Sunday, September 30, 2007

Every coin has two sides...

...and because certain thoughts have been with me constantly in the last few days, I need to write about the other side of trips such as my sojourn in Montana.

It's not as if I don't enjoy them. I did, after all, take the preceding photos for myself as well as all y'all, and it's impossible not to feel pretty damn good when looking at some of the views you've been seeing here.

There were more, of course, but not as nice as those posted or perhaps somewhat repetitious...

Still, the fact remains that all is not as it may seem.

For starters, these trips are excruciatingly short. Montana lasted three days, some 11 hours of which were taken up by flights, sitting in airports, etc. Another 10 or so hours were consumed by "dead" time in the hotel, waiting for things to happen. Add sleep and you can see that time spent doing things was a smaller percentage of the total than it should/could have been.

In fact, all of the photos were taken within a 14-hour period.

The fact that I get there at all is precious, I admit. Even if the budget allowed me to zoom off to Whitefish Lake -- or other neat places I've been -- at will, it definitely would not accommodate the class of lodgings and other amenities I'm used to experiencing on these "business" excursions.

What grinds on me is that I want to revisit those places in a more leisurely manner. At least two -- this corner of Montana and Mallorca -- are places I could see myself living if the Lottery Fairy waved her wand over me.

Each breathtaking scene has behind it the subconscious knowledge that in a moment I will have to beat feet to the next scheduled stop. Some of my colleagues have become blasé about this stuff. I haven't, and won't. Not ever.

I'll say it's better to have seen them briefly than to have stayed home looking at other peoples' pictures and imagining what it would be like to experience them.

But I will also say that for a big kid who is eternally curious about people and the places they live in (or near), and who can be moved by the sight of mountains reflecting in a serene lake, these trips still border on torture in that single specific way.

There is another factor, a sense of semi-derangement brought on specifically by this last trip and someone I met at our lodgings. But I'm not going there; no need to announce publicly -- at least to the handful of people who read this -- that I'm even more of a wacked-out wimp than you think I am.

Overall, I'd rate this trip as a 9.2, very high considering I can only think of maybe three that approached the 10.0 score.

But the better the trip, the more frustration and unhappiness caused by the transitory nature of my visits....

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Montana, the final chapter... least for now, and probably forever.

After taking time to shower of dust and perspiration -- it was considerably warmer than the forecasts said it would be, and my winter jacket remained in my closet the whole time -- we were packed on boats and shipped off to our "farewell" dinner...

Which was held at a home that once belonged to Emilio Estevez*, who was boffo in Repo Man, but now belongs to some fool who is planning to tear it down and build something more worthy of her bank account. The picture is tilted because I shot from this flimsy little floating dock that was a perfect alcoholic-excess simulator...

Dinner was a "first" for me. I have never had steaks fried in 75 lbs. of molten lard, much less impaled on pitchforks as they cooked. The chef was a jolly showman. Damn, they were delicious, and not at all greasy...

And then, after singing an incomprehensible drinking song** fueled by generous shots of akavit, passing up the chance to make "s'mores," and wonderful palaver having nothing at all to do with work, we took one last lingering look at Whitefish Lake...

And then it was time to get some sleep and make the long journey home.

And here I am.

* It was said by the locals that this log house was the place where Emilio bopped Paula Abdul for the first time, before she got her TV gig and went goofy. Can't imagine anyone razing a pad with so distinguished a history....

** And here it is:

Helan går, sjung “hoppfaddirallanlallanlej”
helan går, sjung “hoppfadirallanlej”

Den som inte helan tar
han heller inte halvan får
helan gååååååååår
*klunk* *klunk* *klunk*
(which is where one drinks)
sjung “hoppfadirallanlej”

I first "learned" it back in the days (maybe 18 years ago) when I was happy and could consume vast quantities of akavit without achieving a state of total imbecility..

It's all downhill from...

...the previous entry, visually and (in some cases) literally.

But sometimes, life shows you the pretty stuff and then you have to go one to, well, less-pretty stuff.

I did dig this crumbling barn, located close to a place called Polebridge. No secret as to how it got its name: Montana has wood a-plenty, and in older days, the bridge crossing a creek nearby was made of poles...

But as we drove through what seemed interminable forest, in some stretches very surreal with a combination of fresh growth and trees burned during a major fire in 1990, we could count on passing lakes. There seemed to be almost as many lakes as trees...

And there were tricky bits of road. This doesn't show how steep the descent from my view to the bottom was. Of course trying to drive with one hand and hold the camera with the other is not the sign of being the sharpest saw in the toolbox....

In time, it was back to good ol' Whitefish Lake, where the end of the main street was, as it so often is, blocked by a train passing through. I could hear them at all hours, a soothing (to me, anyway) sound...

One more entry and it's all over....

The view got better... our drive took us to the southern edge of Lake McDonald...

And got better still when we saw the north end of the lake...

On the shore is the Lake McDonald Lodge, where we stopped for lunch. It's a neat old rustic place (with, I believe, thoroughly modern room prices)...

The Lodge offers bus tours through the park, and has since the 1920s. Its fleet of White buses (from 1936) finally wore out mechanically, so they were rebuilt with modern truck chassis underneath. They still look extremely cool, though...

And we had lunch on the Lodge's beach. The food tasted wonderful. Or maybe it was just the fresh air...

Not through yet....

My own private Montana...

...well, me and maybe 30 other people.

My first look at Whitefish Lake (at least when my camera was handy) was at 6:15 a.m.; I watched the moon set across the lake...

Not long after, we departed our humble abode...

After passing through beautiful downtown Whitefish Lake (which is too artsy, craftsy and yuppified for me)...

We took backroads through Glacier National Park...

Not terribly photogenic, unless you want to take close-up pics of Fall colors, but sometimes through the gaps, you could see interesting sights...

Stay tuned for more later.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cheated death again...

...but having just staggered through the door after flying back from Whitefish Lake, Montana -- via Salt Lake City -- I'm too tired to sort photos and make with the full report tonight.

So I'll provide a "teaser" of sorts, being a bumper sticker handed out by Whitefish Lake's own radio station....

I can also report that when I watched local TV (Kalispell, Butte, I don't know) this morning while packing, one of the newsreaders was wearing a deflated football on his head in honor of the local college team....

But I'm absolutely wiped out now, so pics and stories later....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Suicide moths!

So I'm sitting here working, and I hear a strange rattling noise coming from my halogen floor lamp.

Suddenly, the rattling stops and there's smoke. A moth has flown into the lamp and immolated himself on the incredibly hot light bulb.

How I wish my cheap-ass landlord would get the new window screens I -- and several other tenants -- have been awaiting for two months!

I can tell you one thing about moths: the little sumbitches really stink up a room when they burn, baby.

Today starts to wind down... I have nothing more to do than laundry, dishwashing and writing left to wrap up before bedtime.

I came home a few minutes ago and realized I smell like burning tires. Michelins, for those of you with sensitive noses. So I will spend as much time on this as possible before I can't stand myself and rush for the shower.

The photo shoot went well. I gave D. some of the best photos he has done in some time. I also scared myself witless three or four times, and feel a little tired.

But the best thing is that I solved the Airport Parking Crisis. With the help of a rep from a company that historically has gone the extra mile for me when necessary. Thanks to them, the expensive wheels stay home, D. drives me to the airport early in the morning, and another car will be waiting for me there when I return Friday afternoon.

I don't know if my pathetic whiny recounting of what crawling home from LAX on bloody hands and knees would do to me had any effect. I suspect it is simply that they like dealing with me, find my reviews of their products fair, and are willing to bend a rule to help out in a pinch. The call was made in sheer desperation, and I would not have been offended if they couldn't help.

I like them, too. It's a near-perfect relationship: they are nice to me, and I am fair -- and nice -- to them.

It is very possible that I will be grouchy again in a couple of hours. I still have to write 500 words, do some editing and send off the article I started this morning, see about dishes and laundry and pack.

I can always sleep on the plane....

Status report.


With myself and numerous others.

Behind schedule.

Nothing new. I can't fit all that needs doing into the remaining hours before my flight tomorrow anyway.


Trying to write an article for which there are almost no sources of information. As of now, it reads as if I'm sticking in words to fill the space. As of 10 minutes ago, I found some obscure crap information to include, so I may finish it -- must be done today -- without it coming off as total tripe. Still, it's going to be a late night.


About to go pick up photographer D. so we can do this afternoon's shoot. Not in the mood to even see or talk to him, but I have no choice.


No alternative but to leave car at airport tomorrow. Don't like doing that.

Not in the mood.

Don't feel like doing what I have to do for the photos. Not really sharp enough, reflexes-wise, today.


Yeah, yeah, blah blah blah. You've heard that over and over....


Times like this make my premonition-generator work overtime. With so much bad stuff going down, surely there will be some other fly in the ointment swooping in for the attack before I get through with everything.

Out of here.

Maybe more tonight.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I was going to write...

...another screed tonight. My mood has not lifted, even though a neighbor gave me a plate with some of the tastiest brisket, mashed 'taters and fresh tomatoes I've had in years. Half is still left for tomorrow....

Of course I did a small favor for her husband, who is in the Army. He is fascinated by my "job," and sometimes likes an up-close look at what I might be working with. Today was one of those days. So I let him play with the current toy -- under damn close supervision, you dig -- and, a few moments after he left with a big smile, his wife came by with the plate of tasty foodstuffs.

Everything else remains more or less as before, which is crappy.

Worse, when the shit-storm hits, it brings other unhappy things to mind. The snake of depression eats its own tail, so to speak.

I thought about pitching a rant about Mad Mahmoud, but my thoughts are not sufficiently well-ordered to do it. I watched his speech today, and all I can think of at the moment is this: though I'm relatively nonviolent, I wouldn't mind simply decking the slimy runt.

But I'm self-absorbed tonight. In 48 hours I'll be in Montana. Or under sedation.

One thing I can count on... that I can't count on anything.

When I wrote about the impending trip last night, I figured I had everything pretty much under control. I had a rough schedule in mind, with lots o' extra time to get everything done.

How wrong I was....

I finished up an article last night intending to give it a fast read this morning and send it off. I was tired, and my eyes were blurring when I saved it.

After waking up at an ungodly hour today -- well, I consider 3:45 am ungodly -- I grabbed my coffee and started reading. In my not-yet-awake state the piece sickened me. It was awful. I was afraid I'd have to scrap it all and start over. Instead, I closed the file and decided to look later, after more coffee and a shower.

The fact that it turned out not to be so bad, and was easily fixed with a few changed words and adjusted sentences, was a relief. But I still had a feeling all would not be well today.

A call from another editor sealed the deal. Tomorrow, instead of haircut and laundry -- and maybe a little writing -- I have to work with D. on a photo session for another story. This involves maybe 100 miles of driving and standing around on a hot mountainside while he shoots. I mean I have to: I need to email the article no later than Monday morning, and D. needs to send a disc of photos before then.

Since I got this gig for D., you might think he'd be grateful and helpful, yes? No. He was supposed to drop me off at the airport Wednesday and pick me up Friday so I didn't have to leave the car I'm driving in a scungy airport lot. Surprise: his girlfriend just decided she wants him to shoot a wedding as a favor (that is, for free) and they will be away Friday.

So the car stays at the airport. That makes me nervous. It would make you nervous to leave an $87,000 ride at the airport, believe me. I'll use one of the private lots (which are safer and more expensive), but it still riles me a bit. D. and I discussed the schedule in detail last Saturday....

My timeline for the week has now been officially shot to hell, and I'm feeling a bit grim about it.

If you, like me, live alone, you're all to aware of how frustrating it can be to have no one who can bail you out when the going gets a bit rough. And you know what it's like to have no one to complain to, or who gives a happy damn abut your suddenly elevated stress level.

All in a day's work, I guess.

But I don't have to like it. And I don't.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The countdown begins... I have two days remaining before leaving for Montana.

I will say I'm somewhat disappointed that I will not be able to extend my visit. Various schedules -- mainly mine -- could not be altered to make a few more days possible. One downside of this is that I have to pack almost as much wintry clothing for two days as I would for four or five. So much for the small bag that held all my needs for Seattle; just in case, winter coat, boots and various thermal undergarments , all somewhat bulky, have to go.

Before settling down on the plane Wednesday morning, I have a lot of small items to deal with, including laundry, a haircut, writing, and on and on.

And I have to call the travel agent. The time differential between arriving and departing flights at Salt Lake City is a nerve-wracking 30 minutes. Granted I'm not flying my least-favorite airline, which hasn't made an on-time arrival since the mid-1930s, but the window between planes is damn small. And my bag is too large to be carry-on luggage....

Don't get me wrong. I am still looking forward to this trip with something approaching glee. I hope I'll be able to see some of the gorgeous area we'll be in. I expect to be repeatedly distracted from what I'm there to do by the scenery.

It should be fun. I love traveling, love flying. It's airports I despise. Well, that and the necessity of actually working when I get to nice places.

Critters... these two I met on my walk this morning, are maybe the best reason for living here.

This one was curious, and ambled over to see what I was doing...

And this one, being a cat, was simply not about to exert himself for anyone else's enjoyment...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

There are things I shouldn't write about...

...and these comments involve two of them, particularly at a time when I'm wondering if I have ever understood (or ever will understand) women.

More and more often -- perhaps because I'm sensitized to it by having been severely bitten -- there are two things many women say and feel that just strike me as plain wrong.

The first we might call "the Security Syndrome," which is totally at odds with the "I am Woman, Strong and Independent, Syndrome." I know damn well I have been ditched by at least two potential Mrs Scribblers because I couldn't hack being sole -- and generous -- support of either a woman alone or a woman plus bambini.

Not that I wouldn't have showered Eastern Girl or "Miss Wonderly" with all the money I could earn. I, like many men, am wired to support those we love, even if it means changing jobs or taking on the late-night second gig as a burrito-wrapper at Taco Bell.

But I didn't buy Microsoft stock when it was first offered, nor have I ever worked for a company with generous stock options. I didn't inherit wealth, either.

Eastern Girl was used to money, and I don't blame her for being uncomfortable with the notion that I might consume more than I contributed. Had the tables been turned, I would not have minded at all, but again, when you don't know how to go from luxury to very modest living, it's difficult to deal with.

"Miss Wonderly" found guys with more coin who could giver her more, in a material sense, than I could.

PARENTHETICAL WHAT'S-LOVE-GOT-TO-DO-WITH-IT NOTE: I refuse to get into the notions of desire and affection. You can't eat or wear either. They mean more, it seems, to monetarily challenged but loving males than they do females with the tools to attract more tangible expressions of affection.

This is all a million miles away from what the same women will say when it suits them. They claim they'll do the live-in-a-cardboard-box gig For Love. As long as they can't trade the Current Guy in for someone who has excessive spondulicks.

But this is only part of what's bugging me. In fact, I can't say I wouldn't roll over on my back and waggle my paws for a wealthy dame, even if not dazzled by her other charms. Somehow, I have never attracted that kind of attention....

The other thing that bugs me is women telling each other that they need various kinds of surgical enhancements to be attractive. Among them, of course, what the late and much-missed Frank Zappa called the "silicone beef-up."

The fact that, when cornered, they blame men for the need to nip, tuck, enhance, increase, is totally irrelevant. Untrue, too.

"Miss Wonderly" was of the opinion I might find her undesirable when I viewed her in a state of deshabille. The problem? Her body carried the normal marks of child-bearing and (sorry!) age.

These had no negative effect on me, as similar "flaws" on other women failed to decrease my desire.

And I told them so, each and every one.

PARENTHETICAL FLASHBACK TO THE EARLY 80s NOTE: There was a time when I photographed a number of women in -- shall we say -- an unclad state for our mutual enjoyment. One who approached me had had a rather spectacular augmentation of her God-given resources. For me, it was a definite turn-off. She was far more attractive with her original small breasts. It was a matter of proportion and -- forgive me -- tactile sensation.

The men with whom I have discussed the concept of female alterations and adjustments have agreed, to a man, that we prefer natural, loving women to rebuilt huntresses out for the kill.

It is entirely possible that the guys with big bucks want physical perfection in return for their investment, but I wouldn't know about that. I don't approve of either men who buy women or women who allow themselves to be bought.

If I were to sum up all this babbling, I'd say that men -- the men I know -- are far more accepting and far less judgmental than too many women.

We don't give a happy damn about breast sizes, wrinkles, scars and sags, when we find the female that makes our hearts sing.

Too often, the women that affect us seem more interested in a ten-inch bank account than a loving, devoted personality.

If you -- especially the women -- wish to disagree, please accept my invitation to diss me, tell me how wrong I am, tell me what a creep I am.

But if you do, please tell me also why a guy who would crawl over broken glass to be with a woman who, flaws and all, he cherishes and, within his limits, would try to protect and care for, is alone on the latest of a thousand Saturday nights, okay?

After all, I -- who loved and would have suffered much to make either Eastern Girl or "Miss Wonderly" (both of whom told me they wanted to be with me) happy, am here by myself, and both of them are enjoying the attentions of others....

So I went for a walk...

...since it was fairly warm today and, not long after midnight, the rain went away leaving behind clouds that have dispersed to the east.

Actually, the walk was uneventful and relatively meaningless, but gave me an excuse to snap a picture of this little guy, who seemed torn between staying with his people and following me home....

It's been a long time since any living thing wanted to follow me home.

When history repeats itself...

...the support of evil is often wrapped in the cloak of "academic freedom."

Slimy as it seems, the welcome being extended by Columbia University to Mad Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is nothing new for that institution. Back in the 1930s, Columbia, and its venerated idiot leader, Nicholas Murray Butler, played footsie with Nazi Germany, too.

Oddly enough, while mass murderers and their lackeys are always welcome at Columbia, patriotic Americans are not. You may recall that Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minutemen anti-open-borders group, was invited to speak but was summarily cut off by the antics of students and outside protesters who chose to engage in violent behavior instead of respecting the "academic freedom" that the university president yammers on about.

I have no doubt at all that any students who choose to engage in peaceful protest of Mad Mahmoud's visit will face expulsion and/or arrest. After all, hose who attacked Gilchrist faced a semi-stern finger-wagging from the university administration.

But then, Gilchrist was foolish enough to stand in support of the rule of law. Mad Mahmoud, on the other hand, is a leader of the hate-America crowd, who are the darlings of left-wing institutes of "learning" across the country.

Gilchrist was called a "racist" because he favors enforcement of immigration laws. Mad Mahmoud is merely a deliverer of death to Americans and Israelis.

Gotta cut him some slack, I guess. We wouldn't want to compromise lunatic academic freedom, would we?

It rained today...

...SoCal style, which would be considered a modest fall of dew anywhere else this side of the Sahara....

Not enough to make the VW Bus belonging to a neighbor's boyfriend look any better...

What "Vigilante" refers to is beyond me. A rock band, maybe, or a crappy biker bar.

And if you want to know the truth, I don't care.

The anger that comes and goes is building again. It's frustration, really, that feeling that nothing much I do can lead to anything more than another day like the last.

There are people I could hurt, you damn betcha, but that's hardly my goal. The opposite is more my style. And there are others I could inconvenience by not doing my work.

But if a tidal wave were to wash away Where the Ghetto Meets the Sea, only those I have inconvenienced -- and those to whom I owe money -- would notice. And then not for very long.

Being alone and unloved is a real drag, Jim.

Let the rain fall. I enjoy it in good times, and don't mind in bad times.

If only the rain, or something -- anything -- could wash away the bitterness, life would seem more tolerable. Even if it meant lurching around in a miserable VW Bus.

Good night, Miss Wonderly, wherever you are tonight. You had a far more profound effect on me than you could ever know.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Listen up, peeps!

And this means you!

Well, maybe not you, 'cos you're a good person and would never need this service.

Those crafty Brits, showing the true Al Gore spirit, have come up with a way for all you promise-breakers who can't keep it zipped up to atone for your misdeeds. Click on the link and find out how....

Yes, you can become "cheat-neutral," and enter the world of those whose morals are somewhat more solidly bolted down.

I'm not certain what benefit the cheat-ee gets, but at least they know their philandering love either cares or has enough money to offset the size of his/her "Cheater Footprint."

Some people I know will have to invest far more than the £2.50 fee that covers one act of amatory impropriety. Just sayin'....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

High-altitude weirdness...

...on my trip this week.

I always forget something when I pack, and this time it was reading material. I zipped into a bookstore at LAX and found a copy of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. With only a few moments left before boarding, I grabbed it and ran for the gate.

It seems strange to me that I've never read any of Hammett's books before. My loss. Though there is a definite 1920s feel to his writing style, he had character-defining skills few modern writers can match.

My first shock in the book is something those people who know the "real" me and have read the book can easily guess. They will also know why I don't write about it.

Otherwise, it was an enjoyable and can't-put-it-down read.

At least until I neared the end, and realized that Hammett had penned an eerily accurate portrait of someone I knew and, well, loved. Sometimes still do love.

If I should ever write about her again, I shall call her "Miss Wonderly" or "Brigid O'Shaughnessy." Even though the one I knew never, so far as I know, iced anyone in her life. Otherwise, they are incredibly similar.

At the end, which coincided with our "gradual descent into Los Angeles Airport," I discovered that Hammett, now long-gone, must have anticipated that I would read his book 78 years after it was first published.

That too, must remain a mystery.

Next, I'll track down a copy of The Thin Man. I don't expect to have it affect me so deeply in odd ways; though I love martinis, I am neither rich nor sophisticated. And I do not, alas, have a lovely wife/partner named Nora. Or named anything else, for that matter.

What the hell is going on?

A couple of days ago, I wrote about a column in the Columbia University student newspaper by a young "smart" woman who seemed confused by the notion that her brother would have to serve in the Navy after attending the U.S. Naval Academy.

She may actually be the smartest person at the school.

Columbia's president has announced that the school is inviting Mahmud Ahmadinejad to speak there next Monday. The schmuck would probably invite Adolf Hitler or Joe Stalin to speak if either were still around. All in the name of "academic freedom," of course.

And Mad Mahmoud wants to drop in at Ground Zero to see the handiwork of his cohorts at the ex-World Trade Center, too. He claims to want to lay a wreath. Probably in honor of the 19 thugs who hijacked airplanes on 9/11/01.

Fortunately, his request to go there was denied, though there is talk he may try anyway. If he does, he'll get federal protection.

All this because we let any worthless murdering tyrant loose in NYC because their countries belong to the United Nations.

I'll bet that pathetic, senile old hack Jimmuh Carter would like to go along to the WTC site with Mahmoud. He certainly thinks highly of the Iranians, and anyone else who wants to destroy Israel.

Most likely, there will be plenty of New Yorkers on scene to give Ahmadinejad a polite, lawful version of the reception he so richly deserves.

For two days, I didn't hear any news. It wasn't long enough.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back at my desk...

...after two strenuous but mainly enjoyable days in Seattle.

Left the place at 4;00 am Tuesday, arrived in Seattle at 9:15 and, with others on the trip was bundled into a car for a lot of driving. I had forgotten that there is no direct connection between any two points in the Seattle area. But we cheated death again, and had a wonderful dinner at a frou-frou restaurant near the W Hotel, followed by the well-lubricated gathering of information I will never be able to print.

This morning started at 6:00 am, and after breakfast and a short drive we spent the rest of the day -- at least until 1:00 pm -- at a familiar "campus" in nearby Redmond. Interesting information, and even the security guards there look like geeks....

Did I take pictures? Not to speak of. I promise more from Montana.

I did get to see Mt Rainier through the clouds during the incoming flight...

This was the closest I got to the Space Needle...

Pig-painting has spread to Seattle. This one's outside a bar...

Didn't notice where the merry-go-pig was...

I thought I saw a green pig in front of a Starbucks, but couldn't get a picture.

I am tired, and should sleep well tonight.

Monday, September 17, 2007

No one promised me...

...the moon and the stars (not lately, that is)...

...but a nice company did buy me a ticket to Seattle for tomorrow, and despite the fact that I have to get up at 3:00 am to make it on the plane, I'm more-or-less ready.

Except for most of a night's sleep and the usual last minute throw-clothes-in-bag bit.

It's a measure of tough financial times in "my" industry that they didn't fly me up tonight for tomorrow's program. Ten years ago, that would have been the norm.

I'm not complaining; I'm a big boy. About some things, anyway.

And all it will cost me is leaving a car in the cheapo lot at the airport for two days. Not so bad.

Ordinarily, I'd be grousing about not having enough time to relax and enjoy my strange surroundings, but I lived in Seattle long ago, and my interest in sightseeing is minimal.

I should be back Wednesday night.

Hasta la vista, fellow babies....

PARENTHETICAL BELABORING-THE-OBVIOUS NOTE: If you don't already know, clicking on the image will bring up a full-screen version. Then you can see at least two stars. More if your monitor's dusty....

Kollege makes you...

...really intellijunt brite smart.

Consider the case of one Idris Lepple, a Barnard College senior majoring in political science. She wrote an opinion piece for the Columbia College newspaper moaning about her brother's decision to attend the U.S. Naval Academy without somehow figuring out that his free education would require him to actually serve in the Navy! The message didn't get through to his family either, including the "really smart" Ms Lepple.

But let's let her tell the story, with a little editorial help from me:

I know why I chose Columbia:...I could look at a stranger, tell him or her that I went to Columbia, and hear the predictable, “Wow, you must be smart.”

When my brother was getting ready to go to the Naval Academy, everyone ooohed and awed* about how brave he was. Aunts and uncles would say, “John, you must be one of thousands of kids who wanted to go—you must be so smart!”

Before he left, my family had countless talks about what it might mean to be at an academy. While we knew that someday he would be required to serve, we also were drawn to the top-tier education he was promised to receive....

We were told that [at the] Naval Academy...He would be able to learn history, economics, political science, and even engineering. He would play lacrosse on a nationally ranked team and play the bugle in the marching band. He would have seminars about leadership and selflessness. He would even go to school for free...

Soon that pride turned to anger and fear: after my mom dropped him off at Annapolis, she came home with an acute sense of grief. The only thing she could talk about was how to get him out...she was scared by the extent to which her son had suddenly become the property of the U.S. Navy.

She begged me to call a naval start the out-processing forms for my brother. After leaving countless messages for the lieutenant, he finally called me back, at which point he informed me that my brother would have to go through 13 exit-interviews to be dismissed, including an interview with the head of the Navy**. When I asked him whether this might intimidate him out of leaving, the lieutenant reminded me that my brother had signed an oath legally binding him to the Navy. When I reminded the lieutenant that he had signed that oath after he had been yelled at all day and that his hair had just been shaven off during his first day there, he comforted me that John was not at all forced to sign the oath.

When I looked at the course catalogue, which boasted seminars about leadership and selflessness, they were in fact seminars about weaponry and leading troops into combat. The reality of sending my brother to the Naval Academy began to set in: this was not a school; this was the military. While they boast a first class education, the main goal of this institution was to get my brother “combat ready.” During the first two “induction days,” the head of the Navy openly admitted that their goal was to transform these boys into men who would willingly die defending our country***...When they talked of courage and bravery, they showed a video of a Navy marine**** rounding off an unlimited supply of ammunition. During my brother’s plebe summer (his first summer), he could not talk to us for more than a few minutes once a week for fear that we might unduly influence him.

My brother ended up liking Annapolis and he has decided to stay. While it has been difficult for me to accept that I have a brother in the military*****, I must allow him to pursue whatever path he is drawn toward, and he has admitted to me that he feels called to being there. However, for anyone else out there considering a career in the academy, let it be known: the U.S. Naval Academy is not an elite college; it is first and foremost a branch of the U.S. military and the prestige comes at a big price—it taxes parents, siblings, and participants if they do not understand what they were signing up for******.

Frankly, both Idris and her mother sound like prize idiots. One can only hope the Naval Academy can turn the son/brother into a man. In fact, I'm guessing Ms Lepple could use a good healthy dose of Boot Camp, too.

This kind of politically correct crap burns me up.

* Either Idris or her editors were sloppy here....

** The "Head of the Navy," eh? Are we talking Secretary of Defense here or the Chief of Naval Operations, currently Admiral Mullin?

*** Oooh, how dare they train volunteers to defend their nation?

**** Not "marines," ma'm. Capital-M Marines!

***** "Code Pink" in training, Ms Lepple? How loathsome to have a brother serving his country....

****** A "smart boy" of college age who can't tell the difference between joining the Navy and joining the military? Sheesh....

I don't give a damn...

...about OJ Simpson.

Once a lawless thug, always a lawless thug. He should have been imprisoned a dozen years ago; skating on the most serious of crimes was hardly calculated to make him act like an honest citizen.

What really bugs me today are ongoing miscarriages of justice:

First, of course, is the continuing imprisonment of Ignacio Ramos, Jose Compean and Gil Hernandez. There was a brief flurry of "action" in Congress but that, as with so many other governmental "investigations" of injustice and violations of the law by elected/appointed officials, lasted just long enough for various slimeballs in congress to get their names and faces in the news, and then vanished.

And then there's the continuing subservience of congress and the president to the corrupt Mexican government. Once again, but more quietly this time, congress is preparing to give amnesty to millions of illegals and speed the way for their families. Moreover, another bill being considered will allow illegals who are students to get amnesty and government financial assistance for their schooling. Legal aliens can't do that. And they will be eligible for favorable ("in-state") tuition rates.

The basic question in all this: why are the president and legislators so hot to give lawbreakers preferential treatment? Are they not elected -- and paid -- by citizens?

One can only believe that bribes are flowing. And bribery is a crime.

As if it's at all surprising for the president and members of congress to be involved in shady -- illegal -- dealings.

Hell, I'd be far more willing to see the 20 or so million illegals get to stay if we could deport about 500 shitweasels living in Washington.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The green-eyed monster...

...would be me.

And all because I happen to know -- and be close to -- people who have a major overdose of talent.

My friend R. called me early this afternoon. He just wanted to talk, the usual stuff we indulge in: working out exchanges of music we've collected, women, performers, arrangements, women, influences and general gossip about our somewhat minuscule niche. And women. I can do that for hours, and so can he. A good debate about certain kinds of esoteric musical and technical knowledge can burn up an afternoon.

But when he started describing an instrument he tried out, it occurred to me he had been hired to play a concert on it. So I asked, "dude, when's your program?"

"Oh, in about 10 minutes."

I could have strangled him.

It has been my fate to shepherd performers through the hours and minutes leading up to shows several times, and it is the equivalent of escorting a prisoner to the death chamber. They can be jittery, needy, rude, alternating between a need for solitude and an equally strong desire for someone to make them forget they are about to have the spotlight on them.

When I performed publicly -- and this goes back to the days when I was second trumpet player in my high school band -- I verged on nausea before the curtain went up. No matter how adept you are, how prepared, the Fear is there, waiting.

Not for R., Jim.

If someone tried to talk to me 10 minutes before a show, no telling how I'd react. I might respond with a string of obscenities, tears or simply walk away.

I have known major-league pros who should have been locked in a rubber room before performing. One, whose name all y'all would recognize, tended to shake like a leaf, even though he always had audiences in the palm of his hand.

Conversely, I've met some who were cucumber-cool. I once spent some backstage time with one of the greatest trumpet players ever. We talked -- mostly him asking me about my future plans for playing the horn* -- and then, as the lights went down, he said "yeah, gotta go play now," and walked on stage.

Another was very much an unknown quantity before each show. I chauffeured him to a concert and he was Mr Talkative the whole way, until seconds before showtime. I know there were other occasions when he had to find a certain amount of solace in adult beverages before playing a note.

In fact, the last thing R. said to me before hanging up was "think I'll go have a couple of shots before the concert."

I said, "careful, remember ------ ------," to which he replied "I'm not him."

This is true. R. is better.

As for me: I know if I ever play in public again -- unlikely, but one never knows, do one? -- I'll still need one or more of those little bags the airlines put in seat pouches. I will live in abject fear of someone yelling "where's the hook?"

Can't wait to hear the CD of R.'s show, which he has promised to send along. I know he'll have the audience begging for more.

Me, jealous? You bet!

* In the end, I packed my horn in its case and never picked it up again after my 16th year.

It's that kind of morning...

...foggy and dank...

I suspect the same scene is going on inside my head as well.

The power went off at 4:30 this morning. Apparently there were a number of wires down somewhere nearby. The Water & Power people don't know why; probably chupacabras gnawing on them.

Later, just after I finished resetting all the appliances' clocks and re-recorded my answering machine message, it happened again. Thirty minutes sans power is no fun. Worse, it caught my computer at what must have been an embarrassing moment, as when the power came back on and I restarted it, the thing went through a rather lengthy self-diagnosis routine. All seems well now, and as soon as I have any faith in the power staying on, I'll go through the reset process with everything that got shut down.

After that, I'll take a shower. No fun to be caught in a dark, windowless room whilst performing ablutions.

I know that, now.

If this is what today will be all about, I just may go back to bed and say to hell with it.

From the Buttonwillow truck stop...

...errr, "Travel Center," where gas was less expensive and soft drinks were cheaper than bottled water...

I could use a cup of their supercharged truck-driver coffee right now...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

So I spent the day working...

...and all you get is this lousy photo of a dragonfly...

Actually, I took dozens of photos, but they are all for work so I'm not putting 'em up for a while.

So here are the stats: sunburn (unpleasant, not painful), not enough food, 394 miles total, 28 miles per gallon, heat, dirty air, fatigue.

The gas mileage was my fault. I ran Interstate 5 at 90-plus mph wherever possible, and sometimes faster. I've done the drive more often than I've had hot meals (or so it seems) and the only thing that makes it tolerable is getting it over with.

The destination was as much a hellhole as I feared. But the people I had to deal with were actually nice, and very cooperative. So cooperative, in fact, that my concern about having to a) stay out there tonight or b) make the drive again tomorrow did not materialize.

Won't be a hard story to write, though I have to delay a few days until I make email contact with a couple of fairly important people and get some questions answered.

I was not thrilled when I got home, thanks to fatigue, another day with an empty mailbox -- I lie; there was a bill and a solicitation from the Auto Club -- and my obese neighbor stomping up and down outside my window yammering on her cell phone. She's still at it, and her conversations are damn dull.

One thing that bothers me: I have been immersed in this particular scene -- the event that carried me into the Godforsaken Central Valley -- for many years. In fact, I first made similar (though usually shorter) treks with my father beginning in the late 1950s, and I find my interest slipping away. Not good, as it now forms part of my livelihood.

But what the hell. I now have two whole days to relax before hopping a plane for Seattle.

You have to take your pleasures, pathetic as they are, where you find them, I guess.

North of Mettler, south of Wasco... the place where I'm headed.

Jesus, why didn't I get a job in a hardware store?

Gotta figure two gas stops -- the car has a small tank -- plus lots of dirt and heat. I'll probably be the only guy out there wearing a white dress shirt. Long sleeves, y'know.

The only good thing about it, aside form making a few bucks, is that I won't be sitting here all day. No Howard Roark-style thoughts about dynamiting projects I've done that have been altered by talentless hacks.

Just another day of doing what I do well but have grown to dislike.

And then home, to an empty room. To work, and work some more.

Didn't sleep worth a damn last night.

Oh, well, I'll try to take a photo or two.

Off to the races....

Friday, September 14, 2007

I needed a laff...

...and who would have thought I'd get it from the New York Times?

Today, the NYT ran a story about Business Geniuses who were/are influenced by Ayn Rand.

PARENTHETICAL HERE'S-THE-EVIDENCE THOUGHT: You can find the story here, but y'all probably have to register to read it.


Give me a break.

I first read Rand's thousand-plus page epics at roughly age 17. By the second reading some years later, I realized how shallow and, well, stupid they are.

To begin with, a competent editor could have cut both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged down by hundreds of pages rather easily. The interminable speeches made by the Heroes could be blue-penciled to roughly 10% of the existing word count. Add that to slicing repetitious dialog and repetitive philosophy, and we're talking half-size books.

The characters are drawn in crayon, cartoonish Aryan gods and pathetic losers who couldn't tie their own shoes without help. You can often tell who's who simply by their names: Good Guys have names full of hard consonants -- Howard Roark, Hank Reader, John Galt -- and the pitiful failures have names such as Peter (Petey) Keating and Wesley Mouch. Could there ever be a Hero named Ellsworth Toohey?

And the women: lordy, how could a supposedly strong woman create characters of the stripe of Dagny Taggart -- railroad tycoon who sleeps with three Heroes in succession, one of whom is married? Or think about Dominique Wynand, spoiled daughter of privilege, who sleeps with (and marries) two losers -- after being raped by the Hero -- before the rapist/Hero gets her for good.

If they didn't spout the same babble the Aryan Heroes spew, these babes would be simple gold-diggers. Can't give it up to anyone who isn't successful, you know.

PARENTHETICAL REAL-LIFE THOUGHT: I wonder about some women I know. How many guys do they have to give it up to before they find their Howard Roark or John Galt? Where's the self-respect in that?

It's obvious that Rand had some serious hang-ups, sex-wise. She leaves the impression that she dug it rough, and with a variety of partners....

But enough of sex.

The primary flaw of Rand's "philosophy" is the stunning unreality of it. Work for yourself, p*ss on anyone you can't exploit, and be selfish as hell. The strong survive, and the weak deserve to die.

An Ayn Rand world would have no tax-supported services at all. We'd live in a world of toll roads and private fire departments and the rich would be, as they now are, the privileged class. Everyone else would be dirt. Humanity is a curse word for Rand; she comes damn close to espousing a Hitlerian philosophy while casting snide comments at any form of government that doesn't follow her own party line.

I know Rand has many followers even today -- I've met a few -- but I cannot believe that anyone has the cojones to admit it in public.

One of those mentioned in the NYT story is Alan Greenspan, a long-time Rand devotee.

No wonder our economy is in the toilet.

I'd feel more comfortable with successful people who credit Horatio Alger or John D MacDonald as inspirations. Hell, I'd prefer they followed the teachings of Kurt Vonnegut, Jnr.

Yeah, I'm being as simplistic as Rand, simply because I don't feel like writing a thousand-word rebuttal to her drivel.

But I wouldn't give much credence to an architect who pays no attention to the wishes of his clients or the inventor of an electric motor that draws power out of the air.

I might, however, be tempted by a wealthy babe who likes being roughed up a bit....

The albatross never dies... fact, the sumbitch keeps hanging around, flappin' those wings and doing what nasty birds do.

I find the weather at tomorrow's destination is going to be hotter than expected. Just what I wanted: drive several hundred miles, stand around in the desert sun all day, drive back.

An attempt was made to ease some of the pain. I arranged to get an economical car for the trip -- I was more than willing to trade an enjoyable machine that averages 18 mpg for a somewhat vanilla* car that gets 35 on the highway.

All in readiness, I went to collect it. Turned the key and...nothing. Not a click, a peep, or even a key-in-ignition chime.

A few minutes on the battery charger and all seemed well. All that is left, absent any obvious signs of serious problems, is a nagging concern that at 5:30 am tomorrow I will insert the key and...nothing.

I've been asked for roughly a dozen favors today. I have no qualms about fulfilling most of the wishes -- it's what you do for friends, even at the cost of some time and postage -- but one or two are definitely out. Why Mr Uncooperative? Because I don't much care for making money for someone else with no return beyond a tepid "thank you."

Refusing politely -- especially after worrying my weak-batteried econo-car home through typical creeping traffic (leaving the a/c off as a matter of prudence), finding the usual empty mailbox and already having promised plenty of time to others out of sheer friendliness -- was a bit of a slog. One person had the gall to act hurt that I wouldn't share my sources and information with him.

The sole bright spot of the day was a call this morning from my musician friend R. Talking about music always cheers me up.

Of course I get a little depressed afterward, knowing that I'm stuck with work for the foreseeable future, not making music.

He asked me to burn a CD from my collection for him. It's done, and in the mail.

Gotta be nice to your friends. The real ones are nice to you, too.

But I'm getting damn sick of having this albatross draped around my neck, Jim.

* That's unfair of me, reflective of my disquieted state. The ride in question has long been a favorite, and I even considered buying one at one time. But it ain't no hot rod, lemme tell you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Birthdays make me feel old...

...even when they are someone else's birthdays.

September is the month when the two women who gave me the most -- and took the most away when they split -- were born. At least that brings the me-to-them age ratio back in line (at least until next April).

I sent one a note, the other a card. It's a matter who whose departure left behind more pain....

And what do these female natal days make me think of? Not taking a swan dive out the window, because I'm on the second floor and I'd likely only break a few bones. Nope, it makes me think of a comedian.

Jackie "Moms" Mabley, that's who.

The same twisted high-school teacher who hipped me to the novels of Terry Southern, the songs of Tom Lehrer and the outrageous comedy of Redd Foxx hipped me to Moms. In each instance, the records and books were to be devoured in private; my parents wouldn't have dug what these people were laying down.

Moms was billed as "the funniest woman in show business." She was. She laid 'em in the aisles at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem for many years; she laid 13 year-old me in the aisles at home, too.

What I didn't realize then -- how could I, at that age? -- was that some of her great lines would one day apply to me.

Even more, the two women mentioned above, who share both birth month and first-name initials, are probably thinking of me in the same way Moms thought of her husband, who was apparently some years older:

"If there is one thing in the world I hate, it's an old man. My late husband--God rest his soul--was so old he got out of breath just trying to thread a needle. I told him: 'Honey, you're sick, why don't you take out some insurance?' He said, 'I ain't gonna take out a damn bit. When I die I want it to be a sad day for everybody!'

"I'm telling you, that man was pitiful...He was so old Santa Claus looked like his son. Why he was so old that when his sister died and we went to the funeral, the minister walked over, tapped him on the back and asked: 'How old are you, pops?'...'Ninety-one,' he replied,which prompted the preacher to add: 'No need of you going home then.' And ugly--my, that man was ugly. He was so ugly he hurt my feelings. He had to slip up on a glass of water to get a drink of water. He had a job in a doctor's office standing by the door making people sick. And if you want to make me sick, just show me an old man!

I thought he never would die...I shouldn't talk like that about him though. He dead. They say you shouldn't say nothing about the dead unless you can say something good. He dead. GOOD!"

Damn, Moms, you gotta hurt my feelings, too.

Can't stop laughing with you, though.

Just stopping by... register my disgust with this day. You'd think I would, at long, long last regard unreturned voicemail messages, unexpected changes of plan and other constant annoyances as a mere part of the game.

Somehow, the message never sinks in.

Another trip has been added in the next month's schedule, which in this case will involve a good 700-plus miles of driving to get there and back. Access by air is not real swell.

And, despite my vow to wear a blazer and tie in the hot sun as seldom as possible, I have been asked to play judge at yet another car show. Since the headman is a dear friend who has done more than his share of favors for me, it would have been churlish of me to say "no."

Yeah, I can be a churl, no problem. But I try to keep obnoxious behavior to a minimum. Or at least indulge in it privately.

In fact, I want to be a creep. It's an irresistible impulse when I'm out-of-sorts.

So why don't I just let the bile flow? Simple. It would splash those who don't deserve it, and leave those who have earned a solid dose of creepiness from me unscathed.

As always, the antidote to all this repressed nastiness is unavailable.

Long evening ahead....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

At last...

...I've figured out why this anniversary of 9/11/01 has angered me more than any other.

It's not simply the fact that a mangy slimeball hiding in a cave in Afghanistan still survives to taunt us.

It's not only that many in the media are downplaying the observance in obeisance to politically correct fools who believe we should "get over it."

It finally hit me while I watched Hillary Clinton insulting General David Petraeus during a senate hearing today. In her holier-than-thou, I-am-always-right manner, I finally saw the seeds of our eventual destruction.

Perhaps -- to digress -- some of it may have to do with a biography of Franklin Roosevelt I've been reading, an adulatory piece that elevates him as near sainthood as a Protestant can get.

What struck me is the contrast between the World War II years and the last six years.

No one in congress -- save one deluded and probably senile woman who voted against declaring ourselves in WWII as she did in WW I -- suggested we turn our backs when over a thousand men were killed at Pearl Harbor. They did not ask when we can "bring the troops home," as their modern counterparts do. Those who felt the wrath of senators and representatives in those days were those who did not do enough to speed victory along. When they criticized Roosevelt, it was for his machinations and devious actions taken to suit his sometimes-misguided view of the war.

But our so-called servants today attacked Petraeus not for lack of a will to win. No, they slammed him because he is not the kind of soldier who is as eager to surrender as they are.

And, shamelessly, they piled on him on the anniversary of the day when 2974 people, mainly civilians, died to satisfy the blood lust of a man claiming to act in the name of Islam, an inhuman terrorist who remains the face of evil.

I've said before that I think the invasion of Iraq was the foolish action of an incompetent president. I still believe that.

But the foolishness was not his alone. When his predecessor was in office, most of those who now howl for immediate surrender were clamoring for Saddam Hussein's head. When Bill Clinton lobbed a cruise missile at an Iraqi aspirin factory, they cheered; he was fighting terror.

In his own way, I suppose, he was. He was fighting his own terror at the prospect of impeachment.

If any of the pathetic excuses for human beings in congress had asked Petraeus "how can we get this won and over with?" my respect for them would be boundless. Instead, they all asked how quickly we can run away.

Such military geniuses as Hillary, Barbara Boxer, Barack Hussein Obama and Joe Biden lectured a four-star general on how the military should be run. All seem to believe our brave soldiers, sailors and fliers should be sacrificed, along with the next round of civilians who perish in another terrorist attack, in the name of "peace."

Nancy Pelosi and -- in a truly traitorous act -- Dennis Kucinich have prostrated themselves in front of the Syrian ruler, as despicable a terrorist as can be found in the Middle East.

What I want to know, and what the knaves in congress should want to know, is this: how do we make the world as safe as possible from maniacal terrorists?

If it takes reducing certain areas in the Middle East to flat plains of glass and rubble, so be it. If it takes putting pressure on the Saudi leadership, a duplicitous and arrogant bunch of oil-rich peasants, so be it.

But we must not allow evil to make us cower. And we have the weapons to bring those who wish to destroy us to rapid submission. Conventional weapons, mind you.

Instead, we -- including Bush -- tremble in fear whenever anyone in the world doesn't like us. So we spend our money, and sacrifice our military, to attempt to make Iraq as clean and happy as California. Which it never will be.

Do you honestly believe that if President Hillary got mad at someone, she would hesitate to rush troops into harm's way? I don't. Her hatred for the military is on record; so is her hatred for anyone who doesn't accept her every thought as Holy Writ.

I don't mean to pick on Democrats only, though their voices are most strident in calling for surrender. The culture of defeat, of caving to pressure, of political correctness in the face of genuine threats, has permeated Washington.

At this end of this 9/11 anniversary, we are in greater danger than ever. And most of it comes from the enemy within.

What unspeakable attack has to happen, how many innocents here need to die, before we wake up?

Tuesday, September 11...

...and I remember the way it was six years ago.

Too many people choose not to remember. Of course many of the images we watched on live television that day have been edited, suppressed as "too graphic," "disturbing" or "inflammatory." What we are left with, at least officially, are scenes of collapsing buildings. The humans lost, too tiny to see in the most-replayed videos, don't matter much today to those in power and those who wish to forget and appease.

In the early days after the attacks, I felt pride as well as horror. It seemed our nation would unite, and would retaliate against an act of war. That act of war was supported by some nations we officially consider "friends."

They will never be punished for their roles. Even those organizations and individuals directly responsible are, by and large, not suffering.

Instead, we have a failed president who appears to have no clear idea of what he is doing, and a Congress full of political-hack lunatics more interested in amassing power and and preening in front of cameras.

The dishonor roll has grown considerably in six years. Where once it held the names of Bin Laden, al Qaeda and some in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, it now includes George Bush, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Joe Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton and a host of despicable Americans who have, frankly, screwed the pooch in a self-serving rush to look important.

Our president and elected officials fill me with disgust.

We bend over backward to assure Muslims we are not mad at any of them when the carnage of 9/11/01 was done in the name of Islam and too many of the "good" Muslims complicity endorse the evil acts of that day and beyond with their silence.

We waste our soldiers and our money to Iraq in a war that is both pointless and endless. Saddam Hussein was indeed evil incarnate, but neither the time nor the motives were right to deal with him.

We have a president who is a fool, and a majority of senators and representatives who do not have the best interests and safety of their own people at heart. They are, in fact, a greater danger to this nation than terrorists beyond our borders.

When the next 9/11-style attacks come -- and they will -- we have established a response: rush to place blame on the nearest "demon," posture for television, try to "negotiate," apologize because it's our fault we were attacked, use polling results to determine what to do, and forget that there is an enemy out there who must be met on his terms, and must be defeated.

It is not some fanatic in a cave we must fear. Rather, it is our inability to defend ourselves in a sensible way.

So far as I can see, as long as the current crop of American "leaders" are in power, it will always be so.

And that is a pathetic memorial to 2974 people whose lives were snuffed out by inhuman savages on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Not much in the mood for writin' tonight.

I found out this morning that I get to spend the weekend in none-too-wonderful Central California to get a story. Hot, dusty, ugly, and a long drive each way. This is going to be one of those minimum-wage gigs, as the cheap-ass publisher won't pick up expenses.

Then I can come home and have one day to relax before it's off to Seattle.

Today just didn't work out very well. Photographer D. and I went to take care of another story, and I managed to scare the living bejeebers out of myself while he was taking pictures. My reflexes are getting slow, I guess. That took the shine off the experience, I'd say, and may lead to an interesting story unless I tone down my honest impressions. Which I probably will...I don't really enjoy hurting people's feelings, and in this case it doesn't matter much anyway.

One day I may post a picture of me doing something similar -- and equally, well, nerve-wracking -- many years ago. If D. had actually caught me in the act today, I'd likely show you, even though it was both aggravating and a bit senseless.

Add that to heat, truly foul air where we were, and D. wanting to stop to raw-jaw with a friend (which put us in heavy traffic coming home) and I've damn near had it.

If I had a stuffed toy animal I'd probably kick it.

If someone was here, I'd hope she'd rub my back and take my mind off of today and the upcoming weekend.

But I have neither, so all I can do is sit here thinking grim thoughts.

And that is the story from here.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

This is my journal...

...and if I wanna post of photo of the Goodyear Blimp, I'll do it, you damn betcha...

It flies over most every day when the weather's good. And each time I hear it, I get up and look out the window.

Only a few days before my sister was stricken by an aneurysm, I was invited, thanks to a man who remains a great friend, to take a flight. I took her along, and we had a wonderful afternoon as the only two passengers. The pilot let each of us fly it for a while....

I remember my sister that way. And each time I see the Blimp soaring overhead, I'm grateful that I was able to make one of her last days a carefree aerial tour.


Don't those idiot humans know I want to come in?

If you have a strong stomach...

...there was a treat waiting for you at a Filipino festival in the local park this weekend....

No "Spammobile" for this boy, no sir. I'll wait until the "Weinermobile" or, better, the In-n-Out Burger mobile unit shows up....

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I'm with Leona on this one... far as her leaving 12 million scoots to her dog, that is.

I mean, I never liked the woman. I thought she was simultaneously low-class and arrogant, a perfect example of how wealth can poison one's character. I never found her amusing.

But to those who whine about how her money could have gone to Ending World Hunger, or Curing Diseases, or financing Do-Gooders or spoiling her grandchildren, or any such things, I say: why should it?

I tell you that if I had her money and any of my animals survived me, I would do exactly the same. They would spend the rest of their lives getting the best care millions of dollars could buy.

My Maltese "puppy," Maggie, would occasionally lay teeth on people she didn't like, just like the Helmsley pooch supposedly does. As she was fairly old and didn't have all that many teeth, she never really hurt anyone.

Mainly, she spent her time being my shadow, always ready to play and be entertaining right up until the last day of her 17 years. She was more loving and lovable than a fairly lengthy list of humans who have been in and out of my life.

Would I have given $12 million to ensure her pampered survival? You betcha.

Ditto for Hobbes. But you know that.

Ol' Leona made a lot of enemies. From all I've read, more than a few were in her own family. I'm willing to bet the dog wasn't one of them.

It is said that those who didn't get any bequests are hiring lawyers to snatch the dog's money. I say to hell with 'em. Let them go out and get jobs, like ordinary humans without multimillionaire grandmothers have to do.

I might -- might -- go so far as to say the grand-brats could have what's left after the dog is gone.

No, I take that back. Any leftovers should go to the ASPCA. Screw the bloodsuckers in the family and all the organizations that are salivating over the Helmsley fortune.

May Leona's dog live a long, happy and wealthy life.

A question nobody asked, #23,894...

...has been answered by -- who else? -- the Japanese!

Now all we need to do is figure out a use for the hideously expensive thing...

Friday, September 07, 2007

I love...

...nuh-uh, let's not go there.

I feel the need to say so, though it has been six years or more since I have said so to one, and two-plus years for the other. Neither would care to hear about it now.

Do you have any idea what a drag it is to be unable to express the best, most wonderful emotion of all? I hope not.

It makes you feel alone, is what it does. Alone, and worthless.

And perhaps a bit stupid, since the love is not, and never will be, returned.

Think about that for a moment. Imagine yourself ready to forgive those who have hurt you, ready to offer yourself to those who have forgotten you.

Pretty damn pathetic, no?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Let's bash men some more, shall we?

There's damn little I can read in the New York Times without gagging, but this article in which Michelle Obama talks about ol' Barak Hussein's bedroom habits -- some of them, anyway -- sinks to a new low.

She reveals that he's "snore-y and stinky," and even his kids can't stand to be near him in the mornings. Way to go, Michelle.

I have slept with women who snored, you damn betcha, and some of them were -- at certain times -- more than a little odoriferous. They could outdo me easily in both respects.

But I am too nice to name names.

Women, clearly, do not feel bound by the same constraints. They have to belittle men by giving them unpleasant nicknames and revealing foibles that make them look oafish, goatish, loutish, and sometimes downright unpleasant.

I, for one, and getting fed up with it.

An ex-girlfriend did that to me once, revealing a (very occasional) nocturnal affliction of mine to some friends. It hastened her departure.

I'm sure there are times when Mrs Obama is not the picture of desire or hygiene either, but I am also sure Mr Obama would not be so crude as to make them public.

Granted, I think the man stinks as a politician, but am perfectly willing to ignore his personal habits, one and all. Ditto, by the way, for Hillary Clinton; the mere thought of what she is like in the bedroom -- in any respect -- makes me break out in hives.

I've known women like this. They can be insufferably nasty about men, while making themselves out to be sweet little angels who never put a foot wrong in life.

Damn it, the next time I catch one of them in the act of dissing dudes, I'm going to be very, very tempted to respond in kind.

But I won't. I'm a gentleman. Hell, I'm not even going to say what word first pops into my mind when I think of Michelle Obama. I'll just say I'd hate like hell to be married to her.

Men are not all pigs, not by a long shot. And women are not all the little trod-upon waifs with hearts of gold and permanently magnolia-scented bodies they make themselves out to be.

It's a lesson I wish some women would learn.

But the "Snore-y, stinky" Obama story is perfectly in keeping with the NYT's sleazy editorial policies. I'm sure they wish they could have gotten the wife of a Republican candidate to shoot off her big mouth the same way.

They call me Mr Fussbudget...

...especially at my local supermarket.

I did a major shopping today, and one of the items atop my list was coffee. It's one of the few food items I'm particularly picky about. On my last trip, they were out of my favorite brand; it happens sometimes, and I bought a well-known "gourmet" coffee as a substitute.

Big, bad mistake. The stuff was vile, and there were mornings when I didn't think I could keep it down, much less finish the pot.

So the coffee shelves were the initial stop in today's shopping tour. I was perfectly content to throw away the remainder of the hideous swill I bought last time.

But I noticed the display had been rearranged. Now, there were rows and rows of flavored coffees -- which I consider slightly less acceptable than drinking heated antifreeze -- plus various cans of "custom" coffee blends from the same people whose "Dark Colombian" brew I came so close to physically rejecting more than once.

And my favorite? Not there...

Worse, I was informed that the store had stopped carrying it. Cretins.

So I bought a can of "French Market" -- dark, with added chicory, Looziana-style -- and rushed home to do some research.

I found that Cafe La Llave was not, as I first thought, a Mexican roast, but was based on Cuban coffee; the company that makes it in fact got its start there.

And then I found a source, right here in SoCal, that will ship me the stuff for $0.80 per car more than Von's charged. That's still cheaper than the toxic waste I bought as a substitute.

That will make my buddy happy if he ever makes it out here. I can brew him up a pot of Cafe Cubano, and he can refine the recipe for me.

I started drinking coffee at a late age (roughly 23-24), and didn't start making it at home until I got married. Over the years, I ground beans, quite enjoyed the chicory blends, but didn't really fall in love with the taste of a cup of joe (except for odd occasions in frozen Arctic wastes, France, Italy and during a couple camping trips with a friend who knew how to make it Navy-style) until I got my first shot of Cafe La Llave.

During the glorious days of my transcontinental love, I took a few cans of it back to her place so she could have it ready for me on those early, chilly East Coast mornings. Beat the heck out of anything they had at Grand Union or even Gristede's, let me tell you.

I ordered four cans today, and will have them by the middle of next week. It's been three weeks since I ran out, and I have a serious jones going....

Horoscope speaks truth!

Yes, today's astrological "forecast" is pretty much dead-on....

Aries Mar 21 - Apr 19
Even if you feel great, you still have something to get off your chest. See if you can find someone who's willing to listen for as long as it takes, as it might take more time and energy than you anticipate.

Just think of all the people -- including your very own selves -- who will be relieved to know that you're not being "volunteered" to listen to read about it all. It would take time.

Oddly enough, it's not bad at all. Just a noble-but-pointless set of emotions. I take pride in having them, feel pain because they are essentially meaningless. If the "pointless" and "meaningless" parts of the equation could be removed, it'd be damn nice, and I'd make you all read about it.


...have come in for this month's trips.

Oddly enough, neither trip involves the airlines I discussed with the travel agents. Not my choice; they work for the Big Company, not me.

Seattle -- on airline "A" -- gives me a 7:00 am departure from LA. That's a 3:30 am wake-up call to make sure I am at the gate for boarding. Not my favorite way to start the day, but it makes it much, much more willing to slurp that hideous airline coffee.

Montana is better. Using airline "D," I leave midmorning and stop at Salt Lake City. Having never been to that airport, I'm hoping the terminal is small; I have a very narrow time window to get to the flight for Kalispell.

I bless this travel agency for keeping a file on me. They reserved window seats for both trips. I don't spend that much time taking pictures out the window, but I'm guessing the final approach to Kalispell may be an exception. If not, I wanna look anyway.

I've been doing this stuff for 21 years now, and you'd think I'd eventually get used to air travel. Never have. It's not that I worry about the flights themselves -- though there was one that was fairly hairy -- but spending time in airports is one small step above being stuck in a hospital emergency room.

In fact, once I get on the plane for that final destination and the wheels go up, I'm a happy, relaxed camper.

Especially when the "final destination" is here....

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why they never let me fly B-52s...

...because I was always a Slim Pickens fan...

Damned if I do...

...and damned if I don't.

In the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, "That's life...." That's what people say.

What do I say? Not any too freekin' much tonight, Jim.

If I really opened up, you'd get the words you're too familiar with here: Lonely. Depressed. Angry. Frustrated. In other words, the same old whiny stuff from a weak-kneed shitweasel who just can't seem to cut himself a break. Or entice someone else to engineer a break for him.

So instead, I'll talk about Larry Craig.

No, I won't. I'll let his governor, the ever-popular Butch Otter, worry about him. It's an Idaho thing, and my experience tells me to avoid Idaho and all who inhabit it like the proverbial plague.

Nor will I talk about the 220-pound woman who waddles up and down the alley outside my window yelling into her cell phone. I listened to that for four hours today. Made trying to work just a bit extra-special.

I'm not gonna get into the emptiness of the mailbox, the silence of the telephone or the intense aggravation I feel towards my "profession" and people in general these days.

So many dreams, so little time, so few resources.

If you should see a mushroom cloud rising over Southern California in the next few days, it won't be because the errant nuclear missile-equipped B-52 lobbed one into the men's room of LA City Hall; it'll be because I have finally and irrevocably exploded.

No big loss. What's left can be shoveled over the bluff to feed the few fish that brave our polluted waters to live Where the Ghetto Meets the Sea.

Am I in a bad mood? You damn betcha, buckaroos.

Easily avoided. Easily repairable.

But unlikely to be repaired. That would be asking too much, I guess.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thinking about packing... I have two out-of-town excursions to deal with this month.

Next week, two days in Seattle. I'm somewhat interested in the product I'll be seeing, and the people from the company are just about the best in the business when it comes to dispensing information and being personable after work hours.

There's a computer connection -- justifying Seattle as a location -- and that's the part where my eyes are beginning to glaze over a week in advance. I could go into a long screed about this, but will confine myself to saying that the uses of computer technology being envisaged fill me with...ennui.

Otherwise, I could easy avoid most of the Pacific Northwest and be perfectly happy, thank you. I did my time in Seattle many years ago. This visit will not rekindle pleasant memories.

Two days will be enough.

Two weeks later, I'm off to Montana. Two days will not be enough there, and I am dropping none-too-subtle hints that I might like to hang around a few days to sightsee. No, I'm not trying to get my hosts to come up with extended accommodation or anything of the sort -- though I wouldn't be the first in my field to ask for such a perk, believe me -- but they can render some logistical assistance, for which I would be grateful.

Montana is one of the few states -- Wyoming is another, as is North Dakota -- I have never visited. Well, there is a fourth, but it's not on my must-visit list. Everything I've seen suggests I need to look around, and I can't do that during the program. Not as much as I want, anyway.

At least the flights for these trips are relatively short. And neither requires me to set foot in any United Airlines aircraft. Seattle is a direct flight, and Montana is a one-stop via Denver, I think. I can do that. For short events, a small carry-on bag and a briefcase are all I need.

I needed to get out of here for a while anyway. Neither of these is my ideal choice when it comes to what I'll be doing and where I'll be doing it, but I'll take what I can get.

They might even be fun trips....

So much for loneliness..., despite my best efforts to avoid the cookout/party, my sweet neighbor Sheryl -- who took care of Hobbes every time I had to leave town and became his second-best friend -- called and demanded that I come down and partake of beverages and BBQ.

Ernie did the BBQ, his wife did the macaroni & cheese, his sister did the potato salad, and the tequila and beer came from various places around the building.

At one point, I was asked why I remain alone when I am obviously reasonably fun to be around, and generally a reasonably nice guy.

How do you answer that? I could not tell these good people my heart is many, many miles away, in a place where it is neither acknowledged nor cared about.

But it is so.

Still, the companionship was nice and the food was great.

Sadly, that's not enough.

If it was, I might have paid less attention to the beer and tequila.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A mere 99 degrees... 3:00 this afternoon.

Did windows, cleared out all the crap press materials I no longer need out of the office, cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the place. I also took the last few things that belonged to Hobbes down to the garage -- the scratching post he sometimes slept against but never so much as sank a claw into, the enclosure I built for the litter box, the spread that covered "his" chair in the office, etc.

The last was the bad part. But they may well be used again by another cat one day....

There is still plenty to do, but I finally gave up, after taking a whiff and realizing that I'd gotten, well, gamy.

The party has been going on down by the pool since about 10:30. Screaming kids, loud music. Must be fun.

But taking a shower was more fun.

And that was it, fun-wise, for today.

Because if you cannot spend a holiday with those whom you care about, it's no holiday, Jim.