Archive for February, 2014

From a Red Pony to Rocinante

Posted: February 27, 2014 in authors

Steinbeck“There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain’t nice, but that’s as far as any man got a right to say.” Grapes of Wrath

There are a lot of foods out there that are called “comfort foods”. Foods that make you feel at home no matter where you are at. We each have our favorites, you know what they are. Some of the favorites I’ve heard of from my friends are fried chicken, beans and corn bread, home-made ice cream, just to name a few. But the comfort food I think is the best to settle into on that stormy winter day is anything Steinbeck.

Happy birthday John Steinbeck



Posted: February 26, 2014 in Everyday Life, free verse, poetry
Tags: , , ,

I was told by my friend Carl about the Sleepyman
The long legged Sleepyman, 2 AM slumber preacher
Wide awake provider of the thousands of fence jumping sheep
Planter of sequential thought patterns and soother of unpleasant dreams
He works nights, the 11 to 7 shift
When we feel the urge to toss and turn he’s the guy prodding us
He’s where the blankets and sheets go when we feel too hot or cold
The guy that messes up our hair and imprints wrinkles in our face
He laughs as he works but not too loud.
The Sleepyman, Shhhh! I think I see his shadow.



Midnight Swims

Ever have a fly land in your bowl of cereal?
The damn thing floats
Paddles his little feet around
scrubbing his back
flippin’ his wings, actin’ a fool
having a hell of a good time
No idea that he may sink
He doesn’t care that he’s drowning
he is in the land of milk and honey nuts
The little bastard would be cute if he wasn’t ruining my mid-night knack
Here! get yourself out of there!
Hop on this spoon.
You little widget!


Polished Blades

Posted: February 22, 2014 in free verse, poetry

On this month of Valentines and Presidents
Waxed snow skis and sleds and polished blades,
Men and women with clear rose cheeks
take gasps of sharp cold air and fogging breaths.
Racing on frozen lanes cut by flexing smooth legs
and taut chiseled thighs.
Beneath the soft stretched fabrics
are the hard bodies of youth’s firm human frame,
Judged by fast changing clocks
and watchers and lovers of perfect style and form.
They win or lose by hundredths of seconds
or fractions of subjective points.
On podiums they bow their heads with broad white smiles and joyful tears
To begin wearing medals as heavy as the egos of their national anthems.
And to be known forever as having the heart of an Olympian.


This Week’s “Now”

Posted: February 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

Last weekend , on my personal car’s Toyota 4-Runner dashboard, I got a Key Error light, then a Maintenance light, then a Check engine light and then later a ASC Trac light. And I just thought I was due for an oil change, but it looks like I may be going to get greased and screwed also.

This week I was served by a bartender named Sam, really, Sam the Bartender. That has to be a good omen.

This week for additional warmth I bought a heavy cotton hoodie to wear under my FRC coveralls the next day. It looked so nice when I tried it on I went ahead and wore the hoodie to dinner that evening. Before dinner we stopped at Best Buy looking for a new computer bag. A very nice computer backpack caught my eye. I’ve never used a backpack before so I bought it. It looked so nice I left it on my back as we walked back to the car. My 30 something coworker said ” Wearing that hoodie and backpack, you look 10 or 15 years younger”.  That made me chuckle, and I bought his dinner. If I’d only known, I would have bought that combination years ago.

I ordered a coffee to go at a restaurant this week and as the waitress handed me the full cup she says “I’m not charging you for the coffee, it’s totally cold”. I love waitresses, I know they have a hard job and just smiled and said thank you.  But was I supposed to take the free cold coffee anyway? I took it with me, discreetly put it in the parking lot trash can and had the best chuckle of the day week.

I arrived home this week anxious to see my visiting 15-year-old granddaughter. She and my wife picked me up for the short ride home. She now has red hair! , really…..Candy Apple Red hair. I love her, she’s beautiful! She wants to be a cosmetologist.
She is learning to drive and has completed her driver’s training but still only has her learner’s permit. She asked if she could drive the car to our home. Of course, I gave her a little of a hard time asking if she really knew how to drive, she said ” Oh, I’m an excellent driver, really excellent!”.  I asked her if she had ever seen the movie “Rain Man”. She had not and had no idea what I was talking about. It seems “excellent driver” has become a common part of the central Kansas vernacular. And she really is an excellent driver.

Such is the life of John

A Million to One

Posted: February 12, 2014 in creative writing
Tags: ,

Just slow down, consider the consequences
you may not be so enthusiastic.
Use discriminating taste, enjoy your euphoria,
in your climb to the goal.
You may wear yourself out
wiggling to and fro, with only a million to one chance you will make it.
Even if you do bury your head in deep and first,
another probably will push harder, eat faster,
wiggle stronger and squeeze in before you.
But your swimming about, incessant wiggling, following the scent perhaps
will pay off.
But keep trying partner, I’m rooting for you all, really.
It’s a million to one, so there is a chance.
Believe me, it was a real pleasure giving you guys the opportunity.


Things That Have Been Said To Me

Posted: February 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Things that have been said to me that have been memorable, funny or outrageous.

After having an endoscope to check out a stomach ailment, I was called by the doctor to tell me what was found. He said these exact words, “As you can see by the photographs we gave you, you have some sort of rash in the lining of your stomach, after consulting with the lab and speaking with my colleagues we have no idea what it is. It may just be one of those things you can’t diagnose until after the autopsy”.

While visiting my hometown, on the street I met an old acquaintance that probably would be called the village idiot in most other cities. One of those guys that wears his life on his sleeve, no sense of appropriateness. When I asked him how he was doing, he said “ Oh man John, because of some trouble I was having, I finally took the Doc’s advice and got circumcised. Man that hurt! I swear, I’ll never have that done again!”

In the later part of July of 1990, right before economic sanctions were placed on Iraq due to the invasion of Kuwait, while working late at the office I received a call. It was an old boss of mine who was the manager of international communications for the company we both worked for. He says “John, Oscar (our CEO ) wants to shut down and clean out our Baghdad office, do you want to go with me to help take care of it?”. Without even asking if he was serious, I said no. That is the only assignment that I’ve ever turned down. A few months later, one of our company’s planes was one of the planes used to bring home the hostages that Hussein began holding in August.

After the birth of my only son, who by the way my mother helped deliver, as the doctor came out of the delivery room and without stopping he says ” Congratulations John, it’s a boy, he’s a little shit but I think he’ll make it”. My son was a few weeks premature, very small and Doc was right, my son made it.

Back when I would do anything for money. Another fellow and I were installing a communications antenna on a flag pole on the very top of the dome of a county courthouse. It was a few hundred feet in the air. While looking for a roll of tape we discover it was wrapped around one of the elements of the antenna we had just secured. It was hanging about 8 feet above our heads. The fellow with me says “there is no way we can reach it from here, I’m going to have to unhook my lanyard and crawl up on your shoulders to get it”. For a few moments there I suspected that we may have looked like the great Flying Wallendas, but without the tights and leotards.

More years ago than I care to remember while driving a snow plow for the state of Iowa and during the largest snow storm of the century for that state, another 6 x 6 wheel drive snow plow and I found we could go no further in the blizzard, stuck. These words came over the truck radio, “Sorry guys we have nothing that can make it through to get you, there is a farm-house one mile west, if you can see well enough and can walk it, you can wait the storm out and spend the night there”. We did and our trucks were completely buried in snow when we were able to get back to them the next day.

Last summer, these words were spoken to me on the cell phone while I was away working out-of-town. “The rabbits in the back yard love it but they now have to stand up on their hind legs to see over the top of the grass. I think you will be mowing when you finally get home”.

Such is the life of John.

Swear A Lot?

Posted: February 6, 2014 in Everyday Life

I swear a lot. It is just how I speak normally. Years of training have taught me exactly the right syntax. It is an art to know when, how and for what reasons to swear. I come from a long line of swearers.

swearingI can’t remember not swearing. Even as a child I thought in swear words but only spoke them when I was alone or with another my own age. My father, the expert swearer, would land a slap squarely on my face on the occasion that a swear word slipped out. “Do as I say, not as I do”….? Huh? I was doing as you say. I was swearing! I gave up trying to figure that one out. But I think it was part of his training, teaching me when and where it is appropriate to swear. This you learn very quickly with the slap of a hand. But when I swore appropriately he never threw me a cookie, a good teacher would have thrown me a cookie.

My mother never uttered a swear word, never, she was a Methodist. She was a saint, albeit a Methodist saint. No swearing, ill words, criticisms or bad thoughts were ever uttered or emitted from her. It’s true, I’m not exaggerating. But she did not care whether anyone else did those things. That is what she taught me. That’s how she and my father got along. I think she lived her wild life through him. I guess I learned how to be good and when to feel guilty from my mother and how to have fun and how to appropriately use bad behavior from my father. A very balanced upbringing as I think about it.

I can only speak for myself here. I have no idea how my siblings feel about this. I do know that I am the better of all of them when it comes to cursing. I’m not sure my brother and sisters had the same training as I. I was the youngest and my folks had pretty much loosened up on how to raise a kid by the time I arrived. I’m not around the clan enough to notice if they have filthy mouths or not. Or perhaps they just learned better than I where it was appropriate to use such language. A couple try to present themselves as religious but even I, who sees them seldom, can tell they fall way short of the sainthood of my mother. In fact they are probably more like my father in many ways.

So as I come to the end of this thoughtful post, without uttering one swear word, by the way, I will simply ask a few questions. Take them as rhetorical if you must, but I would like to know. Are you shocked by swearing, do you swear and when is it appropriate? I fucking need to know. But I suspect that everyone swears, even if only under their breath.


PlumberI’m not much of a plumber. But I usually have pretty good luck doing my own plumbing repairs around home. The trouble is, being an amateur, I may not have everything in tools or parts on hand to do the job quickly. It just takes more than one trip to the hardware store to get a job done. My grandson used to love to help me. He calls the Ace Hardware Store, the Hardwork Store. We still do.

In the past I have replaced faucets, installed dishwashers, reset toilets and even installed a couple gas water heaters. My last project was installing a reverse osmosis filtering system under the kitchen sink. I’m an amateur but I’m a competent amateur. It just takes longer than a pro and you can expect many trips to the hardwork store. They know me there, we are friends. The first visit on a project we talk about how many times I’ll see them that day. I suspect that after I leave, Steve the store owner, starts a pool and all of the staff lay bets or draw numbers on how many times I will return. I’ve seen the chalk board, I know they do this.

The cold winter weather of January makes me think back to one plumbing job that should have been a no brainer. It was freezing temps and we had an unusual amount of snow already that year. We had quite a few inches on the ground and had spent alot of time removing snow. On this day the neighbor was good enough to come over and use his small snow blower to clean our driveway and walks. We woke up on that weekend after New Years and found that all of the drains through out the house were stopped up. Nothing was draining, the sinks, showers or toilets. Tracing the problem I determined the source of the trouble was under the upstairs bathroom toilet. This did not seem like too difficult of a problem, I may even have enough tools to take care of this. I already had a 20 foot drain clean-out snake in the garage. What more could it take.

Grandson retrieved the tools and snake from the garage as I finished my second cup of coffee. With everything in the ready, we inserted the snake and slowly started hand screwing it into the toilet and down the sewer pipe. But to no avail, the drain was not unclogging. Soon we had ran out the entire 20 foot snake with no luck. We needed a longer snake. So I called my friend JD for advice and a little help. He said no problem, the Hardwork store had a nice 100 footer that they rent out. He’d come over to help. While he was on his way over to my house, I went to Ace to pick up the longer snake. It was nice! It had an electric motor on it and it would unscrew itself down a sewer pipe, Steve the hardware man showed me how to run it. As I walked out of the store I saw from the corner of my eye, one of the clerks putting a chalk mark on the board.

When I got home, JD was already there, ready to go to work, after he had finished his second cup of my coffee. We started the job. But after looking at the new snake and knowing we would need more than 20 foot we determined that pulling the toilet up and removing it would give us a better angle to run the snake. Toilet removed, we began running the snake down the drain. We were surprised how fast it turned and how quickly it extended itself down the sewer. We totally lost track of how far it had ran down the drain. So we figured what the hell, we will give the drain a good cleaning and let it extend the full 100 foot. In a matter of minutes we had come to the end of the line. Now there, we let the motor run twisting the line cleaning the drain. Satisfied that we had cleaned enough, I reversed the motor and started rewinding the snake out. But it didn’t rewind well. Worse than that, the line got stuck. We had to pull on the snake by hand, pulling it out of the drain. But we would pull a few feet and then it would stick solid. With all of our strength we could pull no more. When we’d let loose of the snake, the 3 or 4 feet that we had gained would go slamming back in the drain, like it was hooked on a spring. JD just thought it was the snake stretching and contracting. We’d pull out 4 feet and then all 4 feet would go back down the drain. Really weird.

Before JD and I had begun struggling, er…. working on this, my wife, who knew nothing of this, left to go to the store for more coffee. When she returned, she could not figure out what she was seeing. When she pulled into the driveway she saw the neighbors snowblower, which he had left at our house that morning, hanging about 4 feet in the air in front of our porch. As she sat in the car looking at this, it slammed back down hitting the sidewalk. A few moments later, it would go shooting back up into the air, the handles catching on the eves. This had attracted the attention of our other neighbors too and they and she watched this cycle continue, going up and then slamming down, all in amazement. She came running into the house and into the bathroom, trying to get my and JD’s attention. Finally we stopped our drain cleaning to see what she was shouting about.

Yes, you may have guessed it, the snake we were running had made a u-turn in our drain pipe and taken the route up through the drain air vent through the roof. It came out the vent and over the top of the house and attached itself to the handle brackets on the snowblower. When we pulled, the blower would rise,when we would run out of steam and let go, the blower would slam down. Needless to say, the snake operated much better once the snowblower was removed. While JD and I were retrieving the snake, fixing the air vent and paying my good neighbor for new choke and throttle cables for his snowblower, my wife called the plumber.
Oh… Now I’m Laurel and  JD is Hardy.

Such is the life of John.