Thanks to my everyone’s darling Tiff, I’m blowing the dust off this old, wrinkly blog thingy. Looking at the dashboard as though it’s a 1948 Farmall – I think I remember what this here lever does, now if only I can get it to move out of this rut I’ll be plowing up all sorts of fallow dirt. For what, I’m not sure – but hey, FARM EQUIPMENT! How could that not be fun?

Speaking of which, got to visit my kinfolk in California not once but twice this year (most of ’em anyway). This is special because the normal schedule averages out to once every 8 years. Took lots of pictures and did lots of stuff.

But first, here’s what they do for fun in New Zeeland:

**********UPDATE

This post has been interrupted by a tiny little spark, one that caused my old laptop to go dark forevah.

Gone are all the photos I didn’t back up, all the music I’ve collected one or two discs (or songs) at a time, and many other keepsake-type things.

Off to make new memories and back them up religiously. Since today’s the day I get over it, I’ll just hit ‘post’ and make the next post a good one.

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I’m back. Thanks for the prodding, Ron and Tiff and Kenju!

It’s been a heckuva couple months. I’ve been out of sorts and completely out of what I’d like to be ‘normal’ routine since Dad’s funeral. Haven’t felt much like doing a great many things; sometimes I do them anyway, and sometimes I just play 30 games of Freecell in a row. I’ve won 2141 out of 2545 games since the last resetting of scores. Work is picking up a bit, which is nice – just need to get more consistent. That’s always been my complaint though, ever since grade school – maybe consistency is only for the undead. And good cake batter.

At any rate, my disjointed thoughts strongly mirror my very life lately. Intentions that go unrealized and spur-of-the-moment bursts of activity that come without forethought are par for the course.

*****

The Guatemala trip was very worthwhile, both less and more exhausting than I thought it would be. It affected me much more than I expected or wanted it to. The people operating in the place impressed me as the most genuine, giving, and world-changing folks I’ve ever met. The place impressed me as a place I would pay any price to leave, and I would not want to spend a night there without the assurance that it was for some good – and for a limited time only. It’s been a solid month since departing, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to articulate all that I experienced (including the post-trip processing).

I will definitely go back.

*****

After Guatemala, I spent almost a week doing ‘normal’ life stuff like work and coming home every night for dinner, then cleaned Lurch of all but the necessary tools and headed for Michigan. My Dad’s house needs a lot of work, so it’s up to me and my sisters to do it. They’re well suited for sorting documents and making phone calls and doing many of the newly minted necessary tasks, but not so much for remodeling a bathroom or moving furniture.

I headed out Friday morning, drove 13 hours, and arrived just before the grocery store in town closed. I had time to grab a box of cereal, some milk, tortilla chips, and a bag of oranges. Forgot the coffee, which was dreadful but understandable since the manager was practically following me around to make sure I left quickly. It was strange walking into Dad’s house alone; that had never happened before. Much went on that week that was blog-worthy, but the DSL was disconnected until Tuesday. By then, the work and moving were in full swing, and by the end of the day I was literally passed out in the La Z Boy in front of Robot Chicken and had no gumption to write.

A week went by, tile was installed, much furniture moved, a tractor extracted from the garage, and a trailer-load of property was hauled back to the Tiny House. I brought home¬† a couple of the smaller model airplanes (55″ wingspan), the La Z Boy, a bookcase, and Dad’s motorcycle. It’s a small machine, and not very comfortable for cruising – but he loved it. It’s low to the ground (for easy step-over), has a windshield & saddle bags, and can make a respectable roar. I ride it whenever I have a few minutes and a short trip to make.

On the way home, which was supposed to be Thursday but turned into Friday because the work wasn’t done enough, it started snowing like mad. By the time I reached Cleveland I could barely see, and the turnpike was becoming slushy. Wound up at a Holiday Inn Express (I love those places, mostly for the cinnamon rolls) while the snow raged on. By morning it was better, because in the North they have lots of trucks to deal with the white shiat. Finally got home Saturday night, sore from the drive and with the trailer’s contents heavily soiled by slush. By the time I reached the VA-NC border, all snow was gone and the skies were blue. I love the south (but brought home a snow shovel just in case).

*****

Lately I’ve been involved with a project at an enormous power plant. It’s great to have a big juicy job to work on, building countertops for the control rooms. We went out there Friday to install the first of four phases, and it’s the kind of place I could spend a day just looking around at things. There are dozens of gigantic cranes, semi-loads full of a single pipe (there are pipes that you could fit 4 city buses into with room for a dozen Camrys); it’s like a space port from the movies. Over 2000 construction workers are on site every day, and the safety requirements are the most rigorous I’ve encountered. The site is about 4 hours from home and one hour from a proper commerce center – there’s no Home Depot just around the corner if we forget something. Today I drove to Richmond to pick up material for the next phase, which will occupy me until the end of Monday. Hope to come back with pictures, if perhaps I can find a not-dead camera.

*****

The band played this past weekend, and while it was good fun, the crowd was not as lively as usual. It’s much more fun to have a floor full of dancing partiers than a bar full of scattered mildly disinterested patrons nursing drinks and shooting pool. The next gig promises to be closer to the dance hall variety – you should be there, we’re even shooting a video.

*****

I thought of a post to post about bad kissing, but it’ll have to wait ’till next time because I have a raging case of PAS and am going to bed.

Adios y’all!

Hola, I’m not here this week. I’m over here.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a regular routine. Being self-employed contributes in a big way, and on the whole I think I prefer being irregular. Now don’t get me wrong, I poop nearly every day, but I think predictability is overrated. Even so, this has been a strange few weeks. I haven’t felt like doing much. The calendar marches on, and stuff needs to get done.

*****

Thanks for you kind words & prayers. It means a lot to me. I’ve been well-supported by friends, and I am thankful.

*****

We traveled to Michigan, made funeral arrangements, began sorting through the mountain of Dad’s stuff and papers, had visitation and a funeral, cried a bit, saw lots of family and old faces, racked up significant dollars on the credit card, divvied up inheritance items, and returned home. There’s so much that happened in that week, it’s hard to believe it all.

What pissed me off the most was the crass salesmanship of funeral homes and cemeteries. They seem to expect that folks will do whatever it takes in a time of grief, and never miss an opportunity to upsell. While having lunch directly after the funeral service, a lady walked up and showed me this lovely memorial plaque they had made, with a picture and little engraved nameplate. I munched on my ham sammich while she explained that ‘this one is for you, and you can order more, but they cost $40 each.’ I managed to remain polite, but it took strong filtering.

Dad had purchased a 2-place crypt 20+ years ago, but that didn’t include opening and closing. You know what it costs to remove 4 screws, slide a casket in, and put the granite cover back in place? $1652. And, they’ll charge that much again when it’s Mom’s time to go. They suggested we could pre-pay for her services, to ensure we wouldn’t have to pay more later. My sister, the vet tech, said they treat people with more dignity when dealing with the loss of a pet.

We found the most recent will was drawn up in 1984. Mom’s MS was not dominating her life, we kids were still living at home, there were no grandkids, and the estate was in a very different state. It would have been good to have a more recent set of instructions.

*****

On tap this month: Meet with a lawyer and write up our estate plans, play a couple back-to-back gigs with the band, immediately after the 2nd gig hop on a plane to Guatemala for a week-long visit with these folks, come back to Raleigh, and drive up to Michigan to help my sisters with the estate. Trips to Goodwill, storage, and various houses with furniture and stuff and more stuff. Need to fix up the house a bit, perhaps have an estate sale, and rent out the house. It’s daunting, but doable.

*****

Woke up at 4 this morning to rescue my shelter tent from the snow. We’ve got one of these that I put up on the back deck for parties and to keep my tools out of the rain during projects (we have a shower replacement underway), but they don’t tolerate nasty weather that well. This is my 3rd one, the first blowing over in a bad windstorm, the second collapsing under a freak rain event, and this one was starting to give out from a pile of icy, slushy snow. After knocking the snow off and bending a few struts back into place, I think it’s saved from this storm.

I got sleds, I got boots, but a snow shovel I don’t got. Time to see if there are any for sale.

I just heard from my sister that my dad passed away last night.

He had gone into the hospital a couple weeks ago for a UTI and some issues with his diabetes. Last night he had a little trouble breathing, and after about an hour died of respiratory failure.

Dad was a faithful Christian, husband, father of three, grandfather of five, chaplain to prisoners, and genuine good man.

I miss him already.

And little chirlen too. I wish everyone a happy oh-ten, may it kick aught-nine’s agey, saggy ass to the curb.

I’m not complaining much, as last year wasn’t bad for me. Got married, made friends, have work to do and a loving home and insurance and health. However, I’m always more excited about beginnings than middles or endings.

*****

I’ve been ranting about this with little effect on Facebook and Fark, and can’t seem to get it off my chest. So, here goes the latest Drama from Thomas the Drama Llama. This guy cranks out more stories than the entire history of American soap operas, but I will spin out just a few recent highlights.

He moved into the neighborhood about a year and a half ago. I met him when I came home from work one afternoon while he and his helpers were moving furniture into the house. He paused from his work to introduce himself boisterously, often interrupting himself to scream obscenities at his help. From across the street. I knew right off this was a class act.

In this time, he’s had 2 live-in girlfriends, 4 engagements complete with ring, 5 different vehicles, a dozen space heaters (the gas company wouldn’t give him credit), and no less than 18 different phones and phone numbers. Not to mention at least 5 different business names. When we met, he told me he was an enlisted officer in the Army. Special Forces. His girlfriend, the Marine, had some boot camp photos and awards on display, but Thomas said all his awards were his scars and tattoos.

Once the Marine girlfriend moved out because she was tired of his shit, he announced that he was redeploying with the Marines. “What? I thought you were Army!” I exclaimed. He said I must have heard him wrong, he was always a Marine. He even got a shiny new globe & anchor tattoo to declare his devotion to the Corps. A few weekends ago, his new live-in girlfriend asked me if I knew where he was. I didn’t, but he called just minutes later to say he was in Germany. Just got back from a quick op in Afghanistan. He’d be back in the states tomorrow – total deployment: 4 days.

I’ve never been in the military, but this smells like bullshit to me.

Anyway, I’d gotten used to his style of loud and wild proclamations of plans to do this or that, how much money he brung in this week, or how badass he is. Disagreeing, questioning, or correcting didn’t work – just wasn’t worth it. Smile and nod, be friendly and neighborly, share a beer or a lend some help every once in a while. That was my MO, and it had been working until last week.

He was in need of some help in his tree business, and asked if I’d be game to be part of his crew the next day. I rearranged some things and told him I could do it, but had to drive myself so I could be to a 5:30 appointment. A few minutes later, he called back and said nevermind, he found another guy to take my place. After we had made arrangements. Pissed me off a little, but that’s Thomas. I found something else to do with my day.

Later in the afternoon, he called to ask what was going on at his house. This is not unusual, he’s paranoid of people messing with his stuff or stealing things, and he’s always kept a sharp eye out on the Tiny House. I reported what I saw: Nothing. One of his trucks with a rented chipper were in the driveway, nobody else is around. Several hours later, his girlfriend knocks on the door and says she has to run some errands, but doesn’t know how to disengage the chipper. It’s a big yellow beastly trailer that can chew up entire trees, so I go over and help unhook it. She drives off, and we go back to our TV marathon.

A while later Thomas calls again. He says he saw the law at his house when he was on the way home, so he kept on driving. He was gonna keep driving ’till he got where he was going, and he wouldn’t tell me where or why. I said, ‘whatever.’

Now, I hate getting ‘whatevered’ – it’s about the worst thing, IMO. It means you don’t care, or don’t believe the other person. It’s rare for me to say that, because I do care and want everyone to be happy… but I was at the end of my rope. He said, “Well I hope I haven’t pissed you off.”

“Look Thomas, I don’t know whatever you’re up to, but good luck. If there’s anything I can help with, let me know.” And that was that.

The next day, his house was deserted. No trucks, no chipper, no lights on. He called from a restricted number, said he was almost to Utah. His girlfriend must have moved out too, he didn’t know where she was going. Just then, I heard a mewling from the street – their two kittens were tentatively making their way across the dark street. Baby cats, maybe 3 months old. It was fecking cold, and would be below freezing that night.

“Your cats are outside,” I told him. “Oh… uh, she must have put them out. Can you bring ’em to a shelter?”

That’s when the switch flipped for me. I was done smiling and nodding, letting him think I believed whatever he spewed. He said, “Look, let me know if the law wants to talk to you. I didn’t do anything.”

As coincidence would have it, a Sheriff’s investigator stopped by shortly after I got home to ask if I knew anything about Thomas. I said sure, we’ve been neighbors a while. He asked if I knew his real name. I had to admit, I didn’t. He went by several names, but I never asked to see his driver’s license – who does that? Apparently, the Sheriff’s department didn’t know his name, or even what he looked like.

Thomas has called a few more times since then. Apparently he had heard the Sheriff had come to visit, and that he stayed here about 1/2 hour. I told him no, it was about 10 minutes – and by the way, who’s reporting on visitors to my home? He wouldn’t answer, but offered that he’s been charged with a felony, something about a trailer he bought. He’s in California, doesn’t know what he’ll be doing.

Last night, about 1:00 AM, he called again. As soon as I said hello, he began cussing me out, calling me a snitch. “What are you talking about?” I demanded. He said I helped the Law and I’d regret it. “Are you threatening me?” I asked. He hung up.

My fervent hope for the new year is that they don’t come back, and we get normal neighbors.

Anybody want some kittens?

Fruit flies like a banana.  -Groucho Marx

bush-miss-me-yetI had a brazillion ideas for posts over the last *cough* weeks, but never wrote them. As you can plainly see. I did get in here and tinker with my llama a little (hey, that’s still legal in North Carolina) but that’s as far as it went. So here’s a glut of things, or a mini-glut. It might not even be enough to plug the pipes of a big man, but I’ve never let that stop me before.

Since I’m out of any sort of rhythm for writing, I will do a thing I shall call Things That Happened. It may or may not be in order of calendar or importance; if you care to know which is what and when I will take your questions following this ramble.

I wound up winning the band gig I mentioned a while back! Whoot! It took a while, as they were trying out other bass players. No problem, of course… but they said they would make a decision in a week or so, and after a month I figured I was out of the running. Turns out their drummer of 12 years was ready to not do the band thing, and was hoping the band would dissolve. The other members didn’t want to quit, so they wound up needing a bassist AND drummer. So they hired my drummer friend Phil and me at the same time. Sweet!

We’ve played together for a couple months now, did a big backyard party last month, and we played downtown Raleigh Saturday night. It was a blast, the place was full, and a fairly tipsy of fan even grabbed the guitarist’s mic and sang one of our songs. He knew all the words, woulda been great if he could have stayed on key…

***

A cuppa two tree weekends ago we took a tiny bacation in New Bern, NC. It was crummy weather, but we had a nice place right on the water (thanks Tiff’s Mom!). Three days of hanging out, practicing music, making Tiffoween costumes, and enjoying the amenities of resort living. Off-season resort living, to be sure, but we didn’t really miss the mini-golf course or the lack of open hours at the store. Except for when I needed a hand-operated needle for sticking some Velcro to my costume, which required a trip into Town to find a store that actually carried such goods. It was only 8 miles, but 25 minutes of driving over bridge and dale each way. We got to know the route since earlier in our trip Tinkerbell’s battery kicked the bucket. The good folks at the Auto Parts Chain hooked us up right speedy.

sailingWe extended our trip by a day in order to gain 3 valuable hours of sewing, plus which we couldn’t go on a waterfront vacation without doing something vacationey. So we went sailing. A nice lady with a big sailboat advertised afternoon cruises, and we hopped on it. There were neither wind nor other passengers, so we had a 43-foot sloop all to ourselves for snooping and riding and learning about the local waterways. I got to hoist the mainsail but other’n that we rode around looking at stuff and listening to the Cap’n.

***

I have a couple of teeth that are trying to kill me. As previously reported, my dentist wishes to extract maximum cash from my teeth. I wish to keep both my teeth and my cash (lest you be confused, I have more than two teeth), but I have a pair of upper molars that are so sensitive to cold that simply inhaling wrong causes pain at about 3/10. Last night I crunched a Tostito in the wrong way, which resulted in about 2 hours of 8/10 unrelenting pain. 2 ibuprofen, 4 aspirin, and a nap later, it was back to about 2 – which I can live with. I can’t wait until Tuesday, when they yank the suckers out and pack my jaw full of dead man’s bone powder. Why would they do that? So they can implant about $2k worth of new teeth. I hope Darvocet is as good as they say…

***

Tiffoween was a big success. We had a buncha party people, loads of fun, a photo scavenger hunt, a bounce house, and more food than could be eaten by a family of two. In a month. I just discovered this evening that all the beer in the little beer fridge is frozen solid, so no leftover beer for me. The decorations are mostly down, just have a spiderweb and ghost to exorcise and we’ll be back to normal.

***

If this post is a sailboat, it has entered the Bermuda Triangle of Doom. My arch-nemesis, Save-It-For-Later, has come aboard and is cutting the sails to ribbons, throwing my rum overboard, and pillaging my women. Time to buckle some swashes, back in a bit…