Monday, April 25, 2011

Break

Okay, here’s the deal. I’ve been posting a thousand words a day for the last four hundred days or so, and I’m beginning to get burned out on it. I’m also working on two writing projects that are more important than anything else going on. So that’s where my attention is going for a while. It’s been good, but I have to focus on writing to get published for a while. I’ve got commitments I have made, and deadlines to meet.

I’m not gone, just more busy writing than I can take time off from to write.

If that makes any sense.

Take Care,
Mike

After The Fire

Saturday’s fire opened a gap in the back of my property big enough to drive a truck through, which is why I started the fire to begin with. Three great big piles of stuff are gone, as is one felled tree, and a fire ant mound that was about two feet tall also got roasted. I don’t know why fireants can’t take the heat because they do not mind at all dishing it out. I threw in a lot of vines that I had cut off of the Oaks, and all in all it was one of the most productive fires I have ever started in my life. I got a lot of things done, and best of all, the fire stayed right where I put it. Any pilot will tell you that any landing you walk away from is a good landing, and I’ll tell you any fire that you can burn for that long and it not try to wander on you is a great fire. Some of the largest pieces of wood that were lying around are now just ash.

My back is killing me.

I knew this would happen the first time I pushed a large piece of wood upright, pushed it over, and repeated this until it was in the fire. But it felt good, I tell you, to use muscles normally dormant, and to get the arms, back, and legs involved in a full body exercise that pushed the limits as well as the logs. I knew the fire would be massive, and I knew the day would be very hot, so I decided to burn everything I could up until noon, and then let everything burn itself out. By noon, I was burned out. I went shirtless to get some sun, and was soon covered in a later of ash, grit, sweat, and grime. My boots were covered in soot and ash from stomping stray hotspots. My jeans were a mess.

My back is killing me.

It started long before the day ended, with the stiffness creeping in, and my toes becoming so far away from my hands that I could not reach them at all. That large piece that I pushed over onto the sled, yeah, I felt that one, and rolling the long piece over with a fence post for a lever, oh yeah, that one too, and that piece that wasn’t that large at all, but was trapped by another piece? I tried to lift it up in one fell swoop and felt that one too. Then there was the endless picking up and toss in of much smaller stuff, and the pulling of the vines and the pushing of the wheelbarrow, and…my back is killing me.
Saturday night I began to fade just after sundown. I couldn’t sit for very long at all without becoming paralyzed. When I tried to stand, my back remained in the sitting position, so I was bent over like some ancient old man, hey! I’m not that old. The mutts thought I was bending over to pet them so as I tried desperately to straighten up, I was getting puppy kisses. You have to idea how hard it is to be an authority figure and the leader of the pack when you cannot stand up straight. I looked like a man who was looking for something lost on the floor. Oops! I dropped a contact, no one move, just let me look for it. Why look there! The floor needs to be mopped, and there’s that cap off the water bottle I couldn’t find. Maybe I’ll just walk around like this forever. I find more things and the mutts like it. Yes, I can see where this would be a good thing.
I took a long hot bath and even though that isn’t the best thing for a sore back, it did turn me into a semi liquid state, which I was looking for anyway. The hot water relaxed me, lulled me into sleep and likely would have killed me if I stayed in another five minutes, but I had to crawl out of the tub and back into reality. I took a cold shower right after this, and that did help. Sleep was easy to find for once, but Sunday morning might have found the Easter bunny hopping around but it found me in bed, wondering how to get upright. I did some Yoga exercises in bed and some Pilates on the floor once I was able to slither out but that soreness was still there. I could walk again, but sitting still and writing made things worse. I was tottering around as if I was eighty-five and had just run a marathon with a jackal on my back. My face was also a little sunburned and I couldn’t shave. What a spooky sight was I!
Movement is the key to resolving soreness so I went out and cut more vines off the Oaks. It’s not a hard task, and the young Oaks get covered with vines if I don’t do this several times a year. After getting too tired to stand upright anyway, I went inside and lay on the floor and panted with the dogs. Summer is here early. The last two days has seen the mid nineties and it feels hotter. If this is any indication as to what is to come, I think I’ll head up to Canada or New York or something. Yet I had to keep moving and that seemed to help a lot.
This morning it isn’t nearly as bad. I can still feel the soreness and turning the wrong way, or bending over too quickly means pain, but the pain is less sharp, and less overpowering. I can touch my toes again, well, nearly almost anyway. There’s some stuff I have to take to the dump today, so I have to get it loaded up, and I wonder if tomorrow I will once again regret what I had to lift today.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Your Saturday Morning Firesmith

Two fires have escaped from me in the last ten years and of those two, only one really surprised me, and that one didn’t get far. Fire doesn’t surprise me very often because I don’t trust it. There isn’t any compelling reason to trust fire. Within a degree of certainty I can tell you what a dog will do, what a snake will do, what a tree cut with a chainsaw might do, and without doubt what water can do. But fire will fool you. Never turn your back on a fire because while you aren’t looking it can do thing you’d never think it would do, and unlike water, fire will move faster and quicker and get bigger without any sort of prompting other than having fuel, air, and heat. Water needs more water to be scary, but all fire needs is a head start. I do not aim to be giving it one.
If you’ve ever stood with your mouth hanging open without a clue what to do next, may I suggest you not build fires? Someone has very likely already done that, but I’m calm, and it is almost certain when someone sat you down and explained that the fire you built walked off from you and make its home somewhere unintended, well, that person might not have been calm, or nice. What is the worst that can happen? I plan for that. I know what it looks like when it happens. I love fire. I am in love with fire. But trust it?
There is prep work before any fire, and this one is different. I stopped burning a couple of years ago, because it was dry, and because I wanted to leave stuff around and let it return to the earth, but the stuff is piling up. I can’t get to the back of my property in a truck. There are two trees down, neither very large at all, but both stopping me from getting where I want to go, and there are, were, three piles of stuff waiting to do something. Stuff, in this case, is pieces and part of trees that have fallen, or had to be taken down, and all of it in various states of decay, except the one straight and tall Oak that had rotted at its base. I took it down in December, or January, and it’s nowhere near where I want it to be, but it did land hard enough to break it into three pieces.
I am not about to try to get all of the debris, and the tall tree, into the firepit, so I rake around the edges of what will be three fires; one big one and two smaller ones, with a connector between the two smaller fires. I set the big one first, because I want it to burn down. It’s a massive structure and one thing I didn’t realize is how far up it would burn. The upper branches of a tree sway and blacken, but I’m prepared for that too. My hose has a super nozzle on it that reaches the tree limbs so there will be no escape there for the fire. There are massive pieces of an Oak I took down last Summer in this fire and it was the last vestiges of a tree that Peg and I took down a few years ago. There is also the tall Oak to consider, and I think I can do this.
As a Hermit, I usually do thing like this by myself. I’ve learned my brain can lift more than two grown men not thinking about what they are doing. I use a log and fencepost pushed under the tree as rollers and push it into the fire. There is a massive block of wood I tip over onto an old gate with fenceposts under it used as rollers, and I tilt it over into the fire near the long piece of Oak. It’s nearly ten in the morning when I decide to stop putting stuff on the big fire and I start the smaller flames. One will burn quickly and the other, which is nearly mush from time, burns very slowly, which I like.
Sam sits nearby and watches. Sam knows that rats live under brush piles and Sam wants a rat. Lucas patrols endlessly, a mutt in motion, but Bert, poor Bert! Bert tries to hang out with us but as the day wears on the heat gets to him and he limps back to the porch. The quality of his life is declining. I call him back and hose him down, which he loves muchly, but it helps for only a short while. This may be Bert’s last Spring. I cannot let him become someone he was never meant to be for my sake alone.
I tend the fire by raking hot stuff into the fire, raking unburned stuff away from the fire, and hosing down the raked stuff to form a wet fire break. The tall piece of Oak has tunnels and burrow in it from beetles and smoke pours out of the openings, and then fire. I watch the fire snake its way into one opening and out of another. A buried tree branch I missed gives it a way out, but I knew something like that might happen and the fire doesn’t get far. The heat id oppressive for this time of year and the smoke is brutal. But the fire is a fire of magnitude, and I like it. The fire is so big I cannot get close to it for very long. My skin tightens and the hair on my arm disappears. But I cannot stay near to the fire as I once could. It drives me back and I have to retreat inside for water.
It is dark now, night has fallen and cool air flood into the house. The fire is a glowing ember, surrounded by a bank and covered with tin. I am thoroughly drained and exhausted, but it has been a good day, and it has been a good fire.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Body and Mine

There for a while I wanted to run a five minute mile, but five and a half was as close as I ever got to it. Your body can do, and will do, more than you believe it can or will, but as you get past thirty your body can and will do less. At forty that which was once done without effort becomes a task. The six minute mile left me when I was in my early forties and the seven minute mile left a couple of years later. I can still hit an eight minute mile but it is becoming harder and it is getting harder and harder to get more than one or two of them at the best. At fifty my body is pretty much done with speed as a habit, and this has nothing to do with drugs. The change can be, and will be, fought, and fought hard, but each day finds seconds ticking away in more ways than one. Yet things are vastly different from the way things were. Exercise has evolved so that we might stay more fit for longer lives. No longer are those over forty seen as those headed for old age, and no longer are those over fifty considered too young to run and play. My father is approaching eighty and he still runs 5K races and there have been a few times he didn’t finish first in his age group. How we view the health of our bodies as a function of aging has changed.
We have been told for generations “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and that speaks to the inability of those aging to learn. True enough, some people as they age become less agreeable to new ideas, but this is a product of their own personal culture, not the inability of the mind to be trained. Like the body, the mind needs exercise and play, and there is as little reason to stop either as we age as there is to stop running and swimming and playing physically. The mind will be only as good and sharp as the owner of that brain allows it to be. Those who keep using it may very well never lose it.
Oddly, the same culture that realizes the importance of exercising both the body and mind has made it easier and more entertaining to spend most of the time exercising nothing at all. Video games, on demand movies, smart phone with angry bird apps, the never ending quest for more face book time in Farmville and the all important issue of who got kicked off dancing with the housewives of reality island turns what spare time most people have into a dull flatline existence where the mind and body are parked in front of a screen, larger and larger and smaller and smaller. We run the very serious risk of entertaining ourselves into sloth, and nonexistence.
Of course this is the same sky that has been falling for years and no one has seen the moon crash into the sea yet, unless they were doing much more with their minds than just exercising. Yet I cannot help but think those who use their minds more will age less, just as those who use their bodies more will age more slowly. Brain Games and all sort of electronic devices have been marketed for just such a theory. I think these sorts of toys are useful but I also think they are very much like the other toys that are suppose to help to exercise your body; what you put into them will be what you get back out of them, and in the end, that goes for almost everything you do.
I know some people who are much older than me but at the same time they are also much sharper than I. Writers, poets, painters, and the occasional misfit stray dog rescuer, most of the people I know are using their brains on a regular basis in ways that I suspect the general population is not. I do not have a favorite television show, I have never heard a Justine Barbra song sung, I have no idea who Snookie is or why I should care, and the last time I had a favorite song in the Top 40 they had just invented a number larger than thirty-nine. I think popular culture is a waste of brain space, and it is dangerous to try to sort it out.
I won’t name any names, but I have several online friends who seem to have reached what I once considered old age without much damage. One of my facebook friends who is at least a decade older than I, and maybe more, comes up with the most incredible music. A friend of mine on Gather is twenty years older than I but his writing, and this is just in the comments, is tremendously good. I know a poet who is at an age my grandmother was when I was ten, yet she is as insightful as anyone I know.
So what is to come? There are young people right now cranking out good writing, good poems, good music, and they are already on the cutting edge of what art will become tomorrow. You Tube is filled with their work, and you just have to look past the ten million videos of other young people crashing face first into the ground.
Is there a certain amount of soul sucking time devouring waste of life to be found in social networking? Certainly, but like any other human endeavor, how you spend your time on these sites will determine what you get in return from them. If you look for people to share news with about the latest person to get kicked off Dancing Island you’ll look back at that hour of your life as wasted. Yet of you connect with someone whose poetry moves you so deeply it inspires you to make an attempt at writing poems yourself, I think you’ll look back at that time for many years to come.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, April 22, 2011

Turtle For Lunch

Many years ago I sat on a dock at the edge of Lake Seminole and enjoyed lunch in the warm spring sun. Work had been stopped after half a day, so I had the rest of the day for lunch, and in my lunchbox were two very large ham sandwiches, some potato chips, and a dill pickle I had stashed in a zip lock bag. There have been greater meals in my life, better meals in my life, but this was lunch on a dock, on a warm day, when work had been stopped, which meant I could sit and enjoy my lunch instead of wolfing it down and worrying about what was happening next. The tiny state park was deserted except for me, and I felt serene and peaceful. No one knew where I was, no one was looking for me, cell phone hadn’t been invented yet, and the Universe contained two very large ham sandwiches, some potato chips, and a dill pickle.
The ham was from a smoked ham, and I had sliced off slabs of it to go on the sandwiches. My water jug was still mostly full. There was an every so slight breeze blowing off the water and that gave the air a very slight sense of coolness. Lake Seminole can be crowded and sometimes there are just too many people there, but this day, in this little state park, there was no one but me, and minnows below the dock, and I fed them bread crumbs and watched them swim around and grab pieces to evade sharing with their brethren. The sky was still cloudy enough so I could see into the water, under the water, and there was no glare to fight. Algae covered the rocks below, an old log or two sat still in the water, and water grass of some sort grew to one side of the dock. The minnows and I ate a sandwich, and I tossed them a piece of gristle. It sunk and the minnow chased it, but they didn’t seem very interested in the ham. I had better luck with the breadcrumbs, and they liked it that I had a second sandwich.
The turtle wasn’t interested in having lunch with me. It had slid petulantly off one of the logs and into the water, and hid when I first arrived. It was a smallish thing, a snapping turtle because all turtles in the water are snapping turtles to people in South Georgia, and honestly, I don’t know one from another mostly. This wasn’t one of those turtles with the yellow markings on their faces, Map Turtles I think they are called, it wasn’t an Alligator Snapping Turtle, which are very fascinating creatures, armored, ill tempered, and from the age of dinosaurs by their looks, but that about tells the tale of my knowledge of turtles in South Georgia, even though I know there are several more common species. This was also not a Jewish Snapping Turtle, because the smell of ham in the water was what was drawing him near.
Where he had been hiding in the grass, and where the ham had sunk, was a good twenty feet away, but he rowed his way to it, gracefully, nearly frantically, and I was amazed at how well he navigated around a long in his way. No bird has ever glided more unerringly to a branch of a tree than the turtle did to where the ham was. Snap! Gulp! Snap Gulp! And the ham was lunch. The minnows were dismayed because the turtle also decided I was safe enough to accept bread crumb from and chased the fish away, stretching his neck out and chomping at them. I tossed pieces of ham out into the water, some quite a distance away, and the turtle chased them like a Black Lab chasing a tennis ball, flung out into a pond. A piece f ham dropped directly in front of the turtle caused it to bite at it, but it missed, and then chased it down to the bottom, rowing away with all four feet, zooming down, twisting and turning for speed, before swooping down on its prey. The sun warmed me, and the wind cooled me, and the turtle and I had lunch together, and life might not have ever been more perfect than that moment in time.
The machinery that had broken down had been forgotten, the newness of my job was alleviated and the unease I felt around my fellow employees was suddenly gone. No one was dying, no one was breaking up with anyone else, and no dogs were growing old. Wars all over the world had ceased, there was no more meanness or evil, and the militaries of the world stood at ease for just that one point in time. My mind drifted away as I took a bite, torn a piece of ham off, and ate lunch with the turtle. I scattered out bread for the minnows, and they returned, and nothing else existed. I kicked my feet off the edge of the dock like I was a kid again, and I wondered if I should take my boots off, and my shirt, and take a nap right there on the wooden surface. I finished eating, toss a sizable chunk of ham off as a tip for my reptilian entertainment, and tossed a crust of bread into the water, torn into tiny bits between my palms. I lay back and closed my eyes and breathed deeply of the water and the world, and I couldn’t hear any sound but the wind over the water, and the creaking of the dock against slight waves.
This was a decade or so before Bert was born, long before I bought my first house, many years before the internet, and I had just begin to write. I thought about writing this then, but it was not there, and it did not come to me. Someone at work today had a ham sandwich, and in it, I saw one day, long ago, in peace.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Snake Tails

Frequently, and without fear, I tromp through the woods and wetlands of South Georgia, and I never really worry about venomous snakes. More people are killed by falling tree limbs each year than snakes, and in the greatest of ironies, the place in the United States where most people die of snakebite, the American Southwest, there are fewer trees limbs to fall upon their unsuspecting victims. Of course, you might want to think this is a misleading stat, but when it gets right down to it getting bit by a snake takes some effort, getting killed by that bite takes some doing in its own right, and really, even those who do get bit, very rarely die.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear; snakebite is an incredibly painful and infinitely nasty thing to survive. Venom is actually a digestive juice designed to break down the body of a prey animal so the snake can more readily break the body down into its nutrients. Nothing about being bit by a venomous reptile is enjoyable, pleasant, or for that matter, something you will enjoy. But you aren’t going to die. You’ll just wish you were.
So what are your odds of being bitten by a hot snake? There are four classes of people who are bitten above the average; those trying to kill snakes, those trying to catch snakes, those who have been drinking to excess, and for some reason, people with tattoos get bitten sixty-five percent more often than those without. If you aren’t out there trying to kill the poor harmless rattlesnakes, and you aren’t silly enough to be trying to catch them, and you don’t drink with rattlesnakes, and you aren’t tattooed, really, why bother being afraid of snakes at all?
Elbow called me one night and told me there was a rattlesnake in her yard. I checked the wine bottle and there was more missing from it than I liked, but it’s only two and a half miles from there to here, so away I went. Now, this is hot on the heels of there being a truly large rattlesnake in Elbow’s yard. She called 911 but the first guy they sent was afraid of snakes and would get out of the car when he saw how big the snake was. It was too close to the house to be shot at and everyone be safe, so they had to dispatch someone else to dispatch the snake, and I was not happy. “Call me next time, please, and I will relocate the snake.” So she did and there I was on the way to catch a rattlesnake and the wine told me everything would be just grape.
Now, when someone calls me and tells me there’s a rattlesnake in their yard, I envision something that is going to create some excitement. You’ve seen rattlesnakes before, and in Western movies the snake is always coiled, ready to strike, and never trying to get away. Most rattlesnakes will stand their ground, unless they get the idea you’re trying to herd them, and then some of them get the hint and move. Cottonmouths are a little different. I’ve got a field book who offers this advice, “Never handle a live one” and that is the only snake they say this about, even though more people are killed by rattlesnakes. I think the Cottonmouth gets a bad rap simple because if it is going to be killed it rather go down fighting than running. I stepped on a big one last June and by all rights, I ought to have a pair of holes in me that weren’t there in the beginning, but it let me go, and I let it go, too.

I drifted away from the rattlesnake, didn’t I?

Such as it was, the rattlesnake was all of about six inches long. Honestly, it was less than a year old, barely had a button for a rattle, and looked terrified. I’ve caught six foot long rattlesnakes, decades ago, barehanded, so this wasn’t anything new or dangerous. The plan was to open the snake bag, used a glove hand to slap the snake into the bag, and damn. Bastard bit me. Rarely, very rarely, so rare in fact I have only seen it happen twice, a snake will strike not out but up and this one went up and grabbed me by the thumb. I walked over to the floodlight to see if I was hit, if I was hit, how bad, and in the meantime, Elbow was losing her mind. I felt the snake’s fangs sink into the glove but I had no idea if it got flesh and if it did, how much. I squeezed the hell out of the thumb. No blood. I held it under the light, glanced over to see if the snake had moved, and it was still there smirking, and squeezed again, no blood. Merciless hell! Elbow was still losing her mind, and it did occur to me that if I had been bit, I would have been infinitely better off driving myself to the hospital, and likely her too. I squeezed my thumb and it looked like it might have sustained some pressure damage from too much squeezing but otherwise.
I used a stick to herd the tiny snake into the bag, and tossed it into the bed of my truck. I knew someone who let a six foot long Coachwhip Snake loose in their car and it took a lawn chair, thirteen beers, three eight track tapes and a joint before the snake slithered out of the car. I’m not about to keep a live rattlesnake in the cab of my truck. The next day I turned it loose in the woods, and I never saw it again.
Most people won’t go to any trouble at all to keep a venomous reptile alive, and most will do much to kill one. But I think nature is worth the risk, even when it doesn’t go your way. Even when you lose, if you’ve done something that in some small way helps things in the long run, it is still worth it. But damn, snake bite is nasty.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Call Me Home

I lived without a telephone for much longer than most people. It’s hard for younger people to grasp the idea there was once a world without any form of instant and personal communication, but I lived in that world, and for the most part I liked it a lot. I’m not sure how the United States Military handles these young people who are emotionally attached to their person devices, but when I was in the Army no one gave a damn if you ever heard from anyone you knew, ever, much less made a phone call. The barracks where I was station at Fort Stewart housed the better part of a two hundred men and there was one pay phone in front, out in the open, and if it was cold, wet, hot, or raining burning toads down out of the sky with hail made from the urine of stoned cats, well, you know what, that is just too damn bad.
Getting mail in the Army was an event, but there weren’t that many people writing to me, and even fewer that I was writing. My paternal grandmother wrote me once a week but the letters were usually the same thing going on each and every week of her life. She talked about how her two dogs were doing, how the flowers were doing, how my father was doing and how things in Blakely Georgia were slow and how she was dying. She had begun dying in 1965 and when I was a kid the idea of her dying really freaked me out very badly, but after a couple of decades or so, it had lost its sense of urgency. “I’m not going to be around next year,” was something I can always remember that woman telling me, and sure enough, one year she was right. But it wasn’t to be that year, and in truth she was ninety years old when she did go, and I was very sad that she was finally right. But she never made the effort to change her life at all, to meet anyone new, or to go forth and do something that identified herself as someone independent of her role as a mother and grandmother. Each and every letter was the same letter, written with a new date at the top, and after a while I started wondered if she had a template she worked from to write them.
I kept all of the letters my grandmother ever sent me, because as similar as they all were, they were still from her, and I stored them at my father’s house. I had them wrapped up in a white plastic bag, and one day he threw the bag away, because that was what he did when he found something that belonged to someone else in his house.
I once sent postcards on a more or less regular basis, and it was odd when a friend of mine showed me the cards I had been sending her over the years. Postcard sending just for the hell of it is a lost art, and I’m wondering now if I shouldn’t start doing it again.
It was letter writing that kicked off writing for me in a way. It was during a localized flood where I watched the men go from being men to being zombies, turned not from some alien virus but exhaustion of the body and spirit and mind. I wrote a letter to a friend of mine, a long rambling letter, longhand and crude looking, but she read it, and she liked it a lot. She asked me if I ever tried writing before and I rejected the idea of writing because of my handwriting, but once I got a computer the idea floated around my head, like a lost cat meowing for its home. But it would be several more years before the internet became famous and it was even after that before I started sending email.
Having a personal communication device for a while was some sort of status symbol and I knew people who paid the price for looking cool with some brick sized cell phone held up to their head. My first landline had a fifty foot cord on in so I could pace while I talked and I still do that to this day. Having a cat in the same house with a fifty foot long play toy attached to a phone made some conversations more interesting than they needed to be, but I also hung up on people and later blamed the cat. Cordless phones were a marvel to me, and I waited until they dropped down in price before jumping on one, and believe it or not, we all once lived in peace and harmony and no one had an answering machine.
The first person I knew with an answering machine left devastatingly funny messages on it. Somehow he recorded the “the number you have just called is no longer in service,” message and that cut down on the amount of people calling him just to be calling. He also recorded the ‘I’ll have what she’s having” scene, from “When Harry met Sally” oh god yes he did, and that was hysterical. Those were the good old days when that sort of thing was innovative and edgy and now it’s just irritating as hell.
I couldn’t turn my cell phone loose. I cannot live without it. In fact, I have two, one from work and one personal. I have no idea how the military handles a herd of recruits who have never been without one on them ever. The incident of thief must be incredible in service. I wonder if the barracks have free internet now, or if the service personal have to pay for it. I wonder if those barracks where I once lived, and stood in the rain to make a call from a pay phone now boast DSL in every room? It’s a brave new world.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cusstomer Service

Maybe, just maybe, had the woman just handed me the damn sandwich, the rest of the day would have gone okay. But there she was, talking as fast as she could with, of all people, her manager, and neither one of them remembered there was a man who had paid for the sandwich and now they were having a conversation about whose fault it was there were no bell peppers in a metal container. I could be on my way. I reached over the counter and slid the sandwich over to me, wrapped it, and walked out without either one of them so much as noticing as to whether or not I had two heads, or a live anaconda running into one of my nostrils and out of the other. I didn’t if that makes any difference, but maybe, just maybe, if I had…
No sooner had I walked out of the sandwich place, with my sandwich that wasn’t wrapped properly so I was trying to figure out what was wrong, a stranger approaches me and speaks, in a manner of speaking,
“Hey boy where is the Driver’s License place? Don’t you know or not?” and this from a man who looks all the world as if he just got out of bed, in a ditch, and his accent speaks to the evidence he believes college is where they play football.
“No” I reply. I do know. But I am not going to try to explain to someone who left their brain at home how to get somewhere.

“You ain’t from around here none?”

Let’s break this down, shall we? Is he asking if I am from here somewhat? Is he asking me if I am or am I not from here? Oh, I know what he’s asking, but I’m really not in the mood to interpret. This is like an American going to Germany and just assuming someone speaks English.

“Yes, I ain’t.” I say.
“You ain’t?” He’s taken aback by this. If I had said “No, I ain’t” that would have meant no. By saying “Yes, I ain’t.” Isn’t that like saying yes?
“Yes I ain’t.” I repeat and he retreats. It’s not bad enough these people have to use some made up word that makes them sound like they graduated from the third grade in the top ninety-nine percent of their class, but once you start fooling around with their National Word it fries out their minds like not seeing wrestling on Friday nights.
I get that a lot around here. I can be around a group of locals who do not know me and within a few minutes someone is going to ask where I’m from. It’s the articulation and enunciation that does it. I rarely use contractions. I never say the word ain’t unless there is a reason. Double negatives piss me off. And it irritates me this has irritated me, and I know exactly where the man wants to go, and I know why he’s missed a turn and where. I should have overlooked it and gone on with the day, but I didn’t and I know damn well karma is going to get me.
It does.

Karma comes in the form of the two forms of local transportation I despise the most; school buses and trains. School buses are hard to pass, they are driven by people who are on a schedule and have a billions kids ( and their parents) to deal with, and trains exist to block traffic. The turn off of US84 onto Clay is tight and there is little room between the tracks and the road. A bus pulls in, stops because there are tracks, and before it can move, the guy in the train drops the arms. I’m behind the bus and a guy pulls in behind me, and he’s in the road. If he gets hit, it will push him into me. The arms lift, the bus moves forward, the arms drop, the bus backs up, repeat three or four times. There is a very good reason no one allows me to have a plasma cannon in the 90 watt range with mutate capability mounted in the back of a truck. Meanwhile, everyone behind me edges closer. If the kids on that bus attack, I am doomed. Damn, it occurs to me this may be the plan. They’re willing to box me in, sacrifice me, so the rest can live. Oh the humanity!
In my life I have dated one woman who was the classically beautiful blue eyed blonde. She was as insane as the day in long and the night is black. The blue and blonde thing never really did it for me anyway. I like things dark and mysterious, although one of the smartest people I have ever met was a woman who was blue eyed and blonde. But this one is neither smart, nor am I dating her, and as a matter of fact, I dislike her within seconds. I went to the other store to pick up a few things and I always hate myself for trading the convenience of a store on the way for the surety of the quality of service of the store across town. The self check out kiosk freaks out that I put my cloth bag in the bagging area and it freezes. I have to reload, and since blue and blonde is a cashier with an open lane, I got there. She’s at the most eighteen and she is showing. And she is pissed at the world. She snarls at me, ignores my cloth bags, put the plastic bagged stuff in the cloth bag when I point out I have my own bags, and she snarls at me when I take the plastic bags out of my bags. But one thing I have learned in life’ you will lose any argument, no matter how large, or how small, with a woman who is pregnant, to any degree of month.

FLEE! FLEE! FLEE!

I fled.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Father Washed His Cat

I preordered my father some World War Two DVDs and totally forgot that I had ordered them at all until I got the email with the information they had been shipped. With the advent of digitalization of film, there is a lot more film they can restore and show just how bad it was in that war, not just what we’ve been allowed to see all these years. World War Two is billed as “The Last Moral War” but there was damn little moral about it. Very bad things happened to millions of people, and the dead were the lucky ones. If you get past the idea some people are Germans, and some people are Japanese, and some people are Jewish and some people are American, and look at the whole thing in the cost of humans, and humanity, it’s even worse. I am not saying there were people we should not blame for what happened, and I am not saying that some people did not suffer more than others, but I am saying as a whole, the human race took a pretty big hit. We really outdid ourselves in trying to kill one another, and in the end, the whole thing is just sad as hell. The United States began the war with just enough stuff to start a decent street fight and ended it with a nuke, just four years later. As far as history goes, that war was a damn monster.
The whole reason I sent the DVDs was my father is really stressed out over his cat, Missy, having cancer, and it’s so peculiar I have no idea how to deal with it. My father has always hated cats, despised them, threw rocks at them if there were in the yard, bought a BB gun to shoot them if they got near his bird feeders, and more or less viewed cats in the same light as Hitler viewed the Jews. Okay, that’s a little severe, but at the same time my father has always hated anything feline with a passion. It took inheriting a cat from a girlfriend who had passed away to get him to live with a cat, and honestly, if you can’t like cats once you’ve lived with one, there is something very wrong with you.
The whole concept of “Dog People” and “Cat People” is a little misleading because I love both of them. I do love dogs more, and if I had to have one or the other I would have dogs, but cats are great people, too. I think some people get cats because they live in small places that wouldn’t be good for dogs, and you have to have room for a dog to run, really run, or you’re asking for trouble with some of them. To put a dog in a box or to chain him to a tree and leave him is paramount to psychological torture of a sentient creature. You are not allowed to have a dog unless he can live like a dog. I’m sorry, but in a world that is righteous, the welfare of a dog outstrips someone wanting one. I am a bit of a dog Nazi, I do realize this.
So my father’s cat died, the one left by the girlfriend, and he was really hit hard by the loss. Against anything I would have bet on, he got another cat, and named her Missy. That was about nine years ago, and we’ve been bombard with cute Missy photos, cute Missy stories, and honestly, she is a great cat. I just didn’t see it coming at all. Well, Missy came down with a tumor, and my father paid a lot of have it removed, and then they discovered it was cancer, and the only hope was radiation treatment, which would cost my father more than a hundred cats. He could have just put Missy to sleep, but no, he shelled out the bucks without blinking an eye and left everyone speechless. My father did right by a cat and I’m still more than a little stunned. Yeah, and I am proud of him for it, because if you’re going to take someone in, even a cat, you go the distance if you take one step. Okay, I’m a bit of a Cat Nazi, too. I just believe in taking care of those you love.
Something in me wants to remind him of the bad things he’s done to cats, and the things he’s said to other people about liking cats, but that is so much like something he would do, so I don’t do it. He has to take Missy for a hour and a half drive to get her to the place that does the treatments, and my sister has gone with him. She says there is something about that cat that just grips my father, even more than the other cat, and I think a lot of it is he’s just now understand who cats are, and he realized they’re more than what he ever thought. This last treatment was the last, and my father tried to talk the vet into giving Missy a bath while she was under, but the vet told my father he could do it when he got her home, and he gave my father a syringe to wake her up once the bath was done, and yeah, I know the vet is supposed to do that, but let’s face it, we’re talking about an old man and his cat, so get over it. My father took Missy home, and sure enough, just as he was getting ready to bath her she woke up, but he managed to bath the cat anyway, which I would have paid really, really, really, good money to see, and better to video it. Apparently, he got out without losing a pint of blood, but I’m betting she won’t forget it, because cats don’t ever forget that sort of thing.

If my father can love a cat, can’t we stop war?

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Turning Seventy

The Grand Duchess of Dithering, Elbow, turns seventy Monday so we were going to throw her a surprise birthday party. This is a wily soul we are dealing with, so trying to coax her out of Seapond the weekend before her birthday was going to be difficult. But Elbow dithered her way out of that by changing the plans she had, and finally, yesterday at noon, she decided she wanted a small gathering at her house, at five thirty. Sigh. Phone calls were made, showers were taken, food was shopped for, alcohol was bought, and even before the sun began to set, people began to wander over to Elbow’s house, and a birthday party began.
Seventy seems old. It sounds old. But I look back in life and remember my grandmother was seventy-five when my father moved her in with three kids and she took over the household. Yet it still frets Elbow to be seventy. Even though she has a pair of friends who are in their mid-eighties who get around and go places and do things together, this is one of those even numbers divisible by both ten and five birthdays which is some sort of milestone. Seventy is not one of those ages where you have older people telling you that you are still very young. Seventy is above the speed limit everywhere but the Interstate. Seventy years old means you are not going to outlive too many more horses or parrots. Yet there is no guarantee anyone will live to see the next sun, and there are few people alive at any age who still have the mental and intellectual capacity of Elbow.
She’s writing a book and honored us with a rare reading of a passage last night, and I was surprised her already sharp writing skills seemed to have a still sharper edge to them. Concise and succinct, the passage read like something found in a philosophy essay written by…well, someone who knew what the hell they were talking about. Carl Sagan comes to mind, but Elbow doesn’t much like him. At any rate, even though slightly vexed by input and encouragement from the audience, she allowed she might add a few examples of what she was writing about for the readers, and the night’s conversation was set as we considered the offering. But there was a grill to ignite, and that fell to me, the Firesmith, to start the fire.
If there was nothing else vivacious and restoring about Seapond, the fact Elbow knows many writers would be enough. It would also be enough I can wander around and speak to the horses, who seem to like me, and no other animal on earth connects us back to the days of farming for a living than does the horse. Strong and sensible, horses once were all we really needed to bring forth from the earth all we really needed to live. There were transportation, work animals, recreation animals, and friends. Second only to dogs in my heart, the horses that Elbow shares her space with are good people. Diamond and her daughter, Mina, allow me to pet them, and they nuzzle me. During the party, they permit me to coax them into their paddock, where they stay at night, therefore Elbow doesn’t have to come out and be bothered with the animals. But I was speaking of writers, and Mark, a mystery writer, speaks to me of things he writes and asks me of my Demons. This is someone who has written a novel, is restructuring it, and knows what it is like to write, really write. It’s good just to be in the company of other writers, people who understand the problems of the craft, and who understand what it means to want to write, and write better. Mark is writing a novel that is filled with incredible imagery of Missouri, and all the lore that goes with that state from the time Twain walked the banks of the Mississippi. Mark, not the Twain but the friend of Elbow, has a quiet way of speaking, yet the world he describes in his novel is undeniably living loud. The master of detail and nuance, Mark has a way of putting words to a scene that challenges me to do the same. But this is the way of the writers; in each other we find ourselves all over again, to rejuvenate the way we craft words.
Sandy, Mark’s wife, is a painter, and even though I have no skill in that arena, it’s also good to be around other artists. Sandy is very much alive and is a nice counter to Mark’s quiet intellectualism. Sandy and Elbow connected through Sandy’s mother, who Sandy points out very slyly, was very active even though she was much older than Elbow. Sandy is one of those people who can get things going, gets parties started, here, you get this, I will get that, we will meet here, don’t forget the cake, and I don’t think I have ever seen the woman when she wasn’t bubbling with joy at being where she was, and doing what she was doing. She’s the perfect person to be around if you’re fretting over seventy, and before the meal has even begun, Elbow is back to be happier about the whole ordeal, which was never one to begin with.
When I arrived at Elbow’s place at Seapond, Elbow was on Skye with her son and his wife, and they have just had Elbow’s first grandson. We were treated with the sound of his first internet bowel movement, which likely was the first in the family I think. At the close of the party, Sandy asked Elbow to blow out two candles, one for the first thirty-five years of her life, and the next for the second thirty-five years. Elbow blew out the first for her son, who was born a week before she turned thirty-five, and his son was born a week before he turned thirty-five, and Elbow was born a week before her father turned thirty-five. The second candle was for the people in her life now, those at the party in particular, and being seventy suddenly meant she had lived long enough to have collected the people in her life, who were with her still.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Open

“You’ve grown in just a few months,” she said, “and this human, there is something about her isn’t there?” She wandered around the room, exploring, and waiting for his reply. She was accustomed to his silence, but after a while, she spoke again. “You’re going to a lot of trouble to hide something from me. I didn’t think you could, and maybe you cannot and just want me…”
“You, on the other hand,” he said evenly, “can hide very little from me. I do not have to explain to you the methods by which I prevent you from harm.” He remained in the bed, not pretending to sleep, but not opening his eyes, or moving. He let her pace and he waited for her to speak, because he knew she could not go for very long without conversation.
“I already know you will not allow me to leave.”She said finally.
“You know your place and purpose here.” He replied. “You came to me; I did not seek you out. Even discounting our past, and for that matter, considering our past, you would do well to stay. Your reasons for coming here exist still. You have caused me trouble, much trouble, and only by staying do you create a situation where any of this is worth my while, or amusement.”
“This human woman,” she changed the subject rapidly, and acknowledged his smile with a wave of a hand, conceding that she would have to stay, “why are you protecting her from me?”
“Be very careful.” He sat up in the bed, and swung his feet to the floor. “You are in no position to threaten me.”
They held each other’s gaze until she looked down. She walked over to the bed and sat down beside him. “Do not think me ungrateful, Regal, please.” She sighed. “This has been hard for me, you know that. I would like only to know what you’re doing. This isn’t at all what we spoke of before.”
“You have to admit,” Regal said, “you would not hesitate to do this, Rhiannon.”
“I know you.” Rhiannon said. “There is more here than killing the priests or you would have left by now, and there is more than just that woman and her plague. You would kill her outright just to teach the humans a lesson.”
“Do not pretend to be stupid, Rhiannon.” Regal warned. “You know why I allow her to live. And she too, is not fair game.”
“Do not patronize me.”
“Stop presenting me with a reason to do so, Rhiannon.” Regal lay back on the bed again. “There is something about this human, yes, I have felt it, seen it, sensed it, but past that you need not look. She does not believe I am who I say I am, she does not believe you are who you are, either, and for the most part, her mind is not accepting of anything she cannot explain on a piece of paper with a pen or put to death with a firearm. Yet you see as clearly as I do what had been marked upon her. This might be accidental…”
“That much?” Rhiannon sneered, but quickly regained her composure. “Apologies.”
“Accepted. But I have much work to do, and I have little time to do this. We, you and I, agreed that in return for the Haven, you would lend me help in this matter, and no, this is not the matter we agreed, but you can tell quite clearly how things have changed. The power you have brought here still does not equal that which might still be flung against me for harboring you, and there are many more who you have…” Regal paused. “Are you listening to me?’
“No,” said Rhiannon, “I am not. You are not speaking of that of which you think. I cannot tell what you are thinking but I can tell you are not speaking about it. How much effort are you going to go through to hide this from me? If I am to help you, as you have helped me and I am grateful for it, you can read this in me, I know you can,…” She paused and stood up and arched her back, catlike and slow, “…I understand the need for securing your plan, but if something happens to me then who will you turn to for help? No, wait, it has nothing to do with that. You cannot be afraid that me being here will cause some sort of attempt on your life for far too many rely on you to be where you are, and for you to do what you do, even…”
“Do not speak that name here!”
“…even he might come to your side were there such an attempt made. This is not going to cause some all out civil war among our kind, no matter what childish tales you whisper to those who run this place. No, you are using me. You are using the pressure from the outside to keep attention away from what is here, as you are also using that mad woman against the rest, and you are using me against them, and all of this, truly, is unworthy of your time, even to reach out and strike at the heart of Rome is a trifle for you, I know you, Regal, you hide something, and it has nothing to do with any of this you have stirred in this small pot you’re cooking here. That woman…”
“That woman has a name.” Regal said. “Colleen.”
“That’s an overly emotional response, Regal, and it is designed to make me believe you’ve taken a pet, but I do not believe it. “ Rhiannon laughed. “I am getting close to the truth here.”
“You have always been able to do more with less than any other Demon I have ever met.” Regal sighed. ‘Very well, as it seems there will be no peace for me in any case…”
“That is not possible.” Rhiannon gasped as Regal opened his mind to her. “Surely you are wrong!”

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, April 15, 2011

Two Hours There. Two Hours Back.

There was a young couple I knew who had two kids and two sets of parents. On Christmas they would get up super early, have Christmas with the kids, load the kids up, drive an hour to the wife’s parent’s house, have breakfast with them, and Christmas, and then load up, and drive five hours to the husband’s parent’s house. I told them early on this was a hellish thing to do to the kids, but they couldn’t find a way out of it that made everyone happy. We did this when I was a kid going to my grandparent’s house on Christmas, and then once my parents got divorced we would do the split Christmas thing. My father made my mother drive two hours to come get us, and then two hours to take us back to her house and then two hours to bring us back, and then two hours to get back home, and she did it, too. The distance between the two homes never decreased by a single mile and for kids on Christmas the four hours on the road were unbearable. But again, after the divorce, it was every other weekend, and it was two hours there and two hours back. This was long before MP3 players, or ear buds, or cell phones, and the only benison was trying to read a book, or escaping into my own little world.
One of my favorite storylines was that we were trying to sneak into enemy territory but they had been tipped off, and knew we were somewhere, but didn’t know where. I considered us caught if a car or truck met us at a county line, or on a bridge. If a law enforcement car met us on the open road then any car or truck behind us was in pursuit, and if they passed us we were caught. A law enforcement car behind mean we had been chased and likely would be killed. If the cops pulled out in front of us, that meant we had very stealthily slipped by them, and we were totally good at being spies.
Of course, there were various places along the way which gave us information as to where to turn or not turn, certain businesses and restaurants that had marquee signs or handwritten special of the day blackboards. Since we always took the same route, and it never changed, all I really had to do was rearrange the letters so they would in some way read, “take the next right”, or “ammo available at the filling station” or “dump your wounded in the creek” and I did think of such things, even as a child. Murray’s Mill was a place in the swamps where we could hide out for a couple of days until the military stopped search for us. We would blow up the bridge behind us if they found out we were there and raided the place. Local airports were places we would pick up scientists with doomsdays devices or our target for machinegun fire if the right person was there at the right time. Long before GPS or Google Earth I envisioned a world where a wristwatch or the car clock would have preprogrammed instructions loaded into it, somehow, and you had to drive whatever direction the clock was pointing. One hand was pointing in the direction, and the other hand would be for how far, but I hadn’t decided how units…blocks…miles…bullet riddled bodies… might be discerned. All the various gauges on the dashboard meant something and each one was always on the verge of announcing some new goal met, some new disaster befallen, or something totally unplanned for.
It was two hour there and two hours back. If I was lucky I would sleep during the ride but that was rare. It was a grand tour through a few South Georgia towns that no one has ever heard of, Bronwood, Smithville, Morgan, Arlington, and it got to the point I remembered a huge Oak that split down the middle and died, right outside of Morgan. In Smithville there was a metal pipe that looked like a water pipe for a house that ran exposed along the ground then disappeared into a clay bank. Arlington had for years the Arles Hotel but then it was torn down, but it was a great old building. We watched a movie that was over a decade long, from the time we were infants traveling that road to our grandmother’s house, during the divorce years and it finally ended when I moved out on my own, never to travel that same road again. Houses sprang up, burned down, businesses started and fail, people lived and died, and during all that while, in my mind ran a nonstop story of intrigue and drama, with each small town playing a part in it. All the while, I missed most of what was really happening. I think that was intentional.
It was two hours there and two hours back. We would ride along mostly in silence if my father was driving and mostly in silence if my mother was driving for that matter, but it was still two hours there and two hours back. I often wondered if either ever felt relieved at the end of the drive, knowing we were gone for X amount of time, and they would not have to make that drive again for Z amount of time, and there was time I never wanted to go back to either place, and I wanted just to stay in one place, any place, and never have to sit and ride back and forth as if I was a ping pong ball with no real purpose than to be moved back and forth, over the net, into the net, off the table and into some deep dark corner, or slammed hard, ricocheting awkwardly somewhere not to be found, but it was two hours there and it was two hours back.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An instinct for writing

Bert and Sam were once the top two predators in South Brooks County. Sam was fast, sleek, a black torpedo with teeth, and he could go from just loping around the fence line to full speed in less time than it takes say go. I didn’t teach Sam this. Sam arrived fully loaded and armed. Bert was already eighteen months old when Sam showed up, beaten, bloody, and starved to the point of death. They had never seen each other before, never been trained to act as a team, yet within six months of Sam arriving the two were hunting as a pack, and using skills they had never seen put to use before, and they were good. Everything I’ve truly learned about pack hunting skills I have learned from those two and I can tell you there is nothing more frightening that the efficiency with which they hunt. They have learned to use terrain, the fence, the trees, and even each other to herd prey and to guide the small mammals into each other or into the wide open spaces where Sam can put to use the one tool those two dogs have that nothing else can match, and that is Sam’s speed. It’s not much better in broken terrain because there are two dogs and usually only one prey animal. I’ve seen Bert rush into a thicket while Sam stood on the other side waiting, and receiving. I’ve seen Sam burn a trail into the ground to cut an armadillo off from getting to the fence, and when the armadillo turned it turned right into the path of an oncoming Bert. They do this without hand signals, play calling, vocals, email, or tweets.
But let’s drop it down the ladder a bit. Birds make nest that withstand an entire year of wind, rain, and weather. Bees somehow fashion a hive, build cells, find pollen, alert other bees to where it is, make honey, and they can even recognize the beekeeper by sight and not get aggressive with him. Beavers build dams that withstand flooding that concrete and steel will not. All of this, I am told and I have read, is instinct, that thing that animals have in an abundance that we have very little. Yet what exactly is it? Where is it stored? Certainly, if you damaged the brain of a dog enough you could wipe out that area of the brain where instinct might live, but that is much like destroying a cup in order to discover the properties of water.
If Bert and Sam would have been raised in an area where armadillos did not live, or if they lived in an area where armadillos were intelligent enough to stay the hell out of a fenced in yard where very clearly two large canines live, then I would have never seen them hunt, and I would have never realized how powerful instinct is when dogs do hunt. Furthermore, and this is very strange, Bert never showed the slightest aggression towards other mammals until Sam came along. Sam, on the other paw, killed the first armadillo he saw, and he did it in seconds. Bert stood back and watched the first time, but after that…
But what if we do have instincts, but we do not see the armadillos we need to chase them? What is it we do that feeds this instinct, yet merely masks what we are doing, as if we were doing the real thing, yet is a human construction, a chimera, a mechanical bunny on a racetrack for us to chase? We ask ourselves why so many people like that wretched song by Justine Barbara but why do we love music at all, of any sort by anyone? Why can it reach down deep into us, and make us happy, sad, or give us the urge to strangle teen age boys with terrible haircuts and voices like schoolgirls?
Why do we go to movies? It is learned behavior or does it speak to us in some way that our instincts need? Why would it? What sort of human behavior might watching a movie mimic? But for that matter, why would anyone, or any group of people, play video games for hours and hours and hours on end? Surely this has nothing to do with instinct, but then why do so many become addicted to this sort of behavior? Why do people do the things that people do, and why do they do it for so long? Instinct is a blanket answer in this, with no proof, but at the same time, you have to wonder if marketing does a good job because marketing itself is a tool to fashion how people react, or if marketing is build around something that exists already.
Since we’re on the subject of other people’s addictions, why not ask why I write? Certainly, if you look into humankind’s deepest roots there were no writers. It took a while for writing to be invented, and take hold, and even longer before everyone had access to it. I was over thirty before I began writing. Yet the yearning was there. The urge to write has always flowed within me. The question is why? Why write? I wrote for years before I showed anything I write to anyone and it was even longer before I posted anything in public and longer still before I was published, even on a small scale. The desire for recognition is not connected with need to write. I write because it feeds something inside of me that gets more hungry as I write. I write because I have to write or time itself distorts. I write because I am driven to it, lashed by a rain of words and winds made of sentences, and pushed along by the tide of paragraphs rising with the pages of the sun and the moon. I cannot explain to you the dogs’ hunt, the bee’s dance, the spider’s web or my writing, but I can tell you the Universe speaks in this all.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Shuffle Of Dreams

The windows are open, the frogs are strumming and croaking in the background, the winds are blowing, and Loki is restive. He wants to continue to be a puppy and nest in the crook of my arm and sleep but he is a large dog now and puts out much body heat. When the water freezes and night are long it is a good thing to have Three Dog Night. But it is warm now, warmer at night then the days where this winter, and the canines begin their yearly migration to the floor. Bert is unable to get up on the bed without help and Sam accepts the blanket on the carpet with grace. But Lucas misses me, and throughout the night whines for me to let him up on the bed with me, but I cannot. He is condemned to the lower levels of the bedroom until the night air cools again, and it will be quite some time before this happens.
There is a front coming through late, and between the warm air, the frogs, the restive Loki, and the encounter with the Rattlesnake, my subconscious is cooking. I drift in and out of sleep, in and out of the dream world, and in and out of reality. I cannot tell which is which and truly, I do not try. I dream of groups of people who are there, gone, and there again, as if I am a time traveler sitting on one location as different ages pass, and people pass in time. They seem to know, and I realize to, that I am only passing through, or perhaps they are, too. I speak with a woman who has shoulder length dark hair, and she tries to tell me as much as she can, but I fade back into a world where there is a dog whining, and the wind blows hard. I hear music, but I know it’s of the other world, and I arch my back trying to see the clock, but it is gone now. That’s an odd feeling, to be awake enough to know to look for something but still so asleep it isn’t there yet. There’s an epiphany of sorts, a startling jolt as I realize I may be dreaming of a whining dog and a storm approaching, and that is enough to wake me, I think. But I do have to work tomorrow, or later today, so if this is a dream then I need the sleep.
Faces flash past me as if they were impressed upon playing cards dancing in the wind that might be blowing. An old friend of mine sings a very bad song, but he sings it well, and the moment in transfixed, crucified in time, nailed to my subconscious with willow stakes, and forever I will have a memory of something that never happened at all, and it comes to mind that I could call my old friend, have him sing this song, and… damn, that would make it worse, wouldn’t it? But then he is gone, and the song ends, and there is a woman explaining to me if I keep doing what I am doing I will lose my job and I have no idea what she is talking about. There are a group people singing and there is a woman running and there are a group of people singing but they are all dressed as businessmen in the 1950’s and it is grey.
The Loki Mutt wakes me up.
Lucas wants out, and this time I do find the clock and it is three in the morning, red number reflecting what my eyes will look like in a couple of hours. I let the dogs out and there is running and barking and I do realize sleep may be over for the night, but I drift. The leaves outside are echoing the noise of surf that I play all night long to help me sleep. There is a great commotion and I am walking down a street and I hear the noise of the surf and leaves, and I feel cold water on my feet and ankles but there is no water. There is music, very faint music, and as I walk I cannot hear it, but as I stand still it becomes more clear. There is a white fence that is made of wood and the music is not coming from behind the fence but from within the fence itself, as if each board were playing some part of a melody, or some odd instrument, and as the wind drew across it the fence played. It sounds like….
The wind sings as it runs through the screens in the windows and now the mutts want in, and in now. The heavens open up in a rainstorm that is an intense as it is brief. A flicker of lighting chases away the thunder, and the mutts want me to get up, and I do, at twenty after four. The cacophony of voices, of song, of feelings, of everything that was dream and reality pin me back onto the bed, and I try to piece it together, like I do every morning after intense dreaming, but there is nothing there but chaos and tiny bits of gold in the pan. My day is haunted by this, and I’m not all there, and I wonder how to explain this feeling in the written word. It’s hard to have a workaday life, and be a writer, because there is no one to explain this feeling to, and no way to explain the feeling, and no reason that anyone would understand. The days passes by me much like the dream, and I wonder now if my life is someone else’s dream, and if they will not awaken, and I will be gone, and they will go on with their day, and have these same feeling that I thought were mine, and will they wonder how to explain the shuffling of the dreams in the night?

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Writers and Snakes

Elbow and I went walking today and this is her first walk as a grandmother. The grandchild, the grandson now, I had no idea what gender the child would be up until the birth, is the reason for Elbow beginning to try to get into better shape, and I’m more or less her trainer. When I call today she tells me it’s too hot and I brush her objections aside. It really isn’t that hot, after all, and with no small amount of reluctance, she agrees to mush on.
The woman dithers, did I mention that? Sometimes she had her walking boots on, and sometimes she has her utility belt on, and sometimes she even has her spiffy walking visor on, but rarely does she have all three on and ready to go. Not infrequently she’s still writing but I can forgive writing. Today I arrived and she’s doing the dishes in an Act Of Epic Dithering. It’s not really dithering but an intentional act of delay. Elbow doesn’t like the heat. When it comes to comfort that is where you will find her. She tells me a man once told her that her hands had never seen any work harder than turning the page of a book, and she agrees there is some truth to that.
I can write about writing to anyone but to speak to another person about writing takes some doing. It’s personal to me. It’s something that I don’t share with just anyone. There are a few women I’ve know that I’ve slept with that didn’t know I wrote. Only one person at works knows. Yet Elbow and I can walk and talk about writing, and she tells me that I must be more careful when speaking to writers who have been writing for a while. I have a tendency to not have the assumed knowledge that writers have once they reach a certain level in their work, and because I know so few writers, I have no experience in this. In other words, I should listen more and question less. I think about this and come up with what Elbow thinks is a good analogy. When I tell someone a certain snake is of a certain species and they wonder aloud if I’m right, then I should explain why I’m right, but once I’ve done that, in detail, then unless they know more about snakes than I do, which is rare, they ought to just assume I’m right, or go look it up for themselves. Find commonality in this analogy, and we both like it. Elbow tells me about the time she and a few others were walking out here and they came upon a large snake. The snake was very dark, coiled but not cocked to strike, and they stood and debated what species the snake might be. Theo, the ancient Black Lab and something les mix went nose to nose with the snake and the snake never moved. I was going to ask how she discovered it was a Cottonmouth, when out of the corner of my eye I was a rattlesnake, and we had three dogs with us.
In cases like these you make the decisions you can live with, and you live with them. Izzy is part Jack Russell and part meth lab. I cannot catch him on my good days and he will not come to me when I call, if he rather not. I can catch Lucy, the Great Pyrenees, and she will come to me. She offers no resistance when I grab her collar and none of the three dogs show any sign they’ve seen the snake. Elbow grabs Theo, the huge Back Lab. We herd the two dogs forward and Izzy follows. None of the dogs show the slightest sign they’ve seen the snake, but Elbow has, and she is distressed.
There wasn’t a question of me going after the snake. This is a four foot long Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, thick and lethal. Alone, without the dogs in tow, and possibly in the way, I could have, with the right equipment, caught this snake, but I’m at an age now where I don’t catch a snake like this without a damn good reason. This is more than enough to kill Izzy before we can get him to a vet. A snake like this can end a small dog’s life far more quickly than you might think. The large dogs stand some chance, but this isn’t something I want to test, and Elbow wants to be in another time zone. I count seven rattles on the tail as we leave.
Snakebite is very rarely fatal but it is nearly always nasty. You will not die, but for about two days you’re gonna wanna. It is painful and it is ugly. Swollen flesh splits and rots. Bad things happen when snake venom, which is a form of digestive juice, starts dissolving living tissue; the smaller the victim the worse the affects. All of Elbow’s dogs top out over seventy pounds, but Izzy, who is barely twenty. If a snake that size hits him, and pumps him with everything he has, Izzy will die on the way to the vet’s office. If the snake hits any of the other dogs with everything, it is still iffy. Elbow and I stand a slightly better chance, but with a full does of venom, I do not like those odds. Back away from the armed reptile!
This is the one day I did not bring my camera and we talked about that as we left the house. This would be the one day something interesting pops up and sure enough. We walk back to the house, get Elbow’s camera, and go back, but the snake is gone. It would have been magnificent. This is an adult, fully grown and in fresh color at the right time of the day for good light. Rarely are the big ones seen, and even more rarely will someone let them live. We have passed within his reach, and he ours, and everyone lives in peace.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Summer Of 2011....has begun!

Here it is April the tenth, 2011, and it already feels like Summer. Actually ninety degrees is a welcome relief when August comes knocking, and she will but it was ninety today for the first time this year and I proclaim it the first day of Summer therefore. The heat brings the humidity with Her, like someone who has talked you into letting them stay in your spare bedroom to get out of an abusive relationship and the next day the boyfriend moves in while you’re at work. Because there are babies, stickiness, sweat, and exhaustion, you’re just too tired to argue with it and those who think the stay will only be three months clearly have no dealings with abusive relationships or Sothern Summers. A month will pass and it will get worse. Two months will go by and you swear t will never end. The fourth of July will seem like some sort of celebration of Purgatory. August will be a guided tour of Hell. September will be a false Prophet and only October will bring real relief. One hundred and seventy three days lie between us and the end of Summer.
Mostly we have to put up with those Winged Heralds Of Summer which would be gnats. Mosquitoes are bad enough, and they are not, contrary to rumor and what most people around here might tell you, The Georgia State Bird. But gnats! They are one tenth the size of a housefly, and for reasons no one can explain, they swarm by the thousands around human faces, particularly the mouth, eyes, nose, and ears. Foreigners swat at them and the indigenous people just spit them back out. If you are stoic enough, or just too damn hot and tired to care, you can actually get used to the idea of letting them crawl around in your nose and eyes and never try to rub them out. They’ll leave on their own soon enough, in a hundred seventy days or so.
Then there are the fireants. Some people believe that when fireants are killed they come back as gnats to torment those who killed them. Were that true I would have a cloud of gnats hovering over me….wait, I do. Wow. The South can provide you with proof of the afterlife, or Hell in this one depending on how poorly you handle the heat. But fireants are demonic little bastards. They crawl upon their victim by the thousands then all sting in unison once a chemical agent is released and they just keep stinging until they are dead. In the South, more people are killed by fireants each year than venomous reptiles have killed in the last one hundred years.
What’s more each new day will be a carbon copy of the day before and if for some reason all the calendars went missing, you’d never be able to tell one day from the next. Hot. Sticky. Long. And the nights? Hot. Sticky. And not as long. The sun comes up, She stays up, the mercury rises, and stays up, and there is no sense in talking about it past the eleventh of July because at that point you’re barely half way through it all. The nights are worse because even in the longest part of the night you can feel the heat of the day that has soaked into the earth raising out of it. Pavement leeches heat back into the air. Buildings radiate it. And it seems like even the rain just came out of a hot tub. Afternoon rains, when they do come, and they do frequently, leave the air heavy with moisture that turns into a omnipresent fog in the air. The heat stays and makes it worse. There is no cooling effect unless you get soaking wet and then crawl inside of an icemaker.
The heat makes people bitchy. One month of it turns into two months of it turns into three months of it, and by the end of July people are sick to death of being hot all the damn time, and days are creeping by. The heat wears people out, weakens them, drains them when they try to work, stifles them if they try to rest, and sweat leaks out of the human body as if someone had but the ocean and it was bleeding. Gnats, mosquitoes, fire ants, heat, humidity and it never ends. Gnats, mosquitoes, fire ants, heat, humidity and it never ends. Gnats, mosquitoes, fire ants, heat, humidity and it never ends. By the end of August there seems like there might be an end to it, but the first part of September is also Summer, and there is no hope given there.
Yet Southerners venture forth, as always. Old men plants gardens, old women hang the clothes out to dry, and those of us not raised inside with an air conditioner dare the Summer to kill us. There is green beauty in all of this, the near tropical explosion of life outside in the midst of all this. Southern Summer is not for the timid or the weak. This is a condition that can kill those with little heart for searing heat and soaring temperatures. But there are crops to harvest, vegetables that demand attention, and the earth, for whatever She might issue forth to torment us with, will provide us with all we need to survive. There are those of us who will go out in the heat of the day, when it is at its very worst, and we will see what we can do, see what can be done, and we ensure for the sake of enduring, for the sake of allowing ourselves to become used to it, and we discover that as bad as it might be we can still go forth with our lives. Sweat pours from the body, gnats swarm, fireants sting, the heat enters the body and soaks deep into the mind, yet in the middle of a five mile run you know, you truly know, it cannot kill you, no….not yet.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Perfect Couples. Perfect Wrecks.

In my life I have known the inside story of two perfect couple, each separated from the other by a decade and I wonder, truly wonder, if sometimes two people do not get together and say, “We have an image to protect so this is how we’re going to act in front of other people” while back at home it’s a cross between trench warfare and some psychological torture test where each person tried to be the last one to run fleeing from a room that is on fire, and full of angry weasels. Both times I got a close up look at what had happened and both times wish I had not.
The first perfect couple was two people I knew back in High School and Jim and Barbara got married even before she graduated, and he had already dropped out. They seemed an odd couple for he was a drummer and she was a reader, but they did make a perfect couple. It was two or three years ago when her second husband died that Barb told me about some of the things Jim had done, and after he was arrested on a sexual assault charge against a minor did I realize that the dream world did not exist, and things were not as they seemed anywhere. Barbara married young to escape the sexual assaults from her stepfather and whatever was happened to her when Jim was around she at least didn’t have to worry about her own mother’s complicity in the crime, at any rate. I found it very odd she traded monsters like that, but the older I get the more I realize it is not odd at all. Well, it is odd, just not uncommon.
Mark and Jolene were a young couple I met right after I moved to Valdosta and there were no monsters here, and they seemed to be the perfect very young very happy couple fortunate another to have found who they were meant to be with early in life. Jolene was an intense and beautiful woman, part Asian and part feline, who stopped conversations when she walked into the room. But she was also a genuinely nice person. She and I once sat down and discussed why my own relationship was sinking slow, and I didn’t realize until she pointed out that if I was at a party without the woman I was supposed to be in love with, and it was the woman’s choice, maybe things weren’t altogether right. The woman who was the object of my affection wasn’t a drinker, and I never could see why that was a problem, but Jolene did. As much as she tried to explain it to me, I missed that point, and a few others.
Mark was a very good example of a man who was intoxicated with the idea of having a woman like Jolene loving him, but instead of trying to keep her, he spent his time trying to prove to other people he was so good that even a woman like Jolene would allow herself to be done wrong and still be there for him. He started singing in a band, and even though he really wasn’t very good, men in bands tend to believe they are always on the very cusp of greatness, and the next gig with less than a hundred people there will be the one that sets everything in motion and sets everything on fire. I’ve seen this sort of thing before, and it always seems the men involved make the choice to take on a lifestyle that is going to lead to a lot of personal destruction in the name of being someone they wish they could be instead of being who they really are. I think Jolene might have walked away in the middle of all this but she got pregnant, and this is where I got a front row seat to all of it, with popcorn.
After the baby arrived Mark decided that it wasn’t in his best interest to live with Jolene and the baby so he moved in with me. In public, Mark liked to tell people in general, and women in particular, how much in love he was with being a father and having a son, but the truth of the matter was he would stand out in the yard, a foot from the road, and wait for Jolene to arrive so he could all but fling the child into the car with her, and he could be on his way. He still went over to her place to he could get a free meal and get laid but Jolene with a kid, even his kid, was an anchor dragging him down. He told me one night that as much as he loved her, he was born to be a lead singer and there wasn’t anything he could do about that because lead singers were always that way. Lead singers also get stoned with their friends, tie dye a bunch of stuff, use their roommate’s towels to wipe up the dye, and then stuff the towels into their roommates dirty clothes basket and forget to tell them. The next time I did laundry everything I owned got dye all over it, and Mark bailed rather than pay for the damaged clothing. Like most people in his life, I picked up the tab for him being him, and he thought that was the way life would always be.
Jolene found someone new, someone interested in her, and helping her raise her son, and Mark tried to get her back, and failed, and failed publically, and miserably. After years of having her chase every stick he threw, Jolene put him on the road and more or less let him know his days of pretending to be a father were over. Mark went off the deep end, realizing what he had lost, and they had to put him in rehab for a while. Jolene and the baby went off with her new man, and Mark was left to wallow in the life he had tried for so long to make his own.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where Plants Die and Machines Fail

Whatever else the Universe has given me, the ability to work with my hands is not one of them. Hell, my handwriting is so bad I cannot read it sometimes. If it involves a wench or a hammer it will not be pretty. People leave the area code when I pick up power tools. The Red Cross calls in when I use a chainsaw. The difference between me intentionally destroying a vehicle and repairing that same vehicle is virtually indistinguishable. Working on anything that has electricity is an exercise in faith that not only will I not kill myself, I also won’t burn the down the house, or violate some law of physics that will cause a hole in the space time continuum that will suck all life away from this Universe and cause Disco to return, wait that’s redundant.
It really isn’t fair, because I also have a brown thumb. I can’t raise vegetables, flowers, trees, or for that matter, anything that requires sunlight to grow, and to make it worse, my only swing at mushroom farming turned a spare closet into a little room that smelled of dead fungus and cow manure. I had an Aloe Vera plant to die, which is a lot like having a dust bunny found dead under your bed. Were there only some social or personal value in the green stuff in the refrigerator I would be a famous horticulturalist but no. There are also no points given for weeds or Spanish Moss both of which thrive here where purposeful plants come to die.
But let never be said I have surrendered to this curse, nay, not for one hour or one day. I’ve had a mulch pile for years now, and decided that in a fit of total greenness, I would venture forth back into farming, and coax from the earth food. This is a lot like Custer saying he was going to make an attempt at getting the Sioux to surrender before he hurt them anymore. This is like Captain Smith ordering a drink with extra ice. This is like Steve Bartman buying a new glove. This is like Facebook thinking their security measures are just too damn tough. So I hatched a plan, and plants throughout the world, trembled.
The plan was actually a two pronged attack on multiple fails. I would go into town, get stuff for an oil change, and plants to put into the earth. My first trip was to the farm store, where the man who owns it, sold me pepper plants and crushed my dreams. The mulch pile stuff is likely too acidic, he said, without lime, and it takes months for the lime to take effect. On the upside, such as it might be, pepper plants are usually hardy and might actually survive. He is a man schooled in both farming and would be farmers. He sold me five plants, and wished me the best of luck. The pepper plants screamed in terror all the way home.
Back home, I decided to use the old Oak stump in the front yard as a planter. What could be greener? I went out to the mulch pile and filled the wheel barrow with rich black dirt. This was going to be good! The wheelbarrow is well over ten years old, at least, and it creaks and shakes on its way to the front yard. I dumped all the mulch in, and lo! Wow! That stump hole is bigger than I thought! I pushed the wheelbarrow back and got another load. Hmmmm, it’s going to take some more, but I decided to mix in some regular dirt, just to make the stuff more firm. I dig a hole in the woods with a shovel, and just as soon as I have the wheelbarrow full and begin to move it, the tire goes flat. Okay. I go get the truck and the air pump that runs off the cigarette lighter receptacle, but I still have to get the wheelbarrow closer. I manage to move it about ten feet and the handle breaks off. Damn. Now I’m out a wheelbarrow, and I have to use that tiny garden cart to get the dirt to the front yard. Do you see a pattern here? Even before I put the plants into the ground damn little goes right and I lose a wheelbarrow. Yes, it is ancient and rusting through in places and rotten, but at the same time, this is a device that has been around since 2002 or so. The tiny garden cart is just slightly better than dragging the dirt around by hand. Damn.
I mixed the dirt in together and there is something spiritual about mix dirt and mulch by hand, getting muddy, getting sweat in your eyes, getting swarmed by gnats, but putting plants into the ground that, for most people, means there will be food coaxed from this earth. I go to the wrong church, believe in the wrong gods, and my prayers go unanswered, but I still go through the trial of planting. I still feel as if my belief is a good thing. I still think of heaven, even if in a week, or less, my poor pepper plants will lie dead, dead, dead and brown in the sun.
I put a Haberneros plant in the middle and surround it with four jalapeno plants around it. I make sure the roots aren’t packed, and I try to space them out a bit. I do not want to use chemical help for this, and some say this dooms me anyway. I don’t care. This is my pilgrimage to Mecca. This is my trip up the mountain. This is my religion. These are my prayers, to be answered or denied, not by my efforts alone, but along with all the luck or ill fortune ever befallen any farmer. The earth will accept all that enters her, but She will give back in ways that serves what She sees fit, in some way. Some She rewards, others punish, but She is blind to need or prayer or hope, and we can only hope that before it is our turn to enter the earth, we can entice something from Her, that makes us feel whole in some way.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Fluffy Stray Gives You A Chance To Die A Horrible Death

The cat who was slinking around the house last winter is still around, and yes, I have been sneaking dog food out to it, much to the mutts’ distress. Food leaving the house instead of coming in is enough to worry Sam but for me to be opening up some sort of feline food bank is enough for him to yip at me. Sam knows that the amount of food can indeed be finite, and that the more you give away the less you have. Yet somewhere inside I believe that Sam understands love, and the more you give away the more you have.
A few years ago I tried having a cat and all hell broke loose and there was some very nasty conversations about pack hierarchy that involved me sitting on top of Sam, nose to nose with him, telling him in a very calm voice that I was who decided if we were going to have a cat or not. I made no small amount of headway with Sam but the damn cat up and died on me of natural causes. I miss Wakita. I miss having a cat around. Things have changed around the house and there is a new top dog, Lucas, who seems to understand what I want out of dogs better than the Elder Mutts. Bert is getting too old to chase anything anymore. He half heartedly charges at armadillos and then turns around and pretends they ran away. Bert is old and stiff and his time is limited. I never realized how much Sam had slowed down until Lucas got his feet under him in a big way. Sam hasn’t a chance to catch Lucas on a dead run, or even in close cornering. Sam’s days as a speed merchant are over. At nearly ten years old, Sam’s days are now beginning to draw shorter for him, but he has had ten years that he should not have, by all rights. Stay dogs in the woods get no second chances, no reprieves, no good homes, but Sam did all of that. Forever scarred by the first three months of his life, Sam has never wavered in his belief that food is something sacred and each meal an event. Sam has taught me much.
Lucas doesn’t seem to have the drive to hunt the other two started out with, and honestly, Bert didn’t begin with it until Sam arrived. I don’t think Bert ever killed anything before Sam got here. Lucas did go after a squirrel once, and got him, too, but overall he just likes to run. He is the only dog that lives with me right now who I can tell to sit and to stay and he is going to do just that, even if the other two dogs are eating something yummy just a few feet away. Luke wants to do what I want him to do, and he likes doing it. Nothing makes him happier than for me to put him through this leash training, sit, stay, go, stop, and all the while the half tail he has is stiff and attentive, his ears up, and that dead serious look on his face.
I don’t give a damn what anyone says about Pit Bulls. You cannot find a better animal to spend your life with. Lucas shows every sign on earth there is some pit in him and I could not be happier. True enough, you have better train a pit to be a pet, and you must, you must, you must, give a pit some running room or some hard exercise but if you make a pit part of the family you will never, ever, have that dog harm you or anyone you show the slightest affection towards. Someone trying to harm you, or your kids, is going to discover why pits have a very bad reputation has as close in hard biting blood bringing fighters because each and every one of them has that inside. So does every good mother, and you know it. They are fanatical about kids and family. I would not give you a dime for a species of animal who isn’t and a lot of human beings come perilously close to that ten cent discount. In a perfect world I would fence off ten acres, get about ten pit bulls, and I would have a swimming pool and a running track, and a very large bed.
Oh, and totally no fear of ever being broken into at night.
So I am going to draw the fluffy stray in, and I am going to train Lucas to like cats, or at least not eat them. Bert will be indifferent, and I am nearly sure that Lucas will act as enforcer. He’s done if before with the other two, well, at least Sam because Lucas knows better than to mess with Bert around me. Bert is a special dog, still.
So what shall we call the Fluffy Stray? I am assuming it is a boy cat because it has been around for a few months and not had kittens. It could be fixed but I have never been that lucky. I think I’ll have a naming contest, and offer to kill off all contestants but the winner in some horrible tale of a cat like monster. Each person can enter only one name, and must decide as to whether or not they want to be dismembered, eaten, or merely be a casualty of the original event, whatever caused the cat monster to appear. Contestants will have their real life attributes attached to their characters, and each person who enters can email me and offer to kill off someone else in an interesting way, and I’ll think about it.
But first I have to lure in the Fluff Cat, and start getting the mutts to start liking the idea of there being a small mammal that is not prey in the house with us. This ought to be interesting.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Driven Crazy

Driving on the Interstate is a bit counter intuitive because in a world where everyone else is crazy it is dangerous to be the only sane person around, and possibly moving more slowly than the crazies. So on the Interstate I find a pack of cars moving a little faster than the rest, and I drop back a football field or so behind them, and wait for the next pack to arrive. There will be some free running speedsters in there, and there will be some slower vehicles we catch up to, but all on all, once you find a school to swim in, you can just go with the flow.
I once went to Virginia in my truck and I got into the groove several times and watched the miles get eaten away by the hours, and the hours melt away under the road. Four or five hours later I was hundreds of miles away from the last tank of gas, and several Classical CDs deep into thought. But today was a short trip, just fifty miles or so, and I couldn’t really consider this an Interstate trip for me, but it was for some of the other people with me.
There was a guy, and I assume it is a male, but I have met stupid women drivers too, who even though there were three open lanes, passed me and then cut in front of me as if we were in some sort of race. On the Interstate it isn’t as bad to have someone do this but on four laned roads these people will sometimes slow down, or even make a right turn a hundred feet away from where they cut you off. I knew a guy who would get on a four laned road and set up in the fast lane, yet at the same speed as someone in the right hand lane. He would wait until someone faster tried to pass him and then he would speed up, causing them to have to get behind him or drop back. He loved this. He could do it all day long, slowing down and speeding up just to hinder other people’s progress. I hated riding with him, and I think he did it just to piss off his passengers as well as other drivers.
It’s not safe out there. Other people are either more sane than you, or they are less sane than you. That’s a fifty- fifty given. But some people might be a lot more sane than you, and some will be, terribly less sane than you, and if you are screwing around to begin with then you’re putting lives at risk. A few years ago someone called 911 and told them there was someone chasing them on I-75 and no one will ever know the real story. But it looked like car one had stopped in front of car two, forcing car two to stop, and truck zero rammed car two, glanced off, and then slammed into car one, killing three of the people inside, including a seven year old boy. There was a burned spot near Exit Sixteen where the car had blazed out and we resurfaced that part of I-75 this Summer. I watched them mill up that spot. I watched them overlay it. Now, I don’t feel that bump when I pass that spot. Now I don’t see it. But I still can sense the souls of three people, burned to death, on the road, in the name of gross stupidity.
The next time you’re watching a baseball game look at what happens when someone is hit in the head by a ninety miles an hour fastball. They wear helmets, but chances are someone is going to be lying on the dirt, writhing in pain, and it is not uncommon for someone to take a trip in an ambulance to a hospital after a hit in the head, with a baseball, at ninety miles an hour. Now, when you’re tailgating a big truck, and something comes out from under that truck at, let’s say, seventy-five miles an hour, and you’re going seventy-five miles an hour, you’re going to get impacted by something doing one hundred and fifty miles an hour, or somewhere in neighborhood of oh shit this is going to hurt. If it is a baseball sized piece of concrete or asphalt that means it’s going to go from the outside of your car to the inside of your car, and your windshield, designed not to shatter into a billion pieces, will collapse and then come apart into hundreds of pieces. Those pieces will be very sharp, be moving very fast, and they will not improve your looks, or make you smarter. Because you were stupid, and stupid breeds, that means the person behind you is as close to you as you were to the truck, and when you slam on the brakes that person is going to nail you. Oddly, this is likely the only event that will keep people from tailgating.
There is a guy I know who confronts people about the way they drive. If someone cuts him off he will follow them to the next traffic light and get out and say something to them. He followed a woman who had nearly hit him by running a stop sign until she called the cops. I hope his wife has life insurance on him because I cannot think of a better way to get shot.
You car is made of the same type stuff fighter aircraft were once made from back in World War Two. It’s very thin metal and some of it is not even that. They made fighter planes this way for speed, and because the people inside of them, were trained damn well, yet in their own way, expendable, as all people are in war.

If you ever talk to a fireman who has put out a burning car with a seven year old inside of it, perhaps you’ll slow down.

Take Care,
Mike