Monday, December 29, 2008

Still Chumps After All These Years

I know I made a promise to myself to not let issues of a political nature fire me up during this honeymoon period when we have a President-Elect and an outgoing President huffing his last gasps. Time to take a break and consider things I actually have some control over should I choose to exercise that control. And I did that for almost 2 months until this morning. I was busy with the mundane efforts homeowners all go through. Cleaning up the garage, building stuff for the garage, and generally just enjoying quality time with my garage. And then I heard the dreaded four letter word "Cuba" on NPR coming out of the mini ghetto blaster I have set up down there.

Those quality moments of puttering in the garage were instantly ruined. For some reason I have allowed a sore to fester over Cuba and our continued stupidity regarding that country. SO if this comes off as a rant, well, so be it. It won't change anything, but it might just get Cuba back into perspective again for me.

I personally do not care for Cubans any more or any less than I care for any other group from outside our borders. I have no soft spot for them. But I do have that sore festering. It's been festering since oh, I guess about 1972 or so. The year may be wrong but it makes my point. In the fear filled years of the Cold War peak during the 1960s, the embargo of Cuba may have made some kind of sense to someone somewhere. But by the time the 1970s came, our grudge began to look more like that of a sore loser than of a country making any kind of real political or diplomatic point. And now 46 years after we instituted it, the Embargo has evolved into just plain stupid pigheadedness. The threat of Communism is over for it would seem the foreseeable future. Free market economies won the war. Even China seems to have morphed itself into some kind of odd version of what we have. Any threat Cuba may fling our way is now nonexistent.

So why do we insist on continuing to snub Cuba? In a word, or maybe two words, Fidel Castro. It is not because he is a commie. It is not because he buddied up to the USSR. It's because we blew it every time we tried to overthrow him. Instead of blaming ourselves for our inept efforts, we heaped more blame on him. Castro made chumps out of us. In front of the whole World. And we still hold the grudge.

It is my opinion that the Embargo has had the opposite effect of what we had intended. Instead of weakening Castro inside his own country, it bolstered him and helped to support his allegations against the US. If ever there was a perfect example of US Diplomacy badly conceived and then poorly carried out, it is the Embargo of Cuba. Without us they survived and it is obvious they can continue to for as long as they need to.

I understand that now it is more of an internal political issue. We don't want to piss off the voting children of the Cuban exiles who beat feet after Batista was overthrown. They need to get over it. As do all of us. The time to normalize relations is now. Let's lose the Embargo. It never worked as intended and the time for it to be dropped is way past due. But Fidel will probably have to be dead and buried before it happens. Damn, we are stupid somtimes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Useless Week

For some reason I enjoy the period after Christmas much better than the run up to Christmas. This kind of useless week where most everyone is not involved in the normal activities that make up most of their year. I always seem to feel as if some weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I have done what I have done for the year and now I am just coasting in for the finish. Nothing I do will make my year worse just as nothing I do will salvage anything I did wrong. A week of capitulation to the recent past I guess. All I know is I feel less stress during this week than any other I can think of.

This year has been a particularily tough one to deal with. Health issues, business issues, and the personal fires that seemed to crown recently will cause me to remember 2008 with less than a fond frame of mind. There is no one thing or person I could lay blame to for this year I would just as soon forget. Negative things happened and I did not respond as well to them as I should have.

So moving on is all there is to do. Making plans to handle Life better next year than I did this year. And that is what I use this useless week for. Considering what went wrong, what went right in this year, and then coming up with an idea of how to proceed for the next 365 days. After 56 plus years on this planet, I have learned to not plan for more than I can possibly handle. I always make generic resolutions. Ones that if accomplished address my manner of living rather than my specific issues of living. Realistic improvements that can make the difference between a good year and a bad year.

But maybe I should step out of my comfort zone. Considering the forgetable year I just had, maybe resolutions with more bite, more specifics might be something to shoot for in 2009. The problem is when I do that and fail, as I always seem to, I add more guilt to a mind riddled with it already. But maybe this year I need to take that chance. I know my wife would love to know there is more of a plan than "I will try to do better." Shit, I know I would feel better right now, if I had more of a plan.

So, in order to come up with a plan for 2009 and rise to my first challenge (by Dawn of MDI) I will call January 2009, "My resolution Month". Dawn has asked me to join her in one of the "post every day for a month things". "NaBloPoMo" it is called. So even if I do not have something to post about, I will at least post one resolution every day of the month. At this point, I have no rules about what to resolve, but I will at the end of the first month of 2009 have 31 resolutions to work on. With that many on tap, I am bound to hit a few out of the ball park.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ordinary Lives

Well I guess the accelerated efforts by Ma Nature to bring us Mainers up to where we should be on the shortest day of the year has been successful. The image of my house yesterday after an 18" dumping and the image of it a year ago in the previous post are almost indistinguishable.

Enjoy this idyllic Christmasie image. It is about to get washed away. Rain is headed our way. Apparently lots of rain. I would rather have snow. Once snow has fallen, it tends to stay where it fell. Rain on the other hand goes where gravity and obstacles make it go. Rain on top of snow and frozen ground leads to all kinds of problems. Do I dare mention my ongoing struggle to overcome in the Sump Wars? And should the rain be of the freezing type, Life just gets plain ugly around here.

I read these past few words and the ones of my recent posts and it strikes me how very ordinary my life is. That concerns over the weather take top billing over concerns about Bama Man's pick for HUD secretary, or some lost tyke in England.

Ordinary is what Life really is about. We can anquish over the trials and tribulations of others in far away places, but what we absolutely have to pay attention to are the ordinary things that affect us on a day to day basis. Certainly events in far flung places can have their effect on me. Just look at the national economy. My livelihood has been deeply affected by the latest downturn. But I have no control over those events. I can only respond to what they bring into the ordinary facets of my life.

Which brings me to just what I guess I have been mulling over here. Why does the idea of "ordinary" have such a low regard in our collective minds. What is standard everyday stuff for me has to strike someone someplace else as being anything but ordinary as they struggle to make it to work under sunshine and palm trees packed onto eight lane highways in southern California. To both of us, each other's existence is anything but ordinary. Yet both of us look out our windows and see nothing but the same old shit.

Some lives are filled with adventures we all consider somehow outside the realm of what we feel is normal. My stint as a rock and roll truck driver might fall into that category. Yet, after the newness had worn off, that job, that life became ordinary. That what I did somehow conjured up romantic images in other's minds did nothing to build them up in my mind once I had been fully engaged in the lifestyle.

All of us lead ordinary lives. The trick is not to become bored with them. So as the this year sputters to a close, I will make one resolution for the new year coming. I will attempt once more to embrace the ordinary and make it interesting. Instead of pissing an moaning about the same old shit, I will try to look at just getting out of bed as the first interesting thing I do that day. Seems when I do that, no matter what comes my way, I am interested.

A side note of sorts - A news person on the local news used a term I was not used to when talking about the recently passed Winter Solstice. Instead of referring to it as the shortest day of the year, she instead, called it the longest night of the year. My first knee jerk reaction was, "Jeez, what a pessimistic attitude."

Then I contemplated what most folks called it - "the shortest day of the year" and decided that neither term filled me with much optimism and fuzzy good vibes. I tried to find a term that exuded optimism when talking about this day of short light and longer darkness. All I could come up with is, "From here everything starts looking up."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hunkering Down

I was wondering when Winter was going to get cranked up. Until a week ago or so, we had been treated kindly, gently, like the State of Maine somehow moved 500 miles to the South. I remember wearing shorts and a Tee into the first week of December. Damn odd weather.

Apparently someone was asleep at the switch. One of the minions left in charge of firing off that first salvo of Winter's assault dropped the ball and is now in charge of any weather conditions involving a blue moon. Naturally as these managerial snafus go, someone higher up was probably responsible. But they managed to create the impression it was a middle management issue. This could not have been something Ma Nature overlooked on her own.

When it was discovered that Maine had somehow missed out on what was due, lost time was made up with a brutal ice storm a little over a week ago, and then 12" of snow in back to back storms this past week. I guess we are still not caught up yet. Another 10" to 18" of snow is due today. A classic Nor'Easter.

I remember back in the day when my father was still predicting weather. He would say if you can smell SD Warren ( A paper mill about 45 miles to the Northeast), bad weather was on it's way. Unfortunately there are always negative side effects to what people call progress. Once SD Warren was forced to clean up the emissions coming out of their stacks, our best warning system for bad weather shit the bed. Of course the quality of life for those folks living outside SD Warren's gates has improved immensely. Positive change for some is never positive for everyone.

As much as I hold most weather people in low regard and no matter how envious I am of someone who is paid to be wrong much of the time, I have learned that when all of them agree, what they agree on will most likely happen. There is also my own ability to predict weather. Live somewhere long enough and you get a feel for when new weather is approaching. Since it really hasn't stopped snowing since the last storm and the wind is still coming out of the Norteast when it is blowing, I can tell we are in for another round of crap.

All the locals can feel it. Everyone is pushing back the snow further than usual in anticipation of this next round. The grocery carts are full of staples like water, batteries and candles. Vehicles are being topped off at the gas pumps. Firewood is being stacked closer to the house. Everyone's day seems to revolve around doing something to get ready for the new weather.

I am really grateful I took the time to clean up the roadside damage from the last ice storm. I could have shined it on, but would now regret it. By cleaning up the downed branches, I have removed possible threats to smooth snow removal in the future. The town plows won't be driving the branches into my drive and yard. Which will then not be cause for snow blower jam. A condition that can make me homicidal. Nothing worse than a snow blower dying part way through a removal job. Being forced to shovel over a 150 feet of driveway will often leave me in a mood to find the first weather guy I can and ......well, let's just say a snow shovel is not my favorite hand tool.

I still have some prep work left to do. I have to rake snow off the roof. I have to dig out the shed. And I would love to set off a couple of more burn piles I have set up but not torched yet. I only burn one at a time now days. A neighbor once had three or four piles going and well he ended up almost losing his house. I am not so cocky to think that it would never happen to me. Especially as I consider my neighbor a smarter man than I. Burn one pile at a time, but burn it well. I don't care that a fire could only spread to my house through all this snow by me carrying it in and setting it up in the basement or one of the bedrooms. I don't get fresh with fire. Fire is final. It does not leave much behind.

And so it begins. At 9:19 AM, we have horizontal snow for the second time in three days. See ya on the other side.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Guilt Free

The Ice Storm interrupted my normal blogging routine. We were fortunate at only being without power for 34 hours. But we were not feeling so lucky after two & a half days without the Internet, Phone, or Cable TV. We could turn on lights, but we were still not fully engaged with the World. It was about half time of the Pats/Raiders game that Cable back gushing back, bringing with it the phone line and the Internet. Life was now indeed back on track. Over the two & a half days without that fix from the WWW. I was sure I would fall quivering into some corner shaking, sweating, and clutching my belly. But I suffered through with the help of too much going on to pay it much attention.

Which brings me to this post this AM. This will be a short post. More of a public announcement I guess.

If my presence around the blogoshere diminishes some in the immediate future, it is not because I lack interest or enthusiasm, it will be because of the pressures from the Real World. I have a yard that if cleaned up right now means I won't have to watch it all get buried under the inevitable snow that must be out there someplace with a tag on it that says deliver to Acton, Maine. If I take care of the storm damaged trees and shrubs now, it's done and I can come back to the Internet guilt free.

I figure I ought to try to understand what it is to be guilt free. I hear it's nice. Makes you feel good. But I must be careful and not let guilt free take over completely. I will hold onto some of my old guilt as a sort of counter weight to keep any tendency to self righteousness from taking over.

I'll be around when I can, if I can. I will post or visit blogs when I can squeeze in some time. Like now.

It's odd this concept of guilt free is somehow now central in this post. I did not consider the guilt I will have as a result of addressing Yard Guilt in it's stead. Not living up to the "regular Poster" image can eat at a guy. I guess I will have no worry about something to feel guilty about. Guilt free about one thing always leaves in it's wake guilt for something else as a counter balance. Now there's a weight off my mind.

PS - About the picture at the top. I took that while on the move out West in one of the many deserts that spring up out that way. It is one of the slides I crudely copied with my digital camera and a slide viewer. There is something wrong with this picture. Took me a few minutes to figure out what it was. Anyone want to guess?

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

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ice Storm, December 2008

At 2:23 AM on the morning of Friday, December 12, we lost our electricity. Usually a few hours of inconvenience and the magic juice comes back on in time to avert any home front disasters. Not this time. All day Thursday the skies opened up with freezing rain. By the time it tapered off on Friday morning, power had been rudely disconnected from over 225,000 homes and businesses throughout the southern Maine area. Our house was one of them. I guess the swath in the Northeast blacked out a total of 1.3 million homes and businesses.

Two things became noticeable besides the obvious loss of Internet, TV, and ability to microwave popcorn, Not having that furnace making that comfort sound that always results in warmth we tend to take for granted. And the loss of the sump pump. My basement is a major conduit for all the water that flows in York County, Maine. Any interruption in this transfer of water at my house results in a back up almost instantly.

It took 10 inches of water in the basement to find that sweet spot of hydrostatic equilibrium. I ventured into the dark concrete pool once to check the water damage. Like a water cave spelunker, I had my head light on, was stripped to my skivvies, and I tried to remember not to touch the stalactites. I had not foreseen a level this high, and had only used pallets or six inch blocks to keep things up out of harms way.

As I waded through in the dark, a bucket floated by. In the flashing movement of the light I was using I saw a rodent family inside. Papa Mouse was wearing Racoon skin hat and balanced on the edge with a Popsicle stick stuck in the rising waves caused by my passing. He was struggling to steer towards landfall, any landfall. Momma Mouse had a panicked look on her face. She was hunkered down with Junior squeezed to her chest. She was wearing one of those frontier women outfits with the bonnet and apron. As we passed each other, Papa Mouse looked up at me and squeaked an ugly squeak and shook his paw at me. I apologized for the disturbance. I am sure that meant little as the bucket heaved side to side from the waves I was causing.

Near the sump hole, salamanders cavorted. Swimming on their backs and spitting streams of fresh water into the air. One of them looked up at me and gave me that beach dude thumbs up, surf’s up signal. As I turned to check the freezer, I noticed Resident Toad sitting on the four legged stool. He indicated in no uncertain terms that he was not happy. “We Toads do not swim very well you know. Physical activity like that is for frogs, not noble creatures such as we”. "Frog" came out of his mouth like he was hocking up phlegm, he said it with such disdain. He blinked at me, harumphed and turned his back on me.

When I left after my inspection wade through, I noticed the mouse family had tied off to the new workbench and Poppa was helping Momma scramble to safety on the toolbox used to hold my plumbing tools. “ Good”, I thought as I waved to them and smiled, “better a live mouse than one rotting in some dark corner and I cannot find it.”

I decided to check the outer limits of my living space. I waited until well after dawn and after the rain had dialed back from full tilt to what we call “Maine Mist”, a steady drizzle. Everything that could hold ice was encrusted with a 3/8 “ coating of the stuff. Branches were breaking with such frequency, I was sure there was a firefight in full swing over in the Pines across the road. “Crack”, and another tree would shiver as one of it’s branches tumbled through the canopy to the ground. The twisted and tortured Birch out front in the dooryard has finally met it's last twist and it's last bit of torture I think. It looks like a roadside bomb went off in it's center. One half of the 45 year old tree lays broken on the lawn. The back yard is strewn with the tops of many trees. And the lower drive is impassable. Pine boughs both broken and just over loaded with ice clog the exit to Sam Page road.

Back into the quickly cooling house to decide what to do. It only takes a few minutes to realize, my life is so dependent on the Grid, there really is not much of my normal day I can get involved with. The construction I had planned for that new super duper cat playground is on hold. The Internet was gone. Cable was gone. Just myself , my wife, and eight fur bearing critters in varying degrees of confusion.

34 hours later almost to the minute, the power came back on. But because the temperature had dropped as the storm passed and dragged in the air from Canada, my sump hose was frozen. Damn. I stripped down to skivvies again and ventured forth to try and save the pump before it burned up trying to pump past the clog.

Passing through with full lights on, it was just a flooded basement now. The imaginary visions I had conjured up while floundering around in the dark were no longer available to me. As I stood barefooted in ten inches of water on a concrete floor and contemplated unplugging a sump pump that was at the moment running, I did think about the possibility of electrocuting my sorry self. An image of me floating face down in clear basement water in my whitie tighties made me chuckle. The spark the plug made as I pulled it made me jump though and realize my concern was not misplaced. Got the temporary hose hooked up to the sump and waded back in to re-plug the sump. No spark this time, but I did have a moment of pucker factor as I prepared myself to either fry or be the hero.

Now it is yard clean up. I have been at it now for two days and I have just barely made a dent. I can see at least 4 major brush fires I will be tending here today. Now it is off to get the burn permit, fuel up the truck and swing by Mardens to see if I can find some water proof or at least water resistant containers to store stuff in for that next time Ma Nature decides to rain on my parade.

We ended up being lucky. Only 34 hours without power. There are folks in Acton who will be a week, maybe ten days before they see power. As inconvenient as this storm has been, I consider it nothing but an inconvenience. A small distraction that took us off our game for a couple of days. A forced vacation from the ordinary rhythm of our lives. Once a decade or so is fine with me. Considering what Ma Nature can decide to throw at us, we got off lucky.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I have never been a joiner. Clubs, organizations, cliques, have all been snubbed. I have had my opportunities to join this group or that group. On occasion I have taken them up on the invitation to join in the reindeer fun. But only if it did not require more than paying the dues and hanging out without any real commitments.

Reading an online novel by Utah Savage brought this tendency of mine back into my mind. Her in your face no bull shit prose struck a chord with me. Her novel is a memoir I guess. I have not finished it yet. I have read enough of it though that it made me consider from whence I came and how I got here. Utah's life, as is all of our lives, a totally unique experience. None of our trips are exactly the same. Similar rhythms and experiences do find their way into our mutual histories. What I have drawn from reading her novel thus far is that Utah and I have some things in common.

Her childhood was very transient and unpredictable. As was mine. She experienced feelings of being shunned, shut out, refused the normal affections we all take for granted. As did I. That I sit here many years later and consider this, the memories are decidedly one sided. Should I bring this up with family members, I am sure denial would be their first choice.

But kids are not stupid. What children may lack in the substantive and traditional ideals of what makes an intelligent human, they make up for with their keen sensitivity to what others around them project in the way of vibes. Good and Bad. So believe me when I say I know how out of place I was as a child. How inconvenient my presence was for everyone around me.

This feeling of being on the outside looking in never left me. My efforts to secure real affection turned back so early set the stage for my later years as I built walls between myself and the rest of the World. Instead of dealing with the inevitable rejection of people around me, I always tended to reject them first. A defense mechanism that has probably not served me well, but good or bad, it has helped to make me what I am today.

My initial foray into the world of blogs is a wonderful example. For the first two years I blogged, I had my comments feature turned off. Telling myself it was because I did not care what others thought, so why bother with their input. When in reality, it was just me pre-empting the inevitable rejection I knew was coming.

I have risen above that now. For two years I have invited other bloggers to share with me what is on my mind. And I have attempted to become engaged by visiting their blogs so I can experience what is on their mind. A victory of sorts perhaps. But is it really? Does opening myself up to complete strangers mark any progress? The important barriers, the ones I erected between myself and those close to me are still there. Are not these the important obstructions to deal with? Of course they are.

I do not mean for this post to be taken as just another woah is me I am so miserable everyone hates me post. More of a recognition that Life is what we make of it. Some of it we screw up and some of it we don't. I'm just admitting to some of the screw ups.

Now it will be interesting to see if I actually post this.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Lurking Fear

So here I am reading different bloggers and two of them seem to be HP Lovecraft fans. I like the way these two's minds work on their blogs, so I check into HP and some of his works. Maybe I had to mature some in order to be ready for his writings. I have just absorbed several short stories, one 96 minute online Movie, "Necronomicon" (a trilogy of Lovecraft stories)and a couple of web biographies. Lovecraft appears to be another poster child tortured artist. He could give Poe or Van Gogh a run for their money on the misery and borderline looney tune index.

Now I wonder what the Hell was I thinking to skip by this guy. Once I got into the rhythm of his words, I fell into almost a trance. Before I knew it, four hours passed and I had been taken into the mind of a very disturbed but talented intellect. Way cool. HP Lovecraft is a new friend. I look forward to reading more of his works.

I am not sure why I or how I missed the Lovecraft boat. I remember vaguely reading something by him long ago. College maybe. Seems Lalli my first female roomate was a fan. But I was never much into horror. Science fiction, some fantasy, a little mystery, history, and classic fiction were more what I focused on. Horror, especially Gothic horror left me empty. I read Dracula and Frankenstein. Enjoyed Poe as far as it went. But the flowery imagery and over abundance of words found me impatient and frustrated at the emphasis on creating mood over action or dialog. I imagine that is why I never gave Lovecraft a chance. His writing reminded me of the mind numbing experience of earlier Gothic writers. I can't tell you how many times I tried to get through "Wuthering Heights".

Or maybe it was that I had become desensitized to horror after a childhood of growing up with the poorly rendered attempts on the silver screen. Watching a fake monster with rubber tentacles come out of the sea preset an image in my mind. When I read something akin to it in a Lovecraft type work, the mood was immediately broken and I would chuckle. That was then. This is now.

The wonderful part of the arts is that we insist on recording and remembering them. We do not just want to catalog and compile the sum knowledge of our species, we want to warehouse our cultural imagination as well. It is like we always want to be able to re-visit the minds of past masters and see what they saw, read what they thought, or hear what they heard. If there is one thing I find noble about humans, it is this insistence on cataloging our imaginary existence. We seemed determined to leave a legacy filled with more than science, math and philosophy. We want those who come later to know we treasure all that our minds can come up with. That we prize those who can create, whatever it might be.

By necessity I am a cheap bastard. I also suffer from that typical American malady of needing instant gratification. So what do I do if the coffers are bare and the only decent library is 8 miles away? I use my mouse and it's pad to wander the backrooms of the Google warehouse to find dusty reprints of Lovecraft's writings.

I read his bio. Child prodigy raised in a family stricken with multiple mental issues. Began writing poetry before he was ten. Never made it to his high school graduation blaming it on a "nervous breakdown". Spent the rest of his short years on the planet impoverished and pumping out stupid amounts of prose, comment, and over 100,000 letters to friend and foe alike. Died at 46 broke and in intense pain from intestinal cancer. When I looked up images of him in Photobucket, I did not see one where he was smiling. The one to the right is as close to a smile as I could find.

I found one site that claimed to have "the complete works of HP Lovecraft". I cannot say if this is the truth, but they had more than I could read in 4 hours.

I decided to start with his early fiction. Written before he turned 18. Short pieces that would not even be considered short stories I guess. His talent was apparent almost immediately. I read "The Alchemist" and "The Beast in the Cave". Finally I read "The Lurking Fear", a piece written in 1922 for "Home Brew" as a four part serial. Maybe it's just my renewed fascination with the mechanics of writing, but I find his word composition to be amazing. Even though his sentences run longer than I like usually, they work well for his style. And from the beginning of each story, a negative and creepy mood is created almost immediately. His first two creations reminded me of the real "Grimm's Fairy Tales" my father turned me onto as a kid.

Reading the stories online seemed wrong though. Sacrilegious almost. A good story needs to be absorbed by turning pages. A good story needs to be felt by it's weight on your lap as you finger the pages remaining and hope it never ends. I do not think I will ever be able to really enjoy reading off of a computer screen. I will have to now start looking at flea markets, used book stores and yes even the library for some of HP's stuff. His words deserve a place on my book shelf. Jeez I might even buy some new books. Haven't done that in ages.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bus to Arkham - A viral story continues

The Viral Story-

Started here -

Continued here and passed to me -

Stepping off the bus for the first time in Arkham, I was taken by the contrast of what locals I could see and the obviously erratic slithering group I was part of. The post card I had so carefully protected through what seemed years of miles did not do this first hand image my electric eye focused on justice of any kind. Damn those postcards. They always doctor them up to make them look good. Where was the filth? Where were the dark holes and scum covered alleys? This immaculate place was not what it had been advertised to be. Surely we had just been let out on the wrong side of town.

The recently discharged passengers all turned to watch their bus leave them in the dust. In unison we turned to face the town that would surely be my last chance in Hell of ever living it out alive. The rest of the group acted like tourists but I knew it was indeed my last "stoop". If I couldn't find it in Arkham, it was over for me.

All of us clutched the same postcard in some type of appendage, mechanical or otherwise. The hooded entity next to me mumbled, "A ssdjpo ;osdkk;s dik?" As I was from a different part of the Outlands, my translator had trouble making sense of his words at first. After a swift shot to the box that dangled from my neck, I finally gathered he was wondering where his ride was.

"Not sure kind cloaked sir." I tried to look past the gloom his hood created. But he might as well have been wearing a ski mask. All my electric eye could fathom were two eyes red as coals and what appeared to be a small orifice from which he spoke and presumably ingested the necessary nutrients to stay upright and mobile.

Not satisfied with my inspection, I shrugged and continued, "I am sure one of those travel agency folks will be by soon to help us out. I see you have one of their postcards."

"Hs;dkj jaoiejf kal'jdfm hyr", he said. Again my translator was having some trouble with the dialect, but I finally settled on that he was going to want to speak to someone of stature about the promises made that were beginning to appear to not have been kept.

I had come to Arkham not to vacation but to find my destiny. I was just happy to be on its doorstep. I would figure out how to get around. I was an immigrant, not some huffy tourist from the Outlands.

The group from the bus began to break apart. The previous need to herd fell away as the notion we were on our own in this fabulous city dawned on us at the same time. Singly and in pairs they began to sluff off towards the city center. One couple was carrying that dripping box I had been kicking for all those miles as it oozed what I hoped was water under the seat in front of me. A listless tentacle seemed to be trying to point the way, but fell back and just hung. Animated sounds passed between the two. A couple of more unhappy visitors I assumed.

We had been dropped off at the junction of 4 massive arteries. Only one seemed to head towards Arkham's center. For some reason I decided to not follow the group as they all appeared intent on that direction. As it turned out, I had picked lucky.

Coming at me full bore was one of the Righteous Indignants. "Ut Oh", I thought, "Someone is in for it." One never saw a Righteous Indignant without seeing blood and gore shortly after. He went blasting by me, his white robe flapping hard and his Red Cross lit up. I stood there on that immaculate street in awe and turned to follow his passing. He rounded the corner onto the main drag that went straight for the city center. He disappeared as had the group I just left. Suddenly sounds of explosions and screams drifted over flat buildings and I knew I should find some dark space to lay low.

I could continue, but that is not the point of this. The point is to pass it on. Hmm. Having only recently been rebuffed by others after passing a meme on to them, I am afraid my group of chosen bloggers is a contrary bunch. I hesitate to name names or twist arms. The few I know who would participate are already named or have given their best to this effort. So I will pick some new folks. Let's see.

dana wyzard - bound to come up with comedy if she chooses to play

The Frumpy Professor - I have never picked on him before.

ThreeScorePlusTen - This may not be his type of meme, but I think he should step outside his box

That's it I guess. Like I said after my last dismal attempt to engage someone else in stupid fun, I am now the kid who has felt the sting of that hot wood stove. The rules are simple. Play or don't play. Tag or don't tag. The originator just thought it would be cool to see if this story could make it for awhile in the Internet ether.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

One Futurist's View from 25 Years Ago

Randal has it figured out I guess. For some reason the other morning I did not feel like posting anything. I did not feel like there was anything in Mike's world that was of interest that day. The World was busy doing what the World does. All of the events that pass by us on a regular basis that individually have no real impact on our lives. Births, deaths by disease, marriages, divorces, traffic accidents. Events that happen to others more often but will eventually turn up at our door step also.

For a good run down on the basics of what goes on all around us, I googled "World Clock". Probably should not have because I found this site. There were other sites I could have punched up. Google gave umpteen thousands of choices. I picked this one. I had visited sites like this before, but none of them had the information set out in this kind of order and with this exact type of information.

As I write this, the world has grown by 72 million souls to over 6.7 billion people. Over 12 million Hectares of forest have been cut down this year against only 5.3 million hectares replanted. Over 28 billion gallons of oil have been pumped and over 25 billion tons of CO2 created. Over 42 million abortions worldwide this year and so far we are closing in on 54 million people dead. Over a trillion dollars has been spent on military expenses. Almost 700,000 people have died because of violence and war (150,000).

All of this is going on as I write and sit safe and sound in Acton, Maine. The numbers are so huge they have become the proverbial forest from which it is very hard to discern the trees. The absolutely huge numbers become almost incomprehensible to me. I read them without feeling or sadness. I know I should have some kind of emotional response, but I just don't. It is as if I cannot believe them.

The site does say the figures are based on approximations and estimates made from previous data. So the figures are not absolutely accurate. Fine. But they ring true as I sit and watch the number of births outdistance the number of deaths. They ring true when I know just the US is spending billions to keep itself armed and ready for what I am beginning to wonder about.

The site was just about ruining my day when I also punched up a link in this site. "The Global Brain" is a relatively short video (maybe 35 minutes) by this guy Peter Russell. I knew nothing about Peter Russell before this. I actually still know very little, but will now try to find out more. This video, made in 1983, is really interesting. Hard to describe other than he takes us through the life span of the planet with the planet as a living organism. I will have to watch it some more to grasp even a little more of what it is saying. It is a compelling piece to say the least. And not so much the bummer watching his clock was. It points to a great future if we play our cards right.

But back to the clock. The clock is definitely a sobering indicator of how as a group we humans spend our time. And true to our evolutionary and yes religious roots, we do one thing and do it well. We create more humans. With all the ways we have to kill ourselves, kill others, and leave others to die from a variety of preventable maladies, we are still putting more humans in play than we take out. According to Peter Russell our numbers have not yet reached the tipping point yet based on his idea of molecules, DNA, and lower formed structures. Somewhere around 10 billion people is the magic number. Magic number for what? I need to see it again to really get a handle on that.

What strikes me about this video is it was made 25 years ago. Pre-Internet, yet he lays out the Internet in front of us like he knew exactly how it would play out. I could not but help considering how bloggers play an important role in his vision.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Double Vision and Frustration

My parents had a very cool book when I was a kid. They had many cool books, but this one was way cool. It was a book my father had picked up while he was stationed in Post WWll Germany. It was a book of pictures with foreign writing. I don't read or speak foreign tongues, but I definitely liked the pictures. They were images of optical illusions. Some were photographs. Some were artistic renditions. It was this book that first introduced me to MC Escher. There were a few of his efforts in it. Ever since I have been fascinated with images that played games with my eyes.

That book has long been gone. Lost on one of our many moves, grabbed by one of my siblings, or loaned out and never returned. It's impact on what kind of images I like to look at was profound. Later on with the advent of pop art, my dad began to collect images that came from the minds of people who had to be on acid. Wavy checkerboard designsthat started out as stills. The longer you stared, they would begin to move without mechanical help. Perspective treatments that sucked you into the image. I can remember gazing at MC Escher's "Waterfall" while tripping and convincing myself it was not only a distinct possibility but an absolute fact. Reality came the next day when I looked at it again after coming down. I decided that Escher had not really figured out a way to defeat the Law of Physics. But his mind's eye had.

At this point after fooling around for who knows how damn long getting the top two pictures to load on the published screen the way I want them to, I cannot remember what first got me started on the subject of optical illusions and the exercise in futility they have so far rewarded me with. Per my usual loose dog ways, I have been completely sidetracked down another fork in the tangled morass of mindless trails to where I am now. The original point now just another tidbit in my brain pan full of crumbs. I made the mistake of getting lost in looking at all the works of Escher's on his official website. Many I recognized, but the majority I did not. I am actually now more impressed than ever. His fool the eyes thing and repetitive pattern thing were but a part of his overall work. Some of his etchings and woodcuts were just excellent renditions of whatever. For some reason, I found "Wild West" to be one of my favorites, which hopefully you will find sitting patiently and behaving itself on the right side.

But enough on Escher. If you want a great taste of his work visit the link at the top. I also found this site that spotlights the double illusion thing wonderfully. According to the site, depending on your age, the image you see will be different. Young children without the life experience of intimacy between adults will see black dolphins swimming and not a couple obviously enjoying themselves. Youthful innocence saving them from visions of horrors to come.

Another wonderful site I found was this one. It is a gallery of optical illusions, many of which are interactive. Really cool stuff man. I mean dude, spark one up and lose a day. Where was the Internet when I was poisoning myself with all those nasty substances back in the day? Settling for hours of staring at the Tattooed Tit of Christianity in Washington DC as it melted into liquid colored wax seems so much more like work than switching between trail inducing visual entertainments with the click of a button.

An excuse filled afterthought - Some posts come hard because I can't find the right words. Some posts are held up while I search for hours finding just that right image to go with them. And then some posts, like this one, are begun as a lark. The intent to come up with a quickie by poaching from sites better than mine. But when I am hoping to spend only a brief moment or two satisfying my blogging jones because reality is insisting on my attention, creating something quick can turn ugly in an instant. And it will have nothing to do with creating, but more a problem of mechanics. Like a Front Derailleur on a bike. Front Derailleurs are probably the simplest moving part on a bicycle. Yet a smooth repair and tune can quickly head south when a Front Derailleur decides to not cooperate. They can turn an experienced mechanic into a quivering mass of tears and lost hair. This post today was that kind Front Derailleur. So I will close poorly and without much zip. Just enjoy the images that did not want to lay down quietly and behave like they should have.

Keep it 'tween the ditches.........

Worth 2000 Words at the Least

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Nation of Strangers

I made the mistake of looking for too much information this morning on "Gated Communities". Those prophylactic protected neighborhoods that are found almost anywhere you might want to look in this country. The estimated numbers of people living in them varies, but no one disagrees that their growth is on the rise. Or was prior to this recent financial madness.

I do like to have facts to back up my opinions. Unfortunately, the idea of gated communities begins with subjective fears and concerns leaving facts serving as only visible proof of the variety of concerns many Americans have about living among the rest of us. How many and how big can be discerned by looking them up. Why they were created in the first place, only the people who live in them can tell us why. And it seems most reasoning falls short of answers that have any real truth behind them. And I would guess many of them might be breaking some law if they told the truth.

Fear of Crime seems to be the number one go to excuse. Yet the rules for entry into these fenced in sanctuaries have prerequisites that indicate otherwise. And though race is not found in any rules I could find, the overwhelming majority of citizens living behind the walls and fences are white folks. The largest gated community in the US is found in Arkansas. It is 97.8% white. This makes the issue of race a reason to look at. On the other side, there are affluent gated communities in and around Atlanta that are populated by black majorities. Tell me race is not an issue, and I will offer you a bridge not mine to sell.

Gates, walls, and fences are just the physical extensions of a growing mindset in this country. As our culture struggles to find it's way in times that seem more frantic and ugly, people are seeking others of similar station, mindset, or yes, similar race with which to form insulated communities inside the communities already there. Once the restrictive communities were found only at the top of the financial heap, now they can be found catering to middle income people who desire to remove themselves from our great melting pot. Even in the inner cities, the idea of "this is our turf-stay out" is practiced in it's own way.

Some of the newer communities do not want to give the impression of exclusivity with blatant physical barriers. They put up their walls with rules. Associations are formed to weed out undesirables before they come on board. Rules are put in place to tell previous owners that any sale of their home must go through some kind of vetting process before the association will allow the transaction.

Pretty much everything about America fascinates me. We are a very complex society that is still trying to define what we are. I can think of no other nation that has the variety of races and ethnic backgrounds we have in such large numbers. That we even use the word "minority" to describe some seems out of date. That we even still use the word minority indicates we still have a long way to go. But it is obvious our ability to absorb so many people of different colors and nationalities has reached some kind of tipping point for at least some segments of our population. Where neighborhoods used to be all a specific group needed to feel safe and secure, now a growing number seem to feel rules, fences and guards are needed.

I did notice in my brief and wimpy research, that the gated communities for the most part are found in states with large populations. That the largest one is in Arkansas is the exception, not the rule. I tried my best to find one in Maine and could not. But we have them even if they are not surrounded by fences. Some of us consider the Maine Turnpike as one fence. The majority of money and people exist on that side of the state. Small ocean towns with huge ocean front estates wrapped by century old hedges and ancient rock walls. The gated mentality lives here in a less in your face way, but it still exists. Call it old school gate mentality.

What I guess really bothers me is the gate mentality seems to have seeped into our national psyche, breeding loathing and mistrust of others we do not know or feel comfortable with. We appear to be settling for being a nation of strangers rather than a nation of neighbors.

PS - Thanks to TROLL for the spark that started this



Great defining voids loom 
Amity turns dark, engulfing 
Friendship developing cracks 
Another tie unbinds, unwinds, disintegrates 

 Destructive years shared languish 
 Silence screams in our presence 
Detached and tuned out 
United in our pretension 
Fronting a cheery facade 

 Words may not mend it 
Intentions will not patch it 
The time of deeds left undone
 Now upon us as we ignore
 Indifferent to what is no longer there 

 Circling in distant kind thoughts 
Fond remembrances fade with the sunset 
Of the days we had together 
We will try to sleep them off 
Troubled souls rest fitfully 
And dreams do not last

PS - A piece I began many years ago. I offer it now as not so much a comment on what is going on in my life as something I did and now want to share. I have reworked it and most likely will again if the spirit moves me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Another Clockwork Orange Morning

I had somewhere to go with this post earlier. But now bureaucratic layers, hippies, radicals, weasels, Betty Bowers and two sentences have become jumbled together and now fill my mind. Each one found on different blogs. Each one representing different takes on what many call the "human condition". Taken individually, each one offers promise of possible insight,humour, or introspective wandering through the tinted glasses I use to view my past.

But now a mob has formed, a rowdy crowd of over eager points to be made. All screaming louder with each minute to be heard over the other. It would be nice if they got along. Stood patiently in some cerebral row for me to take on in order of appearance. My mind unfortunately is not an orderly space. Dust grows thick in it's corners, beds lay unmade, and the pets in here rule while I stand outside and most often drool.

To make matters worse, in my effort to create calm out of chaos, I punched up some Beethoven to hopefully find that happy place where everything makes sense and my mind is able to sort some of the chaff from what little wheat still exists in this rodent infested place.

Beethoven's Ninth is not helping. All I see is poor Alex as he sits strapped into some dental type chair with his eyes clamped open. In front of him is a movie screen with five second images of violence and destruction flashing hate and discontent as his adored Beethoven comes over speakers six feet tall. Damn music and the memories it conjures up. Another "Clockwork Orange" Morning I guess.

Instead of calming down the rowdy crowd assembled inside my brain, Beethoven has only created a bigger fire under them. Without hesitation they all scream louder and prouder, "Write about me you asshole!" Their individual ravings become one wall of insanity and so I sit numb and dumb in front of this screen.

I do enjoy writing just to write. Witness this post as a perfect and prime example. Wasting bandwidth with wild abandon is one of my guilty pleasures. I often think I would just as soon waste your time as much as I waste mine. But as this blog thing, writing and reading, is most often a completely volunteer effort, I guess if you are here, your time is up for being wasted. So enjoy another useless post. Have fun finding no substance, not even fluff here. For today I will dedicate to wasting that which cannot really be wasted, just used poorly.

In that you can often judge people by the clothes they wear, one only need to look at mine and know my blog is more likely decked out by shopping at Goodwill. I wear my life as comfortably as possible. I wear my life by recycling the efforts of those who have been here before. I have no illusions of being a trend setter, a man who does great and wondrous things. I am alive and that is enough I guess. Let others set the pace. Let others break the trail. I will follow in my own good time. But bear with me as I just love looking under the rocks we pass by.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

P Street Beach

I have probably seen David Bromberg in concert five or six times. The first time was at the "P Street Beach" in Washington, DC. I was maybe 18. Can't remember. "P Street Beach" was and still is I guess a part of Rock Creek Park. A small section of the park near P street where people congregated to catch some rays and get wet in the creek just after it ran under P Street. I remember an overused area of threadbare grass, a few trees, and a bandstand. Just one of the many small gullies of nature that made up Rock Creek Park and crammed in between the buildings and sweltering streets of our Nation's Capitol. Not near "The Federal Triangle", P Street Beach was used to keep us local loose dogs happy and content with music that ran the range from Soul to Bluegrass. The music was free.

I spent many a summer Sunday afternoon there in shorts, no shoes, and no shirt blitzed out of my mind selling cans of beer for a buck each out of a metal trashcan filled with ice. Sometimes I traded a beer for a joint. Sometimes I insisted on the buck. Sometimes I didn't. Seems as the afternoon wore out, the freer the beer became. Yeah, I was breaking the law. But as I remember it, the cops were nowhere to be seen. I think they were just happy we weren't hanging out at the Lincoln Memorial and scaring the uptight tourists from upper New York and Omaha.

One of my first exposures to Bluegrass was at the "P Street Beach". David Bromberg was there. Only he did not play straight Bluegrass. I remember some excellent Blues in between the standard Bluegrass fare. He and local band made good, "Grin" are the only artists I remember from those substance hazed hot summer days of my late teens at the Beach.

In the next five or six years I saw Bromberg at bars, in concert halls, and once on the street in Pennsylvania somewhere. He was hard to miss. A big man with wild hair, rail thin, and thick glasses like I used to have to wear. Every time I saw him, it was a completely different experience. Once he came out solo. Sometimes he had three or four people playing with him. One tour he had everything from fiddles to saxophones and trombones. One thing was for sure, he made sure he played just about every stringed instrument there was at each show.

I bought his albums. I bought his tapes. His music kept me company for the million plus miles I suffered behind the wheel of eighteen wheelers on the superslabs of this country. To this day, "New Lee Highway Blues" is about the best get you in the right mood to hammer on the highway music I know of. It is also a tune he closed many a show with.

And he did it again tonight. Tried to close with that song. But I am getting ahead of myself here.

We went to see David Bromberg last night or would it be early this evening? Alpha One, an advocacy group for folks with disabilities put on the concert at the South Portland High School Auditorium. When I googled the concert for information, I was puzzled. David's name was in front, but he was supposedly going to be playing more of a support role for a band called "The Angel Band". I knew nothing about them. I will now. I came home from the concert with two of their CDs. Actually I now own a complete collection of their work.

South Portland Auditorium is a wonderful venue. A small 780 seat hall with no bad seats anywhere. I looked over the crowd filtering in and was struck by their overall ancientness. Folks around my age that had that 'We used to be wild people but we aren't anymore" look. Lots of big bellies hanging out under bodacious beards with aging Mother Earths at their side. Almost on time, some guy in a wheel chair came out and briefly told us about Alpha One and the good works they did. He also introduced a woman who would be signing for the those with impaired hearing. I will admit I thought this was odd. But then much of Life strikes me odd.

David, some musicians and three women came out. Looking like some aging accountant in his Sunday grunge clothes he explained he was really here in support of The Angel Band. As I remember from before, David did not hesitate. The music came hard and came fast. Those three women tore the roof off that hall. Once again I knew that the best use of the female voice is when it is used in threes. A trio of ladies belting out gospel, blues and country did indeed, as the program promised, make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

The show was split into two parts with an intermission between. The first salvo was all Angel Band with David and his "Chum" Band backing them up. The second part was mostly David and his band. Classics and tunes I had never heard. All the while, David would insist on each musician stepping up and hot dogging his talent. When He tried to close with "New Lee Highway Blues", the audience would have none of it. They had to perform two more encores before the audience was happy.

Yeah, I guess you could say I enjoyed the concert. But "enjoy" might not be a strong enough word. The two plus hours I spent went by as if only five minutes passed. I walked out numb with echoes of wonderful lady voices ringing in my head.

PS - I could not understand the connection to the Angel Band and David's intense support of them. It seems that Nancy Josephson, the lead lady, is David's wife of many years. Ah ha I think. They met when she played bass for him many years ago. They both now own and operate a fiddle repair shop somewhere in the wilds of Wilmington, Delaware when they are not out on the road making beautiful music together.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday

My wife came in a moment ago. I had just begun the post that might have turned into that first not invented yet Pulitzer/Nobel prize for excellence in Blogging. It might have answered all the questions all of us have about all there is to question. The one answer that would solve any problem confronting us as individuals or as communities. Yeah, it might have become that. But B came in and tore my attention away from those words. As quickly as the brilliant insight came in, it's instant and overwhelming perception was lost forever when she said, "About that concert tonight....." Words were lost that would have ensured me fame long after I had become food for the wiggly critters that live in the ground. My daughter would have lived out her life the daughter of a famous man. Now I am writing this what mighta been, what coulda been sad excuse for a post. If you are disappointed, blame my wife.

Randal over to L'ENNUI MELODIEUX once again commented on his inability to come up with anything clever. So he offered up his usual. Excellent use of the language to fill space and kill time as his last hours were suffered toiling at work he would soon be taking a four day break from.

I sometimes wonder about the "work place bloggers". I would lay into them for their personal use of company time. But I cannot. I am just jealous I think. I would be more than happy to waste time blogging from my workplace, but my cheap ass employer(me) has not antied up and bought a connection to the Internet. Not even dial up, the cheap bastard. Oh he claims he has good reason. Something to the effect that it costs money he does not have. I believe him, but still he pisses me off when he says shit like this.

A bike shop can be a lonely space to inhabit during the colder months in Maine. Boredom creeps in like a cold draft and hangs in the air sucking any enthusiasm out, leaving the occupants lethargic and listless. The occasional phone call often ends up being a wrong number or another vendor wondering where that last payment is. But as bad as it gets in the Bike Shop, there is no lonelier time than the days right after Thanksgiving.

The Friday after Happy Gluttony Day has become Happy Mall Day, Happy Walmart Day, Happy Big Box Store Day. Millions of Americans get the exercise they need to burn off that turkey dinner they had yesterday by sprints through aisles filled with bargains and deals. Small retailers depending on warm weather and minds turned to fitness often miss out on this gluttonous spending that follows gluttonous eating. Don't get me wrong. I accept this as part of my chosen profession. I understand that on the day after Thanksgiving, Jesus conditioned responses kick in and folks begin the brutal hunt for deals on books, wide screen TVs, games of every kind and description, and clothes from Aunt Betty.

So I sat all alone in my empty store and played Free Cell, read some cycling articles in Dirt Rag and tried to stay warm. (That cheap ass employer of mine won't turn the thermostat up past 55'F) Constant checking of the clock indicated time had slowed down. Damn, it was only 5 minutes later and I was sure an hour has passed by. I am positive the evil entity that forces us to the malls on Black Friday adds seconds to my minutes in the Bike Shop. In order to nurture and develop the necessary urgency to create riotous spending, shoppers have to know they have little time to satisfy their buying Jones. This evil entity steals their time and shortens their day. As they rush through crowd filled and bag filled spaces, they will wonder where the time went. Well, I'll tell you where their time went. Right here to Springvale, Maine. To a time and place that remained empty and waiting for something to fill it up. So my day slowed down as more minutes were crammed into my shop hours. The way I look at it now is all it did was give me more time to waste.

PS - I did not have a clue what I would write today. I had even less of a clue just after I started. My wife did indeed blow my early attempt. Our conversation about the David Bromberg Concert tonight drove out what was probably a more useless post than what you just read. Maybe it did not. Regardless, below find a taste of a very huge but under rated talent. David Bromberg was responsible for much of the music I would embrace through the years I have had so far. It will be a real treat to see him one more time.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Hobart Mixer

I would be lying if I tried to claim more than the average dumb male knowledge of food and it's preparation. I can cook to an extent if forced to. My abilities are more of the outdoor camping type cooking. Mix it all up and throw it on the fire. Honestly, I do not mind standing back and letting others handle the planning and implementation of meals. I have always felt that someone needed to be there to eat. I have developed over the years a well rounded ability to do that. So I became the eater. The one who ingests the labors of others. The one who sits back after the meal satisfied and full of the compliments every cook/chef loves to hear.

My brief foray into the world of food prep was the month and a half I spent at McDonalds as a first job in 1965, maybe 1966. I was paid $1.10 per hour to be whatever type of bitch the manager wanted me to be. Lot bitch. Fry bitch. Burger and bun bitch. I absolutely hated it. I realized my talents were not in the preparing of food, but more in line with making food disappear. I found employment elsewhere. I went to work for Marriott Corp., working on the landscape crew who kept all the Hot Shoppes in DC sharp looking on the outside. That was my type of labor. Pushing a lawn mower and raking. Suited me perfectly.

So I get to college some years later. I need to find another source of fun money. My parents were not believers in providing more than the minimum which covered housing, tuition, and books. Beer and pot money had to come from somewhere else. So I went to work in the Cafeteria. Being a dumb ass about food before it was on my plate indicated my abilities were more suited to dealing with the leavings. I became the rinse bitch. I sat on a stool with gloves on and received the trays of half eaten food on nasty plates. I would toss the solids, sort the dishware into specific racks and set them up to go into the industrial sized dishwasher found down at the end of a long conveyor system. It was a very nasty job. College students are such slobs. And it seems that throwing their trays at me was a sport more than a few enjoyed. Especially when the meal was particularly unsatisfying. When I complained, I was fired. So I went to work in the college bowling alley setting pins. That was a great job.

By age twenty I have established the fact that any part of eating other than consumption holds no interest for me. I pursue other venues to find income and job satisfaction. I get married and sometimes cook at first, but it soon becomes apparent, my wife has a better handle and a keener interest in doing it than I do. So she becomes head cook. Again no ego deflation, just the right person for the job. For twenty eight years now we have existed this way. I have often considered cooking, but I get the distinct impression I should not bother. So I haven't.

Yesterday, I participated in my first volunteer effort to help with a Thanksgiving Dinner for folks who are in need. A local Pizza joint, Pat's Pizza in South Sanford decided to sponsor the effort. They provided the kitchen and the space to have it. They wanted volunteers and my wife volunteered us. She is their accountant.

Now the owners of Pat's have never done this. It was obvious as soon as we arrived. No one in charge, just find something to do and do it. Now remember I have over twenty five years of not being involved in food prep. They already had carvers carving. They already had dishwashers washing. I stood there awkward wondering just where I would fit in. A nice lady came by and said I looked like just the guy to mash potatoes.

"Cool", I thought. Something I could handle. Give me one of those mashing tools and turn me loose. Instead of handing me a masher, she guided me to ......the Hobart Mixer. Woah. Now that was a machine. I stood in front of it in wonderment over the industrial-ness of it. The over whelming size of this drill press looking thing found me gazing at it with humility and respect. Look at the size of that mixing bowl. See the monstrous blade that mixed stuff up in that huge stainless steel bowl. It even had speeds and a crank to raise and lower the bowl. Serious kitchen equipment. A Man Mixer.

I guess I never considered that if we were cooking forty turkeys, a substantial amount of mashed potatoes would be needed to accompany said turkeys. Tommy Thomas (He actually prefers his given name, Elias, but well that was what my mom called him back in the day so)...anyway, Elias comes over with the first batch of boiled potatoes and we dump them into the mixing bowl. Between the two of us, we figure out how to make it work. He throws in a pound stick of butter and a pint of milk. He walks away. I flip on the machine on setting two. Immediately I understand this is not a machine to be trifled with. This machine will tear your arm off if you hang too close.

The first batch came out lumpier and drier than Elias liked, so we did it again. With a look that said "Yeah, I guess this will do, Elias scooped it into the first stainless tray and I mashed the next batch. I must have watched that machine mash over a hundred pounds of potatoes in space of maybe a half hour. And though I know it was dummy work, I felt I had contributed. I had found something in that madness of volunteers I could handle. I was not useless as I feared I might be. I enjoyed the brief time I spent there immensely.

So went my first volunteer Thanksgiving meal. I was done before the first plate was served. As a matter of fact as I write this, the first folks to eat are just sitting down I think. My wife, daughter and I had planned to stay for the duration, but there were so many volunteers, it was obvious some of us had to leave so others could contribute their time and effort. The turnout for help was overwhelming. And I have found some serious pride in my community for that. This last minute meal because another more established one had been cancelled has apparently filled the gap just fine. Again many folks get a Thanksgiving meal they would not have otherwise. A local tradition like so many across this land is saved by the efforts of well meaning and capable people.

I hope your Thanksgiving went as well as mine did. This one really drove home the point of this day for me.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

I am feeling pretty full of myself this morning. Later I am sure I will be full of something else. But at the moment, I am taking a second to pat myself on the back for finding the right combination of icons to click to finally be able to upload a video. It is so appropriate that the first one is a clip from South Park. Enjoy this "Jay Leno Thanksgiving Special"

Now I am off to help some good folks do good things for folks less fortunate than they are. Damned if I can understand why they invited me.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why I Should Not Report the News

In my never ending quest to understand the human fascination with always being connected, I spotted this small story on the MSNBC news page. Another reminder that having the World at our fingertips every waking moment may not be such a good thing. As a matter of fact, many of America's less than noble habits are encapsulated into this news piece. Eating habits, dark secrets, an insane need to be connected at all times, and litigation all come together in one short story of a couple who now feel the need to find a new home.

Lessons are there to be learned. But not by the plaintiffs. Responsibility for one's mistakes lost as another couple decide that what happened to them was someone else's fault.

This mild mannered couple sit down to have a sumptuous meal of grease served up on foreign beef and bleached flour buns. They pick a favorite eatery for this handsome repast. They are sure their privacy will not be violated in this public space. Per usual, one of them sets their cell phone within easy reach. Missing a phone call, any phone call would certainly ruin the rest of their day. How they ever got by without being hooked up and tapped in every waking moment often runs through their minds.

Small conversations pass between this idyllic modern couple as the juice runs down their chins and they reach for those over sized sodas filled with ice by their own hands at the sparkling soda dispensing station just to their right. Here in the space of a ten foot stainless steel counter, the impressive variety of different flavored carbonated water to pick from lets them know the true meaning of being an American. Freedom of choice laid out in front of them and reinforcing their assertion they do indeed live in the grandest of all places.

Smiling sometimes at each other's humorous repartee, they enjoy their brief break from the frantic existence that is their life. Satiated and composed, the couple deposit their trays dutifully at the tray depository found above the numerous plastic bins that say, "We recycle" on them. Happy and content, they leave and proceed with their day. Like any other day. As they push towards the exit through crowds waiting in line for their own slice of burger heaven, they do not realize that their lives will soon be part of the public domain.

Some days later or sooner, a friend, a colleague, or casual acquaintance relays some horrifying news to this couple. In their haste or mindless satisfaction upon leaving the famous eatery the other day, they must have left their cell phone on the table. And because of their fascination with anything electronic, they had naturally utilized all the options on said cell phone. Of these options, the one that would later haunt them and force them to take their case to court, was the capacity of the phone to take and hold any image they so desired.

Now I am of the mind that what people view on their own time is their business. The fact that this couple's phone had been utilized to store images of the Missus in various states of undress is between them. Who am I to pass judgement on the need for the Mister to have these images at hand every waking hour? The why of it is again, between them. But now and forever, the naked pictures have made it to...........the Internet! For as long as electricity flows through the grid of Mankind, these images will be there for any or all to view at the click of a mouse.

Imagine their embarrassment. Consider their intimate secrets now part of the World Wide Web. Put yourself in their shoes. Oh the horror and shame. Not being able to face your co-workers. Always wondering if the Internet time they poach while in their cubicles is not the porn from some site in LA, but the pictures of your wife taken in the bedroom down the street. It would be awful. (Forgive me a moment............I just blew coffee through my nose. Uh, wait a second.....okay, I am better now)

Feeling violated, this couple has sought comfort in the loving hands of lawyers. Seeking to find some emotional and fiscal compensation for their self inflicted embarrassment. They have indicated their lives have been ruined and now must move to avoid the awkward moments at the grocery store, the hardware store , and of course that famous eatery they so enjoyed much of the time. It would be logical and their right in suing the burger joint. Looking for the deepest pockets to pick to smooth out the ruffled edges of their lives is the American thing to do. Finding fault somewhere else instead of looking inside.

I have tried for at least a moment to find some sympathy inside myself for this couple's unfortunate situation. I was not successful. I had to find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Unicycle

Once again the fine online novel Maggy has provided me with food for thought. Dredged up memories I might prefer to stay on the bottom.

" “Santa” did not bring me what I wanted, but left me a note, explaining why I couldn’t have what I really wanted. ..........

“Dear Peggy,

I am sorry I cannot give you the things you asked for this year, but I’m giving you the things you need. Even though you have been a good girl, for the most part, you can’t always have what you want.

Sincerely, Santa

(I am not sure if Utah Savage will mind me poaching this small drib from her chapter, "Christmas Tradition", but well, I would assume positive attention from a stranger far away might not be a problem. I will attempt to secure her permission before posting though.)

Do we ever outgrow this? This disregard for what we need against the things we want? And why do we seem determined to force our idea of what another person in our lives needs over what they claim they want.? Somehow, we know better than they what they should have and then proceed to follow up with unrequested action.

A Rolling Stones tune immediately came to mind.

"For you're own good" comes to mind.

Yet as a child I remember sitting there wondering what was so wrong about wanting that unicycle. I knew there must be something wrong after finding a game, clothes and another sweater from my Aunt Helen instead under the tree.

I wanted that unicycle. It went way beyond selfish gratification. To complete the picture I had of my immediate future, a unicycle was an integral part. To know that my parents did think of me as more than just an inconvenience and reminder of how unhappy they ended up. I had clothes, games and trains. I needed no more. I had lobbied hard for that unicycle starting months earlier providing the brand, model, and the store where Santa could find it. I wanted to feel that the presents I found under the tree had been given the consideration of a loving parent not just a parent going through the motions.

I was not a child to voice my displeasure in overt tantrum like ways. That tendency had been smacked and brow beaten out of me years earlier. We were a stoic family. Suck it up type clan. If Life didn't go your way, you might sulk. But only as long as Mom did not notice.

That Christmas I flew off the handle. Lost it. I laid into them with intense anger and hate. I will always remember the shock on the half in the bag faces of my parents as they nursed their fourth or fifth drink. I stomped out into the cold Christmas Eve night and did not return for several hours. They may have turned me towards stoicism, but in the process I learned to shoulder a big chip also. A chip that would haunt me for many years to come. It was an ugly scene.

It was a night I remember well when something pops up that digs it out from the suppression file.

As I shivered outside without a jacket and walked random circuits in the neighborhood, I realized it was more than the damn unicycle. I was angry because Christmas was always a sad time for me. My father never handled it well. His functional alcoholism seemed to reach some kind of pinnacle, some threshold he crossed into mean depression. The scenario was always the same. We celebrated Christmas carefully and without authentic cheer. The normal good tidings replaced with a process of building defenses for what I knew would be coming.

I remember a 12 year old's tears freezing on cheeks chapped and numb. I remember watching and then lurking as some carolers full of joy sang off tune in front of houses occupied by people I would never know. I followed them for a short while. Their spirited singing did not help. What I wanted and what I needed were the same. And their happy singing was not it. I realized for the first time... No, I came to grips with the notion that both what we want and what we need are not always there for us. I grew up some that night.

As the days progressed and I got over the idea that the World revolved around me, I came to understand two things. I was not to expect anything handed to me anymore. And the fact my father was not handling retirement from the Air Force very well had more to do with my situation than my presence in his life. For he had opened up to me when I came home from my cold walk. Sure he was shitfaced but he was coherent. He was always coherent. He told me it was not me, but him. He told me it was the relationship he had with my mother, it was not me. He felt bad I had to be there, but there it was. I had to suck it up and deal with it.

At what age do we start acting as adults and stop acting as children? I have tried to pinpoint the seminal moments in my life when this process moved forward. I think this was one of them. And though it was not a pleasant experience, I am grateful it came sooner than later.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Arlington Cemetery

A new blog I found a while back posted about their birthday and a mix they had created of "Cake" tunes. Stick (I will call him that because his blog name is too convoluted for me to remember) Anyway Stick mentioned Cake's cover of "War Pigs" and how he had liked it, but did not include it in his mix. The mix was I guess for him and his son L, who's birthday fell on the day before his. Okay fine, G rated for the wee ones. I can dig that.

This will make some sense to you and maybe me in a moment or two. And connections to the point of this post will be made clear.

So Stick mentions "War Pigs". It fires up a memory of a post of mine from last year and I go searching the blog archive. I find my post. Titling it "War Pigs" did make it easier to find among the 600 plus posts in this over filled bag of words. In short, in case and most likely because you do not want to visit that post, in a nutshell it was a stroll down memory lane and comments in general about the tune "War Pigs" and other related and semi related garbage. The usual drivel.

Of course I could not re-visit an old post that had not one but at least two links to music videos without running through them one more time. I watched the Cake version of "War Pigs". Yes, I was right. It is a very good cover and the video was appropriate given the lyrics. Then I punched up Black Sabbath's studio version with more up to date war film attached. Proof the tune will stand the test of time and go down as a wonderful condemnation of War and those who wage it. The final scenes in the video were of funerals, soldiers and Arlington Cemetery.

Though I spent good portion of my youth at different times living and existing in and around the DC area, I have only visited Arlington Cemetery twice in my life. I once almost died at what many consider it's entrance when the car we were in did not stop after coming off the Arlington Memorial Bridge. My friend was driving his brand new GTO and wanted to see how fast he could go before we hit the end of the bridge. Up onto the circle, throwing grass and making ruts, we somehow escaped death, the cops and our own stupidity. But that is another tale.

I have been to Arlington twice. Both times to bury loved ones. First my father in 1981 with full honors. Ten years later I put my mom to rest next to him. As a general officer he and his surviving spouse were entitled to this honor.

I have mixed feelings about this. My father did not want to be interred anywhere. He said on numerous occasions he wanted his lifeless body donated to some medical school somewhere. But as it was not stipulated in his will, my mom did what she felt would get her through this I guess. Placing his remains in Arlington was one way to find some closure for her. And she insisted we put her next to the man she fought with for my whole lifetime when the time came. Hmm. I always wondered if this was just so she could continue to irritate him in the afterlife.

I have been to more than a few memorials, funerals and wakes. A military funeral is like no other. There is no celebration. No emotional hysteria. Quiet tears of friends and family while soldiers high and tight stand at attention and fire their rifles. Somber patriotism with respectful but no bullshit "get er done" competency. The words spoken are brief and to the point. Flags are removed from caskets, folded with precision and handed to grieving widows. For some reason, I witnessed this and pride for my father and my country spilled forth. Tears ran down my face in streams. Quiet streams. Falling apart emotionally would be disrespectful to the military and the man we were honoring. I could feel my back straighten up some when the rifles were shouldered to fire the first salvo. I could feel some great weight leave me as the sound of those final shots died over the Potomac. I was sure that the man I knew who wrestled with demons every day of his life was now put to rest with the honor he deserved by the country he loved.