Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Dream Of The Stone Fort Battle




At midnight the Resident Dogs both joined me on the bed and I thought they were asking to go out. They both settled in around me quickly and Lilith curled up near my head, which is rare. I drifted in and out of sleep, had an amazing dream, and then woke up at three. There isn’t much hope for much sleep at three, and the moon is shining brightly for a change. It’s time to get up and, no, actually, it isn’t time to get up, but here we are. I’m resisting the idea that I’m going to drink coffee in favor of hoping I can get back to sleep. Soon.

I have dreams that are like movies. I’m watching in third person and then I’m here or there, at another camera angle, seeing things from both sides of a battle or a car wreck or a bar scene. Last night’s, earlier this morning’s dream was a battle between an army besieging a small stone fort with walls and those within. It was incredibly complicated because I knew the mindset of both parties; those within were hoping for some sort of help, eventually, or hoping they’d wear the attackers out. Those on the outside knew they had to break through quickly or risk running out of supplies or having the morale of their army destroyed.

The attacking army was made up of local clans who were fighting against the encroachment of a warlord who had begun to flex his muscle by building forts on the frontier. To make the point that he was in charge of the surrounding areas he would kidnap the daughters and wives of local clan leaders and force them and their people to quarry and carry the rock for the forts. The treatment of the hostages worsened as the labor dragged on so there was a lot of incentive to build quickly.

The clan leaders held a meeting and decided to attack all of the forts at once, on a board front, eliminating any of the forces in any of the forts being able to support one another. Many of the clansmen balked at the idea of attacking, not because they thought they might lose, but because of the most powerful clan leaders, three of them had accepted the help of another warlord. Some saw this whole war as an event where the clans would be used as proxies of two more powerful forces that would eventually decimate their population. Yet the forts, and the building of more of them, had to go.

Inside the fort that is being attacked in a young captain who thinks that the idea of pushing the boundaries into clan territory is a bad idea, but he isn’t paid to think about policy. An older, wiser, and much more experienced leader had been in charge of this fort but he had died suddenly and the young captain thinks the man was murdered. Now, as the fort is being attacked he realizes that the barbarians have help from an organized force. There are small catapults that are playing havoc with his defenses. The walls are holding, as they should, but the catapults are flinging rocks over the walls and into his archers. He knows now that someone has not only spied on the fort, but also the command and control as to how they repel attackers. The accuracy of the stones cannot be accidental nor chance.
On the outside of the fort, the man leading the attack realizes his men are being slaughtered at an appalling rate yet to stop the attack is to lose those men for no gain. The devices of his allies are keeping the archers from releasing masses of arrows against his men and he knows if he can break the gate or gain just one wall he can take the fort. He looks to the east and to the west. Thick black smoke will mean that the other two forts nearby are ablaze. Yet there is no smoke. Have the other attacks failed? If so, this one must be successful or the clans will be pushed out of their territory forever.

The young captain has had dirt piled up in front of the main gate. He can hear the cheers of the barbarians as the wooden planks are hacked away; will the dirt be enough to slow the assault?

The clan leader did not anticipate there being dirt in front of the gate yet his allies tell him, now, that it is common. They brought devices to help dig it out, but more men will die.


I woke up before there was any resolution. Both sides were being ravaged. The battle was brutal with no quarter asked and none given.


Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Deep Dark Despair of Home Repair

But it's plugged in!

Home Repair causes me no small amount of despair. This is made worse by the fact that I own very few tools so even if I venture forth to remedy some ill that has befallen my most humble abode it is very likely that I’ll get half way through with it and discover some specialized instrument is required and then it will sit on the porch, unfinished, staring at me, until the next bonfire. I am mechanically reclined. There is nothing that I can say I do well with tool other than create jobs for other people in home repair. There is no job so simple that I cannot turn it into a catastrophe.

Then there are the dangerous job involving such things as electricity. That’s one of the few things inside of a home that can kill you outright. I’ve made just a couple of mistakes with electrical current and it’s never been as simple as getting cut with a razor knife or accidently hitting my knee with a hammer. True, falling off a ladder or a roof might cause serious injury or death but electricity is invisible. You have no idea of a wire is hot or cold until you do something that would cause you to find out.


Of course, there are tools for this, too. There are devices that will allow you to know each and every wire’s most inner secret, if you own these tools, and if you know how to use these tools, and if you know where the wires are. I’m a blind doctor doing surgery on a patient who is many feet long and tucked under a house. Somewhere, and I am sure of this, there is a wire that has been chewed through by a rat under the house. I must find this wire, cut the power off to the house, and then repair the wire. That is my mission.

The last thing I want under the house with me is four dogs; two large and two medium dogs and in particular I do not want a medium sized striped dog with a high prey drive under the house at all. This means I have to put all of the dogs inside of the house and go spelunking all my own. My biggest fear with the dogs is that they will tear asunder any and all insulation looking for rats. And no, rats I usually do not have because I toss a rat snake or two under the house each Summer. This Summer a striped dog with a high prey drive has kept the snakes away from the house.

The Quest for the Rodent Rendered Wire was as anticlimactic as it would seem to be. First, there’s only a few places under the house where there are wires to be found. Second, none of them were chewed at all. But there was nowhere else to look. I took five separate trips down under to find wire and rats and all I found was damp, musty, uh, musty damp stuff. I also discovered that I am not nearly as limber as I once was and crawling around on my back in the dirt isn’t nearly as much fun as it once was and it never was. I did mess with the dogs’ minds by calling them from one room to another. That was all the fun there was to be had.

Dark, damp, and closed in spaces do not bother me at all. I had a decent flashlight and a decent backup flashlight, and I took a razor knife with me, just in case of rats. Yet there isn’t any fear that I have of the darkness that is inherent. There’s enough light under the house for me to tell where I am and even if it was awesomely dark I could still find the way to the trapdoor. What is there to fear in a space where there is no light? It is the same space. There is nothing missing but sight. There is nothing added but the mind’s attempt to translate what is to what was and the darkness itself causes to harm. I cut the flashlight off and navigate by the light of the vents that appear on the house’s foundation blocks. East, east, east, then South and I’m out. I could do this at midnight and still get out quickly. But my back and neck both hurt.

One of my worst habits is to keep trying to fix something the same way even though it hasn’t worked before. After trip five under the house I realized that it gave me the sense of having accomplished something through effort without having any real results. It’s like those people who stare at a page without being able to read it but they keep staring without ever making the effort to begin to study what’s there. Sooner or later, and likely sooner, I’m going to have to find someone who knows a little more about electricity that I do.

I call around and explain the problem and most tell me the same thing,  “We will come out to your house and look at your problem but before we do anything at all it is $$$!!! Per hour just for us to drive to your house then $$$!!!+$$$$!!!! to do any work.”

This has been going on now for a few months. I finally told a guy who said he would tell me what was wrong for one hundred dollars I would get back to him in a couple of weeks. That was a week ago.


Last night, I decided I wanted to do four things at one time while sitting on the sofa; watch a movie on the laptop, charge the laptop, charge the phone, and use the reading lamp. This would require three places to plugs thing in and near the sofa there is one outlet with two receptacles. I thought using the power strip where the tv once stood would be a good idea. I plugged the power strip in, plugged the lamp into it and WHAM, out goes the light. This was a surprise and so I unplugged the power strip and plugged the lamp back in. Nothing. I plug the lamp into a receptacle in the other room and light! I check the break box and sure enough, there’s a breaker that’s tripped. I flip it back on and then stop. There’s that breaker that’s been tripped. I flip it over and it stays.

What?


Back in the living room everything works. Everything. It was the power strip that was causing the problem all along!

I have no idea how this is possible but I’m happy.


Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

For the Love of a Dog, and a Friend.




I knew better to check my personal phone at work and knew even better than to check my FB on my phone while at work. I have things to do. It’s a busy day in a busy week and there are a lot of people who are going to show up for a meeting in the afternoon. I knew it was a memorial when I started reading it. I knew a dog had died. I knew that if I simply put it down until after work I would be okay and later I could deal with it, but not right now.

Something that is well written cannot be not read. When someone’s heart is printed on a page the eyes cannot turn away. I pulled over into the ditch, got out of my truck, jumped a fence, and walked out into the woods and tried not to cry for a dog I never met, who belonged to a woman I never met, and even as I sat in some pine straw and tried to pull myself together enough to pull off another six or seven hours, I had to text her and I knew she would call me.

Everything was going well. The meeting was running smoothly. Everyone was in a good mood and then my phone rang. Every stared at me. That’s kinda rude, don’t you think, to let your cell phone go off in a meeting.

“I have to take this call,” I said, “it’s a family matter”

And it was. And it is. What is it that ties us together if not out hearts? DNA isn’t everything and sometimes it isn’t anything at all. Sometimes you have to listen to someone explain why they put their dog down and you have to let that conversation run its course. I’ve made that call. I’ve listened to that call. I’ve helped buried more dogs than I have humans.

They are good people, mostly, at the meeting, and when I get back I try, I try really hard, to fight this thing down, to summon up the present and not think about someone I care about whose heart is broken. The questions are directed around me and that makes it worse, because now I know they can see it and I know they’re trying to help me. When my turns to speak comes around I say what has to be said, and my voice is clear and I use the body language that I know I have to, looking at each person in the eye, but now it’s different and even the people I know who are going to disagree with me will opt out today, call me later, and everyone agrees that we need to break because it’s time, and people suggest another meeting, later, we’ll talk about it, send me an email, please, I hope everything is okay.

And it’s not just this one dog or this one friend, it’s Frank, the Border Collie I had to go under a house to get when he was dying, and I had to drag him out, and he allowed it. Frank looked at me, held my gaze as the drugs took him, and then he died. It’s Max the GSD whose head fell on my leg as he slipped away, and it’s Romeow, the cat who said, “Fuck you!” and fought the vet and fought the drugs, and Romeow looked at me with that same expression Frank did, and I wondered if the cat was telling me to take care of the woman who took care of him. She left his ashes in Bert’s grave and found another cat, and another man, to love. But there is still that moment, when her heart was breaking and her cat was dying, and it mattered, really mattered, that I cared.


Even the most jaded Hermit has to see hope in the human heart that can be broken by a cat, or a dog, or a friend who will never be met, and a dog that will never be seen, and a group of people who will simply change their day to make way for someone’s hurt. I cannot be untouched by this grief of another human being, someone who heart mourns a member of another species whose chief virtue is unconditional love. We crave that virtue, we nurture it, and we’ll drag some nasty, stinking, vermin ridden stray out of a muddy ditch in hopes that we can find it.

Unconditional love brings out the very best in who we are and who we hope to be and who we want to be.


In the end, in the very end, they are all my dogs. Every one of them that is hurt or who is lonely or who dies horribly, I still love them. And the people who rescues these animals, who give them a home, who will become family to those dogs, they have become my family, too.


It feels like a crime, nearly, to have taken the two Cousin Dogs I have, for they well fed, well mannered, and already loving animals. DNA sometimes is important, and sometimes the things we do for family aren’t a burden but a blessing.

I do have dogs. And I will. Not all the pain and hurt and loss and tears will ever change that, ever. And I see this coming again, and again, and again, and again. And I accept it as the rent I have to pay to feel the power of the love of these animals and the love of the people who love them the way I do.

Take Care,

Mike

I Fought The Lawn and The Lawn Won




In the middle of July, leaving the lawn unmowed for two weeks is to invite flashbacks from any veterans of Viet Nam who might be passing by. In the middle of July, two weeks is enough time for some strange vine to come up three or four feet, for the grass to evolve intelligence, and for a colony of monkeys to begin breeding in the thicket. But this is the last part of August and even if there are some spots with fairly thick grass there are more spots where it’s not bad at all. It’s too dark to mow at seven in the morning and even the sunrise seems a little diminished.

 It will take a little more time but I’ve cleaned out the carburetor and the air filter so the engine is humming. I’ve got my safety gear on, I’ve got my hearing protection on, and suddenly I think of a woman, from a very long time ago, and I wonder where she is. It makes sense, actually, because she was one of those women would wanted protection during sex and I suit up pretty good just to mow grass. Back then I was smoking a lot more grass than I was mowing, and I thought condoms were like taking a shower with a raincoat on. But had she asked me to wear a long evening dress and a football helmet, to get her naked and in bed with me, I would have. I was a very young nineteen year old. I wanted pot, alcohol, and a woman. I had a minimum wage job and she worked as a waitress. She was very petite, very cute, and I remember when this older guy that worked with us pulled me to the side one day and asked, “You aren’t screwing that little girl are you?” And to me it was a stupid question. Of course I was, every chance I got, and every chance she would give me. Now, I look at some of the people I know who are that age and I understand his consternation, a little, but I also remember what it’s like to be that young and to feel the fire that hot. It’s difficult to image today’s young people, connected to their electronic devices as they are, taking time to explore a much deeper connection with someone’s body, but surely that hasn’t stopped happening.

We would stay up late, miss work, and always there was this drama about condoms, and eventually I realized that she, too, would forget we needed them if I could just get the right switches flipped. It amazed me the chances we took, the places we took those chances, and the frequency that we managed to find time to take the chances. But this was the life of shift work and we sometimes didn’t get forty hours a week at work. What else was there to do? But mostly it was because we were young enough to handle the long nights after long days and there were no consequences to our actions, until there were.

We had a scare, once, just one time, and that was enough for her to pull back from the fire. She realized she might be getting half of the pleasure from what we were doing but she was taking all of the risks. It’s not that I would be the kind of man to bail out on her, but I wasn’t the kind of man who could have taken care of a baby. She would wind up having to raise us both and there comes a point when even the right buttons pushed in all the right ways can’t make up for a serious doubts about the future.

The thick part of the yard is out front and furthest away from the house so I start there and work my way back. Back and forth and around and around, no, it isn’t odd at all to think about sex while mowing grass, but then again, if you’re so inclined, you’re going to think about it anyway. She was at a friend’s house babysitting a six month old baby who had fallen asleep. We were both tired and we both needed sleep and I was all for napping. But the fire would not be denied and her friend came back just as we were getting dressed. We didn’t know that would be our last time together, that we would break up in just two days and it would be forever.

The wasps have all stuck to their nests all Summer long. There are four of them on the eves of the house and they’re all on the northeast side of the house, too. I have no idea why there are none anywhere else but this yet they’ve all lined up like condos on the beach. We did the beach thing once, the eighteen year old and I, going out far enough in the water so no one could see us. Salt water and sex doesn’t mix very well but the young cannot be stopped by mere oceans. I stop to move a fallen branch out of the way and wonder why this woman is haunting me this morning. I tried to find her on facebook a few years ago but it’s hard to think someone I knew for six months nearly thirty years ago will remember it other than the way I do. She was the first woman I never said, “I love you” to when I wanted to and I will never know why. Those three words never passed between us. I made that same mistake years later, with a woman I’ll never forget,  and it’s a mistake that once it’s been made doesn’t seem to get any easier to correct.


I stop mowing and think about this. I know I’ve said those words far too soon and spooked a woman before but which mistake is worse? To rush into something that hasn’t have time to develop is a mistake born of fire and fancy but to stand there with someone and think about it and think about and think about it yet to not be able to or be unwilling to express the deepest emotions you can feel, why? There comes a point in time where youth cannot be blamed for all mistakes in the past. I crank the mower up and keep going. I’m getting closer to the house now and begin a circle, with the grass being tossed to the inside, where it will be cut again and again into fine mulch. It bothers me and it bothers me a lot now, the scar tissue coming apart and the wound reopening even though I know how futile it always will be. I make myself keep going because I know if I stop and think about this subject I’ll bog down the in the tall grass and weeds of the past and in circles I will go forever.


It’s not hot enough to bring exhaustion out in an hour or even two, and I refuel and keep going, looking for some point of numbness that will relieve me of the past. It’s like a poison that can be sweated out, melted away in the salt water of sweat, but not tears. I remember a tipping point that I missed, that I thought about telling a woman what I felt and how I felt and I think she felt the moment arise and stood there holding her breath. I remember the wrods coming to me, perfect words, heartfelt words, words to bind two futures together forever but the moment slipped away and turned into decades of space and time and emptiness and the moment is just another moment with another mistake.

The mutts all come to greet me and Tyger Linn, when she is allowed around the Cousins, now throws herself onto her back in front of them and wiggles. She wants to play with the big dogs and they aren’t sure what to think of Tyger Linn quite yet, but at least there’s no growling. Lilith remains aloof and the Cousins remain a little edgy about playing with Tyger. I wonder if they want to play and just aren’t sure how to start or if they’re truly uninterested. If only they could say it that would make things so much easier, wouldn’t it?

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Marco The Wolf



Marco Ladakh has decided that his inner wolf wants him to spend the night sleeping under the pine tree in the backyard. He has a soft bed on the screened in porch, right beside his sister Greyson Charlotte, but no. The wolf inside wants a tree outside and the woods and so Marco sleeps in the open like a stray would if he had to do so. This has led to the Resident Dogs to go to the window at night and peer into the darkness as if they have never heard of such a thing much less bore witness to it.

Marco has taken to the woods like a fish finally discovering water. True enough, it’s barely over an acre of woods, but there are trees, a lot of trees, and there is a giant tree, and there is underbrush and there is the scent of animals, birds, and creatures Marco only has instinctual memories of in his mind. Marco hits the woods when I walk with him and his nose his glued to the ground. He’s drinking up as much of the wild as he can right now and he likes it. Part Black Lab and part Weimaraner, Marco has all the tools he needs to hunt, and he always has, he’s just lack a place to practice his skills. Now there are woods and there’s a pack of coyotes nearby. Marco has the same attitude towards the Coyotes that Lucas had; bring it on, if that is truly want you want. I am here. This is my home. Bring. He’s not aggressive towards them but he looks into the black of night with his head up, ears up, tail rigid, and it’s hard not to see Lucas standing there.

Those poor Coyotes. They’ve gotten used to the idea there are no more large dogs inside the fenced in area and now they’ve got to acclimate themselves to the fact there two very large dogs who live here. Not that two medium sized female Pibbles wouldn’t be more than they wanted to tangle with for the Sister Mutts are built hard and low to the ground, compact and solid, short muzzled and armed. Your pack is going to be bloodied up trying to invade with these two standing guard, but damn, where the hell did THAT come from? Now two main battle tanks roll into the area and their voices can be heard at a distance.


The big male is sleeping in the woods at night. Who has ever even heard of such a thing! As stealthy as a tree falling into thick brush, the big male practically lumbers through the woods as if he has no care as to who hears him coming! Only a canine who is truly murderous would plough through the forest with such disdain! No, my brothers and sisters, we must flee this place and never return! The Pibbles have brought in reinforcements and if their human leads them against us it will go ill with us. Flee! Flee!

They have no idea at all that Marco is a neophyte, a puppy as it were when it comes to woodcraft. He’s a bird caged set to the wind. And he’s decided that he wants to feel the earth under his belly and feel the wind in his nose at the blackest of the nights. This is an animal who is rediscovering his heritage and his cousins in the house are bemused by this sort of behavior. Tyger Linn is fascinated. Last night, shortly after I went to bed, Tyger came to me and told me she wanted to go out. Ordinarily she would return after a few moments but I fell asleep and nothing woke me until nearly six this morning. Tyger had spent the night on the outside with the Cousin dogs. I suspect she’s sleeping with Marco in the woods. Tyger Linn is a hunter on the order of magnitude and now this big and clumsy creature has arrived to help her. What to do with this sort of thing? Tyger Linn has no idea. But here is someone who sleeps under the pine tree at night. Tyger Linn clearly thinks this is the best thing, ever.


This too shall pass, Lilith thinks. She has seen many dogs come and go, and she is the oldest member of the pack, as far as who has seniority, and she doesn’t allow herself to be drawn into anything new. Lilith Magnolia has her place on the sofa, has her place on the bed, and she has her place in the pack. Everything else flows around her as it will, and she will deign to notice it when she decides that she will and not a moment sooner. There are large dogs? What of it? One of the loves the woods? And? There are Coyotes? Have your canines call my canines. Lilith will raise her head when the Coyotes are sounding off but until they get close, really close, it’s just talk. Lilith assumes they understand the borders and if no, well, we’ll just see about that, won’t we, when the time comes.

Barely a week is left in August and the woods are changing into their clothes. The trees are beginning to get sleepy again. There’s still a few weeks left of this Summer and the hot weather is still taking its toll on everyone, and it will, but the end is closer than it was two weeks ago. The underbrush looks thinner and those who populate the thick places are now retreating back into the darker places. There are two new dogs in the woods. Greyson Charlotte yearns for the bed at night and comfort. She cares nothing at all for the noise in the dark and wants only to be petted on a dog’s head. The little striped warrior and Marco can have the black and they can have their stupid old tree! Greyson looks to Lilith as a role model. I believe the Cousins and the Residents know who wants to play with who now.

Take Care,

Mike

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Fog And The Owl At Three




                       At three this morning an owl landed somewhere in the woods, nearby, and began to hoot. The Residents lifted nary a head but the Cousins decided to bark at the owl. I smelled it before I felt it and certainly couldn’t see it, but fog had arrived with the owl. It was an odd thing; I can already tell Marco Ladakh’s bark from Greyson Charlotte’s. Marco isn’t sleeping on the porch and that’s odd. Marco was already in the woods when the owl arrived. The residents finally go charging out and I go with them because sleep and I have broken up again. It was an uneasy relationship.

I have that thought, that very thought, about breaking up with sleep, or rather sleep broke up with me; I pursued her too hard and for too long, and  that thought reminded me of a women I once knew a very long time ago that I pursued for a very long time and it was very hard. The terrible thing about the internet is that you can, in just a few seconds, summon ghosts.  I can’t remember seeing, or not seeing to be exact, fog this heavy in many years and there’s a correlation to be run here, between trying to see at night in the fog and trying to sort out the past when it comes to women. I hear the owl take flight and I wonder if Marco is sleeping in the woods now. That dog loves him some trees and leaves.

And yes, I am sleeping with the windows open in August. It’s been ungodly hot during the day but the rain, the constant never ending rain, keeps things cool at night. I like the smell of the night in Summer with all its decay and heaviness there is a sense of strength and power of life. I’m going to regret not sleeping in just a few hours but I always regret not sleeping. Even when I sleep with regret.


Sometimes memory serves us very well, like when at work some critical number or date or fact falls out of the skull like mana from heaven. Then there are times when it works more like one of those pachinko machines where there’s a thousand different ways a ball can land and lo! There is it is. I just remembered, for no good reason at all, that I forgot to take the trash to the road yesterday. I don’t generate enough garbage to take my trash can with wheels to the road once a week but I take my neighbor’s for her and she’s ninety-five. It’s important. It’s a big deal. She frets when things don’t go the way they are supposed to go. I could just let it go this week and nothing would come of it, but suppose next week there’s a torrential downpour or locusts? Yeah, I’m more than a little OCD about this sort of thing too. I begin to fret and worry about getting the trash cans with wheels on them, and honestly, is there really a good noun for these things, to the road because there is truly some serious fog going on.


Speaking of nouns, I’m going to look up the name for those moths whose larvae invade anything not sealed in the kitchen. Rice, flour, sugar (yes, please) or even birdseed, is subject to their invasion. One lands on my arm during breakfast and I slap it. This means they’re into something and I can’t figure out what it might be yet. In the meantime the place on my arm that I slapped and brought down the moth begins to itch. Damn, the moth bit me. Moths don’t bite or sting and I know this but there the welt is. I know a moth when I see one so I know the moth didn’t leave that mark but still… I get to thinking maybe I got bit outside and it’s just showing up. Uh huh. Right. I got Killer Moths.


It’s not only foggy but the visibility is nearly zero. This is a hell of a time to be taking the trash out to the road and thankfully, the little crazy girl dog that sleep under my neighbor’s carport says nothing to me or about me as I load up the noun-less container of trash with wheels on it. Just as I pull away from my neighbor’s house my right hand catches fire. Now, there’s no doubt about the assailant even in the dark. Fireants, one of the few creatures in the Universe I would banish to total extinction without a moment of doubt or remorse. One, or more than one, has tagged me up proper in between my little finger and my ring finger, not that I would wear a ring on any finger, mind you. If someone were to tell me that Hell would be an inch deep in fireants and the only true path to salvation was through being a Jehovah’s Witness I would be knocking on doors and leaving Watchtowers like used condoms at a Drive In theater that shows porn all night.

Now I have the Creepies. I can feel things crawling all over me. I can feel every hair on my legs. I can feel the tiny, tiny, hairs on my head crawling around like drunk soccer fans doing the wave in the fog. Worse, far, far, worse, I begin to think there might be fireants on my legs, migrating fireants, heading steadily up, higher and higher, an army of them, mind you, mindless stinging machine squirrel-like looking for nuts for the winter. When I get to the end of the driveway the plan is to do as much dancing as it takes to get them off of me, if they are on me, and oh by the way, if I got more than one, I got them from the nameless wheeled devices whose function is to hold waste. First, my left leg heads off in a direction all its own. The end of the driveway is two inches thick in slippery mud. My groin muscles, such as they are, will remind me of this for the next month. I have to get both of the devices we do not name out of the back of the truck while avoiding fireants, trying not to slip in the mud, and wondering if a vehicle will come out of the fog and end all my theological questions once and for all.

All of this goes off without a hitch, I mean, any more than I have already hitched my groin muscles, but once back in the truck I realize there is a quarter of an acre of mud still on my boots. I stop, yes, stop, in the middle of the road and knock them mud off my boots and marvel that nothing has attacked me in at least five minutes.

Fog makes people stupid. They drive too fast, too close to the centerline, with their brights on and they tailgate more. Someone gets behind me and I feel like stopping, getting out, walking back to their car, and telling them, “You know, being that close to someone is a form of flirting in some places, but I’m really not interested in anyone who would be better off getting kicked out of the gene pool, would you like a copy of Watchtower?”


Once at the office I find two sting marks on me; one on my arm and one on my right hand. The swelling is pretty decent but there are no migration waves. I’m off the road, out of harm’s way, and coffee.

And finally, Friday.

Take Care,

Mike

Monday, August 10, 2015







When the “New Wave” hit in the late seventies and early eighties I devoured the new music as if it were mana from heaven. Unfortunately, a lot of the people I hung around with thought it was akin to sacrilege to listen to anything but a half a dozen rock bands, who at one point in time, were new. The people I went to High School with and smoked pot with had no real sense of the future; things were the way they were and they would always be thus. But we were wrong. Things do change and music did too. Some of those same people are still stuck listening to the same music, but my taste in tunes went all over the damn place.

The odd thing was that I knew two totally separate groups of people and nearly everyone had this spiritual thing going with the music of the Beatles. I never really liked them. There are fewer than half a dozen Beatle tunes I would listen to again, ever, and after they broke up there’s not really anything there for me either.

All of this is incredibly subjective but the trick is to know we’re talking about liking Blueberry Pop-tarts over Blackberry pop-tarts. I’ll lean over into the cultural snobbery circle by mentioning that back in the late 90’s I started listening to classical music and I think I have a better appreciation for “real music” now rather than that stuff they serve on commercial radio.

The classic music kick got started by me looking around a music store, you know, those places that sold vinyl and cassettes  and CDs, before Amazon and digital music took over the world, and discovered that classical music is a lot cheaper than the seven song album, three minute and a half song, cookie cutter top forty stuff. This holds true in the digital world as well, oddly. Anyway, I bought a couple of CDs and started listening to them as background music when I was writing. As it turns out, long songs are more conducive to better writing. Well, at least in my case. Classical music and I started an affair that’s been stronger or less strong depending on my current mood. It’s running pretty good right now.


One band from my past that has never reached escape velocity is “Yes”. I’ve bought three Yes albums in digital format in the last couple of years. Uh, hmm, four. I think most people can guess which four, or at least get three out of four, easily. I also bought “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull, but it was five bucks wasted. I listened to it once and haven’t since.

Back in 1985, and yes, I do remember when it started, I began to gravitate towards music with female vocals. That trend never left me entirely and if she sang at Lilith Fair ( yes, that is where the name came from) there’s a good chance I have her. I’m also uncannily accurate when it comes to buying a first album from an artist that never produces another piece of music. I think I’m a career killer for singers. No, really.


A friend of mine died a few years ago and he never left the gravitational pull of that same half dozen rock groups we grew up listening to while smoking pot before High School. It was tedious as hell to hang out with him because it was like reliving the first part of our lives again and again. I’ve held the same job long enough now to realize that most of the people I work with spend a lot of their time talking about the people we knew as we were just getting started. It’s a cultural thing particular to the business, I’m guessing, because it has been a very long time since I had any other job.

That man is the reason I can’t listen to a lot of the old “Classic Rock” because there are too many songs I can remember he and I being somewhere or doing something and that music was always there. There’s a song by Jethro Tull titled “The Third Hoorah” and one night I was whistling it loudly as I was walking out of work at a truck stop. So my friend is just coming into to work, and he’s walking towards me and there’s this potbellied pig of a truck drive standing there in the hallway of the truck stop and without a look or a word or a smile, nothing I tell you, I stopped whistling cold as hell and my friend picked it up without missing a note. I looked back at the truck, he looked at me, looked at my friend, looked back at me, looked confused…


But how many times can two guys tell that story? It’s a great story, yeah, but damn, man. Right now I wish I could tell it again, with him here, and it never got old when we were young.


Looking back that must have been part of the pull of Classical. It was new, at least to me, and it was complex and yeah, yeah, it was also cheap as hell. But it had endured. It had survived the test of time and I wonder, truly wonder, that one hundred years from now if anyone will give a damn about music that I once thought held the secrets of the Universe. I can see my niece’s grandchildren wrinkling their faces up at their ancestor’s appalling yet quaint musical tastes. Yes, he was a dinosaur, musically speaking, but he liked dogs.

Here we go. I have no idea why I wrote this tonight. Usually writing brews a bit before I sit down and begin but this kinda evolved as I went along. The dead are dead, but the echoes just keep coming back for more and more and more, more, more, but faintly, each time, again. There comes a time we become something new or we become our own shadows.

Take Care,
Mike





Sunday, August 9, 2015

Jon Stewart: Bullshit is Everywhere.




There is very little that you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit,
not all of it bad. General day-to-day organic free-range bullshit is often necessary, or at the very least
innocuous. "Oh, what a beautiful baby. I'm sure he'll grow into that head." That kind of bullshit in many
ways provides important social contract fertilizer that keeps people from making each other cry all day.
But then there's the more pernicious bullshit, your premeditated institutional bullshit designed to obscure
and distract.  Designed by whom? The bullshit talkers. Comes in three basic flavors: 
 
One - making bad things sound like good things.
"Organic all-natural cupcakes." Because "factory-made sugar oatmeal balls" doesn't sell.
"Patriot Act," because "Are You Scared Enough To Let Me Look At All Your Phone Records Act," doesn't sell.
Whenever something's been titled Freedom, Fairness, Family, Health, and America, take a good long sniff.
Chances are it's been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit.
 
Number Two, the second way - hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit.
Complexity - you know, "I would love to download Drizzy's latest Meek Mill diss." "But I'm not really
interested right now in reading Tolstoy's ITunes agreement, so I'll just click "Agree" even if it grants
Apple prima noctae with my spouse."
Here's another one - simply put,  banks shouldn't be able to bet your pension money on red. Bullshitly put,
it's... hey, this. Dodd-Frank.
"Hey, a handful of billionaires can't buy our elections, right?"  "Of course not.
They can only pour unlimited anonymous cash into a 501c4 if 50% is devoted to issue education; otherwise
they'd have to 501c6 it or funnel it openly through a non-campaign-coordinating superpac with a quarter... 
I think they're asleep now. We can sneak out."
 
And finally, finally, it's The Bullshit of Infinite Possibility. These bullshitters cover their unwillingness
to act under the guise of unending inquiry. "We can't do anything because we don't yet know everything."
"We cannot take action on climate change until everyone in the world agrees gay marriage vaccines won't
cause our children to marry goats who are going to come for our guns. 
Until then, I say "teach the controversy."
 
Now, the good news is this: bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy, and their work is easily detected.

And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time - like an "I Spy" of bullshit.
I say to you tonight, friends - the best defense against bullshit is vigilance.
So if you smell something, say something.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

This is August



The first week of August has come and gone, and has done so without a temperature over ninety-three. True enough, the mornings have felt sticky, heavy, and humid, but the searing heat of late July didn’t translate into a brutal August beginning. It has rained nearly every day this month so far and the cloud cover has helped a lot, I suppose, as well as the rain cooling off the earth in general. There’s still plenty of Summer left, and there is still time enough for August to make me regret every thinking that there wouldn’t be hellish days, but so far there’s been barely a whimper out of the second hottest month of the year.

August is a month of transition and not just from Summer to school for that’s a human concept. August is the last full month of Summer and usually the first half of the month looks like July and the last part of the month resembles September. The light of the sun had Her maximum power as far as hours go back in late July. Now the heat of the sun begins to wane as well. No, yet, no yet, but in a couple of weeks, perhaps, someone remark that the days are getting shorter. We’ll stay on the plus side of hours in the day until the Equinox in September but at this moment we’re still, well, we should still be in, the grips of Summer heat.

Even if there was triple digit heat, the signs of decay and decline are there for those who are paying attention. The wild grape vines are always the first to turn their leaves yellow and then gold, and finally brown. High in the trees wreathes of gold are beginning to appear. Lower on the ground, the perennial vines have sprung up once again, heeding some call unheard by others. I’ve often wondered if they were tuned into the angle of the Sun’s energy, or the gradual cooling of the ground, or if it was the light let in by the other trees surrendering it to them. These are the thin but lengthy small vines that have white, purple, or red flowers and cover everything they can for just a few short weeks. They’re amongst my favorite plants on earth and earth August I await their return. This year they seem to have arrived much earlier but none the less welcome for it.


There’s a certain energy inherent to this month. Corn will be harvested, Peanuts will come into their own and well as cotton. The produce fields will be stripped bare. This is the time for collecting the reward for labor in the fields and at the same time, surrendering the rest of the year to a lack of growing power. I’ll be able to keep my pepper plants going for a while longer, yes, but the tomatoes and the flowers will slowly die out. The grass in the yard is lush and thick but there’s a certain lack in the blades. It’s as if the slowing Summer has deprived the army of green of their weekly pay and they’re standing less tall at attention for it. I’ll have to mow today or tomorrow, and then three more times in August. Then August will be gone.

On July the twenty-second, 2015, the temperature soared upwards towards one hundred and the heat index hit one hundred and ten degrees that day. I went walking, of course, and made nearly six miles before having to summon my ride. It was dangerous to a degree, but as long as someone can come get me out of it, the danger is less. It will be very good walking weather very soon, but the lack of hazard will diminish the sense that I have done something I can still do. Without the heat, without the triple digit pounding and the humidity, where’s the challenge? The walk will be more thinking about other things that have nothing to do with survival. That’s a good thing, really, it does take the edge away and mediation can begin, but still… August is the calendar’s way of saying good-bye to Summer even if there are three weeks of it left in September.  Summer will be put out to pasture to spend its life trying to recreate the glory of those days that chased everyone indoors and forced the whole of South Georgia to live with air conditioning.

August may yet turn upon us and the Lizard Heat that chokes the life out of the air may return with a vengeance. I expect that it will. The first two weeks of September may well resemble July 2.0 and we might curse the sun even as the days shorten despite the heat. It could be the month of October is the only hope we have for any relief and there have been years were that has happened. It’s not too late for Summer to rampage Her way into our memory of the year the heat would not relinquish Her grip on us.


But this is August. The signs are there for whoever is paying attention to what the earth has to say. This is the circular dance which has been done for billions of years, long before we humans decided to try to define seasons, days, seconds, years, and centuries. Time defines this part of the year in the length of the day regardless of what grows or what does not grow and what we notice or what we ignore, means nothing to time at all. Civilizations have risen and fallen, their methods to mark or celebrate the dance has long disappeared forever, yet this is still August, it is still that time of year where one season begins to wan and another very slowly replaces it. I cannot help but think there have been many others, some sitting in this very spot thousands of years ago, who looked at the signs the earth sent and nodded. Yes, there is an ending beginning, here. This is August, by any other name, the same.

Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Flirting With The Cousins

Tyger Linn has discovered flirting. I keep a two chair barricade between my bedroom and the living room when all the dogs are inside, and I keep the Residents in the room with me and the Cousins on the other side. The Cousins could not care less. They like the living room floor and they like the AC. They like being inside so much they are just going to lie there quietly and wait for me to ask them to go outside.

Now, that’s a little odd, too. Greyson, the big female, is obviously expecting the door to open at the east side of the door when in reality it opens on the west. She keeps getting confused. More than a week later, with multiple trips outside every day, Greyson is not showing any signs that NASA might one day steal her away for her towering intellect. I’m not sure that Labs break into the top one percent of intelligent dogs but the only Weimaraner I ever knew was fairly bright. It must be a Lab thing, certainly.


But Greyson is a kind and gentle dog, as is her brother, Marco. They are a bonded pair and very rarely will one be somewhere without the other. Lilith sticks close to me and Tyger Linn, ever the hunter, wants to go out into the woods and watch and wait and listen. But she also wants to get the attention of the Cousins. Tyger Linn will lie on her back near the barricade and wiggle around on her back and make growly noises and whine. Lilith ignores her. The Cousins ignore her. I ignore her, but Tyger Linn wants someone to come over and pay some sort of attention to her antics. The longer no one goes over to check for Demonic Possession, the longer Tyger will floor dance and the louder.

The Cousins are not interested. Lilith is aloof. The effort goes for naught so Tyger leaps onto the bed to tell me she has been mistreated. This is serious. No one will play with her. So I have to spend a few minutes in tug of war which no one else seems to want in on at all. I have to teach the Cousins how to play something, even if it’s Whist.


There is something about large dogs. They have a certain feel to them, a definite mass, and there’s no way to do anything about their momentum at times. I’ve discovered they have no idea their tails are weapons when wagged furiously so I cannot walk around nude without watching for a wild tail whipping. The first time I got popped it was an experience that did not bear repeating, no pun intended.

Marco, the big male, is not nearly as assertive as Lucas or Bert was. He’s more of a go with the flow type fellow and Greyson is downright submissive. Neither of them will have anything at all to do with the Residents, and I like it that way. Lilith seems to enjoy being around her Cousins but at the same time, she’s kept her distance. Only Tyger Linn seems to want to figure out if these giants are going to be any fun or not. I’m not willing to let Tyger Linn test the waters quite yet and the Cousins seem to agree.

Tyger Linn is reaching deep in the bag of tricks.


The floor wiggle growly noise dance is not working at all but Tyger seems to think all it needs is volume. It’s hard not to laugh at her for doing this and I wonder why Lilith doesn’t play with her. This is Lilith at her very core, however. Lilith Magnolia is an aloof animal around strange dogs. She’s waiting to see who these new people are and what they are going to do and how long they plan to stick around. She and the Cousins all seem to agree that there is a place for the new dogs and a place for the old dogs, and everyone is better off by keeping their distances. Lilith has retreated from her spot next to me on the sofa. It’s a courtesy to the new dogs so if they want to speak to me they don’t have to approach her.


It is also a warning to me that Lilith isn’t seeking out these new dogs as companions. Her fascination is one from a distance. Lilith the Aloof needs some space and the Cousins need to find their way home in my house before having to sort how who is who inside a new pack. Tyger Linn wants to push buttons, I think. I think she’s going to get snapped at by a large male dog if she does and I’m not looking for that to happen.


The Cousins may be passive and derpy large dogs but they are still large dogs. Together they represent the better part of two hundred twenty pounds of canine. There will be no small mistakes and there will be no bloodless misunderstandings. I have to make sure that everyone is down with the plan of blending two packs before I turns them all loose together on top of my bed.


That’s not likely to happen soon. I’m going to need a bigger bed.


On the upside, really, these dogs are great people. They sleep through the night and they aren’t digging holes in the yard or tearing siding off the house. They haven’t eaten a shoe or a pair of glasses. They stick together and they mind me when I speak to them. They both need pettings on their ears and I’m down with that. I have missed the large ones, terribly.


Tyger Linn’s gyrations and flirtations go unanswered behind the chair barricade. Lilith dozes peacefully beyond the strangeness of the Cousins. Two large dogs sleep in the corner of the living room and I can now tell them apart in the dark and how they sound when they walk. There’s some getting used to to get used to, but we’re heading there.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Out On A Limb






There something in Mancode that says once you’ve put your hand on a project you have to see it to the end, and I knew that when I saw the limb down on my neighbor’s driveway. This is a ninety-five year old, that’s 9-5, woman who still gets around in the yard to work. She has a circular driveway, sure, but this limb has now taken half of that away from her. I’m not happy about it and I’ve a good hand with an axe and not bad with a chainsaw. This all took place Thursday and it was still there this morning. Yeah, I’m going to throw down on it.


The thing here is that Thursday when I first noticed the limb it was hanging from its place in the trunk by a few fibers and that’s all. I went and got my axe, and truly, all I wanted to do was put all of it on the ground. I found the supporting branches, now driven deep into the ground rather than into the sky, and whacked away at them. This caused the limb to shift massively, not down, but to the South, where the last ten feet of it wedged into the crook of two other limbs. Stupid physics. But now it really was mine. I fixed one problem and created another.

Other than the fact this was one truly bushy limb, with lots of branches that had branches and it was full of leaves, it was also alive and well. Not a spot of rotted wood to be found. Other than being broken at the base it was the very picture of health. At this point, take a pen or a drinking straw or anything long and prop it against anything solid, at a forty-five degree angle. Now, if you wanted to cut this long thing, near the bottom, what would happen as you cut? That’s right, the straw, or the limb, would bend towards whatever it is propped against. This means I had to cut from underneath. Which means I had to hold the chainsaw up for the duration.


This isn’t much of an ordeal but I simply do not trust trees or chainsaws. At a certain point I put the chainsaw down and resort to axe work. The cut is deep and the axe is sharp. A couple of minutes later and the limb breaks. But instead of falling it just slips lower. That was half way expected. It happened on my 4th of July tree. I have to make another cut with the saw. And this time I do it at shoulder height, which is two axe handles in length. I’m guessing that’s how much limb is left in the crook of the other limbs. I am guessing but it’s going to be close.

The cut is made with a sixteen inch bar on a limb that is nearly that in diameter. Again, from the bottom but this is different. The Gods Of Chainsaws punish those who take chances and there’s something to be calculated here. If I am right, this is the cut that will cause the limb to break at the cut, shift down, but also shift the top past the crook and then fall South, just like it did when I hacked at it at Day One. The weight is still there. The pull is still at that point. But if this thing breaks at the cut, shift down, and falls forward, I had better be somewhere other than where the trunk of this limb lands.

Rule One: Leave an escape route. I move a lot of the smaller limbs and branches so if I have to run I won’t have to hurdle. I also cut a short branch off the broken limb so if this thing rolls as it falls I won’t get swatted.

The cut goes very slowly, but I make sure that is goes deeper on the South side, where I expect the limb to fall. I do not want to be there, trying to deepen the cut, when this thing breaks. I go as far as a dare then begin my cut on the north side of the limb. I am tiring. The saw is getting dull. The progress is very slow. That’s good, Slow is good. I stop and look at the cut and drink water.

The limb, up to some point in time last Thursday, was part of a living being. The limb was up in the air, holding up twenty five thousand leaves, a myriad of branches, and using only the sun, water, and carbon dioxide, was a marvel of engineering. It still is, even in death. Less than ten percent of the limb remains uncut but the limb still holds. There are several hundred kilograms of tree aimed somewhere, and I have to be right. Or quick. Mostly I hope to be right because quick doesn’t seem to be happening.

If I had cut from the top the saw would be pinched as the tree began to lose its structural integrity. As I make the cut from the bottom I notice the cut widening. I know it’s getting close. I pull back and there’s maybe ten percent of the wood in the limb left. And it’s still holding. That’s pretty amazing because I’ve never seen anything manmade that could survive a ninety percent loss in volume and still hold. I make two notches at the top and whack at it with the axe. The limb slowly begins to creak and bend.

I back off.


The limb reaches a point of equilibrium and I poke at it with a long stick. It moves but does not break. We humans could never build anything that could take this sort of punishment. I finally toss a large piece of wood at it and the limb suddenly breaks, slips straight down, I’m back pedaling heading north and away from the tree and the limb shift past the crook and heads South. It lands with a thud that I can feel in my bones. There’s nothing left to do now but clean up the mess that’s been made.


It’s truly exhausting and takes four trucks loads of stuff but finally, after six hours, it is done. My back is going to let me know about this tomorrow, as is my shoulder and my knees. Like the tree, I’m getting weaker at stress points too, but I hope I don’t lose a limb to it. The tree looks to be in good health. The woman in the house waves to me and I wonder what this tree looked like when she was born, no more than five miles from this spot. Time was, a man with a hand saw would have had to get a friend or two to do this, and she remembers that time clearly.


Take Care,

Mike