Saturday, June 28, 2014

Writing with the Demon Muse and The Wife Beater at Starbucks on a Saturday Morning Using a Pen.

Poets, I think, sift words while writers construct. The thing, the real thing, is to be able to sift or construct or weld or meld at will. This ability or this inability defines the work of an artist of any sort.
To wit: The obstacle of the day would be the lack of a keyboard because I’m in Starbucks and I do not own a laptop. I loathe writing by hand but the Demon Muse very politely asks me to write and I know it will be the last time She is nice about it at all. Being in public can be a plus even though there is a guy in front of me that is overloud. That’s not the big deal right now though. The big deal right now is I had to sit here because it’s the only place in the building I can be directly behind and therefore invisible to, the companion to the overloud, The Wife Beater.

In a city where there’s the better part of 50,000 souls you’d think I wouldn’t run into one of the few people on earth I rather not see again, ever. But then again, you have to hear this story because while I was sitting there I realized that it was the one that needed to be told. The Demon Muse is delighted. What good fortune to have a story delivered with caffeine and an ink pen!

Many years ago, this guy, this one right there, no more than six feet from me, honestly, I think he can hear me writing he’s so close, moved into the apartment downstairs from me. He was one of those men who were going through a divorce and was on a mission to make sure everyone on earth heard him refer to his former as “that whore”. The single most salient feature of their marriage wasn’t their kids or the time they spent together or anything other than the fact that she was no longer Mrs. Wife Beater, no,  she was now “that whore”. I’ve got a theory on men who have to define someone they were once married to like that, or for that matter, any woman. I didn’t know he was a wife beater when I met him but I knew there was something there that I didn’t like. The word “whore” when used by a man says a lot more about the man than the woman, I have discovered.


When he sold me a handgun dirt cheap I immediately registered it with the local cops because I already had a permit to carry but I also wanted them to know where that gun was, just in case. I still have that gun, by the way, but I no longer carry. The best way to never use a gun is to never have one.

So TWB was all set to move out of the apartment after many months of fun and adventure and he had hooked up with a woman very much younger than he. I had met a woman and when she came over for the first time she saw TWB and declared, “That’s the guy who beat his wife and kids up!” and so I heard the rest of the tale. Seems the guy had a drinking problem and a temper. He came home in a rage and put his wife, who was a nurse, in the ER and then slapped the kids around a good bit. The nurse’s friends at the hospital took a ton of photos so TWB went to jail and then got taken to the cleaners. That was why he sold the gun; he needed money desperately.

So now the story changed a bit. Because I now knew someone who knew him, TWB’s story also included the part about her being a pathological liar as well as “that whore”. He seemed convinced that every time my friend came over we were going to talk about him so he started trying to come over every time she walked through the door. It got to the point he seemed fixated on her and this drove his young girl friend to get into a screaming match with him one night because he went for the door every time my friend showed up. We could hear them and it was surreal as hell. The cops were called before blood flowed, and honestly, when cops know you’ve beaten up a woman and two kids, well, they don’t listen to you after that. They are more than delighted to put some cuffs on you and put you in a car. They will also allow you to talk your way deeper into any hole you’ve dug and at least one of them was willing to get into the ring with him, if he really wanted that sort of action. TWB had to assure the cop that he wasn’t looking for a fight. We really and truly thought the cop was going to take him down hard, and secretly, I think whole scene made my female friend just a little…happy. He was sure I called the cops and after that, we didn’t speak again.

So here I am, six feet away at the most from him and I’m amazed at how much like himself he looks. Same hair style, same bushy moustache, same glasses, and he looks pretty much the same as he did many years ago, but older. It’s odd to be writing about someone who is sitting that close to me yet unaware that soon, part of his past will be part of my writing. It’s odd that of the four people who were there that night, other than the cops, he’s the only one I’ve seen again in decades. I wonder if he would recognize me. I wonder how his kids turned out. I wonder what happened to his wife who I hope found happiness.

I wonder if a man who fell low enough to stoop to hitting his wife and kids really wants to drink coffee with someone who knows this about him. I’ll never know. I finish this and slip away with the Demon Muse, who is happily planning to use this person in my next story that needs a murder victim.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Crescent Moon Defense of the Bird Feeder and Armadillo Massacre .



I didn’t move out into the woods to declare war on nature. I think I do a pretty good job living in peace with my wild neighbors. I don’t shoot the deer that come to graze in my yard. I don’t kill the venomous snakes that slither through on a regular basis. I don’t even raise an eyebrow when a coyote passes by but I think they know where I stand on the issue. We’ve talked about it, the coyotes and I, and we all agree that some space is needed for there to be an easy truce. I have a very great respect for pack hunting techniques and I rather they be deployed somewhere out of shotgun range. See how well that works out when it is worded the right way? I have a fence. The Mutts and I live inside the fence. Everything else can live outside the fence, or if they act sensibly, as the deer do, they can even come inside.

The armadillos and I have spoken about this. I do not think my words mean what they think they mean, thank you Inigo Montoya.

In thirteen years I have never killed an armadillo here. Well, I did shoot one in the head but Bert and Sam had done unspeakable things to it before I could call them off. I have saved the lives of at least three. While it was just Sam and Lucas no armadillos died. The addition to Lilith added a pure blooded huntress to the pack and while she’s not really built for heavy lifting, Lilith is made entirely of the speed and she comes bundled with a laser like focus. She only has to slow something down until Lucas arrives. Lucas is a charge in, frontal assault, let’s trade artillery fire, fuck you that’s why, teeth first fighter. If you can’t get away from Lilith in just a couple of seconds your odds of survival are going to decrease as that sound you hear rumbling towards you increases in volume. Lucas has the stealth of a falling tree with a siren on it.

There’s some wisdom in this sort of fighting. Lilith is like Bert in that she growls while she’s closing in on her prey. Bert had this weird sounding growly cough that exploded from his chest as he got close. I think that’s to panic the prey. It ought’a. To have a predator coming in on you at speed making that sound gives you about a second to decide what to do and you have to be right. I haven’t seen Lilith kill yet but I watched Bert and Sam kill as a team. It’s a very reasonable thing for me to speak to the coyotes about fences. Pack hunting is as an efficient way of killing I have ever seen, short of gunfire and hour long lectures by Christian preachers.

I’ve tried to dissuade the killing of armadillos by the mutts but the first thing I have to do is make sure that it’s an armadillo they’re going after before I can tell them to stop. Last night, at just about midnight, Lilith growled at something outside and Lucas stood up on the bed.  I started to get up when Lilith headed towards the back door and Lucas leapt down. They collided. Bert and Sam were so much better at this sort of thing than the L Hounds are, really. But honestly, it sounded a lot like someone who weighs four hundred pounds just fell out of bed. If you’re trying to break into a place and you hear demonic barking and then a really loud thud… in how many ways will this be a good thing for you?

By the time I realize there isn’t a person out there it is over in a big way. The armadillo is dead. I chase the dogs back inside, get a shovel, and toss what remains over the fence near the back of the property.

So, here’s the thing; why are they here? For thirteen years there have been dozens of ‘dillos killed here in a fashion that least resembles the way that I want to die. I know these critters aren’t the genius of their genus, oh damn, wait they are, in fact. Hmm, this explains why there aren’t any others. Nevermind. But anyway, it’s pretty clear to everyone else in the woods that dogs live here. Not the small yappy kind of lap dogs but dogs that have a serious attitude problem with trespassing with the ways and means to enforce certain local canine ordinances involving loitering. Why the hell would anything that is just slightly faster than terrified toad tempt fate in this manner? Does not the empty shells and broken bodies of their breathen mean death to the rest of them or do they think they’ll eventually wear the dogs down?

So at three in the morning another one shows up.

Wanna go through it again with me? One more time, chapter and verse, with feeling.

This one makes it under the shed where I can neither help nor hinder him. I can herd the dogs back inside but Lilith will not be denied. An hour later I release the hounds and they catch the poor beast in the open. In the meantime, I’ve gotten about two hours’ worth of sleep.

So tonight I’m turning on the AC and I’m closing the doors and windows. No one goes or goes until I decide to get up. There’s a dozen vultures hanging around outside the fence trying to get to the graveyard but the mutts are standing vigil. It’s time for them to come inside and be domesticated beings for a while, I think.

I did not come out here to declare war on nature. I think I have done a good job at this but my chosen companions are not the type of creatures whose own natures will be totally stilled. Inside of them, as there is inside of me, lurks the wildness that I came here to discover.
I live in peace as much as I can, and in their own way, so do the mutts.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Making Love to The Summer in the Powerline Shade



It’s 72 degrees when I get up, or rather when Lucas and Lilith get me up, at four-thirty. Lucas wants to be petted, Lilith wants to cuddle, Sam is still asleep, and it will be a very long day before I can sit down and write what you are now reading. But I knew that coming into the day, no, not the part about the L Hounds waking me fifteen minutes early, but I knew it was going to be a very long day. It’s going to be ninety-seven today and there won’t be much of a chance of even the slightest breeze.

Ninety-seven isn’t the worst I’ve seen in my life but it’s the hottest it has been this year, and it is still two days before Summer really begins. I’ve worked in hot weather most of my life and believe it or not, hot is a state of mind, as long as you’re smart about it. Most people aren’t smart about it at all. But then again, most people are trying to avoid the heat. I’ve put myself directly in its path.

The sun begins to heat clothing up by ten. Stay in direct sunlight for more than a few minutes and suddenly your jeans feel very hot. Metal tools left in the sun feel warm to the touch. The humidity begins to really kick in and suddenly it’s not only uncomfortable out there it’s downright hot.

At one in the afternoon I can feel the sweat running down my back. A rivulet of salt water running down the back of one leg winds its way down slowly as the heat begins to turn flesh into a molten form of meat. Everything begins to soften and liquefy. The grease in heavy machinery oozes where it once stayed globbed around fittings. Ice turns to water and water returns to the air quickly enough to watch. The only shade is from the power lines running overheard and there is nowhere to hide from the sun.

I love it.

I haven’t turned on the AC in my house yet. I’m trying to toughen myself up a bit and get used to the heat and it seems to be working. By two the Afternoon furnace is on in all its splendor. The sky is cloudless and dust dropped from the hand falls straight down like a smoke plume filmed in reverse. Summer is here. Like a bleak but bright dragon that crawled up from the horizon and the heart of the sun, Summer roars out Her one word message to all who live under her reign; heat.

We have a new guy at work and he’s a young man. He doesn’t wear a hat and he thinks we’re there to watch others work and then go hide in the field office and solve all the world’s problems on a smart phone. I have to remind myself that this is the generation that grew up watching endless loops of the same movie videos all the time as children. They still have some of that in them because there’s a website that shows very short videos of people doing truly stupid things and this generation loves to watch them over and over and over again.

Summer isn’t listening.


At three he decides he’s had enough and goes to sit in his truck. This is very bad policy. It shows weakness in front of other men and it shows a lack of interest in work. He has a job to do even in Summer. Those of my generation would have never been the first to fold. I’m over twenty years older than he. I’m not very happy with the lack of grit in this one. You can send them to college but you can’t teach them to think like men.

I get in front of his truck and start doing push-ups. He stares at me as if I’ve lost my mind. The men on the work crew cheer. I do each push up slowly, methodically, and I grin. After twenty I get up and walk away. The men cheer loudly. The young man has to get out of the truck now and he knows he can’t retreat back into the safety of the AC once he gets out.

It’s ninety-seven degrees outside and he has to face this.

The heat is not terrible. It’s bad, certainly bad, but it hasn’t developed the bite it will have in July and August. Take a deep breath, Young Man, and feel the heat inside of your body. Take a Deep Breath and feel your body surrounded by it. This is Summer, Young Man. She’s fighting you but you cannot fight Her. Seduce Her. Make love to Her. This is Summer in all Her glory.

There is something intrinsically sexual about Summer. There is a fire that belongs to lust and Summer. There is a shortness of breath and a sapping of strength that you can only find in Summer or the body of a lover. Remember one night, when there was no real temperature, and a woman led you into her bed, and slowly the sheets warmed, the air of the bedroom warmed, the candles flickered and dripped with heat, and then suddenly, you were there and she was there and there was a point that was just beyond the reach of the moment when passion was whipping you both to that point and you could feel the hellish and heavenly brink that you drove her towards and she drove you onward then at that moment, that exact moment, there was nothing but that moment for you both, at the same time, in the same instant, in the same fire. Later, with sweat pouring off of hills and valleys and muscles and hair, there was the realization of heat, true heat, an inner heat that was generated with love and passion and hard, really hard work with, for, and inside, of someone. But no one ever ran and hid from that heat, no, for no one who ever ran and hid could ever know of Her heat, could they?

I love this time of year. I love the Summer. I love the heat.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Don't Drink The Church Kool-Aid!




There’s a sign out by the road on my way to work that is advertising “Free Kids Event” and I doubt it’s about adoption. I also doubt that it is really free because whoever is throwing this event has something they’re selling. It’s like passing a used car lot where there is a “Free Hot Dogs!” being shilled. No one really thinks a free hot dog is going to talk anyone into buying a used car but the idea is to get a target within range and then unload some sort of sales speak upon the unwary. After all, they gave you a hot dog, right, you have to listen to them, right?

When I was a kid my parents told me there was going to be a free “Recreation Hall” opening up and if I wanted to go I could. Wow, how great! What’s a “Recreation Hall”? I was told there would be other kids there and pool tables and games and it would be great! I was wary. I was very wary. Very rarely did adults act in my best interest without there being some sort of quid pro quo. So I asked the questions that I thought were appropriate; who’s doing this? Why are they doing it? What do they want from me?

My parents threatened to pull my invitation for my impertinence and I thought it might be better if they did. Parents wanted their kids to be smart and figure things out until the kids were smart and figured things out. I knew there was a catch. I just didn’t know what it might be.

So there we were; there was a dozen or so boys running wild and free inside this old house where there was a pool table, some card tables with games set up on them and in the kitchen there were cookies and Kool-Aid. I hesitated. This meant church people. Cookies and Kool-Aid meant there were church people lurking about. We got jacked up on the cookies and Kool-Aid but I kept my eyes on the door.  I think I was the one who realized there were no girls in the building. This meant whatever was going to happen was meant to happen without girls. They meant to lure us in with church bait and then work us! It’s a trap!

Then Gene Flowers arrived and I slipped out of a side window, got under the house through a hole in the underpinning, made my way to the front porch, and I hid. I knew my time would come and it would come soon. I would have less than thirty seconds to make a break for it, but, fleet of foot, all I needed was about half that.

Gene Flowers was an ex-military man who breathed scripture and lived for the church. He played gospel music on the school bus he drove. He preached military discipline to children as if right after the third grade they would be engaged in bayonet training. Mr. Gene thought that everyone over the age of ten ought to wear a uniform and salute him. It had been decades since he had been in the Army but he still wore his dog tags. I knew when he arrived that could only mean one thing; we were being indoctrinated in some shape or form. For a ten year old, I was totally savvy when it came to this sort of thing.

Remember “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”?



Gene Flowers was just like that. I knew if he was involved in getting us into that house he was up to no good. My thirty seconds arrived. Mr. Gene called the boys to attention and made them form a circle. “Now hold hands and bow your heads…” he said and that was my cue. I could be a quarter mile away before Mr. Gene said, “Amen!”

But I just couldn’t stand it. I had to know what mission he had for those poor souls he had trapped inside.
“Mike!” there was a whisper in the dark. I nearly yelped but controlled it. There was Lyman Harold. Lyman was a year younger than I but clearly he had fled at the sight of Mr. Gene, too.
“What do we do, Mike?” Lyman hissed and I hissed back, “Be quiet!”

We waited. There was the sound of a small herd of boys being marshalled out of the back of the house so we crept along the with the sound of the marching tennis shoes and flip flops and peeks out from the pieces of tin that lined the side of the house. It was terrible. In an old shed Mr. Gene was pulling out brand new hand tools of all varieties and he was issuing orders. He was going to march the boys to the church, a half mile away, and they were going to do yardwork for the rest of the day. But there would be Kool-Aid and cookies. Lyman and I waited until we were sure the place was deserted and Lyman took off running.

Against my better judgment I went back inside. It felt odd being in that house alone. Mr. Gene was one of those adults who took to spanking children other than his own, and most parents were okay with that. Back during that time almost any adult who knew a kid could whip off the belt and wear a kid out with it. Gene Flowers would eventually run into a mom who disapproved of it and he nearly went to jail. The day he parked the school bus a mile from the school and made the kids get off doomed him, but by that time he was an old man.

In the “Recreation Hall” all the games were still lying where they had been dropped and the pool table had an unfinished session going. The eight ball hung near a side pocket and I wondered how long it would have been before the unskilled would have sank it accidently. I also wondered why if serving God was such a great thing Gene Flowers had to resort to the sort of trickery that is usually reserved for movies and used car salesmen.

“Free Kids Event”

It’s a trap!

Take Care,

Mike

A Rescue

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mexicans




It was ninety-five at noon today and everything was happening at once. I never talk about work because people who talk about work have problems at work, so suffice it to say that I work around construction. There are many young Latinos where I am and its rare you see a black or a white worker. Those days have long since passed and as usual there isn’t One Big Reason but there are a multitude of smaller ones.

Nearly everyone at the office grew up on or near a farm and everyone did farm work when they were teenagers. Farming was once an incredible brutal way to make a living and the wages sucked. I worked fifteen hour days six days a week for seventy dollars a week. There were days it hurt just to breathe. The heat was terrible. There was no relief and damn little water. By the middle of the afternoon most of us were shuffling along hoping it would end soon and it never did. At dawn the next day we would be in the fields. Day in, day out, we worked and no one ever wondered if there was any other way to live. Everyone worked for a living.

So the same men and women who were out there in the fields are now raising kids who whine because they have to mow on a riding lawn mower. They want jobs in the Mall or delivering pizza. They want to work inside. They want to work short hours and have weekends off. They want to have access to their phones at all times. And their parents allow this, because the work was so terrible back then. They feel all their hard work pays off when they can spare their offspring the same work ethic that allows them to do so.

So here’s some kid, maybe twenty or so, and he and I are having a conversation about why he’s here. He’s here because back home there is no work and even less pay. He can send enough back to get his brothers here, maybe even legally, and he wants to start his own business. He’ll tell me these things because it’s 93 degrees and I’m out in the heat with him. Some people in my position won’t get out of their offices after lunch.

You’ve heard about the crackdown the government is having in Mexico because of the Drug Lords? This guy tells me there are Drug Lords who take care of the poor people in their district and the government hates that. He says it’s the government who is to blame for all the violence and the poor people are better off with Drug People running the show.

I have no idea if any of this is true or not. But I do realize it is hot. It will get hotter. This will feel like a cool day after a week of triple digit heat. So this guy gets here from Mexico and despite the fact we might call them all “Mexicans” he points out the men who have come in from Central America and a very dark man from some island country. He tells me that most of them speak English enough to understand but most don’t like to show it. Work, get paid, send money home, work, get paid… And these men work very hard indeed.

You don’t have to speak to them. Just show them what you want. Draw a picture. They want to understand. They are driven to do things right. They are polite. None of them seem afraid to fail but rather afraid not to try. I don’t remember us being this way, even though we must have been at one point in time.

The Immigrants smell differently in the sun than we do. That may seem to you a bit odd but I grew up working hard, grew up around hard working people, and the smell of sweat doesn’t offend. The smell of soap and perfumed stuff on a man who is just getting warm enough to reek of those chemicals after lunch is offensive. Give me someone who has been at it since the sun and there you’ll find a conversation worthy of the day.

I can speak enough Spanish to get by. I know when they are talking about work and when they are talking about my female co-worker. I busted on of the guys for that one day by asking him to repeat what he just said and everyone laughed, but my female co-worker. That was the end of that, or at least where I could understand it.


This guy is going home for Christmas because that’s when his company shuts down for the year. He’ll drive down, taking shifts with the other guys from the same area, and they’ll get to see their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and their kids, for the first time since last year. They do this until they can get who they need over here and to do this, they will work their asses off each and every day.

Immigration reform ought to look a lot like this:  if a man gets a job and works hard, that ought to, in some way, make him an American. Those who fret and wring their hands over the fact there are too many of “them over here” well and good. We’ll hire you to do the same job at the same price and you can produce the same product. If you can’t…

I know what these people make. I know they’re getting top wage because it’s hard to find specialized labor skills. They can get better wages in worse jobs. They can get lower wages in the field. But all of those jobs are theirs because no one else will do them.

Here’s the thing; our kids are working for toys, for distractions, for things. These guys are working for the people they love the way we did when we were that age.

You can take your immigration reform and shove it up your ass.

I need the help.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Pit Bull Never Wailed and She Never Shot A Soul.




I had a friend whose daughter would spill whatever she was drinking. You would think a five year old would be able to be trained not to spill things, especially on furniture, but it didn’t turn out that way. I had just enough grape juice to get me through one more day and the mom creature goes into my refrigerator, drains my juice, hands it to her little spiller, and an accident occurs just moments later, all over the sofa.

No, no, just make yourself at home. Please, you house looks like you’ve turned two toddlers loose in it and there is no reason for mine to look any different.

There’s this odd thing that children people have about us childless folk and that would be the myth of endless money. Just because you’ve spent every last dime you made last year to give your kids the greatest Christmas ever from the finest selection of Mal-Wart’s- imported- from- China- plastic- going- to- break- in- three- days- right- when- they- get- bored- with- it- stuff, doesn’t mean I’m wealthy. It means you’ve managed to mismanage your money as well as your sex organs. It has nothing to do with me at all.

As a childless person who raises dogs I have an observation to make here: dogs are easier to train than kids are.

But I train my dogs. I spent a lot of time training my dogs to do what I want my dogs to do and I spent a lot of time training them how to act around people. Nowhere, in any doggie manual I have ever read, have I found the advice, “Just let them do what they want to do and clean up the mess they make and they will become better dogs for it”

Children people, you see this coming, don’t you? I thought that you would.

Children people, you’ve got a hard job, perhaps the hardest ever, but you decided to take up that job. It’s like trying to write a novel. I don’t expect the general public to help me write a novel. I don’t expect to sit down at a table in a restaurant and yell at the person across the room to lend me a word that means the same thing as obnoxious. Yet people bring kids into restaurants and those kids will scream from the time they get there until the time their parents finish a twelve course meal and two desserts. “You have to ignore them when they wail like that or they’ll just keep doing it because you reacted to it”. Or you could just wait until you have your kid trained before you take them out into a place where you’ve lessened the amount of enjoyment that everyone, every single person in there, is paying for.


There are kid places for children people to take their offspring. There are restaurants devoted to children. But there are also restaurants where people go to unwind a bit, to eat some decent food, and get away from it all. But some Wal-Martian brings Kenny Ray Jim Bob in and he wails like he’s been installed on an ambulance in Chicago in August.

So once I was in a very nice restaurant and of course, someone brings in a wailer, so I asked the waitress to move us to the other side of the restaurant, so we would, at a minimum, not have permanent hearing damage. We hadn’t received our order yet so we just got up and went to the bar. We were sitting there waiting and they seated another couple at our former table just minutes later and they too bailed. They joined us at the bar and I remarked we had now formed a small group of refugees. We drank a toast to muzzles. By this time it was fairly certain that kid was going to clear out about a quarter of that part of the room. A party of four that had been sitting across from the kid got up and walked out. If the parents of the child wanted a more intimate setting they were very rapidly approaching that point. Oh, and what were they doing? Nothing. Zip. Nada. They made no effort at all to stop the screaming. Eight people were displaced by the noise and they were still trying to figure out if Mad Dog was on the wine list.

I have a Pit Bull. I tell people I have a Pit Bull and they act like I just announced I keep a rattlesnake in my pocket. Yet how many teenagers and young adults have going on shooting sprees lately? People spend an inordinate amount of time lobbying for laws to be passed so I can’t have a well- trained dog while their kids are out there killing people. There are a lot of people out there raising their kids to expect they can behave any way they want to and still get everything they want and when this clashes with reality, they just keep acting out in ways that are more and more dramatic.

We’ve become a nation of distracted drivers and distracted parents. We expect our kids to be distracted. We train them to watch videos endlessly rather than parenting them. We teach them that they can get wonderful things for nothing at all and if the wonderful isn’t wonderful enough then they feel cheated. 


This may be a little too strong of a reaction from a man who watched a kid clear a restaurant but it seems to me the parents of young people who kill other people just don’t seem to realize what a dangerous animal they got as a pet so many years ago. You can’t just put them in a cage and expect good things to happen. You have to exercise them and play with them and train them. And you can’t just do this on the weekends and let it go the rest of the time. You have to spend some one on one time with these animals or you’re going to lose touch with who they really are.

This is the advice I give people who want to adopt dogs. I suspect it would work on children if parents only took the time to try.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I Fought The Lawn and The Lawn Won




I’m tired. This week has had its share of idiots and it borrowed those from last year that were not used up. I’m not sure where so many of them come from but I’m pretty sure they are a sign that we have derailed evolution and this cannot be good for us as a species. Stupid people make me tired when I have to explain to them the things in life that most people see as a given. To wit:

There is a guy who doesn’t have any real responsibilities but he has a job. There is another guy who has a lot of responsibilities but honestly, he shouldn’t be out in the field where he might have to interact with the first guy. These two hate each other. So both of them migrate towards one another and an argument begins. Why? Why not stay the hell away from people you know are going to irritate you and cause you to irritate other people?

Do not come to me with your people problems when you stand there and argue with someone else you know is going to cause you heartburn.

So I got up this morning and decided to mow the lawn. It doesn’t really need it but we’ve been getting an inch of rain every other day which means in two or three days it will need mowing, for real, and it’s easier to mow when it just kinda sorta needs it. I need some mindless exercise. I need to sweat. I need some exhaustion. I need to get up off my butt and get away from my thoughts which are getting decidedly toxic.

I take stock of the day and realize there is coffee. How truly bad can life be when there is coffee? Coffee with honey in it and some chocolate milk, and well, there’s something to look forward to every day, isn’t it?

Last night there was a thunderstorm. Lucas is Bert’s long lost son because all the flash and anger of the storm just doesn’t affect Lucas at all. Sam gets weird at every loud noise so he wants to sit in my lap. Lilith isn’t bad about the thunder but at some point it got bad enough to scare her too. I laid down on the bed and cuddled with all three at the same time. Sam needed to be right on top of me and he snarled at Lucas who dutifully ignored the impotent death threats from an ancient dog. I never trained Lucas not to kill Sam but Lucas seems to understand that I value Sam and Lucas is gentle with Sam’s madness. Sam can be paranoid and belligerent but neither Lilith nor Lucas reacts to him anymore. Lilith attacking Sam, or even defending herself against him, would be fatal but if Lucas really, really went after Sam it would be…terrible. My Loki Mutt is a gentle giant. Lucas has a sense of grace that I find lacking in some human beings.

As bad as the grass is when it rains all the time my little garden is taking off. The peppers and tomatoes are catapulting out of the rich black soil and it won’t be long before I’m giving peppers away. It’s hard for me to turn the tomatoes loose. Home grown tomatoes are the best thing ever when it comes to produce. The little cherry tomatoes eaten right off the vine, because I never use pesticides or poison, are heavenly. How bad can a life be when I can put a tiny plant into the dirt and with nothing but rain water and sunlight have given back to me food? It’s that just the most amazing thing ever? Food growing right up out of the dirt with nothing but rain and sunlight to bring it forth! It’s a damn miracle. Really. And  flowers. Zinnias, to me, are the most wonderful flower ever and mine are coming up nicely. I am not sure what it says about a man who plants Zinnias but the butterflies and the bees love me for it.

Did I mention coffee? Okay, just checking, because coffee…truly.


You know, despite the shortcomings of human beings there is music. I have, in my possession, days’ and days’ worth of music. At any given time I can go online and listen to more music than I can buy digital space for and that is saying very much indeed. I discovered Lieutenant Kije’ the other day by letting my phone listen to the radio and an app told me what the music was. How incredible is that? My phone listens to the radio and tells me what a song is. There was a time in my life when a song could come and go and I would never hear it again, never have a chance to find out who it was but now…

Thousands and thousands of years ago, when we were huddled in caves with fire as the only advance in technology that really meant anything at all, people sang and played songs that would disappear into the night like the smoke from the fires. We’ve lost forever that music and we’re lesser people for it. Yet now I have, on a tiny device, enough music to last me for an entire month’s worth of commuting to and from work, and many times that more.

The grass gets mowed down and my mood lightens. There is always you. A random person from the internet sent me a story to look and add suggestions. It’s a wonderful story, one of the first he’s tried out in public, and it has wings. I like it a lot. Much can be said when I can have access to people who write and have access to people who like my writing. The world isn’t such a terrible place anymore. With exhaustion comes clarity and with it, a sense of rest as odd as that may sound. The stress from the week has been peeled away. The weekend is in front of me and I have coffee, writing, and a garden.

And you.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sushi, anyone?




Had To




I remember it was when my older sister was in Kindergarten and my younger sister was still an infant. I was alone in my own world, allowed to go outside and play without supervision, as long as I didn’t leave the yard, and it was a beautiful day. My father had constructed a sandbox for us but to me it was a little piece of heaven. I sat and played with my plastic dinosaurs and as I looked up in the sky there was a jet. The plane left a contrail in the sky and I knew, really knew, that one day I would fly that jet, not just any jet, but that one, right there, and the pilot who flew my jet could look down and see me, and he would know me, years later, and remark that he saw me that day.

It was a perfect day in every way that it could have been. I wiggled my toes in the sand until the dew was dried from them and I lay down and let the sun warm me. Oddly, and you may find this had to believe, but I knew on that day, that very day, that life would never be as good in the future as it was at that moment. I would never feel as happy or as safe or as incredible as I felt that very moment. My mother called me in for lunch and she had made peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches. There was milk. I took a nap on my bed, where the bedspread was a baseball playing field, and life was good.

There was one more year, one more good year, then I had to go to Kindergarten. I had to. Then I had to go to the first grade. The “had to” category of life began to fill up and devour everything. I had to get up and go to school. I had to go to classes. I had to raise my hand to go to the bathroom. I had to get in line to go to lunch. I had to sit. I had to be silent. I had to.

I remember in the first grade a kid made a break for it. He ran away, ran back towards the land where he didn’t have to anymore but he was caught. It was other students who chased him down and dragged him back. I still wondered why they did that. I think that once we buy into the things that we all have to do there isn’t anything that we hate worse than someone who escapes. It’s why smokers hate people who quit. (you know you do so hush)


There was a morning in the first grade when I tried to talk my father into taking me fishing instead of me going to school and him going to work. He was thirty-two at the time and I was five. Neither of us knew it but we had just three more years before I would lose him forever to disappointment. I could tell he wanted to go and I knew that we could have a great time, but no. He had to go to work and I had to go to school. I will always wonder if life would have changed that day.

There were years and years and years of what I had to do. Other people had to too. We had to buy certain music and we had to wear certain brands of jeans and we had to wear our hair a certain way and other people had to be like us or they were not cool, like we had to be. We had to like a sports team and we had to drink and we had to smoke pot. We had to find a good job and we had to have someone who looked nice and we had to get up in the morning and we had to go to sleep at night and it all had to be done at a decent hour.


There was the little black and brown rat dog we had when I was a kid, Smut was his name, and I was fourteen when he died and Smut was sixteen. Smut had to die, and it was difficult to live a life where someone I had always known and who had always been there was gone, but death is the one thing everyone who has died had to do. The quarterback who drowned while water skiing, the good kid who died in a plane crash, the nice girl who was murdered, they all had to die. Maybe not when they did or how they did, but they had to die.

It’s getting harder and harder, most recently, to do what the “had to” is telling me I have to do. I’ve done what I had to do and what have I to show for it? After all these years, the one most happiest day I can remember as a kid is when I didn’t have to do a damn thing simply because I was doing what I liked to do or what I wanted to do at the time. Is that so hard? Is that so much to ask? Is what a person wants something that they shouldn’t strive far because they “had to” settle for less?

Why?

I’m not saying I want to go sit in the sand and pay with plastic dinosaurs but I would like to have more of a say about what I do want. I’m tired of me telling me that I have to go along with the story line because it’s too hard or too late to change it. What about those dead people who played by the rules and did everything right and they had to die?

In my life, the happiest I have ever been has been when went outside my comfort zone, explored new situations and new places. As a child, it was inside the box. As an adult, it’s when I am most outside it that I am who I want to be.

There is only one thing that everyone who has ever lived had to do. Everything, everything in between the moment of birth and the moment of death, is choices either made or deferred, but nothing is something that had to be until the final moment.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Skinny



At work today some guy was passing his phone around with the photo of a naked woman shown on it. Guys have been passing around photos of naked women at work since I was a little boy and chances are they will still be doing it long after I’m dead. It’s one of those things that guys do. I remember someone handing me a Playboy book when I was a kid and I nearly passed out from excitement. There was a lot less shown back then and the women were more naturally beautiful than they are now. With boob jobs and photoshop, any woman can be slipped, snipped, and clipped into a mold that defines beauty these days. But with those same devices, my Pibble, Lilith, could be made to look the same way. She would look odd with a boob job, don’t you think?

So why are we so eager to accept the fact that women look good that way?

So I looked up the photo when I got home and this is the part that counts. The woman in the photo above looks starved. I’ve seen starved. I know what it looks like up close and personal. That woman goes hungry because she wants to look a certain way. She’s got a C-Cup bra and an A-Cup body supporting it. That cannot be a good thing. It’s not very natural looking.

“She looks starved” I said out loud.

“I’d feed her!” offered a man with two very young daughters. I wonder what he’s going to do in a decade or so when his daughters begin that migration from little girls to young women, and suddenly, all the things that society has taught him he will realize society has taught other males. If his daughters aren’t skinny with big breasts then they’re going to feel fat and ugly. If they don’t show off their attributes they’re going to feel unappreciated.

It’s hard to imagine what the world is going to be like in another decade. With social media being the new defining device as to what is cool and who is not, parents could be totally out of touch with their kids and never realize there is a form of religion out there born of likes and comments and groups. The peer pressure asserted on kids can be lethal with the consequences never noticed until there is a suicide or a murder.

If a kid will go out and kill someone, or kill themselves, over something they’ve become attached to on the internet then what makes you think they wouldn’t starve themselves into a small clothing size for the same reason, or lack of therein?

The internet isn’t to blame here. We aren’t dealing with some wide open deep pit in our backyard in which children fall into, never to be seen again. You cannot fix social media because it isn’t the thing broken here. What’s broken is the kneejerk reaction we allow ourselves to have when we see a woman.
“I’ll feed her!” is what that guy thought he was supposed to say. It popped into his mind in a millisecond and the other guys in the room were beaten to the punchline. This is the way we, as men, are supposed to behave, and we’re supposed to act like this towards women, who are supposed to look like they just escaped from a death camp for girls with large breasts.

When we see and hear about children killing other children and we hear about someone going off the deep end, it’s because we’re very slowly crowding everyone in a direction no one truly believes is a good place to be.

But here we are.

Take Care,

Mike 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Weeds




At the edge of your yard is a place that was always sort of wooly. Weeds and vines have encroached there so you’ve never really worry about it. There isn’t enough sunlight to expand your garden in that direction and the water hose won’t reach. It’s always been like that so you never give it a second glance. Then one day you realize that there are some pretty weird looking plants there. They’re full of thorns that are blood red at the base and their roots have crept far afield into your nice lawn. There’s a sense of violation here as if something evil has crept into a garden of innocence, even if you knew it was there all along.

I grew up in a very small South Georgia town where Adult Infallibility and Teacher Infallibility and The Way Things Are Infallibility never changed. Nothing ever changed except to make sure that things were more of the same. We were raised to see things the way that others saw them. We were told the name of the colors and what names were given to dogs. God punished the wicked so if someone was punished they were wicked. The tracks were laid in a straight line. The clothes were hung out to dry. Nothing changed. Everything was put in its place and no one ever moved anything. It was like living on a movie set where the background wasn’t really real at all, but a painted wall in front of which we lived.

Of course this is a lie. How could it possibly be true? Grandparents died, pets died, children grew older, parents divorced, and suddenly those who were told things would always be so awoke to discover things were not so. Things now, once we were older, were different. Even if, in fact, they were very much the same.

I knew her name and I knew her reputation. She was easy, fast, and she liked the attention of older boys. She flirted with everyone that would stop to speak to her. One week she told several boys, one at a time, to meet her at bleachers on the other side of the football field, and she would do anything. I found out about this through a friend of mine who was going to meet her. It should have occurred to me then that he was much older than she was. He returned a couple of hours later with the tale of several boys hanging out on the bleachers with no one ready to admit that they had all been had. That sort of tale is funny, hilarious in fact, and one that was legend, but it involved a thirteen year old girl who was flirting with high school seniors and my friend, who had graduated the year before. A year passed and I discovered the two together at his trailer and the thought that something might be happening did not cross my mind; she was just a flirt.

He married a few years later and I was best man at the wedding. His new wife was eighteen but she looked young, painfully young, and he was twenty-four. After the divorce he began to date an older woman and she had a twelve year old daughter.  He showed me their vacation photos and it did seem a little odd there were so many photos of the little girl in her swim suit.

Then he called me several years later, and he called many of his old friends. He needed character witnesses for his trial. The FBI had arrested him on weapons charges and they had found child porn on his computer. He was set up. A virus on his computer downloaded the porn and he didn’t even know it was there.

This was the second time it had happened.


Suddenly, I realized what had happened and what had been happening for years. Looking back, I realize that there was a thirteen year old trolling for sex with older guys. There were older guys trolling for sex with her. But because I had grown up in a don’t- ask- don’t- tell environment I never questioned the rightness or the wrongness of what was going on around me. The world was what the world was and who was I to question it?

I’ve been in touch with the Victim’s Advocate and the people in that area of expertise are very willing to talk. Yes, as a matter of fact, they would like to speak to someone about what’s going on out there. Do we not know or is it we do not care? Do we think it’s okay, or that it just happens to those who are asking for it, or is it that it only happens to Wal-Mart people?

Two weeks ago today I sat down in room with eleven other people and decided that we would put a man away for the rest of his life. It was a terrible thing to have to do. It would have been a lot easier had we been told he had just gotten out of prison and had served twenty years for doing the same damn thing to a kid twenty years ago. Yeah, yeah, just because he did it before doesn’t make him guilty this time, I’ve heard that but you know what? It certainly does give us a reason to think he would do it again because this is what those kinds of people do.

And clearly, we aren’t learning this fast enough.

You want to know what happening around you? Ask. Call the District Attorney’s Office and ask them when their next case is on trial, that you’d like to be there to watch and to listen to what’s going to be said.

You’re going to get sick to your stomach.

Yet here we are. Here we are over thirty years past the point a friend of mine went from hitting on girls that were way too young to getting busted for child porn, again.

You stand at the edge of the weeds and poisonous vines and you realize it has always been there. Yet as long as it stayed out of your front yard you didn’t look very hard.

What do you think is out there, right now?

At this very moment.

Yes.

Take Care,

Mike







Monday, June 2, 2014

Changing Lanes and Changing Minds




Changing lanes, sometimes, is like changing what check-out line you’re in at a store. If there is some sort of coupon drama or there is someone who can’t seem to remember the PIN of their debit card, or they’re really just dying to show the cashier photos of their grandchildren, yes, by all means, bail out and hope for the best. The same goes for changing lanes in traffic. If you can get around from someone doing fifteen miles under the speed limit or you can get away from someone whose exhaust makes them look like they’ve tangled with Tetsuz┼Ź Iwamoto then by all means, swing away.

But don’t weave in and out of traffic like you’ve about to pee in your pants and have some sort of sexually transmitted disease that causes urine to burn you harshly enough to make you scream aloud  curses at your parents for siring you. There are some compelling reasons not to do this, I mean, other than common sense. Common sense would tell you that one car length isn’t going to save you more than .0001 seconds even if you’re first in line for the traffic light, which you aren’t.

So what else? There is always that thing where you might actually cause a wreck. Cutting people off in traffic causes them to react to your stupidity with stupidity. The Dumano Effect, I call it, when everyone seems to lose their minds all together now. Then there is this thing where someone could call your tag in, and even if they didn’t get you right then, if you show up on the cops’ radar enough times, someone is going to start looking for you. Yeah, one of the benefits of living in a rural area is that everyone knows you and if you drive like you have your head permanently inserted up your colon so far you have to sneeze to fart, you will get some attention. You will not like it.

So this guy is weaving in and out of traffic today and when the light catches him I’m right behind him. When he cut me off I damn near had to lock the brakes up to keep from clipping him. This is on Gorto, where it intersects with Saint Augustine. There’s a left turn lane, a right turn lane, and a left turn/straight lane. Hot rod is trying to make a left, I think, at least that’s the lane he’s in.

So this really tall guy walks by my truck, on foot, while we’re waiting for the light to change and suddenly there’s another guy behind him and the guy in the back is carrying what looks like some sort of medieval weapon.  It’s got two chains and two blocky looking things connected together. Oh shit. They’re going to kill him. The first guy goes up and knocks on Hot Rod’s window and I can tell Hot Rod is freaked at someone messing with him. But seriously; the guy at the window looks six-seven and he looks pissed. I can hear him shouting at Hot Rod and really, the man looks like he put a fist through that window. Hot Rod isn’t making any moves to get rid of Tall Tim. Tall Tim is hoping for that, I think. The other guy is bent over, loading the medieval weapon and I’m thinking about being elsewhere. But traffic has me stuck. I stay put. The phone is in the gym bag. Damn, if shooting starts I get into the bag with the phone, okay? This is the part of human civilization I really hate; there’s about to be a shooting and I cannot get away from it. I’m willing to bet there are a dozen guns, loaded guns, in this line of cars behind Hot Rod. When that guy fires the trebuchet, which I spelled right the first time, please be impressed,  I feel like all hell is going to be broken loose.

The lights turn green and the confrontation ends. The two guys go back to their truck, three cars behind me and Hot Rod… doesn’t move. Traffic moves around us as people realize something is wrong, but Hot Rod stays put and the guys who were three cars behind me are now right behind me. I look back. They’re grinning. Really grinning. Tall Tim waves at me. I smile. I wave back.  I use all my fingers.

 Hot Rod gets out of his car and realizes it was not a medieval weapon. They’ve chained two chunks of wood to his back tire creating a block going forward and one backward. His car, for all its whipping in and out of traffic, can’t go over the blocks and if he did...they’re still chained to his tire. I have no idea how they’re affixed and I don’t care, but I do see a padlock.  I back up far enough to get around Hot Rod and away I go. The Two Dudes blow their horn and wave as they pass Hot Rod, who is getting out of his car and realizing he is screwed.

Out of his car, Hot Rod looks lost. He’s a smallish guy, really young, and he’s screwed. I look in the mirror as I go by and whatever they put on him isn’t moving. I slow down and get caught by the light. This is actually fun. Hot Rod can’t get the thing loose. Sure, the left lane is blocked but people seem to realize this and they’re beginning to accept his death as a part of the flow of traffic.

The light changes again and I’m on the road, with one less idiot out here with me.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cardinal Kins





There was a day when I noticed a female Cardinal having some sort of fit that didn’t involve a domesticated cat or a dog. This could mean one of any number of things but I suspected and it was confirmed to be a Grey Rat Snake. These are notorious egg thieves and devourers of fowl. I’ve relocated more than one out of a henhouse and usually release them under my own house just to keep the rodents honest. You cannot like your odds against a rat snake if you’re a rat. If the rat snake is pushing over six feet in length you can’t like your odds if you’re a rat and you’re armed. It will end poorly. Leave now. 

Let’s be realistic here; Hickory Head is not for the timid or the weak or the unlucky. Living in the woods isn’t a Disney movie and mom Cardinal had spotted a largish Grey Rat Snake moving towards the Oak where her nest was laid. The snake could easily reach the first limb that hung down and from there… well, it was going to be a buffet of Cardinal eggs. The Grey Rat Snake looked at me and wondered what my part in this might be. Certainly mom Cardinal thought things had gone from worst to worst still. So I picked up the snake and tossed it back into the woods. I got the loping shears out and lopped off the limb hanging down. Yeah, I know, it’s interfering with the way nature works, but that’s the way it has to be sometimes.

That was a while back. A couple of years ago I discovered a Cardinal nest in a young Oak tree that hadn’t been born when I moved out here thirteen years ago. That interference thing, it has a reach on it, it does, and even though I hadn’t planned it that way, me bringing in my own pack of tame wolves had helped that Oak tree stay alive long enough to hang a Cardinal nest on its head. The deer and the wild vines kept the back acre from ever having any Oaks grow up there but the mutts keep things tamped down and keep the deer away. The Oaks have returned in a big way.

This year I put out a bird feeder outside my bedroom window and noticed there was a mated pair of Cardinals who frequented. I also noticed they had their nest in a tree that had not yet been born when I moved here. Now there is a tree, a nest, and it’s all in the flooded part of my property where there once was a firepit. At least two of the trees I’ve grown here, accidently, have been homes to Cardinals.

Now there are five Cardinals who come to the feeder; there is the male and the female, there is a young male, and there are two young females. I like Cardinals. I like the bright red of the male’s coat of feathers and his black mask near his beak and face. I wonder if the mated couple will drive their young away or if their young will hang out and build near them. I know Blue Jays are more or less social creatures but I have no idea about the redbirds.

If there are winners with my birdfeeder and tame wolves there have to be losers, too. I know that the dogs kill small mammals and I know they’ve more or less eliminated a lot of the underbrush that once called the back acre home. I’ve gone in and killed off a lot of the vines that drag young trees down. I have to keep cutting them back each year, but each year the trees get taller. They eventually will reach a height where the vines can’t kill them.

I wonder if I should put some boxes for Bluebirds because I have seen some of them here as well. The Indigo Buntings are much bluer than Blue Birds, mind you, but I think they are more seasonal. I also wonder what would happen if I caught a Grey Rat Snake trying to sneak into a Blue Bird box. That is certainly going to happen if a box goes up.

I also wonder what will happen if I keep feeding the Cardinals. This is the first generation that has seen this much birdseed this deep into the season. If I keep feeding the younger generation will they lose some of their ability to find food without me? Will the population of certain birds, who like this seed mix go up? What happens to the species who share a habitat with the Cardinals yet do not have the same feeding habits? I think about these things because I live out in the woods and everything is connected. You can’t throw even the smallest pebble in the pond without ripples.

I’ve noticed the younger birds are the last to leave the feeder at dark. I wonder if the older birds just eat supper earlier, like older humans do. Hmmm, do they have an AARP?( Avian Americans Resisting Poultry? ) But the young make seems to be more stressed out than his two sisters. I know nothing about birds. I may have to start reading about them.  And where do these next generation of birds roost? There are trees aplenty here but clearly they aren’t all staying in one tree…are they? So much to wonder about when it comes to birds and so little time to Google them.

So now we wait until next year and see if we have one pair of Cardinals here or if there is a second pair. How long do these birds live, I forgot that question, and do they mate for life, or at least more than one year? I’m already leaning into the idea of trying to figure out how to tell one Cardinal from another. Where to look?

In the back of my property stands a massive Oak. Three or four hundred years old, it has seen its share of humans come and go, the brief lives of people vanish quickly in its shade. I wonder if there is something the Cardinals watch and if they wonder how quickly lives are lived, in some other form.

Take Care,

Mike