Friday, July 30, 2010

Angry Serfs at the Palace Gate

In a 21st century remake of  angry serfs at the palace gate, throngs of polyester clad peasants wearing John Deere caps  brandish electronic rakes and pitchforks as they roll through the Internets gathering steam parroting the fear and hate spoon fed them by leaders who smile with greasy lips over the turmoil they have manged to stir up. 

Playing on the fears of the certified and assured bitter harvests in the future held dear and near the dark parts of what they call their minds, these self appointed protectors of the stupid fire up their Walmartian minions with unfounded claims and soon another undeserving soul is pilloried in the electronic equivalent of the town square.

As it was in the good ole days of Inquisitors and snake oil sellers, the truth becomes once again just another commodity to be traded in on mythical beasts coming for our daughters and imaginary government goons wanting to suck out our Life Essence so that the Devil, Beezlebub, Lucifer can enjoy three finger shots of our blood during Happy Hour at the Pinko Commie Islamic Bar n Grill.

Yes my friends, there is evil out there.  It wears a burka and waves a crescent graced flag.  It lurks with bated breath concealed in the shadows behind do-gooder facades that hide its insidious and dastardly purposes from the light of day.   There's a good reason the windows are painted over.

Carrying red, white n' blue standards, brave men and chaste women bunch up their panties as they gather in small groups on small minded stages to tell us what we want to hear, what we need to hear.  We know they are being straight with us by informing us it is not only okay to be pissing our pants over events that have not happened, but imperative that we focus on the worst case scenario even though a thousand other events must happen in just the right sequence first.  They most assuredly will because weasel faced Beckomann O'Hannity media monsters insist these doomsday dreams into existence.  For fear my quaking friends..... Fear will set us free.  It will release us from the responsibilities  of rational thought and productive solutions.  Being scared shitless is so much easier than thinking.  So much more convenient.


On the other side of the planet or somewhere in between, the other peons drinking the same kool aid only differing in hue are being rabble roused by similar dedicated demagogues sporting fancy turbans who have also assured their witlessly scared throngs that Evil is found out West in the Home of the Depraved, where the twin towers used to wave over streets dedicated to stealing their souls and ravaging their 72 Virgins.   Flinging Fatwas like Frisbees they send their loyal idiots on missions clad in exploding vests to fill  the Western cowpokes with dread..

And so it goes............The circle will not be broken. 

Lucifer sitting casually at Day Trader Vic's in his power tie and wing tipped loafers again sips and savors the fruits of his labor wherever he goes.  He cackles and rubs his hands together as if warming himself over the fires of Hell he has managed to visit upon all of us.  The red dude sure knows how to throw a party, even though the cover charge is more than we can afford.  He has convinced us all we need is plastic and a low interest mortgage on our souls. 

And while this world wide calamity unfolds around me,  while the firestorm builds to planet cracking temperatures, I sit here in a stupor among the pines and deer shit wondering why I didn't buy that 18 pack of Rolling Rock when I was in town earlier.

Okay.  Yeah.  I will admit that the previous whatever it might be or could be or almost was --- is the result of more beers than my current tolerance level is used to.  But hey there is a silver lining.  I get to rationalize  my earlier almost did it but didn't and now I have the excuse that being out of beer is a perfect excuse to take advantage of that $9.99 box of 18 bottles of Rolling Rock I saw stacked high as a giraffe's eye at the discount store in Sanford.  There is such a thing as cheap good beer.  And if there is indeed still the possibility of good cheap beer, all is not lost.  It is not as bad as I thought.  And even if it is, if the shit hits the fan this weekend, I will be able to quence my Hellfire planet destructiing induced thirst with cheap good beer.   And that is what really matters.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

FFF #37 - "Losing the Key to Life" - 250 words

Starter sentence this time was provided for us by Cormac. At a generous 250 to 1100 words, I chose the short cut.  Only this time I tried another dialog only piece.  Let me know what you think.

"As with juggling, the key to life is to keep the procession moving steady and don't look down."

"As with juggling, the key to life is to keep the procession moving steady and don't look down."

"No it ain’t. Life's all about balance man. Give and take. Shake and bake."

"Shake and bake? Shit dude, you even know what you are talking about?

"Yeah I do. Sure know a lot more than juggling keys or whatever shit you’re spewin."

"Okay smart guy, balance us out of this mess. Cops are streamin in like alewives through the Dead River Dam."

"Looks like it don't it? We're in a world of shit for sure………..And you said it was gonna be an easy score.

“Would have been if you hadn’t brought that freakin cannon… and then actually used it……..Look at her. Jeez what a mess. Right through the eye. You could have just winged her.”

“I told her to stay down on the floor more than once. She shoulda listened…….. she was makin me crazy with all the hysterics, all that blubbering.”

“Well it sure made the rest of them behave. I’ll give you that…………..but through the eye?............Damned cold dude.”

“Dead is dead. Don’t matter how it happens. She’ don’t seem too upset about it.”

“Great. More blue lights coming. How many cops do they need ferchrisakes?……….We ain’t skating this time. “

“Think we should give it up?”

“I dunno man. We’d live longer.”

“Yeah, long enough to stuff a needle in our arm.”

“Maine ain’t got no death penalty.”

“Oh. Well then I guess it’s up to us. Gimme that gun.”



Monday, July 26, 2010

Why I Blog

I have spent more time lately perusing blogs. Not more time than I have ever before. But more time than I have in recent months. And certainly more time spent than I should be spending given the overloaded work situation at the bike shop and at home.

Writer's blogs, Mommy blogs, political blogs, and everything in between.  Blogs that defy definition or fail to sit comfortably in their niche.  Raging crazy blogs and put me to sleep blogs.  Blogdom is indeed just another community of dissimilar souls all adding their unique spin on what is going on in the World.

I have long ago stopped worrying about what non-bloggers think about blogging.  I have become used to the ribbing and being held up to ridicule by those who are too cool to blog.  Everyone needs someone to look down on.  For some I fill that need.  I am glad to be of service as long as it doesn't cost me anything.  Their derision comes free of charge, so I am happy to make their day.

Many bloggers will share almost anything about themselves.  I know I have spilled things I would not bring up in the normal conversations that pass through my day.   I have read personal things of others that make me uncomfortable yet help me in my search for my own center.  By sharing our thoughts, no matter how mundane or trivial, we create for ourselves an outlet for the stressful garbage that clutters our lives.  When I vent and rant I always feel better after.  When I read of someone else having trouble, I know there are kindred spirits out there who suffer,laugh, and live Life much the same way I do.  And that makes me a happier person.

That is why I blog.  Simple as that.

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

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spin Cycle

While the washing machine is chasing out all the grunge, mud, and grit from my bike shop clothes and my riding duds, I figured I had a few minutes to sit down and waste some bandwidth.  There is either not much on my mind or there is so much crammed in there, all I hear is a dull roar as all those things needing my attention scream, holler, and stamp their feet in a vain attempt to get my attention.

Ferchrisakes, calm down.  And you there, yeah you, the returns I need to get to UPS.  Stop pouting.  You'll be on your way back from whence you came by day's end. 

I know, I know.  Yard, you have been ignored in recent weeks.  Hey, it's not my fault.  The weather wasn't cooperating there for awhile and well now, I'm busier than a .............Well you know what I mean.  I'll be out trimming you back and rubbing you down this weekend................I promise.

What's that?

Oh, you don't believe me.

Well get in line.  And here's a quarter to call someone who gives a shit.

Everything in it's own time........Well Geez guys, riled all of you up with that one.  You need to talk one at a time or I just cannot deal with you.  All you irritating duties and chores will continue to suck hind tit while I try to keep the madness at bay down to the bike shop if you don't cool your jets.  So be quiet and I might get some of you out of the way.  Or keep whining and I will walk around you until Hell freezes over.  Your choice.

Ah, that's better.  Now see.  When everyone quiets down I can almost single out one of you to dance with.

Damn.  It's a bitch being popular. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Suddenly I Was in Kansas

Last night I felt like I lived in Kansas for a few hours.  Either I had suddenly been transported there, or Kansas, maybe even just a slice of it, had been transported here.  Or maybe I was in Oklahoma, Nebraska, or North Texas.  Not sure, but I know in southern Maine we had a taste of what it might be like to live in Tornado Alley.

We don't get Tornadoes here often.  The last one I remember was in 1990 or so when one touched down in my ex-partner's property.  It tore up a few trees.  Twisted them like pretzels and then deposited them many feet from where they used to grow.  And then the funnel tore the garage door off his house.  And it was a small tornado.

So I am driving home last night.  In the distance I see darkening clouds.  Some more thunder boomers I thought.  I got home just as the first drops of rain began to fall.  What passed over our house was not a tornado.  But it was funneling.  The rain went horizontal and circled the house for maybe a couple of minutes.  Lightning flashed all around with no comfortable time between flash and boom.  And then it was gone.

This scenario repeated itself several more times until the cells of angry clouds finally moved out to the Atlantic.  In at least two towns nearby, tornadoes did touch down and did what tornadoes do.  Tore stuff up.

I only bring this up because this unusual weather is now becoming usual.  I have given up expecting the climatic rhythms I knew as a teen and young adult.  The winters have changed.  The summers are either hotter than we remember or it rains for two months.  The last five years here has been anything but predictable.

Since settling in Maine, I have become used to severe cold, deep snow that stays put for 5 months, Blizzards that trap me in my house for days at a time, and ice storms that coat everything in 1/2 inch coatings of ice.  That's normal.  In the summer I am used to the occasional thunderstorm and lightning strike.  I once felt the peripheral shock of one that hit a utility pole 50 feet from my house.  I was standing on my garage floor barefoot and holding the door up so a soaked kitty could come in out of the rain.  Both me and the kitty jumped about three feet in the air when it hit.  I will always remember how lucky I was.

But last night, it was damn scary.  Seeing the leaves on the trees all swirling in the same direction and the flashes of lightning all around and so close.  Mother Nature is not happy.  I really am beginning to believe that.

And before anyone thinks this is a post with political aspirations.  It is not.  I don't care how, who, or why it is happening.  But the weather patterns have shifted.  Maybe for the long haul. Maybe not.  To ignore that the climate is different than it was 20 years ago is about as bad a case of denial as I can think of.  Warming or cooling, the weather in Maine has changed.  I will just have to get used to it.

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


Image from "Portland Press Herald" - I assume it is from the damage in Gorham

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time Off With Good Behaviour

Harumph, Grumble, Phfft.

It's not exactly a bad mood............No, I am not angry.  Disgruntled maybe.

Woke up this morning and made the mistake of turning on the tube.  Why would I do that?  It's been a wonderfully quiet time here on Sam Page Road these last 60 days or so without Meredith, Matt, Al, or Ann throwing media molasses into my day before it really has a chance to get up a decent head of steam.

Seems  the top news items were covered by the time I tuned in over my bowl of shop brand wannabe granola (hey it actually tastes ok, given it is probably 75% cellulose - throw enough sugar on anything and....) - Anyway, by the time I really paid attention, the Today Show team had zeroed in on the Hot News item of the day.  An issue so important, they had some talking head from California on to describe this vitally important topic to viewers who might not be able to understand the intricacies and the subtle nuances of Lindsay Lohan's first night in jail.  

It appears that with (and they are making a HUGE assumption here) - with good behaviour taken into account, Lindsay will only serve 13 days of her 90 day sentence. 

Breathe a sigh of relief America. 

At this point, I turned the damn TV off and finished my cuttings from the forest floor cereal. 

I Googled Lindsay for the wonderful image you see up at the top.  And for a moment I was going to actually read about her.  I still have no clue who or what she is other than I am guessing just another Hollywood loser who can't keep an even keel.

I decided not to read about her.  Getting my information in 30 second soundbites or headline snippets while perusing the scandal rags at the check out line seemed about all of my attention she deserved. 

Yet, her influence is pervasive.  She has such a grip on our collective attention span that even I, an admitted out of touch with what's currently hip aging fart in Maine,  have devoted a blog post to her.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FFF #36 - 3rd try - Souvenirs

My third effort for Cormac's weekly FFF challenge

This story came to me one bit and a couple of pieces at a time.  It came so hard, I was sure I had bitten off more than I can chew when I indicated I would write a seperate story using each of the three starters.  I had planned to keep this one to 250 words, but well, 250 words is more difficult sometimes than I think it is. 

Welles says, "In the distance I saw all kinds of birds circling over something, but I couldn't tell what from where I was." 

This starter could be taken almost anywhere.  I ended up with this.


"In the distance I saw all kinds of birds circling over something, but I couldn't tell what from where I was.  But I had my suspicions.  After all, the man's been missing now what?  Three, four days anyway."

"Well sir, saw them birds orbiting something so I crossed the stone wall  into the pucker to check it out.  'Bout fifteen minutes of bushwhackin got me to the clearing.  A couple of vultures looked up at me when I busted through the brush.  It was Gil alright.  Birds had taken his eyes and I'm guessin some furry critters had visited.  Couldn't tell what killed him, he was such a mess.............Damn freaky I'll tell ya.  Draped over that big rock all splayed out like he was."

Wilfred Brackett paused.  Lifting his beer mug, he tried to catch Jeff's attention at the other end of the bar.  No good.  Jeff was too involved in Cleo's cleavage and thinking dirty thoughts.  Cleo was too involved in allowing Jeff to harbor those dirty thoughts. 

"Why don't you two get a room ferchrisakes", Wilfred said under his breath.  He sighed or maybe it was more of a groan as he unwound himself from the bar stool.  Forty years of living off the woods had taken their toll.  He gimped around the back of the bar and pulled another draft for himself.

Sap Benson watched Wilfred.  "Hey Will, what's up with the hand?  Quite a gash there."

Wilfred finished pulling his draft and held up his hand and rotated it.  "Yeah, one of them damn vultures got me when I tried to scatter them.  A feast like Gil drew em from all over."  Wilfred limped back to his stool and struggled up onto it's worn seat.  He took a sip off the top of his beer.  Foam dribbled from the corners of his mustache onto his grey beard.  He didn't bother to wipe it off.

"So whatja do about Gil?"  Sap hated and loved Will's stories.  They never seemed to follow any convenient line.  Came out in bit's and pieces until finally the listener had the full scoop.  But in the end, his tales always satisfied.

Will wasn't about to be hurried.  He turned and looked at Sap.  "Didn't do anything.  I came here."

"You left him out there?"

"Well yeah.  Even after what all the critters had eaten, Gil was still no light weight.  Musta been 250 lbs of dead stinkin meat layin there.  I didn't have my portable winch or a shovel with me.  What the Hell did you think I was gonna do, carry the fat bastard out on my shoulders?  Came here and called the State Police bout twenty minutes ago.  Let them deal with Gil."

Wilfred settled in and concentrated on his second draft.   Sap knew better than to push for more information.  It would come in it's own time.  He continued to nurse that one beer he allowed himself when he came to the Eustis Bar n Grill. 

"Odd thing though." Wilfred set his empty mug down.  "I weren't the first one to find Gil."

"How do you know?"

"The clearing where I found him was right off that old tote road that comes out near the Simmons place.  You know, the old road all them ATVers, motorcycles and those fools who ride bicycles in the woods use to get over to the Gap north of town."

"Yeah, I know the trail.  Use it myself in the winter when I take the sled out."

"Well sir, found a couple of tire tracks leadin from the old tote road right up to Gil's body.  Fresh too.  Had to be after that rain we had this morning."

"What kind of tracks?  Did you call the cops?"  Sap was caught now.   He was even thinking a second beer might be needed.

Wilfred turned and looked at Sap with disgust.  "Some kinda motorcycle or pedal bike they use in the woods I'm guessin........and I just told you I called the cops.  Pay attention ferchrisakes.  Matter a fact, I'm supposed to meet up with them shortly to show them where Gil is.  Figured I needed stop first for some, what do they call it now, hydration?"  Wilfred grinned.

Just then the front door swung open.  As it is in every small bar in every small burg of the World, every eye in the place turned to see who was coming in.  Two figures were standing in the bright back light of the open door.  They were laughing as they looked around for a place to sit.  Two mud spattered young men settled into a booth along the wall behind Wilfred and Sap.  Their skin tight shorts and yuppie watches told everyone these guys were mountain bikers  from away.  Everyone turned back to what they were doing and ignored them.

Wilfred finished his beer and again extricated himself from the bar stool.  His bones whined and complained as he straightened up.  He turned to Sap. "Want to head up with me to meet the cops?"

Sap looked down at the last gulp of beer in his mug.  He wasn't sure viewing or worse, smelling the rot of a large dead body in the woods was a good idea.  His stomach was skittish around that kind of thing.  But he grabbed his beer and drained what was left.  Hopping off  his stool, he said, "Yeah....Sure.  Why not?"

He and Wilfred headed to the parking lot. A car with Massachusetts plates was parked next to Wilfred's old Chevy Blazer,  Two mud covered bikes were secured into the racks on top of it.  Sap looked the bikes over as he walked around to the passenger side of the Blazer.  Something caught his eye.  He began to open the passenger door, when suddenly he slammed it shut.  Turning he studied the car from Massachusetts.

"Will..........Uh hey Wilfred."

Wilfred had already settled in behind the wheel and was fumbling with his keys.  He looked through the passenger window.  "What?  Come on Sap, we gotta go."

"No Will.  You gotta see this."  Sap pointed to the bikes on the roof of the car from Massachusetts.

Wilfred tried to lean over far enough to see the bikes on the roof of the car next to his.  They were too high up.  Grumbling and fussing, he climbed out of the Blazer and limped around to where Sap was standing.

Still pointing his finger, Sap said, "I thought you said the birds had taken Gil's eyes?" 

Wilfred followed Sap's finger to the bikes on the roof.  All he saw were wheeled contraptions that made no sense to him.  "What are you talking about?  Of course the birds got his eyes.  That's one of the first things they go for."

"Look harder Will, right there on the fork of the green bike."

Suddenly Wilfred spotted them.  Impaled on each fork leg was an eye ball.  Blue just like Gil's.  Wilfred stepped closer to confirm.  Yes, it was indeed a set of eyeballs stuck on these forks.

Stepping back, Wilfred considered this for a moment.  Finally he looked at Sap and said,  "Damn tourists and their souvenirs."


And yeah, that's a picture of my bike.  But I ain't from away. And I ain't from Eustis either.  Although I once had a sticker on my old Datsun pickup that said. "Get Useless in Eustis."  It was from a tittie bar there I absolutely do not remember visiting.

Until next time...........................................

Monday, July 19, 2010

FFF #36 - 2nd try - Dreams Do Come True - 250 Words

Friday Flash Fiction's starter sentence this week was "writer's choice".  I chose a big bite by claiming I would write a story using all 3 starter sentences.  What follows is effort 2 using  Sue's sentence , "You know that feeling when you wake up sweating and think 'thank goodness it was only a dream'?"

Dreams Do Come True

You know that feeling when you wake up sweating and think “thank goodness it was only a dream”? Running dreams do it for me. Dark hulking figures chasing me down ancient cobbled alleys or through and under gruesome trees wearing Spanish moss under the full Moon. I hear footsteps behind me. My breath is labored and …………………….

Seems all of us have a couple of dark dream sequences we repeat from time to time. Only this time I wake up sweating and my hopes are dashed. The Moon is indeed above my head and dancing in the dark wind, Spanish moss moves to its dark rhythm.

A twig snaps. I turn to face the sound. Behind me another twig snaps. Every sense jerks into overdrive. The sweat, that breath I can not catch is not from a dream. This is no virtual world of my own making. There are hulking dark figures out there. And they want me.

I remember now. My previous hours play back through my mind. A fight, much blood and……………………………….I look down to my shirt. It is torn, tattered and covered with, ….yes, it’s blood alright.

Kneeling now, I peek around the tree I woke up under. Some brush rustles to my left and I turn. Coming towards me are two hulking figures. Throwing my back against the tree again I open my mouth to scream……………… A light blinds me.

“Over here........... Bring the buggy. Dude’s all cut up.”

“Well, at least this one’s still alive.”

A big thanks to Cormac for keeping this flame rolling while I took my mini sabbatical to face the real challenges out here in the physical world.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

FFF #36 - 1st try - The Shepherd – 250 Words

Starter Sentence - Looking at it from their point of view, then yeah, I would be pissed also.

Looking at it from their point of view, then yeah, I would be pissed also.

But I cannot worry about the feelings of others. Let them be angry, raise their clenched fists and stamp their feet. The Process will not be stopped. They cannot stop it. I cannot stop it. I can only keep it somewhat on track. Without my guidance, the process would spin out of control. More than the few I upset now would be in a world of hurt. Most if not all would not even exist without my steady hand on the tiller.

It is funny though. The pain I cause for some becomes pleasure when experienced by others. In some quarters I am deified. In others I am vilified. But in many, my existence is ignored or even denied.

Many resent the power I have over their lives. Others embrace my dominance and assign me abilities I will never have. I deserve no thanks. I deserve no resentment. It is my job.

In the beginning it was easy. The network was small and had not yet stretched past the horizon. Now it wanders aimlessly beyond line of sight and mind. My efforts become more diluted with every passing moment.

Omnipotent I am not. Neither am I impotent. I am but a steward tasked with trying to keep the balance between now and then. Keeping that balance may not be convenient or kind. Without balance, there would be no existence of any sort.

Now say Amen.

I decided to use my own starter sentence for this Friday Flash Fiction effort.  I have delusions of grandeur again by thinking that since it is a "writer's choice" week, I will attempt to write something using each of the three sentences suggested.

We'll see............................................

Image - William Blake's "The Ancient of Days" - If interested in this really cool old dead Brit - go here

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Bonehead Also Rises

Cormac just posted a link , "I write like".  It is a program that analyzes one's writing and spits out a famous author's name who best represents your style.  I punched in one of my 250 word stories, "Climax".  It spit out a result that surprised me.  Ernest was never one of my favorite reads.  I enjoyed his Nick Adams stories and tolerated his novels, but never really got into him.  I did however love the way he wrote.  He packed so much into so few words.  He was the master of brevity for sure.

Cormac did not see the resemblance of his writing to that of Robert Louis Stevenson. I don't see any resemblance to Ernest either.  But then this site wants to "help" me get published.  It would not make sense to tell me I write like JJ Wordbungler whose one million handwritten words were rejected by every publisher on this hemisphere and most on the next and then died  in some back alley hovel with his pen still clamped between his forefinger and thumb.  Telling me the truth would certainly put a damper on my enthusiasm.  But then the site only states "I write like", not  "I write as well as".  

I write like
Ernest Hemingway
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ten Seconds of Peace on Earth - 250 Words

Most moments of our time on this planet are barely noticed.   The moments that stand out in our memories often are ones we focus on because we have to, want to, or expect to.  Some moments though, come by accidentally and without warning.  They grab our attention as unrelated circumstances come together in just the right way to make that moment stand out over the other moments on either side of it.  Right place, right time sort of thing.  Or wrong place, wrong time.  It can certainly go either way.

While finishing up last Thursday's shop ride I had such a moment.  This moment lasted maybe 10 seconds.  So I think it would be appropriate to use my 250 word format to describe it.

Ten Seconds of Peace on Earth

It was a hot ride. The humid air had turned my lungs into wet sponges. Finally we came out of the woods onto Marginal Way. This shade covered back lane of neat homes meant the bike shop was only a few minutes away and I could stop wheezing.

The ritual was always the same at the trail head. The riders who lived nearby would split off shouting “Good Ride”, or “Give me a call about Sunday”. The rest of us would begin the casual half mile spin back to the bike shop.

I saw her as we pedaled onto the last section of Marginal Way. Not an unusual thing to see a woman  in the afternoon busily tending to the flowers and plants in her dooryard. But there she was water can in hand, kneeling in the late day sun that had found its way through the high trees.

As we rode closer, she stood up and removed her big floppy hat. A curl of blonde hair dropped to her shoulder. She turned and smiled at us as we rode by. Sweat glistened on her forehead. She wiped her brow with her wrist and tucked the curl back behind her ear. Her gloved hand waved.

I smiled and waved back. I knew I had just experienced a moment of peace that rarely finds its way through all the flotsam and jetsam that clutters my life on a day to day basis. For one moment, maybe ten seconds, my world was perfect.


Keep it 'tween the Ditches......................................

Image - Painting by Robert Lewis Reid

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

FFF #35 - Guard Duty

This post, such as it is, marks my return to Friday Flash Fiction.  It has been awhile.  Not sure what to think of this one, other than it came to me when our grey cat, GG, strutted up to me trying to meow through the vole he had stuffed in his mouth.  Found the picture and well, what follows was the result. 

The sentence this week came via Flannery  - "I don't disagree with you, but you have to admit, this puts me in a delicate position."

"I don't disagree with you, but you have to admit, this puts me in a delicate position."

With one eye Tony looked at Vic in disgust while the other eye targeted a lazy fly. "I hate it when you go all hoity toity Vic. Delicate position? What the Hell does that mean? You wearing something belonging to the missus again?" Both eyes were now drawing a bead on the fly.

Vic turned and looked at Tony.  He cleared his throat and said,  "You know I like to be called Victor."   Tony grunted.  His attention was now on the fly.

Vic gazed out on the wide expanse that seperated them from Dark Woods. He turned back just in time to see Tony flick his tongue and catch the fly. While Tony convulsed his throat tossing back the fly into his gullet, Vic continued.  "If I have spell it out for you my wart encrusted friend, I would say that while I can see your point and agree with you, my new position as a Ward of the Periphery does not allow me the freedom to put our safety before the safety of the group."

"Jeezum Vic,  Ward of the Periphery?  Fancy titles don't change the fact we are pulling plain ole guard duty.  You are expendable my friend.   All I suggest is a way to deal with this new stream that has marooned us here.  Ya know we can't stay here.  Too exposed.  Those nasty stinkin owls would just love to make you lunch.  You know they don't leave much when they are done.  Puke your hard parts up while your soft parts come out the other end.   I ain't throwing myself in harm's way to save your dumb ass.  Makes more sense to find our way back to the edge of the Dark Woods where we can relax and still keep watch. "

Victor pretended to consider Tony's suggestion.  But voles are hardheaded little jerks.  He had been given a directive and a position to hold.  By God, he was going to follow through.  Turning around was not an option. "Again Tony I cannot emphasize too strongly how much I agree with your turn and run suggestion, but Boss Mole gave both of us a job to do and I for one consider it my duty to see this mission through............ You want to turn back?  Go ahead.  I will stay.  Maybe we can move over there near that hump?"

Victor turned and took a few tentative steps towards the hump further out into the Great Unknown.  A Sparrowhawk dropped out of the Sun just missing Victor with those impaling claws they like to keep so sharp.  Victor piddled and then panicked.  There was no cover. Not even any dead leaves to try and crawl under.  The new stream had washed everything down to dirt.

Tony watched as Victor ran around in circles screaming.  He looked bored.  Voles were just so damn high strung.  Smart maybe, but jeez they were an ansty breed.  Tony swallowed some air and bloated his throat in a show of defiance in case the sparrowhawk was watching.  He was pretty sure though, that sparrow hawk was already on the hunt for other game.  They rarely hit the same place twice.  He let Tony get through the worst of his panic attack and then spoke up.

Vic!.......Victor........."  Nothing, Vic was too busy being hysterical.  He needed a few more minutes.  Tony settled down and once again looked across the broad expanse of water that blocked their return to the Dark Woods and safety. 

He could easily just hop into the brook and swim across even though it was not in a toad's nature to swim much.  But he could do it.  Leaving this whiner behind was becoming more attractive with every frantic spin Victor made.  But then there would questions to answer, paper work to fill out, and besides, he actually liked the little furball.  Victor was the only mammal in the community who would scratch his back when it itched.  Tony sighed and hopped closer to Victor.  Flicking out his tongue, he caught Vic right between his beady eyes and almost knocked him down.  That got Vic's attention.

"What the Hell Tony?  That hurt."

"With or without you Vic, I'm finding some cover."  Tony hopped into the shallow edge of the stream.  "Come on Vic.  I will leave you."

Victor looked at Tony poised in the shallows ready to retreat.  He turned back to gaze towards the Great Unknown.  Lifting his nose, his whiskers twitched as he tasted the air coming from that direction.  He turned back to look at Tony.

Tony moved further out, stopping just as the water came up under his chin.  "Coming or not?"

Victor's shoulders seemed to slump as he scurried over to Tony and jumped on his back.  "Okay, let's go.  But you know there's gonna be Hell to pay when Boss Mole finds out we abandoned our post?"

Tony rolled his eyes.  "Only way he finds out is if one of us tells him.  Now hold on  and stop fidgeting."


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Remote Living

I have mentioned recently that I am doing my best to not let politics or religion get to me and ruin what might be my best frame of mind in months.  To that end I have cut my mass media consumption to a minimum.

It seems though, I cannot avoid the onslaught of messages designed to inflame the inner whacko who lurks just below my public surface. No matter what I do or where I am, "they" find me and another needle is stuck in.

Because it has been so damn hot this past week, staying hydrated has taken center stage.  I can ill afford the frothing foam it would take to tear off a decent rant of the theocratical or political kind.  So instead, today I will choose a less controversial bone to pick, but one that has stuck in my craw from the first day I saw or used one.

I saw  my first remote, oh, at some point in my early teens.  One of my more well to do buds dragged a few of us over to his house to see the new "Color TV" his dad had paid seriously too much money for.  The color images were shaky but the screen was way big.  Must have been at least 20" across.  What really caught my attention was the gizmo that sat on the coffee table.  About the size of a  paper back book, it shined with a golden hue.  I picked it up.

"What's this?"

Not one of my buds heard me.  They were too busy oohing and aahing over the faint colors that faded in and out as the signal fluctuated.  The better off dad had not figured out he would need a seriously just shy of an inner galactic antenna array on the roof to draw in a decent chunk of TV rays.

Getting no reply, I pushed the button on the top of this book sized futuristic object.  To my surprise, the TV went dead when the box emitted a loud click.

Oh shit.  What did I do?

All my friends turned to face me.

My better off friend said, "Mike what the Hell did you do?"

Standing there in a growing panic I collected my wits by looking down at the hefty metallic box in my hand and finally said, "Uh nothing.  Just pushed this button.  What the Hell is it?"

The better off friend's eyes grew large when he saw what I had in my hand.  "My dad is going to kill me.  That is the remote control.  He said to never touch it.  I'm in it deep now."

"Remote control?"  All of us were now totally awestruck over this new gee whiz example of American ingenuity.  Suddenly I felt unworthy hold even a small part  of it.  I gingerly set the golden remote back on the coffee table.

As it turned out, the remote did break.  Or something broke and it just happened to coincide with my ill fated clicking of the remote.  It cost my father some money.  My allowance dropped from the princely sum of $2.50/week to the less princely sum of $1.50/week for the next year.  I did not whine or complain either.  By that time of my life on the planet, I had learned well the lesson of personal responsibility even when it was accidental or not even my fault.  Learn to suck it up and move on.  And besides, Mom was always there to sneak me some extra cash when the situation warranted it.  A day at the local theater, or heading over to the first mall in Maryland to gawk at all that James Bond architecture.

Ever since that day I have not trusted any control that is not firmly implanted in the device it is intended to control.  I learned that day a higher price does not necessarily mean better quality.  Sometimes you pay big dollars just to be the first one to have the latest technological breakthrough on the block and stay ahead of all the other Jones' in the neighborhood.  I learned that day that the "Popular Science" and "Popular Mechanics" mags that sat so prominently near the toilet in their own little mag stand did not tell the truth and nothing but the truth.  New technology should never be trusted until it has passed from "new" to boring.  If it's boring, it probably has become dependable.

I could have lived my life just fine without the remote in my life.  Unfortunately I have no choice.  They seem to be a obligatory gadget that comes with almost anything that plugs into the wall.  There are remotes for everything.  Lights, TVs, stereos, fans, and even ones for car stereos.  That one really puzzles me.  But I guess if you are steering the car from the back seat, having a remote handy might be a good idea.

I could live with remotes better if the manufacturers included a duplicate set of buttons on the object being remotely controlled.  Unfortunate though, it seems that many of the electronic wonders coming out of Best Buy and Radio Shack will not work to their fullest potential without the remote.  It would appear the conspiracy of the overlords to turn us into meat puppets includes the notion that to bend us to their will, they need to keep us on the couch whenever possible. 

How to do that?  Well, give us a small box with more buttons than are really needed and then put no buttons on the TV.  That way they ensure maximum couch time and can be assured their subliminal messages of domination are being received in the perfect controlled environment. 

I can just imagine that somewhere out there in the galactic pucker, some low level overlord bureaucrat sits bored on his own couch.  Attempting to liven up his otherwise dreary existence running the Universe for his overlords, he pushes a button on his own remote and suddenly mine disappears or the batteries go dead.   And he chuckles.

Anyway, that's the way it is here on Sam Page Road today...........................

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Counting Some Blessings

Another late night hard at it before I am able to decompress and either sleep or write something here. I guess I don't need to tell you which way it went.

My wife informed me the other day that the gross sales at the bike shop were up 75% over the same January to June period last year.

I have learned not to get too excited over news like this. Gross sales are a far cry from what actually ends up in my pocket. Especially in the economy we have now saddled with the debt I incurred over the period 2006 through 2007.

Certainly good news considering where I could be. But again, I temper my enthusiasm because the better I do, the more I have to spend to do better. There seems to be a finite profit margin I can squeeze out of the store. And unfortunately, no matter how much there is left at the end of each week, it all goes to pay down debt or buy product to sell to pay down more debt in the future.

Funny where I turned up at the age of 58. Given the fact I never had a plan, I guess owning a struggling bike shop is as good a place to end up as any. While there is not much folding money to bank at the end of the year, I do have many bennies I would never have working for someone else.

I often overlook the blessings that come from owning my own business when constantly striving to overcome the obstacles that are inherent in a small retail operation in a struggling part of the country. So, I guess it's time to count some blessings.

I wear what I want - When the Sun grows hot and the grass begins to wilt, you will find me daily wearing shorts, a tee, and flip flops. Okay, so I don't present a very professional front. Hey, it's a bike shop. People expect eccentricities.

I sell fun and fitness. What I do often creates true pleasure for my customers. No one can know the satisfaction I derive from placing that first bike under the butt of some 3 foot scamp, or outfitting an adult coming full circle back to a conveyance they enjoyed as a youth. I have had grown men hug me. And yeah, it was weird. But how could I pop their bubble?

I get to work with my hands and my brain. Twisting wrenches and twisting my cranial abilities trying to keep it all going is about as rewarding an occupation as I have ever had.

I meet some seriously odd folks. From the town drunks who have lost their licenses, to the pillars of the community and pretty much every kid in town under the age of 15. Every one of them has a story and often I get to take the time to hear them.

My shop is but a short down hill drive or ride of 8 miles from my house. No lights, just some slow poke or lost tourists in the summer to impede my progress.

I am sure there are more benefits lurking in the shadows, but I just hit my exhaustion wall. I need to go to sleep. Let's just say no matter how overwhelmed or twisted around I become, there is always an upside to the situation provided I take the time to look for it.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Media Ogres

I would never advocate suppressing the rights of the press. No, they have rights just like I do. But I would advocate that we consumers of the news stop paying attention to them. I firmly believe the mass media industry on this planet and in particular this country create more problems following a news worthy event than they help by "keeping us informed". And I think they do it on purpose. News has become all about money. By feeding the emotional fires of an event after the fact, they stir the potnot with facts, but with what ifs, what mights, and keep us uneasy with 24/7 assaults by paid talking heads who are hired to put forth a specific view point. There is no objectivity anymore now that greed has completely poisoned the industry.

The media companies have become so huge and entwined with industries outside reporting the news, anything they report should be viewed with suspicion. Even the staid and often boring BBC seems to have an agenda that is not so veiled anymore. One "news" outlet does not even try to live up to reporting factually while at the same time claiming they are being "fair and balanced".

By the time a story makes it the press, the tube, or the air waves, it has been manipulated, collated, twisted, and generally compacted to tell a story based on facts, but not really factual. This happens so much, I have given up believing anything I see on TV.

I used to try to give many news sources their chance to fill in me on issues, events, the madness inside the Beltway in DC. The problem is not one of them seems to want to just report. They load up the facts in such a way as to not allow the consumer to form an opinion. By the end of the piece, that opinion is formed to fit neatly into a specific political, religious, or economic mindset. We are then supposed to agree or disagree. Successful hate and discontent follows.

While different news outfits play to specific political or religious views, I do not think it is being done out of some altruistic higher calling like reporting objectively. Nor do I think they even really care one way or the other about an issue. News has become nothing but a vehicle by which to carry more cash into their bank accounts. By over sensationalizing, by over stating facts not even in evidence and drawing the worst case conclusions as inevitable outcomes, they keep us glued to their show, their paper, their radio station. By keeping us stirred up, they keep us coming back. Their sponsors are then happier, and the Media Ogres get more green for their coffers.

Rachel Maddow, the other night, made an interesting point regarding this slanted news thing. Her comment was based on the political minded and their tendency to only watch channels that put forth twists that fell in with their mindset. Something about folks living in a bubble of slanted truth that when forced to actually debate an opposing view, these people were lost because they had no experience with opposing views. To effectively debate she went on, one should at least know the views of their opponent so they can raise an effective counterpoint.

Kudos to her for making this observation. But she does the same thing. She plays to an audience who is guilty as much as the other side of swallowing her twist without any question. In the scheme of things however, these hired guns who represent the public face of the Media Industry are only there to feed the coffers of the monopolized Mass Media network that circles the planet. It does not matter whether it's Right, Left, or Praise the Lord and pass the Ammunition, all the Media bosses care about is picking pockets.

Instead of attempting to bring us together as stewards who wield awesome power should, the media instead strives to keep us divided and on edge. They play to our fears, our doubts, and our insecurities. They could care less about helping. They are only interested in numbers, ratings, percentages or audience pull, and how much money they can suck out of the sponsors pockets. They have become whores of the highest order who will do anything with the truth to stay on top.

WR Hearst must be somewhere in Hell laughing his ass off...............

To see just how deep their tentacles reach, go to thhis link.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Finding Some Patriotic Heartstrings

I suppose I should write a rousing and uplifting 4th of July post. Relate how special I feel on this day, this day of Independence. Airman Mom, who has offspring serving our country reminds me to think of our soldiers. After all, it may have been politicians who came up with the idea of Independence, it was grunt soldiers who won it for us. Marching in the cold, bivouacked in canvas tents with mud floors if they were lucky. Maybe one meal a day or two if they could steal some chickens or slaughter some poor bastard's cow.

So Yeah, I always consider our soldiers on this day. My father was one for 31 years. My uncles were soldiers. Have a brother who served. Everywhere I look in my family there are relatives who served. And no matter what we may think one way or the other about our troops involvement overseas, we should all take a moment today to consider our Armed Forces and say thank you.

But Independence Day is not just about soldiers, war, and defending borders. It is about all of us. The whiners, the criers, the doers, and the lazy slobs sitting on stoops sucking beer out of bottles in paper bags. July 4th is a day when every American is a patriot whether they want to be or not.

So celebrate this day anyway you want. Park your butt in the back yard next to that 40 quart cooler chock full of ice cold Papst Blue Ribbon beer. Burn some meat on the grill, ogle girls in bikinis, swim out to the middle of the lake. This day is about whatever you want it to be.

Independence is not something we are given. It is something we take, make, create with grand notions and dedicated follow through. Soldiers alone cannot keep us independent. Only we, the collective we, can do that.

In keeping with tradition going back some years, I will, in a few hours, go on a bike ride. Today we go to Blue Job, a small state park with a great 300 degree view of my neck of the woods. If I am lucky, the 3 1/2 mile climb from where we park will reward me with an unlimited line of sight to the Atlantic Ocean 30 miles away. To the north, Mt Washington might just be visible. What better way to celebrate this day than to gaze out on some of the beauty we take for granted most days of the year.

What a grand land we have responsibility for. I only hope we can live up to that responsibility. Happy 4th....................................

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Another Manic Moment

Don't come round here no more. Hey!

2:10 AM, Friday night, or rather real, real, real, early Saturday morning - Just got home from the Bike shop. I was home earlier - actually early evening yesterday. Left the shop at 7:00 PM, went home, feasted on my wife's signature fish dish, fresh asparagus, fresh corn, and to top it off, some fresh blueberry concoction pleasured my tongue with Maine grown sweetness. No sugar added, just the blueberries. Wow.

Instead of settling back and putting my feet up, I headed back to the bike shop. Folks heading out tomorrow for some serious July 4th recreating needed their rides. Overhauled a shock, finished re-spoking a wheel, and tuned up two used bikes I sold earlier.

And now it's 2:10 AM. I am just beginning to regret that 22 oz. ice coffee I fixed up before I headed back to the bike shop. Eyes open. Brain spinning. Seems I am hard into another manic moment.

And supposedly I am to show up back at the bike shop for an 8:00 AM bike ride. Made the plan before this hyper active over-reactive slice of Time came by. As bright as my candle is burning right now, it's even odds I will be comatose come time to saddle up.

Biting off more than one can chew may be cause for embarrassment at times. And though overfilling one's plate with more moments than one can consume, we often cannot help ourselves when faced with so much of Life to pick from. Making promises feels good. Following through feels better.

Where's my shot glass................

Friday, July 02, 2010

Your President

The other day the owner of the restaurant that shares the same, call it alley space as my bike shop pulled up in his SUV and got out. He was on his way to open up for the lunch crowd. Usually we just exchange how ya doin's and get on with our own business. This day he walked over and leaned on the work table I have out back.

"Well Mike, "your President" sure has gotten us into a mess."

I have been trying very hard lately to stifle my political urges. And I have been for the most part fairly successful. But his use of the term "your President" pushed just the right buttons.

I stopped soaping up the filthy bike I was in the middle of cleaning and looked at this huge ex-body builder for a moment before responding. I have never been intimidated by his size, but I did not want to strain the uneasy truce we had established over the past couple of years he had been owner of the old Luigi's. Getting along with the neighbors and all that.

Finally I looked at him and said, "Unless you're a furriner, he's "your President" too. You ain't a furriner are you?"

His eyes opened wider and he said, "I didn't vote for him. He ain't my president."

I proceeded to lay into him about the stupidity of the partisan crap his denial represented. I managed to do it a nice way and he did not crush my head between his huge hands. He went about his business. I went back to washing the bike.

One of the reasons I have been trying hard to not get sucked into political debate in recent months is frankly I am fed up with this national tendency to try and force all of us to pick sides. I have never felt comfortable standing on the Right nor standing on the Left. I am a fence sitter and not ashamed to admit it. I have become used to being denigrated by both sides for my lack of backbone in this regard. I often leave people scratching their heads when I come from the Right on an issue and baffle some on the Right when I jump all over their tendency to drink kool aid before asking what the flavor is. Both sides have their pluses. Both sides have their negatives. And right now I have a negative view of both. I share my disdain for both sides equally.

But when someone claims to be a supporter of the idea of the democratic process and then denies the result because it did not go their way, it really pisses me off. When Bush was president, even though I did not vote for him either time, I did not try to use some cop out excuse like "He is not my President, I did not vote for him."

He was my president. I did not like it, but I sucked it up and dealt with the reality. Because no matter how much I may disagree with one side or the other, when we elect someone to represent us, I have to hope that representative is more concerned with the general welfare of all their constituency. Unfortunately in recent years, this has not been the case. Both the Right and the Left have decided to field candidates who seem to think of party first and the nation, state, or local burg second. Recent events nationally and in my small town have proven this out.

Our political atmosphere in this country has become poisoned. Toxic rhetoric from the extremes of both sides have found their way into the national platforms and our nation is now gasping for air. We have lost our direction and now fill our time with senseless infighting that only slows down and cripples our efforts to grow as a nation.