Friday, January 14, 2022

Home Unimprovement


Take a look at the disaster that had become our living room. Now...gaze in awe at our dog, Mr. Loomis. Man, all that work sure tuckered HIM out.

Several weeks ago, my wife decided we needed a rowing machine. Being no fool, I nodded my head vigorously in agreement, while my back whined in secret. I knew what this meant; lots of hard back-breaking labor as we'd move stuff around time and time again.

SO why was Mr. Loomis so exhausted? I suppose it's hard work dodging his people as we stumbled over him, carrying 100 pound loads of books, awkward boxes of rowing machines, and Laurel and Hardying incredibly heavy objects up and down the stairs. It can't be easy trying not to get squashed.

I suppose I should clarify: when my wife takes on a project, it's not simply unloading a box and slapping a rowing machine together. No, indeedy. As we're both book collectors (between us there are at least 20 bookshelves jam-packed with books throughout the house), this always means the quarterly unloading, trading, carrying, moving, and reloading of the bookshelves. As inevitable in our house as taxes and vacuum cleaners breaking. Personally, I don't see the need to constantly move and swap books, but I think it's my wife's secret way of punishing me for my "man sins." But I do it anyway.

And there's Mr. Loomis, not missing a beat, always underfoot. No wonder he was so worn out. Pity poor, overworked Mr. Loomis.

Usually, projects like this means moving everything out of one room and junking up another room, in this case, our living room. So after much trading out of the furniture, our tornadic home improvement scenario at long last reached the half-way point. We finally--FINALLY--begin unloading the rowing machine. Not until we reached the heaviest piece at the bottom of the box, did I realize it was bent.

Silence. Crickets. Screams.

Incredibly, I volunteered to repackage it by myself since my wife had impending work deadlines. Or I should say Mr. Loomis and I repackaged it. But I thought I'd go it one better and put it together by myself so my wife wouldn't have to.

Huge mistake number two. When did the instructions get so damn complex? Why do we have 10,000 differents sizes of screws and bolts and nuts and gizmos and whatchamacallits and things I never want to see again, let alone have nightmares about? Why can't they make them all uniform in size? Or name? Is this some sort of sick job security on the "designer's" part? And, the illustrations were so small, I'd squint and squint and then get out my magnifying glass and STILL not be able to decipher what my eyes blurred over.

So, after many, many hours of getting things wrong, bracing parts by using various body limbs and furniture, breaking other stuff in the house, sweating, and lots and lots of cursing (oh my Lord, was there lots and lots of cursing), Mr. Loomis and I had finally completed the task! Ta-da! And with only five mystery parts left over, my new personal best!

Alas, the story has a depressing ending. Not only is my weight over the limit proposed for use on the rowing machine (talk about a damned ironic Catch-22), once we received the replacement, it came time to carry the damaged, accursed package to the UPS store. This time, my wife joined me (Mr. Loomis sat this one out; he was pretty exhausted by our earlier efforts). We struggled, winced, fought, and strained to get that sucker into my car and to the store. I told my wife, "This stupid thing must weigh at least 200 pounds." She replied, "that's nothing, we should be able to handle that easily." Ha.

So we finally get it into the store and the guy behind the desk is screaming, "Don't put it down, don't put it down, don't put it down! Get it on the scale!"

Exhausted with my back screaming, I drop it on the floor. Huffing and panting, I manage, "Okay...just a...second...then I'll..."

The younger clerk says, "I'll get it." He rushes over to it, swoops it up by himself, and drops it onto the scale. "72 pounds," he screams, loud enough for everyone in the shop to know our shame.

My wife and I hung our heads as we exited the store to derisive laughter, from then on forever known as the weakling couple who couldn't handle 72 pounds between them.

But at least Mr. Loomis slept well that night, just plum tuckered.

While on the topic of getting into shape, the protagonist of my book, Bad Day in a Banana Hammock, is in great shape! Well, he should be since he's a stripper...er, um, excuse me, a "male entertainment dancer" as he prefers to be called. Check it out to see what wild, funny antics he gets into when he gets caught up in a murder mystery. Sure, he's dumb as a box of rocks, but he wouldn't struggle with a 72 pound package! 


 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Size Matters! Ask Mickey Mouse...

So, I recently had dinner with my brother and his daughters. We had a heated discussion about the approximate size of Mickey Mouse. Yes, we both need to get lives.


He insisted Mickey Mouse is the size of a real mouse. I, defiantly, stood my ground and explained to my brother, Mickey Mouse is about five feet tall.

Let's weigh the evidence. Mickey has a dog named Pluto. Mickey's larger than Pluto, keeps him on a leash and appears to be a relatively good dog-owner. At least he doesn't dress Pluto in Halloween costumes. Plus, I believe I've seen Mickey drive a car, at least in cartoons.

My brother's defense? He said "Mickey Mouse on Ice" is not indicative of Mickey's real size. He stared at me disbelievingly and said, "those guys on skates aren't real. You KNOW that, right?" He said this in the similar, solemn way he once told me Santa wasn't real. There's no arguing with my brother.

The only problem with my rock-solid argument is...how does "Goofy" fit into my vision of the Disney world? He's a dog as well. I think. Yet, he walks upright, speaks (unlike Pluto) and appears to be a well-adjusted--yet, slightly stupid--individual. Of course I didn't bring this up during our lively debate. No sense adding fuel to the fire of my brother thinking I'm an idiot.

This argument has thrown everything I thought I knew into a tizzy. I lay awake at night, pondering the size of Mickey Mouse. Surely, a sentient mouse who walks a dog is human size. Yet...in the back of my mind, I find myself questioning it.

I know this isn't important in the larger spectrum of life (outside of the Disney empire), but I'm due for a good night's sleep, free of worry from large creatures who haunt my dreams.

Such as the various beasties, spooks, and creepy things that go bump in the night to be found in my short story collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley to be found here



Friday, December 31, 2021

A New Year's Wish

Remember when the atrocious 2020 came to an end and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief? Remember telling everyone that 2021 would be better because things couldn't possibly get any worse than 2020?

Fool me once, bla, bla, bla.

Honestly, I think everyone was hopeful and cautiously optimistic for 2021. We had to be to maintain a semblance of sanity.  Of course things got off to a rather poor start when Trump rallied his good ol' boy troops to go storm the capital and hang Mike Pence. While kinda entertaining in a train wreck sorta sense, I lamented to my wife that we'd picked the wrong month to have a "dry month."

Thing didn't stop there. In fact, the insurrection was sort of the turning point, with Trump making it "cool" to lie, buck our democratic system, and while you're at it, offend as many people as possible and bring racism and hatred to the forefront! 2021!

Let's see... we had one guy making murder anime videos, another guy telling mothers to force their sons into savage rapists, some nutty woman spouting off about Jewish lasers in outer space,  another woman dropping racist statements everywhere she went because she was a "patriot," some knucklehead up on charges of underage sex trafficking, and the list goes on and on. Did I mention this "A-Team" is our politicians? The people tasked with taking care of us, their constituents? No thank you.

Naturally all of these stellar all-stars have been endorsed by Donny Trump.

Speaking of which, let's see a show of hands of who's sick of hearing about The Big Lie.  Lemme count... Quite a few. Trump is like a scratched up record (ask your parents, kids) that refuses to get off the same, tired phrase over and over and over and...   Zzzzzzzzz. Wake me up when he quits making headlines.

2021 also brought about a huge swelling of hatred for current president Biden. I'm just waiting for a grocery store clerk to mention the vile and disrespectful "Let's Go Brandon" to me. There shall be such a righteous hailstorm in the Piggly Wiggly that they'll need more than one sacker to clean up aisle 13. 

It's no secret that Trump wasn't my favorite president but I don't recall any of his critics ever being that disrespectful to him when he was in office. And of course Biden's numbers are failing. You got Trump over there in Mar-a-Lago sucking down shrimp cocktails, conning the rubes, and bad-mouthing Biden every chance he gets and how he could do a better job.

And the grift continues! For a small fee of $10,000, you can go to a Mar-a-Lago Christmas party and have one picture taken with Trump! Cool! Where do I sign up? How presidential.

I won't get into the pandemic because everyone's sick of that, too. Alright, never mind, it's impossible to talk about 2021 without mentioning it. You guys remember that three week or so period at the beginning of Spring when it looked like the dark cloud of Covid was finally moving on? A ray of hope shone down upon us as we slowly reawakened to life as we knew it. My wife and I actually ventured into a (gasp) theatre and restaurant! Without masks! Once you got over the initial shock of being maskless, it felt liberating.

Then Delta came roaring through the world like a rabid lion, shuttling the smarter people back into masks and relative isolation. And now Omicron is moving in. Granted the jury's still out on how intense this variant will be, but if Delta taught us nothing else, be prepared.

Which finally, FINALLY brings me to my new year's wish. I wish we could all work together as a united world to end the pandemic. It's the only way we'll ever conquer it. The variants are self-creating in third world countries because the richer countries aren't sharing vaccines (although apparently South Africa turned down the United State's offer for vaccines). Within our country alone, the highly divisive politicization of Covid is keeping it alive and prosperous. Honestly, folks, shouldn't life be the most important thing to all of us? And for all the cries of FREEDOM to not wear masks, you're keeping the other half of the US captive to the pandemic. The part that really gets me is some people still deny Covid as real. Some so-called "news" anchors have even dropped the despicable theory that Democrats made up Omicron to garner votes. Or something.

It's ridiculous. And discouraging.

We've gotta band together 'cause we're in it together. Once we get through this, then all of you politicians can get back to yelling and name-calling at one another and leave us mere regular people alone.

Happy 2022, everyone. Keep those fingers crossed it'll be a better year. 


Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Overkill...and Kill Again!

Every year the Christmas onslaught begins earlier. In September, while still wearing shorts, I was at a store while the speaker barfed out a widdle baby-girl singing "Santa Baby." Astounded, I pushed through the throngs of early eager Christmas shoppers oohing and ahhing over cutesy elf figurines and reindeer mugs and leering Santa sleepwear. 

Don't even get me going about the one guy in my neighborhood who just can't wait to push that button and blow up his yard Santa and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker (the TRUE meaning of Christmas, I guess).

And there's a kazillion Christmas TV movies, all of them starring actors from the "Dukes of Hazzard" and with the same plot:  City girl Rebecca (Jennifer Love Hewitt) breaks up with cold corporate raider Henry (Tom Welling) and returns to her small hometown of Rockwell, Missouri, where she meets and eventually falls in love with rascally, rough around the edges, but with a heart of gold rancher, Chet (Billy Ray Cyrus), just in time to battle the evil mayor Seytan (William Shatner) and his plan to banish Christmas.

Yep, Christmas was everywhere and wayyyyy too early for my tastes. Honestly, I suppose I can't hold people at fault for wanting a semblance of normality and comfort in their lives after the two years we've had. That's their right. But the marketing machine is taking advantage of it and exploiting people missing family gatherings.

So, I say, enough!

I've found an antidote to the elongated Christmas blues. Turn off those crummy Hallmark movies and turn on the great (aka, crappy) Christmas horror films of the '70's and '80's!

Who could forget the classic Silent Night, Deadly Night? After visiting his creepy AF grandpa, little Billy witnesses his parents get slaughtered by an escaped convict dressed as Santa. Naturally, little Billy is traumatized by Christmas, so when he gets older, the best job for him is in a toy store, right? There, strange urges are awakened and he dons a Santa outfit to violently take out the neighborhood. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Interestingly enough, this movie caused quite a furor amongst irate parents and conservatives back in the day (chief among them a very disgusted Mickey Rooney), which, of course, launched it into a mega-hit. Even more interesting, the film spawned four sequels (most in name only), the last starring...wait for it...Mickey Rooney, who obviously had a lot of alimony to pay.

The original Black Christmas (not that nonsense remake from 2006 or an even newer crummy reboot) is actually a good, eerie, suspenseful film, which gave an early role to the koo-koo Margot Kidder. Actually, I believe it's one of the very first "slasher" films even though it's never credited as such. Ho ho ho-rror!

There's the truly bonkers Christmas Evil (one of John Waters' fave films if that tells you anything!) wherein our antihero takes it upon himself to save Christmas by slaughtering non-believers. The ending is very special and propels it into nearly hallucinogenic art-house territory. Happy horror-days!

The newer Santa's Slay is a hoot (a hoot, I say, a hoot!). While I can't say it's a great movie, it's a lot of fun with jaw-dropping cameo murders (who here has ever wanted to set "The Nanny" on fire? Show of hands? She's got a lot to answer for with that voice.) and a riotous stop-motion parody of the Rankin and Bass holiday specials. Season's cleavings!

My all time favorite Christmas horror movie has to go to the hard-to-see, incredibly odd Elves (1989). Dan "Grizzly Adams" Haggerty "stars" as a department store Santa who gets entangled with a cabal of evil nazi elves out to...do something. I dunno, it's all a little nonsensical, but eggnog spewing hilarious. There's also an evil stepmother who tries to flush the family cat down the toilet. Scary, scary Christmas, everyone!

Lately, there've been several new worthy Christmas horror additions. I'm looking at you, Krampus (beware the kazillion inferior rip-offs), The 12 Slays of Christmas, and A Christmas Horror Story (William...Shatner!). Be on guard for any cheapo, shot-on-video Christmas horror movies (and I use that term very lightly) with clever names. These are usually distinguished by no budget, horrid acting, hired strippers who are willing to take it all off, and people wearing shorts during Christmas time. And lots and lots and lots and lots of close-ups of tattoos and body piercings.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn't mention my--and my daughter's--newest favorite Christmas movie, Anna and the Apocalypse, the only musical, rom-com, horror, Christmas, zombie apocalypse film ever made. It's truly great, the musical for people who hate musicals. 

So the next time some bored clerk wishes you an indifferent "Merry Christmas," just think WWSD. "What would Santa do?" If we're looking at the criteria of the films we've just discussed, I think the answer is obvious.

Hair-raising horror-days everyone!

Check out the wide plethora of Christmas horror short story compilations put out by the swell folks at Grinning Skull Press under the annual Deathlehem series titles. Not only are these tomes chock-full of great prose, but all proceeds go the worthy Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I'm particularly fond of The Shadow over Deathlehem (which contains a stellar story by a certain writer who's too damn humble to mention himself by name).

Friday, December 17, 2021

Murder by Massage...once more with feeling

It's the book "The Man" didn't want you to read! It's the book suppressed because of its daring and provocative subject matter! It's one of the top ten books that the hard-right conservatives want to see burned! It's the book that...that...

Okay, all of that is a lie. Kinda, sorta.

I guess "The Man" didn't really stop you from reading this book before when it was printed by another publisher. Nope, that was down to a couple of old romance writing ladies who didn't understand my rollicking sense of humor, outlandish characters, and ludicrous mysteries. So, I guess in a way, "The (Wo)Man" did hold you back.

On the other hand Boundless Book Reviews says, "Murder by Massage is chaotic, fun and hilarious!"

So, YOU be the judge!

Because Murder by Massage is back in print! What is Murder by Massage, you ask? Cool! I'm stoked to tell you...

It's the second book in the Zach and Zora comedy mystery series (following Bad Day in a Banana Hammock), that details the adventures of an unusual sibling sleuth duo. Zach’s a vapid male stripper prone to stumbling across dead bodies; Zora, his sister, is a very irritable, very pregnant, very competent ex-security specialist who bails her bro out of trouble (with three kids in tow).

Mix in a cult of "Furries;" a bewigged, pompous pastor and bratty kids; a dance-off; a g-string clad chase through the streets of Kansas City; radical revolutionist old hippies; lots of body oil; and laughs, murder and mystery.

Now, thanks to the good folks at Crossroad Press (*ahem* Clive Barker's publisher *ahem* shameless name drop, name drop, name drop *cough*), you can once again sit back, relax, and enjoy the adventures of Zach and Zora from the comforts of home. Or mass transit. Or work, if you're a slacker.

The third book in the series, Nightmare of Nannies, will follow and I'm currently still working on the fourth book, Massacre of Mustaches (yes, it's been a while; Hey, I'm getting old! My fingers ain't as swift as they used to be!).

SURGEON GENERAL WARNING: Do not read Bad Day in a Banana Hammock or Murder by Massage while operating heavy machinery. Do not attempt to read this comic mystery series while drinking liquids (particularly in front of any electronics). Pregnant women should avoid the Zach and Zora series as the books have been known to induce labor. The books may cause general dizziness, diarrhea, and halitosis. If symptoms persist, see a doctor and tell him Zach and Zora sent you. Don’t drive while reading the series because that’s just dumb.

That's Murder by Massage, part of a kinda cozy, kinda funny, mystery series, available here.




Friday, December 10, 2021

Attack of the Killer Gingerbread Men

Or to keep things more precise...gingerbread women and men. (Must be politically correct, after all).

A week or so ago, my daughter drops me one of her typically and aggravatingly information-withholding texts: You'll never believe what I got talked into doing as a civic-minded citizen.

WHAT, WHAT, WHAT??? I clumsily texted back (Tap, tap, tap, crap! Start over...tap, tap, tap, crap!...Tap...).

I'm going to run down Main Street in a giant inflatable gingerbread man suit, she responded.

Huh. My daughter sure gets caught up in some squirrley shenanigans (her words). But there was no way in hell I was going to miss it.

Apparently, her small town had planned a Christmas celebration in downtown and as an up-and-coming town shaker and mover, my daughter was chosen to be a participant in a gingerbread man race down Main Street.

So the big day came and my daughter sorely regretted agreeing to do it. Particularly with the new information she had recently heard: she'd be racing against a couple of physically fit marathon runners. She (like me), on the other hand, had put her running days behind her sometime around...oh, I dunno, childhood. She didn't even own tennis shoes.

Race day arrived. My daughter's apprehension grew. As did my chuckling. A half an hour before the big event, I drove her downtown where the sidewalks and street were fairly abandoned. Except for a suspiciously derelict Santa hanging out in an alley in front of a Charlie Brown tree for photo op purposes with unsuspecting kids. ("Aieeeeee! Mommy, Santa smells funny!")

I said to my daughter, "Wow, there's practically nobody here. What a shame."

"Good," she said.

 After I dropped her off, I parked and hung out until the Big Race.

The sight of the cookies taking a practice walk down Main Street was the stuff of nightmares. Six large, lumbering cookie people bouncing their way toward me. Surely this was an image ripped from the headlines of Hell.


The cookies lined up at the starting line. Tension mounted. Sugar dusted legs stretched. Crumbs fell. And my daughter's costume kept deflating.

"On your mark...get set...GO!"

The "cookie monsters" bounded down Main Street as 23 onlookers cheered and guffawed. And...my daughter came in dead last. By a large margin.

(Old Man Note: while I got great practice footage, during the actual race, I had a senior moment and filmed the pavement somehow.)

I left, got inside my car. A few minutes later, my daughter yanks open the passenger door and says, "Get me outta here. Now."

Completely mortified, I responded the only way a caring father could: by giggling non-stop.

Let this be a lesson to all of you civic-minded people. It's just not worth it.

While on the topic of horrifying creatures running rampant through the city, there are quite a few beasts, varmints, monsters, and unspeakable things on the loose in my short story collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley. You've been warned! Remember the gingerbread people! Brrrrrrrr...


 



Friday, December 3, 2021

Making an Honest Woman

Since when were all women considered dishonest? Sure you got your Bonnie Parkers, Martha Stewarts, and Marjorie Taylor Greenes, but that's hardly a blight on all of womenhood, right?

The other day I was watching some lousy, dull, supposed romantic comedy starring James Garner and Natalie Wood. (It was so awful, I'm intentionally not mentioning the name of the movie so YOU don't have to watch it.) Near the end, tall, hunky James Garner pretty much demands that he's going to marry Ms. Wood because "I'm going to make an honest woman out of you." He says it again a minute later.

Yow!

What does this imply? That all women are born dishonest (kinda like we're all born innocent until we sin) and women's only salvation is to have some big, dumb caveman swoop in, clobber them with their clubs, and drag them to the altar? Praise be to all big, dumb men for saving women!

Sigh. 

You know, I'd heard this stoopid saying many times before when I was just a wee tot (probably from my grandma or mom), and just stored it away as another silly nonsense saying that had no business in the "real world." But it all came rushing back to me with this dumb movie.

Wow. How insulting. First of all, some of the strongest people I know are women (I'm looking at you, wife). Second, this ridiculous saying treats women as nothing but problems to be fixed by men (the forerunner of mansplaining? And we men just LOVE to fix problems for the helpless ladies, who for years we have envisioned as lil' Mary Tyler Moore crying in the kitchen over burned biscuits, so it'd be up to us men to swoop in, patronizingly tell them they were being silly, chuckle at their helplessness, and show them how to scrape off the burned sections. Ta-DAAAAA! You're welcome!). Third, why are women dishonest and not men? Particularly when it's been proven that men are liable to be more crook-worthy. I point you no further than to politicians.

As your man in the field, I chose to look into this sexist, dumb saying. In fact, I'll mansplain it very simply for my female readers. (Ducks and covers.)

First up, let's take a look at what old, wise Ms. Merriam Webster had to say. The definition is "to marry a woman (especially a woman one has had sex with)." Horrors! Living in sin! And it's entirely the woman's fault, natch, wink, nudge. There's that classic double-standard that's still prevalent today; a man who sleeps around with a lot of woman is admired by his fellows, while women who do the same thing are denigrated. Been that away since I was a teen. Hey, I don't make the rules, I just report them.

Another website claims the saying has been kicking around since the 1600s. Henry Fielding used it in his popular comic novel, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, back in 1749. Others claim the saying originated in the 1950s, that last bastion of human decency (or so the ol' folks think) where premarital sex was as abnormal as women in pants. I daresay the Bible may have had something to do with it...you know, with Eve, the temptress, leading Adam astray with her apple of evil seduction. Things don't get much more dishonest than that, right?

On the flip side, there is the phrase, "I'm going to make an honest man out of you." But, alas, it basically has the same meaning: the woman has led the decent man astray with her temptations and the only way out is to force him into marrying, thus making him "honest" again.

Women just can't win without men. Or so men think. 

Speaking of really dumb men, my corporate satire/horror/mystery novel, Corporate Wolf, is just chalk full of them. Give it a read, ladies and see if you can't recognize some of them. I'll wait right here until you're done reading.  Hello? Anyone still out there? HeLLOOOOO?