Friday, December 31, 2010

The Struggle - Early Morning Rambling

In the past when the year was almost done, I would tend to write about where I had been and where I might go in the future.  I made it a point to not make promises.  Promises are too easy to break.  I would just point out areas of improvement and hint that I might try to work on those areas. 

This year I feel no need, no urge to dwell on what has happened, what might happen in the future, and what I might do when it does happen.  2010 was another year of struggle, business wise and personal wise.  Every year seems to break down the same way.  The incidents and accidents may change, but the struggle is always the same.  To make it through to another new year.  I will say though, I did handle the struggle better this year than I have in the past, oh, I guess 4 or 5 years gone by.

Maybe I am all wrong to consider Life a struggle.  Glass half empty mentality and all that pessimistic shit.  Life should be a celebration the Polly Anna's contend. ........Hmm.........Odd how the use of certain words saddle conversations with specific baggage .  "Struggle" is one of those words I guess.  It insinuates a negative situation or is read that way most days.

Personally I don't hang negative or positive on my struggle.  It is just the process of me making it through my days, my weeks, my years.  It can be joyous as this last Christmas season uncharacteristically was or down in the hole of black thought and uselessness I fall into on occasion.  Every day holds the promise of something new to deal with.  And every day I hope I can rise to the challenge.  I do know that worrying about what might happen tomorrow does nothing to help with the struggle.  Worrying about the what ifs only makes dealing with the what is that much tougher.

I sat down this New Year's Eve morning to write something about the past year.  I was going to pen a kind of retrospective on my favorite posts of the almost 200 I threw out into the blogosphere.  But the post got out of hand right out of the box.  I realized there really are no favorites.  I like them all, good, bad or indifferent.  They are just attempts to reach out to strangers and friends who might happen by.  Attempts to add what is on my mind to that which is on yours.  And to record for future retrieval the mindset I had "back in the day".

Dash Jim called me an attention whore the other day.  He pointed to my blog and my recent infatuation with Facebook.  At the time it was but a comment made in jest, part of a conversation where we both were slamming each other.  I was not hurt by his comment, but it did stick with me.  I thought about it and decided that yeah, I am an attention whore.  So what?  Seeking some acknowledgement that I exist is part and parcel of my struggle to not fall into the pit Churchill called "The Black Dog".  I make no excuses.  I offer no apologies.  My blog has become an integral tool in my struggle to become a better friend, a better husband, a better father, a better human.  By releasing some of the crusty buildup that clutters my soul, I tend to see more clearly the path in front of me.

I make no claim that my struggle is any tougher or for that matter any easier than the struggles anyone else deals with.  I know I am blessed with many things and I should be and I am indeed grateful for.  But the "things" we are blessed with usually weigh in as physical aspects of our lives.  Where we live, how much money we have, what kind of job, blah, blah, blah.  Strip away all the trappings we have or don't have and the struggle still remains.   We all are just trying to make it sanely from the cradle to the grave.  Whatever else goes on is just so much bull shit.

Now that I have effectively taken an upbeat morning and dampened it with that which lurked behind its curtains, I would finish with...........................................

Have a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Writing Flash

The following is probably the shortest piece of flash fiction I have ever written.  It came out  originally to 39 words.  It is as I wrote it.  Took me about five minutes.

The weekly challenge on Lily Child's Feardom blog called for no more than 100 words that included the three words below.
  • Doom
  • Throne
  • Intrusive
The original - 39 words

The throne of a mighty civilization sat empty.  Its owner long dead and buried.  Intrusive and insistent, Mother Nature reclaimed the tumbled walls hiding Doom once again to await the next fool who felt an urge to overcome her.

The Re-write - 40 words

The throne of a once mighty civilization sat empty, its owner long dead and buried.  Intrusive and insistent, Mother Nature reclaimed the tumbled walls hiding Doom once again to await the next fool who felt an urge to challenge her.


Now that I have some serious time trying to master these Flash challenges, I have concluded that to do it well, the words just have to be there when I open up my brain.  Thinking too hard about the challenge and whatever the prompt might be tends to make me tense and more likely to flounder than if I just begin writing.  Come up with a starting sentence and go where it points me.

In addition I find that if I mess with the final product too much, I end up diluting the original idea, or worse, I lose it all together.  The above example is what I am talking about.  My re-write does not take away from what I was saying to begin with , but by just changing a word, adding another, and cleaning up some minor punctuation mistakes, I made it a better piece. 

Whether this is of any use to anyone else but me is up to anyone else but me.

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ice Riding

Pipe Tobacco and Blog Fodder showed some interest in more information about the ice riding I have participated in for I guess a little over 20 years now.  No better place to start than at the beginning.

I discovered mountain biking in 1985.  I became so enamored with the fat tires combined with the multiple gears, I rode that first bike whenever possible.  I was not happy that for 6 months of the year, my riding was severely limited by ice and snow.  One of the few people I knew who also rode mountain bikes suggested we make some studded tires.  The only studded tire on the market was a joke.  Called the Blizzard, it only had maybe 80 studs per tire.  Okay for bike commuters and city riding, they were useless for serious ice riding .

Without a clue we began to ruin tires with various combinations of screws, nails, and finally real car studs.  I bet I ruined 20-30 tires coming up with a tire system that would work dependably.

While we had quickly discovered that nothing beat real carbide tipped studs, it was the tire liners that were our achilles heel.  Every liner we tried - lawn chair webbing, kevlar sail cloth, another inner tube, and dozens of others always failed.  And they failed at the worst time possible.  Seemed we were always the farthest from our cars or home when they cracked, moved or otherwise allowed the stud to wiggle enough to cause a flat.  One incarnation I came up with got me so excited, I rushed down to Mousam Lake to try them out.  Without the right clothing on, or any spare tubes, I headed up the lake.  The lake is about 4 miles long.  At 4 miles, both tires went flat.  I had to walk back to my truck in bone chilling cold in street shoes and a light jacket.........Ah, the memories of being caught stupid.

Eventually we figured out that another lighter weight tire with the steel bead cut out laid into the studded tire would work and work every time.  The tires were heavy, but they were dependable.   And since there was no decent ice tire out there, I began to produce studded tires for sale.  I guess by the time I stopped making studded tires, I had made and sold over a hundred pairs of them.  Each tire had 200 hand drilled holes that were then stuffed by hand with 200 studs.  When I finally had it down, I could produce a tire in about two hours.  Sold them for $125/pair.  Once the materials were accounted for, that meant I was making maybe 5 bucks an hour.  Oh well, it was all about being a good bike shop anyway.  Some things you do just because.

About 1993, the tire manufacturers caught on.  They began to produce studded tires that not only worked as well as what I was making, but were lighter and were about the same price as I was charging.  I gladly stopped making them and began buying them for re-sale.  Now there are at least 4 companies making studded tires.  The best ones are from Nokian and Swalbe.  The image at the top is of my new Nokian "Extremes" - 296 studs per tire.  They are seriously expensive at around $100/tire regular retail.  But they work fantastic and if treated right, will last many, many winters.

I find it humorous that many folks consider my winter riding to be odd, yet do not even bat an eye at folks who downhill ski, cross country ski, snow shoe, or any of the other outdoor activities humans engage in outside when the temps drop.  Ice riding is just another way to enjoy the outdoors in the cold.  Dress appropriately and the woods and more importantly the lakes become a playground year round.  I love winter riding.  Nothing like the buzz of 600 studs biting into the ice or the sound the lakes make as they crack, groan and settle as the sun heats up their surface.  Frozen creek beds become brand new trails to explore.  Swamps offer whole new areas to explore.   Wild life is often caught off guard and I get the chance to see critters I would not normally see in the woods.  And sometimes an ice fisherman will invite you in for a beer and some conversation.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ignoring My Inner Whiner

I had promised Lis we would ride today.  I even mentioned this notion to Dash Jim.  That was three days ago.  When I woke up this morning, I woke up regretting that promise.  I should know better than to expect my body to be up for a winter bike ride after such a long lay off and having just crammed it full of all the goodies I could get my hands on yesterday.  There was chocolate to eat.  Christmas cookies to take care of.  A huge over the top Christmas breakfast.  And then just about the time I figured I would need a back hoe to lift me onto the couch, I had to do my best with a Christmas dinner made up of more  food dishes than the table could hold. 

While I woke up hoping to bail on today's ride, Lis woke up and before I knew it she was decked out in all her winter riding gear.

Shit.  Guess we're gonna ride after all.  So I called Dash Jim.  Told him in as unenthusiastic a manner as possible, we would be riding out of the bike shop by 10:00 AM.  He was welcome to come.  "Okay, see you then", and he hung up.

Double shit.  Dash Jim was coming.  We were not going to skate with one of Mike's patented token gesture rides.  Dash Jim would take us on as long a ride as he could weasel me into.   But I was determined to not let it get out of hand.  The Pats kicked off at 1:00 PM.  And they needed me to be there in front of the tube if for no other reason than suck off my good fan vibes.

Lis and I got to the shop.  I dug out my old studded tires for her to use.  She started changing them and I got dressed.  Dash Jim showed up right at 10 and by 10:15 AM, we were headed for the ole railroad bed that headed out past Deering Pond.

The ride did not end up being extremely long.  It was cold, about 20'F or so.  The day was grey and the air shouted "snow storm coming".  The railroad bed was not bike friendly with it's two inches of snow all rutted up by recent ATV use.  It was a tough slog just to get to Deering Pond about a mile or so up the old tracks. 

But once my tires touched the virgin snow on the pond's surface, I knew I was right to suck it up and make the ride.  Instant grin factor.  Nothing quite like that first ice ride of the season.  Even knowing we were only on maybe 3 inches of ice did not dampen my spirits or cause me stress.   We rode around the pond and then slogged back to Springvale.  Dash Jim then made us ride on Stump Pond over near the Y.  Lis' feet were getting cold, so we bailed.

At some point on the ride I had lost the keys to the shop.  Lis and I had to wait for my wife to come with her spare shop key and her look to get inside to get warm.  Even with that delay, I only missed the first 2 minutes of the game.

All in all, a great day that reminded me to not cave to my inner whiner.  More often than not, he is just whining to hear himself whine.

Hope your Christmas was grand......................................................... 

Photo by Dash Jim

Friday, December 24, 2010


It's 7:45 AM on Christmas Eve.  My head feels as if several gallons of tequila has passed through it in the last few hours.  If only it were so.  I guess 3 hours of sleep on a stuffed up head can illicit the same effect.

During a run of the mill normal Christmas sequence for me, today would be my holiday shopping day.  I would be up and out of the house early so I could do as much shopping before I had to open the bike shop.   But today I can breath easy.  I  had all my gift buying done by yesterday.  And last night in the dark late secretive hours down in the basement I wrapped the gifts, created and produced my Christmas card for this year, and then topped it all off with some homespun gift tags.  Had everything done by 4:00 in the A.M.

Now I can relax. 

It is indeed an odd sensation, an unaccustomed feeling being this organized.  Not just a few minutes late.  Not even a dime short.  But ahead of schedule and under budget.  Making my own cards kept me in the Black.

The card at the top of the post is a picture of me twenty years ago just after I rode to Sanford and back in a blizzard.  Why did I ride a bike in conditions many folks don't even like to drive in?  Hmm.  Good question.  For the life of me I cannot dredge up any reason why it was a good idea. 

The one below is actually a picture taken last Spring after a dusting of snow.  It looked Christmas-ee so I used it.

I hope everyone has as good a Christmas this year as I seem to be headed for.  May all your children be home to visit and your lights come down easier than they went up..

Happy Holidays......................................................

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One of the Monkeys Finally Pounds Out a Few Legible Words

Seems some of my scrawl has once again wiggled its way into and between the pages of another actually printed on a printing press collection.  My first published anything was a few years back with a short 500 word piece on the last page of "Dirt Rag", a mountain bike magazine.   This time I have the honor of sharing pages with a group of writing fools from across the globe who put pen to paper on the writing website "Thinking Ten, A writer's Playground".

A nice and patient fellow name of Blake N. Cooper thought up Thinking Ten.  He steers it with a kind tiller.  And somehow, his prompts manage to pull some of the best flash fiction I have read out of folks.  I know some of what I consider my best efforts have been written in ten minutes from his daily prompts.  Okay, none of them ever took just ten minutes, but I always tried to have my first draft done as close to ten as I could get.  There are rules to at least tip our hats to.

I was notified of my inclusion, but no hint of what was included.  Not even a whisper.  In order to find out what he had decided was worthy effort on my part, I had to buy a copy of the book.  I gladly anted up the dollars as I knew any money made would go back into the website.

If any of you still actually turn pages and would like an interesting book that can be consumed five minutes at a time, you should go to Amazon  dot Com and buy not just one, but two of them.  One for the shelf and one to doodle in.  Because Blake has invited readers to edit any or all pieces and then submit their changes back to him for possible inclusion in what I assume will be the final edition of this collection.  Anyway, a neat and interactive idea that gets the reader involved in the writing process.

Blake included the stories, poems, essays into his collection without any edits.  they are as the authors left them.  As his intro states on the front page, "The short, short story telling within these pages is some of the best you'll read anywhere.......but some of these stories need an editor's eye."

Having now spent the better part of two years playing around with fiction writing and a whole life time of writing just to see my thoughts written down, I contend everything I write is and always will be in need of editing.  I have taken a decent story and edited it so much it was worse than when I started.  And on occasion I seem to stop at almost the right point.  But you be the judge.  I read my two offerings and decided one was better than the other in some ways, while one is sneaky and if it was just expanded a get the picture.  I think writing addiction brings with it the notion that it can always be better.

Twenty five authors are listed in the back pages, but apparently there are at least 26 authors with flash pieces included.  Somehow, my name did not make it into the list of authors.  My fiction did.  And that's cool. I am just thrilled to be included with such a fine group of flash creators.

Thank You Blake, you did good.  So far every story I have read has been very well done.  And yeah, I can see some of the rough around the diamonds, but there is no doubt there are diamonds inside.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some Disappointment and An Overdue Apology

As a resident of a state that usually has no real power in DC, I should probably be pleased with the power wielded recently by my two Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.  Instead, I am truly ashamed of them for their recent activities.  Snowe for her helping to snuff out a sensible law, called the Dream Act.  And Collins for holding up the vote on "Don't Ask Don't Tell" while she arm twisted 15 amendments into it so her cohorts would be happy.  All in all, the most shameful display of DC politics at its worst from any legistaor sent to DC from my state in my recent memory.

I refused to vote for Collins this last election not because she had gone down there and become a classic party hack, but because she lied to me when she was elected the first time.  Part of her platform was term limits back in 1996.  She promised to only serve two terms and then retire.   Now, I have never been a fan of term limits other than the ones provided by our regular voting system or when a candidate uses the notion of term limits to get elected.  They talk the talk, they should walk the walk.  She ran again this year for a third term.  She lost me for sure.  I am holding her accountable for that one lie.  Whatever else she has done or not done matters little now.  She is on my shit list.  Let her stay in DC.  The two deserve each other.

Olympia is my biggest disappointment.  I actually had hopes the intense polarization that has overcome DC would not spoil her no nonsense  and cool Senatorial deportment.  I was wrong.  She may still be considered a moderate by her bretheren, but she is now just another party wolf in sheep's clothing.  Her spewing of the party line on the Dream Act -

"Millions of illegal immigrants could attempt to become legal residents as a result of this proposal, according to some estimates, and it is incumbent upon the Senate to ensure our policies never again lead to a situation where we are confronted with upwards of 12 million illegal immigrants residing within our borders."

What moron came up with this logic?  I would assume it was not her, but more than one source uses this quote.  The Dream Act is the first sensible legislation I have seen in quite awhile to begin to address our huge problem of illegal immigrants.  Start some clean up on the mess made from our not dealing with it in the past.  Set some time frames for the children of illegals who want to stay and make the process tough enough that when it is all said and done, they will have proven their love of this country.  And in the meantime, one old hanging problem is taken care of and we can move on to the more pressing problem of keeping the flow of new illegals down to a dull roar.

Instead of attacking the Dream Act on the actual merits or lack there of, she reads from the Republican playbook a half cooked response that plays on what might happen if...........  

Well I know what happens if we don't.  We lose maybe a hundred thousand or so potential good citizens who have a proven track record of good citizenship.  What a moron.  She is now also on my shit list.

Now the Apology

I don't even remember when it was...............Uh, let me back up some for some background.

I think I have mentioned before that at one time in my life I was semi related to Senator Dick Lugar.  My brother married his sister back in the early 1960s when Senator Lugar was mayor of Indianapolis.  I was I think about 10 or 11.  Hell it was a long time ago and it was just another road trip among many I was always taking with my gypsy parents. 

My brother got on with his career and his marriage to Senator Lugar's sister.  I continued the haphazard struggle to grow up.  Senator Lugar became a Senator.  Being twenty-something at the time and  prone to duck any family conversation that even smelled of politics, I was not impressed.  "So what", I thought.  "I know a guy who knows a guy, blah, blah blah."

It was also at this time I made the discovery that open bars and I were not good together.  Friends had begun to marry and when the free likker flowed, I usually ended up flowing with it.  Had I been coherent, I am sure I would have died of embarrassment over the tales told to me as I recovered the next day covered in mud, sticks, and my own puke.  Weddings and I did not get along.  I found I could drink most anyone under the table and still stand.  Problem was I never remembered it.

Fast forward to my nephew's wedding in California in the 1980s.  Big shindig and yes Senator Lugar was there in all his glory.  After all it was his sister's son.  And there at the back of the reception hall was ............yep, an open bar.  It had been many years since I lost control.  I was sure I would be able to handle it.  I was wrong.

I got stinko very fast as I had not been working my drinking muscles for several years.  Yeah, I was obnoxious.  With Reagan still in power, I was also not feeling very kindly towards Republicans, which meant 99% of my family.  And though the exact memory of what I did still escapes me, I do remember shouting something about "Fuckin Republicans in Senator Lugar's general direction.  Apparently my just shy of Limbaugh brother who had married Dick Lugar's sister wanted to kill me.  I guess my mom saved my life that night.  The next thing I remembered was sitting on a curb outside of our motel and my brother driving by.  I am guessing he had no firearms, because I was able to make it back to Maine somewhat intact.

Senator Lugar - if you should ever happen to run across this blog or these comments, I want to apologize for my behaviour that night.  You have always been one Republican I respected and my lashing out at you was just stupid and I have no excuse.   Your recent backing of the Dream Act has caused me to remember how unfair I was to lump you in with your other brain dead party members.  I always said that if you had ever run for President, I would vote for you.   You are a decent man who did not deserve the tirade of a drunk.  It is one moment of my life I wish I could do over.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Being Useless

BBC stated in his comment on my post of yesterday, "You should learn how to sew, it's more useful than writing."  I considered answering him in a follow up comment, but instead decided to waste more time being less than useful by creating a useless post with his slightly more or slightly less than useful comment to drive it.

On the surface it appears his comment to be nothing but BBC being BBC.  Contentious and in your face.  And let's not forget consistent.  After all, Billy has always held a low opinion of writing for writing's sake, especially fiction.  He doesn't do fiction.  I guess now he has expanded his low opinion of fiction to include "useless".  There seems to be no question he considers sewing to be a more useful activity than writing fiction.

Billy is probably right.  I am sure if you ask him, he will confirm that he is.  Sewing up a hole in my britches would indeed rank higher on the pecking order of what's useful and what is not chart than yanking small stories out of my small mind.

Now it might be logical to think my panties bunched some over calling me out as being useless because I attempt to write fiction.  No.  I long ago learned to enjoy being useless.  I have been steadfast in my single minded pursuit of that perfect moment of uselessness, those perfect moments of wasted time..  I have spent a lifetime being only as useful as I needed to be so that I could waste the time and energy left as only a useless human can.  I have mastered the fine art of slothful endeavor.  If I already did not know how to sew, I would make it point to not learn so as to not eat into my useless time.

My life long journey to find the fountain of Worthless Moments would have been much easier had I been born the child of some filthy rich family from the right side of the tracks.  Sadly, I had to work hard to earn my useless moments.  It always seemed just about the time I was getting comfortable and in the useless groove, I had some useful commitment shoved into my face.  Work, family, business to run, yard work, homework, ........shit, the list of useful things I had to endure so that I could enjoy the brief moments of being useless was endless.

So rather than take offense at being called useless, I consider it it an honor.  Finally someone has recognized all the hard work and sacrifice I have put up with so that I can wile away blissfully useless with the big dogs who lounge poolside, on the porch or in their favorite barco-lounger.   Finally someone has shown us hardworking slackers the respect we feel we deserve.  I feel vindicated.  Thanks Billy for recognizing a life spent in the pursuit of doing nothing important whenever possible. 

"Now where's that remote? ................................. I hear there's a Beavis and Butthead retrospective on channel 283............ Oh Man, it's all the way across the room.........You mean I am going to have to get up?..........Honey..........HONEY............could you stop being useful for a moment and fetch me the remote?"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Beam Me Up Scotty - 250 words

The contradictions and mistakes of his short life washed over him overwhelming his immediate fear of having fallen once again into the hole. It was the same old hole he had tripped into as a teen so long ago. It smelled the same. It felt the same. It hung on him like an old flannel shirt that seemed to know just the right contours to comfort.

He reveled in his confusion trying to fool himself into feeling good about not knowing or expecting what might come next. Oh, he knew what came next just as we all know what we left un-mailed in all those unsealed letters we have secreted away after writing words we meant at the time but never meant for anyone to read.

His spirit lifted, he spoke to no one in particular, no one at all. He made no apologies, no excuses. He accepted what he had done or not done and did not bother to offer empty promises about his future. His future he knew was never in his hands anyway, so “like why bother Man”.

“What else should I be,” he thought. “We are what we are. Is that not all that can be expected?” He decided the rest of it is so much shit, so much useless stupidity that worrying about that which he could not control only deflected him from his true purpose in Life…………To take up space.

And he knew now, his time in Space was up.

“Beam me up Scotty.”

This is a Thinking Ten piece I wrote awhile ago. It was my first and only attempt to utilize all of the weekly prompts (called Capstone) and also tie in with the weekly image (Canvas). It ended up at 241 words when I first wrote it. I have diddled and fiddled with it to make it 250 words. The prompt image is at the top. The daily prompts below.

➞ On Location, Mondays: Down in a hole
➞ Take it Away, Tuesdays: What else should I be?
➞ Words, Inc., Wednesdays: (1) smells, (2) like, (3) teen, (4) spirit
➞ Plot Thickens, Thursdays: A letter sits unsealed
➞ Member's Pick, Fridays: An old flannel shirt


Wednesday, December 15, 2010


My mother was a voracious reader. She favored fiction. My father read also, but non-fiction works were more to his liking. Every home I moved to as a kid, many boxes of books followed and were grunted out of the moving trucks. Years later when I became a mover myself, I appreciated the work those guys did when they off loaded so many boxes of books. Moving the big stuff, furniture, swing sets, appliances were one thing. But what wears a mover out are the boxes. Especially boxes of books.

The home I live in now became the final resting spot for the books that survived those many moves throughout my childhood. Add in the multitude of who dunnits my mom accumulated as hers and my father's lives wound down and I would say I live in a house that no moving man would care to enter. I performed a less than accurate inventory once and just my books alone hovered in the thousand range. Combine all the others and I would guess I am surrounded by over two thousand books.

I have an ancient complete collection of Dickens' works my Aunt Helen willed me. There the 1972 World Book Encyclopedia collection gathers dust on a set of shelves.  There is a collection of Mathew Brady's photographs bound in cracked leather bindings.  I have almost all of Steinbeck's works which I have worn out for the most part.  Coffee table books, obscure electronic books, and way to many out of date atlases and old dictionaries.

A collection called "The Great Books" sits in it's own bookcase. Housed within the bindings are what some editors from Chicago consider the greatest written works of western civilization from Homer to Adam Smith.  According to the door to door salesman who knocked on our door back in 1961 or 1962 in Tampa, Florida, if we ordered up a set, we would be the first people in Florida to own "The Great Books".  Can't say whether that was true, but I remember him saying it.

I am pretty sure my father waded through all 50 or so volumes.  Felt it was his duty since they cost so damn much.  My mom tried, but couldn't handle it.  Me, well, I read a few but for the most part just liked having them around.  I was into SciFi and the boys in Chicago did not consider it a genre worth the match to spark em up in a bonfire.   My collection of SciFi is huge.  Besides, old dead poets did nothing for me at the age of 12. 

All of these unread books now sit patiently, quietly and at a attention.  All are but ornaments and clutter that fill the spaces between the furniture.  Why don't I get rid of them?  I haven't cracked one of them in quite awhile.  And I am in that stage of life when sensible people begin the chore of offloading the crap they have collected over the years.  Besides with almost every one of the titles available now as a download from the Internet, of what use are they?

I have tried to imagine my home devoid of the rows of books I live with now.  Bare walls and clean flat surfaces with maybe a magazine or two to break the monotony.  That image scares the Hell out of me.  I grew up with this mish mash of words tucked here, there and everywhere.  From my earliest memory, there was always a book within sight.  To take that away and replace it with sterility is akin to a kind of mental castration. 

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Being Prepared

I am reminded of the grasshopper and the ant, stars in the Aesop Fable from long ago.  I am reminded of this tale every Fall.  When my good friend and neighbor Duncan was alive, I assigned us each one of the two as our mascots.  Duncan of course, with his never ending efforts to always be prepared for what was coming, became the ant while yours truly hopped around clueless and carefree as the grasshopper.

I long ago accepted my fate as one depending on good luck or bad.  Duncan never relied on luck.  He was the guy who always changed his oil as scheduled, pulled out his snow blower and made sure it ran before it snowed the first time, and had his wood stacked clean and dry long before the first frost sparkled our yards in late September or early October.  Fix it before it broke was his way.  Maybe fix after it broke was my way.

Almost every late August or early September I would bump into Dunc while he was stacking wood, engaged in some late summer yardwork, or performing the many neverending homeowner duties like re-painting, cleaning gutters, blah, blah blah.  He would run through the list of pre-emptive measures he was engaged in to blunt whatever Mother Nature had planned for us in the upcoming months.   He had his yearly duties and their completion  broken down to specific holidays.  The big one of the Fall was Veteran's Day.  Year after year it never varied.  By Veteran's Day wood stacked, any painting needed-done, snow blower out, and yard and garden scrapped clean so that Spring cleanup would be easy peasy.

I would listen and admire his list and tell myself I should make a list too.  Twenty minutes later I'd be riding my bike, mindlessly tinkering on something stupid, or just contemplating my naval.  The list, well, it was forgotten before I even made it back to my own driveway.  Being prepared for me meant knowing where the extra toilet paper was.

That Duncan passed long before his time does in no way detract from his nose to the grindstone, be prepared persona.  His passing was not something he could have prepared for.  His passing in no way justifies or lend credibility to my loose dog ways.  But it does point up that we all have a limited number of days on this planet.  And I would hazard a guess most of us have no clue what that limit is.  And if nothing else we should live those days as comfortable with ourselves as we can.  Duncan derived enjoyment from his constant state of preparedness.  Me, well, I apparently derive pleasure from feeling guilty about not being prepared.  Some might call it living on the edge.  Me, well, I just call it being a grasshopper.

I gotta go dig out the snowblower.........Hope it works ........Later.......................

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two Fisted Mama - Part Two of a Two Part Day

What do you do on a day you had no expectations of other than to just get through it?  Neither good vibe nor bad greeted me this AM when my eyes popped open at 5:00 AM.  I awoke expecting the same ole same ole.  What I got was a day that did not even come close to  unfolding in the typical routine most days unfold.  Yes, today was not one of those nonedescript days that glue the weeks together, mold the months into years, and become the cement that holds a life together.  Today stands out against all those run of mill, pack fodder days that fill the voids between the highs and lows that comprise most of my life.

Hmm...............................................................An odd thought here......Maybe just losin it or maybe just outside the box a step or two................But isn't everyday a day I will never experience again as long as I live?  I guess so.  Seems logical if one adheres to conventional thoughts scientific regarding the notion of Time and how it passes.  Yeah, if you agree with the antichrists of MIT.....................................Wait a minute.................................

.............Time for another beer.  Time for a break.  Time to take a breath.  Time to Reset.  Need a moment to gather myself - Collect my shit.  Regain some control ferchrisakes.  People are watchin, keepin tabs, making notes and checking off all the appropriate boxes while whispering, "Tsk Tsk, Tsk."

~*~    ( < denotes a moment of reflection - a time out)

I woke up this morning,  ................... I woke up this morning, ................on the thirtieth anniversary, the thirtieth celebration, ......... of the day, of the day................. I made a serious committment to another human being.  Probably the most serious committment I had made or will ever make happened thirty years ago today.

I promised to hang around til one of us kicked, died, left, or faded away.  Serious shit dude.  I was serious thirty years ago.  Tonight, well, not so serious, but I appreciate what I promised so long ago.  Even after four or five, maybe six beers and who knows how much red wime.

Okay, nevermind that shit.  This gettin all meta-physia-subjective, intensely introspective and mildly respective of personal, mundane aspecttives of the day I just had.  But come on now, every day isn't the party it was when I was 19......................Not even close.  But every day, well................every day I am alive is one I will never see again.   Come midnight, it's Hasta  Loo-eego.  Tomorrow or later tonight - the same ole shit.

And isn't that why I am here?  Here in front of you, on your screen?  To log in another day I will maybe regret, but because I wrote it down, will never forget?

Of course it is.  There was less than little doubt, not even a question raised in token resistance.  The day unfolded like the most recent Pats game, 39 to 7.  Mike thought he was on top.   Then the Jets sucked some Dolphin ass.  And Mike blasted off.

~*~   ( < note- another interlude without qualudes, preludes, but nursing a pleasant, tiny snarl on my lip kiss my ass attitude )

So I woke up this morning.  After a reasonble intake of caffiene, I sat down and poured out a fictional piece about how I felt on my thirtieth wedding anniversary.  It felt good.  It soothed me and snuffed any concerns about this day I had when I went to bed.  Posted it and got on with the rest of my day. 

Crispo showed up around 10.  Had the new wiring in place and nailed down by Twelve.  That Crispy, well, the man knows his way around the electrical world.  Had my new circuit stylin so fast, sitting pretty, I had plenty of time to gussey up for the neighborhood Jolly Ho Ho shindig scheduled to take off around Two..

Headed down to Sue and Brendan's place 'bout two-oh-five.  Sucked down some fine red wine, then swapped off and inhaled a few beers.   Just locals from close by.  Just some folks, I should know better but don't.  

Easy times, conversing with like minded local yokels.  Pot luck delectable edibles dwindling fast on the kitchen table.  No politics.  A smidgeon of religion but no whining about our individual struggles and hard times.  Just how ya doin, I'm doin fine - please pass me some wine time.

The Pats and the Bears kicked off round 4.  By Halftime, it was a lock.  Neither Snow, sleet, nor rain was gonna stop the Pats from knocking the blocks off the Bears to stay on top.  Came home, sat down here.  Right here with some new Blues and another beer.


And suddenly or maybe just finally he is getting to the point - I remember why I even sat down to share the fine day I just had. 

Thirty years is not chump change.  Thirty years in a life will leave a dent.  And though I am bent, wrinkled and somewhat ragged around my edges, I look at the woman seated next to me most nights at supper and know she has been there right by my side or damn close by.  I cannot know how she truly feels about me.  All I have are the moments and brief conversations she has chosen to toss my direction.

When I weigh the pluses and minuses of dedicating thirty years to this lady, I know of all her fine qualities, it's her two fisted manner, her no bullshit way of not suffering me and the foolishness I am prone to engage in that endears her to me the most.  I would get all corny and love droolin and call her my rudder, my sanity guide.  But I can't.  I can't call her that.  But I will say this............................

...............She will surely tell me when I have run my bow hard up on the shore.  Nothing grounds a guy better than pointing out the obvious.


Thirty Years - 250 Words plus or minus 3

For thirty years he had triumphed, fallen short, cried some and laughed some with her. Jake looked up from the card he was about to sign and tried to remember back when they had first met.

They had not been teenagers caught up in the lust and emotional confusion that permeates that stage of Life. They met in their late twenties. She had already been married once and divorced. And he had finally decided to leave his childhood behind and step up into the world of adults. Desperation did not drive him, he just knew it was time to grow up.

Jake looked out his office window. The sky had started to spit snow. The grey morning and chill coming off the leaky window fit his mood. Thirty years was a lifetime ago. Many times both of them had considered ending it. But somehow they weathered each storm. Jake marveled at her ability to put up with his idiocies, his inability to show true affection. He wondered if she had similar notions about him.

Jake ran through the successes and failures of the last thirty years. Had he met her expectations? Had she lived up to his? Being fair, he decided neither had fulfilled their respective hopes and dreams. But then he remembered both of them had made no promise other than to be there through thick and thin.

Satisfied with where he was at this moment in his life, he hoped she was also. He signed the card and sealed the envelope.

A thinly veiled personal post disguised as fiction.

Afterthought - Yeah - in case anyone is keeping tabs - this ended up at 253 words.  I just had to mess with it.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Random News

At a loss for something to write about, I thought maybe a small bit of fiction would be nice to attempt.  After several minutes staring at the blank page, I decided I was not feeling very fictional this AM.  So I began to roam the highways and byways of Cyberspace.  I stopped for a time to see if something from the world of sports might catch my eye.  Nope.  Same old crap.  NFL, NBA, BCS, MLB - all spewing the same boring stuff.  I can only handle so many stats and twists on games boys play for so long.  Then I need to break away.

So I hit the political part of Cyber town.  The Right was still saying no and the Left were still whining about them saying it.   The only minor difference seems to be wider spread anger aimed at Obama now coming from both sides.  This pleases me.  Maybe he is doing something right after all. 

My next stop was an unexpected layover for a moment or two among the insane of the Entertainment World.  Who's screwing who, who used to screw who, and who will be screwed once they go to court.  Accompanied in the sidebars, images of beautiful people with flashing white teeth caught wearing their sweats and no makeup.  I left shaking my head wondering just why was this part of American culture so captivating to so many.  Who the Hell cares if Palin's daughter was given preferential treatment in some dance contest?  Apparently a good many folks do.  The FCC was inundated with complaints.  What a wacky place.

I stopped wandering around the virtual world.  Went into my real kitchen and refilled my real coffee cup.   I drank from my cup and looked out into the grey Maine morning.  Buster, our 21 pound tom cat, leaped up to the counter next to me.  He placed his massive paw on my arm and flexed his claws.  "Oh, hey there Buster.  Want some lovin huh?"  So I stood there looking out the window, scratching Buster's huge head behind one massive ear while I sipped the cup dry. 

With a fresh cup of coffee, I came back to the office determined to find something worthy to write about.  I google "Random News".  A disappointing series of hits left me with nothing but a US Pizza team, a story about three guys whose lives have to be worse than mine as they punish themselves watching the show "24"  for 86 hours non stop, and a piece about the man who brought us "Barney", the pink dinosaur who now wants to teach kids about, through, or something by the fine art of belching.  I did not open any of thee as they just seemed not even random, just stupid.

And then I saw it.  Outgoing Florida Governor Charlie Crist has secured enough votes from his clemency board to finally pardon Jim Morrison for his indecent exposure conviction that allegedly occurred during a Doors concert in Miami over 40 years ago. 

I saw the Doors earlier that year up in the DC/Baltimore area.  There was no exposure, indecent or otherwise.  I remember no obscenities.  And actually I don't remember much other than being disappointed.  The concert sucked.  The group was going through the motions without emotions.   It seemed that burnout had the group in its clutches.

But then going to concerts back then was not really about music.  It was about being outrageous and breaking rules.  We felt the safety in numbers and passed joints, stripped our clothes off, and flaunted our independence in front of the world.  The Doors were but one of our standard bearers and I could tell at that concert, they were tired of the responsibility, the struggle to constantly be expected to lead our fight against "the man".  In retrospect, had I been paying attention instead of trying to find someone who would sell me a joint, I would have appreciated where the "hippie" movement was headed.  But I was just another punk kid enjoying the moments without any clue of what those moments would lead to.

Anyway, I find it so very humorous that there are people who feel the need to expunge Jim's record.  And if there is an afterlife with souls hanging out watching the world they once existed in, then I guess as the author of the story says, Jim Morrison is smiling right now.  But not because of the pardon, but because anyone even cared enough to follow through with it.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

45 to 3

I thought the spell Tom Brady and the New England Patriots had me under for so long had finally broken when Tom took that season off to fix the torn ACL in his knee.  Finally, I was free of their influence over a sizable charge of my year.  I became a recovering Pat-a-holic while he was away.  And last year's ho hum perfomance only strengthened my resolve to not allow the damn Patriots to control as much of my attention as they had in the past.

Okay.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  So I fell off the wagon this year.  I started the season strong.  I watched none of the pre-season and only caught enough of the highlights of their first game to know they won.

Then they played the New York Jets.  Had this first meeting with the one divisional rival I hate with a passion come later in their season, you might be reading a post of an entirely different tone.  It might be the post of an ex-addict who had successfully made it through his third NFL season without so much as even knowing who was on first, nevermind second.  But those evil schedule makers knew just what buttons to push and how early when they set the Jets up as the Pats second game of the year. 

I sat down for that first of two games with the Jets telling myself I would only watch the first half.  Three hours later I was surfing the Internets looking for the re-cap of the game that made me crazy again.  There are now only 4 games left in the regular season and again I find myself totally immersed in the Pat's struggle to once more play in the Stupor Bowl.  I've hung on Coach Belichick's every word, listened to the hype of opponents, ex players, current players and the lady next door.  I have again become a regular visitor to the stats section of the NFL site hoping to see a Patriot somewhere near the top of any of the bizarre and infinitely stupid stats us football freaks love to suck up.   I have window shopped the Pats website, wondering just how I would look wearing a hooded sweatshirt just like Coach Belichick wears.  You know, like the one with the sleeves casually lopped off to reflect mine and Coach's less than fastidious nature when it comes to fashion.

How did I lose myself this way?  From where does this over the top fascination with the Patriots come from?

When I first started spending Sundays watching football there were still two leagues.   The NFL as it exists today had not been invented yet.  There was real pro football as played by the NFL at the time and then there were the wannabes who pretended to play pro ball in the American Football League.  My first memories are of wacthing the Washington Redskins quietly as my father and older brother screamed and hollered at the screen.  In the 1960s, the Redskins were a tough team to feel good about.  I can remember one ill fated day at the age of 9 or 10 when I rooted for the team wearing white. 

I had no idea that  rooting for the Dallas Cowboys over the Redskins in the Macrum household might get me tossed out of the family if I continued my errant ways.  Dallas scored and I cheered.  Silent stares bore into me.  I can still feel them to this day.  I soon learned to hate the Dallas Cowboys if for no other reason than simple survival.

As I grew older and moved out on my own and settled for a time in Baltimore I dropped the Skins in favor of the Baltimore Colts.  I still remember fondly the many home games at Memorial Stadium.  Ingrained memories of smuggled alcohol to ward off the cold and the ritual stumbling search for the car afterwards will always be some of my fondest sports memories.

In 1980 I married and moved to Maine to take over the home my father and mother lived in.  I brought my Colts with me and rooted for them until I woke up one morning in the Spring of 1984 and found out Robert Irsay had moved the Colts lock stock and equipment to Indianapolis.  The sleazy bastard  had them pack up and sneak out in dark of night.  

I was without a team to call my own.  To this day I cannot watch the Colts without hard feelings. 

By default, I gravitated to the New England Patriots.   I had to get my NFL fix somewhere and they were the regional team.  That's how I became a Pats fan.   The ensuing years up to the turn of the century were tough years.  But even though the Pats were at best mediocre, they tried hard and every once in awhile they showed sparks of what might be one day if I just kept the faith. 

Enter Belichick and then Brady.  And now a decade later, I am once again being rewarded for all those years I suffered watching a team others beat up on.  Now I get to watch them beat up on everyone else.  What goes around comes around.  But after what seems a lifetime of supporting lost football causes, I have no problem with reaping the rewards and basking in whatever glow I can from  a team that for ten years has been on top or damn near it.

Go Pats..................Give em some Wood.................................In Your Face New York.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Conversation in Heaven

It is now 2026. Somehow Humanity stumbled past the day of reckoning the Mayans indicated was headed their way. The Second Coming had not come yet, though many felt it was but a matter of weeks, maybe even just hours away. Humanity had finally caught on to the limitations it had placed on itself by it's wanton disregard for the planet. Populations were out of control. Starvation and disease had once again hit biblical proportions.  Economies were reaching equilibrium's that did not sit well with those countries forced to move down to meet that lower common denominator. Knee jerk social change resulted as nations responded to the new realities.  Countries caved in on themselves, many completely overhauling their governments to reflect the growing fears of Armageddon. Religious Zealots ran for office and won. In massive reversals, social and religious agendas that had been festering for years became laws over night. Civil unrest became full blown civil wars.
Up in Heaven a conversation ensued.


"Yes Peter?"

"You been paying any attention to Earth lately?"

"Come on Pete, I can't be everywhere all the time. I've got a Universe to run you know. But yes, I know. Bit of mess down there isn't it? Guess it's my own fault. I did give those flounders Free Will when I set the place up."

"Yeah, but how could you have known they would be such idiots?"

"Uh Peter, I am God you know. Supposed to have a handle on all of this. The rumor I spread is that I am infallible."

"Yeah, that was a good one God."  St. Pete searched God's face for a reaction. "Guess it back fired huh?"

"Hmm. I guess it did. Looks like I'll have to send Jesus down to tear that planet a new asshole again. Damn. I hate sending him. He's such a cocky bastard. He'll never let me forget I needed him not once but twice. I really don't want to call him in from the bull pen, but as you have noted, things are really out of control down there."

Saint Peter sat and rocked in his gold gilded Adirondack rocker.  He pulled on his golden pipe while spitting great puffs of smoke out each side of his mouth as he got his bowl glowing red hot. Once it was fired up to his satisfaction, he stopped rocking. He took a huge hit, pulled the pipe out of his mouth and blew a new cumulus cloud into existence.

"By the way God."

God was nodding off by this time. St. Peter's voice brought him out of it. He jerked his head up off his chest.  "What is it now Pete?"

"How long am I going to have to fill in as cloud generator?"

"Until further notice Peter. You know we are short handed right now what with the basement gang stealing most of the new souls."

"You know something God? "

"What's that Pete?"

"I liked things around here when you were younger and not so sure of yourself."

"What do you mean Pete?  I was suffering from a split personality back then.  How could you think it was better?  Half the time I didn't know if I should show up as Zeus or Aphrodite.  I don't know how I thought offering everyone a god for every occasion was a good idea. "

"Well, it worked for a long time.  Certainly gave you the perfect out when it came to smiting someone down.  You could hide behind plausible deniability and blame one of your other selves.  Perfect scam, but....."

God finished the thought.  "Look at me now?  Is that what you were going to say?"  God's eyes narrowed. 

Pete cleared his throat with a nervous cough.  "Easy there big guy, I only meant that it just seemed so much simpler back in the day.  I wasn't stuck generating clouds and also doing the Walmart meet and greet at the Pearly Gate."

Shaking his head in disgust, God stood up.  The porch shook, almost knocking St. Peter out of his Adirondack rocker.  "Well Pete, I gotta get back to the grind.  Earth can hang on for another year or two.  There's a leak in one of the black holes in Nebula 413 I have to attend to.  Can't let those black holes get out of control, they'll suck the life right out of a guy, give em half a chance."

God headed to the porch steps.  Each foot he brought down made Pete's teeth rattle.  Before hitting the steps, God turned and glared his best God glare at St Peter.  "Before you open your trap and say something like, "Oh gonna run off and ignore the mess you created down on Earth".  Yeah before you even think that, remember everything I do is done for a reason only I can know."

St. Peter never liked God's glare.  It was damn unsettling.  But one of the reasons he was God's right hand guy was he did not back down.  He glared back at God, blew out some smoke and said,  "Whatever God, you're the Man with the Plan."

Most of the above was found wasting away lost among the sea of unpublished drafts from several years ago.  I spotted it, pulled it up to the front of the line, and gusseyed it up some for public presentation.  Sacrilegious for sure.  But in a light hearted and fun pokin way. 

Sunday, December 05, 2010

More Wasted Bandwidth

So I was fitzing and farting around the Internet the other day.  Surfing no place in particular.  Just following links and punching up whatever site tickled my fancy.  For some reason I decided to punish myself again by taking one of those "free" online IQ tests. 

Took the test.  Answered all 38 questions without cheating.  What would be the point anyway?  There was definitely a couple of head scratchers and I am guessing a few I was sure of but missed completely as I was so sure I had gotten them right.  Some were easily dealt with.  Like the math questions that had odd numbers adding up to an even number.  No need to add them.  If there was an odd number of odd numbers, the answer would be an odd number.  The opposite holds true if there were an even number of odd numbers.  They would end up an even sum.  It was the geometric comtemplation I struggled with the most.  Hexagons, Octagons, and one about a house shaped like a doughnut. 

All in all it took me ten munutes or so.  I ended up with a score of 123.

Now I have never pretended to be of high intelligence.  Good thing too as my tendency to be a dumass shows up on a regular basis.  So, imagine my surprise when I found that 123 sits me solidly in the above average category.

At first I was miffed.  Of the 38 questions I only remembered two I kinda, sorta mighta guessed at.  I was pretty sure I was going to come out of this test maybe not a genius, but pushing it damn hard.  Then I looked at the breakdown of the scores and became happy with my results.  Above average ain't so bad.  Matter of fact, I imagine most of us are more than pleased when we or our efforts are judged by those judging us as being above the norm.  

Now I know this test is not a good barometer of my IQ.  No test is.  Seems to me what we do in our lives and with our lives would be a better indicater of how smart we are.  With this in mind, my LIFE IQ would probably sit solidly "below average".  The only thing keeping me out of the cellar would be my ability against the odds that I would make it this far.  After all, I was voted by several high school friends as the one guy who would not see the new century come in.  I've done some damn stupid shit in my life.  And even though I outgrew most of it, I still pull bonehead moves often enough to question just how much grey matter not crisped and wasted in my cranial void still functions as it was intended to.

Just thought I would share one of the wasted Internet moments that flowed through my life.

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

Saturday, December 04, 2010


One night awhile ago I watched Mrytle lift the pizza box lid with her nose and shove her head deep into the delectable center where all the pizza tidbits that did not make it into my mouth still sat waiting.  Maybe she thought I was sleeping after gorging myself with the large pineapple and bacon extravaganza only a pork and pineapple addict like me could truly appreciate.

But I was not asleep.  I was keeping at least one eye on that box.  There were still three slices left.  And no, I did not feel like sharing.  Not tonight.

"Hey.  What the Hell are you doing Miss Mrytle?"

Myrtle was a quick little thief even at the age of 14.  She pulled her head out of the box with one of the pizza slices hanging from her mouth.  She looked at me.  I looked at her.  She began to turn to escape my clutches.  But this was my pizza, not hers.  And I was quicker.  I grabbed her gently and placed her in my lap, the slice still gripped hard in her mouth. 

I knew how to get my pizza back without a struggle.  I stroked her back near her tail.  Her butt lifted and she opened her mouth to meow.  The stolen slice fell into my lap.  She looked up at me with eyes that said, "I hate you, but don't stop."

I turned to Stubby sitting there next to me and said, "And where were you?  You're supposed to keep an eye on your feline buddies.  You are one worthless guard dog."  Stubby did not hear me.  She was too busy trying to inhale the pizza slice through nostrils working overtime.

At my feet sat Fernando looking all innocent and clueless.  But I knew he was just putting on a show.  As soon as my back was turned, it would be every pet for him or herself.  And 'Nando would be first in line.  He was the bad ass in the house.

I sat surrounded by fur bearing vultures only held at bay by the fact that I was bigger than they were.  There was no loyalty, no rules.  Seems I had no choice.  And since Myrtle had already compromised the virginity of that slice of pizza, I broke it up and shared it with the three of them.

In short order, Mrytle and Fernando had had their fill.  They sat on the coffee table and licked their paws.  Stubby on the other hand had inhaled her share and was now looking at me as if to say, "Okay, I'm ready for some more."

Damn Pets.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Being self employed for, oh I guess the last 20 years or so has created a kind of barrier between me and the accumulated processes and machinations of the real labor world out there.  I have not had to deal with drug testing, background checks, or any of the other mandatory investigations most folks now take for granted.  Recently however I was faced with this reality.

I was approached by a nice woman who runs an out of school program for kids who don't handle the classroom environment so well.  My duties would be as a bike shop guy helping the kids develop skill sets handling tools, projects, etc with bikes as their focus.  It was to be a paid position and take up about 3 hours of my week.  Okay fine.  I was interested.  Not for the money so much as just to help out.

I received an email from her.  In it she insinuated my position was a lock and "oh, by the way, we need to know if you have had a background check recently and been fingerprinted."  This was mentioned as if it was no big thing, business as usual. 

I pondered her email.  The longer I sat there and thought about it, the angrier I became.  The notion that I have to prove I am of good enough character to work with children rubbed me the wrong way.   In a country that supposedly champions the idea of presumed innocence, background checks, drug tests, and fingerprinting for no legal reason makes this claim look rather silly and hypocritical.  And what is worse, the stigma attached to refusing to comply with these requests gives the impression one has something to hide.  We should change the slogan to "Guilty until proven innocent".

Some of us still believe in the idea that innocent until proven guilty is an important enough ideal that refusal to comply is not because we have something to hide, but that we just object to having to prove our innocence without having been charged with anything.  

Some ideals are worth taking a stand for.  Refusing to take drug tests and yielding my past to some investigators are two I feel strongly about.  So I emailed her back.  I filled her in on the drug stupidity that landed me on the wrong side of the law.  But then I told her I would not give her any information that would kick the background check into motion.  It was the principle, not what they might find out.  I flat out do not care if anyone knows about my few minor brushes with the law.  I was stupid when I was young.  I got caught being stupid.  I paid the price passed down from the bench and then moved on with my life.  Christ, it's been almost 30 years now.

And now I am sure she and whoever she answers to are wondering, "What does he have to hide?"  And you know what?  I could not care less what anyone thinks by my refusal.  I know why I did it.  I know and admitted what I did years ago.  If that is not enough, well, find someone else.

I often make fun of those folks who would have us return to the days of Ozzie and Harriet.  I know that the world has become a more dangerous and complex place.  But in my opinion, half of our problems stem from a mass paranoia that has ballooned out of control.   As a culture we now seem to assume the worst in people before we assume the best.  This may be the new reality, but it does not mean I have to cave to it.  I always try my best to give everyone I meet a fair shot before I cast them out of my life.  It's too bad our nation, our world has decided to take a different course.


Thursday, December 02, 2010


I often come up with my best topics or stories while killing mental time as my body goes through the mundane mechanics of commuting, working on a bike, raking, mowing, any number of activities that do not lend themselves to me stopping whatever it is I am doing to write the notion or great idea down.  I tell myself to remember this grand thought I just came up with.  I assure myself I will.  I promise.  More often than not, I let myself down once I have sat down with a few minutes to spare.  The grand thought is lost in the toxic mists wafting around my mind.  Usually there is a nothing but a blank stare after the initial thought, "What was it I wanted to write about?"  Damn, that pisses me off.

So I figured I would find and use the small cassette recorder I used back in the day when I owned another bike shop.  Another time when I thought I needed some help in organizing my life.  Of course, the self inflicted chaos I live with day in, day out proved too much for my desire to organize my life.  I could not remember where I had put that damn cassette recorder.  So I forgot about it.  Moved on.

Last weekend I was poking around one of my many piles looking for something else and there it was.  The small cassette recorder covered with dust was tucked in a box marked, "Old Bike Shop Shit".  Imagine my surprise and pleasure at discovering I actually could organize things, if only so I could misplace them again. 

The recorder had not been used in 15 years at the least.  Yet the batteries still had juice and the tape still had words dictated over 15 years ago.  Apparently, mixed in with this verbal list of things to do, people to call, bills to pay were threaded many snide and nasty comments about my partner at the time.  I began to relive the unpleasant process of a partnership falling apart.  Each snarky comment illicited supporting memories.  I was suddenly back in 1993 and hating Life at my bike shop. 

Here I had a small piece of a time in my life I would just as soon have forgotten.  I could toss out the tape and put a new tape in and move along little doggie.  Being the glutton for punishment I tend to be on occasion, I could not resist reliving the acrimony that existed between me and a former friend as we ruined our bikeshop and our friendship with our stupid bickering.  Listening to myself back then reinforced my reasoning to open my current operation without a partner, that's fershur.

Parnerships are tough to pull off.  Just look at the divorce rate in this country.  It is no better in the business world.  It often does not matter either whether the business is profitable or not.  Our bike shop did not fail because of lack of business, it failed because we were too busy nitpicking each other when we shoulld have been pulling together. 

When we went belly up, my ex-partner moved on to other things.  He became a car salesmen, then a realtor, and then I guess he got divorced and found a new wife (his third) who could supply him with the baubles and comfort he felt he deserved.  He moved to Cape Cod and is a happy camper I guess.  All of this is conjecture on my part as I have not spoken to him since 1995.  My vision of where and what he is doing comes from second hand information passed to me by people who may or may not know what they are talking about.  I do know though his current wife lost a daughter on one of the planes that went down in 9/11.  Anyway, I still have hard feelings, but wish him no ill will.

Sometimes it is not a good idea to get to know someone too well. 


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

More Cats Out of the Bag

So more cats got out of the bag.  And now our fearless leaders are all upset over being caught calling their foreign counterparts nasty names behind their backs. 

I don't want to belittle the signifigance of having some of our classified network compromised, but come on, the US government with it's over the top penchant for paranoia is more likely to classify something not worth classifying just because that is their habit.  Nevermind not letting the right hand know what the left one is doing, they love to not let any hand know what they are doing.


Because secrets held close will tell the real story, not the story manicured and molded for public consumption.  What tickles me no end is that often the real secret is already out there, yet the government continues to act as if it is not.

Take for instance the cables swapped back and forth between US officials regarding that bastion of ethics, Afghanistan’s President Karzai.  In these cables apparently, the diplomat's true feelings about him were made public.  Like it was a secret he and his crew were corrupt assholes who were raping their country for fun and profit.  I guess though, it did not become "truth" until these cables became public.  Right.

An article I read about the increased reliance on the electronic storage of classified secrets is turning into a laugher.  The claim is that every government is working 24/7 to hack into the electronically stored classified records of every other country - friend and foe alike.  The article points up that if it is stored on a computer, no matter what security is in place, someone always finds a way to hack past the electronic guards on duty.  It goes on to say a good safe with a combo lock and paper records are still the surest way to ensure safe storage of secrets the government does not want to see the light of day.

There are claims that people will die as a result of this exposure.  The Right has new ammunition in it's neverending seige of Obama land.  And the leaks has anyone dealing with government business thinking twice about what they do say in electronic communication. 

Contrary to Julian Assange's claim that leaking these electronic communications lends transparency to the notion of government and is a good thing, the Wikileaks founder is just stirring the pot and making things worse.  Instead of opening up government to the light of day, his stupidity is just going to cause governments to be more secretive, not less.

And yes, the diplomatic efforts of the US have been damaged.  Our diplomatic corp has been doing such a lousy job of late, I wonder if I will even notice.  And with this release of information, the hawks of this country have one more reason to consider diplomacy less than useful in covering our interests abroad.  All in all, another small ingredient added to the chaotic global stew simmering just waiting to come to a full boil.