Saturday, December 31, 2005

Paranoia Realized

The following is a memory sparked from a thread on a forum. The thread was regarding the recent domestic spying and it's relationship to the Hoover days in the 60s and 70s.

I went to college at the height of J. Edgar Hoover's search and destroy crusade against perceived subversive activity inside our country. I was a bit player, call it an extra, in the Peace movement. I participated in the demonstrations, took over administration buildings, and generally had a grand time fighting the Man. The extreme width and breadth of Hoover's paranoid campaign was brought to light for me in 1973. 

The small university I attended had decided I was a trouble making neer do well. Not a bad kid. I just did not belong in their college. The fact that they were right is beside the point of my point. 

After a particularly rowdy evening of massive over indulgence, a section of one dorm sustained some damage. Many people contributed to the festival of demolition, but who did the campus cops wake up at dawn? Yeah, me. So what if I was found passed out among the carnage. That was but circumstantial evidence I figured as they hauled me away in handcuffs. 

I was unceremonisously parked in a small windowless room in the basement of the new administration  building down at campus security. A uniformed campus cop shoved some coffee my way and told me to sober up. And just to show they were not barbaric goons of the hob nail kind, I also found next to the coffee absolutely the worse pastries I have ever eaten. 

A couple of hours later after my heels had cooled and  the screamer of a hangover thrashing around my cranial void had become tolerable enough to keep both eyes open, the head campus cop came in. We had previously come into contact with each other over a fir tree on campus that had been crudely re-located to a girl’s dorm room. No introductions were needed. The funny thing was he was very friendly and obliging. He understood that I was nothing but another dumass out of control out of control college student. But his hands were tied this time. I would have to face charges and go to court. 

Since I was aware enough to actually remember some of the previous night, I obliged him and admitted my part in it. I clammed up when asked to identify my accomplices. I figured they were just being stupid. The whole damn campus had been at that party. After we had resolved the criminal aspect of my situation, he was going to let me go back to my dorm, pack up and leave campus. But first he wanted to talk to me about something. 

What he relayed to me sobered me up quick. He dropped a file folder on the table. It had my name on it. It was not thin. Inside were pictures of me at several of the campus demonstrations. One in particular caught my eye. A nice photo of me hanging out of Linthicum Hall in May of 1972 giving the ole peace salute. There were circles and arrows. The whole bit. Apparently our little university was considered a hot bed of radicalism just like the big dogs at Berkeley, Michigan, etc. 

The FBI had forwarded these photos to him a couple of months previous with their wishes that about 20 others and myself be monitored and if possible be given the boot. He went on to explain that he was not supposed to show anyone these photos or divulge the FBI’s wishes. But it bothered him. He had a serious problem with them coming on his campus and spying on his kids. 

I looked through the photos and noticed a couple from some demonstrations in DC. I was impressed. And not in a positive way. Here in front of me was proof that the paranoia of the Peace movement was not paranoia but fact. All the ugly exaggerated claims were right there and I was tied into it. 

Being on some agency's radar was unsettling to say the least. He went on to explain that the photos had nothing to do with kicking me out of the dorms. I could still attend classes but I could not live on campus. He did not say it, but I think revealing the FBI file was his way of fighting the Man.  The next year, the campus had a new head of security. I never saw him again. But that morning I learned that cops can be both good and bad. I learned that no matter how free we think we are, someone will always be interested in curtailing that freedom. The Constitution was just a set of rules meant to be broken.  **

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

** - Edited harshly in Sept of 2017

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Taking Detours

Random thoughts stop by. They have no connection to each other and no relevance to the current events in progress. They just breeze in. I will be trying my hardest to convey my inner self and suddenly I will see Fernando performing his crotch licking ceremony and I will wonder why. My previous point in the making lost for the moment as I contemplate cats and why they lick their butts.

Being prone to going off course is a two edged sword. The obvious problem is the helter skelter, hit or miss success rate for anything planned. The upside aspect are all the interesting and odd adventures I have stumbled into. Taking detours may take longer. But detours often add something special to the ruts we seem so comfortable in.

I could say this is an unusual thing for me. I would be lying. As far back as my pitiful excuse for a brain can remember, I have been a space shot. Taking anything from the beginning and following it through to the end has been a consistent problem. I am not sure why. Every project, trip, endeavor begins with enthusiastic effort and good intentions. But the trip always seems to end in a kick and scream struggle. It's as if the trip is more important than getting there. Maybe it is.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Christmas Spirit

It's early evening on Christmas Eve. I should be chock full of the Christmas Spirit. And I am not. My feelings have always been a mixed bag about Christmas time. Growing up, I had to witness and then endure the depressive tirades of my alcoholic father who reached his peak at this time of the year. So I guess I grew up both dreading and looking forward to Christmas.

I sit here somewhat ambivalent. That elusive high of this season is MIA. Not ecstatic, just pleasantly content. I am perplexed. Why not either extremely happy and full of that Christmas cheer. Or low man. Down in the dumper of depression. I am stuck somewhere in between. A kind of Christmas limbo.

Just another evening at home with the family and the pets. Bobbi is in the kitchen whipping up cookie dough for the Christmas cookies. Lis is putting together the fake tree. And I sit here in the office pondering my situation. There's snow outside. The radio is playing carols. And still I feel the same as yesterday, just a day older.

Maybe this is what Christmas is for me now. Contentment in having those I love close. Enjoying having time to reflect on the small circumstances that circulate on a normal day. I will not have many more of these. Lis is in her last year of college. She will be moving on. And that's great. But tonight and for the next couple of weeks, I get to experience and appreciate what I will soon miss. Merry Christmas!

An Exercise in Futility

I watched 60 minutes the other night after the Colt/Bengals game. One of the stories was, surprise, surprise, about New Orleans. Rather than just 20 minutes rehashing the blow by blow of how 500,000 people's lives turned upside down in a few days, this story dwelled on what do we do now? Obviously, the first thing ot come to mind would be to re-build the city. That's fine and dandy. But it will still be umpteen feet below sea level and all we would be doing was rebuilding the target for another pissed off hurricane. This story talked about the 120,000 homes that were damaged and the colossal undertaking of demolishing them and then re-building. And might not it be a better idea to re-locate the town to a saner height above sea level. One science guy contended that in 20 years, the town will be miles out in the Gulf 18 feet lower than the surface with a huge dike around it. A fishbowl of air in a pool of water. I know nostalgia and the connection of history is a powerful thing. Mother Nature surely does not care about any of that. She has indicated her displeasure with New Orleans by taking it out. Would it not be prudent to at least look at an alternative to rebuilding another target? Of course, sentimentality will rule the day. We will most likely pour stupid amounts of dollars and man hours into re-building a community that will inevitably at some future point in time be wiped off the face of the planet again. An exercise in futility.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Build Up

I gave myself a present today. I guess you could say it was a Christmas present. But that would not be completely accurate. This was a present I had planned to have 6 months ago. I had to build it first. It sat gathering dust, as one reason or another kept me from finishing it. Today, Friday, December 23rd, 2005 was slow at the shop. I could count on one hand and leave change on the number of consumers who came in. Instead of fidgeting over no business, I proceeded with the present. I built up a new bike for myself. Well, some new parts and some old parts, and at 8:00 PM I was staring at my new hardtail mountain bike. Tomorrow all I have to do to make it rideable is slap a seat on, cap some cables and it's off to the races. The 17.5" Rocky Blizzard frame with the 20th anniversary head badge on it had hung barren for too long. It looks good with wheels, disc brakes, a 105 mm Marzocchi MX Pro shock, and a solid XT/Race Face drivetrain under it. Adding the Nokian "Extreme" studded tires rounded out the look. It is one bad ass winter bike. I am ready for the cold weather now. Hoping to overcome the lethargic slug I usually impersonated, I pulled the frame off the hook it had dangled from these past 6 months. I dusted it off and considered what was next. I stripped my other bike and re-installed everything I could on the Blizzard. With each component successfully cleaned, attached and adjusted, my ambivalence melted away. By the time I stepped back from the done machine, I wanted to ride. There is something special about creating your own bike. Short of actually fabricating a frame, building up a bike from scratch is satisfaction beyond description. I think I get off as much building them as riding them. Nah, the ride is just that much sweeter knowing I was responsible for every choice and tidbit on it. I cannot wait to spin it around. The grin factor will be off the charts.

Dump Day Angst

A classic small town in Maine, Acton appears to be the idyllic New England existence. White Churches, Cape Cod houses with the obligatory train of out-buildings attached so we don't have to go out into the teeth of Winter to feed the cows. Yes, Acton is chock full of Kodak moments. This pastoral existence belies the real Acton, Maine. Behind the open fields, thick woods, and flocks of wild turkeys, an evil entity has taken root. To the casual observer, this evil would go about it's business totally unoticed. For the casual observer would most likely never have cause to visit the Town Dump. The repository for all that Acton wants no more has come under the spell of facists. They rule with an iron hand. Woe to the man who accidentally tries to slip a piece of cardboard into the hopper. A trip to the dump used to be a social event here in town. Put on your rattiest Mainer outfit, load up the pick-up, and head down. Time there spent swapping tall tales and poking around for good stuff to bring home was a time honored tradition. Alas, this ritual has been discarded and replaced with an experience filled with fear and paranoia. When I load up for the dump now, I break out in a sweat. I hope I have sorted and collated my refuse in a manner satisfactory to the often arbitrary whims of the evil dump nazi who guards the hopper. I am often asked to open up a bag to display my garbage. I can only hope no one in the family has accidentally slipped something deemed illegal into the household trash. A mistaken leaf or piece of plastic or cardborad will bring wrath and damnation no preacher could equal. I know he is just waiting to lay into me and make me feel small for failing to dump within the guidlines. The new rules at the Acton Dump make the Patriot Act look tame in comparison. And though we may not end up in jail for breaking the rules, after a good verbal beat down and nasty looks, jail might be kinder. The fun of dump day is now a distasteful chore undertaken out of necessity. There is no joy in tossing my garbage now. If ever there was a case for "the good ole days", the new Acton Dump is the perfect poster child.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tidbits and Biscuits - Dec. 22, 2005

Penguin kidnapped in Great Britain Officials at some zoo in in the only truly civilized English speaking country in the World are scrambling to locate a baby penguin they fear may have been bird napped. Baby Toga went missing a week ago and now has only 24 hours left to live unless it is reunited with Mom and Dad. Apparently young Toga can only eat fish regurgitated by Mom. At 18 inches tall, the little tyke should be an easy find. It isn't like it will blend in with the pigeons at Trafalgar Square. Interviews with zoo officials who understand penguin speak say Mom and Dad are so upset, they have stopped eating.

Security at Airports relaxed Deadly scissors shorter than 4 inches allowed. Every grandma wanting to catch up on her sewing instead of watching the in flight movie may now sew about the country.

Patriot Act extended for 6 months ~ Bush declares victory. ~ Democrats declare victory Spinmeisters from both sides claim victory. I guess that is what a compromise does. It allows each side the luxury of claiming victory while sweeping the defeat under the rug. All I see in this delaying tactic is another case of Congress not facing up to it's responsibility to make the tough decisions. What a bunch of losers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Kodak Moments & an Anniversary

The Anniversary I guess some kind of recognition should be paid to this date. I have now been blogging for one year. Consider this date now duly noted. Kodak Moments

I was helping my wife out with the Christmas clean up. Getting the house straightened out for the messy onslaught of the holidays. I sometimes wonder why we bother. Clean a corner now and by January 1st, it will be cluttered again. I push such thoughts aside now. I have learned that women, specifically my wife, have their own logic and it suits me to go along. To fight it is a losing battle. So, I helped this year. I vacuumed, dusted, etc. A built-in bookcase in the living room had become the catch all for all the many family and friends kodak moments. The four shelves had 20 years worth of nephews and nieces piled up and covered in dust. Every team photo of Lis, our daughter was mixed in. And to top it all off, ancient dusty black and white photos of my family from the early 1900's. It had obviously been a long time since anyone had taken the time to maintain these shelves. The dust was so thick on some photos, I had to wipe them off to see who was caught in the snapshot. This disorganized mish mash had to go. I pulled all the photos off the shelves, dusted them, and then critically sorted through them. This pile of 50 or so pictures would be whittled down to leas than 30. I knew not to throw any out. I put the ones that did not make my cut into the lower drawer of the Korean chest. My wife would certainly want to have her impact. So keeping them handy for retreival was a smart idea. Sorting through the various school pictures, team pictures, buddy shots, and ancestoral reminders, I was struck by how connected I was to the World. No matter how much I sometimes feel alienated and alone, knowing these people were or are part of my life tells me I am not alone. There are folks out there who do care about me and my circumstances. People who would rise up to offer what help they could without being asked. And I draw comfort from that. Some indigenous tribes somewhere thought photos took part of the soul to make the print. I think they were wrong. Pictures of friends, family and pets prove we have one. Would a souless person bother to concern themselves with reminders of the people of their past and present? Our friends, family and pets give our souls substance. Without them, we are just marking time and taking up space.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

How the day started for some

New York City - The Big Apple was crippled today when the Transit Workers went on strike. The subways and bus systems began shutting down at 3:00 AM. It has been 25 years since the last strike. Mayor Bloomberg contends the city will lose $400 million per day during this strike. 7 million commuters woke up this morning and had to find their own way in.Some news guy is hanging out on the Brooklyn Bridge witnessing the traffic into NYC. Apparently the cops are turning back any car with less than 4 people inside. So, we have thousands hoofing it across the various bridges. As a cyclist, this tickles me no end. 

Sea plane Crash, Miami Beach - A sea plane crashed close to the beach at Miami Beach. All twenty aboard are dead. Witnesses included surfers who thought the plane would crash on them. Apparently the plane was on fire before it crashed. Some witnesses at the scene (News guy's words - How could someone be a witness and not at the scene?) Anyway, some of the witnesses say they saw a wing come off prior to impact. Ending up in 35 feet of water, recovering the black box should be a cinch. 

President Bush - A new poll raises Bush's approval rating from 39% in early November to 47%. The fickleness of America and it's instant gratification mentality. A beleaguered and beat up Bush in November comes out with the tough guy approach again, attacks his attackers, and now a segment of the US feel this is enough to justify their approval. On the other side, another poll shows the President's approval rating still a paltry 39%.For those of us who live and die from polls, this apparent dispute in numbers has to create a schizophrenic feeling if in the throes of a low bio-rhythm. For the rest of us, we notice them, nod, and move on to the next piece of useless information. 

DNA Kits available at the grocery store - A grocery store chain in the mid west(?) is now offering a health service based on our genetic code. A quick swab in the mouth and the kit is rushed to a DNA lab in Connecticut. Based on 19 different genetic markers, the results will tell of genetic pre-disposition to any of the big killers. You then take the results to the consultants in the store and they will customize your shopping trip to fit in with the healthy lifestyle you should be living. At $99 a pop, it seems an expensive way to reinforce Mom's advice that chips and soda are not good for us. 

Local News > Augusta, Maine - A group who wants a 20 cents/gallon tax on water pumped out of Maine and sold faced their first failure. They had submitted a petition with 71,000 signatures to force the issue onto the next ballot. Over 7,000 signatures were found to be unacceptable. That meant they failed to meet the minimum required number to put the issue on the ballot in the next election. A spokesperson for Poland Spring Bottlers said they were pleased with the result. Well Duh. 

A personal Notation - Follow Up > "The Big Dig" - The resurrection of my office has reached a logical stopping point. Yet, I do not want to stop. I want to do more. Improve more. Gild the lily so to speak. But I will cease and desist. I have been given my orders. There are other fires that need to be attended to. My darling wife was emphatic and specific. After 25 years of marriage, I know when to jump, how quickly, and finally I have a clue as to how high. No height is high enough.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Big Dig

Yesterday was a date worth taking note of. I began the long overdue once a decade, whether it needs it or not office cleaning. One of my personal spaces had become too cluttered to use safely or sanely. It was now a trashcan with a door and 2 windows.

I had been pumping myself up for weeks. Everyday I made the office a must do at the top of the daily list. And everyday, I moved it to the top of tomorrow's list. Then last weekend, I moved Bobbi into her new office in one of the bedrooms. As she settled in and got things just so, I was instantly jealous. Her stereo on the second shelf promised tunes at her beck and call. The little office supplies knick knack rack right there ready for instant access. Reference books located conveniently within arm's reach. But it was her desktop that caught my eye. A grand space clear of clutter and ready to press into service. The walls were freshly painted and she naturally whipped up some cutains to match. "Damn her hide! I want what she has."

So I slunk back to my office. In the 2 square feet clear enough to turn full circle, I rotated and considered this space I had neglected for so long. I realized I did have what my darling signifigant other had. All I had to do was dig down through the sediment and find it again. Under the many old magazines, junk mail, dust and debris was a decently efficient work space. I was sure of it.

Yesterday "The "Big Dig" began in earnest. Not wanting to bite off more than I could chew, I just picked around the edges at first. Filling boxes and garbage bags and four hours later I found the bookcases. Damn! That's where that Asimov book went. And look, that old bong I thought I threw out with that nasty habit.

I weeded the useless and unecessary from the shelves, floor, and table tops. I made room for future clutter. I re-arranged, collated, and dusted. I rewired the stereo and found some more room when I stashed several components from back in the day. CD changers have effectively made tapes and LP's obselete. I left the turntable out of some nostalgic loyalty. I haven't spun a record in over 15 years. But my wife does on occaision. I can just hear her piss and moan if she comes in and it is not there.

Tonight I sit at the desk and behind me is open floor. No junk, trash or piled up unfinished paperwork to be seen. Tomorrow I tackle the desktop. And if I find the courage, I might even clean the windows.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Winter's First Kiss

When I sit down determined to explain myself, I put thought to paper first, re-read, and then title it. Tonight just for shits and giggles, I picked a title first. Let's see what pops up. And just to chance it a tad closer to the edge, I even picked the color first. Type on the wild side Mike. What bold and rash hair crossed my butt I wonder?

Winter in Maine is no bullshit in your face winter. The snow in early November often stays until May, leaving the frost pounded 5 feet into the ground. About January, everyone is pinned inside eagerly hoping mud season comes early. It is often minus 17'F for weeks and the sun doesn't get much higher than your hat until March. Five months of the year, we hide inside and peek outside hoping something, anything is showing a sign of an early thaw.

I did not want to write another "I hate winter in Maine" piece. I don't hate winter really. I just get tired of it. And now, with winter still a fresh experience, laying into it would seem hollow, insincere, and forced. I haven't been hunkered down in my house for 4 straight months with no sun, wearing flannel all the time. I haven't suffered through enough shovel the drive sessions at minus stupid with horizontal snow in my face no matter where I turn. No, I haven't suffered enough to justify winter's hair shirt yet.

We just recieved our first big blow. 15 inches anyway. It screwed yesterday up, but today has been grand. Blue skied and friendly temps in the low forties. The snow was light and fluffy. A shovel full weighed nothing. A story book storm when snow is magical. The sun hits the virgin drifts and dances in flashes and hurts my eyes. The winter in Maine I love. The early first kiss part of winter.

But I know a few months of this and the romance will be gone. Replaced by a mood ugly and morose. Suffering cabin fever and low light blues, I will slouch nasty tempered mumbling as I tap on the thermometer hoping it is just stuck. I will give up looking outside. My existence, an internal subsistence fed by cheetos and "Baywatch" re-runs. Gotta love the way those silcone filled beauties bounce when she runs into the surf to save some dumass.

Pop Icons

Today I would like to discuss pop icons. Pop icons are basically just people, places, or things that owe most of their notoriety to over exposure than to other qualities like talent, true beauty, or earth shattering insight. Pop icons are often the result of intense lobbying and marketing by the media, commercial interests, or the icons themselves. I have nothing in particular against pop icons. I just sometimes struggle to understand why a particular person, place or thing rates being held up as some sort of beacon of popular culture.

Some pop icons have a brief shelf life. Others hang in there until such time they are coronated as art, a historical marker of a culture gone by, or honored as representative of some movement or cultural mindset. Brings a tear to the eye of any ad man out there.

The Hoola Hoop - an endearing reminder of a period when America was happy as if it had a brain. Mindless, repetitive, and produced nothing but a good sweat.

The Cambell Soup Can - Already an icon from years of being opened in America's kitchens, this undeserving container was then made forever famous by a no talent hack artist in New York. Or was it the can that made the no talent hack artist famous and an icon in his own right? It doesn't matter. His paintings of this can and other everyday items command millions of dollars now. And that is all it takes in this country.

The Peace Symbol - At the time it became popular, it represented a nod in the direcion of the peace movement during Viet Nam. It has come to represent the same now, but for a smaller crowd. It is now viewed with disdain by many who feel it is just the symbol of "Liberals gone Wild". Hated so much by some on the right, that I imagine somewhere in Fox News land, some wise acre would like to fuzz out the symbol like the ads with coed's flashing their boobs.

The Swastika - Originally a religious symbol used by many cultures. In 1920 the Nazis adopted it. Under this banner, many people died and many people suffered. Now used to represent the worst kind of human inclination.

Elvis and Marilyn - Combining these two makes sense. Giants in their time on this Earth. In death, almost granted a divine status by those too young to have been around. Excellent examples of being more famous dead than alive.

Watergate - A bungled break in toppled a president and created a moniker for political scandal of almost any kind. If it has "gate" tagged on the end, you know somewhere some pol is in deep shit.

Coca Cola - The coke symbol is recognized in all four corners of this planet. Tenacious marketing and over bearing expansion forced this icon of American imperialism onto every sign in the world. Or so it seems anyway.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Lessons of the Banana Republics

The business interests of this country have always fueled US policy in the Americas. Our own backyard is where our country developed the “low intensity conflict” we have utilized elsewhere with mixed results. Starting back before Teddy Roosevelt, US companies were exploiting what they could from the undeveloped areas of Latin America. The banana republics became defacto extensions of American business. Their power was enforced on an as needed basis by the US military. This blatant pillaging and years long oppression laid the groundwork for the resistance that would rise up from the likes of Castro and Che. Since these revolutions were definitely homegrown, I feel we should have left them alone. But we could not leave them alone. Money was being lost. What we thought we owned was in danger. So, as was our “right” per the Monroe Doctrine, we once again put our government policy in the service of business interests. It had worked before, it should work again. Only now we were more sensitive to World opinion, so we went underground. Taking a page from the communist playbook on how to start and conduct a revolution, we attempted to create our own. Our success rate was dismal. Bay of Pigs should have shown us that arms, money and a few good men do not always work. Revolutions are successful because of commitment. Commitment of those involved and of those supporting it. Bay of pigs had neither. So what do we do? We try it again in Nicaragua. We pick the worse bunch of degenerate boneheads we can find. Arm them, give them money, and set them loose. All in all, after considering US foreign policy over the last 150 years, I have come to the conclusion that what I was taught in school was a bunch of crap. We are not interested in spreading democracy. We are not interested in uplifting the downtrodden. We are interested in lining our pockets. And we are good at it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Cat's Meow

Fernando sat in the Sun licking himself. He was thorough. He only missed the fur he could not reach. 
He solved that problem by licking his paws first and wiping them on the fur that his tongue missed. Lick the paw. Lick the paw. Rub the head. Rub the head. Repeat as needed. As I watched him perform this cat duty. I thought how nice, he is truly self reliant. But I bet all that fur in his mouth has to be a bitch. 

Fernando paused mid-toilet and turned in my direction. He gazed up at me and mewed. I am sure this is what he said, "Bud, you just don't know. Licking fur is the cat's meow." 

Yeah, Nando looked content and pleased with himself. About the usual as cats go I guess. I reflected on Fernando's simple existence. I pondered over his direct approach to Life. For a moment I was jealous of him. Envious of his innocence, no rules and his spiffy hair doo. What must it be like to be covered head to toe in fur? What was it like to always be wearing clothes, not have to take a shower, or take your shoes off in the house? Of course I cannot be Fernando. But it would sure be nice if I could, become a cat for awhile. To briefly have no responsibilities, obligations or chores to do. Just sit on the porch and lick my fur in the Sun. 

Now in meatloaf position, Fernando has continued his face the Sun demeanor. He sucks up it's rays and stores them in the beautiful blanket he wears all the time. I realize the pleasant companion he really is. He is a dependable chum. His friendship is appreciated as mine is for him. As we sit there on the porch licking our fur in the Sun.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Needed Time Out

Yes, I have been missing in action of late. A bit of floundering here, too much time spent on forums there, and in between some work, sleep and random naval contemplation. Before I knew it, a month had passed. Is it really December 1st, 2005?

It's odd. I was sure I had my forum addiction under control. But last month I went on a binge. Fell off the wagon and gorged myself. I slammed an average of 30-40 posts a day on some obscure bike forums. I was touched in the head. I was incensed and crazed. I was over the edge. Wow!

One of the forums became so rowdy with spittle spewing cyclists blasting and flaming each other to smithereens, the mods felt obliged to break it up. And break it up they did. I'd like to blame it on one particularily obnoxious troll from Las Vegas. A troll of the highest order. His specialty, one liners that were not even close to clever. I do not usually feed the trolls, but this guy was asking for it. So I went after him hard. Chased him from thread to thread like some lunatic dog mindlessly clamped hard onto a bone. Every time he posted, I was right there. The rest of my life on hold while I looked for any opening to peel back his feelings and lay them bare. I fileted him, chopped and diced his Freeper ass. Nummer than a pounded thumb, he kept coming back. At some point, pwning his sorry butt became tedious and old. The satisfaction of getting over on him left my mouth tasting bad. The SOB outlasted me. How could that be?

Just then the fearsome arm of the law swept in. With one post, Ms K. Brown busted heads, crushed egos, and spanked us convincingly. When she was done, no one posted anyhing for about 5 minutes. It was creepy. Threatening to close the forum, she insisted we clean up our act, stay on topic and be nicey nice to everyone. I will admit to being quite impressed with the fire and brimstone post she laid down this day. When I was done reading it, I knew I did not want to mess with this woman at this moment with some wise ass remark. She was not just throwing down, she was ready to kick ass. Chew us up, puke, and gobble us down again just to re-state her point.

I was stunned into a blank place for a moment. Usually ready with the clever and biting comeback, I was renderd mute. I re-gained my composure and realized anybody else there at the moment felt the same as I. I re-read her tirade. Calmer and not off guard, I was able to see that my first impression was correct. She was definitely not happy. Supposedly civil and well adjusted cycling adults had degenerated into a rabble out of control and in full riot mode. At least that is how she painted the picture. And that is why she rained on our parade.

Naturally I felt her assessment was a tad harsh. A bit of overkill in an over-reacting kinda way. We were just doing what we did. SSDD. Apparently not. So I tiptoed a neutral post her way with just the slighest hint of snottiness. Testing the waters, I threw myself into the pit, first to fall on my sword. No reaction. Nothing. Like a tornado, she was here, now she's gone. Our comfortable and contentious existence rudely uprooted and stuffed up our ass.

I guess we deserved it. I had become less than civil on several occaisions. Called people dumass and made rude, crude comments on folk's ancestory. But caught up in a world of like minded souls, I did not notice my nasty self. We was all nasty, just some more nasty than others. Odd how a group mood can turn ugly like that. We had become combatting lynch mobs. The Neoconsenseless up against the lilly livered simpering liberals. It was great! I was in pig heaven. Giving as good as I got, I took no prisoners and came to the rescue and support of my buds. Epic internet squabbling.

Which brings me to my point for the day.
The lesson learned.
What I learned in the classroom of Life today.

Don't piss off Ms Brown
Don't make her unhappy
Ruin her day
Cuz if she has to come back there
You will for sure
Lose all your short hairs

Now please do not scowl
Let your face turn to a frown
Cuz she's watching you
With the hard eyes of Ms Brown

Don't be a clown
No foolin around
or Ms Brown will kick
Your sorry butt right out of town

Random Stream
Instantly the trailer is upside down and we have to pull Aunt Myrtle out of the oaks out back. The dog's nowhere nearby and our cats haven't come down yet. Still I look for something familar, untouched and still around. But everywhere I look is different. Changed forever. The barn's gone and the tractor too. Hated that tractor. Good riddance. The pick up is flipped up with someone's tub holding it down. Devastation and destruction as far as the eye can see.

What is that? That, right there. I focus and it appears prominent. Undisturbed as if no storm had passed. The red birdhouse I built in 8th grade shop class had survived unscathed. As I begin to appreciate the luck of this miracle, a bird pops out, chirps and takes off. Disappearing into the tattered trees off to the east, I can still hear the defiance as that bird exulted in it's own survival.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Deaf Jesuits

I was involved in an interesting discussion the other day. Apparently I have been missing out on the evolution of Christian Music. No longer is it a musical backwater. Several billions spent each year on every genre. There's everything from Bible thumping metal to Country without crying in my beer, my dog died and she's a two bit whore lyrics. Instead the lyrics bring the Lord's message to us through music more hip to the times. The tunes that were sure to put us to sleep before we warmed the pews on Sunday are dead in the water. Never to be resurrected. That is until some Einstein figures out how to market a "The Hymns we used to pass out to - 1956" CD with an original artist fronting the effort with witty and pithy words of how God made them do it.

Anyway, some fellow who killed his girlfriend or wife recently had just finished listening to some Christian Metal band when he decided to do the deed. Now that's interesting. I would like to think this guy was too close to the edge to begin with. Primed and loaded. What he listened to was not relevant.

The person I was discussing this with had a different idea. He wondered if the recent religious pop was but a sign Satan had indeed breached the Christian wall. He wondered what the tunes sounded like played backwards. He was sure too much Christian indoctrination had made this guy go homicidal. He wondered if the much redemption, resurrection, we are all sinners destined for the pit and other holier than thou messaging is really that healthy to the spiritual side of ourselves. He went on about how it seems the religiously endowed are precariously balanced on the tipping point between sanity and insanity and anything could push them over the edge.

I said, "Well Duh! The tipping point is there for all of us. Most of us are just lucky enough to miss finding it." If it ain't music, it's a dog that talks to us, aliens in our head or the color green." I went on, "That guy was working hard to go crazy anyway. His music just reinforced the urge. But he was crazy first and foremost."

We ended our conversation sure the other was clueless and went our way.

Later I checked into the Christian music phenomenon and noticed something odd. It appears the most growth in any religion has been in the Evangical side of Christianity. Babtists ( the dancing kind), Fundamentalists, Methodists, and of course those wacky anti Catholics, the Episcapalians are all hip to the new wave Jesus save me Alternative music. Noticed by their absence was the lack of any attempt to brighten up the music of Catholics. Are Catholics just too stuffy and rigid to embrace the new rage? Or is it just that the Pope has not decreed a decree allowing all good Catholics the right to listen to previously sinful beats.

Let's face it, some music is hedonistic and evokes thoughts that run counter to keeping everything in it's place and safe from self gratification. All no-nos to the boys in Rome. But just think how much ground the Pope would re-gain if he dumped the stale and dusty hymnals of old for a newer and hipper set of tunes to draw em back into the Lord's fold.

I think Catholics need to jump on board with some new twists on admittly some of the worst church music ever devised by Man. I even have some catchy band names to get em started.

~The Flagellating Monks - probably work best as a quartet. The lead singer can whip himself into a frenzy as he croons. A nod in the direction of the S&M crowd. Afterall, we's all God's chilluns.

~ Archie Bishop and the Pope Pushers - Focus on light pop with an emphasis on the show. Lyrics don't have to be audible, just sound inspiring and heartfelt. Typical audience - the Blue hair set.

~ Immaculate Conception - This trio will astound all who come to hear them. With no instruments or singing, music will just happen.

~ The Deaf Jesuits - The hook for this group is signing the lyrics. In order to appreciate them, you have to be able to sign along.

~ Hail Mary and the Mothers of God - Basic run of the mill light pop. Pre-teen messages. Emphasis on keeping your hands off yourself.

~ The Rhythm Methods - Acappela group for the mature Catholic. This group proves you don't need instruments to make music

~The Celibates - An edgier sound from this group proves a winner with the Pope and his crew. Probably won't catch on with the mainstream Catholic however. Rated PGB-15 ( Parental Guidance for Boys under15)

~The Nattering Nun - Sister Delmonica wails her gold record hits, "Don't touch yourself there" and "Stick your hand out, I want to Smack it". She keeps the faith, keeps the message simple, but most of all she keeps it clean and entertaining.

~Father Blues and the Soul Redemption - Blues band doing Jelly Roll Morton covers with only most of the lyrics changed. Hard hittin guitar riffs with a brass section of Dominican monks second to none.

~Jesus, Mary and Joseph - A trio who owe much of their style and delivery to the folk group from the 50s and 60s with almost the same name. Real hootennany delivery.

~Christ on a Crutch - A group whose goal is to reach the physically and mentally challenged. Their hit, "Your legs may be missing, but your heart belongs to God" will bring a tear to almost any eye.

~Confession - A techno remix group who will only admit who they ripped their latest tune off of from behind the closed curtain. Their niche tunes evoke deja vu all over again.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Time is on our Side

Happy Daylight Saving Time. Once again we get to enjoy one of those magical moments when Time stands still for an hour. Go to bed on October 29 and wake up on October 30 an hour younger. Pretty cool. I'll bet fitting into those jeans I struggled into last week will be no problem now. The problem is, next Spring they take this instant of youth away from me and I end up the same as I ever was. And each time we screw with the clock, it takes me 3 weeks to convince my body to go along. For 6 weeks a year I have to struggle to line up the bio rythmns of my life just so we can save something that wasn't in trouble in the first place.

I won't get into whether Time even exists or not. I am comfortable with the fact that Time does exist because we say it does. Okay now. That potential pit of philosophical debate is closed. So what and where does that leave us? It leaves us with an intangible concept without which dentist appointments would be missed, production schedules would always be met, and I would never be late again. In my world of always being a a day late and a dollar short, no Time would be a good time. For me anyway. My wife on the other hand, would go bonkers. She lives to keep a schedule.

My major bitch about Time and how we set it up is the number of hours in a day. They did not give us enough of them. This yearly rebate of one hour hardly makes up for that oversight. Especially in light of the fact that 6 months from now, they will take it away again. 24 hours is just not enough time to get through a full day here in Maine. 30 hours would have been a smarter choice. Sleep for 8, work for 8, and then you still have 14 left for personal use.

Metric Time on the other hand is way too crazy. First of of all, they want to cut back the day to 10 hours. Noon becomes 5 o'clock and an hour drags like you would not believe. A benefit might be that for those of us who have too much time on our hands, our problem is quickly solved. Anyone ought to be able to handle 10 hours a day. Especially when you consider that at least 3 of them are spent with mouth open in a mindless REM wonderland where Time stands still.

So here we are in the "Fall Back" mode. The government would like to convince us they are responsible for adding another hour of daylight to our day. Nothing unusual in that. The government is always taking credit for percieved good deeds whether they deserve the credit or not. Considering that they are trying to give us something that is not theirs to give, I find it funny we swallow this gambit so completely.

They say Time brings order and predictabilty to our lives. Hmm. I'll go along with the order thing, but we already have predictability. We already know that the Sun will come up everyday. We know that at some point, we will die. What else do we really need to predict? What else do we really need to keep track of? Unfortunately, our world has become accustomed and dependent on this artificial breakdown of our lifespan on this planet.

"Time is Money". "Time is on our side". "No Time like the present". Cute and catchy phrases point to our obsession with time. By far my favorite is "No time to lose". The phrase is supposed to point out that something is in need of immediate attention. However, if you take the words literally, then no truer words have been written. Since Time does not exist outside of our minds, how can we lose it? "Losing our minds" makes more sense.

I re-read the previous words. I am struck by how dependent I am on the concept of time. Finding words that do not lead or point to it's passage or impact was harder than I thought. I guess it's time to admit that I am a slave to the ticking clock. So I will follow the government directive and be the good citizen. I will turn the clocks back and live in the past for the next 6 months.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Mary the Princess

The sound of a tailgate slamming shut emphasized the fact that Mary and her family were gone forever. I looked across the road that separated our properties. Piles of dirt had replaced the 200 year old house that stood there 24 hours ago. Bernard pulled the dump truck out of the way. He fired up the Cat excavator and dropped the blade to fill the grave of a house. Mary's house. The ancestral homestead she visited many times these last 50 years. The house she hadn't slept in since the early 1970s. 

When I see the empty lot she used to plant flowers in, I am struck by the sadness that was her existence. A lifetime she spent caring for her parents. A lifetime she feared to share with anyone else. And she died alone in a camp on Wilson Lake. I was called upon to identify the body. 

I remember my panic when I saw the county cop walk up to my door. And then the relief I felt and later guilt when I found out no one close to me was involved. No one close? I was profoundly affected by that realization. Anyone close to her had died years ago. Her eccentricities had kept everyone else at arm's length. Even me. Ten minutes with her could be torture. Dogs barked and cats hissed. 

It's sad. Mary was a nice person. She was caring. She was thoughtful. She was intelligent. But she was odd. Not funny ha ha odd, but strangely odd. All these thoughts ran through my head as I followed the cop to her rented camp. It was a cold raw winter day. Grey and threatening to snow. 

The back door was propped open. Two volunteer emergency guys were outside looking pretty peaked. As soon as I entered the warm draft from the open door, I could smell why. The unmistakable stench that accompanies death. A stench locked up for several days at the least. I retched and backed up like I had been poleaxed. 

I took a few moments to regain control of my stomach. As I hunched over and gasped for air, an emergency dude began to give me the blow by blow. More sadness. Mary had died alone in the bathroom. From the smell, he figured a week ago probably. 

No one had missed her for a week. Her landlord in Massachusetts had been unable to reach her by phone and called 9-1-1 long distance. In Life and Death Mary had been alone. Not so tragic as it was a shame and so sad. A person deserves some notice. Humans need recognition and contact. A pet. Some fish. We all need something live to reinforce our own life. Interaction with others helps to ease the loneliness that would consume us if we did not have it. Mary's trip through Life surely verifies that fact. 

So I sit here and write an obituary of sorts. A dedication to another lost soul. I have no tears. What I used to think was pity turns out to be sad realization. But for the love of my wife and daughter, the friends I have connected with, I could easily be in Mary's shoes. 

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

Another Manic Moment

Downstairs in the basement I use to feel safe from all the negative and unseen forces trying to emasculate and strip me of my vital essence. And then I found out about Radon. Damn. I am sure now there is no such thing as a "natural disaster". 

I prepare for the worst. I anquish over what to save and what to toss as I stockpile the many items that may or may not see me through the upcoming upheaval. But does it matter anyway? They will find me and they will have their way with me. So I hunker down in my hovel quivering and shaking, awaiting my pre-destined doom. 

I still occasionally look out the one window not boarded up to watch as we hurtle toward the abyss. Assured that I am right by the lack of leaves on the trees, I retire to my tin room and open another comic. Finding no solace from the words and pictures therein, I jump to my feet and look out the cracked window again. 

"Oh my God! It's here". Damn the Radon, time to repair to the basement. I hastily grab a six pack of Coke and some Slim Jims and disappear to the cellar. Alone in the dark I listen for the evil I know is hunting me. 

A door creaks open in the muffled distance. Is that the front door? Are those footsteps? I hold my breath and hope to escape notice. Footsteps creep closer and stop at the top of the stairs. A sudden and bright light envelopes me and I am blinded. 

Alas, my game is up. I stagger to my feet to await the blow of the ax ................................... 

"Honey? Are you down there?" 

Edit Note - The previous paranoid rant was a response I wrote in a forum. The question was - "Do you feel it?" The poster went on to explain his unease of late. That Life as he knew it has been altered. And he wondered if anyone had felt similar disquieting vibes. Not sure why or how this came to me as I read this thread, but it did. I have always been uneasy about change of any kind. Something is afoot. Back in the 70's, one of the many things I read, predicted events that are now eerily close to the events of the last 6 years. When I try to put my finger on what is bothering me, I always come back to the word "predictability". The ability or comfort of that idea is gone now.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I could use a pick me up

Nothing picks up the pace or pulls one out of the complacent doldrums like instituting significant change. I have been busily going through the process of picking up a new bike line for my bike shop. This is a big deal for me. A lot has to be considered, chewed on, and thought through. A new bike line brings uncertainty. One of those "am I making the right decision for the future" kind of decision. The investment in time and money is no small draw upon our meager resources. The stress level has increased. Energy invested these past few days has left me drained and kaput. But strangely I feel great. Instead of the usual "dread that dead winter coming on" feeling, I have new plans to make. I have new plans to bring about. I have new possibilities to focus on. I feel rejuvenated and re-charged. That enthusiasm I started out with 7 long years ago has stopped in again. I will see if I can convince it to stay awhile. My Life, my business, my brain could use the pick me up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


My brother called me this evening at the shop. My letter had reached him and he had read it. I dreaded this call. This re-connection made me nervous. This awkward phase of renewing our kinship.

We had both decided years ago to drop each other from our lives. Happy to ignore the other's existence, we kept our connection by proxy of the relatives around us. "Hello, CRUM Cycles", I answered in my usual way.

"Mike? This is Joe." For a minute I was confused. A familar voice, but not one of recent memory. Then my stomach tightened and I remembered the voice of a brother. "Oh Hi, I am sorry I did not get right back to you...." I had failed to return a message on the machine last week. I could have squeaked in a few minutes to call back, but I didn't. It was the dread of this moment that had delayed me. He was having none of it. Classic Joe. He launched right into what he had to say and the ice, as they say, was demolished. Managing to fit a word in here and there, I began to relax. Somehow hearing my brother's voice brought me comfort. I hope mine brought him some.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Irrational Legislation

Somebody brought up pot smoking again. In all the forums in all the World, pot and it's prohibition will always serve as one of the dependable "go to" subjects when the threads start wearing thin. But like many of the "go to" subjects, Marijuana has been beaten to death. Every last bit of opinion has been posted. Nothing new, but rehashing the same old crap. I usually do not participate anymore. But tonight I was sucked in. A poster whom I respect but rarely agree with based his defense of pot laws on some obscure study done by some obscure doctor using obtuse and ambiguous statements. This poster listed about 15 medical reasons not to use pot. Never mind that there are probably an infinite number of medical reasons to not do almost anything, the point is not health related. The point is rights and how we distribute them. We allow the consumption of all kinds of substances that can and do hurt us. The Man even makes money in the form of taxes on these items. Tobacco and alcohol have killed and ruined more lives than all the other drugs combined. The peripheral crime associated with them have at times in the past been as evil and nasty as any today. So why the prohibition of some drugs while allowing the worst of the bunch free rein? Many contend that there is just too much money at risk to make them legal. On both sides of the law. The criminals like it this way. Their profits stay up as long as they can keep us illegally high. The government can support a huge bureaucratic industry made up of drug enforcers, penal institutions, and huge judicial organizations. They stay in power by instilling fear and loathing for the drugged and stoned. Legal business concerns from banks to lumber conglomerates have a vested interest in keeping pot and the other drugs in the black market. Money always ends up in banks, no matter how it is made. Cutting trees down is so much more expensive and profitable than farming hemp for paper pulp. Can you imagine the whining in the pulp boardrooms whenever it is mentioned that an acre of hemp produces a higher quality pulp and more of it than an acre of forest. They know it does, but it is not in their interest to broadcast this energy saving, money saving, and sensible alternative to the waste we seem to love creating. No, there is no logical reason other than greed for the laws we have against certain drugs when the worst ones are legally accessed and reasonably priced. Play to irrational fears by emphasizing and exaggerating the effects of some drugs on society. At the same time, give a free pass with mild warnings on the really bad ones. This is so hypocritical and so wrong I can no longer take any law seriously. I have come to the conclusion that most of the legislation passed since the boys in white wigs got all this going have hidden agendas. No law since the Constitution is really for the public good. They are more for the privileged few. Rationally, I know that is not completely true. Nor is it completely false. Just look at the drug laws in this country for proof.

Blog Envy

I am suffering a type of penis envy. I should have known better, but I checked again, and yes, I am feeling inadequate. Less than most and inferior to many. What gets me is what they are usually packin is no better or more impressive than mine, yet they get all the attenion. Must be the clothes.

When I began to strut around showing everyone what I had, the girls were all supposed to fall over in a dead faint and the guys go "Duuuude!". When they didn't, I looked in the mirror. Naked and exposed, what I saw was an aging and pudging middle ager with some tough miles behind him. Just another flounder with more self-importance than he was entitled to. Basically a regular guy.

And that is the problem I guess. A regular guy with regular problems, regular desires and regular deviations. Nothing about me or what I have done with my life is grist for more than a good yawn I guess.

To attempt to fix this lost in the crowd problem I have, I surfed the cyber waves and lurked hither and yon. For the most part I decided my efforts were as good as most and better than many. Then I would stumble upon a star. A shining example of what all this is meant to be. Prose so well put together, it does not matter what the subject is. Dialog so clean and tidy, you know exactly what is meant without having to think. Immediate recognition of writng superior to anything you have read in a long time. Immediate recognition of talent grander than yours.

And even though I am jealous and wish I could lay down words like them, I am also thrilled to have met them. Their words lift my spiirts, blow me away, and sometimes leave me breathless.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Not Bad Lookin for Roadkill- A First Timer's trip through Hell

I have been somewhat frantic this week. Any extra time and quite a bit that was not extra time has been spent getting ready for the "Crummy Century" this Sunday. A 103 mile bike ride through York County Maine. Before we see CRUM Cycles again, 15 towns will have been touched and 60+ turns executed. Many small hills and a couple large ones are strategically placed to punish and humble at the right moments.

The fast guys will be somewhere between 5 and 6 hours. The rest of us will spend up to 8 hours toughing it out. Many of the people threatening to show up have never done a century. Some of them are too cocky and will most likely bail or suffer one of the worst days of their lives once they bonk. Other rookies are way over anxious. Their fitness and mile base is more than enough to make it physically. They have the mind game to deal with.

I remember my first century. An unplanned, spur of the moment excursion one Sunday in the mid 1980's. I was on my first mountain bike. It weighed at least 35 pounds. I wore cut off jeans and sneakers. Took one bottle and $30. Told my wife I was going to ride as far as I could and then come home. I figured 30 to 40 miles. But I got off track somewhere in New Hampshire.

Ever since my years of driving tractor trailers all over this country, I decided I was never lost, just misplaced. Lost is so final. And let's face it, if you are on pavement, there is a way out. Not even close to being stuck in 3 million acres of pucker up country Maine. I also learned that being misplaced was a fact of my life. I had become accustomed to often being clueless about where I was. So I learned to deal with it. Pick a direction and head that way. Eventually the road will either end or it will lead to a way out. a way back, or if I was lucky, right on target.

So with the proper attitude, I became properly lost. Yeah, that's right, lost. Not misplaced, but good and lost. About 4 in the afternoon, I found myself again. Where I was was not as close to home as I would have liked to be. About 4 in the afternoon, those cutoff jeans had become denim Hell for my crotch and butt cheeks. The sneakers had proven why they are a bad idea for cycling shoes. I was in tough shape. I was in Ossipee, NH - 35 miles from home.

Thirsty, tired and sore, I stopped at a local Mom & Pop grocery store on Rte 16. Ordered up a sub, grabbed a couple of beers, some bottled water and sat out front with glazed eyes in the afternoon Sun. I wolfed down the sub and guzzled the 2 beers. 20 minutes later another lesson came home to roost. Beer and intense exercise really don't go well together. I had to pull over and do a roadside review of that sub I just crammed down.

Now I was truly miserable. But do I call my wife to come get me? No, of course not. I got myself into this mess, I was damn sure gonna get myself out. With that hardheaded stupidity in mind, I pedaled the most painful 30 miles I had ever ridden. Or probably ever will in the future. The memory now has not softened the misery I was experiencing. There are no rose colored glasses here.

I pulled into our dooryard just about sunset, 12 hours after I left. I threw the bike in the grass and collapsed under the big Red Maple by the well. There I contemplated and took inventory of the body I still had left. Every nerve in my body had been pushed hard and now they all complained. I felt like roadkill looks.

As I wallowed in pain under that maple, my wife came out to teach me the final lesson of the day. New riders always seem to be married to new and upcoming bike widows. The learning curve for a cycling fool is tough on both in the beginning. Since I hadn't called or ended up a statistic so the cops would have, my darling wife was not very darling at the moment. She laid into me. Read me the riot act. Instead of sympathy and a soft hug, I was verbally kicked in the balls.

What was odd though, her harsh and brutal words were music to my ears. I was finally home. I just smiled. Didn't that piss her off.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rage Against the Machine


Okay now. Calm Down. Take a deep breath. Whew.

The two hours I just spent creating a spiffy new email list of important and infuential folks in my little world just went down the cybernet toilet. Locked up. Nothing stirred. Not even my fucking mouse. Over 100 addresses entered by hand lost. Gone! See ya later alligator. SHIT!!!!

Easy there big fella. Think happy thoughts. Punch in a favorite CD. Walk the dog. Breathe some fresh air. Look at the stars. See that big Universe out there. That's where your foolish email addresses are now. Deal with it dude. Trashing your computer won't help. Might feel good for a minute, but when the wife finds it, there will be Hell to pay.

15 minutes later.

I am back now. Somewhat drained, but the bowels, they feel a lot better. And Stubb sure appreciated the attention and the late night pee.

Does the sage advice of my savvier wife help now? No. But now that everything is lost and the damage done, I remember the lesson well.

Back up frequently. Back up often.

That's just great. A little late wouldn't you say? Wish I had reminded myself of that little tidbit before I started this project I put off the last 3 months.

I did want to take the monitor and throw it through the office window. I actually laid hands on. I almost did it. It has been a long time since I have felt anger this intense and useless. It kinda felt good once I calmed down. Like something was purged, forced out. I feel better now. And I did not break anything. Cool. Must be finally growing up.

This latest lock up is but another in a recurring series of lock ups. Yeah, yeah, I have been Defragging, scanning disks, and emptying the useless and unwanted. But it would appear my machine has an affliction deep within it's soul. Outlaw bytes are running amok. Dancing around inside the guts throwing monkey wrenches here and there. Having a Helluva time. They wait until just that special moment when I have forgotten all precautions and dropped my guard. And then they pounce. Little bastards.

And man, aren't they quick and hard to find. I have had several computer gurus check it all out. All for naught. Like at my bike shop, the bikes never make that noise when I am hangin over them. The puter just hums along like it is supposed to when one of my geek friends is exploring the inner world of my PC.

"Sorry Dude. I've done a DOS diagnostic and everything checks out. Tell you what though. This puter is a dinosaur. You'd do yourself and me a favor if you did toss it out the window. Just dump everything on the hard drive to some disks before you do."

Yeah, like I don't know that. The chip fan wails for a few minutes evrytime I boot up. Some of the keys are semi stuck, and the speakers crackle if I don't mess with the wires leading into them. The screen saver's been stuck on some stupid logo, half in and half out for several years now. None of the games work. The printer only works right when certain stars line up just right. It's a tired machine.

Yeah, a new computer with all the bells and whistles and real balls would sure be a pleasant change. CD burner. No games, Great speakers and an awesome soundcard. It would be nice to have gigabytes instead of megabytes. A spiffy optical mouse with a nice red glow when it moves. Top it all off with a liquid screen 27 inches huge. Yeah, that would be special.

Yeah, I could enjoy a new one, that's fer sure. Hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Unjustified Superiority

Riding my bike to work this morning, I noticed the loud, stinking, exhaust belching infernal combustion machines more than I usually do. There was not more traffic, but for some reason, their 50 mph intrusions in and out of my proximity made more of an impression than usual. I was not bothered so much as I was feeling superior and high on my tree huggin , be kind to the planet , save a whale high horse. I watched them whiz past and I smirked.

"Losers, all of you. Sitting there encased behind metal and glass traveling faster than you really need to. What's the fucking hurry anyway? Drive too fast just to be on time at a place you most likely hate a good portion of the time. I don't get it."

The negativity just rolled naturally from my mind. So I went with it.

"Mobile temperature controlled enviroments moving through but not part of the natural flow of the day. You probably all own ATVs, RVs, and a Suzuki. A boat larger than my house sits right next to your 3 car garage. Your idea of grilling is that 6 burner gas fired beauty with 1000 sq inches of grill and two burners on the side for heating up canned beans and corn on the cob. If it doesn't use a key and go vroom, you have no use for it. Your idea of camping is hauling the RV with the mopeds lashed down on back to Jellystone campground and plugging into the internet, the power net, and the cable net. Fishing to you is a 20 foot Bass boat with 200 horses purring under your butt as your scream down the lake to that favorite spot to suck down beers and wet your lines while you wet your whistle. Hunting from the cab of your truck makes sense to you. A hike to you is when you have to park in the fifth or sixth row at the mall. "

I spent well over half my commute digging deep for every obnoxious value judgement I could come up with. It started out as just something to do while spinning the pedals. It soon turned ugly when I really got into it. This holier than thou attitude I sported this AM was an abberation. I am usually a go with the flow, mind my own business, live and let live kinda guy. Besides, I had no right to the high horse I was on. I only commute by bike a few days a week. Every other day you will find me sitting behind metal and glass traveling fast like the rest of them.

So I sat down tonight to glean some insight and make sense out of this contradiction I have inside me. When I think about it, there is no contradiction. I have never been particularily fond of cars. I did lust after a few when I was young, but it did not last. I did not even own a car until I was well into my 20's. I much preferred bumming rides from friends or riding my bike.

I now own vehicles. I drive them on a regular basis. I dutifully maintain them like any tool should be maintained. I like using them up instead of trading up. For me, watching 200,000 miles tick off on the odometer gives me more satisfaction than having the latest fuel infected turbo charged waste of technology. Cars are a necessity not a pleasure. Although I will admit to some guilty pleasure when cruising a tightly curved country road with new 10 ply sneakers on the truck.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Credit Report

I just finished up my free credit report online. Took an hour to apply, read and print all the information. The account summary almost tapped out the paper in the printer. I have apparently been a good All American consumer these past years. Paid my bills on time and stayed in a constant state of debt for over 30 years. This resulted in a credit rating that was way higher than I thought it would be. 

 I am not sure how to take this. My wife and I have struggled financially for, well forever it seems. And while the bank account is almost bare, lenders are waiting with bated breath to suck us in. We get at least one new credit card offer every day the mail comes. The mortgage folks inundate my email with spam promising low rates on stupid large amounts of money. And here I sit in clothes 10 years old at a desk bought through surplus 40 years ago on a computer with one foot in the grave. 

All I have to do to have what the neighbors have is sign up and more money than I know what to do with will be made available. It is a good thing I don't care what the neighbors have. I want nothing to do with boats, long vacations, new cars, another home, or the latest electronic gizmos that pop up everyday.

I would like a new stove. The 40 year old electric one in the kitchen has finally let us know it is time. So, I guess we will have to succumb to the urge to borrow and break out the plastic again. Who do I credit with this apparent good fortune? Lord knows, I did not have much to do with it. Well, I have not desired much, so that obviously helped. The responsibility for our good standing in Credit World belongs to my wife. She handles all our money. We earn it where we can and she divvies it up. 

With an income status of lower middle class, she has performed magic these last 25 years. Robbing Peter to pay Paul and somehow managed to keep both happy. I have learned several things about myself running this report. First of all, we have a lot of accounts out there. And knowing that we have been conservative with what we opened, I cannot imagine what the national average is. 

My account report ran to almost 20 pages. I learned that that Filene account I opened in 1996 is still open. I only opened it to get a better deal on a nice coat for my wife. It has sat dormant ever since, just sitting there waitng for me to drop by. I also seem to have a Bank card at a bank in Texas. It is close to being maxxed out, but it's history is good. Someone else is paying the bills because I haven't even been near Texas in almost 20 years. But I do appreciate their timely payments on my behalf. It does not appear to be a case of identity theft. But if it is, the perp is some considerate. All in all, a good report. We have borrowed enough and paid back enough to rate a high score. 

We have done our part to keep the machine well oiled and running smoothly. I almost feel like a patriot. Is that a hint of a tear in my eye? Where's my flag? I feel the urge to do some waving.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Dark Side of Brotherly Love

I have begun the arduous and gut wrenching chore of re-establishing contact with my siblings. After 10 years of self-exile, a tragedy in the family has jogged my emotional need to touch base again. 

I am grudgingly fulfilling some sense of duty to the family clan. I would have been happy as if I had a brain if no emergency had popped up. I could continue to nurse this chip I have on my shoulder and get on with the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I must now face up to the anger I have savored these last 10 to 15 years. 

 Yesterday my lovely wife verbally slapped me out of my haze and into the here and now. "Can't you let it go for Chrisakes? You are being so petty." 

As usual, she was right and as usual it always pisses me off that she is. So I penned an unsent letter to one brother with condolences and an olive branch of sorts. And then I started another letter to my other brother venting my built up frustration and anger. I have also not sent it either. Just writng it all down seems to have helped. Now, I just need to use that 24 hour cooling off period, re-read both, edit as needed with a calmer hand, and then send them. I have no idea where this will take our relationship. It certainly cannot make it worse.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Confronting a Demon

I was going to avoid this today. I wanted to impart something light and of no consequnce to me or anyone else. Just write some nonsense. But I cannot.

The loss of my nephew hangs over my thoughts like a cloud. His tragedy lurks in the background wrapping everything I do with saddness. The sorrow I feel is more than just the grief of personal loss. It is the grief I have for the loss of a whole family. My nephew's disappearance just brought it to the forefront. Years of self-imposed exile from my family is now exacting a toll. Years of dealing with brother issues by not dealing with them is now "the other side of the story". 

I am not sure why I am writing about this obviously personal problem. Sometimes I gain better perspective about how I feel when I write everything down. In this situation, better perspective may not be what I need. What may be needed is to stop feeling guilty and do something to save what I can out of this damaged relationship. 

But first I have to finish being angry. I am astonished at just how angry I really am. Actually, the anger I have now is the result of not dealing with this issue years ago. Not confronting my brother was a mistake. Giving as good as I got is not working out. I allowed the years and distance between us to build a wall of resentment that is now tough to breach. At the least, a first step has been taken at my end. I have my other brother to thank for that. He made the phone call about my nephew. And now I have to come to grips with the immediate sorrow and the pent up rage that has accumulated over the past 15 years. A demon has jumped in my face. It is time to deal with this one.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Talent Kills

I sit here tonight empty again. During the day my mind was going full tilt boogie. Humorous or insightful thoughts breezed in and breezed out. The problem was I was too busy with my hands and what they were doing to take the time to jot any of it down. So, here I am planted. Watching the cursor flash and running the mouse around the screen like a race car and making engine noises. Something will pop up. It always does.

Maybe some tunes. " Sublime Live". Hmm. Seems a contradiction in terms considering when the main man offed himself, the band broke up. It is even more ironical that this album came out after he died. Reminds me of "Eat a Peach", the live album by the Allman Brothers that was deployed shortly after Duane ran into the back of a fruit truck on his motorcycle back in the 70's. I am not sure it was a fruit truck he ran into. But it feeds the myth and the irony of the album name.

What is with these creative types? Is it a prerquisite to be depressed and a miserable SOB to be truly talented. Is it necessary to first be a tormented soul in order to make it as an artist? It sure seems to help. Or do you need to die first to really be appreciated? I did not discover Sublime until well after the main dude expired. His death had nothing to do with my interest. It just made him more interesting.. The reason is actually more mundane and ordinary. Lis had left one of their CD's in the player and I turned it on. Accidental exposure. Unplanned and not forced. And now, his music is a regular go to when I am perusing the pile for something to listen to.
He is dead. But he still speaks to me. The man made a mark. I am impressed. His music makes me know I would like to have hung with him. Shared some beers, laughed at the silly and stupid things we all do. And I do not even know his name. He is only "Sublime". I know because he had it tatted on his back.

Having talent and exercising it sure seems to use people up at a faster rate than the rest of us. It seems almost obligatory to have a drug problem, likker trouble, or be unable to connect with the rest of us for some bizarre reason. Someone once said, artists feel more intensly than most folks. More sensitive to the crap that most of us just deal with. They are able to see connections and draw conclusions no one else could or would have thought of. But their life expectancy runs shy of the norm. Price of fame? Maybe. Or do their lives just mirror our own? They just do it in public.

Hot Pockets

Pockets and how I use them popped into my cranial void the other day. I was emptying my pockets at the end of the day. I took an inventory of what I pulled out. Let's see. $2.23 in change, $7 in crumpled ones, 2 Receipts, 3 reminder slips that failed to remind, 4 bic lighters, and a pocket knife. Also an oddly shaped rock I found awhile ago and oddly, still resides in my pocket. Throw in a passle of keys, most of which are not needed but I carry them anyway. Top it all off with a spoke wrench I forgot to leave at the shop. An intimidating pile when viewed as one lump. But distribute it among the many pockets I have and the load just disappears. Damn, I love my pockets. 

A simple and functional add on to our clothes, pockets allow us to seperate, collate, and integrate all those small items we just have to have along for our daily grunts. Keys and knife in the right pocket, change in the left. That cool rock in with the knife, but the lighters with change. The various slips of paper accumulated throughout the day in any pocket that is handy. A man can carry all his daily needs conveniently stashed but instantly available as needed. Taken for granted until the hole in one of them allows my favorite knife to escape to look for a new owner. I never seem to appreciate their worth until they fail me. 

Now a purse on the other hand makes no sense to me. All our stuff jumbled up together in one pile. To find anything, 10 things have to be moved, removed, or shoved out of the way. I grew up watching my mother flounder elbow deep in her purse. When she had to dig deep, everything came out and was scattered as she frantically looked for that which was unfound. A pocket on the other hand, limits the search to a much smaller area. And often, the sought item can be located by braille through the outer layer. "Ah, there's that knife. What was I thinking? Put it in the wrong pocket". 15 seconds of panic verse 3 or 4 minutes of purse antics. Pockets rule, purses drool.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Coffee Bust

I am turning into a coffee snob. It has not wrecked my home life yet, but it has tested it. For the last 15 years at least my wife has been in charge of all our coffee needs. She has a special blend she grinds up at the grocery store. Once we found the compromise between my lusting after caffeinated sludge and her preference for tepid and barely brown hot water, we have been happy with this set up. Then this last Spring, the Poland Spring guy who keeps me in bottled water at my shop mentioned a new promotion they had. If I agreed to buy 10 bags of Starbucks coffee in one year, I could keep this spiffy Cuinsinart coffee maker valued at over $100 for free. Knowing that nothing is free, after I figured the math, it still seemed like a good deal. So I signed up. Spending $2 to $3 bucks a day for take out coffee seemed silly when I could supply myself with coffee dialed to my taste. The savings would start in less than a year. Win, win all around. That's what I thought anyway. 

The coffee maker was delivered with my first bag of Starbucks "Verona" blend. My first batch made my eyeballs do somersaults. Too strong. But isn't that coffee maker some spiffy. I left the last of the coffee sit in the carafe for 6 hours. When I poured it out, it was still warm. After several unsatisfactory batches, I figured out the ratio of coffee grinds to water. That is when I found Coffee Heaven. No compromising, no cheap beans, just quality coffee dripped to my personal satisfaction. I got to the point where I was drinking less of the home brewed my wife was making. My usual 4 to 5 cup daily send off was replaced by an obligatory first cup to placate her and make me feel less guilty. This left a fair charge of coffee wasted every day. My wife, a smart and clever woman, eventually took notice. I mumbled something about wanting to cut the caffeine down. This worked for awhile. And then I was busted. And busted by an accountant. Accountants do not like being lied to. At least mine did not, that's for sure. My wife handles all my accounting for my bike shop. As she is an accountant and I am not, this division in labor makes perfect sense. My excuse of wanting to cut down on caffeine was thrown right out the window when she opened the bill from Poland Spring with 3 bags of coffee in the line item category. She had known about the coffee maker and the 10 bag deal. When I started to say I was just trying to get the 10 bag committment out of the way, she pointed out that this last 3 bag purchase put me into the 16 bag range so far. She asked me if I forgot how to count or was I now retailing coffee along with bicycles. I was faced with either coming up with another more outrageous lie or coming clean. Neither option seemed to harbor a positive outcome. The steel eyed stare in her eyes told me there was no option. I knew I had to come clean. I admitted I had been seduced by another coffee supplier. The flashy new brewer and the high-falutin blend had turned my head. I even admitted the coffee at home was nowhere close to what I was cranking out at the shop. I emptied my soul of all the pent up coffee guilt I had been accruing for the last 6 months. It was a pitiful display. Through it all, she kept those steely eyes fixed right on me. Damn! I hate it when she does that. We are working this all out. Once I came clean and reinforced her low opinion of men and the lies they think they get away with, Life became tolerable again. It does not matter what we get caught for, just that we are caught and we know it. Women just love to catch us being stupid. One more dumb ass husband trick to be filed away in their steel trap minds for future retreival when the occaision warrants it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


The days here in southern Maine have made their commitment to the upcoming winter. Under 12 hours now, daytime has ceded control to the dark of night. The transition is peaceful and without fuss. The days backpedal in retreat a few minutes a day. By the time Summer has replenished it's will around the middle of December, Winter's invasion will have claimed over 14 hours of daylight every day. The beauty of this cycle is the predictability and annual light at the end of the tunnel. The beast of this cycle is knowing that predicability.

Many of us here in Maine suffer "cabin fever". A depression tied to the annual decline in daylight. I never thought I was a victim until the last few winters. The last few winters have been tough to deal with. I find keeping a upbeat attitude and a smile on my face more trouble than it is worth. Going to work at 7 AM in the dark gets old and the Sun out of sight by 4 just drives home that point.

I understand the mass exodus of seniors to Florida. After a lifetime of bone chilling winters, the year round warmth of Florida might have some appeal. But having lived in that Hell hole as a youngster, I will never make that commitment. The wheather may be warm. But it is not a friendly warm like the western desert. The humidity in the states surrounding the Gulf of Mexico punish my lungs every bit as much as the hard cold of Maine. When it is cold, I can always get warmer. Put on more duds, throw on that comforter, or back my butt up closer to the fire. Down south, I can only take off so much before I run out of options. I would still be hot and the neighbors might look at me oddly as I lounged in the hammock bare assed.

Always mentioned is Air Conditioning. Living in a climate controlled enviroment that re -circulates the same stale atmosphere I huffed out an hour ago. I find climate control at 70' F a boring existence. My lungs may like it, but like food, too much of a good thing is never good in the long run. Give me the erratic performance of Mother Nature here in Maine. Wheather that tests the body and the soul. Wheather that is not wimpy or indecisive. So, as much as I detest the drop in daylight, the winter that comes with it is exactly what I want.