that looks like a Viking bra cup, size Double D sticking 4 stories out of the ground?

The membership is made up of mid-level local bureaucrats who offer easy conversion because of their feelings of inadequacy and lack of having control. The men who feel they answer to those above and those below. These supervisors of our public infrastructure are perfect marks. Under appreciated by the rest of us, they have now been fooled into thinking their worth is worth something to someone, even if they are a non-human someone. And who else would be in the best position to cripple our World than the road engineers, the sanitation engineers, the utilities engineers? Those aliens are not stupid.

They began their infiltration by erecting these houses of worship next to the network of roads called the Interstate. And now that there are thousands of these scattered about strategically, they can at the proper moment, kick off the next phase of their insidious plan. World Domination. When the signal is received from Io, hordes of converted Mammarians will pour out onto our landscape and take control.

I have only just put the few pieces I have together to form something of a coherent picture of what lies ahead. I am still gathering data about what the ultimate goal is concerning those of us not on board already. I would have waited to post this much, but the time has come to at least raise an alarm. Even one offering only anecdotal proof. And even now my alarm may be too late.

See ya..............

(836 / 1600)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In Defense of the Moth

Robin over to Dharma Bums got me started on this. You can blame her.

As a rule most creepie crawlie things do not find many fans among us humans. Insects, spiders, grubs and worms are usually just targets for our shoes or the cause of frantic pawing at our hair, head or body when one has the unfortunate luck to land on us. There seems to be a natural handed down human aversion to anything with more than four legs.

There are some "acceptable" bugs out there. Pretty boy species that get all the positive press and glowing reviews. Butterflies and Dragonflies come to mind. They flit around during sunlit days gracing us with their presence. I will admit, both have turned my head with their spiffy colors and awesome flying tricks. But I am not here to talk about the "beautiful insects".

I don't ever remember paying moths much attention before I became a Maine resident. Drab and usually puny, they were just another bug I would brush off when they hit me instead of the light they were aiming at. But live in the sticks in Maine long enough and moths become more than just another insect. I have become convinced Maine is home to more species of moths than anywhere else I have ever lived. Even after finding out from research, that the experts do not agree has not changed my mind. Hundreds of moths will gather on our front porch on almost warm summer nights. Most will be the smaller dull garden variety kind. Often though, moths of amazing size, shapes and colors will find their way to our screen door to greet us in the morning. The Lunar Moth up top is but one of them. I have measured close to a five inch wingspan on some I have found. One of those hits you in the head in the dark of night, and you feel it.

There are moths up here big enough to be mistaken for small birds. This odd looking Hawkmoth(I still have not found out it's exact name, but I think is is a Hawkmoth of some type) here can measure 4 inches across when in resting mode. The variety of moths that live in the woods around me is impressive.

I did some checking on moths. I found some interesting facts about them.

~Moths were first on the scene before butterflies. By about 100 million years

~Most moths it seems do not feed as adults. There are some nectar sucking varieties, but for the most part, it looks like Moths spend all their adult time looking for a date.

~Moths are generally nocturnal. They rest during the day. This is probably the reason for their drab coloring as they do not want to be disturbed while asleep by critters looking to turn them into food.

~Why they beat themselves silly against any light close - well I did not find out why. They are insects ferchrisakes. I don't think they even know why.

~I also found out there is a whole other category in addition to Butterflies and Moths. They are called Skippers. They are most similar to Butterflies, so I will count them in with them.

The differences between moths and butterflies are profound once you are made aware of them.
~Butterflies have long hairless thoraxes and long antennae
~Moths are hairy barrel chested critters with fuzzy cool antennae
~Butterflies can position their wings in vertical mode, moths cannot.
~Butterflies are designed to be seen to attract mates during the day
~Moths are designed to be camouflaged during the day so they can rest

I found this great site that lists all the different species of butterflies, skippers and moths in North America and Mexico. It has a search engine that will pin down the types that are found to a county wide area. I found that supposedly 73 varieties of Butterflies and/or Skippers and 33 varieties of Moths exist or visit my county on a regular basis. Personally, I think they missed a few. One anyway. The unnamed leafy looking one above is a regular visitor to my porch, but not listed in their data banks as having been here.


I come by my fascination with the bug world honestly I guess. I used to watch ants for hours. I even kept an Ant Lion colony going in a shoe box under my bed for a time. Then my mom found it and made me toss it out. Ant lions are very, very cool. But that is another post altogether.

Later..............

(762)