Friday, December 31, 2010

Liar, Liar

I’ve always been a good liar. But once I started writing I could tell people I had a talent for fiction which is exactly the same thing, one way or the other. There have been times I have said things I knew wasn’t true, but the words came out of my mouth, or off the keyboard and when it was all said and done there was nothing I could do about it, other than admire my ability to recreate reality in my own mind. I tend to believe men are better writers than women only because women have a harder time lying with as much lack of conscious as men do.
Back when there was so much trouble with the Hubble telescope, someone asked aloud why it was called Hubble. Without missing a beat or blinking an eye, I told them that Hubble was derived from Hydrogen Bubble. The telescope was able to take such incredible shots because the light was filtered by a series of pure hydrogen bubble layers which acted the very same way as a dragonfly’s eyes. The computer took all of these images and kept only the ones that were perfect, like you’d do at a one hour photo place, and the results were all the images were supposed to be really good. The problem was the hydrogen tended to settle out after a while, and the device that kept it foamy was broke.
Oh.
Of the four people in the room, two totally believed me, one knew me and knew exactly what I was doing, and one person rolled their eyes at the idiots in the newspapers that had gotten it sp totally wrong.
One of my greatest works of fiction came on a very hot Summer day at Panama City Beach. I had driven down to the beach in hopes of meeting a beautiful woman, which in itself was a self delusion worthy of a Pulitzer, and had gotten nowhere all day long. Alas! Or the lack of therein, was about to drive me to drive home, when I stopped at a store for some more beer. There was a car with two really great looking women, and they had the hood up. YAY! I offered my help, but the car just would not start. We stood there, and around other people in general, and women in particular, I was always at a loss at what to say. The jumper cables were tight, but their engines weren’t turning in more ways than one.  I finally got behind the wheel of their car to try it myself, and lo! The woman, beautiful and quickly running out of patience with me, had not put her car in park.
“You know,” I said suddenly the Master Mechanic, “if you’ve been running the AC all day long your forward condenser might be frozen, and you might have to shake it loose.”  I talked the two women into standing on the bumper of the car and jumping up and down as I sat behind the wheel and watched. After a few jiggles and some restrained giggles, I slipped the car into park and it cranked right up. I didn’t get so much as a phone number from either woman but the guy who ran the store fell over laughing at them.
Years ago I was dating a really nice woman who had a friend named Sherry. It wasn’t I dislike Sherry but she did have a tendency to repeat anything I said back to my girlfriend, and most of it was out of context. Sherry was good friends with one of my roommates so it wasn’t like I could get rid of her. I told my girlfriend I thought Sherry had a crush on me, and that she was trying to break us up, so she could have me. My girlfriend thought this was funny, but little did she know the wheels were already turning. Sherry was hanging out at my apartment, and I knew she would be, so when I got home I took out this bottle of whiskey and started talking to someone on the phone. There was no one on the other end of the line, of course, and the whiskey was actually iced tea. I told Sherry not to mention that was I was going out and away I went. I made a beeline straight to my girlfriend’s place, and spent the night there. My roommate, all this while, got Sherry more than a little drunk, and told her I was seeing some other woman. He took her to other side of town, showed my lover’s house, gave Sherry a name I had invented, and then they went out drinking some more.

The next day Sherry nearly killed herself puking up the news of my betrayal and my girlfriend promptly took her head off. Sherry swore I had been drinking whiskey right out of the bottle right before I left, and my girlfriend swore I was totally sober when I got to her place. Sherry thought my girlfriend was just trying to protect me so she went over to my lover’s house to confront her.  I had no idea who really lived there but I do know they were unhappy with Sherry’s story of the women who lived there being my lover, because she was married. That caused the husband of the woman to get into the conversation, and because the two had been alone the night before, and she not with me, he all but tosses Sherry out of the apartment on her head. The cops got involved and the next thing we knew Sherry had been arrested for trespassing.
Years later I told Sherry the truth about what we had done, and how we had done it. She was so totally pissed she put her clothes on and left. I can’t remember what I had told her to get her clothes off of her that night, but I do remember it involved telling her one of the constellations shared the same name as her middle name, but it was something I had just made up.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Obama/Vick 2012 No Second Chances

As if the current holes in his feet were not causing him to walk like a drunken sailor snorting Quaaludes, President Obama very likely set himself up to look like a total moron for complimenting a football team for hiring an ex-con, Michael Vick, who spent time in prison for dog-fighting. Obama, who I will no longer refer to as President, is either trying desperately to win the convict vote, the sports vote, or the Philadelphia vote, has totally forgotten recent history, or he is a lot more desperate than we know.
Michael Vick has a history. This is not a history littered with championship trophies or public service deeds, or even so much as a long stretch of time where he was not looked upon with suspicion. He has been dogged, no pun intended, with rumors of drug use and his brother was tossed from the college football circuit for marijuana use. Michael, ever the example, was busted at an airport for trace amounts of pot in a water bottle but since he was winning at the time all was swept under the rug.  The American public, and the NFL knows this, will accept almost any sort of behavior from anyone as long as they can win.
The problem is Michael Vick is a one trick pony. He is a mediocre quarterback, at best, who runs well.  He has good games against bad teams, and bad games against good teams, and horrible games against teams that can stop the run. Worse, he has the consistency of a pot head with a fat paycheck. And even worse than that, once he does have a good game, or even a great game, you can look for him to fold the next one under. Michael Vick believes what he reads about himself. He believes what he wants to believe when the people around him, and have you see the people he keeps company with, tells him what he wants to hear.
I have no idea if Obama knows this, and I am certain the NFL does not, but character does matter. It matter when people hear you talk about giving someone a second chance, when Vick has been given many second chances. The pot has been swept under the rug, the rude behavior towards fans has been swept under the rug, the gambling, the herpes lawsuit, the drinking, the drugs and that group of low life thugs he keeps as an entourage is all ignored because he went to jail one time in his life when he should still be in there for a dozen different reasons. If Vick goes off the deep end and winds up killing someone Obama is going to learn a lot about second chances because the voters are not going to give him one.
The Dog People will turn on Obama for this. We, and I speak for no one but myself and my three mutts, do not forgive dog-fighting. We do not believe Vick has changed or will change. We believe a person’s past is the very best indicator as to where they will wind up and I see Vick in jail in less than a year, and I see Obama sitting in the stands watching football in January of 2013 just as unemployed as Vick.
Michael Vick is a sadistic, cruel, and unfeeling sociopath incapable of empathy. He’s a self serving puppet for people trying to make a buck off football and they will give him enough rope to hang himself if he can produce on the field. The people making money off Vick do not care if he self destructs in a season, or two seasons, but they know he will. They know a running quarterback is on the endangered species list each time he runs, and they know his life span in the game is a limited thing. But they also know he will sell tickets and they know as long as they can get a moron like Obama to say a kind word about second chances they can count on two, three, or maybe even four more games before Vick is hit hard enough to put him down, or is stupid enough to do something that ends it.

Tuesday night we saw Michael Vick in a game most pundits predicted he would burst into a great white light, and put up numbers that would ensure his claim to the league’s Most Valuable Player, a title he has said he would vote for himself for, if he could. What fans saw instead, and I’m getting this second hand because I no longer follow the game, is Michael Vick the way he truly is; inconstant, frightened, unsure, and likely stoned out of his mind. When the going gets rough, the potheads light up. A team with a third string quarterback and headed home for the playoffs lined up against Vick and his playoff dreams, it was Vick who fell victim to himself. In a game most sports writers predicted Vick would most surely be taken out of early because they would be so far ahead, Vick looked not only bad, but very bad. He looked like, oh wow, Michael Vick back before he was convicted of dog-fighting. He looked like an ex-con who had been caught conning an entire league, a city, a fan base, and not least of all, a president.
Character matters. The NFL cannot allow dogfighters, rapists, murderers and drug dealers to hold hostage a game simply because they play well. They have to take steps to get rid of highly paid and popular players when these people commit crimes the rest of us would be jailed for. They have to step up, and be better than the men who play the game. Obama ought to know this. He ought to realize if Vick kills someone in the off season he’s going to have that collar on his political neck forever.

For a man who rescued a dog from a shelter Obama has shown a total inability to distinguish which creature, his dog or Michael Vick, is better served by a second chance.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Evolution! Where is thy sting?

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Man Hit By SUV Playing "Frogger"


A man has been hospitalized after police in South Carolina say he was hit by an SUV while playing a real-life version of the video game "Frogger."
Authorities said the 23-year-old man was taken to a hospital in Anderson after he was struck at around 9 p.m. Monday.
In the "Frogger" arcade game, players move frogs through traffic on a busy road and through a hazard-filled river. Before he was hit, police say the man had been discussing the game with his friends.
Chief Jimmy Dixon says the man yelled "go" and darted into oncoming traffic in the four-lane highway.
No charges are expected against the driver. The name of the man who was struck has not been released. He was in stable condition Monday night.

The Santa Hat Chronicles: 2010 is over.

Christmas is over. Not only has December the 25th come and gone, but the feeling and the expectation is gone too. Suddenly, it’s four days after and the stores are manageable. The streets are less crowded. Prices have dropped on a lot of items, and I get the feeling that despite the overwhelming sigh of relief from the retail stores there is still a lot of misery to be had. I know many people who over spent this season and now it’s beginning to sink in. The economy is still bad. This did not help. Nothing has changed except now Christmas is over, and everything that was supposed to be good went with it.
The weather has really sucked, and the heating bills will suck down more money than most believe. The credit card bills will come in about the same time as the heating bills and that’s going to mean default on credit card bills. There is no end to the cold weather in sight, and there isn’t going to be a Santa to ride in and pick up the tab for Christmas past due. Gasoline prices are flirting with the three dollar mark which means all those people on the road are going to be lighter in the wallet when they arrive at their mailboxes back home, to discover the double whammy is actually a monetary Ménage à Trois where the average person just trying to heat their home, get to and from work, and oh, have Christmas, is the one getting screwed. It’s going to be a brutal winter for a lot of homes, but at least the kids will have some neat toys to play with, huh?
The Y was crowded with people trying to burn of the holiday foods and I must admit I’ve eaten too much, drank too much, and exercised too little. The trip in wasn’t a very happy experience because this year, more so than the last two or three, seemed to be harder on people. People are a little more surely and a little quicker to cut each other off in traffic. Everyone is tried, and tired of being tired. This was supposed to be a good Christmas but where is it? Where is the feeling of cheer? Where is the climax that was supposed to follow the nearly two months of Christmas commercials that we’ve been living with since the first part of November? Not only did we over spend this Christmas but we also oversold it as well. There was this feeling of expectation that was dead by noon on the 25th.  It’s become an ordeal. It’s become something that is getting to be a bigger and bigger hassle each year, yet each year it is also more and more expensive, as if we are incapable of stopping the madness.
This year’s clean up seems to be bigger, too. Trash cans and dumpsters are overflowing again. The right-of-way beside the highways are littered with glitter and wrapping paper. There are also more people beside the road, staring at their vehicles and wondering what went wrong with the ride. It’s going to take a while for the initial clean up to be over, and then after two weeks there will be another round as the cheap plastic toys are broken, and are discarded in turn.  There will be a bigger lump in the landfill this year, and of all the things we could not afford, that is likely the most severe.

Christmas has become like a retail tax with the bills sent out in the form of advertisements. Movies, sporting events, television, radio, spam email, the internet, and every other form of media has been bombarding us with specials and sales and ads and last second deals and Black Fridays and Super Saturdays until they’ve squeezed out every lasts drop of cash they could get from those who might have had it, and a few who do not. Televisions are getting bigger and bigger, computers are getting smaller and smaller, and no one seems to know when to say when. I still have my ancient 19 inch color set that weighs three hundred pounds, but I have to admit to a certain amount of lust when I visit someone with one of those nice wide screen devices where a movie looks like a movie on a screen. But the idea of spending that sort of money for a television keeps me from it. I cannot pull the trigger on it.
My family, if we have our way, will be the death of Christmas. We got together and set a limit of presents and we feel better for it, I think. I know I do. My niece and nephew aren’t very happy about it, I’m sure about that, but I think this teaches them a lesson on what it takes to make money and how it’s important not to go overboard. But they are getting to the age they cannot believe there is any magic in getting or giving away material goods. Times are not good and they may get worse. If the young ones do not realize this by now we are all in more trouble than we can believe.
This Christmas was just plain sad. It was good and wet and gray. The weather was bad nearly everywhere, and almost everyone I know looked as if they had been burglarized while watching it on their new television. It doesn’t do any good to be able to afford something nice if in three or four months the economy is worse than it is now. If gasoline is still at the three dollar a gallon mark when hurricane season gets here this is going to get ugly, and quick. We’re a bad day at the stock market away from the word depression being great again. And it is still colder than it has been in a very long while.

Christmas is over. The Santa Hat has been washed and put away. All the fun I had while wearing it is gone, and with it, I fear, this year’s holiday season will take a toll that we have not felt before.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tech Support for a bad printer


Soldiers Have Crappy Printer - Watch more Funny Videos

The Odd Porch

It’s was one of those old houses that had been owned by several people and never quite loved by anyone long enough to make a difference. Someone added a back porch, turned some of it into a tiny bedroom, and then put a closet in so the only way to get to the porch was a very narrow hallway that two people could not navigate at the same time. The porch itself was screened in, but the window part of it was a bit high, and if you sat in a chair on the porch you saw only the top part of people’s heads, and the whole thing was off center of the pool so you wound up watching the side of the shed they had put up a few years back. Everyone thought the porch was a very neat thing until they sat there a while and it began to lose its charm. It was a great place to smoke pot when other people were around, and you didn’t want the whole world to know.
It was 1980 or so, I was living in Wisconsin, and experiencing my first Autumn, ever.  In The South, we have two seasons, Christmas and Summer.  Here was a September evening that was nice and cool, nearly chilly, but the brave and those with enough antifreeze were swimming. I was drunk enough to swim but too cold. I liked the idea of the climate change, really. I had never lived anywhere else in my life and the leaves and the sky and the people were all different.
“Want to share that?” She asked, and I was already becoming accustomed to the accent here in the northern Midwest. I was also getting accustomed to the effect my accent had on northern women. They loved it. People would buy me drinks just to hear me speak and women swooned when I laid it on thick and heavy, and I did.
“Yea ma’am” I said in my best Deep South accent and she laughed. She was pretty but there was something wrong with the way she smiled. She looked a lot like someone whose shoes were far too small for their feet.
“You do that intentionally” she said taking the proffered joint.
“”Ma’am?”
“The southern hick who is just wowed at being in another world” she laughed, “and the people around here are just lapping it up, aren’t they?”

She was a strange partner in smoke. We couldn’t see the people she was describing, but she knew a lot of them, and it only occurred to me much later in life she was inventing the people as she went along. Hear that voice? She was married right out of high school but  it turned out the baby wasn’t his and the real father found out about it. And that guy that keeps yelling ‘cannonball!’ he got tossed out of college for showing up to class drunk but his dad kept him in by paying them off, and… I was young and fascinated with her. She told me her name was Susan and I had loved a Susan once, and would again. She was pretty in the sense that she had everything she needed to be thought of as pretty; blonde hair, blue eyes, nice figure and high cheekbones but there was something wrong with Susan.
“Let’s go.” Susan said.

I had never been to Minneapolis before, and had never really driven through that part of the country. I had no idea where Susan was taking me, and I didn’t care. I had pot, she was buying beer, and the world was good. To be twenty in a convertible with a blonde and with pot is something that you dream about in high school because there isn’t anything else to dream about.  We put the top up to smoke, took it down to ride, and it was all giggly and funny and it seemed like the day turned into a very cool night and she rented a room in a very tall hotel with a window view very much unlike the one we had left a few hours ago.  We turned the lights off and pushed the bed next to the window. The city lay before us like a glittering lava field and for some reason I kept thinking of Hell.
“I’m married.” Susan said. I was more than a little stunned. What do you say to that? Part of me wondered if she was telling me that just to keep me at a distance, but part of me realized this was the first bit of real truth she had spoken.
“I’m sick of being married. I have two kids and I’m sick of them too. I’m tired to death of being who I am. I got good grades in college, got a degree, got married, had kids, and did everything just like everyone wanted me to do since I was a little girl now I’ve got the husband with the great job and I got a nice car and I have two beautiful kids and the house that goes with this but I don’t want it anymore. I want to start over.”
I almost asked “With me?” but couldn’t speak.
“I hate this. I hate you and your long hair and your hick accent, but you’re more alive than I am. My kids need a real mom, not someone my family and his family invented while I was still staring at his paycheck. I have no idea what I’m doing, and I have no idea what I am going to do. I just want out. I want to go places and do thing and never look back at this, but if I do, they’ll call me a monster, and they’ll be right about me this time. “
“Wow” I said because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“I sleep with strangers because I hope something terrible will happen to me. I think I deserve that, don’t you?”
Susan got up and got dressed and so did I. It was a very long drive back home.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Voices

Writing isn’t easy. Editing is like cleaning up after a wild party and you realize some of the great ideas you and your buddies had at three in the morning are not so good after all. Never do any major remodeling when you’re writing until you’ve talked to someone not involved in the project. It may sound like a great idea but once you get up and start editing you may wonder why you drank twelve gallons of moonshine before you started writing, and if you didn’t drink at all, well, that makes it seems worse. You were sober when you came up with that idea? Really? Have you been smoking crack then, because crack world explain a few of the details, wouldn’t it?  I deeply suspect that writers do not drink nearly as much as they claim but brag about drinking to justify very bad writing.  Yeah, that was Jack Daniels that wrote that chapter I have no idea what he was thinking.
I was sober last night when I started writing, was sober when I finished, and when I went to bed, I was thinking, “Gee, that was productive! I’ll do some editing tomorrow morning and all will be well.”  I like what I had written, but I have had that feeling before. It’s a lot like smelling something in the kitchen but when you taste it the Habanero peppers you put in override the ability of the human mouth to handle it and you dare not feed it to the dogs. I worry when I like something I’ve written, can you tell?
Anyway, so I turn on my CD player to listen to my white noise CD of ocean sounds. This will ensure the dogs don’t react to small noises, and it will also drown out any of the storm noises that might still be going on late. I need the rest and it has been a long day. I’m trying to drift into sleep when I begin to hear voices. My grandmother heard voices as she aged so when I hear things I check the dogs. Dogs rarely hallucinate. Once I watched as Sam barked in his sleep, woke Bert up and when Bert barked in reaction to Sam barking, Sam woke up and started barking too.  They got up and ran to the door while I sat there and laughed at them. “Did I hear something? I thought you heard something! I didn’t hear anything, you were the one barking!” But they aren’t reacting to the voices at all. They aren’t so much as raising an ear. There are no voices. If there was a human within a mile of this place Bert would hammer down and bray at them. Bert is sleeping soundly, as is his brothers.
I’m not in the least bit afraid of dogs, any dogs, at all. Yet I am also not stupid enough to go where there are three large dogs who do not know me, and they are on their home turf. I cannot feel any safer than to have these three surrounding me in total dark. I listen to the sound of the ocean, and I hear voices. Bert does not hear voices. Sam and Lucas do not hear voices. Ergo, I do not hear voices. I hear voices.
I listen carefully and it seems as if the voices are speaking Spanish. I’m reminded of Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” where people mistake the sounds of an orangutan for foreign language.  Okay, Mike, of the two possibilities, do you think it is more likely there is a primate or someone speaking Spanish outside your home?  Don’t get aggressive I was just reminded of that, it doesn’t mean…stop talking to yourself. You started it. Okay, there are no apes, nor are there any Spanish speaking humans outside your home, we have declared it so, the dogs are in a agreement, there are no voices and sleep can be had now.

I hear voices.

There are four lights!

I drift off to sleep, mostly because I am so stressed out my body demands a shutdown. Christmas is unlike any other event I know, and there really is no way to prepare, or unwind. Voices be dammed, I need to rest, and honestly, it wouldn’t really matter what happened as long as Bert slept through it.  I mean, so what? Suppose there are voices? Are they bullet proof? Can they stand down three dogs? Voices aren’t the most insane thing my mind has come up with, and as I drift off to sleep that thought sticks. What exactly is the most insane thing your mind has come up with? Oh. Right. I was married once. If you’ve ever been married then you know why the supernatural just isn’t as scary as it once was.
Darkness is my friend. I wake up after a dream of exploding lights and there is total and complete darkness. Each mutt has his own breathing pattern. Sam is a snoring dog but it isn’t as loud as it once was. Lucas has a set of lungs and I can tell where his head is. Bert is two feet away, and breathing deep the sound of sleep. If I raise up on both elbows they will all be awake before I can get up. The shotgun is three feet away from the bed, and I hold my breath and listen.

I hear voices. Faintly, but there are still voices. The number of people the dogs would not react to are one, and I’m me. But they are not stirring. How can this be? It occurs to me I’m rhyming in the dark. I drift off to sleep hearing Spanish voices, or not, I don’t care as long as the dogs don’t, and they don’t.

There isn’t a dawn, but there is a Bert. He wants to go out and as soon as I try to push him off of me Lucas hits the floor and then  leaps up on the bed, which causes Sam to awaken, and he wants to be petted on a dog’s head. I go to turn the CD player off and I realize I had it switched to radio, but the CD was still playing. It’s a Spanish AM station, and I listen to their voices.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Other Half Of Christmas

The other half of Christmas is done now. It’s all over. The most wonderful time of the year bled out slowly yet painlessly and it was as if it never happened now. My sisters and I staged a small Anti-Geezer coup, which left my father in the awkward position of having no one to fetch the Geezer, so we all pretended none of it had happened and no one mentioned his name. We moved the meal into the dining room for once, and got away from having it on that damn picnic table my father eats off when it’s just him or one other person.
The picnic table is in a small room close to the kitchen, and it is perfect for a small group of people, if by small we’re talking two or three but we’ve had ten people jammed into that damn thing for several years now and every year there is some excuse not to move into the dining room. Family traditions are like that. You do things that might be stupid as hell but because you’ve always done them you cannot stop lest… Okay, just why are we eating off a table the size of a large book instead of in a larger room on a larger table? So this year, as long as we were throwing a coup, we decided to move the meal and then everyone could eat with both hands this year.
My little sister tells me that the Geezer Coup began earlier than I thought. My father had tried to co-opt her and her boyfriend into taking the Geezer out for lunch every Sunday but the Geezer hates being seen in public with his cane so he refuses to use it. That means it takes two people to move him around, and my sister balked at this. She also balked at going to get him Christmas for this very same reason, and my older sister told me that the Geezer has more health problems this year, and it was either going to be an all out, let’s-move-Christmas-to-the-Geezer’s-house or not do anything at all about him, and so we didn’t. He’s estranged from his own family for the same reasons my father has problems with us.  That small group of self important work buddies was so tight for so long that not even family mattered and now family is all they have left to clean up after them and make sure they aren’t wandering off somewhere. My father is still in great health, but the rest of that pack is tattered and worn. None of them came to visit while we were there and maybe it was the weather, which was truly nasty, or maybe they’ve all just given up.
This is the last year anyone is going to treat my niece like an older kid rather than an adult. She’s expanding her horizons and she’s got a polite but curt manner with my father now when he patronizes her.  She’s worked too hard, for too long to get where she is in life to revert back to childhood.  My father is losing his last link with being some sort of father figure and he cannot hope for any more grandkids, or great grandkids. It’s over, as far as him being who he once was and it is sad to watch this. Nothing he wanted to happen this Christmas has come to past, and in his defeat, he couldn’t muster the energy to make us all miserable like he usually does when he doesn’t get his way. We decided how it was going to be and he accepted it. That has never happened before.
My father is a good person. He’s kind and generous, and he’s not mean or ugly. But he is very set in his ways and he’s never put up with anyone having an opinion in his house, unless it matched his own. When we were growing up we were not allowed to lock out bedrooms doors, and when I moved back in with him when I was looking for a house to buy, he hadn’t changed one bit. Inside the walls of his house he expects everyone and everything to be a certain way, and that is that.

The similarities between my father and me are undeniable. I like things here as simple as they can get, and I tire of other people in my house quickly. I don’t like the order, or disorder of my home to be disturbed. But the distinction is this one; I don’t expect people to visit me, and I would rather they didn’t if they are going to bring other people with them. My father wants us to visit and seems to enjoy our company.  But I have never truly relaxed in that house. He doesn’t have a dog. How can a person be at ease in a place where there isn’t a dog? How can you be safe without a dog there to keep bad things away from you? My father’s cat doesn’t like me. It smells the mutts on me, and it knows that somewhere, I harbor the enemy.

There isn’t a good way to get out of Blakely and there are no shortcuts to Hickory Head. The rain is a steady but light drizzle.  Twenty-seven has been widened, four laned and many of the landmarks from y youth have been eradicated.  A lot of the dirt roads where I learned to drive drunk have been paved. The motel where I once spent a weekend with a young woman years ago is still there, and I still remember every second of that weekend with her. I paved the side road there back in 1992, one of my first projects, and I wonder where she is, and I wonder if she remembers that time as well. That was in December of 1984 when she and I were together last, and part of me realized that in twenty years my point of view of this December will have changed very much.

Take Care,
Mike

December

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

So This Is Christmas

Present Face

I Hate Christmas

I hate Christmas.  I loathe each and every moment of it, and I yearn for it to be over, and now, nearly midnight of Christmas Eve, I can see the blinking colored lights at the end of the tunnel. This is not pretty. I’m drunk. In eight hours I will begin the two hour drive to my father’s house and along with everyone else stuck in this mess, we will all just hope for the best, and stay out of each other’s way as much as possible. I don’t mean for it to sound like this because it isn’t usually, but this is Christmas, and that means it is going to be weird, and it is going to be very weird. I can feel the winds of the past screaming through my life like a cold hurricane.
My paternal grandmother started two traditions when she was alive. One; each year was going to be her last year, because she would be dead next year. The first time she told me this it terrified me, and I was very upset as any five year old would be. Slowly, over the next twenty-five years or so, the story began to lose some of its edge. She died when she was ninety, sleeping on the sofa at my father’s house because if she slept in her bedroom she was afraid she wouldn’t hear someone if they came to the door. The next tradition was she wanted Christmas to be held at her house, which was the same as my father’s house, and there was no way at all to talk her out if it. Everyone lived two hours away, and getting together at my sister’s house made so much more sense, but no. We had to go to her house for Christmas because she might not be here next year. The dying thing took a lot of the fun out of it, I tell you.
My father has picked up both traditions and he’s made it a lot less fun than his mother did.

My father is in great shape for someone who is in his mid seventies. He runs every day, he works, he drives, he does all the things he was doing twenty years ago, when his mother died, and he is going to be here next year. But no, we cannot have Christmas anywhere else on earth. It has to be at his house. Mostly because he wants to be there when the Geezers drop in, and they will, too. There are a lot fewer Geezers than there once was, but when they show up the world stops spinning for them, and we, my sisters and I, are require to wait on them hand and foot, just like we did when we were kids, until they leave.  That’s the thing that really pisses me off about Christmas. We all get together two or three times a year, and it’s supposed to be a family thing, but if one of my father’s friends is there we’re delegated back to second class citizenry.
His friends have family issues of their own. The Greatest of The Old Geezer Gods died a few years ago and his wife, also sick to death of that back patting little group of Geezers, more or less banned them all from the funeral. She had quite enough of being treated like their waitress and handmaiden. She put up with it a lot longer than we have, and she put up with much worse, too.
That little group of men who all worked together were the Captains of Industry in the county and they were all pillars of the Community and they all got together and marveled at themselves. I’m not saying they were bad men, or bad people, but they sure thought very highly of each other, and because my father never thought highly of me, they didn’t either. There were men in that group that died without me ever addressing them by their first name. My father would have had a fit if I ever addressed his friends by their first names.  They went to their graves with “yes sir”ing and “no sir” ing them to the bitter end. Now I’m fifty and we’re down to the last few Geezers, but since they really are dying now…

My father and I have never been close. The last time he liked me I was four years old. Last year we were doing okay, and then the Geezer arrived and every time I turned around he was wanting me to fetch tea for the Geezer, or shuck oysters for the Geezer, or  take the Geezer some food, or go get a blanket for the Geezer. Any of this stuff I wouldn’t mind doing, but my father could have done it himself. But he was reverting back to the Good Ole Days when kids were there to be ordered about and treated poorly, and he and the Geezer enjoyed reliving my youth.

My father is going to outlive most of his friends. He does realize that but instead of wondering what the future is going to be like, he’s more intent on getting things back to the past. The days when he and a small group of men determined the fates of the people around them have ended. Now, there is a small group of people who will one day decide his fate, and there will be no bottles of liquor traded off for favors, and no boxes of cheap cigars to seal the deal. The Geezers are dying and one day they will no longer be there for him, to assure him he’s doing the right things, and all will be well.  What will eventually happen is the people he once used as table help and wait staff will have to make decisions as to what to do with him when he reaches Geezer-hood.
I hate Christmas. I hate being reminded that I’m somewhere far down the food chain of importance to my father, and I always have been, and I always will be, unless, of course, he runs out of friends.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dead Cat Walking

Late last night, or early in the morning, it all depends on when you start and end your day, I suppose, the  Loki Mutt sat up and listened to the outside world. It’s still close enough to full moon that the mutts are weird, but they’ve been ran hard the last couple of days and the Elder Mutts aren’t biting tonight.  Loki’s silhouette shows his ears in the moonlight, and I wait to see what he decides. Sleep overcomes curiosity and he rests his head on my leg. Both he and Sam are like that. They want to touch someone all the time, and be reassured they are still within this world. We both doze back into sleep, and in the very back of my mind I hear a small noise.
The moonlight is not only bright, it is incredibly so. I wake up at dawn and herd the dogs out. When I go into the kitchen I discover it isn’t dawn but four in the morning.  Sam woofs in the dark and I hope they don’t crank up at the coyotes. I can see Sam and Luke at the fenceline, staring off into the moonlight. They wander around near the fence then take off to the woods. I lay back down and suddenly I hear the noise again. It’s a kid goat, perhaps, but it also sounds like a cat. Climber is the neighbor’s cat and he visits on occasion. He is also damn careful not to get near the fence or the dogs. Sam treed him one day and Climber stayed in that tree an hour after I put Sam in the house. I feel sleep drawing me in, and then the mutts want in.

Bert is still in the woods, and this surprises no one. I let the younger mutts in and go out into the yard. I can read the writing on my short it is so bright. The shadows in the woods are silver with light, and I pick out the spot where Bert is likely to appear. A darker shadow wanders into view, hesitates in the open, and then glides over to where the water bucket is. I see Bert’s form move towards me and suddenly his head comes up. What is that? Oh! It’s you! What the hell are you doing out here? Bert greets me in surprise and he likes that I’ve waited for him. Kisses for a dog’s dad! He takes point and we head back into the house. I hear the cat again, and I stop at the top step…is Climber in trouble?
Climber is a rugged Tom who had lasted for almost a decade out here, and that’s pretty good. He knows better than to yowl or cry in the night. The sound of distress in the dark draws an immediate response from all quarters, as well as a few dimes and nickels. The larger predators move in slowly, with much deliberation. The smaller predators wait to see what’s going on. The scavengers listen in the moonlight. The prey animals tune in to see what is happening, and to make sure whatever it is doesn’t move the predators nearer to them. The dogs go ears up and growl low. I hear the cat meow and then silence.  One day, or one night, Climber will meet the fate of all small hunters, but damn.
I don’t have to go to work so I sleep in, and that means six thirty or so before Bert and Lucas demand I rise. Sam doesn’t care when we get up but Bert likes to get up early and Lucas just likes to poke me with a dog’s nose. Up, okay, up, okay, and breakfast and feed dogs. Lucas and Sam are both wound up but I write it off as me being home. Yet Lucas won’t let it go. He stares out of the front window and whines. I get the camera and focus in and out of the …two cats run out from under the front porch and it’s like someone poured meth into the dogs’ hearts. Sam and Lucas both assume I’ve flushed the game and will open the door. They collide with me as I’m trying to get out of the way and I nearly fall. All three are torn between wanting to get to the cats and wanting to go out of the back door, the only door they know I’ll let them loose upon the world. No one is going anywhere until I find out what the hell is going on.

Sam is a gentle and loving soul, he really is. He adopts women and children on sight, and likes to be petted more than any other dog alive. Yet Sam knows something that most human beings do not; there are a finite amount of resources on earth, and a finite amount of food. The easiest way to conserve what little there food there might be is to kill everything that eats food who isn’t family. Sam’s philosophy is as simple as it is heartbreaking. The product of deep starvation, Sam is a black torpedo with laser focus and speed. Lucas only knows what he is taught, and Bert is along for the ride when it comes to hunting.
We went through this with Wakita and she was nearly killed by Sam at least twice.  She wound up dying of natural causes but I wasn’t able to keep her inside and safe because inside wasn’t safe. With one more dog it will be more than one dog worse. I cannot hope to have a cat here and hope the cat will live.

So now I plan to lure the cat in close and catch it in a trap. I hope to find a good home for the critter. I hope that if I have to take it to the Animal Shelter the end is quick and painless and doesn’t involve talons and teeth.  I want a cat. But I have Sam, Sam, The Happy Hound, and the evil done to him by human beings means I can offer the cat less than I would.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not In Kansas Anymore

A Christmas Song By Jethro Tull

Three Guns. Three Dogs

I have own three guns, and I share space with three dogs. Of the three guns, it would be a hard debate as to which might be more dangerous. By sheer volume of firepower the twelve gauge double barreled shotgun is pretty much as awesome as it gets when you’re talking about close range shooting. If you’re in the same area code with the target it will have holes, and likely a few. The .22 rifle doesn’t have the blast the shotgun has but it is a very accurate weapon and I can put a hole in something very small very far away. The .38 handgun is quick to handle and I can get six shots off in less than three seconds. Accuracy is traded for speed, however, and that is a serious drawback. On the upside, despite what you might hear about the dropping power of a .38 it is enough to put someone on the ground and keep them there if they aren’t wearing armor. All stay locked up and unloaded while I’m at work, and none of them gets to come out until I need them, except the twelve gauge which stays by my bed at night.
I’ve seen what happens late at night when a stranger comes up on the porch. All three dogs going into full defense mode, and there’s Bert, old, nearly cripple, all horripilated, biting at the door knob and braying loud enough to bring dust from the ceiling. Sam is loud, but not nearly as much as Bert, but he’s more focused. Sam isn’t going to waste time biting at the door knob. Sam wants something to launch towards, and he’s got the speed to make it happen. It’s very likely Sam is going to be the first dog to go after someone, and he doesn’t have a sense of proportionality. The Loki Mutt is sleek and muscled and untested. The largest dog by twenty pound or so, Lucas, if I can ever get him headed in the right direction and keep him from wanting to play, is going to gather some attention. Of the three, Lucas is more disciplined, because I’ve spend more time training him, and I’m better at it than I was when the other two were coming up.
Most people are more afraid of Bert simply because he looks like he’ll take you out. He’s also got a voice hung on him and he’s aggressive when someone comes up on the property. He’s never bitten anyone and he’s never taken a shot at anyone either, but he seems to take home defense a little more seriously than the other two.  Sam doesn’t look or act dangerous but of the three dogs I am totally serious when I say he’s the most likely to do something I do not expect. It’s his quickness that makes me wary. Sam goes from pet me pet me love me love me to your throat is my bitch in less time than it takes to realize that isn’t Cool Whip in Ole Yeller’s mouth. Sam tried to kill Lucas ten days after Luke arrived, and in the process mauled my left thumb, and nearly talked me into killing him for it. Since then we’ve figured out what happened and why, and Sam seems to realize that he’s got to do better. Lucas is showing all signs of being a very good and solid and stable dog. He’s big. He’s still a little too much puppy to be taken seriously, but when the other two dogs act as if something is going on he’s representing. Lucas minds better than the other two did when they were that young, and he seems to pay closer attention to what I’m trying to get done. A year from now, even with Bert in his dotage, this is going to be a much more dangerous place to break into.
I’ve suspected from Day One Lucas is part Pibble. He has the head structure and he has the wide open attitude. Pits need more attention than most dogs, and if you’ve got anything at all with any pit in it at all, you’ve been given an opportunity to fine tune a dog to just about anything you want, need or love. Wrestling with Lucas in the yard wears me out. He never quits, never gives up, never gives out, and no matter how rough we play, Lucas has never gotten so excited that he hurt me. No matter what we’re doing, the “Stop!” command puts him on his butt in a second, tail wagging, ears up, head cocked, tongue out, and heart beating hard in a wide chest. I can’t take this dog in a one on one fight, and I know it. Lucas is my first dog as a fifty year old, and I have to understand that unlike Bert and Sam, I’m not able to physically dominate Lucas. I have more mutt than I have me.
There is something inherently dangerous to firearms. They put heavy pieces of metal in motion and you has damn well better know well ahead of time where they are going, and have a reason for it. That said there isn’t any reason at all to fear guns. In over four decades of gun use I have never fires a round I didn’t mean to, and I have never had anyone be injured when I was shooting. I do not shoot with anyone who doesn’t want to sit down and talk safety with me. I do not have an inclination to shoot with people I do not know.
Pits are usually trained by mean people. Worse, they are high energy dogs, and it is a recipe for disaster to chain one to a tree in the backyard and forget about it. You have to bring them into the house, and teach them their role in the family.

I have no fear of the guns in my house. I totally feel safe around all three of my dogs. The combination of the two allows me a level of security that cannot be bought by any means. All you have to do is know what they can do, and know what you have to do to control both. It isn’t always easy but it is worth it, and you have an obligation as a gun owner, and a dog advocate, to make sure everyone stays safe.

Take Care,
Mike

Aimee Mann Grinches Out!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Deception

The plethora of knowledge passed onto me when I was a child included Hoop Snakes, the spitting praying mantis, powder-puff mushrooms that would blind you, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, ghost stories, and the idea that if you didn’t wait thirty minutes after you had eaten before you swam you would have cramps and drown. The underlying theme to most of the mythical information was there were severe consequences to simple actions, and there was always some example of someone in some other town who had been stricken with some aliment, or killed, for ignoring the common knowledge. I broke a mirror when I was seven and was horrified when I realized my time on earth would have to double before I ran out of the bad luck that followed the event.
Of course, it was humanly impossible to live in South Georgia and not run aground of someone’s favorite superstition at least once a day, and sometimes several times an hour. You had the blanket coverage of both God and Santa Claus watching you every moment of every day, and then you had many minor offences that seemed to carry serious sentences; if you stepped on a crack you would break your mother’s back, if you killed a Mocking Bird you would have bad luck, if you stepped on a grave you would be haunted, if you spilled ashes you would get burned, if you walked under a ladder, spilled salt, or saw a black cat it was bad luck, and if you did all of these in one day you would burst into flames, or into Britney Spears’ tunes, whichever might be more painful.
The Dead, for a class of people historically inert, were highly susceptible to insult and offence, and who would blame them? I mean, what else did they have to do all day, really? Odd that none of them were visible or active during the day, but at night all manner of weirdness would issue forth from the local graveyards. As children, we were led to believe The Dead were just itching for a little action and the list of things we could do to get haunted seemed limitless. Other than stepping on a grave you could also speak ill of the dead, steal from the dead’s grave or home, knock over a tombstone, or speak their name at midnight on their birthday and that would also earn you a visit. We tried to summon a ghost on several occasion by trying every trick in the book, other than knocking over a tombstone or desecrating a grave. Other than one moment of my life lived in sheer terror when a very large limb crashed down out of a tree when we were repeating the name of a dead person at their grave, nothing ever happened. Nina Hawthorn’s gravesite was a place none of us dared get near for a very long time after that. For the space of a few weeks, however, I felt as if I was being stalked by her, and there was one kid who swore she was Nina in a mirror. I went back a few months later and more or less dared Nina to arise from the grave again, but to no avail.
Nature and the supernatural have been given the short shrift by myth makers and superstition peddlers. All berries, all mushrooms, all odd looking plants and most leaves were things I was taught to consider to be “poison” by my parents. All snakes were deadly. Nature was just slam damn full of harmful things and it was our obligation to others to wipe out anything that wasn’t being useful to humans on the spot. All dead people were bitchy corpses waiting to rise and kill for a thick rule book of ghost inducing behavior. More than ninety-nine percent of what I was told about nature was untrue, and nothing I knew about dead people turned out to be of any use to me later in life.
I was told lies about the nature of life outside human influence.  I will consider them lies because the truth was revealed to me early in life, and I cannot forgive the willful ignorance of a people who would destroy a creature, or a plant, rather than take the effort of discover its character. Nor can I abide this blind belief that the realm of the supernatural, or whatever there might be other than this reality we inhabit, must be filled with vengeful dead humans who have nothing to do but wreck havoc upon us for unsetting superstitions.
To a degree, I can understand why people might tell very small children there is a magical elf who would bring presents to them, but to use this as emotional club and beat them with it time and again is just silly. The money spent on Christmas is already obscene, and to add to it the burden of behavior modification in exchange for big rewards is perilous. When my mother told my father she had finally revealed the truth to my little sister he was horrified. I think my sister was thirteen at the time. That in and of itself is enough to horrify anyone.

The results of a culture and a society built on generational deception is a steep price to pay. We are at a state of war with nature, and only a tiny fraction of plants and animals are deemed worthy of our use, or abuse as it were, rather than being wiped out. We blind ourselves to anything that might exist outside of what we are told must exist, because here have been so many ghosts stories at least one must be true, therefore they all have some grain of truth in them. We pass from one generation to the next the idea that we living human have transcended nature, and as dead humans we will reach some form of transcendence there also.
I have seen more evidence for the Hoop Snake than I have either of these other theories.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Corruption

Corruption
By now we’re all accustomed to some car commercial where we are bombarded with information about the car’s unique and wonderful qualities but at the same time there are lines of tiny print being flashed above or below and after the commercial we listen to some fast talking voice that blurbs right past the part where the car shown is not the one being sold and the financing depends entirely upon you giving up your right arm of first born male child. And not only are we used to that from one particular car dealership, we’ve come to expect it from each and every one of them.
Of course, and we all know this is the case; the car in the commercial is one that is “fully loaded” and the price being shown is for a stripped down version. The financing is dependent on a certain amount down, or certain terms, or…
But you knew that didn’t you?

What they are doing is dishonest, or not entirely honest, but we accept that. We also accept the food we eat from restaurants will look only somewhat vaguely like what we see on television, and we do not expect it to be what we really thought we were getting, because we so rarely do.
Moreover, when we are buying a car or a house, and everything is clean and freshly painted, we immediately feel better about the product even though we realize the surface condition is a ploy. We want the bedrooms and inside of the car to smell new and fresh, even if there is a dead body in the trunk, or a mound of termites in the septic tank. We want to be lied to, to a certain degree, and people who sell things push that degree harder with each sell.
Drug manufacturers are the latest in a long line of those who would talk you into trading your money in on half truths and outright lies. The commercials show smiling and happy people rising from the grave because of the drugs they’re taking and they live on to play with dogs, have children, and cure leukemia. But at the end of the spiel is a rational and calm voice telling you this drug will cause you to burst into flames and sleepwalk while singing show tunes while mocking Paris Hilton, and you will not remember a moment of it, but this is rare, so take two they’re small.
We accept an amount of dishonesty as the price of commerce but I suspect we’ve allowed this cancer to seep into our daily lives, as well as our medical decisions. “Does this dress make me look fat?” is not a question any man wants to hear, and women know better than to ask, but both parties already know the answer if the question is asked, and no man who wants to live to love again will give that answer aloud.
We expect to be lied to, and because we expect it so often the truth has become a strange thing, something alien and odd, and perhaps even dangerous. When we are served a steak that looks like a much smaller version of the television ad we smile grimly and reach for the free bread sticks. When the new car is a few thousand dollars more than priced we nod and move on to the cheaper model we didn’t want. When the movie was almost as funny as the trailer, we feel as if that is as good as to be hoped. Lies are more or less a fact of life and no one wants to hear the truth anyway because it’s too depressing.
Yet we are operating within a package, and there are rules that have yet to be broken. When ordering a “large” pizza that was once labeled small, we expect a certain deception in size but we have yet to become accustomed to there being no toppings, or for the pizza delivery to charge extra for the box. We expect that a cup of coffee might be overpriced but if they were to charge another dime to escape decaf, people would object, I think.
We, and the people who lie to us for our money, have agreed there will be some truth. They, the people telling the lies, stay on the side of a line they have defined, and we agreed to, and we seem to have less and less to say where the line is, even when it’s our money paying for it. Yet the very existence of truth tells us there is a demand for it in some capacity, if for no other reason as to lure us back into a den of lies later. But still, truth can be found.
When I as a child my father bought us three kids a battery operated toy motorcycle that was supposed to run along a track and collide with different objects producing dramatic results. Christmas morning arrived and we were so excited, but there were some objects not included, and the track was twisted and deformed from being in the box, and the motorcycle did not angle the right direction with each collision as it did on television. The other kids in the neighborhood, having heard we had one of these toys came to watch the action but it soon became clear we had all been lied to in regard to what was and what was not.
We’re used to it. We’ve grown accustomed to it. New lies never replace the old ones because if the old lies didn’t work they would have never grown old, would they? Political ads are getting worse, fine print is getting smaller, disclaimers are getting longer, and the truth is being ignored into extinction. Women are supposed to be one hundred ten pounds with implants and high cheek bones. Men are supposed to be rugged. And if you buy the right product then our world will be much, much better.
All you have to do is believe, and pay.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mossfish and Moonsnakes and Mutts

The world is bathed in silver light and the Loki Mutt loves it. Sam and Bert like it to, of course, but Lucas swims in it, rolls in it, and I remember when the older dogs were much younger and they did the same thing. Sam will turn ten in July, or the date which I found him will find its tenth anniversary. If he was three months old then his birthday will have fallen somewhere in April or so. All anyone knows for sure is Sam would have died within hours, maybe minutes, had Bert not discovered him when he did. Maybe Bert would not have lived this long without the stabilizing influence of a younger dog to raise.  Lucas comes in at the end of  Bert’s life, and perhaps having the wildness of a younger dog will keep him young for a while longer.
I’ve never been afraid of snakes and I never will be, but when it’s cold I stop being careful as to where my feet fall, and with boots on I’m safe in almost any weather. Not that a good sized rattlesnake could not bite through boots it is just much more likely one will not. I’m in worse danger of getting hit by a falling limb, or attacked by insects than snakes.

Between the shadows created by the trees, the silver moonlight, and dodging the Loki Mutt as he harasses Sam, I run face first into some Spanish Moss. Somewhere in the Universe is a photo of a very young nineteen year old with long hair holding up some moss under his chin as he pretends to have a grey beard.  Do not ask me where it is, or to retrieve it for even if I could I am unsure that I would.  But the moss reminds me of a jellyfish, and we’re used to seeing those in warm weather, in water, and certainly not in winter, in the woods, but if the Universe were a different place we might see them nowhere else but floating between young Oak trees, and during the winter months as they feed on moonlight, and maybe even Loki Mutt’s energy. In the Universe of the Full Moon Jellyfish, the winter snakes would begin to move once it got under forty degrees, and they logically would hunt prey frozen into frost. The shadows would march around the trees, to avoid being pinned by the moon’s silver light, and the Mossfish as we would call them here in The South, would swish and sway in rhythm with this movement, revealing the moonsnakes lying in wait.
There would be a legend, I’m sure, of a lightning quick mutt, who was once saved from certain death by a Hermit, who would then guide him through an enchanted forest in the winter, by the light of a full moon. There, it is said, the Mossfish would hang their tentacles so thick no one would dare travel by night, and the moonsnakes would be like sticks and logs on the forest floor there would be so many. But the Loki Mutt would run and jump, cutting through the shadows like grey smoke, like a silver shadow himself, not tiring, never stopping, ever moving through the woods and leaving nothing behind him but bits of shadow and frost. Even the moon would stand still, trying to spot this creature as it ran, and the shadows would stand still. The moonsnakes, thinking no living creature would dare travel through their paths could not think there might be something there, and the Mossfish, so tired of reacting to something that seemed to not be there after all, would doze.
The Hermit would travel quickly through the forest of The South, guided by The Loki Mutt, with Sam and Bert steady at his heels, and the four of them would live in the silver light of the moon quite unlike anything seen or heard before. They would pay homage to the Giant Oaks at the corners of the Universe, and there seek, and perhaps find, wisdom in the Ancient Ones. So much to learn, so much time needed to learn it, and human life so fleeting and quick to burn out.  The Hermit would pay for his education by pulling vines from the young Oaks, and freeing their crowns to rise towards the moonlight, and he would pull from them the tentacles of the baby Mossfish that might try to hatch there. He would gather acorns to plant in the Barren Places, and he would know there would be such regions where not even a Loki Mutt might follow. Perhaps The Hermit could coax from The Barrens new life again, and perhaps he could not, but he would try, as The Ancient Ones would like that.
With the rising of the Sun in this Universe, the heat would drive the moonsnakes under the detritus of the forest floor, and the Mossfish would gather into groups, and pretend to be some hanging plant life, benign and inert. The Hermit would be lead by the dogs back into the world of the light, and towards his home. The dogs would take position as he rested, never truly allowing themselves to become totally restive yet never allowing a sleep so deep they could not hear the breath of the moonsnakes as they stirred under the leaves and logs in the forest. They would listen to the dreams of the Ancient Ones, and breathe deep the whispers of the Oaks and see in their light dreams the creatures from by gone ages that once roamed the forest.  Their legs would move, and they would dream of the wolves they once were, and the Oaks saw them then, too, and even before that. The mind of The Hermit, unclouded by human things, would draw all of this together, allowing the Universe to use his mind in a way others could not comprehend, nor feel and not fear it, and the Ancient Ones would have seen this all before, also.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Half Of Christmas

The road is long. There isn’t an easy way to get to anywhere from where I live, and that is one of the drawbacks of being a Hermit. The backroads are safer but it will take me more than three hours to go a hundred miles if I take the side roads and switchbacks to mom’s house. The more direct route is to hit the Interstate and hope the traffic isn’t that bad, which a lot is like Custer hoping for rubber suction cup arrows and blanks. Worse yet, the rain isn’t falling and it hasn’t stopped yet either. It’s sort of kinda raining; just enough to make you want to turn on your wipers, but when you do it’s just messy.
It’s hard to reconcile the people who I am going to visit and the people I knew when I was growing up. They’re strangers, these people I visit, who inhabit the now wrinkling skins of the people I grew up with.  Somewhere, in the blink of an eye, and maybe I’m an alien of some sort with memories implanted in me, and none of it really happened at all, the past has disappeared, and with it, the people we once were, the people who once lived together under one roof, and now we’re a Christmas family, people who spend less than half a day a year together.
I can always tell what sort of mood I’ll be in of the rest of the day by how much traffic irritates me. There’s a fifteen mile an hour traffic blocker on Main Street in Quitman creeping towards SR76, and I lose half a day behind him. I get another of the same species in Morven, and I wonder if this is National Fifteen Miles An Hour Day in South Georgia. But the Interstate is crowded and quick. At Exit 39 I slip behind a red truck and I’m pulled along north at the speed of thought.
I can do both you know. I can stay behind the red truck and still think about why I’m doing this, and what will become of it. I have to break out of my trance every time someone slips between me and the red truck, which is often enough to make me wonder. I’ve left maybe two or three car lengths between me and the red truck, and I have to back off when someone slips in. If I keep backing off will I eventually be in Miami by the time I get to Mom’s house? If a vehicle wants to go faster than me then they will want to go faster than the red truck, which means they have no reason to cut between us but they do.
I stop in Tifton for Starbucks and it is hellishly crowded. The crowd warms to The Hat and I get an extra shot of espresso from the woman behind the counter for making the crowd less hellish for her. Ah, the sweet feeling of caffeine coursing through my veins with another hour left to drive. The road is long. The rain has yet to stop, or start, and it’s just plain nasty out here right now.
The red truck is gone but I find a white car to drop behind and my MP3 player soothes me with Chants. I have no idea what those guys are singing about. They could be singing, “We’re bored as hell with Latin classes buy our music and kiss our asses” and it would sound just as cool as whatever it is they are singing. I wonder what my fellow travelers are listening to, and I wonder if the people in the red truck are okay. I miss them. They were good guide dogs while they lasted, really. Exit 100 looms before me and I veer off onto the secondary roads, and then onto the back road to mom’s house.

Mom has moved three or four times in the last couple of years and no one knows why. This time we think it will stick, but moving is torture and I have no idea why anyone would do it more than once or twice every other century. But anywhere mom is can be called home for me. She has embraced my vegetarianism with a passion, and made some of the world’s best veggie lasagna, as if she had been doing it since the day I was born. I think if I had called her and told her I had become a cannibal who loved Catholics she would have had lasagna with the Pope inside.
There are people with happy childhood memories of where they grew up but I’m not sure where mine might be. This is the first time in this particular house my mother has moved into, and the house I remember so well as her mother’s house, my grandmother’s home where my mother was born, burned down decades ago. I did love that house and I remember being happy there. My grandmother also had a tiny trailer behind her store and I loved that place too. The infamous “Termite House” an old house that was rumored to having stood up only because the termites were holding hands, yes, I remember that old house fondly also, and my mother lived here for many years yet I was already a teenager then, and my childhood had slipped away.
My niece and nephew are already older than I was the first time I spent the night in the Termite House. The old farmhouse was long since ashes well before they were born. I wonder what they will remember, what homes they will look back at with happiness, and I wonder when they are my age, what they will think of the Uncle Mike.
The drive home is quiet as the MP3 player’s battery dies. I take the back roads, drifting home, and not getting into a hurry. Christmas is half over now, and the other half comes at the house where my father lives. That is a house that has never been home to me, but there are many ghosts waiting for me there.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Week Before Xmas and all on the road, people were stupid, just like I have told.

Two miles from home the fog began to creep into the road and I swear to dog I think the day was out to get me. For a Friday I had off there just wasn’t much love found in the time and most of it had to do with the fact I have the first part of Christmas tomorrow, and I don’t like it. Most of what happens when you’re an adult won’t have anything at all to do with what you like, and I’m amazed even today at how true that is. A divorce in 1972 still dictates to me where I am going to be on Christmas. My mother’s house the week before and my father’s house the day of, and it’s been like this since I can remember.
I have to buy mutt food. This is a problem because there isn’t any place in town that sells dog food that isn’t going to be mobbed on the Friday a week before Christmas weekend. But I am not about to let my dogs go hungry ( yeah right) because of Christmas.  I hit one of the chain stores like an assassin. I’m going in for fifty pounds of dog food and I’m coming out alive, and without any ribbons. A four miles an hour walk with a shopping cart running interference frightens the casual shopper.  I’ve mastered the art of nearly ramming someone standing in my way only to pull up at the very last second ( so they think) and lean up on my tip toes as if they being in the way almost cost them their lives. I am the Anti-shopper. I am the Grinch who stole Aisle Three. There is a fifty pound bag of dog food and I’m going in. Cover me.
Eight minutes after I put the truck in park I’m pulling out of the parking lot. This is unheard of, but I cheated my way into the self checkout lane by running over a woman in a wheel chair with my buggy. I also elbowed a four year old. This was after I ran over the nuns and torched the homeless man. I’m serious about not being in a store any longer than I have to be. If the place was on fire I would not get out any faster. Trust me on this; if a building is on fire the only thing I can tell you is try to keep up.
The Y is one of the few places not crowded but even exhaustion is no benison to me. I need a few hours of hard work, and the feeling that when it’s over it’s over. But this Christmas thing… It won’t be over for another week, and even then shopping will be a bitch for another week after the fact. Simple things like buying fuel, and buying food, and buying beer mean crowds have to be fought and waded through. The Hat cannot help.
There’s a sort of Zone of Insanity around the Mall, and the satellite stores that feed off the backwash of the crowd that descends upon it. People drive as if their very lives depend on shopping and that is so sad. They nearly ram one another over parking spaces, they are terribly rude to workers, and they are mindless as to what they are trying to find, and why. All they know is they have to get their perfect present within the next week or so and nothing at all matter but shopping.

My biggest problem is the waste; the waste of time, the waste of money, the waste of paper, plastic, woods and other recourses that in the name of Christmas will be piled up in a landfill like a tinseled tumor. Wrapped paper whose usefulness can be measured in hours, boxes that were tossed away after the event, trees that were cut down, and millions of gallons of gas burned for the event that lasts no more than a half a day. This is what I see every Christmas, and that is the biggest reason to hate it.

We’ve cut down, my family and I, and I’ve got my sisters and my mother’s part of the family to stop having to have a gift for everyone from everyone, and that really helps. My father still likes to buy a lot of stuff, and he still likes the wrapping paper parade and all the whistles and bells, and it is likely he always will. There isn’t any cure for some of this and some people simply because it is the excess they love. They’re addicted not to the reason of the season but the idea this is the one time of year producing garbage in the name of a holiday is just plain fun. I know people who have so many lights out in their yards that UFOs come down to investigate and CIA satellites warn of missile launches from those sites. Every conceivable theme is covered in lights and inflatable plastic figures from Frosty the Snowman to Sam Walton on crack.

So the drive home gets socked in with fog a couple of miles from the house Friday night. It’s raining and historically speaking deer travel less in the rain, which means maybe Anther Alley will be a little safer. The moon is full enough to brighten the sky, but it’s still like being is a snow globe with fog rather than snow. It’s not raining hard enough for wipers but the fog is almost thick enough to use them, but not quite. I have to slow down and the drive lasts a little longer than it should.
The dogs are the last constant. They care neither for weather nor Santa. Dad is home! Dad is home! They are as happy to see me now as they will be on the 25th, or any day in between. They do not care if I bring treats or presents. All they know is they love me, and they want me to be home with them. We human, with all our trappings of green and white paper and shopping malls, are much poorer than they.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Santa Hat Chronicles: 2010 Bikes and Tykes


I sometime forget I am wearing the Santa Hat but the many fans of Christmas are there to remind me, and I get, “I like your hat” more often than you would believe. “I like your hat” is a simple message that doesn’t have anything to do with The Hat at all. It’s a way of people to tell me they like the way The Hat makes them feel. It’s the magic of Christmas morning resting atop of a man’s head. It’s the thrill of getting up early and discovery. It’s the lights and the tree and the pretty things that make the season merry, and there it is, right there, and someone is sharing it with everyone else and that is just so cool.
Really, despite the fact that I truly and honestly hate Christmas, it is cool that people like The Hat.
People stop talking when I enter a room. I knew a blonde who had this effect on people and it’s really odd. She was one of those beautiful women who used it, but one night, when we were drinking she told me she despised using it, but it was there all the damn time so she did. She used it to make men feel like they were one of those men who might be able to sleep with a beautiful woman, even if she never did more than make them feel this way. The Hat makes people feel magic that isn’t there either, but they feel it, so is it?

At the Y today a man got towed over to where I was sitting by a five year old girl. A five year old girl can tow her daddy anywhere, for a couple of decades, even more, and never slow down. She was all bright and smiling and I could tell he was being towed into something he rather not do, but The Hat…
“CanIhaveabikeplease?” Five year old girls can be as adorable as kittens and they have that same species of cuteness that demands the Universe stop for them.
I looked at the daddy and he said, “I’m sorry but I told her …”

The Hat.

I tell the little girl why of course I will bring her a bike, and it will be the exact type of bike her daddy said it would be, and I could see the relief on his face that I was not only playing along, but I also wasn’t telling her she could have a pony, or something he couldn’t provide. The magic of The Hat demands that I play this part. If I am going to wear it, I have to go along with this sort of thing, and honestly, it’s fun.
“I want the blue one! The Little Girl demands, and before her father can prompt her she remembers her manners. “ Please!” She looks at me and I steal a look at Daddy. He nods.
“It will be blue, as you wish!” I reply and she steals a look at Daddy. All good things come from Daddy, and he’s the source of all things good. She smiles broadly and he grins at me. We shake hands, he and I, and I can tell this is going to be talked about at home, and the blue bike is now a sure thing in her mind. I like people who will do silly stuff to impress their kids. They give me hope. Daddy has now been connected to The Hat and The Magic and The Bike, and the little girl’s center of the Universe is a good thing. I hope it lasts. The people at the counter have been watching this and my stock has just gone through the roof with the three women there. One nearly swoons. She’s very, very, very, young, but also very cute. The Hat. I tell you, man, The Hat.

Working out in The Hat is antiMagic. The Hat is warm, normally, which is a great thing, but when I sweat it’s hellish. Yet that is also part of it. Working out in a Santa Hat is all part of it. The forms must be obeyed if I am going to be The Santa Hat Dude, and so I endure it. This is something I’ve done for three years now, and solely but surely I’m getting a reputation for Christmas, which is more than a little funny.

The cute woman at the counter tells me she thinks I’m incredibly sweet. She is less than half my age, about the age of my niece, likely, and there is no way in hell I can hit on her without ruining the magic of The Hat, but I can tell you, she is adorable in ways that she likely doesn’t realize. Damn, maybe she does at that, but I wonder. When you’re my age women at that age seem a lot more innocent than they did when I was that age, too.  This one is dripping with latent sexuality but she isn’t advertising like some do. Or maybe she just isn’t around The Hat. I have to think about this for a while, and suddenly I realize The Hat is working on, of all people, me.

So another day has passed. I have ten more days until Christmas and then I can only wear the hat for a couple of days past that and still be considered seasonal. After that, I’m just creepy. Suddenly, I realize I’ll miss The Hat. I’ll miss the little girls and the Daddies and the cute woman with the blue eyes and the crooked smile.  Suddenly, I don’t want this to end. It’s been a good day for The Hat. For everyone who wonders why the hell I’m wearing a damn Santa Hat there is someone else, nay, ten more, who want to tell me they like The Hat. Suddenly, I feel odd and kinda weird, as if discovering I do like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Soup and Fever

Human memory is a lot like having all your favorite movies on one disc with no labels. You kinda know where each one begins and ends, but when in the process of trying to play one part you might just wind up watching something else for a while, and while you were going to watch “Gone with the Wind” you wind up reviewing some snippet of a short movie that you watched fifteen minutes of before and didn’t remember the name of the film. You can remember someone in the movie that looks like someone you once knew when you were living in that apartment back in the 80’s but you cannot remember a thing about it, except it’s on the disc with everything else and you cannot erase it.
I had the flu one year and a friend of mine dropped off a bag full of VHS tapes for me to watch and while watching one I fell asleep and lost track of time completely. It was late in the day and I was watching a movie with Harrison Ford and Anne Henche in it and suddenly it was Kirk Russell on a plane with Halle Berry. Harrison Ford had been in a plane crash, I remembered that, but it was a comedy, and these people were all tense and dreadful. Plus, it had gotten very dark outside. I hobbled into the kitchen to try to eat and I realized a couple of hours had passed and the movie was either hellishly long or there were more movies on the tape than the label suggested. I was running a high fever so I had an inner debate as to whether or not one theory had more validity than the other. Was it possible to have two airplane movies on a tape or one very long one? I stared at a can of chicken noodle soup, willing the wisdom of the soup to pass onto me, but no. 
The fever broke several times, and each time I would think I was over the worst part of it, but each time the fever would return, and I would pass back into the land of Chicken Soup Wisdom and partial movies. Each time I restarted the tape I could either doze off or I would forget I was watching a movie and wander off to the internet again. It was a week of no beginning and no ending and nothing in between made sense at all, except the chicken noodle soup, who seemed to be a godlike figure in the experience.
Human memory is even more fallible than the tape of the mixed up movies being viewed by the Acolyte of Chicken Noodle Soup while running a triple digit fever. I did well to remember the names of the actors in the movies without having to look the movies up, but I have no idea what the names of the movies might have been, without checking my online memory. I can’t tell you the plot of either, and I am fairly certain the Harrison Ford movie didn’t really have one. “Pirates as in ‘Arrhh?’” was the funniest line in the movie but I cannot remember why right now.

What year did this happen? I was single, I’m sure, but it had to be after each of the movies where made, and before I got married, so it was between fill in the blank and fill in the blank. This is how we access memory, or how we believe we make the memory more accurate but to pinpoint a time isn’t to clarify the image, is it? The story line is still gone. The plot still discerned unclearly, if there was a plot at all, and unlike movies, we cannot check IMDB to see if we remember things correctly or not.

So you sit there and you wonder how much of this I got wrong. What if it was not chicken noodle soup but Chicken and vegetable soup, or some other kind of soup altogether that had nothing to do with chicken at all? Still, I must have gotten the movies right because I remembered who was in them but what if the memory of the movie was from another time and a few moments after you read this you get a message from me saying, “Hold on, I think that was the time…”
Yet all of who we are is wrapped up entirely in our memories. We know, truly know, I could be dead wrong about the soup, but we would dare not cast aside the memory of some wrong done to us by someone we once loved, would we? We discount the feverish memories of a man and his movies, toss out the argument of what soup, and move on, yet we would hold accountable someone that was a friend simply on the evidence present to us by our memory who can only remember “Pirates as in ‘Arrhh?’” in a movie that might have lasted two hours. The single funny line in that movie could be compared to the single event or action by someone in your life that from that point excluded them. Is it worth going to see a movie for a two second gag? Is it worth tossing a friend for a mistake made so long ago, and what has this brought you? More money? More happiness? More soup?
We tend to see the world as a movie that is only played in the here and now, with all the rules and regulations stored safely in our memory where nothing ever goes wrong. We see the memory of others as faulty and unsafe, yet in the dark of night we allow our own to stalk us with mistakes of the past, and future. As it was so shall it ever be, your mind tells you sometimes, and you believe it, because what else is there to do?
The soup was not important. The movie wasn’t either. The person who brought me both was, and now I do not need a memory to tell me she is gone.

Take Care,
Mike