Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Bucket List

I was late to the party on the phrase "My Bucket List." Honestly, I never heard anyone saying it, then suddenly I heard it all the time. So unless it was a matter of spontaneous combustion -- and I don't think so -- people were already using the expression widely, then it suddenly hit me.

I watch "The Price is Right" and a bunch of the contestants say it was on their bucket list to be on the show. That's  how pervasive it is, and apparently how trivial it is. Not that it wouldn't be a terrific honor to be on the show. But you have to figure, they have a huge crowd, and only a handful of people can be contestants. I'm pitying the poor folks in the audience who don't make it, yet it is on their bucket list. O! To be that close!

(Just let me mention here, Drew Carey is the nicest guy on TV. He's a fantastic guy. I heard someone a few weeks ago bemoaning not having Bob Barker, and I'm like, "What?!" I seriously would not trade the nicest guy on TV for Bob F'in Barker! That's not on my bucket list!)

Anyway, the bucket list. My opinion of bucket lists is, Who cares? Whether you do something or don't do something before you die is a matter of little importance. Once you're dead, you're not going to be drifting around somewhere -- pure consciousness enclosed in the full reality of its source, let's say -- complaining that you didn't win a scooter and trip to Aruba on Price is Right!

And the same thing about whether you're able to see your great-great-great granddaughter graduate from college. It doesn't even slightly matter.

Rip Van Diner

We've all had this happen. The waiter is incompetent. So we sit there, waiting and waiting. Me, if I were a waiter -- God forbid -- I'd be so hyper about my tables, the people would have a whole different thing to complain about.

It happened for me a few days ago, being out for breakfast. The waiter gave us "a few minutes" to decide, which extended to 10 minutes at least. He seemed to arc way out then anytime he was near our table. Then when he finally got back to us, he had the ignorance and/or audacity to ask if we'd had time to decide. Good grief, that was the kicker.

We were talking about where to go for breakfast today. I mentioned this particular restaurant, just joking, and got laughter in response. So it definitely makes a difference for business. You're a waiter, wait on us!

(In April, I wrote the post, "Peacetime Has Ruined Our Restaurants," about the same place.)

Going Back in Time -- 1948

Too bad I can't actually go back in time. I promise I wouldn't mess up anyone's life. Of course if I stumbled in the street and the guy who would've been your father swerved to miss me and accidentally got killed, I'm wouldn't be able to help that.

As for my own parents -- both passed on now -- it'd be great to see them as younger teens. Let's see, my parents in 1948 were around 14-15. And Elvis Presley was 13. I'm a big Elvis fan.

That'd be wild, in my opinion, to show up and make Elvis' acquaintance before he was ever famous. It was possible for people, once upon a time. For people actually alive in 1948, the key thing being if they'd only known. Just like for us, we don't know which unknown kid now will be a superstar 8-10 years from now. Although, who cares? Whoever they are, they're no Elvis!

Anything Helps -- God Bless You

I'm a bleeding heart, but I don't give to these guys ... ever. I'm honestly not convinced that it "helps," especially when it goes on for weeks, months, and years.

But, hey, it's a job, of sorts! As good as anything else, in the capitalistic spirit of things. If you can convince your customer base to support you, then, indeed, God bless you! You've got a good thing going. May as well keep it up.

I do always like the "God Bless You." Throw in a little religion, that softens us up.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

From Feeble Man Stagger to The Beatles

Me and my mates -- Dozy, Beaky, Mich, and Tich -- came up with our own group, me on drums, of course. (I learned a few years ago when I built a platform over the couch to give me something to do during commercials. And now, amazingly, I keep a beat with the best of them.)

The biggest problem for me and my mates has been to settle on a name. We wanted something fairly decent. A good name is ... good to have. But it seems like most of them have been taken. There's not much left.

Anyway, me and my mates got serious about it, and pretty soon we were coming up with ideas. In my opinion, my best idea was Feeble Man Stagger. I was driving uptown and saw an ordinary guy walking like he was drunk. Who knows, maybe he was, but it was early in the morning. Might've been an early stage hangover. The guy looking pathetic, I said to someone, "He's doing the feeble man stagger." Inspiration's funny like that!

Not long after, we got a letter from another group called Feeble Man Stagger and their lawyer, demanding that we cease and desist.

Now, here's something ironic. Me and my mates were drinking our disappointment away and saying over and over the words "Cease and Desist."  You can guess the rest; we immediately started calling ourselves Cease and Desist. Until we got a letter from another group -- Cease and Desist -- and their lawyer, demanding that we cease and desist. Damn.

Anyway, me and my mates weren't sidelined for long, and in the complaining about it, we switched to Desist Again. But not for long, because other groups have been through this, too, and Desist Again was already taken. At first, I was incredulous, "You're telling me you have a group Desist Again?" Yes, that's what they were telling me, with the guy getting real snotty: "That seems to be the gist of it." 

Me and my mates were getting desperate, and drinking ourselves back to health, and cussing this guy in abstentia, we repeated his stuffy patrician retort about "the gist of it" until we decided that's IT! We'd be The Gist of It. Which lasted only a couple weeks before some other "The Gist of It" came visiting. They couldn't afford a lawyer yet but we got the message. We tried to argue, but of course we'd eventually lose. In my anger I justified us, saying, "You know, you're not exactly The Beatles! How were we supposed to know?"

So that's how we got the name The Beatles. I figured, sure, there was a group called that once upon a time, but they're dead and gone. As I told my mates, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Wolf Lobo

FOR THE TEACHER -- This story will appeal to young readers because it conveys a sense of adventure and danger. However, if you notice any lingering fear on the part of your students, pleasure assure them that Lobo is a kind wolf, who would never in a thousand years hurt the bunny.

Facts Worth Thinking About

If you cite any of this information in scholarly papers or journals, please credit this website. But it'd be a good idea to misspell the footnote badly, so the prof will finally give up and just assume you had a credible source.

Other than that disclaimer, I will say these are all facts as far as I know...

I Love You For a Hundred Thousand Reasons

"I Love You Because" is a song on Elvis Presley's first album. It has the lyric, "I love you for a hundred thousand reasons." But you have to think the reasons would be fairly thin by the time you got to 100,000...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fangs of Hell Security Systems

There's probably people out there with actual security systems. Stands to reason. They're advertised all the time, they can't all be fake.

But I know I go plenty of places where the signs are carryovers from old companies. The subscription ran out -- one thing or another -- and all they have left are the signs. Like little shields, they're right there by the door, fading and maybe falling over. Or there's decals on all the doors, also shabby with age.

The bet is the criminals won't know which is which, protected homes from unprotected. Although it seems, the shabbier the sign, the less likely it's connected. Or, if you throw a brick through the window and nothing happens in two hours ... maybe Sasquatch is sleeping.

One of the first fake signs I ever saw was in the early '80s, at Goodwill, no less, where the sign said something like, "This store is protected by a really sensitive security system." No name, no clue as to what it might be; they could only divulge it was "really sensitive." Very primitive ... and not convincing.

I personally have the signs of about five different security companies in my yard, and, I'm not going to say if any of them are true. Although you can probably glance up at the roof and see if the sniper's there or not. There's only two sides of the house he could be on. As for my Superman sign, I'll just admit, that one's definitely fake.

My "Screen Door Has a Hook" sign is absolutely true. But it's very loose, and just a little pressure, like a three-year-old halfheartedly bumping it is all it'd take. Please, though, if you're in my neighborhood, don't try it. Sometimes I put a frozen turkey on top of the door. And I always hope I remember it when I get home.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Enhancing Your Dreams

My life of lucid dreams began when I started wearing glasses to bed to catch more detail. From there, it progressed. Still today, REM activity actually continues through most of the morning. If you see a guy fluttering his eyes at you, that's me!

The glasses were enough for a while, but I wanted more. I started sleeping with a chair, thinking that if I could sit during dreams I'd be able to take in more. Indeed, things were less hectic. I was suddenly less a participant than a spectator. That was fine, but dreams are meant to be participatory and not so tame. So I went "full gator," sleeping with a stuffed alligator, which made things very wild very fast. I was chased and cornered more times than I can remember. I almost ended up with my own show on Animal Planet, in my dreams, but thankfully woke up in time.

Other times, I wanted things to be more pastoral, with dark blue skies and bright stars, and fairies and satyrs roaming the countryside. I got some books at a book sale, Van Gogh, Yeats, and Greek mythology. I tore out the specific pages to create the scene and had one of the best nights of my life. All except for the satyrs. They're very randy rascals, so if anyone tries this, make sure you make provision for them to have a good partner.

A lot of my favorite enhanced dreams involved going back to my childhood and camping with my family like we used to do. Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, brothers, cousins, everyone. Naturally, this involved going to bed with a photo album, a lantern, and a chunk of tent canvas. And throw in some fishing equipment. The biggest problem wasn't the fact that I woke up with my pillows at the end of a stringer, but that I associate camping with downpours. Touch the canvas and it leaks right through. I not going to tell much about it, except to say I changed the sheets and put down plastic.

Anyway, in my dreams I've done a little of everything over the years, including running away and working for the circus, like Toby Tyler. Even though Toby's adventures were mostly misadventures, I had more success. But it's true what they say about clowns; I'd rather be chased by satyrs any night of the week!

The weirdest, most elaborate dream I ever had was the entire Apocalypse -- 360 degrees, 3D depth, the entire judgment, God, devils, and white throne. Thankfully, it had a happy ending: I awoke five years later to a blessed morning, having seen a lot of angelic nudity and lots of other cool stuff, the works!

To prepare for this, it took workmen a whole week to construct what looked like a swing set over my bed, with pulleys, chains, and various berths for figures carved by craftsmen. These were prophets, angels, devils, etc. All this apparatus was connected by a team of technicians to several bicycles, the whole works carefully choreographed by a panel of respected ministers, according to their reasonable theological consensus. Lastly, the bikes were powered by members of a trusted Boy Scout troop. I once bought popcorn from them, so I knew they were good.

Despite the noise, I dozed off. Around midnight, I heard the cranks and pulleys churning and the breathing of the Scouts at their bikes. I drifted off again, and ascended through super consciousness into the heavenly spheres, passing through the seam that separates mundane existence from the higher realms. It was fantastic! Not a satyr or clown in sight!

But as the Apocalypse involves tumult, destruction, judgment, and the eventual reconciliation and restoration of the cosmos -- and a lot of close calls with devils -- I had more on my mind than I knew what to do with. It's harder to get back than you'd think. This is where I probably went too far, and, like I said, I ended up sleeping for five years. I was out of it! I don't know if anyone paid the Scouts and the craftsmen. Everything of my normal life was gone. All I knew during that time was the inner world I inhabited.

My family, who otherwise would've been out camping, took care of me, bedridden as I was. And if I hadn't covered the bed in plastic, I can only  imagine the bedsores I might've had. Thank goodness for my wise planning.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The People You Miss-See

This is about all the hundreds of people that I've miss-seen over the years. I haven't kept a record of them, of course, but they know who they are ... or would know, if they existed.

I'm also referring, tangentially, to the hundreds and thousands and millions of ancestors and contemporary family members and friends that those people would have had, had they existed. But the existence of all these folk is a non-existence, ephemeral, a matter of my limited perception and imagination filling in the blanks.

Certainly, I know this happens all the time to us, probably, although you hardly ever hear it mentioned in polite company: "Guess who I thought I saw today, a guy who didn't exist." You come to understand you didn't see anyone. Or did you? I'm not saying he wasn't there. I'm not saying he didn't vanish in a second. I'm just not saying.

It happens like this: You're sitting there minding your own business, and you think you see someone out of the corner of your eye, then when you turn for the full gaze it turns out to be someone else. Like one day recently, I thought I saw a mystery woman sort of lady, like out of the movies, carrying a birdcage. Then I turned and it was a regular man in a dark shirt, carrying a baby, a blanket hanging down.

Obviously, for it to have been the mystery woman, which would've been cool, she would've had to have existed, with all the factors leading to her, including grandparents and other ancestors, and possibly student loans for attending unknown mystery schools. Then when she didn't exist, all the grandparents and ancestors vanished, and whatever loans she might have had were instantly paid off. On the other hand, it's tough to wish away the actual man and baby, just to conjure up a mystery woman. He has relatives, too!

There's even people I think I see who turn out to be a stack of something, or even a file cabinet, maybe with a plant on top. The leaves of the plant are their hair, etc., until I look, and once I see it's not a person, it's tough to imagine them again. It feels sort of semi-tragic, like I said above, all their schooling is gone, their teachers never existed, their fellow classmates, their pets, gifts they got from grandparents, and their fears of the future, etc., all gone!

It's actually a little easier, if you wear glasses, to take your glasses off if you want to see people who aren't there. I can sit in public without my glasses and look across the room and see all sorts of people. A couple days ago, without my glasses, I saw a guy who looked like an old childhood friend. I knew it couldn't be him. The guy was younger than my friend is now. Fortunately, my old friend is still alive; I see him on Facebook. But for a moment he had a younger twin. Then with my glasses the resemblance wasn't as close.

A few minutes later there was a guy with a beard who looked like a cross between one of my brothers and Solzhenitsyn! He had that Solzhenitsyn beard, but the top of my brother's face. Then when I put my glasses on he still looked basically like this. But younger than Solzhenitsyn when he was most in the news, and a little puffier in the face than my brother.

Getting back to the mystery woman carrying the birdcage, you never see a mystery woman carrying a birdcage. So I essentially knew that when I turned she wasn't going to be there. But what if she was? Maybe she'd be headed to a detective's office to hire him. Her cool, dark mystery clothes, a 1940s outfit, a funky little mystery woman's hat, and a dark cloth over the cage. What a thing to be carrying! These are the kinds of things I want to see more of.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Helping the Disadvantaged Make Their Own Granola

I've been looking into the whole matter of helping the disadvantaged make their own granola. And here's what I found:

Granola is a delicious snack often eaten by the health-conscious, made by assembling together a number of healthy ingredients. These include, but are not limited to, oatmeal, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ or bran, powdered milk, raisins, almonds, canola oil, and honey. Then it's a feast, when everything is just so, prepared according to the specs.

I've actually probably been eating granola all wrong most of my life, since I've mostly had the granola bars or some other prepackaged store-bought granola-like treat. How much better it would probably be if you made it from scratch, according to a recipe by someone who already knows how to make it. I'm definitely hoping to try it. You can find many recipes for granola online, or you can search various granola recipe books for good recipes for granola.

I probably should say, I've never really been on the granola bandwagon, such as it is. Why exactly that is, I have no other excuse than the simple fact that I'm lazy and not in the habit of trying different things. I like to say, even though the fallacy is easily demonstrated, that I never eat anything for the first time. I'm in a groove -- some call it a rut -- and once there, I have stayed.

But a big heaping bowlful of granola sounds pretty darned good right about now. There aren't that many treats in the house. A few cookies. A little ice cream. The same old same old. Nothing like granola. But you know what? Even though I've found all these killer recipes for the stuff, that would mean going to the grocery store and probably spending $30 to make it. Or a little less. So at this point, I'm just going to suffer without.

Today's bottom line is simple: Granola is good and good for you. But if you haven't got the stuff to make it, and don't feel like going to the store, you're out of luck.

Friday, September 6, 2013

No Facial Hair Allowed Here

I'm making a new rule for the blog, in effect immediately, as of right now:

No facial hair for anyone who reads my blog. If you have a beard or mustache, I ask you kindly to leave. If you're clean-shaven, you may stay.

It's a free country, though, and you're entirely free to wear facial hair if you choose, just as I'm free to make this restriction and expect it to stick. If you want to have facial hair, then exercise your freedom elsewhere, not here. Of course, I know you could probably get away with reading my blog undetected. I'm working on the technology to change that, but until I get it accomplished, it does remain physically possible for you to read it. I admit it.

Still, you need to ask yourself, do you really want to stay where you're not wanted? What fun would that be, knowing you're an outcast, a pariah in my eyes? If, however, you were simply to shave (and this includes funky sideburns), then you'd be more than welcome to come back. I would welcome you with open arms.

I personally believe that facial hair doesn't make a lot of difference in life. I firmly believe that personal appearance is of very little consequence, at least in the grander scheme of things. I'm completely tolerant. With one exception ... I don't like facial hair on my readers, and on that point I will not bend.

Why all this fuss, why the restriction? Beards don't make the man. A man is a man by virtue of physically being a man, or so closely identifying with being a man that he is one simply for that reason. And having facial hair (or funky sideburns) doesn't add a single thing to a person. Therefore, the rule. Facial hair doesn't add a single thing, so in some sense it's likely to detract. Another way to look at it: Facial hair is an unnecessary disruption to the community. Please guide yourself accordingly.

Now, naturally I've heard that guys with facial hair are especially given to protest and sniping. Perhaps that's why I'm so opposed to them, treasuring civility as I do. Further, I know that because you do protest and snipe, that you'll throw this in my face: "What about Jesus?" Is this blog off limits to Jesus?

I saw that one coming. This is something of a quandary for me. I know Jesus is often portrayed with a beard. To be consistent, therefore, I should exclude Him. And yet I'm reluctant to go that far. Having died for the whole world, I am willing to grant one exception, for Jesus. This is a begrudging exception. Of course I'd prefer it if Jesus were clean-shaven, like Buddha.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Problem with Gold Diggers

One of the sad facts of my romantic life, such as it is, is I'm tired of being dumped by gold diggers. I mean, I get it, some ladies are in it for the riches. Then they find out ... certain things about me being financially embarrassed ... and, once again, it's the old heave-ho.

If you're wondering, Why don't the gold diggers just talk among themselves, compare notes, and thereby avoid me all together? The answer is, Gold diggers are a particularly catty species. If their fellow gold diggers are busy being disappointed, that frees up the better territory for the others. You know what I ought to do? Next time I'm dumped, I should wear a big sign around my neck: "Financially embarrassed." That'd show her! Not only would she be embarrassed in front of the others, she'd lose any advantage over the better territory, and it'd save the other gold diggers the trouble of messing with me. It'd be win-win all around!

Take a look at the line-up of dancers at Gus' Revue d'Paris de Beauregard, a little joint in Des Moines. I was most recently seeing the blonde. But now I'm dumped. So I'll probably be seeing brown and red in short order, since the blonde won't be telling them my troubles. Have you ever been financially embarrassed? It's as crappy as it sounds. Still, it keeps me up nights, mostly worrying, so at least I'm doing OK with that.

I know what you're wondering. I've heard it from a few guys over at the Salvation Army, where I've stayed the last couple weeks. Why are these high-flying specimens of feminine wiles interested in me in the first place? Because Gus and I were old school buddies, and he's spotting me drinks, and thinks he's lifting my spirits by giving me his personal table and tux at the Revue. And, yes, I am happy, depending on how many drinks he spots me. Plus, the girls.

But like I said, it's a drag getting dumped. The irony is rich. They dump me when they find out I haven't got money. But if I had money, they'd soak me silly, then dump me when I was poor. One way to look at it, I'm cutting out the middle man, and naturally hope springs eternal. It might really bloom, if, say, I and one of them were dropped on a desert island. I could say, "See, out here money's meaningless!" But that's too silly to hope for.

OK, so I was seeing the blonde. She found out about my financial embarrassment and her attitude switched on a dime. Figure of speech, 'cause if there'd been a dime, she'd've had it! One night she said she wanted money to live it up. I told her my situation, pulling out my pockets, even flapping my shirt pocket. She came real close as I offered her a good view of it, in good faith, and spit up in it and said that was my problem! Great girl!

Later, we're sitting silently at the kitchen table. She's filing her nails. I got snotty: "Do you enjoy doing your personal grooming at the dinner table?" Her response was curt: "You've been soiling the air around yourself for years!" I was like, "What?!" It seemed we were never on the same wavelength, and at that moment I knew it was true.

A Dead Guy's Mustache -- As Close As You're Gonna Get


This guy lived and died a long time ago, maybe 100 years ago.

There's lots of maybes. Since he was a young guy in this photo, he might have lived quite a while after this, with his mustache turning old and gray and eventually falling off. Or he might have sat for this picture, caught viral pneumonia from a sick photographer and fallen dead just moments after the shutter clicked.

Either way, he's certainly dead now, and his mustache presumably is lost forever. Exhuming the body is out, not only because of the various legalities that would have to be dealt with, but because we have no idea, no clue as to his identity. The only information I've been able to glean is that he lived, had a great head of hair and mustache, and died. And that he sat for at least one photo at a photography studio called Veatch in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Cedar Falls, Iowa? Now we're making progress! Which is probably still a dead end. Of course, if you want to go for it, be my guest. I am personally going to stand down and let the poor man rest in peace. And accept it that his mustache is gone forever, and that this enlargement is as close as I'm gonna get.

Still, isn't it a tantalizing detail that ... somewhere near Cedar Falls, Iowa, in a lonely, perhaps forgotten cemetery, this mustache still rules and reigns the nether realms six feet under? For me, it changes nothing. I'm still standing down!

So barring a miracle, an identification and the knocking down of many legal barriers to exhumation, I'm as close as I'm gonna get to this great example of a flamboyant mustache.

Isn't life amazing? We try to deny it, but life always comes with limits. You see a guy with a mustache, and he passes by, usually without allowing us a super close-up. Of course the inaccessibility is greatly multiplied for guys who lived and died a hundred years ago. But thanks to photography -- a relatively recent invention -- we're able to see it in all its glory.

So today -- and today only -- you and I have this rare opportunity, a treat, the chance to zero in on this particular guy's cool mustache. Friends, feast your eyes! This is as close as anyone's gotten since he passed from this earth. And it's a chance that likely will never come again.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Keep It Simple, Stupid, Because If You Don't...

Sometimes I'm sorry about the things I post here. Of course, I always know who I am and what I'm up to, but then I forget that everyone else might be confused. So I hit my head and say: "Duh, you should've thought of that!"

In other words, all those times I am guilty of forgetting the very first rule, which is KISS, "Keep it simple, stupid!" Making me the stupid one there, in case you didn't get that. I've actually expanded the first rule, making it more helpful, which might be useful to share here: KISSBIYDTSWBICATYO. Get that? Obviously, it stands for, "Keep it simple, stupid, because if you don't, then someone will become instantly confused and turn you off!"

I've had a number of people "turn me off," probably because they were "instantly confused." Again, I know what I'm up to, but it's not perhaps immediately clear to everyone else. So it's very, very, extremely important -- Note to Self -- that I remember this rule. It's important, so important that I'm going to memorize it: KISSBIYDE. No, KISSBIYDS, damn, missed it again. Let me look: KISSBIYDTS (the S is for someone, not E for everyone) Then the end, WBICATYO. I think I can remember that as a W followed by BIC AT YO, a BIC pen @ YO[u]. OK, got it!

So why are people so instantly confused? I hate to be potentially insulting, but clearly they're not entirely focused in. Teachers tell me these days it's all video games and graphic novels, dumbing down everyone. To which I shout a hale and hearty, "Amen!" I'm sick of video games and graphic novels dumbing things down! I asked at the library why they even stocked video games and graphic novels, and they said they didn't really want to. But, it seems, when you've got morons as your audience, they can be very demanding. They throw fits and pee in the book deposit!

But to be magnanimous and not alienate these easily alienated people -- wilting violets -- naturally I will take the blame. That's only right, keeping with the first rule of customer service: TTBBIYPIWIBTWBIOJON. You probably remember the old rule: "Take the blame, because if you put it where it belongs, they will be instantly offended, justified or not."

I've known a few people in business. And believe me, they're rolling their eyes something fierce at this stuff. Always having to cater to the customers, it's an understandable drag! But the businessman gets 'em back in private, tossing around these acronyms. Like, TCAREWTNWIAATT, "The customer's always right, except when they're not, which is actually all the time!"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Whatever Happened to Bushwhacking?

 These typical teenagers will soon be "parking" on a lonely country road.
At least, they HOPE it'll be lonely!

One of our biggest fears years ago was bushwhackers. Those dreaded ambushers who came upon you parked on a lonely country road to interrupt ... whatever you happened to be doing. Which might or might not have involved intimate romantic contact. I hate to be specific.

Whatever happened to bushwhackers? I never hear anything about them anymore. Although it could be that I'm not in the right company to hear much. I fear that if we had bushwhackers yet today, they would've taken it way beyond the free meal, belling of the antenna, and smudging of the license plates. In today's brave new world, they might kill you!

Maybe there's not that many kids parking anymore, with changing standards. Standards have loosened, so maybe now they're just in their own rooms going at it. I really don't know. "Jimmy, when you and Joan are done, please come down for dinner ... and don't forget to straighten the sheets!"

Of course, it wasn't that way years ago, like other things that change over time. But if the current generation (or their kids) knew where they came from, those illicit assignations along the roads, they might have a greater appreciation for the old days. Parking itself was a result of changing standards, a more mobile society. So if it has switched in the meantime, we'll just chalk it up to progress.

But when parking was going on, it gave rise to an antagonist, the bushwhackers. Those terrible bushwhackers! Who were out and about, hoping to catch a glimpse of nudity, perhaps, and certainly to interrupt the proceedings.

The way I remember it, though, there was more to it. I alluded to it a little above. It was like a sport. The bushwhacker carried a string of bells, and once those were around your antenna, you were his captive. That gave him the opportunity to take the young woman's lipstick and smudge the license plate up real good. Then you were obligated to take him to the diner and pay for a free meal.

I always hated providing the free meal. Not so much the expense, but the time and trouble it took to go with him. We'd be leading the way, and there he'd be in his car following us, till we pulled in. I bought more patty melts and french friends back then than I have at any point in my life since! And it wasn't fun. I'd be sitting there irate.

These days, even if there are bushwhackers -- I said they might kill you, but they might also fear getting killed. With everyone packing heat, anything could happen. It could turn deadly real fast! Which is probably why you never see bells around antennas or lipstick-smudged license plates anymore. That was terrible, your dad coming out in the morning ... "What have we here? Lipstick on the license plates?"

It's terrible, the memories, but of course it went with the territory. Now, looking back, I can see it was all in good fun. A few of the bushwhackers I even remember with a degree of fondness. One of them was even mayor of the town way after we all grew up. So that's a strange bit of trivia, something I never expected back in the day, buying him a patty melt.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Your Career in Funeral Folder Photography

First, just let me say, I'm not a professional photographer. The ins and outs of photography is not my thing. I don't know a light meter from a parking meter, if there is a difference. I just happen occasionally to snap a good picture.

All that said, I have had accidental success as a photographer for funeral folders, the programs morticians hand out at their services. I don't have a good way to check the records, but my pictures of the beloved have appeared in four or five funeral folders over the years. And they've gotten good comments, too, along the lines of, "What a nice picture of him or her."

Now I'm sitting here wondering, What could I have accomplished had I set out to accomplish anything? I never did; like I said, all my photos have been accidental, pictures taken for other purposes then used later as great shots for that final day.

If only I'd made a studio and advertised, "Funeral Folder Pictures in 5 Minutes," I might be rich today! Because as vain as everyone is, they'd be breaking down the door to get the perfect shot. And there I'd be -- with my cheap cameras -- to provide it. They might look at my very modest cameras and be suspicious, and yet I've got a pretty good history to back them up. It's not how expensive you're camera is, it's the photog that gets the shots.

At other places, they arrange the family. Let's say it's for a good 50th anniversary picture. You always want the man so he looks about three foot taller. Up and down rectangular. He fills up the entire left side of the shot, top to bottom. The woman then has the right side, but her head's mostly in the bottom corner. That's a take!

Or if you're taking graduation pictures. These days, you find every rustic locale in town. Broken down cars, buildings with terrible graffiti on them, rusty trains, industrial disposal bins with fumes. The graduate lounges in front, looking fantastic in comparison. They don't have to do anything especially, just a pleasant smile. The photos always come out looking great. There's very little retouching needed; the acne never looks bad, blending in with the despicable background.

Or maybe you're taking glamor shots. These are always over the top, with a lot of shouting (mostly for effect), "Work it! Work it!," as she goes through her best moves, generally a lot of amateurish stripper-like moves, reaching for a pretend pole, etc. I've never yet seen a glamor shot that's actually any good. Give me a fresh-faced farmer's daughter up against the barn any day. You know she knows where the hay is, and she knows you know, which of course must be made while the sun shines. "That's a wrap!"

For funeral shots, all this is out. You want the person to simply relax, relax, relax -- while staying awake. If they need something to think about, I would describe the peacefulness of nature, in particular the very tall, skinny trees you see in cemeteries. Or flash slides on the wall in front of them, of milky white statues of our Lord, either in prayer at Gethsemane or leading sheep through some beautiful valley, free of mosquitoes.

If you need to speak to them further, use your gentlest voice, telling them you've admired them your whole life, noting their lives of quiet dignity, not like the common run of psychotic man. While others have run amok, they've been solid as a rock, a stone to stand for eternity, yea tall and yea wide, on a good foundation, keeping an average size grave from flying around the room.

You might speak of the horizon as bright: "Look closely at it ... Are those ducks I see? Way off in the distance ... either flying south for the winter, or north for the summer. They're definitely headed somewhere." The pictures are going great. You've very likely already gotten the perfect shot. But it doesn't hurt to secure an extra. For this, muster up whatever sincerity you have left, and assure them, "Everyone is your friend, and they wish you well. There's really nothing to hold you back -- the way the world is. We'll all be OK, you have earned your reward."

SNAP! It's good, it's in the iPhone, ready to be uploaded to the boys at the funeral home!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Bearded Boy

A picture I showed him for inspiration

I'm only going to sketch this out in unspecific terms, since it's based on an actual bearded boy I know. His beard is nothing like what it's going to be. If I'm unspecific, that will provide cover for him, so teachers, school administrators, and even his parents won't suspect what's going on.

I was talking to him a couple of days ago about his beard. He's young, around 15½, and I'm old, around 60½, so my influence, the wisdom of my years, might really sway his behavior. He seemed excited about the prospects of what is to come. I said something to him about his beard, and right away I could tell he was preparing to defend himself against criticism. But I didn't criticize. I said it's cool and encouraged him -- gave him a great idea -- that he needs to really grow it out.

Keeping this unspecific, I told him he needs it down to here. Then cut off his mustache and just have that menacing look of a guy with a beard and no mustache. Carry a small pitchfork, like the kind they put in cupcakes, and get a TV shirt that says "Amish and Angry." His eyes lit up, he was happy with this cool identity dream. He indicated, yes, this is what he would do! So I was happy for that. What can go wrong?

Now I'm thinking way ahead. Let's say he graduates when he's 18. That means three years from now, meaning his 20th high school reunion will be 2036. By then his old rebellious years are gone, he's mellowed and clean-shaven. He walks in and everyone goes, "You know what I remember about you?" They reach up to their chin and remember the beard. "You were the first full length bearded boy in school. That was the year they made up all new rules against beards: 'No facial hair beyond a day-old 5 o'clock stubble.'"

Indeed, that was the year they made up the new rule. Except he was exempt. They had to grandfather it in, leaving existing beards alone. So he let it grow. Were he to even so much as trim it a bit, he'd break the grandfather agreement and would be unable to regrow it any longer. Since everything grows, even imperceptibly, he'd be a fool to trim it. They'd have him and he'd have to shave it off.

The 30th reunion rolls around and it's the same recollection: "You know what I remember about you?" He's anticipated it and runs his hand over his clean-shaven chin. "The beard?" "Yeah!" the former classmate says, "It was down to your knees!" "Well, it wasn't quite that long, just to here," indicating as low as where the neck ends and the chest begins.

40th, 50th, 60th class reunions. The 40th and 50th are the same. But the 60th is different. Ever been to a 60th class reunion? I haven't, but I've known a few people who have. It's usually you and the other survivor. In this case, looking way ahead, we've got our former bearded boy, still clean-shaven, and one remaining classmate, who has a touch of dementia and so fails to mention the old beard of those glory years. The old boy's OK with the omission, since he barely remembers it either.