Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mount Trashmore

A few years ago I was wandering around and becoming enamored of the seemingly bargain prices for homes in Florida. In fact today you can still get a three-thousand square foot home right on the beach for about $12,000. OK, that last part isn’t true, but the prices did seem remarkable, especially when compared to our own merciless California market.

Now you know and I know that I wouldn’t do well in Florida’s oppressive heat. I suspect that I’d last about two, maybe three, days before I hopped the next direct flight to Greenland, never to be heard from again. I often have this fantasy about God coming on Judgment Day and yelling, “What the hell are you doing? I never intended for people to live there! I made Florida for the lizards!”

At about the same time I was checking out the Florida real estate I had asked two friends who had come from Florida to send me, just for fun, their top ten reasons for not moving there.  I wish I had saved what they wrote, because both lists were very funny and I could have easily published them here on these pages and passed them off as my own.

I do, however, recall one of the reasons given for not moving to Florida. “You don’t want to live in a state where the highest point is a garbage dump named Mount. Trashmore.” This is hilarious if true, and while I’ve been able to locate several people on the Internet who repeat this claim I find no name for the particular dump or any hard evidence that the claim is valid.

The official high point in Florida is some place called Britton Hill. It towers 345 feet above sea level, and is surely destined to become Britton Island after Al Gore gets his way and Florida disappears beneath the Atlantic. The second highest point in Florida is Oak Hill at 331 feet, followed closely by High Hill.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the list of the eleven highest points in Florida is that five of them are man-made. In fact, we can even name the man. You see, all five happen to be rides at Disney World. Funny, sure, but not nearly so much as that trash heap story. I guess I’ve got some more research to do.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Merry Christmas Quiz

You know, there’s not a religious bone in my body and still I love Christmas. I like the lights and the music and paying forty bucks to cut down my own tree. (And I don’t like hanging it upside down; not because it’s Satanic, but because it’s non-traditional. And stupid.) I like going to the mall and I like both the hustle and the bustle. I like cold air and hot chocolate. I like receiving Christmas cards without having to send any, because that’s my wife’s job.  I like not going to church and wasting valuable time that could otherwise be spent eating cookies and drinking eggnog.

I like Christmas now and I would have liked it 3,000 years ago when it was called Saturnalia, celebrating the return of longer days, and so of life, and included much hi-jinks and debauchery. (Did you think you put a pine tree in your living room because Baby Jesus had one in the manger? Decorated and with an electric train?) So enjoy the season, have fun, be kind and have a very Merry Winter Solstice!

Meanwhile, here’s a jolly Christmas Quiz just for you!

  1. Who was Saint Nicholas?
a. An 11th Century Pope
b. A 4th Century Bishop
c. Son of the apostle Peter
d. Your parents, you dope.

  1. How many ghosts visited Scrooge?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

  1. Quick! On the fourth day of Christmas, what did my true love first give to me?
a. French hens
b. Turtle-doves
c. Calling birds
d. A rash

  1. Which is not one of Santy’s reindeer?
a. Blitzen
b. Vixen
c. Lancer
d. Dancer

  1. What did Saint Nick smoke in The Night Before Christmas?
a. A pipe
b. A cigar
c. Virginia Slims
d. Nothing

  1. What was Frosty’s nose made out of?
a. Coal
b. An icicle
c. A carrot
d. A button

  1. What is the most popular topper for a Christmas tree?
a. An angel
b. A star
c. A nativity scene
d. A pointed ornament

  1. In We Wish You A Merry Christmas, what kind of pudding is demanded?
a. Cherry
b. Figgy
c. Hasty
d. Jello

  1. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, who wants to be the Christmas Queen?
a. Lucy
b. Peppermint Patty
c. Sally
d. Linus

  1. What popular snack started out in 1902 as a Christmas tree decoration?
a. Cracker Jack
b. Pretzel twists
c. Cheese Doodles
d. Animal Crackers


1.              A 4th CENTURY BISHOP. Nick was reported to be one helluva nice guy who was famous for giving gifts to the poor.
2.              4. Not all of you forgot to count the ghost of Jacob Marley, but I bet a lot of you did!
3.              FOUR CALLING BIRDS. Give yourself only half-credit if you had to sing out loud to get the answer.
4.              LANCER is not one of Santa’s reindeer. It was, however, a highly forgettable TV show from the ‘60’s.
5.              Yeah, it was a PIPE. Hope you didn’t over-think this one.
6.              A BUTTON. His eyes were coal and his ass was snow.
7.              AN ANGEL. This one was really a toss-up. I mean, how many Nativity scenes have you seen on top of a Christmas tree?
8.              FIGGY. Damn, I almost got this one wrong myself. Then I would have had to suffer the slings and arrows of angry e-mails. I thought it was Hasty Pudding at first, which I found out is made from corn. Then I remembered the song actually said Figgy Pudding. Still a pretty demanding tune though. “We won’t go until we get some!” What’s up with that?
9.              LUCY of course. And yes, we all have our doubts about Linus.
10.          Barnum ANIMAL CRACKERS. Didn’t you ever wonder what that string on the box is for? To hang on your tree, silly!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Give Her a Chia and She's Sure to Say "See Ya!"

As I’ve mentioned previously, the only time Spike reads my blogs is when I make a point of telling her that she’s been mentioned in one. So I feel perfectly safe in writing about shopping for her Christmas present today. I simply won’t let her know that she was in this blog. And neither will you, right? Right? OK, then.

But wait! You’re talking about the Christmas present that you’re getting for your wife, and yet this piece is about Chia Pets? You can’t possibly mean…?

Of course I do. Oh, calm your ass down. That’s not all I’m getting her, but I have looked in a bunch of places for a Chia Pet. I know it shouldn’t be that difficult to find one, but you see I’m not just trying to hunt down any old Chia Pet. It has to be the Tweety Chia Pet. Spike’s a big fan of that faggoty little bird, and I’ve come across several Chia displays but have so far been unable to locate a Tweety model.

After spending half a day searching from store to store (and trust me that’s a big exaggeration right there) I started to think about the Chia Pet. (And really, what else have I got to think about?) Where does it come from? How long have they been around? What’s a “chia” anyway? Well hang on, Boys and Girls, because once again it’s Education Day here at the old blog. I’ve found me a bunch of info about the Chia Pet, and aren’t you just dying to hear all about it?

The first Chia Pet came on the market in 1982. Without cheating, how many of you can tell me what kind of animal it was? Yeah, I figured as much. Chia Pets, it turns out, are made right here in San Francisco by Joseph Enterprises, Inc. Can you name another fine product made by this same company? Of course, The Clapper! Clap on! Clap off!

One Chia display that I was directed to by the helpful and semi-attractive Rite-Aid employee was hidden away in one of the far corners of the store. After a little research I now understand why. When first introduced in the 80’s the Chia Pet was a big success. Since then its popularity has steadily declined, despite the addition of many new models, including the previously mentioned cartoon characters. All I know is that years ago a friend gave me one for Christmas and, despite my initial reaction upon unwrapping it, the Chia Pet turned out to be a lot of fun. I truly have to start getting out more.

For those of you who haven’t been so blessed, I’ll let you know that the body of the Chia Pet is made out of clay, and has grooves all over it. The moistened seeds of the Salvia columbariae plant are then spread over the figurine and a few days later sprouts begin to appear. Often the figures are designed so that the sprouts simulate growing hair or fur. There’s even a Homer Simpson Chia that finally gives Homer the luxurious locks that he’s always yearned for. (If you’re buying, get me that one. Or the turtle.)

The Salvia columbariae is an annual plant, but each Chia Pet comes with enough seeds for three plantings. Another interesting fact about the Salvia columbariae is that it is generally better known by its common name, the chia plant. Hah? Hah? It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?

So this Holiday Season why max out those credit cards on giant plasma televisions and cruises to exotic locales? Take a hint from your old blogger pal and give them what they really want, a Chia Pet from your local drug store. Trust me, there’s no better way to say, “I care, but not that much.”

Oh, and because I don’t want you tossing and turning all night I’ll let you know that the first Chia Pet was a…ram. How about that?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Classic Movie Monster Quiz

More than several years ago, when we were about ten, my chum Lenny Z. declared that The Creature From The Black Lagoon was the best movie he’d ever seen. At the time I remember scoffing at the notion. (And the fact that I was already scoffing at anything at the age of ten should help you to understand why I turned out the way I did.)

Search the title of this horror movie today and you’ll read such glowing praise that you’ll think you Googled Gone With The Wind by mistake. I should have listened to Lenny back then. After all, when the rest of us were constructing models of cars and airplanes (Remember those fantastic glue fumes? And only ten cents a tube!) his bedroom shelf held plastic replicas of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and of course the Creature himself. Uh, Itself.

Well, the truth is a lot of monsters have graced the silver screen over the years, from the American-made Creature who swam underwater in a cheap rubber suit to the Japanese legend Godzilla, who kicked the snot out of tiny plastic models of downtown Tokyo. And we loved them all, didn’t we?

But how much do you remember? Well let’s find out! Try your hand at the Classic Movie Monster Quiz below and see if your personal favorite is mentioned. And when I say “classic” I mean just that. You’ll find none of that new-fangled Alien or Freddy Krueger crap in my monster quiz!

  1. In the 1941 film, what was the Wolf Man’s real name?
a. William O’Connor
b. Lawrence Talbot
c. Preston Parker
d. It was never given.

  1. Who played Frankenstein in the 1931 classic film?
a. Colin Clive
b. Lon Chaney, Jr.
c. Victor Landis
d. Boris Karloff

  1. Godzilla’s Japanese name is Gojira. What does it mean?
a. Half gorilla, half whale
b. Half dragon, half elephant
c. Half dinosaur, half emperor
d. Half lizard, half Mel Gibson

  1. In the 1932 film, what was the name of The Mummy?
       a. Tut-ep-ho
             b. Em-ho-ut
 c. Im-ho-tep
 d. Yur-a-ho

  1. Gamera, who debuted in a 1965 Japanese film, is a giant, flying…?
            a. Snake
            b. Turtle
            c. Alligator
d. Pterodactyl

  1. In the 1931 film, Dracula has the power to change into a…?
a. Wolf.
b.  Bat
c.  Snake
            d.  Housedress

  1. The Creature From the Black Lagoon is also known as…?
            a. The Fish-Man
b. The Gill-Man
c. The Shark-Man
d. Dick Cheney

  1. Mothra, from the Japanese movie of the same name, is actually a giant flying…?
a. Wasp
b. Cockraoch
c. Moth
d. Ladybug

  1. Which Hollywood screen legend starred in The Blob?
a. Clint Eastwood
b. Gene Hackman
c. Charles Bronson
d. Steve McQueen

  1. Where did King Kong live?
a. Voodoo Island
b. Skull Island
c. Fog Island
d. Lost Island

OK, time’s up, pencils down! How’d you do?


1.      LAWRENCE TALBOT. I even knew that one without looking it up.
2.      Gotcha! COLIN CLIVE played Dr. Frankenstein. Boris Karloff played the monster.
3.      HALF GORILLA, HALF WHALE. And what do you mean I shouldn’t kick Gibson when he’s down? What better time?
4.      IM-HO-TEP. One of the slowest-moving monsters of all time. Well, I guess Frankenstein (uh, I mean Frankenstein’s monster, wasn’t much of a sprinter either.)
5.      Yup, Gamera was a giant, flying TURTLE. No kidding. I guess by the 1960’s they were running out of reptiles to use.
6.      BAT. Easy one, even for you.
7.      THE GILL-MAN. We used to tie a rope around my brothers ankle and stake the other end into the ground and play Gill-Man. Well screw you, we didn’t have Game-Boy.
8.      MOTH. Aren’t you paying attention at all?
9.      STEVE MCQUEEN. Also, look for an unimaginably young Clint Eastwood in Revenge of the Creature, his first movie. (Clint’s, not the Creature’s.)
10.  SKULL ISLAND. Hey how about a remake with a giant gorilla called Queen Kong who lives on Fire Island? My, it really is getting late.

OK, did anybody get all ten right? Hey Lenny Z., how’d the old “monster expert” do?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gizmos and Toys

“Americans have been bought off and silenced by gizmos and toys.”
                                                                                                                      --George Carlin

All I really wanted to do was lie on the couch and review the instruction manual to my camera. But first, I had to find it. And so to the bottom drawer on the left side of the kitchen sink, where we keep a pile of manuals and instructions from all of our appliances, electronics and other modern implements of destruction.

And what a pile it was! When, I wondered, was the last time I had sorted through all this crap? Well, clearly, today was the day. My potato-ing on the couch, reading about the workings of my camera, would just have to wait. And so I began to go through the stack, and here’s what I found:

Operating Instructions for my Black and Decker cordless edger: I never did need this. I’ve already used that edger since I bought it years ago. Twice.

Operating Instructions for a CD from Sharper Image. This is also something we almost never use. It’s as fragile a piece of electronics as I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine that we ever actually bought something from the now-bankrupt Sharper Image. And we didn’t. I think Spike won it years ago. Or found it somewhere.

The Installation Guide to a thermostat: The thermostat has long been installed. And certainly not by me. Why do I still need this?

The Owner’s Manual to my Schwinn: My Schwinn is currently unrideable, but I don’t think I need the manual to figure out the problem. I believe I just need to put air in the tires.

Setup Guide to a Dell Computer: Not sure which computer this is for, the one I’m using now or the one rusting away in the garage. 

A two-page Instruction Sheet on how to set up my three–piece hammock frame: I’m really sorry I found this. I just finished measuring my old, corroded hammock, in preparation for getting a new one. My measurement says it’s ten feet. The Instruction Sheet says it’s eleven feet. Who should I believe?

Use and Care Guide to our gas water heater: That’s the big thing in the garage, right?

Instruction for JVC car radio: That was the one that was working great that I had to rip out because it wouldn’t work with Sirius. I have to have Howard.

Operating Instructions for the telephone we just threw out: Now I’ll never learn how to work that fax machine.

Instruction Manual for my Mulching Rear Bag Mower: My lawn mower came with a bag?

Guide on how to program your TV remote from Comca—I mean, Xfinity: I give them credit. At this point they’ve almost completely eliminated the c-word.

Operating Instructions to a portable DVD player: I’m glad I know where instructions are. Now if I could only find the DVD player.

User Manual for a 4-cup Mr. Coffee maker: Spike, who doesn’t drink coffee, bought this even though I told her I wouldn’t use it. Anybody need a coffee maker? It’s brand new.

User Guide for our VHS player: Okay, don’t laugh. It also has DVD player, so it’s only mostly obsolete.

Product Registration Card dated 2003 for something called a Dirt Devil: It’s possibly too late to mail that in.

Instruction Booklet for a Westinghouse microwave oven: I’ve never actually read the instructions. So far, so good.

Owner’s Guide for our Softub: Apparently there’s more to the process than 1. heat water, 2. get in.

Manual for a Bella Circus Waffle Maker; This was a gift that I knew Spike, who eats those frozen toaster waffles every morning, would never use from the day I bought it. But I had to, you know, get her something. And really, who wouldn’t prefer waffles shaped like clowns?

Operating Instructions for a Panasonic telephone. The picture of it reminds me of some long-ago girlfriend. It’s only vaguely familiar, even though apparently there was a time when I used it every day.

Instruction Manual for a Black and Decker electric drill: I have a drill? Whatever for?
A “Welcome” booklet from the local library: It provides a list privileges and responsibilities, but doesn’t explain why it’s now acceptable for people to talk loudly there.

User Manual for out SodaStream: Well, I sure know how to operate that.

User Manual for our LED TV: My, this looks outrageously complicated. That’s why when I needed it installed I immediately called the boys from Comcas—I mean, Xfinity.

A booklet about living life fully charged, which turns out to be the warranty on our new Beautyrest mattress:  It was the first new mattress we’d bought in twenty years. We thought it might be even turn out to be our last, so we spared no expense. It bowed like an old man’s spine within six months.

Instruction Manual on how to mount that Sharper CD player into the wall: As if.

Installation Instructions for the sliding screen door. Don’t remember how long ago I bought it, but it’s needed to be replaced for years now.

Instruction Manual for a Crock Pot: What’s to learn? Put in food, turn on, go to work, come home and, if house not burned down, proceed to eat.

The Instructions for the space heater I bought Spike last Christmas: Now that she uses.

Owner’s Manual to our wall heater, or as they call it, our Gravity Vented Wall Furnace. You know, I would have sworn we had the same one from when we bought the house, but I guess not. On the front in big letters: “What to Do If You Smell Gas.” Run?

An envelope that seems to contain an unrecognizable and unrelated assortment of papers, including a toilet installation guide, installation instructions for a pair of beautiful folding wooden doors that I have never seen in my life and a recipe for cinnamon-raisin donuts.

A “Limited Lifetime Warranty” for my electric guitar: Does “limited lifetime” seem like an oxymoron to you?

Instructions for the tubing system I used to fill and drain the aquarium that had been occupied by the late Ellsworth. Sigh.

Owner Manual for the Cube-30: I had no idea what it was either, until I looked inside. It’s my guitar amplifier.

Use and Care Guide for a Galaxy Mircowave Oven: So that makes two, a Westinghouse and a Galaxy. Which one is it that we use now, I wonder?

An older Instruction Manual for the previous Black and Decker Lawn Mower. You know, the one I ran over that lead drainpipe with.

A glossy folder containing a pile of papers from Sirius Radio: I probably should read it one day, so I can figure out how to listen to more than just one of their 120 channels.

A folder containing all the delivery information from the bathroom sink we bought from Home Depot: In 2005. I thought we had spent less than that.

A glossy little pamphlet from the Heated Back Massager: I just last month found it in the garage, dusted it off and threw it out.

A receipt for something from Sears that cost $517.98: I have no idea what it was, but I bet I bitched about the price at the time.

A piece of cardboard with the words IMPORTANT across it, reminding us to Confirm Our Warranty:  For what I’m not sure, but the address is to Kenmore. They make washers and dryers, right? My guess it’s for our washer and/or dryer.

Owner’s Manual for our European 2-Slice Toaster with Three Control Buttons:  Yes, operating instructions for a toaster. Oh, and it’s made by Kenmore. Now it’s all making sense.

A report showing no asbestos fibers in our home: Hooray! I can breathe freely again!

A large, shiny folder from Sears exhorting me to “Wish Big.” Oh, and there’s the information for our washer and dryer. You know, if I had really “wished big” we’d have a maid to do our laundry.

And so there you have it. I found the warranties, owner manuals and operating instructions for just about everything with at least two moving parts that we’ve purchased in the last decade. Everything, that is, except for the camera. 

Night of the Swamp Creature

You can believe this tale really happened or you can not believe it. I'm here to tell you that every word is the God's honest truth.

It was 1972 and I was camping with my childhood chum Lenny on some obscure piece of bayou in southern Louisiana. I had already crawled into the tent for what I thought was the night. Lenny was just outside, finishing up his traditional bedtime snack of orange juice and chocolate chip cookies. (If I tell you that this remains a favorite of his to this very day, then I also telegraph the fact that both my friend and I somehow survived this horrific incident.)

I was right on the cusp of fading into slumber when Lenny suddenly called me.
"Quick get out here!"

I liked crawling out of bed no better back then than I do today, but the urgency in his voice had me stumbling through the tent's zippered flap in about ten seconds.

"Look!" he said.
"Don't you see it?" he asked, pointing excitedly into the black night.

And now I surely did. There in this pitch darkness I could easily make out two glowing eyes, eyes that were now clearly focused back on me.

"What is it?" Lenny asked.

I answered in truth that I didn't have a clue, and then retreated back into the tent to retrieve my camera. As I mentioned, this incident took place in the early '70's when one of the popular movies of the day was something called The Legend of Boggy Creek. We hadn't seen the movie but just about everyone knew that it was about some sort of hideous swamp creature that may or may not exist in the Arkansas swamps.

Well, we weren't in Arkansas, but we were certainly in the swamps. And it was dark and it was spooky and we both had very active imaginations. So when you take all of that into consideration what we did next might be classified as sort of brave. Sort of.

Quietly we crept towards our car and started it. The plan was to drive slowly towards the creature, whatever manner of beast it might be, without scaring it off. Then we would suddenly turn on the headlights and, hopefully, not be so terrified by what we saw that we'd fail get a picture.

We started the car, which sounded blaringly loud to us on this dark and quiet bayou. We looked again and confirmed that the eyes were still glaring at us. Whatever it was, car engine or no car engine, this thing wasn't running anywhere. Except maybe at us.

Lenny put the car in gear as I clutched the camera in my now-sweaty hands, and we slowly crept forward. Still those eyes weren't backing down. When we determined that we were close enough to take a photo (but not too close, heh-heh) Lenny quickly switched on the headlights. A second later the dark Louisiana night was further split by the flash from my camera. Got 'im!

As I stared at the huge creature I marveled that no matter how much you think you know in life, and no matter what your age, there's always something new to learn. For example, I never knew that cows are sometimes let out to graze at night. Did you?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Liquid Assets

“Twelve!” I bellowed. “Why in God’s name do we have twelve containers of liquid on this one refrigerator shelf?”

Spike, of course, didn’t answer. Although whether it was because she knew the question had been rhetorical, or because she was hypnotized by yet another Hallmark movie, I can’t say for sure.

And it didn’t much matter. Is there any logical explanation for having that many beverages on hand for just two people? And so I took inventory, and here’s what I found:

There were two containers of milk, two percent don’t you know. And these weren’t pints or quarts either, but half gallons. To be fair, one of them was nearly empty, making the other a back-up. I think that’s one of the biggest changes that being married has wrought. When I was single I almost never had a back-up for anything. If I ran out of milk (or bread or clean underwear) perhaps I could go without for a day or two. I often did, and yet the world kept on turning.

The Brita pitcher was nearly full, and I’m happy to report that it’s something I use every day. I think the world has become so polluted that it’s important to drink purified water whenever you can. And that’s what I would be drinking, if not for the fact that I haven’t changed the filter since The Simpsons’ third season.

There was also a half gallon of eggnog in the refrigerator. Actually, if I want to be accurate there was a half-gallon container, with about half a cup of egg nog in it. Hey, ‘tis the season and all that. True, this was our second half gallon of the nog, and Christmas is still over a week away, but it’s important for me to be, you know, festive.

We always have lots of juice. It goes a long way to sweetening that broccoli/kale concoction I drink every morning. This particular container, half gallon of course, was apple-kiwi-strawberry. It’s quite delicious and I’ll probably go back to taking the occasional glug during the day; that is, once the egg nog runs out.

“Let’s not buy Diet Coke but only drink it when we’re out, like on special occasions,” I’ve said many times. Spike would always agree that this was a capital idea, and then return from the grocery store with yet another two-liter bottle of the poison. And it really is poison—it practically says so on the warning label. Hell, when I drink this garbage I don’t even feel I have the right to judge people who smoke. Well, at least it’s cheaper.

There was a large bottle of another kind of juice way in the back. This one is kind of a novelty in our home. It’s that V-8 Fusion stuff. You know, the juice that’s supposed to trick kids (and adults as well) into at least getting some vegetables. What a country.

And then there were not one, but two half-gallon containers of orange juice. And we know who those belong to. Me, I hardly ever touch the stuff. Spike, on the other hand, has been downing a big glass of OJ every morning since I met her twenty-five years ago, and probably before that. Even my parents tried to tell her to mix it with water to cut down on the acid, but to no avail. I expect by now she has a stomach lining about as thin as a butterfly wing, but what are you gonna do? She likes it.

Still, I try to improve on the liquids we consume. In a partially successful attempt to replace the Diet Coke with something a bit healthier, I have taken to making a bottle of carbonated water with our Soda Stream and then mixing in some fruit juice. It gives you that bubbly sensation in your mouth, tastes pretty good and doesn’t come with any warning labels. Still, it’s not Diet Coke. Hell, it’s not even Mountain Dew.

Hmm...that’s only ten. I know I counted twelve beverages the other day. Ah well, I suppose I can include the two bottles of not uncheap wine that reside not in the refrigerator, but on top of it. The brands and the types change fairly regularly but there are almost always two of them, an open bottle and a back-up. I never want to risk running out. I wouldn’t, after all, want to write these things sober. 


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cheetos Save the Day!

First off, I don’t know for a fact that Cheetos saved the day, or that the day was even saved at all. I’m going to assume they did, because it makes me feel better about what happened. It will make you feel better, too.

The weather folks were calling it Northern California’s worst storm in five years, and nothing I’d seen so far led me think that they’d been wrong. Everywhere there was flooding, garbage cans scattered all over the place, power outages and wooden fences on the ground, their four-by-four support beams snapped like twigs by the ferocious wind. And so I decided to grab my camera, get in the car and get myself a first-hand look.

It turned out to be a lousy day for taking pictures. Well, first of all, it was pouring. Also, I tried to keep my camera dry by shooting through a plastic bag but all this did was mess up the auto-focus. If you need any blurry shots of a gray sky and choppy ocean, I’m your man.

And so I drove to the small grocery store in Pescadero and got a bag of Cheetos and a Diet Coke, and then proceeded to drive down the back road that gets me home. About five minutes later, in the middle of nowhere, I saw a very wet and rather sad-looking dog sniffing along the side of the road. From the car I didn’t see a collar, and I kept driving until I found a place to turn around. I figured I couldn’t do much for him, but I could give him some of my Cheetos.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I had both the bag of Cheetos and a large chocolate chip cookie. I debated which I should give to that poor dog. Sure, I suppose any living thing would much prefer the cookie, but unfortunately for the dog I, too, was one of those living things.  Besides, how do I really know he’d like the cookie more? Maybe he’d be eating it thinking, this is okay, but I sure wish I had some of them Cheetos. And then I remembered that you shouldn’t give chocolate to a dog. Dilemma solved!

By the time I got back to the dog some guy with a truck was there. The guy, a cowboy looking dude equipped with the requisite giant hat and dinner plate-sized belt buckle, was trying to get close enough to the dog to read his tags. So, the dog did have tags after all. Well, that was good!

I continued to drive down the road until I again found a place that was dry enough to turn around. When I got back to the guy with the truck he was walking with a leash in his hand, heading towards the dog and looking for all the world like a cowboy off to lasso some bull, or whatever it is that they lasso.

 I rolled down the window and told him he might have better luck if he enticed the dog with some Cheetos. The cowboy agreed, and held out his hand. Instead, I reached for the large plastic bag beside me, removed the camera and poured a good amount of Cheetos into it. And then I wished him luck and continued on my drive home.

And this is where the assuming part comes in. I’m going to assume that the dog was lured by the Cheetos and successfully leashed. And then the cowboy called the number on the dog’s tag and a grateful owner drove out to pick up his soggy but much beloved pet.

Oh, I suppose it’s remotely possible that it might have gone another way. The cowboy might have become frustrated with the dog and the rain, and so decided to simply get into his warm, dry truck and drive home, listening to country music and munching his free Cheetos all the way. Nah, it couldn’t have happened that way, and I don’t even want to think for a minute that it did.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Do Geese See God? : A Quiz

It’s a crazy world we’re living in. Why, sometimes things get so hectic it’s hard to tell if you’re going backward or forward. That’s why it’s nice to stop once in a while and do something relaxing, like taking this delightful quiz.

At first it might seem to you that the questions below are just random, with no common denominator. Not so. After answering just two or three of the questions I’m sure the brightest of you (and I know I’m assuming a lot here) will catch on, making the quiz that much easier. And funner, too. I wonder if my dad, whose middle name is Otto, would enjoy this quiz? I think he would!

1. A muscle that revolves a part on its axis

2. No good one of these ever goes unpunished

3. Corporal Walter O’Reilly on classic TV show M*A*S*H*

4. The Beatles covered this Arthur Alexander song about her

5. A long, narrow Intuit boat pointed at both ends

6. A formal title for a woman, or the lady who runs the house

7. Elevated to the level of a god

8. Male and female are the two main ones

9. This car was introduced by Honda in July, 1972

10. Dad’s partner

11. What you drive around the track in Indianapolis

12. Swedish pop group that sang “Dancing Queen”

13. It’s a lady sheep

14. A marshmallow Easter treat

15. It’s twelve o’clock in the daytime

16. Bread eaten by Jewish people to celebrate the Sabbath

17. The killing of a person in a secret manner

18. A large spreading Old World tree

19. General who twice served as Prime Minister of Cambodia

20. What I said on Election Day 2004


1. Rotator
2. Deed
3. Radar
4. Anna
5. Kayak
6. Madam
7. Deified
8. Sexes
9. Civic
10. Mom
11. Racecar
12. ABBA
13. Ewe
14. Peep
15. Noon
16. Hallah
17. Murdrum
18. Siris
19. Lon Nol
20. Dubya won? No way, Bud!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Fish Story

It’s an image I haven’t forgotten over the last fifty years, and at this point I’m fairly certain that I never will. It was a large turtle and it was hanging from a tree, strung up by his tail and slowly twisting as he swatted the air with his front legs, futilely trying to escape. A house was just a few feet away, although nobody was visible. I tried to imagine why somebody would do such a thing to a turtle. Dad thought that perhaps they were trying to “work the fight out of him.” I realize now that, whatever the excuse, it was just another in the endless line of human cruelties.

And so we floated by, Dad working the oars to the small rowboat he had rented for a few hours. Fishing from a boat was something of a treat, as we almost always cast our lines from the shore of some local lake. It was strange that it would be just me and Dad in the boat. Normally when we went fishing there were four of us: me, my two brothers and Dad.

In addition to always fishing from the shore, we also never used bait. Dad had taught us how to fish using lures. And as such, we almost never, ever caught anything. Time and time again we’d return home to report to Mom that, although the three of us had fished for hours, we had nothing but a sunburn and a bad smell to show for it.

Yes, the three of us. Dad himself never got much of a chance to fish, occupied as he was untangling his sons’ wayward casts from the overhanging branches and nearby shrubs. Or, on a particularly unlucky day, he might spend half an hour cutting out a fishing line “bird’s nest” from one of our reels. No, Dad didn’t get to fish much.

But on this particular day, with just the two of us, Dad not only got to fish quite a bit, he even caught one. I, on the other hand, was having my usual luck; that is, none whatsoever. Finally the afternoon shadows began to find us out near the center of the small lake, and Dad told me to try one more cast and then we’d head in.

And so I did, and as I reeled in I began to think about my plans for the evening, never expecting the results of my closing cast to be any different than the previous sixty. But they were:

“You caught one!” Dad said, as he reached into the water and pulled out an honest-to-god fish.

Right away I could see something was not right. I may not have caught many fish in my angling career, but I’d seen them caught many times. I’d seen how a hooked fish with squirm around in the sun and flop around on the ground. This fish was different. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t actually dead when Dad pulled him in, but he did seem to be kind of, I don’t know, tired.

Also, the fish had not taken the lure, but rather had been hooked in the gill. Now, as you know from the opening paragraph, I’ve been around for a while now, and yet I haven’t to this day ever again heard of a fish being caught in this manner. Clearly something was…fishy. Still, I ignored this feeling and we returned home, happy and proud to report to Mom that we had each caught a fish. Although, as they were both small, we had thrown them back into the lake.

It was years later, when I was in my twenties remembering that day, that it hit me. Wasn’t it strange that I would go through the whole day not catching anything, and then catch a fish on what had been declared the last cast of the day? And even stranger, how the hell does a fish get himself hooked by his gill? Was he just standing around, minding his own business, when my lure came by and whoops? Was it possible that Dad had kept the fish that he had caught and then, at the end of the day, quickly, and inaccurately, slipped my hook into the fish even as he was loudly declaring that I had “caught one”?

Four decades passed from the time I came up with my theory until Dad died. I thought about that day once in a while, but never asked him if he had done it. I’m not sure why I didn’t. Part of it, no doubt, is that it would have been yet another in our lifetime of awkward conversations. Also, I suspected he wouldn’t have remembered putting that fish on the hook even if he had. I suppose that, in the end, I didn’t ask him because, although I may have been a little disappointed if he had put that fish on my hook, I would have been even more disappointed if he hadn’t.
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