Monthly Archives: April 2012

Don’t Cover Me Up

Cover scan of a Classics Comics book

Cover scan of a Classics Comics book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever seen a western where one character says about another, “Best stay away from that one, he’s touched in the head,” as the surly one who made the statement taps his own head with a bony index finger? One look at this motley cowpoke, with several missing teeth, scraggly beard, and not having bathed in a month or twelve and you wonder which one should wear the label of “touched.” (As a side note I’d rather kiss his horse.)

There, I said it. I violated the most sacred law of the written word since…well, the first word was written. And what was my intolerable transgression?  I judged a book by its cover. Pun intended, no pun intended, it doesn’t matter because it’s not funny anyway. And no lawsuits, please. If you think about it, you’ve most certainly violated this unwritten rule yourself, whether in life’s daily pitfalls or literally, when choosing a book.

I made the mistake of choosing a novel way beyond my years for a book report while in elementary school. It had a really neat cover (speaking in period lingo) and it was about three inches thick, which I thought made me look right groovy. (period lingo once again) While my classmates chose thin little kiddie books, I compared my adult novel to their simplistic choices. I imagined standing in front of the class as an adult having read such advanced literature and the exquisite  book report it would impart.

Imagine the hissing sound heard round the classroom as my ego deflated when it came time to read “Ivanhoe.” I immediately formed a battle strategy… Procrastinate. Slowly at first and then in a bloody massacre,  my soldiers began to fall until a week before my book report was due, I still had five hundred pages of a five hundred page novel to read. What to do, what to do?

Then one day while perusing the assorted reading material the teacher kept on a table at the back of the class, I saw it…THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL….the oasis in the blistering heat of the desert…the Calvary in the nick of time. There it sat, “Ivanhoe,” the comic book! (or, in today’s vernacular “graphic novel.”)  I had been pulled from the jaws of utter failure and into the light of the elusive “A” on my oral book report through no contribution of my own.

So you see, occasionally judging a book by its cover can return a significant reward….but usually not.  In my case, it was still a bone-headed move….hmm, guess I’ve acquired all the credentials I need to go into politics?

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Cob Webs and Dust Bunnies

When was the last time you swept cobwebs out of the corner or dust bunnies from under the bed? If you’re like me, it’s either have the wife do it or never. This will be one of the few  and possibly the only serious or semi-serious blog you will see from me.  In November 2006, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Two months later I was notified my department was closing and I was losing my job. Needless to say these were not the most glorious months of my life, but we got through them just the same.

Since then, I have begun writing.  I have one published book and am working on the fourth in a series that stems from the first. I am taking a break to begin writing a book on how to deal with chronic illnesses or at least how I have coped with my diagnosis. You see, I refuse to say that I actually have the disease. I am not in denial. I will just not allow it to take control in any way over my life. I do have limitations but consider them just a little inconvenience.

My wife has a caregiver blog on Word Press, also.  She will be writing several chapters in our book. I am a Christian and would ask for prayer so that this book may help others who struggle each day. Now, you are probably wondering what’s with the cobwebs and dust bunnies? One thing I have learned is that we have two choices, to cry or to laugh. I choose to laugh and at the risk of offending some people, I tend to make fun of and am very irreverent towards the disease.

Such as, I came up with two Olympic sports; the dust bunny obstacle course and my favorite, the three meter fall and crawl. Now, if you are thin-skinned and what I have written has offended you, I am truly sorry but I make no apology for showing the disease the lack of respect it deserves. As far as the cobwebs go, they just kinda fit in with dust bunnies and since they don’t get much in the way of recognition, I thought I would give them their few seconds of fame.  Who knows, if I run for office one day, I bet I’ll have the collective dust constituency all wrapped up.

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my blog and I plan to post many more.


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Walking Sideways

Ever notice how some things in life move sideways never reaching an ending point? Think about it. We, as humans, sidestep responsibility every day. Something as common as procrastination slips neatly into this very list. We step around fellow human beings’ feelings. We even deny our own intuition, telling ourselves things are one way when we know they’re another.; or convince ourselves that something is all right to do when we know it’s not. These are just a few examples.

Similar traits can even be found in the animal kingdom. Look at the industrious male lion. He sleeps twenty-three hours a day, awakens for an hour; half an hour to eat what the lionesses have killed and the other half hour is spent killing whatever is trying to eat what he’s eating. Then it’s yawn, burp, hack up a ten pound fur ball and back to sleep utterly exhausted unless he can manage two or three additional minutes to make a baby lion. Categorically speaking I’d place this in “shirk responsibility personified.”

And now for the winner in the side step competition. I live near the east coast and have had a lot of fun over the years crabbing…Crabbing you say? Well allow me to explain the fine art of wrangling the Atlantic blue crab! These tasty crustaceans are of course caught commercially and greatly prized for their delicious flesh. I want to focus more on the recreational crabber…Crabber, crabber, crabber. Sounds funny if you keep saying it.

Anyone who braves the briny deep in search of the elusive blue crab first and foremost must stake a claim on a pier or stationary boat. My personal choice of capture device or crab pot is a six-sided square metal cage. The sides are actually hinged doors that open when the cage sets on the sea floor, allowing total access to the bait tied to the interior of the cage. Once the crabberman (when you need a word, make it up, that’s what I always say, and or do) pulls the cord to raise the pot. The doors close, trapping the bug-eyed delicacies inside.

Now this is where an amazing thing happens. When the trap touches the pier and the doors open, the Atlantic blue crab looses the ability to move in a forward motion. It dances sideways out of its transport, its little legs clicking and clacking as it moves. It even easily manages to travel in a backward motion, claws raised in a graceful crustacean ballet, not to mention its desperate flight for life.

This notion of walking sideways to avoid responsibility, protect oneself, or just for a lack of direction, can easily apply itself to writing. Have you ever read a book that seemed to go nowhere or took so long to grab your interest you threw it down before it could do so. Of course you wouldn’t know if it ever could have peaked your interest since you canned it beforehand.

I however have the dubious honor of actually penning such works of boredom. If you gleam anything at all from my rambling, please let it be this….don’t write boring stories.


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Swamp Thing

Chickahominy Landscape

Chickahominy Landscape (Photo credit: Rob Shenk)

Ever had a “Huckleberry Finn” experience? I mean an “everybody get together throw down and paint your fence”…wait a minute, that was Tom Sawyer. All right, I’ve got it… Remember when the town rallied to rescue Huck from the cave?…No! No! No! That was Becky Thatcher. It musta been the coyote ridin that ACME rocket…you know…he was about to catch the roadrunner… naw, that’s not it either.

I’ll just tell my story because I did have a real life, genuine (i.e. gen-u-wine), honest to goodness Huck Finn moment…at least, I think I did… Anyway, here goes; you be the judge…


I grew up near the Chickahominy River Recreational Complex and Amusement Park or C.R.A.P. for short…Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist and believe it or not I didn’t plan that acronym.

Actually I grew up almost smack dab in the middle of the Chickahominy River basin. For me it was a huge source of entertainment, with its ponds, marshes, canals, pastures, wooded areas, creeks–you name it and it had it as far as outdoor recreation goes. From about the age of twelve I fished, hunted, caught frogs, snakes, salamanders, snapping turtles, and probably did numerous things my parents would have had a fit had they known. Not illegal things but stupid things like climbing to the top of a sapling and swinging down to the ground or swimming with copperheads… Just your normal, average, everyday, young teenager behavior, right?

One of my best friends in school was Joe. He was my cohort in this alleged Huck Finn caper. Now to the story…

Take three fifty-five gallon drums, two by two’s to hold them together, a sheet of plywood for a deck with assorted pipes, and pieces of plywood for custom-made swivel seats, and wadda-ya know, a genuine swamp-worthy raft.

There was only one minor problem…how to haul an awkward, two-hundred plus pound behemoth the better part of a mile and carry it over anything but level terrain. This was a veritable torture course of hills, twice as far up as they were down. Woods, creeks, ditches, barbed wire fences, fields with grass more than four feet tall and there may have been a volcano and a dragon or two  (I can’t recall the entire treacherous journey).

Several hours, and more than a few unwholesome words later, we were ready for our maiden voyage. Now, you have to use your imagination and picture this–two skinny young teenagers pushing this conglomeration into the water. Hold your breath…Drum roll…It floats perfectly! All aboard!

Before we shoot the rapids let me tell you that this thing was about as stable as a schizophrenic crack-head jonesing for morphine. Not only could we not stand on it; we couldn’t sit, lay or even look at it without being thrown off. I imagine two otters trying to balance on a wet, greasy, beach-ball.  After the addition of a fourth barrel and some judicious carpentry, we had a raft Huck and Jim both would have been proud of.

We had a great time using the raft to float felled trees to a secluded area to build a log cabin, which never came to fruition. The swamp was ours to exploit, and we did until such time in a young man’s life when his priorities turn to what is perceived to be more mature undertakings, namely cars and  girls, but is now known to merely be hormone upheaval.

That was a great part of my childhood. I think back on it fondly; in fact, years later I actually built a log cabin less than a mile from where we used to fish.  I lived in it for seven years before moving out of the area. Ya know, this isn’t such a bad story…maybe I’ll take time and write it down someday….ah…I don’t know.

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You Get a Line and I’ll Get a What?


Fishing (Photo credit: nicholasjon)

Do you like to fish? Or are you a fish-stick kinda guy? Does the majority of your interest lie in the thin outer crust of a frozen four-inch processed twig–one that bears no resemblance to a living swimming creature?  Or, do you insist on physically removing your catch from the hook–scaling, beheading, cleaning, and cooking, not giving a second thought to any stray bones that dare cross your incisors? If both scenarios should present themselves in the form of a story needing to be told, which tale would you weave and how would you spin it?


Adam lived to surf fish. Whenever he could squeeze a sufficient number of minutes together he was on the road to Hatteras, whether for a week, a weekend, or a twenty-four hour jaunt. A three and a half hour drive was nothing compared to this, he thought, as he pounded his rod spike into the loose white sand.

Adam soon had his gear assembled, baited, and with a nice-hundred yard cast, stood smugly with the butt end of his rod propped against his thigh. The breeze was light, dancing through the eyes on his rod, whistling a familiar tune . A wide smile spread across his face as he absorbed his surroundings. The sharp tug on his line stirred him from his reverie. This was the most difficult time of the fishing game…waiting to set the hook. Too soon and he’d rip the hook from the boney mouth. Too late and the intended would expose the ruse and spit the hook. Just right and…Adam reared back on his rod, driving the point of the hook home.

The line pulled taught and all motion ceased as if he had hooked a bulldozer. After one of the longest seconds of his life had finally passed the chase was on. The quarry made a mad dash out to sea. Adam would have lost this one due to complacency had he not loosened the drag just before the line reached its breaking point. Yard after yard of braided line peeled from his spinning reel.He preferred braid over mono, “It’s  a touch thing,” he would say.

The first run’s always the longest, he thought. Bring it, bring it. Suddenly the unseen warrior at the end of the line made an abrupt one-eighty and headed straight for the beach.”Nice move,” Adam said as he began to wind furiously. Pump, wind, pump, wind, pump, wind. “Line tight, no slack…turn, turn,” he barked. The line jerked hard right causing hunter and prey to begin their second run laterally up the beach.

Adam ran through the shallows sending spray into the air before the receding wave could completely retreat. This parallel movement allowed him to use the drag to keep the line at bay. The pair once again came to a halt. This time sensing a dire situation turning worse the captured beast began to thrash wildly, desperate to throw the hook at any cost. The cold steel barb held fast causing the exhausted combatant to attempt one last feeble, if not brave, dash for freedom.

“Now…you’re…mine,” Adam growled. He horsed the defeated bronze creature through the surf, his line straining to its limit, the undertow struggling to rob the victor of his spoils. One more wave and the defeated lay spent, deposited on instantly compacting sand, the ocean returning to its origin.


The processing trawler made its last haul, dumping tons of sea creatures on a conveyor belt. Various species of fish were separated from the rest, disappearing down a dark tunnel as they did so.

“That’s it, Mommy,” the child said, pointing to a package of fish in the frozen food case. She stood on her tiptoes barely able to reach over the edge. “Right there, the one with the man on the box. That’s the kind I like.”


Which one would you write?



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They Don’t Mak’em Like They Used To

How many times have you heard “Boy, they sure don’t mak’em like they used to.” ?  And I’ll have to say, I’m certainly glad they don’t.  Take for instance your average house–in the good ole days bricks were laid right on dirt with no foundation.  It makes for a nice Dr. Seuss look-alike dwelling but hardly better than the concrete foundations of today.  True, some of the craftsmanship in the ornate trim work has been lost, but I’ll trade that for a roof that’s not constructed from 2 x 4’s.

How about the one, “I sure would like to live back in the olden days.”  I don’t know…would I rather drink a bottle of liquor or have a shot of Novocaine to have that pesky tooth pulled? Four men holding me down and a forty percent blood alcohol level with little pain relief tells me that things are a lot better today than a hundred years ago…at least in the dental profession.

Oh!  I forgot one more thing…did you want to eat tonight?  Well, just in case you did, better clean up the ole rifle Tex.  Times a wastin’ and we’re all out of firewood…and don’t forget to draw some water from the crick.

Now on to the world of writing. The quill pen was commonly used by 700 A.D.  The first pens were made from bird feathers.  The major problem with these writing implements was their longevity.  After about a week the writer had to once again chase a bird down and unceremoniously jerk another feather from its wing.  This lead to a larger than normal population of flightless birds who attempted to evolve into penguins, but falling way short, died ostracized from their bird brethren and featherless reminders of man’s insatiable appetite to write with things that don’t last.

In 1795, Nicholas Conte developed the process used to make pencils.  Now at long last the world could write to their hearts content.  It soon came to the attention of these ecstatic writers of the word that mistakes were inevitable.  I want you to follow me close on this.    In 1844, Charles Goodyear patented the process to make erasers more commonplace.  This brings in a bit of thought provoking thought that would provoke the average thinker.

How did the human race tolerate and manage such a stressful situation with fifty years of mistakes and no foreseeable solution?  Answer:  The war of 1812.  On a sad note, the pencil sharpener was not patented until 1897.  No further information is available on this bleak period of history.

To sum up:  You can push that button and watch as the magical computer comes to life allowing you to start that great American novel you’ve always been meaning to write or start rubbing two sticks together and the next time you go out for dinner make sure you bag a duck, cause you’re gonna need something to write with.


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As the Tide Turns

The term “ebb and flow” carries with it many connotations. “Ebb” is simply when the water begins to surge out, heading to what we commonly refer to as “low tide.” “Flow” being the opposite…is well…the opposite, “high tide.” You can also remove this force of nature from its usual placement in the scheme of physics and apply it to things the average person knows something about.

I would be remiss if I failed to say that it was not my intention to imply that you, the reader, was of average intelligence and ignorant concerning the science of physics. Rather my intent is to show an inability on my part to barely recognize the word (physics) much less apply it to any cognitive concept within my mind or intelligible written form. That being said, the model of “ebb and flow” could pertain to something completely different such as a sporting event…say a football game, where “ebb” would be represented by the weaker team, as they retreated, being overrun and slaughtered by the stronger team or “flow,” not unlike the incoming tide.

Another example we find is a yearly ritual known as the New Year’s Eve party. This annual celebration has a unique order of events in keeping with the “ebb and flow” theme. The evening begins with a slow “flow,” building to a frenzied high tide of alcohol, black-eyed peas, cabbage and cornbread, as the clock strikes twelve midnight. The “ebb” follows quickly, dropping instantly to a muddy bottomed low tide. This murky tide remains as the wayfaring souls exit the dry dock, in search of slumber, some attempting to revive the midnight “high tide” with smaller personal “flows.”

This concept even works well in the “storied”(pun intended) world of writing. A well written story will impart the essence of the “ebb and flow” paradigm. As your tale develops, though containing several different story lines, it should continuously wax and wane just as the moon pulls the tides from high to low. This constantly building framework should culminate in a searing climax leaving the reader literally “literary” speaking…drained.

Wow! What a ride! Until next time…


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