Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our Feathered Friends -- All Flights Grounded

Everyone knows I've been feeding our feathered friends outside here in my back yard. So far, I have accrued many good experiences and memories; it seems I'm constantly pumping my fist and shouting, "Yeah!" They come swooping in from everywhere, all the cardinal directions. They stay a while, then they're off. Our feathered friends are a very skittish breed. I have my doubts that they're truly evolved from the dinosaurs, unless dinosaurs were the biggest cowards on four legs!

It's been a lot of fun. I mean, I feel like shouting "Yeah!" right now, because, if truth be told, I've really gotten off on watching them. The dinosaurs somehow got the gift of flight, and they're not afraid to use it. Seriously, they can make a hairpin turn in midair without batting an eye. And the ability to hover -- literally to hover -- in one spot near the feeder is nothing but phenomenal. I can barely stand next to it without getting tipsy and falling over!

I buy feed in 40 pound bags. When I'm carrying it home, necessitating many sit-down breaks on the way, I keep thinking the same awesome truth: What is so extraordinarily hard for me to carry a few miles will be nothing for them, because they're carrying only one grain at a time. They've really taught me an interesting lesson on carrying things. It takes me forever to carry 40 pounds of it, but they rip through it in no time (a month) only carrying the one grain.

Now, though, today, my fun is on a brief hiatus; I hope it's brief. And it's not through anything I did, or attempted to do; it's through the weather, or from the weather. The weather turned off bad. We got literally dumped on with snow. It's everywhere, clinging to the trees, scattered and piled up all over the yard, as far as the eye can see. The branches were drooping ponderously. It reminded me of that magazine Al Bundy used to read, Big-Uns. In fact, the branch that the feeder was hooked to was drooping so far down, thanks to the weight of the snow, that the feeder was literally on the ground! I have since disconnected it till I get it cleaned.

But obviously it hasn't made any difference to our feathered friends, because they have not made an appearance today. I have looked out probably six times and haven't seen hide nor hair of them. They've totally vacated. My first thought, They flew farther south. Then I thought, No, they're just staying cooped up in their nests. Perhaps in their little world all flights have been grounded. All feet on deck, to clean snow out of nests. We ate yesterday, today we work.

It's amazing how similar we are. I had to go out today and clear out the driveway of all this crap. So I know how much work it is. You haven't got time for flying. You haven't even got time for eating. But pretty soon I will get the feeder cleaned out and replenished, because I'm expecting they'll be doubly hungry tomorrow.

I really have this weird feeling, What did our feathered friends do before I started feeding them? How did they ever survive?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ralph R. Ferguson, Mayor Of Anderson, Indiana

I found this cool graphic of some guy's head while browsing some old newspaper microfilms. Of course I thought, What a great generic guy's head! But then -- and this is the hidden archivist/preservationist in me -- I immediately thought, This was an actual guy, with a history, a family, etc., I better find out more about him.

Since he was featured prominently in a newspaper's full page ad, the caption was easy to spot. He was identified as the mayor Anderson, Indiana, Ralph R. Ferguson. This was in 1960, of course in the Anderson, Indiana, newspaper, the Anderson Herald Bulletin. I love the severed head, the graphic's Wizard of Oz vibe.

Now, here's a better picture, that I found with a Google search. Resourceful, aren't I? I like this picture, too, which you can get at virtually any size. They have a fairly prominent copyright notice on it, so I hope they'll allow me this "fair use" of his picture, as I'm republishing it as a historical feature with educational commentary. That's a great picture, isn't it? It's pretty easy to imagine him as a major, which he was from 1956-1964 (the newspaper's dates). Wikipedia says his term ended in '63, as does the Indiana Memory Digital Collections, the source for the above photo.

Then you have to figure, he was middle-aged in the late '50s, he's probably passed on by now. And, sure enough, he did die, in 1975 as it turns out.

Ralph R. Ferguson was born December 28, 1898. Prior to being Anderson's mayor, he was a state senator and Madison County Clerk. Before politics, he was sales manager of the Central Indiana Gas Company. In the 1920s, he was a licensed real estate broker. In the '30s, he owned and operated the Independent Wholesale Corporation. And in the '40s he owned and operated the Jo Ral Nash Auto Sales firm. So he was terrifically successful, as far as I'm concerned. He definitely did more than I'll ever do, since what have I ever done? I sold used records in the '80s, that's about it. And a few books on eBay. And this blog.

Mr. Ferguson was a good guy in another respect: He was a Democrat. In fact, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention on numerous occasions. And if that wasn't enough, he once was president of the Anderson Country Club. Again, speaking of my own personal lack of success, I watch the convention on TV and a few times I drove by a country club.

Mr. Ferguson died on April 1, 1975, if I'm reading this correctly. The paper's a little less than explicit. The publication date was April 2, a Wednesday, and they said he died on Tuesday.

He was successful in numerous other ventures, political successes, etc. Speaking for myself, I do vote and I used to have the stickers to prove it, so I'm a success, too.

Mr. Ferguson's son-in-law*, Robert L. Rock, was also in politics, being the lieutenant governor of Indiana, then he also was mayor of Anderson. So success was passed down, making me wonder about my own forebears, "What happened?" If I were somehow miraculously elected lieutenant governor, I'd show up at the office and go, "What am I supposed to do now?"

UPDATE: The irony of this post, thinking of my own lack of success and the fact that I never heard of Mr. Ferguson until an hour ago, is that before the day is through I'll be one of the primary sources on Google for information about him.

*I changed this from "son" in response to a comment. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Easter Bunnies -- Is This The End Of Crafts?

Well, I have to confess, I'm not in a very good mood. You can probably guess why: Easter's coming! Meaning, yes, even though Easter is a very joyous holiday, it's also the season for the Easter craft sale at the shopping center. Which once again I'm planning to set up for. Even though at this point I'm more depressed about it than ever.

Still, I keep telling myself, anything I make is more than I have now. But it definitely could be better. It's almost not worth it. And yet ... there I'll be.

When it comes to crafting, I think crafting's in a sad/weird state. It's not the best of times, it's the worst. One, you've got the old-timers, dinosaurs like me, who insist on only the finest craftsmanship, being heavily into the tradition of the thing. Only, we don't get much for it. Then you've got all the young turks, mostly women who are learning their "craft" off the internet -- as I call them, Pinterest copycats, churning out crap and that by imitation.

I'm proud to say I came up with my bunnies on my own. It took a lot of tinkering. But what's that count for these days? That and a quarter and I'm as good as broke. So, in part, I'm going to be there for my fellow old-timers. We have to stick together, even if it's hard; I see a lot of very grim expressions. But the others, the newbies, they've made it a social media thing for themselves, so they're always bubbling over with a silly excitement, la de dah. Crafting fangirls, big fans of each other, and not an original idea in the whole pack!

Even though I'm sticking with it, I have an incredible insight: No one really needs crafts. It's all do-it-yourself now. With the internet -- and the worst scourge, cameras everywhere -- anyone can knockoff your crafts. Like my bunnies. If you have a picture of them, and aren't just going by memory, it's not too tough to see what fits where. Although, insisting on craftsmanship and tradition as I do, of course they aren't going to be near as good. But I'm realistic; we're not making a living at it. Those who try, we have a word for them, the poor.

I mentioned cameras. What a scourge. They're everywhere. I wish it was the 1800's, like with Lincoln, where they had to ignite a living vulture on a pole for the flash and make a 30 second exposure. It wouldn't be hard to catch people taking pictures then! Now they're on the sly. Every phone is a camera. There's probably cameras built into wedding rings. It's a Dick Tracy world, only not as full of promise as we once expected, more a curse.

Really, it's like this: If you want to keep your ideas to yourself, you about have to cover them with a sheet and only offer peeks to people who express a real interest in buying. I think it might be good for them to put down a small deposit -- let's say $25 to $50 -- to take a peek. Then if they buy, they get the deposit back. That'd cut down on the frivolous browsers as well as those with a hidden camera or photographic memory. Or maybe put them to public shame if they didn't buy something, like dunking their head in molasses and spraying sawdust on them, or at the very least putting a big "Kick Me" sign around their neck. That'd cut down on idea-stealing.

On the other hand, if this is the end of crafts, it could be a big year. If people think the end is here, maybe they'll want it to go out with a bang. They might snap up my stuff like collector's items, the last hurrah of a dying era. I'd like to say tradition and craftsmanship wins out, but I don't think it does. Not when you have all these women and the fast thrills of social media, all of them getting together to celebrate one another's supposed cleverness (yeah, we know!), then it no doubt degenerates into touching, heavy breathing, impassioned stripping, and who knows what all, as they writhe in ecstasy on the floor. I hope they choke on it...

Previous Easter Bunny Craft Sales:

Local Man Makes and Sells Easter Bunnies
Selling Easter Bunnies at the Shopping Center
Last Call for Easter Bunnies
Boxing Up My Bunnies

The Easter Craft Sale

I'm Selling Easter Bunnies at the Craft Sale

Monday, February 18, 2013

Some Proposed Changes For Jeopardy

Everyone loves Jeopardy. I've never known anyone -- out of my handful of acquaintances -- who didn't love the quiz show that turns questions and answers on their heads, and pulls out all the stops doing so.

This week it's the Tournament of Champions, which I always like. You get to see contestants who are proven winners, each having won something like a minimum of five shows, go immediately from winner to loser. Because there's only one winner. Even though they're all smart, it's still not like Superman split in three where each is of equal strength and none can win.

One of the weirdest thing about Jeopardy is how every week there's at least one contestant who totally crashes and burns. It's weird because they have to pass a minimum competency test in trivial knowledge to even be on. And yet ... they die on the spot. Frequently, it's a woman who gets the middle spot, but not always.

The current host is Alex Trebek. I heard he signed a three-year contract a couple years ago, and that that will be it, so we're probably getting to the end of his tenure. I actually lose some sleep at night worrying about who they're going to get to replace him. I toss and turn trying to think of who it might be. Then I tell myself two things: 1) The Lord is good, He will provide; and, 2) They replaced Bob Barker and that worked out well. Seriously, Drew Carey is the nicest guy on TV.

Alex has a couple quirks I don't like. One of them he shows when someone gives an answer (question) that's totally off the beam; Alex says, "Oh no..." as though it was obvious and Shame on you. That's rubbing it in a bit much. And two, I can't think of the other quirk. Oh yeah, it has to do with his picture perfect pronunciation of French.

Now, as to the proposed changes, some of these come out of my own Jeopardy play at home. One, I like to bet big on the Daily Double, but I don't like to just bet the money I have. I like to add to it, including pieces of property. It's just for play, and my dog isn't injured in the course of the show, but I take pretend snatches of dog fur to bet. So I might bet everything I have, my Jeopardy money, plus a dollar out of my wallet, my cable remote, plus a snatch of dog fur. Then when I get it right, which has been known to happen, I get it all back double, and the dog's more ready for winter. Or if I get it wrong, I have to reconcile not only with a cold dog but the cable company.

So let's go from there. Say each contestant could bring 10-12 items from home -- valuable and trivial -- to add to their Daily Double wagers. The judges, maybe with an auctioneer as a judge who has lots of experience knowing what things are worth, quickly determine what the items are worth, and that gets added or deducted from the score. So if a guy has a barbecue grill, that could be $40; a bucket of green walnuts, $20; three dead tropical fish, the minimal value of 50 cents; etc. It'd make it fun, like a garage sale, or like Let's Make a Deal. You never know what you might win! A two dollar mule!

I've watched Jeopardy on and off for many years. I remember watching it in the '60s, when I never knew a thing about Shakespeare or Potpourri or Potent Potables. Shakespeare was a total mystery. Now, though, that I've read Romeo and Juliet, although it's been 20 years, I at least have a chance.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

All Hail Lord Metross

I really hate to say anything about Metross, but I'm a little stuck. I seriously needed a parking space today -- downtown was very busy -- and in my prayer I blurted out rashly that I would "proclaim Him" in exchange for a space. Of course, one immediately opened up, and now I realize ... I have to hold up my end of the bargain... or next time I'm in deep doo doo.

But maybe the less said the better. Because the more people who come to believe, the tougher it might be for me to get a space. Although, now that I process this conundrum, it stands to reason that IF Metross is so powerful (my IF not implying lack of faith but only prompting me to praise Him more) then even if everyone in town hears of Him, still parking spaces would automatically open up for me. So I feel better.

OK, like I said, I was downtown today and went to one of the lots that is notorious for having very few available spaces -- being Sunday and everyone going out to eat. I thought, Yeah, I love putting my faith to the test. I got there and it was exactly what I expected. As if the cars had simply always been there, never moving. I smiled as I entered, knowing there wouldn't be a single space. I got to the end of the first lane and noticed a lady messing around with merchandise in her backseat. I thought it could go one of two ways, she'd either shut the door and walk away or pull out. But there wasn't any indication either way.

Before I rounded the curve to the lane going back, I praised Metross profusely, "O God of the parking spaces, Thou hast shown me grace so many times, words fail me. Except to say, I praise Thee with an unending praise. But, O Lord, I see no human way for me to get a parking space immediately. Now, Metross, show Thy power. I promise I will proclaim You if you open a place for me in the next minute." So I'm coming around with two options, to reenter the first lane or exit the lot. I glanced down the end of the lot and, as if by a miracle, the lady was pulling out. Part of the miracle was this, that no one from the street had entered the first lane and gotten ahead of me! Of course I made a beeline for it and had it, all thanks to blessed Metross.

The name Metross, I heard from other devotees, stems from parking meter, which itself, stems from historical references to Metross in more superstitious societies, societies so superstitious they had to use chariots, the car not yet being invented. Whatever else we might say about the etymology of His name -- which I prefer to think is eternal -- one thing is for sure, it definitely fits. He's all that and more!

I myself have been praising His name and seeking His face for a long time, in fact every time I've needed a parking space in the last couple years. Before that, I guess you might say I felt self-sufficient, that I could go around the block till a place just "naturally" opened up. Which, as you have to know, never happened. I went around so many times I'm still dizzy! But then, like the Prodigal Son and his Prodigal Car, I returned to the faith of my family, and haven't looked back since. I've gotten parking spaces when they've literally not existed just minutes before.

One of the funnest things is to have a non-believer with me, spouting some crap about, "You'll never get a parking space, not now and not in a million years." I'm thinking, I won't even have this car in a million years, so it has to be now. A quick prayer, a little praise, and you know what happens? Like about five places open up. I praise Him, then rub it in to my friend, "Einey meeny miney mo, one space down and four to go!"  LOL!

Praise Metross!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Our Feathered Friends: What A Mess!

What a mess, indeed! I've got feathered friends stacked everywhere! I'm getting to the point where I'm chronically frantic, certainly feeling very flustered. But I must continue, I can't let them die! It'd be disease for sure.

It all started a couple weeks ago. I decided, you know, that if I enjoyed my feathered friends so much being in the yard -- they made me so happy I was actually applauding -- how much more would I enjoy them up close, in cages? Which is looking more and more like a huge mistake. I'm starting now to seriously regret my decision...

I looked at it from every angle, how it could be done. I tried to lure them into boxes with towels over them, but they were just too wary of me. Take it from me, our feathered friends, however friendly they may appear from a distance, are a very suspicious breed, very suspicious. It's like they thought I was a cat, some kind of danger to them.

Finally, a guy I know -- big into fertilizers, all kinds; he likes to blow things up, he's been on the news -- filled my head with notions. He had one particular fertilizer, he said, that when you mix it with feathered friend feed, temporarily stuns them. Then they come back to life when you put salt on their tails.

(In the absence of a better word to refer to them, I'm going to abbreviate Our Feathered Friends as OFF.)

Well, guess what, it worked! I mixed the fertilizer in with about 40 pounds of seed and scattered it all over the yard, the whole works! OFF came swooping in from everywhere, all directions, east, west, south, and yes, even a few were from up north -- I saw ice on their wings.

Immediately, OFF were dropping into the state of deepest lethargy, then lights out. I went through and culled the best 300-400 and tossed the rejects, with salt, behind the bushes. I think most of them eventually woke up. Then I thought, Oops, what do I do for cages? To make a long story short, another friend of mine, who works at Goodwill, kept back all the cages they had in the backroom, and now they're in my garage, along with the OFF.

Now, I don't want to gross anyone out -- it's been bad enough that I've essentially lost my own appetite -- but OFF's hygiene habits are terrible. How they ever were able to take care of themselves in the wild has to be anyone's guess. Their water cups are filthy, the bottoms of the cages are disgusting, and the garage stinks massively. I had to dig through my junk drawer till I found an old surgical mask, from the time I visited a dying relative in the hospital who was contagious.

Even with the mask, I'm only in there as much as I have to be. It's sickening. They've basically given up on all their pretty songs. I'm getting the evil eye. All they think to do now is peck each other and raise a ruckus. It won't be long, probably, till they peck my eyes out, that's how unsavory their company is. To which I say, If I go completely sour on nature, it's their own fault! Giving someone house and home, room and board, and loving attention should not be a thankless task. I'm not asking much. A pleasant song and minimal cleanliness, too much?

However, it doesn't look like it's going to happen. I've cried myself to sleep three nights in a row, for me a new world's record. Meaning, I feel my only choice now is to get rid of the pesky varmints. But how? I guess I have no other option but to look for good homes for them. Or gunny sacks and a creek. As for me, I'm done. When these ones are gone, I'll simply leave the others alone. Next time I decide to mess with Mother Nature, please, someone, talk me out of it!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is It Strange For True Love To Be So Young?

I've got an old record -- and of course you can find it on YouTube -- by Tony Bellus, called "Robbin' the Cradle." It always strikes me as fairly lascivious although it's an entertaining record with nice echo. But the main theme is, "They say I'm robbin' the cradle, little darling ... Is it strange for true love to be so young?" We might say, Well, Tony, it all depends, how young are you talkin'?

It used to be -- sometime between the ancient Greeks and the 1950s -- that the field of "love" was wide open. Then we developed a few more morals and really cracked down on these sorts of activities. That and dating first cousins. Although I used to have some distant cousins who got together and they never had any problems. Both were blind as well as three or four of their kids. But that was it.

The ancient Greeks, I'm not 100% sure what they were up to. But I am sure that's why you never see an ancient Greek living within 2,000 feet of a school. Whatever it was, their lovers hadn't graduated yet and gone on to college. But that was when the human race itself was young, and they were still feeling their way toward a modern standard of right and wrong. It's like that in most societies; you have to run through every option before you winnow them down to the right ones. Like slavery, we look at it today as a big duh.

Because today we know the difference between right and wrong. At Walmart you have to show ID if you look under 40. They overcompensate just to be on the safe side. The corollary when it comes to dating is, If she doesn't look 40, she might be 17. We know the difference between right and wrong! And woe to those who don't! Yes, I'm looking at you, the occasional bad apple teacher I read about at Huffington Post! It's not love, folks, it's sick. There's an interesting thought: You bring a juicy apple to the teacher, but what if the teacher himself (or herself) is a bad apple!

And with that, let me wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day. May all your love be completely kosher.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Nudine The Fortune-Telling Stripper

This post contains information I did not personally witness. I got it from a guy I know who goes to see strippers and freely admits it. I myself would never admit it. Because he's so truthful in that respect, I vouch for everything he says as absolutely true. Plus, he's my agent for car insurance.

According to this guy, one of the clubs has a particularly vivacious stripper named Nudine. The interesting thing about her is that she's so vivacious she's even known for telling guys their fortunes. That's the part that made my ears perk up and made me listen. And the weird thing is Nudine herself appears completely passive in how it works.

It goes like this. A guy wonders about some choice he has to make, then looks at her, then immediately, or in some cases later, knows what to do. Why there would an immediate answer or a delay seems to have something to do with the particular individual. But we think it also has something to do with Nudine's power, how strong or depleted it is.

Of course I asked for examples. At first he didn't want to say. It was like he was afraid the walls had ears, know what I mean? But I pressed him until he waved me outside, beyond walls, beyond doors, beyond ears. We were over by some very bare bushes, denuded by winter and obviously not hiding any electronic surveillance equipment. I could only try my best to remember whatever he would tell me, lest I forget.

And this is it, some of it: There was a guy who had a hard time deciding how he wanted his eggs fixed. The club has a fry cook in those early morning hours as the guys are being entertained. One day, this guy being perplexed, he glanced over at Nudine in dance, as she faced him, and came at once to a decision, sunny side up. Then it happened again another time; Nudine was on her belly doing a "rug act," and he knew he'd have them over easy. Uncanny but true...

And that's just one guy. Others have testified of receiving lottery numbers, psychiatric treatment, spiritual counsel, and even career advice after watching Nudine, as beautiful as she is and so lost in reverie. At this point I was a little skeptical. But my friend led me further on, till we reached a bush with even less foliage. Here he spilled his entire guts. He was the guy who'd received career advice from her. She was over against the east wall of the club, rubbing up against a hanging shag carpet for a prolonged time.

Suddenly he felt compelled to drive east. To make a long story short, he stopped in a coffee shop to think over the situation. He sat in a booth for a prolonged time. He struck up a conversation with a guy with shaggy hair, who turned out to be the regional rep for a major car insurance company. Who told my friend they had some great openings as agents. They hit it off so well -- the rep also likes strippers -- he was appointed an agent right on the spot. All thanks, once again, to Nudine.

But what about the lottery numbers, psychiatric treatment, and spiritual counsel? We left every bush behind, and now being in a vacant field -- nothing there at all but fresh snow, not a single track -- he raised his hand and swore it was all a fact. Indeed, I had to believe it, Nudine does it all!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pajamas In Church -- Style Or Sacrilege?

Something happened in church today that for me and others started out terrible, but ended up not so bad. It was one of those moments where you're taken aback, and speaking for myself, even filled with revulsion, but then something extraordinary happens, and next thing you know you're a little more inspired. I'm glad it doesn't happen that often, though, because I'm not sure my poor heart could take it!

Here's what it was. The day started off normal. All the preliminaries. Then Pastor Wadd mounted the pulpit and was into a barn-burner sermon on "Modern Gomorrah Out-Sodoms Sodom." In case you don't know, his ministry specialty is combating sexual addictions. So at this point, as far as we knew, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

Then, without any warning, a couple of people came in the back door, a young man and a young woman, college-aged, and walked down the aisle and lounged right there on the floor of the platform. And if that wasn't bad enough -- the obvious disruption -- they were dressed in pajamas! Of course we know it's not unusual for people to wear pajamas in public today -- it's something of a fashion, a very bad fashion.

So there they were, looking up at the pastor like they were actually interested in his message, trying to suppress a sarcastic smile, according to my interpretation. I felt my blood pressure rise, I was so mad I thought I'd bust a vein. Pastor Wadd looked totally flummoxed, the people around me were aghast, and as for me, as I said, I was seething. My teeth were clenched so tight I might have done actual damage to a couple of molars.

OK, now something else was going on back by the door that I didn't know about. But the events, as reconstructed, went something like this. One of our oldest members -- an old deacon named Guy Miller, Deacon Miller -- was back there pulling off his pants, having worn his pajamas under them ... All I knew at the time was old Guy Miller comes walking down the aisle in his pajamas! And if you know how he walks, it's very slow and labored, one excruciating step after another. It was like the Via Dolorosa.

So there he goes -- Deacon Miller -- with his normal suit coat, and pajama bottoms, painfully walking the aisle toward the platform. The young couple are now also rapt, Pastor Wadd's looking on in slow motion, and the rest of the congregation, including me, have dropped our jaws. Finally, Guy Miller arrives at the platform, and the young college man reaches his hand to help him up the steps. Both of them, him and her, help the old deacon to the floor. We now have quite a scene, you'd have to agree!

Pastor cleared his throat, and looking out over us seemed to grant his seal of approval to the scene, probably thanks to the quick thinking of Deacon Miller, who taught us ... something ... I still haven't figured out exactly what.

My blood pressure dove back to its normal range, but I still don't entirely approve of everything that happened. Plus, I'm wondering why Guy had pajamas on under his pants. Wouldn't they have been riding up his legs?

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Valentine's Flower Racket Morticians Run

I'm getting the word out there early on something I suspect, way before Valentine's Day, because I'm hoping to get widespread attention on this matter. I'd call it something of a scam. At least that's my suspicion, and I've always had a pretty good success rate in these things. At the very least it should be investigated, and when found to be true, be exposed, shut down, and left dead in its tracks. Prosecute!

My suspicion -- and I'm pretty sure it's more than that, it's something factual -- is that there's a huge racket being run by unscrupulous morticians. The racket goes something like this: Starting around October or November, they start "syphoning off" flowers from their funerals, then keep them in cold storage till just before Valentine's Day. Then they are sold everywhere, like to florists looking for something cheap to help their profit margin.

The big problem as I see it is that those flowers were purchased by well-meaning families and aggrieved loved ones, meant solely to honor the dead. They weren't meant to go from hand to hand, then on some black market, only to end up, maybe purchased by the same people as tokens of love on Valentine's Day! Of course the flowers are the property of the original purchasers, whose intent was that they would make festive a memorial service, then the grave-site.

You know what I should do? I ought to go nosing around a funeral home. I could show up during a funeral, then slip into the back room and watch through the curtains. While everyone else's eyes are bleary from tears, I'm wide-eyed and alert. I can see the flowers, what all there is. Then as the mourners file out, I watch for the morticians to start skimming. Plus, I'm listening. "This flower looks great, this one will fetch a pretty penny, I might keep this one for myself," etc. The wife, normally upstairs doing bookkeeping, is the go-between, helping stash away the flowers before anyone notices.

Or, my other plan might be to show up at a funeral home -- have some business cards printed, "Floral Wholesaler" -- and present myself to the mortician. Naturally, I'm looking to cut a deal. The guy's nervous, he hasn't seen me before. But obviously I know more about the scam than the average guy. And I'm flipping a coin. His denials won't hold up, because I'll keep pressing him, telling him, "You either play ball or they'll be buying flowers for your funeral, and I mean full price!" I honestly can play hardball, especially if my sense of justice is riled up, as it is on this issue.

I love the above graphic. I think it really drives the point home. Look at the expression of professional grief on the schmuck's face. It's Valentine's Day, and he's portrayed handing out flowers to sexy women in their underwear, you'd think he could manage a smile. But no, he's a professional frowner, looking a lot like an underpaid, unappreciated butler, so even naked ladies don't move him. Then we have the women themselves. They're not the least bit suspicious why a frowning mortician would be handing them a flower. They're just gung ho for flowers, they don't care where they come from!

But I care. This is the honest to God truth: In the last year I have personally sent two big floral arrangements to people's funerals. You ever do that? It costs a fortune. I bet they were $60 apiece. The last thing I want is to have these damned morticians -- very unethical -- reselling them on Valentine's Day. To me, that's simply wrong.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Last Book No One Wanted

This is an ugly duckling story, of sorts, that I just thought of, however not involving true ugliness or even ducks. What ugliness even is, I wouldn't be able to answer. I know it when I see it, even though I realize, except for the sight of Republican politicians, there is really little objectively ugly.

But skipping ahead, it's a story about books. And how, as hard to believe as it is, every book in the library was checked out, with one lone exception, one lone book. Isn't that weird? Could it even happen? I find it hard to believe. And yet that's the story I'm telling.

It's weird to me based on vast experience. A book sale, let's say, is analogous to a library. I've been to many book sales, and the thought that every single book but one would be bought is ridiculous. They always have a ton of books remaining. At the very least, these titles remain: Teddy Bare, None Dare Call It Treason, Elbert Hubbard's Scrapbook, Jaws, and The South Beach Diet. When I think of books that remain, the little story of Vanna White's autobiography always comes to me. When they have as many left over as hers they have no choice but to grind them up and mercilessly recycle them.

Be that as it may, the story goes like this, and this could be based on a dream, I don't know:

The library looks completely normal. But I don't go there for a month. Then I finally return and find that only the last few books remain. Somehow, by some inscrutable process -- a town of voracious readers, let's say -- virtually everything's been checked out. The shelves are unburdened. It's like a drought. The librarians are sitting there, alternately happy and sad. Happy that people are reading, sad that virtually everything's going to come back at the same time.

When I arrive, I see the slim pickins and make like a bee to the flower to look at the remaining titles. There's a miscellaneous volume of a Japanese graphic novel, like Vol. 23, a couple of old mysteries, an oversize book on Mexican wrestlers (all wearing wild masks), Ozzy Osbourne's autobio, and Ross Douthat's Bad Religion. Then I'm off and come back in, and the only book remaining is Bad Religion. Even Vol. 23 is gone, which is weird, because, really, how many people have read the first 22 volumes?

It even makes the paper, that there's this one last book no one wants. And so it's like that. It's a complete drought, as I said before. The library is waxing and waning. It's like the walls are breathing, something like a sigh of relief while also emitting a sound of desperation, or something more like despair.

Now, no one wants to check out the last remaining book. Which is not a dig at Ross Douthat. I read about half of it, and even though I couldn't finish it, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people with a stronger constitution. I'm sensitive, I'll admit it. When other kids would be banging live carp against a concrete slab, even back then I was sympathetic to life, that it not suffer.

But this story has a happy ending. A kindly minister in the town, on the edge of retirement, with little to live for but Glory itself, and that coming soon, stops in and checks out the last embarrassed book. He did it with great mercy, for which he should be commended. The bookshelves were happy, especially the last bookshelf there, which was starting to get a complex, even though it was more an issue with the book than the shelf.

I saw it all happen, just as written. I went in and looked around. Not one book remained!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Police Press Conference: "No Comment"

The local TV news urgently cut to the police press conference, about to announce the end of the latest gun-slinging maniac's siege. We see the various detectives, the captain, the sergeant, the FBI chief, and a few underlings bringing in a tray of iced tea.

It's live, and somehow they have all the faith in the world that they're going to get right to the meat of the matter, what happened, how they were able to storm the maniac's compound and finally free his hostage, a five-year-old boy in mortal danger. We've literally been praying that the boy would come out safe and that the maniac would be immediately killed.

Let's get to the press conference, no more delay!

"I'm Police Captain Butch McCall, that's M-little C-big C-a-l-l. This is the FBI chief, [his name spelled]." And so on and so on, right down to the guys with the trays being the comedic Wiere Brothers (W-i-e-r-e), last seen in Elvis' movie Double Trouble, now slopping iced tea everywhere.

"We'd like to thank you for coming out today," he says to the press.

Behind the scenes at the local news, we picture the producer saying, "Cut away! Sum it up, we'll be back when they get past the introductions!"

Then a few minutes later we're back at the press conference. Captain Butch is recognizing the important work of the state police in resolving this matter. "Thank you, gentlemen, for a job well done." This is the state police's cue to step in and thank the local captain and his force, for maintaining their calm in a very tense situation. The captain nods to the FBI chief, who thanks both the state police and the local police for coordinating a great effort in resolving the crisis. Finally, the sheriff moves to the microphone to thank anyone they might've missed. Other than that they will have no comment.

The local news cuts away with the summation, "So there you have it. The police are thanking the police for doing police work."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hunting Groundhog -- A Lotta Fun With Men

I don't want anyone to think I wasted my Groundhog Day holiday. I certainly didn't...

The night before, somehow I fell in with an interesting crowd, all men. I guess I had a little too much to drink. I woke up about 6 o'clock in the morning on Groundhog Day. I was in a strange place, which turned out to be a hunting lodge in parts unknown. I looked around the room and saw a bunch of guys sleeping, most of them in red flannel shirts and in various stages of undress. It was like either a nightmare or a dream come true, depending on how you swing.

Then it started coming back to me. I'd been at one of the local watering holes, playing darts and touching a few too many 25 cent draws. I hit a few lucky bulls-eyes and next thing I knew I was drafted by an all-men's darts team. Sitting later in a booth, one of them got breathy on me, real up close, about some "action" they were going out for. He looked around the room and asked me if I wanted in. I was reluctant, but then with a few more drinks, I was like, "Sure!" I was up for anything. All I remember next is a bunch of guys -- all men -- headed for the country, and I fell asleep.

OK, to make a long story short, as the old saying goes, it turned out the "action" was an all-male groundhog hunt. The best kind, I'd say. I woke up, found the bathroom and did my business -- No. 1 -- and a couple more guys came in. I zipped up quick, but one of them caught my eye. I guess I blushed. Whatever it was, he patted me on the bottom and proceeded to relieve himself, boldly, which he was still doing as I went out the door.

Over breakfast, the rest of them, most of whom I barely knew from the night before, were celebrating my dart playing, saying I put them over the top against the other team. They were all like, "You definitely know where the bulls-eye is!" and "You're no stranger to putting it where it goes!" and the like. I put my hands up, a little abashed, as if to say, "I got lucky..." I guess I was lucky, because here I was, feted by a cabin full of men!

One guy -- these guys were nothing if not bold -- came out of the shower with a towel around his waist and nothing else on. Everyone laughed, it was funny. I expected him to go back in a make himself decent, but instead he proceeded to the stove and started cooking breakfast. I watched as he separated each strip of bacon from three pounds and carefully laid them in hot skillets. He licked his fingers and leered over at us, still being funny. As the strips sizzled, he tossed his head back with a satisfied look.

The morning, then, was topped off by the actual groundhog hunt. Again, this was nothing but men, men with big long guns, shooting all over the place, at whatever moved. I saw a four-legged deer die. But the highlight had to be the group gathering around groundhog holes, sticking our guns down the holes, and blowing the crap out of them.

I skinned a groundhog and made a Davy Crockett hat. I was so excited, the tail hanging down my neck twitched and flipped up whenever one of the guys came up behind me. There's something about the nerves in groundhog tails. It's like a corpse's fingernails growing, their tails twitch even when they're dead!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Since When Don't Plumbers Do Maid Service?

I had to have a plumber over. He was actually here twice. The first time he did some preliminary work, then discovered he didn't have the parts I needed, meaning he needed to return.

The problem's been going on for a while. The toilet's been very loose, almost like a dance partner. I finally decided it needed professional help, otherwise who knows what would become of it. Were it to lose its moorings completely, I'd be the one to suffer.

The house didn't always have a toilet. We used to have an outhouse, which Grandpa would periodically relocate on the property. Speaking of dance partners, the outhouse was all over the half acre, of course as close to the house as possible without being a nuisance. Then in the '60s, he put in the toilet, which, since there wasn't anyplace better to put it, ended up freestanding in his and Grandma's bedroom. Even after all these years, one detail complicated matters: The cellar doesn't extend under their old bedroom, so whoever worked on it had very little room to work. My current plumber bemoaned this, too.

Anyway, after two days he got the right part -- some kind of flange -- and after a while managed to get the thing secured to the floor, draining right, etc. Oh, here's something: He told me I had sewer gas building up below the house. Meaning, good thing I don't smoke. One match in the toilet would've blown the place up!

Was I happy with the plumbing job? Yes and no. See, I was gone while he was working. I had errands to run, and I was figuring that once he got done with the toilet he would just continue on and clean up the rest of the house. Where'd I get that idea? I'm just a natural optimist; that's the only explanation I can give; in fact, I thought it was part of the service; at least that was my belief. Maybe if I'd been there he would've felt more compelled. I'll never know till next time.

At the very least -- this is my opinion -- he could've cleaned up the floor around the toilet. There was dirt, etc., not from the job, but just the normal buildup of dirt that gets under toilets over time. Dust and so forth, it's awful. I hate cleaning under the toilet. Then, I had taken the towels off the back of the toilet. He could've put them back. And speaking of towels, shouldn't it be part of the service to change the towels on my rack? And my sink needs a good cleaning. And the mirror's always got spots on it. That seems like good work for a plumber.

From there -- and mostly I'm just saying it would've been nice -- the soap scum in my shower is annoying. You get a little bit of soap scum, then it attracts dust from the air and becomes a total mess. It would've been nice for him to get in there and scrub that off. There must have been something in his bag -- a tool, a chemical -- that would've made it very easy to accomplish. But no...

I'm not sure what a plumber does when he's done with the toilet job. Maybe he just sits and watches TV. I checked the hassock and didn't see any fresh footprints. And no extra dirt on the chair. Obviously it hadn't been touched. I looked in the cupboard and fridge to see if he'd eaten anything, but apparently not. Everything looked untouched, except for my own touch marks.

I'm thinking he simply did nothing. Basically fixed the toilet and that was it. I told him I needed to go out for errands, so he must have taken that as license just to get the job done and leave. To which, what can I say? Don't charge me as much? Say you're sorry and all is forgiven? Getting a little service around here, is that too much to ask? Didn't he learn service in apprentice school?

I'll have to forgive him, I guess. Still, it really galls me. Just a look around and he'd have to see, the carpet needs vacuuming. And there's dishes in the sink that aren't going to wash themselves. And if he can't be bothered to do all that, at the very least, how about making my bed? Pull the covers up, it takes 20 seconds tops. 30 seconds to get them straight.