Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Orbs






Silent Camp, Morris Hill Cemetery, Boise, Idaho

One of the things I had on my list to do when Tess and I went to Boise for Thanksgiving was visit Morris Hill Cemetery and try and track down some of my relatives graves. It's part of my new obsession with discovering my roots. This is not to say that I think my roots are growing in a cemetery. But graves are an important clue in putting together any family tree. For one, they confirm dates when a relative lived.

So, armed with a list I'd prepared of relatives I thought were buried in Boise, we pulled up to the office of Morris Hill Cemetary on the Friday following Thanksgiving. The 70-acre cemetery has been the final resting place for Boise residents since 1882. I remember going for walks there when I was a teenager, oblivious that 20 or so of my family were buried there. The only burial I ever attended there was my maternal grandmother.

Morris Hill is one of the older style cemeteries that actually has headstones instead of in the ground markers. Newer cemeteries have restricted the old style markers in many areas because it is easier to mow the grass and maintain a cemetary without having to weedwhack around a traditional tombstone.

The staffmember at the Morris Hill Cemetery was great. I figured I'd only try to find a few of my relatives so I asked about the oldest one buried at Morris Hill: George Dawson Knox. George was my maternal great, great, grandfather. He was born in 1830, moved to Iowa and fought in the Civil War on the Union side as a Iowa Volunteer. After the civil war, George married my great, great grandmother, Amanda Martha Knotts in 1870. She was 20 years younger than George, born in the Shenandoa Valley of Virginia in 1850. They eventually moved to Kansas and finally Boise in 1890.

There may have been snow on George's roof, but there was fire in his furnace. He fathered six children with Amanda, including my great grandmother, Ada Janette Knox. Ada was only 17 when she ran off and married Edgar Elsworth Bush (ten years her senior). She quickly gave birth to my grandmother, Edna Letha Bush. Tragically, Ada died two years later giving birth to a Edna's baby brother (he died at birth). My grandmother (pictured below with George and Amanda) was raised by her grandparents.


I assumed that George, being a Civil War veteran, would be buried in the cemetery's "Silent Camp" dedicated to Civil War veterans. But after flipping through a huge book listing all of the cemetery residents, the cemetery worker said George wasn't buried there. Instead he was buried next to Amanda in the regular part of the cemetery on the edge of the Silent Camp. And my grandmother's grave was right next to them on the map. The Morris Hill employee circled the location on the map and told us to come back if we were having any trouble finding them (it is a 70-acre site after all).

So Tess and I set off in the pouring rain somewhat skeptical that we'd be able to find them quickly. We pulled the car next to the Silent Camp and decided to just park there and start our search. But stepping out of the car, I discovered we'd stopped right next to their graves.

I began snapping digital photos, first of George and Amanda's marker and then of my grandmother's. It wasn't until we got back to Seattle that I discovered there was something odd about some of the photos. See if you can spot what I'm talking about:



Okay, I've always been skeptical of mystical "orbs" that spirit photographers point out in so called haunted houses. I wasn't taking these photos looking for spirits. I was just documenting my ancestors for my family tree. I have to admit, though, I found this kind of odd. First I stop our car right next to the graves in cemetery with thousands of graves. Then I snap digital photos that have these glitches that you can't blame on bad processing at the Walmart.

I'll just chock it up to yet another strange, yet true episode of this mysterious journey we call life.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Trains, planes and automobiles: Redeux


I took the train south last Wednesday where Tess picked me up to head for the airport. There was wasn't any fog at Sea-Tac Airport, but Boise was socked in. Instead of catching a 9:30 p.m. plane to Boise and arriving about 11:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, we left Seattle around 12:30 a.m. and arrived in Boise after 2:30 a.m. This was after one aborted attempt at landing and then a last minute dive that got us onto the ground. Other than the near death landing, the flight was uneventful. Oh, there was the shower of water that soaked Tess from the overhead bin because some idiot left a water bottle in his bag and placed it overhead. The flight attendant gave us a coupon good for 1000 free frequent flyer miles, so it turned out okay.

We headed to the rental counter around 2:20 a.m. To my relieve, I wasn't asked if I wanted to upgrade to a larger gas guzzler for a few dollars more and avoid the embarrassment of driving around Boise in a Hyundai (although they did indeed have Hummer's for rent). Instead I was told that, since I was in so late, I'd have to drive a two-door, red Chevy Monty Carlo or something like that. It had a sunroof (a necessity in the snow).

We drove the Chevy to a hotel near Boise's airport that I booked online -- Inn America. The hotel room had a pastel print of flowers on the wall, no microwave and yes, exactly three plastic wrapped cups. I flipped on the 19-inch television and did indeed surf through 34 channels of religious programming, shopping networks and Dukes of Hazzard reruns until I reached the cooking channel. We watched a program on making the perfect turkey stuffing and went to sleep.

At about noon, we called my brother and asked him what time we should be at his house for Thanksgiving. He said dinner would be at exactly 2:30 p.m. but we could come over earlier if we wanted. We then called my 80-year old mother and offered to drive her to my brother's house for Thanksgiving, but she declined saying that she will likely want to leave early to get home and let Dutchess, her 200-pount mutt out to go to the bathroom and kill squirrels.

We'll drove to my brother's house. I had stopped at one of the open grocery stores earlier to pick up a bottle of red wine that I knew my brother wouldn't like to drink. We parked the Chevy on the street, wishing we'd rented a Hummer to impress him.

We knocked on the door and my almost grown nephew answered the door with Wiley, his shepard mix dog. Wiley looked embarrassed but didn't pee on the floor. My almost grown, nearly unrecognizable niece was no where in sight. My brother popped up. Tess and I hugged both of them and I asked my nephew to pull me finger. Tess and I then greeted my sister-in-law and Dan's mother-in-law.

Tess and my sister in law and her mother started talking about teacher stuff (all of them are elementary school teachers). I tried to help out and was handed a bowl of little smokey snack sized sausages to put on the coffee table.

My mother arrived. I hugged her and marveled that she is 80 years old and still looks better than I do. We sat down at the table next to Thanksgiving themed nametag holders Tess and I sent them a week ago. Althought I was sure my nametag would be in the turkey nametag holder, it was not. I had one of the pilgrims. This was because my sister-in-law put the tags out since my 13-year-old niece, who never made an appearance, was in her room too "sick" to come out and say hi.

My brother said grace and we all held hands. I felt awkward because I don't have a religious bone in my heathen body. Food was passed. I passed gas and blamed the dog. We told a few stories about our childhood and my nephew rolled his eyes. Half way through dinner the phone rang. It was my niece calling from her room on her cell phone asking her mother to bring her in a plate of food.

We finished dinner and I helped clear the table.

We retired to the family room where my nephew and I played electronic darts. I won and pretended it was skill.

My mother left early to go home and let the dog out. Dan's mother in law was right behind her.

Everyone else gathered in the family room to play, not Pictionary, but a new game called "Apples to Apples." It involved being given seven cards with the names of famous people and things on them. One person draws a card with a single word on it like, "Dirty." Everyone else throws down a card from their hand that they think represents that word. The closest one wins that round.

During each game, I demonstrated how verbally clever I am.
Tess and I said goodnight at 8:30 p.m. and drove back to the hotel, INN AMERICA. It finally dawns on me that "Inn America" is a play on words. Ha, Ha. Anticipating that we would be hungry and nothing would be open in Boise, I bought a bag of 50 percent less fat chips and fully-fat cheese dip that morning. We watch a rerun of the Blue Collar Comics on the Comedy Channel and go to bed.

Friday morning I woke up early longing for that continental breakfast they were serving downstairs off from the lobby. I pulled on sweats and went to fill two plates full of nasty grocery store bagels. I serve Tess breakfast in bed.

Once we showered and dressed, we drove to my mom's house and wrestled with Dutchess, her 200-pound mutt to get through the door. My mother told us about the latest squirrels Dutchess has killed. She apologized for how messy the meticulously clean house was. She offered us reheated Folgar's coffee made from powder and we politely declined since we stopped at a Starbucks on the way there. I wandered around the house I grew up in, scrutinizing faded high school prom photos of my brothers and I tacked to the walls. Tess politely talked to my mother about what tree she has trimmed in the backyard.

We took my mother to lunch at a Red Robin and instead of talking about her latest trip to the dentist, I asked her about her relatives (I'm into this genealogy thing and no, I am not a Mormon). She talked about growing up and I once again gained new respect for her. She was one of 13 kids and spent much of her childhood dodging her father's anger and living with the embarrassment of a two-bedroom shack as a home. We take my mom home and head to the cemetary to track down some of my relatives graves in the rain (another blog at another time).

We called my brother and see what time they want to go out to dinner (I always take them out for dinner the day after Thanksgiving to thank them for hosting Thanksgiving). My brother's family are like old people. They freak if they haven't eaten by 6 p.m. Tess and I drive to their house and discover my niece has made a remarkable recovery and is ready to go out to dinner with the rest of us.

We went to an Italian restaurant and discovered what food phase my niece and nephew are going through now that they are teenagers. I entertained everyone with my witty banter. I paid the check and we said our goodbyes in the parking lot.

Instead of going back to the hotel near the airport, I suprised Tess with a room at a place called the Anniversary Inn. It has themed rooms. So far we've stayed in the Mammoth Ice Cave Room and the Sultan's Palace. This time we stayed in the Mysteries of Egypt Room. There is nothing that says Romance like an Egyptian tomb.




The shower head was hidden in a cobra's mouth.




Saturday morning we flew back to Seattle.

Another Thanksgiving for the record books.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Trains, planes and automobiles

I'm taking the train south this evening where Tess will pick me up to head for the airport. Unless the fog rolls in again, we'll be catching a 9:30 p.m. plane to Boise where we'll arrive about 11:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, and head to the car rental booth. I will undoubtedly be asked if I want to upgrade to a larger gas guzzler for a few dollars more and avoid the embarrassment of driving around Boise in a Hyundai. I will likely resist the offer unless they offer me a Hummer.

We'll drive the Hummer to a hotel near Boise's airport that I booked online. The hotel room will have a pastel print of flowers on the wall, a microwave and three plastic wrapped cups. I will flip on the 19-inch television and flip through 34 channels of religious programming, shopping networks and Dukes of Hazzard reruns until I reach HBO. We will watch a rerun of Deadwood and go to sleep.

In the morning we will call my brother and ask him what time we should be at his house for Thanksgiving. He'll say dinner is at 3 p.m. but we can come over earlier if we want. We will then drive over to my 80-year old mother's house and wrestle with Dutchess, her 200-pound mutt to get through the door. My mother will tell us about the latest squirrels Dutchess has killed. She'll apologize for how messy the meticulously clean house is. She'll offer us reheated Folgar's coffee made from powder and we will politely decline since we have likely stopped at a Starbucks on the way there.

We will offer to drive my mother to my brother's house for Thanksgiving, but she will decline saying that she will likely want to leave early to get home and let Dutchess out to kill more squirrels. I will wander around the house I grew up in, scrutinizing faded high school prom photos of my brothers and I tacked to the walls. Tess will be politely talking to my mother about what tree she has trimmed in the backyard. We will fight our way out of the house past Dutchess and say we'll see my mom at my brother's house.

We'll drive to my brother's house, but first stop at one of the open grocery stores on the way there to pick up rolls and a bottle of red wine that I know my brother doesn't like to drink. We'll pull into his driveway and block half the street with the Hummer.

We'll knock on the door and my brother will answer it and say, "Sic 'em Wiley" to his shepard mix dog. Wiley will look embarrassed and pee on the floor. My almost grown, nearly unrecognizable niece and nephew will be hovering in the background wondering if we brought them gifts and hoping that we remembered that they are teenagers now, not little kids. I'll hug both of them and ask my nephew to pull me finger. Both my niece and nephew will slink off to their rooms to call friends or play video games. Tess and I will hug my brother and my sister in law.

Tess and my brother and sister in law will start talking about teacher stuff (all of them are elementary school teachers). I will try to help out and be handed a box of crackers to pour into a bowl.

My mother and my brother's mother in law will arrive. We will sit down at the table next to Thanksgiving themed nametag holers Tess and I sent them a week ago. I guarantee you that my nametag will be in the turkey nametag holder.

My brother will say grace and we'll all hold hands. I will feel awkward because I don't have a religious bone in my heathen body. We will pass food. I will pass gas and blame the dog. We will tell stories about our childhood and my niece and nephew will roll their eyes. My brother will remember things that happened to him that actually happened to me.

We will finish dinner and I will help clear the table.

We will retire to the family room where my brother, nephew and I will play a video game that basically involved shooting anything that moves on the screen. I will not figure out how to make my player move until we are finished with the game.

We will retire to the living room where a cardtable has been set up to play Pictionary. It will be the boys against the girls. My mother and my brother's mother in law will watch. We will take turns drawing things that look nothing like the Pictionary prompt and being amazed when my niece or nephew guess the word in two seconds. We will play best two out of three. I will demonstrate how verbally clever I am throughout each of the games.

My mother will leave to go home and let the dog out. Tess and I will say goodnight and drive toward the hotel, wishing we'd taken a doggy bag of turkey because we are hungry again. We'll stop at the only place open in Boise at that time of night on a Thanksgiving, 7-11. We'll fight the meth heads for the last corndog and nachos and head back to the hotel to catch what is on HBO.

Friday morning I'll wake up early longing for that continental breakfast they are serving downstairs off from the lobby. I'll pull on sweats and go fill two plates full of nasty grocery store bagels and brown fruit. I'll serve Tess breakfast in bed.

Once we've showered and dressed, we'll drive to my mom's and force her into the Hummer to take her to lunch. We'll likely go to a Sizzler because she likes Malibu Chicken lunches and gets a senior discount. During lunch she'll describe the latest dental work she had done by Dr. Smith, the same dentist who pulled my wisdom teeth when I was 20. We'll drive mom home so she can let the dog out.

We'll call my brother and see if they want to go out to dinner. We'll ride in their van. Tess will sit with my niece and I'll sit next to my nephew. I'll tell him I'm feeling gassy.

We'll get to the restaurant and discover what food phase my niece and nephew are going through now that they are teenagers. I will entertain everyone with my witty banter until Tess and my brother and sister-in-law start talking teacher talk again. I'll pay the check and we'll say our goodbyes.

Instead of going back to the hotel near the airport, I'll suprise Tess with a room at a place called the Anniversary Inn. It has themed rooms. So far we've stayed in the Mammoth Ice Cave Room and the Sultan's Palace. This time we are staying in the Mysteries of Egypt Room. There is nothing that says Romance like an Egyptian tomb.

Saturday morning we will fly back to Seattle.

I will then republish this blog in the present tense.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Recyled movies


Every now and then, Hollywood in all its collective wisdom, remakes movies. I imagine the logic behind it is that you potentially capture a nostolgia market plus a whole generation that has never seen the original. The reality behind it is that you have half the population comparing it to the original and hating it and the other half of the population hating it because it is as bad as the original.

I find it very unfortunate when the remakes were originally bad 70s television series like Charlie's Angels, the Brady Bunch, Starsky and Hutch or Mission Impossible. They may have been okay when you were twelve, but they haven't improved with age (including Farrah Fawcett).

Now they are remaking films like Yours, Mine and Ours that originally starred Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. I saw the original in 1968 when I was 10 years old and quickly forgot it. The movie was based on a book called Who gets the drumstick? I think it was the precursor to the Brady Bunch. The premise is that a widow and widower fall in love and get married and together have 18 kids.

The remake stars Rene Russo and Dennis Quaid. But it has been updated for the Millenium and some of kids Rene Russo brings to the table are apparently adopted. But despite the politically correct make over of the family mix, I have no desire to see it.

And even more obscure remake is the release of Fun with Dick and Jane. This is a remake of a 1977 movie that originally starred George Segal (Just Shoot Me) and Jane Fonda. The premise of this one is that an upwardly couple of yuppies (remember them) fall on hard times and take up armed robbery to make ends meet. I saw this one when I was 19 and quickly forgot it.

The remake of this one stars Jim Carey and Tea Leoni. I really have no desire to see it.

Why remake these movies? Are there no screenwriters left in the world with an original idea?

But the worst was the television premier of the updated version of the 1972 camp classic, Poseiden Adventure. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you would know that Tess and I like to go on cruises. We got married on a cruise. So I try not to miss movies that portray cruising. I recorded the three-hour NBC version of the Poseiden Adventure and started watching it last night. I have one word for it, "painful."

The new version decided not rely on a tidal wave to flip the ship over. They bring in terrorists who hide bombs in beer kegs that are detonated with key chain switchs like you'd open your Dodge with. And the all star cast of the new Poseiden Adventure is like a who's who of Hollywood Squares: Peter Weller, Rutger Hauer, Steve Guttenberg and C. Thomas Howell. You wouldn't even recognize any of the female cast. The highlight of film was when the Homeland Security Sea Marshall blurts out, "Everything is safe until it isn't." I'm not making that up.

Another classic line comes from Steve Guttenberg, who plays a philandering husband, cheating on his ultra rich wife who made her fortune with a string of boutiques. In a steamy dialogue exchange with a well-endowed masseuse (who in real life would be trying to sell him a seaweed wrap and skin conditioner) the masseuse says, "You should tell her [Guttenberg's wife] to stock more styles for busty women. A lot of times I can't find anything to fit me." Guttenberg cleverly replies, "I can see why you'd have that problem."

The original movie was filmed aboard the Queen Mary landlocked in Long Beach. This one I believe was filmed aboard a Royal Caribbean megaliner. And of course all of the cabins look like spacious 2200 square foot suites. The cabin stewards wear uniforms very much like the flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz and the dining room is filled with beautiful people dancing to live entertainment that is turned upside down when the ship flips over after a terrorist taps a keg.

Honk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wrong. If this really was a cruise ship most of the people would have been lumbering around the Lido Deck buffet in shorts and black socks trying to juggle three plates of shrimp and jello. There would have been walkers and oxygen tanks rolling everywhere and some fat lady shrieking at the poor bus boy that he'd spilled her drink and she wasn't going to pay for it. When the ship rolled over, it would have been potato salad everywhere and blinding flash of Aloha shirts and speedos tumbling skyward.

Now I hear Hollywood is working on yet another remake for the bigscreen that will star Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss.

I'm buying my life preserver now.

Monday, November 21, 2005

1963


I am the youngest of three boys, so I'll leave it to your imagination which one I am in this photo. I will tell you that I've had an adversion to plaid pants ever since this photo was taken.

I turned five years old in 1963. It was a pivotal year in my life. I attended Cassia Kindergarten that year and had my first taste of regimentation of a life that had been pretty much carefree up until then. 1963 also marked Idaho's Centennial Celebration, and though I didn't have a clue what a Centennial was, I got to wear a Centennial western style tie and watch fireworks at Bronco Stadium that year.

More memorable on a national front in November 1963, I experienced the assassination of an American president on the miracle of a new medium called television.

There has been a lot of hype over the years about people all remembering where they were when they heard about President Kennedy being shot. But rest assured it is more or less true. I remember exactly where I was. I'd just come home from kindergarten pondering the crush I had on a cute little blonde girl named Christina. My mom was cooking chicken noodle soup. She had turned to take care of something in the kitchen when I reached up to grab the pot the soup was cooking in to see what it was and spilled it all over my baggy jeans. When the announcement came over the radio that Kennedy had been shot, I was standing in the kitchen in my underwear while my mom cleaned chicken noodle soup off from them. Dignified memory, huh?

This is not to say the event didn't mean anything to me. When you are five, any change in the routine is momentous. I remember my mom throwing me in the car and rushing to Garfield Elementary School to pick up my brothers, because there was a wholesale closing of everything as the nation waited in horror to see what the repercusions of losing our president would have.

The biggest one in my five year old world was the interuption of our regularly scheduled programming on the two television stations Boise supported. For what seemed like days, there was nonstop coverage of the assassination, the funeral and the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald.

I'm not sure whether the memories are of the actual broadcasts or the subsequent years of rebroadcasts, but I have the image of John, Jr, saluting his father's casket burned in my brain. John Jr was about the same age as me, and I remember at the time wondering why he was wearing a dress (he was dressed in short pants and a long coat).

It's odd to think of now, but I was growing up admidst a sea of politically stormy times including the Bay of Pigs, the missles of October and the rash of uncertainty of what would happen in the wake of Kennedy's death. But I can tell you I was terrible relieved when, late one night as the commotion was dying down, one of the television stations played an old movie. I was practically giddy and my parents let me stay up past my bedtime to welcome the return to normalcy.

I think of this now as Tess and I plan our yearly pilgrimmage back to Boise and the memories of my youth. Tess has no memories of the Kennedy assassination because she hadn't been born yet. But she'll humor me yet again as we drive by Garfield School where my father, brothers and I all went to grade school. She'll humor me as I go on autopilot and retrace the path I'd take home from school before the spector of drug addicts and child molestors kept kids from walking more than a block away from home unattended. And she'll humor me as we stand again in the kitchen I'd stood in 42 years ago without my pants when I was a five year old listening to the announcement that someone, for some reason, had shot John Kennedy.

And she'll humor me as I recall how that five year old couldn't understand why anyone would shoot the handsome young president who seemed to be doing so many good things for the country. And as usual, she'll comfort me as I shake my head in confusion still. Because for the life of me, I still don't understand why.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Abstract Reno


This is actually a highly enhanced image of an out of focus, low light scene out my hotel window in Reno a couple of months ago. I believe these are some of the lights of the Eldorado Casino.

Here's what it looked like before running it through a few Photoshop filters:

I think it would be interesting to frame and hang the altered photo and put it in a gallery. Then I'd put up a microphone and tape people as they file past it and interpret what the artist had in mind when he or she created it.

I'm sure I'd hear a myriad of explanations as to what the image is. Some would prattle on about "creative use of negative space" and "juxtapositions of light and color." Others would complain that it looks like something a 5 year old produced. But since it would be hanging in an art gallery, they would assume somehow it was art and they needed to interpret it.

The point is, that you would never know by just looking at the photo that it is Reno (before or after the Photoshop makeover). It is only because I took the original photograph that I have a clue as to what it is. And I don't claim that it is art or has any meaning at all. I do know that I kind of liked the way it looked after messing with it. So when all is said and done, does it matter if anyone else likes it or what it means?

I can't help believe that this little experiment is somehow analogous to many creation theories. And the cosmic joke in this one is that I would be god and that my creation was purely coincidental, without intent or purpose.

Just something to think about.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Getting off my high horse


As a boy, I loved horses. This is a photo of my brother Dan (back) and I on a horse at my Uncle Jim's home in the country in Idaho. I think it was the only time I ever actually rode a horse as a kid. I may be leaving out a few pony rides at car dealers, but I think this was the only time.

It wasn't until years later that I got on a horse again. For awhile, everytime I'd go on a cruise, I'd sign up for the horseback riding adventure. I've ridden horses in Cozemel, Belize, Hawaii and Cabo San Lucas. Below is a photo of me riding Poppy in Belize.

I've kind of given up on the horseback riding adventures these days. I've come to the conclusion that it probably isn't fair to the horse to compensate for my overendulgence at the buffet line on a cruise.

But I still like horses. I think that my niece, who lives in Boise, inherited her love of horses from me. My niece is probably the only person I've ever known who said they were going to save their money to buy a horse and actually did. She is 13. Tell me that isn't amazing.

Of course, I'm not sure how my brother Dan feels about it. I think that shot of us as kids was probably the only time he had ever been on a horse, too. Now his daughter owns one. Fortunately for him, the horse doesn't live in his backyard. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Idaho lives on a farm. My brother is a teacher and lives in a suburb of Boise (a redundant statement...all of Boise is a vast, sprawling suburb). Meredith's horse is boarded at a stable.

I kind of take this as a sign that Meredith will very likely be a very successful person. I remember wanting a horse and settling for a gunea pig. This fits into a pattern I seem to have of lowering the bar.

I guess all of this is a roundabout way of me feeling sheepish about my blog yesterday about my fellow bloggers not updating their blogs and realizing that I'm not always the most consistent person when it comes to blogging on a daily basis. I rarely blog on weekends. But, hey, do what I say, not what I do.

So I stand before you humbled.

But at least it prompted Lights in the Wake to write about his sex life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Where have all the bloggers gone?

There seems to be a weird vibe in the blogger world lately. Maybe it was the full moon, but lots of my favorite bloggers seem to be in a funk. Some have even dropped out of the blog world (I hope temporarily).

Which brings up a good point, blogging isn't always an easy thing to do. One of the challenges of blogging is blogging consistently. It is consistency and variety that makes the best blogs work. I know personally that it is kind of a drag to click on my favorite blogs and see the same entry that was there last Tuesday.

But writing consistently is easier said than done. Although it's difficult to believe, sometimes life just gets in the way of whipping out 500 words or more on such fascinating topics as why shopping carts shaped like toy racing cars should be banned from grocery stores. And sometimes writing about sensitive subjects and putting them out there for everyone to pick apart can be an emotionally draining experience.

Some of you may find it hard to believe, but I have been a professional writer for almost 25 years. I have a degree in Journalism. I am trained to write whether I feel like it or not about many subjects I really don't give a rip about. So, for me, blogging is like a vacation. I can write about anything I want without worrying about it being edited or rejected (which would explain the random nature of my blog).

And yes, it is okay for a blog to be self-serving, cathartic for the writer and one sided. What is interested about an impartial report on anything? I don't even think it is possible for anyone to truly write anything without having a bias one way or the other. Plus, it's not like you are paying to read any of this stuff (unless you buy into the concept that time is money).

Which brings me back to my original point (if there was one). We've created this odd little blogging community and as with any community, it only works if we support each other. So, I don't know what is blocking everyone creatively or emotionally, but let's keep those blog entries flowing. Because a blog is a terrible thing to waste.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Blogging isn't just for kids

I was watching the news last night about an 18 year old that killed his girlfriend's parents and ran off with their 16 year old daughter. Police chased them across country and finally caught them. But the reporter was making a big deal about both teenagers had blogs "as many teenagers do these days." They even interviewed a psychologist that said blogs were popular with teenagers because they used them to help establish their identity.

The good news is that they didn't blame blogging for the kid killing two people. The bad news is that the implication is that I, a middle-aged man am engaged in a phenomenon primarily viewed as a teenaged hobby.

Well, I'm here to tell you that that point of view sucks. I may not be a hormone driven adolescent blogging about the agony of having achne and not going to the prom, but I have just as much right to have a blog as they do. When will people stop thinking that once you turn 40 your primary activities should be adding roughage to your diet and thinking about death?

I think I have much more important things to say at 47 then I did at 17. Okay, I admit, I did spend a great deal of time in earlier blog entries writing about chopping wood, but it was a Zen thing. I've got news for you teenagers, one you don't know everything and all of those profound questions you are asking are the same ones every generation asks. And you're not likely to come any closer to the answers either...until you hit the downhill slide into your twilight years.

So ha!

But I must go for now. I think I'm starting to break out and I've got to do something about this major zit on my nose.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Small minds, small talk...

I was waiting for the train the other morning and I overheard a woman behind me greet an acquaintance at the platform and squeal something to the effect of, "you shouldn't have" when she saw he was bringing a cake to work. The conversation digressed into something about the weather and I was struck at how much I despise "small talk." I'm not big on chatting either. Or chatter, especially when it involves cliches.

There are just certain cliche phrases and mindless statements that set me on edge, so I've made it a practise of trying to counter them with anti-cliches. Here are just a few:

Statement: Working hard, or hardly working.
Response: Yes, kind of like your brain.

Statement: Washing your car? When you are through washing yours, you can wash mine?
Response: Sure, just toss me your keys. How much gas do you have?

Statement: Hot enough for you?
Response: No.

Statement: It could be worse.
Response: Now that you are here, it is.

Statement: This too shall pass.
Response: That's what they said when my dog swallowed my house key.

Statement: Tomorrow is another day.
Response: You said that yesterday.

Statement: When they give you lemons, make lemonade.
Response: But I'm diabetic.

Statement: I used to think it was bad because I had no shoes, and then I met a man with no feet.
Response: Did you ask him if you could have his shoes?

Statement: When one door shuts, another door opens.
Response: Be sure and shut it on your way out.

Statement: Beauty is only skin deep.
Response: Have you considered dermabrasion?

Statement: When it rains, it pours.
Response: And when it snows, it's cold. Any other words of wisdom?

The list is endless, but I think you catch my drift.

Oh, and someday I'm going to buy a bouquet of flowers and when someone asks, "Are those for me," I'm going to say, yes, hand them the flowers and walk away.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Digging in the root cellar

Gertrude Walburga L**** and Eugene Chester H****
"Digging in the root cellar" is the working title of the book I am thinking of writing about my adventures in genealogy. It's not that I had a particularly romanticized image of my family's history before I started the journey. I used to sit and listen in horror at my mother talking about her Grandfather Austin and how he would hide in the cellar when traveling salesmen would come to the door to make sure his wife, my great grandmother Jennie, wasn't flirting. Then, pumped up with jealousy, he would apparently tie his dirty underwear in knots so it would be a pain for her to wash them. I think that is where the phrase, "Don't get your knickers in a twist" came from.

Despite the obvious idiosyncrasies of my great grandfather, it has been some of the names that I've discovered nestled in my family tree that are giving me the willies. For example, my father's mother's name was Gertrude Walburga L**** or Lennis or Laners (her family was from Belgium and apparently the census takers had trouble understanding their English when recording the name). The name comes from St. Walburga, the Catholic church she where she was baptised in Minnesota.

But that is nothing compared to the names I'm digging up on my Grandfather H****'s side. His name was Eugene Chester H****. His father's name was Chester H****. Chester was born in Canada, but his father's family stemmed from Massachusetts (including an Ithamer H****). As I get to know Chester better I discovered that, despite being born in Canada, he managed to join or get drafted into the Union Army and fought with the 4th Iowa Calvary during the Civil War. Somewhere during that time he also managed to meet and marry Lucinda in Illinois. This was a surprise to me, because my great grandmother's name was Fanny Dunham. So apparently, he married and either divorced or abandoned Lucinda before meeting Fanny a couple years after the war.

When he did marry Fanny, he had three sons: J. Fay, Eugene Chester and Guy H****. Guy was the youngest and born in 1874. Four years later, Chester shows up in Centerville, Kansas sans Fanny and the boys and marries 22 year old Lillian Huntley "Lillie" Boyer (ever notice how white trash people end up with nicknames in quotation marks).

I don't know what happened to Fanny. I'm assuming she died. But according to the 1880 Census, J. Fay and my grandfather ended up in the Soldiers Orphans & Indigent Children Home in Davenport, Iowa. Little Guy was left with a neighbor.

Got to love that Chester. But giving him the benefit of the doubt, I kind of assumed maybe Fanny died and he left the boys long enough to go find a new mother. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case. I'm not sure what Lillian had going for her, but, although she was only 22 when she met Chester, she had already been married twice before and had had one child a year before marrying Chester. And instead of sending for Fay, Eugene and Guy, Chester began a new family with Lillian. In the course of 13 years they had five children of their own.

This is where my theory on white trash names comes in. Lillian, who was born in Macon, Missouri, named her children James Easely H****, Colonel Fred H****, John Harrison "Harry" H****, Corrine "Katie" H****, and my favorite, Rupert Curtis "Hoot" H****. Can't you just hear my great grandfather hollering out the back door, "Hoot, you get your lazy white butt in this house right now afore I whoop some sense into ya."

Of course Lillian came from a lone line of white trash names. Her father's name was Lysander Boyer and her mother's name was Caroline Americus Vespucius Graves. Of course Lillian has a sister named Ellen Lavinia and a brother named Rupert Franklin "Dick" Boyer.

After popping out Hoot, Lillian apparently had had enough of Chester. She left him and married yet again. Lillian died in 1937 in Morris, Oklahoma. Chester died in 1898 in Kansas.

As far as I know, my grandfather never reunited with Chester. But ironically, in 1892, he married his first wife Mary Ettie Davis in Kansas City, Missouri. A year later they had a son and named him, you guessed it, Chester. My grandfather divorced Mary and sometime after that and 16 years later met and married my grandmother. Fortunately they named my father Eugene Arthur H**** and left Chester and his legacy of white trash names in the dust.

But, in retrospect, I think being name Colonel Tim "Hoot" H**** would have had a nice ring to it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tie one on

I've had to wear a tie two days in a row now because I was sitting on an interview panel at work and it is making me more than a little cranky. I am not a tie person. Its status as a symbol of conformity doesn't rest easy with me. And besides, the damned things are like wearing a noose around your neck.

And why do we wear ties? Blame it on the Croatians. Apparently in 1635, a group of Craotian mercenaries came to Paris to give their support to King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. And the distinquishing article of clothing that made the Croats stand out amongst the usual dandies of Paris was a scarve around their neck tied in a distinctive "Croatian style" previously unknown in Europe. The fashionable expression, ’a la croate’, soon evolved into a new French word: la cravate. Thus the cravate or necktie was born.

I'm not a Croatian. I'm not in the Court of King Louis XII, yet almost four Centuries later, I'm walking around with a bit of silk around my neck like a dog on a frilly leash.

Well, this dog don't hunt, he just howls.

Other than serving as a personal garrote, the tie really serves no practical purpose than emphasizing your beer belly. And the fashion dictators add insult to injury by varying the width of the tie you should be wearing at any given time. Just before we moved in August, I must have tossed out 50 ties ranging in one to five inches in width.

I suppose wearing a tie is a right of passion all men must endure. After I graduated from clip-on's my father taught me to tie a tie. But that was only after he got tired of tying them for me and slipping them around my neck. Not that my father wore ties very often. He was a foreman in a warehouse and had the blue collar luxury of only donning the yoke of oppression for church and funerals.

But I had to go to college. Every time I think I need to look professional, I button that top button and slip the noose around my neck.

It could have been worse though. The Croatians could have thought it was cool to wear dead fish around their neck and we could have adopted that fashion. The higher you are on the food chain, the bigger fish you'd have to wear.

"Honey, have you seen my Blue Marlin?"

"It's in the closet next to the Mackeral."

Yes, there could have been worse customs we adopted from the Croatians. Though I think I would have looked pretty good wearing a Salmon.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My name is Winston Magui

Last week I posted my e-mail exchange with Winston Magui, a 19-year-old heir to a cocoa plantation on the Ivory Coast who suggested I give him my bank account information in exchange for 10 percent of $5 million his father had hidden in a secret bank account somewhere. Okay, call me wacky, call me crazy or call me obsessive compulsive, but Winston has brought new meaning to my life and and an outlet for expressing my frustration with the deluge of spam I receive on a daily basis.

It started with messing with him about sending me a few cases of cocoa to demonstrate his sincerity. When he replied saying he didn't have access to any cocoa I knew I had a real e-mail address being monitored by spammers. I responded to Winston's reply with an e-mail address from another "Nigerian" spammer and in turn gave his e-mail address to that spammer.

My ephiphany came when I realized that my Web e-mail program had the capability for me to send replies to e-mails using another e-mail address as the sender and the person to respond to. So, I have become Winston Magui. Winston responds to the non-stop spams I get and Winston gets his e-mail address added to the spammers list of active e-mail addresses. Even if the spam address he replies to doesn't exist, Winston gets the "return to sender" e-mail. It's the perfect anti-spam scenario.

For example, here are a couple of responses Winston made today:

Re: Whats your ZIP CODE? Meet local Christian Singles
From: "Winston Magui"
Date: Tue, November 1, 2005 6:21 am
To: "Where Christians Meet"

Dear Local Christians:

My name is Winston Magui. I am an Ivorian. I live in Abidjan. The post code is 2185. I live on a cocoa plantation and am very lonely. I would like to meet local Christian singles. I would like to meet any singles, Christian or not (I am not actually being the Christian myself). I would also like to meet married singles in my area. I do not care. I am so very lonely.

I am willing to trade cases of cocoa to meet the singles in my area. There is nothing I like better than long walks on the beach and then coming home to the plantation for a nice cup of cocoa with those little marshmellows in it.

I also have $5 million American dollars stashed away that I need to wire into someone's bank. Please to send details.

Yours in Christian Love, Winston

PS: I am not named after the cigarette

Re: Find local sex-addicts
From: "Winston Magui"
Date: Tue, November 1, 2005 6:26 am
To: "Dane ." <"Tory."@classifiedtoday.com>
Dear Dane,

Yes, yes...you are a godsend. I would like to meet local sex-addicts. My name is Winston Magui. I am an Ivorian living on a cocoa plantation outside of Abidjan. My postal code is 2185. I am also contacting the Christian singles site just to show you how desperate I am.

As one would think, I have lots of cocoa to trade for free sex with local Christians. I also have access to $5 million US dollars, but that is a bit more complicated and involves bank wires and the such. But if you want to send me your bank account numbers we can make a deal I await your response,

Winston "I'll satisfy you" Magui

Okay, I know that this probably isn't really helping things. My spam flow hasn't subsided. And none of the spammers will probably ever see any of Winston's replies. But, for a few brief moments when I hit send, I feel so free.

I almost feel like a cigarette...just not a Winston.