Saturday, December 31, 2005

Sieze the Day

... as the final hours of 2005 fade away, I envision myself slipping into my apartment just before midnight, taking off my work clothes, putting on a comfy pair of Joe Boxer fleece sweatpants and a Joe Boxer fleece sweatshirt, cracking a cold beer, and watching the movie Madagascar in the solitary comfort of my small apartment. There won't be any "Happy New Year" kisses at midnight, no drunken revelry, and no off key singing of "Auld Lang Syne". In fact, the only noise in this whole building will most likely be coming from "the bad neighbors"downstairs. Hell, I'm not even interested in watching the big ball drop in Times Square.
... I spent a lot of time reflecting on the first half of this decade during the past week. I stared out the foggy windows of local coffeehouses and let my mind meander from the past to the present, while stirring a mocha latte. Cruising down local highways, I let "road hypnosis" take me to the Millenium Celebration and back. I even donned layers of winter clothing and tramped down mucky trails that lay beneath bare trees and wound around semi-frozen lakes, hoping that the cold, fresh winter air would inspire crisp, clear thoughts about the New Year and the rest of this decade. The only things that came to me are that I will undoubtedly get fatter, my hair will become increasingly grey, and that gas prices will continue to rise. And all too soon, we will be saying "Happy New Year" again.
... I decided against taking a nostalgic look back at 2005, and the first five years of this decade, because I am more interested in the hope and promise of tomorrow than I am in the past. I can do something about tomorrow. Yesterday is gone forever. If I lived yesterday well, today is a good day. Living well today, makes tomorrow even better. This simple truth is the result of all my introspection and reflection and will, hopefully, guide me through the remaining years of this decade.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Looking backward, looking forward..

... it only takes a few short hours to shift our holiday focus from Christmas to the impending New Year. Traditionally, we spend the last week of the current year looking both backward and forward, simultaneously examining where we've been and what we accomplished while making plans for where we want to go and what we want to do, once we sleep off the champagne induced hangover on New Year's Day. The cycle of one year, while a significant marker, is a small amount of time. Sometimes, it's better to widen our perspective and look at the bigger picture. With the end of the first half of a decade in sight, the second half is about to begin, and it is this perspective which will frame my thinking this week.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Special Gift

... I went to visit my dad in the assisted living facility, a regular visit, intended soley to put a smile on his face and spread some holiday cheer. He was missing my mom as was to be expected, being the first Christmas in over a half century spent without her, but I saw a twinkle in his eye, and a smile, when I flicked the switch on the wall, lighting up the little Christmas tree. It was a nice visit and I left him reading a handful of cards that arrived from family and friends, and, anticipating a visit from Pastor Dave the next afternoon. I got a little surprise as I shut the door and headed down the hallway toward the elevator. Coming straight toward me, fully cushioned and fat, dressed in bright red with a long, snow white beard, a loaded bag slung over his shoulder, was - Santa Claus!!
... I stopped walking and stared, speechless for a minute, as he and his "helper" got closer before my "inner child" took over. "Well, Merry Christmas!" I announced. I was greeted by a throaty "Ho!Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to you!" as the pair passed and rushed down the stairwell at the end of the hall.
... as the elevator door opened on the main floor, I was greeted by the song "Santa Claus Is Coming ToTown", being beat out on an old piano in the style of an elementary school musical. There, in the facility's cafeteria, was my Santa, surrounded mostly by elderly women in wheelchairs or walkers, all chiming in with the music and receiving tiny packages with a candy cane attached to a red bow. Every one of them was smiling and happy for the moment, all their aches and pains forgotten in this magic second. I felt invisible, like the Ghost of Christmas Present, as I stood watching the event at the window, lost in the moment as well.
... Driving home, I realized that I had just received a very special gift from Santa.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dear Slumlord;

Please do not leave threatening, misspelled messages in public places. Keep the homeless dude out of the dumpster as he throws garbage out while collecting returnable cans and bottles. My rent pays your salary and there are apartments across the street that I can rent from. Get back to work and plow the damn parking lot!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

heaven

..I watched the Barbara Walter's special, "Heaven: Where is it? How do we get there?" on Thursday night. It was entertaining and cute, in a "bubblegum for the mind" sort of way, with its exploitation of celebrities like Richard Gere, Elizabeth Taylor, and the Dali Lama. It was also
disturbing in depictions of extremism on the sides of Christian and Islamic viewpoints. The "science", took the fun out of it all with an explanation of the "heaven gene" and "dying brain syndrome". Throughout the program, I found myself listening to John Lennon's "Imagine", on the MP3 player in my mind.
... the show didn't teach me anything new and I doubt it intended to do so. The pervasive message seemed to be "lead a good life here to experience heaven on earth," or beyond. And it did so in almost a "gonna find out who's naughty or nice" kind of way, perfectly appropriate for a show airing only five days before Christmas. The show did, however, reinforce some beliefs I have held for a very long time.
...the first of these beliefs is that religion and politics are inseparabley linked and always a source of trouble. A brief clip showed some Evangelical teens praying in what appeared to be something more like a "voodoo trance" than any Christian service I have ever attended. These youth were taught to express religious fervor in such a manner, no less indoctrinated than a failed Palestinian suicide bomber held in an Israeli prison. Sadly, both are victims of errant religious instruction. With several references to Armageddon and Revelations, I was left believing that if such a final confrontation does occur, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy more than a fulfillment of a promise from God.
... next, cultural bias plays a tremendous role in one's religious belief. Is it any wonder that desert dwelling people perceive heaven as having an abundant water supply and lush gardens? Native Americans described the "happy hunting grounds" as a place where the spirits of warriors hunted the spirits of animals. A universal belief is that heaven is full of peace and tranquility, food and feasts, and our family and friends. What we lack or long for, in order to thrive on earth, is abundant in heaven. Conversely, what we fear and loath is always present in hell - fire, famine, disease, and pestilence.
... third, I am convinced that there will always be someone eager to stand up and say that they know what God wants, that they have a clearer idea of "The Creator's" master plan and the road to heaven than others do. Most of the time, such people will go the way of Aimee Semple McPherson, Jim Baker, or Jimmy Swaggart.
... finally, the last bastion for all religious discussion, or dispute, will invariably be faith. At its best, faith is both hope and trust. At its worst, faith is a circumvention of logic and intelligence, too often used in a manner akin to "Because I said so!"
... I much prefer a simpler view of creationism such as depicted in a recently discovered ancient Mayan mural buried for thousands of years in Guatemala. The mural simply shows a fish to represent the water world, a turkey representing the air world, and the Corn God, offering an ear of corn to umans so they may eat and flourish here on earth.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

God's Tool (In The Shed)

Pope Benedict XVI complained this week that Christmas festivities have been "subjected to a sort of commercial pollution."



...uh, ya think? Right on top of things ...

Monday, December 12, 2005

A2 Hipsters

Bouncing from here to here to here, it landed here, where it was pimped, polished, and shined like the fine ride it is. In the end, I ended up subtracting multiple 5 point blocks for being too old to be considered "hip". That's one fact that will never change, regardless of how many "vegetarian supreme's" I eat at Big 10 Burrito, how many band flyers I tape to the street light posts on Liberty between Division and State Streets, or how many Red Wings I pound at Leopold Brothers. It's alright though, I'm just as comfortable popping in for a "Homewrecker" at Moe's Southwest Grill in the Colonade or an Old Detroit at Old(e) Town(e).
... the modified quiz actually reminded me of a painting that once graced the walls of "the now extinct" tavern, The One Eyed Moose, on Main Street. The painting originally hung in The Pretzel Bell, according to the owner, and was painted in the early '20's by a U of M art student. The center of this work of art was a globe, positioned to highlight an exaggerated Michigan, a maize and blue flag marking a very exaggerated Ann Arbor. Could it possibly be the origin of this locally popular world view, or, does it only reflect how firmly entrenched this concept is? The artist manipulated the viewers eye, moving it in a clockwise circle to a variety of timeless scenarios in which life in Ann Arbor and life at U of M collided and merged. One sees football players, in barely recognizable (and barely padded) uniforms receiving long passes and hockey players executing shots on goal. There is a young, almost Rockwell-esque, couple, kissing on a park bench in autumn as a squirrel scampers away with an acorn. A favorite scene depicts a bleary eyed young man, dressed in a suit considered "hip" for the era, raising an icey mug of draft beer with his right hand and waving a smoldering cigar with the left. Any one of the carefully painted scenes is still recognizable in town today, as long as you take changes in fashion and technology into account. I truly believe that this quality of timelessness was part of the artist's original idea as he stood in front of a blank canvas, paintbrush in hand.
...with that in mind, I remind everyone that "hip" is all too often passing and fickle. True style, classic and timeless, is much more difficult to identify and far more fulfilling. In support of my theory, I leave you with THIS
and the song "Come On A My House" by
Rosemary Clooney (1951).

Friday, December 09, 2005

Thermal Underwear, Doc Marten boots, Sweatshirts, and Carhartt



... as I watched the news last night, I knew that I had to visit my "super secret
hiding place" in the morning. I gathered together a pile of "winter" clothing and
set it out on the dresser in preparation. Listening to the snowplows clearing the road, and salt trucks spreading their precious cargo, I grabbed thermal
underwear, thermal undershirts, hunting socks, sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and a pair of oversized Carhartt work jeans from a drawer and the closet. From the back corner of that closet, I pulled out a pair of waterproof Doc Marten" boots. When I finally went to sleep, the snow was beginning to pile up.
...early in the morning, I drank a cup of coffee as I layered on the clothing I set
out a few short hours prior. It looked like something from a Christmas card outside,
everything buried beneath six inches of pure white powdery snow. I was already
sweating when I exited the front door and made my way to the truck, also buried
under a cold white layer. I opened the door, started the engine, grabbed a pair of
gloves, and began to brush away the powder. While the roads were passable, the
parking lot had not been plowed and I wondered if I would have trouble getting out
of my parking space. Finally clear and warm, I put the truck in gear and inched
slowly out to the street.
... it took only a few minutes to get to my destination, a parking lot beside one of
those $1.00 car washes. The lot is owned by the Post Office and used by one or two employees when the main lot is full. I pulled in, heading to the far end. I felt like a little kid searching for "pirate's treasure" as I looked for the marker I put
in place last spring, the "X marks the spot" on a treasure map. I found it easily,
pulled up close, and found what I was looking for. Underneath the fresh snow were 6 bags of "tube sand" that I quickly threw into the bed of my truck. Having no place to store these winter essentials, I counted on nobody finding the bags during the summer, or, if they were discovered, nobody having the energy to move the 360 pounds of sand that keeps my truck from sliding off the road in January. And I was right!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Goldfish?



... when all of the breeder tanks in my fishroom began leaking, I narrowly avoided a costly water disaster and was grateful for my good fortune (and for the good fortune of the people who live below me!). I disposed of the defective tanks, packed the equipment away for storage, and abandoned my plans for breeding Discus. The fish all went into the 90 gallon show tank in my livingroom.
...although it didn't house any fish, I didn't empty the second 90 gallon tank that sits in my office. Instead, I kept the filters running so the water wouldn't stagnate and I disconnected the heater. The only maintenence chores performed was to replace water lost to evaporation. I considered selling the tank but decided against it.
... the other day, I had a craving for Chinese food and I headed over to Weng's
Kitchen
for some of the best pork fried rice and egg drop/wonton soup there is. I placed my order and was waiting patiently at the counter when I noticed a little 10 gallon aquarium sitting on the counter. Inside, two little goldfish hovered by a plastic plant that was half buried in blue gravel. Mrs. Weng handed me the bag of food and saw that I was looking at the fish. She dropped a pinch of flake food into the tank and smiled. "Goldfish bring good luck!" she said.
... the next day I stopped in to see the little fat girl who works in my favorite fish store. "Goldfish?", she asked, scrunching up her face in both curiousity and disdain. We walked to a bank of tanks and she began pointing out the strains and color variations. These fish weren't the old fashioned fish I carried home in a plastic bag after knocking down three milkcans with a softball at the school fair. These were fat, round colorful fish with flowing fins, bulging eyes, and warty growths called "hoods" on their heads. "These are the adults," she told me. "They're about $75 each." My jaw dropped and we moved down a couple of tanks to the smaller fish. "The young ones are a lot cheaper!"
... I spent less than $30 and walked out with a variety of fish,including "telescope eyed black moors", red cap orandas, calico orandas, and "pearlscale orandas". After a week in my tank, they're gobbling down food, "waddling" through the water, and I swear that I see some growth already. I catch myself watching them cavort as I write and, best of all, I can continue to enjoy the 50% reduction in my electricity bill as they don't require anything more than
room temperature water. I keep thinking about Mrs. Weng's comment about goldfish bringing good luck. I sure hope it is true!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fire Millen


OUTRAGEOUS! It's the only way to describe the shenanigans taking place at Ford Field on Sunday when a fan got tackled for displaying a "Fire Millen" sign while the Detroit Lions continued to SUCK at Ford Field on Sunday afternoon.
... for Detroit fans, watching the Lions lose is as much a part of the Thanksgiving
tradition as turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. While Channel 7 Action News continues to tout the "Countdown To The Superbowl", my uncle, from Oregon, teases me with, "Well, it doesn't appear as if the hometeam is going to make it!" With other top notch, championship teams like the Pistons and Red Wings calling Detroit home and drawing crowds, I'm fed up with the Lions. And as Detroiter's, our best recourse is to stop attending the games, stop watching the games on television, and definitely, stop buying Lion's merchandise. Let's face facts, if the staff in any other business performed as poorly as the Lion's have, upper management would be quick to hold their subordinate managers accountable and demand results. Why is this not the case in this instance. And why does it take a couple of disgruntled fans waving banners to bring this into the public eye? Pretty soon, the security guards at Ford Field, who overreacted and are guilty of assault and
battery, won't have any fans to worry about at all. The stands will be empty.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Holiday Season is upon us

...tonight at 8 p.m., Channel 7 will be broadcasting an animated Christmas Classic, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". That's the one with the misfit elf who wants to be a dentist, an Abominable Snowman with a toothache, and Burl Ives' voice belting out, "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!", as a singing Snowman. The special is as much a part of America's national "television identity" as "I Love Lucy".
...I was a little kid when this program first aired, 4 or 5 years old at best, and viewing it always heightened the excitement of the holiday season and the anticipation of a visit by Santa Claus. By the time it aired, Dad was finished stringing lights on the gutters and downspouts, and enjoying a cold beer in his easy chair, just like all the other dads on the block. The Christmas tree was in the livingroom, filling the house with a fresh pine aroma.
...while we kids were at school, Mom was busy putting the lights on the tree, a task
accomplished quicker and easier without young ones around. She would turn on the lights just long enough to test for burnt out bulbs and to make certain that all the "bubble lights" really bubbled. When Mom was satisfied, she'd set up a nativity scene on a sheet of cottony material that looked like snow, at least to a 5 year old boy. Next there was a snow covered church with a tiny light bulb inside that made the windows glow red. In front of this church, tiny novelty candles shaped like pine trees, carolers, musicians, gas powered street lamps, and even a snowman made a cheery holiday scene.
...we hung ornaments on the tree after dinner. At that time, my favorites always went on the lower branches because I couldn't reach the higher ones. My sister and brother carefully filled those spaces. Finally, when we were content, Mom would appear with two special boxes that looked like they held treasure inside. Dad would always chuckle when we reached this part of the tree trimming. The first box, tall and white, held "The Angel". Originally a wedding present, this angel is forever etched in my memory. It looked something like Glinda, the "Good Witch Of The North" from the movie, The Wizard of Oz but with a "holier" or more "saintly" appearance. It was sheer joy when The Angel got plugged in and lit up! The second special box was much smaller, it opened like a ring box, but was three times as big. Inside was a delicate, hand blown, glass teapot. Also a wedding gift, the teapot was painted with delicate white snowflakes and I can not remember a Christmas at home when it was not displayed in a prominent position on our tree. Once The Angel and The Teapot were in place, the lights were flicked on amidst excited gleeful screams and we threw the silver tinsel onto each branch. What excitement it was!
... in anticipation of "bedtime", we would all snuggle up on the couch and tune the black and white television on to Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. I'd get scared by the mean, old Abominable Snowman and cuddle closer to whomever was nearest. By the time that the misfit elf removed his bad tooth, I'd already be half asleep. Maybe tonight I'll tune in to the colorized and digitally remastered version - just for old times sake.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Truckbed Treasures


... I've never owned a car, only pickup trucks. In fact, this is the third pickup that I've owned. Over the years I've come to accept the fact that people will always throw things in the bed of a truck, using it as a trash can, especially if a real trash receptacle is not nearby. I've discovered that some
will even pick up litter off the street and deposit it in the truckbed, thinking that
I will not toss it back where it came from. They're usually correct, I will most likely dispose of it properly. From empty bottles and cans to paper coffee cups,
plastic bags, and empty boxes, I've found a lot of things rolling and rattling
around back there as I drive around. I've decided, in the spirit of Found Photos, to begin
documenting my "truckbed treasures" here on Ten Megabytes. Here
is a little trinket I found while cleaning snow off the windshield yesterday morning.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Complying...


... I don't have a porch but if I did ...

The Observer arrived...


...and just in time, too! The bird is going thru this messy "nesting mode" thing and is chewing up the newspaper on the bottom of the cage. With the arrival of December's Ann Arbor Observer, I have enough material for at least two more cage cleanings. Gimme a friggin' break - like Zingerman's needs anymore free advertising in this town.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I get a phone call ...

... every day or so from a debt collection agency located in Texas. The phone rings, my answering machine picks up, and a recorded message begins. "This is not a sales call. Please call Pentagram Kay at 1-800-****." Even when I pick up the receiver, I get this recorded message, never a human being to talk to.
... I don't have any outstanding debt so they really have no reason to be calling me. They agency is looking for someone named "Eddy Something-or-Other". I got a phone call last spring asking for him. "No one by that name lives here," I told the woman on the other end of the line. I got a second call a few months later from the same woman and I repeated it for her, "No one by that name lives here nor has ever lived here!" A little while later these phone calls started coming in.
...I read some information on debt collection harassment and could call and force these people to stop calling me but I just can't see putting any energy or effort into this. I'm usually at work when the phone call comes and I don't mind coming home, finding the message, and promptly deleting it. In fact, it's kind of satisfying, in a strange way. Whatever this "Eddy So-and-So" got away with, I hope he's enjoying it. I wonder if it's bad karma to wish herpes on the woman who put me on that call list?

Monday, November 28, 2005

1% Inspiration

... I wasn't one of those "shopping fools" that made the news this past weekend.
No, I wasn't standing in line in front of Walmart, Best Buy, Circuit City, or
CompUSA at 5 o'clock in the morning on Friday. My credit card stayed in my wallet. I let other people fuel the national economy and rack up even more consumer debt. In mid December, when the credit card bills and the utility bill arrive in the mailbox on the same day, I won't be the one sweating.
... my intent was to slip quietly and peacefully through this holiday weekend. I
planned on nothing more than working my regularly scheduled shifts, an "after work"
beer, and returning to the comfort of my cozy little apartment. This may sound a
little boring but something came out of it - something incredible, actually.
... I was relaxing in the livingroom with a CD playing softly in the background, my feet propped up on the coffee table. Grabbing a book that I bought last month at Borders, The Animator's Survival Kit,I started to study, reviewing the chapters I already finished, and moving on to fresh subject matter, until I grew a little sleepy. I put my head back and closed my eyes and that's when the incredible magic happened. A white screen appeared in my "mind's eye" and a simple line drawing "character" faded in. The character began to dance on that screen, making repetitive moves and gestures with his head, body, arms, and legs, in sync with the music I was listening to. I opened my eyes again, grabbed a sketchbook and a pencil, and quickly recorded what I had just visualized on a page of the sketchbook. In a matter of about 5 minutes, I had 6 sketches that will evolve into key frames for a cartoon that's been in my mind for a while now. It was another "Aha!" moment where ones subconcious and concious mind meet and produce.
... I believe it was Thomas Edison that said, "Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." I experienced the 1% inspiration in that sleepy vision and am now in the process of doing the actual hard work required to produce the physical cartoon. When I am done, I promise to post it here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Leftovers

... the first time I woke up today, the clock read 3:44 a.m. I seriously considered
staying up, making some coffee, firing up the laptop, and going online. Instead,
I crawled back under a mountain of warm quilts and went back to sleep. At 8
o'clock, I opened my eyes to a strange phenomenon, a brightly lit bedroom. The
sun was actually shining (through a few scattered clouds) and the sky was blue!
...my resolve is strong today and I am determined to tackle the growing list of chores that I've been ignoring all week. The first load of laundry is in the washer already. I'm ready to take two trash bags to the dumpster and go to the carwash for more quarters to finish the washing. The sink is empty, no dirty dishes hanging around, and I don't even to cook - just heat up the leftovers and make a sandwich. Both "winterizing" the windows and taking care of the aquariums are both very reachable goals for the afternoon.
... I'm thanking God that I'm not working at the mall right now. I remember the year that I did work there at Christmas and how it completely ruined my holiday season. It was an absolutely miserable experience that showed me the most evil side of the holiday. While Christmas songs heralding the birth of Jesus rang out in the background, greedy shoppers literally fought over merchandise, parking spots, and even their space in line to visit Santa Claus. In the quest to create "the perfect Christmas" for one's own family too often overrides civilized and polite behavior - especially at a "50% Off Sale" on Christmas Eve.
...I'm giving up on the OurMedia Publishing Tool for uploading any large video files for use on this site. I had the same trouble that other users complained about with this uploader tool. Once installed, it never loaded. The publishing tool's creator posted a set of instructions that would supposedly fix the problem. After carefully following these instructions, the tool would still not load. Instead, I went to Creative Commons to download and install their tool. It loaded right away and although I haven't published anything, it appears to work just like the Our Media tool did the first (and only) time it loaded. Perhaps this will now motivate me to produce some "meatier" video posts.
... I made my December calendar and it is hanging on the corkboard by my desk. The important dates, appointments, and "due dates" are noted and new things can be penciled in. It looks like a very busy month from start to finish. Better hang on to my hat (and gloves)!!
...I checked the "Who Links to Me" link at the bottom of this page and was surprised to see that my blog is linked to a couple of online gambling/casino sites. I am going to defeat the purpose right now and clearly state DO NOT GAMBLE ONLINE. If you want to play slots, blackjack, or poker, go to your favorite casino - the real world ones, not this online "virtual casino" crap.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Waking up ...


... and looking out the window, I see that winter has officially arrived! There's a
white blanket of snow covering the trees, lawns, and roads. And now, it really does feel like the "holiday season" is here.
... realistically, the snow that fell last night is just a dusting. A whole lot more will fall and accumulate over the next four months. Today, I love it like only a true "born and bred Northerner" can.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Silly List

First Grade Teacher's Name? Ms. Kleinman
Last Words You Said: "Have a Happy Thanksgiving!"
Last Song You Sang? "Quiero Saber de Ti"
Last Person You Hugged? Alicia Muser ! Yeah, Baby!
Last Thing You Laughed At? My bird doing acrobatics
Last Time You Said 'I Love You' And Meant It? To my dad today
Last Time You Cried? Today, thinking about my mom's funeral.
What's In Your CD Player? 5 CD's including: The Rolling Stones, Latin Pop Hits, and some homemade mix CD's
What Color Socks Are You Wearing? Two pairs - a white pair underneath a pair of gray boot/hunting socks.
What's Under Your Bed? A board.
What Time Did You Wake Up Today? 11 a.m.
Current Taste? Pumpkin pie
Current Hair? same as always, more grey
Current Clothes? Levi's and a thermal undershirt (long sleeve)
Current Annoyance? The new sidework chart at work
Current Longing? To get a call for an interview from the company I sent a resume to recently
Current Desktop Picture? A mural from a train tressel downtown
Current Worry(ies) Making rent and car payments
Current Hate? "Latino Night" at the club downtown
Favorite Physical Feature Of The Opposite Sex? Tits and Ass
Last CD You Bought? 30 CD R's! LOL!
Favorite Place To Be? The lake on a hot August afternoon
Least Favorite Place? DUH! A No-Brainer, there.
Time You Wake Up In The Morning? Usually around 8:00 a.m. if I get to sleep before 5 a.m.
Favorite Color? Blue
Do You Believe In An Afterlife? Nope
How Tall Are You? 6' 1"
Current Favorite Word/Saying? Orale, vatos!
Favorite Season? Autumn
One Person From Your Past You Wish You Could Go Back And Talk To: A couple really, Rockwell, Jeff H., Andy L.
Favorite Day? My Day Off
Where Would You Like To Go? Brazil
What Is Your Career Going To Be Like? Short and sweet
How Many Kids Do You Want? None
Favorite Car? No cars, TRUCKS!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

There's a Hair in The Soup

After 20 years in the business, I thought I'd seen it all. In fact, I was certain that nothing a customer could do would surprise me ever again. I was wrong. I was actually astounded on Saturday night.
The last home football game of the season is always between two arch rivals and is the biggest homegame of the year. The customers began flooding in and it didn't slow down. The hostesses used a "wait list" for over 2 1/2 hours and the manager finally cut the floor around 9:30 p.m. I took the first new table in my section and was delivering their salads when the surprising incident occurred.
On the other side of the diningroom, our manager was talking with a customer, a man about 45 years old. The man's wife and young son listened in on their conversation. The man suddenly stood up, his wife reached out to stop him, and our manager stepped back. The guy turned toward the other tables, and in a very loud voice, began an obnoxious and embarassing speech.
"I want you all to know that I just had dinner with my family," he began, "and
I found a long blonde hair in my food." He gestures with his hands to show the length of the hair he found. "I'm not the type to complain but..."
Before I go any further, I have to fill in a few relevant details. First, their server is definitely not a blonde. In fact, not one of the waitstaff working that night was a blonde. Our entire kitchen is "latino". They sport flat-top fade brush cuts, hidden beneath bandana's and turned back ball caps. The man's wife, however, did have blonde hair that reached the middle of her back. His son was rolling his eyes as his dad went on.
"I really feel that my entire bill should be free," he announced. "And this guy
only wants to take my dinner off the bill. This is the worst example of customer
service I've ever seen and this manager is incompetent." He flashes a glance at the
boss. "I have about 350 friends and business associates that I'm going to tell about
this and none of them will ever come here again."
When he first began his speech, a few people leaned out of the booths, curious to see what was going on. Between the background music and the normal diningroom
din, most could not hear what he was saying and thought that he was announcing a
birthday. They quickly rejoined their conversations and paid no attention to this guy. Fortunately, the two closest tables were "regulars", affectionately nicknamed "The Horse People" because they run a horse breeding and boarding farm a few miles outside of town. One of "The Horse People" retorted, "I eat here all the time! The food is always great and the service is excellent!" From the corner, another regular customer chimes in, "Cut him off!"
"Enjoy your hair food!" the man bellows as he finally surrenders his debit card to the manager. The family mills around the table while being cashed out and both the wife and son are trying to hide their faces. He signs the receipt and is escorted to the door.
As the table is being cleared, I notice that they've left three carryout boxes on the table. I quickly collect them and put them in a bag. I walk up to "The Horse People" and ask if they still have Wilbur, a pig they've been growing out for sometime now. "We sure do!", the lady responds. I present her with the bag of food, telling her that Wilbur's dinner is "on the house" tonight. Waste not, want not.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Sketchy Public Service Announcement



*No animals were injured while creating this video*

Friday, November 18, 2005

Panhandling, Homeless, and Hustling

It was extemely cold yesterday, windy and snowing also. Restless, and
unwilling to fire up the furnace in my apartment, I threw on about 5 layers of
clothes, including my thermal underwear "union suit", and headed downtown.
Intent on walking around, taking pictures and filming, I got on the Transportation
Authority bus, paid my one dollar fare, and was on my way.
The bus was warm and I engaged in a pleasant conversation with another passenger during the ride. We parted company at the Transit Center, heading
off in different directions. I walked two blocks to Main Street, drinking
in the sights, thinking about the camera in my pocket and what I was going to
photograph. My stomach was beginning to growl and, out of habit,
I had a craving for a Fleetwood Diner cheeseburger. And then "it" happened,
right at the crosswalk at Main and Liberty.
"Hey Mister!", I heard a voice call out. I cringed, instinctively knowing what
was coming next. "Got any spare change, dude?"
Looking to my left, I see a guy, about 27 years old, dressed as normally as
anyone else on the street, with his hand out. "I just need a buck or two," he
throws in, as if that's going to make it easier. Just last month, I wrote about a scary experience when I felt threatened by a panhandler in nearly the exact same location. In fact, according to a local paper's monthly "Crime Map", this is the same location where numerous robberies, including daring daylight capers, have been happening over an extended period of time. Quickly and abruptly, I brush past the guy and am at the Fleetwood in two minutes.
While Elvis is cooking my burger, I start to think about this experience and to
discuss it with my waitress friend, Nola. We're both "streetwise townies" and it's
something that has hardened us to the growing panhandling situation in town. We know a lot of the "real" street people that are out there. We know them by name.
We know a little bit about their histories. We know where they hang out and the
games they run. And, we know their vices.
"Mary" is the Queen of the street people. She's been around forever and is
well known to everyone, including the police. I know her real name, that she is in her 60's, and that she's turned down offers that would get her off the street. She carries her belongings in plastic bags and when those bags get full, she fills a shopping cart with those bags. When one shopping cart is full, she fills another. When the second shopping cart is full, the police confiscate it. The contents end up in the dumpster behind the police station. Losing her precious boxes and newspapers infuriates Mary and she is always ready with a scalding "Anti-Law Enforcement" tirade after such an incident. That's when I know to avoid her.
There's "Danny", who, at one point in his life, was well on the way to collecting a pension from the local school system after spending more than 10 years as a janitor. He was pretty normal until his mother died. He lost his family, his home, and his job, hitting the streets with a bottle of hard liquour and a taste for crack cocaine. I saw Danny sprawled out on the Diag this summer and, after a short conversation, I gave him $5. He dissappeared into the liquor store with one of his street buddies as I watched from a distance.
In a west side park, carefully concealed beneath a tall, steep set of stairs, there's a old mattress, some filthy blankets, and plastic sheets to stop the rain. It looks like a kid's "fort" but it is home, at least for most of the year, to "Eddie", a guy that "Mary" helps and looks out for. Every morning at 6:30 a.m., Eddie sits through the required Bible reading, and then gets hot oatmeal, toast, coffee, and orange juice for breakfast at the Presbyterian food kitchen. Eddie earns extra cash by hustling. He very subtley let's people know that he'll "fall from grace" for a few bucks, meaning that he'll masturbate in front of you. For a few more bucks, he'll allow you "to fall from grace", meaning he'll let you do it for him. I've seen him run that game on a few desperate old gay men more than once. I guess all the Bible readings have taught him something.
The names and descriptions and descriptions could continue - "Moose" and the posse of teenage runaway boys he pimps out, the "Liberty Plaza Crackheads", eating out of the dumpster to envoke sympathy from tourists, "Nitrous John", and "Junkyard Johnny". I've met more than I care to admit. So when the normal looking 27 year old hit me up and I brushed him off, I don't think that I was being callous and uncaring at all. I was saving myself from inviting any more sadness and misery into my life. Maybe the next time, I'll spring for some hot food and coffee, set up my little video camera, and record an interview.
The attached picture is a quick sketch I did of Mary, without her knowing, in the Fleetwood a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wednesday Links

I don't usually like to send people away from my page but, in the interest of service to my readers and "blog-ma", I have decided to provide a few links to other blogs that I've come across.
This first link is to "River Rant", a blog coming out of Dexter, Michigan. Keep that fact in mind while you're reading. The writing style is unique and he reminds me of someone that I met over a few cold ones at Dexter's Pub. If I showed his picture to my friend, Lisa, she'd most likely say that she went to high school with him or something. This guy doesn't like Kwami Kilpatrick, Geoffrey Feiger, or cats, so he can't be all bad. His major fault is admitting that he went to Michigan State.

The second link today is to "So, Cat Tacos?", an art blog with some really cool illustrations. Check it out if you like to draw.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sketchy Lessons

Apparently, our world is in desperate need of some help. I can provide that help, so let the file download!

Monday, November 14, 2005


Sweatshirts, Jalapenos, lasagna, and traffic lights ...

... I purchased a sweatshirt from Ourmedia.org this weekend. It's a white hoodie that has the Ourmedia logo on the front and says "Join the citizens media revolution" on the back. It was a bit expensive but I believe in the site's purpose and future and wanted them to benefit. It was just my way of contributing for the services they provide. I really want to see Ourmedia succeed.
... I've never met an American president.
... I've met a few celebrities though. My "life list" includes Bob Hope, Barbara Eden, James Taylor, and Madonna.
... this weekend was really busy at work and I earned good money. With one more "home game" left in the season we exit "football Saturdays" and head into the "holiday rush".
...all three of the latest (new) servers have now quit. The latest, "K", called up last night from home, after her shift, and said she wasn't coming back - ever. "K" was the best of all three but once she was on her own and it got busy, she started to make mistakes and have problems. The job only looks easy. It isn't. I'm the only "waiter", again. The rest of the staff is all female. Furthermore, I'm the only male that has lasted in this environment. Scott (another "newbie") quit when he found out that it wasn't just "quick and easy cash" and that skill and knowledge were required.
... tips on Friday and Saturday nights average between 15% and 20%. On Sundays they always are around 11%. Why the difference? Moreover, why do I continue to work Sundays?
... I'm planning on having lasagna for my Thanksgiving dinner. Am I a good Italian boy, or what?
... I eat at least one Jalapeno chilipepper a day and have done so for a long time. This past summer, I didn't get one mosquito bite while in the woods or at the beach. Even those big blackdeerflies never attacked me. Who needs chemical insect repellants?
... I always want to bitch slap the driver who sits at the intersection and fails to notice that the traffic light has changed from red to green. The force of the slap should be in direct proportion to the length of time before he notices the change.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday Moanin' -- A Cumulative Post

...I've got things to do today before I go to work but there's lots on my mind. I'll keep adding to this post with bits and pieces as the day wears on. Let's start with this for fun.



... Here's my opinion :


... fast food places always piss me off. I hate this chain's advertisements and
think that their new campaign is absolutely ruthless. How 'bout a little truth in advertising for a change of pace.



...The train tressels near town always seem to attract "taggers" that leave the cement walls messed up with obscenities. In the warmer weather, artists can go get a permit at City Hall and paint over them. The city even provides the paint free, you just have to go pick it up from the recycle center. Have a look:





...have a fun and safe weekend everybody! Drive Right!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'm enjoying a little fantasy this week...

...and, believe it or not, the fantasy is about work ! Is that
sick or what?!!
I nearly fell out of my chair when I stumbled across a job
listing in the classified section of the Sunday edition of the
local news. It is my "dream job" and when I read the ad, I
realized that I possess all the qualifications the employer is
looking for. I have the exact educational background
required, the managerial, administrative, and customer
service experience necessary, I am familiar with their
products, having used them in a previous work environment,
and (a very important point here) I am bilingual in both
Spanish and Portuguese, an essential skill for dealing with
the company's Latin American clients. The home office is
a short, easy commute and I am available for occasional
travel in Latin America to meet with clients. Immediately,
I wrote out a cover letter, printed my updated resume, found
an envelope and stamp, and mailed my documents to the
human resources contact in the ad.
Prior job hunting experience tells me that it takes a little
time for the ball to start rolling in situations like this. My
documents need to arrive, and, along with those coming from
other applicants, they needed to be reviewed and evaluated.
Then, there is the first, and hopefully, second, interview, the
decision making process, and the notification. I suspect that
the company plans to fill the position at the start of January.
And that is exactly why I am indulging in the "fantasy" part
of this whole experience right now. In all honesty, I can not
imagine that many people have better qualifications for the
job than I do, especially because of the languages required.
While at the sink, washing my dinner dishes, I see myself
going thru security at the local airport and boarding a plane
headed to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a week. I snap a
few pictures from the airplane window as we pass over
the Amazon Basin on the way there and the snow capped
peaks of the Andes Mountains on the way back. I imagine
the frigid February days when the temperature fights to hit
zero degrees and a week of meetings in tropical and warm
San Juan, Puerto Rico. I see myself posting to this blog
from a hotel room in Mexico. What the heck, they say that
visualization is the first step toward actualization, eh?

Friday, November 04, 2005

A special gift for a friend ...

...will occupy some of my spare time this weekend. I want to get it ready
to take to the post office on Monday morning.
I am sending a CD that I downloaded and burned to a disc. It's mostly
Latin music, reggaeton and bachata's, with a cumbia and a mambo thrown
in to break things up. Other friends have listened to it and think it's a good
mix.
There's something else special about this CD though - the jewel case.
Recently, one of those "expensive ISP's" sent me a disc containing the
latest version of their software and a "10,000 hours free no risk trial". I
believe you know which ISP I am refering to. Anyway, having been burnt
once by that company's fine print and disclaimers, their CD went into the
trash. I kept the jewel case though. As much as I dislike this ISP, I have
to say that they send out the coolest jewel cases ever. This particular
one easily splits up into three plastic pieces so their advertising inserts
can be removed. Snapping the whole thing back together is, well - a snap!
The inserts got scanned into my photo editing program as templates for
the linernotes that I am personalizing.
The friend receiving this gift is living down in Cocoa Beach, Florida and
has been there for a couple of years now. He was a good friend, neighbor,
and constant companion before his departure. Regardless of how necessary
the move was, I was sad to see him leave. So far the linernotes look pretty
good as I try to design the accompanying booklet just as if it came with a
"real" CD. I have more than enough photographs of familiar faces and places
and faces to make it really personal and something that my friend will enjoy
looking at and keeping.
Everyone enjoys getting a little surprise in the mail every now and then, but
I noticed, as I started putting the project together, that I am enjoying the act
of "putting it together" also. It's amusing to look at those pictures, to use them,
and remember good times with my buddy. And the music isn't bad either!!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I'm getting so "trendy"...

...good Thursday morning! In my usual a.m. "mood to write" mode I've decided to comment on my own blog. I checked on the "monetary value" of this site and was shocked to find out it isn't worth a damn thing. The official "html proclamation" of worth has been added to the template, forever changing the face of "Ten Megabytes".
Did you also notice the ClustrMap? I am now read "Internationally"! To my BlogFan in Brazil :

"Muito Prazer! Bem Vindo! Espero que voce chega a ler muitas veces mais!"

You see, I can write in either Portuguese, Spanish, or English. I choose to write in English, however, because there are Canadians reading this blog as well.

See you all later this afternoon!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It's becoming "trendy"...

...for many retailers to hand out a magnetic stripped, plastic
"discount card" for use in their establishments. The businesses call them
"Rewards cards", "Plus Cards", "Bonus cards", or "Loyalty cards". I call them
a privacy invading nuisance.
My local grocer uses such a card and made it essential for the shopper to
sign up for one. The card found a home in my wallet, right next to my driver's
license, my credit card, and my bankcard. Now the gas station down the street
has their version of this card. So does the butcher, the baker, and candlestick
maker. Shheeeesh, my wallet is getting thicker by the hour.
I went to lunch the other day and the cashier's first question was, "Do you have
your Biggie Burrito card today?"
"I seem to have forgotten it", I admitted, almost ashamed of my lack of planning.
"Too bad!", the cashier lamented. "Your drink would have been free with it today."
She was almost scolding me!
At the grocery store, signs touting the advantage of being a "Plus Shopper" are
everywhere. Items are advertised as "10 for $10" or "4 for $4" on every shelf. At
the checkout, you scan the card, scan the items, and the price is adjusted accordingly.
What's going on behind the scenes seems a whole lot more sinister.
Most people forget that they filled out an "application" for their card when they got
it. It asked for detailed information and I seriously doubt that the majority of shoppers
ever questioned why a grocery store would ever need information like that. They just
answered the questions, turned the application in, got the card, and went along their
merry way. This is especially true of the older shoppers.
It is called "Information Gathering". Someone entered all the information you
so generously provided into a database and the grocer now has it saved. And they
are using it. They know your address, quite possibly your phone number, your account
number, the day you shop, the time you shop, what you buy, and how you pay. It is
privacy invasion, pure and simple, and you agreed to it.
Honestly, the system has some merit and benefit to the consumer. It helps to control
inventories and in selling the freshest product possible. It helps in having the right number of
employees ready to serve you during the busiest hours. However, any such "Plus" or
"Bonus" program is designed to benefit the retailer, not the consumer. Furthermore, it is
the use of the gathered information that concerns me the most. For the sake of example,
let's say that on August 23, I purchased a Walt Disney, "Tarzan II" DVD because it was
on sale. A month later, my mailbox is being filled with junk mail containing offers from
Colombia House Records, every local or national video rental store, video
game specialty stores, and more. At the same time, my phone is ringing off the hook with
telemarketing calls from travel agencies wanting to offer me discount rates to DisneyWorld
in Florida. I thought that I signed up for the "do not call" list! Guess again! When I signed
up for that "Plus" card, my signature gave the grocer the right to sell my information
to other associated retailers and vendors. I signed away my right to privacy and my right
to eat dinner undisturbed in a single stroke of the pen.
I didn't sign up for a card at the gas station and don't intend to. "Do you have your
rewards card?", the cashier asks when I make a purchase. "You can save 2 cents per
gallon on gas right now!", she chirps. It confirms my suspicion that their gasoline, like most
of the products they sell, is overpriced. Down the street I pay 20 cents less per gallon and
keep my private information private.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"Forums", "Message Boards", or "Groups" ...

...caught my attention back when I still had "Webtv". The internet was "new"
to me and these were a fascinating way to communicate with people who shared
common interests in sports, hobbies, or fetishes. Much like a blog, publishing my
essays, photos, or art, and viewing what others
published, was interesting, educational, and entertaining. Somewhere along the
way, however, my opinion about these vehicles of communication changed and
I stopped frequenting them. I've pretty much deleted all my accounts on these
forums.
The change began after noticing the abundance of "trolls" and "flamers". Like
the legendary creature lurking under a bridge, the "trolls" would wait in gleeful
anticipation of a post or entry they could jump on and rip apart. It often got very
mean spirited and ugly. The same was true of the "flamers" but this type more
frequently attacked a specific target using the same tactics. Flamers seemed
to get more personal.
One group I frequented was dedicated to creative writing and contained essay,
prose, and more. It was created and hosted by a Florida woman using the screen
name, "Dreams and Chains". The group was flourishing with many new members
and contributors when "Dreams" was attacked by both the trolls and flamers. At
first she resisted taking the bait, but when the attacks became more frequent and more
personal, "Dreams" gave in and fought back. All too quickly, the group lost all its
solid content and was filled with rancid, hateful posts and membership dwindled.
"Dreams" thought that those attacks would be short lived but they eventually choked
the life out of her group. It was an formulated attack strategy I saw play out over and
over again.
I naively thought that, somehow, things would be different in the "computer world".
Recently, I "pulled the plug" on all the "hobbyist forums" I participated in, hitting the
"delete account" button on each one. I had the unpleasant experience of watching
the forum undergo a "coup", a power struggle for control that was planned and
executed from the forum administrator's basement. A psychotic housewife from a
backwoods Wisconsin town, she had her own agenda and stooped to unbelievable
depths to easily wrestle control out of the hands of an overburdened and apathetic
owner. She used many unscrupulous tactics in her plan. She was a convincing liar
with deceit, slander, and sabotage in her arsenal. The worst part of this was the fact
that she disrupted real lives when she actually met people at their homes, at club
meetings, or conventions when she traveled. The telephone and instant messaging
were among her favorite weapons. She seemed to have an "enemies list", targeting
members who would not go along with, or assist in, her nefarious plans for that forum,
one by one, causing them to leave. She would express public sadness at the departure
while taking secret delight in the success of her plan. To finalize her takeover plan, she
decided to "wipe the slate clean" and changed the web server, forcing everyone
to "re-register". A calculated move, many members never returned and she "grew" a
new membership.
This event touched me personally and when I deleted my account, I vowed that
I would never get involved in such a fiasco again. When using a forum to learn or
research a topic, I now "lurk" and never post. I use an e-mail address set up specifically
for forum membership purposes, I don't make "buddies". It's all very anonymous and
sterile.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Most Memorable Character...



"I love the friends I've gathered together on this thin raft!" crows Jim
Morrison, leader singer of the legendary rock group, The Doors. I feel
this way about my friend, Jorge Ilario.
We surround ourselves with all types of friends in this life, and fortunately
for me, Ilario is the wild and crazy type - a "cool" kind of wild and crazy though.
He's unpredictable. A week ago, I pulled into my usual parking spot and made
my way to the back entrance of my building. I heard a soft, "Pssst!" followed
by a familiar whistle coming from a bush on the pathway. I looked over, and
there Ilario was, squatting, low to the ground, on his knees. "Open the door!"
he instructed. Once the door was open, he darted past me, running up the
stairs to my apartment door. He tried to quiet me down, an impossible task
as tears were nearly running down my face from laughing so hard.
"She's after me!" he explained, "She's chasing me all over the place!"
I knew what he was talking about. A cute little blonde was circling the parking lot,
going the wrong way on a one way driveway. She almost hit my truck
"head on" while trying to catch him and spoil any plans he had for the rest of the
evening. He sought refuge in the bushes, waiting until I arrived. It's a typical
scene too.
Jorge is from Honduras, coming from a small and very poor pueblo outside
the capital. Without romanticizing poverty, those humble circumstances
contribute greatly to his perspective on life today. He appreciates what he
has accumulated and accomplished today and this makes me appreciate things
that I would ordinarily take for granted. We communicate in "Spanglish", one
sentence in English, the next in Spanish, and the next two in English again. It
works well for us and confuses others. A "latino identity" brings with it a certain
unique view on life and a part of that is a happiness, a joy, or appreciation of life
living, and of being alive. It is mostly easily witnessed in the vibrant latin music
and dance. It transcends the music and manifests itself in an energetic,
enthused approach to life. Again, I benefit from exposure to this perspective.
During this life, we will make many acquaintances. We will make far fewer
friends. I am pleased to be able to call Jorge Ilario my friend and hope he will
be a part of my life for a long time to come.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I thought that my first "restaurant" post...

...would be about "memorable" clients I've served over the years, but it's not. If
I were to send a postcard into PostSecret today, the words would be (in a big, bold
font) "Someone's Gonna Get Canned !" I know who, and why.
The fact is, that being a server isn't the easy, blow off job many consider it to
be. And all the waiters and waitresses out there are not the "shining examples of
hospitality" that they consider themselves to be. There are a lot of bad servers out
there. And one of them is about to get fired.
One of our "part time" servers who only works a couple of night shifts every week,
decided to have lunch in the restaurant with her mom and another guest. recently.
Their server was a relatively recent hire who works only weekday lunches. The two
servers would never have had the chance to meet, much less work together. I work
with the "night server" often and know how good she really is. We close the
restaurant together and make a very good team. In a private conversation recently,
Night Server" confided in me that the service was "poor at best" and she told me what
was lacking. I have no reason to doubt her.
"Night Server" was more interested in a pleasant lunch with than anything else and
she ignored the poor service in favor of the conversation. "Day Server" had
no clue that she was a fellow employee. When the meal ended, "Night Server's" mom
paid the bill with a credit card, the tip was left on the table, in cash. It's a fact that
servers usually turn the philosophy of "karma" into the philosophy of "tip-ma" and are
more generous than the average patron. But when "Night Server's" mother checked the
monthly credit card statement, she noticed that an additional $10 tip was added when
the check was closed out. There seems to be an integrity issue here.
The whole dilemna is about to discretely go to the restaurant owner along with the
supporting evidence, paperwork, and witness statements. It's going to set off all sorts
of bells, whistles, and sirens inside the owner's mind. Among the core staff, those of
us who have been around for a long time, we've already started a "pool", betting a
few of our hard earned tips on "Day Server's" termination date.

Friday, October 28, 2005

My doorbell doesn't ring...

...on Halloween so I am working all weekend instead. In all the years that
I've lived here, I have yet to get any ghouls or goblins begging for sweets
at my door. It's a shame actually. Some of the best memories of my youth
are of selecting a scarey costume, finding an old pillowcase, going
door-to-door with my cohorts, and coming home with enough candy to
last until December.
There are plenty of kids in the neighborhood. The first year that I lived
here, I bought a couple of bags of the good miniature candybars . It
was the "real stuff" too, not the Dollar Store knock-offs that are "2 for $1.00".
I was ready, but, by the time the 11 o'clock news came on, there
was only half a bag left and a small mountain of crumpled wrappers on the
coffee table. I tried making sense of this "Mystery of the Missing Trick or
Treaters" and was about to write it off as a "cultural thing" but the fact that
Univision and Don Fransico had been promoting "Dia de Brujas" during
every "anuncio commercial" for an entire week, would not let me. It was
as closely linked to "Dia de los Muertos" as could it be and I know that the
little " hispanos" all knew the drill.
It was a "mom" who clued me in and solved the mystery. It seems that most
parents don't consider the apartments a "safe or appropriate place to trick
or treat". They think their kid is going to come home with a crack rock wrapped
up in a plastic bag if they come through "the hood". Furthermore, most kids
don't know how to yell "Trick or Treat" in Spanish. It's all nonsense. Nowadays,
the kids dress up and go to their school for a party. After bobbing
for apples and a small musical presentation, they go out as a group and
trick or treat in the "safe" neighborhoods surrounding the school. The whole thing
is chaperoned and supervised. The truth is that they go to the rich neighborhoods,
where they get the full size, name brand candy bars.
Since I'll be working, it really doesn't make any difference to me anyhow. Besides, my doorbell doesn't ring...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Something about seeing old friends...


... and being in familiar places from my younger years created an incredibley
strong, powerful, and absolutely undeniable urge to "go home". I needed to
see my hometown again. The beautiful little town that I was so fortunate to have
grown up in was calling out to me. I phoned my best friend, William, and asked
him to come along. He happily accepted my invitation and we arranged to leave
at 10 o'clock the next morning.
While I was getting ready to leave, I started to have second thoughts about
the idea, questioning the sanity and rationality of the trip. After all, I hadn't
been back to "Cucaracha" (as Willy had humorously nicknamed the place) in
over 10 years. But then again, I had never felt such a strong need to go back
either. When I heard Willy's car horn beeping from outside, I knew it was too
late to change my mind. Besides, it was the first time that Willy was on time for
anything since I met him. There were some sort of extraordinary
forces at play here. In a matter of minutes, we were zipping across the
metropolitan freeways and the hour and a half drive went by very quickly.
It was literally a trip down "Memory Lane" as we drove. I pointed out places
I worked in, schools I attended, bars I drank in when I was underage, and the
neighborhoods that I terrorized in my semi-deliquent years. We even stopped
in front of my old house for a few minutes.
Like I said, there were extraordinary forces at work here and when we got
hungry, a craving hit. It wasn't just any craving either. It was a craving for
something special, something unique, something uniquely "Cucaracha". We
walked into LIPUMA'S CONEY ISLAND just before the lunch crowd arrived.
When Bill Lipuma opened his restaurant 35 years ago, there weren't any of
those corporate giant fast food joints around. He perfected his recipes and
developed his menu with tender loving care. And when those fast food kings
and queens arrived, the real "townies" didn't even notice, they just kept eating
at Lipuma's. While my high school classmates raced off to the newly
erected Golden Arches, those of us with more refined tastes piled into my
Ford Galaxy 500 and sped down to the Coney Island. That car could comfortably
accomodate 8 people, and, it often did! I felt sort of nostalgic as I opened the front
door for Willy.
Hospitality that other places wish they could create was always the Lipuma
trademark. Warm and sincere, it's a rare commodity. We ordered, got the food,
and luckily, the best booth, in the back of the restaurant, was open. I looked up
from my taco and saw Bill Lipuma sitting at the "employee table", the one he
always sat at, with his son, Tony, hovering lovingly near his dad.
"You gotta add oregano and garlic to that soup!" Bill exclaimed. "That's the
secret!"
I noticed that Bill wasn't dressed for work. He was retired, and Tony, whose grey
hair was filling in quite nicely, was obviously in charge. Bill just happened to have
stopped by that afternoon to tell Tony that he was heading up north on a "color tour".
He had the headset for his cell phone with him. He would leave his hearing aid
in his ear and turned on.
As William and I drove out of town, I felt as if a bridge between my past and
present had built, or rather, strengthened. Both my stomach and my heart were
filled. They were good tacos!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

It was Joseph Campbell and James Taylor ...

...who comforted me this week when my mom died after
a lengthy illness. She was about to turn 77 on October 25. Instead, Mom
was buried on the same day that she was born. Her passing was not a surprise
as family and friends watched her condition progressively worsen over a few
years. The emergency trips to the hospital were getting more frequent and the
time between the need for such trips grew shorter and shorter. A dramatic and
sudden change in both her appearance and demeanor signaled the serious nature
of her condition. Keenly aware of the circumstances, I visited her often, while
she was still alert, aware, and concious and I let her know that I loved her,
that she was a great mother. I thanked her for all that she had done for me, all
that she had given, and put up with, throughout the years.
... while no one can ever be prepared for such an event or fill the void that this sort
of loss creates, I found comfort in a James Taylor song, "Enough to be on your way",
off the Hourglass album. In this song, "sweet baby James" sings about losing
both of his parents and a brother within a year. All is addressed with the sensitivity,
the pureness of heart, and beautiful poetry that is James Taylor's god given gift.
On the night of the viewing,as we prepared to leave the funeral home, I pushed my
Dad's wheelchair up to the casket, said a silent prayer, and softly sang the last line
from the song "...so long old gal." Those few words were perfect for both my dad
and I.
...Joseph Campbell helped me get through the "ceremony" part of all this. In his
books and lectures, Campbell dealt with the necessity of ceremonies in all cultures
and societies to commemorate such milestones in life. Specifically, he spoke about
funerals and their role and importance for the family of the deceased. Mom's faith in
and committment to the Lutheran church and her Finnish heritage was lifelong and strong.
I had drifted away from the church long ago, developing my own concepts of religion, faith,
and spirituality. Understanding things from a broader view allowed me to accept the
Lutheran funerary traditions again and to deal with my own grief. I watched as the
"Ladies of Kaleva", my mom's lifelong friends and sorority sisters, performed their
traditional funeral ceremony to say goodbye to their friend and sister. Each placed a
fresh sprig of flat leaf cedar in the floral arrangements. Just prior to that, I had gone
outside to burn a small sprig of cedar and to "smudge" myself as I was taught my dear
Navajo friend, Wayne Wilson. I had never witnessed the "Kaleva" ceremony, but inside
my head, as I was feeling stressed and sad, I heard Wayne's voice tell me "Just keep
burning that cedar!"
...as the funeral ended and the casket was loaded into the hearse, I held my father's
hand. We squeezed tight and felt a connection, both physically and spirtitually, that
neither time, distance, or death will ever be able to break. We will all see each other
and be together again.

So long old gal....

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Tree AGAIN



I am presenting all the pictures of the "changing tree" that I have taken to date.
Enjoy the color as much as I do.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

My First Animation

...after playing around with the idea for a long time, I completed my first animation and am publishing it on this blog. First, I filmed a motion study and analyzed the frames. Next I selected the key frames and isolated them as references for the next stage, drawing. I scanned the drawings into my PC and cleaned the drawings up, using a painting program to color them. The frames were "standardized" for use in an animation program and I created an AVI file. Check out the result by clicking on the icon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Instead of hitting "Next Blog"...

...to "surf" and read tonight, I decided to click on the links of some of the blogs that I've bookmarked. It was such a good experience that I bookmarked some of the "new reads" so I can visit again.
Two of the links really caught my attention. They are "The Insane Waiter" and "Waiter Rant". I can relate to these blogs because I do the same job at night and know all to well what they are writing about. I live it too! Perhaps, in the near future, I will have to share some intereting service industry stories. God knows I have enough of them.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sweetest Day Gifts...

...taken from an actual catalog! I chose 3 of the most disturbing gift suggestions to post here as horrible examples of what NOT to get your significant other for Sweetest Day. This advice can only be disgregarded if the item actually appears on their "wish list".

1.
$15.98
Remote Control Teddy Bear "Breaks Wind"! He may be cute and cuddly, but he also has a bad habit: he breaks wind when you press the remote. Then plush teddy's little cheeks turn red because he's so embarrassed! Uses 2 AA batteries (not included). Comes with cell battery in the remote. 17" H.

2.
$19.98
Breast Enhancers create a fuller, more beautiful bustline! Slip into your bra to support, lift and enhance your figure. Molds to your contours for a perfectly natural fit and look. Wear under any outfit, from sweaters to bathing suits. Safe, comfortable; won't irritate skin. Increases bustline 1-1/2 - 2 bra cup sizes.

3.
$7.98
Flying Pig Hat is perfect for those who like to ham it up! Simply tug on the string and the wings flap - who said that pigs can't fly! Whimsical topper is soft plush with shiny wings, feet and ears. One size fits all.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I just emptied

... all the ashtrays in my place, threw out the empty
packs that landed on the floor instead of in the garbage can, and
picked up the cellophane and foil seals from the new packs. Next,
I should wipe the ashes off my desk. Smoking is a messy, dirty thing.
I've vowed to make a concious effort to quit.
I've smoked for a long time and looking back on my habit, I see that
I started slowly and the amount I've smoked steadily increased. Maybe
that is the way I should quit too. I honestly fear the withdrawal
symptons and really think that weaning myself from the habit is the
best way to go right now.
My "concious effort" involves cutting back as the first step. The
smoking policy at my job changed recently. The "smoking area" was
moved and the permissable hours changed too. When it became an
inconvienence to smoke, I eliminated the two cigarettes I had grown
accustomed to smoking during a shift. It may seem like a small thing
but I prefer to look at it as 10 less cigarettes a week (half a pack) that
I am smoking. I'll go with that!!!
I ran some errands yesterday. Ordinarily, I would have smoked a
cigarette on the way there and another on the way back. Thanks to
my "concious effort", however, I left the cigarettes on the desk
instead of bringing them and I smoked two less cigarettes that day.
Now, I am rationing. I kept an empty pack and put a certain number of
cigarettes in it, depending on the activity. That's the allowance, I get
no more. There are five cigarettes in the ration pack right now, 1/4 of
a pack. We'll see how many are left when I get home tonight!

The tree again...


...here is another picture of the tree outside my place. It's been about two weeks since I posted the first picture and it is changing color much quicker now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hmmmm....

Aries Horoscope for week of October 13, 2005

"California's San Joaquin Valley has the worst air in the state, and as a result, 12 percent of the kids who live there have asthma. The terrible pollution stems largely from burned fossil fuels trapped between the mountain ranges that surround the valley. Ironically, the smog often hides the mountains from view. Some environmentalists have made that a symbol of what they hope to accomplish as they strive to purify the air. "Fifteen years from now," one activist told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I have faith that I'll see the mountains." Let this be a metaphor for the work you have ahead of you, Aries. Banish what's obscuring your sight of the big picture."

Ever get asked the question, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?", during a professional interview? Right now, I am approaching the end of one of those "planned" 5 year periods. And let me tell you, where I am is a different place than where I thought I would be. This has both good points and bad points. As we hit mid October (already), the "weight" on my shoulders lightens a little bit more. Sending my car payment off in the morning mail becomes a satisfied moment as I rest content in the knowledge that this is something I must
do only 4 more times. The fourth, and final payment, will be the least painful of all, thanks to the few extra dollars I tacked on to each prior payment.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I'm playing with animation...


...these days. It seems like such a natural way to use my art talents in combination with my love of computers, graphic design, and entertainment. Awhile ago, I bought that old Preston Blair book about animation from "Micheal's" and loved it. The trouble was that it just wasn't deep enough. The other day I was walking around and stopped into Borders, finding another book, " The Animator's Survival Kit" , by Richard Williams, and I had to have it! I've been studying it ever since.
I've always maintained that the most important thing that school taught me was how to learn, and that is exactly what I am doing in terms of animation. I subscribe to a file sharing service and I downloaded the Tex Avery classic cartoon "Red Hot Riding Hood" over the weekend. I took the cartoo to my favorite video editing programs so I could dissect it into smaller, studyable parts. These "parts" help me to understand principles and techniques used by this master of animation. Taking the selected clip to an animation program, I can study the chosen clip frame by frame and really understand how animation is made.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Nope, this blog isn't...

...about international politics, Hurricane Relief, or any of a million and one other relevant and pressing social issues with "depth". It's just the musings of an ordinary working stiff who tries to walk through life with a contented smile on his face. If you're looking for "Nightline", I strongly suggest turning on ABC at 11:30 p.m. On my last post, someone named Andrea Petersen, decided to sniff my fire hydrant and leave her mark. Clicking the link to her name, I see no blog of her own that I can go to for intellectual stimulation. I
do see 1240 profile views though. Perhaps leaving cynical comments, spamming, and blog surfing are Andrea's calling and purpose in this life. Well, Sketchy has a suggestion for Andrea Petersen that he will happily share. Just click on the link!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Wolverine gear...

...can come out of the closet and once again be proudly displayed on my back. After beating the Spartans in East Lansing in overtime, a certain level of confidence in Lloyd Carr's team has been restored and the decision to hang up the "M" for a month was overruled.
...besides, I was getting sick and tired of running around town in my work uniform for the past week!

Friday, September 30, 2005

You've gotta love Autumn...


... here in Michigan, we have "extreme" weather. January and
February can be downright miserable at times as the high
temperatures fight to get past zero. On the other end of the
spectrum, July and August can bring non-stop heat and
humidity, making life a sticky, sweaty mess. I don't do well
at either extreme.
...spring can be "hit or miss" here, however. All too frequently,
the season seems to last a short week before jumping right into
summer heat. This is never the case with autumn. We "ease" into
winter with progressively colder nights and daytime high
temperatures that drop a degree or two every few days. It can be
breezy, but still sunny. I really enjoy the months of September and
October here.
...last night was a significant night in the seasonal scheme. The low
temperature hovered a few degrees above freezing for a few hours.
While not cold enough to leave a frost, it killed most of the insects
that were still around and it sent a quiet message to the trees. Big
changes are lay ahead.
...the picture that accompanies this blog entry is a tree that adorns
the yard of a neighbor's house. It's an old tree, healthy, beautiful,
majestic. And it is about to change color. It will go from a deep,
lush, moist green to a blaze or orange, yellow, red, and gold. And
it will end up in a bland, dry, brown and grey. Until next spring
when the warm rains wake it up again.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bad Karma?

...I wake up early this morning to the bus screeching its brakes outside in the steet. I open my eyes as it gets really quiet again - quiet enough to here a "drip, drip, drip"!! It sounds like droplets of water hitting a puddle. It was raining outside but this is much closer. I immediately bolt out of bed and look at my aquariums. Sure enough, one of the 29 gallon breeder tanks on the rack is losing water. I step on the carpet and it squishes beneath my feet - it's soaked! Immediately I flip the switch on the surge protector and cut off all the electricity to the system.
Ripping the glass tops off the tanks, I stick the siphon in and start emptying the tank water into 5 gallon buckets. The fish all go into another tank and they are as shocked as I am. I throw an old quilt on the floor and soak up as much water as it will hold.
I was lucky, I caught it in time. And even though it was just one tank, I was
sufficiently frightened enough to empty the two other tanks and tear them down as well. I'll save the hardware - the heaters and filters and such, but everything else
is "dumpster bound" once I get home from work tonight. The rack will go tomorrow.
Stick a fork in me, Ethel, I'm done!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

For the next month...

...I refuse to wear any item of clothing that has the University of Michigan logo on it. After watching the Wolverines lose to the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday, all my Michigan apparel will remain in the closet for a mourning period. It was an embarrassing loss and no matter how many times I have to do laundry in a week, regardless of how deep in my dresser drawers I have to dig, I refuse to put on anything "U of M" for 30 days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tuesday Moanin'

(A blog/writing exercise in the style of the late Detroit Free Press "Feature
Page" columnist, Bob Talbert.)

...I don't need an alarm clock. Every weekday morning a Yellow Cab pulls
up to the curb at 7:30 a.m. and blasts the horn two times to announce his
arrival. He waits patiently for two minutes, blasts the horn again (twice),
and waits another two minutes. Just as he is about to pull away from the
curb, a fat black lady comes running out from the front door, waving frantically.
It's always the same routine and I always wonder why she is never ready for
the cab's arrival!
...also every weekday morning from September to June, the "Latin Dad's Club"
assembles at the same curb at 8:15 a.m. They chat quietly until the schoolbus
arrives at 8:25 a.m., load their children onboard, wave goodbye, and dissappear.
...occasionally I hit the "next blog" button on the top of the page and read a
few random blogs. I skip anything with animated hearts and teddybears, anything
that looks like the work of a lovesick teenage girl, anything written in an Asian
language, anything by a new mother that includes pictures of her newborn child,
and finally, anything written in French. I will check out blogs written in Spanish,
Portuguese, and usually, Italian.
...continuing on the subject of blogs, I really dislike it when a commercial enterprise
uses the space as a free advertisement. I dislike it even more when I receive spam
from someone who clicked my e-mail link to solicit my business. Those messages
go right into the trash bin, just like real junk mail.
...a possible solution to spam would be a feature that would allow a person to return
an e-mail as if it were unopened. Spam the spammer!
...if I surf blogs in the morning, my interest and attention wanes about halfway thru
my second cup of coffee. If I am surfing them at night, I lose interest when I am
bored enough to fall asleep.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I'm talking 'bout my paper, man...


...the video I'm posting today is a celebration of sorts. The envelope going out with the morning mail is the last payment on my credit account with a well known national retailer. It is one more step toward freedom from the ball and chain of my consumer debt. I'm following a plan developed after attending a lecture about personal financial management. I took a lot of detailed notes, used the tools that
were presented, made the plan, implemented it, stuck to the plan religiously, and I am seeing the results now.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The weatherman was right...

...for once! It definitely looks like autumn outside now! It's been raining all day and the yard is full of fallen leaves that will need to be raked up!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The last swim?


I heard it on both the television news and the radio station I listen to.

"You'd better get outside and enjoy this last blast of summer weather today
because the next week is gonnna look a lot more like autumn!" They proceeded
to remind everyone that the winter cold and snow is only a few short months away
in the next breath. As much as I want to deny it, I knew that it's true. It will be a long
time before we see another 95 degree day. I headed out to the lake around 3 p.m.,
a little bit sad that it was probably the last time that the water would be warm enough
to swim in.
In town, the "ornamental trees" in yards and roads are already turning yellow
and red. It's different in the country. The true signs are bales of hay and the
brown cornstalks in the fields. At the lake, the trees are mostly still green, just a
random patch of yellow right now. I picked my spot on the beach, stripped down
to my trunks, and walked into the water.
When you know a certain place, I mean really know it, you notice subtle changes
around you. The first thing I noticed as I waded up to my knees, was that the water
was indeed much cooler. It was still comfortable and very refreshing, but colder.
The groundwater entering from the springs is cold and the nights with consistent
50 degree lows aren't going to help. The second thing I noticed was the smell.
It was the smell the lake has when there aren't as many people splashing around
in the water. The water kind of settles down and smells much more "earthy". I
dove in and felt the sting of a cold shower and started to swim across the lake.
When I get to the middle of the lake it's always a tranquil, serene moment. I
usually float around, 250 feet above the lake bottom, and from that unique vantage
point, I feel more in tune with the natural world and my "human animal" than ever.
I was floating on my back, looking up at the jagged edge of the tree tops against
an endless blue sky when a pair of blue herons flew right over me and landed in the
marshy bank. They were big beautiful birds - strong, graceful, and majestic. I don't
know if it was the birds or the cold water that made me shiver. I slowly swam back
to shore.
While I was drying off on the grass, I noticed the absence of dragonflies, black
flies, and butterflies. The sun was starting to sink into the western horizon and the
other folks who came out for their afternoon swim started to head back to their cars.
I lingered with a few other people, in no hurry to leave. Of course I had my camera
with me and had been taping the fun. As I went to put my sandals on, I noticed a
snake in the water, swimming from one patch of water lillies to the next, probably in
search of food. Click the button and let the mpeg load to see this snake!

Friday, September 02, 2005

I renewed...


...the lease on my apartment - again. I waited until the last possible minute, until it would have cost me an extra $100 to put it off any longer, but I went into
the office and signed for the fifth year in a row. I'm hoping that it will be my last year here too.
I'm living here alone now as Miguel, my latest roommate, decided to move out at the end of August. It's just as well, I have my privacy again and the peace and quiet should help me accomplish things that I want to do. I'm sure I'll be blogging about this subject frequently in the future!

Friday, August 26, 2005

In the name of progress...


...the whole entire block of Ashley Steet, between Liberty and Williams, is going to be demolished. The city already has done the preliminaries, marking up the sidewalk with blue and yellow spray painted lines. The businesses that are renting space are on "a moment's notice" - they will have to close their doors the instant that plans are approved. At least, that's how I hear it. Of course, I am concerned about this. My favorite hangout, The Fleetwood Diner, pictured here, will be demolished. The place looks empty in this picture but it was taken at the slowest point of the day, around 5:30, when just a few regulars stop by. Believe me, the place is usually jumping.
I like to go to the Fleetwood at any hour - that's part of the charm of this 24 hour diner - but especially love it in the "wee hours of the morning" - like 3:00 a.m. or so. The bar rush is in full swing and all the "freaks" are settling in on the deck for "Hippy Hash", eggs, or a basket of fries. Just the other night, it was too hot to sleep and I went downtown to escape. I found some relatively sane friends and had a wonderful conversation until it got cool enough to sleep. I've known the day cook since he arrived in the United States at 15 years old and not speaking any English whatsoever. I've seen the waitresses get married, finish school, and get their pilots license. I've watched the "Coffee Kids" draw cartoons and drink gallons of coffee while doing so.
They say there are plans to rebuild The Fleetwood once the demolision is over and construction begins again. I can't see it being the same, but who really knows what it will be like at this point. I'm sure it will be a continuing saga on this blog.