Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Body Snatchers Re-visited

Forward - Disclaimer - Whatever
This is some fiction I wrote over 3 years ago and never posted.  It was tied to a writing site, now defunct, called "Thinking Ten".  It was my last effort with Thinking Ten.  Figures I would pick "Capstone Sunday" to give it another whirl.  The Idea is to take the offered daily prompt and write for ten minutes.  Stop and then read what you have written.  Sunday's prompt is to use every prompt from the previous week.  Spit and polish it up and then submit.  I was maybe 200 words into the rough first draft when 10 minutes was up.  Decided to finish the thought no matter where or how long it took me.  Took me awhile.
So without further comment - 
"I can do it myself", Jackson hollered back at his wife of 45 years as he climbed up and into the bed of his 1976 GMC pick up.  Last night's snow storm had finally filled the back of it.  Jackson's rule was never shovel more than he  had to.  He always waited until Winter had filled the bed before he took care of it.  

Squinting against the bright sun, he cussed and fumed every shovel full over the side.  His old fart back complained with every scoop.  And this last storm had turned the snow into igloo snow.  Heavy and packed, he had to add chopping it up first to the already painful scoop and toss motion.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Looking Back

My existence owes a debt of gratitude to a rowdy cocktail party sometime in the summer of 1951.  I found out or surmised all this when connecting dots while sifting through important papers after my father died in 1980.  My parents at the time were both single.  They hurriedly married a few months before I was born.  I confronted my mom after my dad passed with my Eureka moment and all she said was, "It certainly took you long enough to figure that one out."  Or words to that effect.

I was not shocked nor shamed.  Shit happens.  Especially unplanned pregnancies in the 1950s.  The realization however that I was conceived out of wedlock filled in many missing pieces regarding my interactions with extended family members, especially on my mom's side.  I never felt comfortable as a child nor as an adult at family gatherings.  I felt shunned.  When I became an adult, I reciprocated and cut them out of my life.

While I was not shocked nor shamed, I did get pissed off.  My anger at not being let in on the secret when I was younger was short lived.  I decided that as a child I would have been poorly equipped to deal with information so sensitive.  And I realized, just how does one tell their kid, they are a mistake and the result of socially unacceptable passion.  Now days it would be easy.  In the 1950s and 1960s, not so much.

I am grateful my mother chose to carry me full term.  But at what price?  I grew up in a house with no love in it.  Or not much anyway.  I will always wonder if my mere existence created the misery my parents bestowed on each other while I was growing up.  I don't stay up nights worrying about it.  But I do wonder.

All this brings me to my very convoluted and conflicting opinions surrounding the hot topic of abortion.  Prior to knowing how I came into the world, I was a hard core advocate of the right to abort.  Once I realized that I had once been a prime candidate for the procedure and dodged the bullet, my view has softened.  I am still strongly pro-choice.  But if asked my advice, I would do what I could to help the prospective mother carry her child to term.

This may seem hypocritical or sitting on the fence, or I don't know what.  The right of the individual to dictate what happens in their own body supersedes my opinion that Abortion should be the last tool used to resolve an unwanted pregnancy.  The State and organized religion should stay the Hell out of it.  First and foremost, I am for individual rights.  Supporting the mother without judgement is the best thing I can do I think.

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

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Sunday Morning Window

The Sun is streaming in through my Sunday morning window.  It is teasing me, giving me that come hither look to bolt outside into the warm embrace of an early Spring Day.  I look at the thermometer strategically placed next to my Sunday morning window.  It tells me the Sun is offering up nothing but false hope, pulling a prank, hoping to entice me to take part in it's cruel joke.  There will be no warm embrace, no warming of my cheeks as I step out into the Sun.  It will be just the evil chuckle of a chill as it travels down my spine when the frozen wind hits me in the face instead.

So, I sit on the inside looking out and imagine a warm day unfolding beyond the glass of my Sunday morning window.  And though I know deep down I am only fooling myself, I also know that if I wait for the robins to step down from their roosts, I will know then the day unfolding outside of my Sunday morning window will at least be cordial.

Later Gator, I have a bike ride to enjoy ...................................................

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Mr. Mike, Can You Put Gas in My Tire

A bike shop that existed in 1900 not 50 feet from my shop today
Next door to the bike shop sits the Bradford Block, the oldest commercial building still standing on Main St. in Springvale.  It beats out my building by maybe 5 years or so.  Both were constructed and put into play in the 1870's.  In my building there are 4 tenants, two commercial at street level and two residential up stairs.  The Bradford Block next door houses one restaurant and a family of 7 who inhabit the huge apartment above the restaurant.

B and his wife bought the building I guess 4 years ago when he retired from the Army.  At the time there was just he, his pregnant wife holding an infant and a rugrat already breathing and running around..  While they were renovating the building, they lived with his father and mother somewhere near by.  The building was completely gutted and rebuilt on the inside.  B installed a brick wood fired pizza oven, an all new stainless kitchen, walk in freezer and a brand new apartment upstairs for he and his bride to begin the next chapter in their lives.

Then B got busy making more babies.  His wife has been pregnant for at least 3 of the 4 years I have been acquainted with them.  I only point this out because in today's America, a family with 5 kids is not the norm.

From the back door of my shop, I have had the distinct pleasure of watching these little tackers begin to get a tentative grip on the world around them.  It has been a hoot.  I have always enjoyed watching children at play.  I have always enjoyed interacting with them.  Yeah, I think kids are very cool.  Their laughter, screams of delight or anger, whatever noise they come up with is music to my ears.

The oldest three call me Mr. Mike.  Not sure which parent came up with that, but I hazard a guess it was Dad.  When the three oldest come home from St Thomas school in the afternoon, they all seem to be carrying their latest school child effort in their hands.  Images on paper scrawled in colorful disarray, or paper-mache sculptures carelessly dangling from stubby hands.

During a brief warm period a couple of weeks ago, the second oldest, J, was out back messing with his bike.  I think he was waiting for me to make an appearance at my back door.  As soon as he saw me, he began to squeeze his rear tire with exaggerated intensity.  "Mr. Mike, can you put gas in my tire?"  All the while he continues to squeeze that tire hard with his small hands as if to make sure I understood his dilemma.

"J, I tell you what.  You wheel that beast over here and I'll fix you right up."

J stops squeezing his tires.  He looks at his bike and then looks at me.  "Mr Mike, this is not a beast, this is my bike."

I smile at his literal world.  Nuance has yet to make an entrance.  "Are you sure?"

Now I have him guessing.  He looks at his bike, squeezes the rear tire again and looks at me.  "No, it is my bike.  It needs gas."  He was not going to be detoured from his original mission.

"Wheel it on over and we'll get some gas in it for you."

He just looks at me.  I assume he is mulling over just what the term "wheel it on over" means.  He resolves his dilemma I guess based on my hand gesture beckoning him in my direction.  J grabs the bike by the rear wheel and drags it out of the bike rack near their back door.  He gets turned around and bears down on the handlebars to push it in my direction.

Inside the shop, I take over.  I place the little 12 inched wheeled beauty near the air hose next to my bench.  As I reach for the air hose I realize now why he wanted "gas" for his tire.  In his short time on this planet filled with something new everyday, he was finally starting to organize the repetitive actions he had become accustomed to.  Mom or Dad would pull into a gas station, get out and put a pump nozzle into the gas tank opening.  J had also watched me many times use an air hose to put air in bike tires.  The two must be related.  What Dad put in the car must be the same thing I put in bike tires.  Both used hoses with really cool looking doodads on the ends.  The funny thing is, J is not wrong.  I do put gas in bike tires, just not the same kind of gas his parents pump into their vehicles.

I remove the valve cap of the flat tire and hand it to J.  "Hold this.  Don't drop it."

J cradles that valve cap carefully in two hands and keeps his eye on it.  I knew that valve cap was in capable hands.  I put air in the soft tire and asked for the cap back.  J carefully handed it to me.  I screwed it back on the tube.  I then removed the valve cap on the front tire and handed it to J.  No further instruction was needed.  He took his valve cap care seriously and again cradled it in both hands.  After I filled up the front tire, instead of reaching for the valve cap, I said, "Would you like to put the valve cap on yourself?"

I made that kid's day.   His face lit up and he smiled, "Really Mr. Mike?"

"Yeah, go for it".

Watching him struggle and then succeed with something as simple as screwing on a valve cap made me realize that as an adult I often fall into there is nothing new under the Sun mentality.  Yet, right here in front of me was something new under the Sun.  That had to be the very first valve cap J would ever screw onto a tube and I got to be part of it.

That made my day.

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

Friday, April 08, 2016

Beauty is Only Skin Deep

I was watching TV awhile back. Or rather I had it on. More for the noise than anything else while I attended to minor chores.  One of those tabloid shows was on.  The hostess with the perfect coiffure and the perfect teeth behind the perfect smile introduced a woman who was addicted to cosmetic surgery.  The lead in and my first and only look let me know all I wanted to hear and see.  I went back to whatever chore I was dealing with, hoping to work the horrific image out of my mind.

But I could not get the picture of her out of my mind. She had had so much skin pulled, tucked, inflated and re-arranged, she looked like a claymation figure.  The more I considered her image, the more absurd and further from reality it became.  I could not imagine what waking up next to her would be like.

I finished my chores and immediately fired up the computer.  Apparently there is a medical definition for addiction to cosmetic surgery.  It is known as "body dysmorphic disorder".  What is it with the medical folk that they insist on labeling every problem with a name that normal folk cannot understand?  Couldn't they just label it "addiction to cosmetic surgery" and be done with it?  Whatever.  I guess somebody has to keep a breath of life in a dead language.  Might as well be doctors.

With the unfortunate woman's face still fresh in my mind, I stopped in front of the bathroom mirror and considered what might be needed to give me twenty years back.

Hmm ......... No double chin yet. That's good I guess. My face is slightly larger now, but there's still almost a full head of hair on top.   My nose is still small and inconspicuous. Again, a good thing I guess.   But I'll tell you what.  A small nose brings with it some real disadvantages.  Because of it, I was never able to learn how to properly pick it.  Even as a wee one, hangin with my buds at the playground slide, I could never plunge even a knuckle deep to get at the good stuff like my peers.  At the time I was sure they thought less of me because of my lack of talent at nose mining.  But we all have to live with physical challenges and I have learned to deal with mine.

Once I had recognized the unfairness of a small nose, my eyes moved to my eyes obscured by glasses looking back at me in the mirror.  I removed my glasses and leaned in hard to bring my face back into focus.  What's this under my eyes? Are those water balloons? I am packing some serious eye baggage.  Looks like someone stuffed a tennis ball under each eye. And the crow's feet at the corners of my eyes look like Big Foot stomped on my face.  Add in the scars I had accumulated from years of launching myself head first into almost everything I did, well, I have to say maybe that woman didn't look so bad after all.

I considered my previous horror upon viewing her for the first time while checking out my 63 year old mug.  The face that stared back at me with just a little make up, maybe a highlight here or some shadow over there, could land me an extra spot on "Walking Dead".   At least I did not have to pay one red cent to grow this ugly.  No sense paying for something you can do yourself.

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

An addendum to this post - For some reason the comments were turned off for this post.  Not sure what I did, but I must have pissed off the Internet gods or something.

Odd.  Very Odd.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Willy's Ale Room

I ignored Willy's Ale Room for the longest time after it opened over 15 years ago.  Drove by it almost everyday on my way to the bike shop.  I told myself roadhouses in the sticks  were nothing but trouble with a capital T.  Evil entities lurked there just waiting to smite me down with demon rum and other sinful spirits.  Nothing ever good happened in a gin joint, honky tonk, whatever the local label might be.

My avoidance had nothing to do with fearing God or his holier than thou army.  My avoidance was because I have in the past, while visiting these dens of inequity, been lured into less than civil behavior and held accountable by the local constabulary for I swear, the stuff someone else pulled.  Besides the over the top bar bills that set me up for trouble in the first place combined with the court costs that resulted, finally made me see the light.  It was damn expensive getting into trouble as an adult.

Of course it has been well over 35 years since I  was last involved in bar chaos resulting from over indulgence.   And though I may not remember the fun that got me into trouble, I do remember the aftermaths.  I realized back then if I had any hope of making it past 40, I had better leave roadhouses alone.  My character was not strong enough to keep me sane when exposed to walls of liquor and a row of 5 pull draft handles.  Add in some good music and on occasion I had to be poured into my car after last call.  It was a public safety issue and proof even a dumass can smarten up once in awhile.

I have established my sordid past relationship with bars found in the rural outbacks of this land.  I have admitted to being weak when faced with Temptation.  All in an effort to explain  why I might have recently decided to lift my self imposed lifetime ban on honky tonks and visit Willy's Ale Room, located a short mile from my dooryard.

It's Jim's fault.  Want to make that plain right at the get go.  Had he not insinuated that Willy's provided a good chewy thin crust with their pizzas, I would have never broken that oath I made so many years ago.  He was right though.  Their crust is thin and chewy and their pizzas are definitely better than the average pizza pie in this part of the country. 

So here I am now with at least 60 pizzas under my belt.  Since I have always gotten them to go, my encounters with evil liquid seductresses have been in, out, thank you ma'am,  I'll take my pizza to go if you don't mind ...... but while I am waiting, draw me a Newcastle from the tank in the dungeon.  One beer, occasionally two and I'm outta there.

As it turns out, Willy's is more of a local spot where families could go and not feel they would need to run interference from bad influences.  Good bar food, friendly and welcoming folks, and oh yeah, they have Newcastle on draft.

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

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Misgivings and Doubt

One of my favorite Valve Caps
Because I publicly challenged myself to post every day for the month of April, self induced pressure to perform created misgivings and doubt.  Misgivings and doubt are the seeds of writer's block.  At least that has been my experience over the last 12 years I have been blogging.  The trick is to forge ahead and damn the result.  People either liked it or did not.  First and foremost I need to write for myself.

With the challenge to myself in mind, I tried to come up with a strategy to make sure I posted every day.  What I taught myself before was to have scheduled posts waiting to be posted in case I failed that day to perform as promised.  After all, I am in the beginning of my busy season at the bike shop and every word I type in the morning is accompanied by a heap full of guilt for not being at the bike shop with my nose to the grindstone.

If writing is helping me stay sane or balanced or just feeling better, well, this can only benefit my efforts at the bike shop in the long run.  And honestly, I think it has.  The time I spend at the shop now is more productive.  I feel more on top of the Spring rush than I have felt in a long time.  The therapy of writing everyday has made the transition from Winter slug to Ready Eddy much easier.

It may all just be a fig newton of my imagination.  If it works then why fight it?

I assume everyone with a Google type blog has the same dashboard setup I have.  I always open the dashboard to the posts page.  At the top right, a total tally of posts is shown, followed by a break down of those posts published and those posts existing as drafts.  I noticed the other day that out of the 1664 posts I have, 434 are in draft status.  434 posts I at least started and for one reason or another did not publish.

There might be some untapped semi riches there I thought.  I filtered out the published from the unpublished and began checking the drafts out.  After thumbing through the first 50 or so, I realized that most of them sat cooling their heels on the bench for good reason.  They were not ready for prime time.  I did find a couple though that I thought had promise.

I decided that if nothing comes to mind any given day, I would go to my bench for a pinch hitter.  The benefits would be two fold.  I could start cleaning up the mess that exists behind the colorful and eye catching wonder that is my blog page and work on my editing skills.  I have also learned over the past 12 years that the ability to edit one's work is absolutely key in the effort to become a better writer.

And here we are now.  I have successfully met my daily commitment by writing about how I am going to meet my daily commitment.  It doesn't get any better than this.

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

xxI knew I could pen some words everyday, but would I be satisfied with them?

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Secretary of the Future

Mornings in the garage, I punch up the small radio I used to include with my tools when banging nails for money.  It is covered with paint spots, one corner is crunched after a fall from 40 feet, and the back is taped on as a result of that fall.  I have it perched precariously on the edge of the one window in the garage.  Where else would I park it?  A radio like that that laughed in Death's face all the way down, deserves to live out its life as it lived it, outside the safe environs of a deep solid shelf.  Besides, it only pulls in stations when it is that close to the window.

So this morning I punched it up, and NPR had a short , very short, interview with Kurt Vonnegut.  It figures he would ask the question, "Why don't we have a Secretary of the Future in the President's cabinet?"  He went on to point out that there was a secretary for almost everything else, but no one looking out for what is coming down the pike.

"Hmm."  I think I actually said this to myself. "Hmm, A Secretary of the Future."

Of all the wacky things I have thought of, an official somebody looking forward instead of behind never occurred to me.  Immediately I began to consider just how this new bureaucratic agency would work.  So I phoned them.  Phoned then in my mind of course.  Their existence or non existence will be determined at some future date.  This future conversation ran something like.............

"Good Morning, you have reached the Department of the Future.  Your call is important to us here in the future.  All of our agents are currently busy dealing with the future.  Please leave your name and number and your reason for calling.  An agent will be contacting you at some future date and time to address your question and concerns regarding the future.  As we here at the Department of the Future cannot actually predict the future and can only offer possible scenarios, the status of your call will be determined by which number you dial now."

"If you think we will never call, dial 1."

"If you think we might call, but it will be after you have forgotten why you called in the first place, dial 2."

"If you think we will call right back, dial 3 and hold your breath until that happens."

"For all other possibilities, please stay on the line.  An agent will be with you shortly in your dreams after you have passed out with the receiver in hand."

That was my first go at imagining what a Department of the Future phone call might be like.

Number two went like  .............

"You have reached the Department of the Future.  Your call is totally meaningless in the future, as it will already be in the Past once we listen to your message.  Only future contacts are handled here at the DOF.  Thank you for calling."

Anyway, that is what was on mind in my recent past.  Who knows what will be slinking around in my upcoming future.  Maybe I should call the Department of the Future.

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


Monday, April 04, 2016

The Unimportant Blogger

I came across the term "unimportant blogger"  awhile back on a New Hampshire political blog.  Apparently this lady made some folks over in the Live Free or Die state unhappy with her liberal ways.  One fellow in particular insisted on referring to her as an "unimportant blogger".  The "unimportant blogger" rightfully pointed out that if she was so unimportant, why then did this fellow continue to show up to comment.

So what determines a blog as important or unimportant?  Is a blog with the most followers more important than one with none?  Does importance rely on the who's who of the list of names in the comment section?   Or does a blog's importance depend on the weight each individual places on that blog?

I realized I needed to first get my mind around the word "important" and just what was important, really important.  And where in the scheme of importance does blogging fit.

After at least several minutes of mental gymnastics, I decided that there were two kinds of importance.  Things we absolutely needed to survive were one kind of importance.  And the rest was all of the crap we place varying unimportant degrees of importance on.

Using this criteria, it is easy to identify the "unimportant blogger".  The unimportant blogger is all of us out here in the blogosphere.  Not a single one of us is crucial to the existence of our physical world or this made up out of nothing Internet world.  So get over yourselves, any of you who think that having more followers, more hits, more comments somehow makes you more important than the rest of us blogging slugs.

If there is one thing I would consider important when considering the Internet and blogging, it is the word connection.  That is the one important thing all bloggers bring to the table.  They help the ongoing and growing connection humanity is in the early phases of because of the World Wide Web.

I can piss and moan about the 90% of Internet traffic being so much wasted bandwidth with no tangible redeeming value, but the fact is the internet, for good or bad, is going to change the way our species interacts with each other.  The planet just got smaller and now our neighbors are no longer the folks next door, but the folks in the next country, across the oceans, and people they did not know in the next county.

So to all the bloggers out there, and yes even you Tweeter twits, you are all important.  You are members of a larger movement that will fundamentally rearrange human culture in the future.  But as to any one of us being more important than another, well it just ain't so.


Sunday, April 03, 2016

The End is Near Again

We survived the recent Mayan Apocalypse.  We all breathed a sigh of relief when the Rev. Harold Camping was wrong, 12 times wrong, about the Biblical Armageddon breathing down our necks.  So far, the planet and its puny sentient race has managed to dodge the big bullet.  At some point though, I wonder if one of the voices from our fringes will make the correct call.

A fellow, who we will call Mr A, came into my bike shop the other day to buy a rack for his bicycle.  I have known this guy for a couple of years.  Mr A is definitely a citizen of the fringes.  I like him, but his take on Life is different than anything I could have come up with.  When we share topics regarding bikes, he is as normal and mainstream as the next guy.  When he expands the conversation with lead ins like, "Do you believe in UFOs?" - Well, I know what follows will at the least be entertaining and sometimes scary.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Sanford, Maine

Gears left when the Mills moved away

Maine is a beautiful state that is sparsely populated and performs the necessary duty of a cornerstone state.  The border is shared by the self proclaimed "Live Free or Die" folks from New Hampshire to the west and those wacky Canadians up north of us.  To the east, a convoluted rocky coastline of 3500 miles keeps the Atlantic ocean at bay.  There were at last count, 1.33 million people living in an area of 35,385 square miles, or about 43 people per square mile.  Most of the people here live in the lower third of the state, giving us Mainers a wonderfully wild and gorgeous state to call home.

But this is not about Maine.  This about a town much maligned over the years that has pulled itself up by its bootstraps and has finally re-defined itself.

Sanford is a small town that has proven itself a survivor, regardless of the bad rap it gets from those high pocket towns on the coast or at the bottom of ski slopes up country.  Sanford, from the very beginning, was a blue collar mill community.  The Mousam river offered readily available power to numerous mills as far back as the mid 1700's.  In the mid 1800's, Sanford began to flourish when the Goodall's opened their first textile mill.  For the next century, Sanford was a key producer of the cloth that America used and exported.

In the mid 1960's, the textile industry packed its things and moved south.  After a decade in Dixie, Textiles once again packed their bags and moved to foreign shores, never to come back again.  Sanford has rebounded, but it took a half century.  Now it hosts small manufacturing efforts and serves as a bedroom community for Portland and parts south.  The Mousam River still runs through it, only now it is cleaner with less diversion than it had when the town's thousand looms were running 24/7.

I am a self employed small retailer in Springvale, a small village that is part of Sanford.  My bike shop is situated only 8 miles from my home in nearby Acton.  Owning an independent brick and mortar operation on Main Street anywhere in America is a tough row to hoe.  In a community where mid income is something to envy, it is a very tough roe to hoe.

I could have located my shop closer to the money that flows up and down the Maine Turnpike.  It would have certainly meant more chinga ching in the till.  But I don't own a bike shop to make money so much as I own a bike shop because I enjoy providing a service for the good people who live around me.

Money is important, but it has never been my prime motivator.  I derive enjoyment, fulfillment if you will, in the act of labor.  Money is a reward, but no less important is the pleasure I get when I can make someone's day by servicing their bike, providing information, or just being there to hear what is happening in their lives at that moment.

Over the years Sanford has earned my loyalty and my respect by its tenacity and refusal to go away.  It has, like any community, institutionalized madness that drives me crazy sometimes.  But at its heart, the movers and shakers are good people who constantly look to improve the lot of Sanford's citizenry.  Any small part I can have in that effort is what makes me continue to open my doors.

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

Friday, April 01, 2016

Post a Day for a Month

Earlier this year, I wasn't sure if I was going to have the interest in blogging that I once had.  Fads come and go.  Since I started blogging in 2004, my efforts have been erratic to say the least.  And this time I had lost a couple of years there and getting back on the horse did not hold much appeal.  But then that itch, that urge, that ever present inclination to put words to proverbial paper was again nagging me to no end.

"Alright, alright.  Give it break ferchrisakes," I said to myself.  "If it will shut you up, I'll start writing again.......... But don't expect much."

The internal nag sat down and shut up.  But I know he is watching me to see if I will keep my word.  He's been disappointed before.

Because of my life long infatuation with creating and reading my own words, I have notebooks and scraps of scrawl stashed here and there around my house.  I am not squirreling them away like some randomly planted nut.  I just seem to find these scraps and notebooks in the oddest places.  Like I set the journal down and walked away, never to give it another thought until such time while looking for something else, I stumble on them, get distracted by them, and forget what the Hell I was looking for in the first place.

Regardless and anyhow, the point here today is I was looking through some of my old posts and found the ones I wrote when meeting a post a day challenge back a few years.  Hey great.  I think I will give it whirl again.  See if I can post every day for the month of April.  Because practice may not make perfect, but it heads one in the right direction.  And a daily routine just might be the kick in the ass I need.

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