Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Good is good, God is God

So, on Sunday, E and I met with friends at their local church. We had tried churches before, but Christians can be very... angry. We don’t believe that religion and anger largely go together. Heck, we aren’t even real religious, but we like good people.

We’ve had a couple of *real* bad church experiences, and at least one other very good one (Mormon church in Utah – that was a great time!). Our friends said that this church was very laid back, everyone was welcome, even GAYS.

‘Nuff said. We would try it.

Our friends were correct: the church was a mixture of a ton of different people, from a tattooed black gentleman who looks like he gang-banged in a former life, to sweet old ladies, and everyone in between.

We were happy with that.

There was a good community feel there, and not an ounce of pressure. They were just nice people, which fit the bill most excellently. You don’t need to be a monk to know that hitting people, spitting on the sidewalk, or stealing is wrong; you just have to be a good person. Kudos to good people.

Also, the services start at ten A.M., which is just dandy for us. Sometimes, we stay out rather late on Saturdays, which makes getting up at six in the morning rather difficult, at best. We like ten in the morning. 

There are all denominations at this church, as well, from Mormons to Catholics to Methodists and more. I was personally raised Baptist, but attended a Methodist church time to time with my grandparents. To me, God is God. It’s all the same. I don’t plan on becoming a religious scholar and so the minor differences don’t mean a hoot to me, and never have.

Good is good, God is God. What’s the matter with just trying to be good with a group of other good people? Nothing, in my eyes. Nothing at all. 

We will go back to that church with our nice friends, and we will shake the hands of nice people. It’s nice. :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

The price of shoes!

Yesterday, E and I went out to get shoes because mine were a couple years old and falling apart. There are quite a few places to get them in this one single strip mall, so we figured we’d start at Target and work our way down.

Holy cow.

Target had a selection of about three pairs that were the style I like, which are just running shoes, and they were all ass-ugly. We didn’t even bother looking at prices because there was nothing there. So we picked up a few items and went down a few doors to a shoe shop.

Holy COW!

We went to the clearance section straight away because, well, that’s what we do. There was a pair there for NINETY dollars. I didn’t even look at what the original price was. Also, they were orange and black. Ew. Most the other clearance shoes were in the forty dollar range. FORTY BUCKS for clearance shoes?

I got to wondering what the heck regular shoes went for, so I headed over to the non-clearance section, and quickly found I shouldn’t have done that. Sixty bucks is the norm now, for any kind of shoe. Even sandal things! I was more than disgusted.

No, I don’t live in a bubble, and I realize that prices go up every year. But sixty bucks used to get you top of the line shoes that only a few kids in school had. Now they get you... shoes. I put almost every one of them on, too, and they were nothing to write home about. They were just shoes.

Then I erred further. I told E that I must, I simply must see what the hype was all about with the ninety-dollar pair and why in creation they could possibly cost much.

Okay, they were awesome shoes.

I mean awesome, too, not just better than average. It felt like I was walking on two miles of cotton balls. They were amazing. Literally. I was amazed. I liked them so much I kept the right one on for several minutes, walking around like a dumb ass with a “Well, would ya look at this!” expression on my face. I think I had my first ‘old’ moment in a department store. New-fangled technology, and all. 

I finally wrestled the shoe off my foot and we left, headed to the next shoe shop down the line. Same thing. Same shoes, same prices, same so-so quality. I’m not paying sixty bucks for shoes that don’t look or feel spectacular, sorry. They’d better take out the garbage, for that price.

In the end, we went to a place that I know for a fact sells cheap, quality shoes. I ended up getting nice athletic/running shoes for twenty-one dollars, and they’ll last me two years. I know this because my last pair were very similar, and the same name brand, and they lasted me two years. Decent, comfy, rugged shoes!

I guess if I were a baller and loaded with cash, $100 wouldn’t seem so much for something I’m going to step on all day. But seeing as I’m a working-class Joe, that isn’t happening. I think the most expensive pair of shoes I’ve ever owned were my red, white, and black Nikey Air Jordan Hi-Tops. That was in 1985 or so. I wore those shoes for years and years. I believe they were on sale for $35 down from $50, and that’s the only reason I got them. My family was all about $10 Keds.

Anyhow, there’s my rant for today. Until I’m making $50k a year or more, I won’t be spending $100 on shoes. No way.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New job is nice – Less time isn’t

So I’m still working out the best way to handle my new gig. It is a great job, but I’m finding there are tricks to doing it better. At first, I was logging in and doing my hours all at once, in a big block. I liked that; once I was off, I was off, and had the rest of the day to me. But now I’m finding that my productivity goes up substantially if I split the shifts.

I don’t like that so much.

I was working from about 8am to 1pm and then the rest of the day was mine. That’s what I’m talking about. But my response count was lower than they wanted, so I’m finding that logging in for three hours in the morning or early afternoon, then three more in the evening nets me many more. It just kind of eats into the time a bit more, even though it is technically the same amount – six hours.

I have stories to edit. I have blog posts to write. I have many projects waiting for me in the garage. I need more time. On top of that, I have to write and still work for various other places online doing the freelancing. It’s become quite the juggling act.

And now I’m in a band, and possibly two. I jammed with my old bass player’s new band the other day and they loved me and want me on board as their drummer.


That’s exactly what I need right now, is two musical projects. I’m also on a competitive Internet chess league, and scheduling game times has proven tight at best. I can do this, but I’m at maximum capacity; another gig of any sort and my house of cards will surely crumble. 

Once I get more up to speed at the new job I’m sure I’ll find bigger and better ways to get through it. For now, though, this train keeps on chooglin’. That’s what it does. It choogles. On and on.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Idiot Managers: You Know the Type

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m so, so glad I work at home now.

In my experience, managers are complete drooling idiots. They bend rules when it suits them, but not when it suits the customer. They demand timeliness, cleanliness, responsibility and loads of effort, but only pay minimum wage. I have had many, many jobs, and very rarely does a manager know what the hell they are doing.

I know people. I’m a people guy. The majority of managers I have dealt with aren’t. They are bosses, not people lovers. And that’s fine, until these morons have to deal with the public. They drop the ball every time.

Once I worked at an auto-parts store. A guy came in who had bought an alternator for his old Ranchero earlier that day, before I signed on for my shift. He hadn’t realized until he’d already junked his old one that the new (see: refurbished) units don’t come with any hardware. He literally had no nuts/bolts to attach his wires to.

The poor man was greasy, he was tired and hot (SoCal summers get to be 110º very easily), and he was frustrated beyond belief. Well, wouldn’t you be?

What did I do? I marched right back to the parts area, grabbed an alternator and yanked the hardware off of it. I then slipped them across the counter and told him to have a nice day.

The look on his face was priceless. Nobody is used to someone actually taking care of them: they are used to being given the runaround about store policy, how employees wish they could help further, how sorry they were they couldn’t do more. Not me. You need hardware, you get hardware. Didn’t hurt the place a bit.

Guy brought me back a six-pack of beer and said he was a customer for life.

That, friends and neighbors, is customer service. I didn’t steal, I didn’t bend the rules too badly, and I didn’t commit a cardinal sin. I helped a guy out who, in my eyes, was a total victim of penny-pinching moronic methods.

The management jumped all over me for that trick, and I mean pretty badly. Apparently, they weren’t really worried about customers being happy. In fact, I know they weren’t. In the end, it’s each man for himself no matter what kind of “teamwork” mentality they try to instill. 

Management? Idiots.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Bangles Show: Rocked

So Saturday night I was fortunate enough to see a free Bangles concert. What do you mean, who is that? Walk Like an Egyptian, Eternal Flame, and Hazy Shade of Winter. That’s who the Bangles are.

Anyhow, they were an all-girl rock/pop group from the ‘80s, an era I happen to adore. The tickets were free through KOST 103.5 FM and also at Casino Morongo, where the show was held. How could I say no?

Basically, I thought they kicked some ass. No, it wasn’t a Van Halen or Rage Against the Machine show, but the gals did a really bang-up job. They definitely ‘still got it’. We were amazed to see the drummer sing while playing, then get off the drums and play guitar and sing lead, and also play the stick thingies. Yes, that is the technical name. Thanks, though.

They sounded just like their albums of some thirty years ago. At first, having been involved in many bands over the years myself, I was watching them closely for mistakes. We do that. In no time, though, I was jamming, shaking my hips and singing along. That’s a sign of good artistry, right there; they made me forget. Kudos for that.

After the show, I went on to kick some ass of my own. I plopped down $30 at a blackjack table and in ten minutes walked away with $75: drinks were on me. The night was brilliantly charged with positive energy. Damn, I love nights like those.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Empty Chair on Amazon

Recently, the first story that I wrote and felt good about, The Empty Chair, became available on Amazon for Kindle. I’m not normally a great big fan of self-publishing, but I think it’s a great arena for short stories.

The first thing you’ll notice is the cool-looking cover. I know, I’d be jealous, too. I believe there are right and wrong ways to do things, and one of the wrong ways happens to be designing your own cover in a paint program and then splattering it all over the web.

I emailed her the story and had a cover the very next day. One minor tweak and I was good to go. Heck, I liked the cover so much it’s my avatar on many forums, and also my desktop image.

The story is about an aging chess grandmaster who isolates himself in a cabin to study for an upcoming match against an old rival. He soon finds that he’s in for more than just a chess competition when supernatural forces show themselves at the cabin.

No, it isn’t horror, not by a long shot. Rather, it’s the lighthearted tale of our grandmaster, Orren, and his daily routine at the cabin.

There just happens to be eerie stuff thrown in.

There are no chainsaws, no zombies, no flesh-eating wolves standing tall as Mack trucks. But there’s eeriness, oh yes. Just enough to keep you on this side of uncomfortable.

You don’t need to be a die-hard chess fan, either, to appreciate the story. While chess is the main theme, it isn’t the story itself. I fully believe that any reader, chess player or not, will be able to enjoy The Empty Chair. And heck, for only a dollar, who could pass it up? Secure your copy today and settle in for a read. You might be glad you did, and I know I would.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

RENT: Crafton Hills College

Last night, May 5th, 2012, I got to see the coolest show ever. The local community college, Crafton Hills, put on the best rendition of RENT in existence, short of seeing the actual Broadway performance. I was more than impressed; I was downright thrilled.

My girlfriend, Eliza, had worked very hard as stage manager over the last several months, and I was finally able to see why: Each and every character was nothing short of brilliant; each singer had a voice to die for; the costumes and stage and props were out of this world; I didn’t notice a single mistake; there were surprises, laughs, cries, and joy around every corner.

I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that the show must have been one of the best college theater performances in the history of college theater performances. Two thumbs way up, and that’s only because I don’t have more thumbs. Seriously.

In fact, the only disappointing thing about the play is that it isn’t happening again. I would go next weekend, the one after, and the one after that to see such an awe-inspiring performance. It was a total steal at the ten-dollar entrance price. I would pay thirty to see it again.

My hat is off to those who worked so damned hard on such a fine thing. I wish bright futures for all involved. I have also had the pleasure to attend a couple social gatherings with the cast, and they are such cool people that my mind is permanently blown. Had I known any better, I’d have gotten into theater in college. You couldn’t ask for a more intriguing group to have a few beers with.

If life had a rewind button, I’d be sitting in that theater, waiting for the show to start, right now.

 I would.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Breastfeeding in Public

Okay, guys and gals, I’m going to talk a little bit about breastfeeding in public. Anyone who doesn’t think it’s cool should probably stop reading now, because I sure do.

There are far more terrible issues in the world than a woman feeding her child naturally, trust me on that. The same folks who’ll complain about seeing a woman breastfeeding her child in public will walk past a homeless man without throwing a dime to him. Gimmie a break. And yes, I know that’s a weak argument; live with it.

Women have kids. That shouldn’t be much of a news flash, but I figured I’d let everyone know in case they weren’t aware. Not only do they have them, but they have provisions to feed them naturally, through their breasts. What a great design! Another reason why breasts are win, all the way.

As long as the mother doesn’t take her shirt completely off and then breastfeed, I don’t see what the problem is with seeing it in public. You mean to tell me that some people would *really* rather a newborn went hungry so it spared their eyes a flash of titty? That’s beyond ridiculous and selfish; that’s downright evil.

Speaking as a thirty-something male, I’ve never had a problem with seeing breasts. I’m not sure why another man would, either. As for women, I utterly cannot think of a reason why it would offend them. I guess if certain individuals couldn’t have kids, hated kids, etc, watching a woman breastfeed could be a bit uncomfortable. Special cases aside, however, what in the world is the issue with it?

A child suckling on its mother’s breast isn’t offensive, but do you know what is? Here’s a list of everyday things you might see at the store:

1. Wannabe gang members sagging their pants well below their tushies. Guys, I’d much rather view a breast than a male ass. Seriously.

2. Old people peeing their adult diapers and stinking up an aisle. That’s pretty raunchy, but I don’t see an uprising against old people peeing.

3. Obese people wearing stretch pants. Breastfeeding is fine, but there really should be a ban on leotards for fat folks. Really.

4. A mom piling seventeen children out of a minivan that’s obviously on its last legs and riding on two donut spares. Oh, you haven’t seen that one? Sure you have, let’s not be coy.

5. Obese, hairy men in muscle shirts who let their man-boobs flop out the sides and have a tattoo on their calf that reads “Freedom”. Show me some female honkers any day over that guy’s anatomy. Please!

The list goes on and on, but I’m sure you get the gist. The next time you see a woman breastfeeding and turn up your nose, think about how *you* were fed as a baby, and relax a little; it’s totally natural and, dare I say, even beautiful.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What are They Doing?

I often wonder what folks are doing when I don’t know what they are doing. If they are posting on Facebook, or at my house, then I know what they are doing. But what about when they aren’t posting and when they aren’t visiting?

Does it even matter?

No. Not even a little bit. But it intrigues me, nonetheless. The list of things they *could* be doing is almost infinite. The list of regular, everyday things is quite smaller. Those are the things that intrigue me.

Say someone posts a story on Facebook about some wild thing happening to them. I immediately wonder what I was doing when they were experiencing the wild thing. Was I at the computer, typing? Was in outside with the garbage cans? Were my pants up or down? Was I awake?

The same goes the other way, too, of course. We’ll pick a fictitious name to protect the innocent and call the person in question Cheryl. Because I don’t know a Cheryl. Anyhow, let’s say I randomly think about Cheryl one day while considering a chess move, or having a beer. What the hell is Cheryl doing, right that moment?

Chances are, nothing special. She could be eating, or talking on the phone, or watching the tube, or doing her hair. She could be in the shower or sitting on the throne, and she could be indisposed in other ways. She could be at the Target store or McHeartAttack or NotSoBestBuy.

Or she could be dead.

The possibilities! They wrap themselves around my mind like a hungry spider and they don’t let me go. And it’s all a waste of time because as we’ve already concluded, it doesn’t matter a tick. Not a single iota. Yet, I wonder; I always wonder.

What about you? Do you have any weird mentalities that you haven’t noticed other people admitting to you?

I wonder...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Allergies SUCK!

Ever have one of those days where you’d rather lie down and sleep all day, and for no apparent reason? I’ve just had two of them. I’m finding that my allergies are getting worse as I age, and it’s not fun. I know there are more terrible things in the world than bad allergies, but days when they attack really jack me up.

I can handle a stuffy nose and sneezing and all that, but what I get is different. It makes me feel *extremely* tired, it makes my eyes really sensitive to light, my hands hurt and are cold, and I have the general symptoms of a slight fever. As my fellow men out there know, that’s code for feeling like death.

I’ve been scouring websites and testimonials from people with allergies, because I’m certain that’s what these attacks are. Lately I’ve found that simply cracking the window in my office is good enough to keep the allergy attacks at bay for a while, which was ground-breaking.

Friday we turned on the swamp cooler for the first time this yea, and the damned the damned thing spit dust and debris everywhere into the house. I haven’t felt right since then. How can one person be so fawking sensitive to things? I never was before; when I was younger, I could motor on past shit like this. Now it puts me down for a while.

Of course, even though I feel so tired I can’t function, I’m a die-hard who doesn’t take naps unless I’ve actually got the flu. Which I don’t. So I take all-day-allergy pills, Mucinex (even though my nose isn’t stuffy, per-se, it helps with the symptoms a tad), and Mountain Dew. Anything but lay down for a couple hours. Lawzy, I hate naps.

The trouble with allergies, as I’m reading, is that although symptoms are all generally similar, the causes aren’t. It could be pet dander, hay fever, god-damn gluten, wheat, or any of ten-thousand other things. In my case? It’s probably a mixture of four or five that make me feel awful for a couple days every once in a while.

I’ve requested Claritin, as I’ve heard good things about it. Those of you with invisible pain know what I mean when I say it’s beyond frustrating not knowing what is stopping me in my tracks or what to do about it. I’m not a fan of runny noses and tickly throats, but I’d take those any day over the crap that I get. It’s ridiculous, really. I’m looking for reasons and effective treatment, though, so I’m hopeful. Always hopeful.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Forum Wait Periods

C’mon now, who else is with me? Next to my ISP going down and Internet Trolls, forum time limits bug me the most. I know, I know, most of you haven’t even encountered them; that’s probably because you aren’t a real bad case of ADHD with a few cups of coffee in ya. When I get on a roll, I’m flying, boys and girls.

Here’s the message:

This forum requires that you wait 30 seconds between posts. Please try again in 12 seconds.

Oh, boy. That one gets me every time. Inmates walking from their Death Row cells to the electric chair don’t experience a longer twelve seconds. Twelve seconds seems shorter when an intruder’s in your house and time has stopped. For a street car, twelve-seconds is pretty quick; for a rabid, hyper-active forum poster, it’s a dead eternity filled with uncomfortable hatred.

So, what do I do during these wait periods?

I switch screens, I add something to my ‘To Do’ list, I message someone – anything but wait. Sitting idle until I’m allowed to do something doesn’t fly well with me. Oh, it’s a killer.

Anyhow, I just thought I’d share my extreme dislike for time-limits on forum posts. I type fast. Too fast for these V-Bulletin places. I’m beginning to learn, though; in between posts I’ll fly to Facebook or someplace for a few seconds so that I don’t have to see that awful screen.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Way of Monday

Imaged ganked from: myspacegrafix.com

Mondays? Don’t mind 'em. I used to, yes, back when I was getting up two hours before work started, traveling in my car to their location (on my dime, mind you), walking into a building, punching a clock and waiting for idiots to tell me what my tasks were for that day.

Oh, my God, I get sick thinking of it.

But now, things are so much cooler on Mondays! I work from home and love every second of it. The weekends actually seem extremely long to me anymore. I get to pick and choose, largely, the days I work and the days I do not, and I still make a really decent living. No, I couldn’t support a family of seven on my income but for me, the girlfriend, and the cats, I’m doing more than okay.

Mondays mean I have an excuse to get up early and enjoy the morning. I get to catch up on a few forums and the ever-present Facebook while I’m working. In fact, I’m working now, while I’m writing this blog entry. In my pajamas. With a coffee. This isn’t the most difficult life, I can tell you that.

I used to run online chess tournaments Monday nights, but the site I work for is closing down so there’s no more of that, at least for now. But that leaves me free to work early, “clock-out” early, and then get outside to enjoy me some sunshine. This week my aim is to clean the rest of the garage. One half looks pretty good but the other half... ew.

Anyhow, I guess the point of this particular entry is that if you are reading this and you are absolutely miserable on Mondays, or any other day, for that matter, I highly suggest changing your situation. It really is worth it. I can’t imagine working for the man, climbing some bullshit company ladder, kissing ass, then turning around one day and wondering just what in the hell I’ve been doing. These past three years working at home have been absolutely golden, and it just keeps getting better.

Life is too damned short to waste it making money for other people. Do what you want to do. If you are happy at work and legitimately like what you do, more power to you; that’s awesome! If you don’t, though, get out. Even if you have to take a pay cut at first. Get out. There are something like seven-billion people on the planet; surely one of them has a better opportunity waiting for you.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Frankly Friday: Gas Prices

So, gas prices are soaring. Aren’t they always? Every price of every thing is soaring, and it’s more than a sign of the times; it’s always been like that.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less.

I mean, I DO care, somewhat, but there’s nothing for me to do about it so it’s totally wasted energy. I don’t like it any more than anyone else when it takes a small fortune to fill my tank up at the pumps, but there’s really no choice in the matter.

When it comes to things in which there are zero choices, I tend to roll with the flow. If I get upset about those things, I’m doing myself (and likely everyone around me) a great disservice. Heck, I’ll even go as far as to say it’s a little-bit foolish.

I find people who complain about things like gas prices a tad tiresome. Nobody can change the price of gas any more than they can choose when sunny or rainy days occur; get over it.

Do I get upset about things I cannot change? Absolutely I do. I don’t let them worry me *too* much, though, because the matter is completely out of my hands. Bad drivers, for instance, really upset me. So does yard work but unless I’m prepared to sprinkle a ton of killing agents everywhere and live with a dirt lot, it’s something I have to do.

The next time you get all upset and begin complaining about the prices of things today, take a step back and realize what you are actually doing. It’s very possible you could avoid looking like a maniacal tyrant by keeping your mouth closed about such things.

Unless, of course, you can change the prices. If you can, I’d be grateful. Thanks!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thank-You-Thursday: Internet Trolls

Thank-You-Thursday is pretty self-explanatory: I’m going to pick individuals or groups of people and thank them for something. Of course, my thank-yous will be dripping with sarcasm and neon with passive-aggressive hatred. Such is the way.

This week, I would like to take the time to officially thank the Forum Troll. Without both trolls and witty, genius, fact-suppliers, the Internet would be a barren wasteland of static information; who the hell wants that?

Without the Forum Troll, there would be no need for moderators. Without moderators, there would be no people on forums who secretly feel like the cops of the place. Without people who feel like that, there would be no forums. Thus, trolls are an integral part of any Internet gathering area. They are as much the glue that binds as the people who supply actual, good information. It’s the push-and-pull of good and evil, right there in text form. Shit, that’s awesome.

The Internet Troll does his thing in many ways. Let’s look at three of them:

1. He posts things specifically to piss people off.
When these magic posts work, the thread can go hundreds of pages long, full of replies from everyday people ‘feeding the troll’, so the saying goes. These threads are malignant in nature and should never, ever be replied to.

2. He posts things that make people want to join in, but are useless as far as the forum goes. “What are you listening to now?” is a good one. “What are your other hobbies?” is another popular choice. The information contained in responses cannot, in any way, help the original poster. Therefore, it’s a troll post. Harmless enough, but slightly annoying to those of us who don’t give a shit what someone’s listening to while on the ‘Net.

3. He posts a topic in which he claims he hates himself, doesn’t believe in himself, is depressed, or has the general blues about life. These are the trickiest to spot because sometimes, legitimate posts are created by good and decent people who are just having a bad day or are encountering a rough patch. More than one depressed post, however, and the members of the forum must band together and decide: Is this guy fishing for compliments and ‘atta boys, or is he actually in need of kind words and friendship. The line there is usually pretty clear after a while but again, the fog never completely lifts from that beach.

So, thank-you, Internet Troll! You have touched the lives of many, your post count has risen to 15,000 in the last month, you have actually managed to create Internet jobs, and you spend oodles of time accomplishing nothing.

My hat is off to you; I couldn’t do it, myself. Well-played, Mr. Troll.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wonder-Why-Wednesday: Lazy Writers

I believe I’ll deviate a tad from my humorous posts and address writers or, as the case may be, non-writers. I wonder why so many either write things and don’t submit them or, more likely, don’t write at all. People who ‘think about and consider’ welding aren’t welders, and people who ‘daydream about acting one day’ aren’t actors. So how can you call yourself a writer if you don’t write?

Here are a few of the reasons that I’ve gathered. Some of them I have heard first-hand and others I have deduced logically.

1. You don’t think your stuff is good enough.

Nobody thinks their stuff is good enough. Even Stephen King isn’t sure each time he sits down to pen a new story. Every single thing we write isn’t going to be a home run, but if you put yourself at bat enough times, it’s bound to happen.

2. You write for yourself.

Cool! That’s awesome! But that makes you a person with a hobby, not a writer. A guy who only sings in his car and in the shower isn’t a singer; he’s a guy who likes to sing when nobody’s listening.

3. You are researching for the big novel that’s inside you.

I can’t say enough about research. It is very important if you want to get things right. However, if you are researching for three years and haven’t written a single paragraph, then you are a researcher, not a novelist. Get to writing.

4. I’ve been rejected and it sucks.

So has every best-selling author alive. Even professional chefs spoil a few dinners. Get over it and improve.

5. Life is so busy right now!

Well, I don’t know what to tell you. If writing is important enough to you, you’ll find the time. If it isn’t, you aren’t a writer. You are a mom, a business person, an office manager, a full-time this-or-that, a grandma, etcetera. You are anything but a writer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ten-Thing-Tuesday: Getting Pulled Over

Photo ganked from: policelightsled.com

Below, I have comprised a list of ten things never to tell a police officer if you are pulled over for any reason. I have done hours of research so that I only provide you with the best, most accurate information. This is to be taken very seriously. Not at all.

1. “Like a boss.”

This will definitely send the wrong impression. It’ll be an awesome story to tell your friends later, but isn’t really worth the risk.

2. “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

While this is a great line in almost any other situation, it’s bound to actually net you another ticket. You don’t want that.

3. “Not a chance, sir, I was with your mother last night.”

Very manly, but definitely stupid. If you do decide to go this route, please film it so we can watch your demise on YouTube.

4. “I actually drive better when I’m a little hammered.”

Well, I guess you have to say something, but this cannot be recommended. Even if you do drive better when toasted.

5. “Fuck if I know. The speedometer is broken.”

Never give them more information than they need.

6. “I mailed in the registration fees just this week!”

They know you didn’t. Just man-up and tell them you couldn’t care less about the color of your tags. Drive it like a boss.

7. “No, you cannot search my vehicle.”

They will anyway, and they’ll arrest you to do it. Just let them look so they’ll go away.

8. “You damn police are always harassing me!”

This will cause said officer to look into your history. It’s much better to act as if you are being contacted by the law for the first time. Ever.

9. “It looked green to me!”

Not only is this not a defense, it makes you look foolish. Accept the ticket for the very red light you blew through, and accept it with a smile. Accept it like a boss.

10. “I know my rights!”

Don’t say this. Chances are, you don’t know your rights in any given situation, anyhow. Unless you are fully prepared to back up your claim with correct, well-researched information (not the kind you see on Judge Judy or hear in the lunchroom at work), leave this one for someone else.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Middle-Class Monday: Yuppies

A couple years ago, I took a sociology class in college. We discussed the Middle-Class and I was more than surprised to find out that according to whoever decides these things, Middle-Class runs from like $45k/year all the way to $220k/year. Really? Holy shit.

At that point, I lost just about all hope of becoming upper class. I believe my best year ever netted me about $17k. I’ve never made much money; not because I’m an idiot, but because I’m generally lazy and don’t like people who are borderline stupid telling me what to do.

Anyhow, I have a real hard time believing that $200k a year is Middle-Class. If I were suddenly given that kind of cash every year, I’d be filthy, stinking rich. I’m not kidding, either. I think poor decision-making by the folks who make that much is what yanks it down to plebian level. Who are these folks? You got it: the Yuppies.

The Yuppies drive unreasonable vehicles.

The vehicles themselves aren’t unreasonable, if you can afford them. There are a ton of alternatives to driving the gigantic SUV with a gas-pulverizing V8, though, like most the Yuppie parents drive. DVD screens in the back of each headrest, OnStar service, big rims, great stereo, leather. Yea, all the things I grew up with!

Oh wait. Hell no. I rode around in a red Mercury station-wagon with wood-grain sides. After that, it was a sky-blue Pinto; luxury all the way.

The single Yuppie seems to need a BMW or Mercedes. The trouble is, they always get the entry-level cars, so that everyone knows they are a Yuppie. A BMW 318i? Really, honey? That’s a Nissan Sentra with a different logo on the hood. You aren’t fooling anyone. And telling someone that you drive a Benz is all fine and good until they see it for the first time, and realize that its’ a ’91 model with black soot on the rear and faded-ass paint. Oh, and it sounds like a John Deere tractor. Highly impressive, sir.

The Yuppies live in unreasonable houses.

To the Yuppie family of four, nothing less than a half-million-dollar, six-bedroom house will do; after all, where would they put the game room and the borderline-crazy shrine to their favorite ball team if they only had four bedrooms? See? The extra two rooms are must-haves. All six high-priced bedrooms are nestled into an exterior that looks just like every other house in that neighborhood. If a movie were made about them, it might be named “Honey, I Blew-Up the Tract-Home!” Real rich people don’t live in those, folks. They can also afford the house’s price-tag.

Inside these houses is where it really gets amazing. The Yuppie has a Harley motorcycle in the garage that he never rides. He has a pool table and a big-screen TV, whether he needs said items or not. That’s just Yuppie 101. Invariably, he’ll have a full set of MAC or Snap-On tools that remain shiny because he doesn’t know how to use them.

Everyone in the house has their own iPhone, iPod, MacBook, iPad, video game system, and ignored pet. Dad has sports and NASCAR posters up, while Mom collects stainless-steel appliances and imitation designer handbags.

Well-played, Yuppies.

I figure that somewhere, deep-down, they have to know that the majority of actual rich people don’t live like that. I’m not talking Tom Hanks rich, just a few-hundred-grand a year. While the Yuppie is trying to show the world how successful they are by purchasing the latest Cadillac SUV, the actual rich person is tooling down the road in a Ford Explorer.

The Yuppie complains about prices.

While the Yuppie is unloading his $50,000 SUV after a trip to the department store for name-brand clothing, he’ll complain about the price of gas. Or insurance, or taxes, or food, or bottled water. Then he’ll offer you a $4.00 beer that you have to open with his big, honking Craftsman $20 bottle-opener. You know, because buying a twelve-pack of Bud and putting the cans in coozies that say “I’d rather be fishing” is so trashy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Séance Sunday: Humphry Davy

Séance Sunday, my newest series, is where I pick a dead somebody and thank them for their contribution to the world. For the inaugural post, I’m going to thank English scientist Humphry Davy for inventing the first light bulb way back in 1800.

We sometimes don’t think about how different the world would be without such things. The light bulb has a huge impact in our everyday lives. Here are some of the less-important reasons that I’d like to thank Humphry Davy for:

1. Without his invention, we’d never see a light bulb over someone’s head when a great idea occurred to them. How boring would that be?

2. There’d be nothing to shut off before we had sex. “Blow out the candle” doesn’t have nearly the impact that “Turn out the lights” does. Insert slap-bass line here.

3. Tweakers wouldn’t have that particular cheap and easy avenue to smoke their crank out of. Light bulbs make a great glass pipe in a pinch. The tweakers of the world thank you, Humphry Davy.

4. Kids who break into abandoned houses would have nothing to throw at the walls that will explode. C’mon, don’t make that face; you know you’ve done it.

5. Stupid men wouldn’t get to burn their fingers by being too impatient to wait a minute before unscrewing the bulb after it burns out. My hero.

6. Nobody would be able to drive at night. How sucky would that action be? Worse yet, even if we did drive at night, we couldn’t see the radio to change the station when commercials came on. The horror!

So, as you can see, the light bulb is a huge part of modern society, and not just for the obvious reasons. The next time you turn off a lamp, think about the importance of what you are doing. And, maybe throw a few props to Humphry Davy.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Silly Saturday: Sharing Pictures for Cash

It’s time for Silly Saturday! Today we are going to take a look at people who share pictures on their Facebook feed in order to receive a benefit or help someone in need. Really? Ya think so, eh?

So far I’ve seen two different types of these photos: ones that are shared in hopes of helping someone else, and ones that are shared in hopes of helping the sharer. I don’t believe in either of these. I’ve been wrong before, of course, a couple times, but this entire idea just seems silly to me.

Photo A, one that is shared in hopes of helping others, might be of a disaster area, a young bald girl with cancer, or something equally awful. The picture claims that for each “Share”, someone will get money and be helped. I’m no Rhodes Scholar, but this seems very hard to believe. Why would sharing a photo generate income? Life just doesn’t work like that.

Photo B, an image shared in hopes of us helping ourselves, is the silliest of them, in my opinion. Recently, the bloke who won the gazillion dollars in the lottery is supposedly “sharing” some cash with everyone who displays his picture on their Facebook profile.

C’mon, now.

If you believe this, then you are definitely in a little bit of trouble. It has scam and ‘sucker’ written all over it. Most of the people sharing it know it, too. They preface the ‘share’ with sentiments like, “Hard to believe, but it’s worth a shot!” or, “Hey! You never know!”

Oh, we know. It ain’t happenin’, Dollface.

Before you share an unreasonably silly picture on your FB wall, for everyone to see, give it a little thought. Better yet, do some actual Google research (not Bing, please don’t Bing) and see if there’s any truth to the bit. If there is, more power to you. There isn’t, though. I can’t imagine why in the world there would be.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Frankly Friday: Eco-Friendly Cars

This will be the inaugural post of Frankly Friday. Today’s topic is, as you’ve likely gathered from the title, 'going green' via gutless, stupid cars. How important is it to you that your car gets a zillion miles per gallon and ejects roses out the tail pipe?

Frankly, I don’t give a shit. Yes, I’d like to preserve Mother Earth as much as the next guy, but not enough to put myself into a roller skate and hop on the freeway. That definitely isn’t my bag, baby.

I like four-wheel drives and old American iron. I have owned several older V8 cars and trucks throughout the years. I had a ¾ ton Chevy truck that got 8 mpg, and I drove that thing everywhere. Would I like 35 mpg? Absolutely. But again, not enough to drive an egg 70 mph on the freeway. You couldn’t pay me to get into one of those things, even for a trip around the block. “Smart Car” my ass.

The Prius may be environmentally friendly and ‘cute’, but it isn’t receiving any thumbs-up signs at the stoplights. If it does, they are likely from other Prius owners who feel the need to connect with other sheep. I’m sorry. People. People with like interests. That’s what I meant to say.

I realize that not everyone is a car enthusiast, and some people just want something that gets them from location to location in a reasonable manner. I like 300 horsepower and a lot of room, myself, but each to his own. When I stomp on the gas, I want the vehicle to accelerate. If I hear the RPMs rise but my speed doesn’t change, I had better be towing something up a grade. Period.

Life is too short, in my opinion, to risk your life for a few miles more per gallon. SUVs, old cars and trucks, and motor homes are expensive to own and might not be environmentally sound, but they’ll save your life in an accident. That’s all this author needs for an easy decision.

I’ll always drive big vehicles with big V8 engines. That’s just the way it goes. I demand power and style from my rides. There is nothing inherently wrong with a Toyota sedan, they just aren’t for me. If my ’68 Plymouth ever tangles with one, I have a good guess at which car will receive more damage. Just sayin’.

The POS Chevy mentioned earlier:

Lots and lots of great memories with that rig.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What Happened to Cars?

I have often felt that maybe I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time. I see TV shows or movies set in the ‘50s or ‘60s and I can’t help but think how cool it would have been to live in such times. Mostly, for the cars. It’s always the cars.

Have you noticed that most of the ‘new’ cars seem to smell the same? Have you also noticed that no matter how many ‘old’ cars you get into, each one has its own, unique scent? I drove a ’73 Beetle for a while, and I have never smelled a car just like it. My ’68 Plymouth is completely different, but also very unique. I would know the smell anywhere.

Those were also the days when making bigger cars was actually a marketing plus. Family automobiles weren’t Honda Civics or Toyota Corollas; they were Chrysler Imperials, Ford station wagons, Chevy Suburbans. Sure, they still have vans and stuff today, and some of the SUVs are pretty big, but where’s the luxury? Where are the cars Grandma and Grandpa drove that we were embarrassed to be seen in as children? You want to talk about embarrassing, watch a big dude tooling down the street in a ‘Smart Car’. I think I’d rather be seen in roller skates, dancing to a Justin Bieber song.

And what about cars we could freaking work on? Have you even bothered to look in the engine bay of your new ride lately? You can’t even see the spark plugs in a lot of them. I like a car I can fix in the driveway with simple hand tools and a small bit of know-how. If I have to pay $300 dollars for a code-reader and then secure specialty tools for my auto, I’m doing something wrong.

Also, where has style gone? Remember when car manufacturers cared about what their cars looked like? I’m not saying that fins and huge, swooping lines should necessarily come back (although, now that I think about it...), but I can rarely tell one car from the next on the freeways these days. Is there no pride in ownership anymore? Why do a huge majority of people seem to want something that simply gets them from A to B? Maybe they’ve never driven a car that netted them the ‘thumbs-up’ sign at every stoplight, but it’s a super cool feeling.

I understand that with gas prices today, everyone wants to get 50 mpg, but what happens when you are t-boned in your tiny car? Nothing good, that’s what. I’d rather get 18 mpg and walk away from an accident, myself; I’ll never drive a small car. Yeah, I had a couple Beetles back in the day, but at least they had style. Also, I was nineteen; nobody knows anything at nineteen.

On one hand, I’m sort of glad they “don’t make 'em like they used to”, because that sets my ’68 Plymouth apart from all the other cars on the road. However, I cant help but shake my head at the sheeple who buy into the ‘must have something new’ mindset. Oh well, their loss, I guess. :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Don't Hate the Bandit

Ah, yes, the good ole black Trans-Am with a gold eagle on the hood. What child of the ‘80s didn’t fall in love with this car after watching Smokey and the Bandit? I, for one, thought this particular car was the bees-knees. I had several toy replicas of it. Smokey and the Bandit also caused me to fall in love with semi-trucks, but that’s another blog post.

There aren’t a lot of people I talk to that think the black Trans-Am is cool; in fact, most hate 'em. Why? It’s got a sporty design, a huge engine, it’s reminiscent of the Firebird that’s very popular already, it’s black, it’s got a T-top, it has a giant graphic on the hood, and a mini-spoiler. What’s not to like?

I suppose most of the new generation has never seen Burt Reynolds blasting around raising hell in his black Trans-Am, and that’s part of it, of course. But most of the people I know who hate them are around my age, which is baffling to me.

Just about everyone loves the Dukes’ Charger. I understand that it’s a MOPAR and MOPARs are vastly superior to anything GM puts out, but still, the cars are really quite similar. The General Lee has a large graphic on it, slides around corners, jumps, has a big V8 engine, and was constantly being pursued by police. So it had a funny-sounding horn and it was orange, big deal. How can one love the General Lee but hate the Bandit’s Trans-Am?

Then there’s the Fall Guy’s brown and tan Chevy truck. How cool was that in the ‘80s? I’m not even a Chevy fan and I love the hell out of that thing. It had most the components going for it, minus a spoiler and a funny horn; it even had a graphic on the hood. It was an eagle, if I remember correctly, just like the Bandit’s ride. So, what gives? Why errbody hatin’ on the Trans-Am?

What’s your opinion of this fine piece of automotive history?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My House: Project Landscaping

In early 2010, I was able to buy my first house. I’d owned a mobile-home previously, but it’s a far stretch from an actual house. This was the real deal, complete with a detached garage, a decent-sized, fully gated yard, and a bunch of trees. I was in hog-heaven.

Over time, neglect and poor decision-making have transformed a beautiful yard into a shit hole. Oh, it’s not completely white trash, but it’s definitely getting there. Most of the “lawn” is just green weeds and as such, it grows at four-times the rate of regular grass. If I don’t mow for a couple weeks, the place looks like ass.

I’ve also added a few cars and a boat into the mix, making the place look like a used-car lot. I’ve had the boat for over a year and haven’t taken it out once, so I’m thinking of selling it. I could use a camp trailer tons more, anyhow.

I’m rebuilding my ’68 Plymouth and was able to find a cheap donor ’68 for the project, so it’s sitting right in the middle of things, too. I also agreed to store a friend’s Acura for a while, and so there it sits, as well.

I’m changing all that this Spring/Summer.

I’m going to get out there and get my hands (and likely my jeans) dirty. I want to put rock and/or bark in a lot of the places that I currently have to mow so that it’s more low-maintenance. I want to cut down one of the trees and put in a garden shed. I want to install a gate so I can get to a part of the yard that is all but inaccessible due to a larger-than-life cactus thing.

I haz plans.

As you can see from the picture, the place has big potential. It’s just going to take a lot of effort and cash to get it where I want it. That’s okay, I guess; effort and cash make the world go ‘round, right?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Novel Idea

Okay, so I had this awesome idea for a novel one evening when I was sick. The idea came to me in full force, instantly. One minute I’m watching TV and the next minute I’m seeing characters and had a complete story in my head. I even saw the book cover, right down to the font used. The story blurb on the back was instantly conjured, too, and I had a title. It was definitely surreal.

Here’s the thing: I’m scared of it.

This idea is so good, I don’t want to muck it up. I’m not avoiding writing it, but I’m not above admitting that I’m not sure I can do it justice. I can watch the whole thing in my mind, like a movie, and yet I’m terrified that the words I use or the structure I go with will ruin it.

Have you ever felt this way, writer friends?

I know for a fact that if I can pull this off correctly it’ll sell. This is the real deal, not some murky idea I have that needs fleshing out and expanding. This story is complete, ready-to-go; I just need to pen the thing.

Never before have I wondered how to enter a story. That stuff just works itself out, as far as I’m concerned. With this one, though, I feel that the first page, how I set the tone, is going to be all-important. It’s the little decisions that sometimes make the biggest difference, eh?

Anyhow, I’m definitely going to write this epic tale, but it’s such a huge undertaking and I just hope I’m prepared for it and have all the tools I need. If not, the entire thing could fall down and flop on its face, and that would hurt badly because this is going to be more than a little work.

Off I go. Clackety-clack go the keys.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Haunting at Loon Lake

It was the summer of ’94, and I was in Northwestern Iowa visiting my grandmother for a couple of months. I had just purchased my ’68 Plymouth Fury and was working as a dish washer at a local restaurant. I was nineteen years old. My buddies and I had bought a few beers (that’s another story, all together: since I was from CA, I had the locals convinced I’d lost my ID but was 21 years of age...) and headed toward Loon Lake, Minnesota, which was only about a twenty-minute drive, to visit the oldest graveyard in the area, Loon Lake Cemetery.

The cool part about the graveyard was that a witch named Mary Jane Terwillegar (several different spellings have been used) had been burned at the stake in the late 1800s and was buried there. That part is true, not local folklore –at least about her being there. I’ve never confirmed the lynching. The legend, however, stated that if she was disrespected, the clown who did the disrespecting didn’t make it home. Ever. There are a ton of stories of cars overturning, catching on fire, people falling asleep at the wheel, etcetera. Of course, I attributed all those tales to teens having ingested too much booze or parlaying with a few too many pills.

I’m kind of a joker, as in, I like to play pranks. A couple of the guys I worked with were taking their vehicles that night, as well, and we were packing as many girls in all the empty seats as we could possibly fit. Before we left, I told the guys to leave their transmissions in Neutral when got there, which they did. I hadn’t told them what I had in mind yet, though; I didn’t want to risk any of them going soft and spilling the beans.

The small two-rut dirt road we had to pull in on was adjacent to a great big field – I’d say it was a couple-hundred yards across, at least. The graveyard was on the other side of that field in a thicket of giant trees, so we’d have to hike it on foot. It was probably ten P.M. on the night in question, and the weather was fine – clear and still. It had been a warm day, but it was cooling off quickly, as Midwest nights often do.

View from the road:

As I had suspected, not a single girl wanted to accompany us on our graveyard trek. So we told them to stay close to the cars and headed off into the direction of the giant trees and the ancient burial ground. The night was abuzz with excitement. I was nothing short of giddy.

I had a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos with me, I’ll never forget that. I kept chomping away at them as we traveled. We walked across the massive field and finally arrived at trees. The graveyard was rumored to be in them somewhere, so we just had to look.

We all had flashlights and were searching arduously when someone yelled, “Over here!

We went in the direction of the voice and, to our surprise, we were looking at a very old, very worn headstone. Closer inspection revealed that it was indeed from the 1880s. I was really impressed because I *love* freaky stuff like that. We looked further and the headstones kept popping up. Most of the headstones were from the mid-to-late 1800s. The graveyard was over one-hundred years old at the time. I was bombed out of my mind with excitement.

That’s when I began acting like a dumb-ass kid.

I wanted to scare the local yokels who believed in the legend of the witch, so I walked around moaning like a zombie, I laid down and got back up whenever I saw a headstone, as if I were a vampire, rising from the grave. Then I directly challenged the witch to come and get me. I was really just doing anything that could be seen as remotely scary or disrespectful so that the backwoods nerds could see that the legend was just a fairy tale.

Remember I had everyone put their transmissions in Neutral? That comes into play here, in a second. After we were done thoroughly disrespecting the long-hidden bone yard, I organized one hell of a scare party for the girls waiting for us across the field.

I sent the boys back, one at a time, and told them to scream their fool heads off. I told them to say they saw horrible things, wicked things, and to just make it up as they went because nobody would really be listening to the words anyhow.

It worked like a charm.

I sent them back in about 30-second intervals in between and they were yelling bloody-murder, running as fast as their legs would carry them. I was pumped. I was freaking really pumped. This was the gag to end all gags.

When I had dispatched the last of them, I threw down the empty Doritos bag and blasted across the field myself, also screaming like I’d just seen the end of the world. About halfway across, a mean wind picked up. I looked around, though, and none of the trees were swaying even the tiniest bit. The wind, it seemed, was in the field alone, with me. I remember thinking how lucky I was that such a strong wind kicked up just then, because it would add to the effect of my mini-horror story.

Oh, it added to it, all right.

The girls were freaking out, brothers and sisters, and I mean freaking out bad. It was complete pandemonium, and I couldn’t have been happier with my creation. We all agreed that we’d better get the heck out of there, and fast, so everyone piled into the cars. Because they were all in Neutral, however, none of them would start. Neutral-safety-switches, for the win.

The girls were, by that time, screaming and knocking around in the back seat of my Plymouth, all the while casting backward glances toward the graveyard, hoping they didn’t glimpse the awful things we had said we’d witnessed. One of them (I swore it wouldn’t happen, but it did; I hope this girl went on to become a detective) actually noticed that the gear shift was down, and told me to put it in Park so the damned car would start.

Once the Plymouth’s big engine roared to life and my headlights were blazing, the others followed suit and before long, tires were spinning and we were fish-tailing down that lonely dirt road toward the highway.

Well, by the time we hit asphalt I couldn’t take it any longer, and I started laughing. Hard. I was absolutely loony with laughter. The same girl who noticed the gear shifter being in Neutral noticed this first, and began kicking the back of my seat when she realized she’d been had.

We all pulled over, and no less than three girls got out of my Plymouth and refused to get back in. I tried to convince them that they were being silly, I’d give them a ride home, but the hatred, at that moment, ran pretty deep. So, they piled into my friend’s old Ford pickup and the other non-descript ‘80s ride my other buddy had driven, and it was tail lights. C-ya, wouldn’t wanna be-ya. So, I climbed back in my Plymouth and headed off, alone.

That’s when the world went weird.

Everything was fine for about ten miles, and then the blasted engine began sounding funny. It was making a noise like it was only running on three cylinders, and the car lost almost all power. I pulled over and checked under the hood, but nothing was visibly awry, so I motored on.

A few miles later, it did it again. I pulled over, and the car died. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Midwest back-road at one-thirty-in-the-morning, but it isn’t fun when you are alone. There was *nothing* out there, friends and neighbors, save for myself and a huge expanse of blackness.

It took a while, but the darn thing started again. I was only eight miles or so outside of town by then but because the engine was sputtering so badly, it took me quite a while to cover that ground. The car simply acted like it didn’t want to go anywhere. At that point, the witch had never entered my mind; I wasn’t freaked out in the least. I was more concerned about the healthy mechanic’s bill I was going to incur because at nineteen, I knew as much about V8 engines as I did about how the Egyptians built the pyramids.

I finally ambled into town and stopped for gas. In Iowa, it’s pump *then* pay, so I filled the tank and then accidentally drove off without paying. It was late and I was upset at the car and distracted by the evening in general, so I didn’t purposely rip someone off, I just left because I was done pumping.

Well, I got pulled over.

I explained to the cop my situation, sans graveyard, and he chuckled and told me to go back and give the guy his twenty bucks which I did, with an apology.

I finally parked the car in my grandma’s driveway and made my way inside. I had to be back at the kitchen at seven the next morning, and it was close to three already; it wasn’t going to be fun.

That’s when things got real weird.

I kept thinking my grandmother had died. Not once or twice, but over and over. I couldn’t sleep. I kept going downstairs to check on her. I had this real, real bad feeling inside that I couldn’t explain and couldn’t shake. It was a cold, aloof, distanced feeling, like something was very wrong. I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

All I could do was keep returning to my bed, hoping for sleep.

Instead of sleeping, I got a visit from a young woman. She was dressed all in white, she had flowing, jet-black hair, and she was hovering outside my second-story window. There was a ledge there, but she wasn’t standing on it; she was maybe ten or fifteen feet out, and above my window by another three. I had stood up in bed and was looking directly at her. I was not asleep. I was not dreaming. Or maybe I was. What happened next, though, scared me badly.

She was summoning me to go with her. She wanted me to climb out the window. She kept motioning her arm, beckoning me to join her. Her face looked kind.

By the time I “came to”, I had removed the screen and was halfway out. I don’t know what kind of mental state I was in, or whether I was awake or asleep, but had I gone another two feet, I’d have taken quite a fall. Maybe a deadly one.

Needless to say, I purposely neglected sleep from that point on. I just sat on my bed in the dark room, scared out of my mind, and waited for the small white alarm clock to tell me the day had officially started.

That’s when things got real, real weird.

I dropped the car off at the garage across the street from the restaurant, told them what it had been doing, and headed over to clock in.

When I got to work nothing, and I mean nothing, went right. Sure, I was tired and had experienced a rough night, but I was nineteen; teenage kids can function after a single bad night.

But that feeling. That feeling inside the pit of me that something was horribly wrong wouldn’t leave. In fact, it got stronger throughout the day. I can’t describe the feeling, but “pure evil” comes close. It was something black, and something much, much larger than the world we know and recognize. It was the size of a tidal wave and the color of Hell.

First, I cut myself pretty badly on the meat grinder. Then, I fell down the stairs when I was on my way to get something in the basement. Next, a glass broke and cut me further. I was tough, though, and I wasn’t about to lay down.

Not until the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me before or since occurred, that is.

I was putting a plate away on one of the shelves. There was already a stack of identical plates there, so all I had to do was put mine on top. Well, one of them fell down on my head and shattered on the floor. Only, it wasn’t the one I was holding. No, this plate came from the *middle* of the stack. I watched it slip out and fall while I was putting the other plate on top.

I’d had enough. I waved the white flag. Good game. I’m out.

I went to the break room, lit up a cigarette, sat down, and cried. I literally cried. Between the lack of sleep, my car being on the fritz, the injuries, the evil feeling, and the weird stuff going on, I just couldn’t take any more.

One of the chefs came over and sat down beside me.

“Hey,” he said. “You okay, man?”

I told him that I was far from okay, and relayed to him the activities of the night before. By that time, I had put it together that the witch was coming for me, and it was anything but fun. It was the worst feeling in the world. If you ever have the chance to be completely consumed by evil, I suggest passing; it’s highly overrated.

“Dude, I saw what happened,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked, and looked at him through tear-filled eyes.

“That plate. It fell from the middle of the stack, man. What the hell is going on? I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“You saw it too?” I said, eyes wide.

“Yeah. I saw it plain as day, man,” he replied.

At that point, I began crying harder. Now that it wasn’t a figment of my imagination, or just a bad day, and that others were witnessing the weird crap going on, I completely lost it. I told him that I was going to die, and soon; I could feel it with every fiber of my being. I really could. Death was very, very near. I wasn’t being dramatic. My card was punched.

He told me that I shouldn’t have messed with the witch, and he hoped for the best for me. He believed fully in the legend, as I should have before I decided to act like a fool and test her. At that moment, I’d have given anything in the world not to have visited that graveyard. Anything.

It was near clock-out time by then, anyhow, so they told me I could just stay in the break room and smoke my fool head off, if I wanted, which I did. I was scared, and not a little. I was scared for my life; for my soul. I work with words for a living, now, and I still cannot find the right ones to convey how terrified I was. That black feeling was overwhelming and it was eons deep.

When I clocked out, I opened the kitchen door and walked down the three wooden steps that led to the dirt parking area. The *instant* my foot hit the ground, the black feeling went away. I don’t mean that I felt a little better, either; it was completely and totally gone. I felt 100% like my old self again. It was as if it were never there.

Confused but relieved beyond belief, I walked across the street to the garage, and asked them what they’d found out about my Plymouth. The guy shook his head and handed me the keys.

“Ain’t nothing wrong with that car, boy. I drove it all over today.”

And he was right. The thing never gave me an issue like that again. Not one, single time.

To this day, I do not know why Mary Jane Terwillegar chose to spare me, or even *if* she did. Maybe she couldn’t beat me. I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t screw around in graveyards anymore and if someone tells me about a ghost experience, I think twice and three times about what I’m going to say before I respond. The afterworld is no joke.

There are things out there, gang. Things that go bump in the night, things that catch the corners of our eyes when the light’s just right, things we see in dreams, and things that take over our souls after we’ve challenged the dead to a duel. Don’t do it.

You wouldn’t believe the power they have. You really wouldn’t.

** NOTES **

Here’s a great website put together by an actual descendent of Mary Jane Terwillegar. It suggests that she wasn’t burned at the stake at all, but died of diphtheria in 1880. I personally tend to believe that latter but either way, I also believe that she harnessed powers in life that she quite possibly brought to the grave and beyond. Whatever happened to me in the Summer of ’94 wasn’t natural. I can tell you that much.

Website: http://primahq.com/investigations.aspx

Monday, March 26, 2012

Three things to do while alone in the house

For those of you who live on your own, you don’t need to worry about this entry because you are already a pro at doing things by yourself. For the rest of us, though, I have cooked up some ideas, and I’ll try and highlight the good and the bad with each one. Heck, I’m only doing three, so it should be relatively easy.

1. Watch movies.

The problem with this one is that I’m a lover of the macabre, and I always watch something jacked-up which leaves me scared out of my mind, and I always watch them at night.

The good: I get to see kick-ass flicks that my partner may not be interested in watching.

The bad: Holy shit, I’m scared.

2. Read a book.

Reading is always something I have enjoyed. Again, though, I tend to lean heavily toward the macabre side of things, and so there has been more than one occasion when, late at night, I begin freaking out because the story is really good and really, really scary.

The good: I get to settle in and read a good story. I don’t feel obligated to do anything else but read the thing.

The bad: Holy shit, I’m scared.

3. Listen to your favorite music.

Neat! I get to crank up the tunes, go back in time (I always go to the ‘80s, myself...), and reminisce. Play the air guitar, bang on the air drums, grab an air microphone, scoot across the floor like Tom Cruise in that horrible scene I won’t admit to ever having watched.

The good: I always find songs I had forgotten I loved so much way back when.

The bad: I end up spending hours on YouTube, and don’t get a damn thing done. YouTube has a special way of sucking the minutes and hours of your life away. It’s a rut I’ve been caught in all too often.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Metal Detector

So, I finally broke down and bought a metal detector. I had been doing loads of research on them, and I even joined a forum. They aren’t exactly cheap, so I wanted to be sure it was something I wanted to do before I chucked $200 or more out the window.

After reading tons and tons of information about the various types, I ended up with a Fisher F2.

I liked some of the other detectors such as the Garrett Ace 250 but honestly, I’m real picky about how things look, and not in a normal way. The Garretts are awesome, but they are yellow; I have nothing against the color itself, but the thing reminded me of those waterproof radios from the late ‘80s that folks in the commercials were taking into the shower. Yellow electronics were lame then, and they are lame now.

The only yellow electronic thing I can think of that is not lame is the DeWalt construction site stereo-boom box with the roll cage around it – that thing rocks all day.

Even when I was a kid, I would buy shoes based on how the soles looked. Yes, the soles; I didn’t really care what was up top, but the tread and the colors of the rubber had to be bitchin’, or no-go. It may actually explain a lot, but I’m no psychologist and so I just pretend it doesn’t.

So anyhow, I have only had the chance to use my detector once, but the thing actually works. In the span of a single hour, it netted me a rusty screw, a rusty nail, two old bottle caps, and what could be half a coffee can or some aluminum siding. Exciting stuff! And, what’s even cooler, is that all those items were in my very own backyard.

My house was built in 1934, and I’m hoping that someone in the ‘40s or ‘50s buried a fortune back there, all preserved in mason jars. Then I can retire and have a lot more time for blogging and writing novels. How sweet is that?

I’ll keep you all updated on my groovy, life-changing metal-detecting finds.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Band Practice #2 - Going Well!

So, the band I mentioned a few posts ago practiced again yesterday, and we had a blast. It was really neat to drum along to songs I hadn’t heard in a decade. Apparently, my memory is still okay because I surprised myself at how well I still knew the arrangements.

Original band post can be found here:


It was a grueling, long and semi-hot day, too, and the process is always the same: begin drumming lightly and with style so that you can preserve energy, but a few songs in, begin playing hard and getting tricky because you are warmed up and having fun. It’s tiring on the body to be a rock drummer.

The funny thing about this genre of music is that not a single song of it was in my listening repertoire as a kid. I have never been a classic rock or a big blues fan and yet, I play classic rock and blues. If it were up to me, we’d play Skid Row, old Metallica, Poison, Cinderella, Steelheart, Kix, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, A-Ha, Danger Danger, Tesla, Motley Crue, Warrant, and Winger. Of course, there’s zero market for those bands today, so it looks as if I’m assed-out.

Anyhow, I just got to reflecting how odd it is that not only was I completely introduced to an entire genre by this group of fellas, but that I eventually got pretty good at playing it. The music has a certain “feel” that once you get hold of, makes the songs easier to learn and play. I’d still rather be wearing leather pants and bouncing my sticks off the floor toms while some dude with a blonde wig and a real high voice blasts out “Still of the Night” by Whitesnake, but the classic rock bit is still a lot of fun.

If you could play any genre of music and any instrument in the world, what would they be?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Home Alone

Well, I’m here all by myself. E had to leave because of a family emergency, and so I’ve been fending for myself. Two long days, so far. Ha, just kidding; I do fine on my own, for a while.

So, I’m sitting here listening to some Zep (I put the actual CD into the tray) and I just ate some Chef Boyardee. I’m all set. I took a shower earlier, and just didn’t see the need to get dressed. It’s fun once in a while.

The weather is warming up here in SoCal, which I’m not a big fan of, but it’s still in the acceptable range. I can deal with 80s, not 100+. I’m just not made for that crap. I guess that’s beside the general point, though.

Last night, I watched Boogeyman. I started it around midnight. That was one of my less-than-brilliant moments. I had to watch another movie afterward to erase the first one. So, I watched This So-Called Disaster – highly recommended for those who like documentaries about film and theater. All-star cast, neat flick.

So I got to bed just around four in the morning, and I wasn’t scared. Well, I have guns. I set the alarm for nine-thirty, but killed that sucker and slept for one more hour because I can. When I got up, I brewed a pot of coffee and went ballistic on my usual forums. I’m a real party animal.

I have re-filled the fridge water thing, I’ve fed the cats, I have rinsed my dishes out, I have made a things-to-do list, and now I guess I’ll attempt some work. I have a lot on my plate, but the motivation of a bull in molasses. Whatever that means.

Where’s that confounded bridge? –Zep

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do you need the best of the best?

I get so tired of everyone wanting/needing the best of everything. Who do they think they are, anyway? I do realize that having the best of something is a good feeling, but is having the absolute best always necessary? Not a bit. Not one damned bit. Let me try and pony up some examples for you.


All one has to do is peek at the ingredients list on both generic and name-brand medications to see that they are identical, folks. I cannot for the life of me understand why Tylenol would be any better than Walgreen's acetaminophen. Whether you pay big money or small money, the headache disappears. You don’t have to be an economics major to see that.

BMX Bikes

This one really gets to me. I never raced on the pro-circuit when I was a kid, but I know a few who did. Those kids needed better bikes than a Huffy, and I understood that. But my immediate circle of friends rode through the hills on dirt trails and did a lot of wheelies and low-level jumps. My Huffy survived over ten years of abuse, and I never once cracked anything. Why a seven-year-old kid would need a $300 BMX bike is beyond me. What does a kid like that weight, anyhow? Fifty pounds? Sixty-five pounds for the oddly big ones? Trust me, that kind of weight isn’t going to break any department store BMX bike. It just won’t.

Vehicle upgrades

Oh, this one is a biggie. I’m in a Jeep club, and trust me when I say that if you aren’t buying a lift from Rubicon Express, you are wasting your money according to 90% of the members in the club. That information is just simply 100% false. I don’t baby my Jeep Cherokee when I hit the trail. I’m rough on stuff, and I run my Jeep hard. The “cheap” Rusty’s 4.5” lift I put on in 2007 is still going strong today, and flexes like a sumbitch. In fact, I’ve pulled many an RE owner out of a good stuck. It’s all how ya drive, not what ya spend. That’s a fact.

The newest thing

It’s like an epidemic, people wanting something just because it’s the latest edition. I’m a chess-engine fan, but I’m a fan for the right reasons. The engine that I mainly use to analyze games is rated at about 3,100 Elo (for you non-chess lovers, that’s extremely high. The best human plays at the 2800 level). Yet, engines are coming out that play at the 3,300 level, and folks go wild over them. Why? For what we need, 3,100 is just fine, friends. Unless you are looking to have a competitive engine (they do hold tournaments), there is no reason to spend your money on the latest and greatest.

The same goes for phones. I realize that iPhone 4 is newer than iPhone 3, but if iPhone 3 is working for you, why do you feel you *must* upgrade? It’s the same with computers, too; unless you are a hard-core gamer who really and truly needs the power, or maybe you somehow rely on your computer for a living, why do you need the newest, fastest thing on the market? The second you leave the computer store with your new laptop, it’s already outdated. Why worry about it? Enjoy it, use it, be impressed with it for what it is. Don’t let it eat at you that someone has something better; someone is always going to have something better. Live with it.

Items in general

If I tell a friend I got a nice new pocket knife, he’ll ask why it isn’t a Benchmade, Spyderco, or a Kershaw. Umm, how about because I actually use my knives and sometimes lose them? A good Gerber or Buck is fine with me; I don’t have to spend over $100 to get a quality knife.

If I show off a nice flashlight I recently purchased, I’ll be asked why I didn’t go with SureFire or some other tactical brand. Dude, relax. The one I got has five LED lights in it and has gotten me out of *plenty* of jams. I don’t need something that will light up the dark side of the moon, I need something that’ll help me see at night, and my $10 Eveready never, ever lets me down.

Or, maybe I show them my new Casio watch, and I get asked why I didn’t get a watch like theirs which weighs five pounds, is shock-resistant and can be submerged for ten miles before the face cracks. Also, it cost more than my grandparents’ first car.

Umm, do any scuba diving lately, Mr. Indestructible Timepiece? Taken any bullets you need to block with your wristwatch? C’mon, friends, it’s a watch. I got mine for $20 at the Walgreen's and it’s literally one of the best watches I’ve ever owned.

Well, you get the point. I could go on and on, here, but I guess I’ll stop because my keyboard is smoking. Folks, please, while the best is nice to have and sometimes even necessary, I’d be willing to bet you could get away with second or even third best and never know the damned difference in most cases.

Shop wisely. :)