Thursday, February 23, 2017

Location, Location, Location

You probably already figured this out, but my blogging efforts have migrated to a new home.

This set of writing, which now somehow includes more than 800 posts, began wayyyyy back in the carefree days of 2005 when I started putting content on MySpace. Yes, MySpace.  Even more miraculously, I kept posting there until the middle of 2009 when I decided to shift over to Blogger.

Google was a good home to me.  It was obviously a huge upgrade from the tools that MySpace offered and the audience was slightly more...existent.

But I recently changed hosting services for my personal website, which then led to me completely redesigning that site.  The old version had a section about the blog, which included a feed of the 10 latest posts, so I figured with easy export/import options for posts it made sense to just bring it all under one roof.  Plus is probably a lot easier to remember or tell people than

So here we are! All of the posts will still live at the Blogger site, but the pictures there are mostly gone and I won't be putting any new content here.  I'm still backfilling the pictures into the posts on the new site, so those will be more and more complete over time (2016 is done).


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Plaid Dan

“I wish you would have worn a different shirt.”

Dan never understood how people could describe themselves as speechless until that moment.  There was nothing wrong with his shirt.  It was plaid and blue and grey and sold by Eddie Bauer.  And the last time he checked this was America where he could where any damn shirt he wanted.  Especially to meet a woman named Cathy for coffee on a Saturday morning.

And what the hell?  They hadn’t been inside Starbucks more than a minute before she said that.  What kind of impression was that to lay on a guy?  It’s not like she showed up in a ball gown, or that he would expect her to.  If anything, he was overdressed for this particular situation, place and time.

“Oh, sorry.”

Why did he just apologize?  What is it about that kind of comment that makes people retreat into apology instead of confronting the originator of the rudeness?  The nerve.

“It’s fine.  Let’s just order,” Cathy said.

He remembered from her profile that she did not consider herself a coffee drinker, except for rare occasions that apparently included today.  Starbucks had been her idea of a meeting place.  And that was fine with Dan.  He loved coffee.

“I’ll have a half-caf Pike, please,” he said to the smiling barista.

“Worried about not being able to sleep tonight?” his date chimed in.

“I just like to not overdo the caffeine.”

“Whatever floats your boat.  Grande mocha for me.”

Whatever floats his boat?!  Dan’s mind was sprinting in rage as he pulled out his wallet to pay.  He was the one just trying to float on.  “You do you” was perhaps his most uttered phrase in all of life.  As the barista handed his credit card back, Dan caught Cathy staring again at his shirt.

“My shirt has not magically morphed into something else.”

“It’s just mesmerizing in a way, you know?  Like seeing roadkill.”

Roadkill?!  Dan began to wonder if one of his friends had put this woman up to this whole charade.  He quickly scanned the rest of the store to see if one of the newspapers would dart aside and reveal one of his buddies in uproarious laughter.  He didn’t recognize anyone.  Still, there could be a camera.  There was always a camera somewhere.

He made small talk while they waited for their coffees to come out and started to feel for a minute like maybe this date would turn around.  She told him about her cat, and he had a cat too, so that was a thing, right?  But the moment they sat down, her eyes were stuck in a faraway gaze penetrating straight through one of his shirt buttons.

Dan was never a man of subtlety.  His criminal record included multiple citations for public urination during (and a little after) college, as well as one still-pending case connected to a night of excessive drinking at the bar around the corner from his house that is still missing two stools that may or may not have been broken as a result of Dan’s escapades.

He was telling Cathy about the time his cat, Mr. Wiggles, fell off a ledge he had constructed on a windowsill and magically landed on his feet despite going from full-on sleep to the ground in what seemed like 0.7 seconds.  Cathy heard none of it.  Yeah the words may have entered her skull through the ears and perhaps even rumbled through her eardrums and a few synapses in the brain, but there was zero comprehension in her face.

The man sitting behind Cathy was an older gentleman with a khaki-colored golf hat from some place called Bay Pines.  His eyebrows nearly smacked the brim of the cap when he saw Dan stand up slowly, and, with a slight gyration to match the rhythm of the jazz streaming from the ceiling, begin to unbutton the objectionable shirt.  Dan moved slowly, one button to the next, staring into Cathy’s face the entire time, daring her to react.  Only blankness stared back. 

He finally slid the shirt off his shoulders and down his arms, revealing a bright white t-shirt underneath.  Out came his right arm.  Then the left.  He balled up the shirt and held it for a second, waiting for Cathy to say or do something.  Anything.  She just sat there paralyzed by either shock or indifference.  Dan had no idea which it might be, but either way, obviously this was not the love of his life and it was time to go on with his day.

His left hand picked up his coffee cup from the table.  The right hand put the shirt back down in its place. 

“I love this shirt,” he said, never more sure of anything in his life.  “I only hope that one day you can appreciate something so beautiful.”

Dan walked with purpose straight out the door and out into the parking lot.  A minute later, the still silent Cathy cracked a smile, shook her head and sighed.  She slowly stood up and strolled out the door, beaming all the while.

The old man looked around and saw no one else in his half of the store.  He shuffled over, picked up the shirt and searched for the tag.

“Large. Just my size.”

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Track Suit Man

“Please stop staring at that man.”

Devin looked up at his mother and rolled his eyes in the way only a freshly admonished five-year-old can.

“But mom, he keeps making pig noises,” the kid protested.

“I don’t care.  It’s not polite.”

Devin slumped back in his chair.  Lunch at McDonald’s had been his request, a treat for a week of meeting all of his responsibilities on The Good Boy Chart.  The chart had been in use for a few months now, tracking what seemed to him to be his every deed, good and bad, ultimately culminating in a weekly score that usually left him empty handed.

But the good weeks were worth buying in to the system.  Doing the dishes a few nights or not pouting when mom tells him to turn off the TV and go to bed, those little deeds could lead to the sweet embrace of a cheeseburger and fries.

But even with parts of his hard-won bounty still uneaten in front of him, Devin could not help but be distracted by the man at the table behind them, directly over his mother’s shoulder.  His black track suit with a sharp grey stripe across the chest screamed a weekend of luxurious not giving a damn.  The newspaper in front of him suggested a worldliness the adjacent Big Mac did not.

The sound of the man’s quick inhaling made Devin’s eyes flash to the man again.  He couldn’t help it.  The dude sounded like a real life 400 pound muddy pig!

“Devin!  Cut it out.  Eat the rest of your burger.”

He sucked in a mini snort carrying only one-tenth the power of the track suit man.  Mom’s glare brought only a giggle.  First from Devin, then from her.

“Stop it…I shouldn’t laugh.”

Devin leaned in with a mischievous whisper, “You should do it too, mom.  It’s fun.”

She did, but not voluntarily.  The sound escaped before the hand rushing to her mouth could catch it.
A quick look up from the track suit man sent a quick shiver into Devin, who feared they had been caught.  But the track suit man apparently had not heard, or maybe he didn’t care.  He returned to his paper, letting out his own record-loud snort that seemed to say, “I AM THE ALPHA SNORTER IN THIS RESTAURANT!”

Devin saw his mom’s shoulders convulse in only the way the suppression of massive, full-body laughter can do.  Her eyes began to water too, as the laughter looked for any possible way out.  The silliness of the situation had overtaken her.  Devin saw his opening.

“Hey mom, what sound does a cow make?”

“MOO,” came her response, far louder than she intended.  Devin’s eyes were beaming as he pressed on. 

“Hey mom, what sound does a horse make?”

“Neigh,” came the barely audible whisper of a woman laughing so hard inside she could barely speak.  Devin spread himself halfway across the table, ready to cash in on the moment.

“Hey mom…”

She waved her hands at him, trying to get him to stop.  She hadn’t taken a deep breath in more than a minute.

“Hey mom, what sound does a PIG make?”

The tears streamed out of his mom’s eyes as she held her stomach and reached out to hold his hand.
SNORT came the answer from behind them.

Devin, now joining his mom in absolute, full-on laughter town, looked up to see the track suit man with a wide smile spread across his face.  A conspiratorial wink followed.  Devin tried to wink back, sending the track suit man the friendly signal of a five-year-old awkwardly blinking both eyes at once, wondering if he was doing it right.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Stick Up

“Stick ‘em up.”

Kris nodded to the cashier with all the authority she could muster despite being only 28 percent sure of her plan.

“Did you say sticky bun?” the young barista asked.

The moment hung in the air between them, both women, one 16 years past 50, the other 16 years past birth.  Kris stood in her purple rain jacket with the hood up over her head, zipped as far as it would go, hiding nothing of her face and the icicle blue eyes that still shined past the dulling skin.  She could have taken this as the time to back out, eat a sticky bun and enjoy some coffee.  No harm, no foul.  

But Kris did not wake up every day for the past month dreaming of the sweets and treats that satiated her friends.  Her entire life she had been the rule follower, the one who ate according to the government food pyramid and always used her blinker.  She lived alone, extra alone since her poodle passed away last year.  There was nothing in her life that got her heart pumping.

“No, I said, stick ‘em up.  Your hands.”

Confusion remained firmly entrenched in the barista’s face.  Her own eyes, the almond kind, stared back with the narrowing of someone trying to read a sign that is a little too far away.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

Another chance.  Kris’s mind dashed back to earlier in the week when her dreams led her to surf her 148 channels for one she never watched.  She landed on a movie called The Boondock Saints that featured two brothers who did all sorts of things she would have previously considered horrible.  But those brothers would not take a young lady’s lack of comprehension as an opportunity to abandon their plan.  They would stick a vastly overpowered gun right into her nose and make their demands louder.

“I said, put your hands in the air young lady!  I AM ROBBING YOU!”

There it was.  The release.  She had craved it since the moment the crime first popped into her head.  This was the excitement.  She changed the look on someone’s face with just her voice.  People stared at her in horror, and she loved it.  The internet had said she might not even do any prison time if she only got a few bucks out of the drawer.  Her clean record and advanced age made her a sympathetic case, she knew.

The barista, nametagged Ana, a trainee, had tears starting to well up in her eyes.  It was her third day of work, and she was only at the register because it had come so easily to her.  She was busting with joy when she arrived back home after her first shift, eager to tell her mom how well she had done.  The money was supposed to be for her books in college, and with two years left in high school, she figured she would have enough, if she only sometimes bought herself something special.

“Ok, what do you want me to do?” she asked, hands warily in the air.  Kris looked nothing like her grandmother, but she couldn’t help but feel like it was Grandma who was scaring her.

“I need you to open up the cash register and give me some money.”

Ana slowly tapped at the touchscreen, unsure really how to get to the cash without doing an actual transaction.  She would ask the more senior employee working that day, but Rick had stepped out for a cigarette and it suddenly seemed as if he would never return.

“HURRY UP,” Kris belted, feeling more empowered than ever.  She didn’t have a weapon.  That was part of her short jail term plan.  She was betting that an authoritative voice and the element of surprise would be enough.

Ana never realized how easily she could have just said no.  After all, how do you say no when Grandma yells at you?  The register finally popped open, its early morning cash reserves sitting at less than $300.

“Do you want it all?” she asked, without looking up.

“I need $100 dollars in non-sequential bills!” Kris demanded, without knowing really what that meant.

“Um, like ones, fives and twenties, but no tens?”


Kris felt as if adrenaline had fully replaced the blood in her veins.
Ana began scooping bills out of the register and laying them out on the counter, working out the total in math mumbled to herself.  When she got to $100 under the agreed-upon rules, she looked up for the first time since the sticky bun portion of the ordeal.

“Th-there it is,” she said.

“Do you have a bag or something?”

Kris looked around and found the paper pouches usually used to hold scones and their pastry cousins.  The cash mostly fit inside, with only the very edge featuring the denomination sticking out.  She slid the bundle across the counter.

“Is that it?” she asked, hoping her first robbery was over.

Kris wasn’t ready.  She wanted to swim in what she was feeling a little longer.
“I need a venti mocha, too.”

Ana had already served enough drinks to have robotic responses ready for the most popular drinks.
“Do you want whip cream with that?”

“OF COURSE!” Kris said.  Her escape plan involved her car, but at this point she felt like she could run the seven miles home without any problem.

Ana set about making the drink, her shaking hands slowing her down and creating more of a mess than the Starbucks employee manual permitted.  It was during this process she started to wonder why nobody was doing anything.  There were five other customers in the coffee shop, all sitting at tables near the front now acting like they didn’t notice what was happening.  And where was Rick?  Ana didn’t smoke, but figured it couldn’t possibly take this long to get through a cigarette.

Kris began to get impatient.  If she left right now she might not get caught, even with the security cameras staring right at her.  Would the police even bother to investigate a simple hundred-buck theft?  People got away with more than that all the time.  And weren’t there murderers running free they should be worrying about instead?

The coffee was done.  The lid snapped on.  The little protective sleeve in place.

“Mocha for—“ Ana began before catching herself.  Damn training.

Kris took the drink in her non-money bundle hand and smiled.

“Thank you, dear.  Please don’t cry.  You’ve been part of the best day of my whole life.”
Ana stared back, unsure how to respond.

“You’re welcome, I guess.”  She sniffled and did her best to keep her composure.  “Have a good day.”

Kris winked and turned toward the door, striding confidently past the do-nothings.  She stepped into the crisp air.  There was no one else in the parking lot.  No flashing lights.  No vigilantes ready to exact justice.  She had done it.

The car unlocked with a beep and she eased herself inside.  A deep breath, followed by the turn of the key and the engine coming to life.  Reverse.  Drive.  Right turn.  Left turn.

With a mile to go, a bright blue light approached, spinning in her rearview mirror.  Kris pulled slowly into the turn lane at the next light, stopping just short of the intersection.  She sipped her coffee and looked at the money on the passenger seat.  Engine off.  Blinkers on.  She picked up the bundle and fanned out the bills in her hand.  That distinct money smell filled her head and she smiled.

Tap tap on the window.  Glass sliding down.  Cool air filling the car.

“What seems to be the problem, officer?”

Saturday, December 31, 2016

19 in '16

Say what you will about 2016, but it was an above average year.  At least, when it comes to my reading.

My goal as usual was to hit 20 books, and while I fell one short, I do feel pretty good about getting to 19 and finishing one about every 18 days.  Nine years of book reading data shows that's right about where I should be.

Here's this year's list with links to their respective posts:

-The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
-Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
-It's What I Do by Lynsey Addario
-Morning Star by Pierce Brown
-Where Nobody Knows Your Name by John Feinstein
-The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
-Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
-My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman
-The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler
-The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
-Ahead of the Curve by Brian Kenny
-What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
-Slade House by David Mitchell
-Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers
-A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
-The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
-The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
-Armada by Ernest Cline
-The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck

If you read five of them: The Lowland, Morning Star (the entire Red Rising series really), It's What I Do, A Torch Against the Night, Sharp Objects.

I don't think there are any I would have skipped entirely, but my expectations were much higher for Heroes of the Frontier and a little higher for Funny Girl.

The fastest read on this list was The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, coming in at six days.  The slowest was The Summer Before the War, which was a comparative slog at 43 days.

In each of the previous two years I read three books that had the same exact number of pages.  This year there were only two.

And in a departure from prior years, I did not see a movie version of any of these books.  A big part of that is the simple lack of existence.  There is a Moon is Down movie, and Sharp Objects is being made into an HBO show.  Morning Star would be tons of fun to see on a big screen.

I read about half the list on my Nook and the other half in actual book form.  Here's the not-quite-complete tower (I borrowed and returned the rest):

For 2017, my hope is that the paperback tower is ginormous.  I have a number of books on my shelf that I've never read, and my goal is to get through as many of them as possible.

If you want to check out my recaps from previous years, they're all here.