Saturday, December 15, 2012


I usually primarily write humor (or what I perceive as humor). As a father and a grandfather no laughter is in my heart. These words came to me last night. Feel free to share or pass on by.

Satan's in the schoolhouse
The seraphs hear his roar
The sound of evil coming
A sound we've heard before

School was let out early
The devil's taking roll
He's hunting huddled angels
Stalking children's souls

Spitting his fiery venom
One bullet at a time
Random acts of violence
Hateful senseless crime

Christmas in Connecticut
Won't be the same this year
Instead of exchanging presents
We're exchanging tears

Rick Wainright - 12/14/2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I don't hate Justin Bieber

I haven't written anything in a long time.  That is not entirely true.  I haven't written anything I thought was blog-worthy in a long time.  I suppose it is time for me to change that.  I have several reasons which trump my other several reasons for NOT writing.  I noticed that my blog has received nearly 300,000 views.  I know many of those are my own visits to my blog.  Also, page views may be counted by the tracking service like Chicago tracks votes, and  the total may be skewed.  Regardless, even if actual views by different living and breathing people account for even a quarter of the total, I am humbled.

Also, I recently received a personal email from a very famous writer (respecting his request for confidentiality I will not name him) essentially expounding on what a disappointment I am to him because he continually stops by to find no new entries.  He called me several names including selfish and said my self-effacing act is getting stale.  He recommends I post everything I write and let my readers decide if it is blog-worthy.  He has faith in me.  I suppose I should find a way to also find worth in my writing.

This installment will be about something I have thought about for quite some time, yet have failed to document.   I didn't expect my reentry into writing would be about:

Justin Bieber
I am not sure there has been anyone since Hitler as despised by so many people as Justin Bieber.  I will admit that I don't have a single song of his on my playlist, but I certainly don't hate him.  From what I can  see, he is a very intelligent, talented, attractive (not to me), charitable, and kind individual.  So why such venom directed at him?  There is a plethora (one of my favorite words) of "I hate Justin Bieber" social media sites, each containing hundreds of thousands of members.   
I can  only assume that any stage entertainer that can cause so much animosity must be doing something right.  I have tried to figure out who comprises this body of haters.  I have come to the following conclusions:

1)  Much less talented musicians and entertainers who are jealous of his meteoric success, when they know realistically that they will continue to deliver pizzas and teach piano to snotty-nosed kids.  The only Usher that will discover them is the one sweeping the theater after a movie.

2)  Snotty-nosed  kids who are jealous that all of the tweener girls idolize Bieber and won't give their pimply faces a second look.  

3)  Pimply faced kids that voice their hate for Bieber because it is fashionable to do so and to admit that they are closet fans would make them uncool.  Kind of like people my age that claimed to have hated Tony Orlando and Dawn but when no one else was around would sing "Knock Three Times" complete with sound effects.   When anyone else was around they would turn on Zeppelin or Black Sabbath.  

4)  People my age that haven't listened to any music released since the 1970's and discount any "modern" music without even giving it a listen.  I think my parents did that with The Beatles.   They just didn't have the Internet to rant on and had to keep it to themselves.

5)  Some people may hate him because he is Canadian.  I don't have a single Rush song on my rotation but I don't hate Geddy Lee.  I would just rather listen to my clothes washer spin out of balance than hear his voice.  That goes for Michael Buble as well.  

6)  Then there are those miserable bastards that call themselves the 99%, that hate anyone successful.   To whom achievement is evil and rewards for accomplishments should be shared with their sorry asses.

7)  I guess the last category are those that can't stand someone who is basically a good person and has not been to rehab a dozen times.  They like to see their celebrities self-destructing and to believe their lives are as wretched as their own.   In all the negative comments about Bieber, I can't find one instance where he has done anything questionable.  He seems to make positive life choices and loves his mother.  He his lived under a microscope since he was 14 and has never stumbled.  (Hello, Lindsay Lohan)   That must drive his critics crazy.

I like a lot of "new" music.  I have heard some Bieber songs that while not IPOD-worthy, were not bad enough for me to initiate a hate campaign.   Music is like any other entertainment medium:  If you don't like it, turn it off or change the channel.  Is it really worth expending the energy required to hate?  There are so many more worthy things to despise.  Bieber doesn't even make my top hundred.  No celebrity does. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thank You - Mike Thorneburg

I have not visited my blog in quite some time.   In fact it has been so long that they have changed the format and I forgot how to log into it.  Except for small snippets on Facebook, my creativity repository had run dry.  I have not been inspired by anything worth sharing with my handful of readers.  That changed  today.

When I checked my mail this morning, I found along with my daily Geico and heating and airconditioning offers, a greeting card  sized envelope.  I could not imagine what it could  be as my birthday passed two months ago without any such envelopes.  Upon examination, I found that it was from my friend, Mike Thorneburg (a real friend, not Facebook imaginary friend that I will never meet).  After Skooter drug me through the neighborhood ferreting out squirrels and a public works  crew (of  which one member mistakenly thought he could pet Skooter), I sat down on the couch and opened the card.  This is the card I received:  

I hope Mike will forgive me for sharing his private message publicly.  Who am I kidding?  My blog is hardly in the public domain.  There is little chance of it going viral or even neighborhoodinal.

I can imagine tears  welling up in Mike's eyes as  he thought of his dad  I am very proud that he put  me in the same paragraph as his dad and grateful that I am one of the people that comes to mind with the arrival of Veterans Day .

That being said, I have never considered my twenty years of military service as a hardship or a sacrifice.  If it had not been for the military I would have probably never left my little northern Idaho village and would have spent my life taking my turn at town drunk and/or village idiot.  The Air Force allowed me the  chance to see much of the world and get paid for it.  My children benefited from their experiences in foreign lands and different cultures.  When I was in school a field trip meant going to the post office or fire station.  My kids  would  go to London, Berlin, or Paris.

The Air Force paid for several useless college degrees and has provided me a pension and health care, so that I will probably never be homeless, not even during another Obama administration.

I have now been retired for almost exactly 20 years.  My time in the Air Force was almost exactly one-third  of my life.  I have got to say that it was the best third of my life.  I am not one to sit around and tell stories of my exploits (much of which I can't talk about.  Not because of the secrecy, but I am not sure of the statute of limitations in foreign countries).  Some of the tamer events I have shared on this blog, but for some things it is better to just keep them to myself and smile.  What happens in Taiwan, Thailand, Britain, Germany, Italy, Greece, Korea, the Philippines, and elsewhere stays in Taiwan, Thailand, Britain, Germany, Italy, Greece, Korea, the Philippines and elsewhere.  Oh, the sacrifices I have made.  Sounds like a title of a Dr. Seuss book.

I wanted to thank Mike semi-publicly for thinking of me.  I am not a greeting card guy but I can't express how receiving that envelope today brightened an otherwise dismal day.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mall Massage - Not For Pussies

I haven't written anything for quite a while.  The main reason is that I was not inspired to write.  Today I had an experience worth documenting:

Today I  went to the mall for no apparent reason other than the fact I hadn't been there for at least a year and wanted to see if it had gained any character during my absence.    It had not.  But I did explore the entire reservation.  I was not tempted to enter any business establishments, but an attractive young Asian woman lured me to a kiosk where massages were offered at a very reasonable rate.  I was in the military for 20 years and have more than once succumbed to the siren song of a Thairean masseuse, though never in the thoroughfare of a mall.

I selected the 30 minute body massage option, which seemed to be the best value.  The young lady arranged my mass on a very comfortable apparatus with my face positioned in the too small oval head-holder.  Then she proceeded to go at me like she was trying to get me to give up troop movements.  Holy crap!  Who would have thought that a 90 pound girl could inflict that much pain without us being in a relationship?  

She didn't appear to speak any English, but there may have been a time while I was rendered unconscious that she asked me nonverbally if the pressure was OK.  I wasn't about to let her break me and I don't think she could hear me scream through the suffocating cradle my face was wedged into anyway.  I think my lack of response gave her the green light to step up the torture.  I don't think she was aware of the humanitarian protections of the Geneva Conventions.  

Then I remembered that I had signed up for half an hour of this cruciation. To pass the 30 minutes, I began to silently recite an entire episode of Big Bang Theory from rote.  Then I realized that a half-hour episode only includes about 21 minutes of actual dialog.  There were 9 minutes that I had to silently endure without distraction.  Of course, I had no idea how long my periods of pain induced insentience lasted.

At one point she had both of her knees in my back and my arms pulled back like a human knee board.   Then she didn't think she was getting enough leverage to adequately turn my internal organs to pulp, so she called over a colleague to assist in repositioning my spleen.  They must have found my kidneys to be particularly problematic areas as they began using them much like a boxer uses a speed bag.  I don't know what internal bleeding feels like but I would definitely not rule that out.
There was a "happy ending" though.  That was the point at which the episode of the Big Bang Theory  in my head ended, she revived me, and  I stood up (with assistance of several  other Cambonese employees) and shambled over to the Orange Julius stand.  

A search on Web MD gives me confidence that my urine will return to a more normal, less rainbow, color within a few days.   I could find no information as to how long it would be before my spine realigned and I could once again walk upright.  At least as upright as I  normally do.        

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Since the dissolution of our local writing group I have been searching for a source of prompts and deadlines to inspire me to write. I stumbled upon this site, which seems to be exactly what I am looking for. The first prompt I responded to was this visual prompt with the following flash fiction piece.

Jenny was excited as she climbed into her sleeping compartment. Tomorrow was Chreaster. Gramps had told her that years ago, when he was her age, Easter and Christmas were separate holidays. That was before Happleburton, who owned the space station that she lived on, had decided (in fairness) to allow only one holiday for each religion. She was glad her family was not Scientologists. She disliked Dienetics Day. She could never quite understand what she was supposed to do. It seemed people just sat around and thought. Boring.

But tomorrow was Jenny's favorite day of the year, even better than Hallowiccan. She would participate in the mandatory Cheaster egg hunt and present issue, but the most beloved thing about Chreaster was that gramps would be released for the day. She loved to hear his stories of when he was a child and there were real eggs, and they were hid outside, and people could actually eat them after the hunt was over. She could not imagine what outside was like. She was 9 years old and had never been anywhere but her family's cubicle on this drilling platform. She should feel fortunate, her mom repeatedly told her, that their family had won one of the Powerball jackpots and was allowed to leave earth just in time..........before the Great Cleansing of 2110.

Jenny was born a year later, on this station. Jenny hated only seeing gramps once a year, but he, as all people too old to work and refusing programming, was isolated from the general population. She would not even see him on Chreaster, except her dad had died during a drilling accident when she was 6, and each child was allowed an entire family unit on their holiday. Their keeper wrongly assumed that Jenny was far enough along in her indoctrination that she would discount the ramblings of a crazy old man.

She listened intently to gramps' stories of the wonders of a planet she would never set foot on. Jenny was sure that gramps was prone to exaggerated and people of earth had not actually owned houses, farms, and businesses. There was no mention of such things in the history books she read at school on level 5. She once asked her teacher, Mrs. Kardashian, about the history prior to 2110. The teacher turned pale, started to reply, looked up at the monitors, and abruptly changed the subject. The next day she had a different teacher, so she never broached the subject again.

She did believe that though somewhat embellished, gramps' memories were real. Jenny awoke very early from a fitful sleep filled with dreams of blue skies, fresh air, and football. Gramps had told her that the three favorite things from his youth were motorcycles, football, and bacon. All had been banned many years ago, as they were deemed too dangerous. He would regale her of the exploits of his favorite football player, Tim Tebow III, and his description of bacon could nearly conjure up an aroma Jenny had never experienced.

As Jenny stepped out of the decontamination shower and dried off, she could not contain her joy. She skipped into the family eating chamber and it was exactly as she expected. There was her mom, gramps, and their always present, silent, handler. On the small dining room table, on colorful cellophane grass sat the egg that her mom would later hide on the community deck for her to find.

Each child was allowed one synthetic egg. It was the same damned egg as last year and the year before. She knew that because the binary code on the egg was the same one tattooed on her forearm. Corporate had determined that allowing a child to find as many eggs as their abilities allowed would leave some children with no eggs. That disappointment was deemed unnecessary and counterproductive to indoctrination. So, the one child, one egg, system was implemented. If a child picked up an egg that contained another child's binary code, that child would receive a powerful electric shock, causing them to immediately drop the egg. As a result, the egg hunt was a very deliberate affair.

Once each child had found their egg, they could redeem it from Santa Claus for a present. All presents were age appropriate and androgynous. It was decided by corporate that gender nonspecific items avoided conflict aided in the indoctrination process. Corporate psychological studies revealed that selection of gender was best delayed until late adolescence thereby causing less confusion and emotional turmoil among the children during the programming. Jenny was always disappointed with the gift, but did not voice any discontent in front of the keeper. Gramps had taught her well. No matter how crappy the present was it was infinitely better than the dreidel the Jewish kids received every year for Rosh Hashanukkah. And all Jenny really cared about was seeing gramps and learning about life before the Great Cleansing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lee Elder - You Are Welcome, Tiger Woods - 4/9/2012

Today I participated as a volunteer in a charity golf event. As a course marshal I had the opportunity to meet a lot of celebrities, quasi-celebrities, wannabe-celebrities and golf professionals. By and large the experience was enjoyable and a very rewarding experience. There was one moment that stood out to me and left an impression.

I met a golf professional named Lee Elder. Unless you are a fan of professional golf you have probably not heard of this man. He only won 4 PGA events in his career. Today he did not play nearly as well as most of his fellow professionals. His team did not win today's event.

Lee Elder is a 77 year old black man. Though you would never know it by looking at him. Not the black part. That is readily evident. You would never guess he is 77 years old. He is fit, strong, and still swings pretty fluidly.

Without Lee Elder, there would have been no Tiger Woods. Lee was the first black man to play in the Masters. He entered in 1975 amid death threats, heckling, and hate. Golf is a tough enough game to play at that level without being distracted by overt hostility. Today's pros are distracted by the click of a camera. This man endured things being thrown at him in his backswing.

In 1979, he became the first black man to represent the United States in the Ryder Cup. Again, those not familiar with golf will not appreciate the significance of this honor. Suffice to say, Lee was one of the top 12 golfers in America that year. And he proudly represented a country in which he was not awarded all the privileges of full citizenship.

I do not have a very elaborate belief system but I think we should celebrate the accomplishments of a man, not his color or lack of it. And every man should have the opportunity to go as far in life as his talents allow, regardless of pigmentation. Sports are microcosms of society in general. At the same time Lee Elder was struggling to make a career as a golf pro, others were denied access to the pursuit of their dreams because of bigotry and racism.

As a Caucasian, I do not profess even a rudimentary understanding of the barriers that Mr. Elder overcame, I can only voice my respect and admiration and what a thrill it was to meet him.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jars - 2/20/2012

The final assignment of the, now defunct,South Strand Writing Group was a visual prompt:

This is the 50 year old memory that this photo caused me to revisit:

My dad spent his formative years during the Great Depression. One of his most vivid memories was of one particular Christmas that his only presents were an apple and an orange. Best Christmas he ever had.

As a result of his experiences in living in abject poverty, he was always hesitant to throw away anything that had even a remote chance of being reused. Recycling is not a novel concept.

Under our kitchen sink were Maxwell House coffee cans and Mason jars filled with hardware items: nuts, bolts, screws, washers, nails, cotter pins, etc. I do not remember where these components originally came from. Dad must have once participated in some great demolition project to acquire all those bits and bobs. At least that is what I thought until I found out that nearly all homes have a similar stockpile of hardware odds and ends. Except mine.

My dad was quite a handyman and could fix anything. He even learned to repair televisions, back before televisions were disposable. Ours broke and he took it to a repair shop and upon hearing how much the guy wanted to do little more than change out a vacuum tube, dad came home, studied the schematic diagram, and isolated the problem. It came so easy to him that he enrolled in a correspondence course and became a part-time television repairman. Because he was fair, he soon had more customers than he could handle. As a young boy, I often accompanied him in his workshop, "helping" him fix televisions and other electronic devices. I learned to replace tubes, use a voltmeter, oscilloscope, and other test equipment. I even learned the electronic color codes, which I remember to this day: black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, gray, and white. I also learned that an unplugged television still carries enough voltage to knock a person across the room. I only needed one such lesson to secure that fact in my memory banks forever.

Whenever dad had a project that required a nut, bolt, screw, washer, nail, cotter pin, etc., he would drag out the appropriate can or jar. They were not labeled, but he knew which container held the type of hardware that he needed for the particular job. Much to my mother's chagrin, we would dump the contents of the receptacle on her kitchen table and sort through the contents looking for just the right part.

As a young boy, I really enjoyed this activity, as I loved to put washers onto bolts an thread nuts onto them. I would sometimes slide several washers and thread several nuts on to one long bolt. My dad didn't particularly like having to unthread several nuts from a bolt, but he never discouraged my interest in mechanics or creativity.

I could amuse myself for hours assembling combinations of assorted hardware into abstract metal architecture. Sadly, my fine motor skills and capacity for spatial thought never progressed much beyond that of a child.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Childrens Cancer Fund Raising Event

Please consider a donation to my participation in the event on March 10th in Atlanta.

Monday, February 13, 2012

First Day A New School - 2/12/2012

This South Strand Writing Group's prompt for this week was "The first day at a new school." I responded with the following piece:

Clark woke up before daylight, but that was normal for him and most people that live on a working Kansas farm. What made today special and excited Clark was that it was to be his first day of school. Though he was about 12 years old, he had been home-schooled up until now. He was going to be a seventh grader at Smallville Junior High. He had ventured off the modest 300 acre homestead on rare occasions, but was never allowed to interact with any other kids. His mother and father, Martha and Jonathan Kent, were always afraid that someone would discover the "secret." They had told him since he could remember that if anyone found out about him they would take him away and they would never see him again. Though he felt a bit like a prisoner, he certainly did not want to be alone, so he never objected. And he loved the Kents. He was pretty sure that the people in Smallville thought he was retarded anyway, since he never communicated. It was finally decided that he was old enough to begin to go out in the world and to be trusted to keep the "secret."

The Kents had told him the amazing story of how a rocket ship had crashed near their farmhouse and baby Clark had miraculously survived. The highly religious Kents, who had been unable to conceive children, considered him a gift from God, if not a God himself. They had surreptitiously raised him, nurturing and loving him as their own. Though he did not have a birth certificate, it was not uncommon in farm country in the 1930's for child to be born without any official records. So Ma Kent had registered him at the school, making up a back-story that he was left to them by a dying relative. No one questioned that. People were always farming out kids in those days.

Today, for the first time, Clark would meet other people his own age. He was both excited and a bit anxious as he had always suspected he was a bit different. There were some things that he had not confided in Ma and Pa Kent about. Secrets of his own. As he grew older, he seemed to acquire some abilities that he had not seen displayed by the Kents. For instance, he could fly. He hinted once at supper that he had read a story in one of the books in Ma Kent's extensive library about a boy who could fly. He asked Pa Kent if he had ever heard of anyone flying. "Charles Lindbergh is pretty good at it," he laughed without looking up from the fried chicken. "Amelia Earhart is evidently not as good at it. She has been missing for some time," he added.

"No, Pa. I mean without a plane. Just flying, like Peter Pan."

"That is a storybook, Clark. Not real. Not even Jesus could fly."

But Clark could. At first, just a few feet off the ground. But soon he could fly as high and fast as he desired. It took him a while to learn to control his flight-path. That is how he found out about one of his other capabilities. He evidently could not be hurt. One day he flew right into the barn door, smashing it to kindling. He was not injured. At all. Not a scratch. When Pa Kent found the damage, he blamed it on one of the horses that was known to be pretty ornery. Never imagining that little Clark could cause such destruction.

Clark tested this invincibility power several times to varying degrees. Once, he tried to stab himself with a pitchfork and another time he put his hand in a boiling pot of water. He didn't feel a thing either time and there was no damage to his skin, whatsoever. Though it felt just like the skin of his parents, it seemed bulletproof. The pitchfork, on the other hand, was no longer usable. The tines fanned out in all directions. Pa Kent took it back to the hardware store, as it was clearly defective. It caused quite a discussion among the hardware crowd.
Then there was that unfortunate incident when he was milking Bossy. That one was hard to explain to Pa Kent. Bossy was his favorite milk cow. He had to learn to manage his new found strength. He also learned two valuable lessons from that regrettable episode. One: that milking faster did not get him finished with the chore quicker. The second concerned the appropriate pressure to apply to a nipple. This knowledge would serve him well in the future.

Clark had never thought too much about where his capabilities came from but noticed they got stronger and he discovered new ones as he got older. He assumed it had something to do with arriving in a spaceship. He heard programs on the radio about flying saucers attacking Earth, but never really considered that he might be one of the invaders. Someday, he would have to try to find out more about where he came from, but not now. Not today. He had big plans for today.

He looked forward to starting school, mainly because of a girl that he was eager to meet. He had observed her on several occasions during his night-flights. She lived a few miles from the Kent's farmstead. Though she had a paralyzing effect on him, he could think of little else. She had beautiful red hair and dazzling green eyes. She always wore a silver necklace with a, large, shimmering green stone. This piece of jewelry totally mesmerized Clark. Not only did the presence of Lana take his breath away, it also took his ability to fly. He would crash to the ground if he got too close. And it hurt when he hurtled to the ground. He guessed that was what love did to you. Took away your gifts.

Yes, today, he was going to school. But while it was still dark, he was going to fly to a bank far away from Smallville and make a withdrawal. What good were extraordinary skills if he did not use them? He didn't want to work on the farm his whole life and Ma and Pa Kent were not getting any younger. They believed in a spaceship crashing on their land. Why not a big bag of money? Clark smiled as he said aloud, "Up, up, and away," and shot straight up through the dark sky." He plotted a course in his head to a place he had read about, called Metropolis. There were lots of banks there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Day When Everything Went Wrong - 1/24/2012

This weeks prompt for the South Strand Writing Group was: "A Day When Everything Went Wrong." I decided to change things up and write a little poem.

I awoke in the small hours
To the acrid stench of smoke
Suffocating the darkness
And making me choke

I reached for my glasses
They flew out of sight
They would've been less than useless
In the opaque, dark, night

At that very moment
I regretted I stole
The smoke alarm batteries
For my remote control

I stopped, dropped and rolled
As I slid to the floor
Still wrapped in my sheets
I crawled towards the door

I knocked off a lamp
As I took my covers with me
It shattered and scattered
Leaving glass and debris

I policed up some of the ruins
With my palms and my face
As my eiderdown cocoon
Rolled all over the place

Racked with pain and with fear
The terror increased
Still enveloped in bedclothes
An 800 count beast

I scampered towards safety
Across the sleeping room floor
When my skull came in contact
With the wall or the door

Imbedded with glass
Now a knot on my head
I spun around wildly
And stubbed my toe on the bed

Wouldn't you know
That my knee jerk reaction
Would cause yet another
Head to wall attraction

The pounding my cranium
Was giving the wall
Caused a sconce and a painting
To detach and fall

If you think that they missed me
And fell harmlessly away
You are not following closely
The events of this day

May have been the concussion
Or the blood in my eyes
But I started to panic
And did something unwise

Not wishing to die
In a blazing pyre
I thought of the best way
To get out of the fire

I could see through the window
Just barely a glow
Perhaps from the fire
I couldn't know

I launched my human burrito
With all of my might
Towards that little
Beacon of light

I crashed through the window
To the nocturnal gloom
Ejecting myself
From a second floor room

I crashed through the glass
Collecting more shards
And landed on my back
In my neighbor's back yard

The bedclothes came off
Sometime during the flight
And I landed naked
On a warm summer's night

I might have been hurt
From my two story cannon ball
But the neighbor's koi pond
Helped break my fall

Where were the firemen
Where were the flames
And why was my neighbor
Calling me names

Emergency vehicles
Soon did respond
To pull me out
Of his God Damned koi pond

The injuries sustained
And the way that I sobbed
Made the police believe
I was beaten and robbed

Though it was hard to believe
And harder to explain
But a horrible nightmare
Had driven me insane

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rejection - 1/17/2012

The prompt for this week's writing group is: "An occasion when you experienced rejection." I could have just submitted my journal but that would have been cheating. A high school memory came immediately to mind:

It is the late 1960's. The scene is a spring high school dance held at the local union hall in a small mining town in northern Idaho. I had just performed all the compulsory moves for a maladroit 16 year old boy. I had enthusiastically shaken hands with my few friends as if I hadn't seen them in years, though we were all playing baseball together just a couple of hours prior. Sometime, during the course of the evening; I would shake hands with the same guys each time we came in contact, as if one of us was a returning POW. It was all we knew to do. I think eye contact without shaking hands would have been too awkward to bear. We would sometimes attempt to talk, but the band was playing "Gloria" so loud that communication was impossible.

Those of us without dates were then required by ritual to stand in front of the stage and watch the band (composed of some of my classmates), standing as close to the speakers as possible. This activity showed any girl that may have been looking in our direction that we possessed great musical knowledge and might be called upon at any time to sit in with the band, Though I, myself, possess slightly less musical skills than the wind-up monkey with cymbals and the closest I would come to joining the band was to fetch an errant drumstick.. A casual stance and the bopping of my head, though undoubtedly totally out of sync with the beat, was the closest I could come to looking cool. And, believe me, I was the polar opposite of cool. I am not certain, but I may have invented the "air guitar".

The drunker or more confident girls would dance with each other. No teenage boy would be caught dead dancing early in the evening. Well, except one guy who was a northern Idaho LSD pioneer. He danced in the halls at school. Even guys that came with dates would hang out in front of the stage with the rest of us handshaking, speaker hugging, losers, while their dates danced.

The dance floor was huge. Though it really only needed to be the size of a jail cell. For a self-conscious teen, like myself, walking across the room to where the eligible girls were compressed against the far wall was every bit as terrifying as crossing a minefield. Everyone in the place could see you crossing the room. There may as well have been a spotlight on you.

For most of us, no floor crossing would happen until "last dance." It was important (for other than the most hopeless dork) to pair up with a girl for the last dance. It was always a slow song, such as "Something" by the Beatles. Of course, I couldn't actually dance. My idea of dancing was to put my arms around the girls waist and lurch around in no particular pattern, trying unsuccessfully not to step on her feat. Since most of the girls were several inches shorter than me, there was an uncomfortable bend necessary that increased the degree of difficulty and made me look like a staggering scoliosis victim. The sole objective of "last dance" was to find a girl that I could give a ride "home".

My lack of dancing prowess was moot if I failed to cull a consort from the bouquet of wallflowers. I had been covertly scouring the line-up all evening for a possible candidate. My strategy was to never approach "A"-listers. It was improbable that a girl who would not acknowledge my existence in the classroom would want to be seen with me, let alone experience my haphazard embrace. "A"-list girls liked good-looking, popular guys. I had the facial features of a young Gandhi. "A"-list girls liked star athletes. I played baseball. Our high school didn't even have a baseball team. Soccer hadn't been introduced yet. If it had been, my studliness factor would have been somewhere between a soccer player and the guy that played the clarinet in the pep band. "A"-list girls liked guys that drove cool cars. In the parking lot was my dad's ten year-old pick-up. The one we drove to the dump.

So I focused on the "B"-team, who were still out of my league, but it was possible that one of them may have drastically lowered her standards by that time of the night, so that an invite from me would be marginally less objectionable to slow-dancing with one of her girlfriends. There was the added barrier in that the "B"-team believed themselves to be "A"-listers due to the stampede of supplicants they could expect at "last dance". This significantly increased the probability of a rebuff.

The truth was that I would go as far down the alphabet as necessary. Bee-lining to a less desirable girl would not only increase the chances of acceptance but also the probability that I was the only guy that would be looking into her lazy eye that evening.

The band had announced that after "Satisfaction" would be the "last dance". I joined the other oddballs on the Bataan Death March to rejection.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Star Trek- The Episode You Never Saw - 1/9/2012

The prompt this week for our writing group is "an account of a visit to a fictional place." The first thing that came to mind was a Star Trek episode I had seen years ago. I think it was called "Spectre of the Gun". The Enterprise was transported back to the old west. I remember really enjoying that particular circumstance. I decided to write a piece based loosely on that premise. I have taken some liberties with Roddenberry's Star Trek, so don't be too critical.

Captain's Log Stardate 3842.4: After experiencing a temporal distortion, we have been transported through a space and time portal. The Enterprise sustained minor damage but no casualties. We are orbiting a small, class M, terrestrial planet. Mr. Spock is analyzing the planets composition, atmosphere, and life forms.

Mr. Spock: "Captain, it appears we are in a geocentric orbit around the planet earth in the mid 19th century. As the current technology is primitive, we will be undetected by the population.

Capt. Kirk: "Interesting. Isn't that the time period of the fabled North American old west? Gunfighters and gold rushes?"

Mr. Spock: "Yes, Captain, it was a time of lawlessness and acquisition."

Capt. Kirk: "I have a romantic fascination with that time period. Find us a location in the American west that will provide us the opportunity to observe without violating the prime directive. Let's go down and take a look, purely for scientific purposes. Get Dr. McCoy and a some obscure red shirt and meet me in the transporter room. Mr.Sulu, you come too. Mr. Chekov, you have the console."
Mr. Chekov: "Aye, sir."

Captain's Log Stardate 3842.4: We have transported to the surface of Earth, on a ranch near Virginia City, Nevada, in the year 1859. The detail consists of myself, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Sulu. The red-shirt crewmember (Ensign, I have no idea of his name) of our landing party transported directly onto a bed of serpents that Mr. Spock has since identified as Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes. Since that genus has been extinct for several hundred years, Dr. McCoy has no antidote. The crewman's body has been transported back to the Enterprise. Do you know how much Star Fleet paperwork that creates for me? Sorry, Captain's Log, that was rhetorical.

Mr. Spock: "This ranch is called the Ponderosa."

Dr. McCoy: "How the hell did you know that, Spock?"

Mr. Spock: "I am of superior intellect. And there is a sign over the gate. It seems to be some sort of breeding ground for a species of bovine creatures."

Dr. McCoy: "Like your mamma?"

Capt. Kirk (chuckling): "No, these are a food source. I had real beef as a youngster in Iowa. Wonderful. Though you would not appreciate it Spock, being vegetarian."

Mr. Spock: "Eating other creatures is illogical."

Dr. McCoy: "So is only mating every 7 years."

Mr. Spock (ignoring McCoy): "The ranch is inhabited by five men. I detect no female presence."

Dr. McCoy: "Crap, we have landed in Suluville."

Mr. Sulu: "That is a myopic view."

Mr. Spock: "The residents appear to be a man and his three adult sons."

Dr. McCoy: "Curiouser and curiouser."

Capt. Kirk: "You said FIVE men."

Mr. Spock: "They appear to also possess a slave, who performs all the traditional female functions of this time period. He has a similar racial and genetic makeup to Mr. Sulu."

Dr. McCoy: "These jokes just write themselves."

Mr. Spock (ignoring McCoy): Slavery was an accepted practice in this time period. Illogical, considering the rallying cry of that society was freedom and liberty.

Dr. McCoy: "Well that explains their lack of use for women here in Suluville."

Mr. Spock: "They travel by equine. Though the weight of one of the riders grossly exceeds the load limits of that particular beast of burden."

Capt. Kirk: "Pretty fancy ten gallon hats."

Mr. Spock: "Captain, while they are undoubtedly excessively large hats, the function of which I cannot determine, their capacity is considerably less than ten gallons."

Capt. Kirk: "That is just a figure of speech, Spock. An exaggeration of the size of the hats."

Mr. Spock: "Hyperbole seems to be an essential part of your culture. For instance, when Dr. McCoy discusses his medical qualifications.

Dr. McCoy: "Pon Farr you, Spock."

Capt. Kirk: "The older, grey-haired, one reminds me of a Star Ship captain I met years ago."

Mr. Sulu: "The young one is quite handsome."

Dr. McCoy: "Keep your phaser holstered there cowgirl. What do you want to do, build a little house on the prairie?"

Mr. Spock (ignoring McCoy): Fascinating. There exists some vigilante code that gives these particular citizens carte blanche to randomly administer the death penalty to any fellow inhabitants that infringe on them in any way.

Capt. Kirk: "That is true. I have read about that. It is called frontier justice. It applies to the theft of any possessions: livestock, gold, horses, even women.

Dr. McCoy: "Safeguarding of women does not appear to be a priority here in Suluville."

Mr. Spock: "No trial? No due process?"

Capt. Kirk: "I guess the word justice is subjective."

Mr. Spock: "Barbaric."

Dr.McCoy: "Jim. Does that frontier justice apply to trespassing?"

Capt. Kirk: "Most certainly."

Dr. McCoy: "Then I suggest a hasty exit. Four riders heading this way, primitive weapons drawn. I don't know about you, but a dead Vulcan in Nevada, though satisfying, might violate the Prime Directive."

A bullet pings off a boulder very close to Dr. McCoy's foot.

Dr. McCoy: "Damn it Jim. I'm a doctor, not a gunfighter."

Capt. Kirk: "Kirk to Enterprise. Scotty, Four to beam up. Now!"

Scotty: "Aye, Captain."

Captain's Log Supplemental: A short visit to earth's surface revealed that mankind has not evolved significantly in 400 years. We just have better weaponry now. Instead of eliminating those that violate our canons one by one, we now have the capability to eradicate entire worlds. I, personally, would be very at home on the Ponderosa. Except for the lack of females. Jimmy Kirk likes the ladies.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Success and Failure - 1/2/2012

This week's writing group prompt was "a moment of success or failure." I intended on writing an uplifting personal piece chronicling one of my personal triumphs. I could relate the time I the moment that I.............hmmmm.

A flurry of painful failures and disappointments filled my head. Wow, this is going to be harder than I thought. Then it came to me that failure and success are very subjective:

For someone who has attempted suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, waking up in the morning is an epic fail. For the rest of us, it is a victory. And in my case, often a surprise.

A baseball player that fails miserably seven out of ten at bats is a candidate for the hall of fame. In most endeavors a 30 percent success rate is unacceptable. If a doctor lost 70 percent of his patients, his practice would probably suffer as a result.

A four minute mile is an achievement for a jogger. Not so much for a NASCAR driver.

Many women try for years to get pregnant and bear children. Others do it with a minimum of effort and intent. The latter is a success at procreation but a dismal failure at fertilization avoidance.

I think you can see where I am going with this. For instance, a two-year old, going poop on the potty is a cause for celebration, for a seventy year old........ OK, bad example.

Recently, on a television show called the X-Factor, a contestant was praised as a hero for going seven months without smoking crack. They raved about what an inspiration and role model he was. I have been crack free for nearly 60 years. I should get a parade, complete with Shriner clowns.

Success has many levels. A child takes his/her triumphant first step and nobody outside the immediate family gives a damn, but take one step on the moon........

I was at a Christmas Show at the Alabama Theatre and it was announced that a couple in the audience were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They attempted unsuccessfully to stand up when someone told them that their name had been called, but settled for a Royal Family type wave. There was applause and people whooped and cheered. There was probably some sad bastard or bastette in the crowd who had been married multiple times. Is that success or failure? I think anyone who finds four or five different people willing to cohabitate with them deserves some recognition. But today with same-sex marriage being in vogue, the matrimonial pool has doubled for many. Maybe it is not as difficult as it once was. And I would think that losing half your worldly goods every few years might tilt toward the failure side of the ledger.

Being elected to the office of The President of the United States seems to be a big deal. At least until after the inauguration, when the chosen one finds out what the job entails and how much bipartisan fellatio he will have to perform to get elected to a second term.

As a parent, success or failure is not immediately evident. As the child grows to adulthood, our parenting skills are revealed: Honor student - yay, professional athlete -yeah baby, champion of industry - hell yeah, serial killer - oops.

I guess my life has pretty much been absent of major highs and lows. That might not be such a bad thing.