Friday, June 28, 2013

The Casino Bus Bandit

What a great day I had! I rolled out of bed and there was Dusty the Dog standing at the door with a gym bag in his mouth. The bag was bigger then him so I can't imagine how he was carrying it, but I'm not one to look miracles in the mouth, or however that goes. So guess what was inside the bag? A million dollars! Wait... no, TWO MILLION! Yea, no shit!

Well you know I couldn't believe my luck so the first thing I did was had breakfast to get that sleep taste outa my mouth; I made myself a dragon's egg omelet with spam chunks and creamed corn salsa and while I was sharing it with Dusty the wonder dog I kinda spilled the money over my head like I'd see Scrooge McDuck do in the Disney comic books my gramma bought me for Christmas when I was 7 years old. Of course I got a few hundreds mixed in with the eggs but it was no big deal really, kinda like spinach, though the new paper made them a little chewy so more like really really freezer burned spinach. Well after breakfast I thought man, if I had two million dollars what would I buy? And I have to admit I thought of you guys first, my Facebook friends list residents!. But then I thought "yea but what about the guys who never ever talk to me? Should I really give them the same share as the people who hang on my every word and daily express their adoration?" And then I thought "well geez, I bet if I started givin out money people would be comin outa the woodwork to call me their friend and then they'd want a share too and I'd spend my whole day sayin 'no sorry, you're only a 3/32nds friend so you only get a tiny portion of what everyone else gets' and then they'd threaten me with something like having that Snowden fellow hack into my emails and tell the world about my secret hidden email potty mouth, you know, like he's famous for", and then I'd be so crabby all the fun would be taken from the idea so I stopped thinkin about you guys so I could go back to grinning. Man, charity's a painful thing, you really gotta be careful.

So I thought maybe I should take Dusty and go to Dairy Queen so we could celebrate. It's not every day your dog comes home dragging a bag bigger than him with two million dollars in it! And so we drove and I got there and guess what? It was customer appreciation day and everything in the store except the big cakes that I really don't like anyway was on sale for half off! And I said "I don't care really cuz I have two million dollars so I can pay full price anyway" and the girl at the drive up window said "look mister, don't get wise, you don't get to pick the price; it's half off, live with it! Now whaddya want?"

And I was so crushed cuz I was treated badly by a teenage girl in a drive in window in a Dairy Queen I just drove away muttering swear words and started thinking about where else I could spend my fortune. That's when I saw the bus!

It was one of those fancy busses with the nice pin-striping except it was crashed into a sinkhole like God had just said "I'm gonna stop that bus" and He couldn't think of any way to do it but to make a big hole in the road. So like the back tires were still turning cuz the butt end of the bus was stickin way up in the air and all the people from the bus were sitting on the curb drinking hot chocolate, or at least those that weren't ice fishing in the little pond beside the road. (Even though it was only yesterday it was winter when this happened. Well and, Dusty the Dog has been dead for a year but here he was, alive and cute as hell! Go figure) I was just dumbstruck you know? Here was some fellow human beings that might need my help and since I wasn't on line directing psychic traffic and dispensing answers to every question in the universe, I just happened to have the time. It was like God had said "I have a test for you Ron, to see if you're really going to hell or not. I'm gonna give you two million dollars and then crash a bus and see what you do."

And I thought "Wow that's pretty random God; what if I had gotten there ahead of time so when the hole opened up in the road I could have thrown the two million dollars into it and instead of the bus crashing it'd just drive over the money like it was a big green bridge!"

And God said "Hey stupid, who you kiddin? I know everything remember? You weren't gonna do that so just get that outa your brain!" And I thought "Wow that's really cool that God talks like a third generation Czech/American farmer; I'd always wondered if He actually said "thee" and "thou" and "copulated" like they say in the Bible which is supposed to be his diary or something."

Anyway there was the bus and there was this old woman that looked just like one of those Russian nesting dolls, you know with the heavy coat and the big bandana and the round head and big black galoshes they wear so they can walk through piles of cow poop without getting their feet all wet, and she's wandering around crying and waving her arms like she's cursing at something. It makes me so curious that I park about a block away so no one sees I have a car and asks for a ride to the hospital and I walk back to the old lady and stand close enough to hear what she's saying without having her catch my eyes with hers and think that's a signal that I'm willing to hug her and she grabs me and slobbers all over my good winter jacket. And you know what she's saying?

Well it was in Russian but I had a Russian girlfriend once so I think I can translate... she said "Come back with my casino profits of two million dollars you cursed little dog!" It was either that or "But I hate goat cheese, it's so smelly, don't you have an English Stilton?"

Of course I figured it was the first one since it had to do with me personally and almost everything does. So I asked her to describe the event and she said she'd won the Jackpot Jubilee at the Mystic Lake Indian Casino and they'd changed a million pounds of quarters into two million dollars in hundreds and stuffed em in a gym bag. Then while the free senior citizen bus was taking her back to the New Prague Mala Strana nursing home, the bus crashed and the luggage door flew open and out came the bag right into the waiting jaws of a little teeny dog with a punk hairdo and away he goes dragging this big ass bag through the snow.

Now I know Dusty had been running away lately but I had no idea he'd been going all the way to Prior Lake to watch casino busses pass by so I ran back to my truck and I said "Dusty, were you down here about an hour ago?" And he looked at the dash and he looked at me and he looked at the dash... So I reached inside and turned the ignition on so the clock would come on and then he looked at the clock and then he looked at his feet like he was guilty as hell and he knew it.

So what else could I do? I was sure my mom and grammas were watching up in heaven and if I kept the money and then died and by some stroke of luck I'd passed God's test and got into his kingdom, well I'd bet the women would kick my ass for being so thoughtless. And if you were going to heaven, would you want the first thing you hear once passing the pearly gates to be "C'mere you" as your mom grabs your ear and drags you out behind God's garden shed for a whoopin? Yea, well me neither. So I gave the old lady her stupid gym bag and told her I was sorry about eating the few hundreds in my eggs, and she forgave me just before an old guy pulled out an accordion and they did a little Czech dance, singin something about "with two million dollars to stuff my mattress I'll sleep like a babushka" or who knows, I kinda know Russian but Czech is just too weird.

Sure, I scolded Dusty and on the way home I really wanted to get a banana split but I'd been embarrassed by the cashier and I was afraid she'd know who I was when I ordered, and she'd secretly put gummy worms in my sundae so when I was driving and eating I'd see a green worm come poking out and be so scared I'd throw the damn ice cream and it'd splatter all over my windshield and I'd turn on the windshield wipers but the goo would be on the inside so the wipers wouldn't help and I'd run into a tree and die.

So I skipped the Dairy Queen and me and Dusty just went home so I could watch Doctor Phil and he could eat poop like he always does. Toldja I had a great day!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Answer to Whydah Fah

The Whydah sang of great deeds and kindness offered, of practical jokes and clever rhyme. An elder Whydah was dead, and so the clan had gathered to sing his praises lest his ancient spirit enter Whydahell without introduction.

The clan chieftain Whydah Bugzexist motioned for the group to be seated. It was customary for the death celebration to be opened with a story of some import, given by the Whydah closest to the deceased in years. "Gentlemen, it's clear that some of us have never known Whydah Fah. Whydah Longface, have you an anecdote you might share?"

"Yes Whydah Bugzexist, I do in fact" said the chosen.

"Oh no" whispered Whydah Silliness to no Whyda in particular, "not that story about the Three Whyda Smen and the star again."

Whydah Strangelook twisted in his seat and reached across the campfire to whack Whyda Silliness across the shoulder. "Let's give Whydah Longface our complete attentions sir, this is to commemorate the life of our good friend Whydah Fah; we shall tolerate no excessive Silliness."

"Who are you calling excessive" Whydah Silliness shouted as he waggled his finger in the face of his detractor.

"Now, now gentlemen, this is a wake not a hockey game" Whydah Commotion admonished. "Let's let our elder tell his story that we might all ponder the wisdom of Whydah Fah."

"Whydah Fah indeed!" the assembled cheered, and for the next who knows how long, the Whydah pondered and pranced, protracted and pontificated upon the life of one of their most beloved; the great and powerful Whydah Fah.

Only Whydah Grapejuicedisisapartyletshavesomebooze was disappointed in the proceedings, but he was known as a sourpuss and his complaints were dismissed as the flatulence of a junior grade Whydah Longname, the supreme guardians of the gates of Whydahell. In fact the night went so well that a scribe, Whydah HeckdoIcomeupwithdiskindacrap wrote a verse to set the occasion into historical stone.

As Whydahell burned brightly on that cold and wint'ry night
the Whydah, somewhat lightly, quelled their nonsense appetite
The Whydah spoke of Whendah Smoke and Wheresdah Spatula
The Whydah sang of what a joy, to once know Whydah Fah.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Unexpected Visitors

I’d been a little smug about my activities I suppose, but not in a self righteous way; more in that ignorant know it all way that comes from walking through life while wearing blinders. I was just seventeen after all. I knew more than my parents as all teenagers do, and my mind was intellectually light years ahead of my friends’, but I was only privy to those things I had direct cultural access to, had lived through or had read in magazine articles, late at night, under the covers, with a flashlight. So there were a few holes in my logic.

First off, I didn’t steal the things; I was just the guy trading them in. I didn’t even steal the wallet that offered up the driver’s license signature I learned to duplicate so that I could operate under an alias. We found the billfold in a rest room, and luckily it was filled with signed, non photo ID. So long as I could match the handwriting I could show a Sears card for all it mattered to most cashiers, the forgery would be enough to get me what I wanted.

And what I wanted was to cash in green stamps, big ones, hundreds as I remember they must have been, as one would fill an entire page. It felt pretty silly licking and sticking enough stamps to fill stacks of books, but not as ridiculous as standing at the redemption counter holding a microwave oven and 250 books of trading stamps.

Actually I felt quite the moron, compelled to participate in the scam only because it was my friends who had dreamed it up, and having friends required me to do stupid things on their behalf. But though I saw myself an idiot, I wasn’t really afraid as I’d not connected the dots until the moment my mother shook me from my sleep and in a quivering voice told me I had unexpected visitors waiting downstairs.

My mind raced to determine what I’d have done that was so horrid that the big dogs would come to chat with me. Had it been the local police stopping by to take a handwriting sample, I’d have understood, and scribbled on their test paper as if I'd had MS. But I hadn’t used the guy’s credit cards, only his name, and it was hardly identity theft; it seemed a lot more naughty than criminal at the time and naughty was a stern talking to from your father, not a night in a cell with Bubba. And speaking of crime, I hadn’t been involved in a Vegas Casino heist, it was just some stupid stamps like the ones a customer would get as premiums when buying groceries back in the day. Yet it was at that juncture the gears began to drop into place.

The girl who’d snatched the pages of stickies in the first place, the girl we called Mustang Sally to honor both her choice of vehicle and her desire to hump anything that breathed while listening to funk music, the girl we were splitting the proceeds with… worked at a bank. A federally insured bank. A federally insured bank which was giving away 100 count green stamps to new customers opening an account; a kind of choose it yourself toaster reward. So what I’d failed to recognize in my haste to satisfy my bosom buddies who'd have been happy to trade in 20 years of my life for a few free cartons of cigarettes, was the idea that the stamps, being bank property, were insured by the same federal government that insured the cash in the vault; which made the filching of said stamps a federal crime.

Who is it Ma, tell ‘em I’m still asleep

You tell the FBI you’re still asleep son, I’ll be in the kitchen waiting to see if they use handcuffs and rubber hoses when they talk to you.

Never start your morning by talking to two FBI agents; it puts a real damper on the rest of your day.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's Raining Heroes

A local guy died some time ago after parachute jumping from a radio antenna tower, and then a local tv station eulogized this wonderful man who cared about family more than anything else, one of the best extreme sportsmen of our time.

So here's a guy who first trespassed on private property, then climbed a thousand feet in the fog, planning on freefalling without visual reference. The side of the tower he chose to jump from happened to face a rapid incline at ground level. I hear the ground on which he landed was some 30 feet higher than where the tower was anchored, and there's some question as to whether he took that into account when he was counting one mississippi, two mississippi...

I'm all for people living their death wish. If you want to jump from a helicopter onto a mountain peak and ski race the resultant avalanche, more power to ya; so long as if you're buried alive not a nickle of taxpayer money is spent to rescue you, and if your actions cause damages, your heirs are culpable financially. But, no one listens to me of course. What's happening instead (in this case for example) is that media outlets celebrate his near accomplishment by claiming him to be a hero and role model, a brave, bright man who suffered an unfortunate circumstance that took his life. I do have compassion for the family. Or I do unless they encouraged his behavior. But, a hero? You mean hero like any random celebrity you've chosen to elevate because you've deemed them popular and by attaching yourself to their coattails you too can share in their popularity? You mean hero like any random guy or girl who dances on the edge of any cliff they see even though they have a spouse and children they've sworn to cherish and protect? You mean hero as in we might have actually had to work to find someone whose accomplishments made a difference in the world, who was selfless in the defense of another, who gave everything to help one who had nothing... so instead we made a guy who jumped off tall stuff a hero cuz it seemed to make sense at the time? Oh and by the way...fog is an unfortunate circumstance?

The last time I watched this station's news there was a motorcycle accident in which a gasoline tank sprung a leak after a particularly deep pothole caused a metal from metal tear. The poor rider was covered in raw fuel within moments and somehow ignited as if a napalm rocket. The bike slowed to a crawl and finally just fell over as the quick death of the driver caused the release of the throttle yet the speed and balance of the machine kept it upright until the last. It was an amazing albeit tragic story, and I felt hollow as it was being told, thinking only "there but for the grace of God..." when the announcer sat upright, the camera zoomed into his face which cocked a bit leftward to accentuate the seriousness in which the next line would be delivered... "And the man wasn't wearing a helmet!" 

"Can you imagine?" his coanchor muttered as the two shook their heads and the camera panned back so as to segue into a commercial for auto insurance. Like what; helmets come with sprinklers installed?

I wish I could remember when my ship crash landed on this planet, but I seem to have amnesia. If only I could forget I'm not alone here.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dog Walks and Gunshots

Dog walks and gunshots and neighborhood screamers, cats that are feral and punks driving Beamers, businessmen cruising for prostitute flings, these are a few of my favorite things

When Linda and I first started dating she'd come to my old house on occasion, in the city; the deep dark scary city her friends and family had warned her all her life to stay away from. At the time I had Nicholas the Samoyed, the dog I named my country house after (and this blog as well), and the three of us would take walks around midnight to the city park that was only a few blocks from my home. There I could let the dog run without interference as normal people are smart enough to be in bed with their doors locked by bewitching hour, so we had the few acres of grass to ourselves.

She'd grown up in the country. If she'd walked outside her folks' house after midnight she was not only wrapped in absolute silence, but she could actually count the stars if she were so inclined, as they were visible in her neighborhood's night sky. So one thing that truly fascinated her was all the noise a city belches, even in the darkest hours; the sirens and screams, the barks and screeches, the jet engine's whine and the constant hum of power transmission. Oh, and the gunshots.

The first time we heard one I just blurted out my estimation as to how far away it was; I suppose to reassure her that there was not a platoon of Indians on horseback, riding across the Eaton's subdivision creekbed in search of settlers to scalp. She just laughed, that I would simply shrug off a gunshot to begin with, and that I was so accustomed to the sound that I could delineate its location by the volume and tone at its arrival to my ears. I had to explain that I was an audio engineer after all, and that if it was the clank of a frying pan on a cheating husband's head we were hearing, I could just as easily pinpoint the address at which the blood spatter might be.

It became our inside joke, we'd walk, the dog would run, I'd point out the night's tragedy locales by the ringing of the gunpowder and we'd go home to do naughty stuff, without the dog of course.

But then one night as we were walking home a shot rang out from within a dozen houses, just up an alley to our left, within Jart throwing distance of my house. Now I'm no superhero, but it was my neighborhood and I had to take at least a modicum of responsibility for its troubles so my first thought was "if someone's been shot and is lying in the alley bleeding to death, I should at least yell to them that I'm going to get help so they have the tiniest bit of hope to hold onto. Of course the flip side is if I yell and the shooter sees I've seen not only the crime but the criminal, he'll just shoot me too; making Linda's remaining walk home all the more stressful.

So I walked up the alley after giving a speech on how fast Linda should run if I were spun around by the entrance of hot lead into my manly shoulders, and I saw nothing I'm happy/sorry to say.

The moment I got home I called the cops, but I decided in my infinite wisdom to call the local precinct rather than 911. After all by that time it had been 15 minutes since boom boom, and I saw neither dead people nor fleeing shadows. It could have been a kid's failed science experiment, or perhaps someone had kept a case of beer in a garage refrigerator and the door was stuck shut, so in frustration the thirsty maniac started beating the handle with a crowbar until he broke it beyond repair. It seemed silly to call an emergency dispatcher; while I was actually pretty sure it was a gunshot and not a wanna be rock drummer playing on two by fours with tire irons, I didn't hear anyone moaning for help like they do on television.

The cop that answered was not amused, no doubt I ruined a hand of seven card stud. She was angry that I was stupid enough to look up a police station number in the phonebook and try to keep myself off the emergency line in case some 10 year old that had been stabbed by his father was trying to get through and couldn't. If I think it's important, I should call 911 she said. So that got me to thinkin. I heard gunshots nearly every night, am I just being oversensitive because they're happening in my back yard? It's true, I never called the cops after a walk during which I'd heard a shotgun go off near lake and Chicago and a large caliber handgun fire three shots a few minutes later near 38th and Fourth Avenue. Did I not care about the predominately black neighborhoods and only took action when the crime was perpetrated in a mixed race neighborhood like my own?

And then I stopped thinkin cuz it hurt my head. And I never again called the cops when I heard gunshots. Even when they came from next door. I didn't want to have to decide if it was important enough to use 911. It's just a freaking gunshot. Besides, I hate getting yelled at by the police. I don't have to call anyone for that, I can get that treatment anywhere.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Kingdom for the Force

It's hard to encourage people, it's no wonder most people don't. In fact I don't most of the time because the reward is usually nothing as compared to the effort. Even I don't feel good after the fact as often as not, because I keep second guessing whether I should just stay in the shadows and let people pat themselves on the back when they need a lift.

I was in an office supply store yesterday and this kid helped me in a perfect fashion. He didn't push, he didn't judge, he didn't infer I was a moron. And the minute he opened his mouth I knew he was being straight with me, not using some technique he'd learned at sales associate school.

As it turned out I wasn't sure about an item so I had to return today and there he was. So as Linda and I were looking at items he helped me again, calmly, evenly, honestly. So I told him so. I had to force myself to say the words, and I struggled with what words to say that wouldn't make me look like a fool, or a guy looking for a third for a menage'. I didn't want to say anything because he could have reacted badly, gotten uncomfortable, assumed I was pulling his chain or looking for a discount or simply mentally ill and prone to talk nonsense once in a while. I didn't want to blow my badass cover, my hard, candy shell; I didn't want the guy to think I was playing him or looking for a date. I just wanted him to know in 40 some years of shopping I seldom come across someone who is so beyond their job I can see big things happening in their lives by their humanity alone; they've confidence without swagger, knowledge without arrogance, compassion without greed. But who the hell would stop a sales clerk, or any other stranger in life, and tell them they are, in the speaker's estimation, quite a human being; especially poignant at an early stage in their lives?

His response was unexpected and so gracious I damn near grabbed his hand to shake it (but I'm not quite that dumb). He was stunned, but very grateful, he'd never received a compliment from a customer before, and I was happy to let him appreciate and then walk away so as not to make it too big a deal. It wasn't a big deal really; my thinking he's got his shit together means nothing as compared to the cosmos. I'm no one, can't do a damn thing for him; my compliment and a quarter won't buy him a phone call to the bus company if his car runs out of gas.

I remember a few times in my life when I was complacent, uninspired, ready to fold up shop and move on to something less taxing than putting my creative ass on the line over and over. I tried not to think about it much but being in the limelight is incredibly stressful and it's impossible not to care what others think because your continued employment depends on it.

Even still, even as needy as that makes a creative person it was easy to blow off positive comments made by people that had a financial stake in my being good; whether that's right or wrong, there it is. Sometimes even when I was being kissed and hugged by friends and coworkers as if I were a puppy, I was still on the edge because I couldn't believe them; not fully. And then some stranger would hear or see something I did and say "You did that? Wow." And I'd be recharged for a month, after I'd caught my breath.

It doesn't happen often, it's not easy to set yourself up to be glared at for interfering in someone else's life; even if all you want to do is say "go team" there's a big risk it'll be taken wrong. Linda thinks any stranger that's nice to her is a potential con artist looking for something, and she's in the majority by my experience.

Every time I open my mouth in the direction of someone I don't know there's a chance they'll assume I'm a salesman or stalker or testosterone typist looking for a good time. There's an even better chance they'll just ignore me, which is fine really, but gives me all the less impetus to do it again; not because I need thanks for what I give, but I need to know I was heard in the spirit in which it was said.

I was truly energized when someone would encourage me for no other reason than to share their strength, and though it hasn't happened often, it's happened when I've needed it most. So I give it back. Not as if it's a mission, I'm way too introverted for that. But when I can get up the guts to tell someone they amaze me with their talent or their beauty or just their courage in the face of adversity, I do and I'm damned happy I can. I never lie about it, it's far too hard to do it at all much less make it up; you have to really move me to make me care enough to speak out of turn. But if I do, I meant it; I don't suck up, I don't have an agenda, I'm not looking for anything but to do for others what's been done for me.

I was starting to turn that spigot off of late, I'd given far too many standing ovations and gotten far too many shrugs in response. In fact I often think to just shuttup and mind my own business, that no one needs my atta boys and too many see them as "c'mere little girls". But today put me back in the game. Sometimes a random act of commiseration gives both parties an edge. I was due, and I'd bet so was he. I'm glad I found the guts to just be who I am for that moment; it's scary, but someone has to do it. 

I'm sure most people that do this sort of thing just do it without thinking, not caring "how it makes them look", not really even interested in the target's response. It's one of the fascinating things about being me. Everything I do is a production, every word I speak is pulled from my brain with a vice grips by a giant cyclops. It's a wonder I even get out of bed for all the work the day's gonna bring...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ah Sieze You!

The girl ran to her mother in a panic, out of breath and flailing her arms in the cool, spring breeze like a child might while falling from a tree. Clomping up the wooden porch stairs she began to shout.

"She's still upset because someone dropped a house on her sister!"

"Calm down girl, you're way too excited. Try again! Who's upset?"

"Lillian mom! She's still upset because someone plopped a mouse on her keester!"

"Whoa, that's a good one. Let's try one more time honey, just concentrate, go slow baby."

Bonnie grabbed handfuls of her own hair in frustration, twisting her neck as if a snake transfixed by a charmer's flute.

"Lillian is upset because she spotted her blouse at the cistern."

"There precious, you did just fine. Just take a deep breath before speaking and you'll always say the right thing. Now, how the heck did your sister soil her blouse getting wellwater?"

Bonnie breathed deeply, once, and then again. But it was no use, her eyes widened to the size of blue baseballs before she shouted, "Silly hen and Billy was cluckin in the flood and her house just got crashed on while they was gruffin and a-muffin!"

"Never mind girl; you just go wash up for supper."

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Random Flash of Truth

Everything in me screamed to take a deep breath, count to ten; to let this pass as horrible as it might seem. Though I'll admit there are a few doorjambs that have suffered the tip of my boot over the years, I've been a pacifist all my life, never once have I touched another person in anger. Even in high school I would accept the branding of coward rather than do battle over something said in error or in haste, as being a non violent man in a violent world made me feel special. Not that anyone else need have known, it was a personal commitment, an internal promise to do internal struggle for internal, and eventually perhaps, e-ternal reward.

And yet in spite of that history I couldn't help but question whether my idealism was just that, by definition conceptual, only useful to scholars and moralists and those who simply cannot face the real world as it is.

It was obvious they would kill him. It was six animals on one downed boy, they were kicking and stomping and laughing as if 5 year olds watching the clowns at the circus. Shouting would only have made me a temporary target, I only had that one moment to decide; try to save this boy's life by meeting violence with violence, register my verbal protest and add to the young punks' entertainment, or whimper "there but for the grace of God" and go on about my business unmoved.

To second guess is divine, I know there was an infinitesimal chance that had I bellowed "hey you stop that right now!" I may have turned a mob aside. I've often imagined myself standing atop Dunwoody hill, a tornado spawning thunderstorm tearing through Golden Valley aiming directly at the city, and then I raise my hands and announce the omnipotent breadth of my power, hoping to bluff the clouds back into Kansas or wherever they came from. But in both that case and this I assumed the percentage chance of a happy outcome to be underwhelming.

So I rushed them screaming bloody murder, as if a new movie monster forced to outscare my peers. I'd not yet reached them before one young man had pulled a pistol from his jacket and was aiming it at me, shaking so hard that I could see his Adam's apple bobbing below a mouth opened wide enough to swallow the moon.

The sound was terrifying, the pain, intense. I saw stars for a moment; just before I took the shooter to the ground and wrestled the gun from his limp hand. As I rolled onto my back and scooted away from the rabid pack I could feel the blood spurting from inside my thigh; I knew if I didn't concentrate on stopping the flow immediately I would be dead within a few minutes. And so as one of the gangstas walked in my direction, fearless, tauntingly, slapping his right fist into his left open palm, I shouted "please don't do this. Run for Christ's sake; Run!" He only smiled and took another step. And then I shot him. God help me, I shot the boy-man not once, but twice; as the first bullet only slowed him. The second laid him down, and sent the rest scurrying for their assorted dumpsters.

As I howled in pain, shoving a finger into the wound so as to stop myself from draining completely, the boy who had been the object of the night's terror crawled to his feet and slowly jogged off, leaving me to die unthanked and alone. And while each heartbeat forced a grunt from me, and my vision slowly clouded, I thought about the consequences of my decision to assist a stranger in dire straits; and whether there truly is an answer to this dilemma. Was I right or wrong to have been my brother's keeper? Should I have walked away and thanked my creator that it wasn't me under the boot? Just accept the laws of survival of the fittest and leave the moralizing for the priests? Or was I correct until the end; once threatened at the last should I have simply dropped the weapon and accepted my death as a martyrdom for a righteous cause.

I knew only one thing for certain; I am no longer special. I am only human after all.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Serious Takes a Beating

Fear pounded his gavel three times and called out, "Intellect, if you would bring the meeting to order please, some of us have to get back to work before the host awakens."

"Alright people let's get to it." Intellect stood so that he might look down on the others; an annoying trait to those who could recognize an act of superiority in action. "Let the fifty first annual meeting of the Ronsense Society begin! Madame secretary, please interview each member in order to discern our host's current status."

Touch nodded and walked toward the chalkboard, her overstated, hip heavy gait eliciting more than one whispered mansensical comment.

"Taste! You stop that sexist blather right now or I'll flatten your nodes!" Touch said as she whipped around and pointed her digit directly into the tongue of the most egregious offender.

"No harm meant miss" Taste replied with a smarmy chuckle; "I was just admiring your umm, circulation."

Intellect dramatically sighed as if a steam locomotive at a water tank. "Geez I hate when braniac does that" Hearing whined to Sight; "He's supposed to be the smart one here, why can't he just run these damn meetings rather than pretend like he's above it all."

"Enough with the infighting children" Insight said; "We have a serious problem and if we don't solve it together, we could all be in danger."

"Well said Six!" Intellect applauded his roommate, the sixth sense; "the host has been morose for some time now and could possibly be headed for suicide, or worse, public drunkenness. We need to rectify his mood or suffer the consequences associated with late night vomiting and uncontrollable weeping."

"Man I get bloodshot just thinkin about it" said Sight; to which Taste laughed aloud...

"Bloodshot?" he said cynically; "Spend a night in my shoes at the foot of the porcelain god. Trust me eyeballs, Taste and vomit don't mix!"

Hearing began to sneeze as a flowery scent wafted into the room, the perfume carried by a soft breeze. In the doorway stood Smell, her little black nose bobbing up and down as her head turned this way and that, acknowledging her compatriots each in turn. "There's only one answer boys" she purred; "Humor will get him through this rough patch, you've got to appeal to his sense of Humor."

The group began to talk amongst themselves. "Yea, just where is Humor lately?" said one. "Humor schmoomer, what the hell's wrong with me?" said Taste; "Get the guy to buy a case of Hostess Twinkies and I'll change his mood for ya pronto!"

"No Twinkies" shouted the custodial crew Bloodstream and Bacterium. "Mood alteration by sugar high is inefficient and potentially dangerous, not to mention messy at a later date."

"Alright hold up now" Intellect said as he pounded his gavel for silence so as to shoosh the collected senses and assorted affectations. "Humor, what do you think; can you make him let go of Seriousness so you can squeeze into the psyche and give us all a rest?"

Humor set down his beer, pulled out his compact mirror and checked his makeup before speaking. "Do I have floppy orange clown shoes?"

"Yes" The crowd muttered.

"And orange curly hair and a red nose?"

Taste laughed and the crowd followed. "Why yes you do." The audience cheered as Humor rose to his floppy orange feet.

"Well then stand back people, cuz Humor's gonna take control of this helpless host. I'm off to kick some Serious ass!"

And the crowd roared as the host giggled in his sleep....

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Forgotten at the Rail

When I was in high school I sometimes stood outside the front door, a singular human standing alone before a building housing over 1700 humans, none of which knew my name for any reason but to discipline me if I ran afoul of the rules. I can name one teacher from my four years of school, and zero students; and on occasion while in that world, the gravity of that reality would suck the life out of me as I leaned against the school's front sidewalk railing sucking the life out of cigarette after cigarette.

My parents had their own woes, they were engrossed in lives far more complex than mine. My siblings were dealing with the family in opposing ways, one by lashing out, one by withdrawing, the last too young to understand why everyone was on the defense, but none with any interest in my comings and goings unless I were to get in one's way.

Most of my few friends were older than I and so, long out of the control of truancy officers. That's the biggest reason I stayed in school, the threat of being made a negative focal point by administrators, cops and in the end, my father; followed by the thought that I actually could make something of my life if I stuck to it. I didn't stick to it. Just goes to show ya...

It was crushing some days, the loneliness, having to put on the show that I was indifferent to my being ignored. I'm sure I looked quite the hard ass standing out there, smoking on school grounds in violation of the rules within a few yards of the school principal's office windows. But as often as not I wondered whether life would ever be different for me, whether I'd always need to entertain myself, whether illegal drugs would be my only salvation and those I got stoned alongside, my only friends.

I felt that way when I became maritally separated each time it happened; it drove me right back to that railing where there was nothing but a black hole to stare off into and a pile of cigarette butts at my feet to prove I existed at all. And I felt it again recently after having watched a movie about being forgotten.

The movie was good, not great, not bad, but worth my five bucks and a couple hours of time. The premise was interesting, the acting superb and two of my favorite people entertained me in the form of Alfre Woodard and Gary Sinise.

But when it was over it suddenly dawned on me that I was alone in the theater. Linda stopped going to movies years ago and while weekday afternoons were generally reserved by the normal people for working, I was on a long unemployed stretch; so it was me and the half full bag of popcorn and leaky soda and a hundred eighty one empty seats. In that space between the fade to black and house lights up, there was this moment when I was reminded just how alone I am in the universe, and how quickly even my memory would be forgotten if I were to vanish for some reason.

I'd thought about it in high school; just hit the road and not look back. I had relatives that had done it, it wasn't a particularly novel idea. I have to wonder if my life would have been different under different circumstances, or if my shit would have followed me wherever I went, as if a karmic tattoo. It doesn't matter, I never did it obviously. I couldn't stand the thought of being any more isolated than I already was, of spending the rest of my life without any backstop, no one to turn to in crisis, no one that had gleaned my name from a source other than a time card.

It doesn't make me weak in the knees now like it did then, but I still get a pit in my stomach when I realize how invisible I am, how little I've accomplished, how few I've moved. I don't think of it often nowadays, but sometimes I'm reminded; by a movie, or a piece of news, or a pregnant pause in the pitch blackness when I have time to remember.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Going With the Flow

I didn't like her much. By her vibe she was contemptuous of me as many of my new coworkers were. My boss had preceded me to Carlson Companies by 6 months, and all that time had touted my arrival as if it were the second coming of Christ. A round of layoffs was completed a day before I strolled in, the conquering hero come to meet his troops, and the air was thick with the smoke of a department's slow burn. While there's always a few suckups in any crowd, most didn't even try to be pleasant; Linda simply kept her distance. My boss Jim, ever the optimist, thought making me out to be a demi god would get people excited about the future. What it actually did is make people resent me long before they'd met me; and so every word I spoke was put under a microscope, determined to be power mad, and tossed into the circular file. Leading 22 people who'd pre-decided I was a jerk was a chore to be kind, but at least Linda only scowled.

Over time I thought perhaps she was a lesbian. Not that I usually go around guessing people sex preferences, it was more a stereotypical "Dyke" thing so I said it as a grin getter. (I had a bunch of pals in a club called Dykes on Bikes, so the word was part of my common vocabulary)

She had this look when she was obsessed about something that said "step within a foot of me and lose a body part". And she'd quite often say she hated men; I knew it was a joke of course...or did I? (organ music swells) Whether she actually hated men or not, I was pretty sure she hated me, until I did her first review. Suddenly she warmed a bit when I took her function seriously, talked about getting her better equipment and changing her title so as to bring her salary more in line with her labors. She still thought I was dangerous, but as a boss, tolerable.

For a couple years she saw me walk into all staff meetings a half hour late, keep my own hours, wear cowboy/hippy clothes to client functions and talk to upper management as if they weren't actually gods and goddesses, but just slobs like the rest of us as the song goes. Being raised a goody two shoes in a wealthy rural community, having been a cheerleader, honor society president, first chair flute, all white bread all the time happy camper...she knew I was the devil. When our division dissolved and we were all pooted out the door, I assumed I'd never see any of those people again, least of all her.

As it turns out our Linda was an adventuress, prone to doing risky things like camping alone in a national forest for weeks at a time. Always looking for new excitement, she thought canoeing would be something she'd like to learn; but she had no friends who were canoeists save one, so she called him. And for some unexplainable reason, Bob suggested me. Bob had been my tech and was officed right next to me so we'd spent hours chatting about our common love of the outdoors. It only seemed natural to him I suppose; he didn't know we suspected each other of being from opposing dimensions.

When she called I was stunned, but the lonely panderer that I am I figured any old phone call chit chat was better than none so I let her continue without interruption. She expected me to say no at first, but if yes, to offer an hour of time on a city lake with concentrated instruction and a pleasant wave goodbye. So when I said "tell ya what, let's do a four day river camping trip and you'll know everything there is to know about canoeing once we're done", she was a bit confused.

I made it clear we would stay in separate tents, hell, in separate campsites if that pleased her. For me it truly was an innocent venture, I'd done this particular trip a few times and loved it, but my boat partner wasn't available all summer that year so this seemed like a great opportunity. I was in my late thirties and divorced for a second time. I wasn't finished with using my privates for pleasure certainly, but I was way beyond having them be my first consideration for interacting with females, so the idea of sex never entered my mind...besides, she was a lesbian!

She was bored with her life and needed a big time change. She'd always planned and plotted each step, nearly never acting on the spur of the moment; her impulse control was stifling her fun-o-meter. So before she could think, she heard herself say yes. An hour later the dread began.

We were strangers really, what if I was the jerk everyone said I was? Four days is forever if you're alone in the woods with a rabid coon. In the week between her agreement and our departure she dreamed me into an axe murderer, a serial killer that most likely talked unsuspecting, innocent, bored, middle aged women into long canoe trips, then killed them and chopped them up, burying parts all along the route. I had that look in my eye...and I smoked. What more proof would anyone need?

She actually did ponder that as a possibility; not too seriously obviously, but she considered it. She figured her life was so truly boring that even being chopped up and spread out over half of Wisconsin would be an adventure. If it had to end, at least it'd be while doing something amazing.

We were perfectly matched for that trip really. She rose early and would take a long hike as she loves to do, I got up late and was making breakfast by the time she got back. She enjoyed the fact that once I start something, ie:setting up camp, I'm a Tasmanian devil until I'm done. (She didn't notice it takes an act of Congress to get me to start something, or that sometimes I'll walk away midstream and never return) And I liked the fact that whatever I suggested as the next thing to do, she was eager to try.

On the last day I rose and as is my custom, stripped and swam to wash the night's goo off me. Unbeknownst to me (as she didn't tell me for years) she'd wandered back into camp just as I dropped my shorts, and despite her goody two shoes upbringing, stood and watched me until I started to dry off.

It's only significant really in that she saw me as a human being stripped not only of clothing, but of our history. I wasn't her boss or the demigod of sound, I wasn't the weirdo pompous ass who stuck a middle finger up the nose of authority or a latent axe murderer. For that flash I was just a man, and just perhaps a man she wanted to know more about.

I can't say I noted a change in her demeanor, it'd be too easy in hindsight. But I can say by the end of the trip we were interested in each other in no small way though neither of us had said a word about it to that point or even weeks after.

We talked on the phone a few times in the next month, reliving the woods and discussing general likes and dislikes. She was intrigued with my fascination with fantasy, but insisted she wasn't a fan. So one day I showed up at her door and left my favorite female hero fantasy book on her outdoor table, with a single white rose and a poem I'd written to thank her for being a perfect trip partner.

A year later we took that same trip and married on the steel bridge that crosses the Namakogen river, the wedding party camping in the site where she'd caught me bathing, and had first thought of me as more than a necessary annoyance.

As for her "lesbianism"(a stereotype I shouldn't use I know, throw raw meat at me if you must), she'd had a bad streak of aggressive dates, capped off with a building manager she found was sneaking into her apartment and toying with her underwear. She'd only been divorced from the scum sucker husband for a few years and had followed him with another crude prize of a half man/half beast. She did hate men actually; she'd sworn them off for obvious reasons. But she didn't like women either lol, she was more like me; an equal opportunity disliker.

I don't know if there's any significance to this, but my first two marriages were with women I chased; whose attractiveness made me weak in the knees at first glance and who I made projects of to win their hearts. They both agreed to marry me, and then had second thoughts. Linda just happened by odd circumstance with no pre disposition by either of us. We became friends through mutual interest in something outside ourselves, and as the friendship grew we came together, not vice versa.

When I'd divorced for the second time I assumed that was it; that I'd never trust, love, be happy with another woman again. I'd had my chances and blew them both, and while I did "look for purposes of lust" here and there, I had shut down the process of looking for a partner altogether as had she. It's probably just luck and not the way it should work, but I know the more you desire, the more you're willing to pretend; the more you simply have to have someone, the more angelic they become. Linda's no angel, nor am I, and our relationship isn't at all perfect. But neither of us is faking it; it started with mutual respect and if it ever ends (which I doubt), it will go out on the same note.

Monday, June 17, 2013

When the Rain Comes

It's called hydroplaning in the rain when your particular tire tread, the road surface, your speed and individual droplets of water conspire to lift you off the pavement and onto a microscopic sheet of liquid skidmaker. I only mention this because one never really thinks about it until one finds themselves traveling at a high rate of speed and it suddenly feels like one has left the gravitational pull of one’s planet; and because I was reminded of it on this particular day so I thought I might remind you of it so if it rains today before you forget what I’m telling you, you’ll be prepared. Feel free to thank me later.

But it wasn't raining when I turned the bike onto a road whose signage announced its name as “County 9”. (My wife given instructions to "go east" determined my never before seen route.) About ten minutes into "go east", a sign popped up at the border of the nearest cornfield. "Pavement Ends" it said in big black letters on a baby poop/mustard yellow background. I barely had time to read it before the familiar sound of crushed rock leaping off my front tire pinged against my engine crash bars.

For 47 miles I held on for dear life as Linda giggled and leaned into my back to holler "it's an adventure!" "Yea" I said, "just like jumping off a cliff! I can take you to a bluff and you can test the theory if you like."

She thought it was great fun scooting down 6% grade in sugar sand and pea rock, twisting through a county parkland toward the Cannon River, and then back out of the bottoms only to find a half dozen intersections all the same; all dirt, all the time. It's fascinating to be moving at speeds approaching 70 when you know neither of your two tires is actually contacting mother earth, but being held aloft by little fingers of petrified clay, like a swami lying on a bed of nails being pulled through the air by a hogtied dragon. (Not like that at all really, but once I'd thought it up the visual was so cool I was reluctant to edit it out, so it stayed even though it's nonsense)

Only the mental image of the result of sliding through said petrified clay on a clothingless body part because you saw a naked chick in a farmhouse window and glued your eyes one second too long, keeps you well aware of the task at hand, and reluctant to admire the passing scenery no matter how incredibly timely and fantastical.

Once we finally reached tar my forearms and wrists were twice their normal size; death grip is great aerobic exercise. But we weren't done yet; adventure she wanted, adventure she'd get.

When I was young one of my nicks was "rainrider". Not that I liked riding in the rain, but that I was cursed to be caught in the rain quite often, and was too damn stubborn to wait until it passed. As with my tale about riding the Black Hills in a blizzard, I would always just plug ahead without regard as to the weather.

I knew it might rain that day, I was trying to keep a schedule of sorts; not easy when you're navigating by coin toss, but doable if you have a clue as to where you are at all times. The problem was, I didn't really. And when I asked directions, I asked about the wrong town.

See, my house was west, as is Zumbro "Falls" from Red Wing. Zumbro-"ta" on the other hand, (the word I mistakenly used when asking for directions) is SOUTH, and further yet EXPONENTIALLY from my garage and its fully shingled roof. That was my faux pas of the day, I thought I was asking the route to the cabbage patch, but instead asked directions to the freaking moon and then rode there as quickly as I could.

By the time I figured out for the bazzilionth time what a moron I am, the western sky was bathed in a sort of blue/gray/green; at least where the color wasn't just plain black. But west was home, and I'd seen the morning radar; what was coming was a day's worth, so stopping was pointless unless we thought spending 40 bucks on a motel room 40 miles from home would be spuriously romantic. Nah.

About 25 miles out it began, a little drizzle across my windscreen. Both the lady and I were in shorts and sleeveless T's, the afternoon temp being close to 90 and the humidity not far behind. I told her if she wanted to stop for rain gear to let me know, otherwise I was making tracks. She deferred. "Let's just go" she said. Then the sky let loose.

At 60 on a "dresser", the aerodynamics of the bike sends most water up and over the humans on it, so long as you continue to move. But as I don't wear a helmet, the skin on my forehead was being torn away in sheets, the rain acting like a Star Wars laser in search of an ICBM. Yet I was managing until the inevitable happened. We found a stop sign.

The guy stopped in front of me would have suffered my wrath for his cowardice had I not been drowning and unable to breathe. He waited while a car that seemed a mile off trudged past, and then waited some more. In the meantime Linda and I were basically standing under a fire hose, the force of the water effectively smooshing us into our seats.
I went around the razzifrazzenmrfker and got about a block before I was blind. Cars were pulled onto shoulders all over the highway, and here we were drenched, freezing and incapable of continuing. I looked for a grove to duck into. No trees but one, and as I pulled up to it I saw its trunk was surrounded by standing water. Linda went for the rain gear, but one of the two locks on that bag was stuck. She finally squeezed her fingers inside and managed to zip out a poncho and coat, but by that time even my pubic hairs were bathing; it hardly mattered anymore save the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees and we were both shivering.

I'd not have asked her for the helmet, but she offered it. She just wanted to get home, so reluctantly I pulled it on, wiped out the inside glass and off we went again, two wheels up in a typhoon. She kept laughing as I'd scream out some vulgarity aimed at the sky; she kept shouting "It's an adventure!" It was an adventure alright; if I wasn't so heavy the hydroplaning would have reduced our traction to that of a jogger on a frozen lake, and I'd have surely writen this from a road rash hospital bed.


Eventually the wind came up and the rain pummeled us from the side. She was amazed by its destructive force as all the tiny hairs were stripped from her legs as if she'd stumbled into a power washer, and I was kind of amazed that I was able to keep us upright in spite of our 25 degree tilt; my rear tire being bald and all, and my not having remembered to replace it right away that week after the tire guy had called and said the tire had come in...forgotten probably for the same reason I sometimes misspell my own name, too much thinking about really important stuff.
We got home obviously, and within minutes there was a trail of sopping clothing stretched from the garage door to the master bath, where we spent a half hour under the double shower trying to rid ourselves of hypothermia. (Don't need a motel room when ya got a two headed shower)


As I wrote this the wind was still howling, the rain still coming in spurts, as if there was a sky highway overhead lined with million gallon barrels of gathered sea, being dumped one by one by malicious elephants. (Well ok, that's what I see, your visions may vary) There was a tornado along our route, maybe an hour after we passed. I guess there's the silver lining, we could have gone to Oz and seen the wizard and missed the CBS 60 minutes porn expose' but for my excellent timing.

Even though my back was stiff from a day's worth of keeping us alive in adverse conditions, I had to admit, at least to myself that it really was an adventure. But I never told Linda; I don't want her getting a swelled head.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sweet Chariot

When my little brother who was an infant for 17 years died, my father, a vet, had him buried in his personal plot in the local Vet cemetery after reaching agreement with the unit board.

Upon dad's death, (so was stipulated) Stevie would be exhumed, my father’s casket placed and then Stevie's re-placed atop his. It took many meetings and the fudging of more than one rule to make this happen, but in the end, it did indeed happen as planned.

Why such a fuss? What could possibly drive my father to wade through a Federal bureaucratic nightmare to force a seemingly unimportant, highly irregular request to come to fruition?

He wanted his youngest, most fragile and most deeply loved son to be cradled in his arms for all of eternity.

My father the cynic, the loner, the angryman...the man who scoffed at religion, at icons, at any meaning beyond the surface...the man who never talked about his feelings nor would listen to others describe theirs...the man who for 90% of his life would not cry, would not touch, would not show an ounce of pain, would not say, write, or otherwise acknowledge the word love...

This man by raw unfettered and unapologetic emotion alone created an incredibly beautiful, timeless metaphor; a symbolism that he believed in so strongly that he'd fight city hall to see his wish come true.

If you ever think my writing to be spiritually moving, be assured that it's not my skill that creates the illusion... it's my witness of grace beyond my capacity, and actions beyond my comprehension.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Convenient Genetics

He had honor, was commanding, oozed charisma from his pores
he had ethics in his working life, perfection is his chores
he spoke kindly of the ill advised, and softly to a child
and he never took advantage of the ladies he'd beguiled

But his tongue was sharp as butcher's knives, his anger quick to bear
He was patient; more than any man, 'till pushed beyond repair
He could speak such cruelty and contempt, at times I'd cower in shame
This same man could ease my darkest fears, or set my soul aflame

I would love to think I captured his benevolence and heart
and I'd proudly wear his banner if our rage stood worlds apart
but the truth is not a fan of mine; she often makes it plain
that what traits I've gleaned from father cause less love, and far more pain

God, I wish I'd been more like him in his logic and his might
I could do without defensiveness, his triggers pulled in spite
I so wanted to be like him, all his greatness, not his scorn
but like all good sons I stole his worst...and left his best to mourn.