Stairs of Death- Case Closed

The heat in the office was stifling. The fan in the corner did nothing but push hot air around the room, a lot like the lukewarm ideas that ran around in my head.

Another body found this morning. Two in the last week. The death toll was up to six now. Or was it seven?
I had nothing to go on. Just the bodies. No suspect. No motive. Nothing. Just the victims.

I went over to open the window and try to let some air and fresh ideas in. Pacing back to my desk, I sat down and put my feet up. There had been the possibility that the first few victims had been accidents, but as the toll mounted, that theory evaporated. There are coincidences, but that was out of the question.

I stared at the door, knowing full well that this is where, in those stories, some leggy dame would walk in with a large brimmed hat that covered one eye, her face streaked with tears, and some sob story that I wouldn’t believe, but couldn’t afford to ignore. Eventually, as I dug around her story, I’d break the case but find out she had a hand in it somewhere.

It took me a while of staring at the door to realize that there was no dame in this tale. There wasn’t even one in the building.

The open window hadn’t done any good, and I was still baffled by the details- what few of them there were of the multiple deaths in the same spot.

I had to go for a walk.

I left the office and started to wander the darkened hallways of the building. There had to be some connection between the bodies, but what was it?

One of the rooms across the hall overlooked the spot in question. I keyed in and leaned out the window, staring downward at the empty parking lot at the base of the hill.

The latest body was still there. I could see it from here. Its decomposing corpse being made light work of by an army of ants. to the left, at the base of the stairs is where I’d found the last one, being eaten from the inside by beetles that made the body twitch and writhe like one of those zombie films that end up being survived by two beautiful people left to do nothing but repopulate earth the old fashioned way.

My eyes wandered as my mind did, looking for something….anything that could tie the killings together.
The parking lot, empty but for my battered car. The stairs, with their chipped and decomposing concrete. The steep hill above the wall ringing the parking lot, overgrown and lush with low-growing vegetation. The mound of dirt dead smack in the middle of the hill….

Hold the phone Gertrude, what exactly was that mound of dirt doing there? I squinted my eyes, as if the mere act would answer the question. No, this would require some looking in to. Not filled with much hope, but with literally nothing else to go on, I let myself out of the room and headed outside.

I would have to be careful here. If what I was looking for had anything to do with the deaths I was investigating, I could end up next. The hill was steeper than it looked, and the undergrowth deeper. Picking my way over the treacherous ground, I came to the pile of dirt I’d seen from the window.

All at once it hit me- like a goon with fist the size of a ham that I once knew. To be clear, I knew the goon, not the ham.

The dirt surrounded the mouth of a hole. A big one.

The more I looked at it, the more two things became abundantly clear.

1. Whatever lived here had to be responsible for the deaths.

2. I didn’t want to be here when the killer returned.

Snapping a picture for evidence, I went back to my office to piece it all together. I had my answers now, regrettably without the aid of a beautiful dame with weepy eyes and shady connections, but no story is perfect. A bit more thought, and that was it. Case closed.

_______________________________________

Some of you will remember back a few weeks ago, I posted a few times about the “Stairs of Death” which is a set of stairs outside of my office where I’d been finding dead animals for some time. I’d found a bird and a few mammals, but as of today’s date, there are two birds, and four small mammals, for a total of six. I can’t explain the birds, but I think I’ve solved the mystery of the dead rodents. I managed to solidify my theory that I have outlined in the “Stairs of Death” post. The finding of the hole above confirms that there is a predator living on that hill. That hole is too big for a woodchuck. We could be looking at a fox or some other medium-sized meat eater.

To recap, the theory was that something is chasing small mammals through the undergrowth on the hill. They’ll run away until they run out of ground at the top of the concrete wall which is at least ten feet high that surrounds the parking lot at the base of the hill. You see, the top of the wall is level with the bottom of the hill, so any small creature being chased is going to transition from running on ground to briefly running on concrete before there’s nothing left to run on and gravity takes over. Refer to the overhead view sketched out by one of the great artists of our time:

Diagram

The hole is in exactly the right place for something that lives there to come out and start hunting. In the event that there is something that it wants to eat, said prey will undoubtedly want to not be eaten, so it will run. Given the slope of the ground, the prey will more often than not, run DOWNHILL….to the top of the concrete wall. If its running quick enough, it is going to go straight over the edge and hit the bottom of the parking lot or on the stairs themselves.

Granted, this isn’t scientific proof, but a bit of deductive reasoning which adds up. Now, this doesn’t explain the birds, so I’m just going to assume they’re dumb and crash into the building somewhere…at least until I trip across an explanation in my next “Wander around because you’re bored” session.

Thanks for coming along, and if anyone wants to call my OIC and tell him I need to be promoted from beat cop to detective, let me know, I’ll give you his number.

Advertisements

Memories of a Hobby*

nytimes.com and google images

*Fair warning, this post got a bit away from me. Slow work day and strong sense of nostalgia this morning. I got the bit in my teeth and just started writing. Thanks in advance for coming along for the ride.

We’ve all got hobbies. At least we should. As time passes though, some of our hobbies might change or go away completely. Maybe we’ve outgrown them, maybe we’re devoting more time to our families and jobs, or maybe…hell, there could be any number of reasons for it.

When I was growing up, my father- a history teacher, took a keen interest in the study of the American Civil War. So keen in fact, that we began to travel in the summertime down to Virginia to visit some of the historical sites. We spent a lot of time in Gettysburg Pennsylvania learning about the battle there. At first, as a kid, the stuff was pretty dry. We began to spent so much time there though, that it all began to grow on me.

One summer we followed a crowd of other tourists across a part of the battlefield as they walked behind a strangely dressed man. As we got closer, we learned that this man was what was called a “Living Historian.” Living historians take it upon themselves to do an enormous amount of research on an individual from the past, then do what they can to accurately portray that individual in the form of a presentation to the public.

This particular man I will never forget. He portrayed a Civil War doctor, Jacob Bender. I’ll never do his presentation justice by trying to describe it, but the man was good. Really good. To a small kid like me, he painted a picture for me of how things might have actually been in battlefield hospital. It was astounding. My father too, took a great interest in the man’s presentation, and began to research and put together his own living history persona.

As time went on, my father linked up with other living historians who formed an organization that did events all over the country. We, as kids went along.

Gradually, the interest grew to the point where we switched from buying toy soldiers and hats in souvenir shops, to uniform pieces and reading material. We were hooked.

Years before I met my wife, we were actually at a reenactment in her home town. Reenactments are a bit different than living historians, these guys actually put on battles and scenarios with blank-loaded rifles and cannons, it was amazing to see them. Anyway, at this particular reenactment, I decided I was going to buy my first rifle, to go along with the uniform I had been wearing. So I paid out my hard earned dollars and bought a shiny new 1853 Enfield rifle. Serial number E8328. From that day on, as we traveled to different events, we started meeting other reenactors who took us into their units to ‘fight’ with them. Reenacting often gets poked fun of for a lot of reasons, but it attracts people form all walks and positions in life. We met hundreds of people from the salty old Vietnam combat Marine, to the heart surgeon who 48 hours before having a beer with us around a campfire had his hands in the chest of a patient.
Blue and white collar workers by the score came together in the best of times and the worst of weather to educate the public on the history of the Civil War by day, and trade greatly inflated stories and flat-out lies around the campfire at night.

For fifteen years my family was deeply entrenched in Civil War Reenacting. We portrayed both sides, we camped in mud and rain, we made some of the best friends in the world, and we had some of the best times that I can ever remember sitting around a campfire in a Virginia hay field. We did small events where there were only a dozen or so of us out there having a skirmish. We did national events with thousands of others like us maneuvering across vast expanses of field and wood.
We fought the constant battle to stay authentic and avoid anachronistic portrayals or equipment.

Over one weekend in college, my sister, a college friend of mine and I left for a national reenactment. We left upstate NY, and drove to northern Virginia for the weekend. On Sunday night, we left the place at 5PM, drove north until we hit the NYS thruway, headed west for a few hours to drop my sister off at her college, back east PASSING our own college by an hour to drop off our equipment and rifles, then BACK the hour to school, parking his truck at 8am on Monday morning. Fifteen hours of solid driving, and it was totally worth it.

Then the bottom fell out.

Gas prices spiked, so 5, 6, 7, or 8  hour drives to events were not as practical.
The lower turnout numbers at events drove registration prices higher so the event coordinators could still make their money.
The Centennial anniversaries of the Civil War were getting closer, so the cost of equipment and gear was also going through the roof.
And, I was getting older. Married. Starting a family, holding down a job….the time just wasn’t there any more.
Not only that, but a lot of the people we reenacted with for the past fifteen years were….old. Many of them were retiring from the hobby or straight up dying off. Towards the end, there wasn’t a single ‘off season’ (winter) where we didn’t hear about the death of a friend.

The straw that broke the camel’s back though, was the flood. In August 2011, Tropical Storm Irene slammed the east coast and destroyed entire communities in my area. One of the homes that was completely lost was that of my parents.

We spent almost a week in knee-waist deep water looking for what we could find of their belongings over a stretch of about two miles of river. Among the wreckage, we picked up dozens of bits of kit from our reenacting and living history days. Then, three days in, a man on a bulldozer came up to me and handed me a twisted bit of metal and wood. It was that Enfield rifle I’d bought so long ago. It had been stored in the house since it wasn’t really practical to keep in our small apartment for any reason. The very first firearm I had owned, had put thousands of rounds though, cleaned religiously, and marched God-only-knows how many miles with was a hopeless wreck.

Not long after that I’d decided that I was pretty much finished with the hobby. I’ve scratched together a kit from pieces we salvaged, but I’ve only worn it once since we lost everything else. I couldn’t afford to get back into it, financially or time-wise. It was time to move on.

Part of me didn’t though.

There isn’t a hot summer day where I don’t remember the weight of a wool uniform. I can’t sit around a campfire without thinking back to some of those old friends, the ones who have move on, passed away, or I just don’t see anymore. Occasionally I’ll take my coffee black, just to get a taste of the days from long ago when the coffee was brewed so over an open fire in a tin pot. My old, canvas dog tent sits in a cabinet in our basement almost begging me to take it out. My parents bought it for me when I was just starting the hobby. It had been with me for nearly the duration of my time in the hobby. It is filthy, torn, patched, faded, and probably moldy in spots. But even though I can’t ever see using it again,  I won’t even consider throwing it away or selling it.

I miss those days. I miss the people mostly. I guess a small part of me clings to the pieces I have left in the hopes that someday I can bring my sons to an event like my dad did for me. I don’t know if it will ever happen. Part of me knows that I need to just say ‘adios’ to the things I keep around, hold the memories of the great times close, and find something else, something more practical to share with my family.

In the long run, it boils down to the need to create new memories and great times, while keeping the old ones sacred. I’ve got to find for my new family what reenacting was for my old one.

What about my readers?

– Have you got any favorite hobbies you were forced to give up for one reason or another?

– What are your new ones now? Do they include your families or are they solo activities you do to ‘get away?’

– Have you got any hobbies you’ve been involved with forever and can’t imagine quitting for any reason?

– Did you actually make it to the end of my post without yawning?

 

 

Need Input!

Thank you indiewritenest.com and Google Images.

The car’s in the shop this afternoon, and since it is Friday, all of the staff at the day job have either not bothered to come in at all, or have made tracks out of here by now. So I’m left with little to do but this.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I CRAVE information. When I’m working in any capacity, I want to know the details of the job required of me. Where, When, What…and if necessary, How. Never “why” though. Nobody pays me enough to ask “why.”

The same goes for my personal life. While I’ve got a tendency towards the random and spontaneous, if something is on the horizon that I know about and need to plan for, I want every scrap of information I can gather, as soon as possible. The lack of such intel drives me insane whenever something is coming up.

The other day, my wife timidly asked me if we could take a day trip to Boston on Sunday. Timidly, because she knows that Sunday is the first day where I have literally nothing to do that day, and she was hesitant to make me busy again, even though this was something she wanted to do. Of course I told her we could go, she had a chance to meet some of her friends from the various online communities she belongs to who live scattered across the nation. An impromptu meeting was set up, and since we’re in driving distance, she wanted to go.

I asked her the basic questions.

“Where are we going?”
“What time will we need to be there?”
“Are the other women bringing their husbands and kids?”
“How long are we hanging out there?”

As lustful for information as I am, my wife…isn’t.

At this moment, we are less than two days away from the trip and all I know is that “Sometime on Sunday we are driving to Boston to meet some people.”

….there. You now literally know EVERYTHING that I know about my plans for the weekend.

– In my wife’s defense, she HAS asked my questions to the panel arranging the meeting, but has had nothing handed down yet. I don’t want her to message these ladies with another battery of questions simply because “My husband is a psychopath and wants to know everything right now.”

So, I’m sweating out the details. I’m expecting there to be a flurry of exchanged text messages sometime as I’m eastbound on I-90 sometime Sunday morning filling in the gaps, just about the time I start to hyperventilate going into information withdrawal.

Now, this being said, I’m also the guy who will wake up in the morning and say something like “Lets go for a drive” without having a destination in mind. We spent 10 days on the road driving across country with NO plan whatsoever except KEEP GOING WEST UNTIL YOU HIT WATER. – And I was fine with that.

But then again, I often take a childlike delight in planning things out. I have a fondness for logistics, timetables, and details, and I suppose my being rankled with the lack of information I get at times is simply because I don’t get to play with itemizing every last crumb of intel and formulating them into something that looks like an itinerary.

– Oh, and if we ever have plans together, heaven help you if you leave the planning to me, then are responsible for setting me back more than five minutes or so. I’ll be grumpy at you the whole time. It isn’t anything personal, its just me being broken.

Ah well.

Since there’s nothing else to do, I think I’ll go out and investigate the stairs of death again….I found ANOTHER casualty on them this afternoon. Another bird. I’m starting to get a little worried.

Stop back soon, and keep an eye out for a second blog I’m starting which will detail the tribulations and observations of a rookie cop.

-AD

A Bear of a Tale.

Tonight was a tough one. The Narrator nabbed a summer-time cold which has him pretty beat, but the worst part is that he managed to hand it off to my wife, and its knocked her flat. To assist for a bit, I took the boys out, headed over to my folks’ place, nabbed some Subway for dinner, and gave her a bit of a respite. When we came home it was bath, dinner, and bedtime, for all of them. I put the two boys down and sent the Mrs. to bed as well to get some more rest.

Tomorrow is one of my 18 hour days, so I need her rested. I took the trash out and settled down with a beer, Netflix, and a snack.

The TV droned on for a while as I watched some God-Awful Segal movie. Then, from outside I hear a fairly loud “THUD.” It sounded like a car door being closed. Curious, I muted the movie- which to be honest I should have done as soon as I turned it on.

Who is visiting at this hour? Why was there a…… “THUD. SCRRRRUNNCCCHH.” That sounds like plastic being dragged across the…..OH SHIT.

The reality of the situation came to me all at once, and I sprung from the couch and into the bedroom where my wife was working on her computer instead of sleeping.

“What the…..”

“I have to run off a bear.” I answered as I grabbed my service pistol and flashlight.

– To be clear, I had no intention of killing a bear. Using a pistol as an offensive tool against such a creature is a ROTTEN idea. More often than not, all you do is end up pissing him off to the point where he might want to come over and have a frank discussion with you about the matter. No, the gun was either to be used defensively, or as a noise-maker if my mere presence and voice didn’t run it off.

Thankfully, I had no use for the gun, but when you’re traipsing through a dark yard in the middle of the night, clad only in a pair of shorts with a small flashlight…it was a comfort.

Anyway.

I get outside and see the heavy plastic garbage bin flipped perfectly upside down. No scattered or torn bags, No mess. Just completely upended. As I get closer, I hear it.

“thump-thump thump-thump thump….” Something heavy running across the yard.

Now, any sane man would have flipped the can back over, and gone to store it in the garage or on the deck away from the hungry scavengers.

Idiot me though decides that I wanted to SEE the rascal, so I FOLLOWED the damn thing down the lawn playing the light beam along the tree line until I found what I was looking for.

The shine of two eyes glinted back to me. The glowing eyes were surrounded by a black mass that- for the sake of the story I wish I could say was terrifyingly huge. But no. A juvenile bear stared back at me. 80 to 100 pounds, it was a youngster. He stood frozen looking at me, when I hear some crunching leaves off to the right. Light moves. More eyes. ANOTHER one!

Yogi on the left is still watching me, not moving. Boo-Boo, the second one, moves out of sight into the treeline. I play the light back to Yogi who still hasn’t moved. As my old defensive tactics instructor would say, it was time to “Talk, fight, shoot, or leave.”

Shooting was out, no threat. Fighting a bear is stupid, and leaving wasn’t an option since I wanted to make sure that HE was gone first. I chose talk. Yell actually.

Ever yell at a bear?

No?

Well, I’ll tell you, nothing will make you feel more like a dope than yelling “GET OUTTA HERE! HAH! GO ON!” at a creature that is biologically equipped to take you apart. It did the trick though. I yelled and stomped closer to him.

Thankfully, Yogi decided that investigating the strange, half-naked human flailing a flashlight and a handgun in the middle of the night wasn’t as good an idea as leaving.

After he left, I stashed the garbage bin in the garage and went back inside. I think something’s still poking around out there because there’s rustling of the grass in the lawn. But there’s nothing he can get to or anything I can do about it.

– This is the first time in three years that we’ve seen any evidence of a bear being around. There was some poop in the yard once, but that was it.

– However, this is NOT the first run-in I’ve had with bears where I decided to chase one. When I was in high school, a few friends of mine and I were in a chinese restaurant in the middle of main street in one of the neighboring towns one night. As we were ordering, the man behind the counter suddenly went crazy, yelling all kinds of things I didn’t understand, and pointed to the big window behind us. There, staring in the window was a black bear, a big one this time. 200-300 pounds. Being stupid kids, we ran outside and CHASED the damn thing DOWN MAIN STREET in this town until he outran us and vanished into the night.

Bears are amazing and fascinating creatures. I love seeing them and I don’t honestly know if I could shoot one if I came across one during hunting season. They are, however….best observed from a distance, and any forms of interaction, physical or social is to be avoided.

Anyway…that was my night. Or the start of it at least. Mini-Me is showing signs of not sleeping at all tonight, he’s been awake twice since I put him down and is stirring again.

If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go take care of that.

Goodnight.

Sorry, Not Sorry- A Shameless Plug*

 

I’m reasonably sure that every single “This is how you blog” rule that has been written or spoken about in dark and secret corners of the internet states that what I am about to do is taboo, but I’m going to care later.

Right now though I want to flick the spotlight over to my wife for a little bit. You see, on top of taking care of three boys, (I’m included in the count) making sure the house doesn’t fall down, and being more than a little bit awesome in all ways- she also is one of the single most creative people I’ve ever known.

Now, I have ZERO creativity in my body. I can’t get beyond stick figures to this day. I can’t paint, sculpt, make music, compose poems, or any of that. In fact, you’re lucky I have the ability to string enough words together to create sentences enough for coherent blog posts. Creativity just isn’t my thing. I can fix and repair things…but don’t ask me to MAKE anything.

True story- when I was in junior high school art class, one of the projects I was working on for a few days went missing. I don’t know if another kid accidentally hucked it in the garbage, or I misplaced it…whatever. I told the teacher it had gone and I was mad about it, to which he replied “Why? It wasn’t really that good anyway.” No joke, that happened. Thanks Mr. Canazzaro.

Anyway. What I lack in creativity, my wife more than makes up for. In fact, she’s been working on one of those Etsy shops for some time now. She started out making hair accessories and felt coffee sleeves for people, and has enjoyed a little bit of success with it. One of her hair piece accessories was worn by a flower girl in a wedding we went to, and a local business bought a dozen of her coffee sleeves to resell in their store.

She’s branched out into stuffed toys, and they’re awesome. They’re simple little things, but people love them. One woman placed a custom order for a little red stuffed car for her son who saw the picture online and fell in love with it. Another woman is a teacher who picked up a cloud toy and is going to have her students take it home and write about its adventures.

One of her bigger projects are felt name banners. Each letter of a name stuffed and strung with line to hang on walls or over cribs. One grandmother-to-be found her banners and couldn’t order one fast enough because she had bought one for her son when he was a baby, and wanted to continue the tradition.

If the internet were a real shopping mall, she would by no means be one of the anchor stores, but she does well and people who purchase from her are very happy with her products.

She’s poured an ungodly amount of time into the site too. Last night she worked for two hours- not on creating product, but on Search Engine Optimization….I work in IT and don’t even know what that means. But apparently its creatively arranging key words and phrases to trick Google into placing your site up top when people look for things.
She’s paid to have her site advertised on well-read blogs, she’s crafted and re-crafted her page, she’s sent free samples to people for reviews…And now she’s on message boards helping other people who are doing the same thing, and if I can do something….ANYTHING to help all that effort pay off, I’d be remiss if I didn’t do it.

She’s been at it for four years now, and this shop has grown (with absolutely no help from me whatsoever) into something that hosts happy and repeat customers.

My job now- is to spread her around a bit, and here’s where I get the narrowing of the eyes and under-the-breath muttering from the blog world.

Now, I’m not telling all of my loyal followers (of whom there are significantly more than I had imagined possible) to rush out and buy her things…All I’m saying is that I think that if you click the link, there’s a fair chance you will say to yourself something like “Oh, that’s neat.” or even better “So-and-so might like that, or should check this page out!”

Without further ado:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/QuarterLifeLuck

As an added bonus, if you click the link it won’t take the detective skills of Scotland Yard to figure out what Mini-Me and the Narrator’s real names are.

Thank you. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled lunacy tomorrow. Or this afternoon if my muse shows up to work today.

~AD

________________________________________________________________

*Author’s note. I should apologize to my wife. The only reason I’m plugging her site today of all days is because I have literally no other content lined up today. I wrote most of this post a week or so ago and have been keeping it in my holster for just such an occasion when my brain was not clever enough to create something original.

Sorry dear.

 

 

Mud and Monster Trucks

Last year when I graduated from my 6 month training program at the academy, I’d decided that I need to do something with The Narrator since over the course of my training, coupled with my day job and other nonsense- I had hardly been more than a biological father to him.

Knowing his fondness for all things vehicular, I opted to take him up to the ‘local’ (60 miles away) race track where they feature monster trucks twice a year. He got a grand kick out of it, but at four years old he was still a little overwhelmed by the noise and crowd, and asked to go home before it was over. So I thought I’d try again this year, and he was became very excited about the idea.

So, we went again this year.

Now, I’m not a big monster truck fan. I mean, they’re cool and all, but I don’t get into it like some people might. I don’t know any more than the handful of regular trucks they have at these shows, I don’t watch them on TV or even buy any related souvenirs when I go to these things. I enjoy it, but I’m not hardcore about it. It’s something fun to see now and again. I’m not a huge crowd person, and constant loud noises set me on edge. But The Narrator loved the idea of going back and I was more than happy to oblige him.

We got there early as I tend to do. We bummed around the arena for a while taking in the sights of the tracks and the trucks they had parked against the fence so early arriving patrons like us could see them and take a few photos.

Believe it or not, that face is a mixture of excitement and terror. As far as my overly-cautious five year old was concerned, this was too close.

After the wandering and photos were taken, we went up to our seats and the rain started. The stands cleared as people rushed down to concessions where there were tents and overhangs for shelter.

….and this is where the scalping started. You see kids, the ticket prices for these shows couldn’t be beaten. I paid about $35 for two reserved seats right near the finish line. Bargain right?

Yeah….except once you’re IN the place, they might as well hold you at gunpoint and say “Empty the wallets.”
Not sure how long the rain would last, my ear picked up on the hawking voice of a vendor selling rain ponchos. Thinking I needed to protect my precious son, I went over to the lady and told her I needed one. And that is the story of how ended up paying five bucks for a “rain poncho” which was little more than yellow saran-wrap with a hood on it that could have holes punched in it with a swift fart, so you can imagine what sitting on a wooden bench did to it.

….but again, but boy was dry and happy, so we went back to our seats.

Then the rain stopped.

For now. It would come back later, so my irritation at having wasted the effort of getting the poncho was only momentary.

In true little-kid fashion, we went back to our seats and waited for the show to start, and he asked me in a timid little voice if he could have a snow-cone. So we went BACK down out of the bleachers which at this point are starting to fill up with people who know how to show up to events on time and not two hours early, and headed again to concessions

I find the snow-cone tent manned by a pleasant young lady (pleasant because it was still early) who cheerfully took fifteen of my dollars away. For one snow-cone. As we went back up to the bleachers, I tried to ponder how shaved ice with syrup could run $15. It must have been the “Limited edition” plastic cup that it was served in. It was so limited edition that there were thousands of them being dolled out to suckers like me all week long.

Again…he was happy, so I didn’t care all that much.

Happy Face

Then came the “I have to go to the bathroom.”

So we went down again.

Then back up.

By now the show started, and so did the rain again. Poncho back on, as well as his windbreaker (that we had to go back down to the car to get) he was happy as a clam as the trucks raced around the now-muddy track. I wasn’t so thrilled, since I refused to shell out for another poncho and stubbornly and slowly got drenched for the remainder of the night. I ended up putting our camera in the boy’s pocket under the poncho and wrapping my cell phone in the cellophane wrapper that the snow-cone spoon came in so it would stay dry in my sodden pants.

He had a ball.

That’s what counts. One of the trucks rolled badly in the mud eliciting a massive cheer from the crowd, my son among them. At the end of the night, they haul out “The Green Mamba,” which is essentially jet engine with a few wheels and a steering wheel attached to it. They back this contraption up to an old junk car, fire up the engine, blast out the afterburner and melt the balls out of this old car.

….it was always my favorite part of the night. My son’s too. He talked about it until he fell asleep on the way home.

Speaking of the way home, between the rain outside, wet clothes inside, and a contact lens that decided at some point to do whatever it could to wreak havoc on my cornea- it was the longest 60 mile drive I’d ever done.

Cold, wet, having to pee very, VERY badly, and with a right eye that I was ready to pluck out, we rolled into the driveway at eleven PM, and after attending to body’s numerous complaints, we went immediately to bed.

Thus ended a long, awesome day, and I think we’ll do it again next year.

 

Parents of a Supervillian.

Actual Source, Wiki/Google images

Youngest Son’s Graduation picture- Artist’s rendering

I am reasonably certain that our youngest son is destined to become a cartoon super villain. Possibly areal-life regular villain, but I was informed that joking about that wasn’t funny, so I’m going the Disney Channel route.

Mini-Me is a clever, hilarious little almost-two-year old, but occasionally his antics worry me. This morning as I prepared for work, he sat in the corner of the living room playing with an old sesame street play set that had been given to us by my mother-in-law (that she no doubt salvaged from somebody else’s junk pile) The play set has a clam-shell type building and a number of little sesame street figures. Mini-Me is quietly and happily playing as toddlers do. I hunt down my many accessories to cram into my pockets and listen to his adorable little yammering as his imagination goes wild.

My wife is sitting on the sofa drinking coffee, and I wandered over to say goodbye. As I start to do so, Mini-Me’s little head pokes up from over the arm of the couch, very reminiscent of the old Kilroy graffiti left all over Europe during World War 2.

Sorry? Dated reference? Stop being a nerd? Fine- here’s what I mean:

With me? Good. Now picture his little head and hands peeking over the arm of the couch like that little bald guy up there and you’ll have the image we saw.

As I looked at him, he starts to elicit little cries for help. Except he can’t say “help” so it sounds like “Haaooo!” “Haaooo!” I go over to check to see what the problem was, and he looks down at a little Elmo figure that he has pinned under the Sesame Street building by its legs.

“Did you trap Elmo?” I asked him.

He nods and begins to laugh a wicked little laugh.

As I start to walk away and worry about the cost of therapy later on, he starts up again.

“Haaooo!” “Haaooo!”

Turning back, he has now figured out that its funnier to have Elmo trapped under the building BY HIS HEAD. Poor Elmo’s little red feet are sticking out from under the corner of Mr. Hooper’s Store, and the evil mastermind throws his own head back and laughs his deep belly laugh as I stand there frightened of the potential futures that lay in store for my 21 month old bad guy.

I didn’t leave for work so much as I fled, and am trying to figure out exactly how concerned I should be.

 

A Challenge Faced Alone.

gymflow100.com (source)

When my alarm buzzed me awake at 6:00am so I could go for a run as I had promised myself, I sought out a million excuses to stay right where I was between the sheets. My wife’s heavy breathing indicated to me that she hadn’t even heard my alarm and her comfort and warmth was much more inviting than what I had planned.

Grudgingly and already regretting my decision, I crawled out of bed and hunted for suitable clothes to wear as I tortured myself.

I’ve mentioned before, that I hate running. I always have. While I have a hard time arguing with the healthy effects of it, the raw torment that everyone seems to be going through as the are actually doing it doesn’t seem worth it sometimes.

Still. I was up and dressed, let’s go.

My reasons for willingly subjecting myself to this agony are twofold. First, my PT scores from the academy are no longer valid, since they were taken over a year ago, so if I’m going to be picked up by anyone, I’ll need to take the test again, and we need some preparation for that.

Second, I’ve packed on about ten pounds that need to go away. My duty belt is already one notch (fine, two) longer than it was when I started wearing it a year ago, and my uniform pants are a tad snugger (that’s a word right?) as well.

Essentially, my livelihood depends on my not being a sedentary slob.

Some added bonus features, are that I’ve got three events coming up that I plan on doing for sheer fun that will require me to be in some sort of shape. A bike tour next month, a trip to the Adirondack mountains for a high peak hike, and a 5K benefit run out in Buffalo coming up in the fall. So for someone who ares moving as much as I do, I tend to want to do a lot of it.

Anyway.

I fought through the numerous excuses jumbled in my head that seemed perfectly legitimate reasons to go back to bed, and started off. Immediately, things looked up slightly. Within my first fifty feet I saw a doe and a baby deer still in spots, and a mother turkey with a flock of little nuggets crossing the road. All of them briefly stopped and looked at me as if to say “Look at that moron.”

Approximately 41 steps into my two mile course, I started to regret it, but I was determined not to quit until I at least broke a sweat.

My plan was to run the first mile, and on the return leg alternate between running and walking, since a straight two mile shot on a hilly country road after a several month’s long hiatus from doing this would have killed me.

_____________

I completed the two miles as planned, and sat on my front porch with a bottle of water and watched the remainder of the morning fog burn away.

And here is my real reason for this post.

As I sat there, I remembered back to my days in the academy where I was being whipped into great physical condition. Even though the runs were longer, I can’t remember them ever being as difficult as they are now- even way back in the beginning when we were getting our asses handed to us and recruits would drop out of line to vomit or fight dizziness. It was never this hard.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was because I am facing this alone now. Where as I was surrounded by two dozen comrades last year facing the same challenges I was, they’re gone now. There is nobody to pace off of, nobody to try to beat, no formation to try and keep, no instructors running alongside offering encouragement or berating poor performance.

This morning it was just me and the animals, and really, they weren’t any help.

When the motivation has to come from within, and there is nobody alongside or behind you, it is so much tougher.

It is so much easier to run what feels like a thousand miles when there’s a drill instructor nearby to bark “Get Moving!” or a buddy at your side telling you “We can do this.” For some reason, the voice inside your own head telling you “We should go do this” isn’t nearly as loud or motivating, and I don’t know why.

That being said….I firmly believe that the people who can listen to that meek little voice inside them that tells them “Get your ass up and let’s go” are able to accomplish so much more than those of us who practically require an external source of motivation.

Look how many of us try on our own to work out. New Year’s Resolution’s anyone? Millions of us try to listen to that voice once or twice or a handful of times a year, and end up covered in dorito dust by Martin Luther King day.

Then look at the people who have stuck with it. All on their own, there’s a handful of them who are absolutely amazing to see. There’s an old science teacher of mine on the route I run who is a life-long runner. The guy used to run home from school in the afternoons for lunch, then run back. He is, for lack of a better word…a machine.

We are ALL pretty much capable of this level of awesome, as long as we can grab the gravelly inner voice that’s telling us what we NEED to do, and make it louder than the sexy siren voice telling us to do what we WANT to do.

Need promises pain.
Want promises sleep.

Far too often do we find ourselves in line for sleep and pay for it with snug pants.

So while I don’t have my academy buddies alongside me anymore, this morning as I jogged my first mile in far too long, I started chanting in my head the very same few lines I repeated over and over on those long nights as we ran the back city streets at the mercy of our PT instructor.

Every step you take
is one less
That you have to make.

The chanting is an effort I make to drown out the excuses and remind myself why I’m doing anything at all before I’ve had my coffee for the day, and at the end, while I sweaty and sore and gasping like I was auditioning for an adult film, I felt good, and I didn’t care how stupid the deer thought I looked.

Dad Eats Alone: Volume 1

Occasionally, my schedule necessitates dining alone. Either I come home after the crew has finished their meal, I have to leave earlier than their scheduled dinner, or we’re having a free-for-all-pick-your-favorite-leftover night and I forget to eat until several hours after bed time when my brain and my stomach finally connect and an urgent signal is sent throughout my body that says “Hey stupid, you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast…yesterday.”

…We’ve all been there, don’t lie.

Tonight was one of these nights where I was out on an ambulance call and got home after my family was done eating.

Now, usually, there are leftovers for me to pick from, but since we are in the middle of a hot, sticky summer weather patten, my wife prudently decided that cooking a big meal wasn’t going to happen, so it became a night of randoms. Pasta for the boys, and whatever she picked at while I was gone.

This means that I was left to my own devices when I came in the door.

Usually, when this happens, this is where I end up battling against some of those culinary demons I have mentioned in the past. I’ve gotten myself into any number of potentially volatile situations when I’m cooking for one, usually because the meal starts with the simple thought of “I wonder what happens if I mix <something> with <something else>”

Since it’s getting on bed time for many of us, I won’t ruin your night with some of the details….although I will provide one example-

A few nights ago, everyone was out and I made dinner for one. Hot dogs were defrosted, so I decided to go with them….except eating plain hot dogs is a criminal offense as far as I’m concerned, so I needed to dress them up. So I sauteed mushrooms and onions and smothered the dogs in them.

Bad. Very, very bad idea. Don’t do it. Just don’t, especially if you happen to have those ‘angus beef’ dogs, which are SUPPOSED to be better, but in fact are ten or twelve times worse tasting than the average atrocity that is a hot dog.

My stomach is still cramping at the thought of that one.

– Tonight though, I made a fast, edible creation that I wouldn’t have been able to make if I’d have been cooking for the family. For one thing, NOBODY else eats chili. My wife, whom I jokingly refer to as a “Food racist” because she hates everything from everywhere except Italian food. Chinese, Mexican, Thai, you name it, she hates it. She won’t even touch Bratwurst, and my St. Patrick’s day meals have become sad since the thought of Corned beef and cabbage makes her ill.

The boys…well, I won’t even go into the act of congress or waterboarding that it would take to get The Narrator to eat chili. The kid fought us for half an hour at a restaurant the other night over mac and cheese, because the cheese used was white instead of yellow, so I won’t even bother trying to feed it to him.

Anyway.

Since I’m on my own, I whipped up a true bachelor’s meal. A small can of hormel chili without beans that I was saving for chili dogs, chopped onions, a dash of ground red pepper, and a ton of chili powder. I briefly entertained the idea of wrapping them in tortillias, but my wrapping skills leave a lot to be desired. (ask anyone I’ve ever given a Christmas gift to.) So, I just dumped the concoction onto a plate over the tortillas, and BAM.

Done.

I don’t have a picture of it, for two reasons.

1. I was famished by the time it was done, and ate it.

2. I’m not fully into the habit of instagramming my food yet, and since all of my own photos that I post here are linked from that account, you’ll need to use your imagination as to what it might have looked like.

What is my point tonight?

I have no idea.

At first I was going to use this post as an opportunity to thank my lucky stars that I’m not a bachelor because the majority of my ‘dinner for one’ experiments end up as a culinary blight that the CDC has written and demanded samples of for research purposes.

But then this simple, edible diamond in the rough comes through and not only is it not deadly, it is downright delicious, so I can’t go that route.

I suppose- in the long run….I have no point tonight. I could have simply stated that “Sometimes I eat alone and what I make sucks, but tonight it was good” – and not wasted any more of your time than absolutely necessary.

But really, that’s no fun, and since wordpress doesn’t suspend accounts for posts without points, I’m more than happy to have prattled on for much longer than necessary to tell you nothing at all.

As for your time….sorry about that. You can’t have it back. It’s mine now.

……I’m in a weird frame of mind tonight. I really should just hit the ‘move to trash’ button and try again tomorrow, but I’m committed now. Or, I was. I’m done now.

 

Thank you and Goodnight.

Stairs of Death pt. II – Zombie Mouse

I’ve never been much of a formal student of science. In high school, I had to take the state exam for Earth Science four times before they let me leave the class, barely passed biology, failed out of chemistry, and was asked to leave physics before I failed out of that too. My college science career was just as dim, and I don’t feel like depressing myself with a full recap. Imagine ‘bad’ and you’ll be close enough. I wasn’t a complete bone-head, I was just a better student of history and literature. (Pronounced in this case as ‘Lit-Ra-Cha’ and spoken in an accent as to accentuate sophistication.)

That being said however, as a casual observer of the world around me, I am constantly amazed, fascinated, and sometimes terrified by what I find.

Yesterday I regaled you all with a short piece about a creepy set of stairs where I work that seems to be a place where small animals go to die.

This morning, despite the odds being stacked against me and it only being a matter of time before the Stairs of Death claim their first (probably?) human victim, I decided to park in the lower lot and climb them anyway. As I parked, the part of my brain that is fascinated with the macabre told me to look for the newest victim of the stairs, the mouse-kin (hereafter will be referred to as “the mouse”…proper taxonomy be damned)

Ah. There he is. Right there on the….bottom step? Odd, he was two or three steps up yesterday. A bird probably tried to drag it down and eat it. Ah well. Circle of life. Nature is…GAAAAAAAA WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

The dead mouse is moving. Undulating and twitching as it if were trying its damndest to reanimate and seek the flesh of other living creatures. I watched the head raise and lower, the body heaving as if it were gasping for breath.

I’d seen these movies before. I know I was supposed to back away slowly shouting something like “No! It can’t be! You’re dead! I watched you die!” …then immediately be attacked myself.

Bullshit. I wasn’t going out that way. Not me. Zombie Mickey wasn’t going to take me without a……what the hell?

Turns out two of these little a-holes:

Burying Beetle. Pic courtesy of Google Images and majikphil.blogspot.com

…were underneath the carcass of the mouse and doing their best to haul it off so it could be eaten/have eggs laid in it. Satisfied that the twitching corpse wasn’t about to start gnashing its yellow teeth at me, and amazed by what I was seeing, I closed in for a better look, and watched this event for a full five minutes before I went in to work.

I of course had no idea what sort of bug it was that had tried to convince me of reanimation and zombification, so the very first thing I did this morning was furiously google things…which sounds dirty, but it isn’t. I finally found some literature on the burying beetle, http://majikphil.blogspot.com/2011/10/burying-beetle.html

Now, again…scientifically I had no idea what in hell I was watching until Google came to my rescue, but I am smart enough to know that what I was seeing was amazing and interesting.

Here’s where I try to make a lesson out of what I hope was a moderately amusing post.

When I was a kid growing up in the Catskill Mountains of NY, this sort of thing was all around me. We would play and hike in the woods as often as possible. Thanks to the encouragement of my parents, I was just as at home under a canopy of trees as I was under a roof, and while I never took much of an interest in the textbook side of what I observed every day, there nevertheless grew an amazement and appreciation for it all.
We should all borrow a page from my mother’s book. During the summer time when my father was at work, she would quite literally throw us out of the house. We were allowed in for lunch, and to use the bathroom. Video games? TV? HAHAHA….no. Instead, our summers were filled with riding bikes, climbing trees, falling into streams, and figuring out just what the hell was happening in the world around us.
I’m not saying my upbringing was any better than someone else’s- but what I am saying is that if we want to appreciate and understand what is around us, as well as have the opportunity to observe zombie mice and voracious beetles who use mucus-juice to turn dead animals into balls (check the link, its a good one) getting the hell outside is the only way to do it.

Of course, this sort of lifestyle might not lead to the MOST well-adjusted kids on earth, who knows….they could end up growing up to post pictures of dead animals on the internet for the amusement of perfect strangers.

All I know is, that I’ve already started calling The Narrator over when we are outside to observe some phenomenon or another, and while the child-like squeamishness is still there if the bug is big enough or the snake is long enough, the light of genuine curiosity is obviously there…and I need to make sure that light isn’t out shined by the glow of the likes of Peppa Pig and Spongebob.