Sunday, July 25, 2010

McWane Center redux

Yeah, we'd been there once before, but that was awhile ago and it was time to take Griffin and Carlie there again.

The McWane Center 205-714-8300 is a great time for kids of all ages. It makes learning about science fun even if you don't know or don't care about learning science. It's in downtown Birmingham and is quite the deal on price, which those of you who take kids places will appreciate. The tab for me, the Spawn of Rob AND $5 for the parking deck was $22.

Shot some all-right photos while we were there.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Art back to life

FIRST OFF: I hate that I have no photos to show you when I talk about art. It's lame, I know. I would say to use your imagination, although I doubt that very many of you could do it enough to 'see' the art I want brought back to life.

Spent the afternoon with my son and daughter Tuesday. We went and played at the mall near where they live and made the most of the afternoon, as we always do every other Tuesday.

We got some food, played at the arcade, but mostly walked around and looked. My daughter stopped us at a part of the mall I'd never noticed before and stared at the storefront.

"I want to go look at that picture, daddy!" It was a painting, actually, but no matter. What my daughter wants when I am with her, she pretty much gets. So we went inside.

It was an art gallery. Mostly oil paintings and a few sculptures. All were by local artists and everything was for sale. It was completely original, and not all to my taste in art, but we looked at every last bit of it.

A 30-something woman walked up and asked what brought us there. I told her it was because my daughter asked to come in there. The woman was engaging and polite, and quietly told me about the place. Said she was always curious what brought folks in and that was why she asked me. I told her I liked what I'd seen and loved the way they had it displayed. She smiled and said if I saw anything else I liked, to just let her know.

It was around that time I noticed my kids were quiet and behaving, soaking the place in, the way I was. It had been years since I was in a real gallery, which was a nice memory. But something else happens when I get to look at art.

You see, my best friend in the world, Mark Howard, was an artist. He worked in oil paint and got to be quite prolific. His style was a blend of abstract and purely visual depictions of a variety of themes. But only at the very end of his life did he want his art shown and it was only then, did he ever entertain the notion of selling it.

Almost ten years ago, Mark died instantly beside me in my car when we were hit head-on. A few months before it happened, he had made a conscious effort to get his art seen. Even then, he was still self-conscious about the idea of painting for any other reason than feeling like he had to do it. More than once I heard him say that putting a price tag on his work was, "like slapping it in the face." Eventually enough of us told him his art needed to be seen, and he finally listened.

Later in our visit to the gallery Tuesday, a guy struck up a conversation with me about the place. He was its owner, and the husband of the woman who had spoken to me earlier. Like her, he asked what brought us there, and what we liked.

I told him about Mark. Told him as far as I knew, his relatives still have his huge oil paintings on canvas, stored away with nobody getting to see them. The guy said that was too bad, and said he was planning an art show festival throughout the mall in September. I took his business card and handbill, shook his hand, and told him I would be back.

After I dropped off my kids at their mother's house, I kept thinking about Mark's art and that gallery. When I got home 45 miles later, I sat down and emailed his widow about the place. I told her that for some time, I have been wanting to make high-quality photographs of his paintings so I could see them any time I want, and show them off to people I know.

It had been a while since we spoke so I wondered how long it would be until I heard back from her.

She wrote me back a couple of hours later. Said that was great timing! because she had spoken to someone about Mark's art that same day. Said she knew the gallery of which I spoke, and she loved it. Said Mark's 16-year-old son had expressed interest in showing some of his own work there.

She said yes, Mark's paintings are still around and no, no one gets to see them. Said Mark "would have hated that," and that she would be happy to arrange it so I could take the photos I want.

Unless you were kin to him, or knew him well, Mark's art is all you will ever have to get a sense of who he was. I feel like I should have made a move to get his art seen a long time ago, but then his widow said...timing can be a funny thing.

I can't bring my friend back to life, which is a shame, because the world remains a less-interesting place without him in it. But I can help bring his art back to life.

He visits me in dreams once in a while. I wonder if the next time he does, he'll be laughing and shaking his head, saying, "Well shit, Rob, it's about time!! How long were you going to let my stuff stay put-up in daddy's barn?"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pizza payback

I don't know that I've ever had to write a rant blog like this, bear with me.

Spend the early morning talking with guys I know who work for local law enforcement. I have known them for years and run into them around town a good bit but this time we spoke in their official capacity.

For the past couple of weeks at the pizza joint there has been this POS meth-head ordering food and paying with checks that he stole. He burned 5 of our drivers, including me, twice in the same day.

When somebody pays us with a stolen check we have to 'eat' the amount of the check. It comes out of our pockets. It's always been that way but it almost NEVER happens until recently with this one motherfucker.

It started when he wrote some checks that were stolen from a doctor. Got a buddy at work and then a new guy who just started. Then he got me with two checks he stole from his grandmother (with whom the waste of sperm and eggs lives) for a total of $110.

I had delivered to her house before when it was her ordering. I recognized the name and address on the check and that was why I took them both, thinking she had him order food when she was not home.

Then just yesterday, he hit another of our new guys with ANOTHER check he stole from a women who lives a few miles from his grandmother's house. Our store manager, God bless her, knows her job inside and out and knew she was going to catch big-time heat from the store owner over this fucker paying with stolen checks even though it comes out of the drivers' pockets.

After a while yesterday I said, Lisa, fuck this. I know some guys who can take care of this bastard. And called them.

I did not know the deputy who got sent out to take a report for me. But in calling the grandmother's house she told him who her grandson was and that she had no idea her checks were missing. The deputy told her what she needed to do, and when he hung up, told me he went to high school with the fucker who'd been stealing checks and burned us with them.

He had a photo of the guy on his iPhone. Yep, that's him, I said. Then I called the other burned drivers and they said the same thing. This morning we all went down to the cop shop, made the positive ID from the photo lineup, and each of us talked to the investigator in charge. It helped that I have been knowing the investigator for oh, 15 or so years.

He told me there are a total of three police agencies after the fucker, with possibly up to 15 separate charges.

He also told me he had dealt with this piece of shit thief before and the guy had always come clean when pressed. He said he was going to talk to him this afternoon and would keep me updated as the case progressed. But I could still go ahead and swear out a warrant on the fucker if I wanted to.

The word, 'to,' was not quite all the way out of his mouth before I asked where I needed to sign.

Depending on his it goes, stealing the checks will be a misdemeanor charge. (smack) So will forging then (another smack) The act of passing them to me and the other drivers is theft by deception, which will be a felony (SMACK!!!)

I know full well that I will never see my money from this fucker. If he does not confess I will have to go to court and relish telling my story for a judge. If my luck is in, one of the three judges in my county (all of whom I know personally) will be in a pissed-off judicial mood that day and see fit to make an example out of the thieving motherfucker. And even that scenario will take more of my time, which I will never get back.

But I still have been smiling all day, because it felt so very nice to set the wheels in motion for some pizza payback.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gun show weekend fun

Ever since I was a little kid I have always liked going to gun shows. They aren't what they used to be, but remain a guaranteed 'must go' for me after all these years.

Sometimes I am looking to buy. Sometimes I am looking to sell. Sometimes I am just looking. A good gun show is its own little world, full of good deals, things you won't see anywhere else, and a uniquely American oasis of...dare I say, escapism?

Plus the people-watching opportunities at a gun show are quite bountiful.

But enough waxing poetic. Saturday I was in selling mode. I collect, but I've never been one of those collectors who just buys and stashes. Sure, I have some stuff I with which I will never part, but I like for my collection to see the light of say once in a while.

Turned out to be a good day for selling. I had 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter with me so I only took one gun with me. They like going--I always buy toys for them--but it's a bitch carrying more than one military rifle over my shoulder while simultaneously having to hold my little girl's hand and keep her brother within reach of at least my voice.

I did not see hardly any examples of the rifle I brought (a $120 Yugoslav SKS I bought 6 years ago) for sale among vendors and the few I did see, were astronomically priced. Always a good sign!

Right away dealers tried to lowball me. Told them my $300 asking price, which they said was fair but offered me about 60 percent of. I'll keep looking, I said, and kept walking. Other gun show patrons were next, and the offers got better but still not close enough to my price.

A guy (kid really) who I guessed to be about 20 asked if he could check out my rifle, said he'd never seen one like it before. That's a big part of the gun show thing: talking guns, showing off your stuff and shooting the shit (figuratively haha) so I let him look at it.

As I checked him out closer I noticed the sideways ball cap, gold chains and a distinct whiff of patchouli oil?? Plus denim shorts that were half-hanging off his ass with boxer shorts sticking out at the waist. Oh and a hip-hop ringtone on his cell that went off twice while we were talking.

Said he was looking to get something cool-looking and asked how much ammo it held. Ten rounds, I told him, and it's a quick reload. I like the armor-piercing ammo best and right now it's relatively cheap so I can afford to shoot when I like.

"Cool, G!" (yeah he really called me that) "You wanna sell it?"

Nah man, I just bought it.

My kids and I kept walking. I caught a call on my cell phone later, and it was a buddy I've known since college who lives 4.5 hours away. He's an even bigger gun nut than I am: his collection is in the hundreds and dwarfs the couple dozen guns in my closet. Said he was not going to be able to make the show that day, but wanted to bring his 8-year-old son and come visit me and my kids. Said he was going to bring some Russian movies on DVD we could watch while our kids ran amok elsewhere in my house.

I was pumped! I'd not gotten to see him in like 6 months and he was on his way up from an even more rural corner of Alabama than mine, to hang out with me. He doesn't like missing gun shows either but over the years they have served as a great excuse for us to hang out.

By that point my kids were still hanging in there. Bought my son a fancy slingshot with an wrist stabilizer (must a person have a penis to fully appreciate how cool those things are? haha) My daughter got some extremely intricate colored marbles from the table of a old cat who's a gunsmith. Since he retired from his job making military machine guns, he's taken up making decorative glass items. His wife sells that stuff at the table next to him.

My daughter has always loved those fancy marbles. The guy's wife never got around to telling me how much they cost, because all she wanted to talk about was about how beautiful my children were. I ended up just giving her a $5 bill and she let my daughter take all the marbles she could stuff into her pants pockets. And then instructed me to fill up one of the pockets of my jeans with them, too.

We thanked her profusely. The old cat and I talked briefly about the state of the nation's firearms laws and politics as it pertained to our hobby. The kids were getting a bit restless at that point so it was time to start back walking.

I re-shouldered my rifle, backed up and bumped into somebody. Actually, it was somebody who bumped into me: a 6-foot-tall blond woman about my age with legs as long as mine.

Wasn't the first time I'd seen her that day. Earlier she had been walking around with a guy who looked a tad younger than her, and was a good bit shorter than her. He was wearing a camo T-shirt, work boots and looked to have had a wad of tobacco in his mouth.

She'd had that dazed, bored look that you only see on the face of a woman who is being a good sport, going to a gun show she cares nothing about, only because her man was going. We'd made eye contact, smiled as we passed each other, and she'd looked down at my kids.

She apologized for bumping into me, and I said aw no problem, I could be bumped into by a lot worse around here, and it's not every day I get bumped into by a woman who could wear my jeans!

She laughed and said, well, not every day do I see a guy who wears jeans that have a bigger number for the inseam than the waist! Then she looked over her shoulder, looked back at my kids and said, I know those gorgeous children are yours, aren't they?

I was more than pumped. First, I'd made the ballsy jeans remark and she topped me! I probably blushed. Right about that time, the guy she was with came walking back from a table full of deer hunting gear and said he wanted to go look at something else. His girl and I swapped looks one more time, and the kids and I kept walking.

It was about that time I started to not really give a shit anymore about selling the SKS. The kids' queries of, "Is it time to go yet?" became more frequent so I started working our way toward the exit.

Before we made it out, a guy about my age at a dealer's table said hey, man, you want to sell that SKS? I stopped and said, I'll take $250 for it. As he checked it out he said he'd not seen any like it in quite awhile.

I let him take it apart and check the internals. While he did that I talked with an older gent who I figured to be his dad, and noticed a girl who looked to be about 22 behind the table, too. She had the youthful good looks of a country-girl cheerleader type who could either charm any guy she wanted, or kick his ass! haha

The dealer wanted my gun, I could already tell. He started talking about hating selling the one he'd had, because now he wanted to give his daughter one (looking over at the girl described above) He handed it to her and she shouldered it, aimed it at an imaginary target in the rafters, and rubbed her fingers on the metal and wood of the gun as she checked it out.

Guy asked me would I take $200 for it? Nah, I said, I have a good price on it and I don't want to just give it away. Right away a show visitor behind me piped up, well if he won't pay your price, I sure will! THEN the guy I took for the dealer's dad said, well I'll get in line at that price too!

He said, Come on, you can tell she wants it! (looking toward the young girl who must have been his granddaughter) The dealer hung his head and laughingly said, yeah, y'all got me, I see how this is. And gave me $250.

I put the cash in my wallet and thanked him. Started telling the girl about the gun's features (she was already holding it and checking out her new gun) and got about 10 seconds into it before she looked up and said with gleaming eyes, Oh thanks, but I know how these things work! And with one last smile, the kids and I were out of there.

Can't wait until the next gun show weekend.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Changing stations

Even though FM radio is mostly crap nowadays, I still listen. It gives me something to listen to as I'm driving, and once in a while, I hear something I like.

But other times, I hear something that makes me want to change the station even though it's something a song I normally like hearing. Tonight was Pearl Jam, a band I have liked ever since they 'broke' in 1992. One of their songs came on the 'classic rock station' (which is crap because stuff I first heard in my 20s CAN'T be classic rock can it?) but I had to change stations anyway.

The Pearl Jam song made me instantly think of someone once close to me. PJ is her favorite band. As I said, I like that band too, but tonight, I just did not want to hear it. At all.

Are there songs or bands you like that make you want to change stations when you hear them on the radio?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A good sweat for a good cause

Spent the morning and part of the afternoon working up a good June sweat in Dixie. By the time I was done my clothes were soaked but it was for good cause.

Cut the grass at the work first with a push mower. I get paid to do it and it doesn't take that long. Today was the typical cutting and spraying of weed killer on the spots the mower can't get to. (There is not much in life I like less than using a weed-eater grrrr)

After I'd shut off the mower and was spraying Roundup around the building, an incredibly beautiful young woman who works at the salon next door came out and stopped to talk to me. She must have seen me when I'd stripped off my shirt, wadded it up and used it to wipe the streaming sweat from my face and brow.

"Are they making ya work outside in this heat?" she asked, hands on her hips.

I said, "Yeah, but I'm used to it and they pay me for it. And besides, doing it today meant I got to stand here talking to you, so it's all good!"

She grinned, looked away for a second then looked back with her gorgeous smile, batting her eyes. "I'll see ya later Rob."

Ahh. Hell yeah.

From there I went to my parents' house to finish the job I'd started a couple of days ago: a new blueberry bed.

Landscaping and gardening is a passion of mine. Like all other things I am passionate about, I insist on doing it right.

The 90-foot bed used to be blackberries and asparagus but the plants have been played-out for the last few years and overtaken with weeds and undergrowth. I'd already killed that, burned it and tilled up the bed.

Then I'd spread out landscape fabric over the freshly-tilled dirt to keep weeds from coming back ever again, and planted the 7 blueberry plants. They're 'rabbiteye' blueberries, as we call them down here in the South. When ripe they're about as big as, well, a rabbit's eye! haha

Today I rolled out soaker hose (for irrigation) from plant to plant the length of the bed, and put down pine bark mulch on top of the bed. That will make watering easy for my parents.

From here all they will have to do is turn on the water once a week this first year until the plants are established. Then, all they'll have to do in years to come is pick the delicious blueberries.

Like I felt good to work up a good sweat for a good cause. I'll have something to show for it. I'll get money for the grass cutting, and there will be pounds of fresh berries for years and years to come at my parents' house.

The photo of me with the newly-completed blueberry bed is OK. Just too bad I don't have a photo of the girl from the salon smiling at me.

But hey...I always like photos for my blogs...who knows what I might write about next?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Was in need of catharsis a few days ago, and got it. All it took was digging out a music CD from the back seat of my car at work.

It was Soundgarden's Superunknown. I've owned it since it was new (circa 1994) and have listened a whole bunch of times. The CD in the back seat with several others and it just happened to be the first one I grabbed.

Like I said, I know this one well and it had not been that long since the last time I listened. But on track 10, The Day I Tried to Live, something inside me clicked. I wound up listening to it three of four times in a row.

Not sure why. The lyrics are quite dark and don't really speak to my situation (or do they? )

I keep coming back to the one verse:

The words you say never seem to live up to the ones inside your head/The lives we make never seem to get us anywhere but dead.

The vocal performance and music are also dark, but with hints of gleam throughout. Maybe that part fit my mood and that's why I kept re-playing it.

Hell if I know. I do know I felt cleaned-out after the repeated listens. The CD is still in the car stereo. And the song is still stuck in my head!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Signs

I used to be one of those people who thought astrology was...out there. I knew my sign (Pisces) but never thought much about it. Other than, anybody who took astrology seriously was, well...out there.

For about the first half of my life I knew nothing of The Signs other than a weird-looking calendar my grandfather put up every year. For each day it told which sign was in effect: The head, the feet, the loins, the legs, etc. It also had the phase of the moon for each day, complete with the time it rose and set.

I figured out 'The Signs' were what I knew as the Zodiac from reading horoscopes in the paper. Next to the comic strips. I asked him why in the world he had a calendar with the stars and moon positions for each day.

Born in 1913 in Western North Carolina, he told me the signs were useful for planting and harvesting his garden. When he was a kid, the garden was important because it meant you'd have food to eat. He learned what it was like to be hungry during the Depression.

Of course when I asked him about the signs it was the 1970s and he, like most people, bought his food at the grocery store. But he still grew a fairly humongous garden every year and he still used the signs.

Paw said he thought astrology as it pertained to people, such as their birth sign meaning anything, was a bunch of malarkey. Actually I think 'hogwash' was the word he used, and I agreed with him. The very idea, that the moon and stars affect the way people are, the way they think and what they do or should do...

When I was 20, I bought a copy of The Foxfire Book. It told all sorts of things about the way the mountain folk lived, the folk who grew up at the same time as my grandfather. I found out later I was distantly related to some of them.

In addition to how chapters about how to make moonshine, how to build a log cabin, and other 'affairs of plain living,' there was a whole chapter on The Signs. The people interviewed when the book was written used the signs because they knew they worked. Their daily lives and what they did to survive, depended on doing things right. They knew about the signs because the knowledge had been passed down through the generations before them.

The signs were used for other things besides planting. There were signs for just about everything they had to do to live...such as the best time to slaughter a hog, cut and cure meat, preserve vegetables, cutting back undergrowth, making lumber, cutting firewood, hunting, pulling teeth, weaning a baby...and yes, even the best time for lovers. (Leo is the sign for that BTW...funny I remember that one haha)

The part that struck me about that chapter was my realization that, those people didn't believe in the signs because they thought they were cool. They didn't plan important things in life around the signs because they had been convinced or swayed by flaky mysticism or set of myths.

They had kept using the signs because they knew it worked.

I put away that book after I read two or three times through, and thought about it a lot. But I didn't forget what it said.

Fast-forward about 23 years to a string of conversations with a friend about astrology, and her asking me to look up what phase the moon was in on my GPS...when it rose, when it set, whether it was waxing or waning. Of course Paw's calendar and The Foxfire Book was the first thing I thought about.

Then came comments about how people are based on their sign. I remembered her having called me 'a total Pisces,' before, so I finally caved and looked up general info about my sign.

Some of those are kinda general, some make me wonder, and some make me think who the hell has been spying on me.


"Understanding" is a most appropriate keyword for this gentle, affectionate sign. Easygoing and generally accepting of others around them, Pisceans are often found in the company of a variety of different personalities. Their willingness to give of themselves emotionally lends to an aura of quiet empathy. A Pisces is comforting to be around. Although not likely to be the leader, this sign's presence is strong and vibrant for any cause into which they put their hearts.

*sigh* guilty as charged.

Friends and Family

Gentle Pisceans make some of the best friends there are. In fact, they often put the needs of their friends ahead of their own. Loyal, dedicated, supportive, and compassionate, Pisceans will take on any problem. Big or small, when a challenge arises for family or friends, they will be there in every capacity possible to make things better. Deeply intuitive, Pisceans can often sense when something is askew long before anything is said.

Pisceans are expressive by nature and don't hesitate to let those around them know how they feel. It's not surprising for a Pisces to write a song for someone or to buy a gift that is heartfelt and meaningful. They prefer others to be as open with them as they are. Communication with loved ones is considered most important.

Career and Money

Intuitive and often dreamy, Pisces natives are most comfortable in positions that bring their creative natures into humanitarian causes. Some good careers for this sign are lawyer, architect, veterinarian, musician, social worker, and game designer. The key phrase for this sign is "I believe." It's important for the Pisces to feel strongly about personal endeavors.

Yeah. I believe (and care) a little too much for my own good sometimes. Shit, most of the time.

Inspired by the need to make a difference in the lives of those they touch, Pisceans are most charitable and will often go way above and beyond the call of duty. Sensitive, deeply compassionate, hardworking, dedicated, and reliable, this is one sign that really knows how to get to the heart of the matter. They can be excellent problem-solvers.

For the most part, Pisceans don't give Money too much thought. They are more concerned with their dreams and goals than with Money. Yet because this is oftentimes a component to reaching their aspirations, Pisces natives will ensure they have the Money they need. They can be of two minds in this area. On one hand, the Pisces will spend, spend, spend with little thought, and on the other hand, they can become quite miserly. Yet in the end, there will always seem to be enough to do what they want in life.

Love and Sex

Deep within the Piscean beats the heart of the die-hard romantic. Loving, tender, and exceptionally giving, this sign cherishes intimacy deeply. They are passionate lovers that need to feel a real connection with their mates. Quick flings and superficial interludes do not do well with the Piscean whatsoever. In relationships, they are fiercely loyal and doting. They love to give gifts and to make the other person feel like a million bucks. Nothing is too good for the Piscean's love interest!

*sigh* guilty as charged. Again.


Each sign has a part of the anatomy attached to it, making this the area of the body that is most sensitive to stimulation. The anatomical area for Pisces is the feet.

Ruling Planet
The ruling planet for Pisces is Neptune. Considered the planet of intuition, Neptune rules dreams, illusion, music, spirituality, mystery, second sight, intangibles, and the love of poetry.

Pisces is the natural sign of the Twelfth House. This house focuses on limitations, hidden strength, frustrations, and the subconscious mind.

Opposite Sign
The opposite sign for Pisces is Virgo.

Pisces is most compatible with Cancer and Scorpio.

The color of choice for Pisces is sea-green.

The Perfect Gift
Beautiful inspiring colors that make a home more beautiful, a day spent sailing, a romantic starlit dinner, a song or poem from a loved one.

Spiritual themes, time alone, visual media, time to sleep, romance, music, swimming

Absorbing toxic people and situations, cruelty of any kind

Intuitive, compassionate, artistic, gentle, wise, musical

Can be a victim or martyr, fearful, overly trusting, sad, desire to escape reality

Charismatic marks
Soft, sometimes frail to medium build, face easily shows emotion.

Best environment
On or near water, especially the sea. The movie theater.

OK so now that I've inflicted all the many characters on those who made it this far...What do I think about all this astrology stuff?

There's something to it. I can't say I believe it all, but I don't disbelieve it, either. I still don't read my daily horoscope, or consider the sign of a woman in whom I'm interested romantically...but I do have the astrology site bookmarked in case I need it later.

And my grandfather? He's 97 now. And the little company in the mountains still prints those calendars. Next time I see him, I am going to ask again about The Signs. And if he knows anybody who he trusts for an astrological reading.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gulf oil spill

Like a lot of my friends I have been watching news coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after an offshore drilling rig blowout and fire last month. The slick is coming and there is not much anyone can do to stop it from doing what it is going to do when it reaches of hundreds of miles of Gulf shoreline. It's a place many of us know as a place to play, connect with nature, and spend our money having fun. Some of the people who are from there, know it as a place to earn a living.

Worse still, because of the nature of the underwater well and how things went wrong, it might be a couple of months before there is any end to the tragic flow of the same commodity which makes life as we know it possible, that also ends life and changes life as we knew it on the Gulf of Mexico.

Having worked and lived in Valdez Alaska the summer of 1989 it would be easy for me to say the oil company was at fault, and blame them for what happened there 21 years ago. I'd gotten to see the more-or-less pristine Prince William Sound in 1988 and I also got a look at the more-or-less devastated Sound in 1989. I would be easy for me to make now the same snap judgment I made then about Big Oil. It would be the same judgment a lot of people are making right now about what happened the Gulf last month and what is going to happen in the Gulf in the next few weeks.

The way those corporations do business will kill a bunch a wildlife, affect if not wipe out a bunch of livelihoods and cost them a few billion dollars just like it did in Alaska. And it will be written off as a cost of doing business.

However, having aged 21 years since that summer in Alaska and gained perspective in that time, it would be hypocritical of me or anyone else who uses petroleum products not to take some of the blame for what happened there and in the Gulf.

It is a fact that more could have been done to prevent and minimize the rig blowout. It's a tragedy that mankind made happen because of the way our world is built on oil and I've yet to see any assurance whatsoever that anything different will be done anytime soon to stop it from happening again.

That rig in the Gulf was there because the way we live made it necessary and profitable. It's not that far from where I live and I am one of the people who benefited from it being there. The corporation which put it there did it because they knew they could make money off me and a whole lot of people who live the way I do.

Last month I took my kids to see the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in our home state on the Gulf of Mexico (I blogged it just a couple posts down from this one if you want to read about how much fun we had there) The kids had never seen anything like that place, and they LOVED it, but because of the oil spill, they might be my age before they see it again the same way.

I know that just about everybody who's been to a Gulf beach would have no problem telling me how much fun they had there. I know that because I am one of those people. But I wonder how many of those people thought about those same beaches when they spent money to put gasoline they could afford in the car they drove to get there.

That wildlife refuge is a place that was set aside for nature because people tried to do the right thing. Now it's a place will probably be brownish-black next time I see it because people still haven't done the right thing when it comes to Big Oil.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Was slow at work slinging pizza yesterday so I did all the 'store chores' I usually do when it gets like, straightening up, prepping stuff we'll need later, etc.

But it stayed slow and there was nothing left to do but let my mind wander.

I got to thinking about other jobs I've had in the time I've worked. I actively tried to list them off and couldn't do it without writing them down and thinking as I went. Some I liked, a couple I loved, some were just jobs and some just sucked.

Then I thought, hey I can blog this, and turn my reflection while wasting time into a waste of time for others to share! And maybe y'all will tell what all jobs you've had and we can hold hands and skip down the time-wasting trail together! haha

1. Bagboy and stocker at a groery store. Remember when the store bagged AND took out the car the stuff people bought? It was a good first job and I did from the time I was 16 until I started college.

2. Computer lab assistant in college. One day I will tell my kids, yes, computers used to be too expensive and not many people had then. You actually had to go to a room full of them to use one for school and a bunch of people had no idea what they were doing and needed help.

3. Laser printer operator. It was the leviathan Xerox 9900 and the place printed/mailed out bills for big utilities, cable companies, phone companies, etc. That job sucked.

4. Cashier and stocker at a grocery store (in Alaska!) It was third-shift at one of only two stores in town. I already knew the work but the reason I liked it was, it was in a whole other world that I was just experiencing for the first time. Did it all summer, and came back to do it again the next summer.

5. Pizza delivery. I got to pretty much do my own thing and make a wad of cash every night I worked, which I used as college boy rent and having-fun money. Remember this one; you'll see it again.

6. Grocery stocker. One last time and it wasn't nearly as fun doing it at home.

7. Cannery worker. Alaska again. I worked in processing, which meant grueling hours with my hands in cold water, chopping the heads off various types of salmon and ripping membranes and bloodballs out from the inside of them. Heady stuff, huh? It did help that I liked some of the other "fish hippies" I worked with.

8. Dishwasher and prep cook at a hotel restaurant. I took it because it was a NOT a job at the cannery, but man, I grew to love it in a hurry. Learned a hell of a lot about food and how to cook it. I still use the knowledge regularly for my own pleasure, and when I'm lucky, I get to cook for other people at home.

9. Cook at a titty bar. I worked the off nights of the full-time cook. It was cool that I got paid to cook and split money the dancers made off the good old, "buy the girl dinner," scam. It was fun watching the nudity for like, 2 hours the first night I worked, but wound up being without a doubt the most boring job I ever had because it never, ever changed. Same girls, same customers, even the same songs.

10. Night janitor/maintenance gofer/snow shoveler at that same hotel. Not my favorite kind of jobs but at least the hotel gave me work during the Alaska winter. The snow shoveling sucked HARD because the town was on the ocean and got something like 200 inches of snow that season. Sometimes I had to do the doorways and sidewalks twice a night.

11. Pizza delivery. Back home again and one last run at finishing college.

12. Screen technician at a sticker factory. My best buddy worked there and got me hired. In spite of making a couple more friends there, the list of chemicals (most carcinogenic and/or volatile) I had to work with, along with the asshole boss from hell, got to me fast.

13. Landscape laborer. Another job a buddy got for me what was supposed to just be a job. To my surprise I loved learning about plants, staying busy working HARD, and making stuff grow. I use what I leaned there in my yard and garden to this day, and might still be working there had a supervisor not gotten me fired because he was paranoid I was going to rat him out for smoking pot at work.

14. Newspaper reporter. Knew I'd liked writing since high school and was good at it but just sort of wound up being a reporter. Loved everything about it. Soon I got hired away by a bigger paper.

15. Newspaper copy editor. It was formatting wire stories for print, laying out pages, writing headlines and editing the at-times atrocious local news copy handed in by reporters.

16. Newspaper editor. The paper expanded its coverage area and started up a brand new weekly paper to do it. They picked me to get it going and I was proud. I did the whole thing pretty much by myself: wrote the stories, did the pages, edited and editorialized, and shot most of the photos. But in time I grew weary of working like an editor and only getting paid like a reporter.

16. Pizza delivery, briefly.

17. Newspaper reporter. The paper and I had a meeting of the minds and they hired me back. I got my old beat back and this time, got to pretty much cover it as I liked. Many times I wrote about people in my town who I knew.

18. Hospital patient after The Wreck. Not really a job and a pretty shitty way to make money haha but hey I only was there 10 weeks.

19. Stay-at-home daddy. This job I'll always consider myself luckiest to have had and also the one I will always know I really made a difference doing. It wasn't daycare that got to see them learn to walk or talk, or took them places, fed them and cleaned them was me! Only later did I learn that most men couldn't or wouldn't have done it; I never thought twice about it.

20. Pizza delivery. The money's better than ever and so is my attitude about working.

I would like to get back writing again someplace, although the newspaper business probably won't be it since you see more and more of their subscribers in the obits every day. In the meantime blogging is keeping my writing skills on life support haha.

And hell, I might find something else am good at and love doing. Life has been good to me that way.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A trip to the Gulf

It had been awhile since my kids had been to the beach. Since I had them for spring break, it was the perfect time to do something about it! They had asked could we go camping again since i had them for a whole week, and I said sure...just didn't tell them where.

We loaded up the car with our stuff, including my tent, and off we went to Gulf Shores Alabama. It was a Monday and traffic was light so we made good time getting there. The kids kept wondering when we were going to get where we were going, and I told them it would be awhile but we did stop a few times along the way to eat and to just get out of the car.

Once there, I went to the Gulf Shores State Park without a reservation, and was pleased to find there was space available. I'd guess 90 percent of the campers there are the RV and trailer types, but I did see a few other tent campers. Camping there is a bargain, $25 a night and the sites have power and water, and I speedily pitched our tent and we then went to the state pavilion nearby to play in the ocean.

The next morning we went to my all-time favorite beach: Pine Beach in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is 6700 acres on Fort Morgan Road of pristine wilderness--the beach the way the Spaniards found it, as I like to say. It was a 1.25 mile hike from the parking area to the beach getting there, and man, was it worth it.

Imagine 25-foot tall dunes...a beach hundreds of yards wide and miles long with no houses, no hotels, no nothing that nature did not put there. Oh and there were no people the four-plus hours we were there, I guess a Tuesday and the hike took care of that. We did see two wildlife biologists when we left, there to trap, check and study the endangered beach mouse, but they didn't count as people there to go the beach. The refuge is also home and nesting area to three specie of very endangered sea turtles and seldom-seen birds.

Those with children know the kind of fun an 8-year-old boy and 5-year old girl have on a beautiful day at the beach with no people around and nothing in their way, so I don't guess I need to write about that (grin)

By the afternoon they were tired and back to the tent we went, where they voluntarily napped (gasp!) Then it was out to eat seafood and play videos at a fun center (they are still not tall enough to ride the go-karts....awww)

It was time for our second night's sleep in the tent, which we did, soundly. Next morning back north toward home we went to make ready for a trip the North Carolina mountains...but that's another's the beach photos!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Just answer it

Since I have joined the cellular nation, I cut my home phone service down the bare minimum. No area calling plan, no long distance, and no caller ID.

Much to my surprise, not only do I not miss caller ID, I feel like I am better off without it.

I never have gotten that many calls at home--mostly family and telemarketers--but in the time since I 86'd caller ID, getting calls has taken on a new-old wrinkle.

Obviously, now I don't know who's calling before I answer it...which is they way it was when I younger. I used to have a difficult time imagining not having caller ID, but you know what? Now I kind of feel like a chump for having paid $8 a month for it all these years.

It's almost novel when I get a call now. Hmm, who might that be? Guess I'll answer it and find out. And I talk. If it's a telemarketer, I immediately tell them I'm not interested and hang up the phone. And they don't call me any more.

Beats the hell out of sitting there looking at the caller ID, not answering, cussing and fuming, 'Why they hell do they keep calling?'

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gone cellular

A little while ago I got a cell phone. Never had one before.

Until now I did not have one because I did not want one. But I found a deal that has unlimited everything for $50 a month, with no contract, so I said to myself, what the hell...I'll try one of these things out.

Yippee, now I can be one of those assholes driving down the road jabbering in their own little world! With practice, I can yammer on it while at the checkstand of stores, with the cashier waiting to wait on me...AND I might even aspire to whale on text messages while driving and taking my eyes off the road for a several seconds at a time.

Mmm, just think of the whole new insular world that is now open to me...before long I will be unable to remember any phone numbers in my head at all, because I rely on the contacts list!!

But there is no such thing as long distance and I can call whoever I like, whenever I like, wherever they are, with total disregard of a phone bill...might could get used to that.

Like I said, we'll see how this whole 'having a cell phone,' business works out.