Wednesday, December 30, 2009

South Georgia

South Georgia was once part of a Confederacy and in many ways it still is. It is as if some committee form and drew up plans for each and every small town, and by decree decided all of them would be very much the same place. The List Of Requirements include a cotton gin or peanut mill which has massive red brick warehouses, a two square where the traffic was once both ways, in a sort of vehicular free for all, but now one way, and a decaying town center, where all the buildings have a red brick façade, and very little hope.
Every once in a while some state route will be improved, or someone will write a grant, or there will be some one cent sales tax plan to revitalize downtown South Georgia. Fresh paint will cover the bricks once more, there will be an explosion of advertising and new shops will open in the same graves as the old ones. The streets will be repainted to improve parking, duct work will be installed to allow for air conditioning of the old buildings, and like a circus come to town everyone will come to see what all the noise is about, but that’s about all.
There will always be a parts store, a post office, a beauty shop of sorts, and maybe some clothing store, or some family owned business that can afford to pay the damaged daughter without a husband or a future less than minimum wage to baby sit the store eight hours a day. South Georgia isn’t a launching pad for the best and brightest by any means, and without an education, without some skill, without the ways and means for escape, there are those who never leave home, never escape the gravitational pull of their childhood bedroom, and never get past the red brick facades. Those who were not able to escape grow up to be in charge, elected by virtue of being well known, and less disliked than those who grew up here as well, try to change things, to create a new world out of the old, but no amount of effort can change South Georgia, short of nuclear weapons.
The courthouse in the town square will have a memorial or two, some statue to the fallen war dead, and perhaps some stone placard denoting this was the place where something interesting occurred once, long ago, or so we’re told. The old oak trees that push the sidewalks up are removed, and the benches under them sit idle, deprived of shade and tired souls. The streets are widened, the grass median in the middle paved over, and it looks all the world like a tiny boy, dressed up in a grown man’s clothing, trying to get a real job, instead of playing in the red dirt.
There will always be a church on every corner, and the people who pay for the upkeep of these places want to live in a better town, and want there to be better things but they have an aversion to change that borders on pathological. Let a restaurant serve alcohol on Sundays? This question causes some to turn red in the face, and their breathing quickens. Nevermind the people who want to drink are going to drink, but the idea of someone buying a drink on Sunday, well, that’s the evil part. Family restaurants open and close like greasy insects with short lives, and those who claim to want something new are actually looking for more or the same presented to them differently.

The brickwork here in South Georgia, when it isn’t the same boxed building with layer upon layer or red brick on layers of red brick, can be spectacular. The artistry and skill of some of the old craftsmen are gone now, and each year their work becomes less valued as the buildings they created become remuddled and reused. Converse apartments in Valdosta had some of the best brickwork known to mankind until they were torn down for a used car lot. The sides of the building were sloped into flumes for the rainwater to pour from like waterfalls, and fell into catch basins also formed for red brick. They were built during a time students would, and could, walk a couple of miles to the college, but as more and more people had their own cars, there was not enough parking spaces. I watched someone dig some of the bricks out of a catch basin, so they could use them to prop up a grill, and suddenly I knew why people took stones from the Great Pyramid to build goat pens. The past isn’t important to those with needs in the present.
My grandmother’s sister had a hardware store in Rochelle Georgia. The ceilings were tall, the floors were dark wood that creaked when someone walked on them, and the air had a scent of oil and work. The two ancient ceiling fans were all the cooling it ever needed, and no one ever complained about the heat, well, except in a general sense. All the stores closed at lunch on Thursdays, just because they all did, and no one ever thought about going out of town to shop. There was always a grocery store, a hardware store, a barber shop, a bank, some sort of clothing store or two, and there was rarely any business that failed. These people, those who owned the shops back then, never lived to see any change in South Georgia, and I seriously doubt anyone else will either.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm Shedding

The mission was a simple one; take the rest of the year off ( I love how that sounds) get the dead shed removed, construct a new one, and then work on removing the dead tree in the front yard. How hard does this sound? Oh, okay, I’ll explain the concept of a dead shed but first, at five in the morning, a dog fight breaks out on the bed, where I lie sleeping. Back to dead shed.

Couple of years ago Tropical Storm Fay decided a very large Water Oak would look very nice in top of my shed. Now, for those of you about to disparage these cheap metal sheds, let me remind you unless you’re parking your lawn mower in an M1-Abrams tank, a thirty-six inch circumference Water Oak is going to go where it wants to go. The lawn mower was spared, and I knocked the shed’s remains around well enough to keep my push mower in the corpse, and it stay dry. Of course, there was a lot of other stuff in there as well, let’s say, hand tools for gardening, and plastic bottles of motor oil. These the Loki Mutt has discovered as toys, and the rules clearly state if he can get to the object then the object is a chew toy. A new shed is in order, if for no other reason, sooner or later he’s going to target the riding mower under the tarp, and I’ll have to sell him on eBay.
Okay, drag out the Google Earth and you’ll discover Moultrie Georgia and Valdosta Georgia aren’t that far apart, but when you live in Hickory Head, which is thirty five miles from Moultrie, and Twenty-five from Valdosta, you can either shop at one or the other, but going to both in one day and getting a shed built is going to be a problem. I had to take the dead shed to the scrap yard, and there are two in Valdosta that I know of, so Valdosta it was. The shed is, or rather was made of thin sheet metal, and about a billion screws. A hammer removes screws from sheet metal rather well, but it does make a racket. The shed came in a box that was eight feet long, four feet wide, and weighed a billion pounds. It took every inch of the pick-up to load it all at one time, and I looked like the Clampetts after a meth lab blew up a trailer.
I took a fifty foot long rope, tied the mess down, and struck out for town. I drive slow anyway, but with the better part of a trailer park riding with me, I just assumed the cop behind me was going to pull me over. Can you see out of the back of your truck? Yes, I can, how do you think I saw you? He stands in back of my truck and holds up three fingers. Three I tell him before he asks. He’s unsure how I can see, but I can. Can you see my mirror? Yes. THEN I CAN SEE YOU! (Moron, I mutter, but he was already gone)
Scrap yards are always run by surly, ill manner, ill kempt, rude, and ignorant people who know they have you by the balls once you pull in with a loaded truck. It’s not like you can just leave with the better part an Alabama Honeymoon Suite in the back of your truck, can you? This guy is locked in a tiny office with a vent to speak through but his side is covered with cardboard because there is no heat in the weigh house. I get eight dollars for the dead shed, and I have to unload it.
Yesterday, in Moultrie, I saw a ten by ten shed for the same price as an eight by ten in Valdosta. I told the store in Valdosta and they called Moultrie, and Moultrie claims I did not either. I have a choice; get the eight by ten, or drive to Moultrie and possibly be wrong. If I’m right I’ll have a ten by ten shed instead of a eight by ten, and if I’m wrong I’m out two hours of daylight. The last shed was eight by ten and worked just fine, and I’m thinking, because this conversation between Valdosta and Moultrie has lasted through someone’s lunch break, by the time I get to Moultrie, even if they did have them, they’ll be marked up, or hidden.

Punt.

I go eat lunch and for reasons beyond my understanding, the waitress is seeing double. There are two of me, it seems. She brings me two glasses of water. And then a bill for two buffets. Hi, it’s me, not we. Because she doesn’t speak very good English and I’m as bilingual as anvils, this takes more time than it ought to take.
Back to the shed shed, to buy a shed, Jed.

I finally make it home at two and look at all the parts. There is a bag full of screws with the note attached; if there are any pieces left over you’re doing it wrong. (okay, I made that up) but there does seem to be enough parts in there to build a space shuttle. Two hours later I’m at Step Three, but it doesn’t seem to be very far along. Another hour later and it’s getting cold, and dark. The dogs get into a fist fight on the deck, and Loki, to punish his brothers, takes a dump there.

I take the dogs out and tussle them until they’re ready to fall over. All of them get lifted up and toss around a bit, so everyone understands that everyone fighting is fighting for second place, at best, and is it really worth it, I think not. More tomorrow, and I’ve got help coming so tune in for the next installment of Shedding with Firesmith.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, December 28, 2009

When Monday Happens on A Sunday

It’s been one of those days. I was going to get up early today, get some things done, go work out at the Y, and generally, make use of my last day off before I have to go to work. Now, the way life works is that I sleep on the South side of the bed, and the canines have the north side. Last night, Sam looked so comfortable lying there right where I usually sleep I just went over to his side of the bed and slept. This worked out well for everyone, but because the sun went into hiding after August of this year, I assumed because it was dark outside it was still night. Because I have to sit up to see the clock from the north side of the bed I didn’t bother. I would up getting up around seven, which means I started out losing a good hour and a half.
The Loki Mutt has discovered barking as a means of attention getting. If he wants everyone to stop what they’re doing and pay full attention to the puppy he knows to bark. He started barking his fool head off in the woods after I let them out so I went out to see what was wrong. Nothing! Lucas was pushing buttons. Last night I took the coffee carafe outside to dump it out, and got distract by the deer, so I left it on the porch rail. I spent the better part of half an hour trying to find it in the kitchen before I remembered where I had last seen it. But come on now! How many times does something instrumental in coffee making wind up outside? I put the water on to boil and forgot to turn the stove on.
The chimney has been leaking now for about nine years, and all my efforts to seal it have eventually failed at one point or another. I got new stuff, black, gooey, and sticky as hell, and was going to try to seal the leak. Well, as you can imagine, I got black, gooey and sticky stuff all over me, the ladder, and hopefully, in the right place. Right in the middle of everything the ten percent chance of rain descended upon me. I got cleaned up, got everything put away, and realized the wire brush was still on the roof. I got the ladder out, got on the roof to get the brush, got black, sticky and gooey stuff on me again, and the rain stopped.

Then I lost the cell phone. I looked for it for about a half hour, called it from the landline, and suddenly it goes off two inches from my ear making me flinch like I’d been shot. I forgot I had it in my hand band.
I did get the oven cleaned, but it’s a self cleaning oven, so how hard can it be? I forgot to take the pan out of the over, and it had some leftovers on it so they smoked up pretty good before I realized what I had done.

A new computer is in the future so I’ve been cleaning up a lot of computer stuff, and while I was at it I decided to clean the chip in my camera. I accidently deleted two hundred and fifty photographs, but they were mostly work photos so I do have back-ups. I think.
The Loki Mutt has discovered barking, as I have mentioned, and one of the reoccurring events is for him to get a toy, and walk around with it in his mouth. He’ll use the toy as a battering ram, jamming the older dogs in the head with it, in an effort to get them to pay with him. Bert invariably takes the toy away from him, won’t give it back, so Luke stands over him barking his fool head off until I go in and make him stop. For .00001 seconds before repeat as unnecessary. So far we’ve had this particular species of Doggie Drama three times today.

Anyway, this is how today has gone. I hope you day went better.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Whore

Prostitution may very well be the world’s oldest profession. I can’t think of a civilization where prostitution did not exist in some fashion, shape, or form. In many countries, it’s a perfectly legal way to make a living. It’s been around for many centuries and it will continue to exist as long as humans are willing to trade sex for money, and money for sex.

I’ve never hired a hooker, and the term Hooker is derived from one General Hooker, on the Union side of the War Of Northern Aggression. Hooker’s camp was followed by a wagon train of women who were known as Hooker’s Women, and eventually, Hookers. Back to the present, I’ve never hired a hooker, but I’ve shelled out plenty for the company of a woman. “Dating” is what it’s called when there is not a quid pro quo or a guarantee of services. If a man is interested in sex, and just sex, and the woman isn’t, then they ought to get all of that out of the way in the beginning, before twenty bucks apiece is shelled out for popcorn and a movie. Dating is prostitution with the lottery thrown in for good measure. Oddly enough, dating is still legal in most civilized places.

The biggest problem with prostitution is that it is illegal. Even though the number of men who are renting women is higher then the number of women renting to men, the number of women arrested is much higher than the number of men who rent them. If a woman had a hard time getting a job and making a living before she was convicted of prostitution, then how much easier will it be after the fact? Conversely, a man convicted of renting a woman isn’t likely to have any social stigma attached to him whatsoever, Governors of New York notwithstanding. In most cases the man only has to pay a fine, explain to his wife that it was all a misunderstanding, and take a lot of ribbing from his friends. Women busted for being street walkers are sentenced to being just that from that point onward.

Let me put this in prospective for you; If you discovered that the man you were dating hired a hooker a year before you met him, you might be appalled, but you might not kick him out of the house. Yet how many men could say they would date a woman who got busted for selling sex? Yet almost everyone accepts that the woman they’re dating has dated other men, has gone out with them where the guy paid for the date, and the woman slept with him at one point in time. Dating is a kissing cousin of prostitution, and it leads to the wrong-headed idea that woman are to give sex to men in exchange for material goods. Worse, we train both young men and young women that relationships begin by the male supplying the material goods, while there is this unspoken agreement that it will lead to sex. In fact, the best agreement would be that they spilt the cost of the dates, and let the men charm their way into the bodies of the women, the women charm their way into being entered, or none of the above. But I say take the money part out of the ritual. ( as an aside, I almost never have this conversation with women I’m dating, I tried it a couple of times and it led to some fairly interesting looks, some truncated outings, but not a lot of sex)

So if prostitution were legal there would be regulation, safety inspections ( gotta love that job) and quality control ( they pay you to do what?). Women wouldn’t be out on the street where it’s dangerous, and men would be forced to pay for the infrastructure to keep women off the streets. Men who have little social skills could just walk in and say, “I’ll have the number seven combo with ties” and that would be that. Women who want to do that sort of work for a living would get a lot more than they would risking their lives in some back alley, and serial killers might have to look for far different prey.

Why is it do you think serial killers hunt prostitutes?

The big problem here is no one gives a damn. Whores are throw- away trash that some men use and we all discard. We tend to think of them as skanky drug addicts who blew ( no pun intended) working in the real world and are doing the only thing their live style has led them to do. Serial killers know that if a slut goes missing no one is likely to look for her. If some bimbo gets chopped up, isn’t it partially her fault for being out there? If some lot lizard winds up strangled then isn’t that just social Darwinism taking its course? If some lady of the night gets killed one night, who is it that really cares?

Okay, now take the names I just used for prostitutes and give me the corresponding pejoratives for the men who buy them.

The problem isn’t sex, people, and it hasn’t been for quite some time.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mutt Tusslin'!

The Loki Mutt has been abusing his older brothers lately. His method of operation in attack has been to collide with the elderly dogs and run away before they could recover. My elbow has been out for since August so I haven’t been able to play with Lucas like he needs to be played with, and neither Bert nor Sam give him a good workout. It was time to test out the elbow, and show the puppy he didn’t land in an old folk’s home after all.
Lucas also likes to rear up on his hind legs and swat Bert and Sam with his front paws while they aren’t looking. This is great fun, at least to Loki, but the older dogs snap at him when he does it. I decided the Alpha mutt needed to put in an appearance. We were out in the back acre, which is covered with leaves right now, and when Loki stood up to pounce on Bert, I dove headlong into him. I felt my shoulder hit him squarely in the chest, and it knocked him backwards. Before he could recover, I jumped on his back (putting no weight on him) and began growling and pulling his collar. Of course, the Loki Mutt was totally stunned into inactivity for about .0001 seconds, and he began to try to escape, and fight back. We rolled around in the leaves, and I taught him a few things about Opposable Thumb Theory, and why pulling away from some who has grabbed you isn’t always a good idea. Running forward when your front leg is being grabbed from behind will cause a puppy Lucas to fall into a pile of leaves, if done correctly. Moreover, the leaping up and swatting technique needs improvement if the Alpha mutt grabs the Loki Mutt and lifts him off the ground, and dumps him on his back.

Bert and Sam helped. The three of us kept him hemmed into a small space, and every time Lucas would try his body block maneuver on Bert or Sam, I would tackle him. Sam can still roll him pretty good, but neither of the older canines can pin him like I can, and Lucas discovered speed means zero when you’re lying on your back. When I did let him up, and he did get away, Sam would roll him so I could get him again. We played this game in the woods for a couple of hours, until Lucas was panting like, well, a dog.

The downside to this is Bert wanted to tussle with me the way we used to play, when he was a puppy, but he can’t. He’s over ten years old, and his shoulder gives him fits, so Bert is reduced to growling and snarling as if he’s playing, but not doing very much other than grabbing at my hands. I play along, and let him push me a bit, and the other two dogs seem to realize this is more ritual than anything else, but it’s still sad. Bert and I used to roll around in the yard like we were trying to kill one another. Loki seems to get the general idea, but he needs to understand there are limits, and when I tell him stop, no, or if I say ow, that means he’s going too far. Ow means you’re playing too rough, and there were a few times Loki got popped for biting hard. I let him accelerate the play to whatever level he can stand it, but he has to know I can hurt him far worse than he can hurt me. Lucas also has to understand he isn’t allow to play too hard with his older brothers. Bert can still chew on his ears, but outside Lucas has more room to run, and I don’t think he understand how much mass he’s got. Mass, and its relationship to force, has been better explained to him after this afternoon.
I needed a full body workout and playing with Lucas gave him all I wanted and more, too. He’s getting heavy, and he’s fast, too. The dog learns very quickly as to what I’m going to do before I do it, because of the position I put my body. Bert learned like that, and I wonder if Luke is going to be as much fun. So far, it’s been pretty good for us both, but I am going to be very sore tomorrow. Right now Lucas is on the floor and out like a light.
I’m kinda tired myself.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Santa Hat Chronicles

A hat cannot fix all things. The lesson is a hard one, much like a stray dog realizing the larger number of cars, the less likely someone is to stop and help. Going into Valdosta was a lesson in more humans meaning less humanity, and if this is Christmas, we should ban it outright, if not imprison people for acting like morons this time of year.
Traffic was insane. Not just a lot of people, but there were a lot of people all heading towards Mal-Wart, and to the Mall, and if they thought they were going to be the alone with their thoughts they thought ten thousand times wrong. The act of getting into a turn lane was an exercise in suicide. People were racing through traffic lights and horns were being blown the second lights turned green.

I went to a chain pizza place for lunch, but waited until way after one so it wouldn’t be as crowded. It was packed. Worse, everyone there assumed it wouldn’t be, and it was like eating in an elevator, except without the decent tunes. What they were playing was some B-Side greatest Christmas Hits sung by people who couldn’t earn a living making soundtracks for cheap porn movies. They have decent enough pizza, cheap, and they’ll make pizza to go so I ordered a pizza to go, and told them to deliver it to a table near the window. Unfortunately for me, two people with a flock of prosti-tots took up near this position, and I had to move. Okay, for those of you with kids, you might want to explain the wisdom here. Two women, both pushing well over two hundred pounds, went out to a local street corner and gathered up six hookers, all under the age of ten. Well, by the way they were dressed I just assumed they were hookers. Why would anyone female wear a skin tight tube top when it’s fifty degrees outside? Why would anyone let a ten year old wear something like this, along with leotards, and enough make up to embarrass Tammy Faye baker? Worse they all sat at a booth near me, and imagine it; two women who would be seated in a booth comfortably if they lost fifty pounds, sitting there with three pre-teen strippers apiece trapped against the wall.
It wasn’t bad enough they were letting this little girls dress like this, and trust me, I’m not Luddite who things all female humans ought to wear a burka, no, but when you have a ten year old wearing short shorts in December, what in the name of Daisy Duke are you thinking? The worst part was the two alleged adults were yelling at the little girls. They didn’t bother to help them through the buffet, so we wound up with a lot of fighting over pieces of pizza, line cutting, screaming, squealing, and more or less the kind of activity when kids run amok. I changed seats to the other side of the restaurant, and tried not to stare. The scene was damn near surreal.
“I WANT A BIKE!” this from a little boy who snuck up on me and freaked me out. His parents reeled him in pretty quick. They were sitting a few seats away from the prosti-tots and theyw ere freaking out. Yet even they were no match for a kid who wanted to sneak up on the guy with the hat. Twice more I got the message he wants a bike and twice his parents had to fetch him back. He tried to get away by running while ducking down low, and I just knew he would clip someone, but parenting prevailed.

The help there seemed to understand why I ordered a takeout pizza and ate it in the restaurant. Or maybe they were just so used to weirdness they just plain didn’t care. One of the Giant Pimp Women got irate when they ran out of her favorite pizza and she demanded they produce the pizza right now, boy. She banged her fork on the cough shield as if percussion protestation might yield culinary delights. She had eight chances to impress upon young girls how to conduct themselves in public and went oh for eight.

Actually, she was oh for seven. There was an escapee.

I ate and ran, and on my way out, one of the prosti-tots was talking on a pay phone, smoking a cigarette, and looking around as if she were committing murder. I had to stare. How old was she? Ten? Twelve, pushing the limit, and there she was, cigarette in one hand, face painted, eyes lines, jeans skin tight, her shirt two sizes too small, her breasts imagined, yet there she was.
Traffic was even worse leaving. People trying to escape the madness were doing sixty on streets designed for less than half that. People were cutting each other off at gas stations as if there were a shortage. No one, not one person had smiled at me, or told me they liked my hat. The magic is gone. The cheer has been used up. This is predatory commercialism run fucking amok. This is frantic spending and buying without reason, and with consequences no one considers. This is Christmas, in all its glory, and there is very little that frightens me more than this particular brand of stupidity.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Talllokas Road and Me.

The sun rises behind me, and to my right, shedding cold and sparse light upon Tallokas road at dawn. Harvest is over, school is out, Christmas is close, and I’ve the road to myself this morning. The thirty plus miles to Moultrie are a meditation, a time of thought, and the curves in the road are like the body of a lover I’ve known for years. I plug into the MP3 player, and allow each song to pilot me through its time, and its meaning to me.
Tallokas is an odd road that seems to be two totally different paths depending on if I’m coming or going. I found the puppy Lucas just north of where Tallokas is violated and bisected by SR 122, but that’s nearly halfway between here and there. Dense stands of hardwood trees drape over Tallokas on the first part of the trip, bendy and curvy and dark is this road. I come around one of the curves and press the brakes down slowly as a herd of deer tries to consider the path out of the way. Two go this way, three more go that way, and their hooves are slipping on the asphalt. We’re all meeting at the bottom of a hill and their white tails flash in the half light. The three switchback over and follow the two, and suddenly they were never there at all, no trace of their presence exists past what you read here. I stop to look into the woods, and as I dig the camera out, I realize I haven’t the woodcraft to follow their path.
Tallokas stretches out into the morning, past Lake Nicolas, where the spillway offers a way station of sorts, between the north and the South drive, a path notch to let travelers know they are not on two different roads now. I know this point in the drive both ways, but just past this point the road blurs into its two separate personalities. The north path leads into more civilization, and the South path leads back into the countryside. One path leads to work, and the other is the way home. One path I’m gearing up to what is coming into the day, and the other I am winding down, to be back home again.

I cross over SR122, and the cotton gin lies just north of here, and the homeless man lives under a stacked pile of old plastic sheeting, right against the fence, with his bags full of aluminum cans. His shelter is a flat one, and unless you knew there would be no way to know a human lived under that pile of junk, but there is one man’s home. Steam rises from the flat shelter on cold mornings, and he sits near the shelter drinking out of a brown paper bag in the afternoons. North towards more people and less humanity, South towards home. It’s difficult to believe there is a homeless man this far out, but then again…
A red fox stalks along a fencerow just a few miles past SR122 and I watch as it hurries along to escape the coming sun. This morning the mutts sang with the Coyotes, and it was the first time Lucas sang with them. Twice, Lucas has come running back into the house to bark at the Coyotes from a window, fearful of his wild cousins. Bert and Sam sing with them, always, with Bert’s deep voice climbing steadily, and Sam’s houndish yelp following along. Lucas has a voice, puppy still, but he’s getting there. They, like the red fox along the fenceline, stay clear of the dogs, and the voice of a puppy growing stronger is something they’ll note with no happiness.


Loki Mutt territory, where I found the puppy Lucas comes up, and it’s easier for me to locate where I found him traveling north. Tallokas road gave me a path to a woman’s house, many years ago, and now it’s given me a stray dog. In her own right she was a stray, as we all are in some way, and there isn’t a morning I travel this road that I don’t think of the times I drove this road to see her, to be with her, and to feel loved. I remember the night she called me, and invited me over, and the rule against me staying the night because of the children went out with the lights that night. The efforts to hide our relationship from the kids went from strict to nonexistence in the matter of a few hours. They would have to view their mother as something more than just a mother, and I would be a surrogate father for a while. Tallokas road took me down that path, and took us all down that path, and we followed.
Past the Old Berlin road, the country gives way to tract housing and cookie cutter subdivisions. Lawns replace yards, and old farm implements become kitschy lawn ornaments side by side with plaster gnomes and garish tame plants. The hardwood trees have been cut down, beaten back, and now stand in tiny concentration camps for trees, never to see their seeds grow into the giants they might one day. Here dogs are kept in cages at night, and they know no song. The people have rearranged nature to suit their sense of aesthetics, but it reeks of a certain sense of anesthetization. Flowers sleep in beds here and are not allowed to grow wild, to surprise the hiker and wow the wanderer. Here nature is not admired but embalmed. Acres and acres of grass are water, fertilized, and then decapitated, as if we cannot escape the need to farm, but are fearful of actually trying it.
The massive four lane that is US319 captures me, and I am drug along the flow of traffic into Moultrie. Concrete and steel, asphalt and traffic await me. No deer nor foxes, no more dawns or mutts for me, until I return to Tallokas Road, to make my way back home again.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, December 18, 2009

Young Maurice Young: Dumb Crook News

Very rarely do I mention any real people by their real names, but let’s face it; Maurice Young isn’t that particular as to who knows his name. Let’s do a little background on Maurice, shall we? At thirty-one years of age, young Maurice Young has spent fully one third of that time, ten years, in one correctional facility after another. His last stay was a rather long one, even for Maurice, and after he was released from prison where he had done time for drug charges, stemming from him getting caught stealing to support his habit, young Maurice Young decided to return to the area in which life had treated him so well to date, and reunite with his sister, Tetrina Lee. Together, they are quite the shining example of family run enterprises.

Last week, in what would become known as their “MO” Tetrina parked her car and waited as Maurice and a friend kicked in the door to a house, and stole jewelry, pistols, and a lot of Christmas presents. I could give you a pretty good list of what was taken, because the house belongs to a friend of mine. The sense of violation that goes with someone like the Young siblings even so much as being in your house, much less kicking in the door and robbing you, is likely the worst part about all this when it gets down to it. My friend was at work, her husband was at work, her son was at school, and when she got home, there’s a kicked in door.
As she went through the house and tried to figure out what was gone and what was not, one of the items missing was a cell phone. It’s one of those pay as you go cell phones, for her son, and on a whim, she called the cell phone’s number, just to see if someone would answer. Maurice did, but he quickly hung up. Now, at this point, because it’s a pay as you go phone, it would be pretty hard to track the device, right?

My friend calls the phone the next day and hears this, “Yo! This is Maurice Young, leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”

Seriously. I’m not kidding. This led to a DOC search on the internet and to our great surprise, young Maurice Young has been a resident in your justice system before. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the young Young siblings and their business partner, are out robbing houses. They go to a house and as they are about to kick in the door, it opens, and someone is not happy to see them. Tetrina, ever loyal to her brother, leaves him there and tries to flee in the car. As all good criminal masterminds do they scoped out their targets well, and oh by the way, speaking of targets, the Sheriff’s firing range was just a mile away, so almost every cop in the county was on the scene in a matter of seconds. When they finally was able to pull Tetrina over, they asked her just how far she had planned to go that day; she was almost out of gas anyway. The outstanding warrants for her arrest on bad check charges came up in the conversation, as well as the whereabouts of her brother.

So now the young Youngs, and their fellow would be career criminal friend are tucked safely away for Christmas, and there is some hope of getting some of the loot back. I have this odd feeling Maurice is not quite done yet entertaining us with his antics, but after this stint, he very likely will not be young Maurice Young anymore.

Take Care,
Mike

http://www.moultrieobserver.com/archivesearch/local_story_351001134.html

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Spider Truce

I had stashed a box of mutt treats in the top cabinet and had almost forgot about them. But mutt treats ran low, the dogs looked as if they were going to go into some sort of canine catatonia, and my memory was therefore jogged. I was retrieving the box of said treats from the top shelf of the cabinet when one of my resident spiders slid down from the ceiling and stopped just short of landing on my nose.

A lot of people freak out over the presence of my eight legged roommates, but truth be told they’re here for a reason. In eight years living here I’ve yet to see a living roach. Okay, there was that night the click beetle invaded, but by and large, the spider, having been given free rein to live as they please, have feasted on any bug that has dared enter the house.
“Mike, spiders are %$#@#$&^ bugs!” a woman who I once dated told me the night after this very same explanation. A very large and what I considered handsome species of house spider was making its way across the ceiling when my female companion noticed it. Needless to say, the evening certainly took a turn for the vertical as she began to scream in regard to the spider. But my stance is fairly clear. You will either live with bug, you will live with spiders, or you will have someone come in once a month and hose down your place with chemicals, and live with the idea that there is a substance capable of killing roaches spewed all over your house. I watched a roach live for two minutes in a microwave oven that was running at high.
No one ever developed a tumor from living with spiders.

I thought I recognized this particular spider as Bella, a friend of my from the %$#@#$&^ bugs night.
“Greetings, Bella.” I whispered. Speaking even at normal tone vibrates the web and makes for difficult arachnid conversation, at best.
“Greetings Firesmith, but I am Beattie, great granddaughter of Bella, whom you saved from the Screaming One. Your compassion is noted well, but I fear I must recall details of our treaty at this point.” Her seven eyes held my steadily.
“But I have held my part, oh, I know it was the web I ran into this morning wasn’t it?” There was a massive circular web at the front door this morning. I hate it when a get a face full of spider web first thing in the morning, really.
“No, no, no, Firesmith, the treaty clearly states that incidental contact with webs are not a breach of peace, nor are they an act of aggression, and clearly the first section of the treaty states that our kind must not block the entrances and exits of this abode. Indeed, each new clutch is schooled on those places of traffic.” Beattie told me. Spiders are the most patient critters you will ever meet. They are accustomed to waiting for things to happen, except the jumping spiders, who are like small dogs on caffeine betimes.
“And I replaced the towel in hot tub. I know the woman removed it, but she doesn’t understand.” I figured it had something to do with something a woman had done. I leave a towel hanging into the hot tub when it’s dry because the slides are too slick for spiders to climb out of easily.
“No, Firesmith, the problem lies with our kind. But we told you this before; there are certain prey animals we do not hunt easily, nor do they become ensnared. It is in the agreement, but I thought I ought to warn you about them.” Beattie began rising in the air, back towards the ceiling, as if immune from gravity.
“’Them?’”

“The fireants in that container you hold.”

Just then I felt a thousand tiny feet all over my arm and back. My home had been invaded, and Beattie’s warning had come a few seconds late. The command was given and each fireant, tiny but well armed, stung me in unison. I spent the better part of Friday night cleaning out my kitchen cabinets, and using hot soapy water to kill the little bastards, because I have zero pesticides in the house. My arm, shoulder, and low back look like I’ve been hunting with Dick Cheney. The spider did their job, were not obligated to take on the fireants, but damn, a little warning sooner would have been nice.

I think they’re still pissed about me cleaning the back porch with a blowtorch last winter.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Drunk And The Hunt

It’s interesting to watch the intellectual gymnastics a drunk will go through to convince an audience he doesn’t have a drinking problem anymore. My friend Ken dropped by Saturday night, after being missing in action for a while, and he claims he’s cleaned up his act. He also brought twelve-year-old single malt Scotch with him, which means he wants something because everyone knows there isn’t anything I like more than twelve-year-old single malt Scotch, at least when it comes to drinking.
The last time Ken was over he tried to kick Sam, and Sam hasn’t forgotten nor has he forgiven. Some may question me centering my moral compass within a creature as damaged as Sam but I really do not have a problem with it; if Sam doesn’t trust you why should I? But I also cannot pass up an interesting story. Ken has been divorced twice in the last eighteen months, and at his side, he has a woman he introduces as his fiancée, and at this she gives me a very odd look. Sam likes the woman. Okay, Sam likes all women. She is enthralled with the puppy Lucas, and both she and Ken are amazed he’s only nine months old. Lucas is getting big. I’m impressed with Luke’s manners around strangers. He doesn’t jump up on Sandy, Ken’s lastest, and he doesn’t fight with Sam over her attention. ( Bert doesn’t socialize that much) Sandy seems to be a bright and energetic young woman, likely fifteen years Ken’s junior, but something is amiss with his misses. The other shoe hasn’t dropped.
Ken went into rehab, and now only “drinks socially”, or so he says. Sandy nods her head in unison with him, as if she’s bought into all this, and they talk about Ken going back to work as a contractor, and maybe starting his own company. In this economy, that’s going to take some cash, and Sandy looks a little better off than the lounge lizard Ken was wearing last time he married. I mention Ken’s reputation as a serious drinker, and wonder aloud how this might affect anyone wanting to hire him. The loop is repeated, the spiel is practiced, and Ken has always been able to charm his way into almost anything. I sip the Scotch and hope they leave the bottle with me. But it’s that dammed other shoe I’m waiting for.
I try to fish the story out of them by asking them where they’re living. Last time around, Ken was hunting a place to live. But they’ve got a place in Tallahassee, and I wonder if she will be able to keep him out of the bars there. From the description, it’s a very nice place, so that means she does have money. Sandy is a quiet woman, and she also seems intelligent. I remember seeing Ken do this sort of thing in the 80’s. He’s got an audience, he’s trying to get something done, and he is taking us all down the yellow brick road to the land of Oz. The man is good. I mean, he is really good. Moreover, he has slowed down his drinking. I’m keeping up with him and that means he’s more or less sober. Sandy is nursing the first drink she made. Sandy is watching me, and so I know this isn’t just Ken. Sandy is here for a reason, and so this isn’t totally Ken trying to talk me into something. I fight to keep from grinning. Come on, shoe.
“So, Mike,” Sandy finally says just a little too loudly, “Ken tells me you’re a writer.”
The shoe just dropped but I have no idea what kind of shoe it is or where it landed. I tell her I write some, and she asks if I have a blog, and then it occurs to me she either is into writing, or read something I wrote and liked it. We talk about things I’ve written recently and suddenly the shoe is apparent. Sandy isn’t a writer. Sandy is a ghost person.

It gets better. Apparently, Ken met Sandy, liked her because she’s cute and has money, discovered she’s into the supernatural, and then as a device to get her into a deeper conversation, and into her pants, he tells her about Bonnie. Fair game. I do not much like this but it had to happen sooner or later, if I had thought about it. If I’m going to put it out in public then the public has a right to pursue it, to a degree. Sandy pursues. Ken, Sam, Lucas, and even I are suddenly secondary considerations, when it comes to the Ghost Story. We talk about the dreams I’ve had of Bonnie and it’s a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. Sandy is looking to neither confirm or deny the ghosthood of Bonnie. It’s a fact finding mission, and she keeps her opinion of who or what Bonnie might be to herself. Sandy has done this before. She tries to find out how much I knew about Bonnie before the dreams started, and if there was anything at all I knew no one else did. Sandy has done her homework on this one. She knows more about Bonnie Parker than I do about me. It suddenly occurs to me Ken isn’t using her as much as she is using him. Sandy’s focus on Bonnie begins to slide a little left of center. I regret the last drink now. This is a woman on a mission, and it involves my subconscious. Bert stands up, shakes hard as if he’s drying off, and stares at her. Something is happening. Sandy looks at Bert and just stops in midsentence.
“I’m making you nervous.” Sandy says, and I’m not certain who she’s speaking to here.
I tell her it’s okay, but Bonnie is a subject I’m not accustomed to talking about. She asks me if she can invite a couple of friends over, and if it’s okay if they come over to talk about “reaching over” for Bonnie. I tell her I want to be sober when we talk about that, and Ken laughs at that one. Ken’s take on this is it’s more or less a big joke. I suspect now that Sandy has met me she’ll jettison Ken.

“I think you need to investigate this a little more, Mike.” Sandy shakes my hand as they leave. “Something odd is happening here.”

I have to agree with her.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, December 7, 2009

De-Vine Oaks

This Summer I spent a lot of time in the back acre clipping various species of vines off the young Oaks. Most of the people I know wondered about the sanity of such an effort because vines in South Georgia grow a foot a day, and for every vine you can get to and clip there are a dozen more on your neighbor’s property that are going to snake through the fence and begin to climb. I went out this morning and took a look at some of the Oaks I want to transplant into the yard, and most were vine free, still, or at least the vines weren’t some tangled mass of snake hair taking over the crown of the tree. What few people understand is taking down the vines this year makes it harder for the vines next year to begin their climb. When the vines die they stay in place and serve as ladders for the next generation. Without that springboard it will take a young vine the better part of a week, maybe longer, to get into the crown of a sapling. That’s not very long, in vine time, but each day the vine spends below the tree, the better changes it might be eaten by a rabbit or some other herbivore. Each season I go out and drag down the old vines, cut down the new ones, and clean them off the young Oaks, is one more year the Oaks have to reach up into the sky, and eventually find escape from these passive parasites.
I call the vines passive parasites because they do not actively feed off the young Oaks, but they do create a more hostile environment for them to live. The vine’s weight can pull young branches downward, and the vines leaves compete with the Oak for sunlight. The vines act as a highway for leaf eating insects and the overall mass of hundreds of vines can bend a young Oak to the ground and deform it forever. I’ve seen masses of vines totally take over a tree to the point killing the tree was the best way to get rid of all the vines.
Mind you, none of this talk is about kudzu, which is an entirely different war. Kudzu is a fight I wouldn’t want to fight, and not one I think I could win. We’re lucky not to have it in Hickory Head, yet, but Brooks County has it share, and you can see where it devours acres and acres of forestland without respite. The broad leaves and squirrely vines of the kudzu monster is not something I would take on without much sadness as to the outcome of the war. As it is, the vines I have now are enough, and I am happy to fight this fight.

One of the massive Oaks on my property, and I’ll never lay claim that I own anything that has outlived me by half a thousand years, had an equally massive wild grape vine rooted at its base. After much inner debate, and seeing how much of the Oak’s sunspace the vine was taking up, I axed the wild grape vine at its base, nearly as thick as my arm. It’s a form of botanical prejudice, certainly, and it is not in line with my philosophy of letting nature take Her course, but we have so few of the Ancient Ones left, I feel an obligation to preserve what I may.
The time for transplanting the Oaks will be soon. I want to take a half dozen or so which are cramped around others in the woods and replant them in the open area of my yard. Yes, I will have to fence them in lest the Loki Mutt dig them back up, for nothing attracts a puppy ( or a child) like fresh dirt. I’ll use soil from the mulch pile, missed in with some fertilizer and maybe this time next year we’ll see real and true growth from the Oaks. I dream that one day, hundreds of years from now, someone will write about a giant Oak in Hickory Head Georgia, and wonder when it was born, and how it came to be where it is. To have had anything at all to do with such an event, thrills me.
Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Santa Hat Chronicles : Y Not?

Taking the Santa Hat into the YMCA is just asking for some sort of reaction. For that matter, taking it anywhere is asking for some sort of reaction, and I promised myself I would not be mean to Christmas folk who tried to bond with me. I forget I’m wearing it, honestly, because it is a warm hat. It’s a one dollar bargain basement type thing, likely made of Chinese children or at least by them, but it is uncommonly warm.
You would think children, or people with children would be the only people who really stop and make it a point to speak to me, but it’s everyone. Not as in everyone I meet but I mean there doesn’t seem to be a demographic that seeks me out more than any other, and there doesn’t seem to be one who isn’t affected. This fact, more than anything else, I find very odd.
The downside of all this is working out is nearly impossible. People want to talk to me. It’s not like I’m a stranger there, so most people know me by sight, but now I have people walking up to the treadmill and telling me they like the hat. I nod, say thanks, but at least two people want to talk Christmas with me. Remember the part about being nice to the Christmas folk? I feel like if you’re going to walk around with a Santa Hat on, you have to play the part out. But it gets worse. The Rule Of All Men dictates that in a locker room, the last man into the locker room takes a locker as far away as he can from the guy that was there first. With the Santa Hat, even men like to be around me. Naked men. This is not going to end well.
The woman putting the Christmas tree up in the lobby of the Y is a very nice young woman and she wants to tell me all about the tree. In fact, my opinion suddenly means something. Very earnestly she asks me if I think the decorations are done well, and honestly I’ve never paid any attention to Christmas decorations. She has these tiny strands of beads looped here and there and it’s pretty. It is. It’s a very pretty tree, except for the fact that it’s dead. I almost say this aloud but bite it back. The ornaments aren’t those cheap plastic things but real glass, and it’s obvious she’s spent some time on this. I look at her, and truly, she wants my opinion on a Christmas tree, and it means something to her. It is beautiful, I tell her, just like you. The Santa Hat has given its blessing. The young woman beams.
Just walking into Publix I have this odd feeling everyone has been waiting for me to arrive. “Hey Santa! Hi Santa! Santa!” The hat is magic, I tell you. You think I’m exaggerating, don’t you? You think I’m stretching this thing out a bit, but I’m telling you, people are surreal this year. This is the third year I’ve worn the Santa Hat, and this year, by far, is the strongest reaction from people. An elderly woman creeps up on my blindside and puts a hand on by shoulder, and tells me “Merry Christmas!” Nothing, there is nothing on earth that creeps me out more than for a stranger to come up on me like that. Human beings are the most dangerous animals on earth and to have one slip into knife range like that just makes my skin crawl. But she never even notices it. To this woman, I am a part of the festive holiday spirit, and she wants to thank me for it.
It’s like I’m a blonde with implants.

So can all this come from wearing a red hat trimmed with fake fur? It’s something to think about. I wonder if I expect people to treat me differently, and so they do. I wonder if once I make up my mind not to growl at people who come too close, if they don’t somehow pick up on this. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe people are just so damn tired of being beaten down by how bad it’s been that anyone, anyone at all, who dares to be happy, or appears to be so, is infectious. Maybe I’m different when I wear the hat, or maybe they’re different when I wear the hat, or maybe people are just like this at Christmas and I never noticed.

To be very honest I am enjoying all this.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bonnie

For those new to my life, please allow me to introduce a woman who has a profound effect on my sleeping habits; Bonnie Parker. You may know her better as the Bonnie half of Bonnie and Clyde. A couple of years ago I started having very vivid dreams about Bonnie and I have some rather unusual conversations, and since then she pops in and out of my dreamscapes at very irregular intervals. Oh, and she’s armed. Bonnie carries a Browning Automatic Rifle around with her like most women people carry a purse, except most purses don’t have armor piercing bullets or a twenty round clip. I get oohs and ahhs about there being some remote possibility that Bonnie is actually a ghost, but there are a few problems here, some of them more realistic than others.

Ghost people tell me ghosts haunt either people or places, mostly people in places. The idea the ghost of a dead red headed woman who never set foot in Georgia is now haunting a man she never met, who is a member of a family she never had any dealings with, goes against everything all the ghost people tell me is true about ghosts. Oh, and I do not believe in ghosts. This doesn’t help very much when Bonnie shows up.
“You and your damn strays, “ Bonnie said softly. She likes Sam. Bonnie loves Sam. She sat on the bed with Sam’s head in her lay, and she was stroking his ears, but she was looking at Lucas, who she has never seen before, “it’s a wonder you don’t have a house full of ‘em.”
“Three is plenty.” And very nearly I added, “When it comes right down too it one is sometimes too much.” But I didn’t because quite honestly I like Bonnie but she scares the hell out of me. There isn’t a reason to be rude to her, and she armed. The BAR sat leaning against the end of the bed this time. Bonnie was singing a lullaby but I can never pick out the words. She’s a tiny woman, not five feet tall, and not a hundred pounds on her. She’s smaller than my niece, who is seventeen.
“This one,” Bonnie nods her head at Sam, “would be enough, but he would get out of sorts without another to play with.” She cooed at Sam who rubbed his head against her side. “You do good by him, you know, Mike.”
“Thank you.” She doesn’t use my name very often. But I’ve known real people like that. It’s usually at this point I have people tell me, “I would have asked her what it was like on the other side!” Or “Why don’t you reach over and try to grab the gun?” Let me explain it to you one more time; She’s dead. She’s armed. If you think the sight of a dead woman who is proficient in the use of automatic weapons sitting on your bed won’t cause you to freeze up a bit, my suggestion to you is to try it. Go find yourself a ghost and ask her all the damn questions you want.

See how easily I slip into believing Bonnie is real? She looks real. I can feel her shifting her weight on the end of the bed. I can smell her. I know her voice. There’s this weird thing she does when she walks, sometimes, when she’s feeling good, and likes being around me, she will take a step with her left foot, turn a little to the right, then step with her right foot, like she’s thinking about dancing. Or sex.
“It’s not like you think it is.” Bonnie tells me, and she steps left, turns, steps right, and then does it again, leaving her rifle at the foot of the bed and walking to the window. Sam follows her with his eyes, while Bert and Lucas never twitch. She’s wearing a simple dress, that’s white, but with an orange-brown band around the waist, and another down at the foot of the dress, and a smaller one around the neck and front of the dress.
“That dress looks good on you.” I hate this. I hate thinking she’s real. I’m sitting up in bed, and I can feel the weight of the dogs on the bed, I can see the moonlight coming through the window, and I can hear her light footsteps on the floor, I know she’s barefooted, and I hate none of it is real, and at some level I know, I know this isn’t happening, I mean, I have to know, right?
“Yeah?” Bonnie drawls at me. And she started unhooking the dress from the back, facing towards me. She makes a show at it, undressing slowly, and I can see just a sliver of her face in the moonlight, and there has never been a more real women in my life.
I find myself standing in the living room, in the exact same place I was standing the last time she was here, and no closer to understand what she means.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Santa Hat Chronicles: An Awfful House Xmas

People who know me freak out whenever I walk into a room and I’m wearing my Santa Hat. Me? A Santa Hat? People who know me stare. The rest of the world just assumes I’m one of those people who really like Christmas and they treat me as if I’m one of their own. I’m not. I hate Christmas. I hate each and very day of it, each and every cheap plastic Mal Wart ornament, and I hate Christmas music with a passion. So, Mike, what’s with the Santa Hat?
The people who know me stay the hell out of my way when it comes to Christmas. They do not want to hear my rants about landfill space, and bankruptcy, and this time of year being all about spending money to support the retail economy which is parasitic in nature. But I do realize there are a lot of people who get a big kick out of this time of season, and being around me at Christmas is like being around a diehard member of the AA at a kegger.

Honestly, the Santa Hat is warm on my head. I kinda forgot I had it on when I went out today after the storm, and the second I pulled into the parking lot of the Awfful House I remembered. They’ve taken white shoe polish and done all their windows up in good Christmas cheer but it looks like a five year old with a twitch did the artwork. Speaking of five year olds, as I walk in two kids scream with glee. See, this is what I’m talking about here. Eleven months out of the year I’m pretty much invisible to anyone too young to remember eight track tapes. Now, because I’m wearing this hat, I’m part of the thing that’s going on. I swear it’s weird as hell.
People are much nicer to me. The waitress smiles and brings me water without me having to ask for it. I want hashbrowns. I have to put up with some breakfast special to get them, or pay twice what they’re worth to get them, so at five in the afternoon, I have breakfast. Bacon, oh yeah, none of this stuff is good for me, but I want bacon, too. Screw it.
The cook is a woman past her prime who might have been fun at one point in her life. She has homemade tattoos on her arm, and they looked nearly as old as she is. I can see her as some bright eyed young woman going off the deep end by getting a cool tattoo from her best friend and not thinking for a second she would find up in some minimum wage job when she was sixty years old. I think it’s supposed to be a parrot, but it might be a dog. I try not to stare.
The rules of any eating establishment where there are stools is you never take a seat next to someone when there are empty seats further away. The Santa Hat changes that. A young woman sits beside me and grins at me. Really? “I like your hat.” She gushes at me. Ring on left hand, brakes, cue needle across record sound, now.
Before the married young woman can say or do anything else a thirteen year old male sits beside me on the other side, and starts talking. He’s accompanied by a much older man, a young woman toting a small child, and a young girl I suspect is his sister. The teen never stops talking the entire time he’s in the building. It’s like he’s on meth. The older guy has totaled the cook’s car. No one was hurt, but the car is a wreck. The kid throws in details the older guy leaves out, and while this is going on, the cook never misses a beat. I can tell she’s upset, but she has a job to do. The older guy might be her husband, the young women their daughter, and the nonstop commentator and the rest of the young’uns her grandchildren. This is a woman truly pissed, but she never stops cooking.
It’s some sort of odd tradition, this. After the cook plates my food, and the waitress brings it to me, the family starts their ordering, but it’s off the books. Back when I managed a restaurant, I always looked the other way if good help fed their folks. The waitress hands out a free order of fries to her daughter and tells her to go home and study. The teen looks over at my plate and says, ‘Why are you missing your bacon up with your grits? That looks gross!” The cook is appalled, but that is also part of the Santa Hat. Kids assume you’ll speak to them because of the hat. Without hearing his grandmother, or worrying about the bacon, he starts telling me about the wreck. I never look his way, never answer any of his questions, never acknowledge I even hear him, but he goes through the details, skipping back and forth as he remembers something, and he gets louder and louder in excitement.
“Sorry about that” the cook apologies after they all leave.
“No harm, no foul” I reply.
“The deductable is gonna eat up my Christmas money” she sighs.
“I’ll split my tips with you” the waitress offers and they both laugh hard at that one. Business, tipwise, sucks.
I leave a five for them to split, and wish I had more to leave. “SANTA!” a little girl yells at me as I get into my truck. So this is what Christmas feels like for everyone else. Everyone is happy as hell about it being Christmas even though things are still going to hell on them. It’s denial, but so is drinking beer. So is sitting in front of the computer writing just for the hell of it, but it does make me happy. The Santa Hat changes how people treat me, and it would be rude as hell for me to wear this damn thing and then not smile when they speak to me.
This is just so damn weird.

Take Care,
Mike

Gackled from The Writer's Almanac

God Bless the Experimental Writers
by Corey Mesler
for David Markson

"One beginning and one ending for a book was a
thing I did not agree with."

Flann O'Brien from At Swim-Two-Birds

God bless the experimental writers.
The ones whose work is a little
difficult, built of tinkertoys
and dada, or portmanteau and
Reich. God help them as they
type away, knowing their readers
are few, only those who love to toil
over an intricate boil of language,
who think books are secret codes.
These writers will never see their names
in Publisher's Weekly. They will
never be on the talk shows. Yet,
every day they disappear into their
rooms atop their mother's houses,
or their guest houses behind some
lawyer's estate. Every day they
tack improbable word onto im-
probable word, out of love, children,
out of a desire to emend the world.
"God Bless the Experimental Writers" by Corey Mesler, from Some Identity Problems. © Foothills Publishing, 2008. Reprinted without permission.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

And The Storm Watch Brewed

This late in the year there usually aren’t a lot of serious storms. The heavy stuff, the heat induced paroxysm that violently whips the earth and sky with lightning and wind and rain, well, that’s for the Summer, and maybe late spring. Something forgot to tell the Gulf all this, so she sent us a late season storm, and she didn’t leave very much for the imagination. The radar showed a thick green glob of stuff with orange and red markings, as if there were some new species of monster about to give the denizens of The South a taxonomy lesson.
The forecast called for somewhere between three and six inches of rain, with some spots getting more than that even, and there was the forecast for forty mile an hour winds, with gusts topping out past that, so I decided to stay home with the mutts today. There isn’t anything worse than an office full of bored people. Bored people have a tendency to socialize with other bored people for no other reason than they are bored. This is boring. Okay, stay home and hope the power stays on, too.
The rain was falling, ever so lightly last night, when the dogs decided to go deer hunting. It never really quit, and never got much heavier either. At four it rained hard enough to wake me up, and I lay there and was lulled by the sound. At five twenty there was a break in the action so I got up and let the dogs out. I had the coffee set up so all I had to do was hit the switch, and that done, I pulled on my rubber boots to walk with the dogs. It’s raining, and because it’s raining, both Bert and Sam will not urinate. They’ll try to wait it out, but if that storm is heading this way, the longer they wait the wetter they’ll get when they go. If I walk out into the yard, they’ll follow, and nature will take Her course. The full moon is still casting enough light to keep it from being pitch black, but I can feel the storm.
I eat breakfast early because I might not get another chance to cook today. The radar shows the heavy stuff hours away, but I want to be fed when it hits. Coffee is good, the dishes get washed, the radar gets set, and we wait for the storm. The dogs get walked a couple of times each hour it is clear enough to walk them. Lucas needs to burn off some energy, and the Elder Mutts need to get out and pee. The light stuff is all we’re getting before noon, and it is beginning to look like west Georgia might be getting hammered. Each hour that passes shows the ugly yellow and red radar images passing just to the west and north of Hickory Head.
At noon I cook lunch and weird things begin to happen. It turns muggy outside. The temperature rises a few degrees, and the radar shows the most red and yellow band to date zeroing in on my house. This will be interesting. I walk the mutts one more time and we can hear the thunder moving in. I shut down the computer and everything else, and we all nap on the bed as the rain begins to hammer down.
For an hour, maybe longer, we get a hard steady wind driven rain, and some fireworks to go with it. Sam is terrified of the weather and it makes Lucas uneasy. Bert sleeps through it, and that clams Lucas, somewhat. I drift in and out of sleep, with Sam lying nearly on top of me, Bert at the foot of the bed for once, and Lucas unable to sit still in any place for long.
The rain pounds down, and Sam whines softly. There is thunder, but it’s a distant rumble. There are flashes of lightning, but nothing that would do more than keep me indoors, but there is rain, rain, rain. I doze, half awake, half asleep, and everything is a dream, and nothing is. The rain is pounding down hard, and suddenly it relents just a bit, and that pulls me awake. The storm, which had been forecast to be deadly and terrible, is slowing down. The wind drives the rain for a few moments then the static of slow falling rain begins as the cacophony of roof top rains diminishes. Sam snores, and that more than anything else tells me the danger, if there were ever any, is past. Lucas finally settles down and sleeps. Bert hasn’t budged. He assumes I’ll let him know if the weather is bad enough to be worried.
Six inches of rain fell, but it started late and ended late, too. There was two maybe three hours of the hard stuff, but no fireworks, and not much wind. I stayed home from work to make sure the dogs where okay, and they were, but you never know. The ground has been swept clean by the rain, the leaves in the trees are much fewer, and the whole of the earth seems a little less cluttered after the storm, at least here in the woods. My rook leaked some, and that sucks, but the overall picture is it wasn’t as bad as it was told, it wasn’t as bad as it might have been, and I took a nap with the mutts on the bed during the worst of it.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Marjory Johnson, I Am Not.

While no means a man of means, I pay all my bills on time. This hasn’t stopped me from having all sorts of fun and games with bill collectors, and in my time I’ve had a few who were truly relentless. Now, once again, let me repeat something; I pay all my bills on time. Always.
My first bill collector called me back in 1997, when I bought my first house. Apparently, I sound a lot like a woman named LaCrecia Nicholls. Yes, someone called my landline and asked me if I was LaCrecia Nicholls. When I protested I was not, the person acted as if I might be hiding this LaCrecia Nicholls under my sofa. I assured the person a quick check in the newest addition of the phone book would reveal who actually owned the number. This worked with the first person who called, the second, and eventually, most of them. The down side to this is one night a very drunk man called for LaCrecia Nicholls and in my anger I said something fairly regrettable as to why she could speak to him at the time. Hopefully, he didn’t run into her that night. I’m fairly certain he wasn’t a bill collector, but you never know.
When I moved to Hickory Head, nine years ago, I almost immediately started getting calls for Marjory Johnson. I’ve been getting calls for her ever since. I have no idea how many people I’ve told Marjory Johnson has never lived here, does not have this number, and I have had this number of X amount of years, but alas! It’s weird, but a guy called here and very slickly acted as if he were some old friend looking for Marjory, and I told him he would find no Marjory Johnson here. “Aha!” he pounced on that one, “Than how did you know I was looking for Marjory Johnson, eh? I never said her last name!”
Because you’ve been calling here for her for years now? Maybe that’s it? Huh, ya think?

I did have a bill collector call me about a phone bill they claim I didn’t pay. I had a check for the amount of the bill, which was received and cash by MCI the month I owned the bill, but they claimed that didn’t prove anything. They quit calling after a few months, and eventually someone accepted a copy of the check as proof.

Meanwhile, the Marjory Johnson saga rocked on. No matter who I called, or what I did, people kept calling for her, and wanting money. I would tell them all, look this number up, it isn’t her, go away, shoo shoo! But to no avail. I cannot imagine the amount of money they’ve spent trying to reach this woman at this number, but even if it only cost them ten or fifteen seconds of time it’s got to add up after a while, doesn’t it? I mean, they are paying someone to call, they’re paying that person to speak to me, or leave a message, doesn’t this all add up to whatever Marjory Johnson owes after a X amount of years?
A bill collection agency out of Texas has reached new lows, and in that they called me and asked me if I knew this woman who lives down the road from me. I do know her somewhat, and say I did, and the woman told me she was a bill collector and wanted me to contact my neighbor about the debt she owed.
New. Clee. Ur.

I’m not doing anyone’s dirty work for them. I’m not harassing my neighbors about anything. And I sure as hell am not going to get myself involved in anyone’s financial problems. Of course, I wasn’t nearly as calm when I told her this, but certainly the woman got the message. Then I went after her boss. I sent a full page, single spaced, letter of damnation to corporate headquarters and demanded they take me off this calling list, and demanded an apology from the woman who called me. I haven’t heard back from them.

Meanwhile, Marjory Johnson continued to get calls. I continued to tell people she didn’t live here, never had, and likely never would. The “Got’cha Guy” who thought he had trapped me into revealing she did live here got a nice letter in his inbox, also copied to his employer, in regard to harassment. His employer called me, we did a mutual online search of numbers which revealed my number is my number and no longer Marjory Johnson’s number. He said they would not call back and didn’t. One down…

Recently I’ve been getting a robo call and the message tells me to call Julie Lewis at 866 918 2469 regard an important business matter. I finally called them and the nice man there asked me if I was Marjory Johnson. Okay, it’s been nine years. Really, how much money can this woman owe? Who loaned her this money? Why? I explained who I was, and who I was not, and he seemed reasonable about it, but we’ll see. This particular collection agency has been calling me for about three months now, three or four times a week, and now they’ve logged on live phone call. They’ve got zero for their efforts. Can there really be any profit in doing this? Surely, Marjory Johnson, wherever she is, doesn’t feel obligated to pay someone some money. Have they ever thought about checking the number they call, or do they expect someone to say, “Gee, I’m tired of you. If I pay you will you go away?” Does it happen that way, ever?

So now I’m down to the last dozen or so people who think Marjory Johnson still has this number, if she ever did. Maybe they get paid by the call, regardless of whose number it is, and whoever pays them pays out a ton of money trying to collect from each and every person. I’m clueless, really. But I am not Marjory Johnson.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oh Deer! Full Moon Doggie Drama!

Bad weather is moving in tonight, so the full moon will not be on display as I had promised the mutts it would be. No worries on that account, they know, even if they cannot see it. The moon will be full again, on the last day of the month, which should prove to be very interesting.
I’m seeing that the full moon is both a natural reaction and to social conditioning. Lucas isn’t nearly as weird as the other two dogs but because they’re acting weird he’s picking up on it. Usually they want out two or three times between when I get in and when we go to bed, but tonight it’s be like a revolving door. Bert, of all people, is having some sort of odd fit to be let out, and because he isn’t normally that much trouble I let him out. Sam and Lucas follow, of course, and then we have doggie drama going down the steps, out into the yard, and holy hell what on earth is that?
Some critter hears the dogs being let out and runs through the woods. Sam is off as if he’s fired out of a cannon, Bert is a step behind him, and Lucas freezes, ears up, tail up, but left behind. Suddenly, as Sam closes in, and Bert begins to snarl, Lucas realizes he’s not in the middle of the action. He runs toward the woods, barking like god is on fire, and it dawns on me he’s telling the other two to wait up. It’s a deer. For reasons that escape me, a deer has gotten into the back yard, and this will end poorly. Deer usually do not move around when the wind is blowing, and this one might have been spooked by a falling limb, or maybe a coyote caught his scent. I know it’s a deer because Sam hasn’t caught it, whatever it is moves damn quickly, and I can hear it so it has some mass. Lucas accidently cuts off one line of retreat, but that was where Sam was herding it. Now the deer panic, hits the fence, almost gets caught by Sam, but finally manages to get over the fence where the dogs won’t follow. The come back to tell me about it and my heart stops. Bert has blood on his head. Oh holy mother off… I wipe the blood off and see Bert has a small cut over his right eye where he got hoofed.
Sam and Bert are not speaking to Lucas, and they are not speaking to me. Lucas is freaked. He’s bouncing off the walls trying to find the deer and I cannot keep him in the house. Bert isn’t bleeding bad, but he’s like a teenage boy who just got into fight. Did you see that? Did you see how scared he was of me? I scared him good, didn’t I?

Damn full moon.

In the middle of all this the rain is beginning to fall, but not really that hard. It’s a light rain, perfect for getting dogs and clothes wet and perfect for making me cold. I peel off the clothes, but them in the washer, and take a hot shower. The dogs mill around in the house, pawing at the bathroom door, and being pests. Lucas is convinced he was a hair away from getting the deer, and deer being abysmally stupid, it will return to the scene of the crime, so all he has to do is go back and find the deer in the same fenced in area the deer just barely escaped from. I explain to him deer is not so stupid, but it’s like talking to a teen age boy who just saw a naked woman in the woods. I mean, she was there before, right?
I realize all this happens before nine, and I realize I ought to be grateful it didn’t happen at midnight. Deer are dangerous, and Bert is lucky all he got was nicked. This isn’t to say the deer might have survived the attack, because it’s very likely between the two older dogs they’ve still got what it takes to take what a deer has. Still, a good sized deer is going to demand payment for his life, and someone will pony up some blood. My worst fear is the dogs will tear the deer up, but it will survive, and the deer will injure one or both of the older dogs, and they won’t. I’d hate like hell to kill a deer under those conditions, and it would be worse to put down a dog. Both parties, could we not do this, okay?

Lucas is discovering it’s for real here. Sam isn’t idly chasing because it was running, it’s running because a dog that is part Greyhound is coming through the woods at a speed which highly suggests there isn’t really any parlay to be had. Lucas also found out Sam left the back door open so the deer would cut back that way, and back into the open part of the woods. Oh please, get into the open with me knowing this place better than you. I’m not real sure if Bert got hit before or after Lucas got involved. I’m not 100% sure it was the deer, the fence could have got him, but it looks like a razor cut so I’m guessing deer.
All three want back out but I’m letting the adrenaline slow down a bit. Sam and Bert are panting like it’s a million degrees outside. It’s quite cool, actually, and that will help. Lucas is bouncing off the walls and the older dogs are snapping at him every other second. He ruined the hunt. I ought to slip him a treat when the other two aren’t looking. This could have gotten as nasty as it can get, and Lucas might have just saved me one hell of a vet bill.
If you don’t have a full moon tonight, feel free to borrow as much of mine as you need.

Take Care,
Mike