May 30, 2007

When Nature Attacks 2!

There's an old joke in Louisiana-- Don't like the weather? Wait five minutes, it'll change. Well, it hasn't changed in a while now. I'm ready for my punchline, weather! Almost three full days of rain and strong wind has kept me out of my garden. I almost wish I hadn't gone in this evening, in between bouts of more rain.

The gorgeous tomatoe plants that were pushing 5' tall? They're all 5' wide now, lying sideways thanks to the wind and the fact that even the best cage can't stay in the ground if said ground is so wet it's about three droplets shy of liquid form. I'm learning, though: last year I drove in stakes, and the plants fell over. This year I used cages, and the plants fell over inside the cages. Next year I think I'm going to sink a 4" x 4" decking post two feet in the ground for each plant, and use some big barb wire staples to hold each branch on.

The squash? Loving it. I had squash out there that weighed in at three or four pounds. The problem being, of course, that at that size they're inedible. I had to toss three into the compost bin that were so big I could have wrapped them in newborn diapers and blankets and sold them to ignorant Holloweird stars as black market orphan Chinese babies.

The radishes and beets fared well as did the carrots. I mean heck, the carrots are so frail that a light watering knocks their greens over anyway, and like the beets and radishes all the important bits are already underground. The beans fared pretty well too, since they have all those curly tendrils to anchor them to the fence. I'm surprised the wind didn't blow the fence and all across the field.

The cantaloupes did okay, since they're not big enough to be anything but a mass of small vines, now all blown in the same direction like wet green dreadlocks. Same with the watermelon, only in more of a Parliament Funkadelic fro. The bell, banana and jalapeno pepper plants are all so short and stocky that they fared very well in their little miniature tomatoe cages, so there's a plus, and the birdhouse gourds are no more than three inches tall, so they just bent in the wind like the willow, or something equally Oriental and mystic.

In a very non-Oriental mystic way I almost broke an ankle trying to save myself from falling straight into the avocado plants after slipping in the mud. A couple of times. I guess the one good thing is that even after all the laying waste happened, there was still a pretty respectable harvest.

I'm ready for a dry few days, though, so I can get out there and repair the damage, restake the still-living, wind the cucumbers back onto their fence and maybe till out the five inch deep, size 12E footprints in the mud.

May 29, 2007

I Call It Trainspotting, You Call It Being A Railfan

Let's just agree that I'm not crazy. Strange but true, I came to an important realisation this past Monday--I'm not a nutter.

See, I had this plan, a plan I've had for quite some months now. I've been planning on finding a train somewhere way up the UP line and following it down into and maybe through town, stopping at several strategic and photogenic spots to take pictures of said train engine in said photogenic areas. I had my spots already picked out, had composed the shots in my mind's photo studio, and all I needed was a free day and my camera, and some sunshine would be nice too, please?

And astoundingly enough, I got all those things Monday. I was off for Memorial Day, the day was dawning clear and bright, I had my camera, my bike, and nothing to do but locate a train.

Ah. There's the problem, you see. Trains being limited, as it were, to tracks, you don't usually see many at a time like cars. And when you DO see one it's very likely you won't see another for a couple hours. So, I had to trust to luck. I started north up the highway, stopping every once in a while to very slowly cross the tracks and take long, searching glances up the right of way, hoping to see those bright yellow-white lights that mean a train is working it's way toward you, but kept failing to see anything.

I went north a good fair piece up the highway, to the place where the tracks no longer parallel the highway, and turned onto a dirt road. There's a siding there that runs perpendicular to the highway, the same place that VW and I had gotten some nice graffiti photos off some stationary cars a while back. I was hoping to at least see some new cars there, but no. It wasn't until I had come to a full stop on the shoulder and looked across the highway at the entrance to the Rodemacher power plant that I noticed the sixty foot long yellow and black multi-ton bulk of a Union Pacific locomotive sitting on the siding just across the highway.

Okay, so there's some heavy trees there, kay? And some concrete pilings for the interstate overpass, so don't bust my chops about not seeing a giant locomotive sitting there. Sheesh. Anyway, I wear a full-face helmet which does not block my vision but that's never stopped me from using that as excuse.

So I did what any good trainspotter would do: I put Betty on her kickstand there in front of the RR crossing gates, got out the photo gear, and took some photos.

Now, if you've never stood next to a locomotive that's parked with it's massive diesel engine idling, I strongly suggest it. There is very little quite like looking up at a twenty foot tall, sixty foot long slab of metal resting on a whole series of three foot tall steel wheels, making a noise like a very large cat purring to instill in you a sense of carefully restrained power. And so, feeling quite proud of myself for a) finding a train and b) not having to trespass to do so, I started walking back the fifty or so yards to the bike. I didn't have a solid plan in mind, I didn't know how long that giant would sit there idling, and I did have some nice pictures, so I think I was getting ready to drive home again when I heard a short, ear-splitting blast of the locomotive's air horns and the clear, distinct ringing of it's bell, letting the crew and anyone standing nearby (me!) that it was about to move.

Needless to say, I started grinning. And set up for another few pictures.

Now, when I say to you that it was moving slowly, I can't stress this enough. I was crouched down by a concrete barricade to steady my camera, and I got leg cramps waiting for that huge beast to nose it's very slow way all of thirty feet into the sunlight from under that cave of concrete beams, and thence across the highway and onto the main line.

And here's another thing to try--if you EVER get the chance, walk beside a slow-moving locomotive. It was idling across the highway at my slowest walking pace, and walking alongside it toward my bike made me feel like a pilot fish swimming with a whale shark. I knew that if it could get off that track it could smear me thinner than a whore's promise, but it wasn't going to. And as long as I was careful and kept my toes out from under it's wheels I was perfectly safe. Not even the cars waiting on the highway could get to me. It was a heady feeling, and I think the engineer saw it in my face when I looked wayyyy up to his little side window, waved, and mouthed "safe trip!" I don't think either of us knew how many more times we'd see each other that day.

While my friend idled across the highway I repacked the camera, donned helmet, gloves and dug keys out of my pocket and headed south. And along the way I knew I'd be setting up for some more pictures. It was my day for being a trainspotter.

I got back into Boyce and stationed myself at the first spot I had chosen, parked Betty and secured her, and jumped the ditch and worked my way through the dew-damp weeds to a spot under another section of overpass. There were two shots I wanted--one distance shot of most of the train along a long clear section, and the next just under the concrete pilings of the overpass. So I got my gear ready, mountaineered up the slick slope of broken concrete that made up the right of way, spotted the engine headed my way, returned to my spot and waited.

And waited. And waited some more.

I got tired of waiting (I had only gone about six miles, and the train wasn't THAT slow,) and climbed the embankment again, to see the train stopped at the very end of one of the crossings. Idling again. I don't know why, but it sat there doing nothing for almost half an hour. I know. I waited. I counted minutes. I sweated, even in the shade of the overpass. I counted the sparrows that wheeled and called overhead, nesting under the overpass. I even risked arrest for public urination against one of the pillars because frankly I was getting tired of waiting and it HAD been a rather exciting morning thus far.

And FINALLY it moved again. Whistle blast, bell ringing clear and clean across the morning air, and the almost negligible first stirrings of engine noise. And since it was the better part of a mile long, made up of full coal cars, it was slow. But it finally got to where I wanted it, I got my distance shot, and the shot I really wanted from that spot:

And yes, I waved to the engineer again. It was becoming a habit, and I'm sure he kept spotting the confused paparazzi; that guy with the somewhat crazed grin, the red and black bike jacket, bluejeans, and the camera. He had a pretty good head of steam up by the time he reached me at the overpass and the next stop was only a few miles up the road so I was moving fast too. And yes, I'll admit I shouted to the sparrows and to myself "Hurry Watson! The game's afoot!" as I leaped the ditch and scrambled up the embankment to Betty, there to repack the gear and head out again. I think I might also have cackled something about 'having a train to catch,' but that's unverified.

Okay, so I'm a little crazed.

But it got me to the NEXT crossing, where I took another photo, this time of him moving at a good 45mph clip, and this time waved four fingers in the air--the fourth good photo set I had taken of him.

And of course another mad dash to repack camera and sling it over my shoulder, zip the jacket, don helmet and gloves, turn the key and go roaring off south again. This time slowly past the state trooper who eyed me carefully but didn't notice the manic grin on my mug.

And yes, another mad snort up the highway to a spot I've been DREAMING of catching a locomotive in. The line curves off slowly onto a side spur, and the trees are close and thick and green there, and I've taken photos of that same area many many times before, but never with a train there. Until he came creeping into the clearing, to spot me carefully squatting in the gravel, camera steadied. He spotted me this time pretty early on, and blew a single short blast on the air horns, to which I'm sure I responded like a five year old boy when a big rig driver honks as he peers out the passenger window of his Mom's SUV. I think I would have wet myself were it not for the relief stop at the last overpass.

And yes, now that I have the shot I've already seen how to improve upon it. And that's the proof that I'm a photographer, not a true railfan nor a trainspotter. I didn't care that it was just another UP freight hauler, didn't care what number it was. I was ecstatic because I had Gotten The Pictures.

The story goes on from here; I waited further up the line at yet another intersection, sitting on the line for some fifteen minutes talking to a crow up on a nearby telephone line before I realised the train wasn't moving. Again. I drove back up the several miles to the main crossing to see him parked there, idling. Which didn't stop me from taking two more pictures, one from each side of the rail, and waving, again, this time five fingers.

I guess I should have waved six, but that would have required me to take my other hand off the bars or unzip, which brings us back to that public urination thing, so I forwent both and simply waved again, pointed Betty at home and gunned her.

Two hours, about twenty miles, eighteen photographs, and one very happy me. Oh, and proof that I'm not a fanatic, not a 'real' trainspotter or a railfan or anything like that. I just proved that I love trains, love photography, and right now trains are my subject of choice.

And even proved the saying that when you're a man, the world is your urinal.

May 26, 2007

Poetry Friday Challenge: Trip

Okay, so yes I know it's Saturday. I can tell because there aren't any good cartoons on tv in the mornings anymore, there's only a whole channel of stuff piped in 24/7/365. And yes, that means I'm about a day late on my Poetry Friday, but hey, at least I showed up, right?

Trip. Mona posited that simple yet many-faceted little tetragramaton for us, and I've spent my Friday and my cartoonless Saturday morning rolling different ideas around, tasting them, looking at them from different angles, and telling them to wet their lips and make love to the camera.

I thought about writing about trips in the drug-induced sense of the word but I've never taken anywhere near enough drugs to have any sort of a trip, unless you count anastetic, and that just puts me to sleep, so that variation is out.

I thought about writing about tripping as in 'falling down,' but that's a pretty sore subject (heh...puns, gotta love 'em) if you're me, which only I am, and funny if you're watching me WHEN I trip if you're the sort of person that laughs at someone else's calamity Scott, so I guess I'm gonna leave that one alone, too.

I thought briefly about writing about a thirty minute long exit from work yesterday wherein I rode the bike to town to get some keys cut, and how wonderful it was to be a) out in the sun and air riding and b) getting paid time and a half for it, but I've done the bike posts before. With that in mind I'm gonna try the 'childhood trip with parents' thing, and if that doesn't work out, well then there's always the bike story, and I can even tell you about the "Orintel Club" with it's "Naked Dancers 3pm - 2" every day except Sundays.


When I was ten or so, my parents decided it was time for The Trip. We were going to take a family vacation in which we'd see the Grand Canyon, The Painted Desert in Arizona, and the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. My brother and I, not knowing any better, were enthused beyond belief. We hadn't, you see, ever spent more than three hours or so stuffed into the back of the station wagon before. Boy did we have a lesson coming.

We owned at the time an old brown Pontiac station wagon, a huge lumbering beastie with wood-patterned decals all down the side to evoke a sort of classic style sorta thing. My father was to drive, which meant a near religious adherence to speed limits, and my mother was along, which meant we'd be mother-henned to death at every opportunity, up to and including not going outside in the wind with wet hair because we'd catch a bad case of Death.

I don't recall a lot of the travel time stuff, but one thing does stick out in my mind--the fact that when you get into north Texas and that area there is Nothing To See. And by that I mean cows that exist by eating rocks and dirt, miles of dead-looking mesquite trees, and dirt. And rocks. And cows that eat dirt and rocks, and maybe the occasional mesquite tree for that smoky flavour it imparts rocks and dirt.

Now slow that down to 55mph and you can see the miles just spooling out endlessly.

I remember the Grand Canyon as being impossibly big, so very huge that I wasn't able to appreciate how truly scary a thing it could be. I mean, it's a CRACK, in the EARTH. And it's huge. All I really remember is the wind that seemed to come screaming up the walls and into the viewing areas, a constant gale that threatened to blow you over backwards. I also remember the guy who was standing on a ledge of rock about ten feet beyond the steel pipe rail that you weren't supposed to cross, and how I secretly wished that gust of wind would hang him out there 45 degrees in the wind, just to show him what happens to scoff-laws. Unfortunately God didn't strike him down, just another in a long list of my former saviour's failures.

The Painted Desert was pretty astounding, in a 'it's way too big to see from a car' sort of way. The same problem arose here as did at the Grand Canyon--we weren't really hiking/camping people, so we sort of stared at a lot of gaily coloured rocks and giant gaily coloured rock formations from parking areas, scenic viewpoints and from the big back window of the station wagon as we drove down more of those endless straight highways that places like north Texas, Arizona and New Mexico seem to specialise in.

Carlabad Caverns was, to me worth the trip. We got to walk down into a giant hole in the earth and see the results of thousands of years of mineral-laden water wearing away at the very bones of the world. Walking down winding asphalt trails that nature had thoughtfully placed there for our convenience, holding on tight to the steel handrails, and listening to radio-broadcast pre-recorded tour guides on headsets that didn't work very well at all I stared around in wide-eyed amazement at formations of astounding grandeur and pools of water so still as to seem like huge irregular sheets of glass, carefully fitted into rocky caverns.

The best part of the trip for me, though, was the Meteor Crater. It wasn't on the itenerary, which probably panicked my parents no end, but as I was at the time just a few years into my heady, effervescent love affair with space, science fiction and all things astronomical, the giant billboard advertising "METEOR CRATER!" was too much for me to ignore. I had to see it or my ten short years on earth would be utterly wasted. After miles of whining and begging, and a constant supply of "Giant Meteor Crater!" billboards they finally relented, and we turned onto yet another endless, sun-baked two-lane highway.

At first we thought we had been had--there was even more nothing along this little farm road than before, just endless miles of flat, sandy brown nothing. Then we started noticing something--rocks. Not small rocks, big ones. And the more we drove the more we noticed the rocks, ranging from stones the size of compact cars all the way up to menhirs bigger than our house, all of them seemingly tossed at random across the landscape, as though a giant had kicked down a huge pile of stones. When it occurred to me that these were stones that had been torn loose and thrown from the splash of a giant space-fallen object my tiny mind went into overdrive.

Arriving there was a little of a letdown--all that stood on the site was a small white-painted building and a replica of an Apollo space capsule. Walking into the smallish, air-conditioned building wasn't much of a rush, either...the walls were lined with back-lit signs telling all about meteorites, asteroids, space and space travel and the standard NASA-issue photos of astroanuts doing slow-motion things on the Moon's surface--nothing at all new to me.

Things began looking up when I started seeing big acrylic display cases with lumpy, eerie looking chunks of rocks, rocks that hadn't been born on this little blue and green world. They were made of nickel and iron and all sorts of metal ores, and were honeycombed with pits and tunnels and veins, the very image of something alien in my ten-year old's eyes. After all, these things had Fallen From Space. How much cooler could that be, unless an astronaut had suddenly hove into view with his flesh melting off like wax from a candle.

Then I turned a corner and found myself in front of a panoramic window, looking out across a hole that made my sci-fi wired brain fritz for a moment. It was a crater, all right. A crater about three miles across, as though someone had come along and taken an ice-cream scoop of Brobdingian proportions to the pristine surface of the desert, a perfect bowl with smooth edges and frighteningly plain features.

I don't know how long I stood there, trying to imagine the ramifications of something hitting the planet with that sort of speed and explosive consequence, but I know the moment left quite a mark in the soft clay of my young mind. There are only a few vividly-held memories of that trip, but the sight of that eerily perfect hole in the ground stands proud among them. It made the long hours suffering in heat locked in a car with my brother worth while.

If you happen to be in the area, or want to recreate my childhood memory, here's a link. They certainly seem to have improved the facility since I was there, circa 1977.

May 25, 2007

Don't Panic!

Happy Towel Day!

It's that time of year again! No, not time to shave Dad's back, it's time to remember your towel, especially if you're going on a trip. *wink* And no, that's not an exquisite cop-out for Poetry Friday, I'll be working on that, too. I just wanted to give my love and support to Douglas Adams, creator of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

So long, Doug, and thanks for all the fish.

May 23, 2007

Existential Blues Review

I've learned a lot of useful things in my life, like never putting my finger in a strange ferret's cage, how to pull my leg out of barbed wire and still keep my flesh attached, and how to extinguish fires on my body.

Some of these lessons came with pretty heavy price tags and were pretty immediate in their arrival, like the time I learned that tossing a gallon of gasoline onto a pile of trash from an open container and then taking my time getting the flame to it will result in a massive, rapidly expanding circle of blue flames. And some of them have crept in slowly, thieves in the night who have taken months and years to slip under the cracks in my doors and through quietly broken window panes. Their passing has left less obvious results than burnt eyebrows or broken bones but their importance and their impact on my life has been much more far-reaching than a little road rash or a strange swelling that just won't go away.

One of those lessons I've had taught to me for a very long time is that I'm not that important in the grand scheme of things. And before everyone jumps up and tries to tell me how important I am to them, which would be thoughtful but misplaced right now let me say this: "In the big picture." I'm thinking on a scale bigger than the 15 or so Gentle Readers that I entertain here several times a week, bigger than the admittedly small circle of my real-life friends and family. What I'm saying is what I have learned--if you expand the focus of my impact on Life to even a city-wide range I am not even a blip on the radar. Expanded to country-wide or stars forbid a world-wide view and I blend into the background noise along with billions of other people.

I'm angry to some extent at the very common and very vague attitude that anyone can become president. What no one is going to tell you that the chances of you having a snowball's chance in a torch of becoming president is about one in a billion. The chance is there, but it's a chance even smaller that you'll win the Powerball lottery AND have an airplane fall on you. We're raised as Americans to believe that we're glorious, we're important, and that one day we'll be President, and it doesn't happen that way.

And that's as far as I got with that post, several days ago. I had a small breakdown during lunch after writing that, but hey, we all have our moments, right?

So. A little 'splainin' is in order, I guess.

Stucco, et al, I took down Cheetah Balls because it was like a lot of my projects in the past--put up a little too fast and with little if any forethought. It sounded good at the time but it wasn't what I envisioned, and since it's digital and all that it's also very, very temporary. I had fun while it lasted, and thank you and Scott and VW for playing along so regularly, but I've not got the time to support THIS blog properly, much less a second one.

My lack of posting. Depression I think is the main reason. Depression over a lot of things, but nothing new, honestly. There is, after all, nothing new under the sun. I won't even go into the list, but right now at the top is the fact that my ex-wife The Goat (no relation to Jay at Kill The Goat) is coming down in about two weeks to bring our daughter back to Oregon with her for the summer.

Long story short, I'm parent of record so I get to keep my Wee'relephant here in my home for the school year but The Goat gets her for the summers, and she lives about as far from me as is possible without physically leaving the country. And every year about the time, even if I don't realise it the black edges start creeping in around me, swaddling my life in suffocating burnt wool. I start reliving all the anger and the embarrassment and the blindness that lead me to that marriage, and it makes me feel more a fool than I usually do. And I'll mope and sulk and be angry in general at the mistakes I've made in my life (my daughter is not a mistake, but the route I arrived at her is counted very high as one) and at the general unfairness of Stuff, and usually about two weeks after she's been gone and it's sunk in that she's not here, she's not at Grandma's house or Uncle B.'s house, she's actually GONE until mid-August I'll finally tear off the last of that black edge and get on with my life again.

I've also let my exercising fall by the wayside, and the same with my meditation, and I know that's had at least a small hand in letting my moods swing back to the grim. Granted the surgery had a big hand (ass?) in keeping me from walking the treadmill or lying back on the bench under my Soloflex thingie, but I'm healed, so no more excuses.

Tomorrow I start back.



May 18, 2007

Poetry Friday Challenge: Reproduction

When I first read Mona's post giving us this Friday's Challenge word, and the term 'repro" all I could think of was Orwell's 1984, how the four controlling Ministries all had shortened names like Miniluv and Miniplen, and the desire of the government to pare down the language to words so short and meaningless that someone who could speak it well gabbled like a duck.

And then I segued into Blade Runner, thinking that maybe replicants like Roy Batty might father children in their short lifespans, and they'd call the process "Repro."

My first year of high school we were taught Sex Ed by a rather stony-faced Jesuit priest with the misleadlingly amiable name of Father Tom. I know we spent something like six weeks on sex, reproduction, the biology and the physics and all those wonderfully dirty goings on, but I can't remember any of it. Father Tom had a knack for sucking all the life out of any subject but religion, and he managed to take a vital, meaty subject and strip it down to it's absolute bleached bones. All the life, all the sweaty, grunting joy of it had been rendered out like a piece of succulent pork left in a jerkey machine for way too long, leaving only a crisp, inedible bit of rind.

This was also the man who could fire a chalkboard eraser at you with unerring accuracy and uncanny speed, so you dared not giggle, talk, or nod off. I clearly recall him having to send a student out to see the school nurse after nearly giving him a concussion with a foot-long foam board cleaner.

The next year we were taught a whole unit on human sexuality in Biology. Our teacher was a homely, motherly little redhead who never married that we know of, but whose knowledge of human sexuality and the nuances thereof pointed to a very active after-school cirriculum. She warned us boys that if we wanted a snug fit we'd better not engage in too much foreplay, and she warned the girls that most boys would last about as long as it took to unhook a bra so they'd better get theirs fast if they wanted any.

She spoke in such glowing, living terms that I spent most of that unit blushing furiously, hiding an errection, or both. There was a rumour going around that she had in her top center (locked) desk drawer a tiny bottle with a fingernail-sized human fetus in it, a rumour that never got disproved, but it didn't matter to me. With her boundless enthusiasm for the human connection she made me want to reach across the aisle to any available young lady next to me and try to apply all those wonderous things, all those tricks for multi-orgasmic behaviour and longer-lasting encounters.

Unfortunately all my knowledge, both gathered from those classes and from years of reading Redbook, Cosmo and Ladies Home Journal didn't get an outlet other than my strong right hand for a few more years, and any actual repro I was to manage didn't occur until several years into my first marriage, a fact for which I'm obscurely grateful.

As for the upcoming poetic travesty...ever had one of those poems/stories/days/parenting opportunities where the image you hold in your mind for something isn't how the hands produce it? It doesn't usually happen to me when I'm writing, it's much more a function of my painting or sculpting, but this time it slopped over. I've given it the same polish and editing I would give any piece of my work (which is to say 'slapdash') but it's not where I intended to go nor what I intended to write.

I had in my head this morning the image of a doctor with his cold chrome turkey baster and a mouth full of golf, and his nurse, with pale yellow scrubs and warm hands but empty, dead eyes, each working while the woman lies there unhappily, her feet in the stirrups, waiting for reproduction to occur. I was going to juxtapose that sterile, unloving view with the purple prose that DID survive below as the first half of the poem, but you'll soon see that none of the clinical stuff made it.

I also want to state up front that I'm not sure where that cynical second voice came's not me. I had intended, after the change in the poem arrived that the second voice would be dry, geeky and a little clinical, but it turned angry and empty and cold very fast. Not sure WHAT happened with that. I can, however, say this--I feel confident in assuring you that the first voice is me; the second is a cold reflection in a steel instrument.

So, now that I've teased you--

Repro: A Love Poem In Two Acts
Act I

My lover crosses the room, eager to lie with me

Her skin is pure, like fresh cream

Freckles across her shoulders and breasts like cinnamon sprinkled on foamed milk

Her eyes flash with desire, with her inner fires

Her belly is a soft, desirable swell

Thighs over mine, promise of heat and slick floating over me

The long, incredible, gasping slide

Friction of body on body, lust in the air and in our hands

My mind is afire with her presence

Clenching, gasping, starlight and moon shine

Lying together, satiated.

Act II

She walks over

Oh, she's so white

She ought to have the dermatologist look at those, could be cancerous

She's looking at me like she wants to do it

She's getting kinda thick in the gut

My hip hurts, and her knee is pushing against my leg...augh that hurts

Geeze I hope she doesn't get on the upholstery, it'll stain

Thank god for Astroglide, she's so damned dry

I've really got to plaster that hole there

Come on, think about that porno, the chick with the big fakes

I wish she'd get off me, I want to wash. God I hope it works this time.

It's interesting that I had started this post almost on autopilot--jot down a few quirky, clever memories about my sex ed classes and stick in a fun little bit of prose to poke fun at doctors and I find at the end that I've descended into quite a bit of self-exam at what might have prompted the poem that you see up there, miring me deep in the dirt and the sweat and the grunting.

Thank you Mona, for being the catalyst.

May 17, 2007

The "It" Girl

Okay, so she's got twice as many legs and four times as many nipples as most women, but she's also got long, curly blonde (and white) hair, extremely long legs, and a very small waist. And she's young--thirteen months.

She also loves sleeping, eating, running around the yard as fast as she can and having her belly scratched.

Oh, and she's got a fetish for stuffed toys that squeak.

May 16, 2007

Lizard In The Hosepipe, Bugs On The Fence

Summer is settling down on Louisiana like a well-meaning but misinformed elderly great aunt wrapping a warm, wet wool blanket around the state. It's the time of year in which most natives hie themselves to the dark insides of their homes and huddle underneath air conditioner vents and around the cool exhalations of open refrigerator doors, and only venture out very early or very late in the day.

That's why I was out and about just after sunup this weekend: I knew that if I didn't get all my outside work done before the sun got too high I'd end up looking like a raisin on a concrete frying pan. The sun was barely peering over the tree line when I spotted a thing that always makes me pause--Nature being clever.

My property, you see, has long been overrun with anole lizards; the common green chameleon. It's nothing to see one on every plant and two on every window ledge carefully stalking a meal but this was a new take on the concealed hunter. I have a length of hosepipe rolled up hanging on one post of my fence, and walking by it I couldn't help but notice that something was sticking out of one brass-capped end. I guess my eyes are trained by years of avoidance to spot things like that since it's usually a wasp of some very angry variety guarding a nest, but this time I was wrong. A very enterprising anole had decided that this nylon and polystyrene tube would make a perfect hidng place from which to leap out onto unsuspecting insects.

All I could see of him was his tiny wedge-shaped head, a fingernail-sized reminder of his dinosaur ancestors. His skin was tuned to a dark brown to simulate the dark brass of the connector, and his bright golden eyes stood out against his deep brown head, which he kept turning toward me with fast little bird-like tilts and twists. I had to fight a serious internal war to keep from blowing in the other end of the hose as hard as I could, to see how far I could shoot him, cannon-like, across the yard.

(Mrs. Irrelephant came outside a few minutes later, saw said lizard and performed the very experiment I didn't--he flew about ten feet, in quite a surprised state.)

The other thing that gave made me pause happened later that same morning. I was headed back through the gate when along flew a beetle of truly shocking size. It came angling in on overly-careful wings to land with a metallic clunk on the gate, and I had to sashay over to see what exactly it was. I thought at first it was a pine beetle, these long, grey bugs that play utter havoc on pine trees (of which I have 60+ around my property) so I was, unBuddha-like, about to crush it into oblivion when I realised that I really DIDN'T recognise it.

What caught my eye at first was it's size, at least as long as two of my fingerjoints, but what held my eye was it's eyes. Two eyespots, that is, grey and oval and obvious on the curved top of it's rather small abdomen. Big enough that it's abdomen seemed put there entirely for the purpose of having two huge fake eyes painted on. It's real head was as black as it's belly and so small I don't know how it could see to fly. And being a bug person from way back, I plucked it off the fence and stuck it in my palm to see what would happen.

(And yes, thank you, I know this is a rather pointedly stupid way to go about scientific investigations but I feel I'm more of the Victorian gentleman scholar than the rigorous "poke it with a probe and see what it does" sort of white labcoat and black tie scientist.)

What happened, in fact, is that it started to walk around on six of the blackest legs I had ever seen on a bug. The whole bottom of this huge critter was as black as inked silk, and as shiny. His top was the real treat, though. The motif noir was continued there, but around all the edges of a lovely oval shell was a faint sprinkling of dots of tan, the colour of old dust. They were heaviest toward the ends of the shell, making it look like an art student had been practicing their shading with a stippling pencil, and combined with the absolute inky black of it's legs and antennae it was quite a handsome bug. I decided I had to show it to the family.

When I returned the bug and myself to the outside, me to finish my chores and it to return to doing whatever it was doing, it surprised me yet again. I held my hand close to one of the thin limbs of my fig tree, and it paused it's heavy scurrying around my finger. It seemed to start a staring match with the leaf in front of it, and without warning it emitted a very loud and perfectly clear "click." I fully expected to see a cocked pistol, a gleaming black tannhauser clutched in one ebony foreleg, or to find that I was standing on an unexploded landmine whose trigger I had just trodden on, but no, that was not the case. It was flying time.

The critter opened it's wing case as though it had unlatched the doors on a Mercedes Benz; they unfolded from an invisible seam with uncanny grace until each half stood at a 90 degree angle to it's body, making of him a perfect cruciform. Underneath was more of that incredible black, and the most elegant set of wings I have ever seen on a bug. He unfurled them carefully, like an old woman smoothing out crinkled black crinoline on a table; moving them until they were angled back and up from his body he held them there as if to let me admire the incredibly sophisticated, very alien assembly of his flight mechanisms.

When he started flapping the noise was surprisingly loud--a dull whirring and a sort of drone that I felt through his legs clutching my finger, and he held on grimly to my thumb for just a moment as if he were a pilot readying for takeoff who had forgotten to fasten his seatbelt. When he was satisfied that the airspeed was right, the rpms were up in the green zone and that his coffee was good and hot he lifted off, again with an offhanded lack of speed and concern that made me think of an old man driving down to the VFW hall for a game of chess, knowing full well that the board and his cronies would be there whether he got there early or late. He piloted an unhurried, meandering flight path over the fence and into the yard where I lost him around the corner of my shed.

I found out later that I had played with that very same bug when I was a child--an eyed click beetle, only the click beetles I used to see and play with were more along the size of fingernail clippings, and their dust-coloured spots were so small as to be invisible. A little fast research online told me that this was a mature adult who had, it seemed, reached most of it's almost two inch adult length, but no amount of dry scientific meanderings could take the smile off my face, the smile that was plastered there when I watched that little biological machine open it's wings and fly.


I'm tired of listening to the news.

I hear stories coming out of Iraq one after the other about contractors who have performed less than their best work, who have 'made do' with shoddy work and pocketed the cash and run. I've heard about millions of dollars of funding that have simply gone missing, dissapeared down politician's pockets and into hidden bank accounts. I've heard about every sort of evil perpetrated over there and the newscasters still seem to be able to approach each new revelation with a sort of open-mouthed disbelief tinged with shock.

Uhm...okay, we all know people lie, cheat and steal, especially when it's easy to get away with. It happens EVERY SINGLE DAY, most everywhere you care to look. Why are you surprised when it happens to the tune of millions of dollars overseas?

May 13, 2007

Mother's Day Meandering

Raising a child is, without a single doubt, hard as hell. But, there are moments.

I don't talk about my family a lot here. It's been something I've semi-consciously done, and not because this is my blog and therefore all about me. I learned somewhere that life is easier when you keep family separate from work, and while I don't see blogging as work I do see it as something with a fair importance in my life, and with the opportunity to really impact my family, so I stand as the barrier.

Well, I'm going to let a little bit through because every parent has to, at some point, be proud in public of their child.

Last year, my daughter had her first school-sponsored dance. Now, her father had never been a very social person, especially at school. I hated school, and never had the desire nor the popularity nor the ability to overcome my crippling shyness long enough to attend a dance, so I never did. Not a one. I've tried my best as the years have gone on to help my daughter overcome her seemingly genetic shyness by being as social as I can with her, introducing her to new circumstances and people and putting her in the forefront of public interaction whenever possible. She still, however, grew up shy. And so it was quite a shock to me when she told me that she wanted to attend this dance.

I knew she hung out at school with a small clique of girls whom she considered friends, and I knew that she was far and away the quiet one of the group but I also had never heard any mention of any little boy in her circle of friends. But I was pleased as could be that she wanted to attend, and backed her up 100%. Oohed and aahed over a pretty dress that she and her grandmother picked out, and quite naturally leaped at the chance to volunteer when the dance sponsors asked for parent chaperones.

That evening I put on my best black T-shirt, my black boots, sharpened my moustaches to hard fine points and wore my best black Kangol. I loaded up my lovely, makeup-wearing daughter and went to the dance. I signed us both in and watched with no small trepidation as my little girl disappeared into the dark, music-throbbing gymnasium, followed by a small pack of her giggling girl friends. It was a disturbing time for me, realising that my little girl was becoming a woman, with all those attendant needs and desires.

I didn't see her again for three very long hours.

When she returned at the end of the dance, I knew something was wrong. Like her father she wears her emotions on her face and her heart on her sleeve. I got her back to the car and headed back toward home before I broached the subject of what happened, and my heart broke as she started crying. She had spent the entire dance as a wallflower until literally the last dance. A boy had approached her and asked her to dance, she accepted, and as best I can understand it he immediately turned to another girl whom I can only assume he was more attracted to, and asked HER to dance, leaving my daughter to wonder just what had transpired, and leaving her hopes and her happiness dead on the polished wood floor.

A long, tear- and talking-filled trip home got her nerves settled and her dignity and her self-assuredness shored back up, but it left a mark on my heart like a branding iron, a mark that has yet to fade, and I doubt will ever fade. Anger, combined with a desire for retribution, combined with the sure and certain knowledge that the world was teaching my daughter in it's on inimitable way that it is anything but fair. I didn't like it, but I knew it was bound to happen, and I know that it will continue to happen.

And as it is wont to do, time passed. A whole year.

My daughter grew some more, learned some more, and when the annual school dance came around again she smilingly offered me the signature form. She wanted to go dancing. Needless to say I was shocked but I agreed. Who am I to refuse my daughter what she wants? I didn't tell her that I had a heart-full of trepidation; fear that I would pick her up with tears clouding her dark eyes again. I could feel hope pushing around all that fear, though, like a very small man trying to elbow his way through a crowd of fat men crowding the spotlight. Hope that springs eternal, hope that This Time Things Would Be Different.

She dressed to the nines, polished her fingernails, put on her favourite dragon necklace, and I drove her to the dance. I had some vague thought about standing in as guard/chaperone but this time around the school had signed on several Sheriff's deputies as overseers and hadn't asked for parental involvement, so I dropped her off, double-checked our pickup time (two hours later, on the dot,) made certain she was in and drove home with a heart in which fear warred with hope.

Come eight o'clock I was standing outside the gym's parking lot smoking a cigar trying to hide my fear, deciding my chances against outrunning or outfighting the pair of very large deputies if events dictated that I had to kill some little boy who had broken my daughter's heart. When she appeared in the doorway and started heading toward me she was smiling and her step had a little bounce to it, and that little tiny man in the fedora managed a superhuman effort and shoved the fat guys out of the way to stand, triumphant, in the limelight, not sure why but certain that his name had been called.

I loaded her up, buckled us in and broached, very gently, the subject. "So," I said, my voice probably quavering a little, "How did it go?"

It came out in a tumble that she had not danced, the only reason being that she only liked to slow dance and the DJ didn't play a slow song, but that a little boy who she said "...likes to hang out at recess with me and try to make me laugh" had stayed with her quite a while waiting for that slow song to appear, so he could dance with her.

I didn't whoop aloud because that would be unseemly, but that little man in the limelight high-fived a whole crowd of his friends who had suddenly appeared beside him. My daughter wasn't entirely the shy flower I was, and was reaping the benefits. Life had taught her another lesson, and this one didn't have to hurt so bad.

Now all I have to do is start sitting on the front porch cleaning my pistol, and practice saying with a straight face, "Boy, my daughter is the only person I'd go back to jail for."

May 10, 2007

Poetry Friday Challenge: "Rain"

Okay, so Mona really tagged this one. I love rain, and I don't know how I'm going to find the time or the ability to really write about this like I'd like to, but I'm gonna give it a shot.


When I first moved out of my parent's house, I lived in a very small mobile home. If the walls had been any thinner they'd have been invisible. If the wind blew hard enough the walls would flex and vibrate, and the whole house would boom like the inside of a drum. And when it rained, you knew it. From the very lightest drips of heavy fog to the heaviest downpour, you knew when it rained.

I lived there for 13 years. I lived there through a marriage and a divorce and a remarriage. I lived there through a pregnancy and the birth of my daughter. I lived there through my discovery of motorcycling and through the start and completion of more jobs than I care to think about. There are a lot of memories from that place, and many more have been forgotten, but there is one thing I could never forget about that little crackerbox with the tin walls and roof: the sound of the rain.

Sometimes I lie in bed at night in my brick-walled peaked-roof house and I wonder if it's raining outside. I can't hear it, not even through the windows. And when I wonder if it's raining outside, I remember the sound of the rain in that mobile home. My bedroom was on the back end of the house, and my bed was in the furthest back corner of the room, and when it rained, the water would wend it's way down the walls and onto the thick ledges of metal that lined the bottom, and then they'd drip the three feet or so to the ground with a quiet 'plik.'

I remember the soft tap of a light summer sprinkle, the softest patter of water on metal. I remember the deep roar of a steady drenching rainfall, how you had to raise your voice to be heard, and how it was better, in my heart, to simply sit and be still, and know that I was small and safe and dry, and mattered very little in the schemes and plans of the universe. I remember the muted tap of drops falling after the rains, dripping from the corner of the house onto the broad leaves of an elephant's ear plant that grew there.

Raindrop Prelude, With Camera

It's not possible. Is it?
It's not possible to photograph rain.
I don't think it can be captured properly,
catch a single perfect droplet as it falls
in front of my blind staring lens.
It can't be done, can it?
(at least by me?)

Every time it rains
I look out across the interstate
wondering what the locomotives look like
as they pull
and drive
and bellow their way through the rainfall.
(barely contained fury)

I wonder how would I look
standing there in the rain,
my huge black umbrella over my head
and my equipment.
My camera on it's tripod,
bag on my shoulder,
all of us standing there quietly.
(patiently, like damp crows)

The three of us,
Waiting for the arrival
of some huge beast.
All the while
the rain comes down around us,
unconcerned with trivialities like
film speeds,
exposure times.
(and leaving the lens cap on)


When animators want to portray rain, they do so by painting or drawing thin white lines, usually at an angle; a simple trick. Instead of trying to paint each drop as it falls, they show the puddles, the trickles of water running down upturned faces and downturned umbrellas. Rain falling on the lid of a glossy black casket in the midst of sober mourners is always certain to strum the strings of pathos. They carefully animate the expanding circles of droplets landing in water, showing the results, not the cause. They show the kids jumping in puddles, resplendent in their yellow slickers, the very essence of joy.

May 9, 2007

To Boldly Blog

Oh yeah baby. I'm gonna write about work using a TV science fiction metaphor which is going to leave the geeks breathless and the rest of my few readers scrambling for The Onion or somewhere, anywhere else but here.

See, things are afoot at work that, if presented in a clever and interesting style will make for some great reading, and will bore all of you to tears if I just present it as is. So, without further mucking about:

My Job As Described Metaphorically Using Science Fiction Spacey Stuff!

Working in the home health industry is about like flying an X-wing blindfolded down a teeny tiny gutter in the Death Star while being beaten about the head and shoulders by one of the Sand People, all the while trying to use The Force to get your light saber to jump into your hand.

How about that for starters?

In home health, er, StarFleet service, the rulebook is more labyrinthine than the inside of a Ferengi's ear. There's more rules than there are stars in Delta quadrant, so many rules that it would take half a Wookie's lifetime to learn but there's no real sense in learning them all because they change about as fast as Yoda can wreck a sentence. The gov and Medicare and Medicaid and all the private insurance groups...I mean, er...lessee... The United Federation of Planets, Endor and Luke Skywalker's speeder all have their own standards and practices and rules that we have to follow to the letter. The doctors have their own expectations (damnit Jim, they're doctors, not "name of profession here") and then there's us, stuck down at the end of it in our little overcrowded, underfueled, undersupported starship, trying desperately to get the much-needed vaccine shipment to the dying colonists.

Hmmm...pretty lame, so far. Let's see how bad this can get.

See, the thing is, we've been flying this starship for the past six or more months under two different but equally destructive conditions: we've either had a captain who has all the leadership capacity of a Regulan Bloodworm in a blender (for you Trekkies) and the personality of a Nerf herder (for you Star Wars types) OR we've been under the control of an admiral who is so busy he keeps beaming out of the ship at all hours to help run fifteen OTHER starships all scattered across the galaxy, which themselves are all a tiny part of a rag-tag fleet trying to find the way to Planet Easy Money. (And that's the only Battlestar Galactica schtik I'm gonna use.) And honestly, all us redshirts have been taking turns with the chief engineer trying to run the ship but there's just too dang many rules, regs, and blinking lights for us to make even the barest amount of sense out of it. And so we've been bouncing up against the Death Star's walls, crashing and tumbling and losing gravity and shooting ourselves with our own photon torpedoes and we haven't even got anywhere near the kind of mind-bogglingly fast speeds that this ship has been designed to reach.

Wow, this metaphor sucks.

We've been struggling for a while now. A long while now, and we're all sick of it. We're tired, we're stressed, and we've been stretched to the limit. We've angered doctors bad enough to lose their support (and their patients...heh...patience...a pun!) We've managed to get rid of a few of the worst problem causers but we're so short staffed that we can't afford to get rid of the rest, and the pickings around here are like a whorehouse full of supermodels--pretty damn slim. (*snort* I'm quite the funny guy today.)

And as of Monday we've finally gotten a director who really knows her stuff. Knows her stuff in that she's spent the past twenty years of her life working in home health, has lead several home health agencies just like ours (in fact one of our direct competitors) and she left all them for us. The funny thing is, this spaceship of ours is turning out to be a real Juggernaut. And no, I'm not going to turn this metaphor-wrecking post toward Marvel comics nor anything involving Greek mythology or Roman orgies or things like that.

Heh. I said "orgies." That'll bring up the Google hits. I'm about to be inundated by horny Star Trek geeks looking for nude pictures of T'Pol, or fanfic about Dr. Beverly Crusher and her secret relationship with Six of Nine.

So our new captain has been in place for, oh, all of three days, and has been very much on the down low about her being in charge. Heck, most of the staff didn't even know we HAD a director until today's staff meeting. Her plan? She's come into more than a few established agencies as director and knows that if she comes in guns blazing she's going to blow the whole thing to smithereens and she'll be out of a job and will have pissed off a lot of people who know just where the most vital organs are. So she's moving slowly, learning all the verniers and which blinking lights mean what and how to operate the transporter without splitting herself into Good Director and Evil Director. Yeah, I couldn't keep away from it, sorry. Me and my metaphors. They're in me deeper than Kirk was in Yeoman Rand.

Wow, THAT came outta nowhere. Ahem.

The funny thing is, as gentle as she is being on the helm the redshirts and the blueshirts are already starting to squeal bloody murder. I mean, I knew there were going to be a few problems; heck, two of our blueshirts used to crew for her on different starships and she tossed them out the airlock there for being complete Jar Jars. Er...yeah. I just can't figure why the rest of the crew is afraid she's going to blow up the engines when this lady's sole intention, obviously, is to get us back in line with the law of the universe, the one that says that we'll do what we're required to do or we'll get shut down end of episode series canceled you crashed your ship into a planet all your bases are belong to us.

Wait, that's not right...

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I've been so desperate for a strong, willing, capable leader who really knows her way in and out of the spaceways for so long that I'm ready to leap behind any princess who can wield a blaster. Maybe I'm right and she really DOES know which button is the one for warp speed and is ready to push it but we're still all floating around in zero-g and if she punches it we'll all get smeared into thin pink goo on the bulkhead before we can say "tribble." And maybe it's just that today was extra stressful with two of the redshirts taking off in the escape pods for different emergencies and one of the blueshirts was just being herself and making a huge mess out of things just because that's the only thing she's good at.

Confused enough yet? Good.

I'm not the top guy when it comes to being able to embrace change. I dislike change. I don't like having my bits taken apart and beamed across space and I think the old leather-strap tricorders were the height of fashion. I still think Klingons looked pretty damn tough in black goatees, smooth foreheads and gold lame' shirts for Pete's sake, but I know when change needs to happen. I've known that it's needed to happen in our sector of space for a very long time now, and now that it's arrived I'm ready to let go of my little science station viewer and let the new captain tell me what I need to do to make this damn go-buggy fly at a reasonable pace and without all the hanging-off bits getting knocked off and most especially without warping us straight into an asteroid. It's not my fault that the entire crew was ill-trained when they were trained at all, and I'm not going to take offense if the captain tells me that the control I keep punching is the one that flushes all the toilets on "C" deck and is not the phaser control panel like I thought it was. I'm going to do my best to listen, learn which buttons to stop pushing and which to start pushing, and I'm gonna start punching THOSE buttons. Hard. Damnit, I'm ready to crew under someone who knows how to drink Earl Grey tea and whip some Borg ass, not blunder along until we get cancelled because only UPN will carry us.

And honestly at this point I don't care if we don't get over impulse power for quite a while. The Romulans will still be there when we're ready to start shooting, and there's quite a massive supply of colonists needing vaccine.

Still with me? Fascinating. [raised eyebrow]

May 8, 2007

Aim Low

I think my sole purpose in life needs to become the pursuit of a position high enough in a company that I can liberally abuse my position while ignoring the withering scorn of my subordinates.

I'm not speaking of anyone in particular, just someone with a Personal Assistant in their office, a company luxury car and a Blackberry. With one of those goofy Borg earpieces that blink a very eerie blue colour. And I'd scorn most anyone who would sit still long enough for it. You know, come back from lunch about three hours late stinking of cheap perfume and several martinis, yapping into thin air on my cellular Borg implant and give whoever happens to appear in front of me one of those withering glances that says "I'm so important I pay for s.ex on my corporate AmEx and ash $25 cigars into the open mouths of panhandlers."

And when someone finally gets up the nerve and confronts me on it I'll start screaming incoherently, shout "Cheetah balls!" at the top of my lungs then fall through a piece of cheap office furniture and have to be rushed off to The Betty Ford Clinic for several months of detox and golf, all at full pay.

Just a thought.

May 6, 2007

Up A Signal Post Without A Clue

So what did YOU do this weekend?

Yes, I was feeling my wild oats and not my almost-40 years. I would have gone further up (that's as far as I went, to be quite honest, you can tell by my rictus of fear and white knuckles) but I realised while up there that:

a) if I fell, Vulgar Wizard, (who was down on the safe flat solid ground taking the pre-fall photos) wouldn't be able to haul my broken and bleeding carcass back the fifty yards along the tracks to the rutted and watterlogged dirt road that the ambulance MIGHT be able to make it down safely, and

b) a 6'2" 235 pound man with a penchant for wearing loose-fitting T-shirts clinging to a very flimsy ladder attached to a very flimsy signal light pole makes an excellent sail when the wind is steady blowing at 15 mph.

Yes, I broke my long-held, hard-and-fast rule of doing nothing but working like a dog all weekend to go out and take some photographs Saturday. You can see most of the gruesome full-colour results at my Flikr account; the roll of artsy-fartsy B&W won't be developed for a week.

You see, out there in the middle of nowhere in our neighboring city is a little lake, and by that little lake is a little local airport where last weekend I broke my long-held, hard-and-fast rule (again) and attended the Fly-In sponsored by the local branch of the EAA. And keep in mind that this is taking place in a rather rural part of the south, so the term "Experimental Aircraft Association" also covers people who fly things like crop dusters.

Anyway, ya'll.

By this little lake and this little boll weevil-free airport is an equally small but nice little park that also plays host to a boat landing that allows ingress to the Red River, and one other thing, the thing that caught my attention after photoing crop dusters: three parallel spur lines just down from a crossroads of two major rail lines. And upon those three spur lines rested about thirty rail cars, all awaiting a trip back to the refurbishment facility.

Since my new-found love of politically-charged graffiti and hobo sign is often best served by visiting stationary boxcars and their ilk, I planned a trip back the next day. Which didn't take place until this past Saturday, but hey, we do what we can, right? And I in my usual pattern snapped some eighty plus digital photos of various graffiti and hobo sign, and by some stroke of crazy luck I also caught a train. Not in the 'hand the conductor my ticket and step to the dining car for a nosh' sorta way, but caught as in I was standing between several tons of rolling stock on the furthest spur line when I heard that unmistakable 130db train horn blast and came scrambling from between those cars and toward it like a teenage boy who has just heard the sound of a bra strap breaking. I managed to jump three lines of track wearing a pair of 12W High Tek Magnum boots and get myself safely installed on a lovely piece of discarded track on the right of way in about seven seconds flat, all without breaking an ankle or otherwise pitching myself face-first into the cracked concrete roadbed. I even had time enough to get the camera pointed in the right direction and steady my hand on some nearby brambles, and I got this really nice photo of

Kansas City Southern 3126

en route to...somewhere. But I got her picture and even got a friendly wave from the conductor who poked his head out to smile as he passed, all the while STANDING ON THAT FREAKING AIR HORN. My head is still ringing. Of course I also managed to bump my noggin on a hopper car traveling at roughly 40mph when my equilibrium gave out since my ears were bleeding a bit, but the doctor said it should heal right up if I kept it clean and used Neosporin.

I also found something kind of creepy out there at that wonderful wasteland of rail crossings: a pauper's cemetery. I didn't know that sort of thing still existed in this modern, clean, tidy world, but I guess there still has to be places to bury people that have been crushed beneath the wheels of progress and the American Dream, people who are destitute and have no family to claim them, like Delta Airlines employees.

I did a little digging and found out that several years ago this tiny clearing in the middle of the pine woods has been there for some time, but that the graves used to be marked by business card-sized stone markers. The facility, if a fifty-foot clearing in the pine woods can be called a facility is owned by the local psychiatric hospital, and since the tiny, unremarkable graves were being desecrated or overlooked or whatever, the city decided to come in and install better markers. And this being the deep south, and our city being run as it is by a score of incompetents and thieves, they took the easy route. The forty-odd graves are marked by four foot tall steel street signs. Yes, you got it. Those ubiquitous green U-channel posts with all the holes through them, and on top of each was a blue road sign with "Unknown" or someone's name and date of death mechanically spelled out in white adhesive letters.

I didn't know whether to weep or laugh. It was tragic, but it was comic at the same time, as though all these forgotten people and stillborn babes had suddenly become mileposts for helping motorists navigate a series of very tricky but strangely uniform intersections in the middle of a forest. And yes I took some photos, just a few in black and white, and I doubt seriously that I will post them here. Graveyards and tombstones make for excellent if very maudlin photography subjects, and this tiny, sad little place really touched something inside me.

I did have to call VW and ask her if she knew about this strange little hidden boneyard, and invite her out to watch me plummet to my death from a signal light's ladder. She arrived shortly thereafter, thankfully. Maybe it's just me, but there's something about a tiny, forgotten cemetery out in the middle of the woods that really makes me want someone else there. Preferably someone well-armed and burly, but beggars and choosers, right? At least VW has a high, girly scream.

And to make up for my flagrant slacking and flaunting of my time off, I punished myself by cutting grass for six hours today. I think I must have cut every single standing blade of grass on my property at least once, and now I'm feeling not only my age but my advanced mileage. And if you'll excuse me, there's a tub full of boiling hot epsom salted water and a tube of Neosporin that's got my name on it.

May 4, 2007

Poetry Friday Challenge: Belly

So the irascible, irreverent and often inscrutable Mona popped this one on us, and for a change I don't have a ready to hand response/story/1:177 scale miniature of Godzilla to post, and have spent most of my Thursday in a mild state of panic (and anoxia) trying to piece together in my head some story, response, or 1:177 scale replica of Godzilla's belly made entirely out of dryer lint and clover stems.

What I do have is what I'm good at: seemingly unrelated tidbits all strung together under one title in the vain hopes that you guys won't give up in disgust and go start reading something better, like the label on a cereal box. And since it has been brought to my attention that I've been less than personal with my recent posts, which is defeating the entire narcissistic point of blogging, let's make this one personal as all get out. Ready go!


Belly: Come September it will have been 40 years since I was dragged out of my mother's belly, Cesarian section-wise. I would have been the middle child but my mother miscarried my older sister, so I was the first. She was 39. I was 0 plus 9 gestational months, if you count conception as the beginning of Life. This coloured how she raised me a great deal--she was profoundly protective of me, and it set the groundwork for the rest of my life up to and including right now. You see, she still thinks I'm about 3 years old and in grave danger of crapping myself without someone to oversee me. Needless to say my mother and I do not have the best relationship imaginable.

Belly: While it is a widely held belief amongst my friends and associates that I am solely a breast and ass man, I am in point of fact a belly man. In actual point of fact it's an astonishing array of things that attract me to women, but for the sake of arguments and this post today I shall be a belly man. I cannot stand skinny women, plain and simple, and the sight of a gently curved belly always makes me salivate. A soft, gently pliable stop-over from one scenic point on a woman's body to another, a lovely round belly is the place I like most to pause for just a moment, enjoy the views, and catch my breath.

Belly: I've always had a gut. Call it a belly for the sake of the post, but gut is a more accurate term. One of the nicest things a woman ever told me was concerning said shed over my tool, and it's stuck with me lo these 15 years since she said it. I think I must have commented about it disparagingly, as I am wont to do, and she said that she found men with a little gut quite sexy, since, she said, it was a nice cushion between her and him during...shall we say 'active sexplay.' I've never been quite the same since, and it's always made me feel just a tiny bit better about myself. Mostly because the young lady in question was quite attractive but also because she owned a pair of leather underwear. With a zipper in the front. Said zipper having a big brass pull-ring. And no, I never got to test her theory with her.

Belly: While my daughter was still in my first wife's rather sizeable belly, I bought a book that promised "365 stories for bedtime" and I read to that belly each night for part of her first trimester and all of her second and third. I had the sure and certain feeling that Elisabeth could hear me even though I was sure she couldn't understand the words but I read anyway, making all the silly voices and the strange sounds and such. It is one of the proudest moments I know as a father.

Belly: I utterly love Smaug's boast to Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit," and I especially enjoy how Tolkien described it: "...and his long pale belly crusted with gems and fragments of gold from his long lying on his costly bed." And I can never forget Bilbo's response to Smaug after seeing this bejeweled girdle: "What magnificence to possess a waistcoat of fine diamonds!" Unfortunately that gemstone vest also bore a missing scale that let Bard slay him. As a fun side that has nothing do to with bellies, Tolkien in a letter written in 1938 described Smaug's name: 'The dragon bears as a name - a pseudonym - the past tense of the primitive Germanic verb Smugan, to squeeze through a hole: a low philological jest.' That makes my belly jump with laughter just thinking about Himself hiding a base pun in his work.

Belly: I still can't understand why they call it "belly dancing" when all the work seems to be performed by the ass.

Belly: I still find it vaguely silly to rub the belly of a statue of Buddha for good luck. It's a horribly Western thing in my rarely given and often misdirected opinion, bad taste akin to patting the butt of Jesus on his crucifix. And maybe it's just me. *lol*

And since the long-promised storm is finally FINALLY approaching I think it's time to wrap a towel around this big ole' belly and shut down the 'puter before it is shut down for me by lightning or our notoriously twitchy power grid. I'm taking my belly and the rest of me to a long soak in the tub.

May 3, 2007

I Just Keep Telling Myself

"It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile."

I don't know about you, Sting, but my facial muscles are sore as HELL.

May 2, 2007

Cheetah Balls: Supa' Fly Doping Challenge Post

In response to my own challenge over at Cheetah Balls, here's a few sound bites promoting the use of cheetah balls as a performance enhancing drug.

"Hey Johnthomas, I've never seen a sixty year-old man run so fast! What's your secret?"
"Why Basquiat, it's Cheetah Balls(tm!) I just let two disolve under my tongue an hour before I'm going to be active, and chew up three or four just before I go onto the field for that extra little bit of testosterone!"
"But aren't Cheetah Balls illegal?"
"Why heavens no, you young zipperfisher, they're an all natural, homeopathic cure and they even smell a little funny, to throw off the drug-sniffing dogs at Customs!"

"Why honey, what IS that alluring scent?"
"It's Cheetah Balls Bodyspray And Performance Enhancer(tm)). Like it?"
"Boy do I? You smell like a mangy filthy piebald savannah cat! Come here, stinky, and give me some of that veldt lovin'!"
(Fifteen seconds elapse)
"Wow, that"
"Thanks, Cheetah Balls!"

"Esteban, is that a Thompson's Gazelle in the garage with it's throat torn out?"
"Yes it is!"
"I told you to stop taking those damned Cheetah Balls(tm)!"
"But hon, I love chasing down prey, and Cheetah Balls(tm) give me the get up and go not only to be a useless stoolie in the office but also a virile killing machine on the Ivory Coast!"
"I want a divorce."
"Hah ha ha ha! Run, bitch."

So kith and kin, feel free to follow the linky thing up there. Stucco, Scott and Vulgar Wizard need your love and support and need to be reminded (quite often actually) that they too are normal and productive members of our online society! Oh, and you can give us YOUR best Cheetah Ball while you're there. It's a win-win!

May 1, 2007

Regrets, or What I'd Change In My Life

Once the avalanche has begun, the pebbles can no longer vote.

We've all played the game where we mentally point to a time in our past and say "If Only I Could Change Things, this would be it." The idea being that if we were to change one thing, the present would turn out the way we want it to--

"If only I had gone to the prom with Ernesto Guitterez instead of staying home and getting stoned with Keith Richards I wouldn't be stuck here with five children and no life."

"If I could go back in time and tell myself to be at "X" place at "Y" time I could have done "Z" thing and..."

"If I could go back in time to Coney Islant I'd tell myself not to eat that seventeenth piece of squid, and I'd be able to walk again."

et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.

Living a life is like that avalanche, though. There is an uncountably huge number of factors affecting us each and every day, and a million million cusp points that we pass through, each a decision point that is irrevocably going to change the direction in which our life proceeds.

Just thinking about it makes me want to lock myself in a closet and become a hermit. And wonder exactly where I went wrong.

I wonder why my mother undermines me at every turn.

I wonder why my mother won't listen to me when I suggest the way I'd like my daughter to be treated/raised when she's at her grandmother's (my mother's) house.

I wonder what would have happened if things had been different. And hoo boy isn't that the biggie?

And I know, or at least the calm, cool, calculator part of me (a very small part indeed) that if one thing were to be changed in my past, one decision, one event, the cascade back up the line would crush and main me into something that I wouldn't recognise even if it were me. I'd be something utterly different, and all that promised land of better future would be just as far away as it is now.

And so I just smile and suck it up, and hope that there's some meaning to this existence, some raison d'etre, because right now it sure seems like one colossal cock-up.