Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sins..........Part III

The Right Reverend Mossuca was not used to being chastised and humiliated, especially in front of enlisted men, and he was not happy. He had jumped at the chance to see to the spiritual health of these brave explorers, and to possibly bring the love of Jesus Christ to a whole new world, providing, of course, that Christ hadn't gotten there first. The Grand Christian Council of 2035 had agreed, once it was established that Earth was not the only inhabited world in the universe, that as God had created ALL the heavens as well as the Earth, that it was their holy duty to spread the good word wherever mankind might tread. As was true with the savages of the Amazon jungle, then so true must it be that all must be saved, regardless of their species. If they could think, they could know God.

Well, so much for that. Presley had ordered him to remain at the camp while they ventured out of the meadow to make contact with the natives, so afraid was the Captain that Mossuca would run at the natives with a crucifix, starting a galactic war or something. He would make a point of reporting the Captain's crude behavior and robbing him of the chance to do his job, so help him.

The chaplain glanced over at the lander and saw that the flight crew was pretty much ignoring him, doing their preflight check-ups and monitoring the video feeds from the contact party. Good. Mossuca's mind raced as he tried to figure out how to spend this unexpected free time. Perhaps a nice walk down that road in the opposite direction....perhaps he'd find a road sign or something he could study. He hated the prospect of returning to Earth with absolutely nothing to show for it. The pilot and copilot of the lander didn't notice the chaplain walk briskly out of the meadow, a new testament in one hand, a video camera in the other. There would be hell to pay for them assuming the padre was capable of following orders.

Mossuca came out on the dirt road and saw the tire tracks left by the runabout going East, so he headed West. He figured he had a good hour before the contact team would be heading back this way, so he set the alarm on his watch for half an hour and started walking. It felt good, a nice comfortable walk on a clean, new world, the sounds of the nature, although hidden, was quite pleasant. My, if only Man had been as gentle with the Earth as these people seemed to have been, he thought to himself. As he walked, he glanced from one side of the road to the other, looking for evidence of the people who lived here, and saw nothing but the strangely smooth road he walked upon. He made it perhaps a mile before he was almost scared out of his skin by the seemingly sudden appearance of the strange conveyance in front of him, hovering silently about six inches off the dirt road, it's occupants equally surprised by HIS appearance. So intent had he been studying the sides of the road that he had almost run right into it. As he stood stock still staring at this strange contraption, which looked like the top of an old wooden wagon, sans the wheels, yet supported by SOMEthing, the two people sitting on the bench in front stared back at him, as though wondering what this strange man was doing in the middle of the road. They seemed to be a pair, one appearing more masculine than the other, yet both wore basically the same kind of clothing, and the one that appeared to be female was slightly smaller with a thicker covering of the fuzz-like hair on her head, as well as having a more delicate structure to her face. Not knowing what else to do, the Chaplain put on his best smile, raised his bible, and spoke softly, "Greetings, my friends, I bring greetings from the God fearing people of the planet Earth!"

The two natives stared at him, then glanced at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and one spoke back with a melodic, but totally strange dialect. It sounded like a question, but he could not be sure, so he stepped to the side of the road and continued, "I'm afraid I don't speak your language, friends, but perhaps we have something in common." He reached inside his tunic and pulled out his silver crucifix on a chain, and held it up to show the two strangers. The only reaction could best be translated as "Yes? Your point?"

Mossuca sighed, knowing that without the help of a translator, he wasn't going to accomplish much, especially since these two did not seem to recognize the cross of Jesus. However, his curiosity concerning the craft they were riding on took over, and he knelt down on the ground to look beneath it, trying to get an idea of what was supporting it. Perhaps it was some sort of maglev device, the opposing magnets hidden beneath the road. All he saw underneath was a flat, metallic appearing bottom, with nothing like wires or coils visible. Hmmmm, backwards these folks weren't, he thought, if they could come up with something like this. He stood back up next to the craft, and looked up just as the woman, if that's what he/she was, reached down, took his hand, and pulled him up onto the "wagon" as though he was a child. My GOD these people are strong, he thought, as he was lifted up and sat down on the flat back of the conveyance. He started to protest, but held his tongue, thinking they just wanted to give him a lift. However, they did not continue down the road in the direction he had just came, but by bending a simple joystick control, made the craft rotate 180 degrees on it's axis, and then by gently pushing forward, they were gliding back in the direction they had come. Mossuca was so amazed by the ease of this method of transportation that he forgot to think that maybe he was being kidnapped. Besides, these two seemed so nonchalant about the whole thing, as if they were used to picking up strange looking people in the middle of the road. Mossuca smiled at the possibility that he might be able to redeem himself after all, perhaps making a more favorable contact with these aliens than even the so-called experts with the contact team. True to his nature, the Chaplain had no idea how much he was going to complicate things in the days to follow.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Life without Paper

I was once smarter, and by association, a better person, than I am now. This statement is based on the societal declaration that "educated" people, that is, people taught things in institutions of higher learning, are more valuable. So, for awhile, while I was laboring through algebra, learning that pi squared by the hypotenuse of the tangent of the integer closest to infinity at 5 p.m. on a wednesday enabled you to create the cutest doilies, I was quite intelligent. I also was illuminated as to the latin names of all the bones that make up the skull, and even what goes in most of them (skulls, that is), even if they are republican. I was taught who said what about whatever several centuries ago, in ways that haven't been used in centuries, but sound cool nonetheless. I was taught what group of people killed which group of people and why, or at least why the victors of those unfortunate incidents said was the reason. Yes, I was one intelligent son of a bitch, at least for awhile. I forgot about 75% of everything I "learned" shortly afterwards. I know I learned it because I passed all the tests. Everything except algebra, that is.

It has been eons since I earned my GED in order to join the Navy since I didn't have any parents to keep me fed through my senior year. Since I didn't get that diploma and wear that funny gown and hat, I suppose I am somewhat dumber than those of my class that did. I don't think, even to this day, that they realize how lucky they were to have had a home during their senior year. I had a barracks, but at least I got to skip the finals. The Navy didn't hold it against me, though. They put me through a battery of tests and decided I could handle "A" school, which turned me into a Personnelman, and submarine school, which turned me into a squid. Much later, when I was one lonely Petty Officer in a reserve unit with any active duty experience, the officers didn't think it was too much to ask for me to run the whole admin department, such that it was. It WAS to much, however, for me to do it for over six months without getting a paycheck. I might have only had a GED, but I was no dummy.

When I became a machinist trainee, my pathetic ability with algebra didn't prevent me from acing the basic math tests, prevent me from utilizing algebraic formula reference manuals for machinists, or embarrass the "instructor" in machine blueprint reading by pointing out the numerous errors he was committing trying to teach the class. I think they put him with us to keep him off the machines.

When they offered to send me to nursing school after being laid off from a government job (as a machinist), I knew I wasn't "smart" enough to try college, but I gave it a shot, because, hell, I could continue to collect unemployment. Breezing through everything (except algebra, of course) kinda opened my eyes to the truth of "higher" education. The way I see it, there are a whole bunch of "educated" people who are so smart they can only function making other people smart, thus you have all these institutions of higher learning. It doesn't really matter whether or not you are going to actually learn anything of real value; the idea here is to put in your time, employing these "smart" people, and in return you are handed a piece of paper which informs the world that you have joined the ranks of the properly educated, and thus, better people. Oh yea, sure, you might spend most of your time drinking obscene amounts of alcohol, having lots of sex, and learning how to cheat on tests, but that's the price you pay if you want to be handed lots of money for knowing things. Oh, and it helps to join a fraternity and meet the right people so that the alumni of that fraternity will hand you a cushy job when you graduate, because you ARE a much better person. Now, since I was pursuing my degree in a "lower" tier of these institutions of "higher" learning (community college), I didn't have a fraternity to join, so I didn't get to meet the right people to get drunk with. Alas, I coulda been a contender......I coulda been George Bush.

Now I have graduated to the AARP mailing list. I didn't make it through nursing school, having run into the wrong instructor, and being the wrong kind of person to run into that instructor. So, without that piece of paper, I have settled for being an aid to people who have the piece of paper. They are much smarter than me, and they certainly are better. Now, I am left with learning worthless things on my own by reading and watching television. Televisions and books do not have a slot on them that dispense pieces of paper that inform the world that you know something. And, if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, it is quite evident by my writing style that I am truly lacking in the knowledge necessary to impart anything of value. However, in my own defense, I would like to say, proudly, that this column is not ghost written, does not rely on Cliff's notes, and was not plagiarized in any manner, even though doing so certainly would have greatly enhanced the quality of this humble little rant. I drink alone while doing this, since I don't have fraternity brothers to keep me properly inebriated. I will not go to spring break this year, and I think that makes my wife fairly happy.

I was once very angst ridden about having a GED, not having earned a college degree, and having an allergy to algebra. Yep, I was truly one humiliated individual, that is, until I was asked by a manufacturer of model rockets to give a seminar to a room full of high school science teachers. People with PAPER. Well.............Since that fateful day, I have come to happy terms with my lack of all that paper. If you had witnessed the behaviors these learned individuals displayed in that class that day, I think you would understand why I, THE Michael, mostly self-taught and happily ignorant, am happy not to be a member of that club.

I have witnessed better behaviors in hamster cages then I did in that room. You can HAVE your paper. I'll take what knowledge I gathered my way any day.

The Storm that wasn't, and things that were.......

Oh well, so I gave Ernesto more credit than he deserved, but hey, masculine storms have only been around for a few years, they haven't quite got the hang of this "wide swath of destruction" thing yet. Give them a few more seasons, and the guys will show those girls what barometric reconstruction is all about.

This hurricane season is really starting off weird. By this time last year the whole SouthEast was getting rearranged, but we're off to a slow, and somewhat anemic start this year. I think I heard someone saying something about Saharan dust storms covering the Atlantic and possibly cutting down on the heat engine these storms depend on for food. Who knows. However, before you "Ain't no such thing as global warming" dimwits start chiming in about how last year was just a "cycle", I would like to suggest that you put your money where you brains should be (should be plenty of room in there to stash some cash) and buy up some nice beach-front property down here in sunny Florida, if you can find insurance. There's a storm forming out there somewhere with your name on it. It wants to meet you. I LIKES you. You two were made for each other. Me, I'm gonna hold my breath up here in the sweet spot and ask Mother Gaia to save her wrath for the likes of you.

As irritated as I've become with the genre, I have to admit that they put on one kick-ass concert on Rock Star Super Nova last night. After the first few performances, I was thinking that my personal favorite, Dilana, really had her work cut out for her for the first time in the competition. These guys were ROCKIN! Well, true to her history of kicking ass and taking names, Dilana kicked ass, and took names! The only thing keeping her from fronting Super Nova is going to be the public, who in the past have at times proven that good taste is not a given. Not that in the grand scheme of things I really give a rats ass who gets to get rich living a life of rock and roll debauchery with a manufactured rock band, but I think she's truly talented, as are all these survivors, and I wish her the best.

I would like to thank the two, maybe three people who have been keeping up with my short story. I am so thankful, in fact, that anyone noticed it was there, that If someone steals the idea and publishes it, winning the Nebula Award for Science Fiction in the process, that I will personally shoplift a few copies of the book, sign them, and send them to you. I am nothing without my loyal fans. Knowing my luck, it'll be Stephen King, in which case I'll really feel guilty for having done it. Stolen the books, that is.

The wife's finger is beginning to resemble an appendage again. It's slightly shorter and still kinda weird looking, but it could pass as a finger on just about any hand. We are hoping like hell that the bone in there is fusing like it's supposed to, because we really don't want to go thru that "cut it open and install some more hardware" fiasco again. I'm considering telling her to just let them cut it off and making a nice charm out of it, but I'm not sure she'll consider it a very charming idea. Me so bad.

The politicians are back to their mudslinging again. You see, when you personally don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to convincing voters that you should be elected, the only thing left to do is make your opponent seem to be satan incarnate, or at least a liberal. What I think is hilarious is how many of our conservative wannabe's are invoking the name of Ronald Reagan rather than "that guy who's president". "No folks, we had nothing to do with whatever has what's-his-name so down in the polls, but rest assured, we are gonna keep doing what we've been doing these past eight years, only BETTER!" Oh, really. Thanks.

Meanwhile, DUBYA is down in what's left of the Gulf Coast area promising to help them folks of these days. He's so proud of those folks who put their noses to the grindstone and stayed the course and.............God bless America! Please explain to me why this man wasn't lynched?

Continuing on, average Americans continue to put up with gas they can't afford, insurance they can't get, and low-low wages at Walmart. What was it, two hundred odd years ago, a bunch of lowly colonists got so pissed off about taxes on tea (Juan Valdez hadn't made the big time yet), they threw a party and caffeinated Boston harbor? The fish were said to be rather feisty for weeks afterwards, Oh, and a bloody revolution occurred shortly thereafter. What's happened to us since those halcyon days when people just didn't put up with shit? When did we get so lazy that the idea of having a King again rather than having to do the work of democracy become so attractive? How is it so many so-called citizens don't seem to have a clue as to what is in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? I don't know about you, but the country I grew up in seems to have gone missing. So, if come election time, you're not to busy polishing your SUV and firing some more employees to get the stock price up, go out and vote conservative again, and let's just put this once-great nation out of it's misery.

Last night there was another farewell post from Shandi. Me, I'm hoping it's just another in a long series of farewell tours, the kind that aging rock bands like to conduct, having discovered they can't get what they've done most of their lives out of their systems. Shandi helped set the standard in amateur blogging, whether or not she believes it or not. Her fans know. She may think that the 15 odd minutes every other day that she devoted to blogging was stealing time from her life, but eventually she's going to understand that those 15 minutes were as fulfilling a part of that life as all those other things she wants to pursue. The withdrawal pains will creep in, the shakes, the night-sweats, the foaming at the mouth, and she'll persevere, stealing herself against the pain, telling herself over and over again that blogging was just a silly fling she needs to get over. She will start having a strange aversion to computers, and will seek counseling. Then one day, she'll find herself tied in four-point restraints on the psych ward of her local hospital, repeating over and over again, "Tim, The Michael, Lights, oh, the LIghts!!!!!!!"

Oh, the humanity...............

Till next time, this is THE Michael, wasting another fifteen minutes of your time and mine. Peace!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Blowjob Anyone?

Well, after getting off to a slow start, the hurricane season is out the gate and headed down the straight-away, straight at guess who. Yep, you got it, the National "We think it might rain" Agency has predicted that Ernesto will pass right through the Jacksonville area, give or take a state or two. Over the past several seasons, it has seemed that Jacksonville has enjoyed the status of being a "sweet spot", able to dodge repeated storms while all around us the state has been torn up pretty badly. They've brushed past us to the west, breezed on by to the East, but the worst we have suffered so far are some fairly stiff breezes, and maybe a spun-off tornado or two, but relatively unscathed as severe weather goes. I've been knocking on wood till my knuckles have bled, especially since I live in a stout and sturdy manufactured home, a kind moniker for "hurricane bait", or as our brethren in the MidWest like to refer to them, "tornado bait".

My prediction is this, and you can poke fun at me later for being wrong, for all the good it will do you since I won't have a computer, or a home to get on line from, if I AM wrong; If Ernesto follows the predicted path, it will make landfall just south of Tampa, barely a category three after passing over Cuba and sucking up some heat from the brief passage between there and Florida. Once it makes contact with the sunshine state, it will immediately begin to degrade as it spends it's fury upon our lucky neighbors to the south. By the time it has eaten it's share of mobile home parks between Tampa and Gainesville, it will arrive as nothing but a robust tropical storm, or even a depression (how depressing!), and our plants will get one hell of a healthy watering, and the dead limbs in our trees will get blown down. Then the remnants of the storm will proceed to dump unimaginable amounts of rain on Georgia and flood it out, since they have mountains which make for great mudslides and other wonders of nature when it's being bad.

Now, I am not actually tempting fate here, because since we HAVE avoided a major hit by a powerful storm all these years, chances are very good that another storm will be following Ernesto closely behind to show him how it's done. Probably some bitch named Freda.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sins of the Fathers (Part II)

Faced with the absurdity of the situation, Presley still had the presence of mind to deal with possibilities, and reacted accordingly. "Marines, mind the perimeter, this could be a distraction! Report ANY hostile movements, but do not, I repeat, do not use your weapons unless we are attacked." He spoke softly, confident the com-link would convey his command without having to shout to the four scouts in their optic camo who were guarding their outer flanks. As he studied the strange greeting party in front of them, he reached over and tapped the exo-biologist on the arm. "Flanders, this reminds me of an old twen-cen television show my grandfather told me about. It was called "The Twilight Zone", and this is just the sort of strange shit that would make a perfect screenplay for that show. Explain to me how this is possible."

Flanders was apparently taking this all in much better than the rest of them, for his comeback was measured, with more academic interest than fear. "Well, Cap, it's kinda obvious. Apparently they have access to more tech than we give them credit for. The first transmissions we made via television back in the 1940's was made by Germany, and I think they picked it up and think this is the standard by which to communicate with us. If that's the case, they're gonna have a really screwed up idea of what we are all about."

It made perfect sense to Presley, but it also meant their jobs were going to be that much harder. But at least they had a basis to start with as far as making contact. But that idea started dying a slow death when he turned around and looked at Williams, the team linguist. Williams was swallowing hard, and had a not-so-good look on his face. Oh crap.

"Williams, please don't tell me that German is the one Goddamn language you don't know!" The linguist looked at him helplessly. "Mr Presley, I'm sorry, but I really am not all that fluent in many expertise is in establishing commonalities in communication methods that we've hypothesized we might find in an alien culture. Why in the fuck would aliens be speaking German, anyway?" He dug thru his satchel and pulled out a little blue electronic tablet and seemed to be visibly relieved. "I DO have an English to multi-language translator, tho, so all is not lost!"

Presley shook his head, not the least bit surprised that things were already going wrong. The best laid plans of mice and men, indeed. He turned back to watch the performance which their welcoming party was putting on with seemingly genuine enthusiasm. On closer examination, it was apparent that these WERE aliens, though they did seem to fit the role of a brass band quite nicely. Their bare limbs displayed the sheen of a fine layer of fuzzy hair, their eyes were a bit larger and set further apart than a human's. and their head covering was uniformly close cropped and similar to the hair on the rest of their bodies, and their average height seemed to be around five feet, give or take several inches. Other than that, they didn't seem to differ that much from your average human.

Finally, the last bars of the polka were played out, and the conductor turned around and bowed gracefully towards the contact team, before strolling over, stopping right in front of Presley, and spearing his arm straight up and out, a very good and downright disturbing copy of a nazi salute, minus the "Heil Hitler!"

Presley groaned under his breath and poked the linguists arm. "OK, repeat after me, OK?" "Yes, Sir, fire away." replied the interpreter as he readied his little ersatz translator.

Presley stepped forward, and bowed slightly towards the native who had greeted them. "Greetings, my name is Captain Presley, and I represent the people of the Planet Earth, and would like to establish relations with your people." He kept his eyes locked on the little man in front of him as Williams fumbled with his gizmo and read from the screen. The little man glanced at the linguist in puzzlement and replied rapidly in German. " Du sprichst nicht Deutsches?"

Williams rapidly pressed some more buttons and rattled off another sentence in German. "Captain, he asked why you didn't reply in German and I'm about to tell him you speak a different language."

"OK, tell him we speak a language called English and we apologize for any confusion, and ask him if they can speak it."

Williams translated, and the native representative glanced back and forth between Williams and the Captain before abruptly turning around and walking back to the gathering behind him, who gathered around while he explained to them the snafu. There were some giggles, some groans, and some discussion, then the man returned to stand in front of Williams and spoke to him, still in German.

Williams listened intently, fiddled with his translator, then turned to Presley. "Captain, the guy says he is sorry that they made a mistake with the language, and asks that we make ourselves comfortable while he sends away for someone who might can talk with us. Seems to me they are trying very hard to accommodate us."

It was about this time that Presley noticed what appeared to be a native child standing over in front of where he thought one of the camouflaged guards was positioned, staring at the slight disturbance and laughing, as well as pointing. Shit, they can see our damn security", thought Presley, and keyed his com-link to the Marine Captain. "Gunny, I think we've been made. That kid over there seems to be able to see your trooper. Tell him to move slowly to his right, I want to see if this kid can track him."

Presley could just make out the distortion field of the guard as he slowly moved to the left, and sure enough, the kid laughed and followed him, thinking it was a fun game or something. He turned back to the gathering and noticed with curiosity that the welcoming party was ignoring the child and the trooper altogether, so he ordered the guard to stay put and keep the optic camo charged just in case.

The Captain sighed and told the contact team to chill and make themselves comfortable around the runner while they waited for their welcoming committee to come up with another speaker. He leaned against the front fender of the runner and took a draw from his water bottle as the exo-biologist joined him, staring intently at the natives. "You know, Cap, this kinda screws things up for us when you think about it. If they are advanced enough to receive and display television signals, then everything we assumed about them could be wrong. They could have their OWN version of cloaked security surrounding us right now and we wouldn't have a clue. We might even be lucky to get back to the ship alive if they perceive us to be the threat that you and I damn well know we could be."

"Well, sure, this ought to put an end to any ideas the Company might have had about exploiting this planet, but it doesn't mean we can't come to some trade agreement. I mean, look around, these folks don't seem to be putting alot of their metal and mineral resources to use, and Lord knows we are in dire need of it. Just because they figured out video transmission doesn't necessarily mean they are all that advanced in other areas, so there could be lots of things we could offer up in trade. What I don't understand, though, is why we didn't pick up any radiation of ANY kind of bandwidth if they have the capability to pick up video transmissions as they seem to be. How do they communicate? Maybe strictly by land line?"

"Possibly, Captain", replied Flanders, "but the surveys didn't note any power or telephone lines, at least above ground. I think we should shelve the speculation until they get back with an interpreter and just ask them."

It was much later in the afternoon before another group of natives joined the original party and huddled around in discussion, the original representative gesturing towards the contact team and speaking in what seemed to be their native tongue, which actually was quite pleasant to the ear. After about ten minutes of heated discussion, the group parted and two new natives came to stand in front of Presley and the team. These two appeared to be somewhat older in appearance, and were dressed in apparel that could be best described as colorful casual. The apparent boss of the two bowed towards Presley, and then started speaking, after which the other person immediately translated.

"Greetings, strangers, I am known as Asper, and I welcome your visit. The elder local to this area did not have the resources to study the language that you are using, and had to send for someone who did. I am also in a position to make decisions for our people, so I function as "the leader", whom I assume you wish to speak with. May I ask what brings you to our world?"

Well, thought Presley, so much for ignorant savages. They fully understood the concept of other species from other planets.

"Greetings to you, Asper", replied the Captain. "We are explorers from the planet known as Earth, and we seek out new worlds to colonize or conduct peaceful trade with. We would like very much to establish trade relations with your people, as well as exchange technology and knowledge that might benefit both of us."

The translator finished what Presley had said, and the leader listened, then studied Presley for a moment, and he wasn't exactly smiling, if you could read these alien's expressions correctly. "Captain Presley, we appreciate your stated desires to open up relations with us, but frankly, we feel there's nothing you would have to offer that would appeal to us in that regard. Also, if you came here in peace like you said you have, perhaps you could explain why you have armed men attempting to hide behind visual distortion fields? I'm sure your surveys did not detect anything down here that might be of a threat to your safety, at least from us. And, you can see that we have no weapons trained on you, either. Based on what we know of you, and we have had lots of your transmissions to study over the years, you are not a species that tends to behave in a peaceful manner. So, perhaps it would be best for both of our peoples if you were to return to your authorities and inform them that we do not wish to form a relationship, at least not at this time."

Presley, for the first time in his career, was left speechless, for there was not one thing this person had said to him that he could argue against. But, he had to at least try and salvage something out of this mission.

"Asper, it would seem that you know us well, and I can fully understand your reluctance to engage us. But I would like to at least mention that we have established strict codes of conduct as regards to contact with other species, and I can assure you that we pose no threat whatsoever to your people. There are plenty enough empty planets throughout this sector that we have no need to conquer territory in order to survive. Surely there are some medical technologies or something that we might could offer you that would enhance your quality of living? All we would seek in return are some needed mineral resources or drugs that you might have developed. And we are fully willing to abide by any conditions you deem necessary to conduct trade in a manner that does not infringe upon your sovereignty or your customs. Could we at least agree to further discussions between ambassadors of our respected societies?"

The leader did not ponder Presleys plea for very long before he spoke one final time, via his translator. "Captain, please do not think us rude, but we are well versed in your technological abilities, and we know there is nothing you have that would be worth the price of having it. Matter of fact, Captain, we have been where you are now centuries ago, and we were lucky to have survived it. No, Captain, please believe me when I say there are more reasons for us to remain unaffiliated with your species than there are to establish relations with you. Please return and tell your authorities not to send any more vessels. Have a pleasant trip home."

And with that, the leader, his translator, and the rest of the natives turned and headed back down the road towards the town, leaving the contact team in the middle of the road, staring at each other with that "what the fuck just happened?" look upon their faces. With a tone of exasperation, the Marine Officer ordered the security team to switch off the optic camo, which wasn't worth a crap anyway, apparently. "Well, Mr. Presley, I guess he told us, didn't he?" smirked the exo-biologist. "Short of gunboat diplomacy, I don't think there will be any more humans walking these roads again."

"Yea, but how are we to know that this guy was the sole authority when it comes to government on this planet? We might have just been told to go fuck ourselves by some low-level governor of just one of any number of states. Hell, we don't have one world government back on Earth; no reason to think this one would either. If I take us back to Earth without trying again at some other location, the Company, who really pays for these trips, will sure as hell have my stripes! Let's head on back and get out of here; maybe we can find another area under different management that might be more open to negotiations."

Flanders shook his head as he climbed back aboard the runner. "OK, Captain, but based on what I've seen so far, I think it's going to be a waste of rocket fuel. The surveys didn't seem to indicate any one area differing all that much in architecture or layout that would suggest differing cultures. I think this guy was serious when he said they finally got their shit together and settled down into a way of living that works for them. Who are we to go messing with that?"

Presley ignored him, even though he suspected the expert to be entirely correct. But he DID have higher authority to answer to, and he couldn't simply blow off the several billion dollar cost of this expedition without at least trying to get something positive accomplished. If the Free World Federation wanted to push the issue, they could return with a bit more persuasive manpower later; the frigate he commanded was not designed to attempt gunboat diplomacy with. Besides, there were other worlds without pesky populations on them to deal with.

The lander lifted off the surface of the serene planet as the sun was going down on the spot they had landed. Only this time there was no one with fire extinguishers in the meadow to put out the grass fires the lift jets set off. Or maybe there was. It wasn't until after the lander rendezvoused with the frigate and the airlock door had sealed shut did anybody notice that the chaplain wasn't onboard.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sudden Impact

"To be a witness to a man's deliverance upon his destiny, tis an imprint that does not fade, but is burnt forever into your knowing."

I said that. THE Michael.

I came to me about 38 seconds before I wrote it just now. But it was borne of the accident I witnessed yesterday driving the wife to work. I glanced up into my rear view mirror just in time to see an idiot, on a rice rocket, without a helmet, streaking down the opposite lane at about 85 mph into the side of a mini-van. It reminded me of those film clips you see of a missile impacting a tank. It was just about the most violent split second I ever witnessed. The rider, who was driving this bike like he'd stolen it and wanted to die real bad, did. REAL bad. The driver of the mini-van, an older lady, was a patient in my unit when I went to work this morning. She suffered badly enough, but was fortunate to be on the opposite side of the impact, as a passenger in that seat would have been lucky to survive at all. Fortunately, there was no passenger on that side, which was mangled and cratered as if it had encountered an IED on the streets of Baghdad. A sight like that is all it takes to remind you that shit came come out of nowhere and change your life forever, or end it altogether. So party. Party HARD.

In other news............well....fuck other news. I'm still thinking about yesterday.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A break from reality; Sins of the Fathers (Part I)

Presley was amazed the corporation was even bothering with the first contact team. The robotic survey had made it clear that the limited sentient population of the new planet was no more advanced technologically than perhaps middle-ages Europe. There were no transmissions being picked up on any radio spectrum, the air was pretty much clear of any industrial age pollution, and the biggest settlements seemed to be no larger than a large township. Agriculture was evident, but scattered, and there was no evidence of massive engineering on any scale, such as would have been revealed of the Egyptians and Maya. Although optics revealed hominids, whether or not they were even mammalian in nature was not established as of yet. Another-words, this world was ripe for the picking, and mankind had a habit of taking things rather than just getting along. The colonization protocols of 2187 was supposed to prevent any behaviors compared to the concept of "manifest destiny" practiced by the colonial Americans, but corporations had a way to get around the spirit of the law, if not the technicalities.

A suitable landing site had been established not far from what seemed to be a good candidate for a governmental seat. The city, barely large enough to be referred to as one, seemed to be the oldest, with lots of architecture that seemed to speak to culture and authority. The landing craft didn't require a length of clear, flat land that a shuttle called for, so a remote clearing that could at least delay the onset of detection thanks to the surrounding forest was chosen. A clearing out of the landing site that allowed egress of the light recon vehicle made the site perfect.

The contact team was made up of five marines with optic camo and light weapons, an exo-biologist, a geologist, a resources evaluation tech from the company, a linguist, a government chaplain (whom he had argued forcibly against, but was overridden) and himself, the Captain of the contact frigate UNSS Columbus. Since the last great war that pitted Christianity against Islam, the church had insinuated itself so deeply into the Free World Federation that it threatened to do to secular government what the Islamic fundamentalists had done to the Middle East, which was ultimately to turn most of it into a radioactive desert with scattered plates of black glass here and there. It was a constant battle to keep the right wing of the government from gaining enough control to get the FWF into it with the East Asian Republic, that collection of asian nations pretty happy to remain relatively agnostic, if not downright atheistic. So far neither side had infringed on each other's colonies, which was fine with Presley, who was in no hurry to test out his ships actual deep space combat capabilities, which so far was more theoretical than demonstratively practical.

Presley patiently waited for the chaplain to finish up his impromptu prayer session with the Marines, who were always superstitiously happy to receive divine blessing before they embarked into the unknown. At least he knew their Commander to be more of the intellectual than your usual Marine, and no where near as trigger happy. Presley would not be a happy camper if one of the soldiers ended up actually shooting something simply because it moved. He prayed in his own way that their training was as good as he'd been led to believe. The chaplain, well, maybe they'd get lucky and he'd trip over something before he riled up the natives.

At last he was able to order the team to mount up and everybody secured themselves in the lander. The two pilots were not considered part of the survey team, and would remain in the lander at all times, ready to lift off at a moment's notice. Already an electric drone outfitted with an optic cloak was orbiting the landing site, ready to record the landing in case something went wrong or signals had to be amplified back to the orbiting ship. fifteen minutes later the preflight was finished, the airlock secured, and the egress doors opened beneath the lander, which would drop thru the opening and start it's descent burn. This was the part that Presley hated the most; the descent thru the atmosphere which would heat up the exterior of the craft and turn them into a fireball for a short while, since the engines were not efficient enough to provide for a drop slow enough to avoid the friction of the air. Still, it was no where near as hot a trip as that taken by a shuttle, which dropped like a brick at many times the speed of sound.

When the light show was over and he could see the topography below, Presley marveled at how clear the air was and how green and verdant the forests were below them as the craft descended on it's hover jets. He was equally impressed with how relatively quiet these new engines were considering how much thrust they produced, quiet enough he hoped not to herald their arrival to the locals, if there were any living in the immediate vicinity. It was always better to be able to scout the lay of the land before it was decided to walk up to some hapless "person" who wasn't going to be able to understand you and somehow convince them to "take you to their leader". Presley laughed at the irony of it, considering mankind had always assumed it would be aliens asking THEM.

As the lander approached the level of the treetops around the clearing, the copilot turned to Presley and keyed his intercom. "Captain, Sir, I HIGHLY recommend a couple of troopers egress with some fire extinquisers as soon as we kill the jets
, because it looks like were gonna light off a nice grass fire, which is gonna give us away right off the bat if anyone looks in this direction." Presley winced at not having thought of this during the mission planning, and relayed the order to the Marine officer in charge, who was already out of his harness and gathering his squad near the rear door. As his knees felt the pressure of the gentle landing, he shouted the order to exit the craft and secure the landing sight, while making a visual sweep of the field with the exterior camera, switching thru various spectrums to insure he didn't miss anything. Sure enough, he heard the swish of fire extinguishers being deployed as the rear ramp dropped and the Marines immediately tackled the burning grass all around the lander. By the time he'd made his visual sweep and headed back to the exit ramp, they had gotten the fire under control with barely a few wisps of black smoke to betray their landing.

All of them had on full facemasks with rebreathers, just in case, but the onboard air sampler buzzed the all clear and they thankfully removed them and sucked in lungfulls of crisp, clean, virgin air. They were just a handful of humans who had the pleasure of breathing air untainted by centuries of man-made pollution, and it's effect was more invigorating than any of them could have imagined. As the troopers surrounded the craft and swept the treeline for any movement, the pilots of the lander were getting the craft into quiet standby mode, and everybody just listened, to hear what the sounds of a new and alien world sounded like.

It was the most beautiful, gentle symphony of muted, natural sound he had ever heard. Birds, if that was what they were, twittered, tweeted and called all around them, the grasses rustled in the breeze, and raw, wonderful odors assaulted their noses, so different than those they had to endure in the confines of the frigate. The sun was now rising above the treeline, and one could not have seen the difference between this star and the one Earth orbited save for the clarity of the air which made everything seem more vibrant, even the dullest colors to vivid to dismiss. Just experiencing the beauty of this simple open meadow on this "clean" world suddenly made Presley want to get back on the lander and get them the hell off this world before they made any more impact on it. The natives certainly didn't seem to have ruined it, if they were ever going to. Presley knew in his heart what humans would do to it given half the chance. A shot at the mineral resources alone would scar the land and spread it's share of poisons all around.

A good half hour's worth of scanning, listening, plus reports from the drone overhead assured them that if their descent had been detected, the residents were apparently in no hurry to investigate. Either that, or they had been frightened half to death and were staying put in their town. Convinced the landing site was secure so far, Presley ordered the crew to set up the tents and equipment, while the Marine Commander and his motley crew got the runner out and ready to roll.

The planet's rotation was calculated to be twenty hours, 37 minutes, and the programmable watches were approaching 1000 hours, three hours after sunrise. Suddenly, it occurred to Presley that he had no idea what had happened to the Chaplain, whom he assumed must have remained inside the lander all this time. He walked back up the ramp and gazed into the interior, which was not brightly lit to conserve power. He keyed his communicator. "Hey, Franks, the Padre up there with you guys?" "No Sir, Captain, I thought he was out there with you."

"Oh shit", thought Presley as he ran back down the ramp and started looking around for the "extra baggage" he hadn't wanted to bring along to begin with. "All hands, report! I don't see the Chaplain. Where are you, Mossuca?" Silence for a moment, then a voice came back. "Captain, to your two o'clock! Over by the treeline!" The Captain's head whipped around and he scanned the perimeter in the direction directed. The sun was bright and still low, forcing him to squint, but he eventually made out the lone figure kneeling near the treeline, apparently in prayer.....Jesus Allah Christ! "Why in the hell isn't his comlink on? Gunny, get over there and drag his ass back to camp before he gets bit by something!"

The Marine motioned for two of his guys to follow him and they high-tailed it over to the kneeling figure. Presley tried not to laugh as they unceremoniously grabbed him by the arms and legs and carried him back in a run, the Padre kicking and shouting by the rough handling. They brought the angry Chaplain right to Presley and propped him up on his feet and went back to their activities without a word, leaving the fuming officer/baptist preacher shaking and red in the face.

"What in the HELL were you doing off by by yourself without your comlink on, MISTER Mossuca? Are you trying to ruin my perfectly good record at keeping my people alive and in one piece? There's no telling WHAT could have come out of that tree line and killed you! So help me, if you don't have the common sense necessary to keep yourself out of trouble, I WILL keep your ass locked up in the lander until we finish this mission! I might catch some hell for yelling at you back at CENCOM, but at least I won't lose my commission for letting you get bushwhacked, you got that?"

Mossuca's face said outrage and indignity at being dressed down by mere Captain, an atheist no less if his conduct was any indication, but he had been briefed before the mission and it was made clear that Presley was God as far as the chain of command was concerned, at least during the mission. And Presley's reputation and record would mute any complaints the Padre might be tempted to lodge against him, so he simply nodded and mumbled his apologies. There was more than one way to put a heathen in his place, back in the real world. Mossuca could bide his time till then.

Presley accepted the nod and left the Chaplain standing where he was, hoping the man of God would not provide him with any more distractions. The Marine Captain informed him when he got back to the tent that the runner was ready to go and the security team had tested the optic cammo with no problems encountered. Presley gathered up the other three team members, went over the contact procedure with them, and ordered everybody to mount up in the runner. The five Marines plus their Commander would walk ahead and around the runner with their optic cammo engaged, providing the element of surprise should they encounter a hostile response as they approached the town. One by one, the marines shimmered and faded from direct view as their cloaks were activated, which relied on some kind of fancy light bending technologies to make them blend in with whatever background they were viewed against. You could pick them out only if you knew what to look for. Presley was sure that the locals would consider this to be some sort of magic, if they understood the concept as ancient humans had.

With the runner loaded up and the escort deployed, they made their way quietly out of the clearing and through the wide path between the trees which would lead them to a simple dirt road at roughly a quarter mile in distance. Once on the road, the distance was about five miles to the town limits. Presley took out his remote and programmed the drone above them to orbit the contact party, to give him a heads-up on any encounter with a native on the road. Traveling at a leisurely 3 miles an hour, they made their way down the road, which as dirt roads went, was remarkably smooth and lacking in ruts or potholes. There was no sign of horse traffic or evidence of anything more advanced than perhaps a wagon.

The trip down the road was aggravatingly uneventful, for Presley had reasoned that they should have encountered SOME traffic on the way. Perhaps the town HAD been alerted to their presence and was expecting some sort of assault. He reminded the rest to keep alert in case they were walking into some sort of ambush, although the drone above was finding nothing on any spectrum that would indicate that to be in the works. It was about a quarter mile away from the edge of the settlement and just before a bend in the road that things really got surreal.

The surveillance drone buzzed him on the remote console and displayed a view of what seemed to be a small gathering on the road ahead, just out of sight around the bend. He ordered the party to stop and hold position as he zoomed in with the camera and studied the beings which seemed to be waiting for them. The thing that bothered him the most was what seemed to be several of the people (and yes, they pretty much looked like PEOPLE) looking up at the camera as though they could see the drone circling above them. Unless these people could see wavelengths of light that humans couldn't, they shouldn't be able to see the drone.
Powered by solar energy and a fuel cell, the drone was whisper quiet, but these beings might also be able to hear well enough to pick it up. He hoped it was an acoustic giveaway and not optical, if that was the case, for if they could see right thru the optic camo, the security team had lost a valuable advantage.

He shared his concerns with the rest of the team and it was decided that it would be a good idea to send one of the Marines ahead to reconnoiter the group before they came into sight around the bend. The order was barked, and an unseen marine kicked up some dust from the road as he jogged ahead of them. Presley waited for a painful eternity before the comlink crackled. "Captain, Sir, I don't think they see me, might as well come on, I don't know how to explain this......this is so fucking weird....."

"Stay put, Marine; we'll catch up to you. You see any sign of hostile intent, or fear perhaps?"

"No Sir......really, you have to see this for yourself. If I wasn't so weirded out I'd be laughing my ass off."

The runner made it around the bend, and everybody aboard could see what had the scout so flummoxed. Still, it was just about the last thing they could ever had expected to be greeting them on a dirt road on an alien planet...........

It looked alot like an old German Ompah band, complete with tuba's, assorted brass instruments, and people dressed up in short pants and suspenders, complete with the funny hats. The runner stopped, the contact team staring open mouthed at the sight, as the man in front of the welcoming committee turned around and began to conduct the group belting out a not-half-bad rendition of "The Beer Barrel Polka".

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Aftermath of Weird, and another Plug

The wife has healed sufficiently enough to return to work, and so have I, so it's back to real life. This has been truly a weird week, losing a good friend, suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fingers, and other assorted aggravations. It has truly been a blessing having such an outlet as this blog to help me deal with my minor misfortunes, and I really appreciate the kind words of encouragement and empathy that all of my readers have so graciously given me and the wife.

Most of us at one time or another have given into the frustration of thinking they have been reduced to unheeded voices in the wilderness, based on the number of comments they have received on their blogs. I recently encountered one blogger who seems to have discovered that magic formula which leads to comment heaven, because his blog scores something like 30 to 40 comments each post. Now, aside from the fact that he deserves each and every one he has generated, I must also say that he is no more talented than Tim or Shandi when it comes to overall blogworthyness. Yet he scores BIG time.

I will not attempt in this post to dissect his style and substance and try to reason out the secret of his success, but I will say one thing. I am not the least bit intimidated. Yea, I know, if I get ten comments on any one post I'm doing damn good, but then again, I count these as quality comments, received from fine and genuine folks who have discovered, then stuck with me almost from the very beginning. I fully realize that the nature of my blog, with it's mixed bag of social comment and biographical reporting, is hard to pigeonhole into something that appeals on a consistent basis to a cross section of blog aficionados, but it does seem to provide something to those who seem to have bookmarked me that makes it worth keeping tabs on. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that what we have here is family, rather than mass market, and we all know that family puts up with alot of less than stellar pedigree, simply because you have become something familiar in a way that breeds loyalty, something that goes beyond glitz and glamor.

Getting back to mega-comment man, I love the way his mind works, and he has returned the favor by engaging me with great comments. He is not one of these inane bloggers who just needs to just go away, as Tim has lamented in recent posts. Yes, I might sometimes envy him his relative success, but he truly has earned each and every accolade his has received for the concepts he explores. OK, OK, I know, you are just DYING to know who the hell I'm talking about.

I refer to him as HE in my replies in my comments section. Figure it out, and go see him. You won't regret it, I promise you.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Requiem for a Friend

You were a promise
kept with the help of a friend
for years the wife had wanted a goat
and along came you
We jokingly named you Ozzy
You were such a tiny thing
half pygmy, half big bad billy
slight in size, gentle as a lamb
but you went your own way
and never once backed down
then we got you two more friends
to help you eat the yard
bigger than you
and stronger too
but you never once backed down
You were happy to let Mysty take the lead
he was the calm collected boss without horns
while Billy was the obnoxious wanna-be
who followed Mysty all around
but you, you grazed where it suited you
and went where you damn well pleased
and never once backed down
Then came that tragic day
that Mysty met his end
Both of you knew well as I
that we had lost a friend
We gave him back to Mother Earth
and miss him to this day
and now you get to join him
to frolic, jump, and play
A sickness came upon you
and took you day by day
but you were always a tough little fuck
you never once backed down
but the cycle of life has purpose
and has a place for you
you lost your fight late in the night
but not for backing down
Tonight we say goodbye to you
our gentle little friend
We'll give you back to Mother Earth
and send you on your way
where pastures are much greener
the water sweet and pure
the hay is piled up nice and soft
no leash to hold you back
you'll eat to your little heart's content
your belly always full
and no matter how big, or strong
your brothers be
If I know you

You'll never,


Back down

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Yesterday after I tied the herd out to browse, I went to check on them and found Ozzy passed out on the ground. He roused easily enough, so I thought perhaps in his less-than-stellar health he had simply passed out from the heat. I took him back to the barn and fed him his own trough full of feed and left the others to scrounge.

This morning I found him down. He was conscious, but far to weak to stand. I'm afraid that whatever ailment has been haunting the little fella has come to claim him. He has been resting as comfortable as I could make him in the barn, but he is passing on, I'm afraid. I knew something was wrong when I went out this morning and the usual "let's go eat everything" greeting from the herd was muted and sad; don't tell me that animals don't sense when something is wrong with one of their own. Sure enough, he was back in the pen down on his side.

Those of you who have been with us for some time know that Ozzy was one of the original three goats that I got for my wife, who always wanted one. Mysty was attacked by a vicious dog and died awhile back, and that was a sad time for us. Now it's Ozzy's time to leave us and it's no easier. They have been a joyful part of our family and have more than earned their keep both in the love we've shared and their industrious consumption of the wild growth on our land. I know, it's hard to think of mere goats as more than livestock, and many people eat these creatures, but we have bonded with these guys and simply have not thought of them as food creatures. We get our meat at the supermarket. Under different circumstances it might not have turned out so heart-warming, but rest assured in OUR circumstances, they are people too, just as our dog, our cats, and even the lizard is.

We are on vigil tonight. Ozzy will soon draw his last breath, and we will return him to the Earth the same way we did Mysty, by cremation. Then, with our thanks and blessings, he will find green, verdant pastures chock full of every tasty green thing he favors, until BOB decides where he goes next. I think he's earned an upgrade.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Thirteen Years

The flame burned so much brighter, hotter, in those early, fresh, uncertain days, when love was an infection, a fever, a state of delirium that ruined your calm collected existence. With such intensity comes ultimately the burnout, leaving you spent, lost, crushed and damaged. You survive, lick your wounds, and seek it out once again, all the while in denial you could ever expose yourself to such delicious pain again. But you are human, and the choice has and never will be yours.

Then, she touches you, the one, and instead of thunder and lightening and the great destroyer come to claim your heart once simply accept the gentle grasp and never, ever, can you let go. You'll love her, need her, from first hot and heavy and often rut, to sharing a couch knowing only the nearness you've come to need, for that is ALL you need. She'll wonder to where you've gone, when detachment takes you to your safe place, but she'll welcome you back when safe seems so empty, for there is never an empty place in her arms. She will question ever having known you, and somehow you'll remind her, and her smile welcomes back reasons that slip away sometimes.

You smolder now, allowing for flare-ups to surprise and belt you about the head and heart, and there is no bad habit, ill-chosen word, repeated innocent insult, or monumental tantrum which can break your need of her. And she'll suffer you, and suffer you, and love you. This is a creature, two hearts beating in one chest, two minds thinking the same thought, one entity swallowing up two souls, blending them into a most unlikely chimera. The only cure is death; till then it knows loyalty only to it's whole, the parts long since dead.

She glances over at me and I know the question in there...."Does he still love me, want me; how could he still?" When she's not looking I glance back, my answer so pathetic, "How could I not? I do it so poorly, I know, but I do it still. It's all I know,"

Thirteen years. It smolders still.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Well, what sounded like an artillery shell landed right behind our house and wiped out what I was almost ready to finish up and post. That was from the thunderstorm that I was telling you about before the near miss knocked out the power to my neighbors behind me. All we got was a split second of surge, but boy was that close! So, because I like you, I will attempt to retrieve from memory what I was about to post before Mother Nature tried hinting that maybe I shouldn't post tonight. I never was good at taking hints.

Now, I feel qualified to soldier on and get this posted against all odds, because despite the fact that I do not have a degree in Novella, I feel I am nonetheless quite able in my own limited fashion to duplicate the efforts of infinite monkeys playing metaphoric symbols, even if compared to the likes of Kurt Vonegut or Truman Capote, it comes across as gibberish. I am even able to accomplish this while listening over my shoulder to "Coyote Ugly", the sounds of driving rain on my roof, and the hyperventilated stylings of my canine defender cowering at my feet, so convinced is he that the Gods of Thunder are coming for him personally. I will even enhance the depth of this composition by carefully administered doses of distilled spirits and orange juice, otherwise known as "Nectar of the Bob".

Today I was treated to the usual dearth of weekend blog posts, a phenomenon that occurs when people take two days to concern themselves with activities having nothing to do with blogging. (THIS JUST IN: Wife says, "Honey, my hand hurts!" I say, "Well, if it hurts enough, take a pill." She says, "But I don't WANT to take any more pills!" I say, "Then, hun, you'll have to grin and bare it." To which she smiles and says, "OK, you bare it, and I'll grin!") I remember those days in my youth when I would take those two traditionally off days to commit my share of debauchery and excessive enjoyment of alcohol, but like I said, those were the days of my youth. Nowadays, my "weekends" occur just about any two days of the week, and debauchery? Well..........such memories...........

I'm saving this....hold on.........

Like, I was saying, it was a dark and stormy night...........

I worry about Ozzy. Despite the fact that he had seemed to be on the rebound, and his appetite seems as ravenous as the other goats, he is becoming nothing more than a pot belly attached to a framework of skin and bones, has gotten listless and slow, and rarely makes a sound, in contrast to the cacophony of "What you got to eat, anything to eat, when do we eat it, c'mon, there are things needing to be eaten out there!!!!!!" provided by his herd mates. Ozzy is such a sweet little soul, and has always been my favorite, and I will truly mourn his passing should his time prove to be near at hand. All I can say is that there better be endless fields of lots of green stuff to eat in his afterlife, or I swear to Bob I will track down the cosmic bureaucrat responsible for such an injustice and kill him a SECOND time.

THIS JUST IN; suicide bomber shows up in a soup diner instead of heaven, and the Soup Nazi points at him and shouts "NO virgins for YOU!" (Ok, it's a Seinfield thing)

It's our 13th wedding anniversary coming up on the 14th. Yep, the lucky 13! Despite the fact that we got married during a raging thunderstorm with lightening forking down all around us, we have survived all these years for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health (ok, poorer and sick, but hey, can't have everything!) and just might get thru to till death does me part.

So there you have it, Saturday night at Pendragon Hold. It won't win anything a Cannes this year, but that's OK. I hate caviar anyway.

Friday, August 11, 2006


One of the most effective training methods employed by sports coaches and drill instructors is the "group responsibility" concept, where as every one in the group is held responsible for the failings of any one member. Once the group discovers that every one of them will suffer for an individuals lack of commitment, they will take it upon themselves to see to it that the individual responsible for their collective misery will be "encouraged" to get his shit together. Wether or not those who do their best to succeed think having to pay for the lowest common denominator of the whole group is fair is beside the point. It works. Ask any Marine.

I think the time has come to apply this method on a universal basis. Even now the Lebanese people are discovering what happens when those who share their territory take it upon themselves to invite the retribution that is guaranteed to follow their acts of aggression upon the state of Israel. I cannot say that countless individuals and cultures do not have a legitimate bone to pick with the State of Israel. However, there are also numerous communities within the State of Lebanon who do not deserve to have the ire of a persecuted and reactive people such as the Jews visited upon them at no fault of their own. It's bad enough that Hezballah was created almost entirely as a satellite puppet of Syria and Iran, manipulated by those two enemies of Israel as puppet fodder to cause "remote-control" pressure on the Jewish state without having to suffer direct responsibility for their actions. Well, maybe it's time to call a spade a spade and hold them directly responsible for every katusha rocket that has been lobbed into Israel from the middle of civilian neighborhoods, the "human shield" tactic favored most by cowardly terrorists who have no morals to boast of.

I imagine how nice these representatives of Allah himself must have seemed as they set up social services, health clinics, educational facilities and the like in the south of Lebanon in order to endear themselves to the locals. Along with such charity I'm sure came a good dose of propaganda and dogma, ensuring that those that would someday find themselves in harms way would think it was all worth it. How cheap such loyalty seems to be these days. Slowly but surely the spotlight had been focusing on the overkill that Israelis were bringing down upon the palestinians in response to their bad behaviors prompted by such horrible treatment as an occupied people. Given the time and patience already demonstrated as the ultimate weapon against injustice as practiced by Martin Luther King, the Palestinians would eventually have won their homeland, in much the same fashion that the Jews had eventually won their own homeland in the midsts of a harsh and unwelcome land where they now thrive. But Islamic fundamentalism could not allow that to happen, at the risk of making moot their desire to wipe out the Jews altogether and forever, just one step along their path to world domination, no different than that of the Soviets.

I fear that sane civilizations' only answer to this cancer is as I stated above, the collective responsibility doctrine. Only when the world body politic enforces an understanding that you as a culture, a nation, a people, are responsible for the actions of those within your midsts whom you allow to operate and further their causes within your sphere of influence, can you find value in ridding yourselves of these threats to your own peace and security. The United States even now is not facing up to the harsh reality that Iran is enforcing it's own will by proxy via such Shiite entities as the Marde Army and other Shiite dominated institutions within Iraq. If bomb for bomb, rocket for rocket, was visited upon Iran for every one that was detonated in Southern Lebanon and Iraq, I think perhaps fewer rockets and IED's would be exported from that place with such impunity. There are enough people in that country who are thirsting for good jobs, the ability to support their families, and plain, ordinary peace and security, to put a stop to this hatred-by-proxy that the Iranian Mullahs enjoy today.

Pakistan is a country claiming to support democracy and the war on terror, when in reality a good portion of it's populace is actively engaged in this war, and protected by various institutions within this declared Islamic republic. Like I said before, a spade is a spade, and only when this government is told in no uncertain terms that it has a choice to make will it ever make the hard choices. If the Pakistani armed forces truly cannot handle the job of enforcing the rule of law in all it's territory, I am sure NATO and other interested parties would have no difficulty helping out in that regard. If remote villages can be persuaded by demonstrations of force AND reward that turning over terrorists is actually in their best interest, I think they will fall all over themselves seeing who can do it first, rather than having their whole village wiped out because they harbored an Al-Quida cell that crossed over into Afghanistan to attack coalition forces. It works in basketball teams and marine boot camps, no reason it can't work on the world stage.

The idea of civilian casualties has always been one thing that civilized societies have trouble stomaching, quite understandably. The idea of the warrior throughout history was one in which the person willing to take up arms against an enemy did so openly, proudly, wearing the uniform of the state he wished to defend. There has always been a certain honor attached to the sacrifice of the warrior. However, with this recent advent of Islamic fundamentalism, the portrait of the warrior has been sullied, with persons who under any rational set of rules would be considered nothing but a common criminal now claiming to be a warrior furthering a cause. They have even included such cowardly and despicable tactics as dressing like civilians, hiding amongst civilian gatherings, and even hiding behind a shield of women and children. Then there is the remote and suicide bomb attack, which usually kills mostly innocents in large numbers. I'm sorry, but the definition of self defense dictates that one defends against attack by ANY method, and if the only way to defend against attack is to take out an attacker who cowardly hides in the midsts of innocents thinking some moral code they don't even respect will protect them from retaliation, then so be it. The fact that some of these "shields" fully realize the danger they expose themselves to by allowing themselves to be used in such a fashion is all the more reason to hold them responsible for the consequences. A civilized society that hopes to survive cannot allow it's own moral codes to be manipulated and used against it.

You might get the idea that I am an apologist for Israel, but I am not. I am rather pissed at the idea of my tax dollars being sent to Israel to fund it's oppression of the Palestinian people. However, the State of Israel exists, and is not going away. These people have a wholly reasonable fear of persecution and attack, as history has demonstrated, and thus it is reasonable to expect them to reply strongly to any attack against them by people who wish them all dead. Al Quida wants US dead, and no one is concerned that we hunt them down wherever we can find them and kill them on the spot when we can. So, I think it is necessary to take a balanced view and understand why the Lebanese are suffering so. They are expendable as far as Hezbollah and their Masters in Iran are concerned.

Personally, I would solve this problem once and for all by selling Israel the state of Utah, and moving the Jewish state lock, stock and barrel out of the middle east, thus guaranteeing their security once and for all and giving the Palestinians their home back. Then I would withdraw from the area altogether, and let them at each other, with the promise that if one terrorist, one missile, ever makes it's way across the ocean, a major middle Eastern city ceases to exist. We need to wean ourselves off that oil once and for all, relying on our own and other supplies to get by while switching over to alternative energy sources, which we are fully capable of doing,

Then, one day, when the dust settles, and a plaintive voice pleads over the radio for an exchange of diplomats (what, you think Fundamentalist Islam would survive any longer than Soviet communism? People put up with such shit only for so long), THEN we can talk, rationally. Till then, a spade is a spade and it's time those cards were dealt accordingly.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

When We Breathed, Breathed in the Air...........

I do not wish to sound like a snob, to claim license, or dismiss other tastes and considerations, but I firmly believe that there was a period in music history, excluding the distant classical period up to this "stuff" we are dealing with now, that was the pinnacle of the art, and will never be equaled again.

It began with the Beatles, and ended with Pink Floyd.

I do not wish to dismiss the wonderful contributions by countless artists, both famous and relatively unknown, but no time in history will ever match the emotion, the growth, the message, the pure artistry that this period encompassed. Yes, the Beatles started out with their pop pap (which even as pop pap goes, was pretty damn good for the time), but then they seemed to gradually get serious and what evolved was a whole new idea of what music, much less rock and roll, could become. Just off the top of my head I would say that the "Sergeant Pepper" album made people put on headphones and really pay attention. So much happened after that, but no one could match the Beatles when it came to taking it all to a whole new level with every album they put out.

Then came Floyd.

Just like the Beatles, they fought their way out of relative nowhere, unable to set themselves apart from the wild party that was going on. I had never heard of them until their break-thru album, and it was years before I went back and examined their early works. I was not that impressed. Sounded like pop to me.

Then came Dark Side of the Moon.


I wasted what could have amounted to years listening to this shit with my headphones. Just like Sergeant Pepper before it, I couldn't believe what I was hearing and couldn't get enough of it. And, just like the Beatles, they evolved, and boy did they ever evolve! It was like taking music as a sopwith camel and working it into an SR-71 Blackbird. However, the thing about these two bands is that each album they produced did not make obsolete the one that proceeded it. Even as I was trying to catch my breath with "The Division Bell", I could still be carried away by "Breath" or "Comfortably Numb".

As I stated previously, it began with the Beatles and ended with Pink Floyd, but much wonderment of all sorts was created in between by singers, songwriters, and groups of every description. This was a time when motown could coexist with acid rock, Jimmy Hendrix with John Denver, Harry Chapin with Alice Cooper. You could hear and savor it all on FM radio. Hell, even the Carpenters were allowed to make us smile, or cry, or whatever you were feeling when Karen did her thing. It was a new frontier that was pushing and shoving at every boundary it came up against, and man were there boundaries to be pushed!

Well, sooner or later, capitalism gets it's claws sunk deep into a "commodity" and ruins it for everybody. Next thing you know the DJ's are starting to disappear and music is beginning to be categorized by "genre" and before you know it the only mixed bag you can find is on so-called "oldies" stations. The powers that be decided that the grunge group has no use for the heavy metal who doesn't want to listen to Rap who wouldn't know regular rock from gothic. Now you are hunting all over the dial for something you can relate to and it all sounds alike.

Hidden deep in the satellite, college, and internet radio streams, you can find people desperately trying to hold true to that spirit that literally changed this nation, writing music and lyrics that mean something rather than playing to some corporate formula. Remember Jewel? Remember what she once did before some asshole told her she had to sex it up? Sigh. What a waste. Listen to alternative (yea, right, alternative to WHAT?) radio these days and what do you hear? I hate my fucking girl friend and I want to die. Or, you can groove to the beat of some rapper who can't sing but can recite some juvenile poetry about "ho's" and capping some nigga who disrespected you. It's over folks.....I just wish the kids these days knew why.

I'm not saying that it is not entirely possible that one day, Bob willing, a new generation will, simply out of common teen rebellion, rediscover the wellspring of life that serious devotion to honest and real music and lyrics and the feelings they engender can give to everybody. We once listened to music to feel good, not to reinforce our despair. We once shouted out loudly what we thought was wrong with the status quo, but we had one hell of a time while we were doing it. And sometimes we just got silly with it. But, thanks to the Beatles, and Pink Floyd, some of us were taught to think, and I personally think it was a very, very good thing.

I now return you to your "MTV Raps" presentation of Snoop Dog............

Super-Sized Haku

It passes like molasses
this time of healing
of care and drudgery
at the mercy of reruns and netflix and movies seen several times already
various kinds and degrees of pain
various kinds and dosages of drugs
various moods and laughter and boredom
life together
trapped by a broken finger
life with a wounded wife

Day time television sucks
I hunt for diversions
which patch hasn't seen the goats for awhile?
and I can't get any sleep
a headache, or my legs start kicking
and I'm up
playing Command and Conquer till drowsy
then gently
back to bed
and the dog wakes me up
too damn early
as usual

My computer's doing things I don't want it to do
I need a bigger hard drive
but I blew that money I never had anyway
when the printer crapped out
cause the wife prints wiccan like there's no tomorrow
it's all good

I spend hours face in screen
checking for new posts
so of course everybody seems to stop
so I hit next blog
like I'm playing the lottery

She's so damn creative
coming up with ideas for this and that
making something out of nothing
beautiful things
My life would be so damn drab
without her
every man should marry a witch

There's a certain closeness with everything
hanging clothes on a line
you're OUT there, feeling the hot, damp air
hearing the breeze, the sounds of a neighborhood
you refresh yourself with the mechanics of clothespins
and wonder at how stiff a pair of jeans can be
I want winter back

Please Bob bring winter back...........

Monday, August 07, 2006

Who else could bring you hoarse goats, finger follies, and Camelot all in one post?

Well, we returned for a followup, and the Doc seems happy with the wife's progress. His assistant changed her dressing, and of course she was on her best behavior and didn't threaten him with bodily harm as he peeled off the old stuff and applied the new. Funny, but when I did it, it was like I was trying to shave a badger.

However, it's going to take another week, perhaps two, before she can return to work, and by association, I had to extend my own time off, since I still have to continue in my role as driver, chief cook and bottle washer, and valiant knight of the order of the bloody bandage. But hey, it's good for my karma.

Billy (our greedy, needy, crybaby alpha goat) seems to have bleated "feed me, you got anything to eat, is it time to eat the front yard yet, let me at it, I'm starving, yadda-yadda" so much that he's made himself sorta hoarse. He sounds like a different goat altogether. Or maybe the spirit of that snake possessed him, since it occurred right after that nasty little incident. Mickey's probably nodding his head vigorously at that suggestion......hehe. Now, folks, these goats are well fed, and it amazes me they don't explode, they eat so much. It's comical to see little Sorcha coming back to the back yard looking like a blimp on four little stubby legs. Sonya has to settle for what she can scrounge in the back forty due to her continued steadfast association with me trying to get her on a leash with coming to kill her. The only way to leash her is to catch her off guard and startle her, at which time her back legs lock up and she's easy to chase down. I don't try very often, because she seems as healthy and fit as the rest of the herd, and she does get her occasional shot at grain and hay.

Nothing on TV worth watching, and no new Netflix movies have arrived yet, so we're watching "Excaliber". It's my all-time favorite tale of the honor and foibles of men, and how Wizards delve far to deeply into the power of magic than they should. It is a highly romanticized and dressed up story based on ancient myth, which may or may not have been based upon a real warlord, and this version of the tales of King Author is one of the best I know of. I sometimes think those who still suffer Royalty have this deep seated desire that the ideals of Camelot could actually be practiced, and I fully understand it, although even Author himself eventually fell victim to the human condition which keeps mankind chained to the sword rather than the plowshare. Can absolute power exist without absolute corruption? It could, I believe, if it were not for the corruptibility of those who surround him, for followers are the true power behind those who lead. Hitler could never have committed the evil he perpetrated without the enthusiastic willingness of his minions to do his bidding.

Of course, I could spend another hour talking about Lebanon, the price of gas, the record heat waves, and the mounting death toll in Iraq, but you all know how insane everything seems to be getting these days, and I doubt there's anything I could say about any of this that hasn't already been said. I chuckle when I think about all the fundamentalist Christians who are just chomping at the bit to get raptured, so convinced are they for the umpteenth time that the apocalypse is at hand. Sometimes I wish they WOULD get raptured; maybe with them gone things would calm down around here. Conversely, I wonder if there's been any strain on the supply of virgins in Islamic heaven, so many "martyrs" are blowing themselves up. There's no sense getting any more excited about the state of the world now than we have been in decades, or even centuries past, for the one constant is the human condition, the need to cry "HAVOC", and let slip the dogs of war.........

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pure Living!

I think it was 1988 or so when I was looking around in a shop in Fairbanks. I was just passing thru on my way to Anchorage, the final leg in a long journey from Houston Texas, where I had lost my job as a machinist and had decided to return home to the place I loved. Inside this shop I noticed a woman whom I'd only seen before in news reports, never in the flesh, and that woman was Susan Butcher. Like I've said before, I don't have this idol-worship gene, and I didn't bother her, but I had always admired her. Who is Susan Butcher, you ask? Why, thanks to her, they came up with a saying in Alaska and it goes like this......."Alaska, where men are men, and women win the Iditarod!" She did it four times. Against men. And don't tell me it didn't humble them.

Susan lived out in the sticks in true Alaskan style, raising sled dogs, and she treated her canine companions like the true champions they were. These dogs were her life, and as a team, they and this plucky woman put many a man and his team of huskies to shame. The iditarod sled dog race is a grueling eleven hundred mile race over frozen and inhospitable terrain, staring in Anchorage and ending in Nome. Those who compete these days really can't lay claim to her amazing feats thanks to global warming, sometimes even having to cross increasingly larger areas with very little snow cover.

Susan took time off from competing to have a family, and produced two daughters, who I imagine one day might carry on their mother's ability to overcome sexual stereotyping. However, Susan finally met her match against leukemia, despite a determined and heroic battle against the disease.

A fellow blogger once asked, "Can one truly die happy?" Here's your answer my friend. Yes.

Wound Care of the Vanities

I love my wife, I really do. However.......

One of the things I do at work is help the nurses change bandages. This usually requires two people due to the nature of the wounds we deal with. One thing about these wounds, be they from bedsores or the aftermath of flesh-eating bacteria, they will always occur in the most inaccessible places, and difficult to get to. So one does the actual dressing change while the other holds the limb or body off the bed, sometimes using a free hand to help open packaging or tossing away bloody gauze. At any rate, I have been rather well versed in the art of dressing changes, at least I thought I was. Then came time for ME, THE Michael, solo, to perform what should be a straight-forward change of the dressings on my wife's poor finger, which now resembles something like a burst sausage.
The one great advantage of this activity in a critical care unit is the condition of the person we usually perform it on. They are heavily sedated, or given powerful painkillers, might be on a vent, and are often tied down. Another-words, even though you know that no matter how tender you try to be, sometimes it's gonna hurt, but you don't have a fully conscious, mobile, and quite opinionated subject on your hands. You can get it done.

No such advantage here. The wife doesn't do bondage, so tying her down was not an option. Ditto the ball gag. The demerol has proven to be adequate for general pain relief, but not much help while the wound is being "assaulted". The gauze over the wounds soaks up the blood and drainage, creating a nice hardened glue that has to be peeled off the raw wound, and it's no wonder keeping her hand steady while I'm trying to grab something with pin-point accuracy is a trying proposition. Plus there's this trust issue. Yes, I touch things while desperately trying not to, and she goes into it KNOWING I'm going to do it, creating a vicious cycle of me trying to get this stuff off as painlessly as possible and her jerking around and........sigh.......where's those restraints?

Plus, my wife, since it's HER hand I'm trying to dress, has already laid claim to a Doctorate in Wound Care, and is trying to instruct me while I'm trying to concentrate and get this over with. Now I'm caught between trying not to hurt her and wanting to bitch slap her at the same time. She doesn't mean to make it seem like I don't know what the hell I'm doing, but once it's all over with, I stalk away thinking I should get an academy award for wound changes under trying circumstances not involving getting up, throwing the scissors at her, and telling her to dress the damn thing herself. I think she notices the cloud I'm walking away under, and as the agony of my inept attempt to take care of her eases off, she regains her sense of decorum and tiptoes all around an effort to tell me she's sorry and thank you for doing this. Thank Bob for patience............without it Jack would be one unhappy camper.

The wound cultures came back, and not surprisingly, she was positive for MRSA, that nasty bug we put patients in isolation for, since it is resistant to many of the antibiotics we use today. She could have gotten it off of me, I'm probably so covered in it by now, her Mother, who's had her bouts with it, or any number of places, including the money she handles at work. No wonder the damn finger tried to explode on her. Expecting even the simplest of procedures to resolve themselves without complications these days is naive to say the least. I just hope these antibiotics she's on don't cause more problems than they solve.

Well, I have an answer to all this finger angst. Ketchup. Yep, ketchup has natural mellowing agents that take away that feeling of impending doom, strengthens your respect for your spouse, and keeps families intact. (this last paragraph was provided courtesy of the Ketchup Advisory Board.)

OK, I performed wound care, vacuumed the dog hair off the carpet, washed dishes, swept and mopped the kitchen floor, took out the garbage, tied out the goats, made lunch, and am preparing to do several loads of laundry. Then I have dinner to prepare. Will this "vacation" ever end?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

An Interview with THE Michael

Today we interview "THE Michael", the author, writer, director, producer, and art director of "Dances with Leaves", the someday-to-be-award-winning blog featured on such very-soon-to-be-award-winning blogs such as "Dizgraceland", "I Have Two Belly-Buttons", and "Primates Playing Percussion".......or something like that.

This interview was conducted over several hectic days as the mercury rose, things started to go wrong, and nature attacked. Still, he was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule trying to survive to sit down with us and answer some questions no man should be asked.

Me: So, it's been quite a week for you. How's the wife's finger doing?

Him: Oh, a bit better now that the surgeon sliced into it to relieve the internal pressure from the swelling that occurred. She's got another huge bandage on her hand hiding the carnage, but now the heavy duty painkillers are moderating the agony somewhat. If there's one thing my wife is experienced in, it's agony.

Me: And this all started with what?

Him: Well, it was a freak accident, actually. I was closing a metal gate not knowing she had her hand on the post, and it nailed her pinky finger at the second joint. It didn't seem all that major of an injury at the time, but over time her arthritis took it and ran with it, and over time the finger became really painful to the touch. We finally took her to the finger doc and he said that the joint had degenerated due to the arthritis and would have to be fused to relieve the pain. It's been downhill ever since.

Me: How bad is it? She's not going to lose the finger, is she?

Him: Well, I hope not. We both kinda like the little darling........

Me: So what else has been happening? You seem pretty frazzled........

Him: Well, right after I got her home from the first surgery, I had to attend to some chores in the great outdoors and the great outdoors took a swipe at me. Seems a rather large Diamondback Rattlesnake wanted to share my space and I had to disagree with him with extreme prejudice. I even thought there for awhile that our favorite pet goat had been bitten and that would have really ruined our day.

Me: But he's OK?

Him: Yea, I think he got caught upside his little head by an ejected shell casing while I was blasting away at the snake and was momentarily stunned. He's not a "fainting" goat like the twins, so he was acting really out of character to be laying there on the ground like that playing dead. At any rate, things were going crazy all at once so it's hard to remember exactly what happened to who or what in what order.......I'm just glad we're all here trying hard to laugh about it.

Me: Any other mayhem going on about this time?

Him: Well, day to day has been a challenge financially, and all this has put another strain on the budget..........which is funny.......there IS no budget......I just steal from peter to take care of just learn the fine art of creative juggling.

Me: Ever feel like just running away; just saying the hell with it; starting over somewhere where no one knows you?

Him: Hell, who doesn't? But, I figure if Ken Lay can stick it out in his mansion while his world is crashing down all around him, it should be a piece of cake for little old me.

Me: Kenneth Lay is dead.........

Him: Hmmmmmmmmm

Me: So, you had to take off work again? How do you do it?

Him: Easy, my man. It's the miracle of PTO (Paid Time Off). I earn something like 8 hours of it a payday, and only having to work three days a week, I don't have to use up alot of it, so it adds up quickly. Plus, a Doctors note stipulating that I have to take care of my wife helps. As bad and lowbrow as my job can seem at times, it DOES have it's perks.

Me: OK, you claim that your wife is a witch. Well, then, why is all this happening to you guys? I would think a witch would have spells to take care of all this.

Him: Yea, you'd think. But, I think it's only fair to mention that at best she can be considered an "apprentice" witch. She HAS done a few things that seemed to have produced results, but hell, even the Pope couldn't cure his own ills before he died, I don't think you can expect a newby wiccan to perform miracles either. Being wiccan doesn't separate you from the trials and tribulations of life in general, but it can certainly help you not take it all personally. We don't go around blaming some God for our problems, nor do we give credit for good luck to invisible men who had nothing to do with it. We make our own beds, we sleep in them.

Me: Well, getting on to "Dances with Leaves", how do you rate it's overall success?

Him: Oh, I'd say I'd place it somewhere between "utter disaster" and "underground phenomenon". I just haven't heard much from the underground, but they are by their very nature a quiet bunch. Who knows, if I were to shut down this blog today, a cry might arise across the globe of such wailing and gnashing of teeth that the Earth might tilt right off it's axis. But then again, they might not even notice I'm gone......ya never know.

Me: So why do you do it? I looked at your hit counter, and quite frankly, for the time you've been online, it's not a very impressive number.

Him: Hey, every hear of the silent majority? Maybe these visitors have kept their discovery to themselves, having found a true gem they aren't willing to share at the risk of it becoming mainstream, then it wouldn't be cool anymore and they'd have to move on to the next "thing". I might just very well be the grunge rock of blogs right now, with a small but very quiet and dedicated following. If that's truly the case, then I've been a roaring success, and if not, then so what? I have bookmarked a whole bevy of truly remarkable blogs who aren't getting a penny more for their efforts than I am. If I ever hit the big time then I might consider myself a real failure for having gotten the attention of those who smell money, and that's not what my writings' about. This blog is about real life, not high falutin" language crafted for the benefit of elitists who demand articulate, overblown artsy exercises in language. This is me, my wife, my goats, and an acre of sand in a very hot and humid place in America, not something dreamed up by Neil Simon. Read most of the best classics and you will not see language and background recognizable to real people. I think my readers see plenty of their own lives in what goes on in mine, and aren't alienated by the honesty of it.

Me: So where do you see yourself in 20 years?

Him: Dead. As in doornail. Very much so.

Me: Dead? But, let's see, you'll only be like 70............

Him: Mom only made it to 68, I think, due to smoking all her life. I've smoked all MY's genetic, it's inevitable, but hey, I've had a good run; I'm thankful for the years I've had, the love of a good woman, and thanks to giving up Catholicism, I don't fear what's next. Matter of fact, I'm rather looking forward to finding out the truth of it all, something I honestly don't think living beings can know. Besides, Bob assures me it'll be a blast!

Me: Speaking of this "Bob" charactor.....who the hell IS he?

Him: Well, he's rather hard to describe. I suppose the closest I can come to quantifying him is comparing him to that little voice in your head, that reasoning that talks to you in quiet moments, that unknown person in your daydreams that tells you things you swear you wouldn't have come up with on your own. At first you're sure you made him up entirely on your own, but then later you're not so sure, because the stuff he's put in your head doesn't have a corresponding memory of your crafting it, at least consciously. I'm sure he's nothing more than my "id", that part of me deep down that does his own thing unrestrained by my conscious restraints, but, thank Bob, he doesn't have me walking around in my sleep doing crazy things. Or, maybe he's just a convenient something I can blame for some of the things I say. I think Mickey might know what I'm talking about.

Me: So, any big plans for "Dances"?

Him: Yep! I plan to get up tomorrow morning, survive the day, and either report on it, or provide one of my occasional insightful, well balanced editorials about what's going on in the world. With any luck, I won't lose any more readers as a result. I do like my readers, I really do.