Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Machines at Christmas

Machines know things. I’ve said this before and been disbelieved, but it is a plain fact. They know things about us and use this knowledge to embarrass and frustrate us. Take the last few days for example:

The other night was my last night at work for, as a part of the seasonal team that helps get the company past its peak demand. It was a particularly cold night, and on the way home, I noticed the heater in my little car was not working very well. In fact it was not working at all. This was embarrassing to say the least, because I had a rider with me, and of course wished to provide him a comfortable lift home after a hard night’s work. Well, just as we arrived at his stop, I noticed billows of steam coming from under the hood, and thought to myself, most appropriately,

“uh oh.”

As I pulled into my spot, another cloud of steam poured over the hood, and the engine stalled.

“Uhhh Ohhhh”

I got out of the car, and, as I often do, stared in bewilderment and consternation for probably three minutes. (It couldn’t have been more than that, because it was really cold out there, and physical discomfort always trumps bewildered consternation for me.)

I grabbed my lunch bag and headed inside, fully aware that there were troubled times ahead, but too tired to do anything about it at the moment. But I noticed the smile on the little car’s grill as I headed for the door. What I didn’t notice at the time, but have clearly discerned in retrospect, was the other smile. The one on my big Winnebago’s grill.

(dissonant chord, ominous musical tones)

The fact is, the incident has ties to a deeper, darker reality. Not too long ago, my propane furnace decided to stop blowing warm air. It then proceeded to embarrass me considerably when a kind-hearted and mechanically-inclined neighbor took a look at it. The furnace would function, then not, then function again while we took it apart, put it back together, then scratched our heads. (I reported this incident in some detail in an earlier blog…and at that time took note of the chuckling I could hear in that appliance’s general vicinity.)

It’s now quite obvious that the furnace had had at least a cursory conversation with the 454 Vortec engine that powers our motor home, probably bragging and laughing.

The little car is parked directly in front of the motor home when it’s not being towed behind it. I now am convinced that several conversations took place between it and the Vortec, about the furnace. While appliances by and large enjoy a good joke, like the on again off again ploy, they can let it go at that. Internal combustion engines, on the other hand, have a much darker take on things.

Thus, what started as an inconvenient prank evolved into some very nasty business indeed. The car had blown out its radiator at 4:00 am on the very last day of my employment. Coincidence? I think not.

The furnace could have easily discerned my work schedule, since it was running fairly constantly during the later part of the season. It would have been very easy to mention it to the Vortec, and for the Vortec to have hatched the plot with the little car. See how well it all fits together?

And in case you remain unconvinced, let me just present the last bit of evidence:

It took two days to get the radiator replaced and all in running order again. The little car chugs along smoothly now, and the heater works fine.

(A rustle of anticipatory percussion instruments, during a brief dramatic pause.)

This morning we hooked up the car and started to tow it out of town, to have Christmas with friends a short drive away. Two blocks down the road, and the temperature gauge in the Winnebago is buried in the red zone. Overheated.

Something internal.

Something in the cooling system.

(Dark, ominous chords…probably violas…with kettle drums and maybe an oboe in the background.)

So here we sit, at least through Christmas, until we can get back to the mechanic.

But here’s something the machines don’t know:
Yarntangler and I get to spend Christmas by ourselves this year. For the very first time in our 40 years together, we have each other all to ourselves. Just us.
In my book, that’s a Merry Christmas for sure. Machines might know things, but they don’t know everything.

Blog at ya later,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's the Thought That Counts

I really had the best intentions when I signed up to blog everyday in December. That was before the onset of eleven hour days, five days a week at It was also before the temperatures plummeted and I had to run for propane in the small tanks every couple of days.

I still hope to add a couple more fascinating observations on the season before the month is over but today I decided my biggest wish is for all of my loyal followers. So without further ado:


Clancy, Yarntangler, and Geezerguy
wish a
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Safe Journeys
to our family, and friends, both the ones who expect Santa to come down the chimney and the ones hoping he'll find them on the road.


Blog at you later,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Still Here

Just a little note to let you know I'm still here. Brain's not quite in gear yet, but I am getting close to the Holiday mood: Blog at ya later,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

So Long Turkey, Hello Fruit Cake

Well, here we are at the beginning of the Official Christmas season, still digesting the last of the Thanksgiving turkey and the news that we’ve been in a recession since last December. We didn’t know we were in a recession all last year, of course, so we did fine till somebody opened his big mouth, and now look. Boy, you’d think people could just keep some things to themselves.

Anyway, ’tis the Season, and we’ll be hearing the sounds of Christmas at Wal Mart and K Mart and throughout Retail America from now on. We all know the words, and we’ll all be hearing them in our heads consciously or not, all season long.

I know I get a tear in my eye when I hear Yorgi Yorgesson’s timeless I Yust Go Nutz at Christmas, and Bobby “Boris” Picket’s Monster’s Holiday. And who can forget lyrics like:

When Santa got stuck in the chimney, he began to shout
“You girls and boys won’t get any toys,
If you don’t pull me out.
My beard is black, there’s soot in my sack,
My nose is tickling too.”
When Santa got stuck up the chimney-
Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!
(thanks to “jessboo from England for sharing on

Yes, we all get a little sentimental with the classics like Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas. It just seems to get us in the mood for a festive time, doesn’t it?

I know I’ve pretty much decided to look for some off-beat Christmas stuff for this month’s set of blogs, but it just seemed right to start off on a more traditional note.
Blog at ya later,

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bye for Now, NaBloPoMo

So this is the end of the November blog challenge. I’ve actually posted one per day, which is something of a surprise to me. Looking back at them, I don’t think there were too many entries that were totally useless. Not bad, I guess, for somebody who posted very few entries per month before this. Maybe I’ll do it again, but not in the immediate future.

I think I may try researching weird, or sort of off-the-wall topics and blogging about them, or looking for oddball developments in the news next. Who knows?

The end of something can be a memorable, or a forgettable occasion. The last installment of MASH, for instance, was quite impressive; as was the final episode in the last Bob Newhart show.

In contrast, there was the finale to Cheers, where everything just sort of ended. The original Planet of the Apes movies were quite impressive in their day, and became classics…but by the final couple of sequels we pretty much knew what to expect, and got it.

So, here’s my November-ending blog, and you can rate it a Bob (for good) or a Cheers (for bad). Or a Star Trek V, if it’s really REALLY bad.


All the leaves are down, and pretty much crushed underfoot now, and winter is on its way. We’re getting some freezing wind from the north, and an occasional flurry of snow. Most of us who live in our motor homes are hoping the really bad weather will hold off until the job is over here in Coffeyville, so we can flee to places like Arizona or Texas.

We realize, but maybe don’t always verbalize, how fortunate we are to be able to do that. The people who live here full-time will stay, and deal with the snow and ice, and the floods when they come, as they did last year. In return for their sacrifices they’ll enjoy the kind of close community that comes from sharing good times and bad, and pulling together. Symbolic of that is the yearly celebration of the “Dalton Defenders”…the members of the community who responded, some at the cost of their lives, to an attempted double bank robbery in an earlier era.

We have a different kind of community…a mobile, variable neighborhood. The individuals who comprise that neighborhood are always changing, (giving some of us, who are bad at remembering names a particularly frustrating challenge) and so is the geography. Our community fosters trust and interdependence in its own way. Most of us are willing to lend a hand or some advice when needed to people we may have met just yesterday. We’re willing to share the benefit of our experience, so that everybody doesn’t have to learn everything the hard way. There’s a relaxed kind of friendliness and trust that I’ve seen portrayed in descriptions of pioneer towns and early settlements. In a sense, I guess, we’re the pioneers of our time, even though the places where we live have been settled and “civilized” for a while now.

In a way, we take the best from both kinds of America and combine them…and for the opportunity to do that, I will be grateful for just as long as it lasts.

To all the folks we’ve met along the way, are friends with now, or will be friends with in the future, an early Merry Christmas and Happy New year. And may you follow the sun for many, many years to come.
Blog at ya later,

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some Random Seasonal Thoughts

It looks like the warm days are about over. We might get some snow by tomorrow, and the nights have been getting colder. Daytime too, today. We’re beginning to appreciate the virtues of propane, and furnaces that work (thanks to my friend Joel, who gave ours the magic touch a week ago).

Now the Christmas Movies begin. All day, every day from now ’till Christmas. How many ways can you tell the Scrooge story? It would be interesting to count the versions some year, and compile a list. I prefer the older ones…In particular the movie with Alistair Cook, originally entitled “Scrooge”, but marketed these days as “A Christmas Carol”, although the original title is still what you see when the movie starts.

Of course we’ll be watching “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”, where the original Bert and Ernie showed up, long before Sesame Street.

The classics always bring the most intense feelings of the season, at least for me. “A Christmas Story” complete with the leg lamp has become a classic in my lifetime…and reminds me most of Christmas when I was a boy. These days, films like “The Polar Express” and “Elf” appeal to the youngsters, and will probably become classics some day. But I prefer the older films: long on sentiment and not too demanding on the intellect…after all who wants to think a lot when you’re stuffed with turkey and half dozing.

I’ll probably be blogging more about Christmas as the day approaches… right now, with the cold weather just moving in, I’m more interested in preparations: finding good hiding places for presents (a challenge in a motor home), and coming up with mobile-type decorations (although that’s pretty much my wife’s part). I have already been informed I’ll be putting up lights tomorrow… so the preparations are officially underway.

Happy pre-Holidays.
Blog at ya later,

Friday, November 28, 2008

Blog Challenge Nears End...Geezer gets Desparate

Just two days to go, and I’m running really thin on blog ideas. So today, I’ll dip into the idea jar…Nope. Just cookie crumbs.

This one has a bit of frosting still attached. I remember that cookie: It was a really fine experience. At the time I ate it, it was still warm and soft, and that touch of frosting gave it the crunch that added a little texture without being overwhelming.

It was a good, basic cookie with the kinds of undertones that come with experience in several diverse flavor moods. A kind of nuanced treat. It really combined the best bits from what had been previous bad combination choices, culling out the more detracting aspects of previous attempts.

The cookie created the kind of magic you wanted to live again and again. And I guess that’s the reason I’ve decided to eat the crumb.
(time passes, and the tension builds)

OK. Not a good decision. It seems time has not been kind to the cookie…or at least to the crumb. The crumb itself was crunchy and hard, and had lost most of its flavor. The bit of frosting nearly put a chip in my tooth. Not a pleasurable experience. I need something to rinse out my mouth now, before I get ready for work.

I guess that’s what I get for letting my imagination wander while the wife flips through the “Food Channel,” “What Not to Wear” and “What It Takes” on the TV.
Blog at ya later,

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Depending on your point of view, Thanksgiving can be a day for celebrating, or for clever deception.

We gathered with friends for Thanksgiving at noon today, and are kind of taking it easy this evening. Just the wife and me in our cozy RV, thinking about what we have to be grateful for this year.

Thanksgiving’s one of those holidays that haven’t been messed with in a major way since it began. Fortunately, setting a day aside to give thanks for what you have is still at the heart of the day. So I’m just relaxing, being grateful for my wife, who continues to put up with me; for my four sons who have all grown into men I’m proud to know; and for my health, which remains solid and allows me to work and play as I continue to live the dream. And for all the friends I've met or will meet along the way.

It’s been a year with some trials, but it certainly hasn’t been as bad a year as they had in Connecticut in 1721, when His Majesty’s Governor still found it in his heart to issue the following:

(Click to enlarge & read)

So, happy Thanksgiving, and many more in future years.
Blog at ya later

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Legend of the Leaf, the Pecan and the Ditch

Once upon a time there was a brown leaf lying on the ground, in a ditch with multitudes of other brown leaves. Having nothing better to do, it looked around one afternoon and started counting the other leaves. After reaching 1,879 with many, many more to go, the leaf got tired of counting.

“I’m tired of counting,” the leaf said to itself redundantly, “I think I’ll stop now and do something else.”

Just then, a large, four legged animal came snuffling through the leaves, and when it got to the counting leaf, it stopped. It sniffed more closely, and then upended the counting leaf abruptly, grabbing a pecan from underneath it, and taking it to the edge of the ditch to eat.

“Help! Help,” said the pecan, “I don’t want to be eaten!”

But the leaf just sat back and said: “You’re a nut. It’s your nature to be eaten. Don‘t be such a crybaby”

But the pecan insisted to the end that it was meant to grow into another tree, not become a meal for a four-legged snuffling animal.

“Don’t you have any compassion? You were up there on the tree with me! You watched me grow from a tiny bud!”
“Yes,” said the leaf, “and you watched me turn bright colors when the weather got cold, and then get brown and dry and drop off the branch and float away. Did you reach out and grab me so I wouldn’t hit the ground? No!”

“But I don’t have any arms,” said the nut.

“Well,” said the leaf, “I don’t either.”

“That’s no excuse,” said the nut. But before it could explain why or how the leaf could help, there was a loud CRUNCH and the pecan fulfilled its role as part of the food chain.

“Glad that’s over with,” said the leaf. “What a whiner! Besides, it’s a lot more comfortable lying here on the dirt, without that hard pecan shell underneath me.” And just at that moment, a two-legged companion to the four-legged snuffling animal came along, and the leaf was scrunched into a thousand tiny brown pieces in the dirt.

“Mph, Mphhh, Phmmmp pmmmphph,” said the leaf, for its mouth (or what it thought of as a mouth anyway) had been totally mashed by the big two-legged creature.

Eventually, the brown pieces of leaf decomposed, and became part of the soil. Meanwhile, the four-legged animal and its two-legged companion returned throughout the fall to the ditch and the grass surrounding it. Eventually, the pecan was re-deposited in an altered form into the ground.

Years passed. And one spring morning, the leaf sprang out of a much longer and higher branch, and as it happened, the pecan poked out a little later that season quite close to the leaf. One day they struck up a conversation.

“You know,” said the leaf, “I’ve had a little time to think about it, and maybe I was a little hasty in just letting you get eaten back then. I guess our new position higher up on the tree has given me new perspective.”

“Well, you know, I think we’ve both become a bit more mature since those days,” said the pecan. “Let’s just try to watch out for each other a little better.”

That Fall, when the cold nights and windy days came along, they did take care of each other. The pecan edged a little closer to the leaf at night, trying to protect it from the cold breeze. And when the pecan started to wobble a bit on its stem, the leaf moved underneath, to catch it in case it fell. The leaf turned bright orange, then faded gradually to brown. The pecan’s covering got stiff, and opened up, exposing the nut to the cold air. When the nut fell out of the pod, it landed on the leaf, and took it down with it; and there they were, together again in the ditch.

Off in the distance, they could both see a four-legged animal snuffling its way toward them.
“Well,” said the pecan, “at least this time you cushioned my fall, so I don’t have any cracks in my shell.”
“Mphhh, Bluphph,Umphhupt,” said the leaf. For the pecan had mashed what the leaf thought of as a mouth when they hit the ground.

Editor’s note:
This is what happens when you sit a person down to a computer and say: “Write something. Anything.”

Blog at ya later,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Good Day at the Pump

Today I filled up my gas tank for less than 17 dollars. No, it wasn't the RV tank; things haven't improved that much. It was the Jeep...our little toad (as in "towed vehicle"... towed-toad: get it?'s an RV'er thing). I can't remember the last time that's been possible...and it took nearly a full tank of gas.
I guess that goes to show something good comes out of every economic crisis...especially for those of us who don't have a lot to begin with.

I notice people who never really worried about the price of gas...those who ride in limos and fly jets from here to there, etc....presenting themselves with worried expressions these days. Well, I'm not worried. I don't see the dropping price of gas as a dire "economic indicator" any more than I saw the obscene increase in gas prices as a sign of a "strengthening economy".

I think what goes around comes around, and that what's been around is starting to come back around now. And as long as it stays around I'll be happy to pay 17 dollars or less for a tank of gas.

Blog at ya later

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Conspiracy Spreads

Well, we’re toasty warm, so far. The Great Furnace Adventure continues, with yet another round. The technological conspiracy kept us cold again last night, when the furnace, after briefly working, stopped again, and the chuckling from beneath the floor was almost enough to keep me awake.

Anyway, my friend came over again today, and we took the whole thing apart, examined all the parts, blew a little dust around, put back everything we took out…and turned it back on. Actually, he did all the work, and I just kind of watched, since he was the one who knew what he was doing.

Now, he says he didn’t do anything, but after it was all back together again, the air coming out of the registers was warm…which is the idea behind a furnace. I’d say he fixed it.

Anyway, tonight we’re warm, and the blog is brief because my brain has joined the technological conspiracy and I’m at the end of my creativity.
Blog at ya later,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Old Photos

I’ve been fascinated for as long as I can remember by old photographs. I never miss a chance to rummage through those boxes of pictures you find in antique shops. It’s fun to imagine what the lives of those people were like. To try and put some context around the images; some personality into the faces.

When I was a boy I’d look at the old family photo album and find younger versions of my grandmother, pictures of relatives who had died, and glimpses of places and events that happened before I was born.

I don’t know what happened to most of those pictures. Mom and Dad have been gone for some time now, and I’m not sure what my brother preserved. I know I have just a few pictures, and my album. Dad made a special picture album for each of his sons. It features highlights of our childhood…vacation trips, Christmas mornings, birthdays, special events that sort of thing. I can watch myself grow up in those photos, and watch my Mom and Dad in their prime: happy and proud.

Of course it’s just the happy times…far from an accurate historical record. We didn’t smile all the time like that. There were days, weeks and years in between the pictures when things of a less rosy nature colored our lives. But that, of course, is not the point. The album makes me feel good when I take it out and look for the hundredth time at its old pages…hand-printed notes and comments from Dad included in the margins. It brings some moments back to mind. Sometimes it brings Dad and Mom and Uncle Charles, and Grandma and me back for a while. It’s a little paper time machine that connects me to the places and people I know I’ll never touch again.

So, thank-you, Dad.

There was a big box of photos under our bed, back in the stick house days. My son is keeping them in storage for us now, and I think I’ll go back and get them soon.

I’d hate to have somebody find pictures of me or the boys in an antique shop someday and try to put some context around those images. I think I’d rather put them in a time machine.
Blog at ya later,

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Adventure Continues

The word associated with technological problems that I like the least is “Intermittent”.

That’s the word that tells you not only will you probably not get to the bottom of whatever it is that’s causing the malfunction, but if anybody tries to fix it, you are guaranteed to look like a total boob* in that person’s eyes. In describing my rig’s ongoing technological conspiracy (see yesterday’s masterpiece), I once again underestimated the prowess of Winnebagga Antiquis.

A friend from work and a nearby section of the Park where we are staying kindly agreed to take a look at our failing furnace this morning, and came over bright and early. When he asked me to turn it on, I explained how the thing blew only cold air. We were discussing possible causes, and he was undoing the screws that hold the lid on, when…you know what‘s coming, right? The burner lit. Just out of the blue.

He was very nice about it. He smiled. I thanked him, and he headed home, still smiling. So here I sit…warm again. My wife is warm again. And I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Will it work next time? Will it wait until it’s Really cold tonight and not work again? What’ll it do?

Nobody knows.

It’s intermittent.

But somewhere in the background, just under the constant sound of that cold wind outside, every once in a while it seems I can hear a faint “heh-heh-heh”.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.
Blog at ya later

*Archaic term formerly used to designate a fool or absolute incompetent. Current usage refers to something completely different.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Revenge of the Rig

OK, so yesterday I did my semi-monthly political rant, and was reminded of why I stay away from CNN most of the time. Today’s rant is something I really can’t get away from. I live with it.

I’m talking, of course, about the eternal conspiracy of technology against those who rely upon it. There have been several minor examples of this conspiracy recently here in Coffeyville, where we are currently making our home…but I’m convinced the RV simply threw them out so I’d be lulled into a false sense of security.

For example, our water pump went out a week ago. Not a major thing, because we had our connection with the Park system, and our friendly neighbor the RV Fix-it guy was able to easily switch out our pump before the weather got freezing, and we had to disconnect. Tank’s full, all is well. We also stocked up on propane, made sure the water heater was working, got some gasoline additive, tested out the Gen-set. All good.

Then, the RV Fix-it guy decided to leave. As he headed down the road, our trusty Winnebago was watching (we’d parked facing the exit to our section of the park, foolishly forgetting the implications).

He hadn’t turned the corner onto the highway before the Big Whammy came along. Winnie decided to disable our propane furnace. It had also been keeping track of the weather forecasts, and withheld it’s coup de gras until the temperatures plunged below freezing. (When my wife asked what that strange sound from beneath the rig was, I refrained from telling her the truth. I said there was probably something caught in the fan blades or something…but I knew it was just the furnace’s version of “Heh-Heh-Heh.” I’d heard it before, from the black water tank, but that’s another story.)

So here we sit, all squared away for Thanksgiving, with a bum furnace, and the nearest RV repair place about an hour’s drive away in Oklahoma. I’d say more, but it’s almost time for work, so I’ll break out the electric heaters and head down the road. We’ve got a couple of freezing days to go before we can head south in search of a Techno-healer.
Blog at ya later,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

So Long, Ted.

So there’s Ted Stevens, the recently-convicted and not re-elected Senator from Alaska on CNN, giving a tear-studded farewell to his colleagues. This is what I watch as I have my morning coffee. The guy was found guilty of misappropriating my tax dollars to enrich himself, then voters unceremoniously booted him from his job (and rightly so); and instead of packing up his stuff and vacating the building like any other hired hand, he takes up time on the Senate floor to tell us he considers the US Capitol building to be one of his two homes. (is anybody else feeling nauseous at this point, or is it just me?)

What kind of arrogance does it take to steal from the people who pay you an exorbitant salary, to be convicted of it in court, and then on the strength of a lame denial, (the courts, the jury, everybody got it wrong. Right.) to stand up and address the Senate as though you’re some kind of retiring Elder Statesman?

A pretty disgusting display, and yet somehow informative. I think it shows us just how we got into the mess we’re in right now. We allow things to happen. We elect anybody with a good story and enough money to tell it to us. Ted Stevens told his constituents just what they wanted to hear, and made a career out of it. Then he got caught. But in his own mind he didn’t do anything wrong. That’s the mindset that makes him and his fellow politicians so dangerous. They believe it’s OK to do things. You just can’t get caught. If you break the law and nobody finds out, or an underling “fixes” it for you…well, that’s as it should be. After all you’re a United States Senator. You deserve to be above petty things like laws. (After all you made most of them anyway. Right?)

So Ted Stevens goes back to his “other” home and appeals his conviction. One bad guy gone.

But what really depresses me about the whole situation is the rest of the senate. The ones the rest of us elected, and who supposedly represent us. The reason the fiasco is so informative: The in-your-face slap they gave all of us regular citizens who do the best we can to be honest and earn our living.

What was that, Geez?

Well, I'll tell you:

They all stood up and gave old Ted a standing ovation. (Against senate rules, we’re told by CNN, but nobody objected.) “Good job, Ted. We’ll miss you ole buddy.

"Now let’s all adjourn for Thanksgiving before we have to deal with the auto industry crisis. The economy’s falling down around our ears, but Hey! It’s Thanksgiving! We all deserve a break, right? Besides, we have So Much to be thankful for. (Heh-Heh.)”

Alaska got rid of Ted. What about the rest of us?

Blog at ya later,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Best Laid Plans

OK, so today's blog was supposed to be a series of sunset pictures we've taken over the past few years, and comments about them, and the places , etc. etc. Unfortunately, I have found my technical prowess in the blog illustration department is currently too limited to accomplish it in the allotted time.

Therefore, after overlapping several different sunsets, and copies of the same sunset, and running out of time ('Have to get to work), I am posting this brief description of my learning process. I will consult Geeks of my acquaintance and get back to you tomorrow.

Blog at ya later,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sweeter Times?

Remember penny candy? Or 25 cent hamburgers? Or pinball machines? If you do, welcome to Geezerworld. I remember all of them. Now some would say that dates me, and I suppose it does…but is it such a bad thing to be dated? I remember a time when I really wanted to be dated, but the girls apparently had no such mutual feelings…

Anyway, when I was 13 or 14 or so there was a place called Jack’s Hamburger Stand, and there was a magnet inside that building that pulled all of us guys to it immediately after school. (I think the magnet actually worked on the change in our pockets, because when we got out of there most of us didn’t have any left.) You could get a hamburger for a quarter, or a hot dog for a dime. The hamburgers were really big when Jack put them on the grill, and really tiny when he put them in the bun and handed them to you. No, they weren’t “sliders”. You pay more for them, and they’re supposed to be small.

So we’d sit at a long counter, eat hamburgers (or on days when the money was tight, hot dogs) and then head for the “Back Room”. This was where the pinball machines lived. They sat along the dim back wall, with bells, lights, loud clacking sounds, and robbed you of all your money a nickel at a time. Some of the guys could take a single nickel into the Back Room, and play pinball all afternoon. I was not one of them, but I could play for about an hour on a good day.

During the course of that hour, we’d review last night’s episode of Superman, talk about the new movies that were playing (everybody was real excited about one called “Them”: The poster had a picture of a Giant Ant on it. Wow.), and rehash the day at school, provided something interesting like a fight or unscheduled fire drill had happened.

After Jack’s, it was home, via the little stores and shops that lined the street, and with the pennies we had left…the purchase of a final treat or two: strips of paper with candy “dots” in neat rows all the way down, “root beer barrels”, “Double Bubble” bubble gum (with a free comic on wax paper inside), and a million similar varieties of sugar that no doubt made us all hyperactive and worse. The cure for that affliction in those days was bed without TV, so many of us learned to control it at a young age. No drugs, No psychologists.

As we got a little older we graduated from Jack’s to the Pool Hall (an absolutely Forbidden den of iniquity located upstairs above Woolworth’s), and from there it was a fast slide down the road to Perdition during our High School years, and then College for some , the Army for most, the Mill for others…and College and the Mill for many of us.

Then, on to real life, jobs, worries, kids, etc. etc., and now, finally to a new place, where I can look back and actually remember some of those old, young days.

I know, things seem rosier from the distance of years, and the varnish gets thicker the longer you live. Still, it seems things were a lot more fun when they weren’t so convenient. When we actually had to go out and walk in the fresh air for a while to find entertainment. When being sent to your room was actually a punishment, and not doing your homework wasn’t an option.

Oh, well. The old guy’s just ranting again.

Blog at ya later,

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Great Illustrated Adventure

I just got to thinking about how turning down the right road can bring you an adventure in life you never expected, and make it just that much richer. Earlier this year, we had one such moment, as we were leaving the Gypsy Journal rally in Arizona. It was one of those moments when something caught my eye, and I thought, “Why not just take a quick detour and see what it is?”
This is what caught my eye:

I had no Idea what it was, but there seemed to be a serviceably wide road leading to it, so, what the Heck?
I made the turn…and found an unexpected adventure.
I found, first of all, that this was not the kind of road I’d been expecting, and specifically that not all road surfaces are in fact, paved. Combine that new information with a rather steady rain the previous night, and this is the result:

Now, if we seem to be listing a bit in this shot, it’s not because I had the camera at a bad angle. I stepped out to investigate, and see if I could nudge the rig a little…after all, how deep can the mud be? Right?
Well, It was this deep in the front:

And this deep in the rear:
And this deep where I was standing to get a look at the situation:

As you can imagine, I was feeling a bit distraught by the whole situation, but Yarntangler and Clancy lent me some fine moral support:
(Click for larger image, so you can see the sympathetic expressions on both their faces)

…And I got through just fine. We made a few calls, and soon, this guy came...

to the rescue:
And when it was all over, and the nice tow truck guy had gone, I still couldn’t figure out what the heck that thing was.

But I guess there are some questions in life that aren’t meant to be answered. So we’ve left that inquiry for another time, and in another vehicle.
That’s my first attempt at a pictorial tale. Hope you like it.
Blog at ya later,

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Living Up to the Basic Premise of this Blog

I must have about a thousand pictures of sunsets. I can’t seem to get enough of them, no matter how many pile up in the computer. Right now, I’m looking out the window at one, and resisting temptation…but it’s a really good one, and the trees make a great silhouette in front of the brilliant reds and oranges…with the deepening degrees of blue overhead and to either side. Really nice. Nice job, God.

OK, I looked at it and wrote long enough so I missed the chance…and this one won’t be taking up space in the laptop.

That’s kind of a shame…because no matter how many I accumulate, there should always be room for another one. The show only goes on once a night, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Like opportunities missed along the way all through life.

But there were opportunities taken as well, and some turned out pretty good. I guess we’re all going to make choices of one sort or another, and there’s no sense dwelling on what would have happened had we made a different one. I chose to marry a good woman when I had the chance. That’s a decision that has made me happy every day since. (although there have been some days when I’ve been happier than others…for example, today I’m in trouble for procrastinating about writing a blog, and while the decision still makes me happy in general, the situation right now isn’t too comfortable….and uh…I had a point to make, but maybe I should stop talking now since she’ll be reading this and that look will come over her face, and….Stop talking, Geez.)

What was I saying?

Choices. We chose to do this blog-every-day thing at the beginning of the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s a way to get into the habit of writing every day, and that can’t hurt. But there is a down side: I don’t always have something to say that’s worth reading. (I know that comes as a shock to some of you, but it’s true. Really. Really.) or even worth saying for that matter. There are lots of people like that. Rush Limbaugh, for example, or Al Frankin (equal time).

But they say it anyway, and they prosper in the process. So, what they say must make sense to somebody. Right? I think there’s a lesson to be taken from that. I don’t know what it is, but somebody might read this, and leave a comment telling me. That would be helpful.

OK, a blog a day keeps the Procrastination Police away. It’s not much, but I think it beats sitting a thousand monkeys down to a thousand typewriters. Anyway, tell me what you think. OK?
Blog at ya later,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Verbal Bankruptcy (the shame of it all)

Back in the days when I typed things like essays, articles or short stories, the most consistently aggravating sight I could think of was that of a blank piece of paper in the typewriter. The blank page would stare back at me, just daring me to think of something, anything intelligent to put on it. When I began a sentence, it would mock me about half way through as I lost the thought, and had to start over. If I made a spelling or grammatical mistake (known in the ancient language of pre-spell-check* times as a “typo”) I had to tear out a page, partially killing a tree, and start over.

These days, as we revel in the wondrous age of electronics, I no longer have to face the blank page. Instead, I face the blank screen (oddly shaped like a page). So things have improved since the old days. I know the trees like it better. But I don’ t find that it makes me any more creative. I still get stuck. I still get frustrated. Like today. I really can’t think of anything to write about, so I’m writing about not being able to think of anything to write about.

Does that make sense? Writing something at any cost?

Of course not. It must be ingrained.

I spent 30+ years as a broadcast reporter and only met one person who thought it was ok not to have anything new to report at news time. As it turns out, he was the one boss over the years who truly understood what “news” is. It’s new stuff. Thus the term.

Have you ever spent thirty, or twenty minutes with CNN and wondered why everything they were saying sounded so familiar? How many times can you listen to the same story before you start newscasting along with the anchor? Most “News” stations, TV or radio, repeat the same stuff so many times it’s like having the words appear in front of you as you listen. Kind of like a news Karaoke. But not as enjoyable as the musical version.

This boss had a story he liked to tell about having something really new to say at news time. He recalled one particularly dull afternoon, when his then news director found himself at the top of the hour with only the stories he’d read 30 minutes ago. When the big instrumental “News Opening” heralded the appointed time, as they all did in those days complete with kettle drums and brass in extremis, he opened his mike, said “Ladies and gentlemen there is absolutely nothing worth knowing to tell you about at this time” (or words to that effect), closed his mike and played the equally ostentatious “News Closing”.

I often wish my old boss worked for CNN.

*spell-check is a subject covered definitively by Sage Words some time ago.

Blog at ya later

Friday, November 14, 2008

Old Movies and Old Movie Houses

There’s an old movie theater here in Coffeyville KS called the “Midland”. I don’t know much about it except that it appears to be an ongoing restoration project. It’s one of those ornate, fancy buildings you just don’t see any more, except in places like Coffeyville.

It reminds me of going to the movies as a kid, and the difference between that experience then and the same thing now. Sure, a lot of it has to do with the memory of things done in childhood being somehow better than the actual experience, but not all.

I remember buying my ticket for 25 cents and walking down the long, white-tiled floor (you remember those little octagonal tiles, each individually grouted in place by “artisans”…tiny, magical people who could do that sort of thing). Eventually the hallway, lined with posters showing the next thirty or so movies you just HAD to see, led to the Lobby, a carpeted, elegant place featuring the Counter of Opulence, where buttered popcorn, and sugar in a gazillion different forms could be purchased for reasonable (but at that time outrageous) prices.

To the right, just as we passed the Counter, was the stairway leading to the balcony; the preferred seating. It was roped off on Saturdays, unless you happened to be among the last of a very large number people to buy a ticket. This was a policy of “Management”, a scowling, disapproving man in a suit and tie, who glowered from the office door as we filed by on our way to see two features, a serial (we HAD to come back every Saturday because there was NO WAY the good guy could have gotten out of THAT fix), and ten billion cartoons.

The balcony had not always been closed for the matinee. It had been a launching pad for popcorn, wads of paper, candy and most anything else purchased at the Counter. But it was closed right after what was known as the “garbage bag incident”. It involved some cleverly concealed contraband, several Orchestra-section patrons, and a cleaning bill that had permanently deepened the scowl on “Managent”’s face.

Anyway, those are the kinds of images that old theaters bring to mind. These days, you buy a ticket, sit in a really comfortable seat with great sound and special effects, and enjoy a 6 or 8 dollar extravaganza. What you don’t get is the magic. Somehow, when that HUGE screen lit up with big black-and-white people and giant colorful cartoon characters, a couple of hundred kids became part of a world removed.

We laughed, hollered, cheered, and totally lost ourselves into that Special Place for a few hours of our time and the quarter earned by a week’s worth of taking out the trash. (Every now and then, on my way down that long tiled hallway, I’d see four canisters sitting along the wall, containing next week’s feature, or maybe last week’s feature ready to be sent to the next theater on the list. I remember thinking how great it would be if I could just own one of those movies, and a projector to show it with…I could watch it anytime I wanted and invite my friends. Funny thing about wishes made when you’re a kid…some of them come true.)

One of my favorite movies is an Italian film called “Cinema Paradiso”. It has a lot to do with growing up, coming of age, and the different ways people show their love for each other. But one of the main characters is an old, broken down theater in a small Italian village. The chairs are small, the sound is bad, and it is the center of the community. It has none of the things my old theater of days gone by had, except the magic.

And that’s enough.

The feeling is there, and although I’m listening to Italian and reading subtitles, watching people from a country I’ve never seen, following incidents that are unlike anything from my childhood, it takes me back.

To the feelings: I become part of the story, just like we did on Saturday afternoon in a small New England Milltown.

It’s nice to know that the magic is still there. Now and then you find somebody with a camera and some film who can bring it back. And make you part of it.
Blog at ya later,

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Thought Over a Cup of Coffee

There’s a baseball diamond across the street from our motor home, complete with night lights, a new electronic scoreboard and state-of-the-art sound system. It has been put together over the past year over the remnants of the old ball field, left behind by the 2007 flood in this small Kansas town.

It’s a kind of symbol to me of the resilience people here in the Heartland have. What was a mud and mold-strewn park and neighborhood just 12 months ago is now well on its way to recovery. There were numerous businesses wiped out by the flood, and several whole neighborhoods had to be torn down. Now, where we walked or rode last year looking at the sad remains of peoples’ homes, some of which had undoubtedly been in families for generations, there are steps and slabs, and streets making a kind of giant map on the ground. What will end up there is still a mystery. It should be interesting to come back in another year or two and see what grows there. One way or another, places and the people who live in them recover and move on…sometimes replacing what was there, and sometimes creating a new reality.

That’s one of the things about this part of the country the metro types with their Urban Renewal, and hundred-thousand dollar condos don’t seem to get. When change happens in the Heartland, it can be drastic; it can be life-altering. But it happens naturally most of the time…not just because there’s a profit to be made.

Just a thought, as I look out my window at the new ball field, and listen to the afternoon pickup game.

Blog at ya later,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

“What’ll I Write About Today?”

My dog is staring at me. I don’t know how many other people have dogs who stare at them, but mine does it frequently. The stare can be modified to express different things. Often the stare says “I want to go out now.” This is accompanied by glances toward the door when she catches my eye, followed by little trots to the doorway and back if I don’t immediately indicate I’ve gotten the message. It generally ends with Yarntangler backing her play, and Clancy and me out in the field in search of really good smells, and the occasional pile of something to roll around in.

The stare can also mean “I want some of your food.” She will ignore a nice full bowl of perfectly good dog food, and stare, occasionally whimpering a bit for effect, until I put down my plate with the leftovers on them.

Right now, she’s staring at me with neither of the characteristic signs. She’s just eaten (and although that is rarely a factor in the “I want your food” stare, she just doesn't look hungry), and we’ve been for our walk already. No, this is a different stare; and I think I’ve figured it out. Clancy is working on her blog.

She started it a few days ago, after sneaking onto the computer when Yarntangler wasn’t looking, and for a first effort by a gourmet wiener dog it wasn’t bad. I even left her an encouraging comment.

Ever since then I’ve noticed a change in Clancy. She observes things with much more intensity, and there are places she sniffs at longer than she did in the past. She’s found several areas on our walks in which she never previously took an interest, and has done some digging in odd places. She seems to stare a little longer at the neighbor’s dogs, and at the birds that gather on the electric wires, much to her frustration.

Today, though, she’s staring at me. I can almost hear the little wheels turning in that doggie head, and I’m a little uncomfortable about what she might be thinking about. After all, we all do things around the dog that we might think twice about if other people were present. (How long is a dog’s memory anyway?) She has a very strange look on her face right now, and the tail is wagging, slightly but steadily. Every now and then she looks over at the refrigerator, where my lunch is being kept until it’s time to go to work. Hmmm.

I think I’ve found another kind of stare, and I’m not sure I like it much. This one seems to say: “How’d you like to give me a WHOLE sandwich in exchange for an advance look at my next blog?”

I don’t think dogs should be allowed on the internet.
Blog at ya later,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

To Remember and Honor

Veteran’s Day 2008

I always think about my Dad on Veteran’s Day. It’s not that he ever made a big thing of his military service; in fact, he was very low key about it. I knew that he had served in the war, (WWII), but neither I nor my brother got any details. That’s the way veterans of Dad’s generation were, for the most part. They had done their duty, and that was that. Some joined the American Legion or VFW, and spent time with fellow Vets at the Post swapping memories. My Dad never did that. But every so often a couple of his buddies from not too far away would come over. They’d sit around the living room and talk about all the other people they knew and things that happened. They’d laugh and talk for hours. My brother and I would just sit in the background and listen. It sounded like the War was just one big prank, and good time after another. But every now and then they’d mention a name, or a place, or a day and everything would get quiet for a while.

After a time, one of them would start with another yarn and the pace would pick up and get back to a happy rhythm again. But now, years later as I think about it, they probably communicated more deep feelings during the silences than any other part of the conversation. That was their way. They did what they had to do, and moved on…but they didn’t forget. They just kept some things very close, and shared them very carefully.

When Dad died it was winter. The cemetery in our little New England town was frozen, and a strong wind blew a thick snowstorm into the group, as we stood around his grave. I remember the Veterans who performed the final Honors for Dad struggling in the hard-blowing snow with his flag. They did as they always had: they kept at the job until it was done, then handed over the folded triangle and moved on.

Dad’s name and their names are listed together in a big, framed memorial in front of the public library downtown at the head of Main Street. I suspect there will be a ceremony today in front of that memorial, as there is every year. I won’t be there; I’ve been far away from that little town for many years…but I still remember. And I still say Thank You to Dad and his generation…and to those in my generation, like my brother, who served, and to my children and grandchildren and their generation. To everyone who served, is serving, or will serve: Thank you. Know you are appreciated and cherished.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Now with PICTURES!

Today, I’m trying something different. I’m going to try posting a picture in my blog. I’ve noticed some people post pictures all the time…Some post nothing but pictures for their blogs. Well…time for me to jump into something new, so here goes. I’m going to post my favorite picture from this summer. Ready? OK. This may take a while (as several of my maintenance programs have told me recently). Here goes:

This is me and Yarntangler on Aug 3. We were in 1880 town, and had just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, by re-doing the whole thing (I’ve always said I’d do it again anytime) in a little church at the end of the main street. We dressed appropriately for the time period, as you can see, and a few of our friends came along to help us celebrate. This shot was taken on the walk in front of the Longhorn Saloon, as we headed there for our reception. Sarsaparilla all around.
No big philosophical point to make today…I just felt like sharing a moment I think about often. A special part of our summer, and our life.
Blog at ya later,

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Crunch, Grunt, Umph, Teeter…But wait! There’s More!

TV can be very beneficial to your health. It can turn you into a person so healthy you’ll live to be at least 2-thousand, and so hard-muscled, slim and handsome, you’ll have to fight off the women (or men, as the case may be) well into your 1900’s.

I just saw a device that can make my abs (I think I know what those are) as hard as boulders, and another one that can give me pecs (I do know what those are) that are irresistible to the opposite sex. (I know that’s true because there was this GORGEOUS redhead all over the guy in the infomercial.) And it’s available for three easy payments of 29.99 (plus shipping and handling, which they did not quantify). How can I resist? I’d be a fool not to get it.

I can also get a device that allows me to tilt myself upside down, like I used to get in trouble for when I was a kid, on a teeter-totter designed to straighten my spine and make all my troubles, including bill collectors (OK that’s a slight exaggeration), go away.
There’s a product that can replace my long-gone hair, and restore it to the original luster of my youth…another that can get rid of hair that’s in the wrong places with a simple massage-like motion. If I call now I’ll get extras free of charge (except for shipping and handling).
And there’s this stuff that will make me a lover without peer, and without a prescription (just look at how happy Bob is…and catch the look on that gorgeous female in the background).
TV can also solve all the financial problems of the world, one person at a time. There are people who can get you out of credit card debt (if you owe $10,000.00 or more)…people who can go to bat for you against the nasty, evil IRS: after all, you’re just a poor, innocent victim who didn’t pay any taxes for two, three or more years (“Oh, goodness, I’m…I’m actually supposed to pay taxes? Who knew?”…“They took my last $50,000.00 before I could move it to my offshore account -- snif, snif.”)

And there are banks that can get you into your OWN HOME for almost nothing down, and easy balloon payments of just… Wait a minute, uh… That one didn’t work out too well.
Come to think of it, most of that stuff hasn’t worked out too well…except for the people selling it. Or the ones handling the shipping and handling.

I guess I’ve been watching too much TV. I’d better find something else to do with my spare time.
Blog at ya later,

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Moving Day Plus 3

Does it ever end? Got up about noonish today (TGIS, day off tomorrow), tried to get propane since it will be freezing tonight. Nobody open (after all it's Saturday). Hooked up the partial tank, and hoped for the best.
We're gonna be settled down soon, then I can blog more lucidly (is that a word?). Anyhow, monthly blog number 8 has now been duly submitted.
blog at ya later

Friday, November 7, 2008

Moving Day Plus 2

This has been a 5 star day.

1 Got up too early. When you work until 4 AM anything before noon is too early.

2 Go have lunch with the wife's cousin . I haven't seen her since she was babysitting my first born while my second born was being born 38 years ago. Turns out she's a nice gal. She brought me a pumpkin pie!

3 Get phone call telling us to come back to RV park ASAP. Grab loaf of bread and the mail.

4 Stash everything- again- unhook everything -again. Move back to our original spot -hook everything up-again.

5 Change into a work shirt and get the beard braided. Dash this off .

My day in 5 hours!

Blog at you later,

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Moving Day Plus One

OK, if I was in a hurry yesterday (and I was), I’m twice as in a hurry (to paraphrase an obscure line from “Blade Runner”) today. We’re in the new swamp…uh…RV section, and it rained last night. We remain hopeful that we will be able to move the rig eventually when the time comes to move back (which we definitely plan to do).

Anyway, I’m in a hurry today because our WiFi signal has dwindled to a mere shadow of its former self, and I have no idea how long I’ll be connected. So here’s day 6 of our blogathon, and more power (and signal strength) to me in the future.

Just a brief reflection on the situation:
Here we are living the dream we nurtured for all those stick-house years when we were permanently attached to one job and one place. It might sound like I’m complaining sometimes, but even when things get really bad, all I have to do is look back to those days, and I realize that this is THE life for us, and it doesn’t seem so bad after all. I’m thankful every day for my wife’s wanderlust and the fact that she prodded me into this four (+) years ago. I might grouse a little, but I can smell the roses, the leaves, the mud and occasionally the refinery…and it all feels pretty darn good to me.
Blog at ya later,

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Moving Day

This will be brief, because we are moving. At least I think we are moving. It’s a long, sad story, but in condensed form it goes something like this:

There were these contractors putting in a new section of RV park, just down the road from us, and making improvements to the section we are in. As a consequence of certain improvements to our section, we are temporarily being moved to the new section. Construction being what it is, we have been assured we are moving Monday morning, Tuesday morning, Wednesday (today) morning, and now Wednesday (this) afternoon. So we have unhooked all but the electricity, stowed the satellite dish on our bed and made sure the engine starts. Now we wait, and at some point the temporary sites will be ready for us to move into, until the work is done on our site, and we can move back. Or not. Depending upon whether we want to stay there, whether or not the work gets done here, and/or anything else that might come up in the meantime.

Anyway, that’s why this is so short. I have an ominous feeling this is going to turn into a series of posts, but we’ll see.

Blog at ya later,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

At Last... A real American Election

Ten minutes till midnight, so I don't have time for a long-winded post. I just finished listening to a couple of speeches, and feel good for the first time in a looonnngg time about an election. This time around I had a tough time deciding who to vote for. I thought a LOT about what was said in this campaign, and went back and forth several times, finally deciding John McCain was the best man for the job. His concession speech this evening confirmed that beyond a doubt. A class act, and great American with the integrity we've all so sorely missed during the Clinton and Bush years.
Having said that, I can't feel too bad that Obama won. He is untested, that's true. He has yet to prove through actions the capabilities implied in his speeches...but I'm willing to back his efforts to make the changes. I feel I can trust him. He does give me hope for the future, and I look forward to seeing if he can chew up what he's bitten off.
And, oh yes. We've all taken a step as a country today. Those who voted for and those who voted against our first black president did so largely based on the ideas and issues brought out in a tough and VERY close campaign.
blog at ya later,

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why Koalas Only Eat Eucalyptus Leaves

Once upon a time, in the ancient days when koalas spoke and lived in groups, a great hot wind came through the land, and changed forever civilization as they knew it.

The Big Koala, known popularly as a Consultational Poombawooomba, was preparing to make a cyclical pronouncement to the gathered group. This was a tradition among Koalas, and it would determine the leadership of the group for the next cycle. The Big Koala was promoting himself as “BK” because it made him seem friendlier, more of a regular Joe koala than the other Consultational Poombawooomba who would be making a cyclical pronouncement. You see, BK and Trim Koala, known to his friends as TK, but promoted to the public at large as Trim the Fluent, were competing for the position of Great Poombawooomba.

This was during the time when koalas ate sensibly, and enjoyed a well-balanced diet. A nice plate of beast, with an assortment of vegetables and salad greens was the usual fare, and was a joy to the koala of good breeding. As a treat, eucalyptus leaves would be eaten for desert…but only a few.
The reigning Great Poombawooomba was retiring at the end of this cycle, and following the time-honored tradition both BK and TK (to his friends) had been gathering nasty things to say about him for the entire cycle. In fact, almost all of the Consultational Poombawooombas had been doing the same thing, in preparation for the minor pronouncements, which had resulted in the selection of our two heroes. As a result, there was very little consultation given to the reigning GP. In this way, the CP’s provided themselves with a plethora of things to blame on the retiring GP to make themselves seem really smart.

Whoever seemed the smarter of the two finalists at the end of the cyclical pronouncement got to be Great Poombawooomba for two cycles. All the koalas listened carefully to the two pronouncements, then chose a new leader, based on what they had heard during the allotted time, which lasted from dusk until it got really dark. That was the maximum extent of the group’s memory and attention span. (After all, cultured as they might be, they were still just koalas.)

The time-honored tradition required all koalas in the group to gather in a great domed enclosure, which was constructed carefully throughout the cycle. It was just large enough to accommodate all koalas in the group, and featured five large shuttered windows along the wall, which were closed tight during the pronouncements, until the koalas had made their choice.

On that fateful date so long ago, the Big Koala put the finishing touches on his pronouncement, and polished off a nice beast sandwich, garnished with a eucalyptus leaf by Mrs. Big Koala. She smiled proudly at her mate, and wiped a bit of beast grease from his chin. Time to go.

As they entered Great Dome BK spotted his opponent, already at the podium. A couple of lackeys were putting up a big poster that read “Trim the Fluent!!! What more do you want than somebody who can make a Great Speech?!!!”

A little verbose, but the slogan had made ole TK pretty popular during the past few days.
Big Koala stepped onto the stage, shook paws with TK, then sat in his seat for the traditional chewing of the eucalyptus leaf. He rolled his eyes and made faces while Trim the Fluent smiled and shook paws with the koalas in the front row. Poopy little showoff.

Then the moderator chewed up the leaves, spread them out on the stage floor, and determined that they looked more like Trim the Fluent than Big Koala, so the young upstart got to speak first. Big Koala just sat and rolled his eyes a bit more.

As the evening progressed, Big Koala rose and spoke in turn, and all was proceeding as usual, when something made the Door Attending Koala look up to the nearest shuttered window. He gasped. Someone had failed to seal the shutter, and an opening of a full claw’s-width stared back at him, clearly showing the fading twilight.

Shaking nervously, the Door Attending Koala(also known as the DA)slipped outside as quietly as possible to see what the breach may have caused.
What he saw made his blood run cold.

There in the almost darkness, he watched helplessly as the plants swayed in the scorching wind and the beasts in the field dried and mummified where they stood. From the opening in the shuttered window came the great hot wind. As the pronouncements continued, it gained strength and raged on... Unstoppable. Cataclysmic. The DA ran into the hall, and shouted the devastating news to all, but clearly it was too late to save the land. The food was gone…wasted and turned to useless dust. All except the eucalyptus trees that swayed, unaffected in the now diminishing wind.

All was quiet now in the Great Dome. The chastened group looked expectantly to the stage, as the Big Koala and Trim the Fluent stared at each other. Agape. Clueless.

Then Trim the Fluent had an inspiration. He looked at the floor of the stage where his image (according to the moderator anyway) sat smeared on the boards. He pointed to the green glob and said: “Here! Here is the answer! This way of life is at an end, my friends! We must change! And the change is before our very eyes! We must all disperse, because now without beasts or veggies, the food supply is very small! We must live solitary lives, and eat nothing but the great Eucalyptus which has survived this catastrophe. How this global phenomenon occurred we may never know, but now is the time to move on, my friends! Move on to a new beginning. Let us live in the trees and eat the leaves! We’ll all have all we want! Everybody gets a fair share! And, hey! What could be better? It’s desert!!!”

Of course, it all made perfect sense to the gathering. And that has been the way of things ever since that fateful day so long ago. All the Koalas now live in trees and eat eucalyptus leaves, living happily ever after.

I know, it’s the day before election day, and I really should be writing something about that, but I’m just about politicked out, so I wrote a fable instead. Hey, it’s a valid blog. Happy day 3.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Two in a Row

This is blog two for day two of the great blogathon. Thanks, Sage Words, for the comment...nice grade. This will be brief as well, but only because it has been a day filled with time-consuming glitches. By tomorrow, I should be able to hold forth ad nauseum.

So... Just a couple of observations. Two days hence we select McCainPalin or ObamaBiden to rule the nation for the next four years. At least that's what we're being told through the media. Everything that has happened for the past 8 years is BushCheney's fault: Especially the economy economy economy economy. (That, it appears, is now the only issue.) I've heard the same speech now from each of the candidates a gazzillion times, and that appears to be the one opinion they have in common. Wall street nosedives, big bank bailouts, money woes galore. (All the president's fault...Congress had nothing to do with it.) And the poor refineries...gas prices just plummeting...oh no... Oh. Wait a minute. That's a good thing, right? For most of us.'s bad for General Motors (really bad...checked their stocks?) so it must be bad for the rest of us. And there are no other issues. National security, terrorism, international drug sales, etc. Those are issues that have faded into insignificance as the campaign reaches Tuesday's crescendo. So they must not be problems any more.
I'll just close today with a small piece of advice: Before you vote, find a copy of an old Robert Redford movie called "The Candidate" and watch it.
That's my NaBloPoMo for today.
Blog at ya later,

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I have to post a blog because of the blog thing.
So here's my blog.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Some thoughts for Father's Day

Last month, our youngest son turned thirty, and began life as a married man on the same day. It was an occasion that brought his mother and me together with all four of the boys for the first time in a long time, and it was largely the boys themselves who made it happen. I call them “boys” because that’s the habit I’ve gotten into over the years, but the occasion brought into focus just how proud I am of the men they have all become, and of the way each has found his own path to that elusive place called “maturity”.

Our words don’t have a lot of impact on how our children grow, but we can’t help teaching by the way we live every day. If we don’t show them how to live, we show them how not to live. Either way, they learn. I suspect most of my teaching fell into the latter category, and their mother helped them figure out the difference, by pointing out the folly of my ways. Each took the lesson in his own stride, and in his own time became a strong, true man. I couldn’t be any prouder if I’d known what I was doing all those years.

We have a big box of old photos…just a fraction of what we took over the years. These are the ones we could afford to have developed (back in the days of film). There are shots of the three oldest in our back yard in Texas, all bleached blond by the sun; Shots of our youngest (the blushing groom) in Truth or Consequences New Mexico, visiting Grandma and Grandpa; shots of the boys and various pets (most prominently Adonis, the ugliest dog that ever followed a kid home from school).

Some of the pictures are more in my head than in a box…like the one of our second-to-oldest…who was born on July 4th…attending the first parade in his honor in a small Texas town; the one of our oldest, perched on Dad’s shoulder as we walked to the corner store for a loaf of bread in the Berkshire winter; the one of our youngest conducting a scientific experiment to see if a wet paper towel would burn in the boys’ room sink; and the one of our next-to-youngest immersing the soluble parts of a carburetor in gasoline to get them good and clean. No photographs, but they’re pretty good pictures.

I carry lots of pictures like that in my head, and when I’m talking to one or the other of my sons on the phone, or across a table, they’ll sometimes come into focus for a minute or so, and somebody will say something like “earth to Dad”, and I’ll be accused of felony doddering.

Now our oldest son is “back East”, as we say out here in the Heartland, keeping his head high, and moving on after the latest in a long series of rough patches. Character comes through in the tough times, and his is shining like a beacon. I honestly doubt I could get through what he has. He’s taller than me, but that’s not why I look up to him.

The Fourth of July “Firecracker” has found his lady, Teri, and is pursuing careers on multiple fronts. He’s taught aerial rescue techniques to Firefighters, led wild cavern expeditions, and is beginning a career as a writer, in addition to his regular job. In many ways, he does the things I always wished I could do. He might be an Indiana Jones fan, but unlike Indy, he got the girl.

Our next-to-youngest is in England now, en route to Arizona. An Air Force “Lifer”, he and his beautiful Rosy have been serving our country all their adult lives. He’s really good with computers, too (he may even be able to help me uninstall my Norton Antivirus), and you have to love a lady who can drive an 18-Wheeler. (Go, Rosy). We’ve missed being physically close to them, but they’re never far from our thoughts, and we’re looking forward to their return to the States.

Our 30-year old “baby” is now a married man. He and his lady, Paula, are starting on solid ground, after taking the time to be sure. That’s the kind of maturity you sure wouldn’t have found in his old Dad at 30. When I was his age, I could take a car engine apart, by gosh. But he can put it back together; and have it actually work. So there yuh go.

My wife’s Dad made the trip to see our youngest get married. He’s 85 now, but that didn’t stop him from wearing out several young ladies on the dance floor. So Dad, happy Father’s Day, and many happy returns.
My wife’s sister and her daughter and sons made it a 3-generation reunion at the nuptials. It will be a long time before we all get together again, but it was great.

There’s another picture in that box I mentioned earlier. It came in the mail one year from my Dad, celebrating a birthday. There in the heat of an El Paso summer was a special birthday cake for his grandsons, made out of snow piled in a birdbath and decorated just for the picture a handful of months earlier back in New England. It delighted the boys, and looking at it now, it makes me think of my own childhood, and some of the pictures from those days that come into my head from time to time. That picture was typical of my Dad, and how he showed his love. He wasn’t a hugger…that was never his way; but my brother and I each have a photo album, put together with cartoon captions and color decorations, construction paper and glue and love that spanned the years of our childhood and young manhood, till we left home and started our own lives.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Greetings from Yuma

The spot where we’ve parked for the next couple of weeks is pretty close to the road, and the railroad tracks. It’s a Bureau of Land Management area just outside Yuma, and we’ll be waiting about 2 weeks for a new windshield. Yeah, another one. There’s a reason they call them windSHIELDS…they shield you from pebbles and things kicked up by the big long hauler in front of you. Problem is, every time they do their job, you get one step closer to the inevitable deductible payment and obligatory two-week minimum wait for shipping and handling.
The insurance lady was quite nice about it…made all the arrangements and put the process in motion. So I guess it could be a lot worse. We do get to watch the little skinny crack make its inexorable way to the top of the windshield, right up the middle, but at least we know help is on the way.
Oh, yeah. The trains. I’m told by my wife that they run every 17 minutes on the weekend. She timed them while I was asleep. During the day, truck traffic and the occasional siren provide a variation in the background sounds, and they drift away pretty much at night. During the week, it would appear the trains run less frequently. I haven’t seen too many during the daylight hours, and I’ll have to check with my wife about overnight.
But it’s free. 14 days at a time, you can stay and “dry camp” or “boondock”, your choice, at no charge. It’s very peaceful here, and I have a chance to savor the most recent experiences of our adventure.
Just before Christmas, we found ourselves in a small campground in Kansas, where I was temporarily working for a big on-line catalogue company. Each night (our 11-hour shift began at 5 pm), we were assured by the foreman that we were Santa Claus for millions of customers all over the world. That, together with a pretty good base pay, night shift differential and overtime inspired us for the several week duration of our assignment. At break time, there was an additional perk…free TV. Infomercials all night. That’s where I learned abut “Miracle Putty”, an epoxy that you mix with your fingers and it fixes anything. Anything. Permanently. I remember saying to myself “I’ve got to get some of that.” Oh, yeah.
From time to time, when I had a couple of days off, we would bring the rig into town and do fun things like laundry and email at the library. An occasional visit to The Gourmet Great Wall Buffet kind of put the sweet & sour sauce on the shrimp, so to speak.
Well, one fine day as we headed into town with laundry and Chinese food on our minds, there was this sound. It was vaguely familiar, and not a good sound. Something told me to pull over, and look in the rear view mirror. As soon as I spotted it lying on the side of the road, I knew why that sound had been so familiar. I’d heard it a couple of years earlier, actually, in California.
When you want to watch TV in a motor home, you crank up the antenna. Sometimes people forget to crank it down again. Not something easily tolerated by, say, your wife who has previously told you to hang the keys on the antenna crank so you don’t forget to…well, you know.
Anyhow, there was the sound. I got out the driver’s door and walked the several dozen feet back to the antenna’s resting place, and carried it back to the rig. This was not a happy time in our Kansas period. Eventually, I got the antenna into a bay underneath us, and made it a point not to mention it again until I had a chance to fix it.
Come Christmas, I found that with wives it’s not quite possible to put things behind you and move on. I now have a hand-lettered sign hanging very close to the antenna crank, which was one of the very first packages I opened. It reads, “If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your wife told you!”
OK. OK. But I still don’t have to hang the keys on the crank.
Now, when this happened in California (yeah, yeah. Well I can’t be expected to remember EVERYTHING) I had to pay to have the antenna fixed. Parts had to be replaced, etc. But this time, after we arrived for a family stop in New Mexico, I remembered something. That’s right! My steel-trap mind flashed back to lunch time at the catalogue company, and it hit me like a blinding inspiration: Miracle Putty! Yeah! Fixes Anything! Off to the hardware store. Got the nearest equivalent product to the “not available in stores, only 19.99” original, and I was set. This stuff even works under water. Which will be good if it rains. Before you know it, TV is available again and yours truly is OUT of the doghouse.
New Mexico was very nice. A pleasant stay. (A bit longer than expected because the registration paperwork for our rig took, well, two weeks longer than it should have to get to us.) Good to see family again. Get a tour of the new construction downtown. And then, off to Arizona, enroute to California, enroute to Washington, enroute to South Dakota, enroute to the rest of our life.
There are Fairgrounds and small public parks in Arizona, where they don’t charge you 70 dollars per night to stay. Really. You just have to look for them. And we found one, hooked up, and felt good about 12 bucks for electric and water. Stayed a couple of days, then learned that we had to get out because a big RV rally was coming in that weekend. And that would have been that, except for a couple of things that happened, you know, just by chance.
The dump station at this fairground (yes, dumping was included in the 12 dollar fee) is surrounded by rather thick, long blocks of solid wood. That’s to protect the water pipes etc. from the occasional bumbling RVer who might drive into them. There are people like that out there. Well, on our way out of the park, we decided to use the dump station, and make a clean getaway, so to speak. Everything went fine, until we started to pull away. Now, being an excellent driver, I had pulled close enough to the facility to easily reach the opening with my hose. It was just mere coincidence, or maybe Fate, that caused the events of the next few moments. I pulled away slowly and carefully, confident that my rear wheels, which had been several inches away, would clear the barrier with no problem.
And they did.
But as Fate would have it, my tailpipe hung behind the wheels, just below the rear portion of the rig, and when I pulled away, that tail end swung inward, closer to the barrier. Now how could a reasonable person be expected to anticipate that? I ask you. Of course, I realized something was amiss as soon as I saw the big wooden chunk bouncing in the dirt just in back of us. As I hauled it back into place, I glanced at the rear of the rig. It seemed OK. Something was a little different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Oh, well.
On the way back to the rig, I looked again and realized something was not there that should have been. Then it struck me: the tailpipe (remember the tailpipe?). I couldn’t see it. Where did it go? Upon closer inspection I found it, a couple of feet further under the rig than it should have been. Uh, oh. With a kind of sharp crease pinching it off where it was bent back. Uh, ohhhh.
I was contemplating the bill at whatever local muffler shop we might be able to find as we pulled out toward the gate, watching the first vestiges of the RV rally pulling in.
I say Fate caused the little mishap for a couple of reasons. It goes without saying that I would not normally make a mistake of the caliber that produced our tailpipe predicament, and I was still puzzling over how I could possibly have done that, when my wife spotted one of the early rally arrivals. On the side of his tractor, in five-foot letters were the words, “RV Repairs”.
As I was talking to the repair guy about the unfortunate tailpipe incident, a roundish guy in a golf cart drove up and greeted us. Within the next five minutes, three major things had been accomplished:
I’d been assured the tailpipe could be unbent, probably for a lot less than the 6 or 7 hundred dollars I’d seen flashing before my eyes a short time ago.
Our plans for the next week had been changed, and we were officially registered as part of the “big rally” for which we’d been leaving to make room. ’Turns out it was the Gypsy Journal Rally, and the roundish guy was Journal editor Nick Russell.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, my fate had been sealed and I would leave this place with an entirely new perception of the word “rally”
So we settled in after a quick trip into town for a laundry-fest and a few groceries, and started to look over the schedule of events. My wife and Nick had briefly discussed something called the “Cactus Queen Pageant” while I was busy with the tail pipe guy, but I thought little of it at the time, and didn’t see it in the printed material. Seminars on how not to be stupid about RV repairs and safety, getting your computer to do neat things while on the road, and various other features like coffee and donuts for breakfast and nightly door-prize drawings arrayed themselves before us, and we happily highlighted our copies of the schedule.
Now, I have become more open to new things since getting on the road full-time, but every now and then, something comes along to kind of push the envelope a little. That was what the aforementioned and previously insufficiently noticed “Cactus Queen Pageant” turned out to be.
It seems the “Cactus Queen” selected during the next to last night of each rally is chosen by audience applause, generally gets points for outrageous behavior and outlandish dress, and…oh yeah…is a guy. So it slowly dawned on me that one of the things my wife and the roundish guy were talking about had to do with me, and that next to last night of the rally. I have to admit, the arguments used to convince me seem less than compelling in hindsight, but at the time…well…
“It’s all in fun!”
“Lots of guys are going to enter.”
“You need to expand your horizons…don’t be such a dull stick-in-the-mud.”
“It will really make me happy!”
“You’ll look soooo cute!”
And the clincher, delivered in an incredibly weak moment:
“If you do this, I won’t get mad at you the next time you mess up. No matter how bad it is!!”
Whoa. No matter how bad it is?
No matter HOW bad it is?
“Oh, OK.”
Rallies can be quite educational in a number of ways. One thing I learned that evening was that Miracle Putty equivalent may very well work under water, but it does not do well in strong wind. It had seemed just fine up until the afternoon we stepped outside and found the TV antenna dangling from its coaxial cable, kind of twisting back and forth. When I got up on the roof to take it down I could see my wife’s head shaking back and forth, like she’d known the fix wouldn’t last. But, hey! It was working just fine up until then. I’ll figure something out. Maybe some duct tape…Well, I wasn’t going to worry about it just then. I just put it inside till I could get to it.
I have a beard. Not just a regular beard; short, dignified, low maintenance. No. It used to be that way, but for the past four years, I’ve been letting it grow, and using it for “Character” development. Characters like an old miner, a Gold Rush story teller, and maybe soon Santa Claus. In spite of a “No Makeup” stipulation in my agreement to compete for the Cactus Crown, my wife insisted the beard had to be, shall we say, “modified” for the occasion. So there I was, mere hours before standing up on a stage in front of a record number of rally attendees, with bobby pins, mustache wax, an abundance of hair spray, and, yes, hair curlers adorning my beard.
Then there was the red skirt…the one-piece bathing suit doubling as a low-cut top…and…the two identical balls of yarn. (Soft, but firm and sturdy) And some nice, tasteful leather sandals that showed off my legs.
I arrived at the Main Venue incognito, and quickly made my way behind a curtain, where a full half dozen of the ugliest femmes fatales I’d ever seen waited.
It was a memorable night to say the least. One by one, we were introduced, “strutted our stuff”, and sat in folding chairs in full view of the gathering. As I maneuvered the slit in my skirt to expose as much leg as possible, I kept remembering the words that had gotten me there: “No matter HOW bad it is!”
Eventually, it was over. I did not claim the new title of “Cactus Queen” (although Nick assured the audience I was his personal favorite), and there were a couple of people we met the next day who had not attended the pageant. So, all in all, not a bad outcome; and I had a major “won’t get mad” tucked away securely in my back pocket. That could cover lots of territory. It could last a long time. A long time. Heh-heh.
Fast forward just a bit, to the day after the rally. All’s well. We’re all packed up, and except for a relatively brief rainstorm the night before, the weather’s pretty good for traveling. A little mud in the parking area, but no big deal.
We said goodbye to our new friends, including Nick and his wife Terry…really nice people we’ll be happy to meet again down the road, and got ready to leave.
On the way out we planned to get some propane, and following instructions we’d gotten at the rally, we turned right on the main highway and started looking for a tank with a hose sticking out of it.
We kept looking, but no tanks appeared, so we drove a little farther.
No tank, no hose.
A little farther.
Still no tank.
Still no hose.
So, after not much longer we decided we’d missed it. (Which it turned out we had)
I started looking for a place to turn around.
Up ahead, we noticed a rather interesting building…probably a grain silo of some sort. Big trucks, farm equipment go there. Should be plenty of room to turn around.
So I turned into the narrow little dirt road that apparently lead to the silo. It seemed wide enough to handle the rig with no trouble, and it certainly would have been ok. More than ok. Except that we’d had a relatively brief rain storm the night before. And the dirt road was now a mud road. As I slowed down and tried to avoid a lake directly in front of me that I hadn’t seen till we turned the corner, I noticed that we were moving sideways…not something you normally associate with the operation of a motor home. I also noticed a definite shift in the center of gravity, and a tilting that could in no way be a good thing. And I was right. In no way was it a good thing.
The passenger side of the motor home was firmly submerged up to the hub caps in the kind of material people pay outrageous amounts of money to bathe in, in certain parts of California and other exotic places. The concept of friction as it applied to our tires was strictly a theoretical construct. There would be no movement under our own power from that moment forward, without outside intervention.
I called the roadside rescue service, admitted to my wife that it had been a mistake to turn up that little road, (although, really, any reasonable person probably would have done the same thing, I think.) then sat back to wait for the winch guy.
Then I realized something REALLY ominous. My wife was not mad. My wife was NOT mad. Suddenly my back pocket felt a lot lighter. I checked. Sure enough, no “won’t get mad”. It had disappeared without a trace.
A few hours later we were headed down the road, back in the direction we’d come from, and the mud was working its way out from between the treads of our tires. We ended up spending an extra night at the fairgrounds, because it was too late to go anywhere else. The next day we got to wake up to the arrival of a big stock show right under our bedroom window, and finally made our way down the road.
Sunny day. Most of the mud had dried up, and we were headed into some clear, pleasant weather. So, ok. Life was still good. What else could happen? Right?
About an hour and a half down the road we heard this sharp CRACK kind of sound, and looked all around to see what it might have been. Checked everywhere we could see. Nothing out of place. Nothing was hanging off anything. No effect on the ride. Hmm.
We kept driving. Pulled into a little RV park for the night a few hours later. We’d been there about an hour when we noticed it. A thin, long little crack making its way from a nearly microscopic indentation at the bottom of the right windshield, where a pebble from the road had obviously hit. Right. My question at the end of the previous paragraph had been answered. With a vengeance.
Insurance lady: “I’ll need some information to process your claim. Ready?”
Me: “Ready.”
It is 6:30 a.m. Not on the east coast where the insurance lady is, but here, where I have just gotten out of bed to answer the cell phone.
Insurance lady: “Policy number?”
Me: (I read the number)
Insurance lady: “Claim number?”
Me: (I read the number)
Insurance lady: “Now I need the coded information you will find printed in the lower right corner of the windshield in question.”
At this point, my cell phone chirps the message that it is about to go dead, ending the call and the processing of my claim. I plug in the charging cord and turn on the generator, earning the undying ire of our fellow boondockers. At this point we have arrived in Yuma, and the crack has made sufficient progress to motivate my call to the above mentioned Insurance lady. We are now engaged in Stage Two of the claims process.
After plugging in the phone and asking her to wait a minute, I make my way to the windshield in question, and look in the lower right corner. I copy down a series of numbers and letters, all of which appear backward because the glass is printed to be read from the outside. I’m not dressed because it’s 6:30 in the morning, and so I use my mirror brain, and copy down the info.
Insurance lady: “Thank you. It will take approximately 7 business days for your windshield to arrive. Handy Andy’s Dandy Windshield repair and Deli will be your technician. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
(Anything ELSE? This isn’t ENOUGH?)
Me: “No, no. I can’t think of anything. Thank You.”
Insurance lady: “Thank YOU for choosing Murkurdle Limited. Have a good day.”
So, here we sit for the next 7 approximate business days, with at least one holiday thrown in for good measure. It’s kind of loud what with the trains and the highway, but the neighbors are nice. There’s a flea market in town we plan to go to, and I have another tube of Miracle Putty equivalent, so I’m going to take another crack at the TV antenna. If I play my cards right, maybe I can get another “won’t be mad” without having to put on a dress.
Blog at ya later.