Birthday Shots and Video!

Me and my meal - sesame chicken!

I had the pork dumplings and sesame chicken!

Okay, so the 21st marked another trip around the sun for yours truly, so Pam and I celebrated at Sakura (yes, that plate was clean well before the check came), before heading out to BackStreets to see Billy play and hook up with some friends. Now, most of you know I rarely drink, so when my birthday comes around, it really isn’t that big a deal. However, this Saturday, VickiJo and Shelly both made it a point to tell me they were going to do shots with me, so… Pam got both events on video. I’m not sure what VickiJo got me, but it had a beer base, pineapple juice, grenadine, something else and then an amaretto bomb dropped into it right before you shoot it. Verdict? Mmm …not bad. But then, I do like the fruity stuff, and hell, how can you beat pineapple juice? 

Pic of Joe finished with his meal.

Finished!



Now, with Shelly on the other hand… I told Pam I was going to celebrate my birthday Hard Boiled style— as in, like Chow Yun Fat in the John Woo action classic. Chow does a drink called a tequila slammer. Basically, straight tequila, a shot of grenadine and a splash of 7 Up. You cover the top of the glass, slam it on the bar, it fizzes like crazy and you shoot it. Thanks to Shelly, we did it with Patrón , although that didn’t make much of a difference to her. Basically, it’s not a terribly pleasant shot, and for me, since I don’t get buzzed, it was all about remembering Chow pounding that thing and how great it looked on camera. 

Shelly, for your birthday, promise, I’ll buy us one of whatever you want. Johnny Vegas, Fireball…, or maybe something with milk and a lot of Vermouth.
😀

Here’s the vids. Enjoy, gang, don’t get to see this all that often.
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Currently listening to: “Machine” by Theatre of Tragedy

 

The (Not So Big) Sleep

Joe wired up for a sleep studyNo, that isn’t me testing out a new Halloween costume (although if it gave off enough sparks, I might consider it). Nope, lung doc who did my bronchoscopy recently noticed I have an airway that keeps collapsing for no apparent reason, so he wanted to do a sleep study, test me for apnea. Hence, me in the repurposed space shuttle wiring harness.

26 total hook-ups; two semi-stretchy belts around chest & gut; leads on top of my head held in place by this sticky goo that I don’t even remember the name for. Oh, yeah, and a mask you’d sooner associate with a fighter pilot or spaceship commander in a Star Wars sequel than sleeping. Yep, that was me last night. Testing positive, of course, for apnea.

Strange thing is, I didn’t enter the study for any problem sleeping. Truth is, while the guy running the test expected that I sleep terribly on a regular basis, I don’t. I wait ’til I’m tired (exhausted, more often than not, after a long day of writing), and crash out. I don’t wake up with headaches. I don’t wake up feeling unrested. I don’t wake up dizzy. Don’t wake up disoriented – although I’ll cop to waking up from a couple of really good dreams a little out of it. But, I always thought that was the fun part of sleeping in general. Have I occasionally woken up after having that sensation of falling, believing I just bounced back into the bed? Oh, heck yeah. Was I astral projecting? I certainly hope so, because I don’t wanna trade in that night I spent with Jennifer Connelly (circa The Rocketeer) for a restful night’s sleep now.

So, anyway, we do the test, we try the pressurized air flow sleep mask, Jeff cranks it up to eleven (or whatever the max is) and so went the second half of the night. Did I wake up feeling rested? No more than usual. Did I snore? According to Jeff, no, but I never woke up due to my own snoring anyway, so that pretty much feels like a wash. Did I feel like I’d slept like I haven’t slept in a long time? Well, no.

But oh well, so be it. The real reason the doc sent me for this thing in the first place was the lingering cough from the issue that landed me in the hospital last November. Will this cure it? Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. We’re gonna try it for a while, then I’ll be re-tested, and see if I still need it, or if it’s making any difference. What I’m supposed to notice, cough aside, is a perfect night’s sleep, with no interruption of my breathing, no snoring, and no restlessness from that airway collapsing. Which I guess should be an improvement.

Still, I’d trade it for the astral projection every night.
Currently listening to: Cities In Dust by Siouxsie and the Banshees

Takin’ It Easy

Not a good day, all things considered, but Pam and I, sis, Joe and the kids, and Mom are trying to make the best of it. Two years today since we said good-bye to Dad. Feels like forever sometimes. Feels like just yesterday at others. Sucks either way, but it is what it is and we’re hanging in there. Not much choice, when it comes right down to it, is there?

Back in May, I pulled off a surprise for my Mom with the help of my best friend Billy and another good friend, John Fairfield. Kathleen and I snuck Mom out to BackStreets under false pretenses, and I played the final set with Billy and John—the first time she’d ever seen me play guitar. I dedicated one tune to my Dad, and this is the one we closed the night out with. Mom’s a big Eagles fan, and this is the one I’d originally approached Billy about joining him on stage for. (That quickly became two songs, which then turned into four, and then the entire last set). Oh well, at least no one threw drinks at us.

 

Anyway, tonight we’re doing movie night again. Last year, it was Die Hard, a movie Dad took us to back when it was first released. Tonight it’s a comedy. Uncle Buck, which Dad loved and all of us got a big kick out of. Pam’s putting out a big taco and quesadilla spread—a fave of the family back when we lived up North—and we’re going to make fresh, movie-theatre popcorn in the popcorn machine, gorge ourselves on Raisinettes and Sno Caps, and break at the halfway point to make ice cream sodas and toast Dad with ’em. I wish he could be here for this. Wish he could’ve been there at Backstreets. But we’re gonna try and get around that as best we can. Takin’ it easy, so to speak. The way he’d want it. MYD.

 

Glazed Over

For starters, this blog’s gonna have a lot of products mentioned, a web site linked, and names-named. That said, no one is going to want to be in this column come tomorrow but those with the heartiest sense of humor, so here goes.

It’s Wednesday. Girl’s Night. So, Pam is going out with Fatima to hang out at BackStreets. Tonight, before she left, she got involved with me in what can only be described as a food experiment.

This shouldn’t have been a toughie. I had some teriyaki sauce I’d purchased at Target. I had about a third of a container of Chik-Fil-A dipping sauce—the kind you can now buy to take home. Last week, I whipped up a mix of the teriyaki and Chik-Fil-A sauce in an attempt to replicate the BackStreets boneless wing glaze, which is a mixture of mild wing sauce and teriyaki somethingorother.

Chic-Fil-A Sauce

Yes, you can now buy this awesome sauce by the container.

Now, did I think I could manage this feat? No. All I wanted was a good dipping sauce and a little teriyaki kick. That’s it. I’m a simple guy. I eat like a single guy. I was not pretending to “Go gourmet” here. My sauce? Fine. Tasted good. Only thing was, the teriyaki didn’t mix well. I think the Chik-Fil-A sauce was simply too thick (yum), and the teriyaki just sort of floated around in it. When Pam got home last week and asked, I told her this.

“Oh, I can fix that. Next time let me cook it a little with some corn starch. That’ll make it more like a glaze.”

As the guys in the Guinness commercials love to exclaim, “Brilliant!” And so, I agree to give it a shot and see how it works. Well, tonight was the night. Unfortunately, I had had chicken nuggets again in the meantime, and so was running low on Chik-Fil-A sauce. But (and isn’t it always after the word: But, that things go awry?), we did have plenty of other, uh, similar ingredients. We had honey mustard. We had honey. We had regular mustard. We had BBQ sauce.

First up, the honey mustard. Of an indeterminate age, Pam suggests I try it before just pouring some in. I agree. She tells me to stick out my finger. I do. She squeezes a semi-viscous, watery fluid onto my fingertip. Like an idiot, I don’t put two and two together and my brain takes too long to catch up and scream at me: Honey mustard is thick! Honey mustard is thick! Danger, Will Robinson, danger! And so, I try it.

Let’s just say, we cross the honey mustard out of tonight’s equation, and add honey mustard to the shopping list. That brings up the bottle of Ray’s BBQ sauce. (I think it’s technically Ray’s Famous, but I don’t do BBQ, and whether or not he’s famous doesn’t apply to me.) We throw some of that in. Not bad, but still lacking punch. We need something to counteract the saltiness of the teriyaki. Hence, we move on to Grey Poupon, which I’ve never had in my life. Largely because I don’t do plain mustard, either, but somebody Pam knows wanted her to cook something that required some Grey Poupon, so this stuff is sitting around the fridge, waiting for an unexpecting blind guy to stumble upon it and confuse it with Cheese Whiz.

So, she adds some. Wisk. Mix. Taste.

Hmnnn. Not bad. But still a little salty. Still missing something.

The honey. I can’t tell you if it’s the honey you squirt out of the little bear or not, because I’ve never used honey, either, except a couple of times about 15 years ago in a milkshake because somebody said it was what they added to Steak & Shake milkshakes to make them taste that way. (See a pattern here? Chik-Fil-A sauce. Target brand teriyaki. Cheese Whiz. Steak & Shake. We’re not talking Emeril Lagasse here.)

In goes the honey. In goes some more teriyaki. In goes the corn starch. Onto the stove it goes, with Pam at the controls.

To be fair, when this concoction came out of the pot and she poured it into a Rubbermaid container for me (because I planned to put the leftover sauce in the fridge til next week), the stuff tasted great. I couldn’t wait to cook up my nuggets and go to town.

Now. My nuggets. I eat Dino Nuggets. You can get ’em at BJs Wholesale, and plenty of other places, I’m sure. I like these because you get a bag of 1400 for about $10.99, they’re reasonably chickeny, and have a lot of breading. I am sure, somewhere along the way, a few necks and beaks are involved in the process, but frankly, I don’t care. These taste good, they’re inexpensive, I get several meals out of 1 box, and while I don’t care about exactly which dinosaurs they’re cut up into (although I suspect I get a lot of pteradactyls), pretty much anything I put them in is good.

Dino Nuggets

Dino Nuggets go great with just about everything.

Under alfredo sauce? Yum. On an almost-kinda-something-like-chicken-tenders salad? Yum. Dipped into Cheese Whiz? You get the picture.

So, I dice up a nugget for Mouse and toss it into her bowl, take my nugget sauce into my office with a big plate of Dino goodness and start eating.

I will admit. I’ve had some food failures before. Once, in a low blood sugar state, I tried pouring some cereal into a bowl and eating it. Only, it wasn’t cereal. Trust me when I tell you, Doritos are not good in milk. (And, they get soggy quick.) I can tell you from experience, do not, I repeat Do Not, try reheating Taco Bell tacos in the microwave with the lettuce on them. Not good. Never grate mozzarella cheese you think smells a little.tangy, unless you run it past your sighted wife, first. Green mold may have a lot of uses. On a 9 inch personal Totinos pizza isn’t one of them.

So, the first few nuggets go down fine. All is well. But then, I notice my diet cherry drink bottle is empty, and go to make more. Total elapsed time? Maybe three minutes. I return to my office to find that closing in on room temperature, my chicken nugget sauce is a solid. And, I do mean solid. No worries, though. Off to the microwave, where like Victor Frankenstein, I resurrect my experimental, not-quite-ready for market glaze, and continue eating. This time, for about 30 seconds.

My wife will attest to this. My phone records? I will post them if anyone questions my account. I had to call Pam to tell her that she needs to re-enable my camera app, or hook me up with a cheap digital camera, because my Dino nugget broke off in the sauce. Folks, the Dino nuggets are a good two inches long and they’re sturdy dipping nuggets. Never in my life had I had one not just come apart, but rip down the middle.

Torn. This wasn’t a flimsy nugget that broke off at the tip, no. This was a fully-formed, well-breaded, somewhat meaty nugget, that had just been rent asunder by my coagulating dipping sauce. How could I not call Pam? (She of www.goldenbrownfoods.com). Not only that. Not only did my nugget get cut in two like the Black Dahlia, the remaining nugget remained
upright in the sauce. Kind of like a boot lost in swamp muck when your foot gets pulled out of it.

I’m astonished. I’m on the phone with Pam, explaining this, when I try and free the remaining half nugget. And what happens?

It. won’t. come. loose. No BS. Ever make Jell-O and forget you didn’t take the spoon out and put it in the fridge? Yep, been there, done that. You know what happens when you try and pull the spoon out? The whole freaking Jell-O starts to peel out.

Well, so does my nugget sauce. I’m not exaggerating. I wish I had been granted my sight back for fifteen seconds, if only to be able to video myself trying to wrest this abandoned half-nugget from the bog in my Rubbermaid bowl. This came out, conforming to the shape of the container. It was, as best I can describe, as blobby as the Blob came out of that meteor before hopping from the stick onto that guy’s arm. I considered letting Mouse have it, in the event we ever need a dental mold of my dog’s choppers.

I was glad that I hadn’t let her lick my finger when I’d dipped it into the sauce after nuking it to check the temperature, because the poor pooch would still be trying to get her mouth open.

The Sauce the Next Morning

The next morning…

I don’t know what, precisely, is to blame for the end result, which is, driveway sealant. Fix A Flat. An Everlasting Teriyaki Gobstopper. I’m serious. John Holmes was never this hard. Pam thinks it may have been the corn starch. If so, I believe the government should fund research into dropping corn starch from airplanes onto terrorists. Or using this stuff to seal them into their caves in the mountains.

My guess is between the honey and the guesswork and the corn starch, we simply put too much goop in one bowl. I like all this stuff, really, I do. And I won’t lie-I did (eventually) free that nugget and ate it. If all goes well, I’ll remain as full as I’ve been for the past 2 hours until my stomach acids eventually break things down. Shouldn’t take any more than 48 or 72 hours. I’ll let’cha know.
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Currently listening to: Seventeen by Ladytron

Observations & Stuff

Haven’t blogged in forever, so just throwin’ some stuff out there.

MH370. Listen, I know families want answers. I would, too. But a freaking
plane went off radar, cut communications, deviated from its flight path and
nose-dived into the drink. There’s no black boxes. No flight data recorder.
Nothing beyond a short transcript of what the pilots said to the tower
before turning everything off. Where the hell do you expect to get any
answers from, folks? I feel sorry for each and every one of you, but this
demanding answers and accusing the government of a cover-up? Really? You’ve
got basically zero to go on. And that’s a whole lot of water to hunt
through. Five miles deep in places. Totally dark down there. Underwater
mountain ranges, trenches, you name it. And you’re pissy because the last
line of the translated flight transcript is a little off??? I know we’re
talking life and death here, but this is like my wife demanding answers
about a missing lighter during one of our parties. Now, she may want
answers, and there may be a bunch of people hunting for the thing, and we
might even have a basic search area narrowed down, but there aren’t going to
be any answers until the damned thing turns up and we find out who put it in
their back pocket instead of their front pocket and walked away with it.
There’s a bunch of countries helping out round the clock. Let them do their
best and hope for results, because searching an ocean is *not* an easy task,
and these people have been doing it for a month straight.

The NCAA. How out of touch am I with college hoops? When it got down to
Kentucky vs. U Conn for the national championship, I rooted for U Conn
because I thought it’d be cool if Jim Calhoun won another title.
Unfortunately, Jim doesn’t coach U Conn any longer, and I didn’t even know.

The Giants. I may actually splurge for the Sunday Ticket for the first time
in 3 years over at my Mom’s, because for the first time in recent memory,
the Giants did a whole lot during free agency and significantly upgraded the
team. Big signings. Splashy signings. If things come together with the new
players, this could be a playoff team. Getting to see all 16 games? Might be
worth it this season.

Writing. Been banging away like a madman on the keyboard for weeks now. Ran
through a set of batteries on Dad’s old keyboard in less than 3 months,
which never happens. I was pretty set on the lineup for Grave Choices, the
new anthology I’ll be releasing in May, and then. And then I got an idea for
a new story, and started writing it. And, that new story became an
all-consuming creative inferno. End result? A 65 page creature story that
blindsided me (har-har)  and will now close out the book. It’s put me up
against the wall time-frame-wise to be done with my final draft, but what
the hell. When the Muse calls, you pick up the phone. Every time.

Freelancing. Couple weeks back, I got the single strangest assignment I’ve
ever gotten in my life. It’s for a magazine that caters to 60somethings.
Yes, it’s a men’s mag. No, I didn’t know it existed until I got the call.
Interracial, cuckolding, grandmother swinger sex. No, I didn’t mistype that.
Oh, and the kicker? “Any chance you could turn this one around in a week?”
Needless to say, professional that I am, I did *not* deny that I’d gotten
the e-mail, took the gig, and met the deadline. Whatever pays the bills,
baby, whatever pays the bills.

Guitar. Broke another string yesterday. Now, this is no surprise, really,
strings don’t last forever. But for a novice like me, who’s used to strings
lasting six months at a clip, this was irritating. Billy, who’s been doing
this professionally for 20+ years, says, “Dude, it happens. We’re playing a
hell of a lot more than we were a couple of months ago.” And this is true.
Still, in my head, I have this misguided belief that strings should only
break when my guitar is in it’s case, and I don’t need it. I should hear a
muffled, Sproing! In the middle of the night, and think, “Oh, better change
that in the morning.” Still, can’t complain. Even though this set only
lasted 2 months, Billy and I (and John, on Tuesday’s) are playing a *lot* of
guitar. Yesterday I picked up a song I had never played before, and in one
run-thru not only nailed it, but nailed the dynamics as well. Last week, I
hit 30 on my ‘Playable songs’ list. Truth be told, never thought I’d get
here. Tried learning several times during my life, back when I had sight,
and could never do it. Now? Thanks to Billy, I can hold my own at any
backyard party for a good 3 hours. Not bad for a year and a half.

Gas. Hey, all my liberal friends. You ignored it last time I mentioned how
you all went into hiding when Obama took over for Bush and gas prices didn’t
return to ‘normal.’ Yesterday we paid $3.71 for gas, and we sure as hell
weren’t buying premium. Please tell me, again, folks, how gas prices being
double what they were under Bush is Bush paying off big oil.after 6 years.
C’mon, I’ll wait. I’m reminded of Simon & Garfunkel every time I go to the
pump, because all I hear out of the same people (as well as the media) is
the sounds of silence when it comes to gas prices, when newscasters were all
but apoplectic on-air when gas first hit $2.50 a gallon under the last guy.
Where’s the outrage now, huh?

Movies. I’m sitting on a pair of free passes to our favorite Regal. Me? I’m
thinking Godzilla, opening weekend, maybe the last show on Sunday night so I
don’t have to deal with the Friday and Saturday crowd. I don’t care what
people say, the trailer sounds fun, and the Godzilla roar isn’t a
disappointment. My nephews say from the trailer that Godzilla looks like
Godzilla, the big, rubbery, loveable Godzilla. Might just circle that date.
Who’s with me?

String Trauma

Setting up a green screen

Billy and I set up for the room for the shoot

The last 2 days’ve been outrageously hectic. Spent Monday practicing at Billy’s, then getting things ready for a Tuesday night shoot for a client. Most of the day was spent prepping. We’d originally planned to shoot this at the bar, but I went into the hospital that week, so yesterday we rigged up my place. Green screen, 3 cameras, Peavy sound system, multiple vintage guitars, the works.

I’m not sure how the final sound mix’ll be because we didn’t have the attachment to record straight from the board, but oh well, you live and learn. We’re planning a 2nd shoot to record a 1979 track I’m very fond of, so if things didn’t come out 100% last night? So be it. We’ll have the attachment by then and will run right out of the board and just sync the footage. Simple.

My fingers are, no BS, bloody. Bad enough I chew my nails down to nothing (habit formed from years of wearing hockey gloves), but after 3+ hours on Monday afternoon, another hour at home late Monday night, 4+ hours and multiple takes of the same songs over and over? Yikes. I may use one of the nicest strings on the market (Elixir ultra light 10s), but if you’re only an intermediate player who doesn’t gig and is just learning new songs to play in the backyard or at the beach? Almost 9 hours in a 24 hour span is not your usual routine.

Testing the microphone

Billy testing the mic.

Doesn’t matter. Fingers hurt, it’s uncomfortable just getting thru the blog, but we had a freaking blast. John busted out his ’74 Rickenbacker. Billy brought over his rarely-played ’68 Fender Jaguar and his ’70s era Ovation electric/acoustic. Me? I was playing my Epiphone, but will be using a friend’s ’77 Aria for what we’ll be shooting in May.

After we wrapped up the songs for the client, we just did our usual Tuesday night thing. Played just about every song in my tab book, and Pam got a ton of extra footage. What was cool was that she hears me in my office, practicing, but never really hears the final product. During practice I rarely play through songs beginning to end, and I do not sing. So, she hears me working on trouble spots over and over, hears me trying different strum patterns, hears me working on new cords, etc. But full songs? Not too much. Last night, she heard me play, easily, 20 songs beginning to end, with two ultratalented pro musicians, and heard me hold my own. I don’t give a damn what comes out sound-wise, last night was worth it if only for the chance to get things right and for her to actually hear me play.

Here’s some pics from the prep and shoot. The skulls and bats on my Epiphone are courtesy of Scott Bishop, who does private work. If you want something that weighs virtually nothing which you can affix to your guitar permanently for a reasonable price, drop me a line. If you have a custom band logo or something, I’ll put you in touch with Scott and he can tell you if it’s something he can do, but as you can see, he’s pretty damned good.

Jamming

Jamming

John on Bass

John – a master on the bass.

Currently listening to: What else? Last night’s raw footage.

Stuck In the 99%

Had a discussion online with somebody who couldn’t understand why I’m not more up in arms over the whole wealth-distribution gap.

“You know,” he said, as if this was some sort of challenge. “You’re a ninety-nine percenter, too!”

To which I replied, “Yeah, I am. But I don’t see why I should be pissed off at everyone who makes enough to be in that top-earning 1%.”

And this, I think, is why, as somebody who falls quite squarely into the 99%, it feels kinda lonely being one of the few who don’t hold it against the megarich for being wealthy.

First, it isn’t even the megarich when it comes to this whole income inequality BS. Remember, that figure that draws the line between the 1% and the rest of us? Is only around $345,000. And yeah, $345K is a pretty good income. But I don’t see any reason to bitch about it. Do I feel bad about not being upwards of that 99% line? No. Sure, I’d love to hit it big with a book or movie and pull in six or seven figures a year, but I’m not standing in solidarity with any college kid who wants to tell me that we somehow deserve more just because some have done very, very well. Personally, I don’t find anything unfair about some people having a ton of dough, and most people not having gold bricks in their safety deposit boxes. So long as you earned it? Good for you.

Listen, if you’re toiling at a dead end job and you’re angry about no chance for advancement and you’re bitter about where you are in life, go change it. Don’t tell me you can’t or it’s impossible or that just because APPLE has a zillion dollars and you don’t that somehow that translates into the rich holding you back/holding you down.

You know what I do? I make money out of nothing. No joke. I literally take zilch and turn it into money. Great money? On occasion. Right now? Definitely 99%er money. But I do it, using my imagination and skills I honed that cost me absolutely nothing. Writing fiction is like spinning straw into gold, but without any start-up straw and no wheel. I worked from a very early age learning what I could about writing because it was what I loved and I wanted to do it as a professional. I read books I took out of the library. I listened to authors on TV. I paid attention in English classes in high school and college. And, I wrote. I probably killed a thousand trees growing up writing and writing and writing my horror stories, typing them up on an old Smith Corona and piling up reams of paper. I got good enough to get a good job. I got good enough that people contacted me to write for them. I went blind, and still, people contact me to write for them.

No one really pays writers terribly well. I knew that all the way back in tenth grade. Some guys get famous, make a ton of dough doing the very same thing I do. And, I’m not jealous. I say, “Good for them.” I don’t look at the Stephen Kings of the world or the J. K. Rowlings and stand out on the street in an Occupy,  protest and bitch and moan about why they have millions and I’m not getting a big enough piece of the pie. That’s one of the reasons I don’t pay much attention to Occupy, even though I’m in the same boat. I don’t have a helluva lot of opportunities because of the way the cards were dealt. And still, I say, “So?”

If you don’t want to work at McDonald’s, and you believe that for some reason, big corporations should all pay you better? That sounds like whining to me. Sounds like jealousy. If you want to be well paid, then develop a skill that people want to pay for, or do something outside the box that can make you better money. If my next door neighbor starts up a software company out of his garage, or comes up with the next Facebook, or puts together some buddies and they become the next U2? Good. I’ll give him the thumbs up for making it big. I’m certainly not going to bitch and moan if I get offered a job to work for his company at minimum wage, just because he became a gajillionaire. He did, I didn’t. He wants to pay his employees a low wage? Fine by me. As far as I’m concerned, he can pay his employees whatever he wants. He made it to where he got, it’s up to him how he either keeps what he’s got, grows what he’s got, or loses what he’s got. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to hear any complaints about income inequality when it comes to that guy, to the folks behind MicroSoft, the folks behind McDonald’s, movie stars, musicians, etc. If you don’t want to work at a job where you feel the pay is unfair? Cool. Apply elsewhere. Apply everywhere you can, where  your skills may be better appreciated. But if you don’t find work that pays what you want or think you deserve? Well, I’m not with you when you take to the streets and whine about the rich getting richer and there being a bigger gap between the 99% and the 1%.

I don’t believe people with money owe you, or me, or the average job applicant a damned thing. They have jobs they need filled, and they have the money to pay. If you need one of those jobs and think because the company does great you should start out making better money? Take a hike. Go build your own business, and pay everybody what you think is fair, and see  how far you get. If you succeed? I’ll give you a thumbs up, too. If you become a 1%er? Awesome. Maybe your business model will catch on, and all the Occupy kids’ll come to you for
high-paying entry-level jobs and you can take ’em all in. Don’t think I won’t be rooting for you. I will. But just keep me posted on how that works out.

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Currently listening to: Some huge megaband who I don’t hold it against them for being in the 1%.

Kickoff

So, today marks another trip around the sun for me. Was thinking last night, because a friend’s great Aunt passed away just a few days ago—age 96. I mentioned, “Heck, wouldn’t mind signing that contract tomorrow.”

Four and a half decades in the books, and I know I’m not gonna hit 90. I don’t mind shooting for it, though, because that wouldn’t be a bad run. Of course, when you think about putting that first 45 behind you, you start thinking about what you could’ve done different, could’ve done better, the best (and worst) decisions you made, etc. Weighing it up, I felt pretty good about it. 45 down, and I’ve only got one real regret about how things went. A breakup in college, when I was dumb and immature and just totally screwed things up. My bad, top to bottom. My fault, 100%. Luckily, we became friends again afterward and remain friends today. There, I got lucky, because I really, really blew that one.

You can only get so much right the first time around, something that’s tough to figure out when it’s happening. You can do everything possible to be honorable, something my Dad and Mom instilled in me, and which I feel I’ve lived up to for the most part. Doesn’t mean people won’t lie about you and try and take you down, but the good thing is that the internet came along, and you can pretty much disprove anyone’s lies when you’ve got the goods. You don’t need the courts to settle things like that in most cases, which I’ve come to appreciate. And yes, some folks will still believe anything they read or hear, but…that’s always been the case, and always will be. You’re always going to come across the naïve and gullible, and you can’t cure stupid. But, there’s over six billion people on the planet, so those folks? Why bother with ’em?

Anyway, I’m treating today like I just kicked off the 2nd half. Could be I’m deep in the 3rd, or maybe even the 4th. If so? Oh well, not going to change anything on my part. I’m going to play it out the way I’ve played it thus far. For the win, and as hard as possible. And when the gun goes off?

Well… I’m not opposed to overtime.

Especially if it’s sudden death.

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Currently listening to: “Another Thing Coming” by Judas Priest

A Tale of Two Midnites

Been a rough weekend. Yesterday, Midnite, my big, black cat who’s been my companion for 15+ years, went into the hospital, in truly bad shape. We’ve known for a while he’s been deteriorating. Renal failure. For the past 3 months, we’ve been giving him daily sub-cutaneous IVs to try and keep his kidneys flushed. Best we could hope for was to maintain, keep his quality of life up. Some cats last a while. Some don’t make it for more than a few weeks. We got about three months. This morning, I knew what was coming, but that didn’t help any. By 11, Midnite’s 9th life ran out.

So, Pam and I came home, I shut myself in my office and prepared to do what I usually do when something goes terribly wrong. Throw myself into work, try and turn production into distraction. I wasn’t going to look for another cat. Not today. At the vet’s, I told Pam not to stay in the room with us. One of the few benefits to blindness-I didn’t have to see it. Didn’t make it much better, but so be it. I sent Pam out to the front and told her it was time to start looking at the posts on the bulletin board. It was time for us to save another cat.

But I didn’t expect anything to come of it, and not surprisingly, it didn’t. There were three posts on the board, but no young black cats. So I went home, cleared out my e-mail, and decided to take a look at Craigslist.

Flash back to last October, when my sister and I decided to get my Mom a dog for Xmas. We both spent weeks on Craigslist, looking through possibilities. And every day, there were dozens of cat adoption ads. Day-in, day-out, you couldn’t randomly click on the screen and not hit a cat who needed a forever home.

Today? I scrolled two screens-at least 50 ads-and didn’t see a one. Odd, I was thinking, when I hit the first. I clicked it. The ad was for a black and white cat, a few years old, at a shelter. The person who placed it, hideously, ended the ad (of course, from the cat’s point of view) with the words, “Please come & re-home me, save me.”

Ad for Cat that doesn't exist

SAVE ME…

 

Well, that was enough. A cat needed saving. black and white, which for me was close enough. I dialed.

“The number you have reached is not in service. Please check the number and dial again.”

Oh well, I thought, whoever placed the ad for the shelter mistyped the number. Skip it and move on. Only, I couldn’t. I had the shelter address in the ad.

Save me.

I tried again on my home phone, just to be sure. Same message. I opened up Google and did a search for the shelter. Boom, listing came right up. Same number, though. Really strange, because the page showed it had recently been updated, and you don’t usually have county facilities with the wrong number up for long when you’re desperate to place animals. I called again. Same message.

It had only been a couple of hours. I was a wreck, and I knew it. The number wasn’t going to change, no matter how many times I dialed. But I dialed anyway.

Save me.

I gave up and shut the Google window. But before closing the ad on Boots the cat, I tried one more time. Only, I did it on my cell phone. Which shouldn’t have made a difference. The area code was the same. It was a local exchange. I got the same long delay before the funny ring.

And then, someone picked up. I’d been about to end the call. The woman was nice, asked what I was interested in. I told her Boots, the cat in the Craigslist ad.

“I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have any craigslist ad up today.”

“Uh, I’m reading it right now. It’s how I got your number.”

“Hold on, please,” she says. I hear her start talking to another woman.

Then a keyboard click-clacking. I clearly hear somebody else say, “No.”

“Sir? I’m sorry, but we don’t have any craigslist ad up today. And, we don’t have any cat named Boots.”

“Wait, listen,” I say, and read her the ad. She tsk-tsks.

“That’s our shelter, and that’s our phone number,” she confirms. “But we don’t have a black and white cat named boots. We only have a female black cat here.”

“Oh. Well, can you tell me about that cat?”

“Hold on.” She leaves. I wait. She comes back.

“Okay,” she says. “Black cat, approximately four years old, female. Surrendered because the owner had to move and couldn’t have pets at the new place. All shots, very healthy. Very playful.”

Save me.

“What’s its name?”

“Midnite.”

“Ma’am? I’ll call you back.”

I call Pam into my office. I bring up the craigslist ad. Pam reads it. Says to me that we should take a look if that’s what I want to do.

“That cat doesn’t exist,” I tell her.

“What?”

“Boots doesn’t exist,” I tell her. “Pick up the phone. Dial the number.”

She did, using the home phone. I put it on speaker.

“The number you have dialed is not in service. Please check the number and…”

“Hang up,” I say. Then I ask her to double check the number. Yep, it’s right. She can’t understand it, either. Then I drop the account of the phone call on her. She’s more than taken aback.

“What do you want to do?” she asks. I told her I didn’t know. Because I didn’t. But I had an idea.

Save me.

I called my sister. I needed somebody else to bounce this off of because I couldn’t even make the numbers work in my head. I mean, the utter dearth of cat ads on craigslist. The one ad for a black cat comes up in Naples, about 45 minutes away. Not the local shelter I’d planned on going to sometime later this week. Then the cat in the ad asking to be saved not existing. The number not working on anything but my cell. And the one cat they had that matched my description has the same name as the cat I’d just said good-bye to a few hours ago. I lay this out for my sister, and she agrees. A black cat named Midnite? Not an odds-stretcher by any means. But combined with all the other stuff? No way. An ad for a nonexistent cat leading me to a shelter in another county on a number I can only reach from my personal cell phone, to a cat with the same name. Long, long long shot, according to my sister.

My sentiments exactly.

“Go,” she said. “Just go. You have to take a shot.”

Pam and I pack up Shadow, my surviving feline furball, and go down to meet this critter. And all the way down there, all I can think is, I don’t really believe in signs or omens or stuff like that. I’ve seen and experienced some truly weird stuff in my life, even one or two unexplainable things. But this.

Midnite our New Cat

MEOW

Pictured, is Midnite. On Monday, Pam and I get to go pick her up, micro-chipped, with all her shots, the flea-guard, everything. I don’t think that shelter has ever had an easier placement.

My Mom called later. She felt terrible. She knows how I get when things like this happen. She wanted to know if I was sure about getting another cat. I told her the same thing I tell everyone when talking pets.

“You only get so many chances. You only get so many four legged friends in a lifetime.”

This weekend is Midnite-free for the first time in 15+ years. My loveable rug ornament is gone. A cat I took without hesitating , after my friend Rob told me his grandfather had passed away, and had a black cat. A cat whose first owner had also died. One cat, two owners in a couple of months. This was not a popular cat. No one wanted him.

No one but me. And we spent the last 15+ years together. A third of my life.

I don’t know how everything will go with the new addition to the family. You never can tell with cats. But Shadow and the new Midnite met and did fine, and the dog certainly doesn’t mind cats, so I’m kinda optimistic about the whole thing working out.

If I were an ‘omen’ guy, I’d say it was inevitable. But I’m not.

Today nudged me a little closer, though, to be sure.

Rest well, Midnite. I hope we made you as happy as you made us. Fingers crossed, I’m wrong about the afterlife, and you’ve delivered my message. That’s what I’ll be thinking about when I finally call it a night. Tonight’ll still be rough, but not quite as bad as it could have been.

And there’s one less cat in need of saving.

 

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Currently listening to: “Shake Me” by Cinderella

It’ll be a long day

Dad’s funeral mass is today. Couple of hours from now, in fact. Much like
those final few nights with him in the hospital, it’s been impossible to
sleep, so I’ve been puttering around, trying to get some things done, trying
to eat the time between now and then without really thinking about it much.
Funny, it’s probably been one of my most productive days in the past two
weeks, despite it only being a few hours old. Put in a thousand words on a
new short story for the upcoming anthology-something I haven’t really had
the desire to work on. Think he’d be happy knowing that. Knowing I was
finally getting back to doing something I love, and that I wasn’t just
sitting around being morose, looking up depressing gothic music on YouTube
to listen to while passing the time.

It’s gonna be a long day, no denying that. I’ve had Pam tell just about
everyone I know that I don’t want to hear any condolences when we’re out at
the bar, I don’t want to dwell on that part of it. Well, today’s the mass,
and I don’t have that option. So, we’ll go, we’ll sit through a mass, we’ll
deal with the fact that this priest didn’t know my Dad at all (even though
Dad helped build the church), and we’ll make it through the post-mass
hug/handshake line. Then, we’re going to push all of that aside and go to
Chili’s and have lunch, because that’s what Dad would’ve wanted. The real
send off will be in October, when relatives from out of state can come in,
and when we’re going to do it up right, with food and booze and stories and
laughs and more booze and close friends and the inner-circle and the music
he loved.

I’m gonna try and keep *that* in mind as today unfolds. That the party is
still to come. Maybe it’ll make things easier. Maybe not. I’ll find out soon
enough.

Until then, I’ve got less scary nightmares to deal with, at least, another
couple hundred words worth before I gotta get dressed.

* * * * * * * * * *

Currently listening to: Sic ‘Em on a Chicken by The Zack Brown Band

* * * * * * * * * *

While you’re here, check out my new novel, a mystery/thriller about a series
of gruesome murders in New York City-it’s getting great reviews, so guess I
did something right:

http://tinyurl.com/9a5lalt