Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

When I was in the Army I always wondered what sort of men I might go to combat with, and fight alongside. What sort of men were these who I shared meals with, and perhaps one day might die with, in a foxhole or some battlefield? We didn’t seem to be the sort of heroes I saw in war movies and on television. These seemed to be very ordinary men. Before they were soldiers they worked on farms, and at McDonald’s, and some were just out of High School. Some had never fired a rifle. Some had never been away from home before.
When we see war movies and television programs the men in uniform seem larger than life. They are never terrified or young or flawed in any way. None are too tall or too short, or ill spoken at all. They all seem to be perfectly cast for their roles.

The truth about the American military is it is made up of very ordinary men and women from all walks of life. The next time you are at the movies look to your left and right, and there you will see the kinds of people who wear the uniform. Ordinary people, not Hollywood actors with make-up and perfect hair can be found in uniform. They are farmers and shopkeepers that fought in 1776, they are brothers and fathers who fought in World War Two, they are simple Americans who fought in Korea, they are students and city boys who fought in Nam, and in two Gulf wars and Afghanistan, they are who we are now. They have always been who we are. They have always been here among us. They have always been right there beside us all the time, and for some reason we have never realized that America herself produces the very men and women needed to keep the dream alive for all generations.

The difference, the real difference, the difference that truly matters, is there are some very ordinary men and women who believe in some extraordinary. They believe the vision that is America, where things like liberty and freedom matter. They believe these things matter so much they are willing to quit their lives and place themselves in uniform, and perhaps be sent far away from their families, and perhaps even, be asked, no, ordered, to fight for these things, this dream of liberty and freedom. They know some of their brothers and sisters will die in battle. They know it can happen to them, and their families back home, their parents, their children, will be left without them.
When I was in uniform, I did not know anyone who looked like John Wayne, or Clint Eastwood, or Jack Bauer. I knew men who looked like the same men you’d see watching those movies, not being a part of them. Yet the uniform of the United States military, and this dream of liberty and freedom, and this place called America, seems to transform ordinary men and women. The idea that this dream must be passed on, paid forward, and preserved at a cost, and sometimes at all costs, drives men and women to step up and be counted. Who will wear the uniform? Who will defend us? Who will make that sacrifice so all that is America can be?

Look out of your window right now. See that kid on his bike? One day, he might be the man who takes a bullet. That little girl walking down the street might be shot down over enemy territory. The kid asking you to pay him to mow your lawn might one day be awarded a purple heart, posthumously. Ordinary Americans make up America, and ordinary Americans wear the uniform to make sure all of this keeps going.

The extraordinary part in all of this is those in uniform will never enjoy the freedoms they preserve. They do not have the freedom to express themselves. They do not have the freedom to come and go as they please. They cannot wear what they want, eat when they want, sleep where they want, and live where they want. They can be sent, and are sent, and will be sent into harm’s way, and yet this is a life they chose to live. This is something they volunteered to do. This is a dream they believe in so fervently, they walked away from the life of enjoying these freedoms.

It is not the fact they enjoy freedom and liberty that makes them special, but the fact they surrender these freedoms and defend that they cannot have. To defend liberty you must surrender it. To ensure freedom you must let go of it. To create America you must sometimes die in some other country. These people asked to be allowed to be a part of America by stepping outside the dream, in order to preserve it for others.

Some say this day should me more than a day off, a day of rest and fun, of cook-outs and swimming. I say we should on this day we should do all of this, we should enjoy our freedom as much as possible, because it was paid for at a high price. We should enjoy liberty with such vigor as it was defended for us. But let us also reflect upon that cost, and in some way, find an opportunity to be grateful for this, and all we have, for that price will always have to be paid.

To the men and women in uniform, who have provided to me the right of expression in print, I thank you for this. For this America, to all of you who have died in the creation of the dream, I thank you for this. For all of you now in uniform, in faraway places, who miss your families and your homes, I thank you. You were once very ordinary people, but when you put on that uniform, you became my heroes.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On The Road Looking For A Sign

Nightwork is done for the long weekend but I cannot sleep. There is a new species of fatigue curled at my feet and there isn’t any amount of coffee that might drown it. In another life I would have tried alcohol, but it is time it hit the road, not work on it. I haven’t been on a road trip in so long I wonder if I can actually open the front door to go anywhere but to work anymore. I stay up thinking about the trip, and at four, dammit, just go.

There’s traffic on the backroads even at this early hour and I wonder what that bodes for interstate crowding. I like driving before dawn. Usually there is less traffic, less heat, less things to worry about, and the tires sing their calming Zen song of the road. Some people, after just a few hours in the last forty-eight, might worry about falling asleep at the wheel but in nearly thirty-six years of driving I have only once fallen asleep at the wheel. That was a very long time ago, and it frightened me so much I haven’t done it since. The backroads turn into the main roads, the main roads turn into four lane highways, and the four lanes feed into the Interstate, and I head South.

A friend asked me to visit, so South I head down to the land of tourists and crowded streets. Dawn is surprise to see me on the project, but driving hard, faster than I normally do. People I assume I can’t drive fast because I rarely do. It isn’t safe, and it certainly isn’t smart but these are new tires and the road is relatively clear. A grey Volkswagen, one of those newer models I couldn’t name with help, passes me and I fall in behind, a quarter mile back. I get a glimpse of blonde hair, and it might have been male, female, or for all I know, an alien. Blondie pegs out at eighty miles and I follow the front door.

What if Loki gets bit by a Cottonmouth? What if Bert gets sick? What if Sam gets wounded trying to kill something? I worry about the mutts even though they have proven time and again they are perfectly fine without me there. Elbow will check on them. I’m only going to be gone for a day or so. The road passes underneath me, like a river running backwards as I’m propelled forward by fretting. Georgia turns into North Florida, North Florida turns into a land of strip malls and billboard, and I head South.
The lack of sleep is frustrating, and that’s tied to working nights which sucks, but this isn’t about any of that at all. This is a retreat, a getaway, some sort of small escape from dead end writing that hasn’t had any sort of resolution for a while now. It won’t be perfect I know. Even Tolkien has his faults. Do you realize when Gandalf rescued Sam and Frodo from the aftermath at Mount Doom he was riding an eagle? Why not just ride the damn eagles there to begin with and save everyone some time? If right after Bilbo’s birthday party Gandalf had called the eagles together and went on a ride with Frodo the whole thing could have been reduced to a two minute YouTube video. ( it was by the way, and it’s hysterical) But I have two really good stories and both are floundering. One has been for a while now, and it’s my fault for trying to get it perfect. I seek closure on this trip. I seek some sort of sign it will work.

At mile marker 200, near Ocala a tanker truck has burned to the ground. I can see the charred wreckage and later I’ll find out the driver got out alive. But there is a one acre nuclear bomb looking site that reminds me of what I do for a living and this is not the comfort I seek.

Movies are good for writers. Mostly, I see movies and I wonder about what the person who wrote it was thinking, and usually I suspect I could have done a better job. “From Hell” with Jonny Depp wasn’t a bad movie but it lacked the same sort of resolution I’m looking for. See, Mike, the movie says to me, it doesn’t have to be perfect. But I had never heard of the movie before, and I don’t want to write like that. “Taken” with Liam Neilson wasn’t a bad movie either but at the same time it was move of a mindless action flick and I certainly don’t want that. The last episode of “Lost” was okay, but at the same time it didn’t answer all the questions and I’ll make an observation on a later day that explains why ultimately, it didn’t work.
Over dinner I tell Shawn why I have writing problems, and she listens to the story of both stories and finally she says, “Write your way out of it, that’s what you do, isn’t it?” And suddenly it becomes clear as to what I haven’t resolved the problems; I haven’t tried writing my way out of either of them. The backspace button is my friend, but how can I refine what’s to be if it isn’t? That may sound oversimplistic but at the root of the problem is the stories have not been finished because I have not finished them.
Dawn arrives again to find me still not sleeping. I slip into the darkness and back onto the road, without saying goodbye. Shawn is no morning person, and I have no intention of calling her or knocking on her door at six in the morning. The sun isn’t up, and most of the world isn’t either, but I cannot sleep, and there is nothing to write on in the room. I’m still not certain what to do about either dead end, but leaving them alone hasn’t worked, and neither have I.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sculptors are tweaked, poets worse, painters breathe fumes, and writers are cursed.

Find me a writer without some weirdness and I’ll show you someone who cannot string together a coherent sentence, or someone who has excellent camouflage. I like writers who appear to be normal. It’s interesting to consider what is roiling and slipping around all that calmness. Aye, I may be projecting here, but I’m a writer. I mean, who else is going to sit here and think of this stuff? Surely, you don’t expect this sort of behavior from accountants or the managers of mall boutiques, do you?
Sculptors are tweaked, poets worse, painters breathe fumes, and writers are cursed.

Oddly, you can leave anytime you want. Even more oddly, I have never tried. Not once since I started writing did it occur to me giving this up might in some way keep me more sane. No, that isn’t true. In fact, I have considered that giving up writing might mean I would be more sane it’s just that I have never given a shit. My sanity, or whatever part of it I’ve ever possessed, has never brought be a moment of peace, or happiness compared to writing.
It’s not the crazies who have brought this world to the condition it is in, but the supposedly sane. The oil leak in the Gulf Of Mexico that will wipe out generations of fisherfolk from Texas to Florida wasn’t created by some bipolar poet who was off her meds. The depressed and mentally misgotten have very rarely cheated taxpayers out of billions of dollars. That guy in the corner, yes him, scribbling away in his tiny journal, I suspect he hasn’t flown a plane into a building, and it is likely he won’t. Okay, no one is going to give me a pilot’s license and maybe that shouldn’t, but that’s the point.
What is it you offer me, you the supposedly sane, when you come to me with your chemicals and pills? Do you offer me a life of servitude to some company that may, or may not, appreciate who and what I am for thirty years then boot me out of the door with a nice watch and nothing left inside me? Do you offer me weekends of taking care of the lawn, or perhaps drinking with the fellow goobers at the country club? Will your drugs teach me social graces, and have me feel at ease in the company of human beings? Will I be able to sleep soundly at night, and not awaken and wonder where I am, and if that dream was just that? Will I be able to quite the voices and the screaming, and smile when people speak to me?
Oh, that has worked out so very well for you, hasn’t it?

You didn’t have to make the trade you are asking of me. Like me, you were born who you are, but unlike me, it is common to find those like you. The word I did not use is normal, because what is common is not necessarily normal, and what is normal might not be common. People like you take drugs and drink to feel more alive, while people like me use those drugs to feel less so. People like you can hold down jobs, raise families, and keep your house clean. People like me, on the other hand, can write, and paint, and carve, and pull poems out of insanity.
You, yes you there, in your tidy life and your tidy mind, I would like for you to trade places with me for a while. What? You don’t know how? You aren’t sure how this is done from in here? How odd! Yet all my life people have asked me if I enjoy being this way, if I might try something different, and perhaps I could find some drug to change who I am, and make me…normal? Yet how is it no one can take some drug and become a better writer, or painter, or poet? How is it you can kill this thing off but you, with your chemicals and pills, you cannot bring into existence, a single creative soul? You can kill, but you cannot create.

Who here is crazy?


The overcrowding, the extinction of species, war, genocide, pollution, climate change, nuclear weapons, Disco, and a host of others ills fostered upon this earth by human beings, can any or all of this be laid at the feet of those of us outside the bell curve of conformity? Only when humans behave like sheep do great feats of destruction occur. Only when human beings surrender their individuality are tyrants capable of ruling. Only when the momentum of the masses outweighs the resistance of the futile few is art destroyed, culture crushed, and our humanity obliterated. Only when we are all the same do we begin to sink, to disappear, and to become nothing more than hive animals who can only destroy, and not create.

It is not by chance, or by accident, that all great religions attribute creation to divinity.

I am, of course, guilty of some hyperbole. There are many well adjusted artist of all ilk, and there are many people who are crazy and not creative. The two are not conjoined twins by any means. There are those who are helped by meds, and not poisoned by them. There are those people who fall outside the norm who are happy and those who fall within who are not. But this message of mine is not tainted by overstatement or exaggeration.

Those of us creative, sane and not, disturbed or not, tweaked, freaked, or meek, are not responsible for the condition we are in, or the state the world has fallen. We are who we were meant to be, and the world is not. To ask us to change, or to be quieted, is no less than to ask of a class of people to accept the condition of the world, while surrendering who we are. You are not doing enough right to ask that of us. Before you can fix us, first fix the mess you have made.
I suspect you will need our help, in the current form in which you have found us.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, May 28, 2010

Roadwork: Big Man and The Lute

A POS Pontiac weaves into the lane closure and my heart jumps. Lost soul, drunk, or maybe both, but I dislike civilians in the lane closure. Our rented deputy is on it. I pull up to see if I can help and see it’s Big Man. This is a guy who has been given a description rather than a nickname. Dude, this guy is large. Three hundred pounds, maybe three fifty, it’s hard to tell, but he isn’t fat. When he gets out of the POS Pontiac it almost sighs in relief. It’s neither safe nor legal for the contractor’s employees to park their personal vehicles on the project and he knows this. Why, then is he parking on the project?
I wave the deputy off and Big Man explains he’s late, which I can see, and he wants me to follow him to a parking lot and bring him back, which legally speaking, I’m not supposed to do, but if I ask him questions about the joint in the asphalt I can justify it as work related. Besides, it’s the right thing to do.
The first night out I was riding with a co-worker and we were trying to figure out what was going to happen next, which isn’t always as easy as it seems. We came up to some barricades and one of the workers moved it for me, and I rolled down the window and said thank you and we moved on. My coworker remarked they never moved the barricades for him. Ever tell them thanks when they do something like that for you? These men are at the bottom of the food chain as far as work goes, but they are still human, and they still like to be treated with respect when they do something for someone they do not have to do. And not only that, you never know when one of them is going to have a story to tell.

Big Man is someone who has been on this crew forever but I cannot tell you his name. Not his real name anyway and that bothers me suddenly. You know, there is a trade off here and I’ve been making it for almost two decades. On one hand, I try to be nice to the men I work with, and whose goodwill I must generate to get a good job, and whose respect I want because they are good at what they do, but at the same time, I have to keep some professional distance. I can, have, and will, make decisions that will cost their employer money and this makes people unhappy with me. It’s human nature to keep your friends happy so I cannot be friends with the people who do road work.

There are other tradeoffs here as well. I don’t ask but Big Man feels obligated to tell me why he’s late. His sister got into a fight with her husband and the husband wound up in jail, and the sister wound up at their Mama’s house. Well, Mama is used to living by herself so the sister was in the middle of moving out when she got sick and had to go to the hospital. Big Man is in the middle of all this. A gentle giant who wants his family to be at peace, he called in and told them he was going to be late so he could catch a nap, and this was allowed because he’s good at what he does, and this is family. Not once does he express anger towards his brother in law, or some sort of resentment towards his sister. This is not an angry man, just a very tired one.
When asphalt is coming out of the asphalt spreader onto the road there is always this trail of asphalt along the edge that has to be raked back away from the joint or when it’s rolled there will be a lump. The tool used to do this is a called a “lute” The asphalt lute is an aluminum pole about eight feet long and two inches in diameter, with what looked like the head of a garden rake attached to the end. The rake part is aluminum also, and it’s about three feet wide. Think of a very large garden rake, but it doesn’t have tiny skinny teeth but very large shark like teeth used to rake the asphalt around joints and things like that. When a clump of asphalt comes out of the spreader the Lute Man digs it out, and flips it away from the mat. The lute’s rake head is places near the hole where the clump once was, and workers use shovels to throw asphalt into it. These men can take a shovel full of asphalt and toss it twenty feet in the air and it land exactly where they want it to land. Big Man rakes the asphalt into the hole, smoothes it out, and when the rollers roll the asphalt out, the surface is very smooth. There are three steel wheeled rollers rolling the asphalt and they move back and forth all night long. There are trucks coming in all night long, too, and all the while Big Man is right there among it all with his giant rake, using it with a surgeon’s precision. He’s been doing this for as long as I’ve known him, almost twenty years, and he’s always there, always working, always in motion, even when the heat hits triple digits.
Big Man lutes the joint, rakes asphalt, and more or less keep in motion with the lute for the better part of a twelve hour shift. We’ve had preliminary test run and the surface tests indicate the road will be very smooth, and very nice to drive upon. There was be praise for the contractor, for the men who get the money, the men who do the paperwork, and men like Big Man, will nearly be forgotten in all of this.

When you drive down the Interstate, or any other road, remember someone with a family put sweat into your ride. Perhaps, some man who loves his sister and his Mama, and has kids of his own, stood in the middle of the night, and tried his best to make sure everything was right. I apologize for the inconvenience you go through to get from where you live to where you work or play, but the roads are not grown; they are made. Sweat and toil are the only way, and time is the only medium of exchange.

Take Care,
Mike

Surprise Ending to Dog Rescue

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Night Mutts

So this is what it’s like to be ninety years old, I say to myself. I’m getting truly forgetful, I lose things, I cannot remember what day it is, and I have no idea what the date might be. Nightshift, at day three is as bad as I remember it being if not worse. I’m fairly certain my writing has gone to hell but I’m just not awake enough to realize it yet, and after the fact, in three or four months, I’ll look back at some of the stuff I’ve written and I will be appalled.
One of the more interesting side effects of this is how the mutts are reacting to it all. They are used to sleeping inside at night, getting up and having breakfast with me, and hanging out while I get ready to go to work. Now I get home way past the time to get up, I’m gone all night, and there is zero quality mutt time for them, or at least not as much as they are accustomed to getting. Sam’s reaction to this is to be needy, Lucas’ reaction to this is to be more playful and grabbing my shoes and Bert just wants to know what is wrong and how he can help fix it.
Bert was eighteen months old when he found Sam, who was nearly dead. At three months old, Sam didn’t have much life in him, much less puppy. It was a very long time before I could get him to play with me, even though Bert and he eventually began serious mutt tussling. Lucas is nearly eighteen months old now, and I cannot imagine turning a half dead puppy over to him to raise, but then again, Bert was not exactly ideal parent material either. Bert was far worse a puppy than the Loki Mutt ever thought about being and much more destructive. Of course, in Bert’s defense, he was an only dog for that eighteen months of his life, and wasn’t getting nearly the play time Lucas is getting. Sam was just too far gone, too damaged, too hurt to ever be anything other than what he was made into. Sam is more of a patient than a pet.
If you’ve ever wondered why human who have suffered extreme abuse grow up to abuse, my theory is the only way to slay the monster is to become the monster. The only way to stop being the victim, in their eyes, is to victimize. In people this is more of a conscious decision that doesn’t have to be acted upon than it is in Sam, but Sam has a hair trigger when it comes to violence. He nearly killed Lucas a week after I brought Lucas home. It isn’t Sam’s fault this happened but mine for not seeing it before it happened. And the blame lies on us all for no taking better care of Sam, and not taking better care of humans like Sam. In the nine years I have shared my life with Sam he has taught me more about the nature of abuse than all the books in the world might have. Every harsh word, every act of mindless violence, and every loss of temper has consequences than reach far deeper into the soul than a bruise or a cut or a hurt feeling. Love can cure much but it is far, far better to react with kindness and reason than mindless violence and try to undo what you have done later.
Bert had always had a lot of self confidence. Sam has never had any. The Loki Mutt seems to be Bert’s son more than Sam’s, even though he spends more time with Sam. Sam plays with Lucas out of fear for his position in the pack, I think. Sam thinks as long as he is there to keep Lucas down he can keep his place. Sam truly has no fear for his place in the pack, or my heart, but I will never be able to convince him of this. Lucas doesn’t seem to mind Sam’s weirdness and as he grows larger and larger Sam is having more and more problems holding back Lucas’ ascent. Lucas has Bert’s self poise, and total lack of fear. He has inherited Bert’s relentlessness and his ability to discern my mood, to a degree. But when it comes down to it, Bert is my dog, the best dog of all time, and Bert knows this.
Bert was my divorce dog, the one person on earth who got me through the times of trouble when my marriage miscarriaged. He knew something was wrong, terribly wrong, and he decided that no matter what my mood, he was going to stay as close to me as he could. There were times he would crawl up in my lap like a puppy, and put his nose to mine as if to say, “Hey! You come down from there!” And I did. Bert has never been much interested in company, the way Sam loves the attention from friends when they visit. Bert has me, and that is enough for him.

My first morning after night shift I greeted the dogs, made breakfast, and sat down to assure them all was well. Dead tired and burned out, I took a shower and went to bed after breakfast. It has to be fairly cool for the dogs to get up on the bed and sleep, and they haven’t wanted to for a couple of months now. Bert got up on the bed with me, stared down the other two dogs without a sound, and curled up at my feet. Sam and Lucas silently accepted this judgment and wandered out through the open back door. Bert sighed deeply and closed his eyes and waited, as he always has, for me to come out of whatever is happening, and did the only thing he knows to work; stay close to those you love, and never leave their side in trouble.
Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Interstate Sparkles

Try to think while running on more god coffee than is legal, while at the same time getting about four to five hours sleep a day, in the middle of 28,432 vehicles in a twelve hour shift. Did that last sentence even make sense? Onward! Have you ever wondered why no one at a kegger ever stood up and said, “Hey guys, I think we’ve had enough for one day, we’re all acting like a bunch of drunk frat boys!” That’s because everyone is in the same state of mind and no one can really tell if anyone is acting differently unless someone sober shows up. The sober people would be the ones with the guns and the badges, tis to be hoped, and that will end a party pretty quickly.

When it is all said and done, after midnight, the traffic does die down enough to matter. After two in the morning things get still enough to let the mind wander a bit and that’s a good thing, but it also allows the weirdness to start stepping in. Anytime you drive from one part of a project to another, especially within a lane closure, you have to watch two different fields of vision. What’s in front of you is important because you’re heading right for it. It’s so noisy out there no one can hear you coming, and the traffic is so loud it’s hard to tell if someone is behind you anyway. But you have to watch for workers on foot, workers in trucks, dump trucks, and everything else. Then there is the stuff behind you, and even if you’ve got two billion flashing lights on your truck, there is the ever present danger of photo-pollution negating all you have done.
It works like this: You have a machine the size of a small town and on that machine are Christmas lights, blinking and flashing, but it has headlights, and it has a huge set of lights on top of it. These big lights are so the workers can see the work being done, but what they also do is create some pretty harsh shadows. There are trucks everywhere, headlights everywhere, and your night vision gets poisoned by all the light and you simply cannot see into the shadows. All the workers are wearing these light intensity vests and stuff, so they show up very well in the light and you can see most of them in the shadows. The downside to all this is it’s an alien world. The human eye is confused over the paradigm shift from natural light and natural shadow to unnatural light, harsh shadows, and reflectivity. A person who has been running on empty a few days tends to stare without blinking at things that are flashing, and just a second or two of a light show and you’ve moved down towards something faster and closer than you thought. You mind interprets things differently because it isn’t used to seeing what is there.

Because I have vivid dreams, and because I’m pretty much insane to begin with, my perception of reality isn’t like what other people see and experience. I trust the natural feedback in this world with the working knowledge the human brain is one weird son of a bitch. Still, last night, as I was sitting on the tailgate of my truck filling out some paperwork with a flashlight, I saw sparkles. Sparkles? Sparkles! Yay sparkles! No, wait, boo, hiss, sparkles because they are not supposed to be there. I blinked a few times and they were gone. Okay, time to hit the coffee again, or maybe I’ve had too much. See? That’s the real problem here. It’s two in the morning you’re seeing things that are not there, so does that mean too much coffee or not enough yet? I always go with withdrawal as the cause of any aliment, so I pour another cup of Tasmanian coffee out of my thermos and see sparkles. I’ve never seen sparkles before. This is odd. When I say, “This is odd” that’s pretty much like Custer saying, “Oh look, we’re being Sioux-ed”

You know, if an alien were to land in my front yard, walk up to the house and tell me he, she, it, was looking for someone to represent earth in some intergalactic treaty, and I was selected because I write well, my reaction would be; yep, over the edge I’ve gone, I’m hallucinating. I would stand there and analyze the creature as to clues about my personality. If it zapped with me with a phaser set on, “Damn, all this talk about seeing things and writers being nuts is irritating the hell out of ET” I would likely think it was too much coffee. They would get tired of me and fly away to Birdie Jaworski’s house, where would be greeted properly, I suppose. I just do not trust reality as I see it, and quite frankly, neither should you.

I started to ask someone else if they had ever seen sparkles late at night but after two in the morning you just have to ask yourself, “Is this conversation necessary?” and also, “Will I or anyone else remember this next shift?” The answer to both those question will be the same, no matter which, and likely, the negative.
Sparkles. I read a book by Robert Mason titled “Chickenhawk” and he saw weird things late at night, but he was in combat I’m thinking there might be some correlation between combat and road construction at night, and then suddenly there are a lot of sparkles and ….Hey! These are not sparkles at all! My truck has a set of very powerful strobe light in the taillight assemblies. They flash in a sequence of flash! Flash! Flash! Then a second of darkness and then flash! Flash! Flash! What I was seeing was some swarm of tiny insects caught in the burst of the light. Until they were close enough for me to see their wings, all I could see was the light reflecting off of them. Sparkles!

Or maybe I didn’t see any of this at all.

Damn.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Road Work Ahead

A multi-operation transportation construction project is trying to get an eighteen hundred ton baby to take its first steps. Everything that has to happen before the child lumbers forward has to happen, but everyone wants it to happen right now, and at the same time, they realize pushing is bad. The first night is cumbersome and clumsy like the first time a couple has sex in the front seat of a car with a rabid hyena strapped in a child seat next to them while the bag of fireworks in the back catches fire from the lava pouring down from…nevermind, I’ve gotten weird again.

The human brain isn’t designed to go long periods of time without sleep. No one really knows why sleep evolved with life anyway, and it seems like it is not very useful, but my theory is if young humans do not sleep then their parents will kill them, or they will vow to never have another child as long as they live, which might wipe the species out. This doesn’t explain why, let’s say lizards, sleep for young lizards do not vex older lizards unless they want to be eaten. Sleep doesn’t make sense, and our brain’s reaction to the lack of sleep seems a bit odd then you look at it too.
I went from eight yesterday morning until a little after right this morning without any sleep. That isn’t a very long time to go without sleeping, but I can tell you my ability to perform simple math and things like that were totally gone by the end of the first twenty hours. I couldn’t remember numbers, or figures, or anything like that and had to write them all down. I repeated a lot of questions and sometimes I realized the people I was speaking to didn’t remember me asking to begin with.

Time got real strange last night, as if everything else kind of sucked it into the maw of weirdness that covered us all. I would look at my watch, saw it was four fifteen, then looked again, and it would be four fifteen, and twenty lifetimes later it was four sixteen. Time was okay, like the rest of us, until after two and then everything just sort of stopped working well all together now. It’s not like we had a total breakdown it what we were doing it was more of a slip in how we were doing it. You could see guys stumbling over nothing at all, and you could see men waiting to pull out into traffic as if they did not trust their eyes totally. That’s the mark, right there, of the professional construction worker late at night; he’ll sit in a truck and stare at an open road rather than believe his eyes. You see men forcing their senses to perform, demanding their eyes tell them the truth, and fearing that late night slip that has claimed so many of us through the years.

Men new to the work resent being told to watch their backs, and they bristle when someone pulls them away from traffic, and they say stupid things like, “What are you, my mother?” and this goes on until the day they are almost hit in traffic, and feel the fresh air of a vehicle’s wake, and then, and only then, do some of them realize how close they are to danger. They stare at the offending vehicle as it passes out of sight, and they realize no one cares. No one cares about road workers, no cares how fast they go through construction zones, no one gives a fuck if the men wearing hard hats and safety vests are killed because they’re late and they are supposed to slow down, and that is such a terrible, terrible thing to be late and slowed down. A man passes from having a false sense of security into the land of the likely to live once he realizes how little people care. He realizes the men out there are his first last only line of defense, and each and every time someone says something to him about traffic it is an obligation fulfilled. The natural instinct of most men is to pull away from someone else pulling them in one direction but on the road you will find very large men you can move with one hand. If someone grabs you, go, go now, go with the pull, and worry about why later, because you’ll get a later if you go, and you go right now.
We don’t make a fuss of it. We say thank you and we move on, and we don’t bring it up again. It happens each job, and it isn’t always very close but it is sometimes closer than we like, always, but we are used to it by now. The new guys will stare at the offending vehicle as it passes out of sight, but the rest of us do not. It has happened before and it will happen again, but if we look out after each other then it doesn’t matter. If you’re doing road work and someone is pointing at you then you start moving away from where you are and you look behind you. No one ever jokes about this, no one ever tries to play with this sort of thing, and every time I’ve done this, or someone has done it for me, it’s been important. No immediate, not close, not scary, no, that doesn’t happen all the time, but you have to stop thinking about if it can happen and just assume it will happen if you do not look out after each other.
“He’s dangerous.” Those two simple words have gotten more men fired than any other two words in history. No one gives damn if you’re black, or white, or brown, or speak Mongolian rather than English. No one cares how hard you work, either, or who you know. Do you fit into the Grand Scheme of things, where men on the Interstate look out after each other because no one else gives a damn? Yes? You can keep your job, and you can stay alive.

Take Care,
Mike

One Man. One Towel. One Day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bluh! Bluh-Bluh! Nightwork begins.

It will be weird from this point on so I’m just warning you right now. I start night work, from seven in the evening until seven in the morning until the middle of August and I will be weird. Sleep deprivation and sleep pattern change are two of the most powerful hallucinogens known to humankind, and caffeine overload does very little but make it worse. These will be chemically charged times, my friends, but they will not be boring.
We’re going to be working on the Interstate, and that is la la land for the loons. Last year at Exit 16, two drivers got into some sort of conflict that wound up with one of the vehicles in question being rammed by a truck and burning. Four people died including a seven year old kid. It happened at three in the morning when you would think traffic was light enough for everyone to just get along but it wasn’t happening. People get all self righteous and territorial when they’re in their cars and trucks, and they seem to think because they are there then that gives them certain rights and privileges and anyone who gets in their way is evil and wrong. I’ve seen this a thousand times in my life and it never is pretty.
If you can get the drivers to do what you want them to do, what they are supposed to be doing, and what the traffic control is telling them to do, then you’ve done a good thing. Someone told me eighteen years ago the good news was 999 people out of a thousand are going to do the right thing. The downside is if you see forty thousand cars a day then that means forty people are going to try to kill you and you never know which ones are which until it’s too late. And they might all show up at once, that’s the biggest concern.
People die quickly at night. All the factors I’ve mentioned plus there is damn little light at night. Truck drivers cannot see workers as they enter and leave the site if there are incoming lights, or of the lights out there create the wrong shadows. People start to lose their ability to think past midnight and each hour they go past that is like taking a drink or two. There is no difference between a drunk and a person who hasn’t slept in a day when it comes to judgment and reaction time. Actually, drunks are safer because at least they realize why they are impaired, sometimes.
If all goes well we ought to be through with all of this by the middle of August. All we’re doing is milling up the old pavement, sealing the cracks, and putting down new asphalt. The project is seventeen miles long, three lanes wide, and if all goes well we’ll lose no more than a week to weather, and a week to the Fourth of July, and a week to weirdness. All sorts of interesting things happen late at night, and when something breaks down there usually isn’t a parts store open within two hundred fifty miles.

The last time I did anything like this one of the milling machines exploded and burst into flames. The starter started it, and the only place to get parts is Atlanta. It was a Sunday night so they send a pick-up truck with four guys to get the new starter. One drove while one kept him awake, and two slept in the back, and when they got to Atlanta they waited until the parts place opened, and the two that slept on the way there drove back. All in all it took twenty-two hours to get the part and replace it, and then something else went wrong. Weirdness: you cannot plan for it, and you cannot defend against it.
The crew I worked with last night job lost a worker to a drunk at four in the morning on their last project in Augusta. They were still rattled and it showed. They did everything right, took all the precautions they could have taken, and they lost a man in the time it takes for a car to go into the wrong lane at seventy miles an hour. A wife lost a husband, a daughter lost a father, friends lost a friend, and the man who was driving was back on the road less than a week later. He was still driving the same car, and hadn’t got it repaired so everyone on the crew knew the car when they saw it.
This isn’t a safe job and it never will be. There really isn’t any surety in life, except that one day it will end, and there is no one who ever woke up with the idea this would be the very last day, or they would not have left their bed, I suspect. There are no safe jobs. There is nothing you can do for a living that will not require you to do the one thing that leads to all deaths and that is to live. A plane could crash on your house as you sleep, a rock could fall out of the sky, or some criminal could smash into your home and kill you for your television. Live long enough and something else will get you, like death from watching one too many Hitler Parodies when you should have been paying attention to your house being on fire.
Edit: I wrote the previous before last night’s shift and write this the morning after. I feel like I’ve been drug down a dirt road behind a team of mules. I did, however, survive and tariff wasn’t as bad as I feared. Everything worked as well as could be expected and nothing truly weird happened all night long. I hope this is a good sign and I hope at this pace we’ll be out of it by August, and everything after.
Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Talker, a Waver, a Reader, a Pauser, and a Foodie.

Every once in a while it does occur to me I need to socialize more, and despite the fact it almost always comes out the same, it never hurts to keep trying. Instead of borrowing a truck to go to a class at work today I bummed a ride with one of my co-workers, not because I didn’t want to drive, but because I thought some social interaction with another of my species might do me good.

“Pathologically punctual” is the condition, or one of the conditions I have, and if someone tells me to be somewhere at a certain time that is where I will be, and I will expect them to be there on time too. My ride was late, and because he’s one of those never on time people he doesn’t seem worry about getting there at all. Getting to a class late means I can’t get a seat near the door, and you never want to be anywhere in a crowded room unless you’re near the door. It always happens in one of these classes two people who haven’t seen each other in a while will meet, and begin a conversation right as they get to the door and there they will stop, holding everyone else hostage to nostalgia. Or worse, someone outside will see everyone inside trying to leave and they’ll try to salmon their way into the room to spawn, or whatever people do in empty classrooms.
So this guy, late and unhurried, is also a Talker, a Waver, a Reader, a Pauser, and a Foodie. No one is interesting for an hour straight unless they’ve been through combat, natural childbirth, a recent divorce, or they’re trying to get published for the first time. He’s a Talker, and when he does stop talking, he’ll read billboards or street signs, or anything he sees out loud. Silence isn’t his Superpower. Worse, as he reads, sometimes he will wave at whatever he’s reading, and if that object happens to be on the passenger side of the truck, well, the passenger might want to lean back. I don’t like anyone putting their hands near my face. It’s a small truck and honestly, when you point at something, you ought to be pointing at aliens landing, two giraffes having sex on the side of the road, or some phase shifting bag of nails falling from the sky. Putting your hand in my face to point out an interesting billboard is a very rude way to be boring.
Food channels escape me. They’re like self help television shows for people who want to have better sex. To me, cooking is a lot like sex. You try different things until you find something you really, really, like, and then you stick with it while trying other different things. I know what works for me, in the kitchen and the bedroom, and I don’t see spending an hour listening to what works for other people. Just toss me an idea what involves something hot and spicy and turn me loose on it.

So this guy is telling about something some chick named Raquel Ray was doing and I realized as long as he was talking about food he wasn’t waving his hands around, so I let him run with it. One of the more irritating habits he has is the three second pause he puts in random places in his conversations. “Then she took this pieces of halibut..pause…pause…pause and then she put the piece of halibut in the pan..pause…pause…pause and then she turned the over on..pause…pause…pause and then the commercial came on..pause…pause…pause”
That’s another thing here. He cannot connected two ideas together without saying “and then”. He’s the only person I know who can take more time to tell a movie than it takes to watch it. He also stretches out words. It kills me when he says “Marinara” because it comes out “Marrranarrrrraaaa” He has a truly bad habit of going into food show mode and explaining how to cook something before you’ve given him any indication you want to hear it. Food is more important than most subjects so his pauses are much longer. “You baaaake it..pause…pause…pause for abouuuuut twenttty minutes..pause…pause…pause and then you put some of that Marrranarrrrraaaa..pause…pause…pause sauce on it..pause…pause…pause..pause…pause…pause and then you put some of that cheese on it
..pause…pause…pause..pause…pause…pause fresh paaaarmashawnnnnn on it and then…”


To his everlasting credit, as a cook, the man does rock. He cooks for the office sometimes and when he does it is always good. It is hard to dislike a good cook, unless he’s late and driving.

I knew this man for well over a decade before I found out his son isn’t his, biologically speaking. Nothing he ever said or did, or any action or inaction, ever gave me any reasons to believe anything different. As someone who is childless I still think bringing a kid into this world is the hardest job a human being can take on. Dutifully, this man has done the soccer thing, the take stuff to the office to sell thing, the band practice thing, the pool thing, the fishing thing, and just about every damn thing on earth a parent can do for a child. What’s more, he speaks highly of the kid. Nothing pisses me off more than someone coming to work talking about how stupid their kids are. And the kid is a good kid, too. I’ve watched him grow up this last nine years I’ve worked from this office, and I have to say despite everything else, a good father is a good father. You have to admire anyone who can do that job, and get it right. I can endure much from a human being, but I cannot abide a sorry parent. No matter how the kid turns out, when you bring a kid into this world, or when you accept the role as mother or father, you do not get to opt out. So I don’t say anything about the food stories or the billboard reading, or the fact we’ll be late and I’ll have to sit away from the door. There is good to be found in this man, if for no other reason he truly loves his son, and more from a human being, cannot be asked.

Take Care,
Mike

Snake Tales At Midnight

Sun Tzu, the famous Asian tactician once wrote, “Hurry to where your enemy does not expect you to be.” The idea is if no one knows where you are they might be able to tell what you’re going to do next. Several years ago I took a day off from work to get some things done, and I knew there was going to be company back at the office in the form of an old retiree who dropped in on payday to pester the hell out of us to buy him lunch. He wasn’t a bad person but he would sit there and go on and on about how hard he had it when he was working there and how easy we had it. He also liked aggravating the secretary, Nelly, and she had known him forever and a day, but she really wished he would get a hobby, if not a life.
So that day I waited until fifteen minutes after twelve and I went back to the office. I taped a rubber snake to Nell’s keyboard and left. Our secretary was one of those people so terrified of snakes she couldn’t see one on television without screaming. Nelly came back into the office with the retiree in tow, and when she pulled the keyboard out the snake moved and she started screaming bloody murder. He got blamed for it, as I knew he would, and we didn’t see him for about six months after that. I waited until she retired to tell her it was me.
They say that one day Nelly was in the mall and saw a friend of hers, and before he could say anything she noticed he had on a cowboy hat with a rattlesnake skin hatband. Nell screamed and started running. He looked around and couldn’t figure it so he ran after her. Some of the other shoppers assumed something was wrong and suddenly there were a dozen people running like hell through the Wiregrass Mall in Dothan Alabama. Nelly ran into the women’s bathroom, and everyone else stopped and looked around as if they just realized no one knew what the hell was going on.

This is the woman who, when her daughter was just a couple of weeks old, called her husband, Paul, at work one day. His coworkers swore they could hear Nelly screaming from across the plant floor. Now, mind you this is all before the age of cell phones, or cordless phones, so once you left the house, sweet reason, you didn’t have to worry about the phone. The downside was if your hysterical wife dropped the phone and ran, you had no idea what the hell just happened. Paul is carpooling to work so he has to find his ride, and of course his friend wants to come along, because who know what has happened. They drive twenty miles to the house to discover a pistol lying in the driveway, blood everywhere, and no wife, and no baby. Again, this way before the time of cell phones so there is no calling anyone to find out if they’ve seen her, but because there is a gun and blood they call the Sheriff who tells him Nelly is at the doctor’s office with a broken nose, but the baby is fine.

Gun people already know what happened, don’t you?

Nelly, espies a snake in the driveway, and calls her husband, but realizes it might be an hour before Pual can get home. Nelly figures this is the infamous South Georgia Baby Eating Snake, of which there are many species. She cowboys up, gets the pistol out, a device she has never handled before, and goes forth to do battle. To make sure she hits her prey, Nelly holds the pistol as close to her face as she can, like she’s aiming a rifle.
BOOM! Black eye! Broken nose!
Worse yet, poor Paul now is sneered at, and looked down upon everywhere they go because people see the black eye and bandaged face and assume he’s beaten the hell out of her. But the story does have a happy ending; the snake got away.

You would think after this episode the first thing to happen would be a some gun safety lessons to wife from husband, and yes, this did happen with near disastrous consequences. Once again there is a frantic call to work, but this time it is one of the neighbors who has seen Nelly out in the yard blasting away at a snake. Paul rushes home, again, and this time the danger is very real; Nelly is about a hundred feet away peppering away at a snake who is under their one hundred fifty gallon propane tank. Fortunately for everyone involved, Nelly couldn’t hit the broadside of a propane tank.

My favorite story is the one where once again, Paul gets a phone call at work, and you know, I bet whoever was answering the phone lived for these days, but in this case, Nelly was off in Alabama, and it was getting dark. Paul had to load up, again, and go see what the problem was this time, and he discovers Nelly’s car parked on the side of the road and Nelly at a service station five miles down the road. It seems Nelly ran over a snake, and when she looked back in the rear view mirror, it was gone. You think I am making this up, but Nelly lived in mortal fear that one day she would run over a snake, it would be flung into the engine compartment by the wheel, and it would make its way into the cabin of the car via the air conditioning duct.

No, seriously, she did.

So long suffering Paul explains how the duct work works, but this isn’t good enough. She drives his truck home, and he drives her car. She won’t be happy until he takes into the shop and has it torn apart, but he simply called the service manager, and tell him to call her after a few hours, and all is well. He waited until both the kids were in High School before he told her the truth about that one.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Bin

Tommy waited by the window, looking out over the vast open fields, and he waited for Elizabeth. He loved Elizabeth, and she loved him. She kept telling him they would have a date when he was older, and today was his thirteenth birthday. He felt older. He felt old enough. Pastor Wallace said there were urges we all must fight against but Tommy had given up trying. Elizabeth sent him over the edge every time he saw her. She was tall, sleek, and had a mass of flaming red hair on her head like a wildfire as a crown. He could hardly look at her when she came over with Susanne, Tad’s girlfriend. Tad was his brother, and just five years older than Tommy but Tad was always trying to shoo him away from Elizabeth. Last Summer Tommy had brought Elizabeth some wildflowers he had found on the fence row near the cornfield and she had hugged him. The smell of that hug, her sweat, her body, and her hair, sent Tommy into another world. Elizabeth had said, “You just wait til you’re older, boy, we’re gonna go out!” That was last August and he followed Tad and Susanne one day down to where the creek was wide and there was a small beach, but Tad threw rocks at him, until he was forced to retreat. Something happened that day, Tommy knew it, and from that day on Tad and Susanne spent less time with Elizabeth. Tommy hated them both for it.
Early that morning their parents had left to go to Arlington, over three hours away, for a funeral. Tad had pleaded with them to take Tommy but they told him the funeral would be bad enough as it was. Tad had called someone on the phone, and ignored Tommy’s requests as to who he was talking to, but later Tad had said Susanne and Elizabeth were coming over. He wanted to see her. Tommy made a card for her, and copied a poem out of one of the books from school. Maybe Tad and Susanne would walk to the creek and leave him alone with Elizabeth.
Susanne and Elizabeth arrived an hour after his parents had left. Elizabeth got out of the car like a dream. Tommy watched as she tossed her hair back, and took her sunglasses off. There was something about the way her blue jean fit her that took his breath away. He didn’t dare look at her breasts. She was wearing a simple white tee shirt but Tommy couldn’t look at her for very long. He sat on his bed and closed his eyes tight. He heard Tad greet them, and he wondered if he ought to go speak to Elizabeth, tell her how pretty she looked, and maybe Tad and Susanne would…
“Hi handsome!’ Elizabeth walked into Tommy’s bedroom. The card was sitting beside him in plain view. Suddenly, it seemed stupid to make her a card, and he wanted to hide it.
“What’s this?” Elizabeth picked the card up before Tommy could move. He was paralyzed. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her but he was afraid he would explode first.
“Oh you are so sweet!” Elizabeth put her arm around him and Tommy pushed her over on the bed and tried to kiss her. As he pushed her over one of his hands pushed into her breast, and Tommy felt heaven.
“WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” Elizabeth shouted as she pushed him away. “GET YOUR DAMN HAND OFF ME!”
Tommy tried to stand up, fell backwards and as he fell, reached out to grab something to break his fall and the curtains came down on him. Tad and Susanne burst into the room.
“He tried to kiss me!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “The little perv grabbed my tit!”
“Comes by it naturally, I’d say!” Susanne laughed as she adjusted her shirt.
“Dude!” Tad was laughing too. “Look at you!”
Tommy looked down at the tent in his shorts as they laughed at him.

Tommy ran through the field wishing the corn was head high instead of just planted. He had ran out of the house as they laughed, and Elizabeth had laughed at him too, and more than anything else he had ever felt, the pain of that laugh drove deep into him. Part of him was ready to die, wanted to dig a hole in the field and crawl into it, and then pull it in over him like a blanket. But he had touched her breast. His hand felt as if it had been transformed. Tommy stopped running and panted for breath. He looked back at the house and a pick-up truck was pulling into the driveway. Tad’s friend Bo had a truck like that. Tommy knew Bo would be laughing at him too. He hated them. He couldn’t go back. Tommy sat down in the field and cried.

Tommy was hungry but was not going back to the house. Ever. He sat in the field and watched as Elizabeth and Bo walked around the yard looking for him. She let Bo put his arm around him, and Tommy wanted a gun to shoot them both. They went back inside and later all four came out of the house and looked for him, but he sat and watched. He followed them as they wandered away from the house, and walked down the dirt path to the old Johnson homestead. The Johnsons had gone broke when Tommy was still a little kid, but he remembered them. Their house had been moved to another part of the county, and their barn had been taken down for the lumber, and all that was left was the old steel corn bin. Tommy and Tad had played there long ago, but he hadn’t been to the bin in a while. Tommy watched as Tad opened the door and they all went inside.
Tommy crept up close to the bin, and in his mind he could see himself as a Sioux native, coming in close on the settlers that were invading his land. The bin was round, and looked like a big steel cylinder sticking out of the ground, with a cone shaped top. The steel plate that had covered the top where the grain had been poured into the bin had long since gone, and that was the only source of light if the door was closed. The door was closed, Tommy saw, and he grinned as he saw an old rusted pry bar lying on the ground near the door. As silently as he could, he planted on end of the pry bar in the ground, and propped the other end against the steel door’s handle. He stood on the end of the bar that was in the ground and it sunk deep. They would never get that door open now! Tommy heard laughter from inside the bin, and realized he had gotten away with trapping them inside. The sky was growing dark, and maybe the rain would come while they were inside! Tommy crept up the ladder on the side of the bin, carefully shifting his weight from one rung to the next, every bit as stealthy as any native warrior. Tommy belly slid up to the opening high on top of the bin, and peered inside. He forgot his shadow would fall inside, and as he looked down, the four inside looked up. Tommy saw Elizabeth, naked from the waist up, her breasts perfect and beautiful, and they were playing cards. Susanne was down to her bra, and both Bo and Tad were shirtless. For just a second, Tommy and Elizabeth locked eyes, and she grinned. Tommy jumped from the top of the bin and hit the ground hard. As he ran he heard Tad and Bo pounding on the bin’s door. He knew if they got out they would kill him, and he ran. The rain was already beginning to fall as he reached the house. He went into his bedroom and locked the door. Tommy didn’t know what else to do so he waited.
Tommy knew Tad and Bo were going to kill him, but he had touched Elizabeth’s breast, and he had seen her nearly naked. She had smiled at him, and that smile more than anything else, clouded his mind like the thunderstorm outside. Her eyes were deep blue, and his mind played that smile over and over in his mind, and in each replay Elizabeth’s eyes were bluer and bluer until they became as bright as the sun, but blue. The rain pounded the tin roof of the house and the wind picked up. Tommy knew he ought to go let them out, but these types of storms came and went quickly. He could have them out before dark, easily.

Tommy hid under the bed and kept his eyes closed. It was a dream. He would wake up. It was not real. The sun was shining and there was only a slight breeze now. That seemed wrong to Tommy. The sun ought not be shining. It seemed wrong for him to feel the breeze on his face.
Tommy crawled out from under the bed and wondered how part of the house could be gone, and not the other parts. Only one wall was missing from his bedroom but the roof was gone. Fiberglass insulation drifted out of the sky like snow. Tommy wondered if he had gone deaf because there didn’t seem to be enough sound. There should be sirens and screaming and…

Tommy knew he had to go, knew he had to go see, and he knew if everything went perfectly, Tad and Bo would kill him. The dirt path to the Johnson’s place seemed obscenely normal. There were a few limbs lying around, and everything was wet, but nothing seemed wrong. He looked back at the house and it looked like a piece of cake someone had stepped on and smeared across a tile floor.
The bin was gone. The pry bar was there on the ground but the bin was gone. He could see the debris field and as he walked along the shattered pieces of the bin, there were playing cards, and clothes. Bo’s body looked twisted and broken as if he had been run over by a truck. His eyes were open wide and his mouth looked like he was about to speak. Tommy stood over the body and waited for the noise in his ears to be quieted, but the ringing that had begun as soon as he saw Bo’s body didn’t stop. Tommy followed the debris and there were larger piece of steel twisted and lying on the ground. Tad and Suzanne were wrapped together in one of the pieces, wound together and crushed. Tommy counted arms and legs and came up a leg short and for some reason it bothered him he couldn’t tell who was missing what.
Tommy walked along the trail of debris and couldn’t find Elizabeth. Had she gotten out? He allowed himself to hope they had climbed on each other’s shoulders and she had escaped that way. Yes, she was still alive and wandering around and… Tommy found her. She lay in the grass as if she was resting and Tommy at first thought she was still alive. There wasn’t a mark on her body. A piece of twisted metal covered her body like a towel, but her eyes were still open, and she seemed to be almost smiling. The eyes were still blue but now she looked past him, beyond him, through him, and those were not her eyes at all. Now, Tommy heard the sirens, and he heard the sound of a car rushing down the dirt path, towards where the bin had once stood. People were shouting. Tommy sat down and began to scream.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, May 21, 2010

Don't mess with Mama bear!

There was a famous bear expert who wanted to prove human and bears could co-exist at close range and everyone would be fine. Yellowstone had warned him if he kept getting close to bears they would ban him from the park, and after the second time he was mauled, they figured that would do it. I’m not sure why they didn’t have him arrested for attempted suicide. I’m fairly certain anyone who knows anything at all about mama bears would have done something differently.

I got into this a little late, because I’m just a hick with a keyboard and I know every little about bears. Let’s see, hmm, they are very large, they are a lot faster than I am, they have really scary looking teeth, and they have really scary looking claws. Now, in my untrained and unscientific mind, after making those untrained and unscientific observations, my untrained and unscientific conclusion is to stay the hell away from bears. How far away? Like, I’m in Georgia and Yellowstone is in Wyoming. I’m good here, they’re doing just fine there, and the Discovery channel rocks.
I won’t mention the guy’s name because I did last time and his wife emailed me and she was pretty pissed off about me blogging about a man who just lost an eye. I called him a moron. I referred to him as an idiot. After getting mauled twice by bears, this guy set out to prove female Grizzly bears are perfectly fine around people, as long as you do the right things, and don’t do anything weird. The mama bear hit him twice, and the last swipe of her paw took his face clean off. My opinion of the man has not changed a damn bit. I’m sorry he lost an eye, and I’m sorry he got hurt at all, but let’s review my observations about bears, and then come to some sort of conclusion about distance.
Wyoming. Georgia. You are fairly safe at that distance, but once you get into the same area code with these creatures you are no longer on the top of the food chain unless you are very armed and if you are not very armed then the distance between the top and where you are is one a little bit greater than Wyoming to Georgia.

The bears didn’t kill him because they chose not to kill him. Why, I have no idea, but when your life expectancy is based solely on what a creature that is currently mauling you decides certain theological questions will be answered.

One again, it is certainly an untrained and unscientific observation but when you see a bear with cubs you better have your hand on a remote or you better have your ass in gear.

But that’s just me.

One eyed experts might tell you different.

The other day one of the Spin instructors took her three year old son into the ER because his temperature was spiking out at over 104. The doctor asked why she didn’t wait for her personal doctor’s office to open.

I’m not sure why they didn’t have him arrested for attempted suicide. I’m fairly certain anyone who knows anything at all about mama bears would have done something differently. Needless to say the conversation went in a direction that did not include waiting. But this was a young man, and perhaps he had never see a mama bear in full fury protecting her young. I suspect he will not be mauled again. I don’t think he lost an eye, but I am certain he had his ass handed to him.

At the risk of hate mail from his wife, I think he’s an idiot, and a moron.

Take better care,
Mike

Yard Braille and the Country Cul-De-Sac

There is a dirt road off of a dirt road, a sort of country cul-de-sac, and to the South side of the road are two old farmhouses, very, very, small but tidy. Two parts of the small family live here, and the same family has owned this land forever. There’s a rock at the end of the road, a piece of granite taken from a bridge site, and it marks the spot where ground gives way to a fen that eventually leads to the creek. When a tire hits the rock they know they’ve reached the point where any further they’ll get stuck in the fen, and I know this too. I love that sort of thing, you know, and I am not sure if there is a word for localized geography helpers. Yard Braille? I like that term.

The house to the east, the one closest to the fen sits on limestone rocks hauled up from the river a century ago. The rocks were used to support a much larger, much nice house that was up the hill a ways , but it burned down and after a particularly bad back in 1946, they went up to the ruins and stole the limestone rocks to prop up the two houses on the country cul-de-sac. They managed to lever the house on the east side, closest to the fen, up high enough to get two rocks under each corner, and because the people who built house one hundred years ago were damn good at almost everything they did, the rocks were about the same size. But that left just one rock for the corner of the house to the west and now it sits just slightly lower. When they installed plumbing in the houses they used just one septic tank, and because the water well is sitting on the highest ground they have out there they had to put the tank low, so the waste pipes run from the east house to the west house then back again east like a low snake, and the water pipes just run from west to east. A third set of pipes for grey water, that water from the sinks and the washing machines, and the tubs runs into the fen.
The flood of 1946 saw the water rise to the very bottom of the houses but because everyone was still poor there wasn’t a lot to be saved. Clothes, bedding, furniture, but no televisions or electronics were hauled to high ground. They threw hay out of a hay barn near the ruins of the big house to save their stuff, and because South Georgia has always been this sort of place, the owner of the barn helped. They say that Betty, the near feral cat named after Betty Grable, used the flood to kill the rats living under the house. She swam between two pieces of tin used as underpinning and killed the rats flushed from their holes. The rats Betty didn’t get the kids killed with sticks, and this was back in the day when flood water was still fairly clean. Betty came out from under the house a dozen times with the limp body of a rat in her mouth, cat paddling her way to the porch, still earning her keep even in disaster. Betty died in 1949, and they buried her in a wooden box in the cemetery near the old woman who took her in when Betty just showed up one day.
The space between the two houses is not more than a dozen feet, and the windows match up evenly with the others between, except the east side house is higher. Back before the house was electrified one legged Tom Barksdale saved the west house from burning when two kids that were having a pine cone fight from one house to the other busted a kerosene lantern. Tom walked in from the living room and turned the bed over on the fire, smothering it with the mattress. Barksdale was one of those people bless with good luck after the bad he had with his leg. They say he was toss from a horse and as he tried to land upright one of his feet slid down into a gopher hole and a rattlesnake bit him. Tom didn’t realize he had been bit until the leg began to swell, and the doctor had to take it a week later. But they say after that Tom never had a bad day in his life, except his leg hurt like hell right before a storm.

Water, wires, and modern roofing transformed the two houses, and someone had the bright idea of putting siding on them a few years back. A satellite dish is shared, as is most things. The old cypress logs, with the limb stump still attached were replaced on the porch by store bought four by fours, and they’re still talking about jacking both houses up and bricking them underneath in case of another flood. There are few enough places like this left in South Georgia, and every year someone improves some building that has stood for over a hundred years, or they tear out part of it, or they remuddle it, or time simply wears it down. Each year there are more and more cookie cutter houses, more subdivisions, and less craftsmanship in building. The two houses on the country cul-de-sac are dinosaurs living in a lost valley, peacefully housing their families, yet unaware they will one day face the extinction we all do.

This place doesn’t exist. I’ve dreamed about it a half dozen times, and each time there seems to be something new I know about it. It is so real I have reached for my camera to go take some photos of the houses, and as my hand closes around the case, I realized it isn’t real. But very clearly I can see the houses, and very clearly I can see the road, and very clearly, I wish this place was real.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Spinning With The Boy Scout and the Gleeks.

Yesterday it was her dog, but today we had very seriously bad news in regard to Natalie, the Spin Instructor; she has a child in the hospital with pneumonia. Everyone wants a sick puppy to be well again but the cold fingers of fear reach deep when a child is involved. It was hard to get motivated about spin.

Worse yet, there’s was some boy scout looking Spin Instructor not old enough o drink, vote, and maybe not old enough to ride some of the rides at a carnival. The fact that he sounded like he was giving a Disney tour didn’t help at all. “Okay now,” and he would raise one hand in the air as if letting the people in the back of the tour group he was going to be talking about Sleeping Beauty’s stationary bike, “go up one level and…”


Okay, I was grumpy about Natalie. I will admit that now.

I’m not a big fan of popular culture. Boy Scout and a little girl in the corner started talking about “Glee” and I tuned it all out. I don’t do teen drama shows. I was thinking about bailing out of the class and hitting a treadmill if my knee could manage it. None of this was working, and I couldn’t see the better part of an hour listening to this at all. There was an old Journey song done by the Gleeks playing, and the little girl in the back was singing along.
“It’s song, Mike.” Sara said, as if she were standing beside me. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but I live with it, and you can too. Sara was right. The little girl was singing, and honestly, she wasn’t bad at all. She had a high clear voice, and the song was one I remember when I was much younger. I remember that song being sang by young girls I knew.
Whatever the current generation has, doesn’t have, does understand, or doesn’t understand, there is something very brave about singing in public and there is something special and holy when it comes to group singing, when they’re mainly doing it sans backup music or electronics. These Gleeks may be weird as hell, but they are out there swinging away at their own form of art, and no matter how you feel about their lyrics, you have to respect the love they have for their craft.
Boy Scout wasn’t a bad instructor at all, and he was more than a little sneaky evil. He would count down jumps and then start over again, or hold the count at three, three, three, two one, just to push everyone a little harder. As always, the sweat and the pain began to focus me on what is real and what is not.
Most of what happens at works evaporates when I work out. I was hung up on the song thing, and that’s important. Suddenly, I wanted to hear the girl sing again, and just as suddenly I realized with someone sitting beside me I wasn’t at all sure if it was her singing at all. It might have just be the Gleek thing, to have someone singing without all the filters and redubbing, and while we were suffering through a song I dislike so much I won’t name it, I realized that somewhere deep down inside, I had been paying attention with Shawn was talking about the Gleeks.
Boy Scout was trying to kill is, but I was hitting a groove. Up a full turn? HOO-RAH! He damn near fell from his bike. Okay, I project pretty well, even at my age. I can bark with the very best of them, and even though Belligerent Bill complained, I’m barking at Boy Scout when he pushed, just to let him know I can handle it. Pump up the noise I say, and let the people outside know we’re alive!
I’m drawn into the world of noise, and sweat, and pumping my heart as hard and fast as it can go. Boy Scout is transforming into a very good instructor, and I’m getting a great workout. I’m careful not to stress my knee, careful with my tormented calves, and I’m trying to push it, push, push it, just a little harder, and all the while I’m wondering if the little girl sings, if the woman with her, who I assume is her mother sings as well, and what sort of class would we have if everyone started cranking out an old High School song I haven’t heard in years?
You are perilously close, Mr. Firesmith, Sara grins at me, of considering yourself part of a group.

There in the tiny room we have people who are older than me, a little girl, and honestly she might actually be older than I suspect, but everyone under sixteen who is female looks like a kid to me. I will get grief for that, but I rarely even see young people much less try to figure out how old they are, but I digress. There are people of all ages, three of the dozen or so people are male, there are college looking people, people who look like they got off work, and an odd group of people you might not get thrown together, but there we all are, and all of us there for the same reason.
The class ends with of all songs on earth, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole’s “Over The Rainbow”. If this man cannot convince you of the power, the magnitude, the sheer awesomeness of the human voice, without shouting, or screaming, or a backup band, you are not listening. As if to solidify all the thoughts I’ve had for the last hour or so, I remember the first time I heard Israel Kamakawiwo'ole sing this song, and watched the video. It took about half the song before I realized it was his funeral. I’ve missed a lot of music, and there have been many voices stilled without me hearing their songs because I didn’t take the time to listen.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Letter To A Writer

I promised you article and this would be it. I wish I had some good news for you but the outlook is bleak. You just might be seriously and totally screwed. I think you’re a writer. It’s not that me thinking you’re a writer is what screws you but there are several species of writers who are writers not just because they’ve got talent, and you do, and not just because they’ve got a knack for subtle humor which you also have, but some people become writers simple because they are so totally unemployable anywhere else on earth.
On the upside, you’ve got everything you need to be successful in America; you have a nice smile and you’re pretty. Paris Hilton was born rich but she has made a very comfortable living doing nothing but smiling and looking pretty. Okay, she also has a sex tape, and that made her a household name and an internet sensation, but that’s not for everyone, I realize that. We can be thankful Steven King didn’t start out that way but don’t totally discount it as a means for publicity, but at the same time, if you think it’s hard finding a job now…
Remember Herman Melville died a poor man, unloved by anyone, totally discouraged from this craft, and undiscovered in this time. His masterpiece, “Moby Dick” languished in a warehouse until the building burned down and his publisher paid for the books himself rather than reprint the thing. Of course, the printer had left off the ending so there’s a reason it didn’t make sense. Your genius may not come into focus until long after you’re dead, and stopped believing in yourself, and…you know what, this is depressing, nevermind.

Creativity and social skills sometimes are given in direct inverse proportions. This doesn’t mean you aren’t liked, or even loved by people. You seem to have a lot of friends and from what I can tell people enjoy being around you, unless of course, something pisses you off. Your confrontations with Belligerent Bill show you lack an understanding of proportionality and decorum in conflict resolution. At least that the explanation I get when someone tells me I’m not going to work for the United Nations as a diplomat. The upside of this for the both if us is a complaint served in person, as you have recently discovered, comes across as snarky. A well written missive fired off to the right desk can do more damage than a group of protestors.
Writers have to own a certain amount of hubris just to think putting thought to print is in some way important but I have more than my share. I think it’s more than important. I think it’s in some cosmic way, holy. The idea that we can transfer human thought into solid form, and then back into human thought thrills me more than sex. That’s what we do, you know, no, not sex, stop that, but we take human thought, and we put it into print, and when other people read it, those thought we had are conveyed back into the mind of another human. That’s heady stuff in my book.
Your biggest problem is you do not write enough. I’m guilty of taking what I write too seriously, but you do not seem to realize you’re good. You make a mistake when you equate the number of readers you have with how well you write. If you sold sex on the street corner you’d get some return customers and they would keep coming back for more, but you would never get rich and you would never be wildly popular. Blogging is low paid prostitution. If you can find a way to move up from that you’d still find up getting screwed but at least you’d be better paid for it. Writing for a living a lot like being a prostitute, actually. You will not make a living at it for a while, but it is a fun hobby. There are people out there who will wonder why you don’t get a real job. And no one cares how well you do it until you’re famous and then everyone wants you.
It’s easy for me to blend in, and become invisible in a room full of people because I don’t stand out in any way. You’re an attractive woman and as such, I’m almost willing to bet you’ve never met a man who wasn’t attracted to you in some way, unless he was gay. Pretty will get you almost anywhere with anyone, but pretty won’t impress your Muse. I’m in tight with my Muse because I’ve taken the time to get to know what I want from my writing, and what it demands of me. Please believe me when I say this with as much respect as possible; you don’t know who you are as a writer. You seem a bit lost when it comes to your voice. You’ve got that narrative down spot on when it comes to your wide on series, and that it’s a bad thing at all, but there is something else there. I can sense it like seeing a glint of silver under the paint of a piece of antique jewelry that is supposed to be tin. I can see it when you highlight Sharon Stone’s boots instead of a man.
I lack a certain sense of sophrosyne when it comes to writing, and I really do not give a damn. Life is too short to bridle passion, and I will suggest to you it is this passion that gives me the right to say what I say. You have talent. You have what it takes to take this craft and raise it to a level of awe inspiring wonder. I have been a reader for decades now, and I know nothing at all if it is not the talent of those I read.
You and your Muse need to have a long talk. I will not keep you any longer.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Shape You Are and The Shape You're In.

I took the Boot Camp class today but it wasn’t much fun because my knee is whining. It’s not injured but it’s got a certain soreness to it that leads me to believe I do not need to run, or do knee pressure stuff until the knee tells me it’s safe. Knees are fickle animals with minds of their own, and they will ground you at a moment’s notice. Still, the non-knee stuff was fun, but all in all it wasn’t nearly the workout I wanted. I had to bail early to get a slot in Spinning, and it seems they would grandfather in anyone who was already in another class. I can see why they wouldn’t, of course, because that would cause some people to get left out entirely, but still, I missed part of a workout trying to get into another class.

I’m beginning to be a Spin regular. I was there three times last week, and I’m back today. I’m taking tomorrow off to get some stuff done and hitting it again Wednesday and maybe Thursday and Friday, too. It is a good solid cardio workout that doesn’t kill the knee and what else can you want.
The downside is Natalie tells us she doesn’t burn over 400 calories in an hour. As a runner, I’m accustomed to burning twice than in an hour, but then again, as she correctly pointed out, everyone’s metabolism is totally different.

Both Kim, and Natalie are prime examples of everything that is wrong in the way we Americans see the ideal woman. Neither of these two women are tall, neither of them are skinny, and neither of them could fit into a size negative ninety-seven. Yet both are in great shape, in good health and both are dedicated to the idea of fitness as a way of life. Since they are both married, I won’t make any personal observations that involve the word “hot” but if you would rather go out with someone who looks like she hasn’t eaten a decent mean since Clinton was president, and who looks like she might melt if exposed to heat, then you’ve got some problems unrelated to what shape your body is in.

When I ran all the time there were times I would totally zone out and just run. I hit that today in Spinning for the first time and it was really weird. Spinning is a group thing and running is a solo trip, so as soon as the song ended I snapped out of it, but I was still a little weird after that. My mind craved the letting go of the group and to head back into the zone, but that isn’t how things work.

If you went into Spinning and simply pedaled as hard as you could for as long as you could you would find up with some pretty decent muscles. Yet with an instructor tormenting you, er, guiding you through certain motions and positions, you work a lot more muscle groups and you can feel them burning. What part of your body do you use at work, as opposed to what you use working out? Put someone who knows how to hurt a body human in front of a class with a mike clipped on her head, and you’ve got all the makings of some serious pain. If those muscles are hurting that means only one person on earth is taking aim at your soft spots, and if you don’t wear them out they will rust.

I’ve got knee issues right now, had elbow issues last fall and winter, and who knows what’s going to give next. My calf muscles have been cramping up, first the right, and tonight the left. Yet it’s an either /or proposition. You will either work your body and risk pain, or you’ll sit there and things will go to hell on you harder, all on their own. One requires a lot of effort and the other requires nothing but a passive lifestyle. You make this choice when you get off your butt, and you make it when you do not.

As brutal as Spinning is, it is that way because that is the way I want it to be. I want to feel my lungs burn. I want to feel my legs turn to lead. I want to try to put more into it and nothing be there at all. Natalie does that for us all, but only for those of us who are looking for it. If you’ve got an injury or you’re not ready for the type of exhaustion I seek then you can go through the class and get whatever you’re looking for at any level you’re looking for it. There are older people, very young people, skinny people, medium sized people, and large people on the bikes.

Size is largely, no pun intended, a function of genetics. What shape you are in is largely a matter of will. I’m a skinny guy who will never have bulging arms muscles because my body isn’t made that way. If you’re a woman who will never weigh one hundred and twenty pounds without a chainsaw accident, that doesn’t mean you’re in hopeless bad shape. It is a function of will to get into that building and get in better shape, even if you cannot change the shape of your body.

I will never play professional football, or hit a home run in the World Series. I will never win the Boston Marathon, not even the Boston Georgia marathon. I will never get the silver at the Olympics and wonder what might have been. I will never be the arm wrestling champion of the world, and no one will ever post nude photos of me on the Internet and thousands of women ask for my name and address. I’m pushing fifty. Reality is beginning to set in a little more firmly than it did when I was younger.

What I can do is push it. What I will do is improve as much as I can with what I have been given. What I will do is keep trying to do better, go faster, and get what I can get with what I’ve been given.

You were given everything else anyone else can say they have. You have your own body. What you do with it is entirely up to you.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, May 17, 2010

How Natalie's Mind Works!

Natalie’s mind works like this:

Okay, there are new people; I have to work harder to make up for the time I spent adjusting them.
Okay, there are no new people; I have to work everyone harder so they’ll tell all their friends what a great workout Spinning is.
I’ve got new music; I have to work everyone harder because it’s fresh and everyone will be excited about it.
I’ve got old music; I have to work everyone harder because they already know what’s coming up.
I’m early; that’s a great chance to work everyone harder.
I’m late; I have to work everyone harder to make up for lost time.
The room is packed: I have to work everyone harder because of all the energy in the room.
There’s only five people; Oh boy only the truly dedicated are here I can work everyone harder.
A butterfly in Brazil flapped its wings; I have to work everyone harder.
This is Enya’s birthday; I have to work everyone harder.
That bald guy still has energy to heckle me, I have to work everyone harder!!!!

Another incredibly hard and ultimately satisfying Spin-out today!

Take Care,
Mike

Consumers Speak, Hunt's Listens....finally.

Hunt's ketchup recipe loses corn syrup

OMAHA, Neb. - ConAgra Foods Inc . has removed high fructose corn syrup from its Hunt's brand ketchup.
Shoppers have been shying away from high-fructose corn syrup due to health concerns, and it was consumer demand that drove the changes, said Hunt's brand manager Ryan Toreson.
Hunt's is the latest brand to make the shift.



PepsiCo Inc. removed all high-fructose corn syrup from sports drink Gatorade and replaced it with cane sugar.

Some nutritionists cite the syrup as part of the country's obesity problem, though industry scientists and many dietitians say it is no more fattening than sugar.

Corn syrup is popular with manufacturers partly because it is cheaper than sugar.

Hunt's Tomato Ketchup has five ingredients: tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, salt and other seasonings, the company said.

The products should be on all store shelves by the middle of this month.

The price has not changed, the company said.

ConAgra Foods, based in Omaha, Neb., makes brands such as Chef Boyardee, Hebrew National and Peter Pan.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37189171/ns/business-consumer_news/

Cloverfield: A Movie Review

I fell in love with monster movies when I was a kid and that love has been all bit unrequited for decades. On occasion, someone will produce a monster movie that is good, really good, but by and large the monster movie genre has been, and ever, a collection of terrible acting, bad plots, and special effects that are anything but special. Most monsters wind up looking like some cheap plastic Halloween blow up displays from Mal-Wart. Those who are even slightly believable die horrible deaths from half assed acting or worse plots.

In 2008 Matt Reeves directed the movie “Cloverfield” and I didn’t rush out to see it. I rarely jump at the chance to see a monster movie because, well, we’ve already covered that, so here it is two years later and I needed something for Netflix to send me. If you’ve never heard of Reeves that’s a good sign because the less fame attached to a monster movie, the better the chances it will rise from the expected grave and walk.
“Cloverfield” starts out with a film being shown from a found video camera, and as the camera rolls, we get to see how it all started. It starts out with two young lovers, Rob and Beth, planning their day, but suddenly the film flickers, and we’re seeing Rob’s brother Jason, and his girlfriend, Lily, planning a going away party for Rob. This is a cast of virtual unknowns unless you watch television. There are no famous actors here, just a young cast thrown into a monster movie and trying to make it work.

Lily is played by Jessica Lucas, and she makes her character work for a living, like no other. Not to be outdone, T.T. Miller who plays the camera man and Rob’s best friend, take a character who is suppose to be somewhat dull and lumbering into the eye of the movie itself, and he nails this part down quite well. The half stoned, terrorized Marlena is played by Lizzy Caplan, and is surprising with the life she brings to the party. Michael Stahl-David plays Rob, a man who is going away to Japan for a job, and at the last moment realizes he’s in love with his best friend, Beth, played by Odette Yustman.
It’s an odd thing to find in a monster movie, such a nuanced tale. Beth leaves the party after clashing with Rob, the lumbering Hud makes things worse by telling anyone who will listen Rob and Beth have recently slept together, and we can see these two have some resolution to settle before…
Did I mention this was a monster movie?

Something happens, the lights go out, women scream, and the walls shake. Everyone heads for the roof of the building, and all of this is in Manhattan by the way, and they see explosions and fire. Everyone runs down the stairs, and all the while Hud is filming away. Hud films the whole movie and it does take some getting used to. Also, the cell phone is a key ingredient in the tale, because it is via cell Rob calls Beth and she tells him she trapped in her apartment. Rob goes to rescue her with Hud, Marlena, and Lily.

It’s a fairly daring move to take characters who were just moments ago having a drunken party to a small band of very young adults risking their lives to save someone else across a city that just happens to have been invaded by a very large monster. But please remember World War Two was fought by twenty year olds who were going against much larger odds.

The military takes over and takes a beating from the monster, who for the most part of the movie, and this is the genre’s standard fare, stays hidden in the shadows or is seen for afar, or seen in bits and pieces on video clips. It is big, huge, Godzilla sized, but apparently it sheds small monsters, and this adds to the confusion.

So that’s “Cloverfield” a monster movie with the subplot of two lovers who never knew they loved each other until it was too late. The mission to save Beth is not without peril or loss, and at the end of the movie, we’re left with a sense that very little has gone well for anyone. Yet “Cloverfield is a love story. Men and women have faced larger odds for love, and clearly this is a story about those odds, and about that love. As a monster movie, “Cloverfield” covers all the bases well, and satisfies those of us who are looking for a good monster flick. But it is as a love story, “Cloverfield” really hits home. For all of the people out there who have loved someone and realized it far too late, after that love is gone, or after that person is gone, I think there are a lot of people who would go after Beth in her apartment, and monsters be damned.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Barrier ( Episode Two)

Tim ran as hard as he could, willing his legs to move faster, but the burst of speed lasted only a few seconds. The men were gaining on him. He could hear them yelling, screaming, and jeering at him, and as he risked a quick glance behind him, a knife flashed by his face, and he fell, face down into the grassy path. Tim knew he had to get up, knew he had to run, but his legs seemed heavy, and useless. Who were these men? Why were they trying to kill him? A blue bladed dagger stuck in the ground beside Tim and he ran.
Tim remembered the train wreck and the men coming out of the tunnel and then everything was chaotic. They killed his father, and then his mother as she screamed for him to run. Where was Holly? She had been in the train with them, hadn’t she? He couldn’t picture her face. He couldn’t remember what she looked like at all. Tim looked back and the men were gaining on him. They were all dressed like bikers, in black leather and chains and shiny helmets. Why were they chasing him?

Tim ran through what looked like a city park, but instead of bushes and trees there were giant mushrooms growing everywhere. Some were as tall as he was, and he wanted to stop and stare at them. Tim tried to cut across the path but suddenly there was a fence there. The posts of the fence were thick metal poles stuck into the ground at odd angles and the posts themselves looked as if they had melted and then bent in one direction or the other. Tim climbed the fence and was on the other side now, running, and he had entered some sort of industrial park where tall smokestacks stood silent in the sky. The men were still behind him, screaming his name, throwing their knives at him, and mocking him. There was someone ahead, walking, and Tim screamed a warning. Tim couldn’t veer off the street, and as he got closer Tim realized it was Holly, but when she turned around it was a bearded man smoking a cigar. Tim pleaded with him to run, but the man just smiled at him, and Tim ran away, leaving the man to the mob. He could hear the man screaming but he dared not look back.
“Tim?”
One of the knives zipped by Tim’s head and stuck in a telephone pole in front of him. Tim wrenched the knife from the pole and the blade snapped in two. Tim hung on to the haft with the broken blade and ran.
“Tim?”

He was in a cemetery with tall obelisks standing like trees everywhere. The men were closing in, and Tim fled across a rope bridge but the boards across the bottom began to fall away. He had to go back towards the men. They waited for him, and all Tim had to defend himself was the broken knife. He held it out in front of him as he tried to confront them, but he couldn’t. The fear was overwhelming, he would have to jump and…

“Tim?” it was a nurse. He was laying in one the medical beds in the infirmary at school. The men were gone. He was alive. His parents were alive. Tim started crying.

“Dean Thornton, what exactly are you trying to say is wrong with our son?” Mrs. Fieldstone asked.
“Mrs. Fieldstone, “ Dean Thornton began as he folded the palms of his hand together as if he might break out in spontaneous prayer, “ you and your husband”, Thornton nodded to Mr. Fieldstone, “agreed in writing that your son Timothy would, like all our students here at Bethel High School, take the drug Gendarex, as to inhibit certain, ah, um, illicit biological impulses by associating traumatic visions with those impulses.”
“But if this drug is causing, “Mr. Fieldstone opened the folder in front of him, “’episodes’” couldn’t the fact that he’s a football player and this happens only in practice lead you to believe physical stress is causative here? We could take him off the team.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Fieldstone, I really am, and considering your legacy with this institution, it makes it doubly painful for us all here. We here at Bethel pride ourselves in accepting every student for who and what they are, unless it conflicts with our spiritual teachings.”
“What exactly are you trying not to say, Dean?” Mr. Fieldstone asked bluntly.
“Mr. and Mrs. Fieldstone, please, believe me when I say we here at Bethel strive for nothing less than the perfect academic, social, and spiritual environment for each and every student that passes within our hallowed gates. But we do have certain restrictions, and your son has certain episodes when he takes Gendarex, and our medical and psychiatric staff’s post vision analysis of the episodes convinces us your son and Bethel are not a good match. We will, of course, offer nothing less than a superb and glowing recommendation when you transfer, as is fitting your family name.” Dean Thornton spoke with an air of finality.
“Will you provide to us and…” Mr. Fieldstone paused for affect, “…our attorneys copies of these post vision analysis?”
“We will of course assist you, and any professions you choose to hire in helping young Timothy in any way we can, Mr. Fieldstone. But I fear you will find contractually speaking, no student can be allowed to attend Bethel without first submitting to the use of Gendarex, and I am sure anyone you hire to examine the contract will assure you this stand is valid. Moreover, please, I do say this to disparage your son in any way, certainly, but I must say any psychiatric professional will agree with us, well, I must say again, Tim and Bethel are just not a good match.” Dean Thornton stood us as a sign of conclusion. “We here at Bethel wish you the very best in Timothy’s education.” He paused. “It’s not our fault, for impure thoughts.”


Take Care,
Mike