Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rest In Peace

It’s extremely overdue.  I’ve been holding onto the idea of this blog post for quite a while…  I’ve been hesitant to write it because it’s really not my story.  Or, let me slightly adjust that thought and say that my story is simply a small part of the complete tale.  So I’ve decided to at least touch on my part of the story – my small part of the bigger picture – and we’ll see where it goes.  Okay?

It began on August 28th.  Many of you probably heard the news story when it occurred, but it faded from your thoughts and memories over the following weeks as it wasn’t completely relevant to your daily lives.  But on that day, Michigan State Trooper Chad Wolf died.  It was a tragic accident that took his life, and a moment when every tiny situation had to line up with every other seemingly insignificant event of the day to bring about the loss of a good cop, a wonderful man, and my cousin.

As insane as it seems to say about a 38-year-old family man, when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.  An extra glass of orange juice at breakfast, and the moment would never have happened.  A traffic light that turned yellow just a half-second earlier and it would have been a normal day.  But it wasn’t.  A car with a trailer strikes a motorcycle, and an accident becomes national news.

Chad’s death was far more than a news story to me though because he was family, and everything that I heard about it was from members of the family. And while the news stations did all they could to cover the visitations, the funeral and the grave site ceremony, I was there with family, and it was completely real.

I wasn’t as close to Chad as I should have been – that’s my fault – and it had been a few years since I had actually seen him.  I should have made a call and stopped by the last few times I passed through the area.  I didn’t, and then the years passed by.  But I knew him well enough to know that all of the stories people told about him were true.  Stories told by his friends at the reception, stories told by co-workers at the funeral, and stories told by family over meals before we left town.  I’d known him as a goofy kid that we saw every so often over holidays when our families got together.  Then, later on, I was incredibly impressed to see the man he grew up to be.

He always had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the room.  If he hadn’t seen you in years, he wanted to know just what you’d been up to.  If he’d seen you the day before, he’d want to know just how you were doing, no pretenses or “I’m good thanks, how are you?”.  He was genuely concerned with people – their days, their lives, their growth, their feelings.  You just don’t find that much in this world.

He was one of those people who seemed to be blessed to be given 36 hours to work with every day, because he could give so much of himself to everyone around him and still be an active father, a devoted husband and a Trooper who could inspire glowing, praising phone calls to his bosses from people to whom he’d just given a traffic ticket earlier that day.  He was the kind of man it would be easy to resent and feel jealousy about if he just hadn’t been such a good, all around guy.

And it makes me think…  You’re not guaranteed anything in this world.  He was only 38.  And I’m at a point in my life where I’m older than my mother was when she unexpectedly passed away.  So it’s hard to know how much time any of us have to create our legacy in life.  I have goals and dreams for what my life is supposed to mean, and how I’ m supposed to make the world a better place through my presence.  And his life – and its abrupt ending – puts that into a whole new perspective, time-wise.

So thank you Chad.  For a life well lived, for being a witness to those you had just met, and for providing an example.  Now it’s time for me to kick into gear and complete everything I was created to accomplish.  And to touch as many lives through my life as possible.  Each and every day…

“I’ve Got Your Back”

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Don’t mess with our turf…

Just four little words that I said yesterday…

I was taking Graham for a walk and, as we came to the area as close to the road as he’s allowed, we saw a dog.  A large dog.  A large Rottweiler actually.

The dog was trotting across the street from us and, when he turned and noticed us, Graham dropped into the customary posture he adapts when he sees large dogs – he dropped down onto his belly in the grass with the goal of becoming invisible.  Maybe it was because I was right there with him, actually choosing to be friendly with the dog, but his ploy didn’t work.

The dog turned and started to trot accross the road, checking us out and, seeing his positive gait and knowing he wasn’t going to be a threat, I whispered down to the brave cat laying between my feet, joking “don’t worry, I’ve got your back”.

As soon as I said it, Graham hopped back up onto his feet (err…paws) and took a determined step forward.  The dog stopped in the middle of the street for a moment, cocked it’s head, and started walking towards us again.  And, wouldn’t you know it, the little furball decided to show off his bravery.  Just as the Rottweiler touched our side of the road, Graham let out a growl that completely surprised him, stopping him in his tracks.  He took a few more steps along the side of the road, looking at us, but no longer prepared to come directly at us.

Then, after a moment, he decided to take one more step toward us, Graham let out a hiss and charged.

Somehow, I managed to catch the little guy before he’d gotten very far, going down to my knees before turning to see what the dog had decided to do.  Fortunately, he’d taken a few steps away from us, not wanting anything to do with the challenge.  Then, Graham turned to look at me, gave me a look that said “what are you waiting for, we can take him!”  And with that, he pulled away from me, hissed as loudly as he could, and took off.  And so did that dog.  Just as fast as he could with a furry orange streak in his rear view.  He wanted nothing at all to do with us.  He probably thought we were crazy…

Sure, I’d stand up to a 50-lb Rottweiler for Graham.  And that’s a good thing for him to know in life.  After all, you’ve always got to have someone who’s going to be there for you through anything and everything.  But I’m going to have to teach him the next part of the lesson – don’t go picking fights just because you know I’ve got your back.  We don’t actually have to fight.  I’m more than willing to pick you up and carry you into the house to get away from potential trouble.

And then we can tell everyone stories about how brave we were later.  We can even tell them there were two Rottweilers.  Whatever story you want to tell, I’ve got your back.

 

 

For Sale…

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The duct-tape double-wide is gone.  Hallelujah!

I don’t know where the monstrosity has gone on its journey – if it was moved to take the role of a home for somebody, or if it was just pausing here for a bit before continuing the rest of the way on its path to destruction.  But…it disappeared on Tuesday – trash day.  That doesn’t seem coincidental.  Though I have a limit on how many garbage bags I can leave out each Tuesday morning…?  I’m not complaining, just saying.

It’s garage sale season here in Fayette County.  When I say that, I don’t mean that you can drive past a lot of sales each Friday and Saturday.  It’s more of an everyday thing.  There are two in particular that I drive by every day that have been active for more than a month!  One’s technically a yard sale (everything that’s for sale is out in the short gravel driveway and strewn across the yard – the wet grass – and many things have been out there for weeks, rain or shine.  If you stop by, just knock on the door to let them know you’re interested.  You can walk around the trailer to see the many brightly-colored plastic children’s toys.  Since they’re waterproof, they’d be your safest bet.    I think they bring in the racks of clothes at night or when it’s raining, but I’ve never understood buying other people’s old clothes…

There’s even a pearl-colored Cadillac Escalade parked on the edge of the hill beside the trailer – only a firm push away from an entertaining roll down toward the trees.  It’s had a ‘For Sale’ sign on its windshield for as long as the yard sale has been going on.   It doesn’t seem to fit in its surroundings, but do any of us?

A garage sale a few miles away actually has an ‘Open/Closed’ sign out at the edge of the two-lane highway to let everyone know when to stop and when to drive on by.  It’s like a thrift store located in a square brick building with a roll-up door that takes up the entire front wall.  It looks pretty dark in there since the sun doesn’t reach all the way to the back during normal business hours.   And the bricks aren’t all set flush upon each other and it looks only a couple of storms away from collapse, so I’m not endorsing stopping.  It’s a curiosity, but one best seen at 45 miles an hour.  Minimum.

There’s a brand new dollar store being built close by that might impact the business these families are getting.  Or hope to get.  It’s going up on the site where there used to be a combination grocery/antique store.  I’ll miss that place, even though I completely avoided shopping there.  After all, do you really want to purchase your “Fresh” food at a place that also focuses on items from fifty or a hundred years ago?  I’m not saying that there were ever problems, but I just wouldn’t want to risk the result of an overlap in their business.  Think you could find a dusty case of Tab soda in that place…

New usually doesn’t replace old here in Fayette County.  Instead, new is usually built – quickly and haphazardly- right next to the rust and dilapidation of the old.  The new house built right next to an old trailer on one side and an out-of-business old tire shop on the other, for example.  Placed there because it’s family land, or was just cheap.  Or the new sandwich shop set up next to a 150-square-foot shack advertising “Tatoos” with a “For Rent” sign in its greasy window.

But I guess maybe that’s considered small-town charm.  In some circles anyway.  Me, I just shake my head when I see it, stifle a laugh if anyone else is around, and state the only explanation I have…  “Fayette County…”

 

Happy Independence Day

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Hey everyone!

I’ve been traveling and hope to be home to enter a a “real” post tomorrow but, while I’m out on the highways and byways, I wanted to wish you all a wonderful holiday today!  I hope you’re able to enjoy some time with family and friends, cookouts, fireworks, sparklers, firecrackers, M-80s and whatever.  Because…

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Ahh, the stories many of us could tell, I’m sure.  Like Lindsay, my grade school friend…  If you’re reading, I really didn’t try to shoot that bottle rocket up your nose.  And I’m very glad I missed…

So enjoy the day, the weekend, and hopefully some wonderful summer weather wherever you are!!

And Happy 239th America!  You don’t look a day over 180 (though you may be showing a little puffiness around the edges – New York City and Los Angeles – and few wrinkles in the middle – ahem, Fayette County.  But who’s perfect…?

Have a great one everyone!!

 

 

Goin’ Molein

imageMy neighbor thinks I’m nuts.

Now, when I say that, i don’t mean “My neighbor probably thinks I’m crazy, ha ha”.  And I don’t mean that it’s crazy that my neighbor would think I’m nuts.  I mean that I’ve given plenty of reasons for my neighbor, a probably-normal-in-most-ways woman in her late 20’s, every reason to believe that she’s living next to a man who has at least twice his own personal share of quirks.

I don’t intend to give her that impression.  I’m not trying to act weird around her in any way.   That’s not what’s happening at all.  It just seems that whenever our paths cross, I’m…well…possibly not showing my most sane side.

Where I live in Fayette County, when it’s night, it’s dark.  That may sound redundant, but there are no city lights to brighten the night around there.  If you drive home and pull into your drive, you may have left some outside lights on, and that helps, but it’s still not bright.  My neighbor works late shifts and is usually coming home after the sun has set.  And me, I’m outside many evenings going for a walk with Graham.  Sometimes I lead and sometimes I follow.  I’m the Alpha Male, but he’s still going to make his opinions known.  And he likes to wander over into the field past her driveway…  So when she pulls in and gets out of her car, I have to make my presence known so I don’t freak her out – and so I don’t get maced .

I used to do this by saying “hi” to her.  But that didn’t really work for some reason.  So now I try to make small talk with Graham just so she’ll hear me talking and not freak out that I’m there.  But for some reason, hearing “You ready to go in now?”, “What in the world did you get in your fur?”, or “Think it’s time for turkey?” coming from a guy she doesn’t know in the dark field doesn’t seem overly settling.

I’ve been out on the side of our lane in full daylight when she’s pulled in and waved to her from a mere few feet away and not received the slightest glance.  So I know she wants nothing to do with me.  But…last night I think I finally made the image of all images out there…

I was outside (with Graham of course), just recently being home from work.  I’d changed into a Walking Dead t-shirt, the only pair or workout pants that were clean, and a pair of old running shoes that were red from putting in mulch the day before.  Then…I finally saw the little trouble maker who’d been tearing up the yard for weeks.  A mole.  Graham and I watched him go through the mulch and out into the yard – either with no fear of us, or with a complete lack of a survival instinct.  Either way, I instantly had a healthy amount of respect for him.  Once I realived that he and Graham could be trusted near each other (Seriously, Graham wouldn’t hurt a fly.  And I mean that literally.  I’ll have to share the story that proves that one day), I went inside for the proper mole catching equipment.

Soon, after much searching, I came back out carrying a bright orange shoebox.  I know…you probably didn’t know that was the required mole huntin’ gear, did you?  That’s okay, because neither did my neighbor…

Just as I was about 5 minutes into my endeavor, crawling under a tree with my orange box, trying to convince an uncooperative mole to trust me with his relocation needs, she came out of her place dressed for a night on the town…  And Graham didn’t help by choosing that moment to walk away with a “Him?  No I don’t know him.  Never seen him before in my life” look on his face.  Have you ever seen a look of embarrassment on a cat?  Sheesh.  There I was on my own, on my knees, talking to a mole that couldn’t be seen from five feet away – let alone from across the yard – guiding a shoebox across the grass.

While I’ve never wanted to settle for being ‘normal’, I do like to think that I don’t usually come across to most people as weird.  But you should have seen how dramatically she avoided me.  And there was gravel flying as she pulled out and away…

I’ve named the mole ‘Lil Squatch’.  Both because of the huge “tracks” he’s left in the yard and, because he’s hard to spot.  My neighbor doesn’t even believe he exists.  But I’m expecting to see him again soon.  I carried the shoebox a ways away and dropped him off in an area that I think might make a good alternate home for him but, if it was within walking distance for me, it’s walking distance back for him as well.   And…I think he and Graham played and bonded while I was inside looking for my mole trap.  So the little guy will probably be back where he’s grown too comfortable seeing us.

And then I’m certain that when Graham and I are playing with him out in the yard next time, that will be the exact moment when the neighbor comes home.  And I won’t blame her as she does her best to pretend she doesn’t see us at all…

 

 

One of those days

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I’m in a weird mood today.

That’s probably not too far from my usual state (no sarcastic comments please) but that’s just how I am today. So I’m sitting here thinking about creating ‘Books, Beer & Bigfoot’ t-shirts. I’d love to see people wearing them around here in Fayette County so that I know who’s reading it locally (and who has a sense of humor). And I’d love to see how many different states they could make it into, and the looks they might get from people who have no idea what it’s all about. And, could you imagine readers wearing them on vacation in other countries? I’d love to think of the locals looking at them and asking (in whatever accent you would imagine them having) ‘What is this Bigfoot?’

I definitely enjoy my drive each morning but today I wasn’t able to find something to listen to as I wound through all of the crazy curves, and I just couldn’t sit still, so I flipped through all of the stations on the radio, entertaining myself with listening to one line from each station I hit, to hear whatever weird things I could. I think that idea came when I was passing through the talk/Christian stations and heard:

“Sometimes they bite”
“Amen”

So I just kept hitting that ‘Scan’ button. What can I say? I’m easily entertained.

The longer I’m here in Fayette County, the more I believe that I live in an area that time forgot. Where else could you flip through and have two different stations playing Elton John at the same time, separated only by a station playing Donna Summer? Or have Jim Morrison ask you ‘Don’t you love her madly? Don’t you love her madly?’ just one station before Van Halen asks ‘How do you know when it’s love?’, with Hot Chocolate’s ‘You Sexy Thing’ next on the playlist? It’s love in a time warp around here.

That leads me to a question I have for you… Music plays an important part in my novel. And, in one section I’m working on, I need a song that fits a particular situation. If you were to think of a country song that makes you think of someone from the past with a combination of pain and longing and regret, what would it be? Something that gets you all discombobulated about where you are, where you were and where you really want to be… I’m curious to see what ideas might be out there and what songs you think of that might not even be on my list. So let me know!

Okay, so you have your homework. So get thinking.  And I’ll get back to designing those t-shirts! 🙂

 

Get Your Armpits Their Whitest

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Spamers are the enemy of any website.  Going through all of that garbage and deleting the links and completely unrelated messages is a long, frustrating process.  I make sure to at least glance through everything to make sure I don’t delete anything ‘real’ though.  Which is how I manage to catch some of the unintentionally funny ones…

This morning it was a spammer from another country who either had a slight language barrier issue, or knows something that I don’t.  Because I’ve never spent a moment’s energy concerned about the possibility that my armpits might be a little too tan.  ‘Get your armpits their whitest’ was the user name this spammer had created and, all of a sudden, all I could think about was how fortunate I was that it was a gray day with the possibility of rain today and that I’d worn a long sleeved shirt to work.  Well…maybe that wasn’t the only thing I could think about, but it definitely entered the top 1,000 thoughts of the day.

What if my armpits aren’t their whitest?  All this time I’ve spent making sure that only my teeth are their whitest, or that my fingernails are clean and my nostrils are clear… And not one moment dedicated to the lightening of the skin a few inches beneath my shoulders.  Have I been wasting my life?  Has my focus been completely out of whack?

And it makes me wonder what other valuable pieces of information I might discover as I dig through the rest of my daily spam.  Oh wait…the next message is from ‘reno plastic surgeons’.  Maybe there’s a way to get my armpits whiter without the hassle of hard work and exercise.  But then I’d better skip the ‘vietnam motorbike tours’ because that fresh air and sunshine might undo all that hard work.

Sheesh…who knew being so caught up on the latest trends could be such hard work?  Makes me curious to read more!  And wait!  A spammer from Sweeden just invited me to play clash of clans… That’ll take my mind off of my pigmentally challenged pits, right?

Where am I?

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Have I told you yet that I just don’t get this place?

Every drive everywhere becomes an experience.  Every person I encounter becomes a character to remember.  As a writer, that definitely has its perks.  But one of these days I’m not going to be able to help myself and an innocent laugh that escapes at the wrong time is going to get me a black eye.

For example… I’ve never before laughed at someone riding their motorcycle.   At least no one riding a real one… Sure, I may have laughed at a few rich boys on their plastic, neon colored Yamaha’s, but they couldn’t hear me over the loud buzzing they were creating as they sped from stop light to stop light.  And they didn’t live around here anyway.  But yesterday… Yesterday I couldn’t help but laugh at a man driving on his Harley.

Of course he was asking for it.  He was wearing camouflage shorts (not rare whatsoever around here), black socks, and bright orange Crocs.  Can you blame me?  Fortunately he was heading one way and I was driving the other. So I was free to let it out without worry as I flipped through the area radio stations for something decent to listen to as I wound through the back roads home.

At the time I was trying to escape from the song ‘Sultans of Swing’ by the Dire Straights.  And that’s because I’d already heard it twice that day.  I don’t think the band members’ children – and their grandchildren- even listen to them that much.  And the other stations are all repetitive and behind, probably sharing the same vinyl records between them.

The Human League (‘Don’t You Want Me’), Huey Lewis and the News (‘The Heart of Rock & Roll) and Steppenwolf (‘Magic Carpet Ride’) had already been heard multiple times throught the week.  I passed by one of the fire ‘n brimstone religious stations and caught Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ for the fourth time this week.  I almost stopped at the next station playing ‘Jack And Diane’, but I’d already heard it the previous two mornings and enough is enough, even of good old songs.

There are Country stations that come in pretty well  as long as you’re not going through the lower curves down by the river (or break up their broadcast power by driving past a tree), and they’re just as repetitive.  And there are a couple of talk radio stations that make the same complaints about the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins week after week.  And probably year after year.  They’re repetitive.  Have I said that yet?  They’re repetitive.

So at least there are unique people to see as I pass through the back roads to keep me entertained  Mr. Croc wearin’ Harley Man is only one of many.  There are yards full of them.  Great for story telling, but…if my car breaks down out there I’m not knocking on any of their doors for help.  I’m walking to Ohio…

 

Endorse ’em All

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I hate election time.  It’s not the partisan fighting and mud slinging and political ads that simply bash the opponent because there’s nothing positive to say about their candidate.  Okay, that’s not enjoyable either.  But my complaint is about the signs everyone has to put up to endorse everyone for everything.  It’s bright, it’s colorful, it’s garbage on sticks.

It used to be that people might put one sign up in their yard to endorse one person they were passionate about (or related to) about winning a specific election.  It would be a sign you would casually notice as you drove by and that would be it.  Half a block farther down the road you’d completely forget you’d even seen it.  But now, the signs seem to be four times as big as they ever were, completely blocking your view of traffic coming through the intersection.

And they’re never set up alone.  As I was driving yesterday, I was amazed how completely full yards, on-ramps and street corners were with clutters of these signs.  There were clumps of ten or twenty or more piled up together with no rhyme or reason.  Or common sense…

I drove past one house yesterday with signs promoting both candidates running for the same office.  Yep…endorse everyone and that way you can ensure that you’re on the winning team, right?

Then, glancing through the herds of signs, I feel like I’m getting old… The names of the candidates just don’t seem right when they sound like the names of high schoolers.  Am I really supposed to vote for Nikki for judge?  Or Justin for sheriff?

I know these signs go up everywhere around the country.  I just never remember seeing anywhere near this many anywhere else that I’ve lived.  Signs in every yard screaming out the names of candidates for school council, coroner, judge, comptroller, and who knows what else.  I don’t actually read them because honestly…?  I just don’t care.  All of these signs have reached a level of insanity that I just don’t understand.  I mean, if I had this many signs up in my yard, I’d never be able to mow the lawn.  Wait…hmmmm…

Friday Dreaming

I dream a lot. I always have. And, when I’m not able to spend as much time writing as I l’d like, or apparently need to, my brain kicks the dreaming into complete overdrive.

I don’t usually mind it as I love where my sleeping mind takes me. I don’t try to analyze the dreams or figure out how they relate to my waking world. I don’t want them to have symbolic meaning, I just want to enjoy them. Heck, when I find foods or drinks that cause me even more vivid dreams (i.e. Doritos and apple juice – give it a shot) I don’t avoid them. Not at all…

There are stretches when I’ll dream a ton and be exhausted no matter how much sleep I get, but oh well… It’s a small price to pay. It’s worth it even if you can never explain the power of your dreams to another person. As soon as you try, they start to just sound silly.

I don’t know if it relates to dreaming or not, but the part of my mind that’s focused on writing – on storytelling- is usually kicked into high gear as well. And it seems to be on a fairly set timer too. Even though I’m still working on my second novel, my mind thinks I’ve had enough time to finish and has jumped ahead to another story. One that I’m excited about but can’t work on yet. So I’ll have to settle for scribbling down some notes about it and hold off. It happened like this with the first novel too. Apparently im supposed to take about 4 months less to write them.

What ever happened to the days when rich people were true patrons of the arts? When they would take some creative person and pay their way through life, allowing them to focus on their artistic endeavors? Did that die out? Or was that only for painters and sculptors anyway…? I’m just saying, I’ll wear a jacket with your name on it while I’m writing in the coffee shop, or a hat with your family crest if that’s what it takes…

But I just need to find more time to write, to go along with what counts as ‘real’ work. Because I have no worries at all about writer’s block. I’m more concerned about having time to get all of the stories out before I get too backed up.

Or maybe if I get too far behind, I’ll start to see the movie version in my dreams before the book even comes out. Shudder…