Friday, February 24, 2017

Home Invasion!

Our home has been taken over. It's full of intruders, strangers, and people who don't have my best interests at heart.

The bathroom's being redone.
This means: I can't shower; I can't urinate; I can't wash my face or hands.

I smell like Ernest Borgnine's underwear.

Reduced to the most base behavior, I wait until nightfall to go to the bathroom outside. I'm using "baby-wipes" to clean myself which produces that weird baby diaper odor: not fresh, not clean, just chemically altered. My dog wants to eat the bathroom workers' faces off.

The absolute worst part? I've been forced to take showers at my mom's apartment. Nothing's changed since high school, pure hell. ("Whatever, Mom! Get off my back! Gawd!") To achieve the full effect, I should sneak cigarettes and listen to awful '70's arena rock (outside of country music, the only option growing up in '70's Kansas City).

Home contractors are a strange lot. They don't like to work more than a couple of hours a day. Communication is an alien concept to them as is a full day's work.

Yet, here I am, keeping hope alive, believing these yahoos. Each day I'm told, "Oh, yeah, we'll be finished tomorrow." Each day, a little bit of hope dies. And I smell a lot worse.

Sigh. Back to Mom's apartment. ("I already told you, Mom! Gah!")

Friday, February 17, 2017

The six million dollar dog!

That's my boy! A very expensive boy!

Recently, Zak blew out his knee. Irreparably damaged. One extremely costly operation later, he's home. Drugged out of his furry mind and stuck in the Cone of Shame.

The vet tells us Zak needs six months of recovery time. 

Six months???

That entails keeping him on a leash always, confining him to small quarters, watching him, doting on him, giving him massages and physical therapy for God's sake. It's up to me to take care of him 24-7 and make sure "he doesn't get excited." I said to the vet, "You're kidding, right?" Zak's a force of nature, as out of control as a tornado. He practically destroys the house trying to get to the mailman.

Now, I have to sleep downstairs because Zak can't handle the stairs to go up to our bedroom where he usually sleeps. We have a special harness to lift his back end up so he can take the two steps down off the deck into the yard. He can't be left alone and I can't go anywhere. Much to my mom's disgust, I can't take her on her weekly shopping and yelling sprees ("Huh. I guess your dog's more important than me.")

I feel like I'm under house arrest. A full-time job.

Just when I thought things couldn't get worse, they did. In one of those quirky moments that fate seems to love to toss my way, I fell off a stepladder in the garage. Now Zak and I hobble together up and down the street in painful, short walks. (It's funny how pet owners begin to resemble their pets: I have a limp, arthritis and gray whiskers! So does Zak!).

Seriously...if you're reading this, send help!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Welcome to my recurring (bathroom) nightmare!

Okay, armchair psychiatrists, get ready to analyze!

There I am, usually either at high school or Burger King (two places I haven't set foot inside of in decades, so make of that what you will). I'm heading for the public bathroom. When I open the door...
It's a vast room, jam-packed with people, both men and women. Everyone jockeying for a position to relieve themselves in a dizzying array of strange devices: there's the chin-high banana (your aim would have to be pretty astounding to use it); there are the usual urinals, of course, but the toilets are scattered all over the room with no privacy stalls; how about the elaborate playground jungle gym devices that people have to climb to rain down their business upon the poor people beneath them? And no one in there cares! Business as usual! Unzip, drop, laters.

The absolute worst part, though--the part that brings me to a sweating, gasping, waking state night after night--is the grotesque hygiene . All the toilets overflow with foul liquid. The walls are smeared with unspeakable waste. The smell could send a skunk running. And everyone drops their business willy-nilly.
And, without fail, I'm always in socks. Desperately trying to hopscotch over the spreading tides of waste. The filthy floods chase me across the tiled floor. A monstrously loud toilet whoosh signifies the newest approaching tsunami

My bladder's full. My stomach wants to expel. My socks and feet are soaked with vile, awful...

That's usually when I wake.

I used to worry about my mental state of health regarding this recurring nightmare. Until recently, that is, when I found hope in the oddest of places. With great relief--a wonderful feeling--I found out "Lorelei Gilmore" suffers from this recurring nightmare, too.

(SIDE BAR: If it pleases the court, I readily admit to enjoying the Gilmore Girls. I used to validate it by telling people it's a show I watch with my daughter {true}, but soon found myself drawn to the surrealistic whimsy and dialogue so funny, so furious, and so fast it'd give Aaron Sorkin whiplash. No guilt here! But I digress...)

I started wondering if maybe more people have this dream. According to my much valued research assistant, Ms. Google (I fired Mr. Bing last week), they do! Apparently it's pretty common.

No one's been bold enough to put a name to it yet, but armchair dream analysts (and have you ever wondered if the word "anal" in "analyst" is a snarky comment?) are sure giving it a go. I've read all sorts of nutty theories: people  are trying to work out their own "crap";  it goes back to how one was potty-trained; fear of public places; fear of urinating; bla, bla, bla.

All I know is I'd rather have ten boogeymen fully loaded with axes chasing after me than go back to this horrendous public bathroom of my dreams. Maybe it goes back to when I visited a Stuckey's bathroom and...and... Gah!

Never mind! It's just great to find out I'm not alone. Maybe I should start a support group or something. Anyone? (I see Lorelei's got her hand up).

Friday, February 3, 2017

Orange is the new Hate

Okay, okay, I'm sick of politics, too. Especially this new world order that makes no sense whatsoever.

Two weeks in, let's look at Trump's major accomplishments: low-income families can no longer afford to buy houses. The Trump immigration ban? Makes sound sense, right? What the United States is all about. Trump's ticked off China, numerous other countries. Shocker. But America's great again!  
No wonder 1984 is the best-selling novel now.

I'm absolutely terrified. Who's our new US president representing? And why are people buying into it?

Trump says he's giving America back to "the people." As long as "the people" are white, rich, male and orange, natch.

Here's what I don't get...white, rich, male, sexist, Eagles-listening, Fox News-watching, golfing people have ALWAYS been represented by the government. No matter the political denomination, Republicans or Democrats. The power's been in their hands, will continue to be. So why are white guys suddenly rising, like there's something to be angry about?

Orange is a new power group, but I thought the Oompa-Loompa Union had them covered.

Nothing's changing in the US regarding the power structure. Doesn't look like it will in the next four years.
Trump proclaims he wants to unite the country. Good luck, Orange One. Your hateful political campaign divided the country. (And, yes, Hillary had a hand in that as well).

We liberals aren't exempt from horrible behavior. I own up to that. Proponents on both sides have turned ugly, bitterly awful. I used to enjoy healthy political chats with friendly opponents. Not any longer. Not even with politically like-minded allies.
The so-called "leader of the free world" promotes hatred like a merit badge for scouts. Someone who's supposed to lead by example of exemplary behavior.

I feel like I'm following the biggest brat on the playground. One who likes molesting women and loves golden showers. 

Have you tried having a decent, intelligent, political chat these days?

Trump has unleashed a wave of hatred, anger and bigotry across the country, unrivaled since Hitler's reign. Now more than ever, people find it okay--even admirable--to bash people, verbally and physically.

Opinions that people have been harboring--festering away like cancer--are suddenly being unleashed with zeal. Thoughts that people knew were previously forbidden to share. But everything's changed. Our leader's made it clear it's okay to hate everyone different! Shout it from the rooftops, dammit! Our president does!

Couple days ago, I wrote this about my new book...

"Not Donald Trump's biography! But very close to it. From Riverdale Avenue Books, Demon with a Comb-Over (with a brand-spanking, sparkly new prequel) is out now!"

Just trying to find an amusing hook.

A woman responded, "Get over it! You're irritating me! We had 8 years of your idiot and he didn't do crap! Shut your mouth and deal with the future!"

Oof! Cyber-slapped! I "irritated" her. I live in her world and I'm just lucky to be sharing it. Whoops, my bad. Meanwhile, she's out there poking the bear.

 Welcome to the new world order. It's like we're living in "Celebrity Apprentice," praying we don't get fired from life.

America's always been about freedom of speech and healthy political debate.
Let's get back to that.
Help stomp out orange.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Enigma Tree by Guest Horror Author Catherine Cavendish

Willows play an enigmatic, multiple role in folklore – sometimes inspirational, sometimes a force to be reckoned with, appeased, fed and/or revered. The graceful weeping willow, with its gently swaying fronds of leaves graces many a riverbank.
In my novel – The Devil’s Serenade – a willow plays a prominent role. In this case, one with elements of both good and evil. The tree has, at some point in its history, been struck by lightning and now grows at bizarre and seemingly impossible angles. It defies nature. When, by rights, it should be dead, it thrives and its impossibly spreading roots and branches contain a supernatural force to be reckoned with.
In ancient Greek mythology, the willow was sacred to poets as a result of the powerful inspirational effect created by the sound of the wind through its branches. Orpheus was said to have carried branches of it to the Underworld where the inspiration he seems to have derived from their effect caused Apollo to present him with a lyre. Orpheus duly produced such sweet music, he was able to enchant not just people and animals but even the trees and rocks of Mount Olympus. In the temple of Delphi, Orpheus is depicted leaning against a willow tree, touching its branches.
One manifestation of the dark side of the willow’s ‘nature’ is its association with grief and death. The ancient Greek sorceress, Circe, planted a riverside cemetery with willows and dedicated it to Hecate and her moon magic. Male corpses were wrapped in untanned ox hides and exposed to the elements in the tops of the trees. This led to the practice of placing willow branches in the coffins of the recently deceased, and planting young saplings on their graves. In ancient Celtic tradition, there was the belief that the soul of the departed would grow into the roots of the young trees enabling its spirit to rise up and live within the growing tree. Even today, in Britain, many cemeteries are lined with willows to protect the spirits that reside there.
Willows are also associated with fertility and an ancient Romany tradition of the festival of Green George is just one example of this. It takes place every year, on 23rd April in parts of Transylvania. A man is chosen to be Green George. He wears a wicker frame made from willow and the local people then cover this with greenery and vegetation to represent the association of the willow with water that is so vital in ensuring a bountiful harvest. A young willow is then cut down and erected at the place where festivities will abound. This is then festooned with garlands. That night, all the pregnant women of the area gather around the tree and each places an item of clothing beneath it. If a single leaf falls onto that garment overnight, the woman will be granted a trouble-free delivery by the willow goddess.
At dawn the next day, Green George hammers three nails into the young tree and then promptly removes them, takes them to the nearest stretch of water and throws them in. This is to attract the attention and goodwill of the water spirits. He then returns to the tree, picks it up and returns with it to the water where he dips the branches until they are dripping with water. This will arouse the fertile qualities of the tree. The people then bring their animals to Green George who raises the tree and shakes water on them to bless the fertility of their farm animals for the coming year. Once complete, the tree is then re-erected and forms the centerpiece for festivities, feasting, drinking and merrymaking.

In The Devil’s Serenade, the willow is known as the ‘tentacle tree’ and any merrymaking performed around it has far more sinister connotations…
Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she's about to remember… 
When Maddie Chambers inherits her Aunt Charlotte’s gothic mansion, old memories stir of the long-forgotten summer she turned sixteen. She has barely moved in before a series of bizarre events drives her to question her sanity.
The strains of her aunt’s favorite song echo through the house, the roots of a faraway willow creep through the cellar, a child who cannot exist skips from room to room, and Maddie discovers Charlotte kept many deadly secrets.
Gradually, the barriers in her mind fall away, and Maddie begins to recall that summer when she looked into the face of evil. Now, the long dead builder of the house has unfinished business and an ancient demon is hungry. Soon it is not only Maddie’s life that is in danger, but her soul itself, as the ghosts of her past shed their cover of darkness.

You can find The Devil’s Serenade here:

and other online retailers

(Psst, Stuart here. I've read several of Catherine's books and they're highly recommended. Just sayin'.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

I Sweat Violently

I kinda want to write a novel with that title. A noiresque effort:
"As the dame with legs longer than an antelope on steroids swayed by my table, sweat rolled off me in buckets. Not the kind of sweat most men experience either. I mean full-on, messy, swampy, road-flooding torrents of moisture, splashing into the aisle, rolling toward the ladies room door like a tsunami that only Godzilla could create with a cannonball jump in a kiddy pool. Not pretty, no sir, not by a long shot. 

My underarms weighed heavier than my lust. My crotch channeled a breeding ground of mosquitoes. 

Yet there she was. All figure eight, psychically tattooing a 666 on my blighted soul. Thrusting her hips back and forth like a drunken sailor on a really storm-tossed day.

After I dragged the napkin--a cloth kind, not the cheap paper kind found in McDonald's--across my forehead, I wrung it out. A large goosh of water splattered across the floor. The waitress--clown make-up and practicing a smile like a poorly carved pumpkin--slipped, grasped my hand, said, 'Honey, looks like you could use a good toweling off.'
I said, 'Ain't the first time I had that offer tonight, baby.' I pulled up my shirt collar, wiped off more perspiration. 'Not your problem, doll-face. Just bring me more napkins. Go on. Get outta' here. Snap those ankles like firecrackers.'

'That doesn't even make sense.'

'If I asked for cents, doll, I'da' given you a buck, a full Washington.' Sick of her attitude, I grabbed her wrist. 'Customer's always right, baby. Right?'

'I guess! Let go of me!'
The big picture in sight, I released the waitress, my eyes  googly and glued toward the john, a sticky situation. Any second now, my apparition of beauty would stroll out, a wiggle to her walk, a waggle to her gum-chawing, iron (strong in its manly squareness) jaw. 

I couldn't see that well. My vision blurred by the sweat rolling off my forehead, dribbling into my eyes. Droplets rolled into my ears, plugged 'em like a bullet between the brows. I shifted, lifted a bun. My pants stuck, than ripped away from the cushioned chair with a gassy sound, one I hoped the beautiful dame wouldn't hear. Such sounds never passed her astonishing auditory beauty.

Finally, the door whisked open, then slammed with a shot. She strutted out, queen of the kitchen, ballerina of the bathroom, feline of the fast food chain. Her wig--a damn pretty wig, sculpted of rock-hard platinum blond cement--jitterbugged atop her head, perfectly complementing her hourglass, wasting-no-time figure. A trail of toilet paper followed  her heel, a ticker parade premonition of our impending nuptials.
I flattened my hands on the table, hoping to anchor so as to gaze more carefully. Sweat loosened my grip. I went head-first, splat onto the table, worse than a severely compromised parachutist."

Well, that's all I got. It could go on all night.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Poor, poor oppressed, angry, white guys...

Okay, elephant in the room time, I'm an angry white guy, too. But for different reasons than what's becoming vogue, particularly in the states.
Recently, I saw a video clip about the horrendous beating of a mentally challenged white guy that the black abusers posted on Facebook. Absolutely grotesque.

Nearly as grotesque was the surrounding commentary by some "reporter (a very angry white guy)" who ranted and raged and made the story about himself, proclaiming "the media doesn't care about white people!"

Enough's enough. The media only cares about rich white guys. They're the much-valued and sought-after target market. I worked in marketing and advertising and journalism for thirty some years, first thing I learned. Not a whole lotta' black guys hanging out with Joey and Chandler and Ross.

Outside of a couple of international leaders sporting atrocious hair-cuts, the biggest current threat to the United States is the sensationalism of the media and its effect on viewers. There's no real reporting going on any more (unless you count the forgotten dinosaurs of newspapers and, ugh, who reads print these days?). Forget about pure facts, just a whole lot of editorializing in your face. And thanks to the introwebs, everyone's got an opinion. Just search out the "specialist" who agrees with you. I'll wait. Shouldn't take long.
Opinions are fine, everyone has one (like another thing that I can't quite put my finger on, but give me time and I'm sure I'll find it). But for these so-called journalists to present horrible events as rabble-rousing propaganda to further their own personal political interests is despicable. 

Sure, you might say, I'm doing the same thing on my blog. 

Well, I'm RIGHT, dammit, and you're NOT!

See how easy that was? And ugly?

When did loud, white, privileged guys become a minority in America?  

In the work-force, of course, we white guys need to curb our tendencies toward sexual harassment. Seems like everyone has it out for us regarding that. Big deal, right? I mean chicks watch Mad Men, too. And there's a built-in stigma--an oopsy embarrassment, really, that we're all trying to politely church-laff over--regarding our noble white male heritage: something to do with our ancestors owning slaves, killing off the true American natives, poisoning the world, bla, bla, bla. Then there's the sad fact that some white males are only destined for sub-management positions--assistant managers, mind you! Heckuva' tough cross to bear. Get right down to it, keeping up a perfectly coifed yard is a nightmare of magnanimous proportions. Don't even get me going on proper footwear and sweaters (pop that collar!).

Jesus (and, of course, I'm talking a Charlton Heston-styled Jesus), being a white, angry male is a hard road to travel, after all.