Friday, July 30, 2021

Whippet, my arse!

In February we adopted two dogs, a bonded pair. The cranky old man of the duo was most definitely, as advertised, a Lahso Apso. The other dog, very pretty and a lot younger, was purportedly a Whippet.

I don't know Poodles from Whippets (other than the Devo song), so I investigated and hired Detective Google to uncover what a Whippet is. 

Hmmm. Nope, no sir, I don't see it! No offense to Whippet worshipers, but c'mon, the dog's kinda got that alien other-worldliness to it, looking at you with those huge extraterrestrial eyes. Brrrrrr. Not like our dog. (Although, come to think of it, she's kinda peculiar in her actions. We bought a seat cover for the living room chair where she likes to hold watch next to the bay window. The cover was accompanied by two hard plastic "noodles" that you tuck into the sides to keep the cover taut. Our dog didn't like the noodles because they went missing. Where she buried them in the house is anyone's guess. But I digress...)

My wife took my intensive Whippet investigation one step further and actually sent off for a doggy DNA test (getting the swab was fun).

The results were shocking. Get this...she's 28% Australian Cattle Dog (which explains why she herds us all over the house, nudging us with her nose), 15% St. Bernard, 13% Australian Shepherd, 8% Siberian Husky, 7% Staffordshire Bull Terrier, 6% American Staffordshire Terrier, and a slew of other breeds I've never even heard of. Nary a hair of a Whippet. However, the DNA company was kind enough to supply us a family chart of what our dog's parents, grandparents, and great grandparents might have looked like. Man, I don't want to go "dog-shaming," but our dog's ancestors got around, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, not only did we not get a Whippet (for which I'm kinda glad), but we got a bonus ear and skin infection along with our dog. Score!

Well, here we are in the dog days of Summer, ready to jump back into our masks because of that pesky Delta variant, so, hey! Why not read a good book? When you're done with that, check out some of my books on my Amazon page.





Friday, July 23, 2021

Camping!

I don't camp. Never have, nor did I believe I ever would. Even in cub scouts I feigned being sick so as to miss a camping trip. And boy, am I glad I did! My fellow cubs came back hornet stung, sun-burnt, and scratching their poison ivy rashes. So it's no wonder I don't fancy myself a camper. 

That is, until a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly--inexplicably--I found myself deep in the mountains of Oklahoma (spittin' distance--as the locals say--from Arkansas) in a cabin in the woods. Horrors! 

How did our pioneering ancestors ever make it under such barbaric circumstances?

Just how had this happened? I dunno, not really. My wife probably told me we were going on this trip with her family while I was knee-deep into a movie or something. Doesn't matter. There I was...camping.

Typical camping activity: Everyone fiddling with their phones

 

Now, my family still claim that I wasn't camping. My father-in-law laughed and told me I never would've made it camping with his father and father-in-law. He's right. After hearing his tale of how he had about froze to death in a tent while deer hunting, I couldn't think of anything less appealing.

I don't EVEN want to know what this strange creature is.

 

"Dear, this is hardly 'camping,'" said my wife.

I said, "But...but...we're in a cabin in the woods! And there's nature stuff, and Dick and Perry, and serial killers, and Deliverance psychos, and lotsa crap surrounding us! We're camping!"

Roughing it around the campfire with a Margarita

 

My sister-in-law added, "Don't forget about the tree-frogs."

"TREE FROGS?" I shrieked, while whirling around on the deck, looking for these insidious creatures to start falling upon me. Just as I don't believe that sticks should walk (a terrifying sight), I'd never heard of such a frightening prospect before. I like my frogs on the ground where I can see them, definitely not waiting to bombard me from the huge trees above.

My nephew wielding weapons so as to fend off the deadly Tree Frogs

 

All week long, my claims of camping were ridiculed. Okay, okay, the cabin had air conditioning and even Wifi, but for God's sake, the signal was really spotty! Talk about roughing it! And sure there were wineries and breweries twenty minutes away to occupy my great outdoors-man daytime activities, but at night, a myriad of critters, varmints, and who-knows-what buzzed, clicked, shrieked, hooted, hawed, cawed, and laughed. Camping!

The great outdoors-man finds himself inside a winery
 

I should count myself lucky, I suppose, as I only had one truly tragic camping mishap. Half asleep one morning, I reached for a tube of toothpaste on the bathroom countertop, squeezed some out, and brushed my teeth. Thinking it tasted..."funny"...I checked the tube. I'd grabbed my bro-in-law's hydrocortisone. More shrieking ensued. Camping.

Just one of the many, many dangers of camping

Inexplicably, the locals seemed to have kinda a crush or something on Bigfoot. Everywhere you looked there were Bigfoot statues, Bigfoot shops, and Bigfoot beer.

Getting chummy with one of the locals

For God's sake, we were in such savage country, the locals even took to eating the Bigfeet (Bigfoots?)! When in Rome, do as the Romans do...We ordered a plate of Bigfoot Balls. While certainly not as ghastly as Rocky Mountain Oysters (nothing is), I imagine there's an entire mountain full of castrated and angry Bigfoot guys roaming around.

So much for the camping tradition of pork and beans

The wildlife wasn't content to stay outdoors either. One look at the room my wife and I shared with our nephews shows the obvious proof that a wild, enraged beast of some sort (maybe a castrated Bigfoot?) went on a rampage strewing clothing and other items everywhere! Camping!

When animals attack!

I was glad to get back to civilization after having braved it in the woods for several nights, living on the edge of danger, and barely escaping with my life. Now that I've actually--finally--been camping, I think I'm pulling up my big boy outdoors man shorts and ready to do it again. Although next time, I'd prefer a cabin with a hot tub. Yeah... Camping!


 



Speaking of Bigfoot, there's a rousing tale of the big lug in my short story collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley. It features tugs to the heartstrings and limbs ripped from bodies. Bonus! Read it while camping.




Friday, July 16, 2021

The Problem with "They"

I'm going out on a limb here, but...I really don't understand the whole gender neutral and/or inclusive pronouns deal.

Okay, okay, before you start hurling your internet bricks of outrage, let me explain. Of course I empathize with peoples' otherness and respect their wishes to not be trapped within gender specific pronouns. (I can't say I actually legitimately "understand" it...I believe that's true for anyone who's never experienced a specific situation just as I can't "understand" what it's like to be a person of color. A thin person can't understand what it's like to be overweight and on and on.)

What I'm having difficulty getting past is the grammatical number disagreement in referring to one person using the plural "they" or "them." Put away those pitchforks of social media ire, people! It's just that as a writer, it hurts my ears to designate one person with a plural pronoun. (Except for maybe "Sybil," of course). 

There. I said it. (Ducks and covers...)

I brought this up to my wife, the English major.

She said, "Yeah, I was that way at first, too, but I got over it."

As will I. It'll take a little bit of practice for this old, stodgy fart to retrain my brain, but I vow that I will. The problem is my stodgy, old farty brain can't possibly keep up with the lightning quick and ever changing new developments in pronoun propriety.

Now, there are a slew of new pronouns to learn. There's zie, sie, ey, ve, zim, em, ver, zis, hirs, eirs, virs, Tad(?), and tons more! I'm not alone in being confused. My spell-checker is having a meltdown right now.

Again, I empathize with being made to feel otherness. More power to the social advocates for making changes and righting past wrongs. But there are so many new pronouns now, the thought of learning them all (and conjugating in Spanish!) strains my wee brain.

Man, for something called "gender fluid," I wished it flowed through my mind with more liquid clarity. Maybe using "they," as opposed to the numerous other new pronouns, won't be as hard as I originally thought.

Speaking of "otherness," there's an entire different other type of "people" living beneath the streets of Kansas City, ones you should pray you never meet. I'm talking about "The Underdwellers," my novella that many critics have called the scariest thing I've written. You can read it (along with a buncha other tales) in my collection, Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley.


 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Kids Kill the Darndest People

Oh, those lil' cute murderous rapscallions!

Recently, my daughter told me a horrifying true tale from her childhood. When she was in grade school (a very nice Catholic school), the mean girls in her class didn't like the librarian. I dunno, maybe she'd shushed them one time too many or something equally as dire.

The librarian apparently had been very vocal about her own dislike for my daughter's class (except for my daughter, natch; librarian's pet, librarian's pet, librarian's pet!). Needless to say there was some bad library blood between the fourth grade girls and the librarian.

So, one day to get even, one of these little angels secretly poured bleach in the librarian's coffee cup. Yow! That'll kill ya! I mean, other than it being one of Trump's recommended beverages, it'll kill ya, and it still killed some Trump thumpers to boot.

But, hold on, the murderous hijinx didn't end there. After following the head evil lil' girl's lead, the other mean girls joined in on the wacky shenanigans, tee hee. Soon, they were all taking turns of covertly dropping tacks, paint, and all kinds of potentially murderous debris into the librarian's cup.

 Finally, one of the boys showed a shimmer of soul and pretended to "accidentally" knock the cup over, thus saving the librarian's life. And this poor kid ended up taking the bullet for the girl. (Hope she was worth it, guy.) The evil mastermind and her vile girl gang got off scot-free.

Sweet Mother of pearl! I hosted some of these lil' monsters at my daughter's slumber parties! I suppose I'm lucky they didn't set me on fire in my sleep. I mean, what would they've done to the janitor if he gave them the stink eye? Flay him to death?

Seriously, this is terrifying. What could a librarian possibly do to warrant her murder? 

We've all seen "The Bad Seed," right? This was the friggin' "bad garden."

Needless to say, I was horrified by this tale (and no, my daughter didn't know anything about it until after the fact), thus proving once and for all that girls are more evil than boys. Oh, sure, you'll get beat up by boy bullies, but you know, they get it out of their system and move onto the next big bullying thing. I took my fair share of lumps in my day, but I can honestly say that none of my bullies ever intended on murdering me.

So beware of adorably cute lil packages in pretty, pretty princess dresses. Evil lurks in pigtails.

While on the topic of evil children, my story "Halloweenie Roast" features several demonic kids on par with my daughter's heinous classmates. You can read it, along with other fine tales of horror and dark humor, in my collection, Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley.


 

 


Friday, July 2, 2021

Torture by Kenny G

We've all been there. Stuck on the phone, on hold, and the unfortunate Kenny G comes wailing away at you with his God-awful, sickly sweet, dulcet saxophone tones.

Folks, it's worse than waterboarding and should be outlawed.

Torture is the only way to describe it. The powers that be have such disdain for us that they can't allow you to be patched through to a real person without first punishing you with agonizing minutes of Kenny G. They hate us that much. There can be no other explanation.

Pity my poor, suffering brother-in-law. Recently, his identity was stolen and used for unemployment benefits. As if this wasn't enough abuse, the onus was on him to attempt to break through the government robots on hold who soundly thrashed him with a half hour of Kenny G's "Songbird" on an endless loop.

On Facebook, my bro-in-law posted this and said, "I hate criminals." I replied, "the real crime is Kenny G."

I don't know whose idea it was to "entertain" people on hold with Kenny G. Someone, somewhere, must think that it's comforting music, meant to mollify the masses into compliant passivity until they finally break. In fact, it's no coincidence that Kenny G is the most popular on hold music across the world.

It's a conspiracy of far-right reaching proportions.

Look, I don't have a problem with Kenny G... Except for maybe his music sucks. It's like ear candy for grown-ups who have to be told that Kenny G is good. And the fact that a grown man is going around calling himself "Kenny G." First, Kenny is a child's name, Kenneth. Second, I highly doubt your last name is truly "G." And then there's Kenny's hair. Just looking at it makes me want to run for the scissors. Okay, and I hate having to be force-fed his ear pablum in so-called "relaxing" environs. I've been known to bolt from a store if Kenny G is wailing away from the speakers at ear-breaking decibels.

So, yeah. Maybe I do have a problem with Kenny G. I hate him.

Usually, when I'm on hold, it's either Kenny G or a close second worst, Christoper Cross' "Sailing." That's it, nothing else. And again it's no accident that these two are what pummels your ears, two of the worst and inexplicably popular entertainers from the last century. Government and big business want you to suffer, they want to torture you. To what nefarious ends, who knows. Big government moves in strange and mysterious ways.

Let's abolish Kenny G. As much as I despise the term "cancel culture," Kenny G truly deserves to be "cancelled" before he turns our minds into mush. Stop the insanity.

Now that I've gotten that insanity off my chest, I gotta plug my book, Peculiar County. It's my favorite outta 24 titles. Read it and see if you can understand why. Go on, I dare ya. Let me just put on a little Kenny G to play in the background while you go find it...


 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Politically Woke Monster

I blame my wife. In fact, all of you guys should blame her.

Years ago, we were hanging out, and as is her wont to do, while reading the news, she told me that someone had died.

I put on a caring face. "Aw, that's too bad."

Soooooooo many crickets as she stared at me. "You have no idea who I'm talking about, do you?"

"Sure I do! He's that...you know...that one guy...in, um, politics who--"

"You don't have a clue."

Shamefully, I confessed. "No, but hey, you know what's on TV tonight?" Master of changing the subject, I tried to steer into more comfortable waters, a shallow and narrow creek of familiarity.

But she wasn't having it. "You don't know what's going on around you in the world. When was the last time you picked up a newspaper?"

"Um...do they still make those?"

"Or when was the last time you listened to the news?"

The shame set in. Secretly, I started reading the news. And the way of the world was kinda upsetting, what with rampant racism, hatred, shootings, etc. Occasionally, there'd be a nice puppy story, but that's not what interested me. Nor, apparently anyone else, for the more sensationalist stories proved to be the most popular. It became like gawking at a car wreck. I just couldn't turn away.

However, shortly after my awakening, I hoped to impress my wife while we were watching Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update segment. I'd offer pertinent comments here and there.

It worked! I was outta the doghouse of ignorance! However...once unleashed, this dog turned rabid for news.

I couldn't stop. I was addicted. And all of the news was depressing. Then Trump came along and made matters much, much worse.

At nighttime, while in bed, I would rant about Trump's newest tirade of crazy. Eventually, my wife got sick of the genie she'd unbottled and told me, "I don't want to hear it. I don't even want to hear that man's name. Just quit talking to me about it."

Well, hell. During the pandemic, who else could I rant on about Trump to? I had a particular itch that I just couldn't scratch. To make matters worse, talking to people about Trump was either preaching to the converted or ending up in a screaming match with the True Believers. Both options were a colossal waste of time and energy and emotion.

Yet I carried on. I took my need to talk Trump to my daughter. She got sick of talking about him, too. She said, "You know before Trump, you never talked about politics. And my mom's the same way. Except for she talks about how great he is."

Huh. My daughter was right. Back when I was married to my daughter's mother, so long ago it seems hazy now, I remembered we never did talk about politics. To me it was unfathomable. What in the world did we talk about?

I think there's one real lesson to be gathered in all of this... Donald J. Trump has been responsible for uniting the American people in a news-awakened country! Thanks, Donnie!

While not quite news-worthy (not even close), and if you're sick of fighting with friends and family over politics, take a break and check out my mystery comedy, Bad Day in a Banana Hammock. You have my personal guarantee that there's not a lick of politics and Trump doesn't rear his orange head once.




Friday, June 18, 2021

Under the Thrall of the Witch of Oz

My daughter lives in "Oz."

No, that's not the real name of the place, nor is it the HBO prison where love reigns, and I haven't lost the ability to differentiate between fiction and reality. It's a sorta, sometimes nickname for the lil' small (but big on charm!) town in which my daughter has decided to set her roots.

As a banker, her job is varied, which I guess is kinda par for the course for small towns. She runs the gamut of doing banking chores, personal crisis counseling, and scoping out plots of land for customers to bury bodies on. But the most curious thing she does is run errands for the town's crazy lady.

One time while visiting, she told me she dreaded going to work tomorrow. I asked her why.

"Because I have to go on a grocery run for...(honestly, I can't think of her name and even if I could, I wouldn't publish it) 'Mabel.'"

"Huh," I said. "So she must be a good customer."

"No, she's not a customer."

SOOOO many crickets. My brain ground through rusty cogs and wheels and gizmos. "But...but...but why are you going to get her groceries if she's not a customer? And even if she was a customer, isn't that going beyond the realm of good customer service?" (Side note: this small and quaint town is soooo small and quaint, it doesn't have a grocery store. You have to go to Walmart in the next town over. There're three tattoo parlors, three nail salons, 800 churches, and a bar, but no grocery store!)

"I don't know," she said. "It's just something everybody does!"

"WHAAAA? And she's not a customer??? But...but...what strange witchery is this?"

The witch of Oz's back story gets even weirder/stranger/awesome, depending on how you view it. Once, when my daughter's boss went to her house because she beckoned, she answered the door without any pants on. And one day she came into the bank with no eyebrows.

"Someone broke into my house and burnt my eyebrows off," she explained with a straight face and no eyebrows.

But my daughter (and a lot of the town's members) often go on errands for her, hauling a 20 pound bag of potatoes up two flights of steps. Sorcery!

Here's the best part: the woman pays my daughter off in ice cream drumsticks! (Where does she get this endless supply since they're never on her shopping list? Perhaps she's a rich, eccentric drumstick heiress.)

Yes, through either sorcery or subtle psychological manipulation, Mabel has the town do her bidding, and while under her thrall, her minions are helpless as they scramble to get cigarettes and TV dinners for her. Is she a good witch or a bad witch? The verdict's still out. Just beware of strangers bearing drumsticks.

Speaking of witches, one factors in mightily in one of the tales in my darkly comical and spooky collection of horror tales, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley. As a matter of fact, the small town in which this peculiar tale is set is very similar to "Oz." Could it be...a TRUE STORY?