Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2018

Look! Up In The Sky!

WHAT? WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. Wait a second until the Blue Angels pass over the house. They are beautiful…and LOUD.

The Navy Blue Angels Aerobatic Team was in town for the 2018 Terre Haute (That’s French for Awesome.”) Air Show.

I love Air Shows. They are a living display of Aviation History, the Present, and a peek into the Future. In the air before your eyes are planes from the World War II era, the aircraft defending this nation today, and the cutting edge technology like the F-22 with Stealth capabilities.

It is a History lesson that should be taught to everyone because our History is the best way to understand and prepare for the future.

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But…But…I Love You

 

HERE I AM SITTING IN A SMALL TOWN when I know that my fame and fortune lies in the Big City with Bright Lights. You know, some place like Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Albuquerque, aside from being the only city with two “Qs” in its name, seems to be a really “Happening” place. After all, wasn’t the hit TV show “Breaking Bad” set there? And so is “Better Call Saul”- my personal favorite. Albuquerque seems to be the place to be. It is also the home of a World Record Holding Crazy Person.

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” – Part Thirty-One

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” – Part Thirty-One

The Game isn’t over until one side wins. The final score has to show the world who the winner is – and more importantly – who is the loser.

The Game is almost over.

1298 Haight Street had turned into something no one wanted and no one could do anything about: a crime scene.

The Hit and Run of Luco Reyes was tied to the smashed window at the café, the constant break-ins at Apartment 6, and the brutal killing of the cat. They were all connected to Apartment 8 and Dennis Thayer, but he was nowhere to be found.

The DMV showed that Thayer owned a van, or had. He had failed to keep it registered for the last two years. There was no record of it being sold or scrapped, so it had to be somewhere – just like Dennis Thayer. He had to be somewhere.

Shopkeepers on Haight Street kept reporting that they had seen him lurking about, standing in the shadows watching something or someone. One minute he was there – the next minute he was gone. At night he was heard but not seen.

The people at 1298 Haight Street swore that they heard him in the building. He was going from floor to floor meowing like a cat, but by the time anyone would open their door he’d be gone – into a vacant apartment, into the Park, into the darkness. He was seen sitting on the Buena Vista Park steps across the street. Sometimes he would shout something that someone said sounded like, “I don’t share.” Another time he yelled out a slurred, “Marlee, you’re mine. I own you.”

Marlee had all but quit living in her apartment and moved in with Luco Reyes’ flat on Stanyan Street. Little by little she was transferring her sparse possessions from where she had hoped that she would find the start of a new life, but what had turned into a twisted continuation of the old.

Stanyan Street was a refuge. Every day Luco was getting stronger and she felt safe being with and near him.

The savagery of the killings in the neighborhood had escalated. While there was no proof – no hard evidence, no pictures to make it real, the people on the street knew in their gut that it was Dennis Thayer who had been butchering the Street Kids. The Kids warned each other, but had no place to go, to hide from him. They knew the killer was a man who offered them drugs, shelter from the cold and food. He also led them away to a van, they said, and then to their graves. They were leery of the Police and of any authority that might try to send them back home. They feared that more than they feared “The Man in the Night.”

“Meow, Meow. Here. Kitty, Kitty. Are you in there, Marlee? Can I come in? You know I can – anytime I want.”

Had she heard something or was it just her imagination. Anytime she was in her apartment, even for a few minutes, she felt like she was being watched. She opened her door, a butcher knife in her hand, but he wasn’t there. Was he ever there or had her fear put him inside her head? Did it matter?

She had gone back to 1298 Haight to get her cello, the last important thing not yet moved up the street to the flat above the bicycle shop.

Not wanting to spend any more time in Apartment 6 than needed Marlee picked up the case holding her cello and left the building behind. She’d slipped a small knife into the belt under her jacket. The fog was coming in as the sun was dropping toward the Pacific horizon.

The crowd on Haight Street was beginning to build. Walking all the way to Stanyan Street would be awkward carrying her case. A quick cut down one short block to her usual route, Page Street – a quiet residential street with leafy trees and flowers running parallel to Haight Street.

As she crossed Masonic Street she had to jump out of the way as a gray van ignored the stop sign. It missed her by inches. The van had a bright red circus tent painted on the side and the name, “Big Top Day Care.” The driver was in a hurry to drop off the last of the kids to their parents already home from their jobs downtown.

“Oh, that was close, Missy Marlee. I would have been so disappointed. You know by now that I won’t share you with anyone. I want you all to myself. Don’t be in such a rush to get to your Coffee Boy. No need. I can wait. Just a minute or two more, that’s all.”

Marlee crossed Ashbury Street and passed by an old Victorian style home that was vacant and up for sale. The streetlight above the sidewalk was out casting a shadow over the house. She was struggling with the bulky cello case. It was beginning to feel heavy. She wasn’t used to carrying it this far. She passed the short driveway, not seeing the gray, freshly painted, van sitting inside the open garage.

Marlee paused to catch her breath and get a better grip on the case. She heard a sound behind her.

“Meow.”

She started to turn around, but she stopped when she saw a grinning familiar face. An arm reached around and held her tight against his body.

“Hello, Missy.”

She struggled to free herself, but he had her firmly immobilized.

“Now, now, don’t fight me, Missy. Relax. You’re going to feel something in your neck now, it’s a needle, and in about fifteen seconds your legs will go to sleep.” Marlee sensed what felt like an icicle pricking her neck. “So, let’s stroll over to my van while you still can. In thirty seconds you will start a nice long nap.”

Dennis Thayer half dragged Marlee Owen from the sidewalk and, as she collapsed, lifted her limp body into the back of the van.

As he drove away the van scuffed the cello and case into the street.

When Marlee opened her eyes and tried to move she discovered that she was tied – her hands in her lap with silver duct tape around her wrists. Her ankles were bound with the same tape. There was one more swath of tape across her mouth. She was sitting on a dirty wooden floor with her back up against a pile of sacks filled with mulch.

“Well, hello there, Princess. Good morning. I hope you slept well. I’m sorry I had to knock you out like that. I was a little pressed for time there on the street. In case you’re wondering, it is about 7:30 AM. I gave you a nice…let’s call it a mild sedative of my own design. I wanted you quiet until we got here. You’ll be a bit groggy for a while, but you’re not going anywhere, are you? And we are expecting company.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Dennis said with a smile, “I’ve got to go get ready for our guest.” He pulled two knives from sheaths on his belt. He took out the small knife that Marlee had carried when she left her apartment. He shook his head as he spoke.

“Didn’t your Momma ever tell you to not play with knives? Tsk, Tsk. Such an upbringing.” He laughed as he walked away leaving Marlee bound, gagged, and trying to sort out what was happening through a drug induced veil.

The light was dim coming through the hard plastic sheets that made up the ceiling of what appeared to her to be a gardener’s shed. She was surrounded by plants and tools. There were mowers and rakes, clippers of varying sizes, a number of ladders and a pair of chainsaws. On a long table were potted plants, orchids, day lilies, and cacti. She was no more mobile than any of the plants.

Dennis moved about the shed placing items in positions that seemed to have meaning to him; boxes, tool racks rolls of plastic. He noticed Marlee checking out her surroundings.

“Wondering where you are and what’s going to happen? I can’t blame you. No, that’s not true. I do blame you, Missy.” Holding his butterfly knife he loomed over her sitting on the floor. He could see the fear in her eyes. He smiled and lowered himself to the floor and sat next to her. Shoulder to shoulder.

“Let me answer your questions. Where are we? We are in the Arboretum in the Head Gardener’s Workshed. No one but the Gardener and his crew come in here and this is a weekend so we have it all to ourselves. The Gardener did come in earlier while you were sleeping. Why he did that I’ll never know. Oh, well, that’s him in the big bag over there.”

Marlee’s eyes widened in terror.

“Oh, Miss Marlee, save the mock horror. You’ve seen cut up men before and you will again. I guess you’re just bad luck. Men come around you and they end up dead. And guess what? It’s going to happen again. Oh, yes. Your precious barista is going to be your next victim. Marlee’s third dead man.

“I dropped a note to him on our way here telling him where he could find us. I told him to come alone or I’d do to you what I did to your smelly little kitten.

“Just listen to me, will you?” He struggled to his feet “Sometimes I just monopolize the conversation. Here, let me get this tape off of you.” He gently peeled the duct tape from Marlee’s face. She screamed.

“Oh, go ahead and scream, you little two-timer. There’s no one within a quarter mile from here.” She spat in his face.

“You animal,” she said through clenched teeth.

“Yeah, right. Would you like some tea? I have a pot steeping.”

“Let me go, Dennis. You can’t get away with this. There will be every police officer in San Francisco coming in here after you and they’ll –“

“No, they won’t. Your little Boy Toy will come here alone. I know his type. He wants to be the hero to rescue his Fair Maiden. So save your breath. And how did you phrase it, ‘You can’t get away with this’? But I already have. I have you here, Coffee Boy will come as ordered, and then I will show you what I can do with all of these delicious tools here in the shed. Get away with it? When I’m done I’ll just walk out of here and disappear into the fog. How ‘Movie of the Week’ is that, Girl? Let me get your tea.”

***

“I’m sorry, Luco, I haven’t seen her. Hold on, let me ask.” With her hand over the mouthpiece, Scar called out, “Has anybody seen Marlee this morning?” Luco could hear the buzz as everyone answered her.

“Sorry, Luco. No such luck. She’s not been in. Have you called her at her place? Oh, OK. Well, I’m sure she’s out and about. Later, Honeybuns.”

This was not like Marlee. In fact it was the opposite of her normal behavior. Every day when she left Stanyan Street to walk back to Haight Street she would call him when she arrived. She called last night, but nothing since then.

Luco began to pace, still painfully, feeling sure that something was wrong. Ever since she found the cat he had been urging her to not go back there at all. When she left him to go to 1298 she said that was going to get her cello and head back to Stanyan Street. That was 14 hours ago.

“Something is wrong.”

Luco’s body was considerably better than a week ago, but he was far from feeling strong and healthy. That would take months, but he could not sit at home alone and wait to hear from Marlee.

Slowly he struggled into his boots, not allowing himself to grunt in pain as he bent to tie the laces. His fear was turning into dread.

At the bottom of the stairs he saw that his mailbox was full. There was also one sheet of paper without an envelope sticking out of the box. His name was scrawled on it in a mixture of large cursive lettering and block printing..

At the top of the handwritten page he read, “Hey, Reyes – Guess who?

“If you’re looking for your skinny bitch, save your time. I’ve got her.”

Every sore and wounded muscle in Luco’s body tightened.

“I’ve got her and I’m going to keep her. I saw her first, and remember – I don’t share.

“Now that I have your attention, you undereducated, minimum wage, pretty boy waiter, I want you to read this slowly.

“I’m a nice guy, really I am, but I can play rough. I imagine you’re missing your blonde widow. Would you like to see her? Talk with her – before I cut her to pieces and feed her to the sea lions at Pier 39? Better hurry then, you gimpy fool. I’ll let you come to see her – us, but if you don’t come alone or try to tip off the stupid SFPD I will make her suffer beyond belief. And then I will disappear forever. Get it, Coffee Boy?

“We are enjoying a cup of tea at the Arboretum. Come to the far western end, to the Gardener’s Shed. We’ll be waiting.

“Ta, Ta.”

A combination of rage and painful memories washed over Luco. He had finally met someone who could fill the hollow space in his heart, but again, some sick and insane man was trying to take her away from him.

“Not again!”

Next Week – THE CONCLUSION

Look Into My Eyes

YOU KNOW ME. I’m a pretty easy going guy. I really don’t care how you choose to live your life – as long as you don’t scare the dog or foul the footpath. If you want to have blue hair and walk around all day wrapped in aluminum foil like a baked potato I say – Go for it. I’m cool with it as long as you don’t expect me to chip in to help you buy your supply of Reynold’s Wrap.

In my personal opinion, there are too many laws trying to regulate how people want to live their lives. Part of that is because there are too many lawyers, but that is an issue for another day.

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Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – “Our Lady Of The Crosswalk”

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Our Lady Of The Crosswalk

I THINK I SAW EVIDENCE OF A MIRACLE THIS MORNING.

I was driving down Wabash Avenue, heading toward home after morning services/brewing at St. Arbucks, when I stopped at the red light. It was then that I saw it.

Across the intersection at the crosswalk, leaning up against the light pole, I saw a single aluminum crutch. “Shades of Fatima,” I said to myself. “Right here in Terre Haute (That’s French for “What the heck is that?”).

Nobody would absentmindedly forget that they were using a crutch and just walk away and leave it there. Nobody would think that they didn’t need the crutch and just abandon it at the corner. It has to be a relic of a recent miraculous event.

Picture if you will – an injured, ill, or otherwise disabled soul galumphing down Wabash Avenue using their new aluminum crutch for support. What was it that happened at the corner of Wabash and Brown? There were no reports of miraculous visions, cosmic phenomena or angelic choruses in the area. Whatever happened must have been extremely private.

Our Hobbler got to the corner and had to wait for the green light when something happened that caused him/her to become restored to full bipedal status. Was it a vision, an apparition that delivered a cure or merely a warming glow that entered and told him/her that it was time to ditch the crutch? 

How in the heck would I know?

I saw the crutch leaning up against that pole and I knew that it couldn’t be accidental – no matter how much you’ve been drinking. In fact, the more you would drink the more you would rely upon the crutch to get you home. And besides – I didn’t see any drunken bodies lying there on the sidewalk.

Ergo: It has to be a miracle.

OK – I admit that another possible explanation or two exist but, really… does anyone think that the crutch may have been placed there as a gag? Or was the crutch thrown there from a passing car? If that had happened, the fact that it landed upright, neatly leaning on the pole, would be yet another miracle.

No – the only logical answer is that Divine Intervention took place at the corner of Wabash and Brown today – and the beneficiary of that intervention is toddling around town and doing just fine, thank you.

Miracles like this don’t happen every day, especially at the corner of Wabash and Brown.  If such miracles did happen every day more people would notice and there would be crutches leaning up at almost every intersection.

Of course, what the future holds for that intersection remains to be seen. Who knows if there will be more miraculous events there and that a devout following will turn it into a place of pilgrimages? If that happens the Mobil station at the opposite corner will see their mini-mart business really take off – Soft drinks, snacks and little plastic crutches made in Korea. It could turn into another Fatima or even a Super Target.

This isn’t like those people that see the face of Jesus on their taco or grilled cheese sandwich. This is a real, tangible aluminum crutch standing up at the corner. Those things don’t just walk there all by themselves. Somebody in need had to have gotten that far and then said, “Oh, I suddenly feel better. Aw, screw it. I don’t need no stinking crutch. I’m outta here.” Not poetic or very liturgical, but what do you expect at a busy intersection?

Today – one person leaving a single aluminum crutch.

Tomorrow – a shrine to Our Lady of the Crosswalk.

It could happen.

 

I Have The Key

 

AS I WAS GETTING INTO THE CAR YESTERDAY I accidently dropped my car keys. Five minutes later, as I was straightening up after that long trip to the ground and back, I took a close look at that mass of metal I called my key ring.

I must have had fifteen keys and other junk hanging there. The problem was that I couldn’t identify what half of them were for. What did they open?

For how many years had I been lugging around these chunks of metal that were absolutely useless in my life? Over coffee this morning I decided to try to make some sense of it all.

OK, let’s see…

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It’s Either Time Travel Or Weed Pulling

I WANT SOMETHING. Actually, I want a number of things, but none of them are very big. I want a nice lunch. I want someone to pull up some weeds for me. I wouldn’t mind it if I could figure a way to eliminate stairs.

See, the things I want are simple and don’t require a big honkin’ commitment from somebody else = except maybe for that weed pulling thing. Not everyone is like me. There are some people who want things that call for another person to put it all on the line – even to the point of risking their life in the process.

Kind of like dating a Redhead.

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I Am The Law!

 

BRACE YOURSELF, WORLD! I HAVE BEEN CALLED FOR JURY DUTY.

The notice came in the mail a few days ago. It looks like I am going to be under the judicial thumb for the month of September. I’m cool with that as long as it doesn’t conflict with my scheduled Colonoscopy.

There was a two page questionnaire I had to fill out and mail back. I guess it was designed to determine if I might be a good juror or was I some sort of freakin’ lunatic. I’ll find how I did once I get to the courthouse.

I have never been on a jury. I have been called four or five times, but I guess there is something about me that makes Rusty The Bailiff always show me the way out of the building.

It’s not like I’m standing up in the courtroom screaming, “Hang ‘em! Hang ‘em all!” and the Judge is screaming back at me, “Sit down, Mr. Kraft! This is Traffic Court.”

There must be a glint in my eye or something in my non-stop mumbling that gives them pause. They ask me a question, I answer it and everybody wearing a suit stands up and points to the door.

Some people are just so touchy.

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Thirty

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Thirty

The new lock was child’s play.

Marlee had been home, caught a few winks, fed the cat and gone back to the Stanyan Street apartment above the bicycle shop to be with and care for Luco. She wouldn’t be back for hours, maybe all night. He wouldn’t need that much time. Not even close.

Dennis Thayer picked the lock in less than ten seconds, entered the apartment, and locked the door again behind him. He set his small box on the butcher block dining room table.

“Here, Kitty. Kitty, Kitty. Come to your Uncle Dennis.”

The cat had moved behind the sofa as soon as it realized that it was Dennis and not Marlee opening the door.

Dennis took a piece of netting out of the box on the table and started to silently stalk the little yellow tabby. He knew where the cat liked to hide. He pushed one end of the sofa against the wall cutting off one avenue of escape. He wrapped the netting over the other end, trapping in the cat – or so he thought. Taking out a small flashlight from his pocket he knelt on the couch and shined the light down on the terrified kitten.

“Hello, little Kitty. Time to come out and play.”

The light reflected golden off the kitten’s eyes.

Not waiting for his pursuer to grab him the kitten launched itself up the back of the couch with claws extended. When he reached the top of the couch he kept climbing, clawing his way across Dennis’ face leaving a trail of deep bloody scratches from his chin, across his eyes and into his hairline. Before Dennis could react the cat was under the bed and huddled against the far wall.

“Want to play rough do we, Kitty? Then I’ll show you rough, you mangy little fleabag.”

Moving slowly and warily Dennis walked into Marlee’s bedroom and closed both doors trapping them both in the room.

Shining his flashlight under the bed he could see the frightened cat up against the wall. It hissed when the light beam hit it.

“There you are. Come here, Kitty, Kitty.”

J.P. hissed again.

“No? You don’t want to come out and play? That’s not very friendly. I’ll tell you what – you stay there for a minute. I’ll be back in two shakes of a cat’s tail.” He got to his feet and went to the dining room, making sure to close the bedroom door behind him. He searched through the box on the table singing softly.

“What’s new, Pussycat? Whoa, whoa, whoa. Ah, there we are. Playtime is over you little furball.”

J.P. Cat was still in the corner, under the bed, shivering in fear.

“I’m back, Kitty. Still don’t want to come out? You’re shivering. Are you cold? Well, here, let me warm you up.’

Dennis Thayer: Psychotic killer, drug addict who hated drugs and other addicts, Sadist, and Unforgiving, killed a small terrified kitten with the barbs of a 50,000 volt taser. He laughed as the young cat convulsed even after it was already dead.

“Now we can both play and cook up a little surprise for Missy Marlee.”

When Marlee returned home seven hours later she unlocked her door and with two steps inside she knew that something was wrong.

“What is that smell? Did I leave something…?”

She went into the kitchen and felt the heat from the oven.

The people standing at the bus stop in front of 1298 Haight Street looked up at the windows of Apartment 6. They heard a woman screaming in horror. She couldn’t stop.

***

When the police entered Apartment # 8 it was obvious that the renter had abandoned it. His clothes were gone. Food in the kitchen, what there was of it, was old and stale. The one plant in the apartment, a Hibiscus, was shriveled and dead.

In his bedroom the wall that had been covered was bare except for remnants of tape and the corners of torn photographs that were now…where?

After his butchery of Marlee’s cat Dennis knew that he couldn’t stay in the building. He took what he could carry and he was now living out of his mobile sanctuary – his gray van. In the van he was hidden. The Motor Vehicle registration listed the van as being red, but a cheap paint job down in the Mission District fixed that. The police would waste time and energy looking for a red van that no longer existed.

He needed his invisible hideaway so he could carry out the next part of his courtship. Luco was still alive, injured but alive. That had to be corrected.

Dennis didn’t want to go after Luco again. He had to lure the Coffee House Cry Baby out of his apartment – out to where he was helpless and vulnerable. Out to where he would die.

The van gave Dennis mobility. The entire city could become his trap. He would lure Luco into the trap with the most delicious bait.

He had injured Luco; Marlee was traumatized and unable to focus.

Easy pickings.

The “What’ and the “How” were already decided. All that remained were the “When” and the “Where.”

“Let the cops look for me. I am invisible and in control because I saw her first and I never share.”

Marlee was staying at Luco’s place almost around the clock; partly to continue helping him in his recovery, and partly because she couldn’t bear the thought of returning to her apartment on Haight Street – not after what Dennis Thayer had done there. Any trips to 1298 Haight were just to pack and move her possessions to Stanyan Street.

As Luco grew stronger he tended to help her closet the horror so she could resume her new life in San Francisco. That was something they both needed to do. While they had both been given a second chance there was no guarantee that they would ever be blessed with a third. They couldn’t let Dennis Thayer decide their Tomorrow. They couldn’t let him win.

As each day passed and the police couldn’t find Dennis Thayer Haight Street became more nervous and afraid. Another young Street Kid was killed and dumped in the middle of the night in the doorway of the Bicycle Shop on Stanyan Street.

At night the gray van hid in the fog. Dennis slept and dreamed of his next moves – to draw Luco Reyes to his death and to have Marlee Owen wrap her arms around him. After all, he saw her first

Has Anybody Seen My Pot Stickers?

WHENEVER WE ARE DOWN IN TEXAS visiting family there is one thing we do as a group – and we do it very well.

We eat. Man, do we eat.

During this currant voyage to the bottom of the State someone suggested that we order “Chinese Food.”

“OK by me!” “Sounds good!” “Let’s eat!” “I want Crab Rangoon!” “Me too!” “Me too!” “Me too!”

I don’t like Crab Rangoon. And Rangoon isn’t in China anyway. So much for authenticity.

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Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – “A Man’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do”

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 

A Man’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do

Saint ArbucksTHIS MORNING WAS DIFFICULT.

I got up at my usual time – 7 AM-ish and got my act together so I could leave the house without either scaring the neighbors or getting my butt arrested. Up to that point the morning was going along uneventfully.

My wife, the lovely and early rising today, Dawn, was already up and more or less “at ‘em.” She had an 8:30 appointment and set the alarm for some ungodly hour to ensure that she would not be late. I applaud her for that.

It was at this point that things began to go downhill like a Chevy with a faulty parking brake in San Francisco. I had my own appointment to see my Doctor at 11:20 AM.

11:20? 11:bleeping 20? What moron scheduled an appointment for that late in the day? Oh. Never mind. My bad.

The main reason I see this Doctor at all is because I have “Blood Pressure Issues.” That means that, untreated, my blood pressure tends to creep up to rival that of a charging Cape Buffalo. After that my head would explode, I would spontaneously combust and I would hit the ground like an overcooked baked potato.

By scheduling an appointment for that late in the morning it meant one very significant and overriding thing: I wouldn’t be able to have my morning coffee until after the appointment.

Dear God! Whatever will I do? Wherever will I go?

If I go ahead and drop by St. Arbucks for my morning coffee my blood pressure will spike like Vlad The Impaler on a bad day. I had doomed myself to a morning without my coffee. Sheesh!

My solution to this self-inflicted wound was to nurse along a cup of Decaf and hope that it wouldn’t rat on me when they wrapped that cuff on my arm.

I know what you are thinking –“Decaf?” That is just like kissing your sister. It is technically a kiss, but it’s not the same. It’s not like the Real Thing.

So, bowing my head in shame, I ordered the coffee that isn’t coffee and I skulked to my chair in the corner. The barista got a bit teary, The Usual Suspects – The Brotherhood of the Cup, stared and whispered to each other. Even the flies moved to the far side of the store, ashamed to be seen near me.

I sat there waiting for it to be time to leave. I sipped at the dark liquid, wondering what do they do to make it taste like that – and why, for Heaven’s sake. Why?

Deep in my heart I knew that I had a good reason for doing what I was doing. It was my health, my very life, which was in the balance. With my meds I had the blood pressure of an adult human male of my age. Without my meds no one within splatter range was safe. I was like a human paint ball. I didn’t want to mislead the Doctor with a BP reading that would be artificially goosed up by my cup of real coffee.

Some days you just have to take one for the team. Some days you have to lean in to the fastball.  If I had to pretend that the stuff in my cup was really coffee I would do it. I would hope that the stress of making this sacrifice would not, in itself, raise my blood pressure, but I would do it.

I had to think of my family, man!

I want them to be proud of me. I want them to see me happy. I want them to see me above ground.

They Are All Disappearing

I SAW A NEWS STORY THE OTHER DAY that made me get all misty-eyed and nostalgic. A wonderful piece of my life was disappearing and there was nothing I could do about it.

I got my first VCR back in the early 1980s in the days of my callow middle-age. I wanted a quality machine so I bought a really nice Betamax VCR. After I got it hooked up to my Sylvania SuperSet I had everything I needed for countless hours of cinematic pleasure…except for one thing. That was where I had to fire up the car and head out to – BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO!

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Tubular Meats

 

“TUBULAR MEATS” IS NOT A PHRASE YOU HEAR VERY OFTEN. It might even be rarely heard. You just have to be in the right place at the wrong time.

Let me first define the term.

Tubular Meats: “A Classification of a certain style or configuration of foods such as hot Dogs, Sausage Links, Kielbasa, and even the often neglected Vienna Sausages. Pigs in a Blanket are not included unless the blankets are removed.”

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Beware Of The Gaboon Viper

I LOVE TO TRAVEL. I JUST DON’T LIKE GOING PLACES ALL THE TIME. A luxury trip to see the Taj Mahal is one thing. Going to the Dollar Store is something else.

That I can do without.

We are down in Texas, home of the Alamo, the Houston Space Flight Center, and lots of good Barbeque, but am I penciled in for a trip to any of these places? No. I’m being scheduled to be a Bearer on a safari to the Dollar Store.

This whole thing is being presented to me as something special, something once in a lifetime. Really? Yes – because this is the BIGGEST Dollar Tree Store in existence. That must mean that it has Two Aisles with Party Favors and Unknown Brands of Chili Con Carne. That’s my first thought anyway.

Let me compare and contrast my options.

  1. I could go out in the 97°/94% humidity and walk around the largest Dollar Store on Earth – or
  2. I can stay inside with a cool beverage and either get some writing done – or
  3. Sleep

The jury has returned with a verdict!

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Nine

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Nine

The TV didn’t offer any diversion. After more than three weeks of taking care of Luco at his apartment with only short trips to her own place to change clothes and see to the cat Marlee just collapsed onto her couch. Too exhausted to think she just stared at the screen, not even sure what she was watching. The cat cuddled up next to her. They both needed the closeness.

When Luco checked himself out of the hospital, over the Doctor’s objections, it was Marlee who took charge, making sure that he was cared for. Pete had hired a Home Healthcare Agency, but Marlee was there almost 24 hours a day feeding Luco, washing him, making sure that he got his meds correctly and on time. Now, after a week, the initial shock had worn off. He would survive and recover.

It was when Luco had recovered enough to become a bad patient, becoming impatient and wanting to do everything for himself, that Marlee knew that she could go home and rest. Home – that 420 Square foot apartment, a 12 minute walk from Stanyan Street, where she lived alone with J.P. Cat her lonely yellow tabby cat.

Marlee sat there knowing that J.P. needed fed. So did she she, but while there were plenty of cans of “Friskies” for the cat there was nothing, or next to it, for herself.

“It’s good to see you home, Missy.”

Startled by the voice from behind her Marlee jerked around. Dennis Thayer was standing by her kitchen door. Her front door was wide open. The cat jumped down and hid behind the couch.

“You still need to be more careful about your door, Miss Marlee.”

Marlee sat up. “It was closed. I locked it. How did you get in?”

He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He ignored her questions.

“Have you eaten? I’ve made some lasagna. Want some?”

She looked at him standing in her apartment. Too exhausted to maintain her anger, defeated, she turned back to the TV.

“I’m too tired to eat. Leave me alone.”

“Marlee, you need someone to take care of you – some able-bodied man who makes a mean lasagna.”

Her limit had been reached.

“Screw you, Dennis. Get out of my apartment. Get out! I’m going to have that lock changed tomorrow. Now, get out, and stay out!”

The cat peeked from around the corner of the sofa.

Dennis Thayer’s smile melted away. His expression turned to one of highly controlled rage. Without making a sound he let his eyes linger on her before turning and heading for the front door. When he got to the hallway he turned and spoke loud enough for Marlee to hear him.

“I have been very good to you up to now. I’ll go, but remember this, Missy – I don’t share. Not with anyone. Never.”

And he was gone.

Marlee went and closed the front door, locking it again, then returned to the couch. The cat came out from his hiding place and jumped back up next to her.

“How’s your tummy, JP? Feeling better? “

They were both asleep in seconds.

Inside Apartment #8 Dennis Thayer was tearing down more than a dozen photos from his wall, tearing them to pieces.

“Never.”

XXX

Most of the larger pieces of glass had already been swept up from the sidewalk on Haight Street. Inside the “Universe Café the cleanup was slower. Each table and chair had to be washed and dried to remove every sliver of glass.

The brick that had crashed through the window had to have been thrown sometime between 2 AM and about 5 AM when Spider showed up to start the day’s prep work and to open the doors at 6 AM. When she arrived she found the window destroyed and three Street Kids stretched out asleep on the church pew seating along the walls. The security alarm had not been triggered.

Spider called Pete. He was there in minutes.

“Sweet Jesus, who could have done this? Why? We have a good vibe with the neighborhood. Who would do this?”

Spider pointed to the still sleeping figures stretched out by the wall. Pete stormed over to the nearest one.

“Did you do this? Did you break my window?”

Pete had the kid by his filthy shirt front. He was screaming, spitting in his face. “You dirty little pig. Talk to me!”

The Street Addict pushed Pete back from his face.

“Get away from me Old Man. I didn’t bust your window. I just came in here to get out of the cold.”

“Then who did this – one of them,” he said pointing to the other Kids who were stirring.

“No, Old Man, I told you I came in to get warm, them too.”

Pete looked around at the mess holding his head. “Oh, Lord, why did I let the insurance go? I thought we were safe.”

“And the Alarm Company too, Pete?” added Spider. She was holding a broom, already sweeping the floor.

Pete wandered around the café mumbling to himself. He bent over and picked up the brick that someone had, for some reason, thrown through his window. A simple yellow brick just like millions of others that made up half the buildings along Haight Street. The only difference with this brick was the heavy-duty red rubber band around the middle of the brick. Pete turned over the brick and saw a small folded piece of paper under the rubber band. Pete unfolded the paper. Handwritten in block letters was the answer to Pete’s desperate question – almost.

“Reyes – Get well soon so I can give you another ride. Your time is coming. Remember – I DON’T SHARE!”

Spider stood next to Pete, reading over his shoulder.

“I don’t share? What the hell is that supposed to mean, Pete?”

“”I don’t know. I don’t know what any of this means, except that Luco has one sick SOB enemy.” He refolded the note and put it into his shirt pocket. “I’m going to call some friends to come in and help us get this mess cleaned up. Will you be OK until they get here, Spider?”

“Sure, I’ll get going here and we’ll be open again in no time, Pete.”

“OK, good. I’ll call the police, but you’ll have to talk with them. I need to go see Luco.”

Spider nodded. “Yeah, go make sure he’s OK. He is still pretty gimpy. I know that Marlee’s been spending a lot of time there, but still…”

He looked at the brick, turned his back, and headed toward the door, “Thanks, Spider. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“No problem, Pete. We’re Family. Strange and mildly freaky maybe, but Family. Go check on Luco.”

The sun was beginning to peek above the East Bay Hills illuminating the ships in the bay and the already congested lanes on the bridge coming into The City.

Pete pressed the button next to Luco’s name by the door on Stanyan Street. He waited, but got no answer, either on the intercom or the buzzer that unlocked the front door. There was only silence. It had only been ten seconds, but to Pete it felt like an hour.

He pushed on the button again, holding it down, determined to get an answer. Silence. He stepped back onto the sidewalk and looked up at Luco’s front window. The curtain in the window stirred and moved aside. A shadowy face looked down. The curtain fell back in place.

Pete stepped back to the door, ready to lay on that buzzer until he woke up everybody in the building. Just as his finger depressed the button the buzzer unlocked the front door.

Pete rushed into the vestibule and headed for the stairs ready for anything and whoever he’d seen in the window. He struggled to take the stairs as fast as his aging legs would take him. Looking up at the landing he caught his breath when he saw Luco, leaning on his cane, look around the corner.

“Pete, what the hell are you doing?” Luco stage-whispered down the stairs at Pete who had stopped to catch his breath on seeing Luco’s face.

“Luco, are you alright? You OK?”

“What’s the matter, Pete? Get up here before somebody calls the police.”

As he slowly climbed the rest of the stairs up to Luco’s apartment over the bicycle shop Pete gave Luco the basics of what had gone down at the café on Haight Street.

“Oh, Jesus, Pete, is anybody hurt?”

“No, it’s just property damage, but it was all just a way to deliver a message.”

“A message?” asked Luco. What kind of a message? For who?”

Pete reached in his pocket for the note that had been attached to the brick. He handed Luco the folded up note.

“Read this, Luco. It was help to the brick with a rubber band.”

Luco silently read the note. “I don’t share. What does that mean? Share what?”

“You tell me, Luco, but this isn’t any love letter. Somebody doesn’t like you. Any ideas who?”

“Over the years, Pete? I could name half a dozen, but this is insane. ‘Give me another ride.’ What does that mean?”

“I read that,” said Pete, “And I had to come and make sure you were OK.”

“I’m fine, Pete. I’m just half awake, but other than that…”

“I called the police on my way here so I’d better get back to the café,” said Pete. “I left Spider in charge, to talk with them and to start the cleanup.”

“She can handle the police, Pete. Let me shower and I’ll come in. Give me twenty minutes.”

“OK, Luco, but be careful.”

“I’ll be fine.

Standing under the hot water trying to wake up Luco had one phrase from the note going around in his mind.

“I DON’T SHARE.”

“This Is Not Raleigh”

 

I BLAME IT ALL ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. Going from 97 degrees outside into a nice hyper-chilled building makes the brain transform into a head of lettuce. Spend some time in an Airport and watch it all turn into the Produce Section.

We just got back from another one of our visits to Family in Texas. The average temperature down there was a little cooler than molten lava. Of course it wasn’t much different than Indiana/Kilauea. Our flight from Indy to Houston took off during what I like to call “Lunchtime.” That is anytime after breakfast and before supper. I hate eating on an airplane and my attempt to do so on this latest flight didn’t change my opinion. 

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Throwback Thursday from August 2015 – “If You Don’t Hear From Me – It’s The Moles”

 

Throwback Thursday from August 2015 

If You Don’t Hear From Me – It’s The Moles

20150729_114750IT HAS BEEN A QUIET MORNING.

After stumbling through the process of making tea and doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper I felt that I was sufficiently conscious to drive to St. Arbucks.

“Oh, great nectar from the mountains of Abyssinia, you awaken my mind and soul to all the wonders and possibilities of God’s creation.” 

— From the Gospel of St. Arbucks, Patron Saint of Jittery people.

This afternoon, however, is a different story.

As I stepped out of the back door I was made immediately aware that things were happening – big time.

First of all my ears were assaulted by the cacophony of a million Cicadas nestled high in the treetops. There is no other sound quite like the half buzz, half whine of the ugliest insect around. I don’t know if these are the 5-year, 7-year or the 17-year Cicadas that seem to like this part of the country, but they are noisy. When they are going full blast it can make earplugs a nice accessory.

After regaining my equilibrium from the aural assault I headed to the car, but I stopped when I saw what is in the picture displayed above.

We had a bit of rain overnight and I think it inflated the mushroom that has been growing by the tree near the car. I have put a book into the picture to give you some idea of the size. It first popped up about three years ago and has somehow survived some truly bitter winters. Now it looks poised to take over the whole yard.

I’ve seen squirrels nibble at it and birds too, but I’d be afraid to sample it for fear that it might bite back. I have no idea what kind of mushroom it is other than Honking Big.

After snapping the picture of the Mega-Shroom I walked around to the driver’s side of the car and noticed yet another sign of activity.

We have either a collection of moles living in/under the backyard or the city is putting in a new subway tunnel, which would surprise the heck out of me because Terre Haute (That’s French for “Mama don’t ‘low no subways around here.”) doesn’t have a subway system. It barely has bus lines. I don’t think they’d want to dig too deep around here anyway – you never know who you might bring up.

It must be moles – lots of them. It looks like they’ve all been drinking too. None of the little raised piles of dirt go in a straight line for more than six inches.

Then again, maybe the moles haven’t been drinking. They might be disoriented from sampling that giant Magic Mushroom over by the tree.

Or maybe it’s those darn Cicadas. They make enough noise to drive me crazy – just imagine what they could do to the nervous system of a mole.

Wait a minute…

Did I just compare myself to a mole?

If someone else said that to me I would ask them to step outside, but under the circumstances I would find myself out there alone. Then what?

Besides, it’s too hot and muggy today, so I’ll just stay inside and give myself a stern talking to.

I will continue to monitor the activity in the backyard and report on any significant changes.

If you don’t hear from me – it’s the moles.

“Chopper”

 

I DON’T HAVE A GOOD MEMORY FOR NAMES. I just don’t. My mother wore a name tag until I was twelve – just so I‘d know who that woman was. And then there are some people I won’t ever forget.

His name was “Chopper.”

“Chopper” wasn’t his real name of course. It was a name that he earned in the Military. I knew him after his Army days, but I heard the stories – a few from him directly, but most from his brother. “Chopper” himself was somewhat reticent to talk about his time in Southeast Asia.

“Chopper” was a young Irish boy from Cleveland. He came from a family of Firefighters who lived life like it was a nonstop wedding reception. If something was worth doing – it was worth doing at full speed.

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It’s In The Bag

 

LET’S SEE – SOCKS: TWO PER DAY. Nicey-Niceys: One per day barring unforeseen circumstances. Hawaiian shirts: One per day with extras for any formal occasions that might pop up. Pants. That should cover it. Boots and metal-free cheap airport friendly travel shoes are a given.

I travel light. If I do it right my suitcase will weigh about six pounds. My Carry-on might come in at seventy pounds, but the main bag will be like a feather.

Point of Order! Point of Order!

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In The Good Old Summertime

 

IT MAY BE MID-SUMMER AND WE ARE MORE THAN HALFWAY THROUGH THE YEAR. But it’s no big deal. It just makes things a little herky-jerky for the world. Not the whole world.

Actually, it’s only me.

The midpoint of summer comes around the end of July, early August. But the real midpoint, astronomically, is at the start of summer – since then the hours of sunlight get shorter by a few minutes each day. That is not a good sign.

In Baseball, the All Star Game is considered the halfway point of the season. It’s not. That came with Game #81 which was played a couple of weeks ago.

It’s like telling a person who is 55 years old that they are “Middle Aged.” Sure they are – if they have plans of making it to 110 candles on their cake.

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