Saturday, March 30, 2013

Walking the Walk

Easter Saturday, one gorgeous afternoon. Days like this are a gift to be savored like the first bite of that chocolate bunny sitting in the basket. Oh those ears are always too tempting.

With a writing project put to bed this morning, it was time to see what has been happening around the lake since the last time the weather allowed an enjoyable stroll. Winter comes early up here and spring comes late. Very late. We might see some leaves on the trees around Memorial Day. While back home in Jersey, the daffodils are already smiling, at the lake there isn't even a hint of green popping up.

There is however, a bright blue sky filled with cotton ball clouds. Its color is in stark contrast to the decaying leaves and occasional piles of snow still lingering. With a temperature in the low 50s, time to grab the camera, the pen, the notebook and the phone and go on the road to find out.

Not a quarter mile away, the music shuffle pulled up the Beatles doing "Good Day Sunshine." Seriously, you can't make this shit up. Another half mile and two boys on bikes, around eight years old I would think, rode towards me. One had already removed his sweatshirt and was riding in a Tee, yes spring is here. Through my sunglasses I watched them as they biked closer. Big smiles on their faces... it was that kind of day. The one in the t-shirt gave me a big wave as he approached, which kind of surprised me and made me happy at the same time. I gave him a big smile as I waved back. Hopefully in another couple of years, he will still be sweet enough to wave at someone else who is enjoying the moment just as much as he.

Not too many changes around the lake in the past month or so. A couple of new homes are getting close to being finished, a lot of weekenders are up for the holiday. Everyone is beginning the new chapter of spring cleanup. But for me and a couple of kids on bikes, it was a time to clear out the cobwebs in our minds. Time to embrace the changing season and time to just... smile.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Before The Egg Hunt, There Were The Eggs

When I was little, really little, my dad used to color Easter eggs. Not the ones with the vegetable dye in the pastel colors. No, he created works of art. He practiced pysanky, the Ukranian version of coloring eggs.

I think he would start early in February. There wasn't much room in our house, so he had a makeshift area set up in my parent's bedroom. I remember everything came in paper packets. The different colored dyes were powdered and he mixed them in a vinegar and water solution, if I remember correctly. There were jars, saved throughout the year, of just the right size. The stylus he used to draw, the beeswax used to make the design and the candle. And the eggs of course.

He would sit and work with a small desk lamp. How the process worked was he would think up a design, heat the stylus, which was no more than an open-ended metal cone wired onto a stick. He would then take the heated stylus and rub it against the beeswax, melting it enough to drop into the cone. Then he would heat the cone and the wax would flow out of a tiny hole at the tip.

Whatever pattern he wanted to stay white, he would cover with the wax. When he was done with white, he would dip the egg in yellow or pink dye. You went from lighter colors to darker colors. He would then cover with wax everything he wanted to be in that color. Then dip the egg into the next color. The processed was repeated until you got to the final color of black. At this point, the egg was nearly covered in black wax.

Then came the best part. Holding the egg in one hand and a soft cloth in another, he would hold the egg close to the flame to melt the wax and wipe it off. And like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the beautiful design that only he knew in his head, was unveiled. For me, it was magic.

My mother had some of his eggs, but my aunt bought a lot of them. He sold them for $1 each. How funny is that. When my aunt passed away a few years ago, those eggs were the one thing I wanted to get back. The above picture shows some of them. I gave the other half to my brother and at some point I know my niece will have all the eggs... in one basket. Hopefully, they will be passed down another generation or two before the story, just like their once bright colors have faded.

Miss you Pops.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

This Is What Happens When You Listen To A Rodent

Are y'all happy now? Just like every year, you put your faith in a freakin' rodent. And most years his prognosticating is ignored after two or so weeks have passed. But not this year. This year the furball screwed up big time and no one is too happy about it.

Did I mention how much I hate Ground Hog Day? I once knew someone born on February 2nd and always thought with the exception of being born on February 29th, there wasn't a worse birth date. Because it's all about the ground hog.

This year the Pennsylvania rodent, the one who seems to have the most clout, was yanked out of his nice warm home and waved around like a grand prize in county fair. Where's PETA when you need them? Well the human idiots in their long coats and big hats decided that Phil had seen his shadow. Or maybe he didn't, but anyway, the human idiots declared that spring was right around the corner.

So here we are on March 24 and it's snowing like a bastard over half of the country and I will be shoveling the white stuff tomorrow. Happy I am not.

Apparently neither is Michael Gmoser, an Ohio county prosecutor, who has filed an injunction against poor old Phil for the misrepresentation of an early spring. He goes on to state that the rodent has committed an unclassified felony when he emerged from his burrow and didn't see his shadow. Or maybe he did.

Are you fuckin kidding me? This prosecutor is wasting court time with this? First of all, Phil didn't do anything, it was the human idiots doing their yearly grandstanding. They should be held liable for any ill-advised weather reporting. Or better yet, why don't we all just get lives and let Phil live his in peace and quiet.

If we would stop thinking a sleeping ground hog held the balance of a few weeks of our lives in his rodent hands, we could just go back to listening to the real weather forecasters with all their radar and dopler and forecast models. Because they're always right.... er, no they suck too.

Oh just look out the damn window. See any flakes yet?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Doodle: A Story, A Book, A Chance To Help

The one really great thing about writing a blog is I can do anything I want with it. Now for those of you who stop by on a regular basis, I tend to complain. A lot. Alright, I tend to bitch about almost everything.

But not today.

Today I'm going to try to use the Force to do a little good. And I hope some of you will join in and help too.

A little over a year ago I really started getting involved with my blogs and subsequently, involved with other bloggers. Some of them I'm now proud to call friends. Some I've met, some I just know online, but it has been a real fun ride getting to know them and to read them.

One of my friends, Jim Wood, has written a children's book. Jim's friend Michele has done the illustrations. It's the story of a little girl and a dog and a life journey. But more about that later. Ashley is the fourteen-year-old daughter of Michele Quinn's close family friend. Ashley has been critically ill and in and out of the hospital for the last four months. All personal proceeds from the online sales of the book, "Doodle" from now until May will be donated to Ashley's Army.

So here's what I'm thinking. Well, first of all, buy a book. Or better yet, buy more than one. Even if you don't have a child, buy one. I did. You can buy one or more, and give it to a child you may know. Or donate it to your public library, school library, pediatric department of your local hospital, or just use your imagination.

Jim is a good guy, that much I know. He works hard for his family and for his craft. This is his first published book and its profits are being used to help someone else. It's not a lot of money, only $7 and with its profits going toward helping a family with a sick little girl, it's money well spent.

Doodle is a rhyming book told from the view of a little girl as she and her dog explore the world around them and wonder how things were made. Purchase a copy at:

Here's the link to read more about the story of how Doodle came to be: The Story of Doodle
The Doodle facebook page
Jim Wood's website: Go Jimmy Go

Please share or tweet or repost this blog to anyone and everyone you know. Let's just see what we can do.

From me, Jim, Michele and Ashley... Thanks.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This Is Why I Don't Go Out In The Daytime

So I needed to bring the Subaru up to the dealer for a little service which was under warranty. This dealership is about a half hour drive up Rt. 17 in Bergen County NJ. For the most part the road is the highway to hell for six days a week when the malls are open. The only day of peace is Sunday when under the county's archaic blue laws, the stores are closed.

Knowing I didn't want to be anywhere on this road during retail hours, I scheduled the service appointment for 7:30. But of course it's been snowing since yesterday afternoon; luckily not much is really accumulating. So here I am, out in the world on a weekday morning. I know for most of you that is a normal day, but I should be having my second cup of tea and catching up with the overnight internet world.

What I am doing is getting agitated. Yes, the dealership has wifi so I am still connected with the world, but it also has "other people" here. And the woman next to me is playing Song Pop, or whatever the hell that shit is. This is what it is... annoying. The dealership is cool, they have piped in music...right now Mumford and Sons is playing. They also have a nice TV which they switched on and is currently showing the History Channel. Apparently none of us here really care what's on. Then I have missy next to me playing Song Pop. I am being overloaded by sound. Especially those electronic noises coming from this bitch's phone.

How long I ask, how long before I say "excuse me"  hmm.
And I'm getting hungry. This could go downhill very quickly.

Oh look, my car is ready.

And tomorrow is Spring. Life is good.
Right now I have a headache.
Going home.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Bus, The Bugs and Other Things

Roaches in your hair, roaches everywhere.

No, it isn't an updated version of the 60's song by the Cowsills "The Rain, The Park and Other Things," it's a real life experience for Greyhound Bus riders.

As if the recent problems occurring on Carnival Cruise ships weren't bad enough, now another form of public transportation is producing an extreme cringe factor. Apparently forty-eight passengers boarded a NYC Greyhound bus on Friday, filled with the expectation of an uneventful two+ hour ride to Manhattan's Port Authority Bus Terminal. About fifteen minutes into the trip, the passengers realized there were a few non-paying riders on the bus.

Without warning roaches began appearing on the walls, the ceiling and coming out of every crack and crevice.  The roaches were probably asleep and missed their original destination of Atlantic City. One of them woke up and said "Holy Shit, we missed our stop, everybody get up, we gotta get off the bus." Or something like that.

You now have hundreds of roaches (exact number is uncertain, but seeing one is enough to make you start scratching every part of your body) running all over the inner frame of the bus and falling from the ceiling. Passengers began to scream as they started falling into people's hair. Can you even imagine?

The bus driver quickly pulled the bus over and one can only imagine the orderly way the freaked out passengers got off. Somehow I don't think the "all women and children first" rule was in effect. Another bus was dispatched and the passengers resumed their journey to New York, most likely in a state of constant inspection of themselves and giving the hairy eyeball to the person sitting next to them, for any creepy crawlers intent on completing their relocation process.

For their trouble and the absolute terror inflicted upon them, Greyhound has given the passengers a full refund. WooHoo. Let the lawsuits begin...extreme psychological trauma and all that.

Now I don't know about you, but I feel like taking a shower. I'm having the phantom bug itches.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Goodbye Harry, We Hardly Knew You

Something came across my computer today that had me both smiling and thinking. It was a tweet from Eric Alper (@thatericalper) and it said "The greatest obituary you'll ever, ever read in your life" and it had the link to it. Now Eric Alper is a PR/Music/Journalist type who finds a lot of interesting stuff. So when I read that tweet, I knew I needed to check out the link. I'm posting the entire obit here and will continue my post at the end of it. It's a little long, so skim it if you must, but try to read it, it's worth it.

From Bradford O’Keefe Funeral Home:

Obituary for Harry Stamps

Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.

Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). For his signature bacon and tomato sandwich, he procured 100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer’s black pepper from Virginia, home grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee’s Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription. As a point of pride, he purported to remember every meal he had eaten in his 80 years of life. 

The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women. He loved his mom Wilma Hartzog (deceased), who with the help of her sisters and cousins in New Hebron reared Harry after his father Walter’s death when Harry was 12. He worshipped his older sister Lynn Stamps Garner (deceased), a character in her own right, and her daughter Lynda Lightsey of Hattiesburg. He married his main squeeze Ann Moore, a home economics teacher, almost 50 years ago, with whom they had two girls Amanda Lewis of Dallas, and Alison of Starkville. He taught them to fish, to select a quality hammer, to love nature, and to just be thankful. He took great pride in stocking their tool boxes. One of his regrets was not seeing his girl, Hillary Clinton, elected President. 

He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.

He excelled at growing camellias, rebuilding houses after hurricanes, rocking, eradicating mole crickets from his front yard, composting pine needles, living within his means, outsmarting squirrels, never losing a game of competitive sickness, and reading any history book he could get his hands on. He loved to use his oversized “old man” remote control, which thankfully survived Hurricane Katrina, to flip between watching The Barefoot Contessa and anything on The History Channel. He took extreme pride in his two grandchildren Harper Lewis (8) and William Stamps Lewis (6) of Dallas for whom he would crow like a rooster on their phone calls. As a former government and sociology professor for Gulf Coast Community College, Harry was thoroughly interested in politics and religion and enjoyed watching politicians act like preachers and preachers act like politicians. He was fond of saying a phrase he coined “I am not running for political office or trying to get married” when he was “speaking the truth.” He also took pride in his service during the Korean conflict, serving the rank of corporal–just like Napolean, as he would say.

Harry took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam’s on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees (who can even remember where he got those?) that were always paired with a grass-stained MSU baseball cap.

Harry traveled extensively. He only stayed in the finest quality AAA-rated campgrounds, his favorite being Indian Creek outside Cherokee, North Carolina. He always spent the extra money to upgrade to a creek view for his tent. Many years later he purchased a used pop-up camper for his family to travel in style, which spoiled his daughters for life.

He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words “veranda” and “porte cochere” to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil’s Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest.

Because of his irrational fear that his family would throw him a golf-themed funeral despite his hatred for the sport, his family will hold a private, family only service free of any type of “theme.” Visitation will be held at Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, 15th Street, Gulfport on Monday, March 11, 2013 from 6-8 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Jeff Davis Campus) for their library. Harry retired as Dean there and was very proud of his friends and the faculty. He taught thousands and thousands of Mississippians during his life. The family would also like to thank the Gulfport Railroad Center dialysis staff who took great care of him and his caretaker Jameka Stribling.

Finally, the family asks that in honor of Harry that you write your Congressman and ask for the repeal of Day Light Saving Time. Harry wanted everyone to get back on the Lord’s Time.

It's something isn't it? First of all the writing is wonderful. It made you feel like you knew him, and it made you sad that you didn't.

But how about Harry? Isn't it great that he "fancied smart women"? Not everyday you meet a character like that. There's a good chance that most of us never will. But this whole obituary got me thinking. What will people remember about me? HA, do I really want to know? Do I even care?

As a writer, there are a few things I could think of saying. And knowing quite a few writers, I'm sure they might be able to put down some real pretty prose. But I don't think anyone could come close to capturing my essence as well as the writer of Harry Stamps obituary has captured his. But then most of us aren't quite the figure that was Harry Stamps.

And for this brief moment in time, it was good to know him.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Guest Post...sort of.

This week I have been dealing with some personal issues, so writing has been a little hard to do. As I write this, I am sitting in the hospital with a family member (what did we do before wifi) and waiting on the results of the latest blood work. It's stressful. You come in with one problem and pick up another one. Such is the way of healthcare.

So while my brain is a little fuzzy, my eyes tired and my patience thin, I'd like to post something from a fellow blogger whose work is always so right on the mark. You should read him. Often.

His blog is "As Long As I'm Singing," his name is t and below is a post from the other day which is just brilliant in what it says, how he says it and the message it delivers. Another child has died because of bullying. How much more senseless can a death be?  Please read it, visit his blog and leave a comment.

Rest In Peace

My youngest son, the heel-hoofing beautiful boy I recently “spoke” to my dad about, has a particular way of kissing me good night.
First he kisses my lips. Then my right ear. Then my left. And then my lips once more – presumably for good measure.
He kisses me good night in this fashion precisely each and every day, and last night was no exception.
Last night, however, I became painfully aware that while my 12 year old boy was kissing me good night, another father could very well have been kissing his 12 year old boy goodbye for the last time.
My heart goes out to the parents, family and friends of Bailey O’Neill. I can not fathom the pain they must be feeling at this time, and I pray for their shared peace.
People, this shit has simply got to stop already. We have got to come to grips with the fact that we are not a nation of gun-totin’ John Wayne macho men walking off into the sunset – we are a nation of people. Living, breathing, loving – and sometimes hurting – people. None of us is any better than the rest, by mere incidence of physical appearance, skin color, sexual orientation, religious practice or social position.  God damn us for thinking anything otherwise.
A 12 year old boy died yesterday because we as a people not only allow bullying to occur, but have almost put the practice onto a pedestal of sorts, praising the “tough guy” while belittling the peace maker.
My son, my children, are no strangers to bullying. They have each learned to cope in their own fashion, with a sin that is upon us all. They have each learned to deal with this barbaric rite – a rite that no one should ever have live with, let alone die from.
Bailey, I am sorry that we allowed this to happen to you. I am so sorry.
People, this shit has simply got to stop already. Let’s get to work.

Friday, March 1, 2013

D as in Dumbass

Well thank god that cooler heads have prevailed. I mean really, how could the alleged shooter be able to mount a credible defense. After all, there is the language problem... among other issues.

In another news addition of you can't make this shit up, I give you 35-year-old Gregory Dale Lanier of Frostproof Fl. It seems Mr. Lanier was shot in the leg while driving his car. The alleged shooter? His English Bulldog. Yep. Didn't I say you can't make this shit up? According to the shooting victim his 9mm Beretta semi-automatic handgun, was on the passenger side floor of the car when the dog kicked it, discharging the bullet that Lanier didn't know was in the chamber. Luckily Mr. Lanier received a non-life threatening wound to his leg. Imagine though if he had received a more serious wound, one where he lost control of his car. The ramifications of that are not quite as funny as the headline of "Dog Shoots Man."

After an investigation, police have decided the shooting was accidental and no charges would be brought against the dog. WHAT? How about bringing some charges against the dumbass owner for being, well a dumbass. He thought the gun was unloaded... if you are that dumbass, you should not be allowed to own a gun never mind drive around with it in your car. Apparently in Florida you don't need a license to carry a handgun, so this is what you end up with. An unlicensed gun owner dumbass who gets shot by his dog because he didn't know the gun was loaded.

You can't make this shit up.