Friday, January 30, 2015

The Continuing Adventures of Mullet Man and the Quest for Cheap Beer.



So there’s this guy I see on the way to lunch every day who I called Mullet Man when I first saw him, back in July of last year. Mullet Man had one of those really long in the back really short in the front haircuts that you see guys living in single wide trailers in back of their mama’s house sporting. There he was walking down the road with a twelve pack of beer in a Wal Mart plastic bag, hoofing it along the highway, in the middle of some really warm weather. The slope of the shoulder caused some instability in his walking, that and he was wearing flip flops, and I almost stopped to suggest that he break the twelve pack into two sixes and use two bags but I will never suggest someone get another plastic Wal Mart bag for any reason.

Mullet Man evolved. I saw him a couple of months ago on a bike, a bicycle that is, and he had the twelve pack hanging off one of the handle bars and that was really causing him to steer erratically. But even when I saw him without the beer he seemed ill at ease on the bike. He’s a young guy, in his early twenties somewhere, and there was a time everyone road a bike and everyone was good at it, too. But he steers like he’s navigating a mine field during a hailstorm while having to pee really badly. Mullet Man has no skills on two wheels.

With the advent of much cooler weather, Mullet Man has allowed his hair to grow out uniformly and he is now sporting The Epic Beard. We’ll still call him Mullet Man because Mountain Man suggests manhood to some degree or another and anyone who rides to Wal Mart on a bike to get a twelve pack of Natty hasn’t reached the Age Of Reason quite yet. Call me judgmental, but getting a car would be much higher on my list of things to spend money on rather than cheap beer.

If this story could get any stranger, and it could you know, I saw Mullet Man on his bike, with The Epic Beard, and he was holed up against the rain under the awning of a small store. It was raining nails and hammers and the thought occurred to me that Mullet Man had no beer on him. Would he get beer at the small store or would be continue the quest for Natty O’ Wally? Of course, I could have stopped and offered to help, but again, helping someone buy cheap beer from Wal Mart isn’t exactly doing that person a world of good, is it?


I stopped at the cheap gas station on the way home that day and it was still coming down like the water was pissed off at someone for sleeping with its wife. I was going to take the back roads because when it’s raining like this only people like me take the back roads. I drive slowly and even more slowly during hurricane and biblical floods. Mullet Man had taken refuge there, and made it another three or four miles, but he was in a world of hurt. He has to cross over an overpass to get to the next bit of sidewalk and there’s a half mile of busy four lane blocking his way. Wal-Mart, mythical land of cheap beer and infinite Chinese Plastics, is still a couple of miles away. I have no idea how he plans to navigate back home once it gets dark, but as it stands right now, he’ll either have to buy more expensive cheap beer, turn away from the Promised Land, or press on, at the risk of his life.


This is where I sit in my truck and realize there are things I will do for dogs that I just cannot bring myself to do for people. I’ll stop in the middle of nowhere and pick up a smelly little stray dog and wind up losing my life’s savings trying to cure it of cancer but I won’t give Mullet Man a ride. This seems like a really bad idea the more I think about it. First off, I see this guy every day, more or less, and if he sees me as transportation, it will end poorly for me. Second, his quest is not worth his life but he doesn’t realize it. Or maybe he believes his life is worth risking for a twelve pack and that’s not damage I know how to undo. At the moment he’s standing there, pressed up against the wall with nothing but a bicycle to shield him from rain that’s falling an inch an hour, soaking wet with The Epic Beard, does it not occur to him that he’s in a bad, bad, space?

There’s never been a stray who I have picked up that didn’t display some sort of happiness and gratitude for having its position relieved. Yet I have this feeling if I offered Mullet Man a ride back home he would protest and ask if I wouldn’t take him forward on his way. He’s made it so terribly close to the finish line, time is running out on daylight, and what happens if he doesn’t get his beer? A twelve pack a day is a pretty serious, or an ugly serious habit. It reeks of someone giving him beer money each day, like an allowance of sorts, and this is the way he intends to spend his money and his life. You can’t say that about dogs. They intend to live as large as they can, given who they live with.
I stop before pulling into traffic and look back at him through the rearview mirror. The rain pounds the truck as if my truck is an affront to water everywhere and my wipers go full on to try to stem the falling tide. Mullet Man pushes himself back harder against the wall and I pull away into the storm.

Take Care,

Mike

Taylor Swift "Style"



Midnight, you come and pick me up
No headlights
Long drive, could end in burning flames or paradise
Fade into view, it's been a while since I have even heard from you
I should just tell you to leave cause I
Know exactly where it leads but I
Watch us go round and round each time

You got that James Dean day dream look in your eye
And I got that red lip classic thing that you like
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time.
Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style

You got that long hair, slicked back, white t-shirt.
And I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt,
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time.
Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style.


So it goes
He can't keep his wild eyes on the road
Takes me home
Lights are off, he's taking off his coat
I say I heard that you been out and about with some other girl
Some other girl
He says, what you've heard it's true but I
Can't stop thinking about you and I
I said I've been there too a few times

Cause You got that James Dean day dream look in your eye
And I got that red lip classic thing that you like
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time.
Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style

You got that long hair, slicked back, white t-shirt.
And I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt,
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time.
Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style.

Take me home
Just take me home
Just take me home

You got that James Dean day dream look in your eye
And I got that red lip classic thing that you like
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time.
Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Dream of the Half Handed Man

Tyger Linn slips into the darkness, invisible and silent, and even her footfall makes no sound. I am blind. There is no need for sight for if I can see that means whoever it is out there can see also, and this is my maze, my jumble of human things, and my home. I pull the hammer back slowly and the metallic click sounds like a ten feet long piece of rail dropped from the ceiling of a cathedral. I wait for the explosion that will come with the dogs’ barking but there is no sound but my breathing. I take a deep breath and wait. There is nothing to be seen, nothing to be heard, but there is something that feels wrong here.

Twin predators from the deepest part of the ocean slip past me on either side, brushing against my legs, causing me to steady myself against the door jamb as Lucas and Lilith glide out of the darkness and disappear again. I can see the lighthouses, the blue green numbers that tell me it is far deeper into the morning than I would wish. How did we get here? Why is it we need light on all of our appliances to tell us what time it is? Do we really need to know that often? Children and the elderly ask what time it is because for one it is a new experience and for the other there is so very little left to talk about. But there is something here, something inside of the house, and time doesn’t mean anything at all anymore.

I can see the shadow of the pistol in my hand against the twin glare of the clocks. Insanely, I remember when I was working in construction as a teenager and I hated how my hands looked. They were smooth and white while the older workers’ hands were gnarled and reddish colored. There were scars and scrapes while my hands looked brand new and unused. There was a man whose right hand contained two fingers that didn’t work. His thumb and index finger and his middle finger were all that was left after a nerve was severed by a saw. Yet he was still a hundred times better a carpenter than I could be if I had twice as many fingers that worked perfectly. My arm tires from holding the gun but the adrenaline is roaring through my veins and skull. There is someone here.

Lilith’s growl cuts through my thoughts and the darkness as if someone had turned on the lights. It’s a searing and bright vocalization that declares her intent for slaughter and leaves no hint for quarter. It’s not a warning but a promise of violence with extreme prejudice. The sound is a low and guttural thing, primal and basic. This is the dark sun whose invisible heat boils away the flesh and blood and reveals the glistering and dry bones of the moment. Lilith goes silent having said all that will be said. The issue is no longer one of communication.

Tyger Linn takes up a position at my right. I hear the tiniest of sounds and I know it is her. If it were Lucas I would be able to see his hand silhouetted against the starlight outside. Lucas is at the door, a full frontal assault has to go through Lucas before it gets inside, but there is something already here. It occurs to me that Lucas means to not only prevent any help arriving for whatever is inside, but he means to block the exit.
There is a sound. It’s the sound of friction, like someone’s shoe scrapping the floor as they shift their weight. It’s a sound that is totally human and alien in the natural world. Lucas gives a voice to the moment, loud, braying, and for just a fraction of a second it is the whole world. It’s a sound, a war cry, an alarm, a call to arms, it is everything that he has in his soul that pulls his sisters into war with him, a declaration that the life of that voice must be extinguished totally and all things must cease or the reason for that clarion annihilated. Lilith’s cry sounds instantly, a lifetime later, and Tyger Linn, a veteran of wars unknown, now defends her home, her family, and there is no fear in her.

I step out into the open and now the gun is light in my hands and now I know that whatever is here has been surrounded and attacked and no human being could hope to withstand the pack without a gun and Lucas’ snarl rips through the black as if he’s engaged the enemy with everything he owns.

Then there is silence.


I sit up in bed and listen to the sounds of The Three, deep in sleep. My breath comes in gulps and I can feel my heart convulsing in my chest. Tyger Linn slips off the bed and into the darkness and I wait and wait, but she returns, hardly a weight shifted as she gains the surface of the bed again, and Tyger snuffles my face.

There is nothing here but the night and whatever has seeped out of the world within my own and out into the night. It occurs to me, after I can breathe again, I never knew a man with a half hand.


Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, January 17, 2015

7/16ths is the Number of the Beast!




One of the unintended consequences of living with three large dogs is having to do a lot of laundry. There are three mutt blankets that stay on the floor and I cover the bed with two large white sheets that need changing every third day or every day if it’s been raining and it has been raining. So the washing machine stays full most of the time but the dogs all keep warm and dry, and they have a clean bed to sleep on. So do I, but that’s a secondary consideration.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a stray and have to live on the streets. But imagine the difference between that and then suddenly you’re sleeping on the inside of a heated house and you’re sleeping on top of a bed. Tyger Linn is slowly but surely making the transition between a stray to a member of my family. She’s more polite now about surrendering the spot next to me when Lilith or Lucas gets there first. She doesn’t chase misfired treats that the others might have missed. Tyger Linn is learning how to operate safely inside of a pack oriented home without fear of losing a meal or a place to sleep. She now eats out of the bowl that once belonged to Sam, in Sam’s old place, just as Lucas is eating out of Bert’s bowl in Bert’s old space. This is where former strays come to live and be fed. So it has been and so it will be.

Hell, it was a decade or so ago when I discovered that washing a lot of stuff at one time in a washing machine can cause the “Agitator Dogs” to strip out. That screw looking device in your washing machine is the agitator. As it turns it drags clothes from the top to the bottom in an endless cycle so all the clothes get moved around during washing. The agitator is moved by a cogged gear moving back and forth and the dogs are what grips the cogs and causes the agitator to turn. But because if it went round and round without stopping the clothes would get wrapped around it, the agitator only turns partially then releases. I think this is how it all works. I’m mechanically reclined. Anything that needs repair is in no danger from me.

Honestly and truly, anything that involves tools or fine motor skills is beyond me. I am the double amputee of a handy man. I don’t know which end of the screwdriver to plug in. Someone once watched me trying to drive nails into something and remarked that if anyone was found beaten to death with a hammer I was safe from being a suspect. However long it takes your average person to repair something triple that time and add an hour when I begin.

Suddenly, as I write this, it occurs to me there might be a reason why I am still single. Not only am I nearly useless around the house with tools, I just realize that my ineptness when it comes to fine motor skills light extend past appliances. Wow, talk about an epiphany I could have lived without having…

So back to the washing machine, please.

The last time I did this, as I mentioned, and I am referring to the washing machine repair, try to focus please, I got the parts from Benny Cole. He was once the foremost authority on appliance repair on planet earth and it is a shame he retired. Benny had a lot to say, however, and it took him nearly as long to make a sale as it does for me to fix something. But the man did teach me a lot about what goes wrong and why when it comes to washers.

The process of any repair job requires that I photograph everything as it looks before I start. From every angle I take shots of the agitator so when I get it all back together I can tell if it’s right. Then I pry the top off the agitator, did you know that piece came off, and then there is another cap inside of that. That comes off and lo! There’s the one single bolt holding the dogs and the cog and the agitator in place. It stares at me like the Eye Of Sauron.

There is something about this bolt that is worrisome but I have forgotten what it might be. I get out my box of tools and start trying out sockets. Ah, that’s it! Whoever designed this thing made damn sure that getting to it would be easy but getting it off would be a little harder. You have to hold the agitator still and you have to have a 7/16ths socket or nut driver. As it turns out, I just happen to own a nut driver at the 7/16ths range. Most people likely do not. The people who built this damn thing are hoping someone will strip off the head of the bolt trying to get it off and have to call a repair man.

So I take photos of the bolt, take photos of the guts of the dogs and cog and I have to clean the dog hair off all the stuff inside. Gee, where did that come from, huh? To make all of this work, however, you have to hold the cog and the dogs tightly against the bottom of the agitator as you replace it. That takes manual dexterity.

Here’s the weird thing in all of this. While I was working on this a woman called me and because I like her a lot, she makes me nervous.  She’s on speaker phone while I’m trying to get all of this stuff on and to get it right and at the same time, try not to sound like a simple repair job is going to vex me. The first attempt fails because one of the dogs slip out of position. But the next shot finds everything neatly in place. Total time, whoa… less than five minutes.

Really?

Maybe there’s hope here.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Spider Selfie

http://bitsandpieces.us/


When is it Time?




When a very good friend of mine put her GSD down, finally, I took a deep breath and released it. The dog was very far past the point where I would have done something. But this wasn’t my dog. I knew both owner and dog, the owner for over twenty years and the dog for all of his life in that home, yet I was hesitant about speaking my mind on a subject that is far more personal than sex, politics, or religion. When the time comes to kill a pet that you’ve lived with for well over a decade it’s between you and dog.

I feel slightly irresponsible at this very moment. Sam is dead, and that’s bad enough, but the day before he died I spoke with two people on the subject of having him put down. Having asked those two people for an opinion I was given the same answer; it is time. Looking back I realize that it had been time for quite some time. The sense of relief in my home is incredible. I think that everyone was suffering Sam’s madness with him. I think we were all pushed to the point where something had to happen. I think I hung on to who Sam was and ignored who he had become.

Another friend of mine hung onto her dog well past the point of reason and I think that after we buried him she understood the consequences of hanging on. I remember being at the verge of speaking to her about her dog and retreating from it. As I buried the body that Sam once inhabited I remembered that was the last dog I had buried before Sam died. That dog’s name was Frank.

Frank was a Border Collie’s Border Collie. He was everything the breed is supposed to be and he was a lot more than he needed to be. A troubled dog, very much like Sam, Frank made everyone’s life miserable because he wanted to herd something, someone, anyone, anything, and it was a little too much at time. But I loved Frank. Franks was a great animal when he wasn’t being the Border Collie from Hell. I had to go under the house to get Frank and I wonder how many people he would have allowed to drag him out from under that house? Frank never offered to bite me and didn’t resist. His body had failed him and he could not stand, but he knew me, Frank loved me, so he didn’t fight me.

Frank looked at me, he made eye contact with me as the needle slipped into his vein, and I wondered, and I still wonder, what Frank was trying to tell me.

Romeo the cat went down fighting, scratching, biting, and yowling. The orange tabby was at Death’s Door even without the vet’s needle but he was a cat. Romeo was going, if he was going, he was going to go on his own terms, on his feet, and he was going to go fighting, and he did. But just like Frank, Romeo looked up at me and held my gaze, speaking to me without words before he died.

These are my last words on this subject for a while. I’ve extinguished the fire that has burned in me the last few days. I have said everything I need to say. The outpouring of support for me during this time has been an incredible experience. But there comes a time, as we have recently learned, for everything. It is time for me to sit down in front of a keyboard and write again. It’s time to start wondering who is going to fit into the Foster Crate again. If there is a time to die there is a time to live. That time is always, always, always, right now.

Take Care,

Mike