Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My Oregon License Plate Saga, Part Two...or...
Being told "NO" can be a good thing!

Remember the old song, "ONE", by Three Dog Night? The lyrics state that "NO" the saddest experience you'll ever know"...well, yeah, I hate to get RE-JECTED, but it happens. Such as I described in the previous post, all about my identification being handed back to me by the Witch at the DMV, after which I was sent packing. Okay...I tell ya, I was really mad. It just ate at me all weekend. My new Social Security Card won't be here for a while, and since that card was part of my I.D. process, I wouldn't be able to get Oregon plates this month. And my Idaho plates were set to expire, you guessed it, at the end of this month. (See previous post for an explanation of this; I don't want to get into all of that here. Suffice it to say a laminated Social Security Card is subject to re-jection. What a world this is.)

Okay, I'm gonna tell you something you don't know yet. I actually had MOVED to Oregon in 2003. Things didn't work out for me (it's a long story), and I moved back to Idaho. But, when I was in Oregon in '03, I'd got an Oregon drivers' license. Then I moved back up to Idaho and re-licensed my car in the Gem State. Finally, three years after that, I moved down to Oregon. Again. And I don't regret it at all. It's been great down here so far. So it came time to get my drivers' license again. (See previous post for details) I did the old college "cram" know, where you sit in noiseless solitude, going over and over and over your notes hour after hour, until your brain just can't absorb any more, and you think, "well, I'm as ready for this as I will ever be", and I was. I was PRIMED to take that damn test! I read and wrote down ALL the pertinent information in the not-quite absorbing, fact-filled Oregon drivers' manual. I began at 8pm Sunday Night, and stopped at 2am Monday morning. And my brain was a-buzzin' with all kinds of driving-related fun facts.

So I went back to the DMV, to take the drivers' test, and you can bet I went there with all of my identification. And, I almost got turned down AGAIN! On my previous visit to the DMV, I was told to get a new, un-laminated Social Security card. The hitch is, the people at Social Security TAKE your old card from you, and you're card-less until your new one arrives in the snail mail. So, I didn't have a social security card to take to DMV. The lady who waited on me (not the Witch-Lady who waited on me previously), almost RE-JECTED me 'cos I had no Social Security Card. Well...I found two OTHER items which could be used for identification purposes, as stated in the Oregon Drivers' Manual, one of which was a "benefits letter" from the Social Security Administration. And, my social security number was printed ON that letter. And I told her, "my social security number is here on this social security document...I'm trying to work with you here...please? Please? PLEASE???" By this time, I was BEGGING. Seeing my utter despair, the lady DMV clerk then took all my stuff back to her supervisor, then returned and said, "yes, we can take this, so you're okay."

Hmmm..."yes?" At the drivers' license bureau? I looked out the window; no huge fault had opened up in the earth to swallow us all, no huge Tsunami tide was swirling around the DMV, coming to wash us all away to oblivion; in short, the world had not ended. "Yes"! Hmmm...I kinda like the sound of that word. Okay, "good so far", I thought. As I handed the lady clerk the rest of my paperwork, I told her, "I lived in Oregon 3 years ago and got a license then, but I moved back to Idaho." So, she looked at my Oregon Drivers' record, and I was still in the database, and then she told me, "NO". Was that the saddest experience I'd ever know? Actually, "NO". "How can this be?", I thought. She said my drivers' license was STILL GOOD, since Oregon licenses drivers for 8 years.Which means, my Oregon license is STILL VALID for another 5 years. "We'll just do a license renewal", said the lady clerk, "and NO, you don't have to take the drivers' test!" Whoa!!! Huh? What?

Well, I do have my pride...and I was tempted to ask her, "well, now that I'm approved for a license, can I go ahead and take the test just to see how well I'd do, since I studied all night for it?", but I thought better of it. How would it have looked, had I flunked, after getting approved for a license? For once, I kept my yap shut, other than profusely thanking her for going to bat for me. And she said, "I'd do this for anybody; I'm just doing my job." Wow; can't they accept compliments at the DMV?, I I told her, "just the same, thanks." And after looking from side to side to see if any of her fellow employees were watching, she gave me a small smile. I guess "smiling" must be some sort of 'violation' in the DMV employee handbook. My definition of "employee handbook" is, a paperback document that lists all of the different ways you can lose your job. So if you get fired, the personnel manager can tell you, "hey, we gave you a handbook; you should know the rules." In short, giving an employee a handbook absolves the employer of any liability when they fire a worker. It's all in the handbook. I HATE handbooks.

The next day, I put Oregon license plates on my car. Well, it's been raining a lot here lately, and it even snowed here Monday night, something the locals say doesn't happen too often. The rain stopped for a little while, so out I went with license plates in hand. I put on the rear plate, and then just kinda sat there for a few minutes. I'm easily distracted; what can I say? Then 'good judgment' took over. (Me? Good judgment?) And I thot to myself, "I'd better put the front plate on before it starts raining again". So I did, and sure enough, as I got up to go back in the house, the rain, as if on cue, began to pour forth from the gloomy overcast gray sky. They say in North Idaho, "if you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes and it'll change." Well, down here, it seems to change every 30 seconds. I went to the bank this morning, and the rain was virtually SHOOTING down to the ground, with coastal winds whipping every which way. And I left the bank 45 minutes later and the sun was out. And now, a couple hours after that, it's overcast again. That's okay...I can just sit around in the house and watch the parakeets kill each other. It's a truly dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship between those two birds. But, that's fodder for yet another post. Stick a fork in this post, 'cos it's DONE!

I just looked over this post, and it's not very exciting, is it? I visited the drivers' license bureau. Which is about as stimulating as bingo at the local senior citizens center. And now that I'm done with the DMV for a while, I'm noticing how many bad drivers are out there. Speeding. Changing lanes without signals. Turning into the far lane after stopping at an intersection. One piece of timely advice from the Oregon Drivers' Manual: "The safest way to use a cell-phone in a car is to pull off the road, and THEN make your calls." Hear, hear!!!

Friday, February 23, 2007

I guess I should've expected something like this...
Fun and Games at the OREGON DMV...
This is why people love their local gov't agencies so much...

I'll admit this up front...I'm a procrastinator. I'm such a bad procrastinator, that if I decide to procrastinate something, I have to push back that decision until later. In short, I procrastinate my procrastination. In the spirit of this posting, let me say that I did put it off as long as I could. Honestly, anymore, just give me a big rock or log to sit on, and I'll stay there for hours, watching the waves. John Lennon even wrote a song about that; he called it "Watching the Wheels". Well, like him, people say I'm crazy...doing the things I'm doin'! Great minds think alike, huh? (See how I can generate a paragraph about, basically, nothing at all? I would think the writers of the "Seinfeld" show used that same tactic; it being a self-confessed show about NOTHING.)

I went to the local office of the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles today. No, it wasn't very pleasurable. I've had root canals and wart removals that were more fun. (I had a finger wart freeze-dried and burned off once; it smelled like PORK CHOPS! That was years ago.) I studied hard over the last couple of days; going through the 100+ pages of the new, exciting, colorful Oregon State Driver's manual. I read all kinds of dull (but essential) stuff about driving, yielding, parking, stopping, starting, going forward, going backwards, and now I am a living lexicon of all kinds of driving-related information. Yep, I was all primed to take the test. I even brought all kinds of identification, as specified by the Oregon Drivers' manual. Yep, I was prepared. Let's go. I want my Oregon plates!

Aside: One of Oregon's license plates glorifies Salmon, one of the leading products generated by the fishing industry around here. That is ironic, since the GOVERNMENT basically BANNED commercial fishermen around here from fishing for salmon this season! Basically, the government, in its infinite wisdom, has ROBBED the fishermen of a WHOLE LOT of their yearly income. So, in turn, the fishermen have been trying to get support from the federal government and have had a HELL of a time. Some fishermen have had to sell their boats; some boats have been impounded because fishermen can't pay their boat-slip fees; it's pretty bad around these parts if you make your living from the Ocean. So it's crab season right now; the fisherman are busy once again, but it's been tough for 'em. Speaking of old crabs, I dealt with one today...the following paragraphs detail my sorry saga with a lady employee of the State of Oregon who basically is a government DRONE. Unlike the bee world, drones exist in both genders in the human race.

I went to the Oregon DMV today and brought all my identification with me. My Idaho drivers' license, a recent utility bill for verification of my Oregon address, a Social Security Card, and a Birth Certificate. COME ON! AH'M IN A TEST-TAKIN' MOOD! LET'S GIT 'ER DONE!!! Now, I have met a whole lotta cool people in Oregon, but the lady who waited on me was definitely NOT among them. She had all the charm of my 7th grade Social Studies teacher, who was frankly an old BATTLEAXE. The following couple graphs detail my interaction with the "Wicked Witch of the DMV", a really unfriendly, uncompromising Oregon DMV regulation-spitting drone who espoused 'POLICY' over anything remotely resembling some distant form of relative compassion. Her dialogue will be IN ALL CAPS, BECAUSE THAT'S HOW SHE SOUNDED TO ME. SOME CALL IT SHOUTING. IN THIS CASE, IT CAME AWFULLY CLOSE. Ahem...

She said, "WE CANNOT TAKE LAMINATED SOCIAL SECURITY CARDS; WE DON'T KNOW IF THEY'VE BEEN FRAUDENTLY ALTERED IF THEY'RE LAMINATED." OOF! SUCKER- PUNCH! (I laminated the card so it wouldn't get torn to dog-eared bits by my wallet.) So then she said, (and not very pleasantly), "WELL, DO YOU HAVE A BIRTH CERTIFICATE?" Aha!!! I was ready for her. I proudly hoisted my California Birth Certicate out and called her bluff, and I raised her 100. "THIS IS A HOSPITAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE, NOT A STATE BIRTH CERTIFICATE. WE CANNOT TAKE HOSPITAL BIRTH CERTIFICATES!!! OOF! SUCKER-PUNCH AGAIN!!! I was sent staggering, falling into the ropes, trying gamely but unsuccfessfully, to keep my balance...

As I got up from the floor, using the ropes so I could stand again, I tried telling her that I'm not a lawbreaker, but her unforgiving gaze told me that she probably saw a six-foot pile of vertically-stacked animal dung in my place. I told her, "no way am I going to doctor a Social Security Card." "WELL, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GO TO SOCIAL SECURITY AND GET A NEW, UN-LAMINATED CARD." I told her, "but my plates expire at the end of February, and if my new card gets here after Feb. 28th, I'll be driving illegally". "THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO OUR RULES, AND EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO OBEY THE SAME RULES THAT YOU DO!!!"BIFF!!! BAM!!! POW!!! ZOWIE!!!! SUCKER-PUNCH COMBINATION!!! (I was down for almost the entire count. Not a pretty sight.)

I managed to tell her, weakly and meekly, that nowhere in the Drivers' Manual did it say Social Security cards couldn't be laminated, and that Birth Certificates had to be State, not Hospital certificates, and that I felt that I was misled. I then repeated that I was afraid of driving illegally if my new, un-laminated Social Security card didn't get here in time, and she said, "WELL, HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING HERE?" and I said, "two months". WELL, IF YOU HAD COME IN BEFORE, YOU WOULD'VE HAD ENOUGH TIME TO GO GET A NEW SOCIAL SECURITY CARD!!!" WHAM!!! SOCKO!!! BIFF!!! BAM!!! POWIE!!! UPPER CUT, FOLLOWED BY A RIGHT CROSS AND A HEAD-BUTT!!! I hit the floor and managed to crawl out the door. I somehow made it to my car. And then to the Social Security office, but that's a whole 'nother story. And now I'm home, licking my wounds. Whine. Whimper...even my parakeets offer little comfort right now. Come on, guys, chirp for me...

So I checked the Oregon Driver's manual when I got home. I looked under a section that should have been titled, "tons of I.D. you have to bring in order to take the drivers' test, because we don't trust you any farther than we can throw you"...and right there, on page 6, it said that Social Security cards CANNOT be laminated. AND, it also said that only STATE-ISSUED Birth Certificates are accepted for Oregon Drivers' License I.D. Purposes. POW!!! WHAM!!! ZOK!!! WHAP!!! This time, I'm beating MYSELF UP, because I raised such a fuss in the Drivers' License Bureau, only to get home and find out I was WRONG. DEAD WRONG. DEAD WRONG ON 2 COUNTS! BAM!!! BIFF!!! WHAPPO!!! ("Whappo"?) (oof!!! augh!!! yipe, yipe, yipe!!!) But...I have found a way to bypass the unlaminated, brand-spankin' new Social Security Card I might not get until HALLOWEEN, the way the gov't moves...the Oregon Drivers' Manual lists a whole bunch of things you can bring in for I.D. purposes; among them, a "form 1099" income tax statement, and a "Social Security Benefits Letter". And guess what? After a few hours of veering blindly around my house, staggering and bumping into walls, I FOUND THOSE DOCUMENTS. Oh...they're NOT laminated, either!!!

Okay, okay, this post has been dragging on and on unmercifully, in search of some kind of conclusion...and I do have one: I'm thinking that our society has become so crime-ridden and corrupt that no one trusts anyone anymore. Pretty soon, if things keep going the way they're going, you'll see your friend Joe on the street, and you'll say, "Hi, Joe. That IS you, isn't it, Joe?" "Well, yes, I am Joe". "Sorry, I'm gonna need a couple of documents that prove you're the good friend I've known for 25 years." "WHAT THE HELL YOU TALKIN' ABOUT???" WHAM!!! SOCKO!!! POWIE!!! BAM!!! BAM!!! BAM!!! That's the sound of your (alleged) good friend Joe taking out his frustrations on you. You see, he visited the Oregon DMV this week with tons of documents, none of which worked for him. My advice to Joe: don't go job-hunting at the local POST OFFICE, where there's a constant line of about 25 or 30 people being helped by 2, maybe 3, postal clerks. And, let's hope ol' Joe doesn't have to visit a bank anytime soon, either. Although your average bank has 8 or 10 windows, even on late Friday afternoon (crunch time for banks), there'll be maybe 2 or 3 tellers serving who knows how many people trying to cash their meagers' week's penances...(how the Smothers Brothers referred to PAYCHECKS).

I guess I have to look at the bright side of things...after all, I've now got a coupla EXTRA DAYS to read Oregon's fun-filled DRIVERS' MANUAL. And I swear, after sweating and toiling to find those pieces of I.D. I described above, I'll go POSTAL if they're determined 'not valid for I.D. purposes'. So what happens if you go 'postal' in a DMV building? You get 'driven' out! )(arr, arr, arrrrrrh...)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

For Cryin' Out Loud, BURY 'EM Already!!!
...truly a case of "die young, stay famous"...

Have you ever had a visceral, gut-wrenching reaction to something? Today, it happened to me, in a restaurant, right after I'd taken my first bite of a Chicken-Fried Steak breakfast. My senses were invaded, my good mood was interrupted, but thankfully I didn't lose my appetite. What can I say...I'm addicted to food! So anyway, I was literally and figuratively disarmed by a news article I came across...

There it was, splashed on the front page of the folksy, homespun local newspaper I was reading during my meal...the article informed me that Anna Nicole Smith's remains are "decomposing faster than normal" and that she'd better get buried soon! The article went on to say that the chances of an open-casket viewing will be severely jeopardized if someone somewhere doesn't hurry up and bury her. So maybe, dying is not a relief...because after you die, you create yet MORE controversy? So in death, just as in real life, Anna Nicole Smith is definitely "falling apart", if the coroner is to be believed. And you know, I always thought her lawyer guy (a lawyer, although he's never tried a case), Howard K. Stern is a SLIMY creep.

I used to watch Anna Nicole's reality-TV series, and Stern, who (allegedly, VERY allegedly), took care of her came across as a SLIMEBALL. He just seemed to hang around Anna Nicole for no good reason. I believe that if indeed "reincarnation" happens to everyone, Howard K. Stern will come back as a piece of furniture. He allegedly attended to all of Anna Nicole's affairs (and probably was wanting to have one with her, himself), just kinda "glomming" onto Anna Nicole in case she won her big judgment from her really, really old husband who passed away's estate. I kinda think that Howard K. Stern could "smell the money". So he hung around.

Looks like I finally found a good excuse to put a little CHEESECAKE into my blog. Truly pin-up material, eh?

This makes me recall the 1968 death of President Dwight Eisenhower...his body was carted here, and there, and everywhere else (a President's death is a governmental happening, after all, so red tape is to be expected.) And, after 3 or 4 or 10 days of Eisenhower pre-burial coverage, my Dad said (and I'll never forget this), "THEY'D BETTER BURY HIM BEFORE HE STARTS TO STINK!!!" Well, I've never been around a human corpse, but a few weeks ago, a dead sea lion was washed up on the beach near here, and it's STILL there, only a little bit less of it is there each day, and when the wind blows just right...or wrong...well, I've run over SKUNKS that smelled better. Ack...

Isn't it weird how things which are somehow related by some great unseen cosmic power, present themselves? You know, things happening in "twos or threes", that kind of thing. This must be the year of the living cadaver. I mean, some cadavers get around a lot more than some LIVING people. President Ford, for example, died in San Diego, I believe, then he was taken to Washington, D.C., and then finally to his Michigan hometown. Heck, I've never BEEN east of Wisconsin! And last time I checked, I was still alive.

You've heard the old song, "Papa's got a Brand New (Body) Bag"...well, that's what the corpse of James Brown is gonna need pretty soon, because HE hasn't been buried yet, and he died LAST YEAR, on Christmas Day! That's close to two months ago! He'll need that brand new bag so his degree of decomposition doesn't manifest itself in the olfactories of those who are taking care of him. And he's late, all right. FOR HIS OWN FUNERAL!!! And you thought that was just an expression...

Will someone "PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE" bury this guy?

If a person isn't properly laid to rest, are their souls in turmoil? If not interred, do their souls thrash around in a state of malcontent, unable to enjoy "the big sleep" or whatever happens when a person dies? Personally, I hope there's a heaven; this planet can be quite hellish at times. So James Brown NEEDS to get buried. Soon. Then he'll feel good. We knew that he would. I'm in a "cold sweat" just thinking about this...

Of course, Anna Nicole and James Brown have NOTHING on the corpse of Eva Peron, who died of cancer in 1953. She was the "first lady" of dictator Juan Peron of Argentina. And, she wasn't buried; after her death, her body was placed in an airtight glass coffin-type thing. After she died, husband Juan, nice guy that he was, lost his "political office" because he was a tyrannical JERK...but he came back in the 1970's for a little while, until people again got sick of his tyrannical ways. In Peron's first administration, Argentinians came to love Eva Peron, who stuck up for the "decamisados" (shirtless ones), poor people who had a hard time getting by. In fact, she was almost more famous than her husband. She died while he was still in office the first time around, and the whole country was sad.

Well, when Juan Peron re-assumed the tyrannical dictatorship of Argentina in the 1970s, he had married another woman who looked like Eva, but then, the original Eva's corpse, still in the airtight glass container, was brought back, and he tried to use it as some sort of a prop, so that the people would love him, because they had loved Eva. And that is one of the most morbidly fascinating stories I have ever read. I've seen a picture of her in that glass's weird, all right.

So, the question is, how to solve the dilemmas of Anna Nicole Smith and James Brown...for these are questions that need answers. FAST. One way is to go the "airtight" way, such as Lady Eva Peron (see above graph). Or, people who've reached the end of their days can be turned into human popsicles...ladies and gentlemen, may I present the greatest hitter of all-time (with a .406 average in one season, the highest ever), Mr. Ted Williams. Here he is...

Whap! Here's one guy who didn't need STEROIDS to become famous. Today's players can learn from this.

Just as in the deaths of Anna Nicole Smith and James Brown, there were battles by various factions of Ted Williams' families and faction wanted him buried, the other faction wanted him cryogenically preserved. Which side won? Well, ol' Ted's former mortal coil is now doing time in a freezer somewhere. People are allegedly frozen cryogenically so that, in 60, 80, or 2000 years from now, whenever science evolves enough to bring people back from the dead, their corpses will be conveniently filed away, so that "life" can be injected back into the body at moment's notice. It would have to be thawed out fast, tho. So maybe somebody somewhere had better design a human-sized microwave oven. Cheaper such operations might be able to use one of those machines that tanning booths use; I've seen people with overdone, artificial tans, and some of them LOOK like living corpses!

So, cryogenics just might be the solution to all of these notorious people who die, but stay in a state of extended limbo, because their selfish, moneygrubbing in-laws, associates, lawyers, bodyguards, caretakers, what have you, are so concerned about their OWN SELFISH NEEDS that they don't want to bury the person they were involved with. How about that; those who allegedly "help" these beleaguered individuals when they're alive, won't see to it that they REST IN PEACE, for cryin' out loud! So who's next? Who is literally disintegrating in front of our eyes as I type this inane blogpost? Well, kids...can you say "Britney"? I knew ya could. Would yuh like to be mah neighbor?


For some stupid reason, the old childhood sing-song has once again invaded my mind. Probably because I'm in my, wait, third...fourth? childhood...."Never laugh when a hearse goes by, or you will be the next to die"...and believe me, I don't laugh when I see one. uh-uh, not ME!!! And I don't sleep hanging by my toes in a dark closet either. Not that I know of, anyway.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Day In The Life on the coast...
...and I'll tell ya, it's one heckuva way to pass the time!

I've always thought of the definition of "Life" as "the ability to pass time constructively". And if we can't do that, we're not much different from those who are incarcerated for the rest of their lives in the worst holes-in-the-wall imaginable. In short, you don't necessarily have to be in prison to do a "life sentence" can be imprisoned by any number of things, and before you know it, the years have flown by and all of a sudden, you're old. That's how I was, slaving away in the minimum-wage sub-strata of society, where I had to fight, kick and scratch for that extra dollar or two. I remember well, how that feels. When I drove cab, I'd get off work at 5pm after doing a 12-hour shift fighting traffic (and customers) (and a wise-ass dispatcher) all day long...and in the summer, after work was done, I'd get myself a couple of cheap hamburgers and head down to the City Park...I needed space, I needed release, I needed to slow down and get back to me. Aaaaah.

I have since moved to the Oregon Coast, and I haven't regretted one single solitary minute. Maybe it's true that our pasts have turned out the way they have, because we were being prepared for the future; in short, all that came before points us in the direction we are going. Personally speaking, I'm not one for going to visit at someone's house. I don't really have any use for noisy, anarchic gatherings of any kind; I don't really like getting to know people all that well; I like people, but in order for me to grab the solitude I need, even my best friends I've pretty-much held at arm's length. My most pleasurable times are when I have no plan...I wander here, wander there, and sometimes find myself doing nothing at all. I'm not at the place where I have to work anymore, but I can justify that in my own mind by thinking, "all the things I had to go through to get here".

So here in Oregon, I am living the way I've described above. And, strangely, I feel more at home because I don't know a lot of people. I still socialize down here, but since no one knows me, I don't have to worry about anyone coming over unnanounced, as friends are prone to do; I can walk about in a park, or in a store, and since I don't know anyone, there's no one to avoid or walk a wide circle around (and I'm sure we all know that feeling). No, I'm no hermit caveman; I'll talk to the guy who sits outside the local K-mart with his little hot-dog cart; I'll talk to waitresses in the local restaurants; I'll see people at the bar where I go to jam sessions; I'll run into people walking their dogs on the beach (and of course, I'll pet their dogs); I suppose you could think of my life as a sort of big computer only lets in the things that are safe, and puts the kibosh on things which can corrupt the environment.

And, down here in Oregon, I find I'm doing some things differently. For starters, it's not important for me to read the newspaper every day anymore. It's not important for me to get out of the house as soon as I get up; for some reason, the place I live in is more comfortable to just "be", I'll feed the parakeets, and then I'll have breakfast with the birds. I find I'm not as much of a newshound as I once was. I rarely watch local or national newscasts, and I hardly ever go shopping for stuff I don't eat anymore. I used to go to the 2nd hand stores, junk shops and pawn shops; I just don't feel the need to do that stuff, at least not these days. For some reason, if I decide to just stay home, not speak to anyone, not go anywhere or not buy anything, it doesn't matter. And, that's what I did yesterday...I just stayed inside as the rain fell, I puttered around the house and I watched my parakeets. Maybe I'm just getting old and weird, I don't know, but I'm just letting myself poke along the path of life.

About every other day, I do feel the need to be elsewhere. As the crow flies, the ocean is only a couple of miles away; you'd think I'd want to go to the ocean every day, but that is not the case. Since I am so close to it, I figure that it'll be there when I want it. Which fits in conveniently with how the weather is around here, because one day, a storm will blow in, it'll rain, then the next day, that storm will blow away and it'll be clear until the next storm arrives, and so on and so forth. Today was a clear day, and it was such a nice day that I decided to bypass the beach where I normally go (I did go there later in the day), but instead, I went to one of the nearby state parks. Those are such special places that I don't go to them every day. That way when I go, it's something special, and today it was.

Think of how you react to a big fireworks know that something's going to happen, but you really don't know 'what' until you see it actually occur. That's the way it is watching ocean waves when they crash upon the rocks. And that's what I did today. I let nature put on a show for me. And it's free. Well, free until the state park gets a new fee machine; the old one was vandalized, so everyone gets in for free until the new moneygrabber arrives. The park I went to consists of cliffs, averaging 60 to 100 feet above the ocean. From that elevation one can see out almost 20 miles. And that's a lot of water out there. (You must remember I was landlocked for decades, so I still marvel at the ocean. And probably always will.) And today, in the middle of FEBRUARY, the sun was WARM. And the wind was blowing. And the waves were ultra-choppy; so choppy that watercraft under 26 feet were prohibited from crossing the bar into the nearby harbor (or so said the radio frequency that relates nothing but water conditions). Choppy indeed...

In previous years, when I came down here in the summer or fall, people who lived here would tell me that in order to see spectacular waves, I had to come down here during the winter, and were they ever right! I have seen waves so high this winter, that once, while watching a fishing boat leave the harbor, it 'crossed the bar', and the waves were so high that when the boat was at the bottom of a wave, I COULDN'T SEE IT until it got back to the top of a wave. (A "bar" is an informal term which describes the entrance to a bay; the waves concentrate themselves in the narrow bar, which makes entering or leaving the bay one of the more hazardous aspects of ocean travel. I had heard someone use the term "bar" and one of the fishermen here provided me with that information.)

So anyway, at the state park I went to, I stood on an ocean cliff, probably 75 to 100 feet high. At the foot of the cliffs, large rocks jut up from the ocean bottom; those are the rocks that the eternal pounding of the waves haven't worn away after centuries of violent exposure. Geologic time is a slow thing, after all. When you think of your lifetime in comparision with all eternity, remember that the waves will continue to smash into the shore long after we're but a memory. And I watched those huge waves crash into the rocks at the bottom of the cliff, and I could actually FEEL the waves pound the shore, and when they struck the rocks, they released ocean spray into the air; I was standing 75 feet above sea level, and the spray would oftentimes soar 20 or 30 feet ABOVE me. And that will never cease to amaze me. BOOM! The waves would SMACK the shore with a deep, pervasive WHUMP!, and the water would SHOOT up into the sky. And seeing those waves STOPPED me in my tracks. Someone long ago had the foresight to put a couple of benches on the cliff, and I sat there mesmerized. For HOURS. The power of the ocean. Amazing. But since a picture is worth a thousand words...perhaps instead of typing all of this, I should have just posted the photo below...

Mesmerizing. Just absolutely mesmerizing.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

It was a dark and stormy night...
or, "the great escape at the PARAKEET RANCH"...

Bonnie the parakeet couldn't take it anymore. She had been imprisoned with her cellmate, Clyde, for so long, that her memories of fleeting freedom were fast disappearing from the confines of her 2 or 3 active parakeet brain cells. But Bonnie had always been a renegade; a trait that manifested itself one day not long ago when her caretaker, Dave, knowing the 'keets liked to gnaw on stale bread, put a piece in-between the cage bars so they could nibble. Seeing this, Bonnie pathologically pounced upon the stale bread like a bird possessed, and proceeded to gnarl and chew the bread to bits until it fell mercilessly to the floor. The floor of caretaker Dave's house. Bonnie couldn't be content to cause the bread to fall on the cage floor, after all. It had to fall on the carpeted floor, knowing Dave would undergo a massive degree of exasperation, seeing that his carpet was once again soiled. Yep. Again. This wasn't the first time. "There", thought Bonnie, "my work here is done. It feels so good to create anarchy."

Tuesday night was the proverbial dark and stormy night that Charlie Brown's beagle, Snoopy, continually tried to elucidate upon, albeit unsuccessfully. But that is for another story, at another time. Caretaker Dave had left the 'keets alone that night, going to a musical jam session, an opportunity to leave behind the tension of incessantly trying to make sure the birds were happy. Basically, Dave was a good-natured character, but was beginning to have doubts about the birds, especially Bonnie. Dave had recently listened to a record by the 80's group, the Talking Heads, in which leader David Byrne (yep, another Dave) lamented in his song, "Animals", that "they (the animals) laugh at us." Dave (caretaker Dave, that is) had long suspected that Bonnie the parakeet was indeed extremely capable of avian subversion, but to what degree, he wasn't sure. He knew that Clyde was a nice little bird; in fact, Clyde always let the more domineering Bonnie have her way. She would knock him to the floor of the bird cage again and again, but all Clyde could do was fall more deeply in love with Bonnie. It truly was a tough love. A shining example of the old philosophy, "love is for the birds". And Bonnie the 'keet was one tough lovebird. Nothing lovey-dovey about her.

With Caretaker Dave away at a jam session, Bonnie the 'keet began to hatch a plan; a dastardly scheme that in the end would frustrate poor ol' Dave, and result in nothing but futility for Bonnie, but we haven't come to that part of the story yet. Please bear with me. This story does have a conclusion. Honest. With Dave gone, Bonnie bird-whispered to Clyde, "I'm tired of being cooped up in this cage, I don't care how many stupid little parakeet toys Dave has bought for our cage. I'm gonna make a break for it. You in?" It must be stated here that Clyde, in a former life, had been the bookkeeper of a public library, and as such, he possessed a more practical interpretation of "life with caretaker Dave". Basically, Clyde said to Bonnie, "look, Dave gives us plenty of food, puts fresh newspapers in the bottom of the cage every other day, and gives us dumb little bird-toys to play with, and even if we think he's totally off his rocker, he does have a good heart. Nope, ol' gal, I'm stayin' here. If you make a break for it, you gotta go it alone." Ever frustrated with her spineless cage-mate's lack of vision, she exhorted, "Clyde, for cryin' out loud, you gotta spread your wings and fly on, free bird!" Now Clyde always did appreciate references derived from old rock and roll songs, but he valued the security of the cage. "Nope", he told Bonnie, "I'm only a bird in a gilded cage." Bonnie shouted back, "That's CRAP, Clyde...what kind of price can you put on freedom?" To which Clyde answered in best succint fashion, "CHEEP."

Bonnie, fuming, couldn't bear to sit on the same perch with Clyde anymore. She made her way to another perch, as far away from Clyde as she could get, and there began to ruminate on possible ways she could acquire her freedom. It was a dark and stormy night, after all, and there wasn't much to DO but ruminate. After all, she couldn't bring herself to nibble on the string of beads attached to the mirror of her little parakeet toy anymore. She was tired of life. Tired of frustration. Tired of not being able to migrate south with all of the other birds she saw through the window of Dave's living room. I told you Dave had a good heart. He had placed Bonnie and Clyde's cage in front of the window so they could see the great out-of-doors. Thinking he'd done good at giving the birds something to look at, he couldn't have been more wrong, for Bonnie's desire to escape the clanging metal bars of the bird cage, which she thought of more as a cell, had not been awakened until she had seen what was out there. All of a sudden, the birdcage was just a wee-bit too small for comfortability anymore.

After being away for a few hours, it was about midway through that dark and stormy night when caretaker Dave emerged through the back door, which would later become a pivotal point which would figure highly in Bonnie's life within the next few hours. "I see he comes through that door, and how about that, it actually opens and closes", Bonnie thought to herself. For a parakeet such as Bonnie, realizing that doors actually did open was a great revelation indeed. Birds don't know an awful lot, after all. Neither does George W. Bush, but he's another kind of bird altogether. He needs to be in a cage. CHEEP! But I digress here. After processing that information, Bonnie looked around the birdcage again. She had counted every single bar in her bird cage innumerable times. She even passed the time by counting every single seed in the food tray...she would count as she ate the seeds, driving poor ol' Clyde away until she couldn't eat...or count...any more. As I said, birds don't know a lot, and as such, they can't count especially high. This is why parakeets never get hired as elevator operators; anything above the third floor just doesn't compute. It's a bird thing.

Bonnie then lapsed into sleep. Deep in her sub-conscious, the cries of freedom from her feathered kindred spirits called out to her. She dreamed that all her bird brethren...Eagles, Finches, Sparrows, Mud hens and so forth were all singing the old Tim Hardin song from 1968, "Sing a Simple Song of Freedom". She fantasized about heading south with other renegade parakeets. In a dreamlike state, she became one with her fellow parakeets, fantasizing about the tropical homeland her ancestors had called home. That was long before the "parakeet plunderers" had invaded the land, thinking the 'keets would make great (and CHEEP) house pets. Things were never the same for the worldwide parakeet community after that. In her dreams Bonnie was thinking, "home...home...there's no place like home...there's no place like home", and then wondered, "how did that little black dog get into this dream?" CLANG! BANG! Morning had broken! (apologies to Cat Stevens--or is that "Allah Von Rachman Islam?") Bonnie and Clyde were both unceremoniously awakened by caretaker Dave, who hadn't had his morning coffee yet. Making his way to the bird cage, Dave bumped into a few walls, tripped over some furniture, and landed with a resounding "thud" on the front wall next to the bird cage. "doggone it", Dave thot to himself, "these ungrateful birds have thrown bird seed all over the floor, and now I've gotta clean it up. I hope these dumb birds appreciate me." By the way, Dave was never a morning person, which is why he failed so miserably in math classes. They were always held first thing in the morning. Now you know.

So, Dave wandered into the kitchen, where he kept the bird seed. One morning, before coffee, he accidentally sprinkled bird seed onto his toast, thinking, "wow, this bread is extra crunchy this morning!" But this wasn't that morning; it was another morning. Just another morning in the life of Caretaker Dave, who had recently left his boyhood home for greener pastures. Greener, because it rained more in his present location. Dave was an unassuming hobbyist of sorts; he collected records and made vain attempts to play lead-guitar, ignoring the advice of better guitarists everywhere who would say, "Dave, just stick to the chords and play the rhythm; don't even TRY to play leads!" So Dave was also frustrated; he wanted to play like Eric Clapton or Carlos Santana, but he only had the modest three-chord strumming facility of, say, a Porter Wagoner or Buck Owens. All Dave had to do was 'act naturally', after all. Old dreams die hard, don't they? But I digress once again. One of my former employers once told me that I had a hard time staying "on task", and I'm inclined to agree. But back to the bird story, because I'm sure you're all falling off the edge of your seats, wondering what's gonna happen next...or not...

Caretaker Dave, still without the benefit of a morning cuppa coffee, unceremoniously grabbed the hapless plastic bird seed container (all right, "BAG"), and stumbled back into the living room, where the parakeets, he thought, would be awaiting him with wings open, ever-grateful for his devotion to these two beautiful creatures who chirped and squawked and kept him from feeling 'The Sounds of Silence' too heavily. (Hmmm...all of these musical references...maybe I should write some lyrics while I'm at it!) Back to the story...Caretaker Dave was at the point where, living with other human beings actually drove him batty, so he lived alone. But, he thought, "this is for the birds", and all of a sudden, spontaneous inspiration struck him, and off he went to the pet store and guessed it...BIRDS! Continuing towards the bird cage, Dave opened the door so he could get at the seed tray. "Hmm", he thot, "Clyde's on his perch, waiting for food, but Bonnie is tensely poised on the side of the cage, clinging to the steel bars...what's up with her?" (Dave's thots always ramble. He makes mountains out of molehills. And then picks the mountains apart, converting them to little molehills all over again. It is a life of futility, for sure.)

IN THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE, all of a sudden, the air rushed from the inside of the birdcage as Bonnie began to flap her wings with the intensity of a hapless San Diego defender rushing to sack the Seahawks' quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck. (sports analogy there!) And ZOOM!!! As Dave reached into the cage to take the seed tray out so he could feed the birds, Bonnie pounced! She dashed! She DARTED OUT OF THE CAGE, all the while thinking to herself, "I'm free!!! I'm FREEEEEEEE!!!!! WHEEEEEEEE!!!!!" Of course, Bonnie, being a bird after all, was not familiar with the concept of walls. All she knew was, she was inside, not out of doors, and somehow, the weather she saw outside did not actually invade her cage, because after all, she was inside. She didn't know how she got there, but she was inside. That's just the way it was. And, not knowing that it takes WALLS to hold up the roof of the house she was INSIDE of, "WHUMP!!!" She flew straight into the wall, and BAM!!!!!, knocked herself silly in the process. But she made an instant recovery, and looking off to her left, she saw that strange thing called a DOOR that Caretaker Dave had come through the night before. And she thot, "I'M GONNA MAKE A BREAK FOR IT! I wanna "FLY LIKE AN EAGLE!!!" (gosh, them musical'd think I collected records or something.)

Bonnie, flying at last "Upon the Wings of Freedom" (that's the title of an album by Mylon LeFevre and Alvin Lee from 1973), headed for the door she saw open the other night. She furtively hoped that door was open, so she could zoom outside and soar with the seagulls. As she headed towards the door, she thought about Clyde, her cage partner. "I hope he's okay...well, actually, I don't wish him ill will...well, it's his own fault, I told him I was gonna escape...actually, Clyde is just a dumb bird...a synchophantic pig who eats from the food tray incessantly and chirps along to rock and roll music, ever trying to get on Caretaker Dave's good side...okay, okay, I guess Clyde is actually a FUNCTIONAL IDIOT." This is a flaw among criminals and escapees; they believe they are superior to others and are basically invincible. And this is what Bonnie thought as she headed for the door, with the gates of freedom beckoning on the other side..."Heeeere I go!!! There's the door!!! I'm OUTTA HERE!!!", thot Bonnie as she neared the entrance. She'd never felt this sense of bird-exhiliration before; it was at this moment she became truly alive, carrying all of the hopes and dreams of her parakeet brethren upon her shoulders; she madly headed for the door, "THIS IS IT", she thought; "HERE I GO!!!!!!!!"

WHAM!!!!!!!!!!! Bonnie, betrayed by her lack of intellect and judgment (she is just a parakeet, after all), forgot the most important principle of the bird-escape process...and that would be, "just as doors open, they also close". Of course, had she known that, there was a 50-50 probability that the door would be open, and she might have chanced it anyway. However, in this case, the door was CLOSED, and no matter how she used her head as a battering ram, alas, the door held and she CRASHED into the door and landed on the floor with a resounding "THUNK!!!" In the distance, she saw Caretaker Dave approach with a towel in his hand, but she was "Dazed and Confused" (a Led Zeppelin song title), and could not move. Funny thing, though, unlike human beings who smash their heads into things, she didn't hear the customary bird whistles and tweets that come from knocking yourself silly. Dave threw the towel over Bonnie, who all of a sudden, didn't know where she was, and since she was dazed too much to move at all, let Caretaker Dave pick her up; she was still inside the confines of the towel...she heard Dave's feet upon the floor...thump...thump...step...step...and then all of a sudden, there was silence. Dave took the towel-enclosed parakeet and put it inside the cage; gently unraveling the towel until at last Bonnie found she was back in the cage, and there was ol' Clyde, still whistling and chirping away. After Dave took the towel out of the bird cage, Bonnie chirped to Clyde, "well, did you miss me? I've been gone a while"...and Clyde, looking up from his seed tray, replied, "Bonnie, IT'S LIKE YOU NEVER LEFT." (the title of a Dave Mason album).

And somewhere, they say, the music still plays
And robins and sparrows live out their days
Flying on the wind and soaring so free
For freedom is theirs and ever will be
But back in the cage, the parakeets remain
As dreams of freedom go down the ol' drain.
And somewhere birds soar, somewhere do they fly
But in Bonnie's case, all she's got is Clyde
She wonders if she should escape once more
But then she remembers the pain from the door.
And dreams do soar; but they also die
And Bonnie has kissed her freedom goodbye.
The story's moral? Well, here it is posed;
"Before you fly, make sure the door ain't CLOSED!"

I guess I'll never make it as a "Paperback Writer" (oops, another song title there). This is basically an artistic (or not) embellishment of something that actually happened. And Bonnie the parakeet is a little mellower these days. Despite her restlessness, she tries to be nicer to Clyde. And every time she dreams of freedom, the dream always ends with the closing of a door. So she tries not to dream anymore.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

...a rather jaundiced overview of trashy '70s music...

I usually enjoy those Time-Life infomercials, you know, the ones that show footage of artists from bygone eras as they perform their big hits which are, for better or worse, burned into our collective musical memory banks...and some of those infomercials are really great to watch, even though I'll never buy a Time-Life CD. (You know, the ones which you buy one set of, and then they'll send you countless discs over a 150 year period, and if you don't send 'em back, yer stuck with the bill, or something like that.) The hosts of the particular Time-Life infomercial I'm watching right now (which showcases '70's soft rock'), though, are "Air Supply". AIR SUPPLY??? How important were THEY to the American Pop Landscape? Answer: NOT AT ALL. I can't get over how ridiculous some of those '70s stars look in that old footage...Eric Carmen with a prim pompadour coiffe, Todd Rundgren wearing some kind of weird looking apron-type thing, or, the group "Exile", all decked out in leisure suits, putting everything they've got into a lip-sync performance of "Kiss You All Over", which is a TERRIBLE song. It is amazing, how "dated" these performers look after all of those years. Hey, I didn't buy into leisure suits for me!

168 BIG HITS! Yep, that's what they say you'll get in this set of socially irrelevant-to-anything songs, and you could probably live without a whole lot of them. (Note: "Saturday In The Park", showcased on this infomercial, by CHICAGO is one I CAN'T live without.) Oh, wait, there's a shot of Elton John with his own hair, rather than the fake hairpiece he uses these days. But on this particular informercial I absolutely cannot believe the over-abundance of tacky polyester suits and over-done hairdo's, where the longhaired musicians had to look presentable, and often ended up looking TOTALLY RIDICULOUS in the process. And now, in this part of the infomercial, Gram Russell and Russell Hitchcock (the two wanna-bes who comprised "Air Supply"...woulda been more correct to call them "Hot Air") are sitting on a couch, singing a rather-spontaneous "Even the Nights Are Better", which is another TERRIBLE song, like every other song they did. And now, a hairy-chested Gino Vanilla-Vanilli or whatever his name is, doing, "I JUST WANNA STOP", yet another awful song. Stop, please! And now, there's MEAT LOAF doing one of his Jim Steinman-authored overwrought pop soap-operas. The guys in "Air Supply" then tell us, "every one of these tunes will take you away" (to a place that is actually kinda embarrassing to return to, actually).

Something happened long about 1971 or whatever...all originality seemed to disappear more with every succeeding year, leaving listeners with a bunch of cotton-candy, flabby, shallow music. Like, say, "YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE DANCING" by Leo Sayer. I played that song on the radio and I HATED IT. Little squeaky Leo Sayer, singing a song so shallow it evaporates by the time the tune runs its course. Or "MISSING YOU" by John Waite...another song that just absolutely REEKS. One of my favorite groups, STYX, is shown here doing "BABE"...the only song Styx did that was worse than that was "Come Sail Away"...I guess it's called "sellout". "Let's record what the producers want us to record 'cos we'll sell more records that way", and meanwhile, artistic integrity flies out the window. And sure 'nuff, "Babe" got to #1. Me, I bought Styx albums for the ALBUM songs, which were always invariably better than the hits. KANSAS was one of my favorite bands; better yet, Kansas never comprimised its sound. Their "Carry On Wayward Son" can hold its head up high as being a rare example of a '70s hit which contained artistic integrity!

I remember in the late '70s when the old group, The FOUR SEASONS were once again having top chart records. But...I saw 'em on TV...there was a different singer for most of the song; longtime lead singer Frankie Valli got a coupla token lines, and the song was "December 1963 (Oh What A Night)" which, even though it was a #1 tune, was just awful...pure musical malto-meal. The great Frankie Valli reduced to singing, "oh, a funny feeling when she the room..." How sad. I wrote about the group Chicago up above...well, they had a #1 song that was one of the most sappy pieces of music I ever heard, "If You Leave Me Now", also a #1 hit. I think some sort of "70's corollary" presents itself here; the worse the song, the higher it places on the that possible? The type of '70s artists I preferred, at least APPEARED to be at least somewhat genuine. The Doobie Brothers, with "Listen To The Music", for example. "China Grove", or "Long Train Runnin'"...absolutely my cup o'tea. But, the 70s got them, too. Tom Johnston, the group's chief singer and songwriter, got bounced out, and mealy-mouthed Michael McDonald took his place. The Doobies instantaneously turned into a watered-down, castrated flabby '70s band, and what was worse, YOU COULDN'T UNDERSTAND A WORD of Michael McDonald's vocals. And yet, "What A Fool Believes" topped the charts. It was then I knew the world was going to hell. In a BIG handbasket.

I liked the Eagles, Styx, for the most part; I got tired of REO Speedwagon real fast after they began having hits with power-pop ballads that your grandmother would like; Daryl Hall and John Oates are 'okay'; so was James Taylor (although 'You've Got A Friend' is poorly written, especially on the part where it says "they'll take your soul if you let them, so don't you let them"...not exactly the stuff college dissertations are made of)...I liked Elton's music; always have, always will, although the less I hear about his gay lifestyle, the better...I loved ANYTHING by the group "War"; Earth, Wind and Fire really amazed me with their energetic chart hit, "Getaway"...Electric Light Orchestra was great; heck, I even liked Seals & Crofts and England Dan and John Ford Coley; their last hit, "Love Is The Answer" is totally awesome, dude...

But gosh, there was a lot of shallow '70s music...Cliff Richard ("Devil Woman"), Mary MacGregor ("Torn Between Two Lovers"), most EVERYTHING John Denver did, and the worst-EVER #1 song I've ever heard, "Disco Lady" by Johnnie Taylor...that's even worse than "Joy To The World" by Three Dog Night, which I ALSO can't stand! But the 'triple dogpack' are still on my list of best groups, because they kept rocking, until they couldn't find any more good songs, and just kinda faded away...another awful record I was forced to play on the radio was "Boogie Fever" by the Sylvers; three minutes of crap! Or how about "Baby Come Back" by Player; I'm sorry, I listened to that song over and over, and could find no justification for it being a #1 record. In a way (now, hear me out)...disco actually pepped up the 70's music scene a little bit, because at least you could count on those songs having mobility and energy, for the most part. I think "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps is great, and I think the Bee Gees came awfully close to making disco music an art form, because they put their songs together intelligently; I was a big fan of their "Saturday Night Fever" stuff, although I'd never be caught in public wearing one of those white leisure suits...they're so bad, they couldn't even be a guilty pleasure; I couldn't wear one in private, either.

When I worked at that little radio station in the '70s, I couldn't help thinking that something was just MISSING from the music. A lot of it was shallow, unexciting, with absolutely no hint of spontaneity whatsoever. It wasn't that the music was BAD; it was competent, rather melodic, but it just SAT THERE, not knowing what to do with itself. That was my big complaint; the music just didn't do a thing for me, and still doesn't. And back then, I would watch the popular groups on "In Concert" or "The Midnight Special", and they'd all be swaying and dancing to the music as they were singing, but nothing was happening. Who starched the music? In every era, good songs come along, and some appeared in the '70s. And there are good songs in the ultra-synthesized-glossed-over 80s and 90s as well. There's a lot of good alternative music happening on the scene. It's just that music which is performed as "product" and nothing more, sticks out like a sore thumb...and that 'thumb' was sore a lot of the time in the '70s! I know the musical scene changes all the time, but maybe I'm changing too. When I was moving into my new place in Oregon, I listened to a 2-CD set of Hank Williams (Sr.) greatest hits...and that sounded REAL. It was GREAT. Songs INTELLIGENTLY WRITTEN. And performed with BELIEVABILITY. I'd dare say any song performed with those objectives in mind will excel...whether or not it reaches #1, or even the "bubbling under" section of the Billboard charts (songs which reach #200 and below).

Wow, judging from this post, I really 'teed off' here. I didn't mean to write the complete history of music over the last 40 years; really, I didn't. Although, maybe I'll write more stuff about music in future posts. All I have to do is search my memory banks. I've got a couple of brain cells in there which still function.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Let's go surfin' now, everybody's learnin' how...
Come on and safari with ME......

Granted, it's fairly warm here on the Oregon Coast. As I write this, there is no snow, and no ice. And, when the rain subsides, it's pretty nice. Actually, for quite a few days in a row, there was no precip, and although it rained yesterday, at about 4pm, the sun broke thru. So I dropped what I was doing...which wasn't all that much...and headed for the local beach. Of course, as I've written in this blog many a time, my feet and knees aren't all that good. But they're better than they were. What's nice about the rain which falls on the beach, is that the rain solidifies the millions of extra-small sand particles on an ocean beach, and makes for some very pleasant walking. And when I got to the beach, the tide was waaay low, which meant there was more of the beach to walk on. Although, it's best not to get too confident. I find that even though the tide may be low, every now and then, the water "knows" where I am, and if I'm not careful, my shoes will get soaked. When that happens, there's no high water flow in back of me, or in front of me, but right where I happen to be walking. Is the ocean psychic? It sure seems that way sometimes...either that, or I'm paranoid, which is also possible.

The weather around the nation has been really wacko this year, as just about everyone across this fine land of ours will attest. And, it's the same here. First, there was actually a little bit of snow and ice here this winter. Locals say it had been so long since any of that happened down here. I think I am responsible; the ice and snow followed me down from Idaho. And then, the temperature here ended up in the 60s last weekend. I made it a point to go to the beach last Sunday so I could actually say that I had experienced 60-degree weather in February, something quite novel for this former landlocked vagrant. So, as I was walking down the beach, I saw a group of people (a family or two) near the water's edge, and included in that group were two young girls in swimsuits, one of them in a 2-piece. In FEBRUARY. "Aw, come on", I thot, "I know it's warm for February, but the water can't be that warm!" Although those girls were in the water for quite a while., it wasn't that warm. How do I know? I saw some guys out in the surf, wearing wet suits...and they were doing this...

This photo was taken a while back, on the stretch of ocean beach where I was walkin'. (No, I didn't take it; I stole it from the local newspaper's website.) On this stretch of beach, the waves don't get all that high, which may be a blessing, since, if a surfer wipes out, tons of water don't relentlessly pound him. And, these surfers were out there at least an hour and a half, during the time I walked up & down the beach and rested in-between. They were having their fun, and in my way, so was I. And I don't need much. Just a bottle of Pepsi to take with me and an old log somewhere on the beach to sit on. "Beach therapy", I call it. And it's free. And I'm totally comfortable with staying on the beach while others surf. Fine with me! Especially in February!


And now on to some other topics:

ANNA NICOLE SMITH, the bombshell celebrity, passed away today. I admit to watching her reality TV show when it hit the airwaves some 4 years ago. And I always thot her "lawyer", Howard Stirn, was more than just a lawyer. Even someone as dense as me can sense these things. So, why did I, or anyone else for that matter, watch that train-wreck of a TV show?Well, it was oddly fascinating, since her lifestyle was so far-removed from mine (and virtually everyone else's). She wasn't bad to look at, either; what can I say...and when I heard the news this afternoon, well, that's the first shock I'd had in quite a while. When you see someone on TV, you think you know them, at least a little bit.


A former mathematics teacher of mine, Mr. DALE TRITTEN, passed away last month. I had almost flunked out of both Algebra and Geometry classes in high school. I tried and tried and tried to learn, but I just couldn't understand those forms of math AT ALL. It was all I could do to get a "D". In both classes. So, when I began classes at North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in 1973, and found out a math class was required for my major, I thot, "uh-oh!!!" But Mr. Tritten was different. His hair was on the "long" side of things, and he had a very comfortable and engaging way of presenting his subject. And, me, the math idiot, actually got a "B" in his class. Flash-forward to a couple of years ago; I saw him walking on an exercise trail, and I stopped him, and told him I remembered him because he was the first teacher I'd ever had who actually got me to learn fairly-complicated math. And he was beaming with an ear-to-ear grin. I suppose that's the ultimate compliment for a former or current teacher. I am not kidding when I say he was one of the nicest human beings I have ever met.


I've noticed something that some WEATHERCASTERS say that just kinda hits me wrong. I know they try to be folksy, because it's always important that the TV audience is made to feel comfortable, and all that. really sounds weird, when I hear a weathercaster say, "I THINK that the current weather pattern is gonna change for this area, bla bla blaaaaa..." THINK? THINK? You mean you don't know for SURE? Maybe it's their way of saying in subtle fashion that they have no more of an idea what's gonna happen than the rest of us. I think, basically, if you look at the satellite picture of the cloud cover and turn down the sound so you can't hear the weathercaster, you're probably coming out ahead in terms of information. Aside: At a radio station I worked at, our always-drunk chief engineer, who also did the morning show, referred to weather forecasting as "weatherguessing". And maybe he was right.


I think there is a market for a new Cable-TV channel; I'd call it "Junk-TV". You know, "all junk, all of the time". For starters, I'd put "Talk Sex With Sue Johansen" on that network instead of Oxygen-TV, where I found it one nite while aimlessly channel-surfing. The things she talks about! Omigosh. And, the fact that she looks like the great-great-great-great-great-great Grandmother of Barbara Bush's most distant relative doesn't help things either. I'm sorry, but she just grosses me out. Ack. Another program comes from Court-TV: "Dangerous Police Chases", where oddball motorists risk the lives on everyone on the planet by trying to flee from the cops. Well, fess up...we all love to see a big huge car crash every now and then, don't we? So, let's move that one on over to "Junk-TV" too. How about one more candidate for "Junk-TV"? Send all the "Will and Grace" episodes over there too. Wait, that one belongs on yet another soon-to-be network: "GARBAGE TV".


I don't post as often as I used to, and while there's nothing especially relevatory about this particular submission, at least it's updated. Somewhat, anyway...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Moronic assorted ramblings...'s gonna be interesting to see how this post turns out!

Blog Update department: This blogsite began posting on my blog, "update your blog now; switch to the NEW way of blogging, using your Google Account!" Nope, don't want to. Don't have a Google account and don't want one. Then, this blogsite posted in BIGGER type..."see how much BETTER the blog will be if you access it thru Google", but still left me a choice between that option and the regular old blog-option I always use. Finally, I got kicked in the blog-butt; I signed on one day and found out I could only access my blog the old way ONCE MORE, and then I would HAVE to get a Google e-mail account which would also enable me to access my blog. Okay, OKAY!!! I'VE HAD ENOUGH!!! I'LL SWITCH, DAMMIT!!! So I opened a Google e-mail address. I used my password, the password I've always used, and when I entered said password, Google told me that I had a weak password that any lobotomized idiot could access. Ok, so I changed my password. Google told me the new password was a little better, and finally after all that riggermoral, I got back into my blog. And everything works like before.

A few days later, I decided to try and access my Google e-mail account; you know, the Google e-mail account that I needed with which to open up my blogsite. So I went to Google e-mail, and when I got there, it said something to the effect of, "Google e-mail is going through a trial phase, and while this is happening, you cannot access your e-mail account". Once again, I thot to myself (everyone join in, please)..."HUH? WHAT?" So, to sum up: Old way to access blog no longer available. Need Google e-mail account to access blog. Opened up Google e-mail account. Accessed blog. Tried to use Google e-mail, and I can't use it. Is it me, or do I just not understand corporate America sometimes? An e-mail account that DOESN'T work, just to get to a blog that had worked all along. That's like someone giving you the key to a car, only the key doesn't fit. Maybe I'M the one who needs the lobotomy!

Corporate America is totally wacky: I'm not sure if I already posted this little incident, but I'll run thru it again briefly, because I'm telling you this so I can tell you something else. Your turn: "Huh? WHAT?" I was given a final total I had to pay to close out my cable TV bill where I used to live. So I paid it, no problem. Then they sent me a refund check which was roughly equal to the final bill I paid. HUH? They coulda just absorbed my "spillover" and applied it to my account, rather than ante up for the postage and processing expenses it took to mail my check. And people wonder why Cable is so expensive. Well, the same thing happened with Verizon. You know, the big bad phone company that is doing its level best to be everyone's phone company. I paid a final Verizon bill to close up my North Idaho account. Now I'm down here in Oregon, and I opened up another Verizon account. I paid my first Verizon bill down here in Oregon the other day, no problem.

In the meantime, I got an $11.00 REFUND check from Verizon, from my OLD account. My turn again: "Huh? What?" I don't understand how I can overpay, if I pay each bill when it's due, which I DO. Think of all the additional expense Verizon (and many other companies) go to, to issue checks, the time and labor involved, the additions to the bookkeeping system, material expenses such as paper, ink, toner and whatever other raw materials are needed to issue checks to me, and everyone else in this fine land of ours who gets refund checks, and wonders why they get 'em. Do companies like this charge extra as part of a little slush fund, maybe to finance the coffee breaks in their employee lounges or whatever, and then when an account closes, they figure, "well, we hung on to this extra money as long as we can", then they issue refunds, knowing that new accounts will be opened, and they can charge each new account extra, but refundable, money? I just really don't understand corporate thinking sometimes. Look, I love getting money in the mail, but would ALL bills be LESS if monetary matters were more precise, so refund checks wouldn't have to be mailed out? Am I totally off-base here?

Super Bowl or Stupor Bowl?: Oh, the game was okay. I predicted Indy would win by 10; they won by 12. I can just see the Vegas casinos now: they're all saying how accurate I was, and won't let me in should I wanna bet down there, because I'm just too doggone good. (ha ha) The game was pretty good, until the Bears' quarterback lost a couple of snaps, and then threw a dumb interception. "So how was Rex' performance?" "Gross, man." (Insert rim-shot) It wasn't an issue of how good a quarterback was; it was more, 'which quarterback made the least mistakes' type of thing. But I'm glad ol' Peyton got a Super Bowl victory. It takes all the pressure off. Now he can justify the mega-millions he's making. "What, you don't like the fact I get paid more in one minute for tossing a football around than you make in ten years in whatever hostile workplace you toil away in?"

If the game was the "Super Bowl", the halftime performance by Prince (the former symbol that we've all tried to forget) was one of the worst entertainment presentations I have ever seen. Truly, the "Stupor" bowl, consisting of Prince, in an idiotic do-rag, playing lame versions of songs done better by other artists, and what really killed me was the crowd clapping along to this lame music like seals imprisoned in the San Diego Zoo. AND THEY WERE STANDING IN A DOWNPOUR OF SHEETS OF RAIN WHILE DOING SO! There are others who are making note of his "guitar strokes" (I DON'T mean strumming); hey, I'm dense, I didn't really pick up on that...I was basically just disgusted and disenfranchised by the entire performance, long before his silhouette was projected onto an obviously soaked sheet of cheap fabric. I hate to say this, but the ROLLING STONES' Super Bowl performance was more entertaining, even if Mick Jagger looked like it was all he could do to not be bored during his 12-millionth performance of "Satisfaction". One reason I like the playoffs better than the Super Bowl? NO IDIOTIC HALFTIME SHOWS!

Well, there ya have it. Another concise collection of cultural commentary. (Say that fast a dozen times!) Not bad though, considering I didn't think I had anything worth typing about when I began this monstrosity...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Am I giving in to TECHNOLOGY?
...don 't tell anyone, but I've got a LAPTOP computer!

My second computer meltdown inside of a month left a bad taste in my mouth, rendering me unable to post idiotic things (such as this post), unable to answer e-mails, but most importantly, unable to buy things I could probably live without on EBAY. (Hey, I've got 163 'positive feedbacks' on Ebay; I'm trying for 200. Or 300. Ack!) I didn't want to take my desktop to Ed and Joe's backstreet computer service and gambling parlor (which is how I envision most computer repair outlets are run)...that, combined with my trademark impatience (I hate to wait for anything! It's taking me too long to type this post! Double-ack!!!) led me to go to the neighborhood Radio Shack (which I'm pretty sure doesn't have a gambling parlor), to seek out a new computer.

And a new computer I did find. I had first gone to the local Staples' (which is big enough to house several gambling parlors and an airplane hangar), and right away I noticed, there were no desktop computers to be found. None. Zip. Nada. By this time I was foaming at the mouth, not a good thing since drool can corrupt a computer keyboard. There was a Radio Shack store nearby, but you guessed it, no desktops! "Geez", I thought..."am I gonna hafta go LAPTOP here?", and "go laptop" was indeed what I did. I had no trouble finding a minimum wage worker who was drooling (not on a computer keyboard), at the prospect of selling me everything under the sun, plus more stuff that I didn't need. Actually, the clerk looked like a former used car salesman, only there's more money in computers, which is why he's at Radio Shack. So I bought a Hewlett-Packard Laptop computer, and that's where it is as I type my lap with the TV blaring away in the background. Let's see...that's a labor-saving computer being used by its owner who is sitting in a La-Z-Boy rocker/ there a theme here?

The clerk also tried to sell me accessories...he was panting, not believing his good fortune at selling me something, and he was on a roll..."how about a computer CASE so you can take your computer mountain-climbing or deep-sea diving???" Uhhhh, not right now..."do you want to take advantage of our EXTENDED SERVICE for only a FEW DOLLARS MORE which will help you take your computer all the way up to Armageddon?" Uh, I'm spending a lot right now, so let me think about that for a while..."oh, come on, you just gotta have THIS; you really need THAT, and you really should have THIS OTHER THING", he was saying, while frothing at the mouth and trying not to drool on the glass counter...and I told him, "let me come back later on so I can see what else I need." So I bought the laptop computer. UPWARDS OF $600!!! In the flash of a brief moment, Radio Shack quickly became Radio SHOCK. But I'm now online. With one of these little gizmos...

I'll tell ya, this doggone little flat keyboard is taking some getting used to. Remember, I learned to type on an old Royal 440 typewriter, which was basically constructed out of cast-iron. Someday, after the big nuclear meltdown happens, and humanity is wiped out, and there's nothing left, I wouldn't be surprised to see, along with the cockroaches, an old Royal 440 typewriter sitting there innocuously on the ultra-charred terra firma. But, back to the's flat. FLAT, I SAY!!! And, half the time, my fingers don't know where they are, resulting in such dilapidated keyboardisms such as "lkantrm q4powe7trnq##%yhGTFEW" (my car uses tires made of banana peels) or "nfr85r4oghjw jgyioejme ghjri5FJMbcju587&" which is gibberish for "President Bush would be smarter if he had a brain transplant with a Foster Farms Chicken!" (see the subtle way I snuck in a political observation there?)

I'm making a lot more typing errors on this little miniature keyboard that was obviously designed for hunt-n-peckers rather than touch typists, because if you're typing with one finger, all the keys are closer together so you can more easily find the letter you need to complete a word in your doctoral thesis or whatever. But my fingers aren't used to a distance of only .09098435 centimers between keys. That ain't a lot, for sure. Not only that, there is no MOUSE. That means, with the touch of a finger, I can slide my finger along a touch pad, one inch away from where my hands are now, and move the mouse-arrow. No longer do I actually have to LIFT MY ARM and MOVE A MOUSE. How lazy is that? Am I becoming a techno-slave here? How about, I go and find a voice module which will actually perform all my typing so I don't have to use my fingers at ALL? So I must already be on the way to becoming a formless, shapeless blob of tissue, aren't I?

Anyway, I do have a serious question for all of you who are into the latest, gotta-have-it, cain't-do-without-it things, and here 'tis...this computer is "Windows Vista Updatable", and I can have a free Vista download if I want it. Well, not long ago I was running Windows 98, and then I began running Windows XP...and now they want me to switch to Vista? SHOULD I GO AHEAD AND DOWNLOAD "WINDOWS VISTA"? IS IT BETTER THAN "XP"? WILL "XP" GO OUT OF DATE ANYTIME SOON"? I need someone to tell me what I should do; I'm so corn-fused I'm about ready to drool on my computer, and that wouldn't be a pretty sight. I suppose new things aren't hard to get used to, however...this blogsite has been trying to get me to open a GOOGLE E-MAIL account, and I held off as long as I could, until the other day, when '' told me, "we are forcing you to go Google, and if you don't, we'll cut your blog off at the KNEES!" now I have a Google e-mail account I'll never use. I just hope someone out there can't google my e-mail!

Finally, the Stupor bowl is happening in a few short hours (note my posting time below); I believe Indianapolis will win by 10 points. Peyton needs a Super Bowl trophy, after all. Otherwise he'll wallow in obscurity like the ultra-rich, ever-present-on-TV Dan Marino. We wouldn't want that, would we? Although, those commercials featuring Peyton Manning are quite good...and, for us Beatles enthusiasts, there'll be a Super Bowl commercial saying you can get the Beatles on I-Pod; I don't care about that, but there might actually be either new music by the Beatles or a new collection of the old stuff available in the next few months (knowing Apple Corps, the Beatles umbrella organization, that second option is most likely). Still, that'll give me a reason to watch, even if one team is leading the other 150-13 two minutes into the 2nd quarter. Beatles that's something to drool about.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

...just another sad instance that proves...

Last year at about this time, in the dead of yet another North Idaho Winter, I was hurtin'. My back was so bad I could barely make it to the bathroom. And, my gout was causing all kinds of problems in just about every joint in my body. It was my sister who encouraged me to see doctors, which I did, to the tune of approximately $10,000 for all the medical bells and whistles. She cared enough about me to virtually ORDER me to go to the doctor! And I did. Sometimes I need a good swift kick in the behind, y'know? So I thank her.

Someone else wrote me concerning the gout, and he spoke of it from personal experience. His symptoms turned out to be much worse than mine, but with medication, he brought the affects of gout down to a dull roar, and so have I. He gave me encouragement and understanding, which is hard to find, because only a small percentage of folks have gout, which is a heredity-derived affliction. I wouldn't wish gout pain of the severe kind on my worst enemy...well, I can think of a few who I might afflict, but that's not what this post is about.

A guy named "Scottie", from Florida, evidently did a gout-Google search, and landed on my blog last year. He and I corresponded for a month or two, and then, like all the friends we make in life, things change, people grow distant from each other; best friends from school are, all of a sudden, people you haven't seen for 25's just a natural part of life, sad but inevitable. The e-mails between myself and Scottie decreased in frequency after a while, as a lot of relationships do. "Life" happens, what can I say?

The other day, I was going through all of the different folders in my e-mailbox, and I found that I had saved one of Scottie's e-mails. So, out of the blue, I thought I'd send him an e-mail, and find out how his struggles with gout were turning out. And his reply shocked me a bit. Turns out he has cancer issues and heart problems, and hospice was visiting him twice a week. His message only consisted of a couple of sentences, one of which read, "not doing well".

I am sad for him, and there ain't a thing I can do. When he wrote me about gout last year, his attitude was wry, chipper and very positive. But, when I replied to his latest letter, for once, I was at a loss for words. All I could manage was a weak "keep your spirits up". Well, that's important, I suppose, since a positive attitude can help a person fight whatever is afflicting him. Still, I can't help but think my message to him was weak, but at least I wrote something.

I gathered from the tone of his e-mail, that he was hurtin'...and depressed. I don't know how "long" he's got; for that matter, who knows how long any of us has got? But we're put on this planet to interact with each other; sometimes the act of interaction can be a positive thing. I know that when I've been in a bad frame of mind, kind words from someone made all the difference to me.

With that in mind, I'd appreciate it if anyone reading this post could send a message of encouragement to my internet friend. You see, he's a friend of mine, even though I've never met him...because he encouraged me during some long dark days last year when I was really suffering. So, I sent him an e-mail of encouragement, and if you'd like to do the same, I'd really appreciate it. He might too.

His e-mail address is: Up front: I know I kid around a lot on this blog; I satirize, I wallow in sarcasm, and sometimes I am just silly. This time around, though, I'm serious. And I'm sure he'd appreciate any positive communication you'd like to send his way.

...and all of a sudden, the gout isn't such a big deal, is it?