Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's 2:30 AM EST

It is 2:30 AM Eastern Standard Time. I was stupid tonight. Or rather stupid yesterday evening, now that it is tomorrow and yesterday is no longer today. I finished work and rode my bike hard for an hour hoping to squeeze a few more fitness bucks into myself for the upcoming 24 hour mountain bike race at Great Glen in less than 2 weeks. Came home. Ate some food. Plopped on the couch, and passed out by 8:30 PM.

I hear people tend to get wiser the older they become. And in some things that may be true. But I also think that many of us (well I hope I am not alone, I might just develop a complex or another nervous tic besides this one) - I think that we all have some weak spots, some permanently dull or worn components in our common sense bag. Things we do again and again even after identifying their overall stupidity when acted out inside the rhythms of our lives. Going to sleep too early is one such flaw or defect I keep practicing on a regular basis.

It was not always this way. When I was younger and dumber. Okay, okay- When I was younger, I could fall sleep at the drop of a hat. I could stay awake for 48 hours and still remember my name. Both I engaged in as the situation warranted. Pretty handy skill for a truck driver. I assume the price for this 35 years of poor sleeping habits is being collected now. Now that I want to sleep on a schedule, I can't.

Time break as I actually fall asleep for an hour around dawn.

So I am sitting here speechless this morning. I can hear the rooster over to Duncan and Anne's house telling all of us it is a new day. I caught just the hint of the local wild turkey crew gobbling and making a ruckus in the field out back. And Bob, out cranky Tom, is whining under the office window. I'd let him in the office window, but the bonehead expects me to hang out of the window and pick him up. Lazy little Yellow SOB. I won't do it. Not anymore. Not after that time I almost launched myself out into the snow laden side yard wearing just my skivvies. And now Stubeetchka is flapping her ears and rattling her collar just outside the door to the office. What is it with these pets anyway? I just let her in a minute ago.

A night of little sleep often finds me this way in the morning. The rest of my world is busy at getting on with their day. And I'm just coming out of the fog I created for myself by being up for 3 hours in the middle of the night. Where were they when I was awake and alert at 3:00AM? Keeping me company as I rattled around the house? Looking for some love that didn't hinge on hunger or having me be their door man? No, they were all sleeping. Dreaming cat dreams and dog visions. Of mice, and voles and Red squirrels in trees.

Now that I think about it, maybe some sleepless nights are in order. I am going to be involved in a race that will most likely mean I will be awake or semi awake for 36 straight hours. Rather than whine about no sleep, I should go with the flow knowing that fitness can be had in many different ways. It won't be a shock for me when I find I cannot sleep between my lap obligations.

Monday, July 28, 2008


# 1- The Problem Exposed

I have lived by the list at the left for most of my life. It has gotten me this far somehow. Everything I do seems to be aimed at making it through another day with limbs intact, brain intact, and spirit intact. I am not always successful. Even this simple list is hard for me to keep sometimes. Other variables, but more often than not, my scattered brain tends to make even these simple rules more complex than they need to be.

I have made a decision. That even old dogs or wannabe old dogs like me can learn new tricks. Up to this point in my life, being the loose dog with too many things in the air at once needs some adjustment. I have attempted in the past to rectify what I see as too much time in neutral while I decide which fire to put out. I will now make another attempt. I'm primed. I am in need. And well, I would like to surprise and awe some of the people I interact with on a day to day basis. My wife being number one on that list.

I admire my wife. She has the ability to organize her time and efforts so that maximum production is achieved out of maximum effort. A kind of highly tuned, supercharged, turbo equipped mentality that starts the day hot and ends the same way. Me, well, I am like an old Mack Truck with 175HP Thermodyne diesel motor that struggles up every hill and screams down the other side. I'm the truck truck lanes were meant for. Sometimes I cannot get out of my own way. My brain is always freighted.

My efforts will be aimed at tweaking my almost perfect personality(ahem) by bringing everything that is me into harmony with the kharmic interludes of character and soul and other New (now old news) Age type touchy feely, we are all bozos on this bus mentalities. My Ying will no longer play second fiddle to my Yang. To do this I must first cast aside my hitherto free range methods of task completion and seek some alternative and more rigid procedures so as to bring Mike back down to Earth on a more regular basis. Once I have properly secured myself into this dimension, I can finally move forward.

A Step in the Right Direction?

Making Lists and sticking to them.

Okay now what? I have made lists before and I always seem to forget them as my day progresses and I end up dealing with the squeaky wheels as they pop up. The pre-emptive advantage a list would have if followed is incalculable. The satisfaction (having felt the pleasure of it once) of checking off something as soon as it is complete has to be better than or equal to, uh , okay it probably is not equal to. But striking through a to do list from start to finish has to feel good. As good as anything you can do by yourself can feel I guess.

So here is my first list after realizing all the previous ones were just practice, I was just kidding lists.

Wait a minute. I need to organize how, what type, and how often I list things. Chronologically or by importance and relevance? Daily or weekly/ Or Both with one being a sublist of the weekly list? I must first organize my concerns and wants as to what will be deemed worthy of my list. So I guess I need to make a Pre-List. And list those concerns and desires that will ultimately make up the Main List that runs my life from here on out. The importance of getting the Main List right puts more pressure on what and how I handle the pressures of the Pre-List.

Wow. Now there are two lists to compose before I can even think of checking anything off of either. This getting my shit together thing is some complicated and intimidating. Yet I know I must try. Too many loose ends pop up and I am frankly tired of having nothing but loose ends to straighten out. Although anyone looking for a good loose end guy, I am the man.

The know it all and the share it all experts of the World Wide Web will certainly be some brains to pick. Even if I don't follow the free advice, maybe some insights of the List Gurus will jog me into creating something that works for me. So the first thing on my Pre-List is to do some research and see what the great Google says. In the meantime, I will continue to:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bruised feelings

It was just a matter of time. At some point I would step over some unknown line on someones blog. I just did and didn't know it until I was called on the carpet. This specific blogger would definitely be quick to mention some aspect of one my comments as being unacceptable. Have to admire their in my face, straight forward way of dealing with it.

This interaction actually marks a couple of firsts. The first negative response to one of my comments. And this is my first lesson about my use of the word Canuck. I never considered whether it was offensive or not. When I worked north of the border it was used by many Canadians when referring to one of their own. I learned it from them.From the horse's mouth so to speak. Vancouver even has a hockey team named the Canucks.

I felt no apology was in order. I meant no offense and said so. I also said I would respect their wishes in the future. For me a learning experience. For them, well, I can't speak for them. It happened and we'll both move on from here.

All this brought up a bevy of different considerations and concerns. Were they being overly sensitive? Was I just being insensitive? Just how concerned should I be about the feelings of others I have no control over? Just why are different groups, racial, ethnic, religious so sensitive to the terms of speech used by those outside their insular cliques? And why are people like me who exist outside these cliques so quick to dismiss their concerns as being "too sensitive"?

And then I have to deal with someone calling my remark racist. In my opinion, Canadians are not a race nor is any ethnic group with European roots who lives there one. Do I get all huffy about the inference that I am racist by association for using the word Canuck? Well, I don't usually care what people think. It is what I think and know about myself that matters. So no, I don't care if it was inferred that I was being racist. How folks perceive me is on them. I can only control what I can about me. And it seems now all I can do is respect their wishes when visiting their blog.

Inadvertent and innocently uttered remarks like mine aside, I guess it comes down to respecting the comfort zones of the people we interact with. While I did not mean the term in a derogatory way, it was perceived that way by it's very existence.

I wonder just what is the blogging etiquette for this situation? Do I return to my comment and delete it? Copy n Paste and re-comment with Canuck removed and Canadian in it's place? Leave it alone for the blog owner to delete or not? Or blow it all off figuring my recognition of their concern was enough?

Regardless, I have had quite a variety of emotions here. I feel bad. I don't get it. And why don't I get it, which creates a feeling of real confusion. Interesting to write about it as it unfolds, that's for sure.

I did some research about the word Canuck. Wiki and this site both indicated the word is in the eye of the beholder and who is uttering it. Prof Kim in her "Writer's Den" site says this as a double ** footnote at the bottom of her page:
"**‘Canuck’ seems to be a sticky term. Used by Canadians, the word is acceptable in virtually all applications. Used by an outsider, however, it has the potential to take on an offensive or derogatory tone."

So now I know. Will it change my opinion about the word? Probably not. But it might just be a word I may want to leave out of some conversations. I will try to keep that in mind.

I guess what I need is my own word to get fired up about. Since my background is straight down the middle WASP, there really is no ancestry I can defend. My ancestors were all the guilty ones. Those wacky folks from Down Under do have a right colorful name for us folks from the States though. Might be promising. Seems they call us Americans "Seppos". They also call their septic tanks Seppos. Hmm. Might be ripe for some righteous indignation. Let me see if I can dig some up.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Vise Update

I know it has been only 24 hours. And I know two posts in a row regarding vises is most likely two posts too many. But I just had to share.

Yesterday I don't think I really relayed just how important a vise is to my operation down to the bike shop. How when you need a good vise, there is absolutely nothing Man has made that will be a workable substitute.

Case in point.

One of the most frustrating problems that comes into my shop is a bike with a frozen seat post. Posts that did not have the proper lubricating love when they were new and fresh. After 10 years of being inserted dry into the seat tube, they have obstinately welded themselves inside the bike. Stuck forever. This is a common problem. Enough has been written about this to fill at least a good sized pamphlet I am sure.

Every bike shop has their horror stories about the one post that beat them or nearly beat them. I thought I had finally met mine. Before when all efforts failed, I would take the bike frame to my local machine shop down the hill from Wasco. They would insert the resisting post into a 40 ton hydraulic press and with a few twist back and forth, the posts always freed themselves. They would charge $10 or $15 bucks and I would have my problem solved. Problem is, they closed up 10 years ago. Guess they couldn't compete with progress. I was on my own.

Enter - the Burley Tandem. Some folks were moving away. They swung by before they left and dropped off their Burley Tandem for me to sell. Shipping them a check was going to be easier than shipping a two seated bicycle. I thought this was great. A nice tandem to have around for test rides and maybe make a little jingle on it. I knew it would not sell quickly. Springvale is not a biking mecca. And most folks who ride seriously, ride to get "alone" time in. A two seat bicycle just seems to be defeating that purpose.

I go through all the used and consignment bikes that come through my shop before I put them on the floor. The check over and tweaking on the blue Burley is going fine until.......I try to move the Captain's seat down for the test ride. Stuck. Not gently stuck where a firm twisting motion and some sweat would free it up. Glued, welded, permanently implanted. Use any term I wanted, that seat post was not moving.

I quickly used up all the tricks I have learned over the years. Pipe wrenches with cheater bars, Impregnating the area with penetrating oils of every kind and description, and yes, even the vise. The old vise. The vise I broke when I finally over tightened it around the post one time too many. Snap! Go get a new vise. This one, the Burley just laughs at. "Ha, ha, ha". In disgust I hung the tandem frame out back and walked away.

That was last year. A bike I do not own and is stripped down to the frame hung unusable for 9 months in a dark storeroom. The owner was sympathetic and not in a hurry for his money. Better hanging in my shop than hanging in his garage in Oregon. He said he had confidence I would figure it out.

I am glad he had some confidence. I surely didn't. I was beginning to believe I had finally met my match. Found the one seat post in a career of seat posts that was going to be a permanent black mark on my seat post removing record. Up to this point, I had always prevailed.

Then I found the Wilton Multi-purpose 5" vise at Loews. I bolted it down yesterday after removing that useless 6" poser of a vise. And the first thing I clamped into it guessed it, the post of that damn Burley Tandem. I had Jim on one end and -Jim on the other. They began twisting it back and forth. I was in the middle with a 2x4 strategically placed to keep upward pressure on it. 30 seconds later, pop! And an excellent used tandem worth at least $600 is now ready to be re-assembled and put on the floor.

So if you are looking for a vise with balls, check out the Wilton 5" Multi-Purpose Vise with the swivel head. It was up to a task that previously broke the will of some vises that were supposed to be bigger and badder.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tools, Fools & Hunger

The ladies (Bobbi Ann, Lis, and Aunt Nancy from Maryland) caught the matinee showing of "Mama Mia" yesterday afternoon. Afterwards the plan was to stop and buy Lobsters and Steamers for a rendezvous with gastronomical excellence after the show. I was to finish work, try to leave a little early and hammer down to Loews to find a new faucet set-up for the kitchen sink. And then be back by 7:30 PM for the feed.

I remember now another reason I enjoy Aunt Nancy's visits. We always have the double Maine whammy. I like Lobster , but I love steamers. Set me up in front of both right out of the pot and I am in heaven. Toss some corn on my plate in any form and a few bodacious hand hewn slices of fresh bread and I almost cannot stand it. There are a few things I enjoy more but well, this is a PG blog. So we won't go there.

Jim of Jim-Jim gives me the go ahead to leave early and I head for Loews. That great handyman paradise where you can fill two shopping carts and still leave wondering if you forgot something. I had 3 things on my list. A new kitchen faucet ensemble, a new bench vise for the bike shop, and some 5mm black zip ties. My wife insisted that because the last kitchen faucet I installed only lasted 15 years, I was to in her words, "not be a cheapskate this time". Cool. The green light. I just love it when I get the green light. Her only requirement and it was not open to debate was the faucet head had to sit way higher than the last bargain basement one I bought. Everything else on the list was my call.

Finding the vises was daunting at first. Were they tools or hardware? Would they be up front or buried in the back on aisle 58 next to the flue brushes? All of the nice gnomes in the red vests each had a different answer. It wasn't until I stopped listening to them that I was able to use some hard earned handyman logic. Logic born of years wasted looking through shelves and cubbies filled with hardware stuff. I figured out where they were. Vises clamped things right? Well find the clamps and I bet the vises were keeping them company or were acting as lookouts nearby. And I was right. With the clamps up front near the hammers, saws and concrete chisels. Damn they have a lot of stuff in that plane hangar they call a store.

Over 15 years ago I picked up one of those cheap Cast in China vises over to Marden's for $25 bucks. A huge beefy 6" vise that served me well until I finally broke the screw a few months ago. It had been pounded on, over tightened thousands of times and had many a bike part ruined and sometimes fixed in it. It was a tool I could count on. When it broke, I almost went into panic mode.

I picked up a 6 inch vise at a local hardware store and right out of the gate, Jim and I knew this vise was not going to be up to our use and abuse. But I had to have something so I set it up. Tonight I hope I remedied the problem. I bought a Wilton. Not a real Wilton, jeez they cost $500. But a Wilton wannabe, sanctioned copy made for them probably by the same Chinese vise factory that made my previous beater vise. I paid $60. I'm just not ready to spend $500 on a bench vise.

First item successfully in my cart, I head over to the plumbing area. As often as I go to Loews or Home Depot, you would think I would be numb to the outrageous numbers of one thing they stock. But when I rounded the aisle that had faucet setups, 75 feet of faucets hung on the display wall. There must have been over a hundred to choose from. Not a hundred of all kinds, but a hundred of 8"center 4 piece kitchen faucet systems. My eyes glazed over. Wow! How the Hell am I going to pick a faucet system and be out of here, uh( looking at my watch) in 10 minutes. There was lobster waiting to be killed. Clams to be steamed. My stomach was growling and I had to choose a faucet out of the hundred or so sets up on the wall.

Thankfully, Loews had them arranged by price so I was quickly able to blow off more than half of them. Bobbi said to not be a cheapskate. But she didn't say to spend dollars like we just printed them. I quickly settled my focus on the $80 to $150 range. That reduced the target group to around 30 or so. I knew we wanted a dual handle faucet. That eliminated the high side of my range. I guess single handle systems cost more. Seems odd. Pay more for one less handle and twice the headache if it screws up. Guess it made sense to someone.

Just about the time I was going to run out of there screaming I spotted one on sale. You can tell because they paste these spiffy bright yellow tags over the old tags. The Delta Victorian two handle faucet with a complementary spray head on the side - Was $224 - Now $78. And in biggish Red Letters - CLEARANCE!!! I am usually suspicious of price cuts as deep as that. But I have come to know that when Loews wants to dump something, they get damn serious about it. They just want it out of there. So I picked it up and hurried to find some 5mm black zip ties. After buying a couple tools that might come in handy for the upcoming plumbing project, I beat feet to the cashier.

The damn cashier. That non-human electronic cashier from Hell. As soon as I swiped the Debit card, a pleasant voice startled me when it said, "Please wait for assistance." Uh oh. What did this mean? Wait for assistance? And just what the Hell did they expect me to do? The machine wouldn't cash me out. Did they think I was going to run for it? Eventually another one of the red vested Loew gnomes came scurrying up and told me she would cash me out in person.

Hmm. Did they remember my last run in with the electronic cashier from Hell? Had my name been added to a list of troublemakers they keep in the back? Was I now marked with some kind of Scarlet "L" for "loser who can't follow prompts on a screen"? And in the meantime, my stomach is dancing around in anticipation of the feast to come. Sloshing and jostling around like it hadn't seen solid food in a week.

Mechanically and swiftly the nice gnome lady cashes me out. After scanning each item, she then swiped each over some plastic coated plate to deactivate the security code implanted secretly somewhere in the guts of the gadgets I was buying. Everything that is except that beast of a bench vise. When I get almost to the door and think I have made it safely out of there, buzzers start screaming, lights begin flashing and another red vested gnome jumps in front of my cart. I stopped and no foolin, threw up my arms in surrender. There was so much racket it scared the Hell out of me.

She's pleasant about it, but I can feel her suspicious eyes boring into me as I slink back to a different register with my cart. Expecting to be told to empty my pockets, drop my drawers and bend over, all she wants is to re-rub the stuff over the security code de-activator. None of them beep. She then looks at the vise set hard in the bottom of the cart. I look at the vise. We look at each other. "Uh, did she deactivate the vise?" she asks.

Thinking it odd that they would be concerned a 40 pound vise would somehow walk out of there without some security code implanted in it, I said "Uh no, no she didn't."

The nice gnome lady in the red vest looked displeased and then glared at me like it was my fault. I showed mercy on her when she struggled to lift the vise out of the cart. I picked it up for her and she grabbed my arms and guided them to the plate. Here we are, me with the vise and her with her arms wrapped around my arms when some obviously more important gnome makes an appearance. He wasn't wearing a red vest, he was wearing a red shirt. With a collar and nice pockets. "Is there a problem here?" I turn just as the machine beeps it's all clear signal and the nice gnome lady in the red vest with her arms still around me guides me and the vice back to the cart. "No sir, just need to check his receipt and I think he'll be good to go."

Out into the rain coming down in buckets and wheeling my cart, I do not care if I get wet. I am finally free and all I can think about is food. Getting soaked has no affect on me.

I get home about 7:30 PM. I walk into the kitchen and the first thing I see are 3 glasses set around the table with what I identify immediately as some kind of "chick cocktail" in them. Yellow and thick, I know Lis has been showing off some of the bar tending skills she honed at grad school. All 3 of the women are butts in the air and hunkered over the bottom cabinet where we keep the liquor. They are engrossed in some kind of search and hardly notice I am home.

"What's up ladies?"

My darling wife looks up with glazed eyes and says, "We're looking for the rum. Where's the rum?"

My wife still drinks, but not much. I will say I was surprised that she was feeling no pain this early. But hey, her sister was up and well, parties happen. They gave up looking for the rum and decided to clean out the cabinet and reorganize it. Bottles that had not seen the light of day in 20 years came out. Corks were popped and contents sniffed. Liquids were poured out. When they were done with the bottles, the dust rag was found and used. Damn, these women know how to party.

Rather than hang around being ansty because I was so hungry, I fled to the office. About 1/2 hour later dinner in all it's glory was served and my day was complete.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another Tin Foil Hat Moment

There is blogging etiquette. I just don't know where the lines are until I have crossed them. Take the following post. I poached it. Lock, stock and barrel.....from myself. I posted it originally in June of 2006. You might think, "So what's the big deal?" Or gasp, throw your hand over your eyes, and mutter something about "convention". There is no big deal of course. I just liked this when I spotted it again while sifting through old posts looking for a different one.

You might think, "Ah, he didn't have anything to write about." Maybe, maybe not. Re-runs are as American as shopping for Apple pie at Walmart.

From the dust ridden and unread CRUM Archives, first posted 6-9-06

Drained and semi-comatose, I headed home tonight after another week of fixing bikes, selling bikes, and dealing with all the fires peculiar to bike retail. On autopilot, I drove the foggy dark road home. My mind wandered off course. The normal thoughts and concerns I usually chew on as I drive were MIA. About Parker's Marina, I suddenly wondered what would happen if an alien space ship landed on the bridge separating Acton from the rest of Maine. And it landed right in front of me with it's invisible cloaking device engaged. I would smash into it at 50 plus MPH and never know what hit me. Like a mosquito hitting a windshield at 50, the last thing through my mind would be my asshole. A moment of true concern flashed by and I quickly checked to see if I was strapped in. Made me smile at the ridiculous idea of encountering an invisible anything in a moving vehicle. Made me smile that such a random idea should even stop in to visit. I must be tired.

But what about the Earth is flat, we're all just the bastard offspring of a cross alien coupling that took place 40,000 years ago in another dimension type person? I am sure there are some people so far over the edge, a thought like invisible alien ships landing on the interstate would be given the serious consideration it deserves. They would work their paranoia into a frenzy creating every possible scenario and catastrophe that would result from such an encounter. 39 smashed and destroyed vehicles smouldering and sparking flames. Bodies scattered about with guts and blood everywhere. Some of them might even give up driving. Many would burrow deeper into their aluminum foiled forts and stock up on more gatorade.

I mean, it is a scary thought to consider hitting something invisible. Something more solid than you are. And until you have done it, you have no idea just how scary it is. I know. In 1975 we had just closed down our last bar in Fells Point in Baltimore. Three of us staggered up the sidewalk and at full tilt lurch I walked into an invisible object. An unyielding unmovable structure caught me square between the eyes and down I went. My glasses separated in the middle. They had been cut clean like a laser saber through a Jedi knight.

As I sat there on the sidewalk trying to regain some composure and take stock of any damage, a street sign suddenly appeared in the space previously occupied by the invisible brick wall. I swear that sign was not there until after I looked up. Never mind the fact my friends were pissing themselves from laughter. They were drunk. They weren't as sharp and on top of it as I was. They were not privy to all the classified realities I was. That sign was purposely relocated there by forces not wanting to be revealed. I knew it to be true. That was the only possible explanation. I would never be so dumb as to walk into something headfirst that was in this dimension. Inebriated or not.

So be careful out there. Just because you cannot see it, does not mean it is not there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Gary over to Three Score Plus Ten wrote about an interaction between himself and his grand nephew. Gary admits he is not a computer whiz kid. But when he admitted to his 21 year old nephew he was having problems downloading music, he could tell his nephew was amazed and in his words, "the kid was truly embarrassed for me". Gary went on to say he could tell his nephew was in shock over something everyone should be able to do easily since he had been doing it since basically infant hood.

This made me chuckle. I can remember at age 18, 19, ....shit, that age when you think you have seen it all and know it all. I remember that I was shocked on a regular basis when I met folks who could not do some the things I had been doing since I could remember.

Take swimming for instance. This was one of the early revelations. Having been raised in the water, I assumed everyone had been. Imagine my surprise when I discovered kids my own age who could not swim at all. Not even dog paddle.

Meeting people who never learned to ride a bike still surprises me.

The one that really shook me though was when I met Raymond. I was working that high school summer as a painter with a friend's Grandfather. He would import Raymond from the Smokey Mountain section of North Carolina every summer to paint with his crew. Raymond was I guess, in his late 30s. He was also the best and fastest painter I ever knew. A magician with a paintbrush, a paper brush, or a can of glazing compound. He could paint trim with a 4 inch brush and never touch anything but the finish. He was amazing.

At the end of the summer, Raymond always went home to North Carolina. That summer I was elected to drop him off at the bus station in downtown Washington, DC. Mr B handed me an envelope and told me to give it to Raymond before he got out of the car. On the envelope in large block letters was some code I had no clue of. I guessed Raymond knew. I was right. When I dropped Raymond off, I handed him his envelope. He opened it up and stuffed the cash in his pocket. Then he got out and began walking up and down in front of the row of Greyhound buses. In front of each one, he would stop, look at the envelope and then look at the destination banner at the top of the Bus. His forefinger would move in the air like he was writing.

It suddenly dawned on me that Raymond could not read. He was attempting to match each number on the envelope to each number on the bus. Innocently, I got out of the car and asked him if he wanted my help. He looked embarrassed followed quickly by a flash of anger. "No, I can handle it. You go get out of here now". All the way back to Bethesda I pondered this. I never considered that there could be any adult who could not read. I took reading to be something akin to breathing. We could all do it. Dealing with the idea of a grown man in his 30s not being literate was beyond my comprehension.

Raymond was not stupid. He had a wonderful sense of humor that only an intelligent man could have. His digs and takes often got my brain working in different directions. He was a hard worker who figured out how to survive in a world that had passed his kind by. I found out more about Raymond when I got back from dropping him off. Raised in a two room house with no plumbing in the Smokey Mountains, he was somewhere in the middle of 10 children. Grew up dirt poor and began working as soon as he could lift a hoe. Schoolin was not held in high regard because it did not put food on the table. But obviously the basics of decency and hard work were instilled, because Raymond outworked us all and always did it with a smile. I do not remember him ever uttering a cross word.

I often think of Raymond when I find myself acting superior. The lesson he taught me has served me well. What we know that others don't or what we can do that others can't isn't worth squat in the scheme of who we are or who they are. What matters is how we deal with our own limitations and those we see in others.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Producers

I don't know about you, but I feel better now. Saturday's post had quite the purging effect on my mind. Call it a defragmenting post. Sifted through a bunch of loose bits and pieces. I wasn't going to post it, but well I took the time to write it. I took the time to look for a picture. And it was so easy to toss off any concern for others and punch the "Publish Now" button. My normal anguish replaced by thoughtless abandon. The only thing I could do without thinking it through and second guessing it was post it.

My sister in law is up from Maryland for her bi-decade visit. She jetted in Saturday morning. She's a nice woman. Her unspoiled and pure Murland accent was music to my ears. No one can say "O" like someone raised in or around Baltimore. I hear a good Murland accent and visions of crab cakes, Bull Roasts, kegs of National Boh and softshell crabs always come to mind. I never really think I miss my time growing up in Maryland or the period I came of age there until I hear a good Bawlamer accent. Suddenly, it all comes flooding back with the utterance of a simple "o".

Her visits always stirs the pot here on Sam Page Road. My wife will begin fretting weeks in advance about what she can come up with for Nancy and the rest of us to do while she is here. Some days are an easy fill. Shopping at one or more of the many outlets our state just loves to put up on Rte 1 is a no brainer. There is the obligatory pilgrimage to LL Bean in Freeport. A walk on the Portland waterfront will usually find it's way into her visits. Lighthouse watching. Rocky Beach drive bys. Scenic overlooks. Over the years, Nancy has been exposed to about every tourist trap within a 100 mile radius.

I make no suggestions usually. I know after 28 years of marriage to keep my mouth shut, keep myself available, and stay out of the way if that is what Bobbi Ann wants. I take on more of a support role than I usually have. And this is fine with me. Trying to figure out what one woman wants is tough enough, but put two of them together and complicate it with sibling history and man, staying in the background is the place to be. The only thing better would be invisibility.

This visit Bobbi suggested and then followed up that suggestion with tickets to a musical at the Ogunquit Playhouse. My cooperation and inclusion was taken for granted. This was to happen on a Sunday. No excuse like work, the lawn, or mega bike ride was going to get me out of it. I was trapped and I knew it.

Ogunquit Playhouse is one of the early Summer Theaters that acted like a AAA farm team for Broadway. Started in the 1930s, it has year after year, attracted many top quality actors performing top quality work. The list of stars who have worked there is quite impressive. Really too many to even mention.

Over the years beginning when I was 14 or 15, I have endured and often enjoyed more than a few theatrical productions at the Ogunquit Playhouse. My Aunt Helen dragged me there as a rebellious teen. I smiled and said I enjoyed it. But inside I determined that no matter what I would hate it. Not sure why now, but at the time it made sense. I vowed to never remember them again. Other than remembering going, I have no memory of what we saw. Jeez, only girls and girly guys liked theater.

I remember going with my mom and Bobbi before we got married. Earlier that day, I had dove from 18' up face first into a rock over to Great East Lake. Spent the rest of the day at the emergency room and then because Mom was an awesome force to reckon with, went to the play with a face that looked like some Zombie extra from "Shawn of The Dead". I cannot remember being so miserable in my life. I oozed nasty stuff all through the play and theater goers stepped back from me when the lights went up. That rock had taken out skin to the bone in 3 places. I won't get into the stupidity of what I did. But I haven't done it since..

Musicals, with the exception of "Hair" and the Rock opera "Tommy" never did it for me. But a couple of years ago I went with Bobbi to see "Menopause" in Ogunquit. And even though I was sure I would be the only man there and probably be lucky to escape with my life, what with all that estrogen charged rage floating around, I was more than pleasantly surprised. I had a great time. I even remember asking myself just what it was I had against musicals as we got up to leave

Yesterday we caught the matinee of "The Producers". The Mel Brooks movie re-worked and tweaked into a Broadway musical hit. Of the 4 of us who went, I was the only one who had a clue of what it was about. I had been a rabid Zero Mostel fan ever since seeing him in " A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum" in 1966. When he showed up in "The Producers" a couple of years later, I had to see the movie. It still rates as one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. When I began to tell the 3 ladies the plot, I was surprised just how much I remembered. I guess seeing a movie 3 or 4 times will do that for you.

The experience was excellent. The cast was excellent. The coffee was just okay. Typical of Mel Brooks' style, nothing is sacred, everything is fair game. If anyone out there wants a great 3 hours of music and real from the gut laughter, I would tell them to catch this production before it leaves Maine in August.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nevermind the Rhythm Method, How About Random?

Okay. Tonight I will attempt to start with the title and see what happens. Instead of the usual, I'll creep outside my box and try something new. Here goes....

Silence ensues.............."Um, Hmm, Let's see"................................(tapping feet)............(looking out the window now)...........(scooting chair in closer like that will help goose something loose)................................... "Aw Sh...#*@! uh F^%%#*",...............(Tapping toes and fingers now)..............."I know. Music. Some music might help".......................... (wasting 5 more minutes picking music with one hand and my nose with the other).............................. "Okay, now I'm ready"...................

Dammit! Come home tonight with a great new blogging plan and it gets shot out of the water before the decoys are even set out. So far all I've done is find a spelling error in the title. Making some real progress here. Tonight's post ought to be a real page turner.

No, forget it. Fall back on the tried and true - find a picture that might just inspirate. Hmm,"inspirate". Is that a word? I'll have to look it up. If not, it should be. I am sure W would agree it should be a word. Christ, I bet he's been using it for years. I wonder if he ever looked it up. Does he even own a dictionary? Does he even know what a dictionary is? He did go to college. Yeah, I bet he knows what a dictionary is. But I wonder if he knows how to open it?

All of this wandered around inside the synaptic cavity while I sought and then found this excellent pie chart up top on Photobucket. I am disappointed though. Instead of the usual 400,000 hits when I type in words like "toilet" or "Britney Spears", "Rhythm Method" only popped up with a paltry 8 hits. 8 hits. Folks would just as soon waste megapixels recording for posterity the acts of Mankind infla..... uh, naked than pay their respects to God's working plan as laid out by the Holy Roman folks who wear funny hats. Seems the only thing worse than no sex is sex on a schedule. Slap the tag "schedule" on anything and it always seems to look like work.

I was never and am now definitely not a Catholic. I was raised in that church of wannabe Catholics, or is it disgruntled ex-Catholics? Anyway, I was raised to be foot loose but tight with God by the Anglican Church. I guess you could call us The Catholic-Light Church. More taste but less filling. All the pomp without the circumstance.

So I took a few moments to study the chart. I am fascinated. Not by it's existence, but by it's complexity. We have here a scholarly work that must have been years in the making, knowing how much Catholic mucky mucks like to chew everything to death. It has low risk days. It has really low risk days, the ones that last about 5 days a month. It has some secret square days squeezed in between the high risk days for those who want to live on the edge. And it has the don't do it today days, today is an "unsafe day". Hmm. Unsafe day? I never found any day with sex in it any more unsafe than a day without sex. The risk was who you chose to have sex with, not what day of the month it was. But then I am an ex ex-Catholic married but not married to a former catholic but now booted out because of a thing called divorce. I have been living in Sin for 28 years and my daughter is a bastard. How's that for an image to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

To think that a bunch of chaste old men, who supposedly had no working knowledge of any of this, sat around and came up with a calendar that helped their flock not get pregnant. Maybe I am missing the point of being a good Catholic. As convoluted as that chart is, I can see why so many Catholic families are huge. Unless Dad is one Hell of an Iron Man, the last thing he will want to do is look at a calendar when his horns stiffen up. Unless it's that power tool calendar he has secreted away in his "Man Space". The one with the lucious young ladies holding jackhammers and big wrenches, whispering for you to use this for those big nuts and all the while wearing but a couple of strings and a smile.

"Jeez Darlin, my body says yes, but the calendar says no. I'll be right back."

Yeah I can't see that happening. And thus the idea of 8 is not enough was born.

I dunno, but I would be extremely suspicious of a bunch of tensed up guys wearing robes who, up to this point, coined expressions like "Go forth and multiply", "Don't touch that, you'll grow hair on your palms, or one of my favorites, "Girls, never pee in the men's room. The toilet seat might get you pregnant." Any plan they come up with just has to have some serious flaws. By design or not, I would not be the first couple on the block to trust that this might even work.

While I actually look up "Inspirate". Hang in there. Be right back...................................................Well, W is going to have to find a new word to relay his feelings of being divinely prompted. There's "inspiration", "inspire", "inspirational", "inspirable", "inspirer", and last and maybe least, "Inspiratory", a word that means whatever you want it too as long as you breathe in while doing it. But no "Inspirate". Interlude over. Post over.

Keep it 'tween the Ditches.


I walked away from this for a couple of hours after I finished whatever it is you want to call what is above. How it turned out and what it says is directly related to the words as they formed but before the censors got wind of them. Maybe it was watching the Sam Kinison video I found over to El Cerdo Ignatius . Residuals from laughing harder than I have in at least a couple of hours. Or I really am an escapee from the basket weaving class over to The R.U. Madd Memorial Asylum. You will make up your mind and hopefully have enough left to help me to make up mine. If I can find it that is.

Oh, and apologies to Mr Ignatius. I see that he says he is a devout Catholic. Remember, the Church encourages forgiveness, especially towards swamp rat heathens such as myself. Honestly, we really cannot help ourselves. Says so right in the Bible somewhere. I read part of a review once and they covered that. I will assume Mr Ignatius' devoutness will soften any hard feelings I may have conjured up. ;) Pigs Rule!!!!

And no. I am not drunk. I am not stoned. This is a normal day for me. Gave up the demon rum a long time ago. And kinda, mostly, almost all the time gave up being stoned. Hey, a mild sensation once in awhile doesn't make me want your daughter any more than I do now. Okay, Okay. I will stop now. Well aimed lightening is about to strike.

See Ya.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mr. Porcupine

It seems that a young porcupine has decided our front dooryard is just the right location in which to take up residence. Some nice bushes to crash under and a lifetime supply of yard to munch on. Needless to say it's uninvited presence has caused a rift in the fur bearing dynamic of our household. Bob, our always cranky Tom cat is not happy. Growling and fussing more than usual, he is letting everyone know, including the moving pin cushion, that his routine has been upset. From a safe distance of course. Bob may be mean, but he is not stupid. Stubb on the other hand is numb-er than a bucket of pounded thumbs. She is all about finding out as much as she can about Mr Porcupine. Of course this curiosity is not acceptable to me as I have paid dearly in the past for the curiosity of a dog when confronted with such a slow moving object as a porcupine. Annie, our long dead St Bernard mix almost ate my hand once when I tried to extricate some quills from the back of her throat. I just know Stubb won't be happy until she comes home with a mouthful of porcupine quills.

This rush to judgement may not be fair to Stubb. To this point in her short life, she has not come home whimpering looking pitiful with quills sticking out of her muzzle and buried hard in her throat. But she is a dog after all. And the track record for mutts here on Sam Page Road has not been good. It seems no dog of mine can resist the temptation of this true oddity of Nature. I am guessing to a dog without a clue, porcupines are the perfect playmate. They move faster than turtles, but not by much. That they are some of the stinkin-ess animals out there must be olfactory heaven to a dog. And when I hear my daughter say they are cute, I know to a dog, their intimidation index cannot possibly be tracking in the high numbers.

I am in a quandary here. On the one hand, I do the best I can to accommodate the various wild things that happen to live nearby and often use my yard for whatever it is they want to use my yard for. But this critter is messing with the flow around here. The routines of a house with 7 cats and one dog get out of whack and brother, the ripples can be a bitch to deal with. Nothing more rigid and inflexible than pets. So I sit here and wonder what to do.

Moving a porcupine out is not a task taken lightly. I would be well within my rights to pull out the shotgun and blow it's prickly ass away. They are one of the traditional "kill on sight" animals in our parts. Their history is fraught with run ins with the logging industry. They can do serious damage to money trees. One porcupine can kill a tree in a very short time as they dig out it's heart searching for bugs, grubs and other delectable wigglies of the forest.

I won't shoot it though. No money trees here and at this point, Mr Porcupine seems content to be the helpful yard guest by eating my lawn. So shooting it seems damn inhospitable. But it cannot stay long. I do not want a big vet bill to deal with. Stub is no intellectual giant. She will decide to get up close and personal. A dog cannot resist. As proof I offer this picture of a dog who could not resist. And continued to not be able to resist.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Generation

VH1 had a WHO tribute on tonight. I don't normally watch the old farts rock out. I definitely shy away from any program that Has "Tribute" in it's title. I guess it is a combination of reminding me of times past and knowing when I see the old Rock and Rollers from my hey day that none of us are even close to those hey days anymore. But my daughter, raised on Zep, Tull, Hendrix, Cream, Bowie and The Who made sure to yell into the kitchen, "Dad, that WHO tribute on VH1 is on." With mixed emotions I gulped down the rest of my reheated because I was late dinner and wandered in to at least watch it through the first commercial. I ended up staying for the whole 2 hours.

I became a fan of The WHO the moment I heard "My Generation" on some AM Station in DC in the mid 60s. I bought the 45 and 400 zillion spins later, my parents even knew the words. I cannot remember the title of the B side now. I seldom played it. I wore out 3 copies in maybe a year. I can still see my fat bald ole man doing his best and in his eyes least respectful rendition of it when he had a snootful. It's hilarious now, but at 14, I did not have the sense of humor I have now. Some things you didn't disrespect. And The WHO was one of them.

A die hard fan, I bought every WHO album and did my best to see them in concert. It never worked out until the Fall of 1976. I had become a man, albeit a young and still wild man, but a man nonetheless. I was 24 and had been mostly on my own and in the real world for 8 years at that point. Imagine my surprise when a ex co-worker called me and asked me if I wanted to drive trucks for the Rock & Roll business. I was on a plane the next week to Dallas, Texas and sitting in a brand new White Freightliner heading West to LA the following week. My trailer was chock full of speakers, Bull Dick cable and Amps bigger than small cars for the North American WHO Tour of 1976.

That first taste of the Rock business lasted but 4 weeks or so. A whirlwind tour that required 2 drivers per truck for the huge miles between gigs. My 2 & 1/2 year stint in the business would eventually leave me jaded and burned out. I would eventually realize my pinnacle of substance abuse. I would eventually tire of sex without names or affection. But that first 4 weeks was by far the single most excellent month of my young life to that point. The first time I looked out onto the floor of the LA Forum filled with 40,000 screaming fans from behind the speaker stack stage right is imprinted with a bullet in my memory. Some roadie told me to shut my mouth. The crew did not do that. It was not cool. I shut my mouth and stood motionless the 90 minutes The WHO played. They blew the top off that building.

Sitting on the couch 32 years later watching bands like the Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, The Flaming Lips, Tenacious D, Incubus, and Adam Sandler cover their music was odd at first. I had expected some lame Grammy Award type waste of time. I even maybe secretly hoped it would turn out that way. Nothing could compete with those 4 weeks back in the Fall of 1976. Gladly I was disappointed. Only the Flaming Lips should not have come out on stage. There's no nice way to say it. They flat out sucked. Tenacious D's rendition of "Squeezebox" was excellent. Maybe the best of the bunch. Hell, they were all good minus one.

The last hour was bittersweet for me. Only half of the original group made it this far. Seeing another drummer sitting where Keith Moon should be saddened me. Not seeing the wooden man Entwhistle pounding the bass like no other before or since completed the bittersweet image. Listening to Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend try to hit the notes that came easy when they were 30 years younger made me wince. But once Roger and Pete warmed up, they rocked with that same spark that made them so special back in the day. They still had it. I was awed.

Which brings me to my lead in photo. That odd Kodak moment that to this point I could find no home for. Work with me here, there is a tie in I swear.

When I saw Roger and Pete stand up and give it their all, I realized that no matter how old some of us get, some of us never give in totally to the idea that getting older is the bummer everyone would have us believe. When I look at that post-ride picture of my 56 year old right leg covered in mud acquired by having fun usually reserved for kids, I know getting old is easier if we don't give in to the old fart myths. That leg is like the voice of Daltry. A tad tired, but it still has some spring left. The high notes may be gone, but the heart still rocks.

Oakland Stadium, 1976
The above link is the only video I could find of that tour in 1976. It is a terrible video with terrible sound. But if I squint and use my imagination, I can almost see myself standing around back stage. My most intense memory of that show and maybe one of the top five of my time with SHOWCO was watching a poor slob die of a drug overdose after the security guards unceremoniously dumped him out the back gate behind the stage. His gay lover held him in his arms as he drew his last breath while screaming for someone to help him. I came upon them as I left the show during the last song to go fire up the truck to be ready to back in for load out. I tried to get the security guards to help. They only said the ambulance was on it's way. The ambulance was too late. Welcome to Rock n Roll Mike.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Have Nothing

nene pucking in toilet

Rose obviously had run out of other things to talk about. And she said as much. Her recent post, "Polly Pocket Puppy goes down the Hole" was about the things that get flushed down the toilet. In her always trying to engage the audience way, she asked us what odd and unusual things we had flushed down the toilet. And try as I might, I could not think of a thing worth mentioning. I am embarrassed to admit that in various stages of inebriation or clumsiness, I have dropped things in the toilet. But I always managed to grit my teeth and dive in to save them. The occasional toothbrush, dollar bills, unused but hopefully used in the future condoms bought for a quarter from those machines on the walls of barroom toilets, the keys to my car, and once at least, my wallet.

For some odd reason Rose's post tickled my funny bone. The tickle came from the fact that I identified with her as a blogger always looking for something to write about. Maybe I am off base here, but I imagine the dedicated bloggers often sit in front of their computers like me and stare at the empty "Create" screen and their mind goes "Duh". But the urge to put pen to paper so to speak overwhelms our lack of creativity in that moment. Writing something is better than writing nothing.

This morning is the perfect example here in the hole I call my office. I generally will wake up, check emails, and then punch up the blog to spend some time expressing my opinion on whatever happens to be bouncing around the void at the moment. On those days I have nothing, I seek out ideas and will shamelessly poach from others. As I have today. Thank You Rose for giving me some inspiration.

So what's my point? Does it matter? Just satisfying that Jones, scratching that itch is all that really matters. Do I always have to have something important to relate? From my intermittent reviews of posts written in the past, I would say important has not been one of my priorities. Today is no exception. Today I concentrate on living up to my spiffy slogan at the top. Blatant Self Indulgence.

BTW - When I punched up the search button for "toilet" in Photobucket, 27,376 images of toilets and related activities became available for my viewing, er, pleasure? 27,376 images! Again I am just astounded at the things that folks take pictures of.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tag is for Kids. Meme's aren't

GJG over at Three Score plus Ten has pulled out the dreaded Tag game. The Meme. The reveal stuff about yourself you might not want to game. He is being kind with this one though. No questions about who my favorite porn star is or what type of underwear I favor. Pretty tame and reasonable stuff. As always, these Meme's are harder to do than they first appear. The movie quote and the famous person question were the toughest. One because I could not remember the movie quotes exactly and had to look them up. And the famous person thing because I have met more than a few but not many impressed me that much.


1) What is your favorite quotable line from a Movie.
"I love the smell of Napalm in the Morning" - Robert Duvall in "Apocalypse Now" Why? Well it pretty much sums up the Viet Nam War for me. The madness that tore the country up for 10 years. The tragic comedy of war maybe.
The runners up - but not by much
"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room" - Peter Sellers as the President in "Dr Strangelove"
"No time for the ole in out Love, I've just come to read the meter" - Alex in "A Clockwork Orange"

2) Who is the most famous person you have spoken to?
This is a tough one. I have met and spoken to two presidents. JFK and Bush the first. But then there was my stint as a Rock and Roll truck driver. I spoke to and caroused with more than few famous rock stars. But I think the person who impressed me the most was Patti Page. On a beach somewhere in Florida as a kid, I was intently collecting shells. This weird woman (well I thought she was weird at first) approached me and asked me what I was doing. I remember looking at the shells in a pile at my feet and thinking, "Duh lady. What do you think I am doing?" But I was nice and told her, "Collecting shells." And for the rest of the afternoon she and I wandered the beach looking for shells. It was not until that evening when my parents took me to the lounge to see Patti Page sing I connected the dots. While we were on the beach many people would look at us, wave and smile. I remember telling my mom that was the lady I collected shells with. She did not believe me until Patti mentioned her afternoon between songs. That was very cool for a kid in the fourth grade to be mentioned like that.

David Bowie would be next I guess. He had arranged for a catered meal backstage at the old Boston Garden for the crew as a thank you for the hard tour we just finished. I invited my parents down from Maine to see what this touring job I did was about. Bowie sat down at the table I was sharing with my parents and broke bread with us. Talked with my parents for quite awhile. When he left Dad said, "What nice young man. Smart, very smart." And then Mom said, "Isn't he a homosexual? He doesn't act like one."

3) How many bags/boxes of Potato Chips are consumed at your place in a month?
One or two maybe. Just today I ate some chips. Can't remember the last bag I opened. Don't ask me about Cheezits though. If they are in the cupboard, they are not there for long.

4) Who is your all time favorite Cartoon Character?
Cheech Wizard. Enough Said. Pogo would be a close second. "I have met the enemy and he is us".

5) What foreign food Dish do you prepare from scratch and Serve?
Does throwing Canadian bacon into a skillet qualify?

6) What is your favorite section of the Supermarket?
The Exit

7) What was your high school teams mascot and what were the school's colors?
I went to a military school. Our mascot was us. We were called "The Cadets", or "K-dets" as we referred to ourselves.. Our colors were khaki and olive drab. But the various teams seemed to have no rhyme or reason for the colors they used. If I remember right, I played lacrosse in either red and white outfits or white and gold outfits. And it wasn't based on home or away. We just changed during the time I was there. I swam competitively in black trunks. I played soccer in black and gold duds. But everything else was khaki or olive drab.

Now I have to tag 5 other lucky souls with this meme. They are supposed to refer to the tagger who tagged them and without complaint fill out the questionnaire. And finally like me, tag 5 other to this point un-tagged people. So on and so on until .......... Really. Where does a meme stop? Does anyone keep track of this shit? I am sure someone out there knows what meme has expanded the most. Anyway without any fanfare I tag The Dude, Apertome, Dawn, Carlita, and that mice hater, Toklas

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mice, Lace and Butch

Where to start? I'd start at the beginning but I guess I really don't remember now where it all started. But I will try.

The nice femme over to "the slant" wrote about her experience with a mouse in her house. Being butch gay, she hated the stereotypical girly reaction she had over said mouse. She told the tale with humor but she felt her reaction went against the grain of who she thought she was. This created some interesting responses and follow up posts from some of her regular commenters. Dawn from MDI with her usual in your face style was not sympathetic. It was all in fun and everyone I think knew it.

Then for some big local gathering of the clan, Dawn pulled out her sewing machine and produced a pair of lounge around the house pants with mice prints on them and lace at the bottom. In front of the clan, she presented said pants to Ms Toklas. Even took pictures.

This resulted in blog posts from Toklas and Dawn about mice, lace and what these things meant in the overall scheme of their gayness. Both women are very butch. They say they are, so I believe them. Lace apparently has some kind of deep meaning that me as a guy will never understand. Something about subjugation of women and keeping them in line as second class citizens. Toklas anguished over whether to remove the lace or keep it. And then she asked us what we thought. Most, if not all said keep it. I was part of the keep it crew, but I am sure my opinion rated slightly less than zero. I'm a fringe spectator here and not one of the boys. ;)

Dawn of MDI then took this whole pigeonholing idea and worked up one of the finest posts I have read regarding what other folks in our chosen communities expect of us. Her post was enlightening for me in that I had never considered that there were so many different compartments that made up that big box called Gay.

From her Post "Contradictions"

"To the lesbian world, I am a big butch gal who drives a truck and uses tools and generally does all kinds of butchly things and then I throw a wrench into the works by announcing that I can sew and cook. The queer community sees me first as butch, then as a woman, never considering that I might be comfortable in some areas of both.

I have to say that I generally get more grief from lesbians, particularly butch ones, for my sewing and cooking than I ever get from the straight world for welding and carpentry.

And I find that to be both fascinating and sad."

I too find that fascinating. It never occurred to me that the gay community would run itself pretty much the same as the rest of the World does. But it makes sense. Dynamics are dynamics. The basic structure of how they play out must be similar from one group to the next. Your own kind are often the harshest judges of who you are and what you do. Anything perceived as being "outside" the parameters of what is acceptable is not as politely dealt with by birds of the same feather. No better example exists than Jesse Jackson's recent "off mike" remarks about Obama.

We all tend to hold those we consider "our kind" to higher standards than the rest of the slobs on the street. Why is that? Because it somehow reflects on us? Our self induced limits and rules are somehow in danger when one of our own steps outside them. Maybe we feel that any strides our group has made will be somehow damaged if some of us do not toe the line. We worry that someone from our side will drag us down with them by their actions? It seems when the stereotype we have designed for ourselves is shaken by one of our own, we get pissy.

The answer to these questions and worries is yes, in many cases the out of character actions of some of us do result in negative responses from the outside. Because the other slobs on the street tend to judge us as a group by the actions of the few they encounter. It is not right, but there it is. I have been guilty. And if we are honest with ourselves, all of us have been guilty to some degree at some point in our lives.

Rationally we know it is wrong to judge others by the actions of the few. One bad or odd apple and all that. But irrationality tends to rule when one group paints a picture of another. Stereotyping others is easier than taking the time to get to know them. And this brings up why my recent fascination with Dawn, Toklas etc has been so enlightening for me. Their openess about what group they are part of and at the same time showing me they are really not any different than the rest of us has been a great experience. It reinforces why everyday I do my best to not make snap judgements about anybody. It reinforces for me the fact that the walls we erect between ourselves are built with stupidity and brainless endeavor.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This is Going to Sting a Bit x Two

It has been several years since I have been stung by a bee, hornet, or wasp. At least that long because I cannot even recall the last time it happened. Other than hurting like Hell, a bee sting usually has no lasting effect on me. In my past doing the stupid things kids do I have been involved in many multi-sting incidents and been just fine after the initial pain dissipated. I usually would prefer a bee sting to a Horse or Deer Fly bite. Now those bastards hurt. And they are relentless. The mania they create in me every year is a story onto itself.

This lack of fear of all things bee like has enabled me to peacefully co-exist with them just fine. Even after they take their pound of flesh, I just blow it off as part of that wonderful outdoor experience. That is until this week.

Monday, I'm minding my own business trimming up some bushes in the front dooryard. Got the fancy Black and Decker electrified hedge trimmers going full bore. Suddenly two smallish hornets land on my left hand, both crowded on the second knuckle. In the instant I saw them, it looked like one was trying to elbow the other one out for the best spot to inject fire. Before I can shake them, BAM BAM, a double whammy of pain that definitely got my attention. Then they casually flew off while I cussed and fumed shaking my hand while almost dropping that fancy hedge trimmer on my foot.

This story would not even be worth mentioning if not for the odd aftermath. My knuckles swelled for an hour or so and then went back to normal. Pain was gone and I went back to whistling while I worked. Two days later I woke up and the top of my hand looked like the front of a catcher's mitt. Kinda freaked me out. No pain, but it looked awful. That has never happened before. As I write this 5 days later, the left hand still looks a bit odd and my second finger feels like it is in a tight but invisible bandage. And my feet tingle and itch. They have been since that second day. Are the two related? The feet and the sting? I ponder this every time I want to take some 80 grit sandpaper to the bottom of my feet. Just enough itch to slowly drive me bonkers as I cruise through my day.

Part Two

And then today I decide to stop while cycling home from the shop. There was a small open area of woods that some loggers had cut out to use as a landing to load logs a few years back. Trees had not really begun their comeback, but some nice wildflowers had. I decided to take some pictures.

Again within a week, I am minding my own business when my right ring finger gets nailed by one of these little beauties to the right. Now I have both hands not up to full capacity and I am beginning to nurture a complex about my relationship with the insects in my area. This Black wasp hurt more than the double hornet sting 5 days ago. Hurt so bad I wondered who in the Hell thought the word "sting" was a strong enough word to cover what this big bastard did to my hand. The word "sting" is a word the doctor uses just before he does something painful to my body. What that black wasp did was something more. Something deeper. Something very excruciating. I will have no problem remembering this one.

It has been a couple of hours now since the incident. Oddly, once again the swelling has gone down to almost normal. And my feet still itch. Do they itch more? The hypochondriac in me says "Yeah dude, your feet itch more fer sher".

The sensible Mike and down to Earth Mike says, "Nah brah, it's a fig newton of your imagination".

And the Mike who deals with the real life in front of him says, "Dudes, shut the Hell up. You both are driving me whacko."

So here I sit with busted mitts, trying to understand and break down the awesome idea of chance, luck of the draw, and how coincidences packed too closely together can give someone a severe case of paranoia. I will definitely not take my relationship with bees, wasps, and hornets for granted again for quite awhile.

Some of the photos I paid for with my flesh

What is cool is I may have some satisfaction afterall. This first picture is of a good sized stylish spider sucking the life juices out of the type of wasp that nailed me. This picture was taken not 15 feet away from where I was stung. When I took this I did not identifiy the insect being sucked dry. I was after a shot of that spider wearing the cool duds.

Apparently this bad ass spider favors bugs of the bee/wasp variety. Note the bumbly bee hanging drained at the bottom. I found two more carcasses on the ground. Given my current attitude towards wasps, this is one more reason to like spiders.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The American Haters

Among other things, I was called an "America Hater" the other day on a political forum I made the mistake of re-visiting after a prolonged absence. 10 plus years of abuse on forums and newsgroups have made me immune to these kind of troll like taunts. I only chuckle now at the lack of imagination shown by pulling these tired old insults out of that tired old bag of political discussion tricks.

But once again, something someone said got me thinking in a new direction. I thought about what kind of person would seriously consider this statement as representing my view of America. What kind of person would be so intolerant and stupid as to base their opinion of me on one view stated on a forum with no other knowledge about me. Unfortunately, there are many stupid and intolerant people out there on both sides of the political fence. And they are all way too eager to rush to judgement without even the slightest information to go on.

Many people are intent on forcing their idea of what America is or should be on others. They get on their high horses and spout off about what they think made America great and what made it great did not include me. I better get with their program or I am an America Hater, a pinko, or gasp - a liberal. To be fair, the other side does it also. If I even hint at being against some form of PC ness or voice an opinion that varies from the left wing sweetheart causes, I become a fascist, a lock step neo clown who is only in it for myself. Oh, and even some of them will pull out the "America Hater" tag now and again.

Seems no matter which way I turn, according to some I hate America. This is odd. If true, you would think I would have figured it out after 56 years on the planet. I am not the brightest star in the Galaxy, but I know whether or not I hate America. And so far I know I don't.

I hate some of the things we do. I hate some of the things we don't do. And I hate some of the things others would have us do. But on the whole I think this country is pretty special. I have no desire to live anywhere else. I have no plans to live anywhere else. I was born here and I plan to die here. If how I live or what I say gets the panties of another in a bunch I would tell them to pound sand. Why? Because I love this country and that's what we do. No one has the right to tell me how to live my life. If that is not loving the idea of America, I don't know what is.

Okay. So now I have established that I do love my country. You may ask so what's your point?

My point goes something like this - Anyone who would call another American an "America Hater" is lower than the insult they hurled in the first place. They are proving they are "American Haters". People who hold their fellow citizens in low regard just for having a different take. They make snap judgements based not on the rights spelled out in the Constitution, but some arbitrary wish list of rights they have secreted away in some party platform or fringe group list of rules and bylaws. If anyone is un-American, it is these folks who would consider the differences between us to be unpatriotic instead of celebrating the fact that we are allowed to have those differences as a right of being a citizen. By using terms like "America Hater", they are inferring that given the opportunity they would gladly usurp the Constitution and throw our sorry butts out or in some prison just for speaking our minds. If that is not hating America, I do not know what is.

So to all you flounders out there who would scold me for not wearing a flag pin, having magnets on my car or calling a negro a black instead of an African American, I say you folks need to get a grip. You also need to re-think what America is really about. It is not here to meet your idea of what it should be. It is here to be what it should be for all of us. If you have no room for differences then maybe you should be the one to leave, not me.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dog Training

The Mary Grant Nature Preserve across the road from my house is a small 14 acre parcel of old White Pines, some hardwoods of various flavors, and a minimum of pucker. Because the tall thick canopy of trees is so effective at keeping the Sun at bay, much of the ground has nothing but pine needles, leaves and the small shade loving plants that exist best with little sunlight. In our area of Maine, this is an unusual situation. Most times any woods next to a road or trail look like an impenetrable wall of branches vines and thorny vegetation.

I have been enjoying the open woods of Mary's Park long before it was Mary's Park. Going back to when Mary was still alive and being the oddly nice person she was. Mary died and left the property with folks who would turn it into something for all to enjoy. Her only rule was no development. It had to stay in it's natural state. In that it was and still is completely surrounded by private property, it sat there naturally and unused for several years while Land Trusts passed it from one to another and tried to figure out what to do with it. 14 acres is chump change when it comes to parks and stuff I guess. Too small to be of any worth among the ecologically hip of the Land trust, parks are us crew. So they gave it to the Town of Acton.

Small town dynamics are..... well, the word interesting comes to mind. Suddenly this new problem of free land had to be dealt with. Heated discussions ensued about what to do. Some said refuse the gift. Some said let's turn it into recreation fields and open spaces for the kids to enjoy. But I think in the back of the minds of every tightwad resident in town, the question was, "What is it going to cost us? Nothing is free". In the meantime, I did what I always did. Just enjoyed it for what it was. A nice small parcel of open woodlands for my pets and myself to enjoy.

The development crowd were shot down quickly as Mary's will was very specific that it not be developed. This made the tightwad crowd happy. But they had to do something with it. Couldn't just let it sit there like it had for the last hundred years as it turned from field to forest. The town owned it now and it had to be messed with. They tore down the original house and fixed up the small barn. Brought in some fill to make the roadside section more attractive. Toss in some picnic tables, a loop trail, and some posts pounded into the ground to keep out the ATVs and voila, a nice little piece of Maine is being enjoyed by the few who find it or know it is there.

You might be wondering why I titled this piece "Dog Training". After that rather long winded intro, I am beginning to wonder myself. But what the Hell, let's move along and I will try to tie it up as neatly as I can.

This quiet place across the road from my house has become the training center where I have attempted with mixed results to bring order out of chaos into the mind of Stub. Stubby is a wonderful dog. But she is a dog. Prone to manic moments of delirious dog behaviour when confronted with the wide open piece of dog heaven just across the road.

Our forays there have become so commonplace, she knows before I head there, we are going to go walk or ride there. One moment she is hunkered under the bushes in the front of the house and before I can even whistle for her, she is out and bouncing off invisible walls in anticipation.

I believe in responsible pet ownership. I also know they must hate leashes. I know I do. I have always tried to give my animals the freedom to be themselves whenever possible. I have explained this philosophy to Stubby on countless occasions. I have even shouted this philosophy to Stubby on many occasions. But being a dog, processing this philosophy into dog think always seems to settle in as, "Yee Ha, we're going to woods. I can be as loose as a goose and do whatever I want. Yeah I know he doesn't like it when I jump the wall, but the wall is there and needs to be jumped. The smells are always smellier on the other side."

With two different minds, Stubby and I begin our ritual of walking in the woods. She cannot wait and I of course want to make her wait. I want to trim the mania and bulging dog eyeball moments to a minimum right out of the gate. Start out with control and I am more likely to have some left when we come back.

So it all starts with crossing the road. That damn road. The road that cost Stubby one of her legs. The road that everyone but the residents speeds on. I am no fool. Well, I like to feed the illusion anyway. I know Stubby does what Stubby wants when she knows my eyes and ears are employed elsewhere. But when we approach the road I have a very specific ritual I make her suffer through.

"Sit", I say in my commanding dog owner voice. Stubby sits or lays. I gave up trying to get her to know the difference. At least she is still.

"Now Stub, look left", as I look left. Of course she looks at me.

"Now look right", and I look right. She is still staring at me.

"Look left again Stubb", and I look left. For some reason she always does look left the last time. Maybe she has figured out the short cut. I don't know. But as soon I say it, she is up and ready to cross when I utter that magical word, "Okay".

Once across the road, she dashes down the trail she wants to head. I always pick the other one. Why? I guess because these walks have a purpose. To instill some semblance of order in a disordered mind. So she always has to be reined in with a sharp whistle and reverse her course to suit mine. She switches her choices so often, I now wonder if she is not using some reverse psychology on me. My mind always goes back to that short cut moment when we cross the road.

We begin our walk in a counterclockwise direction on Trail #1. I am never sure why they numbered the trails as there are only two, but they did. I would have labeled them differently. One would be called "This Way" and the other one would become "That Way". They both come back to "Right Here" anyway because "That Way" runs into "This Way" and they become one always finishing "Right Here". The possibilities are not even close to endless.

I stay on the trail. Stubby doesn't. The classic dog, she crisscrosses the trail with nose to the ground. When we first began these walks when she was a puppy and still had all four legs, I did my best to turn her into the poster dog of good behaviour. Tried to keep her at my heel and looking at me with adoring eyes. I managed the adoring eyes thing, but I just had to give her the back and forth thing. I settled on being able to see her. After all, she almost always came instantly when I whistled or clapped my hands, or shouted until I was blue in the face.

I always come back from our walks or rides wondering about this "Dog Training" idea. Do we train them or do they train us? I have allowed my original purpose and intent to be molded and tweaked by this animal who is supposedly of lesser intelligence than I. If I was keeping score, I get the feeling I would not be winning. Thankfully neither of us seem to care who is winning.