Friday, February 28, 2014

Round two goes to the possum!

It was cold this morning in my possum blind.  Well, it wasn't really a blind...I just hid behind a tree while my breath steamed in front of me and Momma Kitty sat at my feet.  B-Man and 'Stache were preening in the sunshine, White Kitty and Callie Cat were safely up in the woods catching some early morning rays,  and I had an absolutely immaculate field of vision.  Someone across the river had a wood fire going so an oaky aroma mingled nicely with the crisp tang of the morning air.  From the next farm, a dog barked four times and then quieted.

Guess what?  No possum.  Not a sign of him, not a sound of him, not a scent of him, although I wouldn't have a clue what he smells like.  So it was me, Mamma Kitty, and my trusty .22 lever action, aka "critter gun."  The cold was relentless, so I finally had to prop the gun against the tree and bury my hands in my pockets to relieve the numbness.

Look.  Let me set the record straight.  I don't really want to kill that creature.  As ugly and as menacing as he is, as I've said before, he was born into his fate.  He gets hungry just like my cats do.  Just like I do.  Just like you do.  And he definitely knows I'm around because he's had more than one bullet whiz past his pointy little head.  So he's being ultra cautious.  I've observed him peeking around corners and glancing over his fat possum shoulder as he waddles along.

But the fact of the matter remains: he's a threat.

Though I may be exaggerating that a little because the last time I saw him he was chowing down in the big barn with all four of those cats in attendance, with their attitudes varying between mild curiosity and bored acceptance.  It appears that they may not challenge him and he may not challenge them.  For all I know, they may be sharing tree climbing tips and the cats may be ratting me out for what an easy touch I am.

Of course, that kind of thinking makes it even more difficult.  Plus the thought that once I've dispatched him to the Land of Smithereens, there are most certainly more to follow.  And just how many dead and mangled possums does it take before a fellow gives in to marsupial bloodlust?  At what point do I set straight up in bed in the middle of the night due to a sudden and acute craving to blast a possum?

So let's just say that today I'm conflicted.  My head may be clearer tomorrow and the possibilities range from permanent amnesty to inviting more shooters over to help seal the deal.  Where will my head be when the sun rises on tomorrow?

I don't know.  I really don't.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Stalking the elusive O'

I'm not a killer.  Those of you who know me understand that I would go to great lengths not to take a life.  But there are exceptions to everything and two of those exceptions are possums and skunks.  When you have cats on a farm and you feed those cats, the feeding places become critter magnets.  I'm guessing that Purina Cat Chow is the caviar of the o'possum world and a skunk (or a raccoon) isn't going to be any pickier than a possum around fine dining.  I've been somewhat successful in ridding the farm of these poor, unfortunate souls over the past few years.  I always say it's not their fault as to what body they were born into and that they are simply being what they are.  At that level, it makes it pretty tough for me to take their lives, but I can rationalize in my knowledge that any of them could do serious bodily harm to the cats, and, in the past, that has happened.  Sometimes the course that Nature takes is the course that we personally facilitate.

That leads me to this morning.  I've been stalking a particularly large o'possum for the past couple or three weeks.  He's huge, and, up close, very menacing.  Eyes like malevolent black pearls and teeth like hacksaw blades.  And possibly the ugliest tail God ever put on a living creature, though I did see much more than I wanted to of a pretty good challenger in Walmart this past weekend.

Mr. Possum and I have come face to face several times and he's managed to scoot under the nearest barn wall or quick-waddle into the woods before I could get my gun.  When I'm armed, he's had the most amazing luck.  Two incidences of my rifle jamming and one incident of not knowing there were no bullets in the magazine.  And at least three separate shots that were off target.

This morning, I walked upon him in the barn and I was unarmed.  I looked at him and he looked at me and I could almost see the cartoon bubble above his head that said, "Oh, crap!"  He scurried safely beneath the corn crib.  But I knew his habits so I retrieved my rifle and set up in another barn and waited for him to come out into the open.  I knew exactly where my cats were, so there was no chance of killing one of them with a bad shot, something that had nearly happened earlier in the week.

As I stood there beneath a flawless blue sky, I was taken with the absolute beauty of the morning, and while I waited to shed marsupial blood, a poem cozied itself up inside my head and I tapped it out on my iPhone as I kept my eyes peeled for my quarry.  I call it:

A Ode to an O'possum on a brisk late February Morning

Save the cawing of a crow
Laying late morning shadow
Awaiting the thaw of the sun
Universally joined as one
Locked and loaded with shell
I'll blow that possum to hell.


P.S.  He never showed his pointy, little snout.  The dance continues!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

You know the drill

Very short check-in today with something you might try.  If you have a fear of going to the dentist and want to overcome that fear, go to a periodontist.  After that visit, going to the dentist will feel like a stroll down Main Street in Disney World with Mickey and Goofy.  With Snow White in a sheer negligee waiting for you in the castle bedroom.  Or in the case of you ladies, Prince Charming in a thong.

My gawd!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Process Improvement for Smokers

Yep...he's doing it again.  Writing about smoking.  But before anyone jumps to any filtered conclusions, let me say that I write this with nothing but heartfelt sincerity and the wish to make the world a better place for both smokers and non-smokers.  If this process is engineered properly, it has the propensity to save smokers a ton of money, have a positive impact on the environment, reduce taxes for all citizens, as well as promote camaraderie amongst comrades.   And, quite frankly, if all of this is accomplished, ending world hunger can't be far behind.

For lack of a better term, and I'm wide open for suggestions here, I call it Passing the Butt.  The actual process is very simple:  almost as simple as smoking itself.  It's so simple, simpletons can excel at it.

Here's the way it works.  We all know that smokers like to prepare for everything that happens, greet all occasions, and meet all demands by...well...smoking.  When a smoker goes somewhere, anywhere, it's pretty darn important to light up as you exit your car and head for wherever you're going at the time.  And you generally have to double or triple-puff in order to get as much "good" out the cigarette as you can.  Before you have to put it out to go inside.

My research reveals that there are at least three leading venues for this activity:  Walmart, Goodwill, and any restaurant.  Now here's part two, and this is as noteworthy as part one.  After the activity (shopping, browsing, eating) is over, just as soon as smokers step foot outside a structure, they have to light up...hopefully before the door closes behind them.  Highly tenured smokers are slapping a cigarette from the pack and digging out their lighter as they head toward the exit.  Once there, it's pure ballet to watch them exit with cigarette in lips and bring the lighter up in a very fluid motion, just as the automatic doors are opening.  If the building doesn't have automatic doors, the truly talented can shoulder the door open and light the smoke at the same time.

Now, here's the beauty to my process.  Here's the artistic side of Passing the Butt.  You've got to know that there are a ton of perfectly good cigarettes wasted between the car and Walmart and Walmart and the car.  Or prior to supper at the buffet or just after your buffet supper.  No matter how hard and fast you puff, you barely get half the cig smoked before you have to put it out.  I've seen folks' eyes bugging out as they try to suck that cigarette dry before having to drop it in the used cigarette bucket.  Well...don't do that anymore!  Pass it off!  Pass your butt off!

Here's how it works.  There will be designated areas in most public places where arriving smokers and departing smokers will converge.  Think in terms of those little sheds at airport parking lots, where people wait for the shuttle to the terminal.  (I try so hard not to use the word terminal when I'm writing about smoking, but sometimes you can't avoid it.)  Let's take the Walmart parking lot, for example.  When you arrive at Walmart, don't get out of you car and light up.  Instead, head directly for the Passing the Butt kiosk.  If there's not already somebody there trying to suck the life out of a cigarette before they get to their car, there soon will be.  Now...are you ready?...that person will pass their half smoked or quarter smoked cigarette off to an arriving smoker.  The departing smoker now feels much better about having not "wasted" a cigarette, and the arriving smoker doesn't have to light up a new one only to have to extinguish it in a matter of seconds.  Ching, ching!

Of course, the arriving smoker gets much more advantage from the process at that point, but guess what?  As soon as the arriving smoker finishes shopping or eating or checking prices at Goodwill, he or she becomes a departing smoker, and they get to pay it forward to some other arriving smoker!  Beautiful in its simplicity and simple in its beauty, is it not?

Of course, I understand there are glitches.  First of all, you can't be concerned about catching some bug or disease from sharing your butt.  But I figure if you're a smoker, your health is one of the last things on your mind.  Secondly, you have to be flexible.  If you're a menthol smoker, occasionally you'll need to go non-menthol.  And vice versa.  Also, there will be a few roll-your-owns in the process, so get ready for a product not quite as perfect as those mass produced cigs.  If lipstick on the filter bothers you, then men may want to wait for other men instead of bumming a butt off a woman.  After some time spent operating within the confines of this process, I think all these little secondary concerns give way to the larger good.  Don't you?  And I'm going to bet that this is going to be an excellent way to meet new people.

So there you have it.  If you've got process improvements, let me know.  This is, after all, something brand new and I would expect to run into unforeseen issues.  But, hey, that's half the fun:  smoking out the problems.  There are no ifs, ands, and butts about it. Pass the Butt is definitely going to be the Next Big Thing.

Google, google, tweet, tweet

When I was Googling this morning, I decided to coffee and toast.  Upon toasting, I found that I would like to jam as well.  Since we were out of jam, I jellied. As I was coffeeing and toasting and jellying, I wondered about the homo sapiens' love affair with turning nouns into verbs.  And why we choose to discriminate and give some social networking entities their own verb (Twitter), others no choice but to verbalize the noun (Google), and still others neither or, perhaps both ( in "I'm going to be Facebooking for awhile" or "I can't mop the floor, do a load of wash, and cook your dinner right now because I'm catching up with my Facebook.")

Maybe the big question is:  do we really care?

Probably not.  So instead of blogging this morning, I think I'll go for a jog, which will set me to jogging.  And, with a little dexterity, while I'm jogging, I can tweet, Facebook, and Google.  I may decide to be a rebel and Twitter instead of tweet, basically letting that little activity know that I don't have to recognize its own special little verb and that Twitter needs to get off its high horse.  In fact, though it would be quite a challenge mentally and physically, while I'm jogging I could actually be blogging about tweeting and Googling.  And I could link that to Facebook!

Now that would be something you could write home about.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Momma Kitty

This morning, Momma Kitty and I shared some swing time and sunshine.  Seldom, if ever, can I spend time with her that I don't think back to the day I first spotted her and her kittens.  That was posted in another blog a few years back, so, in honor of Momma Kitty, who is one stalwart feline, I want to re-blog those two posts here.

Trunk Kittens - Part I

Country roads tend to bring the best and the worst out in people. A late June day in 2006 characterized that. Geri and I were leaving the farm after a relaxing afternoon of enjoying the pastures, woods, and river and had traveled only a mile down our country road when we came upon a light colored Camry, parked in the middle of the gravel lane. It was just getting dusky dark and we were in a heavily shaded area, so detail was difficult. However, we could see one person in the passenger seat while the driver, an older man with longer, tussled grey hair, was heaving items from the trunk onto the roadside. It isn't unusual to see garbage suddenly appear on the side of a country road. Tons of people out there breathing our air believe burdening the pristine countryside with their empty milk cartons, eggshells, and cigarette butts is perfectly acceptable. It's unusual to catch someone in the act, however, and we prepared ourselves to invite them to retrieve their garbage and be on their way. Funny thing though: as soon as what the man was heaving from the trunk landed on the roadside, it rolled, shook, and scampered off into the overgrowth. We saw the last of the kittens and the mother cat being tossed out unceremoniously just as the piece of worthless nothing spotted us. He hurried back to the drivers side, opened the door, and sped off in a spattering of gravel and a storm of dust. From the edge of the woods, we spied one little kitten head which quickly turned and disappeared into the brush and bushes. Geri and I could only stare at each other speechless. Did we really just see some lousy excuse for a human being slinging kittens from the trunk of a car? Is this how all these poor animals end up on country roads to starve to death, die of thirst, or the victims of the teeth and claws of coyotes? How we wished that what was being dumped was the remnants of a McDonald's Deluxe number three or last weeks pile of newspapers. We searched for the little fellows but the dark was coming quickly and we had no choice but to head home and ponder the fate of the trunk kittens.

Heading for the farm the following morning, the kittens weighed heavily on our minds and we decided we would spend some time looking for them. Well, we didn't have to try to find them. They found us. Sitting by the side of the country road were two kittens. Waiting. Waiting for us we now assume. If they'd had thumbs, they would have been hitchhikers the way they sat there so bravely, fear and anticipation swapping in and out of their little eyes. We pulled over and they drew back a bit. When I looked up the bank and through the thick undergrowth, I spotted the momma. And with the momma, one more kitten hanging close and shadowing momma's every move. The little hitchhikers were bullseye tabbies, one darker than the other but identical other than the coloring. The little gal with her momma was solid grey. Geri and I knew we had one chance to try to catch and save this little discarded family.

Always planning for strays, we had a cat cage and cat food in the 4Runner. We opened several cans and put them on the side of the road. The two hitchhikers had retreated and now Momma Kitty and the three kittens were all just out of reach up the bank off the road, scampering between bushes and hiding in thick weeds. Eventually, the aroma of breakfast won over and all four little ones (Momma Kitty was barely out of kittenhood herself) came creeping toward the food. It all happened so fast that I don't recall the details, but within a few minutes we had Momma and the three kittens in the cage. They weren't very happy about it, but they were so hot, sick, tired, and hungry, they had no fight left. Looking at them it was obvious that their life before being slung from the trunk of a car wasn't much better than being abandoned in the hot countryside. They were so skinny and sick, they opened their mouths to mew, but no sound came forth.

We brought them home. Momma, a little boy and two little girls. The little boy was the worst off...he didn't have the energy to eat. We soon discovered why. We took them to the basement and one by one took them from the cage and began to wash them. The rinse water that came off them was somewhere between brown and dark red. Hundreds of fat, full fleas flowed from their coats and down the drain. Their bodies were covered in little blood red bites. They weren't pleased about the bath, but they could muster no fight. It was a Sunday and no vet access, so we studied how we would care for them until we could get them evaluated. For now one cage would have to be their home until we knew the next step to take. So after providing food and water (the little boy had to be force-fed), we put clean towels and a litter box in the cage and they rested easy for perhaps the first time in their lives. (To be continued...)

Trunk Kittens - Part II

I haven't really thought about it until now, but I suppose the trunk kittens and their momma must have had a little deja vu when we carried their cage and put it in the back of the SUV. Little did they know that this trip was going to be a good trip, much different than the several miles in stifling heat in the trunk of the monster people's Camry a couple of days earlier. When the vet finished her examination, Geri and I learned that the kittens and momma had everything possible wrong: worms, ear infections, URI, eye infections, and anemia from the flea bites. The good news was that they had neither FIV nor feline leukemia. Armed with a dozen bottles and some eyedroppers, we took them home and we began to nurse them. The momma and the two girls responded well. Depression gripped the little boy and he was the hardest to medicate and food had to be forced down his throat. By then I had constructed a three cage kitty condo - three separate cages connected for plenty of room. A bathroom, a bedroom, and a den/kitchen combo.
The little boy would situate himself in the middle cage, the den, and often refuse to nurse his mother. I worried about him but I knew that if he could shake his depression - and maybe the memory of being slung in a ditch like a bag of garbage - he would be okay.

One of the little females was a girly-girl and the other was a blatant tomboy. In the mornings we would go into the basement and check on them, and, for the longest time, I anticipated the little boy would be a goner.

Rocky needing Prozac

But time, medicine, and tender loving care all paid off and in a few weeks they turned into healthy happy critters. It was time to name them and thus Momma Kitty, Gracie (the girly girl), Tiger (the aggressive tomboy), and Rocky (the little fellow who wanted to quit but never did) joined the Gray family. Today, Momma Kitty lives on the farm with the farm cats (a future blog), and the three kittens live the good life downstairs (away from their doggie brother and sister and in their own eminent domain). Being the protective father, it was a year before I wanted to let them out (what did I know about cats? - I never had one). Plus, face it, I rather enjoyed their company as they helped me prepare for a Sunday School lesson or generally just hung out.

Helping Dad with his research

Chilling in the good life

But Geri finally convinced me to install a cat door. The pics below represent their first moments outdoors (they had viewed it through the window and figured it looked pretty neat). I love the cat door as much as they do, but I have to admit that I'm not always pleased with what they capture and bring in as presents from time to time. You won't believe some of the things they manage to maneuver through that little cat door.

Also, you'll meet Momma Kitty, a hero in my books and as happy as a a cat in slop out on the farm.

Momma Kitty

Tiger and Rocky discovering the New World

Awe-struck Gracie

Rocky living his pipe dream

Friday, February 21, 2014

Evil Women in Song

I was driving down the road a few days ago and the song "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," starting playing.  I've always liked the song and could still sing along with the words after all these years.  Somewhere near the end of the song, it occurred to me what an unredeemable excuse for a human being Ruby was.  And that led me to trying to think of a more despicable character in a song...or at least a more despicable woman in a song.  And the only one close to her I could come up with was Lucille, as in "you picked a fine time to leave me Lucille."

Okay.  Let's look at those two songs for a minute.  As fate would have it, they were both performed by Kenny Rogers.  Mel Tillis wrote Ruby, and supposedly, it was based loosely on a true story about a couple he knew in Florida with the soldier actually serving in WWII.  Mel updated the song to the Korean War but it wasn't recorded for the first time until 1967 by Johnny Darrell, so everybody assumed that the "crazy Asian war" was the Vietnam War.

Forget the war stuff...heck, we've been in a constant war with somebody or another since 1941...let's get back to what a full-out loser Ruby was.  Her husband's lost the use his legs fighting in the war, can't leave the house without help, and Ruby can't temper her libido enough to stay home with him and watch Combat or Green Acres on the tube.  Nope, she's got to smear lipstick on as thick as butter and curl her out-of-the-box blonde hair.  (Could have been red or brunette, but I'm betting the little floozy was a bleach blonde.)  And does she just leave? way.  She slams the door on the way out.  As he plots her violent demise.

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition recorded the song in 1969.  It hit number 39 on the country charts but did much better on the Hot 100, topping out at #6.

Let's take a look at Lucille, the first runner up.  This became the first song recorded by Rogers as a solo artist and it reached number one on the country charts in 1977, also hitting number 5 on the regular charts, proving that nasty acting women in song could sell records.  What was Lucille's thing?  Pretty simple...she hightailed it to a bar in Toledo, Ohio (that in itself should be evidence enough of poor judgement), leaving behind her old man, four hungry children, and a crop in the field.  Not exactly a "Mother of the Year" contender.  Let's look at that again...four hungry children...could she not have at least left something cooked in the freezer that Dad could microwave for dinner?  And how long was she planning on staying?  The husband must have thought for quite a while because he had concerns about the crop in the field.  Appears that Lucille needed to get her cotton-picking butt home, sling on some overalls and work boots, and get to plowing or something.  And she might as well have done that, because the could-have-got-it-if-he-wanted-to cad who took her back to the motel (the husband should have slapped him off the barstool instead of whining about the four snot-nosed brats and the tobacco that needed topping) suddenly got a dose of guilt and couldn't perform anyway.  So it was not a memorable night for anyone.

So how could this all have worked out better for everyone?  Here's the way I would have written it.

Lucille, a bored farmer's wife, decides she needs a night out and chooses to tell her husband that she's going to a Tupperware party in Toledo.  When she leaves, the husband, who's a little on the needy side anyway, notices that she seems to be sprucing up a bit much for a Tupperware party, so he follows a safe distance behind in the rattly old pickup.  When Lucille gets to the seediest bar in south Toledo, she runs upon Ruby, who, in the past couple of months, has already worked her way through about all the rummy derelicts who flock to this sticky floored dive at about noon everyday, and the two of them decide to share a club sandwich with their whiskey sours. Ruby unloads on Lucille about how tough it is to live with a wounded vet, an older man at that, and how she's still up for a little partying and such now and again but all her husband wants to do is sleep and thumb through old editions of "Field and Stream."  Lucille tells her that she needs to count her blessings because at least Ruby doesn't have four rug rats running around the house screaming and yelling like a bunch of banshees - wanting this and wanting that - AND a husband who would rather be bush hogging than tush hugging.  Ruby reckons that Lucille has a point there and they decide to have a shot of Jack Daniel's neat and another whiskey sour.  And, by the way Barkeep, do you know how to mix a Singapore Sling?

Lucille's husband, who had lost her trail about halfway between the farm and Toledo finally spots her car in the bar's parking lot, and, about the time he walks in, Ruby and Lucille are shit-faced in the corner and trying to sing "You Light Up My Life" but they can't remember the words.  Mr. Lucille helps them out of the bar, loads them both up in the cab of the truck, and agrees to drive Ruby home.  Just as they are pulling into the subdivision, they spot Mr. Ruby wheeling in down the street in his wheelchair with a 20 gauge shotgun propped across his lap.  They pull over, Mr. Lucille and Mr. Ruby have a short conversation out of earshot of the two new BFFs, they unload the shotgun, load the wheelchair in the back of the pickup, and drive home.  Mr. Ruby has ribeyes in the freezer and cold beer in the fridge, so the four of them have a cookout, discover they really enjoy each other's company, and become fast friends.  The VA fits Mr. Ruby with prosthetics, puts him on anti-depressants and he takes a job driving a tractor for Mr. Lucille, who becomes one of the first renown organic farmers in his part of the country. The Rubys, after several unsuccessful attempts to get preggo, become god-parents to the four Lucille brats, all of whom, by the way, grow up to be very productive and successful citizens.  The oldest son in fact, spends 41 years in insurance claims before retiring to a life of blogging.

We lose two pretty good songs but we save two marriages and dodge the following bullets:  a raging STD for Lucille, a foreclosed farm with the parents and four kids on welfare for life, certain violent death for Ruby, and life imprisonment without chance of parole for a decorated war veteran.

Sounds a little bit like a Nicholas Sparks' plot.  Maybe he'll read the blog.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Turkeys and puberty

On the way to the farm this morning, in a winter-browned field, I saw a group of young toms experiencing an initial testosterone rush, and, in a very human equivalency, not having a clue as to why it was happening or what to do about it.  I'm certain that many of this group were the same chicks that I saw scurrying after their mothers a few months ago, afraid of their shadows and rightly so.  I watched them become 'tweeners and teenagers over the summer and early fall,  an awkward interim phase, still basically  afraid of their shadow, but growing more curious about their surroundings.  Movement from place to place had gone from a frenzied, dusty scurry to a semi-controlled trot, with an occasional glance over their shoulders to see what was going on to the rear.  They were still a bunch of momma's boys (and girls).

Sadly, I would also watch their numbers shrink, but this was something I had grown accustomed to, knowing that these little guys and gals were popular targets for predators, especially a rangy coyote with a growling stomach.

Today, it was all boys...a whole fine gang of them, with tail-feathers fanned, chests puffed, heads bobbing, and wattles swinging freely.  Momma was long gone, as weak a memory as the pale, thin shell they had pecked though to freedom in late spring.  Dad had never been around - delegated to a squawky gargle somewhere across the pasture at the edge of the woods.  And now it was as if they didn't recognize each other as the same gang who had spent the last many weeks hanging out by the river, zigging and zagging after June bugs, and stumbling into each other as they picked their way through the undergrowth and weeds.  Hormones were raging from the bottom of their turkey feet to the tips of their turkey feathers and things just weren't as copasetic as in the past.  They bounced off each other like helium balloons.   Puff up, chest bump, stagger, squawk, and start the whole process again.

Even today, however, was nothing more than a dress rehearsal:   fanning to the max, wattle swinging, gobblety gooking - getting ready for opening night when the ladies show up.  I'm not sure of the ratio, but what I've witnessed in the past seems to indicate something like a half dozen males per female.  Let me put it this way, I've never seen an unhappy hen but I've seen a bunch of frustrated toms.

I left my truck and spent a few minutes watching the boys mix it up.  Scrum and separate and scrum again.  Feeling good that so many of them had made it through a really cold winter but feeling bad that in a very short period of time, the days of youth would be officially over and it would all be about the business of procreating.  And before I know it, in just very few weeks, I'll see a frenetic, stray hen trying to lead me away from a nest she has spent days preparing and hiding and tending.  And before I can turn around, there will be a sighting of the first flock, feathery little butterballs (oops) on toothpick legs, scurrying behind momma in single file, with barely a moment and scarcely the chance to consider and comprehend what a miracle life is.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bah, Humbug

Bah, Humbug!  Yeah, I know...wrong holiday, but I don't know what to substitute for the frustration I feel on this day that the florists, the candy makers, and the card companies salivate.  And is there any possible way to not take a little bit of a guilt trip on this day?  I mean, some guys really weird out on Valentine's Day.  They get into the jewelry thing.  They buy clothes and shoes.  And dozens of roses all the colors of the rainbow.  Candlelight dinners with wine, cheese, and chocolate.  Please!  You're just making it tough for us fellows entering the codger stage of life.

Look, I probably have a romantic bone or two left after all these years, but, with my wife I've got this six week trifecta thing going on.  Christmas, birthday, and Valentine's Day within 50 days of each other.  That's overload, folks.  You know it is!  I don't get to go on just a guilt trip...I get a guilt sabbatical.  A guilt extravaganza.  Thank goodness that this holiday pretty much marks the end of all the winter darkness festivals.  All the events of frivolity and cheer that attempt to overcome eight hours of daylight and sixteen hours of dark.   All the Hallmark moments can go to the back of the shelves and we can devote our time to doing something other than pretending to be having a good time in the middle of a cold, dark winter.

I remember other days and other feelings.  Shoeboxes covered in wrapping paper with a slit cut in the top.  Carry them to school and set them along the windowsills  with everybody else's shoeboxes.  Slip around during recess and lunch and pop your valentines in the appropriate shoebox.  The valentines that you carefully chose and prepared at the kitchen table the night before, under the watchful eye of your mother.  Picking out the neutral emotion ones for your guy friends ("Hey, hope your Valentine's Day is full of baseball bats and dirty socks") to ones for the girls that you like but don't love yet (Happy Valentine's Day to a cute girl with a nice smile!") to those one or two or three special ones that said a little more than you were normally comfortable with ("In case you didn't notice, you're the Valentine of my Heart!").  You could drop a couple of little colored candy hearts in those envelopes, and, if you played your cards right, between the valentine and the message on the candy, you could get your point across.

The tough part was coming home with your shoebox full of cards and seeing if the emotions matched.  Did your secret flame give you a valentine that matched the depth of your love for her or did she go with the generic (An elephant saying, "You're a ton of fun, Valentine!")?  Did one of the nice but not really all that cute girls go a little over the top and put you in an awkward position for the next day ( A girl in a robber's mask saying, "Valentine, you've stolen my heart.  Can I steal yours?")  Or, worst case scenario, did you totally bomb out and get shown no love at all?  Nothing special.  No candy hearts.  Everything chance of being able to read anything halfway romantic between the lines.  And having about eight repeats of the same crappy card ("A Valentine wish for you.").

But, not to worry.  We were resilient back in those days.  Just hang in for another few weeks and it's summer vacation and before you know it girls get shoved down to about fifth in line of what's deemed important,  behind baseball, bicycles, the municipal pool, and your pet dog.

So that's what I'll keep in mind today.  I'll put up with all of the Facebook pictures of delivered roses, the posts wishing everyone a happy day, and the occasional news of something spectacular like a new ring or bracelet (or God forbid, an engagement!), and then we'll ease on out of February, into March, and, before we know it, the guilt sabbatical will be behind me, and things will be back to normal.  Everything will be hunky dory and the mature approach I chose to take this day - what's the big deal, it's just another day -  will turn out to be the right approach.  Sensible, wise, and just damn near perfect.

Won't it, honey?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vaping, vaporizing, atomizing or whatever you call it...

(Note:  I have no permission to publish the poster above.  I have no copyrights to the poster and I fully acknowledge the copyright holdings of the owner.  Finally, there appears to be a little bit of sexual innuendo in using a vaporizer, so I may be missing some of the point.  All I know is that when a person was said to have vapors many years ago, it had nothing to do with pleasure.)

In my small town, there is currently a brick and mortar war being waged between the e-cig stores and the payday loan establishments.  I would be one of the last to belittle any entrepreneurial effort in this town or any other.  But, gee whiz, folks...just how many vapor stores and check cashing places do we need in a town this size?  They're already threatening the robust buffet restaurant business for retail space.  But it does make for an interesting morning:  stop by your payday loan joint, get an advance on next month's paycheck because you've already been advanced for the rest of this month's pay, run to your favorite vapor outlet (I want dibs on the term Vaporama...I'll put Walmart to shame with what I can do in a wholesale warehouse environment) and get some fresh inserts or batteries or vapor or whatever it is you need to get the nicotine from the tube you suck on to your bloodstream, and then head to a buffet and graze a few troughs while wondering if that payday loan thing was really all that great of an idea.

Back to the vaporizing.  They say the only thing worse than a smoker is an ex-smoker.  I am an ex-smoker.  But I would never be glib enough to believe I don't have some time bombs ticking inside my body for the 35 years that I sucked poison into my lungs.  In fact, I didn't come out of my smoking years unscathed, but we'll save that story for another day.  Anyway (and if anyone happens to be reading this blog, and that anyone happens to be a current smoker, and you have known me for over an hour, you've heard this least once), let me tell you right now it's impossible to quit smoking.  You heard me.  It's impossible to quit smoking.'s not impossible to become a non-smoker.  And that's what you have to do to win the war.  You've got your gum, your patches, your hokey-pokey hypnosis, your've got your cutting down to a half pack a day, and then five a day, and then one in the morning and one in the evening.  You've got going cold turkey and throwing what's left of your pack out the car window (probably into my ditch).  You've got all those remedies.  But I have to ask.  How's that worked for you so far?

But, now, you've got THE SURE THING.  You've got the vaporizer.  And you can even smoke the vaporizer in places that has banned cigarettes.  Wow!  How cool is that!  And you're getting rid of all the tar and other nasty, nasty additives.  My gosh...when you think about's probably HEALTHIER for you to vape than do nothing at all!

7% of vapor vamps quit smoking within 6 months.  I guess quick math says that 93% do not.  The research hasn't had enough time to calculate how many of that 7% go back to smoking real cigarettes.  And I'm not sure what the median usage expectancy is on the vapor system for those who stay on it for an extended period of time, but I'd bet under a year.

It's just another patch, folks.  It's a patch you can inhale.  An inhalable patch.  Don't fool're not quitting anything and you're certainly not a non-smoker.

Let's get back to that just a minute, because if you are a smoker and you are reading this, I've just about exhausted your attention span, which becomes shorter the angrier you are. It's not that difficult to become a non-smoker.  If I said "If I can do it, anyone can," it probably doesn't have much more impact on you.  But I will say that.  I did it and no one told me that this was what it was going to take.  I picked a day and did it.  You simply wake up one morning - I recommend the morning - and say, "Today, I'm a non-smoker."  And you continue to say that for days, weeks, months, and years.  The physical withdrawal is a piece of cake.  Thirty days tops.  Probably more like two weeks.  The psychological withdrawal lasts a lifetime.  It has for me anyway.  Don't have any expectations of losing the psychological addiction.  But it is definitely a sharply declining curve.  Two, three, four, ten years into the process, once in a blue moon, I'll have a five second thought about smoking a cigarette.  Then it's gone.  (Hmmm...same thing with sex....)

Sometimes I have nightmares that I'm smoking again.  Next to my recurring nightmare of it being opening night at the theatre and I haven't learned a single line, it's the most terrifying dream I have.  I am so disappointed in myself.  I can't believe that I gave in.  And, when I awake, I absolutely reek with relief that it was only a dream.

  It's probably hyperbole, but it might be the one thing I'm most proud of in my life.

Okay, I'm done.  If I've kept you this long into my rant, I hope you found something to smile about.  Or frown over.  Or something that was even a little entertaining.  Perhaps you were even able to come to the decision that you'll never pull up this damn guy's blog again.  But if you did that, you might want to wait until I take on the payday loan folks.  That's coming shortly.  And then, maybe, just maybe, the result here is that you'll become a non-smoker.  Or will encourage someone else to become a non-smoker.  Or never take it up yourself in the first place.  And, as corny as it sounds, the time we spent together today will be so well worth it for both you and me.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pen names

I've been toying with pen names for a few days now, since I've got some stuff to write that I probably shouldn't put my name to.  (I love ending a sentence in a preposition; it's, like, rad.)  I read a long time ago that a writer never really becomes free until his or her parents have passed away.  I always took that to mean that as long as you had a parent susceptible to reading what you wrote, you might just hold back a little.  Or a lot.  Don't know if that's true, but we'll see.  Thus the pen name.  The beauty of a pen name is that it can be anything you want it to be...and it actually becomes fiction in itself.  It seems that many writers like to use initials.  Initials carry some gravity, if used properly.  Like "J.K." or "W.R." or "Z.B."  Well, maybe not "Z.B."  I could use my own initials which I'm kind of partial to:  "J.D."  Then I could change my last name and write my guts out, my brain dry, and my hands numb.  With supposedly no consequences.

Then you got the big boys who, for whatever reason, decided to publish on the sly.  Stephen King wrote under Richard Bachman because he said that when he first started writing, publishers would only accept one book a year from an author.  Poor guy..must have been tough to have been so prolific.  George Eliot, of course, was a woman, who lived with a man, who was married.  But that was okay at the time, kinda sorta, because George wasn't a man living with a married man, though today that might require a pen name also.  And then there's Samuel Langhorne Clemens whose nom de plume (ah, worked a little French in there, didn't I?) was...yes... I know you know.  I'm thinking that Mark Twain was better equipped to deal with all the second guessing and social angst that probably erupted after the publication of Huckleberry Finn than Sammy was.  Say!  There's an idea.  Perhaps I can call myself John Thrice...that has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?  Or maybe J.D. Thrice.

 Or I could just continue to use my own name and let the chips fall where they may.  It's not like anyone who knows me is going to change their opinion (better or worse) significantly because of something I write.  I mean, at this point, you either dislike me or hate me and my prose isn't going to change that.  I will admit that my poetry might cause you to abhor me, and I think abhorring is a pretty heavy thing to do.  However, you simply cannot knock me off my low horse with criticism.  As far as those who don't know me, I get a fresh start.  Sometimes it takes years for a person to reach a conclusion about someone.  Sometimes it takes a paragraph.

I emailed a friend today that had a really cute comment about my "trashy ditch" post.  (My wife is my biggest, and probably, only, fan, and she sends links to this blog and shames her friends into reading them.)  Anyhow, I told this appropriately shamed friend that I was considering the pen name of Anonymous.  But wouldn't you know,  it had already been taken.  Seems like this guy or gal has been writing forever and has put out some pretty good stuff.  In fact it may be a whole family of writers given the time period the work covers.

 Hope they're getting paid.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Newton's law of gravity states that any two bodies in the universe attract each other with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.  (Thank you Wikipedia.)  God's first law for us people types was for Adam and Eve to keep their hands off the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Makes me wonder if maybe built in to that law was for Adam and Eve to keep their hands off each other.  And I've always questioned the effectiveness of the fig leaf in concealing bodily delights.  I think that simply heightened the mystery and broadened the temptation.  What what did you think of the fig, Newton?

Before I agitate all of my Bible literalist friends, let me remind you that I find an eery yet comforting connection between God and Science and quantum physics and the matter of the soul.  (Allow me recommend Gary Zukav's Dancing Wu Li Masters and Seat of the Soul.)  So hold off on constructing the stake and stacking the wood for a bit.  I think we humans have been restating the obvious in different terms for thousands of years.  Like what goes up must come down.  And, no, I'm not going to tie that law into this subject.  I'll let you do that yourselves.

Anyway...I thought it was interesting that we use the symbol of the apple for both the fruit of the tree as well as the fable around how Sir Isaac discovered gravity.  Maybe it's just me but I don't believe in coincidences.  But I do believe if you pay attention, everything is revealed.  Multiple times.  Which says that God certainly knows His audience.


Did Newton muse the gravity
Of Eve's plummet?
The apple of Adam's I
First Law spoken
Like d'evil to the core.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday morning coming down

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of Kris Kristofferson.  I think he's a genius.  I read a Facebook comment from someone just a couple of days ago who had been to one of his recent shows, with Merle Haggard or some other legend, and that Kris had been so drunk that he screwed up his lyrics.  The comment was why didn't he just give it up and fade out with dignity or something like that.  Okay, hold on.  Kris, you see, has the right to fade out any way he wants to.  They're his damn lyrics and if he wants to turn them upside down and inside out until they become gibberish, more power to him.   If he chooses to get on stage and crap his pants, he's earned the right.  If he wants to grab the celestial light he's obviously been blessed with seeing and comprehending and become an evangelist, moving the masses to a spiritual place they've only imagined, he can go that route.  The point is:  Kris is Kris and that's what makes him who he is.  And, quite frankly, there is no dignity is fading out.  Fading out with dignity is an oxymoron.  So leave my hero the hell alone.

But that's not what I wanted to say today.  What made me think of Kris was the term "Sunday morning coming down."  This has been one on those Sunday mornings.  In approximately forty-five minutes, it will be Sunday afternoon, and we can lay this Sunday morning to rest.  

This morning and I are not getting along all that well.  Part of it is this dreary grey winter we're having.  Kid Rock says he hasn't seen the sunshine in three damn days.  Johnny Cash ain't seen the sunshine since he don't know when.  Jonathan Edwards says sunshine go away today, I don't feel much like dancing.  I'm just glad I'm not the only one that obsesses over sunshine.

People say (and you know who you are) "Quit worrying about the weather.  You can't do anything about it."  Well, do tell!  And here I've been spending my life thinking that I had control over the weather...that all I had to do was close my eyes, put my index finger on the side of my nose, turn around three times, and the weather would change instantly to what I wanted it to be, which would be, by the way, sunshine most of the time.  Sunshine interrupted from time to time with a nice, warm day of steady rain.  How foolish of me to have spent my life under that false assumption!

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about either.  Just like I don't want to talk about the bunny rabbit that I found in my pool this morning.  Floating on its side, one dark eye staring up at the grey sky.  The grey sunless sky.

I figured that he was running to escape a coyote or one of my dogs or just a shadow and didn't see the pool.  I mean who would put a pool in the middle of a perfectly good yard?

And I don't want to talk about the bird I saw one of my cats brunching on while I was attempting to fish the bunny out of the pool with the big net normally reserved for leaves.  But forget the cat and the bird and back to the bunny I don't want to talk about.  I fished him out - rigor mortis had set in - and I apologized to him for what had happened and how sorry I was that he must have suffered an excrutiatingly stressful death.  And that I hoped he was having fun in bunny heaven right now, which I pictured as a huge field of green grass and lots of clover, with tons of both white and red blossoms.  And no dogs.  And no cats.  And no swimming pools right in the middle of paths of escape.  And, yes, lots of sunshine.  Lots of buttery yellow sunshine.  

But, like I said, that's not what I wanted to talk about.  In fact, I don't think I want to talk about anything today.  Maybe something later.  Maybe something after I put on some earphones and listen to some Kris Kristofferson songs and read some Larry Brown short stories.  Maybe after that I'll find something I want to talk about.  If not, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I have something of value to say.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The last bird out

I was at the farm this morning.  The temperature was just below freezing.  All of the accumulated ground water was somewhere between ice and slush.  Not. a. sound.  Not. a. single. sound.  I saw a sparrow light momentarily in a fence row and then vanish in an invisible flutter of wings as if someone had passed a magic wand over it.  I looked at the stark barren trees, the defeated grass, and noted how the old barn seemed to blend perfectly with its surroundings.  A chameleon effect.  It's times like these when the best thing for me to do is think about what lies ahead versus getting caught up in the grey day.  Thank God my hippocampus has a nice store of memories that can at least attempt to override reality.  I'm quite sure the old barn feels the same way.

The last bird out
(I think it was a finch
And perhaps late November?)
Grabbed the detritus of color
Already smeared
By Autumn's clumsy brush.

Collapsing the sounds

Now I slosh through sepia
Caked with winter's crackling quiet
Peering through frosty glass
Until the first bird in
(A martin? A robin red?)
Arrives with a fresh palette/palate

Pregnant with screaming sound.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Ah...Groundhog Day, and according to what I can see, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow in the little village in Pennsylvania that carries his name, so winter will continue its frigid grip on us well into March.  I'm also wondering if Richard Sherman will see the shadows  or hear the pounding footsteps of Orlando Franklin or Chris Clark as they converge on his cocky self to plow him into the permafrost of MetLife Stadium.

Back to the weather, the NOAA tends to agree with Phil, at least as far as the Northeast is concerned, with the Southeast tending toward a slow transition to spring.

At the farm this morning, I saw no groundhogs (nor possums or skunks for that matter) but I did hear what I consider an early warning sign of spring.  One solitary young frog singing somewhere between tenor and baritone, hesitating periodically in hopes of an answer from somewhere in the distance.  I listened as closely as I'm sure he did,  but his effort was not rewarded.  I'm sure that he was looking for lovely soprano retort, either at his pond or the one in the other field (some things are worth hopping a half mile for).  But, alas, as much as both he and I strained, there was no answer.

When the rain started, he quieted a moment, and some time later, he started in again.  I left after awhile, but I like to think that eventually, he caught the sound of a feminine croak on the breeze.  I have to give him kudos.  It's a mite early in the year to begin courting but I'm going to bet that his efforts will pay off.  And on a half moon humid night a few months from now, his baritone will be a full bass and he and dozen of other full grown frogs will provide percussion to the crickets' fiddling while his offspring polliwog in the shallows.   Summer will be in full bloom and winter won't even be a passing thought.  Richard Sherman will be getting his swerve on for summer camp and Punxsutawney Phil will be trying to find a cool place to take a nap.

Bullfrog trills a serenade
To the chilly pond.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Radio preachers

Sometimes I listen to local radio on Sunday mornings, and what I find is a bunch of dueling preachers.  In fifteen minute rounds, they share their special spin on salvation, the correct road to heaven, and how everyone else is going to hell for not feeling the way they do or believing what they believe.  I once had a preacher who believed that everyone's relationship with their God was a personal relationship and that the best you could hope for is to spend your life making that relationship better and closer.  That you should stake your territory at the foot of the cross and stay there.  Sort of a Zen view and I liked it.  I don't find that around much anymore.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not knocking these preachers and their beliefs.  That would be me practicing what they preach:  exclusivity.  There's another little irony for you:  the most inclusive man to ever walk on this globe has been boxed and bracketed over the last two thousand years into objective exclusivity.  Go figure.

Anyway, enough of that.  I was listening to one real-full-of-himself fellow carry on one Sunday and this just happened to be maybe one of the most perfect late summer mornings we've had in a long time.  The sun was buttery yellow, the sky was liquid blue and powdered with cotton candy clouds.   You just wanted to eat the day.  And then take a nap.  I was in the middle of the country with no sounds but real sounds.  God sounds.  I reckoned that it was fairly close to heavenly.  As I sat there, this came to me:

Radio preacher says God's on a throne
Gold it is
Surrounded by 24 elders and a finely feathered choir
Guess he should slip out here to the country
Hear Him raucously barking in a murder of crows
Watch him glide through cornfields
Tickling tassels and stroking stalk tops
See him fingerpaint light and smudge in shadow, 
Yellow, blue, brown and green
Smell him in wood smoke and cedar sap.
I think he slips his throne on Sunday mornings
Hauls on a pair of holey overalls
And chills in the country till it's time for church.

While sitting in a waiting room on a Friday afternoon

Is it just me or does the term "waiting room" give you the creeps?  

Eating over the sink

I have to think 
Original casual dining
Is eating over the sink
No matter what slips
Drops or drips
Whether slice or slather
It just doesn't matter
Everything gathers
So carelessly neat
When you eat
Over the sink.


I would write haiku
If there weren't so many rules
You have to follow.

Not a Haiku

Kris said loving her
was easier
than anything he'll ever do again.
What the hell was he smoking?

Love Haiku #1-Based on a true story

Love is sharing a
Set of dentures and the last
of the baloney.