2011 Blogs

Blog Post 9/16/2011 – NYC circa 1985

It was the 80’s and living was easy.  In retrospect, at least.  It certainly didn’t seem so easy at the time.  But holding those times up against the bright light of these, recessional times certainly has a way of making them seem better.

Walt had a Mazda pickup truck.  It was small, sat two uncomfortably (three very uncomfortably, with safety being compromised) and had an after-market sound system that rivaled anything anybody else had.

Such was the mind of Walt.  You could hear him coming two blocks away.  I had to wear earplugs, because the speaker was right next to my ear.  The tunes sounded good, though.
What??
I said, THE TUNES SOUNDED GOOD THOUGH.

One of our regular pastimes was to load into Walt’s truck with a couple of 5 gallon plastic buckets filled with beer and ice and cruise into the city to see the sights.  We used 5 gallon buckets for two reasons.  First, they were in the truck at the time of purchase.  Second, a regular cooler sitting in the back of a pickup truck fairly advertises itself for stealing.

Things were very different then.  No one (policia) ever gave us a hard time about riding in the back of the pickup.  No one ever looked under the tarp in the back of the truck, either, where extra occupants (myself, Dollar, other guests) would reside.

Going through the Holland tunnel under a canvas tarp in the back of a pickup truck may well have contributed to the pulmonary issues I suffer with today.  Smoking Marlboro reds didn’t help, either.

Once we were in the city there were a few places that we frequented.  There was a great Rock memorabilia store uptown.  Cruising by the Limelight or the Peppermint lounge to see who was standing in line (wasting valuable time), or Chinatown, for it’s many charms.

Sometimes you just don’t know how good a time you were having until you review them years later.  Forking fresh, hot, shrimp lo mien into your pie hole, sharing an egg roll through the sliding window, cruising 60 mph up Broadway, to beat the red lights, dodging buses and taxicabs, (and holding on for your life) watching Walt get into a shouting matches with taxicab drivers, giving perfunctory waves to whoever is behind the tinted glass in the limo you’re next to, scribing your name on the side of a moving bus with a marker…

…what’s this? A smile on my face?

Ray’s pizza on 11th and 6th was a usual destination.  Ray’s made some damned good pizza.  The cheese was so farking thick.  We would pull over on a side street, saunter up to Ray’s, purchase a few slices and sit around the truck, eating, drinking and listening to tunes.

Once, this limo pulls up and double parks next to us.  This shirt and tie dude jumps out, procures himself a couple of slices and comes back.  Walt had some live Yes concert on the stereo.  This guy asked if he could hang out with us. He was a Yes fan, been to a couple of concerts in the past.  Turns out he was some high roller on Wall street.  We shared some beers and a few stories.

Another time we were contentedly munching away when we heard a commotion up at the corner.  Upon investigation we found a group gathered around some drunk chick pontificating loudly from atop a mailbox.  I couldn’t make out what she was griping about, but it didn’t matter.  Some dude in the crowd yelled “Take it off!” and with little more than a belligerent agreement, she begins to strip, throwing each garment out into the cheering crowd.  She was down to her panties when the policia showed up and dragged her off.

Talk about a buzz kill.

I witnessed a scene that I can best describe as ‘a North going Zax and a South going Zax’ (Dr. Seuss reference. It is a short story – the North going Zax meets up with a South going Zax and neither one would move out of the way for the other.  So they stood there staring at each other until they rotted).

And that is about what happened in the middle of this street.  I don’t know the coordinates, it wasn’t important at the time, but the scene unfolded like this:

The North going Zax (actually it was a Rastafarian, judging from his accent, the jiffy pop multi-colored knit hat and gnarly dreadlocks) met up with a South going Zax (Jamaican, similar description) in the middle of the street.  They had some brief, but heated words, then began beating the shitake out of each other;  punches to the face, slamming their military surplus kit bags into each other and cursing in voodoo.  This went on for no more than 60 seconds, then, without so much as a goodbye, they parted ways.  And they stayed inside the crosswalk the whole time.

I’ll tell ya’, you pro’ly won’t get away with it these days, but it makes you want to walk around the city with a camcorder in your hand.

It’s a whole different view sitting in the back of a pickup.  For one thing, you are looking back instead of forward.  That can play tricks on your mind, if you should happen to loose your sense of orientation.  The scene is falling away as you watch, instead of rushing at you.  Sort of the same view the tail gunner on a bomber might see.  Another thing to be mindful of is that if the driver hits anything, like a garbage can, puddle, pigeon, the empty Chinese food container you launched forward, etc; some of that will fly up, over and into the back of the truck.

The girls always liked when we came around.  They would start dancing to the music.  Another Kodak moment – a half dozen ‘ladies for hire’ rocking out to Led Zeppelin impromptu-like in the street.

Once I waved to this homeless lady – she was looking pretty rough.  You know the type – haggard, strung out, spun out, twisted, spindled, mutilated.  I thought a friendly gesture might cheer her up.

It didn’t.

She flipped me the finger, then went on a long winded, foul-mouthed tirade as we tried to distance ourselves from her.  But we were caught in traffic and she was gaining on us.  We slowed her down a bit by tossing a half filled big gulp in her general direction (fragged her).  Even then she still managed to get close enough to take a swing at the truck with a filthy grocery bag. Bitch.

Some nights we would tour the waterfront.  Over by the shipping terminals there was a place called the Terminal Diner.  I wouldn’t allow us to eat there because it sounded like the kind of place where you sit down, eat and die. (Terminal, ya’ know?).

Another occasional stop was the IBM building, to visit the gardens.  I know, I know, what were a bunch of drunkards doing walking around the IBM gardens? Pro’ly the same thing everyone else thought.  (We weren’t the only ones).  It’s a cool place to visit.  There is usually something going on – a show or demonstration.  And it gave the boys a little culture.

In late June we would venture in to purchase fireworks.  Always a touchy affair, one was never sure who one would be dealing with.  Or where.  Sometimes it was out of the trunk of a car along the street.  Other times it was out of a basement door beneath the Chinese take-out place.  Once, and only once, it was in the office of a corner gas station, they locked the door behind us.  It didn’t give us the warm and fuzzy, you know?

Once business began, however, we quickly gained the respect of our vendors.  We were there for a bulk purchase and we demanded quality.  Walt, always looking to make an impression, said, “What’s the biggest thing you’ve got?”
“I got a stick of dynamite.”  Replied the one eyed, dude with two missing fingers; cigarette dangling from his lips.
“Nah.” Walt dismissed the offer. “What the hell are we going to do with that? What about rockets?”
“I got a one pound rocket.”
Walter’s eyes lit up. Sold!

This thing looked like a red 16 ounce beer can with a pointy top taped to the handle of a garden tool.  It was about 4 feet in total length.
I commented that the fuse looked pretty short for such a large piece of ordinance.
“Where the hell are we going to launch that artillary piece?”
Walt smiled. “Off the beach.”

The following weekend Walt and I are on the beach in Seaside Park.  It was a fairly dark, rainy night. Perfect conditions for such an endevour.

We dug a proper launching hole and checked the angle for a seaward trajectory.

I quipped (again) about the short fuse.
“Stand back, Birdwell…heh, heh, heh…” (Walt’s usual forewarning).

How to describe the sound of a one pound rocket firing off?  Whooosh, sure.  But not like the kind of whiny whoosh you get out of the class C fireworks most of us are familiar with.  More than even the whoosh of a model rocket, if anyone still does (or is allowed to do) that.

Much more.  This WHOOOOOSSSHHHHHH was something more guttural, beastly, visceral.  And by that I mean that the sound went through your body.  We knew immediately that we had crossed into a new realm of pyrotechnics.
It lifted off slowly, at first.  Slow enough that both of us had a split second of doubt.  But that was quickly erased as the secondary stage kicked in.

The rocket blasted out across the ocean, leaving a trail of grey smoke and disappeared over the curvature of the Earth. We disappeared ourselves before the Coast Guard showed up and shot us.

Blog Post 8/10/2011 – Blackfoot

I like to be barefoot.  I find it natural, relaxing and comfortable.  Sure, I step on the occasional rock or thorn and I get nailed by the occasional shard of glass or bee sting.  But by now the soles of my feet are so thick and tough that it takes more than an incidental sharp object to get through.  Of course, wasps are more resourceful and sting me on top or between my toes.  Bastards.

And you wonder why I go on prolonged ‘flying-stinging-insect’ eradication efforts…

Getting to the point where you can walk around barefoot takes some doing. Much like committing to Scotch whiskey as your default libation. You don’t just eschew your zapatos one day and frolic, carefree, across the land. You have to build up your dogs proper. You become much more aware of where you put your feet, and what you are stepping on.

You should begin by walking around the grounds that you are familiar with. For the most part, in and around the house is a good training area. Rough enough to present a challenge, but not too hard on your tender feeties.

Once you have become accustomed to the surprise stick, stone, acorn or small child’s toy (Damn you, McDonald’s and your Happy Meals), move onto the garage. The garage stage is two-fold. First, it moves you up a notch on the endurance scale. You have to deal with the screws, nuts, bolts and other crap from your last three repair projects. Second, it gives you a pointed (got that? Pointed!) reminder to clean up after yourself.

You also have to be mindful of those situations where you cannot walk barefoot. Like scorching blacktop or sun baked beach sand. Those two situations can blister the soles of your feet and render you incapable of walking for a week. Awareness, Grasshopper. You need to be aware of your environment. Otherwise you will cripple yourself and set back your training by a couple of weeks.

Gravel driveways can be tough, but you can work your way up to that. There is a method to walking crushed stone and it has a lot to do with sadomasochism. You need to be committed. Get it in your head that you will make it to the other side. Shorter steps are easier than longer ones. You need to keep moving, because stopping hurts more. Pick up the foot that is being impaled by a sharp stone and move it, quickly. Roll your feet from the side, across the flat and down, but not fully down. It also helps if you aren’t carrying extra weight, like around your waistline.

Crushed and otherwise sharp edged stones are tough, no doubt. But rounded stone is a pleasure to walk on, especially if warmed by the sun. You still have to watch where you are placing your feet, but the massage you get is worth it. I can spend the better part of an hour walking the warm stones around my house, until I feel like I am slacking off.

The cool evening grass is also very pleasurable on bare feeties. It is a soft and moist. That is exactly why worms and slugs live there, mostly unseen, until you have squished one. Worm and slug slime is difficult to remove. Despite being mostly water, it does not easily wash off. You need to scrape it off with some kind of scraper that scrapes. If you don’t, all sorts of crap will stick to your feet for days. You may think it came off, but really it just dried up. Get it wet, like in the shower, and it will reconstitute to a slimy, sticky patch all over again.

Of course, your feet get dirty – ‘black’ my wife likes to say. After a while, they get stained dark, even with daily washing. Grass, driveway blacktop, tree fruits, squashed bugs and a host of other things leave their mark. But, just like in the Martial Arts, black is a sign of elevated status. The wife won’t be pleased with your discolored soles hanging off the bed no matter how long a stretch of rocky ground you can traverse.

Eventually callouses form, which gives you options for scratching things that itch below knee level. If they get too thick or uncomfortable, you can grind them off on a patch concrete or with a good metal file (flat bastard).

Another thing to remember is that once you have blackfoot, you need to wash your feeties before putting socks on, or you will make the insides of your socks dirty. You might not have noticed, but only the outsides of your socks get crudded up. The insides are mostly clean because you put your socks on after you get out of the shower.

Need to rid yourself of the blackfoot before a visit to the foot doctor? Spend a day on the beach. The sand and salt water will scrub things up good. Seaside visitation not in your plans? Use a stiff bristled brush, like the one you scrub the floor with, and laundry soap.

Aside from the general good feelings being barefoot gives you, it also presents opportunities to work on your dexterity by picking things up with your toes, or opening doors. Both of which I am quite good at. Having to navigate no less than 4 doors, with a full dog dish in each hand, once a day, afforded me plenty of practice.

And you wonder why I despise dogs so much…

Being a father, I am ever vigilant for an opportunity to teach my daughter a new life skill. Amongst us Pagano’s there seems to be a recessive genetic trait in that we have an extra knuckle on our second (index?) toe. We don’t give it much thought, until you bang it on a step or the leg of a chair. It is good for picking things up off of the floor without having to engage your aching back.

Recently I took my daughter out for a barefoot stroll and taught her how to pick up rocks and throw them with her feet. She took to it quite well. But I knew she would. When she was just a baby, her plantar reflex was strong (curled her toes when her feet were touched). Plus, she has the extra knuckle…

Blog Post 7/14/2011 – What, do you live in a barn?

Yes, I do.

For about two years I lived in a barn on the back end of this wacko’s property in freaky Hopewell Township.

Why ‘wacko’, you ask? Because he was a full blown alcoholic, certifiably psychotic, had a superiority complex that rivaled General Patton and a disposition somewhere south of unpleasant.

How’s that for a character description?

He liked to turn off the electricity at random times, visit us when we weren’t home and leave the door open or park his running tractor outside our door at 6 am on a Saturday and walk away for an hour. He was a large man, in stature as well as disgustingly obese. So basically he was a big, fat asshole.

Why ‘freaky’? Out of all the places that I have lived in this state, Hopewell and it’s surrounding areas (Princeton included) seem to breed people, places and things far off center. (yeah, yeah, I know, that’s how I wound up there.)

This barn was a leaking mess when my roommate and I first inhabited it. The wacko owner put a new roof on and we began to renovate the interior. It seemed like a good deal – rent free as long as we restored the inside. Wacko paid for materials, we did the labor. I realize now that deals like that rarely work out.

Having been abandoned for so long, the creatures of the woods made it their home. Some of them were quite put out that we moved in. A family of raccoons lived in the ceiling of the upstairs bathroom. We evicted them unceremoniously. Occasionally one or two would try and get back in. We would chase them off with slingshots. Squirrels made forays into the kitchen, until they met a similar fate.

We had an 18×36 inch sheet of Styrofoam – the ‘Bug Board’ where we mounted one of every insect, bug, winged or crawling critter that we found. It was a good entomology lesson for us. We filled the board, including one beautiful, large, yellow Luna moth. A full grown Luna moth is about the size of your hand. (the ‘butterfly’ in the Lunesta commercial is supposed to be a Luna moth. Get it? Luna (moon), night, sleep?)

We had a lot of mice and spiders. Mice so bold they would emerge in a well lit room. We would watch them crawl down the wall, sniff the bait on the mouse trap and get whacked. Big, hairy spiders that could see you coming from across the room and hide in a crack in the wall. I’m not fond of spiders. Being that the spiders were so evasive, I took to shooting them from across the room with my pellet pistol. They couldn’t run from that, hairy bug mutha’s.

Between the two activities, it was backwoods entertainment at it’s best.

I had a pet snapping turtle. I found her outside the door one morning and adopted her. We had a few local fish as pets, also. Catfish and sunnies. Pretty much like a pond in a fish tank.

We fed them slugs, which were plentiful in the wood pile. Thinking back, we lived right next to three ponds and a river. Why we needed to capture, imprison and display the indigenous creatures, and forage for food for them, escapes me. They certainly were doing a fine job on their own.

Spring and fall, the living was easy. Even summer wasn’t that bad, what with all the large trees providing abundant shade and breathable oxygen. I don’t recall having an air conditioner. The property was bordered by a county park, so long, peaceful walks in the forest were possible.

But winter, that was a different story.

The place was heated solely by a wood burning stove. We cut and burned a lot of wood. A lot. All kinds of shit; pallets, construction scrap, any dead tree we could lay our hands on, discarded furniture, cedar shakes. Still, the cold invaded. We brought in two kerosene heaters, which helped at first. But the dry air gave us severe sinus infections. Spilled kerosene stinks, but is good for starting a fast, hot fire in the woodstove. (For those mornings when you are late for work, trying to thaw out your hide.)

It was a great place to have a party. It was spacious, so we could host a lot of people. We had a 20 foot bar with a television mounted on the wall. We were out in the woods, so noise was not a problem. We watched the Gulf War begin and end on television at that bar.

Two twenty-something dudes, left to their own devices…

One night we were outside lighting off fireworks. Being older (and flush with cash) our arsenal consisted of far better and larger pyrotechnics than we had handled prior. I recall a box of mortars about the size and shape of softballs with fuses about 4 feet long. These things either were, or were just short of, professional fireworks. Something like that fairly yells ‘stay away’, but we had difficulty with our hearing back then.

Roomy was swinging one device by the tail (fuse) while it was lit (never a good idea), getting ready to launch it high into the air (we didn’t have a tube to shoot it from) when it blew up in his hand. His recoiling silhouette was illuminated in brilliant white light, just like you see on one of those warning labels, while the rest of us were showered with multi-colored flaming bits of magnesium.

He stumbled towards us, smoldering, as the secondary explosions went off all around. Someone snapped a flashlight on. He was blackened from head to toe, but only on the front of his body. His backside had been untouched. He looked like a character from the cartoons.

“Dude, I asploded…” He warbled.
“That was great, man.” I said, making sure all fingers were attached while high-fiving his scorched hand. “But I think you need to work on your release.”

Somewhere during the second winter, the leach field for the septic tank failed (if there was, actually, a septic tank). We didn’t know about it until spring thaw, when half the wood pile sank into ground.

All good things come to an end. Eventually Roomy and I had a falling out and the wacko owner progressed in mental instability to point of physical threats. He took to carrying side arms around and I did likewise. After he blocked the driveway, preventing me from leaving, I sensed I had worn out my welcome. Of course, having been farked with, I made sure that I evened the score. The township was quite interested to know he was renting out his condemned building, after having two prior judgments against that activity.

I was very fortunate to find an apartment in town, walking distance from work, and began another chapter of my life.

Blog Post 6/27/2011 – Port-a-Potty mouth

They are revolting, bastions of stench, germs and disease. But when you need one, there they are, at your service. Sentinels of relief, just asking to be used.

Why does the port-o-potty come with such a double-edged reputation? On the one hand, who hasn’t been glad to have one nearby, like at a concert or an outdoor market? But the lowly crapper has it’s dark side.

We all know the horror stories – being inside one and having some despicable a-hole push it over. (I have witnessed it myself in a concert parking lot). That is bad, but how about the one that was placed on the edge of a hill? When the woman went in and sat down, she tipped the balance of the equation against her favor and slid/rolled down the hill. Her horrifying screams of anguish drove home the unthinkable reality for all watching.

Port-o-potties are a part of life, like traffic, dead skunks and spoiled milk. If you are in a line of work that forces you to use one on a regular basis, you are thankful there is a place to go. You take care of business and get on with your day. You learn how to function in the crapper. You use copious amounts of hand cleaner and a lot of tp. You don’t linger, because that sets you up for pranksters.

I recall working construction one winter and having the boss complain about having to use the “ice cold shitter” early one morning.

“Light a wad of tp and throw it down the hole,” I advised. “Should warm things up a bit.”

“Whoa, no,” he said. “Don’t you know how much methane gas is in there? The whole shitter could explode, with me in it.”

Damn, I didn’t think about that. Of course, the whole image of an exploding port-o-johnny still makes me chuckle.

Later that week, I catch him rocking the crapper back and forth before entering. Thinking he was exacting some revenge on one of the day laborers, I walked over.

“What up with the peculiar behavior, Chief?” I queried.

“Knocking down the mound.”

Apparently it hadn’t been swapped out on schedule and solid waste was building up in the holding tank, cresting to the point of coming uncomfortably close to his hiner. A little back and forth helped to level things out.

Girls have a lot of issues with the port-o-potty. First would have to be the smell. And I can’t argue with that. The only port-o-john that doesn’t smell is one that hasn’t been used. However, if everyone would put the lid down after use, it wouldn’t be as bad.

After that they don’t want to look down into the depths of the tank. But how can you not? What with all the horror stories of demons and slimy serpents that reside there, just waiting for you and you alone to sit down so they can drag you down into the depths and consume you tender flesh at their leisure.

Of course, who wants to see what’s down there, anyway? (I won’t elaborate).

Then there is the whole acrobatic performance they put on; Hovering over the seat while holding up their skirt, undies and purse while trying not to touch anything with bare flesh. I can see that being an issue. There really should be a clothes hanger in there.

The port-o-crapper is a decidedly masculine device. Oh, some try to pretty it up, painting it white, making it flushable, putting in carpet, fake flowers, air freshener, etc. But it is like putting lipstick on a pig. In the end, it is only a disguise.

Me, I don’t have much of an issue with the port-o-potty. In fact, I am usually quite glad that they are around. And because I don’t fear the crapper, they become fodder for my fractured sense of humor. I tend to record my visits. On the wall is a sticker that the company uses to record time and date of cleaning. It is there that I scribe my own date stamp. Check it out sometime; maybe we have visited the same one. And, sometimes, I take things a bit further.

Lisa and I were working a catering job at a day camp out in the wilds of Somerset County. Way off in the field was a lone shitter, seemingly for our use alone. It was in pristine condition, recently sanitized and entirely unused. At least until I came along.

On this job we were serving ice cream that was kept cold with dry ice. So, while the guests were gleefully enjoying their properly frozen desert, I took a hunk of dry ice, oh, ’bout the size of a box of donuts, and dropped it into the blue depths of the holding tank. Idk, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

For the uninitiated, dry ice and water create a volatile reaction that produces clouds of white carbon dioxide smoke and a lot of bubbling. All of that was compounded by the deep blue anti-microbial solution in the tank.

It was quite a scene when I exited, an outfall of blue-white smoke swirling around me. I stood back and admired my handiwork. Smoke piped out of every orifice. It shuddered slightly from the bubbling liquid. Nice job, Bird.

Lisa, erring on the side of caution, said, “And what if someone decides to use it?”

“I didn’t think that far ahead.” I said, laughing my ass off.

As fate would have it, someone did need to use it; Me.

I opened the door and let some fresh air in, because, you know, carbon dioxide interferes with breathing. I stepped into a cool, refreshing crapper. The dry ice had done a nice job of cooling down the box. A welcome respite from the heat of the summer day.

Blog Post 6/20/2011 – Of frog’s legs and spaghetti sauce

Studogger’s ol’ man lived in upstate NY at one of the coolest places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The man was a mastermind of construction. I am proud to be able to say that I assisted in one of the hydro projects that fed the man-made pond.

The pond itself was about 100 feet in diameter, round, with steeply sloping sides. If you weren’t on the bank, you were swimming. It was deep.

This pond had some big bass in it, certainly some sunfish and allegedly some trout. But by far the most numerous inhabitants were the bullfrogs. Big, fat-ass bullfrogs. They would sit all around the edge of the pond. Wary mutha’s, they would jump straight into the drink if approached via a land route. Ah, but the Studgger and I, we learned quickly.

Drinking and sitting next to a pond full of bullfrogs that were evading capture was vexing us. Well, f that, we said (we actually said that). We located an old rubber raft in the shed, inflated it, stocked it well with cold beverages, a flashlight and a pellet pistol.

As stealthy as two half-bagged knuckle-heads could, we rowed out into the middle of the pond and waited. It didn’t take more than one or two beers before the bullfrogs resumed their nighttime serenade.

What’s nice about bullfrogs (whether you are adverse to shooting them or not) is that the only thing to eat on them is the legs. All of the rest of the frog is target. What’s more, they look right at you. And their eyes glow in the beam of a flashlight. Hit one just right, it flips over onto the bank, waiting for collection. If it flips into the water, the snapping turtle gets it.

And let’s not get too sentimental about the ‘cute froggy’. Bullfrogs are vile, base creatures that will eat anything, ANYTHING they can fit into their mouths. I have seen them eat turtles and sparrows. Yes, turtles, with shells and claws. And sparrows, as in birds.

What kind of an amphibian gets it into it’s head to eat a bird? Snakes or lizards, fine. I have no problem with that. They are land based critters. But a frog? What, not enough fish, salamanders, tadpoles, slugs, and flies in the water? If you look into a bullfrogs eyes you will see that they are cold, calculating. There is no register of fear in those eyes. The bullfrog looks at you and thinks, “If I could just fit that human into my mouth…”

Frog’s legs are easily separated from the body, but they have to be skinned before cooking. How does one go about cooking a frog’s legs, you ask? Well, if you were Studogger’s old man, you dropped the whole mess of them into the boiling spaghetti sauce, to roil around for a couple of hours.

Now, growing up in an Italian household, I have pulled all manner of meat and meat by-products up from the depths of a pot of sauce. But I don’t think even Grandma ever had frog’s legs tossed in with the rigatoni.

What do you mean, what did it taste like?
It tasted like chicken.

Blog Post 6/20/2011 (2) – Night Fishing at Loony Bin Lake

One thing about living in freaky Hopewell Township, there were a lot of places to go fishing. Having grown up in the more urban Union (Onion) County, this was a treat. I have plied the waters of the Delaware-Raritan Canal, Millstone River, Amwell Lake, Stony Brook, Delaware River, as well as numerous little farm ponds of all different sizes in and about the area.

One place that some friends enlightened me to was the lake on the property of the Mercer County Home for the Criminally Insane, or as we called it, the Loony Bin.

To be clear, I am as sensitive to the plight of the chemically imbalanced as well as any other person. But this place, well, to paraphrase Richard Pryor; thank God they have loony bins.

The lake held some very large bass, and to fish at night was to catch some of the biggest. But some nights, when the moon was full, or not, the inmates would get all wound up and begin to yell, scream and bang stuff on the cage. Occasionally one would escape. Once, one even drowned in the lake. I guess he really was crazy after all.

This was a good sized pond. I couldn’t give acreage, but it was bigger than a high school football stadium. We were usually there at night, because that was when I was getting off of work (all keyed up and looking to do something) and because night time bass fishing is quite productive.

But the night is also the time when the denizens of the home seemed their most active. Frequently there were screeches, wailing, yelling, shouts and general carrying on. Mostly it was unintelligible babble, much like a political rally.

Once in a while, usually when the moon was full, or not, there would be an all-out, building wide, cage rattling free for all. The entire place would erupt. It seemed like every inhabitant was issuing forth every guttural sound, cat-call and lung-full howl they could muster. If anyone wasn’t participating, they must have been curled up in a ball somewhere, hands clamped on their ears and rocking back and forth. Actually, it was easy to get caught up in the mood. Sometimes we would join in. The security guards didn’t appreciate that very much.

One time, we were camped out, casting large surface plugs onto the water, when security rolled up. “Not tonight, boys” he said. “One of our ‘guests’ escaped, walked out into the lake and drowned.”

Well, ok then. We sure didn’t want to upset the local authorities. More so, we didn’t want to have to cut our triple hooked Mister Wiggler Jitter Popper (in neon chartreuse) out of some waterlogged body.

“Dude…I’m into something big…I hope the line doesn’t break.”
“Play it out, play it out!”
“It’s coming up; get the net…and a stick to beat it with”
“Oh noes! It’s a psyco-floater! Cut the line! Cut the line!”
“No way, man. That lure cost me ten bucks.”

Blog Post 5/31/2011 – The Liberty Tavern

As long as we are on the subject of imbibement and our favorite establishments for imbibing, I felt it only respectful to mention the Liberty Tavern, or The Lib, as it was know to those of us who imbibed there regularly.

The Lib was very much your typical local tavern. Indeed it had been there since the ol’ man’s younger years. A stalwart of the neighborhood, it was the kind of place that opened at 9 am, to accommodate the night shift.

It was circa 1981. I remember coming home, shortly after moving to our new home in Onion, NJ and regaling the ol’ man with tales of this great place I found.

“Oh, the Lib? Yeah, I used to drink there when I was your age. Are the walls still that same color green they use in the high school?”

Actually, yes, they were, at the time. I was drinking there for years before they painted them.

The Lib was a great bar to cut your teeth on. It was easy walking distance from home, safe, low-key and cost effective. But it was not the place where you would go to meet girls. In fact, it was years before a female within our age range walked in.

When the ‘crew and I first began frequenting the Lib, a 6 oz. glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon draft cost ten cents. No, I didn’t miss-key. Ten cents. And every third glass was on the house. Where the hell are you going to find a place that does that anymore? There were other perks, as well. If the drink or shot of booze you ordered was the last one out of the bottle, it was free. Between that and other patrons buying me drinks, there were times when I have went into the lib with $10, walked out a few hours later, puked in the parking lot and still had change in my pocket.

In the beginning, the choices of libations were few. There was Fleischman’s gin and vodka, Calvert whiskey (which sucks), a few cordials and schnapps, maybe bottle of VO or Canadian Club. Booze from another era, to be sure. But the clientele was of the older crowd. I was the first to ask them to stock Jack Daniels. Then, as time went on and more people my age found out about my little hideaway, the liquor choices grew. The Lib may have started out as an ‘old man’s bar’ but by the time the ‘crew and I were done it had transformed.

As far as entertainment went, there were three things constant – the pool table, the shuffle board and the jukebox. Pinball machines, video games and the dart board came and went. But at least you could count on the two standards. The jukebox didn’t contain a song, not one, which I wanted to hear. In fact, I didn’t recognize most of the artists listed.

The pool table was an old 6 foot bar table. It’s exactly what you would expect in an old bar. The felt was green/blue faded to gray, but in good shape. The frame was scratched and worn, but sturdy. And this was one of the few bars where you could find a queue that was straight. Smacking the queue on the side of the table because you screwed up a shot was frowned upon.

When I first frequented the Lib, there was an old guy, Eddie that would play one handed and beat you, or anyone else, every time. He would even use the short stick for fun. Unfortunately this was well before the snooker playing era in my life. The lib was a nest of very good pool players and I could have learned a few things. My friend Ziggy, however, would jump right in and battle for his every shot. Zig did learn a few things from those old guys.

There was a tiny, smelly bathroom with an undersized window that was always opened, even in the winter. The walls were cracked plaster, painted over about a dozen times and the floor was little squares of white and black tile, also cracked. There was sticker on the mirror from the town Health Department commanding that ‘Every employee must wash hands before returning to work.’ Every word was crossed out except for ‘Every employee must work.’

This was where I first encountered the ‘ice filled urinal’. I just couldn’t get that. Why did they put ice in the urinal? Sure, it was a welcome distraction, blasting the individual cubes to their demise, like some kind of post-consumption video game, but I couldn’t see any other purpose. And what bar or bartender is going to be thinking along those lines anyway?

“Let’s put a scoop of ice cubes into the urinal to give the boys something to do while they’re standing there.”

Not likely. A few years later that I found out it was a way of keeping the smell down, albeit not a very good one.

The Lib had a phone booth. Not just a pay phone on a wall, but an actual booth where you could sit down, close the door, light up a smoke (you were allowed to smoke in bars back then and the booth had an exhaust fan) and jot down notes (there was also a small shelf). The phone book was even in good enough shape to use. It had a working phone number, so you could also receive calls. You could order a pizza and have it delivered to the bar. (Again, this was back in the 80’s, well before cell phones had been conceived).

Eventually life took me away from Onion, NJ and the Lib. Once in a while I would stop back in, on my way back from the airport or to meet up with my friend Ziggy. Of course, the bar had changed considerably. Even the shuffle board was removed. The pool table was still there. The clientele had completely switched over to a younger, louder and generally less intelligent crowd, complete with girls. Even the bartenders are younger than me. Blenders whirl, fruity bullshiate drinks are then norm and you won’t find any old dudes in the corners hunched over a shot and a beer. There is not a bottle of Calvert or Fleishman’s anything on the shelf.

If you are flying past the town of Onion on Route 78 east, about a mile after the Maplewood exit (whatever number that is) and you look through the break in the sound barrier that is the entrance ramp, you can see the neon bar signs. If you’re so inclined, stop in sometime. Tell them you know me. They won’t know who the hell you are talking about, but it might get you a laugh.

Blog Post 5/22/2011 – Heavy bagels from hell

Seems to me that anytime there is something good out there to eat, someone tries to mass market it. Of course, the reason that something is good to eat in the first place is it took time and care to make properly. But the mass marketer, he just wants to make dollars, so he bastardizes the product. It may be easier to make and faster to the shelf, but it has lost the very thing that made it good in the first place.

Like pizza. A good pizza has a thin crust on the bottom that rolls up around the edges. The bottom crust, atop which the toppings sit, is crisp on the bottom and softer on the top. The edge is harder, crunchier, but still malleable enough that you can gnaw on it a few times and get it down. Sort of like good Italian bread. It is part of what makes a pizza a pizza. There may be some ‘well done’ spots, but that doesn’t matter. And don’t give me any of that ‘I don’t eat the crust’ crapola. You’re missing out on half the experience, for crying out loud.

Pizza was the original ‘finger food’. It needs a substantial crust because when you pick up a slice and fold it, it needs to support itself. The crust is like a handle. If you have to fork-and-knife your slice, it wasn’t made properly.

Then, along comes Pizza Gut, Domingoes, and a bunch of other poseurs thinking they can spin off a decent pizza and sell it to the public. Pro’lem is, they succeed. A whole generation grows up thinking pizza should resemble a large, under cooked sponge with some thin, weak sauce and a sprinkling of white cheese on it. Or worse yet, come out of a freezer already cut into rectangles. Damnit to black smoking hell! That is not pizza. It’s an abomination. May as well sprinkle some golden raisins on it an call it ‘Nuevo quiche’.

But what really grabs me by the gizzard are bagels, or these baked bread amoebas that are passed off as bagels. Bagels were one of the best things out there. Then along came Dunking Dognuts and a host of other weasel bags who saw an opportunity and exploited it.
“Say, we’re already baking bread, rolls, and donuts. Who’s to say we can’t make bagels?”

Pro’lem is, to make a proper bagel, you have to first boil, then bake the bagel. A proper bagel is firm, chewy, hard on the outside, soft on the inside. The very thing that makes a bagel a bagel is the impact resistant shell. Any good bagel will resist the knife at first and make you work at chewing it. Your jaw should be sore after masticating a well made bagel.

Now you take the Dunking bagel. It is nothing more than a roll, with a hole in the middle and some bagel-esque toppings. More times than not, the whole is closed up. It is no more tough to eat than a dinner roll. Hold a knife over it and it will slice itself in half. A Dunking bagel is nothing more than a substandard support system for the cream cheese or butter you put on it.

Watson’s Bagels on Chancellor Avenue in Irvington, NJ. I may not be from the City or Long Island, but I know a good bagel when I eat one and Watson’s made a good f-ing bagel. You could even watch the guy making them. Everything was right there behind the counter – the forming table, the hot water bath and the oven.

Several times, after imbibing at our favorite watering hole, the Liberty Tavern, we would jump onto Rt.78 (the entrance ramp was right across the street) and make the short ride down to the Irvington exit and Watson’s Bagels. They were open for about an hour after closing time at the bar, so it worked out well.

About this time heavy metal music was in its heyday and one of the local radio stations had an after midnight show called ‘Heavy Metal from hell’. Appropriate for the times. the dj would speak in low, menacing tones that one might associate with hell, heavy metal and the genre of folks who listened to such (like us).

This prompted Dollar to mimic the dj and proclaim “Heavy Bagels from hell” on one of our late night foraging trips.

Now, Irvington was not exactly the place where two drunk college boys should be staggering around at night. But we were welcome at Watson’s. The baker became accustomed to our weekly presence, slurred speech, whiskey breath and all. We would buy a dozen (actually you would get 13 – a ‘baker’s dozen’), a couple sticks of butter and munch our way back home in glorious satisfaction. There were poppy seed bagels black with poppy seeds. You were sure to fail any drug test after just one. Garlic bagels that rivaled garlic bread from a restaurant. No vampire would dare approach. Egg bagels so heavy and yellow they almost dripped yolk. But by far our favorite were the tantalizing salt bagels, crusted white with Kosher salt. You would bite into one and the salt would scrape your mouth and tongue, sucking the moisture out of both. Despite your cracked lips and growing thirst, you couldn’t stop eating, they were so good. The butter was a welcome salve on your mouth sores. After the second bagel, you knew you should stop, but…maybe just one more…

Our appetites satiated and beer sponge deployed we slept soundly, knowing we had warded off the gastrointestinal evils of the night.

Blog Post 5/15/2011 – Hurricane Floyd

Floyd was a slow moving category 4 hurricane that may have degraded to a tropical storm by the time it parked its bloated ass over the east coast in September of 1999. Not that such a detail matters much to anyone. The shear magnitude of water that it deposited was enough to blast the whole state right out of drought conditions, fill reservoirs and inundate several towns. Wikipedia reports that Bound Brook, NJ was under 12 feet of water.

I was working in South Plainfield at the time. The night of the flood I was running a database repair operation that could not be interrupted. DB repair operations are funny like that. Once they are started they cannot be stopped without damaging the database. Fickle damned things, they are. I kicked off the process at the end of the work day, went home for dinner and came back at night to check on it. The streets were not fully flooded as yet, but they were filling up.

I recall thinking ‘it stopped raining a couple of hours ago. The water won’t get any higher.’ Was I ever wrong. Me and a lot of other people, I’m sure.

When I got near the plant I could see that the road in front of the main gate was flooded, so I drove in the back way, slowly. I put a wave up in front of the truck as I plowed through. I was careful not to let it go over the hood. The water was dark, foreboding and crap was floating everywhere. Makes you realize how much litter there is on the sides of the road. I didn’t realize I had flooded the floorboards until my boots began squishing. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but never got rid the smell of mildew after that.

I emerged from the water and drove across an un-flooded parking lot. Again I thought that the water would recede by the time I left. I checked on my computers, occasionally going outside to have a look around. At some point I noticed that the water was creeping across the parking lot. Soon after that the flower beds were covered and the mulch floated away. Then bubbles came streaming up from the cracks in the concrete walk. Strange, I thought. Never saw that before.

Inside of the building, the water started seeping through the walls and creeping down the hallway. I ran around picking up pc’s, power strips, personal heaters and anything else on the floor.

Fortunately I had recently re-designed the computer room and put all equipment up on shelves. The roof leaked, but I had a plastic tent over the switches and patch panels. Purely by chance, the computer room and the actual 3×3 area where the server resided was the highest part of the entire building. In fact, it was the highest part of several hundred acres of industrial land around. It would be the only place that didn’t have standing water after the whole area flooded. The carpet got wet, but water didn’t rise up the shelving.

I looked out into the warehouse – paper, wood, Styrofoam, packing material and lunch boxes were floating. I laid down a bed of pallets to park my truck on. When I opened the bay doors a wave of water over a foot high crested the sand bags put there by the day shift. An inland tsunami, it didn’t stop until I closed the door again.

I slung my backpack, made my way out of the building and into the parking lot. By now the water was over my boots. The parking lot was mostly level and paved, but as I got closer to the street the water climbed higher up my legs. When I stepped off of the curb it began to invade my nether regions. Plants, bottles, cans, fast food cartons, coffee cups and lids all floated by as I made my way up the road to the bridge, I had to go slow to avoid stepping in any popped manholes or sewers. That could have been deadly. The water was now up to my waist.

I approached a pickup truck stalled in the middle of the flooded road and was surprised when someone sat up in the cab. I asked him if he was ok. He was, said he was waiting for the police to come and pull him out.
“Good luck with that, dude”, I said as I splashed away towards the bridge and the way out.

I wasn’t at all convinced that the bridge would be above water, but that was where I asked Lisa to meet me with dry clothes, a towel and disinfectant.

I didn’t give much thought to how dirty the water was. It was pro’ly better that way. Afterwards, when the warning went out about getting tetanus shots, I began to give it a lot more thought. I was especially concerned about my nether regions that had been marinating in that toxic stew of sewage, petrol waste and lugies that people carelessly hocked out their windows. We hadn’t been blessed with a child yet and I was worried that my stones might shrivel up, or my DNA would get split before we conceived.

I waded up to the bridge. As I approached, the Police blasted me with the flashlight, right in the eyes (as per their training). They must have thought I was the Birdwell from the Black Lagoon. Guess I should be glad they didn’t shoot at me. I hauled my sodden ass out of the drink and was promptly questioned as to my general well-being, but I could tell it was more of a psychological exam.

The next day I returned (at the behest of my boss). She was adamant about being ‘open for business’. I was incredulous. ‘You need to start implementing a disaster recovery plan here, not worry about getting people to their desks. I happen to have a very good one right here, which I authored.” But we were in the midst of a bankruptcy filing and one of the conditions was that we were to be open for business every week day, torrential downpour or not.

I don’t know if it was me who convinced her (doubtful) or the police officer not letting her swim to work, but eventually she let me off the hook – as long as I confirmed that the database repair had completed ok. This time I pulled on my rubber chest waders before navigating the brown waters. I thought about taking my fishing rod with me, but I was not in a jocular mood at the time.

Off in the distance I could swear I saw a line of animules, paired up, heading towards some kind of big boat…

I hadn’t gotten very far when a tractor-trailer pulled up next to me. The driver asked me if I wanted a ride. The truck was well able to negotiate the waters. I jumped up on the step and hung onto the door as he rolled through the flood. The truck put up a nice wake. I pretended I was surfing. The blue pickup was still stranded in the middle of the road, but the dude was gone.

I made my way across the flooded street, through the parking lot and into the building. The hallways and offices were covered in 4 inches of muddy water. Office supplies floated everywhere. Anything on the floor was destroyed.

I checked out my office/computer room. All seemed ok. I had gotten all of my hardware off of the floor well before the flood (proper planning prior and all that) and any materials that were stored on the floor were put up on a desk.

Next I checked my database repair operation (with tightened sphincter).
Completed with 0 errors.
Success, despite a flood of Biblical proportions!
Who was the IT Manager? The Birdwell, that’s who. Why? Cause that mutha knows his shiate, that’s why.

Very much relieved I made my way to the warehouse where my truck was stored. The tires were touching water, but the rest was still well above the flood. I couldn’t drive out; the water was still too deep.

I walked back out to the bridge. Lisa was waiting for me and so was the Police Officer from last night. When he saw me he shook his head from side to side and said, “What is it with you?”
“I had a database repair oper…”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. The IT manager, checking on your computers. Go home and take a shower.”
It was all in good nature.

My boss cut me loose for the weekend (it was Friday) and I made ready to attend my brother-in-law’s bachelor party. The rest of lower Somerset County wasn’t so lucky, as their nightmare was still waiting for the water to recede.

Blog Post 5/8/2011 – Don’t read this, Donna

Like most people, I try to avoid vomiting. After all, how comfortable can a person be when their stomach is contracting so violently that it forces its contents up and out the way it entered? No time to wait for the usual gastric process – expulsion pronto is the order at hand. It’s messy, bad for your image and ends the evening on a particularly sour note.

Having just come off of a dozen sessions due to an incredible migraine, I figured it was time to write about it. Get it down while the horror of the evening is still fresh in my mind and my abdominal muscles are still sore.

There is no sense fighting it – it wants out.

And that is the thesis for today – coming to terms with hurrling. You see, it does want out – and who are you or I to stop it? Sure, we try, even succeed at times. But at what cost? Hours of nausea, trying to ‘sleep it off’ while tossing and turning on the merry-go-bed, suddenly bolting upright, swallowing hard and thrashing the blankets off. Hoping a sinister, acrid belch will settle things down. That, or camping out next to the bowl, not even caring how long it has been since the last time it was cleaned (properly), listening to the echoes of your moans bouncing off the tile, making a mockery of your weakened condition and your vows of abstinence. In the morning, if you survived, you deal with a lingering hangover that shoots the whole day to hell.

I tell you, it sickens me just writing about it. {urp} But when I really examine the whole episode (and each time usually is episodic) I come to the inevitable conclusion that after the forced purge of overly consumed beverages, bad chow or whatever virus ridden stew is brewing in my rotten gut, I generally feel better. Much better, in fact. At least I can sleep and the next day is somewhat salvageable.

Wtf is my point, exactly? That one should learn to roll with the zool. Get rid of it. Bend and send. Boot and rally. Decamp the gut. Let it happen. Hell, make it happen, if you have to. You need to listen to your body. If you open your mind, you will hear it say, ‘Get this shiate out of me!’

Now, I know this is easier said than done. I also know that I could well be setting myself up for a testing of my faith. I have not been without a few bouts of ‘talking to Ralph on the big white phone’ in the recent past. I have ‘driven the big white bus – left turn only’ more times than I care to remember.

If I had fought the process, I would have been sitting around with my head throbbing so hard my eyes would cross, my queasy gut threatening to explode at every thought of food and basically suffering needlessly.

I ask you: Isn’t there enough needless suffering in the world already? Why add to that?

There have been a couple of people that I have come across that treated spewing as an inevitable part of the evening. Se` la yakking vie. Masters of gastrointestinal fortitude, surely. This goes against every fiber of my being. The object of the evening is to partake without puking. Not to partake until it happens. That is what is called ‘overindulgence’.

Case in point: I attended a wedding with my Sys and some friends. We partied long into the night, drinking all kinds of crap, beers, shots, champagne and who the fark knows what else, after which I rewarded myself with a cheeseburger. Pro’ly an order of fries, too. Neither of which I needed. My new found friends and I decided that after a few hours sleep we would meet on the beach and do some surfing. I think we decided that we should drive to Atlantic City, too, but wound up rejecting that idea, as we had spent all of our dollars on alcohol.

Somewhere around 8 am, which most likely was only an hour or two later, I bolted upright and dashed to the bathroom. I pleaded my case to the occupant and spent the next few minutes entertaining him (he was in the shower) with a chorus from the song of the damned. He enjoyed every minute of it. Finally, my rotten gut emptied, I was able to fall into a semi-sleep. Semi, because there were a few bouts of dry heaves and semi, because checkout was at 10 am.

Uuggghh. I dragged my beaten, insanely hung-over carcass out of the room, got into my truck and began the long ride home. Fighting nausea and another bout of barfing on the Parkway northbound, I finally gave up and pulled into the Wall Township rest area. I screeched to a halt and lay out across the seat. Then Providence looked favorably upon me. I remembered that my Mom had given me a bottle of XS (excess) Hangover Helper. (thanks, Mom). At some point I had the insight to stash it in my overnight kit. I located the bottle and read the directions: drink half the bottle, drink a bottle of water, and then finish the bottle. Again, Providence. I had a half bottle of water lodged under the seat from a few days prior. It was warm, had some shiate floating in it and a glob of black grease on the cap, but it worked. (No, I couldn’t go into the rest stop and purchase a bottle. I was green in the face, smelled awful, looked even worse and was in danger of knee buckling dry heaves). I propped myself up against the door and drifted off.

When I woke up I was feeling a whole lot better, thank you very much. I couldn’t believe how good I felt. I sat up, looked around the parking lot and noticed that there were a lot of other poor souls crashed out around me (it was Sunday morning, after all). I felt like I had Phoenixed!

{{Arise, Sir Bird, for you have been cured. Cast your gaze around you at those whom I have tossed asunder, for you had the chalky elixir of the Gods to quell your queasy gut. Now get your overindulgent ass back in your truck, point South and surf. Surf, boy, for you have arisen from the (half) dead.}}

And that is exactly what I did.

And none of those shiate talking muthas from last night even showed up.

Blog Post 5/1/2011 –

<rant ON>

Ban truck traffic between the hours of 7-9 am and 5-7 pm.

Let’s face some facts here: First of all, no one is going to give up their cars in favor of mass transit, car pooling or any other means of getting to work. Not until services, retailers and eateries are clustered conveniently for people to walk to once they are at work. We’ve only got an hour to get any personal matters taken care of – dry cleaning, banking, post office and nutrition. It would help greatly if, instead of constructing separate strip malls or office buildings, the people involved in these projects combined their efforts. I don’t know why the abandoned school, office park or old manufacturing site cannot be re-worked, re-used, recycled. Office space on the upper floors, retail on the ground. It must come down to profits.

Second, companies aren’t moving on the tele-commuting issue with anything that could be called forward motion. The broadband infrastructure has matured, as well as the applications that run across it. Anyone heard of Cloud Computing? It’s not only for weather folk, angels or flight attendants. Tele-commuting has reached the point of critical mass. Time to launch. Applications, broadband connections and networking hardware have all been optimized for this exact purpose. If your company is not allowing you to use it, it is because some folks in management are @ssholes.

Nor are enough companies staggering work hours. How nice would it be to have 1/3 of the workforce scheduled 8-4, the second third working from 9-5 and the last group 10-6?
Whoa NO. Can’t do that. Who would keep an eye on all the workers? And what about the mind game we have been working on all these years to get people to put in 10, 12 or 14 hour days, paid for an 8 hour day (minus lunch) and still feel guilty about going home after dark? That would all be blown to shit. No, no.

Despite the fact that the average worker is more productive now that even 5 years ago, companies cannot ease off on cracking the whip. Not a bit.

So let’s look at the roads and vehicular traffic. When you take into account physical length, stopping, starting, braking and the arrogance/idiocy factors, a typical tractor-trailer is equal to three cars. Then there is the accident factor. Two cars get into an accident and mostly it is the idiots who have to ogle the scene who cause backups (rubber-neckers). Let one tractor-trailer jack-knife and it alone creates havoc for hours.

The first cry of dissent will be from those who are certain that this idea will never fly. Not even worth considering, they will say.
Why, I ask?
Doesn’t matter. It won’t work. (an excerpt from a conversation I had about this concept).
OK, forgive me for thinking.

Right after that you will hear from the truckers and trucking companies. Why should they make the sacrifice? They want to get home at the same time as everyone else. There is no possible way that they can have trucks sitting idle for two hours in the morning and/or two at night.
Start earlier in the morning or later at night?
Screw you. No, better to sit in traffic for twice that amount of time. Then the truck is idling, polluting, hindering traffic, creating wear on the vehicle and roadway and, most of all, not helping with the issue in any way. That is the power of the teamsters union.
Thanks, kindly. We will try to keep that in mind the next time you need an alternate route through town.

Let us look at the many things that taking the trucks off of the roads during peak commuting hours would help:

Reduce commuting time – for everyone.
Reduce pollution – you know, the air we all breathe?
Reduce overall fuel consumption – remember the foreign oil issue?
Reduce accidents – single biggest cause of traffic.
Reduce road rage – do I really need to comment on this one?
Reduce vehicle wear – reduce, reuse and recycle.
Reduce anxiety among commuters and truckers – how does your chest feel these days?
Reduce time to get product to market – time is money, mi amigo.
Reduce stress at the workplace – your chest, again. Any discomfort?
Reduce rock hits on windshields – who doesn’t that piss off?
Increase productivity – all bosses, listening?
Increase the ability for road crews to clear roads during snowstorms – we will discuss this in detail another time.
Increase family time interactions – you remember, your family? The reason you go to work?

Where would the trucks go at these times?
What, do I have to figure out everything? I am here to foster the idea, not provide every hand-holding detail. Tell your elected official to get off their fat ass and come up with a solution.

Trucks could pull over onto the shoulder (NOT BY AN ENTRANCE/EXIT RAMP!!!) or, holy shiate get this, not start work until after the curfew.
How would that work? Let’s see. Get to the yard at 8 (nice not to have to rise before dawn, wasn’t it?) Gas up, get your route, do your pre-flight inspection. 9 am – hit the road. Drive 4 hours. Lunch at 1 – 2 pm. Back on the road for 3 hours. Second break at 5-7. Back to the yard, with overtime at 8.

Something has to be done. Nothing that has been tried has worked thus far. What would be the harm in trying something new? If it worked, I don’t want anything for it. Well, maybe a barbeque for me and my friends. Otherwise, I would be happy with the reduction in commute time.

<rant OFF>

Blog Post 4/23/2011 – Prednisone days have come to an end, hopefully for good

Thankfully, too; Because Prednisone can really pack on the pounds. Oh, it’s easy to say things like ‘just don’t eat’, or ‘just eat healthy’, or ‘just chew gum’. But that is all gobshite to the person being medicated.

Prednisone is a powerful steroid and quite good at what it is prescribed for. But like most drugs, in particular the ‘powerful’ ones, there are side effects.

In the beginning you eat like a horse. It doesn’t matter what is on the table (or in the ‘fridge, pantry or spice rack); if it can fit in your pie-hole, you eat it. Your stomach feels like a bottomless pit; a dumpster that you cannot fill. You’ll chew a candy aisle’s worth of gum, loosing a few fillings in the process and munch carrots until you crap orange. After you have eaten your way through the fridge and pantry, you’ll grab the candied cherries and begin popping them like sweetarts. But you’ll never feel quite full or satisfied.

Before long you’ll notice that your pants are uncomfortably snug. After that your shirts are not all that flattering, what with your gut spilling over your belt and all. Then your underwear stop fitting. Let me tell you, when your underwear stop fitting, it’s time to go on a diet.

But dieting will get you nowhere when you are taking Prednisone. Nowhere, I tell you. So you say, ‘well then I will just exercise more.’ Ah, but that is bullshitake and we all know it. Who the hell has the time or wherewithal to exercise at all, let alone more?

You know you have ballooned up like a beached whale lying too long in the August sun. If you have courteous friends, they hold off from telling you such. They are aware that it is better to see you rotund, corpulent and upright than coughing up blood, gurgling with each breath and prostrate on a gurney.
(Whoa, flashback).

The bathroom scale taunts you every morning. You become tempted to throw it out the window. But the doctor says that the drug is working. Tests are looking good, even if your mid-section is not. We’ll just keep you on it for a while longer, to make sure – like maybe a year.

It is mixed news. On the one hand, you are gaining control over whatever insidious menace has set up shop in your body. On the other, you have to endure another summer of wearing unflattering, girth hiding garments; swimming in the pool only at night, with the lights off; going to Wal-mart to get a set of the next sized tighty-whities (or just giving up altogether and switching over to boxers) and enduring kids on the beach poking you with sticks to see if you will pop.

So, I have compiled a list of terms used to describe the overweight and their true meanings.

A spare tire – ring of fat
Out-of-shape – looking fat
Pudgy – small and fat
Big boned – big and fat
Plump – fat
Buff – short and fat
Svelte – tall and fat
Large – fat
Husky – fat
Big and tall – tall and fat
Chunky – fat
Hourglass shaped – fat
Rubenesque – attractive, but fat
Voluptuous – sexy, but fat
Pear shaped – ugly and fat
Apple-on-a-stick – ugly and fat
And, of course, the ubiquitous ‘Built-like-a-brick-shithouse’. Which means, big…and fat.

Blog Post 4/18/2011 –

I was moving from my apartment back to my parents house. It was only a temporary move, until I graduated from computer school and landed job. Still, I was not looking forward to it (nor was the ol’ man). My Sys and I were taking a last load in my pickup truck through the back roads. I was in a foul mood. Most likely on a long winded rant about the travails that lay ahead, when freaky Hopewell Township decided to give me a going away present.

A deer sproinked out from the left and ran towards me. Instinctively I steered right and braked. But we were both on the ice, me skidding towards the deer, at an angle and the deer skidding, each leg going off to a different point of the compass.

In slow motion, we closed ranks until – BAM! I knocked its fool ass to the ground. Of all the rotten luck! Not enough that I have to move back to my ‘rents house, endure months of hardship, as well as the remainder of winter, but now my truck was smashed up. Well, fark that, I said. That carcass is mine. I jumped out and ran up to the deer, intent on flipping it into the back of the truck ad at least making a meal and a rug out of it. Then, lo, the deer resurrected, reanimated, regained…and bolted off into the night. Robbed of my due spoils, I let loose a string of well intentioned curses, damnations and general foul language. Then I looked at the grill of my truck. Instead of a leaking mess, I saw that it only had a few pieces of plastic broken off. I had gotten off light.
“Is the truck ok?” Sys asked.
“Yeah,” I replied, somewhat dejected. “Only some busted up grill. The damned thing got away.”
“You didn’t have to curse at it.” She reminded me.
I looked at her, unsure of how that was relevant.
“Maybe not, But somewhere out there is a deer with a couple of broken ribs and ‘Nissan’ imprinted in its hide.”
It should have been enough to make me take up deer hunting again.

Blog Post 3/29/2011 –

The other day, it must have been Wednesday, I was stuck in traffic, creeping along, infusing my tired self with caffeine, when I saw a dead goose laying on the highway divider

Well, look at that, thought I, someone thumped a goose and it flipped up onto the divider. That’s something you don’t see every day. Didn’t give it much thought after that, until I happened upon this article in the Hunterdon County Democrat (a questionable publication at times, but a local publication nonetheless).

A goose and an opossum were blamed for two separate car crashes on Route 78 in Clinton and Union Townships

A goose…and an opossum. Blamed.

Wtf folks?! Two critters that we surely are in no short supply of, evolutionarily inefficient at avoiding the fast moving colored things on the long strip of rock and certainly not big enough to cause any lasting damage.

Ok, strike that last one. Because of the opossum’s skull; they’re pointy and might pop your tire.

But, sheesh – causing accidents now, too? Something is way out of whack here. (Did you get that one…whack? It’s the same as the sound…eh, never mind.)

And all this time I though it was deplorable driving skills that were causing the accidents in our area. Turns out, it’s friggin’ gooses and opossi causing the havoc. No doubt that other ungulate plague, the white-tailed deer are in on the ruse, standing at the edge of the road, pretending that they are feeding, then darting out into traffic and back real fast. I bet they get a good laugh out of it.

According to the report:
Around 4 pm on March 15, – that was a Tuesday evening, folks. You now it caused a traffic jam – Julia was driving in the right lane of Route 78 east near mile post 12.3 in Union Township when a Canada goose flew into her lane and was struck by the front of her car.

Julia told police that the goose was flying so low that she could not avoid hitting it.
{Look out, Mom! A low flying goose!}
She and a passenger were uninjured and the SUV was drivable.

I certainly would hope that they were uninjured and the SUV was drivable. It was a goose for Pete’s sake! Have you ever plucked a goose? They’re mostly feathers, trust me. Soft, velvety feathers – like goose down. Hitting one (with an SUV, no less) was pro’ly like hitting a pillow.

But she had to stop, cause a traffic jam and get the police involved. High level thinking, there. Me, I would have driven away, laughing my fool ass off. The next day I would have a goose silhouette stamped on my door.

More from the same article:
Around 3:45 am on March 20, Margaret-Nicole (Peggy-Nicki) 25 of Allentown, PA. was driving her vehicle in the right lane of Route 78 west in Clinton township near milepost 18 when she attempted to take exit 17, swerved to avoid hitting an opossum and ran off the road to the right, struck a curb and then struck and damaged 20 feet of guardrail.

…Struck a curb and damaged 20 feet of guardrail. 20 feet! Because of an opossum! I’ll bet it had something to do with those damned opposable feeties they have, too. And you know who is going to pay for that, don’t you? That’s right, you and me, one way or the other. I don’t even want to think about the damage to her car that dragging along that much guardrail must have caused. I hope it wasn’t the ol’ man’s car, for his sake.

‘Good Lord, Peggy-Nicki, what the hell were you thinking?!’
‘B-but Daaaaaddyyyyy…the opossum…he was SO cute!’

I said it before and I’ll say it again, this animal welfare way of thinking has gone too far. Now it is impacting our infrastructure, taxes and people’s vehicles. But more than that…causing traffic.

Oh-noes! The opossum is scurrying about into the road, let me drive up this curb, take out 20 feet of reinforced steel guardrail and hold up traffic so it can continue to live a care-free marsupial life in the sewer.

Blog Post 3/20/2011 – Political contributions

Who was the wisenheimer who decided (and approved) putting a check box on our federal tax forms stating: Check here if you would like to contribute $3 to the Presidential Election Campaign? What is that, some kind of bad joke?

Fleece us for every thing you can and your cronies can think of, then ask us if we, out of the goodness of our hearts, and pockets, to flip you another $3? I would be insulted, if I wasn’t so incredulous. Wait, back up a sec; I am insulted, so screw you and your election campaign, as well as the horse you rode in on.

First, why the hell should I contribute to anyone’s election fund?
Who is contributing to my election fund? You want me to help you out? Buy a few copies of my book when it comes out this summer. (Oh, that’s right; I will be helping you out, with the tax on each sale. GFY.)

Second, if you have decided to be a politician, fund your own election, dirt bag. (Here, have another dollar out of my pocket so you can go to Washington and learn how to take many more dollars from me).

I realize that you are well aware of this, but just so that I can blabber at the wall, let me spell it out.
You tax the dollars I earn in my paycheck, before they even hit my hand.
You tax the dollars that I spend.
You tax the dollars that I save.
You tax the dollars that I earn on my savings.
You tax my income tax refund.
You tax just about everything I purchase.
You tax the roads I drive.
You tax the gas that fuels my car.
You tax the fuel that heats my home.
You tax the electricity that lights my home.
You tax my health care insurance.
You tax me if I die.
You tax the spot where I am planted into the ground.
You even tax me (by way of a service charge) if I file my taxes electronically! The very method that reduces the cost of their collection.

But you want me to give you another $3, for the President’s Election Campaign.
Haven’t I already done that, about 11 different times as listed above?
It is way beyond greed and insult. I’d say immoral, but that is a regular part of your day. This is like duping the poor kid down the block, who is a little slow; out of the pocket change he made delivering newspapers.

Before I give another dollar of my hard earned cash to you, put a dollar onto my bottom line. Till then, maybe you could save some money by removing that line from the tax form.

Blog Post 3/12/2011 – It was an abandoned mine shaft. Of course we went into it

Four teenage boys standing at the rim of a crater with a hole at bottom.  You write the next sentence.

We did rock/paper/scissors (actually, it may have been one potato, two potato…) to see who would go down first. Somehow I won. Chris was my partner. We were smart enough to leave two people up top in case of cave in. A rare moment of clarity.

The two of us climbed down into the hole and hung on some huge tree root, but we couldn’t touch bottom or see much. We didn’t have flashlights; one of the others ran back to camp to get one. Me, being me at the time, decided that nothing bad was going to happen and dropped off into the dark. Chris and I had been in the habit of jumping off of bridge abutments and garage roofs, so I knew I could survive a 15 foot drop, plus or minus a few feet. I hit a muddy slope about 5 feet down. Once again, Divine intervention.

Thinking back, I am appalled at the level of stupidity I exhibited. But, in my defense, I was leading a mine shaft exploration, needed to show my stuff to the others and wanted the glory of being first. These can be the same things that kill a kid. You wonder why I am so judgmental of teenagers? I was a terrible example.

Once I called out that I was ok, Chris jumped down with some kind of rudimentary light. I recall it either not working well or the battery dying. We were on a rocky, muddy slope that descended down a little steeper than a stair case. The walls were rocky dirt for a few dozen yards or so, then the floor firmed up and we began descending down through a narrow corridor of solid rock. There were all different sized chunks of rock everywhere on the floor.

It was tight, single file only, wet and humid. The heavy scent of wet earth made it seem like it was tough to breathe. Water seeped out of the walls, but not enough to pool anywhere. It was cool, as you might expect being forty or more feet below ground. It never occurred to us to go back up and let the other two know we were ok, we just kept descending. It had to go somewhere…

After a while, I can’t recall how far or how long, we came into a big chamber. It was dome shaped, high enough that we couldn’t touch the top and had a very flat dirt floor. Most likely from all the water and dirt washed down. There were old timbers laying around on the floor laid out like you would find for a crude rail system. We kept waiting to see a skeleton or at least a skull. At the far side of the chamber…

…the squared, wooden timber supported opening to the rest of the mine.

I don’t know what kept us from going in there. It was small, so we would have to crawl. Most likely that was due to the debris washed down. We both felt like something way cool was in that shaft. But we needed to go back up to let the other two know we were ok and to give them their chance to go down.

I can’t remember if the other two guys went down or not. They may have declined. There was some trepidation about the whole thing, though not enough, obviously. We made a lot of plans to go back, but they never materialized. When Dollar and I were exploring the area prior to finding The Rock, we found the crater, but the hole had been filled in either by collapsing dirt or human intention.

Up until writing this, I haven’t given the whole episode much thought in a long time. Thinking back, about the only smart thing we did was leave the B team up top, in case of collapse. Other than that, well, abject stupidity. A double Darwin award in the making.

Blog Post 3/6/2011 – No sleep ’till… Rockaway!

The camping bug bit me early. I was in the woods around the edge of town more often than not. But that was a poor substitute for the places I was going with the Boy Scouts. I think it was spring of 1979 when I hatched a plan to ride my bike up to Rockaway, NJ. I knew a spot where I could camp for the weekend. I can’t remember what exactly brought me to this decision. I wanted to do something challenging.

Not only did I conceive of the plan, I managed to sell it to 3 of my friends and my parents. Not bad for a 14 year old kid. And my friends did the same to their parents.

Parents didn’t drive us very many places. Bikes were the de-facto mode of transportation for kids in those days. As such, we were in fairly good shape for an extended tour. Everybody had a bike of one kind or another. Ten-speed English Racers seemed to be the standard, the kind with the funky twisted down handlebars.

The four of us occupied the lower rungs of social status in school and we were soft as bread when it came to fighting. Only two of us played had played sports (I ran cross country which was not thought of highly by anyone, even the coaches) One was a band geek, two of us were Boy Scouts. We were fairly obscure amongst our classmates. That is to say, we didn’t garner much attention so long as we didn’t do anything humiliating. But we never heard of anyone doing anything like this before. For us it was a chance to get away from the neighborhood antagonists, go camping and be on our own.

Who the fark did we think we were? Obviously not the pussies all the other guys called us. Don’t know who would put forth that much effort to go camping. Google maps say 28 miles. I’d like to calculate how many hills we climbed and the vertical feet. There were a lot of hills. More than there should have been. Remember: Rt. 24 did not exist at that time.
Neither did cell phones, Google, a whole lot of roads, places to eat and other civilization that exists today. We had an old road map from my parent’s car, marked up with pen and a few dollars each.

I don’t recall what time we shoved off. Most likely around 8 am. My Aunt and Uncle expecting us sometime in the afternoon. All of our parents were at work.

Roughly, our route was:
Vauxhall road to Millburn Ave. under the train tracks, up past Diamond Mill Pond to South Orange Ave.
From there to JFK Parkway (I think?), which brought us to the circle on Rt. 10. That would take us to Mt. Tabor Road, then to Diamond Spring Road (?) and eventually Green Pond Road. After a few miles on that we would pull off by the old saw mill into the woods.

A testament to how well made things were then. We beat the shit out of those bikes on that trip and still used them for a few years after that. Try that today – get back to me if they last the trip alone. I think we all had to flip our brake pads over at some point.

Ten-speed English Racer type bike rims are thin. Even a small pothole could knock it out of true and then your brake pads were rubbing. Even if it was psychological, it slowed you down and made pedaling harder.
I know we straightened the rims on at least two wheels by banging them on the curb. I learned about running my hand around the inside of the tire to check for sharp things poking through – and about being careful doing it. Sliced my finger on the second flat. I must have gotten 3 flats or more. There was a lot of crap on the shoulder of the road.

Nick and I had saddle bags for our bikes. They were stuffed. We had gear tied to every free inch of the bike frame, including two tents we borrowed from our troop. Canteens were filled once at home and at gas stations along the way. We had some other stuff, food, clothes, already at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. We managed to sneak up a six pack of Molson Golden, tucked in our sleeping bags. (It must have sucked, being warm. But back then it was a major victory).

Why Molson? It was the brew of choice for the guy down the street who got it for me.

We didn’t have a plan if we broke down, just make it to a public pay phone, wait until our parents got out of work and call them to pick us up. We sure didn’t want to have to call our parents and have to listen to how much of an inconvenience it was for them to drive a 1/2 hour or so to get us. But we did not think we would have a trip ending breakdown. None of us had done anything even close to this before. But that didn’t matter, either. We were determined. We didn’t conceive of failing.

I can recall some highlights. Nick got yelled at by some a-hole when he swerved into traffic tackling a hill on the way up South Orange Ave. Someone else threw a wire coat hanger at him on the way home somewhere around the Millburn library. Lou got clipped by a truck’s mirror somewhere around Livingston. We went past a school and some little kid asked me if I was running away. All of us almost got wiped out on Rt. 10, by a tractor-trailer riding as we rode against the divider trying to cross the road or something. Not sure how we got into that position in the first place, just stupid. I ran over a snake sunning itself on the shoulder of the road -cut it right in half. A lot of flat tires, stripped, cheap wrenches, bent rims, broken spokes, pant legs caught in the chain, black grease all over your fingers, stopping to eat at McDonald’s along Rt. 46.

We arrived at my Aunt and Uncle’s house sometime in the early afternoon. After checking in, using the bathroom and filling our canteens, we biked the remaining few miles to woods where we would spend the weekend. This area would come to be known as The Rock in later years. It was a large tract of cliffs, woods, old iron mines. The mines were out of use for about 100 years or there about. Accepted practice during those times for closing a mine shaft was to drop whatever was laying around – box cars, sheds, carts, cars, logs, the old outhouse, etc. into the hole, plow dirt over the top, dust your hands off and walk away. There was no reason to worry; a hundred years ago that area was remote. Once the iron ore was done, not too many people would make the trip up there. Of course, as time went on suburban NJ sprawl crept closer.

My uncle hunted this area extensively. He had warned me long before about the mines and showed me a few that he had discovered. They were eerie voids in the ground, sometimes there was water at the bottom. One or two were fenced off. But way back in the hills, you’d be walking along and suddenly come upon a huge swath of earth that collapsed, taking trees, rocks and whatever else was around with it.

So my three friends and I are romping about (as we tended to do) and we come upon this huge crater. Now, I can’t recall exactly how big, but thinking back this thing must have been at least 40 feet in diameter and a good 30 feet deep. Whatever had backfilled that shaft had rusted away and collapsed. And at the bottom…

…a hole.

Blog Post 2/28/2011 – She’s a brick (shit) house

First, we should define ‘shithouse’. For the uninitiated, we are talking about an outhouse. Synonyms might include latrine, loo, water closet, john, crapper, shitter, privy and the nautical head. Some of those might more accurately define a section of a building or structure. For this discussion, however, I am referring to the outhouse – a structure apart from the main quarters used solely for the purposes of relieving ones self.

It doesn’t take much to build a shithouse. They are fairly simple. If you have any building knowledge, you can make a functional outhouse. I have built several lean-to and shelters over the years. Some are still standing. My woodshed could easily be converted into a shithouse, should the need arise. And a damned sturdy two-seater, at that. Not that I would want it to be. But the point here is that a shithouse is generally a small, four sided structure with a sloping roof. A rectangular box set on end. By it’s very nature, that being small, rectangular and of simple roof construction, makes it inherently strong. It would be a low, squat building.

So, by extension, a brick shithouse, properly built, is a strong structure. It can withstand severe weather, getting hit by a vehicle, or a hand grenade. It would be a good place to run to in a storm, even a tornado. It would be a handy place to dodge machine gun fire, or to fire a machine gun from. A tree might fall on it without doing any significant damage or altering its operation. An ox could broadside it with subsequent damage occurring to the beast, not the structure.

Doubtful you will see many shithouses around these days, although I am fortunate enough to live in close proximity to a neighbor who still has one standing on his back 40. (No, I have not made use of it). Actually, when I think about it, I don’t recall seeing any brick (block, stone, mortar, or other rock-like material) shithouses. Perhaps they are merely myth. An object like the Kraken, conjured up to illustrate an otherwise difficult analogy.

Why wouldn’t someone want to construct a brick shithouse? After all, it’s going to get a lot of use. Well, actually, because that would mean that you eventually would have to clean out the pit. And why clean out the pit when you can just dig another one and move the existing (light-weight, wooden) structure?

I did a GIS on the term and after sifting through the usual pile of crap that comes up from such an endeavor, I did come up with one good image of a bonafide brick shithouse. It illustrates the mentioned points nicely.

Blog Post 2/20/2011 – Give me coffee or give me death!

(or, at least let me go home for the day)

I have always been rather proficient at making coffee. Never realized it was an issue until someone pointed out that they can’t seem to make a decent pot of brew. Perplexed at such a comment, I inquired how they went about it and discovered, quickly, that they were using way too much coffee and not enough water.

Like a lot of things in this life, the proper blend is the secret to success. Just ask Otto Diesel, inventor of the the diesel engine. Or more so, the inventor of the gasoline engine. Well, I guess you can’t because they are dead. A mason blending up concrete, a cook making biscuits, a child making mud or any bartender worth their tip (like me).

How important is coffee in life? Well, it is the third most popular drink in the world. We have all heard the jokes about the morning cup of joe, but did you know that nearly every disaster recovery/business continuation plan includes procuring coffee?
Not so funny any more is it?
Trying to do your daily routine at some sub-standard location without the caffeinated kickstart. Participating in the lunacy that swirls around you, and trying to do your part in a meaningful way, without the legal stimulant? Heaven’s no.

And exactly why do you think every organization from the local Boy Scouts to your tight assed boss tends to give out a coffee mug as a token of their (hoark!) appreciation? It’s subliminal, reverse psyco-tropy, a friggin mind game. Coffee mug, get it? Drink more, do more, make more ($$) for me.

“Say there, Johnson, why the tail dragging? What, coffee mug is stained and dirty? Whhaaaallle, here, have a brandy spanking new one, on me! Go ahead, take it for a spin, fill it to the rim, don’t be shy, here’s mud in yer eye. Ha-ha-har..har…{choke, gasp} Ha.

Now get back to work.”

And you wonder why Postal Workers have a bad rap?

Although there are other caffeinated drinks out there, and used by some, most would opt for the hot cup of mud we are used to.

There is something to be said about being addicted to caffeine, but the option is to be admonished for not being fast enough or alert enough, feeling never quite awake, the day never quite gets going. Sad commentary for today’s society, but wtf is one supposed to do? Gotta work, gotta make $$, gotta burn the candle at both ends to survive. How are you going to achieve that end without the mystical dark brew?

Beans, beans the musical fruit…

…oh, wait, wrong forum. It’s beans were talking about here. Coffee beans. The douche collective that runs this country spends so much time devising new ways to fleece us out of our hard earned dollars that they haven’t even considered what would happen if Columbia decided to take a Venezuelan slant on the java supply. Mayhem, I tell you. Slow, dreary eyed, yawning mayhem.

No, there isn’t enough coffee coming out of Hawaii to sustain us, as good as it may be.

At one time when the family owned a convenience store, we had a company – Coffee Roosters, no, that wasn’t it. That was what I called them – Coffee Roasters – who imported their beans green (green beans – HA!) and roasted them just prior to delivery. There were times when the 5 lb. bag was still warm. I would grind up a batch and set to brewing. Freshest cup of coffee I ever enjoyed.

Turns out, Brazil has been leading coffee production the last few years. Most likely not too many issues arising there. Next in line is Vietnam. And I’m sure most of us could agree that they can’t quite be trusted with supporting our habits, what with that whole ‘war’ thing we did with them back in the 60’s. Indonesia is next, so long as no catastrophic earthquakes or volcanic eruptions don’t interfere. (Krakatoa!)

Perhaps we should invite Brazil and Columbia over for a few cerveza’s and ruminate on the matter. Maybe we could work out some kind of insurance policy. You know, the usual agreement we make with our foreign neighbors.

“You know how we are when we don’t have our morning coffee. Just ask Japan, when they pulled that whole ‘Lets-sneak-up-on-them-Sunday-morning-before-breakfast’ a few years back over in Hawaii. You saw where that got them.
…keep the beans rolling, or we’ll nuke your ass.”

Blog Post 1/16/2011 – Fox hunting

I have not been able to bag a fox in all my years of plying the woods of NJ, NY, MA and ME. Oh, I’ve seen a few, usually when I am not armed. Mostly when I am driving, except for that one, mangy critter on Island Beach State Park that I took a picture of. Rode my bike right next to his sand flea bitten ass, dropped my hand as low as I could and snapped a shot. I bet he didn’t see that coming.

Can’t say exactly why I want to bag a fox. I think I would like to skin its ass and tack the pelt to my basement wall, add it’s skull to the archive, nothing more, really.

When I think of foxes I eventually get around to thinking of when Studogger and I were working the evergreen line on the side of a mountain in Hillsdale, NY, uphill from his Dad’s house. He on the field side, me on the other, woods side. We had not seen any grouse in a while and things were fairly quiet.

Suddenly, up ahead I saw movement. I stopped, my shotgun carried close to my chest. Something was trotting towards me. Dog? Coyote? No, a fox! Coming right down the trail towards me! I only had to wait for a clear shot and that biatch was mine. I could see it panting from its run, the golden red fur, sproinky ears, and bushy tail. I was toting my 12 gauge, loaded with 5 shells of copper plated #4 mag. (For those who don’t know, this was more than adequate). I began calculating how much K-salt I would need to cure the hide.

Then, on the other side of the tree line, Studogg snapped a branch. The fox stopped dead in mid-stride, half of its body behind a birch tree. It was looking in my direction, so I couldn’t bring the shotgun to shoulder without being seen.

Patience, Birdwell, patience. Wait for it to look away, then snap gun to shoulder and take the shot.

Then Studogg called out my name. This was standard practice and under normal conditions I could not fault him for doing such. I was not making noise and he couldn’t determine where I was and that was not safe.

“Bird…”

That fox spun around and bolted like a red streak shot from a cannon. I snapped my shotgun up and ran off four rounds so fast, it amazed me. I blasted the birch tree and took out a small sapling that was in the GTL (gun-target-line), but the fox was on its way to the next county, safe and sound. I had been robbed of yet another chance to bag the elusive red fox. Robbed, I tell you.

“What was it?” Studogg called out from the other side of the trees.

I turned towards him, mouth agape, unsure of how to respond.

Then I realized I still had one shell left…

Blog Post 2/12/2011 – Mt. Alander Part 2

In the morning we got acquainted with our new home. Later in the day we started back tracking and collecting our gear. Over the course of the week we took most of our gear back to the vehicle. We got the round trip down to about 5 hours. As it turned out, we couldn’t go hunting, the snow was too deep. Nary had a fox or grouse ever showed their heads anyway. It taught us a valuable lesson about gear selection.

Know this: A cabin gets farking COLD without a hot stove, like in the morning when you wake up. It was a test of fortitude each morning, trying to outlast the each other when you had to pee so bad you practically gurgled when you inhaled, yet not wanting to extract your carcass from the warm cocoon of the sleeping bag. Because whoever got up first had to fill the stove with wood. And not just a few pieces. You had to pack that bitch to the gills, actually kicking in the last piece. Then, and only then, could you insert your frozen hide back into your sleeping bag.

But a warm cabin makes a big difference. We spent most of our time cutting firewood. Anything lying on the ground was buried under 3 feet of snow. Fortunately, we located a big old dead oak tree just at the edge of the drop off. Good wood cutting skills dropped that biatch right alongside the trail. We reduced it to stove kindling over the next few days, stopping only to eat or watch the sun go down on the summit. Oak is excellent stove wood. It spits clean and burns hot. We got to a point where we would have to eat dinner with the door open.

We had Studogg’s Coleman stove with us. Cooking over the wood burning stove was difficult, dog dish not withstanding. You needed to maintain a high fire. But the Coleman was showing its age. It backfired/detonated once in the cabin, after which Studogg took to lighting it outside. Then, it almost detonated the Studogg. He booted it out into the snow. It was tough enough surviving up there without having a CED to deal with. (Coleman Explosive Device)

We harvested huge icicles that hung off of the cabin and melted them for drinking water, but we did have to filter out the small particles of shingle tar and gravel. We learned that taking a dump in three feet of snow is quite challenging and needs to be thunk through ahead of time, because you are going to have to excavate a hole. Strange, we didn’t have a shovel with us…

After a day or two we became quite comfortable with our surroundings and began looking for amusement. Pellet pistols were interesting the first day. When that no longer held our attention, we decided to go sledding – by lantern light – down the steep incline. It was like a luge, only it went through the trees and dropped off the side of a mountain. It was frighteningly fast and incredibly fun, so long as you didn’t think about how you would get off of the mountain with a broken leg.

On the way out we met two other guys headed up to the cabin. They were traveling light. Only the clothes they were wearing and a couple of bleach bottles filled with water.
We advised them of the arduous journey ahead of them.
Not to worry, they replied. We have been there many times prior.
But the snow, we warned. It’s deep.
Bah, they said, for we are strapping young men, at the pinnacle of our strength. By the way, you got a light?

We dragged our stinking, unwashed selves back to Studogg’s ol’ man’s house. A few showers, a steam bath and a swim in the lap pool restored us nicely. Both of us lost some weight. Maybe 8 pounds each. Too bad I couldn’t keep it off. I also remember being uncomfortably warm inside a house for a few days. Six days in the winter woods will do that to you.

Blog Post 1/31/2011 –

I don’t like groundhogs.
I don’t like people extracting groundhogs from their hidey-holes and using them to predict the remaining grip of winter.
I don’t particularly like the word ‘Punxsutawney’
Not big on ‘Phil’ either.
I find winter to be more of a nuisance with each passing year.
A 6 foot snow plow on the front of an Ford F350 is nice to have around when it snows.
Real nice.

Using a variety of methods, publications, observations, incantations, achy-breaky bone lore and just a general sense of things, I will now make my yearly prediction for the arrival of spring. I’m saying spring is going to be on time. None of this six more weeks crap the fat rodent might want to foretell. Presently the rotund flea-bag that dwells beneath my shed is capped by at least 1.5 feet of crusted white. That’s not to say she (I’m going with ‘she’. Seems there have been offspring from year to year) can’t or won’t tunnel her way to the surface.

This year a storm brew-eth to the west. A big storm. It already has a name – The Groundhog’s Day Storm. (Now we are even naming weather events after them…dammit!) Even if we escape the wrath of a deep trough jet stream, frigid arctic air colliding with a large low pressure system and a weakening American dollar, more likely than not the sun won’t be shining. And no sun shining on February 2 means no groundhog shadow. No rodent shadow means winter should blow itself out on time. No hanging around just to piss off the Birdwell.

Let me be clear; I am not saying that it won’t snow again. Of course it will. We always get a March storm and April throws us a curve ball from time to time. But these snowfalls are short lived. They may dump, but they don’t linger.

I’m not saying it won’t get cold again. Of course it’s going to get, even stay, cold. It’s winter, after all. No, I’m just saying that we should see some respite from old man winter’s icy grip across the land in March.

A definition of ‘spring’ would be helpful. When day time temperatures are in the 40’s for two weeks. When melt water is running through the night. When the front lawn is a soggy mess that you dare not walk on even with your mud-shoes. When spring peepers can be heard for 7 days in a row. When the first skunk gets splattered on the county road.

Then, there is that smell. Spring has a smell. Not a smelly smell, that’s the flat skunk on Rt. 579. More of a scent. The air has lost its chill. You breathe in and don’t feel your nose hairs prick up.

It is almost imperceptible, but if you listen closely you can hear the earth stirring from sleep. And, if it makes you feel better, folks in the southern hemisphere are just getting started with their winter.

Blog Post 1/23/2011 – “Nice fish!”

For me, vacationing at the Outer Banks, NC is the height of enjoyment. I love being on the beach, renting a luxury house on the beach, hanging out, partying, and fishing.

Of the three times that I have been to OBX, I have been fortunate to have caught fish in the surf each time. The first was a black drum, maybe 20 inches. Holy smokes, what fun that was. Two years later I pulled a stingray out. Somewhat difficult to deal with, but no match for a 10 pound tackle box dropped on its tail and a rusty pair of needle-nosed pliers to wrench the hook out of its mouth. Both of those were released back to the sea alive.

My last trip was the best yet. We were all out fishing in the surf. Al, my bro-in-law, our friend Dave and my nephew, Chris. Dave and Al pulled in a couple of nice flounder, one was a keeper. Chris pulled in a couple of croakers. But I was without.

Tarnation, where is my fish? I thought (no, I didn’t say ‘tarnation’, actually. I was much more vulgar, but I kept it to myself).

All in all, we did well for the time of year. August is not a good fishing month down there. But then, I got a hit. I set the hook, thinking it was a croaker and began to reel in. Then I felt a large tug at the end of the line. Could I have possibly caught another drum?

At first, no one saw what was happening, and then someone said, ‘Bird, do you have something?’

The bend in the rod spoke for itself. With my crew in tow, I worked my way with the current, which was going northward. At times the fish was taking line, which was even more exciting. I could tell it was a big fish, and trying to pull it in the surf was both challenging and worrisome. I didn’t want to lose it.

At this point I had traveled quite a distance up the beach. There wasn’t anyone there (or so I thought) when I had started walking with the fish, so I figured I was good to fight it wherever it took me. At one point I said to Dave and Chris, ‘Get the net’, meaning a crabbing net that was under the porch at the house. When I didn’t get any action from that request I re-stated it a little more emphatically. Afterwards I was told I came across somewhat tense. I guess it’s an Italian thing. I thought maybe they didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.

Either way, Chris takes off and comes back a few minutes later with the crabbing net. By now the fish is in the waves, I can’t see it yet, but it’s close. I tell Chris to try and net the sea beast. Much to his credit, he jumps into the water and approaches the fish. He tries a couple of times, but looks up and says, ‘It’s too big for the net.’

Too big for the net. Wow, I thought. What in tarnation is this thing? Did I just send my nephew into the drink with a shark on the line? How irresponsible of me.

That is when I realized that I needed to land this fish onto the beach myself with rod and reel, or I couldn’t say with all veracity that I caught it in the surf. Using techniques that I have no idea how I obtained or retained, I played the fish up and beached it with a crashing wave.

I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. It was a huge red drum, certainly one of the more desirable fish to catch out there.

Suddenly applause erupted all around me. Startled, I looked up to see a crowd. It was just about all of the folks that we shared the beach with that week, maybe 20 people. They had seen me fighting the fish and followed me down the beach. I was still overwhelmed that I actually landed the fish; it didn’t spit the hook, break the line, or some other unfortunate mishap.

Olivia was at my side as I reached down, hooked my fingers through a gill and hoisted it up. It was the biggest fish I had ever caught. Dave kept saying, “Nice fish! Nice fish!” In fact, he kept saying it for a few weeks after. Always made me smile.

I wasn’t sure if I should release it or not. I felt a little guilty about it. It was such a nice fish and put up a great fight. I would be ok with letting it go, but I knew it most likely wouldn’t survive. The only way I got it onto the beach in the first place was by playing it out until it couldn’t fight any more.

I brought the fish back to the house. Nearly every house on the beach has a fish cleaning table outside. Likewise, most beach house kitchens have a good fillet knife. This was the first time I was going to get to use either. We snapped some pictures and took some measurements. 27 inches. Man, that was a nice fish.

I had said before we left to go on vacation, that if I caught a fish early enough in the week, we would have it for dinner. I cleaned my fish and cut off two beautiful fillets. I proudly handed them off to my sister, whom I knew already had two sides cooking and sauce prepared (she is a great cook).

It was one of the best fish I have ever eaten. The meat was firm, white, delicious and as fresh as a fish could be. It fed 10 people (stuffed to the gills).

Every local cat, feral, alley or otherwise feasted on the stripped carcass that night. Before I was done filleting they were poking their heads out from their hidey-holes. Word must have gotten around fast. In the morning it looked like a cartoon, nothing but bones left.

The next day, Olivia and I buried the skeleton on the beach where it could eventually return to the ocean.

Blog Post 2/7/2011  Mt. Alander

Snow this deep always gets me thinking about a week-long trip Studogg and I made to Mt. Alander.

Here is a tip that bears mentioning: When the camp ranger seems like he is being evasive, for no good reason, or drops (subtle or not so) hints about your proposed plan, (you are, eh? Good luck) re-think, re-group, re-evaluate and drop half your gear.

Winter 1987 or 88, Massachusetts, near the NY/CT borders. Studogg and I set off on a trip that was to test the very fiber of our being. Studogg had found a cabin that we could occupy, atop Mt. Alander, elevation 2,240 ft. That will become significant shortly.

It had been a typical winter in those parts and about 3 feet of snow lay on the ground. No matter, we said. For we are strapping young men at the pinnacle of our strength and fortitude. Not only will we make it up to the cabin, we will do so with our backpacks on and dragging a sled full of gear – each – and with the Studogger perched on cross-county skis.
(What farking dolts).

Here’s another tip: Travel light in the snow. We were traveling anything but light. We each had our shotguns, because we may have wanted to go grouse seeking. We also each had our .22 rifles, because a fox may have needed a well placed Stinger behind the ear. We also each had our pellet pistols, in case of cabin fever. And binoculars, for seeing things reallllly farrrr awwwway. And water, because the frozen stuff that blanketed the entire landscape wasn’t good enough. And ammo, beer, a saw, an ax, sharpening stones, a lot of warm clothes, food …you get the picture.

We followed the snowmobile trail the ranger mentioned over the open fields and into the tree line. It was then the first vestiges of trouble began. One step off of the snowmobile trail put us thigh deep in snow. Deciding that we could jettison some secondary gear, we set up Spike Camp Alpha, just uphill of a pleasant, but mostly frozen, mountain stream, behind a big patch of mountain laurel. No, the beer did not get kicked out, yet. The cross-country skis did, however.

Now we are dragging a toboggan alternately between the two of us, with our packs on our backs. It was hard farking work.

Somewhere around dusk – quite a few hours into this 3 mile hike, we established Spike Camp Beta. a.k.a – Camp Fark This Shiate! Here resided everything we didn’t need to live through the night. If in fact, we lived. It was just off the side of a snow covered road. We sat our tired, sweat-soaked asses in the road and tried to decide what to do. We had a tent with us (!) Maybe we should set up and wait out the dark. Studogger tells me that we engaged in a terse, yet polite debate in which I was firmly on the side of continuing through the night. He was erring on the side of caution. Somehow, I managed to convince him. Maybe it was when we realized how cold the tent would be set up on top of the snow.

Then, a sound. A swishing sound. A skier!
Stop, dude (please). Would you be so kind as to tell us how far to the cabin?
Oh, you can’t miss it. Maybe another mile. The trail goes right past the front door.
Well, maybe we’ll find it in the morning.
Oh no! You can’t do that – you’re almost there. It’s only another mile or so. Don’t let the darkness fool you, it’s only about 5:30. You can’t stay here all night.
Then, he disappeared into the snowy night, silently as he came. Which was a good thing, because as we conferred on the matter it seemed like he was referring that we were {gasp} pussies!
Well, we may have been unintelligent enough to bring too much gear, but no one was going to admonish us and our mad woods skillz. We would persevere.

About two hours later, we found ourselves at the foot of yet another very steep incline (2,240 feet, remember?) beginning at the plunge pool of a mountain stream. Spike Camp 3 had been established somewhere behind us, beside the trail in a grove of birch saplings. No hiding necessary. Nobody was coming up behind us in the (very cold) dark of night. Here we dropped everything else we had except our backpacks.

We were completely soaked with sweat, our 1 lb. bag of peanut M&M’s was gone and we were afraid to sit down for fear of not getting back up. We were leap frogging – one person would go ahead a few yards and rest while the other caught up, then took the lead.

I don’t know what was pushing me up this particular incline, but it may have been Studogg cursing me out when I urged him to keep moving.

‘Keep moving, Studogger. Don’t let yer legs cramp up.’
‘FARK YOU!’
It’s all in the delivery.

The hill leveled off to an incline and it was here that I wrapped my arms around a tree and let my head drop. Just where the hell was this place? I could hear Studogg below me, tackling the hill.

Step, step – slip – crash! (Cursing)
Step, step – slip -Crash! (More insistent cursing)
And what bone jarring crashes they were. I tell you, nothing is as hard for a tired body to land on as ice covered rock.

I knew better than to open my mouth again. I figured, as long as I could still hear him, I didn’t have to go into survival mode yet. I lifted my head and peered into the darkness. I was concentrating on something that seemed out of place in the vertical blackness of the snowy forest. It was angular, horizontal. Wtf?

I closed my eyes and put my head down again. (I needed the rest, anyway). When I looked up again, it was still there. But what was it?

There is a trick to seeing things in the dark. You have to look off to the side slightly. It has to do with the rods in your eyes and night vision. When I did that, adjusting for the copious amount of trees in the way, I saw the dark outline of a roof. The cabin! We made it! We were going to live to tell this tale after all.

Indeed the trail ran right past the front door, just as the skier dude and the Ranger had said. It only took us something like 5 hours to get there. 5 hours for a three mile hike. That’s ludicrous. We collapsed on the floor. We had shelter. If we wanted to, we could crawl into our sleeping bags and wait until morning.

After a while we rose and poked around. It was a rustic place, but fairly well appointed. There were beds, cookware, a small table and chairs. Previous cabin dwellers had left a nice stash of dry wood (courtesy pile). We made a fire in the wood burning stove, melted snow for water (our canteens were dry) and lit up smokes. (Yeah, we both were smoking at the time, Marlboro reds. Strapping young boys, pinnacle of our strength). Studogg found hot chocolate packets (also left by previous occupants). I can specifically remember him asking if I wanted a cup.

We began emptying our backpacks to see what we had with us. I’m pretty sure we were both resigned to eating bullion cube consume` from our survival kits. Amazingly, I pulled out a two quart container of beef stew. I had packed it that morning with dinner in mind, but totally forgotten about it. We found a stainless steel bowl (might have been a dog dish) that fit perfectly in the top of the wood stove. We chowed by flashlight, directly out of the bowl…like dogs.

To this day I leave a courtesy pile of firewood wherever I go and my survival kit has a packet of hot chocolate in it. Whoever you folks were that resided in the cabin prior to us, a heartfelt ‘Thanks very much’ for the wood and the hot chocolate.

Blog Post 1/9/2011 – The BMW Deerslayer 320i

I was driving a truck for a living (seems like I began another blog that way). It was a big old Grumman step van. Grumman – the same company that makes aluminum canoes. True to form, this step van was mostly aluminum and every bit as sturdy as a van made of aluminum, which is to say it was a piece of crap. This particular vehicle that I was driving had some kind of governor that would not let it go any faster than 58 mph (according to the speedometer, which could have been faulty, too). The gas pedal was about as sturdy as one you would find on an old arcade game like Pole Position or Turbo. So, when it came time to hit the highway, I would just drop the hammer and keep it there. Didn’t make a diff either way, so why not just plant the thing?

Anyhoweiser, I was on my way back from my daily round of deliveries. It must have been late fall because it was already dark. This is a time when deer, having completed their biological requirement of mating, display acute stupidity. Much like teenagers at a party.

I was headed north on Rt. 287 back to the depot. I began climbing the hill around Bedminster/Far Hills when I noticed a deer up ahead on the embankment.
“Keep yer sproinky ass right there, Rudolph,” I barked. Or words to that effect. (You may as well speak out loud when driving one of those things; they’re so noisy you can’t hear yourself think).

Blatantly ignoring my request, the fool thing walked off the hill and began crossing the highway. It must have know that I could not close the distance in time, judging by it’s effortless pace. I was seriously considering affixing the thing as a hood ornament on my vehicle, when I had a rare moment of clarity. “What if the deer damages the radiator, fan or some other vital engine part and strands me on this desolate stretch of road? Remember, this was the days before cell phones and that stretch of Rt. 287 was far from any emergency phone. I would have to wait until the police or some kind soul happened by.

That would really piss me off, stranded by my own devices. So I let up off the gas and began to slow down. It was then that I noticed someone trying to pass me on the left. Back then, Rt. 287 was only a two lane road. His view of the right lane was blocked by the massive bulk of my truck and he had no clue that the deer was crossing out of my lane and into his.

I watched in stoic amazement. I wish I had a video camera to record the scene. You couldn’t get a better seat. I was pro’ly a good 6 feet or more above the deer, looking down out the huge truck windshield, as it crossed into the left lane, was brilliantly illuminated by the black BMW and…

…I don’t know if the animal even had the time to say ‘Oh SH…’ to itself. It may have gotten out the ‘Oh’, but that would be all.

BAM!!! I would like to put that in extra bold and 24 pt. type, but this application won’t let me.

Remember: All of us are doing at least 50 mph (deer included). We were decelerating rapidly, but that only worked in favor of the next sequence of events.

The deer (or deer carcass, if you want to be technical about it) was cast off to the shoulder of the road, spinning on its side like a bottle, all the while keeping pace with and staying in plain view right beside the vehicles. After a few seconds it began to drift onto the grass and then hit a rock or dead groundhog or something and began flipping end-over-end, legs, hoofs, ears and tail all making appearances as it slowly came to a stop – almost at the same time as we came to a stop.

I jumped out of the truck and ran over to the driver of the BMW. (Suppressing my incredulous chuckling) I asked if he was ok. He replied yes. I didn’t know what else to say, so I said, ‘Well, I guess we should go see if it’s dead.’
“It’s dead.” He assured me. Another genius in the world.
And indeed it was. Mangled up in tangled up knots.

I got the feeling like maybe this speed limit exceeding pompous jackwagon was blaming me for his Beemer grill being smashed to friggin pieces. But, hey, I was doing the speed limit, in the right-hand lane, no less. No foul on my part, Bambi runner overer. Notice that Blitzen threw down the blitzkrieg on your ass. He merely gave me a show (and a tale to tell).

As I drove off, cackling with insane laughter, I thought maybe he was just pissed about his rotten luck. I know I would have been.

Blog Post 1/4/2011 –

What does it take anymore to shave one’s face – or under arms or a pair of legs for that matter? For as long as I can remember, I have been using a two blade system of one type or another. Way back when I started shaving (I started before most kids) there were the drop-in type. Check the cover art on Judas Priest’s ‘British Steel’ album for a graphic.

They were called safety razors. But you’ll have a hard time convincing me, two stitches on the end of my nose later. Like I said – began shaving early in my life, although at 2 years of age, I didn’t quite have the fine motor skills needed to avoid excessive removal of flesh.

These days, razor blade arrays come in the standard 2, upgraded 3, quattro and now the cinco option; each with a requisite increase in price. All in keeping with the ‘more is better’ theme American industrialists are famous for.

Using a five bladed razor is like taking a farm implement to your face – a drag harrow, disk or York rake. You can feel the hairs being pulled up like so many weeds out of the earth. Oh, it gives a close shave, but it feels like its trying to scrape off a layer of dermis in the process. I am not convinced that it is any closer of a shave than a two blade rig. It certainly doesn’t delay the regrowth of hair. Some basic research into the matter confirms my insights. More blades does not equal a better shave. In fact, it produces more ingrown hairs and clogged pores. I guess that whole ‘pulls the whisker out, then cuts it off’ is not all that good for your face – or arm pit, calf, or bikini line, as it were.

What’s next? A six blade rig, the Hexor? Eight, the Octor? Ten, the Dixie (pixie)? Sooner or later some marketing genius will pitch a single blade – maybe even an updated straight razor. After all, they were the original ‘green razor’. Back in the day you may have inherited your old man’s razor, or your grandfather’s. If you didn’t lose it or break the edge cutting something other than your whiskers, you might not ever have had to purchase another. How’s that for durable goods?

It causes me to wonder if women used those things to rid themselves of unsightly arm pit or leg hair. Did they make a ladies version (doubtful) or did they have to use what was available? Maybe the ladies had to have one ground down to a more feminine size?

No doubt, nothing shaves as close as a straight razor. Although I have never shaved my own mug with one, I have heard tales. I’ve been tempted to try, but then I put a good deal more thought into potentially hazardous undertakings these days. Putting sharp edged steel to my face constitutes a hazardous undertaking.

I had a girlfriend who absolutely loved the feeling of the razor on her neck – and kept her hair unattractively short just so that she could get that close neck shave on a regular basis. At the time, I thought this was a little odd – to say the least. But a few years later, I hooked up with a good barber and he used a straight razor to clean up my neck line and side burns. It was then that I understood the attraction. There certainly was something to the sharp cleaving of hairs, the dangerously close, yet clean swipe of the blade across the skin, the absolutely baby’s ass smoothness that it produced.

It seems that modern do-it-yourself face shaving has caused the demise of one of men’s great pleasures. I have been searching for, but cannot find a barber in the area that does a straight razor shave. I want to settle down in the chair, relax while a hot towel is wrapped around my maw, watch the barber stir up the soap into a thick later, smear it around my face with a boar’s bristle brush, strop the blade keen and set to work on my gnarly whiskers (unnerving as that may sound).

Women have manicures, pedicures, hair dressing (french, ranch or thousand island?) and bikini waxing. I think men should be able to get a decent straight razor shave. Maybe on Sunday morning, after church and before a hot mug of java and fat cigar.

Blog Post 9/11/2010 –

Saturday is 9/11. As always, I would like to do something to honor our fallen, while at the same time pissing off those who have caused us so much grief.

Seems to me that those who despise us so damn much also despise our way of life. Not only our choice of religion(s), but the food we eat, alcohol consumption, mode of dress and bathing.

So, I will be eating PORK at every meal. I will do so wearing only the minimum clothing required (boxers during breakfast, swim trunks at lunch, denim shorts/ripped t-shirt at dinner). At precise times during the day I will face towards Mecca and bathe profusely, using lots of soap and hot water. I will, of course, shave my face (I dislike beards). I will go to church and pray – to MY God, MY way. Needless to say, in the afternoon the beer will be flowing.

You see, they can’t stand the way we live or our freedoms – religious or otherwise. And they really, really hate PORK. Water is scarce and soap is unheard of. Alcohol is forbidden. But here in America those things are the staples of life.

There are those who say they have already won because they have changed our way of life. They have scared us, disrupted mass transit, destroyed our icons.

I say, flip them the finger. A double, in fact. Patriot’s Day should be celebrated in standard American tradition – barbeques and beer.

How pissed off do you think Oksana binLadle would be, seeing Rudolph Giuliani chomping on a hot dog and washing it back with a cold lager?


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