Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Pink Professor -- All Night Long!

Well, folks, Happy New Year! The big day is here, New Year's Eve, and for most of us, it's going to be a really big night!

I would like to urge you, in case you haven't heard it yet, to be safe tonight! Don't drink and drive. Make sure you have a designated driver. And don't do anything I wouldn't, which includes just about everything.

I really have only one extracurricular rendezvous tonight, a little get-together to celebrate the New Year with my steady -- we've been together nearly a year and a half -- the Pink Professor. It's all monogamous and safe...

It's even more exciting this time around, not just because of the holiday, but because he's been away for a week or so, sharing Christmas with his mother and others. It'll be that much sweeter to see him. We'll be out on the town for a while, then the plan is to spend the night at his place. ALL NIGHT LONG! The whole night! Once I leave the house here, I won't be back!

And it ought to be a real experience. Like I said yesterday, I've been self-medicating with Gaia Male Libido (Horny Goat Weed and other herbs). My understanding is it's good for bulking up and stamina. Because the last thing you need on a big night like New Year's Eve is a wet noodle and an egg timer. I pity the poor fool who's leaving it to chance, especially when it's going to be ALL NIGHT LONG!

Since my report yesterday, where I reported that it twitched in the shower merely by thinking of a random body part -- which was the knuckle on a pinky finger -- I gave it a little more of an amorous test this morning -- a body part that will not be described, although you might guess it if I tell you it's always got identical twins hanging out nearby-- it not only twitched, it swept the general vicinity with enthusiasm, like a geiger counter. If I can depend on that kind of response ALL NIGHT LONG, then I believe all will be well.

My biggest prayer is the biker's bar won't need him. In case you don't know everything about the Pink Professor, well, he's quite a guy. In addition to his normal job as a prof at the local college, he serves a very important role at one of the local biker's bars. That's the Pink Professor role, bringing a softening influence to the coarse environment and clientele that goes with the territory. He's great at preventing fights or helping to break them up quickly. And he makes newbies feel more at ease, keeping them from getting knifed, etc. But tonight I'm praying they won't need him! I'm praying he'll be mine alone for one night, ALL NIGHT LONG.

And so that's it! You've got your celebration, I've got mine! And I hope everyone's evening goes great!

I'm going to get my stuff together here in a couple hours, my overnight PJs, slippers, Kindle, and what not, and I won't be returning home. No sir, not tonight! New Year's Eve comes but once a year, and I'm going to make the most of it, ALL NIGHT LONG!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Male Libido -- Horny Goat Weed

As a public service, I thought I would offer a review of this stuff, Gaia Male Libido. It's not exactly medicine, I guess, but herbs. The label says it "Optimizes health performance*," even though it says in the small print by the asterisk that, "This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease." OK, I wouldn't say the problem I'm addressing is a disease, exactly, but a condition or perhaps my hope to avoid a condition.

The thing is, I've got big plans for New Year's Eve tomorrow, and I was hoping to bulk up a certain area. Then in the heat of the moment, I'll have all the extra confidence I might need. There's nothing like a sudden deflation to take the fun out of a good celebration. It's not that we don't love each other -- the Pink Professor and me -- but I don't want to have to impose on his love without something to offer, if you know what I mean.

(One of the biggest rules of my blog is that nothing "blue" is allowed, so I'm going to have to depend on you to "get it." I'm trusting that you've got some experience in these matters, whereas, if you don't, you won't be offended.)

Anyway, I've been taking the daily serving size of Male Libido for several days, which is three capsules. You take them between meals. For me, my interpretation of that is to take them right after eating. Each three capsules contain 3,495 mg of crude herb equivalent, which sounds like a lot.

The ingredients are Epimedium herb, commonly called Horny Goat Weed; Tribulus fruit; Muira Puama bark; Yohimbe bark; Sarsaparilla root; Maca tuber; Wild Oats milky seed; Fo-Ti root; and Saw Palmetto berry supercritical extract. I think I know what Wild Oats milky seed is supposed to contribute to, so we'll see what kind of output there is, but, honestly, this is the first time I ever heard of it. In fact, the only one I'm really familiar with is Horny Goat Weed, having seen it sold in the sleazier convenience stores over the years.

If you look it up on Wikipedia -- Horny Goat Weed -- you'll see that someone overseas, a long time ago, discovered that when his goats ate it, they were a lot hornier. And tests in rats have yielded higher penile mass, which is a good enough endorsement for me.

So how has the product worked so far? Well, actually, I haven't gotten-it-on since I started taking it. Another of my plans. Thinking that if I hold myself back while taking it, the results on New Year's Eve will be that much more powerful. Like a boxer, who doesn't want to dissipate his vitality before the opening bell. In my case, I'm hoping to trade a drooping lack of apparent enthusiasm for something akin to the pride of a durable fencepost.

The only test, nothing to brag about, that I've given it is a couple seconds in the shower. I merely thought of a generic body part and saw it twitch a few times. I didn't dare go any further. What I'm wondering is if there's a placebo effect at play, because, like the rat, there was some actual mass. Or maybe it's just that effective!

The big downer, in my experience of the Male Libido pills, is a terrible sensation of heartburn about an hour after taking the capsules. I don't have that ordinarily, and now it's everyday. Plus, a much greater appetite. I'm hungry all the time. So it's a tradeoff, but worth it if I have a great holiday. The checkout guy told me "Happy Holidays." I told him we'd see.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Miscellany

The War on Christmas recently opened up a new front, The Battle of the Ho Ho Hos. I might be a latecomer to this battle, focusing as I have on saying Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays.

But having pretty much secured the victory on that front -- although the greeter at Walmart the other day told me Happy Holidays, leading me to waste a couple hours returning all my gifts -- I've moved on. You could say I focus on the "anger" in "Manger."

The latest thing is whether Santa Claus ought to be laughing in the traditional "Ho Ho Ho" way. I've heard teachers complaining that when kids hear Santa laughing like that it also gives them the giggles. But why wouldn't one guy's laugh make others laugh? Think of it like a yawn that makes everyone sleepy. Well, as it turns out, they say, apparently ho is now a slang term for the word whore. Who knew? We give in to crap like this?!

Just the other day I heard of some school in Sweden where they adopted a zero tolerance rule on Ho Ho Ho. You can be expelled for laughing that way. Santa was banished from the property. This cannot happen. As Sweden goes, so goes the world!

There's one old aunt I really miss at Christmas. She always gave us our own box of See's Candies, which I seem to recall tasted pretty good. I love the old time box, about as traditionally boring (in a good way) as you can get, complete with a picture of the old dear who started it.

You can still buy it, and I could get some for Christmas if I would plan ahead, but I never think of it till Christmas day.

Maybe now that I'm also old I could become the guy who gives everybody See's Candies. It's a great way to be missed when you're dead.

Speaking of relatives who gave particular things, we also used to get an actual silver dollar for Christmas, or maybe a few of them. Like those old 1897 silver dollars. Which, unfortunately, we never treasured, using them for bus fare, etc., or at the laundromat. No doubt the bus driver and the laundry guy were quick to take them.

Remember back when ladies wanted furs? Things have changed with the desirability of furs. I'm not sure how and when it all switched so drastically. There was a big stir about it a few years ago. No one wants to be covered in ermines and furs anymore!

I guess an ermine is some kind of animal like a mink, maybe it is a mink. It could be a type of bandage for all I know. So I'm hacking at a lady with a plastic knife, trying to inflict cuts so I can later cover her in ermines.

When we learned our animals in school they never mentioned ermines.

This year I listened to the soundtrack of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the 1964 Rankin/Bass Burl Ives TV show, probably 14-15 times. It's basically the only one of those shows I actually like, and I mostly like it for the music.

I like the counterculture vibe to it, how the heroes are misfits. It's pleasantly subversive, although they do later find an honorable role in the prevalent culture. Other than that, it's entertaining with a big slice of sentimentality. And kids are going to be liking it for decades to come.

The other shows in the mold, to me, suck. The one with Fred Astaire is putrid. And I can't even remember the others. "Frosty the Snowman" isn't quite as sucky, but still it's very inferior. There is one other I like, maybe a little less known, "The Little Drummer Boy." It's got a lot of good bits. Plus, I like the deserts, the Wise Men, the travels to Bethlehem, the donkey, etc.

Christmas music. It's interesting to me that a few Christmas songs have become the enduring legacy of great artists of the past. They'd basically be forgotten were it not for Christmas. Even Bing Crosby fits in this category more and more. But think of Jimmy Boyd. If it weren't for "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" he'd be forgotten. There's also "All I Want For Christmas" from him. Of course going along with Bing are the Andrews Sisters. And Nat King Cole. Bobby Helms. Brenda Lee. The list goes on.

Maybe some of these artists weren't gung ho on recording Christmas songs, going to the studio in June, but they'll live forever only because of Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Pink Professor -- Baby, Please Come Home

Well, it's officially Christmas Eve, and my guy is still officially away for the holidays. His dear mother lives out of state, there's siblings, etc., so he's with them for an old-fashioned family Christmas. And that's great.

It's been OK, really. I'm not one to begrudge. That'd be selfish. Except it feels like every other Christmas song is "(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home" or the similarly titled "Please Come Home For Christmas." Two great, great songs, just so you haven't got a significant other actually gone!

But that's the way it is and has to be sometimes -- it can't be helped. Modern physics, as advanced as it supposedly is, still doesn't allow us to be in two places at once, unless you're a quark. And having one leg in Iowa and one in Missouri doesn't count. If you go by that, there's a place where you can stand in four states at once, just so you don't move off the spot. But that's for another day, like if I'm spotlighting science and the accidents of geography...

The bright spot for me is I'm staying over at his apartment, keeping the plants watered, the cat fed, etc. And making the best of it, just padding around in some of his old slippers and one of biggest extra size shirts I could find in the closet. Quiet alone time. I just came back from making a cup of tea and I've got a candy cane in it for stirring and flavor. So I'm doing what I can to make it a happy morning. If you're reading this, I'm actually happy, like always. Tigger misses you. The Roadhouse called and they're quiet.

That's where he works -- in the Pink Professor role. He's an actual professor but he's at the Roadhouse a few nights a week, depending on what's going on. He helps soften the place -- my word -- from its coarseness, so it's halfway liveable for the average person. A bar has to deal with the folks they've got. If they're always wanting to fight and brawl, it's good to have someone to lead them away from that. And he does it in a great way, even helping them learn alternative behaviors. There's some deep friendships out there now that would've been the worst enemies, or dead.

So that's work, but right here's where his personal life happens. I said I was padding around in his slippers and the big shirt. I was going through some of his shirts and things, reorganizing some stuff, and enjoyed a few hints of his presence. Good deodorant. Other than that, there's tea and cocoa, some of his favorite flavors, bringing Christmas cheer to the place. I looked out, it's not snowing. Maybe it won't, and he'll get home faster.

I could use some laughs, like we do when his stomach gurgles, or mine. It's time to feed the lion! The funny question we always ask is, "Did someone build a zoo around here? Hope he doesn't get loose!"

Merry Christmas, Baby! If I said there was a rumble to break up, would you believe me? I didn't think so!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Christmas Star

I awoke yesterday morning very early. It was pitch-black out. All I could see were the streetlights, an occasional car passing, and the twinkle from a few of the neighbors' bathroom windows.

It had been a cloudy night, and still, you could've cut the fog with a knife. Tremendously thick. It hit me hard.

The thing about it, why it hit me hard, was that my prayer before bed was that I might see the Christmas Star, and behold it. I thought, "Well, maybe next year. My prayers must have gotten stuck in the fog."

The Christmas Star. Just saying it instantly recalls the story of old that we all heard when we were just little tykes. It's one of the first stories I ever heard, and I remember the details of it even to this day. The Three Wise Men lived in their own country -- somewhere -- then they saw a magnificent star in the sky, appearing bigger than any other. The other odd thing is it went before them on their journey. They followed it, singing:
Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us by thy perfect light.
It was an awesome sign, one they were privileged to divine. Whereas everyone else was at their wit's end, with no clue. Then as now, miracles are tough to fathom. They kept going, and kept going, from one country to another, inquiring after kings and prophets to enhance their understanding. But none of them knew!

In the end, they came to Judea, and made inquiry at the court of Herod. There they met with the same perplexity, but finally the word came as to where Christ would be. They hurried on, and found the Babe with His mother and Joseph standing over him. As they offered their gifts, they beheld for one last time the Christmas Star before it vanished into the mysterious slipstream of eternity.

So I said my prayers, that the world, and I, might behold the Christmas Star again. I felt we might grasp the sign today with greater recognition, since we've heard the story a million times. But could it ever again appear? Suddenly, I felt the conviction that I must get in my car and drive. Drive? Where to? Just drive!

I went a few blocks and saw a big red light. Which turned out to be the light on the water tower. I saw some other lights somewhere else, which turned out to be another dead end. Then other lights out by the interstate, flashing, which unfortunately turned out to be a cop who had pulled over some folks. Any time I see cops pulling over people, I have my own song:
Better him than me,
Better him than me!
One thing I can say for sure,
Better him than me!
I kept driving, and the thought occurred to me, "Don't follow lights. Just drive out into the country where it's dark. And have faith!" So I turned down the crummiest looking, scuzziest, worst maintained gravel road I could find. I kept driving. It was so dark, even the deer weren't awake. I had no idea where I was going. But I kept going, praying, "Show me the Christmas Star!"

It took a while, but finally I crested one unlikely looking hill and there was a star on a post over by a guy's barn. He either forgot to set the timer to turn it off at 3 a.m., or maybe the powers on high had turned it on, just for me. It was nailed together and trimmed with light bulbs, the energy-wasting kind that we used to use without guilt. I thought, "How humble. Yet how awesome." This has to be My Christmas Star. It doesn't have to float around in the heavens for it to offer its powerful message. Naturally, I broke down, and to compose myself again was not very easy.

That's when I remembered the story of Christmas, the rugged, humble manger and all the rest ... and I knew all would be well.

May you also find Your Christmas Star!


On behalf of myself and the remaining members of the Board of Editors -- Dale and Delilah, our only female member -- I want to give you the best of all Season's Greetings, and our firm hope that you also will share in the richest blessings of the New Year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shooting Fish In A Barrel -- I Fire Trade!

You haven't seen much of me here in the last couple days. It's been a tough stretch. But I'm starting to catch my breath, after being confronted so harshly by Trade Smith, up till now the only remaining member of my blog's Board of Editors on the 2nd tier.

It was no doubt a mistake to put two siblings together on the 2nd tier, since when one decided to be treacherous (Mark) it would be only a matter of time before his brother joined him in perfidy. The fact is that the very same "insult," as Trade took it to be was also directed at Dale, my remaining male board member, and Dale didn't seem to mind. But of course Dale is a funnier guy, not that serious, so maybe he didn't give it as much thought as Trade. Trade obviously stewed over it, his resentment built, the whole thing festered over, then he reached his boiling point and it erupted.

The insult, such as it was, and I actually didn't mean it in an insulting way, was in this paragraph from my post on "Jimmy's 18th Birthday at the Library."
I and the Board were well-dressed too, neither standing out as being over- or under-dressed. I was happy with my own choices. I had a full array of clothes to choose from, having done the laundry the previous day. Dale and Trade weren't wearing anything particularly memorable. But Delilah looked very sweet in a light blue, checkered dress, much like you might see in the cafe of a comfortable Alpine chalet.
I thought it'd be nice to take a few minutes and tell what all the principals in the whole drama were wearing. I went over Jimmy's attire, his mom's, his dad's, the library directors, mine, Dale and Trade's, and Delilah's. But the fact that I meticulously listed everyone's clothing, then said, "Dale and Trade weren't wearing anything particularly memorable," rubbed Trade the wrong way. Plus, if I could just add a bit of conjecture, I wouldn't doubt it if his brother Mark had egged him on in private. Like a devil whispering in his ear.

Anyway, he confronted me in the garage, where we work on the blog, and threw the now-infamous line in my face a dozen times in the course of his tirade. As he ranted on, I noticed he was wearing a seasonal long sleeve shirt, blue, button-down, attractive and neatly pressed black slacks, nicely polished dress shoes, and a Happy Wanderer type of green felt hat with a red feather, clearly an allusion to my description of Delilah's dress as something from an Alpine chalet.

"Couldn't remember it, huh!?" he charged, getting himself worked up royally, his felt hat going askew. "Nothing memorable about my clothes, huh!?" He complained that he'd put in his best efforts for the blog, helping to guide the direction of it, etc., and that it shouldn't be too much for him to get equal attention with Delilah or even me in the descriptions of our work together. I probably shouldn't have mocked him, but I couldn't help myself, flapping my hand up and down like someone talking who won't stop.

He started backing me up with his raving. Then I thought of the old truism about bullies: You have to stand up to a bully! I walked back toward him, throwing out some mean bluster of my own, coming to the conclusion that to have mentioned what he was wearing, even had I remembered, would be, 1) A waste of bandwidth, which I will not do under any circumstances; and, 2) To give him more than his due, because, I said, quite frankly I could care less had he been wearing a wooden barrel with two straps!

It was like I'd stabbed him. Apparently he looked up to me more than I thought. My opinion meant something to him, even with everything that had gone down with Mark. But instead of backing up, I doubled down, saying how great it'd be to put him in a barrel with a school of fish, and for me to have a gun and to try shooting them, with him doing his best to dodge the bullets! Which wouldn't be that hard. It's not like he'd be blindfolded!

He suddenly got all calm, knowing it was over, and smarted off at me, anticipating the charge of him wanting to have sex with Delilah that I'd thrown in Frank and Mark's face, saying sarcastically, "I suppose you'll say I'm imagining having sex with Delilah on your kitchen table, with all the trimmings." I felt a slow boil rising up from my core. I glared at him, my face feeling flushed, the heat now rising and descending between my neck and the top of my head, and shouted something like, "You have condemned yourself with your own words!" I dashed to the garage wall and yanked off the garden shears, saying, "You want the trimmings!? If there's any trimming to be done!..." I left the rest of the threat implied. As he hurried out the door, I shouted, "You are fired!"

The Board of Editors has obviously taken a massive hit. What started off so good has turned very sour. Now with Trade, the two 2nd tier is wiped out. That means we either skip having a 2nd tier all together, or the 3rd tier might become the 2nd. But I hate giving wholesale promotions, so I think we'll just leave it blank. It might make more logical sense to just say we have two tiers, the 1st and 3rd, like the Traveling Wilburys did with their albums.

I haven't told Dale and Delilah any of this yet, although maybe the Smith boys have filled them in. I'm just hoping they're not automatically against me when we meet again, especially Delilah.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jimmy's 18th Birthday At The Library

The Board of Editors and I had the opportunity to attend Jimmy's 18th birthday celebration yesterday at the public library. You'll remember Jimmy from when he was 17-years-old and was restricted to the Children's Room. His parents took advantage of one of the library's actual rules, and we're not making this up:
A parent or guardian must accompany a child under 18 to approve their child's card and can choose to restrict it to materials from the Children's Room.
Since originally writing about Jimmy, I discovered that the Children's Room was actually "A World of Wonder" for him. Now, with his 18th birthday, the Board and I were wondering how he would handle the transition from the Children's Room to the Big People's Section. And our wondering was a little more intense, being shorthanded after I fired Frank and Mark. But really, it all seemed to go pretty well for him, so we'll keep our fingers crossed, speaking for the whole Board, myself, Trade Smith, Dale, and Delilah, our only lady member.

We got there and they had a whole nice thing set up for him, kind of like a graduation reception. The Chief Librarian gave a talk, saying Jimmy was "one of our oldest patrons -- in terms of length of time -- but also one of our newest, as he takes this big step today." Next, despite some grimaces from Jimmy's parents, the Library Card Lady held up a brand new plastic card for him. She served as the "meat" in a "sandwich" with two others serving as the "bread," the Children's Room Director on one side and the Big People's Director on the other.

The two Directors were involved in a symbolic hand-off of Jimmy from the Children's Room to the Big People section. The Children's Room Director kissed him on each cheek, as they do in that section, and the Big People Director shook his hand, as it is among adults. The Library Card Lady, in the middle, presented Jimmy with the new card. Being plastic, it made it a moot point as far as the desirability of laminating it, which my Board had discussed.

Since I and the Board had been involved in getting Jimmy's touching story out there, I bought him a gift. I used my own personal money and it was all my idea, but I patronized the rest of the Board by signing their names to it as though they had also contributed. It was quite a gift -- maybe the nicest gift there -- and Jimmy beamed when he saw it, and we beamed at his response, to his happiness. What a nice gift!

In the actual hand-off between the two Directors, I thought Jimmy looked a little lost. The Children's Room Director saw this too and assured him he was welcome in the Children's Room any time, and the Big People Director concurred.

We all accompanied Jimmy into the Big People section, watching his eyes, as big as saucers, as he looked at the stacks. To him they were like skyscrapers, being a good three feet taller than anything in the Children's Room. The Director of that department explained to him that big people can reach higher than children, and with the space they have to work with for books, it only makes sense to go vertical. This allows them to offer more books!

He helped Jimmy reach his arm way up high, all the way to the highest shelf, praising him for being able to reach so far. He then gave him the good news -- reassuring common sense -- that since there's always five lower shelves, he only has a 1-in-6 chance of needing a book way up there. "You have roughly an 83% chance that any book you need will be on one of the lower five shelves, good enough odds to bet on, most of the time."

In the informal time, I discussed with the two Directors the phenomenon of 17-year-olds being restricted (potentially) to the Children's Room. Both said it was all confidential, the info as to how many have been (or are being) restricted. According to them, mum was definitely the word. But the Big People Director looked around, and seeing the coast clear, said there's still three presently restricted. The Children's Room Director also looked around, and in hushed tones, warning me that, "You didn't get this from me," gave me their names and their other personal information. I folded the card and surreptitiously pocketed it, thankful that more interviews and graduation parties could be in my future.


Jimmy was dressed in a checkered suit, nicely pressed pants, white shirt and tie. His hair was neatly combed, and his teeth were as white as clouds.

Jimmy's mom was dressed in a matronly dress with a cord tied around her waist. She had black shoes and good-to-very good hosiery. His dad was also properly dressed for the occasion, in a general business suit and gray tie.

The two Directors were dressed in business-type clothing appropriate to their positions. A suit for him, and for the female Children's Room Director, having more options on that account, a clown-print smock, much like modern nurses wear.

I and the Board were well-dressed too, neither standing out as being over- or under-dressed. I was happy with my own choices. I had a full array of clothes to choose from, having done the laundry the previous day. Dale and Trade weren't wearing anything particularly memorable. But Delilah looked very sweet in a light blue, checkered dress, much like you might see in the cafe of a comfortable Alpine chalet.


In the end, Jimmy was OK -- very happy -- and will be happy enough in the Big People section. But of course it's all so much on the first day. So by the end of the festivities, he had retreated to the more familiar Children's Room. I saw him sitting in the corner by himself, rocking back and forth, and reading a book on dinosaurs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Train's Weather Report

I've been doing my part to be self sufficient when it comes to getting the weather. Like the pioneers. They didn't get weather from TV or the internet. They did it themselves. Anyway, with the internet, everyone's always wanting to "save bandwidth," so I hate to waste it; why not look outside occasionally and see what it's doing for myself?

The obvious problem is that you can only see the weather happening right around you. If I had a big tower or something to climb on, then you could see it across town, but, still, that's not very far. So I started checking around, talking to some people, and they told me something they were already doing that I hadn't thought of. Keep an eye on trains coming through town!

So instead of looking on the internet everyday, like I used to, and wasting bandwidth, I've been going to the train station, along with a bunch of other people, and we're getting the weather report firsthand! And it's a lot of fun. The trains come through, we're looking at them, and it tells us just about everything we want to know!

"Just about" everything we want to know is the key phrase. Because the tracks only go east and west. If something's going on north or south of here, we don't know about it. The workaround we've got for that is to just make an average of east and west and give half of it to the north and half to the south. And anyway, my memory of the weather from TV is that it tends to go west to east, so it's no big deal.

So here's some of the stuff we've learned in the last few days: (And if you're out west, maybe you can tell me if we've got it right.) Two days ago a train came through from the west with snow on it. There was snow on every car, indicating to me that the snow out west was pretty severe. And you know how they have a reverse engine on the back of a train? There was even snow on the snowplow, which is really weird for an engine going backward! That had to be some deep snow!

Now, that was just one train. Then there were other trains coming through that didn't have snow on them. Our conclusion was that either the non-snowy trains hadn't come from as far away, or that they'd been on a sidetrack long enough for it to melt.

In addition to snow, we've seen all the other weather come through, including rain, hail, and fog. If you see a bunch of wet cars, that means rain. If there's denting, that's hail. And if you can barely see the train at all, that's fog. A train being a heavy and fast thing, if fog's just sitting out there, it's going to get run over. If boxcars are open, they fill up, and next thing you know, there's fog everywhere. For a few minutes, even after the train gets out of town, we have fog. Then it all evaporates, or catches a train going the other direction.

Talking to some of the old-timers, it's a lot of fun to hear what all they've seen in the past. One guy said he's been coming down here since he was a little kid, like 60 years ago. In fact, he's missing a leg from the time he tried to scoop up a handful of hail back then. I had to tell him how inspiring that was for me, that someone would be so dedicated to getting the weather and saving bandwidth, even all those years ago.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chest-Thumping Jesus Asks, "What About Me?"

"Hey, who's stinking birthday is it, anyway? I'm sick you guys overlooking me! It rolls around like clockwork every December 25, you've gotta be used to it by now! So get it straight, OK? It's my birthday and I don't want you messing it up, wasting your time with a bunch of other stuff!"

I saw this revelation on a church sign, the Word become angry words on the curb, trying to shake some sense into our sorry selves, that Christmas is a time for a laser-like staying on task, keeping first things first. Of course that's a common complaint we've heard every year from people speaking of the Lord. They're always deathly afraid, like the original Puritans, that somebody somewhere might be having a good time.

But this is the first time I've seen it right from the Lord Himself, signed by Him and everything, how sick and tired He is of His birthday being crowded out by gifts, trees, and food.

Unfortunately, like the biblical writings themselves in the original language, we don't have punctuation, and the all-caps display doesn't necessarily convey tone, so that's something also to guess at. It doesn't seem to actually matter very much for the first three lines of the revelation. We can clearly see we have three distinct activities related to the holiday season. Having punctuation would be nice, since I don't like having to rely on guesswork for divine messages, but we are able to make out the basic meaning.

What we don't get, and it's more than just the all-caps, is His tone. Is he saying it in a resigned way, like He's defeated? Or is he saying it in more of a threatening tone? Like, "I'm keeping track of all your vain deeds, and you're gonna be sorry!" Maybe it's something else, but the last question shows He's not happy. He wants to bring it back around to what's important -- dammit -- ME, ME, ME!

In addition to the resigned or threatening tone, the way I first took it was with a lot of dumb bluster, that kind of attitude. Like a football player, not the quarterback but one of the lesser celebrated players, thumping his chest and blustering, "What about ME?! How come everybody's overlooking ME?!" Exasperated at the lack of recognition, and He did make a great contribution, dying for the whole team.
OK, let's allow for the old truth that everyone's "Jesus" is always simply a reflection of themselves. This apparently being a church of some strictness, lamenting that everyone else's shorts aren't also sufficiently tied in knots, naturally their "Jesus" is going to be a killjoy, jealous when anyone's having a good time with gifts, trees, and food, and aren't off suffering in a hair shirt. Any turning away to have fun, even for a second, is to deny "Jesus" His birthday due. Feeling guilty yet?

There are better "Jesuses" out there. Like the gracious one who might say, "Hey, enjoy your gifts! Decorate your tree and have a great time! Are you sure you've had enough food? Get some more! Wait, I'll get it for you!" But what about your birthday, Jesus? "Ha ha, when you're 2000 years old, what's another birthday?!"

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Date With The King Of Group Dynamics

SUMMARY: The King of Group Dynamics guest-teaches a home economics class, the members who then have the opportunity to win a date with him.

A couple days ago I got a call from one of the teachers at the college, who discovered we lived in the same town. Of course she'd seen my name in a textbook, since I'm quoted in several of them in the field of Group Dynamics. Some years ago, as part of my amateur studies, I formulated "The 3 Rs of Group Dynamics," and so now there's usually a half page in the (undergraduate) books about that. But typically you wouldn't expect I would be living in the same town. In this case, I did!

She was an instructor in the Home Economics department, a Miss Dowdy, and wondered if I might make a personal appearance before her class to discuss my "3 Rs," saying it would be such a thrill for the girls. She said it would bring their textbooks to life in a most wonderful way. I checked my calendar, and seeing it blank as usual, told her I could probably make it.

The girls were very receptive. It looks like they don't see many men in that department, making me for that hour the only rooster among so many hens. Or I might say, the only thorn among so many roses. I couldn't take my mind off the fact, even for a second, that I was a man, and that they, the class, were all women. Here I am up here, struttin' my stuff! But that couldn't be my focus. I needed to get down to the lecture.

Since it was such short notice, I used the same notes I've used before -- at Sunday School, nursing homes, and the Boy Scouts meeting -- giving them a rundown of the basics, not wanting to blow their minds with too many big words or high flown concepts.

The lecture went great. I wrote three big Rs on the blackboard and waited for everyone to take it down. Then I sketched in a small a in front of the first R. "These are the 3 Rs of Group Dynamics," I said, adding that I needed to write a little more, the full slate being, 1) aRrange; 2) Reconnoiter; 3) Ruminate. "Has everyone got them down?" I asked as they scribbled away.

I gave the usual boilerplate explanation, i.e., that, "Group dynamics starts before the group assembles," meaning you need to aRrange the setting. You're not leaving anything to chance. If the chairs need to be aRranged in a particular way, that's an example. Reconnoitering means you pay attention all along the way, with another dimension being guiding, keeping on task, etc. Then you Ruminate. This is examining your findings, coming to conclusions, etc. Very cut and dry stuff, with each point sketched out only in a shallow way.

To bring the principles to life, I counted the ladies and suggested we split into groups of five, and as an added bonus, I said a member of the best group would win a date with me. Since there were 26 girls, that meant five groups of five, with an extra, who I decided would be in a group with me alone and would be the ultimate winner. She was a stunner, a lot better looking than the others, who, frankly, were a lot of Maudes. This gal was the only fox, a stunner named Tawny.

For the rest of the class period, I had them, 1) aRranging, i.e., determining what kind of positioning they would take in relation to the rest of the group to be able to see the most group dynamics. 2) I suggested if they had not yet Reconnoitered to please move into that phase of things. Then as the hour wore on, I told them to, 3) Begin your own personal Ruminating. "Very good," I occasionally said as I went around observing their mental exercises. Tawny was looking at me, licking her lips, bringing me this time to purr, "Verrrry good."

It pays to be the King of Group Dynamics, if for nothing else than the easy dates! Notice how I masterfully aRranged things in the way that seemed best, then perfectly Reconnoitered the proceedings. And now that I'm back home after a very lovely date -- verrrry lovely -- I've been pleasantly Ruminating over a refreshing bottle of Guinness Extra Stout, remembering Tawny, my verrrry favorite Home Economics major...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beggars Have No Choice

SUMMARY: Looking at the phrase, "Beggars can't be choosers."

I'm sitting here contemplating the implications of this, and it's blowing my mind. In my thoughts I'm taking it all the way from the simple choices we all make to metaphysical questions of free will period.

Did I make the choice to write this post? Or is some higher power, with too much time on its hands, compelling me? If times, events, and circumstances are all set in stone, am I simply a marionette, a wooden-headed dummy dancing to the pulled strings?

Hmm. See what I mean? I've got myself tied in knots, or if there's no choice in the matter, the strings have themselves tangled inexorably around me and I'm stranded, no recourse to the life I prefer or even a more interesting imprisonment. At least add a sexual component to my misery!

And it's all because I started thinking of beggars. I saw one and this whole conundrum was triggered in me, and now I'm bound! But still -- thankfully -- I feel subjectively like I'm making choices. I'm at least sitting here apparently writing this out of my own head. As bad off as I feel right now, I don't feel I'm completely in the beggar's position, having no choice. Because, as they say, "Beggars can't be choosers."

OK, assuming the rest of us do have some power of choosing, at least for the sake of argument, we are so fortunate that we're not beggars, who have no choice. Wouldn't that be bad?

I'm wondering how it must be for them, no choice. Wow! When did it start? Obviously when they started begging. Up till then, it would seem they had a choice, but once they crossed that magical divide -- whether in the decision to become a beggar or in the first instance of actual begging -- all choice was lost. From then on, life for them became absolute compulsion.

I feel that the implications of this are staggering. Why, of all the experiences in humanity, would begging carry what appears to be a singular penalty? And how would the determination (or verdict) be rendered so swiftly, especially if it's imposed at the decisive moment rather than with the first behavioral instance? It would have to be a special decree of karma, one that uniquely presents no delay or variance. Astonishing!

Personally, I don't think it could come at the moment of decision, at the mere thought of begging. Think of it, the intention is there to be acted upon, but at that point he has not yet begged, making him something less than a beggar. It doesn't say, "Near-beggars can't be choosers." So there's still time to turn back. O, if near-beggars only knew this, they'd turn back before it was too late!

But the moment for some, alas, does come! The cardboard sign is scrawled, the hand is outstretched. The sky suddenly darkens, distant thunder is heard, one's personal star falls into the pitch-black sea, and the brain mysteriously twists and cuts off whatever avenues of choice were once free and clear. It's as though a film covers the eyes. What darkness it must be to have absolutely no choice!

And how about this? Now, he cannot even choose not to be a beggar. Because beggars can't be choosers, the word can't being a contraction of the longer cannot, meaning something that is an absolute impossibility. Destiny will cut him no more breaks, no matter how much he begs. But, on a more cheerful note, perhaps there is only a dull realization, or no realization, of this fate, so that he never mourns it, being unconscious of any other life previous to that of begging. That would be the sweet elixir of forgetfulness, a gracious cloud!

But what about all the other day-to-day choices, which side of the street to beg on, whether to keep begging or go home, whether to go to the bathroom when he needs to, etc.? The choice to put on warm clothing if it's cold, or to strip down if it's cool? To sit in the sun or move to the shade? To eat, not to eat? To thank people or just grunt? These too would be choices, would they not? If he has no choice, thank heaven some force -- beneficent existence itself -- is guiding at least non-conscious actions!

The lesson here is, Whatever you do, friends, don't beg. Treasure your freedom as long as you can. Steal instead.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Last Serious Thing -- I Fire Mark!

Anyway, the last serious thing I shouted at Mark was, "Your ass is seriously fired, and don't come back -- you or your beard -- if it's the last thing you do!" He stormed out of the garage, thankful he wasn't soaking wet, and seriously slammed the door behind him.

I shot a look at his brother Trade, still sitting there like he meant to continue as a team player, but I knew he'd be torn in his loyalty to his brother. I resolved never to hire siblings ever again for the blog's Board of Editors. But for the present he still remains. Along with Dale and Delilah, our only lady member.

My serious take on Trade, maybe not the last thing I'll say, is that he knows he could lose his position, too, at any time. And having started as one of only two on the second tier, right below me, his is an enviable position. Dale and Delilah are still on the bottom rung. And look at it this way, with Mark out, Trade has the entire second tier all to himself, in the sole position as my immediate underling. The last thing, probably, he'd seriously want to happen is to lose that.

I've now alluded to the issue that came between me and Mark. It's ridiculous, really. There was even a compliment in it for me, but the way he chastised me made me feel he would soon usurp me at the top level.

Mark said this, that he envisioned "our" blog (his word) as the world's "Last Serious Thing." I thought, Whoa! Has the world slid into the mud -- Nazism or whatever -- that fast again? Were all the great blogs, which I'd just read minutes before, already given over to the dark side? Were the libraries all gone? Maybe so! Their policy of restricting 17-year-olds to the Children's Room was certainly evil. Then of course we had the Republican party "governing" based on a philosophy of vandalism. Maybe I was "The Last Serious Thing!" Thank you, Mark.

But then he lit into me. That I was throwing it all away, and that only he seemed to know what we needed. And that if I didn't get the job done, someone else would step in and do it! I was seething, but asked what he meant.

He scolded me for not posting for two days earlier in the week, two days off -- calling that "abdication." Then he declared how "repulsed" he was that when I posted again it was a "frivolous" post on men with beards not going out in the rain. He questioned that as being "inaccurate, a lie," and pointed to his own beard as all the evidence he needed that he knew better. If I'd wanted to do a story on beards, he said, I should've asked him or his brother!"

Of course this was a personal attack on me. Just because I didn't have a beard! Well, I'm sorry, but I like walking in the rain!

Then I turned his Original Sin against him: "You want 'The Last Serious Thing', Mark? How about this? You never deserved a second tier position! I only gave it to you because of your brother! How's that for serious? And what did you do? You went both ways! You saw me just above you, very easy to knock off, and you saw Delilah right below you, right where you wanted her! I thank God Dale is still on her level, the last serious defense against a predator like you!"

He was about to erupt when I accused him of seriously desiring a filthy three-way with him, his brother, and Delilah on my kitchen table. When he said he couldn't even "imagine" such a thing, I had him. "You're imagining it right this second, your brother getting her good and worked up, then you pulling him back to finish her off yourself! And it's a terrible picture, the thought of you, pasty white in the nude with that hideous beard!"

This was almost more than he could stand. And I knew we were in for the last serious showdown. He pulled out his beard-trimming shears and moved me back, back, back, as far as I could go in the garage. He meant to cut me down to size, when I reached over for my own weapon, stashed there just for a scene like this, a bucket of water!

Mark immediately dropped the shears and backed up, knowing a bucket of water to the beard would be his end. That sucker would mat up and instantly strangle him! I kept it up, sloshing it around, and glared at him, saying, calmly but threateningly, "Your ass is seriously fired, and don't you come back if it's the last thing you do, you or your beard!"

With him gone, and only nervous Trade, Dale, and Delilah, and me remaining, I thought I'd end the board meeting on a friendly note: "If any of you have any other good ideas for the blog, please feel free to share them with me."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bearded Men Never Get Them Wet

You've probably noticed this, you've never seen a bearded man when it's raining.

It took me a while to realize it, but I've never personally had a beard so I haven't been privy to this information. But the more I looked around, the more suspicious I became.

And I can think back, like to college. Anytime there was the slightest chance of rain, guess who'd be absent? The one or two guys with beards. And ask yourself, have you ever been to a wedding where the groom fails to show up, and you know he has a beard and it's raining? Maybe the bride doesn't even know what's going on. There she was, all packed up and ready to go, a fresh set of sheets in the trunk, and the Bearded Wonder stood her up!

The more popular my blog becomes, the more connections I'm been able to make. And in this case, one day I put the word out, all very hush hush, that I wanted to do a story on the subject. At first, it was like I trying to get the combination to Fort Knox; everyone darted their eyes, people left the room, and an especially devout barista crossed herself. The hush was deafening, I had to leave.

But a friend followed me and motioned me into an alley, whispering to meet him later at such and such a place at the fire escape in back, to bundle up in a coat so I was disguised, and to come alone. He knew a guy with a beard who might be open to talking -- he had a terminal illness and nothing left to lose -- and since we were expecting rain that afternoon, he'd have to be home. Of course I was nervous, but I went. Up the stairs we climbed. He knocked a coded knock and we were escorted in. They frisked me for any water I might've had on me, then led me to an inner chamber. A bearded man with an IV sat wasting away.

He was actually eager to talk, and quickly spilled the truth that water is lethal to a beard of any length. If you go wet/dry, wet/dry, wet/dry, you've only got a limited number of times you can do it. There's no guarantees and there's no do-overs. Keeping a beard dry never hurts it, but if goes from wet to dry, there's something about the whiskers that makes them constrict. Then, without air being able to circulate through them, they mat and tighten up around the throat, often suffocating the wearer. Even a shorter beard can constrict so tightly that the face pulls in and shrivels up to about the size and texture of a walnut.

I asked, "What about taking a shower?" He waved it off as an impossibility. "What about taking a bath?" He said, yes, they can bathe, if -- and this is a big IF -- if they use strict precautions. Such as, naturally, keeping the water shallow and their beards as far from it as possible. Obviously, they can't wash their hair, etc. I started putting two and two together and asked if they could go swimming. He said that was a big NO, because the same principle was at work: Getting the beard wet in a swimming pool would present the same identical problem as a bathtub, rain, water balloon fights, and squirt guns. I nodded, as if to say, "Just as I suspected, but thank you for clarifying."

With the interview essentially over -- I got what I came for -- I asked my source why it was all such a big secret? The fire escape, the disguises, etc. The answer was it came down to pride. Beard wearers like to think they're hot stuff. The beard gives them that professorial look. They tend to drink wine, smoke pipes, read books with footnotes, and wear outdated, baggier suits, all very intellectual. I know I for one hate getting into an argument with a guy wearing a beard, because I know he's going to show me up in front of everyone. So it's pride. But, like Samson, their power's in their beard, but their beard is so vulnerable, their supposed superiority is all a sham!

We bid each other a respectful goodbye. I went forth knowing that now I could even the playing field with all these Bearded Wonders. Who knows -- who really knows? -- when I might just be in a restaurant and get clumsy with a pitcher of water when one walks by? "Oh, sorry!" I'll say, as he goes running for the shears!

THE PICTURE is of Vol Tapley in 1897, whose beard was 9 foot, 2 inches long. Some sources say 11 foot. I'd love to go back in time and give him a good dousing and watch him shrivel up to nothing!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How To Be A Local Character

I've been a collector of local characters, like forever. Of course I don't bring them home; they're not butterflies to pin to the curtain. I only make note of them and observe them as much as is polite. And since they never seem to notice observation, you could stare all day and still be polite.

They're always out and about, the basic thing of the local character being the need for a public. You could stay home and be a local character -- depending on your mentality -- but you'd soon find there's little point in it. Let's say you're a wild guy waving all the time. It might be fun to prance around in the mirror waving for a while, but it'd have to wear off.

I think I could be a local character, except my mentality, alas, is still way too far on this side of the line. Try as I might, my normal brain power will not release its damned grip. So I'm doomed, it seems, only to watch from the sidelines and never know their full joy.

In researching the subject, I found an obscure book downtown, "How To Be A Local Character." It makes interesting reading. And makes me wonder, maybe these guys aren't all mental, just acting out the advice of the how-to author. ["How To Be A Local Character," Corky McDermott, Vantage Press, 1977.] But surely they haven't all had access to this book. So the only other possible alternative is they're mental. Or just doing it on their own initiative. There could be something to that. Instead of being mental in the negative sense, maybe they're mental positively, "with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men" (The Adventures of Superman.)

I remember a couple of the local characters downtown on the square from when I was a kid. One guy was called Paulie, and I'm not going to make any jokes about him, because I'm merciful. I'll just say his coordination was totally gone, and that's not meant as a joke. Then there was Hoyt, the guy who always stood on the edge of town, not putting his thumb up, but waiting till someone gave him a ride back to his own town. Talking to Hoyt, as I did many times, was an experience. There were actual words in what he said, but most of it sounded like bluster and babble. He was friendly, and I even saw his apartment once when I took him home, with waterlogged ceiling tiles hanging everywhere. Very memorable.

Anyway, our author, McDermott, sketches it out much like I would were I to write it. Which is to do a brief survey of local characters, then sketch what it takes to be one. I'll list just four of his points:

1) Something to make you stand out -- What you do as a local guy has to be unusual enough that people notice. I saw one local guy whose thing was to walk around in a white sheet, nothing underneath. He'd often lay on the sidewalk. And I still have retina burn from seeing his entire business while crossing the road one evening. His legs were up under the sheet in full childbirth pose. But the problem with indecent exposure is the police get involved, as they did that night. Interestingly, McDermott doesn't mention this as a possibility.

2) Something you'll be bold enough to do -- McDermott's book presupposes that you're doing these things by choice, not from a mental problem. This is a point I'd have a hard time with. I'm not really that bold. I can think of plenty of oddball things a guy could do -- carrying a toilet seat everywhere would be a fantastic one -- but where to get the boldness, I just couldn't. You have to find your boldness (or comfort) level. Maybe start with the flush handle and work your way up.

3) Something constant -- I see this as an important point. You might carry a big ugly doll one time and think it was funny, but you have to do it all the time. You need to settle on it. That's it. You can't be carrying a dead guinea pig tomorrow. It's got to be the doll. We have a guy downtown who's always got a doll with him. And he definitely turns heads and keeps us wondering. But so far I've never seen anyone ask him what he's doing it for. As for me, with my mental state being what it is, I would want more variety than that, and that'd be my downfall. They'd all know I was faking.

4) Something no one else is doing -- You need to study your environment. See what's going on and what's missing. Cross off your list what you see already being done. If there's already a guy who looks like a freak from R. Crumb comics waving at everyone, there's no room for two! You're going to have to do something different. I think it'd be cool to have a megaphone and walk around shouting things. I've never seen anyone do that, even though I've definitely seen local characters walking around shouting. Why they never thought of the megaphone, it could just be they don't know where to get one. Where do they sell megaphones?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Women Cheer End Of Herman Cain Campaign

Three cheers for Herman Cain! He finally had the sense and grace to leave the presidential race, his reputation in tatters and his zipper worn out.

The good news is he finally got what was coming to him. The bad news, now he's got more free time on his hands. Women of the world, watch out!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Hounds Of Hell

Re - lease the hounds of hell,
What the heck do we care?
What the heck do we care?
Re - lease the hounds of hell,
What the heck do we care now?

Then, after a fairly decisive victory, the hounds of hell having been released, the enemy having been chewed beyond recognition, blood and gore, and sorrow, sufficiently spread, mankind being somewhat worse for the wear but determined to turn over a new leaf next time ...

Call back the hounds of hell,
What the heck do we care?
What the heck do we care?
Call back the hounds of hell,
What the heck do we care now?

An Upset Stomach

SUMMARY: A guy deals with the knowledge that one's stomach is as big as one's fist. He refers to his stomach by showing his fist, getting him in trouble.
If we wrote this as people took it, we might say, "He threw himself into the melee with reckless abandon, stomachs a'flying, and was able to clear the floor. Only later did he calm down and become increasingly aware of a terrible pain. Looking down at his bloodied flesh, it took a physician to bandage up his battered stomach."

Because his fist and his stomach were one, in a sense. They had told him years ago, in school, that his stomach was the same size as his fist. He remembered the lesson so well; he had a photographic memory when it came to comparisons of unseen organs with the seen. So his stomach, like his heart, were the same size as his fist! It was a good way to learn.

Except he liked to show people the size of his stomach, holding up a fist, along the way leading to misunderstandings. Maybe had he taken a professorial tone, instructing them that a comparison was in process, it might've been different. But just to hold up a fist and assume the other party would know what he's talking about, it didn't always work that way.

The first time was in school, right after he learned the size of his stomach. He went to the school lunch counter. The lady asked if he was hungry, and he held up a fist. She took it as a menacing gesture, there being zero tolerance for such things in school, and he was immediately expelled. His mother and father at home were taken aback, asking what happened. He held up his fist, apparently not thinking to explain the situation with words, and they threw him out of the house.

He had no better luck with the pacifists, a group of peace-loving people he fell in with. They were headed to The Great Lawn, a grassy public spot in his town, to protest. One of the pacifists said they needed to stop for something to eat, saying, "I feel a bit peckish." Our fellow, hoping to show complete solidarity in the desire for a meal, held up his fist. The pacifist got the message and had to chastise him: "Dude! No! We're pacifists! No fists! You're out!"

He wandered on his way, forever in an increasingly bitter contemplation on the comparative sizes of his heart, fist, and stomach, with his stomach winning out through hunger. Penniless, he showed a kindly fruit dealer his tightened fist, who called for the police, leading our guy to jail.

In the jail, he's so hungry he orders a double portion, a meal twice the size. The jailer teases him, "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach!" A brand new comparison confused him. "No!," he shouts, then holds up an insistent fist.

"Hey!," the guard goes, "now you get nothing! ... I have power to give you a meal to fill your stomach! And I have power to deny your stomach a meal!"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cold Case -- The Smoldering Cigarette

It seems like we ought to be solving some of these cases. I thought forensics could do wonders. Apparently they're not as good as I thought! Sure, these are cold cases, and fairly trivial, but you answer me, If you can't solve the trivial stuff, what kind of confidence should I have that you can crack the tough stuff? Qualitatively, there's no difference in gathering clues and coming to conclusions, trivial or not.

Whether a case is ever solved is going to depend on a lot of things. Including lucky breaks. But we can't leave out taking a serious attitude toward it, and that includes getting to it while the clues might still exist. Not to mention living witnesses. If what they say about the human mind never forgetting any experience, then it's really never too late as long as they're alive.

I was walking along the other day and saw a cigarette smoldering on the sidewalk. That's a picture of it. Innocent enough, right? I don't think so. This is an offense against the law, plus it has to do with fire safety, and the fact that children below the legal age for smoking might pick it up and take a few puffs. I might say, there's no telling how long it was there before I took the picture. For all we know, the perp might've lit it and immediately thrown it down, making it a full cigarette. Very dangerous.

But the cold case I'm thinking of today goes way back. Seeing the cigarette pictured reminded me of something from my childhood, and this would be from around 1965-66. Let's just say 1965, because it was either '65 or 66, somewhere in there. I was walking along and saw a cigarette smoldering on the sidewalk, deja vu! Someone walking barefoot might have stepped on it and gotten a serious burn. An animal, maybe a pet, might've sniffed at it and burnt its nose. Or a child might've smoked it and gotten that brain rush you get when you first start smoking. I remember clearly I walked way around it, afraid to get even a hint of the smell on me lest my mother be suspicious.

To me, it's not just irresponsible to throw a lit cigarette on the sidewalk, it's criminal, as stated above. At the very least, it's littering! But of course it's so much more. It shouldn't be done.

OK, the cold case is this, to find out who threw the lit cigarette on the sidewalk back in '65 or '66. As cold cases, the trail might be completely dead. I'm not disputing that possibility. But what if there is even one living witness? If it's true we never forget anything, perhaps a simple question might bring forth the pertinent answer. Or, if we were to put the entire town, everyone alive in the mid-'60s under hypnosis, maybe that would be the path to the truth. Who knows, we might even get the very guy who did it!

Here's the facts as I remember them. I was in the little town of Ted, Iowa, visiting my aunt's family. I and one of my cousins were walking up Main Street. We had just come out of the town locker, having purchased some bubblegum. We went maybe 8-10 steps toward the north and there it was, a smoldering cigarette. I can remember it so clearly, that it wasn't a home-rolled one but a store brand one. Right there's a clue: We can immediately eliminate anyone who rolled his own!

But we walked around it far enough that I didn't see what brand it was. I did notice there wasn't any lipstick on the tip, so we can also eliminate the entire female gender. The cigarette had to be a man's, or maybe a woman's who didn't use lipstick. There were a couple of bars right near there, making it likely that the smoker bought his cigarettes at one of the bars. So I believe we can eliminate any pastors and their families from suspicion. And little old ladies, who either don't smoke or do it at home. I hate profiling, but time is of the essence.

The way I think the case needs to be approached is this: Find out who owned the stores along there who sold cigarettes, and ask if they remember anyone who would have been careless enough to toss it on the sidewalk. Or maybe they remember it happening. Next we could go through the gutters around there to see if maybe it blew in and got covered up by dirt. Or we could excavate the city dump, on the off chance that someone picked it up and threw it away. But how to know one cigarette butt from another! It was white, not brown/orange, if that helps.

With the mass hypnotisms, I think that's going to be our best shot. I mean, if I can remember seeing it, probably a dozen other people do too. I'd love to solve this case. It'd bring closure to the mystery in my mind as well as to the little town of Ted. And it'd be a great way to make a public example of someone, some man, probably white, under 35, married, and in a hurry that day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

All Is Forgiven When You're Dead

A local TV channel's weatherman committed suicide. True story. I hadn't personally ever heard of him, since I don't watch that channel, but of course I feel sad that something, whatever it might have been led him to do that.

I heard about it on one of the competitor channels, and they gave a nice presentation on him. Apparently he was something of a cut-up on air, since they had him flapping like a wild chicken, dressed in a Superman costume, and so forth. Perhaps not the most flattering images, but they meant well, that he was well known and respected for various antics.

OK, but I have some objections. If the people on the competing channel aren't watching the other guys' shows, how do they know about him? And how did they become so chummy all of a sudden, since it's usually a cut throat business. Even while they were praising the deceased weatherman they were still using slogans for themselves like, "The most accurate weather report," as if to say the competitors' weather sucked. Maybe that's what pushed him over the edge, everyone questioning his accuracy.

The whole thing has been on my mind, as you can tell. It reminds me of the old truth that once you're dead, everything's forgiven. You can kill a hundred people, but once they get done executing you in the electric chair, you're in for an honorable burial. No one comes around and kicks your body. At least in America. In Libya they probably do. Or Iran. I think it makes a certain amount of sense. After all, it is your body. Why not pulverize it if you were that bad?

The weatherman, of course, wasn't a bad guy. According to what they're saying. They didn't mention why he committed suicide. Maybe no one knows. But they are definitely promoing the various signs of suicidal behavior, that the rest of us might be vigilant in the face of similar behavior in our loved ones. So that's a positive.

When they started promoing the upcoming story of the dead weatherman, I figured it was going to be some old 80-90 year old retired weatherman who was beloved in the area. Because I believed they used the term "dearly loved" or "well loved." So I was expecting to see an old black and white picture of the first weatherman in the area. But then it turned out to be this young guy, 41, flapping like a chicken, and I thought, "Whoa." They used the word suicide and I was thinking that's unusual! Who's happier than a weatherman? No one! Maybe the sports guys, whose constant happiness lies in their superficial approach to life.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A World Of Wonder For Jimmy

My board of editors and I left the garage where most of my blogging is done and went out on a story, to interview Jimmy. Of course Jimmy needs no introduction, if you read my post on the 17-year-old boy whose parents restrict him to the Children's Room at the public library. This is one of the library's actual rules:
A parent or guardian must accompany a child under 18 to approve their child's card and can choose to restrict it to materials from the Children's Room.
My board of editors is also well known. We have Trade and Mark Smith, Dale, and Delilah. Last week we had a guy named Frank but he's since been fired.

I worked it out with Jimmy's father to set up an interview, telling him it would be a human interest story. But my secret plan was to ask such pointed questions that I knew Jimmy would rebel and insist on using the big people's section of the library. But that didn't actually happen.

For the interview, the library made us so comfortable in the Children's Room, with the little cups of milk they provided, that I also felt at home there. But for the tiny chairs, I might've restricted myself! Jimmy, though, looked entirely comfortable, having never known anything else.

Watching him before we sat down, I began to be more and more impressed. He treated the Children's Room like his own personal domain, and  I could see by the way he pulled books off the shelf that he definitely knew his way around. Yet none of it was old hat to him. It was all a world of wonder! And it's easy to see why. The Children's Room has books on giants, fairies, and all manner of other weird beings. It'd be easy to get lost in your imagination there!

Anyway, we got ready for the interview. Jimmy was behind a small table. His father sat at his side, obviously prepared to run interference. His mother was off to the side, knitting. I and the board sat facing Jimmy. Trade, Mark, and Dale were off to my left, leaving Delilah on my right to take notes, obviously the secretary.

I did all the talking for our side. The board was there to offer whatever moral support I might have needed, although I didn't need any.

I asked Jimmy if he felt the restrictions imposed by his parents had hurt him any. He looked at his dad, who gave him a helpful frown. "No,"  he said, going on to state his happiness with being able to easily read 18-20 books a day, while his friends using the whole library could barely get through one book a month. The board and I nodded. If you look at it like that, he could read through the entire Children's Room once a year while his friends were stuck on one shelf!

But I thought I'd try again, asking if he felt his outlook on life had been stunted in any way. "No," he said, first glancing at his father, saying he was aware that life was a mixed bag, with smiley faces and sad. And that's the way it is in children's books, too, he declared. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry. He referred to one interesting story that I hadn't heard of before, in which the evil witch is pushed into a blazing hot stove while the children make their way back home via a trail littered with bread crumbs and pebbles.

And one other probing question. I asked if he had any secret desire whatsoever to sneak into the big people's sections of the library. I thought I detected just the slightest hesitation, but a quick glance at his dad steeled his resolve. "No," he said, stating that he felt he was presently getting the best preparation for life ahead. The Children's Room gave him a solid basis for life, and his dad would be there to help him with the rest. I couldn't argue with that, of course, since he was clearly a big help to him.

Overall, though, I had mixed feelings. One, Jimmy looked very immature for 17-years-old, but maybe that's the whole point: His parents are keeping him young! In a weird way I could envy him. I'm 58 now and feeling old, but what if my parents had restricted me to the Children's Room? I might feel 35 now instead of old!

Soon we brought the interview to a close. Jimmy's parents put a dark hood over his head and walked him to the car. I lingered behind for a few minutes, checking out some of the titles. 18-20 books a day? I thought. Amazing!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why The Old Vets Are So Quiet

I still haven't given up on the theme of the sex lives our soldiers and sailors in World War II. You might remember, I asked, "Did World War II Soldiers Have Sex?" Then I followed that with, "Should World War II Soldiers Have Had Sex?" Later, "I Forgive World War II Soldiers For Having Sex." But just because I forgave them doesn't mean I shouldn't explore the issue a little further. I get a lot of hits on these stories, and that's good for my ego.

WW II veterans are dying off at a staggering rate, and they're about gone. So any light the remaining ones could shed on this issue would be helpful, both for the historical record and for their peace of mind at having come clean. My word to them would be, Any vow of silence you made to your brothers in arms, surely you have kept up your end of the bargain. They're gone, but you remain. Bygones being bygones, come clean already!

As for the historical record, historians like to have a little fun, too. We think of  historians sitting in big ivory towers memorizing names and dates and quizzing one another every few hours. But that's probably just a stereotype. I think there has to be more to it. Frankly, I'm positive they're like the rest of us -- horny bastards -- and would appreciate a little lasciviousness in their work. So, please, veterans, let's get going before you die completely, so the scholarly assessments can proceed. What were your sexual exploits overseas?

You ever notice how quiet WW II vets have always been about their time away? I've known quite a few and except for one lone exception, I've never known any to recount their sexual exploits. The one exception told me just the barest bones story, some generalized experience he had with at least one prostitute. The details, alas, were lacking, and at that time I didn't have the same resolve as now in getting to the bottom of it.

As for the rest, maybe they were embarrassed to discuss something that is admittedly best left unsaid. Or perhaps they wanted to keep up a front in the presence of wives, girlfriends, and mothers that they had maintained their innocence. We could give them the benefit of the doubt and say veterans have historically been quiet about what they did in wars. But what if this is exactly the reason why! That they were having crazy sex, whether in ancient times or more recently, and simply didn't want to come clean!

The ones we've known, many of them, have gladly bragged about everything else, their boat, car, and family. It's kind of weird that they wouldn't be telling us everything they did in the war. But people think they're just reluctant because of the trauma, the life/death issues, all too deep for words. Balderdash! If you're a survivor, you're going to crow about it, unless there's a good reason not to, like covering up sex.

I'd like to get the confidence of a few of them, although with age it's getting harder and harder. They can always pretend to be deaf or out of it. But say I did. Say I had five of them at a table, and they think it's finally OK to talk about how many guys they killed. They're going on and on and I'm such an encouraging presence. Then I lay on them, "What'd you do for sex?" Suddenly they clam up, so we all know!

That's what it's always been. To disguise the real root of their silence, they chose to be silent on the whole war experience. All this time they were just bustin' to tell us how many guys they killed, and all the rest, but had they dared, inevitably mom and grandma and girlfriend and wife would've known. Because they'd have to go suddenly quiet when we turned to sex.

In a way, it's a tragedy. They came home as victors but had to carry a guilty conscience for decades. Their complexes grew and grew and eventually took over, to the point that they wouldn't have been able to say anything about it if they wanted. Finally, for the ones who died, they look up, see the lights of glory and mistake them for the red lights of a house in France; in their mind, they're suddenly 19, their face lights up, and they die with a smile.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Editorial Board -- I Fire Frank!

Well, just like that, the brand new editorial board for my blog has been whittled down to five, including myself. I wasn't expecting it to happen, but it did. Frank turned out to be a bad seed, couldn't be trusted, so now he's out.

It's only been a little over a week since I named the board. And, frankly (no pun intended), I had high hopes for Frank, since he was, as I said in introducing the board, a serious person. I had hoped we would have a long, happy relationship, giving me the chance to bounce serious ideas off him. Now that he's gone, I'll have to hope that either Trade or Mark are serious characters willing to help. Dale has a funny side, and Delilah being a woman, well, say no more...

But play with fire, Frank, and you'll get burned!

As it turned out, Frank became critical of the blog's direction, apparently being upset overall with my recent posts on "The Imaginary Stud." In particular, he seriously objected to the post on "Your Biological Clock Is Ticking," and what it might mean for premarital sex and pregnancies, although he didn't bring his concerns to me. He took it to the rest of the board in a secret meeting, with what looks like the intention of forcing me out and taking over.

It happened like this: I was watching TV, then I went to the kitchen to get a snack. I happened to glance out the window and saw the lights on in the garage. That's strange, I thought. So I went out and heard voices. I peeked in the window and there they were, holding their little secret meeting! I opened the door and made my presence known, resulting in a lot of guilty faces. Delilah quickly covered the minutes book with her hands.

I had an intuitive sense of what was going on. I demanded the minutes book and glanced over the page, seeing that Frank had called the meeting to order, etc., and saw a summary of his complaints. I declared, "This is not an official meeting because I wasn't notified. You were brought on board to help me fulfill my hopes and dreams for my blog, not to immediately usurp my place and take it over for yourselves through blind ambition!"

I let the others slide and trained my fury on Frank alone, telling him how painful it was to find a shiny knife with his initials thrust squarely in my back. I shouted, "If there's anyone going to be cut, it's you, Frankie boy!" He turned white as a ghost, white as a sheet, extremely white, white as the driven snow. Of course he knew he was ... busted. And there could be no reconciliation. We went on like that, with blustered rejoinders and hasty, non-scripted parries.

Then I accused him right to his face. I accused him of making passes at Delilah. He insisted on his innocence and said that was "The furthest thing from my mind."

I countered, "The furthest thing from your mind? Is it really? You're thinking of it right now! Even now you're forming a rather nasty picture in your mind of you and Delilah making mad, passionate love on my kitchen table! Try to deny it!"

He looked guilty as hell but had a convenient comeback. "Yes, of course I'm thinking of it now, because you said it, making it impossible for me to not, fleetingly at least, have some mental conception of such an act!"

I was spitting mad and declared, "You've convicted yourself with your own words!" Frank immediately shrunk in my sight like the maggot he was, and I had to count to 10 to restrain myself from squashing him underfoot like any other vermin. To think he'd do that to Delilah, and on my kitchen table, when I had made such a point of warning them away from her. Disgusting!

As for the rest of the board, after Frank vanished into the night in disgrace, I gave them a stern talking to, making it clear that I knew what was best for the blog. Still, to be conciliatory, I said if they had any ideas about it to please feel free to come to me personally. I assured them I'm a reasonable man, which I believe to be true.