Sunday, December 31, 2006

Elvis is STILL dead, And I'm not too happy myself.

Happy New Year from the Holiday Inn East, in Memphis!

Apologies to the late Lewis Grizzard for corrupting his title.

I'm stuck in Memphis. Me and apparently several HUNDRED other Northwest passengers.

There's 70+ in the hotel I'm in, according to the desk clerk. And, from what I observed at the information counter at the airport, and from talking to many of those travellers in the lobby and restaurant, at least two other hotels in town have at least that many.


They are people who missed connections because they got to Memphis late, or failures to take off due to "maintenance issues".

But the local paper has a story in it that refers to Northwest's "return from bankruptcy" despite it's ongoing "union struggles".

And nobody stuck here seems to be flying with anyone but Northwest.


All I know is five flights in five days, and not one left the airport on time. (Updated New Year's Day, 6:30 p.m. HOME)

And the first two were after the Denver weather mess was cleared up.

On the plus side? The Memphis airport seems to have a good barbecue joint about every 300 feet. I had a pulled pork sandwich for breakfast earlier this week.

Now that's airport food I can get behind.....

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ah Texas.. It's like a whole different country.

In Texas for a between holidays visit with the family.

Wait, It's my blog, I get to do my joke first.

Actually, not a joke at all.

West of Fort Worth, near a town called Weatherford (birthplace of Mary Martin, btw) is a large, faded billboard advertising:

Rivercrest -
A planned residential community and Rattlesnake Ranch.

Judging from the ancient, peeling condition of the billboard, I'm not the only one whose first thought wasn't "Good Plan!"

I've got to stop on the way back and try to get a picture of this sign. If so, I'll post it up later.

Happy New Year all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Who are the people in YOUR neighborhood?

(with all appropriate apologies to the folks on Sesame Street... wait a second, they have giant freak birds, talking socks and cookie monsters!)

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

The banker is a person in your neighborhood...

The minister is a person in your neighborhood...

The postman is a person in your neighborhood....

We don't talk to these folks.

It's been a long time since a' rockandroll....

Hadn't realized how much time had passed.

November was tied up with novel writing. I finished. YAY!!

December was tied up with being... December.

Did manage to write a short piece (500 words) for the monthly writer's challenge. You can pull down a .pdf of it here.

And now, Christmastime is here.

I remember a time when Christmas meant a jolly fat man was going to come down the chimney and bring me presents.

And, I remember a time when I was the jolly fat man, for my little girl. Just for the record? We used the stairs.

And this year is the first year where our little girl is not only not so little, she's not home. She's stuck in a far away land being an adult in her own right. They didn't tell us about that in the Christmas songs.

Monday, October 16, 2006

That wasn't in the Disney version....

The high school in a little town near me put on Snow White this year.

They had a ... adventure on the way to the stage.

The story goes that the young lady playing the title character got suspended the day before the show opened.

Seems Snow White punched out a dwarf.

Shades of Evening Shade...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Music in the dark...

So, I have to take a second and set the stage here:

I'm at a small bar listening to one of the local old timers play guitar. That doesn't really do him justice, because the guy is phenomenal on pretty much anything with strings.

It's late, the band is done, and there are a half dozen of us sitting around listening to this guy play some jazz. He's been playing for about 20 minutes, moving without stopping from one improvised melody to the next. This soft, moving stuff is just rolling out from under his fingertips. We sit and sip our drinks and the whole night is becoming this mellow form of "just right" while he plays.

Then the lady sitting next to me leans over and starts talking. "It's so beautiful. So serene. It's like a tampon commercial."

umm.... ok.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Fortune You Seek...

It's not the cookie. It's the fortune that is, or is not, inside.

Ever gotten a fortune cookie that didn't have that little slip of paper inside?

Is that lack of a fortune, a fortune in itself?

Anyway, here's my favorite fortunes that I or a friend of mine have gotten.

"The fortune you seek is in another cookie." The restaurant's equivelent of Drink Coke, Play Again. (By the way, ever actually tried that? Screw the cap back on. Take the cap off. Take a drink. Message stays the same. Drink Coke, Play Again. What kind of crap is that???)

"Lucky will find you." Not luck. Lucky. Some guy who's middle name is probably "the". Something tells me this one isn't a sign of good fortune.

And then there's this...

"God hates the sight of your face." A friend of mine actually got this at a restaurant in Dallas. The place didn't even comp her meal.

I used to work at a place run by a fundamentalist Christian family. Used to have Chinese food delivered to the office all the time. They wouldn't eat the fortune cookies. Said they were satanic. Not the food that came with it, and not just the message inside the cookie. The whole cookie. ???

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Svaha -- Waiting for the Thunder

Svaha -- Amerindian; the time between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder; of waiting for promises to be fulfilled.

My Mom died about a month ago. She was diagnosed a few months earlier with brain cancer.

We all knew it was coming. We were able to gather; one on one and in small groups and say our goodbyes, mend fences, break some new fences, mend them.

Since she died we've all been going and doing and getting back to our lives, knowing that the time would come when we would have to face what we were getting back to our lives in order to get away from. The fact that she's gone.

I always called her on Sunday. It's Sunday. I picked up the phone....

The thunder is coming. It's almost here. And with it comes the rain.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Off to work I go...

One of the advantages to living in the middle of nowhere is that "anywhere" is a short walk away. My walk to work covers five blocks. It takes almost as long to drive it. One morning starting the car I thought to myself, "It's five blocks. What kind of lazy pig are you?" So, I walked. Besides, we needed the rain that day. I've tried to walk it as much as possible since then. (Sometimes I'm just daring it to rain.)

In the span of five short blocks I pass a dozen or so houses, two churches, two bars, two sets of railroad tracks, an elementary school, a funeral home, and a courthouse that the locals like to say Abraham Lincoln once argued in. (He didn't, by the way. That one burned down, but they built this one in the same place.) Life, death, and a good Friday night, all in five short blocks.

An inch beneath the asphalt on the roads I walk, lie the old red bricks the roads were first paved with. And below that, the original dirt , I guess. I got to walk them once after the city bladed up the roads before coming along behind the sweepers to hide them once more with fresh tar and rock and paving. There was some talk of trying to preserve the bricks instead, but these are the more modern, improved roads we deserve... roads that will last for us into the future, I think one of the city father's actually said.

Two churches, two bars, one school..... There are laws out there now that say that bars can't be within so many feet of a school or church, but these places are all held over from a simpler time. (Back when we didn't worry about the pastor or priest getting liquored up, I guess.)

Makes me wonder if maybe we aren't fixing the wrong roads.

Monday, July 10, 2006

"Powerful, Satisfying"

That is what a nice lady in Pennsylvania was kind enough to say about my writing. She runs a small publishing house and I sent her my last book, Jazz & The Monkey Man, a couple months ago.. Just got a letter from her today. "Powerful, satisfying..." Whether they choose to publish it or not, I can ride with that for awhile.

Yeah, I know I haven't posted here in awhile. Doesn't mean I haven't been writing. Doesn't even mean I haven't been posting. Just been putting it somewhere else --

Friday, June 23, 2006

From the Department of Redundancy department

Today's USA TODAY headline reads "Emergency declared in Iraq."


Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Tin Woodman?

Down the block from me the city recently put up a piece of art. Here's a picture of it.

Depending upon what angle you view it from it is a metal command, Georgia Pearson's initials, or a diagram of the I-64 / I-70 traffic snarl near the new stadium in St. Louis. Or maybe its Paul Bunyon's "Quit Smoking" fidget toy.

Now, I'm all about art in the city. Beats the heck out of empty lots and abandoned buildings.

At the foot of the flag is a plaque telling visitors that this is a memorial in memory of the "heroes and victims who died in the war on terrorism". Again, an admirable civic effort.

But, there is something curious here. The plaque reads that the memorial is sponsored by the Woodmen of the World.

So here's my question. Shouldn't a memorial sponsored by a group called the Woodmen of the World have some wood somewhere around it? Maybe an actual tree, or something that looks like one?

Last week they trenched alongside the road around the sculpture. Looked like maybe they were going to put in shrubs or a flower bed. Well, that's more like it... right?

Nope. Sidewalk. Dig up and dump grass and bushes into a dump truck in order to put down more cement for a Woodmen's memorial........

Ummmm.... ok.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Voices in my head....

Sometimes random bits of dialogue fall out of my head. Usually at the oddest times. They'll have no connection to what I'm doing, or what I was thinking about or working on. It's almost as if there is a tv tuner in my head and there's some old guy with his hand on the remote. -- he's about a 12-pack into the day, and he has a twitch.

Here's an example: I was taking the trash out tonight... just walking a plastic bag to the can, and this fell out of my head:


A Mobster and woman are in a hotel room. It's after and she's getting dressed. He's sitting by the window, in slacks and a wife beater t-shirt. His shoes, socks and shirt are on the floor in a staggered line between the door and the bed. She's sitting on the bed adjusting her stockings before putting her shoes on. The light from the window throws his shadow across the floor. He's a big guy; mid-forties, thick black hair combed straight back so that it almost completely hides the male pattern baldness. She retrieves her shoes from his shadow and puts them on. After she's dressed she picks up his shirt and socks and puts them on the bed. His shoes she sets next to the dresser.

Then she goes to the mirrored wall behind the sink and checks her face. As she's applying her make up she looks at his reflection, over her shoulder in the mirror.

“So, we been doin' this for what, three months now?” she says. “You never talk about home. You don't talk about your family....”

“Whatta you want to know?” he asks.

“I don't know. How's your wife?”

“Perfect,” he answers and looks out the window. “She's perfect.”

“You love her?” she asks around her lipstick tube, working on her bottom lip.

He looks back at her. “Do I love her? What the hell kind'a whore question is that? Yeah, I love her. You think I'd keep showin' up here, bangin' you, I didn't love her? Christ...” He hammers his cigarette out in the ashtray and gets up. “Do I love her? Don't you ever ask me that again...”

He's throwing on his shirt as she puts her lipstick away and turns from the mirror to face him.

“So, you love her, but you don't sleep with her?”

He won't look at her eyes. “... I sleep with her.”

“Yeah, you sleep with her...but you don't fuck her. Does she even let you touch her?”

“Hey, you watch your mouth, awright? This is you and me here; not me and her.” He sits to put on his socks and shoes. He's quiet for a few seconds. “She don't need some big ape crawling all over her... sweating all over her.... She don't need that. I told you, she's perfect.”

Somewhere in my head there must be a story this belongs to... Who are these two and what happens next....?

Beats me.... maybe I'll find out while I'm washing the car.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Livin La Vida Laundry

The days are too short. The nights are too long.
And I'm living my life through my socks.

It's that time of year when chores seem to pile up, at work and at home. There's more sunlight and "too cold" is no longer available as an excuse to not work on the house.

Something happens to my brain during time changes and I don't sleep much. And when I do the dreams are .... odd.

Maybe that explains why I'm watching my socks dance the night away.

They gather together and dance in the dryer. They roll and tumble, cozy and warm.

It's not so bad when they are in the washer. You can't see them. And I only use cold water, so they don't get to enjoy the "hot tub" effect.

But in the dryer they are partying with all the other clothes, and I'm sitting here watching them.

I think I need another beer.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Spring Forward, Fall Flat

Some mornings it doesn't matter what time it is. It's still too freakin' early.

Ever have one of those mornings where you wake up feeling hung over and don't have a good time to blame it on? Having one of those today. One of those mornings where "Aliens are beating me in my sleep!" Seems as good an explanation as any.

This is Dakota the Wonder Mutt on a good day. Dakota was raised by cats. When you rub her stomach she growls. She thinks she's purring.

It scares the crap out of the little neighbor kids.

Being raised with cats, she thinks nothing of playing with cats. And usually fails to think anything WHILE playing with cats. They love to play chase with her. They love to lead her into places she can't get out of. Places that, when they head off into the neighborhood to tell their cat friends about it... "You won't believe what the Wonder Mutt did this time.....!!" it is guaranteed to get them lots of rounds of drinks or milk, or whatever, at the local cat bars. Here's an example:

The cat and the dog were playing on the other side of the house. I heard a small crash, then some silence, then some banging that sounded like something bouncing off the walls and the dining room table and chairs. Then.... silence.

The cat came in and sat on the arm of my chair and I swear, laughed. Like a dutiful human, I went off to investigate and found this:

The cat had led the dog into the catbox,
Dakota was sitting in the middle of the dining room floor, her head and one fore leg stuck inside the opening. The banging and knocking must have been her efforts to get herself free.
Now, she was sitting very still, looking out from under the lid with this "Please don't laugh at me" plea in her eyes.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Williebee's Law of Self-Importance

"The more seriously you take yourself, the less seriously others will."

Oh, and you have to give a snake credit. Say what you will... slimy reptilian, product of sin, whatever. In the morning a snake is a snake. At the end of the day? A snake is still a snake. No games, No pretending. Just another freakin' snake. Which only goes to show that snakes are still better than some academics I've worked with lately.

[soapbox removed and put away, thank you.]

Remember: On the outside of every thin woman is some fat guy trying to get in.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Disposable Hardware

While out with some friends last night I took a walk down some old hallways. One of them took me back to a brief time in Dallas when I sold closed-circuit satellite feeds of events like boxing matches to sports bars and topless bars. It didn't last very long. It's not that I didn't enjoy the job. But it didn't go over too well as a "Career Day" presentation to my daughter's third grade class.

This was back about the beginning of the age of pagers. There was a topless bar in the Metroplex that ran a daily "Businessman's Special" starting at 11:00. (Never go in before they open at 11:00. The only thing more depressing than having lunch at a topless bar is seeing one before they open; Empty, all the lights on... It's a sad, cavernous hole where the only things that seem alive are the stains and the stench borne of years of gathered frustrations.)

Which leads us back down that hallway, to the point of this post. A large, matronly lady ran the place. She used to greet everybody at the door during the first hour or so of each day. She'd collect all the guy's pagers from them. "Honey, you ain't gonna call them back from here, anyway...."

A little after noon she'd set all the pagers she collected to vibrate and strap them somewhere on her body. Then she'd get up on the stage, grab the microphone, look out at the assembled suits and say, "OK, I'm ready. Page me. Page me NOW!!!!!"


I have to believe that little scenario played itself out in joints like that all over the country; all over a lot of countries. I'm just wondering how much the topless industry had to do with shaping the attitude that pagers and cell phones were "disposable" hardware.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

"Anger comes from Fear, Always."

I wish I could say that I was the first person to uncover that profound little observation, but when I first saw it it was in something written by an eccentric SF genius named Spider Robinson.

It is a profound truth. Feelings of anger are a reaction triggered by feelings of fear.

Fear that “she doesn't like me anymore”; or “he won't want to see me again”;

Fear of losing your job, or if you've lost your job, fear that your peers, friends or family won't see you as worthy anymore. Fear that “I'll never work again.” Or just the fear that you won't be able to pay the bills next month.

And it is self-replicating: Your kid scares the crap out of you by running into the street without looking and you lash out at them in anger. You grab an arm and shout at them, trying to get the message through, and they get scared and angry right back at you.

Good news is, even if it isn't “fixable” it can be made better, just by seeing it when it hits you. When the anger hits, look for the fear that's causing it. Identifying the fear can lessen it. Even if the fear doesn't go away, the anger can.

Hey, unsolicited advice. It's not really a guy thing. I get it from my grandmother. I hope I don't get everything from her. These days she is as likely as not to answer her front door without any pants on. My mom says it is part of the onset of her Alzheimers. But, it might also be an indication that she is the genetic source of my sense of humor.

One other truth Spider taught me.

“Shared pain is diminished. Shared joy is multiplied.”

The second part of that is obvious, the first, not so much. Shared joy does multiply itself. Euphoria loves company. Oddly enough, despite the old saying, misery really doesn't. A miserable person can be made less miserable by sharing his or her burden. But the misery itself gets diminished by the sharing.

It can also help to have a “designated worrier” in your family. Brings me back to my grandmother. When I was little she told me that that was one of her jobs. “You got a problem?” she once said when I was about six, “You come tell Mamma Poe. Then you go play. I'll worry it out for both of us.” Seemed to work every time.

I miss you Mamma Poe...


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hey, I'm walking here!

To paraphrase (badly) a passage from one of the great John D. MacDonald's books:

Overweight people shouldn't run. It is not good for society that they be seen even walking fast. His character, Meyer's, theory was that when you see trim healthy people jogging down a beach or down a sunny street you think “Isn't that wonderful, -- Healthy, exuberant people exercising.” When you see a round, out of shape person running down the beach you begin to look behind them to see what is chasing them. And, when you don't see what is chasing them, you look after them, and see them continuing to run; panting, sweating, moving down the beach. That's when you begin to worry about whatever it is that is chasing them, that you can't see. And so you begin to walk after them, slowly at first, and then faster. And then faster still as you try to make sure that you are at least a couple paces ahead of the other people who are doing what you are doing, trying to get away from whatever evil, terrifying monster is chasing the fat guy. Pretty soon you have a mob of frightened, panicked people running through the streets. Chaos ensues and calamity follows...

In short: Fat people shouldn't run. It's not healthy for the community.

What reminded me of the passage above was this: I went for a walk today.

Whether I'm fat or not is open for discussion. I am somewhat round, but cuddly. My blood pressure is good. I can jog a mile and still have the strength to dial 911 if necessary and I can still both see and tie my own shoes without passing out. How overweight am I? Depends upon who's trying to sell me the diet plan. There are some "experts" out there that think that anyone bigger around than an Olsen twin is overweight.

Having recently discovered a desire to take better care of myself and to be around a little longer, I've started walking whenever I can: To work, from work, to lunch. Take the stairs not the elevator...

But it isn't as easy as I thought it would be. Not that I can't get out the door and walk, I can. But I can't seem to keep walking. People keep stopping me to ask me if I need a ride.

Life in a small town can be like that. When everybody knows most everybody, and is friendly to most of the folks they know, they do that. Every third or fourth car has someone in it you know. They'll see you walking and pull up in front of you.

“Hey neighbor, need a ride?”

“No, thanks. I'm just out walking.”

“Really?” they say. Then they pause for a moment and try not to let their faces give away their amusement and disbelief. “Well..., good for you.”

Of course by then they've stopped you, and you're talking with them. There's a certain etiquette that is required of these things in a small town. You have to talk about the weather, and ask about the kids and grandkids, and what you think the high school basketball team's chances are this year. Fifteen minutes later you're waving goodbye as they pull away; but now you're cooled down and back to square one. Off you go again, but three to four cars later and you're back in conversation.

I'm thinking of getting myself a t-shirt that says “Hey, I'm Walkin' Here!” on the front and maybe “Just exercising.” on the back.

Of course if I did, and someone were to chase me down, beat me unconscious and rob me, bystanders would gather around my silent form and say things to each other like “Hey, I saw him running. I just thought he was getting better at it.”

The sad part is this: If I was young and studly and tanned I could take my shirt off, slap on a pair of hot pink, silk, jogging shorts and walk anywhere in town and people would drive on past me, waving and watching admiringly as I stepped out, exercising my healthy self.

I could walk anywhere in town I wanted to, if only I didn't need the exercise.

Friday, March 03, 2006

My Brain Hurts...

Man, looking back at the first entry, and how long ago it was.... I guess the answer is maybe, but just barely.

Quick update. I successfully completed the nanowrimo contest and the book, Jazz & The Monkey Man is off at publishers, probably collecting rejection notices. But, I did it. I is a novelist.

Back to My Brain Hurts...

Just got back from IL-TCE 2006 , an amazing technology conference for Illinois Educators in Chicago. My thanks to Mindy, Luke, Christine, and all the folks who folded me into their team and made it such a tremendous experience. I will do my best to pass on the knowledge gained and huge heart that the event has. Go ICE!