October 31, 2010

Adult Scares For Halloween

Like most people our age, Jan and I are starting to contemplate retirement.  In fact, Jan has already turned in her retirement notice at her school district and will call the Spring of 2012 her last as a full time teacher.  I'll probably call it quits at that time too.

So, we're starting to seriously consider a move south (no, not Florida ... no, not Arizona) because we really have no desire to spend our final years in Northern Illinois.  In fact, not a week goes by that one of us doesn't blurt out a sentence such as "I can't wait to leave this horse shit area".

But moving to another area means buying another home. And, of course, that means selling this one.  Unless you've been living under a rock for the last three years, you're probably well aware that this isn't the easy-peasey proposition that it used to be at one time.

Keeping this in mind, we've spent the last year making careful improvements to the inside and outside of our house, always considering the cost versus benefit of the work we have done.  I figure that by the time we're ready to put the house on the market, we'll have done everything we need to do to have it in selling shape.  In fact, I've planned one last item that I'll plant in the front yard when the "For Sale" sign goes up.  Kind of a sales coup de theatre, if you will ...

No One Can Resist Wavy Inflatable Guy!

However, most tip-top real estate agents, like HGTV's Sandra Rinomato (does anyone else find this woman incredibly hot?), will tell you that your physical abode isn't the only factor in selling.  It's also "neigborhood, neighborhood, neighborhood".  If the neighborhood is shit, then you can  have the Taj Mahal sitting there and it still won't move.

The Only Reason I Watch "Property Virgins"

It was only fitting that on this All Hallows Eve morning that I walk out on my driveway and observe the following next door.  A sight to truly chill any prospective home sellers shit down to it's very core ...

(click on picture for extra-horrifying effect)

I don't think an army of Wavy Inflatable Guys can overcome this gruesome sight ... "Hillbilly Ron's House of Horrors and  Lowered Property Values".  The stuff of nightmares.

I wonder where I could find a discrete arsonist?

October 28, 2010


Your 50's are the time when you start to hate your parents.  Not hate them in general, but hate them for certain things you find in yourself.  Looks, speech, mannerisms ... you name it ... it's their fault.

If you're determined, you can overcome the speech and mannerisms.  With a little money, you can even overcome the looks.  But there are other things that are ingrained deep inside of you, that you may struggle to change, but find that you can't, no matter how hard you try.

With  me, it's my nagging inability to overcome a grudge or a slight, perceived or real.  My parents were hill people; my father from West Virginia and my mother from the Ozarks.  They could hold a grudge like you wouldn't believe.  Decades upon decades.  And when they couldn't think of any, they either made them up or turned on each other.

There were a lot of things they taught me ... not to be.  I was determined that when I grew up, I would not strike my children, I would not constantly lose my temper, I would not be intolerant of other people and I would not be coarse and unrefined.

For the most part, I've succeeded.  Except for the grudges.

And this week I developed a two-fer, both on the same day.  One as a result of a situation at work, and one from a long time friend.  I believe both were inadvertent from the parties involved.  And since I've almost convinced myself of that, I still find that I can't let either instance go.

I do all of the standard avoidance techniques.  I keep busy and direct my feelings in other ways.  But the human being can't stay occupied, physically or mentally 24 hours a day.  So there are times when the mind stands down.  And the feelings of anger and betrayal rush in to fill the void.  Once they get a foothold, they're tough to lose again.

With me, time is a great healer.  But time isn't moving fast enough.  I keep telling myself that in a week, or a month, I'll feel different ... that I'll smooth out and chide myself for wasting all that time on bad feelings.  But it isn't a week, a month, or even a day from now, and it sits there gnawing at me. Daring me to lose my temper and ruin everything, just so for one minute I'll feel vindicated.

So, here I sit tonight in one exhausting conundrum.  I'm irritated at my inability not to be irritated at a situation.  This is somewhat amusing to me, because I'm continually counseling other people to "calm down" and "let it go".  Shit, I can't even take my own advice.

I hate my parents.

October 24, 2010

Obligatory Halloween Post

And why not?  Barring some national disaster, the media hype will be honed in on the night of ghouls and goblins, as Halloween seems to have taken a firm grip on the number two spot as a day of fun and celebration.

In this instance, "Fun & Celebration" is defined as dressing up as pagan pimps and whores while getting drunk on your ass and acting like a sexual deviant.

Oh, I guess I'm just jealous.  Being firmly imbedded in the baby boom generation, Halloween lost most of it's charm for me after my age moved into the double digits.  It came back a bit when our son was a tadpole, but that was many years ago, and now I merely tolerate the task of handing out bite sized pieces of sugary shit to whatever rug rats show up at the door on the appointed night.

Everyone has a favorite Halloween story, and they're all better than mine, as I can recall only two events on that particular night that remain in the back of my mind.  They lurk there simply for the fact that they aren't my proudest moments in the years I've being roaming the surface of the earth.

The first, when I was 12 years old, I'll blame on hormones. I was madly in "like" with a 12 year old girl down the street, but my like was unrequited because she had a 17 year old boyfriend with a tricked out Chevrolet.  Even though 12 is a ripe old age for an Ozark Mountain girl, I thought there was something basically wrong with the relationship.  Later I would connect this feeling with the word "pedophile".  Isn't it nice when you can link a word with a feeling?  Sort of like "masturbation".

Regardless, I thought the best way to deal with the situation was to do the old "wax-on/fuck-off" routine on his car on Halloween night, when he would undoubtedly visit his girl.  At the appointed time, I approached his car, but the very second the wax square touched the car window, the house light flared on and the front door crashed open and the chase was on ... me on foot and he in the souped up Chevy.  Through the neighborhoods we went ... me ducking from bush to bush, and he roaring up and down the streets, his car taking hand-fulls of well thrown chat every time he passed my hiding place.  After a while, his concern for this car's finish outweighed his desire to kick my ass up between my shoulder blades, and he retired.  I eventually serpentined my way home that evening and was never found out.  A definite "win" for me.

On another Halloween Saturday night during my high school years, I found myself alone in the house and was forced to deal with the trick or treaters by myself.  In those days, there were no "set" hours for going door to door and as the night wore on I became increasingly irritated that I was missing large chunks of "Saturday Night At The Movies" on NBC because of the constant door bell.  I had been left a partial pot of chili for dinner, which now set coagulating on the stove top.  Noticing that some of the little darlings were making their third or fourth visits to my door, I began answering it with one hand full of candy and the other holding a ladle full of cold chili.  Plink, plink went the candy ... Plop, plop went the chili.

I often wonder what happened when those greedy little monsters returned home and found their bags of individual treasures coated with a film of meat, beans and tomato sauce.  I like to think that I gave them their own Halloween experiences to remember.

Those days of dickery are long gone now.  This year, as usual, I'll buy way more candy than I need for the few kids that will venture on to our cul-de-sac.  Then I'll spend the rest of the evening wolfing down "fun size" Three Musketeer bars.

Happy Halloween ...

October 23, 2010


Author's Note:  (Even though this is a dumb blog, I am the author, right?)  I've posted a lot of trash in the past year and a half, but there are times when even I can't throw some shit out to the general public. The following post is one of them.  At the time, I was heavily influenced by a sports columnist at ESPN, who seemed to effortlessly blog major sporting events as they were happening.  So, I thought I could too.  I was wrong ... And this is the result.  Since it's the weekend, maybe nobody will read it and I'll be safe.  For you unlucky few who've stumbled on to this, please tolerate ... from March 2010, a post originally entitled "Blogging Oscar".

I've always enjoyed reading blog posts from bloggers blogging in their blogs about important entertainment events.  Things like the Super Bowl, the Grammies and the Senate Health Care Debates.  So, with almost a year of blogging expertise under my belt, I thought I'd take my turn at blogging a major entertainment event. Who knows, this could be the big break into the dog-eat-dog literary world that I've been waiting for all these weeks. The thought of seeing my byline in such standards as Life, Look or Saturday Evening Post magazines is enough to make me swoon.  So ... tonight I will be blogging that spectacle that is known far and wide as The Academy Awards!

3:37 p.m.  Okay, the first thing I've got to find out is when the show starts.  I know for sure that it's today. Ah, there we are ... 7:00 p.m. CST.  Better make sure I've got dinner cleared well in advance.

6:52 p.m.  I've stumbled into what is apparently the last Barbara Walters pre-Oscar special.  I think this is because Babs actually passed away 5 years ago and has been replaced by a Disney autoanimatronic robot.  After a trip down memory lane, Barbara and Sandra Bullock try to trick each other into revealing what kind of tree they would like to be.

7:01 p.m.  Crowd reporter Kathy Ireland looks positively breathless, and possibly drunk as she blathers about something, while George Clooney trolls for a new girlfriend along the security fence.

7:05 p.m.  ABC is showing some sort of countdown clock in the lower left-hand portion of the screen.  24 minutes until what?

7:11 p.m.  Morgan Freeman shows up, having been nominated for the best actor in every single motion picture made during 2009. Jennifer Lopez explains why wearing clothing is good.  Sarah Jessica Parker has chosen to wear her "Mr. Ed" horse head.

7:22 p.m.  Jeff Bridges looks terrific.  Like me, he was a pretty boy early in life, but has grown into craggy good looking old dude.  Actually, he resembles me only in the fact that we both have beards. Gabourey Sidibe's dress is ... Shit, you just can't make morbidly obese people look good, no matter how hard you try.

7:27 p.m.  Everybody is heading inside.  Kathy Ireland still looks drunk.

7:32 p.m.  Neil Patrick Harris gays it up.  After descending from the ceiling, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin fall flatter the Meryl Streep's boobs in their opening.  Apparently, Henny Youngman wrote their routine just prior to his untimely death in 1998.

7:43 p.m.  I love Jeff Bridges.  He always looks stoned out of his mind

7:48 p.m.  Christoph Waltz wins best supporting actor for Inglorious Basterds.  Metaphors abound.

 7:58 p.m.  Up wins best animated feature.  What a fucking surprise.  In other amazing news, the sun will rise tomorrow.

8:01 p.m.  Miley Cyrus looks all set for the trailer park debutante ball.  Hopefully, she starts those long overdue elocution lessons on Monday.

8:03 p.m.  Best Music Award goes to Crazy Heart.  I must go out and buy the soundtrack.  Walmart, here I come!

8:12 p.m.  Robert Downey Jr. appears as a presenter.  I'm disappointed because he's not wearing his Ironman costume.  However, he does mention Tony Stark.  Not good enough though.

8:16 p.m.  Best original screenplay goes to The Hurt Locker.  Exciting shit.  Quenton Tarantino looks pissed.

8:22 p.m.  Ahhhh!  What rock did they pull Molly Ringwold out from under?  She is taller than Matthew Broderick though, but who isn't?  Nice tribute to John Hughes.  Too fucking bad they ruined it at the end by bringing out the aging "Brat Packers".

Well, an hour and a half into this spectacle, and it seems to be bucking for a contender for "most boring Oscar broadcast ever".  Everything seems to be going according to plan.

8:31 p.m.  Logorama wins best animated short.  Music By Prudence takes best documentary short. And Prudence is actually in the audience! The crowd goes semi-tepid!  The New Tenants grabs best live action short.  This has to be the dreaded Dead Zone of the broadcast.  I'm starting to nod off myself.

8:39 p.m.  Oh boy.  Ben Stiller comes out dressed like a character from Avatar.  I actually feel sorry for him because he knows he's flopping monumentally.  Star Trek for Best Make Up?  Holy shit, they'll give out an Oscar for anything.  I didn't know pointy ears and bad tattoos were that difficult to do.

8:51 p.m.  Something, something wins the award for best script adapted from a Burma Shave sign ... or something like that.  Why don't they take all of these incomprehensible categories and present the winner at another venue, perhaps the Denny's in Pismo Beach?

8:55 p.m. Shit, here comes Robin Williams.  Kill me now.  To his credit, he keeps it down with only one lame joke as he presents the best supporting actress thingy to Mo Neek Man Ink Moe Nick Mo'Nique.

9:05 p.m.  Geez, I'm getting sleepy.  What time do I have to get up tomorrow?  Oh yeah, 5:00.  Shit, Monday again already.  What happened to the damned weekend ... Just think, in two more years, I can retire, maybe.  It all depends on the economy.  Huh?!  What?  Oh, another award.  Some guy is talking about how he almost died 5 years ago and almost wasn't here for tonight.  Touching ...

9:11 p.m.  Another winner for something.  This one appears to be wearing a shoe on her head.  Boy, you have to give the producers of this show some credit.  They're trying like hell to rush through all of these nothing categories.

9:18 p.m.  Zzzzzzzz.

Monday 6:38 p.m.  Okay, so I went to bed.  I knew who was going to win the big categories anyway.  Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock and The Hurt Locker.  Ho-hum.  You know what would be really awesome, is if one year, all of the categories were won by one movie.  I'd stay up to watch that.

Seriously, this live blogging stuff is the shits.  I'm never, ever going to do it again because it's too hard.  And after reading this over, it appears that live blogging is post death.  So, I'll just save this travesty and publish it sometime in the future.  Who knows, maybe you'll want to be reminded  who won the academy awards next fall.

So, for all of us here in not Hollywood, I bid you goodnight and leave you with a moment of Oscar Gold ...

October 20, 2010

Oh, That's Why ...

Hey guys, ever wonder why you wake up in the morning with a hard-on?  No?  Well, don't feel too bad, because I think the only two things running through a man's head when he wakes up in morning are "Shit, do I have to get up already?"  And "I have to piss."

In fact, you probably equate the fact that you have to piss with having an erection to begin with, hence the phrase "Piss Hard-On".  But think about it ... you generally have to urinate at some points during the day and you don't get an erection.  Okay, maybe sometimes but it's not an all-the-time occurrence.

Hmm ... It's a real head scratcher.

And it was a real head scratcher to the people at the Journal of Sexual Medicine, who commissioned a study on "night wood" and found out that a human male trait called NPT is the cause.

NPT (nocturnal penile tumescence) occurs when the male is in REM sleep and although he may be dreaming about being chased by a herd of hungry velociraptors instead of sex, his brain sends out some sort of signal that causes an elevation of nitrous oxide in the bloodstream and ... BLAMMO!  Instant woody!  The study pointed out that the erection doesn't necessarily occur in the morning, but may happen at any time of the night.  AND ...  not only do adult males experience this effect, but so do teen males, child males, baby males; and even FETUS MALES.

Eww.  Wow, no wonder we're so screwed up.  We probably had a stiff-o in our mother's womb.

This is all very interesting and I suppose the subject would make for lively conversation at your next cocktail-type gathering.  And, if you allowed me sufficient time to get oiled up, I'd probably be the one to initiate it. This may explain why I'm not invited to a lot of parties.

One of the things I thought about while reading the article, was "isn't that JUST LIKE my stupid body to give me a gift like that in the middle of the night ... WHEN THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL that I'd be able to use it".

I can see it now.  I'd wake Jan out of a dead sleep with some witty banter like "hey, look at this!"  Then I could spend the next hour trying to remove my pillow from my ass.

Actually, after thinking a bit, I did have an epiphany, sort of ...  Why risk the embarrassment of going to your doctor with some fake flu symptoms and then ... at the end of the visit, mumble something about "Viagra", or "Cialis", when I can just let my fingers do the walking to the industrial gasses section of the phone book and buy a humongous tank of nitrous oxide!


October 17, 2010

Ten Cents A Dance

On Saturday, Jan and I did our usual share of weekend chores, which included grocery shopping.  There was a time that I enjoyed this activity.  But for some reason, I've started to put it into the category of mowing the lawn or doing laundry.  Tedious, except when I'm hungry, and then only slightly bearable.

Maybe grocery stores are different now than in the past, or maybe I'm just more choosey, but it's a rare event if I can find everything I want at one store.  So, we divide our shopping between two, one for staples, and another for produce and certain select items.  The clientele at the two stores are different, but strangely the same.  The Walmart that I frequent, is usually populated with a large percentage of Northern Illinois hillbillies, who live in old vacation camps west of town.  The other, Piggly Wiggly, usually has a large percentage of rapidly aging Eastern Europeans.  I still can't figure out where they come from, but I've been told they mostly live in an exotic sounding burg just south of me, named Venitian Village.

Anyway, "The Pig", as most people around here call it, is a fairly decent place to shop.  There's a wide variety of ethnic foods, and most of the checkers (male and female) aren't terribly rude and have some interesting jailhouse tattoos.  And once or twice a month, they have in-store promotions, that always are semi-cool.  Who can resist a real NASCAR auto or the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile on display outside the store's main door?  They also have their share of local celebrities, mostly professional football players, signing autographs inside the store, although for some reason they always set them up back in the dairy department, where it's cold as the proverbial witches tit.

So, on this particular Saturday, as we entered the store, we noticed all of the employees wearing Chicago Bears jerseys and I knew that one of the fabled football greats would be there.  Who would it be?  Jay Cutler?  Julius Peppers?  "Da Coach" Mike Ditka?  We hurried to the back of the store, where we anticipated a line stretching for hundreds of yards, winding up and down the aisles, and saw sitting at a card table ...

Jimbo Covert.

Yeah, I know ... who?  Well, for all of you non-Chicagoans under 40 years old, Mr. Covert was a left offensive tackle during the Bears one-and-only Superbowl win in 1985.  What's an offensive tackle?  Hell, I don't know.  I didn't think anybody on the offense was supposed to tackle anybody, otherwise they'd get a penalty.  But that just shows how much I know.

Anyway, Jimbo was sitting behind his card table, flanked by two vapidly smiling PR twenty-somethings (who probably didn't know who he was either) with a stack of Miller Lite emblazoned photos and NO ONE lined up in front of him.  He looked rather forlorn ... forlorn and slightly pissed-off.  All around him, shoppers maneuvered their carts around the table trying to pick up milk and eggs and looking just a little annoyed that their right-of-way was being blocked by this guy.  A few stood and gawked at him, no doubt waiting for the Tombstone pizza samples to pop out of the toaster oven that was also inexplicably perched on his table along with the photo glossies.  I overheard one elderly gentleman exclaim, to nobody in particular, "Hey, you signing autographs or something?"

How sad.  I thought later that it was a shame that once-storied gladiators of the gridiron should have to spend their later life shilling watered down beer to make ends meet.

Later, after we returned home, I looked up Jimbo on the internet to see what misfortunes had led to such a sorry fate.  However, I was mildly shocked to learn that Mr. Covert has had quite a successful career since leaving football.

Then I asked myself why someone who obviously is in pretty good shape financially feels the need to sit for four hours in a suburban grocery store to pick up a quick 500 dollars?  Walking around money?  Needless to say, I didn't feel very sorry for him after the fact.

Maybe it's just my jealous side raising it's ugly head again, but maybe this week I'll make a few moves and finagle myself a card table set-up in the dairy section of The Pig on some future Saturday.  I can see it now ... "Come In And Meet ROB; Noted Former Agricultural Mid-Level Managerial Mule ... Sponsored by Boones Farm Strawberry Hill Wine!"  All I'll need is a stack of head shots and a felt tip pen.

Crap ... I'll bet I sign more autographs than Jimbo did.

October 10, 2010


During our road trip out West over a year ago, we took a lot of side trips to National Parks and Monuments.  Until you're visiting these places, you have in the back of your mind that these are warm and fuzzy little experiences. Free of all worry and danger.  But this mindset couldn't be further from the truth, and the people on the front lines at the parks will be the first ones to tell you.

The subject re-crossed my mind recently after I read a short article shoved away in the travel section of some on-line newspaper about a man from Burbank, California who fell to his death at the Grand Canyon several weeks ago.  He was trying to hop from one rock outcrop to another at Pipe Creek Vista on the South Rim (a regular stop on the tourists trail) when he apparently had a brain fart and misjudged the distance and fell 500 feet to another outcropping below.

Our trip was the third one to the Canyon, and of all the places I've visited over the years, this is the place where you see the tourists divided into two distinct camps ... overly cautious and batshit crazy.  Jan falls solidly into the first group.  In fact, we had to cut our visit short because her fear of heights, combined with the elevation caused her to have a panic attack; something I'd never seen her do.  Me ... I'm borderline batshit crazy.

Although there are a lot of guard rails on the South Rim keeping you and the great nothingness separate, there are a hell of lot more places where it's just wide open. One trip, one slip or one moment of not-paying-attention to what you're doing, and you're lunch meat. Sure, there are Park Rangers interspersed along the sightseeing points, but I think they're just there to report the accidents, because no one stops anyone from doing stuff like this ...

The Batshit Crazy

I caught the above two in a relative moment of quiet. Before I took the picture, they had been frolicking around on the end of that outcropping like a couple of grasshoppers on crack.  I tried to make a bet with Jan on how long it would take them to fall, but she couldn't stand looking at them anymore and made me leave.

After a while, even I caught the fever and started to test how close I could get to the edge of the rim.  You know, where you stand with in a foot of the edge and then crane your neck over?  Like this ...

Literally Nothing But Air Six Inches Behind Me

About 30 seconds after Jan took this picture, she had her panic attack.  Probably for the best as I no doubt would have become even more foolish and tried some outcrop jumping myself.  It's hard to describe, but there's just a feeling that comes over you and you get this urge to start taking chances.

I did a little quick research and found that since achieving National Park status, over 500 people have died at the Grand Canyon.  Surprisingly, just over 50 of them were from stupid pet tricks like the one tried by the gentleman from Burbank several weeks ago.  As you would expect, the remainder were the usual heart attacks and strokes from out-of-shape people who took on more walking and climbing than they were built for at the moment.

When I read Jan the article, she wondered what the last thing was that went through the guy's mind when he realized that he had fucked up his ill-thought jump.  She thought he said a prayer, and that is soooo Jan.

I guessed, probably correctly, that it was "Aw Shit", as "Motherfucker" would have taken too long.

Anyway, that's what I would have said.

October 09, 2010


Just cleaning out the old iPhoto files on a really unseasonably warm Saturday night ...

October 03, 2010

Worse Than A College Tuition Loan

Even though I cancelled our newspapers a long time ago (print is dead), I still keep up with the news through on-line sources and television.  On-line print is the best place to find unusual stories that the big media might not have enough time or interest to bring to the masses.

For example, I was under the impression that World War I, and everything pertaining to it, was over a long time ago.  Specifically, 92 years ago in 1918.

Not so ... that is until Sunday, October 3rd.  That is the day that Germany will pay the last installment of the reparations imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, one year after the war ended.  Under the terms of the Treaty, Germany was deemed solely responsible for World War I and was required to pay damages done to the Allied countries and peoples between 1914 and 1918. The total sum owed was determined to be 10.4 billion dollars, an overwhelming shitpot load of money for that era.

There was much debate at that time about what kind of strain the debt would put on the German people, and indeed, Uber-economist John Maynard Keynes bluntly stated that the Germans would not be able to formulate correct policy due to it's inability to finance itself. Prophetically, the Nazi party gained dominance of the German political scene in the late 1920's and 30's, and many historians credit the reparations as the main cause of World War II.

There were attempts to alleviate the strain on the German economy.  The Dawes Plan of 1924  and the Young Plan of 1929 granted Berlin loans to meet the reparation payments.  But these proved ineffective and when Adolf and his gang took over, all payments stopped. I can't say that I blame him, but it reminds me of an old classmate who skipped out on his college loans by moving and never leaving the government a forwarding address. I never knew if they caught up with him or not.

Of course, it would have been pretty stupid if Hitler had continued to pay the debt, particularly after his occupation of one of his principal payees, France.  And his continued payments might have resulted in something like this ...

General Von Rundstadt:  Mein Fuhrer!  The Allies have just invaded Normandy!  We must release the Panzer Corp to drive them back into the sea!

Adolf:  What, are you nuts?  I just made a 33 million mark reparations payment!  Do you know how much petrol those fucking tanks suck down?  Gas ain't cheap ya know.  We'll be eating Ramen noodles for a month now as it is!

Pretty embarrassing ...

Anyway, after Germany was defeated in World War II, it seemed the Allies had learned their lesson, and instead of charging more reparations, they just divied the country up between themselves, which didn't turn out to be such a good idea either.  After the Soviets took their share of the country and went home, it was decided that no more reparations would be paid until Germany was reunified. And sure enough, 20 years ago, the payments picked up again.

So, on October 3rd, the final payment of 94 million dollars will be made, ending the whole mess.  I'm sure the veterans of World War I will be glad to hear that ... and there are four of them left, believe it or not.