"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, April 28, 2008

Don't Forget Me While I'm Gone

Couldn't leave without leaving you with some doggerel:

Don’t Forget Me While I’m Gone (Ain’t No Sunshine When You’re Gone)

I’m all ready for my trip.
My bag is packed, the stuff all fit.
On the scale it weighed but half
Of the total they permit!

I know right where my tickets are,
Picture ID, passport book,
Credit card, and most essential
ATM card in its nook.

Should my bag go walkabout,
Land in some far billabong,
I carry extra underwear
And Tevas tied on with a thong.

Come Wednesday morning I’ll be gone
On a plane to Aussieland,
Goin’ to see the ‘roos* and ‘toos,**
Rain forests and desert sand.

Hot air balloons one early morn,
Champagne brunch included, too.
Dinner with some Kiwi folks,
Fairy penguins at the seashore.

Opera House in Sydney Harbor,
Ayers Rock, Great Barrier Reef,
Aboriginal mythology,
Ranches where they shear the sheep.

Don’t forget me while I’m gone,
I’ll be back to write some more.
Change your e-mail addys now,
To avoid more verses to this song…

Just don’t ask when I get there—
If it’s tomorrow or the day after—
All I know is when I’m back,
I’ll be redoin’ yesterday.

April 28, 2008 Gullible

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Every Litter Bit Helps

Every Litter Bit Helps

I began my public speaking career today. I’m not too optimistic about its longevity, but I can tell you that the members of my audience were mighty doggoned impressed when I dumped 809 beans on the table in front of them. Fortunately by the time I did that, the young ladies who comprised my audience were finished with the chocolate birthday cake and popcorn, or I probably would have been talking to myself.

Rose had previously started the program by asking them, “Who knows what litter is?”

“Trash,” said Ashley, who lives across the highway from me and knew darn well why I was there in such a peculiar get-up.

“Where the cat goes to the bathroom,” said another. After that it took a while to restore order and proceed with the lesson. The girls were fine, still engrossed in birthday cake and on their third bag of microwave popcorn, but Rose and I were having trouble breathing because we were trying not to laugh out loud.

Rose spoke for a few minutes about litter—what it is, where it comes from—and asked for suggestions about how to prevent it. Then she introduced me, the so-called litter expert. First, I showed them some beautiful pictures I had taken alongside the Seward highway last summer. I had with me a large bag that I’d filled with roadside litter a few days before, so I opened it and held a photo of Tern Lake above the litter.

“Imagine,” I said, “You get out of the car, maybe to take a picture of the scenery, and you see all this litter at your feet.” The contents of the bag were easily recognizable as common items—beer bottles, paper, soda cups, plastic lids and straws, and so on. We talked about that and then I dumped the bag of beans on their table.

“Each one of these beans,” I told them, “represents a large yellow litter bag filled with trash picked up alongside the highway that runs through our town.” It took a while for that concept to sink in, and I had to reword it a couple time for my young audience, all five of them members of Brownie Troop 206 of the Girl Scouts. I explained that a number of volunteers from Moose Pass had cleaned fifty miles of highway last summer, resulting in 809 full bags.

I explained why I was wearing a bright orange safety vest, a small pack to carry extra bags and a bottle of water, good walking boots, and a sweat band that actually is to help keep my glasses from falling off when I bend over a zillion times a day picking up trash. Then I made my best move, one I think was an even bigger hit than the birthday cake. I gave each girl a big yellow litter bag. They immediately proceeded to fold the bags into tiny squares so they could take them home.

Later on, still trying to impress upon them how much trash it takes to fill 809 bags, I asked them to take a lima bean from the table and set it on the gym floor. Then, I said, unfold your yellow bag next to it. Silence. The volume was starting to be real for them.

”You couldn’t even get all those full bags in the gym,” said troop leader Rose. That might have been the wrong thing to say, because pretty soon a couple of the girls were rolling and sliding on the shiny gym floor. Rose and I were losing them. At their next meeting, Rose will have them make posters for a community clean-up day in May. “And,” she said, “I’m going to have you make phones calls to ask people to sign up to clean certain sections of the highway.”

About that time I noticed all the popcorn and birthday cake that had fallen to the floor under the table. Time to make my escape, I thought. I gathered up the beans on the floor and table, not being one to litter.

“What are you going to do with your yellow bags?” I asked as I walked towards the gym door.

“Fill them!” came a chorus of young voices.

I stopped on my way out to talk with Celiene, who has the custodian’s job at the school. She was holding a yellow litter bag and said she’d been picking up debris down her way. Judy, the school bus driver, had gotten some bags from me and had been out the day before, filling two bags.

As for my public speaking career? Well, I doubt I’ll be a must-hear on the international circuit. Probably won’t be called to the national circuit, or in my own neighborhood either. No, when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, my public speaking career probably has run its course, which is fine with me. It leaves me more time to pick up litter. Which is what really matters—one person picking up litter, and every litter bit helps.


April 24, 2008 Gullible

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spring Is Sprung

Spring Is Sprung

I love this time of year. I love the way the birch tree branches turn dark red as the sap starts flow. Even the spruce trees seem to turn from black to green as the warming temperatures awaken them from winter’s stupor.

I am thrilled when the sun is able to stay above the southern horizon all day long, instead of falling behind the ridge of mountains that make up my southern horizon. I love watching the migrating geese and ducks and song birds arrive.

The mountains across from me shed their cloaks of snow in dramatic fashion—by sending thunderous avalanches crashing and cascading down their flanks. I watch with great anticipation as the snow recedes from my lawns, looking carefully for any damage from tunneling voles. I keep close track of the various eagles’ nests near me and place binoculars at all the appropriate windows. Last night I spotted the first mountain goat of the season.

The thirty foot long moat that filled my driveway last week is a memory, a memory triggered only by the large scrape on my right knee from falling on corn snow while trying to bicycle through the slush-filled moat. Now, the drive is gravel all the way to the highway. The snow banks that were two feet high along my drive last week are less than a foot high now.

But, what I really, really like about spring is taking the studded tires off the vehicles. Last week I took the truck into the tire shop in Seward and had them balance the heavy tires and put them on the pickup. The drive home that day was so quiet, I was anxious to get the mini-van’s tires swapped too. Monday morning I called to see how busy the shop was.

“Tomorrow or Wednesday would be better,” said Sharon. That didn’t fit my schedule very well. I leave in a few days for a month-long trip, and the State says we have to have studded tires off by May 1. I won’t get back from my trip until late May. The temperature outdoors was 57 degrees, I was already in shorts and a tee shirt, the tires were mounted on summer rims, making the job easier, and these tires weigh less than half the truck tires.

I decided to do it myself. I had the power tools to make it easier, and I’ve done it dozens of times. An hour later I was finished, all the tools returned to their proper places, and the winter tires stacked in the wood shed. I made a trip to Anchorage Wednesday on nice, quiet summer tires. I delivered the mail to Hope and Cooper Landing yesterday. I’ll do it again tomorrow.

Today it’s snowing.

April 25, 2008 Gullible

Packing Panic

Packing Panic

I went into a mild panic today when I couldn’t find my Teva sandals. I looked and looked around the house, in the spare bedroom where I’m assembling the stuff to take on my trip to Australia next week, and even in the garage.

An awful thought began building in the pit of my stomach: I left them in Arizona! But I was certain I’d seen them since I returned from that trip. I know I had them lined up with some other shoes I’m thinking of taking. Didn’t I? Or, was I only thinking I should put them with the others?

To get my mind off the Tevas, I decided to make a trial run at packing my clothes in the rolling duffel bag. First I put in the shoes, then my snorkel and dive mask, swim suit, cover up, and surf slippers. Then my shorts and tee shirts, long pants and dressy shirts. Well, that went nicely. Lots of room left. Maybe I’m not over-packing after all.

I sorted out a few things to hand-carry, which I plan to take in a small day pack just in case it takes a while for my luggage to catch up with me. I unzipped the day pack from the rolling suitcase I had decided not to take, and wondered why it felt heavy. There were the Tevas, already inside the day pack. I guess they’re as excited as I am about leaving on this trip.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spyinig on the New Neighbors

Spying on the New Neighbors

My friend Rose and I were spying on our newest neighbor the other day. We were standing in front of my big living room windows where I was setting up the spotting scope so I could get a good look at her when suddenly Rose said, “Look! There she is!”

I looked out and, sure enough, there she was. She was far enough away that I knew it would be hard to find her in the 60 power lens on the scope, so I focused on her home instead. That way I could keep an eye on her all summer. Her offspring, too.

I got the scope on her home, sharpened the focus, and let Rose have a look.

“Yes, you’re right on it,” Rose said. Then she told me about watching her the day before. “She was scratching around in some dead grass. I couldn’t figure out what she was doing and then she took off and had a bunch of grass in her claws. She took it back to her nest.”

Oh, our new neighbor is a golden eagle, by the way, and she’s building a nest on a ledge in a vertical rock face on the mountain across the highway. She’s far enough away that she doesn’t know we’re watching her, but close enough for us to see her well with binoculars. Rose and I watched as she soared across the face of the mountain, climbing higher and higher without moving a wing. Her wingspan could be anywhere from six to eight feet, and twenty inch long flight feathers capture every breath of air movement.

When I first moved to this valley 31 years ago, a pair of golden eagles nested in the same rock crevice. Many years there were no golden eagles, and I began watching out the back of my home where bald eagles nested. One year I watched a pair of bald eagles sitting on a nest. They took turns sitting on the eggs. I watched them roll the eggs, tending them carefully. Then one day I spotted a little gray fuzzy head peek over the side of the sticks and grass.

Eventually three little fuzzy eaglets showed themselves. Every day, all summer long, I looked through the scope to watch their progress. One eagle stayed with the young at all times while the other hunted for food to bring back. I saw the young the day they climbed up to sit on the edge of the nest, watched as their feathers grew in. They got braver and braver, venturing out on the stout branches of the cottonwood tree. Farther and farther out they would go, then flap their wings while holding on tightly to the branch.

And then I saw them fly. I’m sure it was their first flying lesson. They didn’t go far. That went on for several days, and then they were gone. Occasionally I would see one or two in the nearby trees, and then no more. By this time fall was in air, and eagles had places to go and things to do.

It is common to see eagles every day in this valley. The day we set the ridge pole on the new house we were building, I watched an eagle fly straight towards the house. I saw it cock its head as it swept no more than ten feet above the carpenters setting the beam. Then it circled a couple times, checking out the possibilities of this new aerie. I’ve also seen eagles diving on the young loons at Tern Lake while Arctic terns and sea gulls and even swallows chase the hunting bird.

Late one dusky spring evening, I looked through binoculars to see if the eagles were back on their nest. I saw movement, but couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. I set up the scope and saw a head with two points on it, and briefly wondered what a cat was doing up in the eagle’s nest. Then the “cat” turned its head and I was looking directly into the eyes of a large Great Horned owl.

I did some research and learned that Great Horned owls nest much earlier than eagles, and take over old eagles’ nests rather than build their own. Again I was privileged to watch the owlets for months, until they, too, fledged and departed on owl business.

So spring comes to Tern Lake valley. It’s time to distribute binoculars to all the appropriate windows. I haven’t seen any signs of activity at the bald eagles’ nest yet. I’ve heard the owls hooting, but the nest they used years ago has blown down.

Now comes the summer of the golden eagles. Welcome to the neighborhood, guys. Here's lookin' at ya.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dire Prognostications

Dire Prognostications

Some decades ago, when I was much, much younger, I frequently saw cartoons in magazines that portrayed a robed “prophet” fore-telling doomsday by standing on a street corner holding a sign that read, “The End is Near.” One day I spotted another cartoon in a magazine. Same robed guy carrying a sign, only this time the guy was running and the sign read, “Here it comes!”

Something about the perverse humor in that struck a chord in me, and I clipped that one from the newspaper. I still have it. I was reminded of it today when I drove into Seward to have the studded snow tires taken off my truck. I’d been debating for two weeks about this. My driveway is a sheet of ice with deep ruts where some of the ice has melted. While I can see the snowline creepily slowly away from the house, there’s still more than a foot of snow on the ground, and piles of it where it’s been plowed. Nonetheless, by law we are required to have the studded tires off by May 1. Since I’ll be leaving the country on April 30 and not returning until late May, I needed to get this chore done.

Finally, at three this afternoon, I called Jesse to see how busy they were. I said I could be there before 4:30, as they close at five. He told me to come on in. Quickly I changed clothes, backed the truck out of the garage and drove up to the wood shed where I store the summer tires. As soon as I finished loading them, I headed for Seward, 36 miles away.

As I drove that last stretch into Seward proper, I looked up to see what the gas stations were charging for regular unleaded. That’s when that old cartoon clipping popped into my mind. The first station’s sign read $3.96. The second station’s was $4.01. They finally did it, I thought.

At the tire place I talked with Sandy while Jesse and his guys went to work on my truck. Sandy works there occasionally when the owner is out of town. “This is my last day,” she said. “Sharon’s due back tomorrow. It’s just as well. It costs me $20 a day in gas to drive into work.” Sandy lives 27 miles from the tire shop.

On the way out of town, I stopped at the grocery store to get a couple things. As I was roaming around the aisles, I saw another Moose Pass resident who works at there. He told me he was moving into Seward to be closer to work. “It costs me $400 a month to drive to work,” Mike said. For many years Mike has been chief of our small but dedicated volunteer fire department, and I wonder what will happen in his absence.

I drove out of town without buying gas, even though it’s a long, long way to the next gas station. I have a gas storage tank at home, mostly for the lawn mowers and chain saws, but occasionally I’ll put enough in one of the vehicles to get me to the closest station if I need to go somewhere. On the way home, I thought about those old cartoons.

“The End is Near!” Not for one moment do I believe we’ve seen the end of rising gas prices.

“Here It Comes!” Nope, it’s already here. Gas is over four dollars a gallon in Seward. Six months from now, we’ll rejoice if it falls below that.

I just can’t help but feel it’s all legal highway robbery.


April 18, 2008 Gullible

Break Up

Break Up

There’s no doubting or denying it any longer: Break up definitely is upon up. The clots of dark red Type O negative on my knees are proof positive.

Break up is a season in Alaska. We have fishing season, hunting season, skiing/dog mushing season, break up season, and take-off-the-studded-tires season. Break up is when everything break ups—the packed snow on the driveway, the ice on the lakes, the asphalt on the highways. And, quite frequently, common sense becomes another victim.

It isn’t my knees that are suffering from break up as much as my driveway. With the thermometer reading above 50 degrees this afternoon for the first time in a gazillion years, I head for the bike in the garage. This is not going to be my first bike ride of the season, but when I pull on the padded bike shorts this time, it isn’t over the thick fleece pants that I’ve been wearing to avoid hypothermia and frost-bitten extremities on previous rides.

Nor do I wear the matching fleece long-sleeved top, but opt instead for only the fluorescent lime green windbreaker that makes me visible from the space station. And just to show how tough I am, I wear only the padded gloves with fingers that end at the first knuckle, leaving behind the winter-weight fleece gloves. I am using the brain bucket, though.

Halfway to the highway, I encounter the thirty-foot long moat that isolates my house from the pavement. Melt water stands five inches deep, and the puddle stretches from one side of the drive to the other, with only a narrow shelf of ice on either side. Those shelves of ice, however, have that look about them—like any weight would send the shelf crashing like a calving glacier. Two foot high berms of rotting snow line the drive, preventing an alternate route.

I try cycling through the puddle and make it almost to the far side before slush impedes my progress. In my attempt to dismount on solid snow, I lose my balance and fall onto my knees in sharp corn snow, hence the multiple openings in the skin that allow the Type O leakage. The knee looks, I am sure, a lot worse than it is. Never one to quit, I go on my ride as the Type O congeals over bright purple kneecaps.

For now the bike will live in the wood shed on the far side of the moat. I can always wear hip boots to get to it. Did I learn anything today? You betcha. Slush is much better suited for Margaritas than for bike riding.


April 20, 2008 Gullible

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Not So Funny Noises

Not So Funny Noises

Pablo the parrot woke up on the wrong side of the perch this morning. It’s something that seems to be happening more and more frequently, but this time was the worst yet.

As I approached his cage this morning to remove the dark green towel I drape over it at night, I knew something was wrong. The towel covers only the top, sides and back of the cage, so I could see him right away. He was sitting on the lower perch, and there was something about his body language, something depressed, something down-hearted. If parrots could weep, I have no doubt this tough, ornery little Green Amazon would have had tears flowing from his orange eyes and down the yellow feathers on his face.

He looked at me as I began to lift the towel from his cage, then moved his beak towards the right side of his breast, and made a perfunctory plucking movement without actually touching his feathers. I had seen a discoloration on his breast, but it took a moment for my sleep-puffed eyes to focus on the green and white smear on his green feathers. Pablo had once again fallen out of bed and this time he had landed breast down in his own droppings. He was one sad little parrot.

It is our custom, after I remove the towel, for me to move my fingers to the side of his cage, next to his favorite perch. If he’s in a good mood, he’ll let me briefly scratch his head. If he hasn’t had his morning cup of sunflower seeds, so to speak, it seems to take entirely too much will power for him to allow touching, and he will move away. Then he watches while I drink my morning cup of tea and read the newspaper. He waits patiently, until he decides I’ve dawdled long enough and it’s time to cook his breakfast.

“Hello,” he says. “Hel-lo-o.” I can gauge his mood by his tone of voice. I cook an egg and give him a piece. After that, if I’m not wearing the wrong color, he’s my buddy and I take him out of the cage. Sometimes he gently pushes my proffered hand away with his foot, and I leave him in the cage. Otherwise, I take him upstairs with me where he sits on the back of a chair while I work at my desk.

This morning, though, was different. I opened the cage and he stepped onto my hand immediately. I took him to the kitchen sink, and he knew what was coming. There was no resistance when I set him in the sink and began to wash the mess from his breast. He tried a couple times to climb out of the sink, but made no move to bite me. I wrapped a towel around him when he was clean, dried off most of the water, and put him back in his cage. He stayed there all day. Clean, but dejected.

He sits flat-footed on the perch, front toes sticking straight out, rather than curling around the perch. He’s done that as long as I’ve had him, since he was fourteen. He’s 36 now. Parrots sleep centered over one foot; the other is curled up into the feathers above the leg.

When he first began falling off the perch, he would make a growling noise and look around as if looking for whomever had pushed him out of bed. Nowadays, I hear a crash, then see him standing, confused. on the bottom of the cage before he begins the climb back up to the top perch. If I carry him upstairs, I hold him in one hand and brace him so he can’t fall. He has stopped objecting to this the past month. Before, my holding him was an affront to his dignity, and Pablo has a great sense of dignity. While his new demeanor protects my skin from parrot punctures, it saddens me to see him accept this so meekly.

The frequent falls have a side effect, and I have no doubt that Pablo is as aware of this as I am. As he falls, he sticks out his wings to try to catch his balance, or flaps them to regain his position on the perch. As a result the ends of his wing and tail feathers are being frayed and battered. The beautiful reds and blues and maroons and aquas and yellows are being shredded away.

I have no idea why he’s been falling so much lately. I have no idea what to do for him. I have been away from home more than I’ve been home this past winter, and I’m leaving again for four weeks. In the past, it would take Pablo at least a day before he stopped punishing me for being gone, and even then he was sure to tell me about my transgression for days afterwards. Now, as soon as I change into my staying-at-home clothes, he seems to forgive me and wants my attention.

Years ago if I told my husband Ken about a funny noise the car was making, and he couldn’t hear it, as he usually couldn’t, he’d say, “Well, wait until it breaks. Then I’ll know what it is.”

I think Pablo’s trying to tell me he hears a funny noise. I hope I don’t have to wait until he breaks before I find out what it is.


April 17, 2008 Gullible

Salmonella, Botulism

Salmonella, Botulism

Last night I took a frozen chunk
From the freezer, and with a thunk
I set it on the kitchen counter
Where I left it, then forgot ‘er.

This morning when I found it there
All thawed out, I did despair.
Do I keep, or throw it out,
Was it safe? I had to doubt.

Salmonella, botulism,
Intestinal paroxysm,

What a shame, I said out loud,
Of this soup I was so proud,
Baby limas, chopped sweet onion,
Chunks of ham, then cooked till done.

Dare I eat it? Is it safe?
On me the stress began to chafe.
Tonight I poured it in a pot
And boiled it till it was hot.

I let it boil a little longer,
With wooden spoon I did a-stir,
Hoping it was safe to eat
If I made sure to over-heat.

Salmonella, botulism,
Intestinal cataclysm.

I smelled it first, then tasted it,
Then I ate it, every bit.
If I should die before I wake,
Blame it on the beans I ate.

April 17, 2008 Gullible

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Paying taxes

I'm proud to pay taxes in America. The only thing is I'd be just as proud for half the amount. -- Arthur Godfrey

Monday, April 14, 2008

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers

I’m in big trouble. In two weeks I leave for a month-long trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, and I can’t find my big black suitcase.

That suitcase, the biggest one I have, has lived in the secret storage closet since I moved into this house six years ago. I call the closet “secret” because there are hinged bookshelves in front of it, but the trim around the closet door makes it not-so-secret after all, because that trim is visible over the top of the shelves. I really wanted to take that suitcase with me, instead of the carry-on size I usually use for two week trips.

I looked three times. The suitcase isn’t there. I looked in another closet where 99 per cent of the rest of the suitcases, duffels, handbags, etc., are stored. It isn’t there either but the matching suit carrier is. I also looked in the dry storage under the house. I didn’t find the suitcase but I did find the empty plastic bins I was looking for a week ago so I could pack away some clothes I don’t wear right now.

I remember seeing the suitcase in that secret closet last fall during my latest binge to maintain order in this house. It was right there in the far corner, next to the suit carrier.
I couldn’t have given away that suitcase, could I? Was it with the truck load of stuff I donated to the second hand store in Seward? I was being pretty ruthless in my sorting, but why would I do that? I would have been more likely to donate the suit carrier, which I never use, than a perfectly serviceable and like-new suitcase. Apparently I took both of them out and put boxes of cookbooks in their space, because that’s what’s there now. I had to move the cookbooks to make room for all the other books I’ve been buying.

I even went up to the old garage that’s on my property and looked there. I didn’t find it, but I did find the wheeled duffel bag that was my second option—the one I thought was under the house and couldn’t find earlier. In a side pocket of the purple and aqua duffel were receipts from a trip to Hawaii in 2000, and a couple shell leis that the nice lady at Hilo Hattie’s gives you when you walk in the door.

Things seem to want to live in certain places and when I move them, they disappear for weeks. Sometimes forever. Maybe when I’m thinking their name, they abscond to a parallel universe until I’m not thinking about them any more. Then they sneak back into my universe and I trip over them.

This compulsion to put things in order gets me into fixes regularly. I’m still looking for the two bottles of apple and distilled vinegar that I last saw on my kitchen counter three years when I was cleaning out and reorganizing the pantry cabinet. For many years I could blame this stuff on my husband, who had a habit of putting things wherever there was an empty flat surface. He didn’t care about putting apples with apples and oranges with oranges, the way I do. All he cared about was a flat, empty surface on which to put something. Then he’d make me look for it later, and give me “that look” when I found it. You know the one—“if we didn’t have so much stuff I could have found it myself.”

Well, he’s been gone a couple years, so I don’t have him to blame. I can’t blame the parrot, either, the only other living creature in this house. Besides the plants, I mean, and I certainly can’t picture the African violet running off with the big black suitcase.

I don’t win at Spider Solitaire as often as I could and I recognize that my habit of putting things in order is the reason. I could leave the string of red cards on the black card, and open up another move, but no! I have to put things in order first.

The only time this compulsion paid off was when I owned and operated a restaurant. I kept the kitchen organized, put things with like things as much as possible. I even had the jars of spices and seasonings in alphabetical order to eliminate long searches for the cumin or marjoram. My reward for attention to detail came when a very experienced server came to work for me. “This,” she said, “is the most well-organized restaurant I’ve ever worked in.”

You should see my pantry cabinet. All the canned goods are arranged according to type. The beans are on one shelf, soups on another, fruit on another. Everything is neatly stacked and all the labels are facing out. In my loft, all my books are arranged according to genre, then according to author. I have a basket where I drop all the cords for the electronic stuff, though I forgot which cords go to what machine so often that I finally labeled them. I have seven drawers of files, all in order. The theory is that I can find any piece of paper instantly. Unless it’s on my desk. That’s a different story.

With all this attention to order, you think I’d be able to find anything at any given moment. So, how come I can’t find the big black suitcase? And, yes, I already looked under the stacks of papers on my desk where just yesterday I was looking for the propane bill that seems to have disappeared.


April 14, 2008 Gullible

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Either Tiger forgot to leave a wake up call with the front desk, or he overslept.

Actually, considering how poorly everyone else played, he did okay.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Tiger Wakes Tonight

The Tiger Wakes Tonight

In the clubhouse, the quiet clubhouse,
the players sleep tonight,
In the clubhouse, the Master’s clubhouse,
the players sleep tonight

Weeeeeeeee, Bermuda greens,
Bermuda greens, Bermuda greens,
Bermuda greens, Bermuda greens.

Near the village, the peaceful village,
the Tiger wakes tonight.
Near the village, the quiet village,
the Tiger wakes tonight.

Weeeeeeeeeee, he’s just six back,
he’s-just-six-back, he’s-just-six-back,
he’s-just-six back, he’s-just-six-back.

Near the dogwood, the blooming dogwood,
the Tiger bares his claws.
Near the dogwood, the blooming dogwood,
the Tiger bares his claws.

Weeeeeeee, he’s on his way,
he’s on his way, he’s on his way,
he’s on his way, he’s on his way.

Look out players, here comes the Tiger,
driving with his might.
Look out players, you foolish players,
the Tiger strikes Sunday.

Weeeeeeeee, we’re here to see
A green jack-et, a green jack-et,
A green jack-et, a green jack-et.

Hush, my darlin’, don’t cry my darling’,
the Tiger’s here to fight,
Hush, my darlin’, don’t cry, my darlin’,
The Tiger’s here to fight.

Ready or not, here I am.

Huh? Oh, already? I wasn't quite prepared to start blogging this soon. I thought maybe I'd just tinker around trying to figure out what this is all about. Now here's this big empty box waiting to be filled with words. So, I'm wingin' it.

Let's see. First I'll tell you a bit about myself. I'm a fairly new member of the Age of Medicare, for all the good that does me because I think all the physicians in Alaska have opted out of the program. I've lived in Alaska since 1948. Why did I move so far north from Detroit, Mich? I didn't have much to say about it--I was six years old. One of these days I'll tell you some stories about that.

I'm one of those people who can't remember what year something happened unless it was momentous. That's why I remember I graduated from Anchorage High School in 1960. I remember that because it was pretty iffy there that last year. I'll tell you some stories about that, too.

A week later I went to work for a newspaper as a cub reporter. I was supposed to be a summertime replacement for vacationing reporters. By September I was a permanent reporter--covering the courts. What a time that was in Alaska. We'd just gained statehood and our court system was brand new. I did that for three years, covering everything from murder trials on down, then I worked for a radio station.

I survived the great Alaskan earthquake of 1964, worked as a legal secretary for a couple year. Then I ran away to work at a ski resort down the road about 35 miles. Let's see....I've been a cook, a janitor, a gardener, a condo manager, a construction worker on the building of the Trans Alaska Pipeline, a bookkeeper, and the owner/operator of a restaurant/bar/motel. Some say I've had a varied career. I say I have a short attention span.

In the past two years, after a life-changing event, I returned to my writing roots and began to act on a dream I had when I was 21: writing Gullible's Travels. I had started it back then, intending it to be a story about my travels through life. It didn't take long for me to figure out that I should live a while before I told my life story. So, here I am. And, boy, do I have some stories to tell you.

I should warn you that though I am widowed, I live with two assertive beings: my Mexican Double Yellow-headed Green Amazon parrot named Pablo, and a muse that leads me around by the keyboard. She is demanding in her quest for my attention, unforgiving should I ignore her, and--above all else--quirky.

She led me to some writing classes at an online site called ed2go. Here's a story from one of the exercises I did. The assignment was to chose four numbers at random, then use those numbers to find the corresponding words on a list. These words gave us a subject, place, action and twist, from which we were supposed to write a story. Here 'tis:

Human Resources

Gizmo was well aware that he replaced three men after he was hired by the Empress Cruise Lines. The other guys in the engine room made sure he knew, and that they weren’t at all happy about it.

They called him names behind his back, not realizing how keen his sense of hearing was. Even over the loud twin diesel engines he could hear things they didn’t want him to hear. They called him “Gizmo” to his face, though, and that wasn’t even his real name. That was fine with him. He’d been called Gizmo ever since he could remember because his real name was almost unpronounceable in English.

He was a little sorry about putting three men out of work, but he had to work too, didn’t he? Maybe if they worked out the way he did they would have the physical strength to do the things he did. Every time there was a lull in engine room work the other guys started a poker game while Gizmo practiced chin-ups on the overhead rigid hydraulic lines that ran from the bow thrusters to the hydraulic reservoir tank. Over and over and over, hundreds of times. Sometimes he’d swing back and forth, trying to keep the rough calluses built up on the palms and fingers of his hands so he could work on the hot engines without those clumsy gloves.

But mostly Gizmo kept his head down and his rear end up, in the manner of employees everywhere who just want to do their job and not cause trouble. His knowledge and strong body and work ethic were tailor-made for his success. He’d been taught that at the diesel mechanics vocational school he’d attended.

He was happy to have the job, even if he was lonely aboard the ship. The other guys in the engine room made attempts to talk to him in the beginning, but after a while they said they couldn’t understand him. Gizmo figured his accent was still too thick, so he’d been practicing and working on it. He’d try to mimic the words the others said, but they’d just laugh at him.

The food was great. He had no complaints about that. Gizmo was a vegetarian and the ship served lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to the crew. He could eat all the salad he wanted, too. The steward had given Gizmo an extra large salad bowl. He preferred it without those nasty, oily dressings.

He had no interest in the casinos or in the poker games that sprang up in the crew’s dining room after hours, so he was able to save all his paychecks. He gave them to the ship’s purser, who put them in the ship’s safe.

The ship sailed Alaska’s Inside Passage every week, and Gizmo appreciated the spectacular scenery. Sometimes when they reached the northern port of Haines the weather would be cold and rainy. He didn’t care for that at all, because Gizmo was from the south and preferred hot weather. He wished he could transfer to a ship that sailed the Caribbean. Maybe even Hawaii. First, though, he had to prove himself on this ship before he could put in for a transfer. The cruise line had taken a big risk in hiring him and it had received lots of complaints from the Seamen’s Union about the loss of three jobs.

Gizmo fondly remembered his biggest achievement. The main propulsion engine had started leaking oil quite rapidly from the rear main seal while out in the middle of Queen Charlotte Sound. This was the only open water on the voyage and more than half the passengers and crew became seasick after the ship’s Captain shut down the engines so the men could replace the seal. Such was their hurry that the foreman told Gizmo to hold the main shaft while the men removed and replaced the seal. They had an overhead crane for such tasks, but having Gizmo hold it with his brute strength was ten times faster. Not OSHA approved, but faster.

Even the Captain and the First Mate sent their thanks down to the engine room after that feat. That made Gizmo feel warm and fuzzy, even though he knew they, too, resented him. Those unions were a problem.

What made Gizmo drop a letter in the mail was the loneliness. He longed to engage others in conversation as he had at vocational school. He wanted to discuss philosophy and technology (he’d minored in computer engineering at school) and—most of all—females. The letter was addressed to the Human Resources Department at Hewlitt-Packard, the big computer company. It was a job application.

An answer finally arrived in the mail near the end of the cruise ship’s season. Gizmo ripped open the envelope, read the message and jumped and jumped for joy. He’d been hired and was to report to HP as soon as he was laid off from his present job.

“Finally!” yelled Gizmo in his native language. “Finally I will get to talk to people.”

But even Gizmo knew the true reason why he was being hired. He also knew he’d be able to handle the work of at least three people there. He wasn’t a stupid ape like the other mechanics called him. He was a strong, proud mountain gorilla, and he knew HP wanted him because consumers who called tech support wouldn’t be able to understand him at all.


(Words: gorilla, fixing a machine, cruise ship, career change)

That's a sample of one of my styles. Please note that all stories posted here are copywrited. Thanks for joining me and come back soon. I'm full of stories.