Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coffee and God

Work was rained out tonight and it seemed silly to go home and sit when I could have coffee. Coffee! I’ll stay up to two or three just to keep the schedule straight, and there are just so few places around that have decent coffee. I want a twenty ounce cup of coffee, black, and I want a shot of espresso in it. Let there be caffeine! Let there be a buzz that has nothing to do with a vuvuzela! Let there be writing! Writing! Coffee! Yay rain! I have time off to do what I want to do and I want coffee!
Okay, I never advertise where I buy anything but we both know where I’m drinking coffee. There are those who hate the chain coffee stores but where else can I go? They do have great coffee. They have a good atmosphere for writing. I like watching the people there and this evening there is a young couple there who are both very young and very in love. I watch them as I write, and it is just a matter of time before he flings her on top of the table and takes her right there in public. They are holding hands but it’s like watching running water. He strokes her hands, runs his hand up to her elbow, she leans forward, her breasts daring him to touch, and they both grin a lot.  She gets up to go to the bathroom and he stands up, kisses her cheek and then just as soon as she’s around the corner he whips out his cell and texts like hell.

Oh? And just what is all that about?

The plot has thickened a bit, and this has all the earmarks of…
“Hi!”

She’s a woman I think I know, so I invite her to sit down, but to save my life I cannot place her. I’ve seen her before, I know, but…
“I’m Beth. I work here.”
“Mike Firesmith, I write here.”
Beth laughs at this, and I like her already. She’s younger than I am, but she’s pretty in an honest way.  Beth isn’t wearing an overabundance of make-up and she’s letting her grey hair show. I look over at her co-workers and they aren’t watching us, and none of them seem to have that co-conspirator smile going. Damn, she isn’t hitting on me. The woman comes back from the bathroom and I can’t see what’s going on. Double damn.
“You write a lot, Mike Firesmith, that isn’t your real name, is it?” Beth’s hands stay under the table and she seems slightly ill at ease.
“No, it’s a pen name, and yes, I do suppose I write more than most.”  I slid the journal over to her. “Would you like to see what I am writing, Beth?”
Beth takes the journal and looks at the page I’m currently writing on, and then fishes her glasses out of a pocket. I can see it in her face. She cannot read my handwriting it’s so terrible, and the disappointment is clear. She’s been wondering for a while what I was scribbling away at and now that she’s gotten a look at it, it’s in Firemithy, a one man language undecipherable by humankind.  “Primitive caveman writing” was how one of my grade school teachers labeled it many years ago. It has improved none at all through the years.
I show her the pages where I keep Found Names. Those are almost readable, and I tell her how I find names in street signs, on billboards, and I used to get a lot of them through spam senders until my software was good enough to stop spam. I tell her I get a lot from cemeteries but I try not to use those as serial killers or something like that in case someone from this area sees the name and wonder if I borrowed it. I still haven’t seen Beth’s left hand.  And she still hasn’t gotten to the point of the visit.
The young woman at the other table brays in laughter and blushes hard for it. Some line has been crossed and she pushes her chair back but that grin, oh my! The young man is still leaning in, pursuing her chair push, and grinning back. Neither of them is aware of anything else on earth but each other.  Beth follows my gaze and smiles at the two.
“Can you get in trouble for this, Beth?” I ask.
“I’m off duty, and thought I would check to see how your coffee was, Mike.” Beth watches the young couple, remembering…
“I mean the proselytizing.” I’m watching her face, and I realize I’m right.
“I was just going to invite you to church, Mike, if you brought it up.” Beth blushes now. “How did…”
“You are carrying some sort of literature in your apron pocket. You’ve kept your hand on it the entire time we’ve been speaking. “

“You’re pretty good at reading people”  Beth looks hurt now, and I’m sorry I said anything. I don’t mention she’s kept her left hand hidden as well, and she finally pulls out a pamphlet and her ring finger at the same time. It’s a home printed thing for a local church.
“Your church is looking to grow and getting new members seems like the thing to do, I went through that in my life one time, trying to get a church up and going and you know what I came to realize, Beth?” I’ve murdered the moment. Beth is watching the young people, looking past me, and a second or two passes before she speaks.
“What?”
“Churches are run like businesses. They don’t have the drawing power on their own merit so they have to advertise, and that means turning spirituality into commercials. It is destined to fail because you cannot appeal to that part of someone’s brain and still serve their heart.” That wasn’t what I was going to say, but that was what I said.
“How do did you get past that?”
“I quit the church. Getting new members is like saying the old ones needed replacing in some way, that they weren’t getting the job done,  that someone new will solve the problem.” I didn’t mean to say that either, but it came out like that. Berth turned her head sharply at this.
“Thank you, Mike Firesmith.” And as she got up the young couple got up to leave too. Beth took her pamphlet and her ring with her as she left.

Take Care,
Mike
Photobucket

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rain

We human rarely see the consequences of change until the affects of that change begin to impact our daily lives negatively. This has been one of the wettest Summers I can remember, but once I search back into my mind, I realize this sort of pattern is something I have seen before. As a child I remember these pop up afternoon thundershowers almost every day, and now it seem they have returned after many years gone.
I will not speculate on why the weather does what it does, or if we have messed with things too much, no, that is an argument for another day, and quite frankly there are some subjects upon which civil discord cannot be found there days. Once a man could hold an opinion and not hold those who disagreed with him in contempt, but it seems those days all long since gone. Almost anyone who speaks publically on any subject these days seems to have an obligation to attach the character of those who disagree, as if only one position attracted worthy human beings. There is tyranny here, in this mindset, and it is these same goose steps followed to misery and death for those who cannot appreciate that all do not see all things alike.
The afternoon rains have brought some relief to the heat at night, and I do like that, but it has raised the level of the water everywhere and that means frogs. I have nothing against any amphibians, and some of my best friends are amphibians, and I really like frogs in particular and it has nothing to do with the rumor they taste like chicken. But the consequences of frogs are Cottonmouths, who do not taste like chicken, and being diurnal like to hunt near the house before dawn.
Since I stepped on one of these critters a month or so ago, I’ve been jumpy about walking around in the dark, and that has taken some getting used to, really. I like the dark. I am not afraid of snakes at all. I like walking around in the dark. But I started carrying a flashlight in my truck so I can walk from the truck to the house and I’ve seen three in the four weeks. Were they always there and managed to get out of my way or has the population really increased? I have to deal with the fact they are here now, if they have always been here or not.

People email me and ask me if the dogs will be okay around venomous snakes. Sam kills things. It’s what Sam does. One day, no matter how good you are at what you do, you’ll make a mistake. If Sam keeps grabbing Cottonmouths by their heads, one day, Sam will get bit. Lucas, by virtue of the invincible puppy mindset he carries, is susceptible.  Bert, simply because he likes the woods more than the other two, is also at risk. But we four like it out here and we like the ways things are. I can carry a flashlight for me, but The Three must be doing something right for there not to be a bit dog in nine years. It is what it is.
The rain has caused an explosion of plant growth. The Oaks need for me to come cut the vines off them and I have to do that next week or risk it becoming a task too large for me. Come Autumn, I’ll transplant some of the Oak saplings from the woods to the yard, and hopefully I can devise a way to keep the dogs from un-planting them. I want to start pushing the lawn closer to the house and pulling the woods closer, too. In nine more years I hope to have the grass crowded out by the shade of the Oaks. It would be nice to have some rain for this.

As the pond fills up the consequences of more water means the paths the deer take to drinking become flooded, and they begin to use the yard as a freeway. I could give a damn less if there are deer here or not deer here, but the Loki Mutt wants to chase deer. The older two dogs have long since given up  dreams of deer chasing, especially since one got into the fenced in area and cut Bert with a hoof getting out. Deer have sharp feet and they have powerful legs. They are prey animals just as long as you can outnumber them, overpower them, or shoot them. Other than that, they are dangerous animals to deal with when they are excited.
The deer more or less realize the dogs cannot get out to get to them, but they limit the proximity of their feeding to the edge of my property, and the edge of the pond.  The area between the pond and the fence is filled with yummy plants, but the idea of getting pinned between the pond and the fence if a dog or three gets out doesn’t appeal to them. The rising water level makes pond more and more of a barrier, and more and more of a trap. The lake on my neighbor’s property near here must be filling up also, which means there is less dry land for deer to feed upon, and more snakes over there, too. The low areas being flooded means the rodents and small critters are being forced out into the open, and if no one else has profited from this, the hawks and owls are feasting.
There are consequences to change, be that change affected by man, nature, or chance. We humans notice not at all the little things, the tiny things, and we wait until the water is at our doors to exclaim there is a flood. The rain has returned to the afternoons, and who can say how long this will last? We must accept the change that comes and we should do so with grace, certainly, but we must also see it for what it is, ever it may be.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lightning Crashes

My first brush with lightning came when I was in grade school. We had a gym in an ancient white building they said was built during the war, and I was never quite sure of they meant World War Two or the War of Northern Aggression. This building was also the source of my first experiments with how the sun moved across the sky each day. There were holes in the side of the building were the sun shone through and I would make a mark on the wall with a pencil to denote when it was time to go. The dots were almost in the same place each day, but not quite after a week or so, and over the space of a few years I noticed a pattern. But all great scientific minds face adversity and I was no different. As I announced Eureka the powers that be announced punishment for defacing the wall with a pencil. Yeah, like that wall, the one with the holes in it, could be defaced.
The ancient gym was a hundred yards away from the main school building and during thunderstorms we would make a mad dash across the open area like getting wet would have killed us. We were all crowded together in a sweaty mass at the front of the building when there was a mighty flash of light and we all felt a tingling in our feet. Lightning had hit a few hundred feet away but we had all felt it and that was our cue to run like hell away from the building we all assumed was the least safe during a storm. Not of us were harmed but my god we all had a great story about surviving lightning.
The next time lightning and I crossed paths closely I was in High School but it was during the Summer so school was the very last thing on my mind. What was on my mind was beer, and young women, so a friend of mine named Randy and I had talked two girls into going swimming with us at Factory Creek. It was an incredibly beautiful day, and we were enjoying the nice if not too hot weather when suddenly a cloud formed right above us. From the time we decided to gather the beer and head towards the car, it was storming down rain. No sooner had we left than the heavens opened up, and the lightning fell almost as quickly. A downed tree blocked our path, so Randy and I got out to move it. I lifted one end, Randy got the other, and suddenly there was a great flash of bright white light, and I felt randy’s end of the tree fall. When I could see again he was gone. My first thought was ‘Oh my god, Randy has been vaporized!” I looked at the car and he was in the backseat frantically waving for me to get my ass in the damn car. We backed up and went the other way. Ten minutes later the sky was totally clear.

A friend of mine named Steve carried the same congenital heart defect as his older sister and he was not looking forward to having it fixed. It cost his sister the better part of ten grand to have the defect repaired, and he was going to wait until he got a job with insurance before he gave it a go. Steve worked installing ductwork for heat pumps, and while he was under a house one day lightning hit nearby, and the charge ran under the house via the ductwork. Steve said he was bounced like a rubber wall between the ground and the metal ductwork for a couple of seconds, and then blacked out. He came too when the owner of the house came home and began to yell at the crawlspace opening to see if anyone was still under there. Steve crawled out looking like death warmed over, and the owner called an ambulance. At the hospital, Steve told them about his defect, but as they looked for it, they couldn’t find it at all. The lightning had cured his heart defect, totally. From anyone else, I might have looked at this story with no small amount of suspicion, but Steve was not only singularity honest, but he also had some very odd things happen to him. I will tell you a story one day about his daughter, and leave any conclusions to as to what happened up to you. I will tell you the truth as I know it to be true, and anything else, well, that’s up to you.

All of these lightning stories come from watching a storm approach tonight from the north. It was a massive and incredible thing. The full moon shone brightly to the South of us, but the storm soon sent out low level clouds scurrying towards us, blocking Her light. Flashes of lighting, streaks of lightning, bolts of lights, lit up the clouds as if a thousand storm giants were at war. All breath of breeze died as if the earth Herself was holding Her breath at such power. A weird sort of pre-storm fog developed, humid and hot like the breath of some animal that bore down upon us and even the machinery seemed muted. We waited for the storm.
High above us, and to the north, the storm came, and lightning raged from one massive formation to the next. The wind picked up, as if it too were fleeing this monster. I stood in the dark, at three in the morning and watched the lighting and I felt incredibly small, and powerless. Yet the cloud reminded me of my own brain, with its own lightning flickering around the grey masses and formations. There, with that both, yes, that one there, is the memory of my first kiss, and there that one, and my hand swats away a fly, and that one there, the big one that lit up the sky, that’s the one when I think of you, still, though we are not speaking anymore.

Batty: I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.

And as I watched, the storm slowly stopped its fireworks, and the wind stopped down again. The scudding clouds left to reveal the full moon again. The rain pattered down with a few weak drops, and the storm, which had sprung up in no time at all, as if it were human, simply died.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Where the the hell did that tattoo come from anyway?

The dream started out with a friend of mine and myself driving down to Lake Park Georgia, taking the back way like we were smoking pot or something, and we saw a radio receiver station the government had set up. I have no idea how I knew it, but I knew the receiver station was set up by the government and I knew the station was there to monitor the music from people’s wireless devices as they travel the roads. The Census Bureau sets up these radio stations, they claim, to get a more accurate count of people. X percentage of people listen to country music, so they can count the traffic going down the road, and therefore know who was there, in a vague sort of way, they claim. We think they are going into people’s emails and we think they also listen in on phone conversations.
We go to visit my friend’s brother who lives in the woods, and who has a deeper distrust of the government than most people who ever lived. He steals parts from the stations, replaces them with pieces he’s modified, and he can tell what they’re hacking into, and how much of the data is stored, and where it’s being sent. He explains to us how all of this works, and how this piece here shows they’re lying because it’s the part that stores personal information. He plugs it into a UBS part and we can see the devices and people who have passed by the station.  There are names, addresses, and some of the people’s names are in different colors.  We head out to steal parts from the station we passed, and my world isn’t the same now. I’m going out to break into a government installation and steal pieces from it.

As we’re heading out I envision what it would be like to win the lottery and buy a bunch of land out in the country. I could buy land out here cheap, and as we pass houses I wonder if any of them are for sale. We past an enormous house and it’s long abandoned, like the one South of the intersection of the Madison Highway and the Greenville Highway in Brooks County Georgia. I pass it on my way home every day and I want to put up a sign that says, “SAVE THIS HOUSE!” The enormous house in the dream isn’t real, isn’t at all proportional, with the roof being almost like one draw by a child and massive as the superdome, but the house itself is really big. It’s run down, but at the same time, it is magnificent. There’s a dog run, a place like an inner porch between two wings of the house and I can see someone sitting there. The roof is sagging and I know it’s just a matter of time before it’s over for that house and there will never be another like it. That is really common in South Georgia; there are a lot of great old houses falling apart from neglect.

In the dream we have to stop because there is a bridge project going on, and my friend’s brother wants to talk to someone he knows on the crew. There are bikini clad women sunning themselves around the project, and one of them is lying inside the flanges of an H-beam. The woman is quite beautiful, and I stop to talk to her. She’s tanned, sweaty, and smell good. There’s a tattoo of a dragonfly on one of her breasts, and I ask her if I can see the part covered by her top. She laughs but refuses. I take my shirt off to show her my tattoo, and I explain to her what it means, and she likes it. She asks about the other one, and suddenly there is another tattoo, this one on my right side, and it looks like a black sun with an inscription around it. The symbols aren’t in English and I have no idea what they mean. The woman asks what it says, and I tell her I really do not know.  She’s puzzled by this and wants to know how I can have a tattoo that I cannot explain. I tell her I’ve never seen it before, and that really freaks her out. I am vaguely concerned I have just talked her out of showing me her breast, but I’m more concerned as to why I have a tattoo I’ve never seen.
It does occur to me this is all a dream. I look at the tattoo, look at my hands, take a deep breath, and I can smell things, feel things, see details and everything is as real as what you’re seeing right now. The woman traces the symbols with her finger and I can feel her touch on my flesh, feel my body react to it, and I can smell the beer on her, the sunblock on her body, and I ask her if I can see her dragonfly. We step behind a stack of concrete forms and she stands there and allows me to untie her top, and look at her tattoo. It’s a multicolored thing, but blue predominates.  I trace a finger along the dragonfly’s wings and the woman likes it. She covers up when someone else walks by, but she gives me her phone number, written on a tag that comes with bundles of steel.
We cannot find the station again, but we drive by a series of brick stores with nothing but the facades intact, and grass growing inside of them. I recognize this as a former dreamscape I’ve had before, and I become confused as to where I am, or what is happening. I ask the driver to stop and let me out of the truck, and suddenly nothing is familiar and the people are speaking a language I cannot understand at all. I know the building in front of me, and I can clearly remember a woman arguing with me at the door.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer

I’ve always thought the description of “semitropical” when applied to South Georgia in the Summertime mean the humidity hit you like a semi-truck. Just two days deep into what is supposed to be the start of the season we find triple digit heat lounging around on the front porch like a unclaimed cousin. There is a slight haze in the air, almost a fog, but invisible up close like a stray cat being fed scraps. Water is of two states, faith to neither and loved by both; it is liquid and it is also a vapor. Stay in the heat in the open long enough and the air will condense water all over your body. This usually takes somewhere between fifteen and twenty seconds. By the time we make it to August and everything after, you’ll break out in a sweat during a cold shower.
Was it last year? It may have been the year before, actually, but I had decided to let the paper wasps building a nest above my door stay there, and perhaps like bees getting accustomed to their beekeeper these beneficial insects would get used to me, and we would all live in peace, harmony, and sing Kum by oh ya while making Smores by the campfire.  In the last failed experiment with the domestication of paper wasps, I was ambushed as I came out of the door one morning, and they degreed the backdoor to be Wasp Territory. I decreed a can of wasp spray, capable of hitting a target at range.
So this year I allowed not one, not two, nay, but a matched double set of both Yellow and Red Paper Wasp, one for each corner of the front porch. The Reds to the Southwest and Northeast corners, and did not seem to be thriving like their kin at the apposite corners.  My theory was the wasps were far enough away as to not consider me a threat, and OW!OW! OW! OW! Insects are attracted to light, and perhaps me leaving the house sans headgear is what triggered the assault. I went to work looking like I had some sort of dread disease on the top of my head, which in the head, throbbed like a lighthouse.
My complaints as to the fickle nature of wasps fell upon the ears of a co-worker who suggested I nuke them with dishwater instead of chemicals.  The theory, as he explained it, was the dishwashing detergent somehow interferes with their ability to breathe, and being insects, the incapability to breathe is fatal quite quickly. The downside to this is the story had all the earmarks of one of those stories told to get someone to throw an offending liquid on a bunch of wasps this creating a terribly funny story about multiple stings. When I got home in the morning I took a fairly large cup of dishwater and tossed it on the Yellow Paper Wasp nest, and they fell to the ground, either dead or dying. I did not see that coming. Though my poor bald head is still somewhat spotted with the aftermath of their attacks, it was sad to see them lying there totally bereft of their duties as wasps. It has been suggested to me the aggressiveness of wasps is related to the heat index so I ‘m really surprised they weren’t using AK-47’s.
Another side effect of the heat, and the three in the afternoon thunderstorm, is the grass in the yard needs mowing two or three times a day. It’s a jungle out there right now because I’ve been too busy to mow lately. Lately means about ten days ago, and it looks like the set of Jurassic Park in my backyard right now.  If I don’t do something soon I’m afraid I’ll either lose the dogs entirely. Either that or they’ll drag something out of the jungle that is going to fit nicely in the freezer. If Sam wasn’t so territorial I would get goats, and that would do away with the mower.

Speaking of goats my neighbors almost lost one to the bite of a Cottonmouth, and they described the snake as being very large. I take such stories with a grain of salt because there have been many times someone has claimed to kill  a six foot long rattlesnake and when we stretched it out, wow, dying makes them shrink! This highlights the fact that even a small mammal isn’t going to die from snakebite, but at the same time these people have the better part of a baseball team of kids, five at last count, and I would be paranoid when it came to venomous reptiles as well. The heat drives herd animals to water more often and the snakes do not like being tread upon. We’re lucky to have the rain with the heat, or we might have another wildfire like we did in 2007 when half the state was burning.
                                                                    
Bert is suffering this Summer, and I am grateful to work nights so he may stay inside most of the day, out of the heat. He is an old dog now, and does not handle the triple digit heat very well. I wonder if I can get him past next Summer, when he is likely to have to endure the heat all day long, but one day at a time, one year at a time, is better than worry. I may have to get him a pool, which he would love but he will never be dry again. He had a plastic wading pool when he was a puppy but he would lie in it and chew the edges so it eventually became a part of his history, not to mention much small and in pieces.

Summer is here. It will stay with us until the last part of September, and that means night heat, even higher humidity, and lots of sweat, even if you’re just sitting. There will be stinging insects, and there will be pop up thunderstorms that turn swimming pools into lightning rods. There will be days upon days of triple digit hear.

Summer is here, in all Her glory.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wreck Of The Day

There was a wreck tonight on the Interstate, a mile from where we’re working, and there for the grace of pure blind luck the accident happened a mile away and not directly on top of me. Witnesses on the scene said they had called 911 way down the road trying to get someone, anyone, to stop the truck driver who was weaving all over the road. Finally, he rammed another truck and wound up wearing the other truck’s trailer in his lap.
I got there moments after the wreck, and before the first ambulance. The driver of the truck that had been rammed was walking around and fine, but the guy driving the truck who was doing the weaving and the ramming was quite a few things, but fine was not on the list. Part of his truck’s engine and parts of his transmission were scattered out all over the road, and I am here to tell you; to gut a truck you have to hit something hard.

The truck that was hit was nearly empty which made things worse for the guy who hit it. The empty truck jumped when it was hit, and rode up, and into the cab of the ramming truck. The driver was pushed backwards into his sleeper, and mashed up pretty bad. I arrived about eight-thirty and it was nearly ten before they got him cut out of the truck.
Having a steering wheel jammed into your chest, and having a truck cab compressed into your body, isn’t conducive to being able to walk away from a wreck. I couldn’t tell very much about how he was hurt, but I could see he was still looking around and not seeing anything at all. His eyes rolled back in his head a few times, and the paramedics who were trying to pry the truck apart to get to him were having one hell of a time.

In the middle of this, we have the Sheriff’s department out there closing off the Interstate, we have the firemen out there making sure all the spilt fuel doesn’t catch on fire, we have the road crew putting out sand to absorb the different fluids pouring out of the truck, suddenly some moron heading north stops his car on the Interstate to take a photo with his cell phone. Law enforcement reacts immediately, negatively, and as the guy jumps into his car and speeds off I hear a deputy barking into his radio.

I have some issues with Wreck Tourists who feel like they have to stop and stare. Keep moving folks, keep your eyes on the road, and show a little respect for the injured or dying. Stopping in the middle of the Intestate to take pictures of someone being cut out of a truck in the other lane may seem like a good idea, but not so much with the deputy at the next exit stops you and plays “What can I give you a ticket for today?” Worse, by gawking at the dead, dying, or bleeding, you’re risking ramming whoever is in front of you, and they, if they’re also morons, risk hitting someone else, too.
No matter who caused the accident, how the accident was caused, or anything else, no one goes anywhere until we get this guy in an ambulance. This is the way it must be. You being an hour, or two hours, or three hours late is not as important as having the life saved. Become one with that idea because the men with the guns and radios are. We road people will open the road when the men with the radios and guns tell us to open the road, and they take their instructions from the people who are patching together what was once a person in one piece. He isn’t now. There is blood on the outside of his body that was once on the inside and that is never good.
If you want to know one of the aftereffects of a wreck then try soaking yourself in diesel for a couple of hours. The ruptured fuel tank sprayed the man with fuel and it was a couple of hours before they got him out, laid him down, and were able to hose it off of him. They had three of four people hold a sheet out in front of him to preserve what dignity they could because yes, people will stop and stare.
Once the ambulance leaves the clean-up begins, and the guys running the wreckers have to figure out how to untangle the trucks. The firemen stand ready to put out a fire if it starts, but I get the feeling the worse is over. I talk to the other driver, and he wants me to talk to his boss about what happened, and I am more than happy to do so. This man got rear ended, and so far he isn’t angry or being a jerk about it. He’s concerned about what has happened to the other driver, and his boss wants to know if anyone saw what happened. I give him the name of the witness who said he called in on the guy, and I tell him his driver has conducted himself well. I write down tag numbers and names and telephone numbers as well.



I’m home now. I’m safe. I have fed the mutts, petted them on dog’s heads, and I am very tired right now. Somewhere there is someone in a hotel room, glad the accident was any worse, and somewhere there is someone in a hospital room, and for him, it really could have been much worse. A mile down the road or so, where we were working, the truck with a drunk, drugged, sleepy, or crazed driver would have cut through us as if we were not there at all. My work truck is small. They would still be cutting me out of it.

Does that cover the drinking and driving thing?

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Moment

It’s like a snapshot from a camera fired accidently, or one held at a random angle or some part of a scene with the dispersoid being parts of a life. Tiny parts of what I have seen, stuck in my mind as if the brain needs commonplace items to use as reference points along the way to real memories, or perhaps breadcrumbs leading back to more important scenes, or perhaps, and I think this more likely, our minds freeze ordinary days in our lives, because by sheer weight of volume, that is what we are. I remember clearly a space heater, with no context, the river rock in a driveway with no drive, and I will remember the trees with the clouds behind them forever.

Thunderstorms in South Georgia spring to life in an instant and they die as quickly. The work for the day had just begun, yet all thoughts were on the thick cloud milling around the sky like lost cattle. Thick dark clouds gathered as the wind picked up, but lighter, less ominous cloud were there too, as if they were actors in the scene before the climax of the play, or maybe it was after that part, oh dear, does anyone know where they are supposed to be? I looked up and saw the blue sky, a sandbar just above the river’s edge, and the pine trees that were superimposed in front of that patch of blue, and I knew that would be in my mind forever.
Please don’t read fey into this, but at that moment, that very moment, with approaching storm, the blue of sky, the green of the pine trees, and the light of the sun reaching under all the clouds to make the green glow golden, if I had died right at that moment, I could have never been as happy. I stepped back, instinctively away from the traffic in the other lane, and in between two parked pieces of machinery, and wondered how many people were passing by this moment unawares of the incredibly scene before them.
Dusk last forever in South Georgia, in the Summer, and this is the longest day of the year. In the winter daylight surrenders quickly but now the day waits to see what the night brings before edging towards the west. The sun already sat low, and clouds far to the east of the horizon lit up slightly pink, as if embarrassed by their own beauty. Straight above me, there was a clear, a porthole into calmness while all around were deep dark, three dimensional cloud formations with the wind reshaping each of them, and the entire day seemed to change with each passing moment in time. The trees lost their golden glint, but it was replaces with a darkness that highlighted the life in them, and the blue of the sky went from dark azure to pale to pinkish grey.

As a man I usually do not deal with off center colors, but suddenly I realized that azure was the words I was looking for and there was not another word that would do in its place, nor any description of any color ever created, would suffice. Perfectly it fit, and I do realize that as I tell you it is perfect, you may have some other version of the color, but here and now, I have already given you a context in which to place it, and if my service to you is true, then we share this color in our minds. The green of the pines needs no other words but those to tell you of the green of the pines, and if you have never seen a pine tree, if you have never beheld the long greenness then keep in the needles, still, if I am any sort of wordsmith at all, you can see them. The ever charging darkness and grey of the clouds, of water, yes, the realization that I speak of water and nothing more and nothing less here, water vapor slung towards the heavens now returns in the shape of light whiteness, deep dark blackness, and all of this, each and every huge mountain in the sky is nothing but water that disperses, scatters, reflects, blocks, refracts and accepts the sun and wind to bring us what we see before us before it falls to the earth again, exhausted from its play with the light.
What if before we died, before the very moment of death, we realized how beautiful, life truly is? What if we were granted one instant of peace and beauty? It occurred to me if some wayward driver struck me dead at that very instant I would go with a sense of harmony with the universe unlike any I have had in a great while. There, between two giant pieces of machinery, on the interstate, before a storm, I found that snapshot of the mind, and it simply did not stop.
The wind picked up, the sun slowly dipped slower in the sky, and the scenery changed, but remained infinitely perfect with each new formation, with each new level of light, and with each new color, many of which had never been seen before, and would never been seen again. A few stray raindrops, the tears of the moment dying, fell and men grumbled. The traffic went by and a thousand people hurried by the moment perhaps in search of it or perhaps not. The sun stood still for a moment, for two or three breaths, and the wind swirled around the tops of the trees, bending them hither and fro. The pink in the east faded away and darkness began to creep around the edges of the sky on all corners where the sun left it. A thin sliver of light, red and all its kin, slit the horizon, seppuku for the dusk, and the wind finished closing the curtain on the final act of the longest day.

Beauty, exists in the moment.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dogs: Guarding Against Sleep

On those nights I don’t work I try to stay up as late as possible, and in doing so really wreck the mutt’s sleep cycles. I really don’t have much sympathy for them because their job is to protect the house while I’m away, or while I’m sleeping, so unless there is a crime, they have lots of free time. The two older dogs are pretty much cool with this. They view this as another excuse to lie around on a carpeted floor and snooze. The Loki Mutt sees sleeping dogs as probable targets for leg biting, and my leg is on the menu when he’s quick about it. When he isn’t quick one of the older dogs will get an ear, and I have to put up with the fuss, or I get bit, and have learned not to kick as hard as I can. Lucas has a hard head.
At six in the morning I went to sleep and heard an odd sound. I could hear Bert breathing, Sam sleeping, but nothing from Lucas. Instead there was a slight scraping sound, like someone pulling a towel across the floor. That’s perfectly fine, if Lucas wants to play with a towel that keeps him…

BARK BARK BARK SNARL GROWL BARK SNARL!

It sounds like they’re filming the canine version of “The Exorcist” under my bed. The Loki Mutt has decided to crawl under the bed to reappear on the other side to ambush Bert, who sleeps nearly under the bed. Bert, having discovered the attack, reacts negatively. Sam, not knowing what is under the bed, assumes it’s the Manson Family. Lucas, realizing now the folly of attacking from a position he cannot easily exit, decides the best course of action is to bark as loudly as possible, knowing that I will wake up and shoo them all outside, thus relieving him of his strategic blunder.
Dogs! Out!
Lucas crawls out from under the bed with dust rhinos clinging to him and I make a note to clean house more often than full lunar eclipses occurring on Pagan holidays. I herd the dogs and the dust rhinos out into the yard, and go back to bed. The sun has been up for a couple of hours now and it is going to be very hot.
Sam doesn’t like hot. He wants to be inside where it’s cooler, and he scratches on the door. Sam has the longest toes of any dog I have ever met in my life. He will put his foot on the door and pull down slowly. It sounds like someone holding a fistful of nails stripping paint off the door of a Cathedral. Bert doesn’t like hot either. Bert likes water and Bert likes mud. I let the dogs back in only to discover that Bert looks more like an otter now than a dog. Worse, he smells like a wet dog covered in mud that was made from rolling around in stagnant pond water. Note I didn’t use some analogy to describe this. None is needed, I assure you. There isn't any smell on earth so foul that I could insert it and make Bert’s smell come across to you worse than telling you he’s a wet dog covered in stagnant pond water mud encrusted with aquatic plant life. I call Steven King and I ask if he needs some terribly monster to write about and when I tell him what I have he hangs up screaming at me about being sick and sadistic. My lack of sleep keeps me from remembering the Steven King I know works out of a farm and has never written a thing.

I sleep enough o dream about going somewhere and meeting someone and then we’re riding down the road in Fargo Georgia and someone driving beside us has some stripped down truck where the engine is visible from the outside and I can see the fan spinning. I can fell the wind on my face. I can hear Lucas barking.

Lucas barks at snakes; a singularly futile endeavor. The two older dogs seem to ignore them entirely but Lucas wants some reaction. I throw a softball at his head and he chases it. Damn, poor choice of weapon. I go out to discover the snake is actually a limb that just fell out of a tree.

I go back to bed, and realize this waking and sleeping is worse than not sleeping at all.

I’m drifting in and out of sleep when I hear Lucas barking again. Sam joins him. I determine I ought not react. They are just looking to get me up again. It’s a conspiracy. They just want attention.

WOOWOOOWOOWOOWOOWOOO!

Bert has just hammered down on Bert’s Bark Of The First Order. There are strange humans here, and they are on the property. In the decade plus I’ve shared my life with Bert, and he has shared his with mine, he’s pulled that bark out only when I really needed to get involved in something. Without looking I pick up the shotgun and check to see if it’s loaded. My neighbors know I sleep at night. Nothing I’ve ordered is due.


WOOWOOOWOOWOOWOOWOOO! Dammit, Mike! They are right on top of us!
“That dog won’t let us through the gate.” The man tells me.
“Pay’em not to.” I say, but leave the shotgun inside.
“We’re here to assess your property.” He says.
“What do you need to get into my back yard for?”
“Have to made any additions to the house or constructed any outbuildings?”
“Nope.”
He edges around the corner of the yard and to my everlasting surprise, Lucas curls a lip and snarls. It’s a low and evil sound, and Sam turns around and looks at Lucas as if to say, “Where did you learn that?” Lucas drops his head down low, like Bert has his, and Bert looks like a mud monster with a ridge on his back. The man looks at a photo he brought and looks at the backyard. He comes around front and sees the sign I’ve put up stating I sleep at night and apologizes.
“I see why you keep that fence charged, Mr. Firesmith. That dog acts like he’s bad.” This isn’t a bad or evil man, just one with a job to do.
“Mostly noise.” I reply. “But that’s what I pay him to be.”
“I didn’t know Weimaraners were such good guard dogs.” He says as he leaves.

Lucas. The man was talking about Lucas. I look into the backyard with new eyes and I see Lucas is the largest of the three. He isn’t a puppy. He’s watching the man leave with an interest that doesn’t have anything to do with play or petting.

My Loki Mutt has grown up.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heavily Armed Fake Soldier Nearly Deployed to Afghanistan

Have you ever seen one of those Chihuahuas that run up to a much larger dog ( and really, what dog isn’t much larger) and just start acting like they’re going to rip its throat out?
Well, here in Georgia we have our own version of that little dog who thinks he’s a much larger animal.

AUGUSTA -- The fireplace mantel in Anthony Todd Saxon's rural Georgia home was decorated with ordnance and ammunition. He would put on a combat uniform most mornings sprinkled with honors and insignia and say he was headed to nearby Fort Gordon. And his family came to town last week to say goodbye before he left for what Saxon said was a secretive mission to Iraq or Afghanistan. The problem, prosecutors say, is that Saxon is not the U.S. Army master sergeant that he pretended to be. He hasn't served in the Armed Forces since he was discharged from the Florida National Guard in 1994. But authorities say he visited Fort Gordon in eastern Georgia at least 10 times in the last few months and twice persuaded officials there to give him high-tech military devices.


I was in the Army. I can so see how this might happen. They guy who was ran our Battalion Armory once went to lunch and left the Armory open, For over an hour I could have taken whatever I wanted out of there, including a fifty caliber machine gun. The number of people you want running around with a fifty caliber machine gun is quite low, I assure you of this. Considering the affects it has on things like, oh, let’s say, just about everything without a couple inches of steel plating, the number of sporting events you want something like this used as a noise maker is actually lower than the number of people you’d like running around with one of these devices. Yet here we are…


The case doesn't end there. During a court hearing Monday, prosecutors said they confiscated a camouflage bag from Saxon last week stuffed with a live M-14 anti-personnel mine, flash-bang grenades and night-vision devices. They found more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and a Kevlar helmet, among other equipment, in his car. Authorities have not said how they believe he acquired the items.
Saxon was arrested wearing a combat uniform, including rank and insignia, at Fort Gordon last week and charged with impersonating an officer and obtaining a laser targeting sight by telling an officer he was a master sergeant. He also faces charges of stealing a silencer and possessing an explosive and firearms even though he's a convicted felon.


You know, a Master Sergeant is actually quite rare in the Army. It’s not like they mill around like Privates or Second Lieutenants. To get into a mess hall you have to have an ID. Yet this guy, attached to no unit in particular, given orders by no one, apparently played Halloween for the better part of twenty years. If I was a spy working for some other country I’d have my eye on this story in a major sergeant way.


Saxon's attorney, Danny Durham, said his client's obsession with the military warped his mind, but he asserted there is no evidence that Saxon meant "ill will." Saxon's father Hugh said Monday his son was so "passionate" about the military he went to great lengths to convince relatives he was serving.
"He was the only child we had who knew from the day he was born what he wanted to do — he wanted to be in the military," Hugh Saxon said.


I know a Chihuahua who wants to be a Great Dane. You can see where there might be some very serious problems here, don’t you? Is there any reason to believe if this fantasy kept accelerating this guy might have wound up in combat, or thinking he was? By the way, all you only children out there, take note he’s using the “only child” defense.


Prosecutors are not treating the spindly 34-year-old with a military crew cut as a terrorist threat. But the case raises questions about how the military repeatedly allowed a suspected impersonator onto the base. And prosecutors said there is still more to find out from Saxon.
"It raises too many red flags," said Stephen Inman, a federal prosecutor. "He's been carrying on this huge facade for months, pretending to be someone he's not."


Suspected impersonator? Dude! You caught this guy with stuff that goes boom in the night and he isn’t in the military! Raises red flag? That’s like saying we have an oil situation in the Gulf Of Mexico.


At the time of Saxon's arrest, a Fort Gordon spokesman said the base typically allows civilians to enter if they show some form of identification


He talked his way into the Army giving him ammo. I’m thinking actually getting onto the base wasn’t going to be the hard part.


Saxon joined the Florida National Guard after graduating from high school in 1993 and served until he was discharged with a congenital heart problem the next year, his father said.
He was convicted of felony grand theft in Florida in May 1996, and worked several jobs in Florida before moving his family to Keysville, a rural east Georgia town, to live with his brother in November. Authorities did not release details about the 1996 case.


A thief with a heart problem still living with his family who had less than a year of military service with the National Guard was able to convince military people to hand over sensitive equipment and ammo for months if not years and was about to get a ride into combat in Afghanistan
Wow. Just wow.


Neighbors say Saxon wore military fatigues so often they thought he was in the Army, and prosecutors say he convinced his wife Rhonda and the rest of the family that he worked on the base. She refused to comment, but FBI Special Agent Jason Gustin said Saxon told her he was leaving for Afghanistan or Iraq as a civilian contractor on June 17.


We came that close to putting this guy on a plane to a war zone, didn’t we?


His parents and sister came in from Florida to see him off, but two days before his phony departure he was arrested by Fort Gordon authorities who spotted him on the base wearing a uniform dotted with so many honors that it made him seem like a decorated veteran.


I would give real money to find out exactly what gave him away. The three medals of honor, the half dozen purple hearts, or the Space Man Spiff Battle Zone Laser medal for defeating the Marlogs.


Prosecutors say he was able to convince a U.S. Army captain to hand over a laser-sighting scope that he was to use to help train a soldier. And Gustin said he had earlier convinced other military officials to give him night-vision goggles.
After he was arrested, military officials detonated the anti-personnel mine before federal authorities were able to inspect it.


Why would they blow the mine up? Do they not have a storage place for such things? Oh, let’s get rid of the mine, so…
Well, at this point, destruction of evidence is the very least of the Army’s problems here.


But investigators scouring his brother's house found ammunition scattered across the fireplace, two military-style rifles, a handgun, a silencer and five devices containing low-explosive powder. Other weapons were found in the woods behind the house.


That’s where I keep my ammo, near a fire. Uh, anyone here know who the former commander of Fort Gordon will be anytime soon? I would so fire a lot of someones over this.


Saxon's family and attorneys tried to convince a judge to grant him bond so he could get psychiatric counseling.
"One of the things he's never been able to get over is that he's never been able to go abroad and fight for his country," said Durham.
But the judge sided with prosecutors and ordered that he remain in custody to undergo psychiatric evaluations.
"It's scary everything we know about this defendant. What's even scarier is what we don't know about him," said Inman. "What was he going to do on June 17 when he was to be deployed?"
So what usually happens to a Chihuahua with a heart condition when he gets into a real fight?


This was going to get ugly, early.


Take Care,
Mike

Traffic

There are days there seems to be some sort of Internet meme gone viral and it states that for every driver that doesn’t do something totally stupid while behind the wheel of their vehicle, somewhere a mother’s heart is broken, a kitten dies, and if you pass it on to twenty-three people something really cool will happen in your inbox while you have good luck for seven days.
One thing I will point out here is if you see someone in a car or a truck pointing, this is a bad sign. Today I was behind someone in a white Cadillac from Florida, also very bad, and the passenger pointed. First they pointed South, as if to say, “There! I have seeeeen the Promised Land!” but then they pointed north, as if to say, “Uh, no wait, it’s over there. “ The driver did what people usually do when confronted with a choice. He stopped. In the middle of a five lane road, with a turn lane in the middle,  this person decides not to decide, and he stops. I blew my horn at him because the person behind me was blowing their horn, and the lost driver flips me off.

That doesn’t top the guy in the semi truck who tried to block me from going around him on the paved shoulder of the road.  Hey! I work on the road. I have a truck with an official seal and flashy lights and it’s my job to go around people so I can get to that place up there that is causing traffic to slow down to *oh god no!* the speed limit. So he tries to block me which might have killed me if I didn’t have this inherent distrust of human beings.  Moreover, he has one of those, “How’s my driving call 1-800 please heaven on earth someone stop me before I kill again” numbers.  I get the number on my cell call in the guy, and here I am driving along beside him talking to his boss while he’s blowing his horn and acting like a moron. Hear that sound? That’s the sound of the money you have invested in payroll acting like a sixteen year old on his first road trip.

We closed a road to build a bridge and the old bridge was taken totally out, and a new one was being built on the site where the old bridge once stood.  This guy pulls up and asks, “Is the road closed?”  Hmmm, let’s see, the old bridge is gone. The new bridge is being built and all there is right now is a lot of piles ticking out of the earth without a bridge on top of them, so, okay, I would say, yes, sir, you are correct.” I can’t actually be a smart ass to people like this. I want to sometimes, but…

If you haven’t noticed it yet, most interstate highways have fences running alongside of them, and one day I noticed a car riding on the top of the back slope, parallel to the fence. I won’t put a truck on a slope if I can help it, so I stopped and waited until they came to a point where it was truly steep, and they had to back up. What were they doing? They didn’t want to go to the next exit, three miles down the road, so they decided to see if there was a side road up on the slope that led through the fence. Can. Not. Be. Smart. Ass.

A friend of mine has decided to commit suicide, but he’s really not into guns, hanging, or pills, oh no. He confronts people in traffic when they do something that annoys him. If someone cuts him off in traffic he’ll get out at the next light and yell at them. I told him he’s going to get shot doing this, or someone is going to get out of a truck on day and beat him to death. He followed some guy to a restaurant and the guy called the cops on him. The cops pulled my friend over a few blocks away, and he was totally shocked they were not going to give the offending driver a ticket for being a moron.  “But he cut me off in traffic!”

The guy who made himself famous in this part of the world was the elderly guy who was headed down to Florida with his wife and at a rest stop the woman totally disappeared. He looked all over for her, but she was not to be found. He called the cops and they started looking for her, and suddenly it looked as if someone had kidnapped her. Worse, she always carried his cell phone for him in her purse so he couldn’t call her. He couldn’t remember his cell phone number, or her cell phone number, but he did remember the number to the place she got her nails done back home in Michigan, so the cops called this place, got her cell phone number and called her. She was one rest stop back where he had left her. He had forgotten she was with him, stopped at the next rest stop, and then remembered she was supposed to be there. And she let him drive because he was the careful one.

The number one driver who truly made me question both divine creation and evolution was the guy who wanted to tow his car to his mother’s house with his truck, but didn’t have any help. He tied the steering wheel down on the car with a tow strap, chained the car to the truck, and crept down the road like a snail. Had he been going a few miles down the road, it would have been fine, and all he would have was a few dents in his bumpers, but he was going to drive one hundred and twenty miles like this. On a hill, the car pushed into the truck, and pushed him into a ditch. He claimed that he was chasing someone who had stolen his truck, and would have gotten away with it had he remembered the steering wheel had been strapped.

Take More care,
Mike

Monday, June 21, 2010

Balance and the words spoken

It was said aloud finally, and as I said it, the very idea that it had been said aloud was like losing my virginity; I could never claim to be innocent after the words were spoken. Maybe this is why I have set things a’motion as I have, and maybe the words themselves, festered and fevered with age demanded silently to be set free, and certainly I have put myself in the position to be questioned about this. But the words unspoken would leave the ghosts in the ground, and the moment would pass. A friend would allow this, this moment to pass if that were needed. A good friend would allow the moment to hang in the balance and breathe. That one breath is all it takes, betimes.

We talked about writing and there is no better way to ground me, to settle me into who I am in this, and I do not make the charge of duplicity, no, nothing like that at all. We would speak of writing at great length anyway, for that is what we do. Writers must speak to writers of writing, or they will grow mad, even more mad, and the madness is quieted some by sharing, and this is a good thing. More intimate than sex is the conversation between writers for it is a sharing of far more than a body might hold. Your body can be made a lie, with those you lie with, and it is no mistake there is no difference between those two. But when you tell someone what you are writing, and why you are writing, and you hope for resolution rather than orgasm, well… I cannot explain that to you, and no one else can either. Try it, if you are a virgin. Try explaining the ecstasy of sex to someone else who has never shared that moment, that little death, that rain and thunder, try that, if you are a virgin, and perhaps with another it will make sense to you both. Please allow me to suggest it will not.

Writing is better than sex. It’s deeper. It’s more personal. It’s more exciting. It’s something transcending who we are, and what we are and there is nothing you will ever share with anyone that will mark who you are to each other than when you explore creativity with another person. You wonder why those creative seem to have a higher incident of deviance? Tis because they see sex as something less than their art, something less personal, and something lacking the loss of restraint of intimacy shared with another artist. It’s just sex. It’s not like it really matters. You cannot put it to print. It will never hang in a gallery, or be sung to the world. Well, maybe it will, in some sense, but nothing like you’d suspect.

Do these words call to you? Do you hear my voice? Is your very breath affected by these words? Reach out to me. Take my hand. I will promise you nothing, nothing at all, but yourself. No money, no fame, no published works, no recognition of who or what you are, and I have no idea where those things might come. But I promise you there will never be anything you will feel you have to hide. Rip your soul open at the gut and bleed out on canvas or print, film or paper, or whatever medium holds you. Get so drunk you cannot stand and scream from your knees the need to fashion your life into art and I will pour you another from the cup that has been passed to us. Gods damn but this is good, when it is good. And when it is bad, at its very worst, it still beats being normal.

Even if it kills you. 



Heh. See that? You’ll get a lot of people headed for the door when you talk about sex. Throw in a favorable mention of death and those leaning with leave too. Wicked and fey they will call this, and worse, too. Better get used to that unless you plan to paint apples in bowls, or take nothing but family photographs. Truth be told, and honestly, does any of this sound false to you, one of the very best photographs I have ever seen was of a little girl on the back of a horse, with an older child to one side, looking back, as dust rose from one of the back hooves of the horse. That split second in time, that look back, the dust, the hoof, and all of that in one click of the shutter, it all was all perfect. It takes no small about of prescience to be an artist. You have to see the truth before it happens. You have to know what to create before it is loved or wanted and before it even exists.

When I said the words it felt as if I had fired a gun. The sound came to me and reported the bullet had left the building and no amount of talk or philosophizing or rationalization would recall it. Questions were begged and the answers obvious. What next wasn’t asked because good friends allow you that; you fired a gun and not look at the target, or if the bullet has wounded some innocent unintended. You can come down from that ledge now, Mike, it was never safe up there to begin with. The words said, the damage wither done or not done, the future no more, or no less clouded than before, really, yes?

I feel I owe you an apology of sorts, if all of this makes no sense. It will to very few, but I have to speak to those few for fewer still will speak to them. I have spoken to them before, but never as like this, and to those of you who I lost a few paragraphs ago, I can only say I am sorry you do not understand.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Calvin and Hobbes

When Bill Watterson retired it was like a death in the family. A connection to my past was severed and I knew it would never be made whole again. There was talk he would come back, that he would draw again, but I didn’t think so. No one quits something like this unless they are ready to quit, and it is time to quit, and there is no looking back. But the year was 1995, and already my past was long gone. Everything had changed already, and the days of daily Calvin and Hobbes were slipping away forever.
In 1985 I lived in the 108 Force Street apartment, Number Three, and it was during the time newspapers still reigned. The 108 apartment was enormous, huge, and very old. There was a lot of wall space so when my roomie, JT, and I, ran out of space on the refrigerator to post Calvin and Hobbes comics we built one hell of a large collage. There were newspaper clipping, a photo of a half naked redhead, and various weirdness, but there were a lot of comic strips. The refrigerator was reserved for really good C& H and I can remember a lot of them. Hell, I own most of the books, and when I flip through them I can remember the day I taped them to the door.
There was one where Calvin is asking Hobbes if he believes in the devil, and Hobbes replies he never thought human beings needed the help.

There was one where Calvin puts on his galoshes and as he walks the noise they make is galosh!galosh! galosh! Calvin turns and looks at the reader with the oddest expression on his face.

The artwork in the strip was incredible. The facial expression of the characters was priceless. Hobbes was forever rolling his eyes and saying something like, ‘Words escape me!”

Susie Dirkins was the girl next door and Calvin tormented her. He once saved up a bunch of snowballs and flung them all at her and missed with each one. Down to his last snowball, we wonder the outcome!  The last panel shows Calvin walking into his house and he tells his mother he’s sold his soul to the devil that afternoon and his mother says, “That recently?”

The best snowball was when Calvin ambushed Susie and it hit her square in the back of the head. She gets up and starts complaining her eyeball fell out, and of course Calvin comes over to help look for it, and Susie kicks him in the butt for his trouble. Hobbes appears and asks Calvin why he’s lying in the snow. “My eyeball fell out, help me look for it.” Priceless.

I kept the strips when I moved out but there was no real way to keep them the way I had. They became tattered and torn. I threw them all away, one by one, as they became covered with taped up spots. Moving out of the apartment meant I didn’t have anyone to share them with on a daily basis and it really wasn’t the same. I got a real job, and the people there were not too interested in comic strips.

Moe was Calvin’s nemesis and he was forever pounding Calvin on the school yard. One strip showed Moe telling Calvin he was going to kill him after school and Calvin says something like only Moe could make school go by quicker and make it worse at the same time.

Calvin’s parents never had real names, but both of them were long suffering mates. Calvin’s mom was a stay at home mom and caught the brunt of Calvin’s imagination. Dad comes home one day only to see his wife in a towel chasing Calvin and screaming, “I’ll kill you for putting dead bugs in my shampoo!” whereby Dad says, “And people wonder why I work late so much”

Dad is trying to teach Calvin to play baseball and the ball grows a mouth replete with teeth and Calvin flee from it. “This won’t bother me so much if he was better in school” Dad says.

School is a prison for Calvin and it is personified by the evil and old Mrs. Wormwood and the Principle. Calvin daydreams his way through class as Stupendous Man, Spaceman Spiff, and a variety of dinosaurs.  He never hands in an assignment on time, totally ruins Susie’s reputation, and his imagination runs free as he sees the school blown up in various ways.

Calvin is as violent as any kid, with toy busses hitting gas tankers while jets crash into them. In one strip Calvin sees himself as an all powerful god about to destroy the universe as his mother says, “I bet Calvin turns into an engineer or something like that, it looks like he’s created an entire world in there!”

Snow is a big deal to Calvin and snowmen are always turning into things no one else imagined. Mom and Dad walks out of the house to discover a snowman crushed in front of their car as if it had been hit while other snow people look on in horror. I don’t have time to get into the two headed snow goons. That was classic!

Calvin and Hobbes wax philosophic while plummeting towards earth on a snow sled more than a few times. In one strip Calvin makes the case for predestination while Hobbes hides his eyes during most of the ride.

It all ended in 1995, but I’ve found an online source of the strip. I remember all of them, of course, and there are a few I know I once taped to the refrigerator door, and laughed at with JT, many years ago. The Sunday strips were always the best, and I miss seeing them on newsprint. The artwork was, and still is, masterful. I miss the surprise of the endings of some of the stories, and I wonder if there was ever a time Watterson ever thought about bringing it all back.

Please.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dreams, Drugs, Delirium, and Dogs

“Mike, what if you’re right?” Sara asks in the dark. She has Sara’s voice, the voice of Sara on the bridge so long ago, right before the attack. The dark within dark voice, the voice disembodied, the voice in my head when Sara the werewolf speaks, and the voice I did not hear the last time she screamed.
“Doesn’t happen with enough regularity for me to fear it.” I rely. The meds are kicking in. The doctor gave me some sleep aids, and I talked him into some pain medication for my knee. This is that in between state, that place between sleep and awake, and that place between totally stoned and mildly buzzed. The red light on the answering machine blinks angrily. I missed another call. Damn.
Sam gets up to check on me. I’m speaking out loud, apparently, and I wonder if that means something. Sam puts his chin on the edge of the bed and wags his tail. I can’t see him but I know it’s Sam. Bert won’t get up unless it’s important, and the Loki Mutt has to be prompted to get near the bed, but Sam thinks any sort of activity might lead to petting.  After a moment of futility, he gives up and I can hear him gliding away.
“That doesn’t mean you’re wrong.” Sara is fading a bit, and it reminds me of the time… no, that was fiction. I’m having problems separating reality and…
“It doesn’t mean anything.”  I’m losing the signal. I need to sleep, really I do.
“Mike, you’re no longer in either world, fully. You’re playing with fire in this. You can’t keep pretending you’re…Mike? Mike!”
I drift off and the sound of Sara’s voice is something outside the room, outside the house, and I feel myself beginning to dream. It’s like a rolodex, with a lot of images, places, people, and it reminds me of flipping through the channels on a television, or surfing the net late at night. I feel a tug, and cannot prevent it. There’s a Cottonmouth on my pillow and I swing hard to push it away.”

OW! I’ve hit my hand on the wrought iron frame of the bed. All three dogs get up because I’ve make a loud noise and cursed. Lucas launches himself on the bed as I turn on the light. Sara is gone, and that’s good, but damn… The skin is broken. I look for the snake just to make sure and then realize as much as the mutts dislike snakes, one could never get into the house alive. That wouldn’t eliminate Loki dragging a half dead one in and it later recovering enough to move around a bit. I have to think about that. No more letting the dogs in when it’s totally dark inside. Sam doesn’t play with his prey, and Bert is just too damn brutal for a snake to survive an attack, but the Loki Mutt hasn’t developed the killer instinct, has he? The squirrel died hard and fast. I get up and take another pain pill, and then I realize that’s pushing the outer edge of reason. Should I puke it back up? Oh, what the hell do I do if work calls and wants me to come in, “I’m sorry but I’m stoned and I’m carrying on a conversation with someone cobbled together from the past and fictional character based on the past; how will that go over?

I pick up the work cell and it is quiet. It occurs to me to call and see if there is any chance they might call me, but I still am cognizant enough to realize that would be a terribly error in judgment. “Hi! It’s Mike, I’m stoned as hell and want to make sure you aren’t needing me tonight!”  You see, this is why I never do prescription drugs or anything stronger than good coffee. I’ve always had this problem; medication, both legal and illicit, has a more dramatic affect on me than normal humans.  I stopped smoking pot in the late seventies just because of such as this.
“Mike?” Sara creeps back in just as I’m drifting away again. Her timing is perfect. I cannot control getting back awake from this point and she knows it.
“Sara, you’re part of the problem, you do realize that?” I sigh, or I think I do. The 108 apartment is clear again, the light in the windows is the same from that place, and suddenly I feel as if I’m in a strange house. I feel slightly lost, as if someone will come in and wonder what the hell I’m doing here. Are the dogs still here? I can’t hear them. Part of me realizes this is sleep, or near to it, and another part of me is trying to make sense of the near light coming through the window. What window is that? What time of day is it? I can’t focus on any part of the room clearly.
In a way I cannot begin to explain to anyone in earth, the idea of Sara being in the same room with me is terribly painful. Sara, the real person, the woman, the one human being I can never truly detach from at any cost, is here with me in the room I cannot focus on and it feels like my soul is being torn. I know she isn’t here. I know she’s still gone, and always will be, but I can tell it is her.
“Mike, is there any way for you to just make peace with all this, and leave it be?” Sara laughs at this. This isn’t Sara. Sara was never one to make peace with a damn thing, or anyone. The idea that this isn’t Sara is enough to rip me upright, before I’m awake, and I’m standing in my bedroom as everything around me is still strange.
I almost fall as the room shifts. I can see the windows move around, it’s a  reorientation to make them go back to where they are supposed to be, the light begins to come in stronger and stronger until for a split second I think it’s a nuke, but I’ve slept until daylight. The dogs get up, shake and stretch, and Bert looks at me with that, “Oh dear gods this is our only food connection” look he give me when this sort of thing happens.
I walk towards the door with the dogs in formation with me, and I swear I can hear a woman laughing.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Odd Couple

I’ve drive east towards Valdosta every working day for the last nine plus years. Like a metal migratory animal, my truck, the second one I’ve owned for the daily trip in, seems to know the way there and back again. As I go through Quitman, the town I share a zip code with, there are certain constants that are landscaped into my mind and these would be the things I don’t notice unless they aren’t there anymore.  Twenty-five point one miles of travel and I feel like I could do it in my sleep if there weren’t crazy people out there on the roads.
I lost my first house about seven years ago, and it was a sad thing too. The big white house someone was renovating on East Bay Street was looking good. The rumor was the man who was doing the work was going through a divorce and in the middle of everything he lost the house to her.  It burned down the day after he was finished and it burned to the ground, too. Ever the truth might be it was a fine looking house. I still remember the morning it burned, and I watched from the truck as thick ugly smoke poured out of the building. It’s totally gone now and nothing but a vacant lot sits where there was once a home.
I lost my first child a few years ago, and I still miss her. I remember when she was a small child, standing beside the road waiting for the bus, and over the years she got taller and taller. I waved at her one morning and she waved back. Every day I went to work I would wave, she would wave back, and soon enough I could tell when she recognized my truck. I got a new truck in 2004, and the first morning I went by her I blew my horn and surprised her. She gave me thumbs up the next day, approval for the new shiny red truck, and smiled. The next September she wasn’t there anymore, and I assume she graduated. I haven’t seen her since. I miss her. She was a little girl the first time I waved at her, and by the time I saw her for the last time she was reaching into adulthood. The upside is I haven’t seen her around town, so maybe she went to college, got a good job, and made it out of this part of the world where there is so little for women to excel themselves in.

I noticed the odd couple several years ago, and at first I thought it might have been some temporary arrangement, and maybe back then it was. The house isn’t much to speak of, in the poorer section of town, so at first I thought he might be a neighbor, you know, because the houses are so close together. He’s an older white man, likely into his mid-sixties, always smoking a cigarette, never dressed very tidy at all. He’s one of those men who looks like he hasn’t shaved in a week perpetually. Five or six years ago she looked like she was in the third or fourth grade, maybe but each year she’s grown taller, and quite frankly, prettier. I remember one Spring morning she was running around in the unkempt yard gather flowering weeds and handing them to him, and he was accepting them. He had a bunch of weedy flowers in one hand and a cigarette in the other. That was when I knew they were related, he the grandfather, perhaps, and she the child his daughter should not have had while young and unmarried. Yet children can find beauty anywhere, and they can find it everywhere. We might see nothing but weeds where this one saw the chance to give flowers, pretty flowers for the grandfather. I’ve seen him swinging her around by her arms as they wait for the bus, and truthfully, as close as the house is to the road he could wait inside, but he stays outside with her, even when it’s cold.
I saw them both in a local restaurant today, and it’s a little expensive for lunch but the food is really good. I started for a few seconds, trying to find the context for them, and finally it dawned on me these were part of my drive to work, and I settled in to watch. She’s a young teen now, at that age of beginning to separate from childhood but she allows her grandfather to carry her plate in his tray like she still a kid. He stops at each dish and they debate as to if she wants any of this, or any of that, and it’s endearing. They stand close together and they both seem incredibly happy together. She says something about the sweet potatoes, and he scoops out a tiny piece of one and puts it on her plate. She laughs out loud at this, and I’m guessing she said she just wanted a little. The go down the line oblivious to the rest of the world. He’s dressed nearly in rags but she has on very nice clothes.  They sit close together and she laughs often drumming her feet on the floor in happiness.

I want to go over and ask, but there isn’t a way without ruining their lunch. Even writers ought to respect this much happiness in one place, and indeed, we above all others ought to. But there is another story here. He is an older white man in his mid-sixties and she is a young black tween. He’s old enough to have grown up in a very segregated South, and if he’s from this part of South Georgia, the times were very bad, and the division sharp. She doesn’t look like she’s mixed race. Her skin is the same tone as dark chocolate, deep dark brown, and her entire body glows with happiness.
It is likely my assumptions about these two are near the mark. But whatever their past is, they have grown past it, evolved past the past, and learned to live here and now. He cuts up a piece of meat for her, and she sits there and smiles at him for it. Is this his granddaughter, the last link to his daughter who I have never seen? Or is this a neighbor’s child who he began to babysit for money and then fell in love with being a parent? Whatever the past, whatever blood between them, I will miss them both when she no longer rides the bus to school.  And perhaps this is it for him too; whatever time they have left together there is no time for unhappiness or bitterness. The old white man and the young black girl have discovered joy and it is up to the rest of us to find that in ourselves, and those nearest to us.

Take Care,
Mike