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Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Lottery - A Gamble?

Apparently, I was not the only person who did not win last night's six hundred and some odd million dollar Mega-Millions lottery drawing. Who knew? When I plunked down my five dollars (which is five dollars more than I usually plunk down on lottery tickets), I thought this thing was in the bag. The rest of the hassle was simply figuring out how I was going to spend my half a billion dollars. Quickly, before it killed me.

When I woke up this morning and found out I hadn't won the big prize, nor any of the smaller consolation prizes, I must admit I was a bit flummoxed. Especially since I had already lined up millions of dollars for immediate expenditure upon receipt of the big, oversized check for which I had made room in the back of my car to haul to the bank.

In the midst of preparing for a move, I had gone online and made reservations for a group of colorfully dressed New-Zealanders to come to my home and help me pack my stuff, most of which I was going to haul to the desert and set on fire in a celebratory bonfire. The New Zealanders were going to treat all in attendance at the celebratory bonfire to a series of Maori tribal dances depicting fertility, the cycle of the harvest and, inexplicably, bulimia amongst fashion models. Sure, it was going to be pricey, but I thought it would be well worth the money spent - the Maori are fine dancers and can pack with the best.

I also planned on buying the house that I see on the hilltop above my apartment - the one whose lights shine into my bedroom window at night to remind me that there are those who get to live on hilltops - and I was going to mount the civil war-era cannon I found on e-bay on its back patio so I could fire recklessly upon the folks still unfortunate enough to live in the apartments into whose bedrooms my newly-acquired lights would shine. This includes my current neighbor and his little under-the-stairway cannon. I was going to show them all a thing or two about cannon-fire.

My Civil War-Era Cannon

I had planned to buy a jet pack and an aircraft carrier as well, for the establishment of Jerry World - this will have to be put on hold for now, while I sort out the impending lawsuits over unpaid deposits and promises of cash-filled treasure chests to be delivered to the warship-mongers.

After spending three and a half hours on the phone with a keen buzz last evening, I have had to turn away from my door today the following:

- Three angry strippers, equipped with a half-dozen changes of role-play costumes, and their pet rhesus monkey.

The strippers' rhesus monkey (photo of strippers not available)

- A set of legitimate conjoined-twin hookers and their sundry lotions, cute little conjoined-twin paddle-car and legal waiver. (photo of conjoined-twin hookers not available - apparently, they are sensitive to light and worried about arrest)

- The lucky Maserati salesman delivering my Granturismo.

My Granturisimo

- The lucky Bentley salesman delivering my vintage 1936 MY.

My damned Bentley

- The lucky salesman from Recordingstudiodesign, who apparently flew all the way from London.

My damned recording studio (stripper pole not pictured)

- The jet pack guy - though I merely had to tell him I would sic my rhesus monkey on him to send him packing.

My damned jet pack

- Raquel Welch. I must admit, she didn't look that disappointed. That breaks my heart. However, I did get an autographed set of fuzzy britches and copped a quick, accurate, precisely-timed feel when she gave me a hug goodbye and that eases the heartbreak a tad.

All I'm saying is that I think I was doing a fantastic job of financial planning with the winnings in mind. I believe I would be very good at being wealthy - like Arthur. It's simply a shame that it didn't fall into my lap this time around.

What does being King pay?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Daylight Saving Time - Really?

I had a discussion today with a colleague regarding Daylight Saving Time, otherwise known as "Daylight Shifting Time" - a phrase which leaves me more than just a tad at unease. I feel that time is one of the few constants of our universe and should not be tampered with. Farmers, railroads and Benjamin Franklin apparently felt different and now I am forced to feel unease every time people start in with all the hocus-pocus of moving their clocks around to suit some mystical need to take advantage of the sun.

This is not the first time I have had this conversation and I am nearly certain it will not be the last, as it tends to come to mind at least twice a year as I scratch my head in bewilderment.

In the old days, time was even less constant than it is now, which I kind of get, because the world has not always been connected by satellite and Internet and Greenwich, London. Folks used to set their clocks by the sun and of course, this time differed as the sun did not move across the sky uniformly for all folks in all locations. This apparently drove the railroads crazy, since every town they arrived at was on a different time-set, which made keeping a consistent travel schedule nearly impossible. Of course, I imagine that there could have been some work done with a slide-rule and compass and some other mathematical doo-dads that might have made a schedule manageable - they should have let the Chinese handle that part of it with their colorful abaci instead of just using them as slave labor in the building of their empires, but as always, hindsight is twenty-twenty and I digress.

The need to standardize time became a priority and after decades of stubborn resistance on the part of locals, eventually everyone came around and time was calibrated for one and all and time zones were created to allow for the sun's lazy roll across the sky and everyone was happy. Well, everyone that is, but those who felt that keeping time standardized through the summer robbed them of precious daylight and that clocks should be moved to accommodate later hours in the summer, then moved back again as the days grew shorter.

What the hell? Somehow, it made more sense to change time than to come to an agreement with those around us that perhaps we can simply start our day a little earlier at certain times of the year than others and set our alarm clocks accordingly. Certainly it would make more sense for folks to make a deal with a handshake, a solid game plan and a couple of dates circled in red on the calendar than to make everyone in the world change time... Right???

If I had come up with the idea to come in an hour earlier in the summer so that I might enjoy an extra hour's sleep in the winter when the sun is slower to rise, I most certainly could go to any boss or patron with good sense and suggest that we accommodate such a need. Then I would set my clock accordingly and consider myself a lucky man to have the privilege of working for such a forward-thinking individual. Would this affect someone who might live elsewhere? Not likely. Just a deal made between a couple of like-minded simple folk to make life a little easier.

No, no - let's try this! Let's move time around. Everywhere! Twice a year, we will force-feed the manipulation of time itself upon all in the land - then, just when we think we have gained an hour on the grim reaper, or Mr. Sandman, or the lazy sun, we will give it back again, just in time to take advantage of the winter thaw. Perfect.

I don't mean to complain here - after all, I live in Arizona and we don't change time. That's not how we roll - time is time and it shouldn't be fiddled with. I think we learned this from the bloodthirsty Apache, who wouldn't have dreamed of changing time. If they needed to get up a little earlier to go massacre some ginger-haired sod-busters, then they got up a little earlier. If the sod-busters decided to change time, then they could die in their bed instead of while scraping at the earth with their plows and mules.

So, I suppose my long winded point is that Ben Franklin, for all his value as a statesman, inventor, musician, author, father of our nation and diplomat, was a lazy bastard who wanted to move time around so he could sleep a little later while nursing his daily hangover in France. Look it up - Franklin = lazy bastard.

Ben Franklin - Lazy Bastard

Just leave time alone, please. When I am King, time will be constant and unmoving. The hell with the leap-year, too - that has scarred too many a leap-year dipshit who insist that they are 8 years old and not 32. Then they act childish and invariably have their ass beaten at some bar where leap year is not the be all and end all that the leap-year babies think it might be. If our calendar comes a little bit uncalibrated when I get rid of leap year, is anyone really going to notice? Maybe Ferdinand and his nuclear spectroscopic telescope or some imbecile that insists that he has an extreme sensitivity to time and lunar activity and tides. As King, I will declare all such activity as tantamount to witchcraft and it will be dealt with appropriately.

Remember to vote Jerry Ford for King in the upcoming elections. It will be a write-in vote - but it will save us all some time. In the meantime, let's simply do the logical thing and get up when it makes sense...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome Back - An Excerpt from "The Inevitable Downhill Slope"

Passersby wouldn’t have even recognized John Sebastian as the thin, bespectacled lead singer of the Lovin’ Spoonful. The bloated, filthy character slumped in the cold corner between the wall and the dumpster, with a crusted, colorful trail of dried vomit adorning his tattered shirtfront could have hardly been mistaken for the zitherplaying songwriter from the 60’s.

He began to stir and squinted at the sunlight streaming into the alleyway where he had passed out. He had long ago broken the last pair of glasses he had—around the time he had sold his last zither, and now saw most of the world in kind of a beautiful haze. Sebastian stumbled to his feet and brushed absently at the crusted puke on his chest. It flaked off and dissolved in a puddle of urine at his feet. “Good Lord,” he moaned, suddenly dizzy and nauseous. The last thing he remembered was partying with Evel Kneivel at a seedy dive, where Kneivel let him squeeze his colostomy bag and guess what he had eaten for lunch. The thought made Sebastian spew a little more vomit down his shirt. Kneivel had made an early exit after attempting to jump the pool table in the motorized cart that took him from place to place. He had bellowed something about George Hamilton being a talentless hack as the ambulance driver loaded the gurney and the bartender pushed Kneivel’s damaged cart into the alley.

Evel and his legendary scooter

A different alley, Sebastian thought, putting his legs into drive and beginning the short walk to the street. Sebastian suddenly thought of his friend Rick Danko, and the time the two of them had crashed at Ringo’s pad during a weeklong cocaine/methanphetamine binge that had left Danko with a permanent stammer. Danko had implored Ringo to lend them ten thousand dollars, claiming “Robbie’s good for it.” Ringo, drunk and stoned out of his mind wrote a check with knuckles bloodied from beating his wife, Barbara Bach to an unconscious lump.

Robbie and Rick - "Robbie's good for it..."

“Here you go,” Ringo had said, handing over the draft. He held up a bloody, swollen fist. “If Robbie doesn’t make this good, he’s in for some of this…”

Sebastian laughed and made his way up the boulevard. Pedestrians gave him wide berth, as much due to the ugly squinting as to the smell that emanated from his clothing. “Fucking Ringo,” he said, his voice soft and remindful of the golden pipes that had sold millions of records. Suddenly, Sebastian remembered: He was trying to find Gabe Kaplan, the star of “Welcome Back, Kotter,” the 70’s TV show for which he had penned the theme song. He figured Kaplan would be a soft touch for a couple thousand dollars. Enough to keep him in crack and malt liquor for a couple of weeks anyhow. And Kneivel had told him that Kaplan lived in Vegas now, made his living as a professional gambler.

“Try partying with Micky Dolenz,” Sebastian had slurred. “That’s a professional gamble…” Kneivel had laughed heartily, shortly thereafter hurtling the motorized cart toward its bleak and painful demise. Las Vegas, Sebastian lamented. It might as well be fucking Australia… Just then, a speeding Bonneville hurtled around the corner, its top half up, like a sail in the wind, reminding Sebastian of the song “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys. The driver was wrestling with the top, cursing at the top of his lungs, his hands nowhere near the steering wheel when the car careened into the curb and smashed into Sebastian, who even with his poor vision, had realized that this was going to be big fucking trouble.

Charles Martin Smith, unaware that he had just pulverized John Sebastian like a Salisbury Steak, heard the unmistakable voice of the Lovin’ Spoonful as it lingered in the air. “And he ate up all o’ my corn…”

“What the heck,” Charles Martin Smith said, briefly pausing in his struggle with the convertible top. “That was the Beach Boys, wasn’t it?”

And the car continued to rocket toward Topanga canyon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Exploring the Mariana Trench - Really, James Cameron?

I read in the news today that James Cameron, the bazillionaire movie director had taken a submarine to the deepest part of the earth, The Mariana Trench. Get this - The Mariana Trench is "120 times larger than the Grand Canyon and more than a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall", according to the news article.

It is also dark, populated with deep-sea monsters and under approximately 35,756 feet of water. The article goes on to say " of the risks of a dive so deep is extreme water pressure. At 6.8 miles below the surface, the pressure is the equivalent of three SUVs sitting on your toe." I would have probably used the head as my example, rather than the toe, but that is nitpicking. You get the picture - if the sub had sprung a leak, the entire shebang would have imploded and crushed itself like an empty soda can with three SUVs sitting on its head.

I suppose if people want to run off to the deepest part of the ocean on their own time, it's none of my business. That said - what's the point? I know that the stock answer for endeavors like this is "because it's there". I've never understood that one. There's lots of stuff that's there, but I don't need to see ninety nine percent of it, because it is either not important to me, not in the least interesting, or it is dark, scary, populated with sea-monsters, underwater and dangerous.

Fish won't even go there - the only creatures that live in water that deep are eyeless, freakish sea-monsters built to withstand the pressure of having three SUVs sitting on their heads. I saw these creatures on a documentary once and even then thought who in the hell wants to go down there - with those? Of course, these deep-sea fish are probably the only living things on earth that will survive once the shit really hits the fan, but at that point they can have it, I say. By that time, my reign as King will have long-since been categorized as an outright failure despite my overwhelming popularity and groundbreaking ban on cell-phones in the car, movie theaters and grocery stores. I am still on the fence regarding restaurants, but leaning toward banning them there as well.

But I digress.

I think James Cameron would be better served to stick with making entertaining films. I have yet to see Avatar - I have an aversion to blue creatures. Those blue hillbillies in Kentucky scare me and I have never trusted Smurfs. But I liked Titanic. I also think Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the finest young actors of this generation - he was phenomenal in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape", alongside Johnny Depp, another huge talent. I like John Cusack, too - he's fine and proven to have good chops even as an adult, although "Say Anything" might have been his benchmark performance. Although I do like "Grosse Pointe Blank" and "High Fidelity" - tough call.

Anyhow, I guess my point is that maybe we should stay out of the Mariana Trench - nothing good can come from this, even if your submarine is equipped with rockets and torpedoes, like the one in my photo. Some deep-sea parasite built to withstand all that SUV pressure will inevitably latch onto the side of the vessel and be dragged to the surface, where it will most likely grow to enormous size, breath fire and eventually destroy most of Japan. Just sayin'. Leave the deep sea to the eyeless, freakish sea-critters and get back to important stuff - like taking Ashton Kutcher to outer space.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sea Snakes - Really?

"There are some 50 different species of sea snakes, and all of them are venomous. They thrive in abundance along the coast from the Persian Gulf to Japan and around Australia and Melanesia. Their venom is 10 times as virulent as that of the cobra. Humans bitten by them have died within 24 hours."

This from a friend's post on Facebook. As if I need yet another reason to avoid setting foot in the ocean. Sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, depth, salt and the movies "Castaway" and "A Perfect Storm" apparently aren't enough - now I have to worry about poisonous snakes, which are bad enough on land and almost certainly more nimble in the water.

It seems that there is always another surprising tidbit that comes across the wire that brings my fear of the sea to new heights - or depths, as it were. The ocean is nothing but trouble. Its tides, controlled by the moon, are as unpredictable as... well, as the tides. Its depths holds monsters, man-eaters and things that sting, yet we are drawn there by the shimmering of its waves in the sun and the pretty coral beneath the surface. Suckers, I say - immediately the lowest fruit on the food chain once we have entered its confines. We cannot breath beneath the waves, we are not equipped to swim quickly and we are bleeders - all of which define our place in the grand sea-scheme.

Now, we have snakes that inhabit the sea. Perfect.

Poisonous sea snakes - snakes even more poisonous than their landlubbing brethren. Lots more poisonous. I make it a point not to trust reptiles in general and even less those which have no legs or feet. Anything that slithers on the earth or in the sea should be avoided at all costs - time will bear me out on this one. It even states in the bible that serpents can't be trusted. I don't even believe in that book of fairy tales, but this particular piece of information makes perfect sense to me.

The ultimate irony here is that I have been awarded a trip to St. Thomas - apparently an island resort in the Caribbean, surrounded by ocean. I not only have my particular strain of skin cancer to deal with, but also my unconquerable fear of the sea to contend with on my trip. Will this stop me from going - I think not. I will be the one in the bar, slathered in 198 SPF sunscreen, wearing a beekeeper's suit, attempting to coax a mai-tai through one of those big straws.

I will also be the one keeping a tally on my peers who have been bitten, stung and devoured by the creatures of the deep - it's the least I can do.

Word Golf - An excerpt from "Killing Tom"

“Walt-O?” Jack asked, as he teed his ball up on the fourth hole, a delicate par 3, fronted by a smiling bunker with a creek running behind, both creek and bunker hungry for balls, anxious and inviting. “Seriously? Walt-O the fucking clown? That’s the best you could come up with?”

“I don’t hear you coming up with anything better…” Walter said. “What’s the yardage on this fucker?”

“A hundred sixty-two,” Jack said, pawing through his bag. “Probably a pitching wedge, I imagine…” He found what he was looking for and pulled out a brandy flask and unscrewed the top. Jack took a pull and passed the flask to his friend. “Have a drink, Walt-O…”

Walter took the flask and drank deeply. “See? It’s got a nice ring to it… Walt-O…”

“Why not Dumbass, the Retarded Balloon-Folder?” Jack pulled out an iron and addressed the ball, lining up a little left—he had been slicing a few. “Now that’s got a nice ring to it…” He took a couple of practice swings, then paused over the ball and pulled the club slowly back. He paused at the top of the backswing, belched and brought the club down fast, his knees bending and his arms flailing at the ball as if he were putting out a fire. True to form, Jack sliced the shot and the ball arced over the woods, then back over the fairway, dropping a few yards short of the green and running on. “Yeah, baby! I’m word-golfing! Woo-Hoo!” Jack did a happy-dance and took the flask from Walter and had a drink. “You’re up, Fuck-O!”

“Nice shot,” Walter said, pulling the pitching wedge from his bag. He teed up his ball and stood menacingly over the ball, his huge body swaying as he lined up his shot. “You know, sometimes you’re just a mean prick…”

“It’s going to be dark soon…”

Walter took a half swing and a nine-inch divot and the ball shot as if out of a cannon, hit the bunker, flew out of the sand and landed safely on the green. “Word golf! Word golf! Word golf!” Walter danced around the green like a great dancing bear.

“What the fuck did you hit?” Jack asked.

“Pitching wedge—like you said,” Walter answered, his face flushed from the Word-Golf Dance.

“Jesus Christ,” Jack muttered. “I hit a fucking six-iron…”

“You said pitching wedge…”

“I was hoping you’d drop one about fifty yards out and I could have a laugh…” Jack frowned and sheathed the six-iron. “A fucking laugh-riot.”

“See? That’s what happens when you’re a mean prick…”

“I’ll bet you still get a Mantle, probably a Yogi…” Jack had always been a Yankee fan—yet another quirk that Walter, a lifetime, long-suffering Cub fan, found quite annoying. He had taken to calling numbers which had no true worthy word-golf name by their Yankee equivalents. Therefore, a seven was a Mantle; an eight was a Yogi, and so on.

“Fuck you and your Mantles and your Yogis,” Walter said.

True to form, Walter carded a Mantle, Jack a Yogi.

“So I’ve been thinking,” Walter said as the two loaded their clubs into the minivan. “I think we should take care of Tom.”

“You’re drunk,” Jack said.

“That could be,” Walter shrugged. “It’s my day off… However, this does not make the issue go away.”

“The ‘Tom’ issue?”

“Exactly,” Walter said. “I’ve thought about it and at the rate he’s going, there is not going to be an inheritance – nothing left. And you and I will end up homeless and addicted to a variety of substances that we will not be able to afford.”

“Sounds bleak.”


They got into the van and drove from the course. “It’s gonna be hot before we know it,” Jack said. “Too hot to golf…”

“We can take him out on a lake someplace,” Walter said. “Then we can dump his crazy ass overboard. Then we can capsize the boat and cling onto it until help comes…”

“What would keep Twitchy from clinging on to the boat with us?”

“We would stay in the boat and poke him with oars until he drowns,” Walter reasoned. “Then after the bubbles stop coming up, we capsize the boat.”

Jack nodded. “I don’t know – that sounds like murder.”

“It is murder,” Walter said. “But Jesus Christ…” He let the thought drift.

“Poor crazy bastard,” Jack said. “He fucking creeps me out.”

“I know he does,” Walter said. “We’d be doing the world a favor.”

“Sure would,” Jack nodded. “But who says Lady Macbeth will be charging the gates of hell any time soon – who says she won’t spend the inheritance anyhow?”

Walter shrugged. “True enough. We come from a long line of octogenarians.”

“What the fuck?” Jack said. “What the fuck is an octogenarian – some kind of underwater scientist?”

“It’s people who live over a hundred years.”

Jack thought for a moment. “That would mean that the Lady would be around for another thirty or forty years.” He sighed. “There’s no hope that we could ever live that long…”

Walter smiled. “Well, we could take her out on the lake…”

They both laughed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tom Disappears - An Excerpt from "Killing Tom"

Jack prowled the dark aisles of Temptron in night-vision goggles, military issue, that had been obtained through the Greek for two cases of diodes and rheostats, or some shit like that, which had somehow managed to fall off a skid and find their way to the trunk of Jack’s car. The left eye flickered on and off once in awhile, which caused minor temporary vertigo and nausea, but other than that, they were in splendid military working order. Jack had taken to forgoing the boom-box with the blown out speakers, opting instead to patrol the dark warehouse and grounds in complete, utter silence, hoping for a chance to use the Glock 9mm tucked in his polished leather holster on an unsuspecting ne’er do well.

The cell phone vibrated in his jacket pocket and Jack answered it quietly. “Capricorn, here,” he whispered.

“Working?” Walter asked.

“Of course, I’m working,” Jack replied. “It’s two in the morning on a Thursday, isn’t it?”

“Me, too,” Walter shared.

“Good,” Jack said. He lurked around another corner. Another corner that was now safe from prowlers, junkies and thieves.

“Some dumbass spilled a pallet of liquid detergent tonight,” Walter said. “It took the idiot over two hours to clean it up—it was like a Laverne and Shirley episode…”

“That’s good, Walter—is there a particular reason you’re calling?”

“Yeah, you insensitive prick, I called to tell you that the entire Jewel now smells Spring-Fresh, and if you have any shopping to do, this could possibly be the most enjoyable olfactory place on the planet in which to do it. But, fuck you now—you’re not allowed in this Jewel anymore. Only nice people can shop here.” Jack could hear Walter pouting on the other end of the line.

“I’m sorry,” Jack whispered, skulking further into the darkness. “It’s just that I’m working…”

“Me, too,” Walter repeated. “But who do I chose to call on one of my only two breaks in this back-breaking shift?” He paused for effect. “My insensitive, selfish, dick-head friend.”

“Alright, alright,” Jack said. The left eye went out in the goggles and Jack nearly fell down and vomited.

“I called to tell you that my mother called me this morning, and Tom’s disappeared.”

“Twitchy?” Jack said, clinging on to a steel rack and clapping the goggles on the side to restore the vision in the faulty lens. “Where’d he go?”

“She doesn’t know. She’s thinking about calling the police, though.”

“Wow,” Jack said, the lens flickering on and off like a nightlight in an electrical storm, only serving to intensify the feeling of nausea. “I mean, I understand him leaving your Mom and all—who wouldn’t—but disappeared?”

“Like bad breath in a hurricane, gone!” Walter said.

Jack nodded in silence, finally flipping the goggles from his eyes, plunging him into total darkness. Bad breath in a hurricane? He wondered exactly what that meant. But obviously Walter was proud of the metaphor, so Jack did not question it. “What do you think is going on?” he asked.

“Dunno—something sinister, I’ll bet—Lady MacBeth is calling me back when I get home from work, so I’ll know more then.”

“Wow—disappeared…Call me later,” Jack said, squinting into the darkness.

“Will do,” Walter said, and hung up. Jack replaced the phone in his jacket and stumbled away from the rack to which he had been clinging, hoping to God that he could find his way back to the light switch without barking a shin on something sharp.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jack Kills Martha - an excerpt from "Killing Tom"

Walter peeled one eye open and tried to focus. He had no idea where he was and struggled for any sign of familiarity. The smell of cigarette butts and stale whiskey permeated his nostrils as he struggled to raise his swollen head from what he now recognized as his living room floor. “Oh, fuck,” he moaned as his head exploded in pain and his insides clenched in threatening spasms. “Jack?” He murmured and swallowed hard. “Where are you?” He rose cautiously to his knees and steadied himself against the overturned coffee table. Desperately trying to focus, he scanned the room. Jack wasn’t there. He rose to his feet and shuffled to the back window, stumbling over the shoe he had managed to discard the previous evening. The back door was wide open and fresh snow had begun to accumulate on the tiled kitchen floor. Walter paid it no heed as he looked into the back yard. The van sat at an angle in the grass, both passenger and drivers doors opened to the elements. The hazards where flashing dimly and he could hear the faint intermittent whoosh of wipers against the windshield. “How did I get it facing the wrong way?” He pondered as an overwhelming wave of nausea struck him.

Walter threw up in the snow, his mind numb and head throbbing when he noticed the blood. Near the neighbor’s fence, there was a great mound of fresh snow, blood showing from beneath. “Oh my God!” Walter screamed, as he wiped at his mouth with the soiled, wrinkled sleeve of last night’s dress-shirt. He sprinted into the yard, nearly slipping on the slush, and rushed to the bloody mound of snow. “JACK!” Walter wailed. “Jack—oh, no—I’ve finally really done it—I’ve killed the poor son of a bitch!” Walter dug at the snow and held back vomit again as his hand brushed over frozen, bloody fur. “Fur?” He gasped, coughing and swallowing bile. “What in the fuck…” He dug furiously and recognized the neighbor’s English sheepdog, Martha and shrieked anew.

“Oh, God, Oh, God, Oh, God,” Walter muttered, clearing the snow away from the bloody carcass. “I’ve killed Martha, I’ve killed Martha, I’ve killed Martha…” Then he saw the feet. He recognized the feet, or at least the shoes covering them, to be those of Jack. Walter screamed again—the feet seemed to be coming out of the dog. “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God,” Walter began again. “Martha ate Jack, Martha ate Jack, Martha ate Jack…”

Suddenly the feet shifted and Walter heard a groan from deep inside the dog’s carcass. The dead animal shifted, and Jack pulled himself from within. Covered in blood, his hair slicked to his head, his eyes slimed shut, Jack yawned. “Thank God,” he said, strings of blood and innards trailing between his lips as he spoke. “I thought I was going to freeze to death…”

“For God’s sake,” Walter said. “Why didn’t you just come in the house?”

“House?” Jack said, looking around, wiping gristle from his eyes. Walter pointed at the house. “Oh—we’re home…”

“Yeah—why didn’t you come inside?”

“You left me—I was asleep—it was snowing…I wandered around and got cold—that’s when I spotted this lion…”

“That’s Martha—the Beuford’s sheepdog,” Walter corrected.

Jack’s eyes grew wide. He looked at the dead pet and screamed. “I killed Martha?” Walter nodded and began to throw snow back over the carcass. “Fuck—I thought she was a lion…” He began to shovel snow over the dead animal with his hands along with Walter. “She fought like a lion…” He muttered.

“I’ll bet,” Walter said. “So after you killed the lion, you cut it open and crawled inside?”

Jack nodded. “To keep warm.”

“Just like ‘Call of the Wild’, huh?”

“Yeah—call me Clark Gable…” Both men chuckled nervously and stood, kicking a few more layers of snow over the dog.

“That should do,” Walter said.

“Yeah, let’s get inside,” Jack nodded. “I’m freezing…”

“Dude,” Walter pointed at Jack’s arm. “The blood is freezing—that’s creepy…”

Jack looked down and smiled, his face wrinkled in disgust. “Yeah, how about it?”

They walked toward the house, both men looking forward to some hot cocoa and Tylenol.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hobos - The Skinny

I have long been intrigued with the hobo. The romantic image of the tramp riding the rails, his belongings wrapped in a bandana tied to a bindle-stick and thrown over his shoulder always gave me a sense of freedom as a boy that if everything else went south, I could always fall back on being a world-traveling vagabond - good work, I figured, when you could get it.

In the intervening years, I began to form a different view of the hobo, mistakenly believing that there were two types: the "Street Hobo" and the "Rail Hobo". Street Hobos were indigents and homeless people who lived in refrigerator boxes; Rail Hobos were the ones people wrote songs about.

Apparently, there is a clear line of demarcation and homeless people are homeless people and hobos are hobos - period. Hobos differentiated themselves from "tramps" as well. H.L. Mencken wrote:

"Tramps and hobos are commonly lumped together, but in their own sight they are sharply differentiated. A hobo or bo is simply a migratory laborer; he may take some longish holidays, but soon or late he returns to work. A tramp never works if it can be avoided; he simply travels. Lower than either is the bum, who neither works nor travels, save when impelled to motion by the police."

 Again, my bad.

Hobos are sometimes not hobos by choice, whereas others have often freely chosen to ramble - though they might also be on the lam from the law or running from a life they have decided would be best left behind. Whatever the reason for their rambling, hobos have always lived on the fringe of our society, mostly out of sight, wandering from jungle to jungle, always in search of three hots and a flop.

Believe it or not, there is an entire code of ethics for the hobo - according to Wikipedia - established at the 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis Missouri. Who knew? The code is as follows:

1. Decide your own life, don't let another person run or rule you.

2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.

3. Don't take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.

4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.

5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.

6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals' treatment of other hobos.

7. When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.

8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.

9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.

10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.

11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.

12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.

13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose all molesters to authorities, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.

14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.

15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.

16. If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!

It almost sounds as if hobos were once considered on par with  knights of the round table or something equally romantic and beautiful. Proud, benevolent wanderers who only improve the quality of your town by passing through. If only we all rode the rails of life following a similar code (using "rail-yard" as an apt euphemism for life) - especially the "Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible" part. What a different world it would be.

As I lean back in my satin smoking jacket in my library, snifter of expensive brandy at hand, stroking my long, elegant beard, I wonder to myself if the rambling life could still be the life for me. "The American Gypsy", as Mike Lyon referred to the hobo. You never know - maybe if things go south...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lottery Winner Keeps Using Public Assistance - Shocker...

Here's one for the "REALLY?" files...

I was skimming the news - I prefer skimming because it seems every story I may want to read all the way through invariably leaves me disappointed, disgusted or confused - and I came across an article about a woman who won a million dollar lottery and chose to continue to use her public assistance stipend to buy groceries.

This person, who shall remain nameless - let's call her Amanda Clayton - justified using the food stamp-type benefit card by pointing out that since she took her winnings in a lump sum, got just over $500,000.00. And she was, after all, not employed. And she does, after purchasing a new house with some of the windfall, now own two houses. Apparently, a half-million dollars just doesn't stretch as far as it used to and I get that. But REALLY?

Two hundred dollars a month is being issued to "Amanda" for public aid assistance and I suppose that there is no legal reason why she shouldn't take the assistance - if the system is willing to kick her out a check every month, despite the fact that she just became a half-million dollars richer than she used to be, then more power to her, I suppose. But here is my thought: That's got to be some seriously bad juju.

Here is what I know:  If I had taken the big lottery check and continued to receive my monthly stipend, I would be dealt some kind of exquisite karmic retribution that would be not only be administered immediately, but with ultimate irony, such as home-invasion robbery or the flooding of the basement in my new house that held my Mickey Mantle rookie card and autographed Paul McCartney Polaroid Land Camera photograph. Or I would fall down carrying the government-sponsored groceries into my new house and break my neck. That is what I know.

I think that there should be a special reward for those who take advantage of such situations shamelessly, without guilt or apology. Amanda even admitted that she figured "they" would take away her benefits, but "they" didn't. It is obvious that she didn't glean a teary lesson from that handsome bastard Russell Crowe, when he played boxing champion Jim Braddock in "Cinderella Man".

In one scene that I have yet to see clearly through my tears or hear clearly through my sobs, Braddock, down and out (this is the Great Depression), pushes his plate of food to his daughter and proceeds to mime eating a steak dinner and tells her cheerfully how full he is. She eats the food and you can see the pain in the starving boxer's eyes. Damn you, Ron Howard for manipulating my emotions like a puppet-master. Anyhow, when Braddock receives government benefits, it helps him put food on his table and keep the lights on. These were hard times and one took any assistance one could get.

Later, when Braddock finally beats that cocky, murderous sonofabitch Max Baer and wins the heavyweight title, he is flush with cash and finally able to modestly support his family. And do you know what Braddock did? He went back to the social services offices and paid them back all the money he had received while on the dole, that's what. It made my chest swell with pride and then of course the tears. A fine movie and one that was under-appreciated, if you want my opinion. But then again, I like boxing movies.

But I digress.

I think we should keep an eye on Amanda Clayton, not to judge, but simply to wait and see what juicy Karma Poop the juju Gods are going to fling her way. Bring some popcorn and a Kleenex - a Ron Howard picture is certain to follow.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Knife-Wielding Kite Surfer Defeats Sharks - Really???

I was skimming the news and read about a kite-surfer who fended off sharks with a knife while languishing in the Red Sea between Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I meant to say Dumbshit Kite Surfer - my bad. It is my well-documented opinion that when you have repeatedly made the questionable decision to hop into any situation where Nature or the Animal Kingdom hold the upper hand, you are bound to eventually be eaten alive or crushed to pulp.

I will begin by admitting that I know little or nothing about kite-surfing. I would imagine it would involve riding a surfboard powered by some kind of kite, or perhaps a sail. It doesn't sound any more inviting to me than riding a surfboard powered by gigantic waves, but to each his dumbshit own, I've always said. Not that surfers  are truly dumbshits, necessarily - no more than mountain-climbers, fire-eaters and tightrope-walkers - it is simply my thought that these folks have a screw loose. And "dumbshit" is my nice way of saying that. I have several thrill-seeking, water-loving dumbshit friends whom I love dearly. And I will miss them when they're eaten alive or crushed to pulp.

The kite surfer hero of today's tale is 42 years old and from Poland. In my opinion, he's lucky that he might live to see 43 and perhaps even taste drożdżówka again. Apparently, this brave soul - Jan Lisewski is his name - last year became the first person to kite surf across the Baltic Sea, which is much closer to his native Poland,  and was not willing to leave well enough alone. I don't know how many miles that trip was, but the minimum width across the Baltic, via Finland, is around 16-18 miles. And according to the World-Wide-Web, there are 36 species of shark in the Baltic, though none are dangerous and most are near extinction. In other words, the lazy sharks live in the Baltic. The far-different trip the brave Mr. Lisewski chose to make across the Red Sea, from El Gouna, in Egypt to Duba, in Saudi Arabia is roughly 120 miles, which is quite a kite-surf haul by any standards of the kite-surf and littered with aggressive, hungry sharks nowhere near extinction  (see colorful map below).

Note the red line tracing Our Intrepid Hero's intended route. You're welcome.

Armed with some energy drinks, water, energy bars and a knife, in addition to an emergency SOS beacon, Lisewski made it three quarters of the way through his journey when his kite collapsed, leaving him to flounder in shark-infested waters.

Note position of aggressive shark head in the water marking the approximate area of Lisewski's kite-collapse.

Lisewski set off his emergency beacon and proceeded to spend the next 40 hours on his surfboard fighting off sharks with his knife.

Artist's rendering of Kite-Surfer fighting off sharks and sea monsters.

"I was stabbing them in the eyes, the nose and gills," Lisewski later recalled. Good choices all. I do not know that I would have the wherewithal to stab an attacking shark - I am nearly certain I would be distracted and otherwise engaged in frantic paddling, shrieking, fouling my sporty swimtrunks and wailing to the heavens. 

While I admire our Polish hero for his keen instincts of self-preservation and ability to fight off the man-eaters, who were no doubt quite tenacious, I still have to shake my head in bewilderment over his willingness to set himself up as a light snack for creatures of the deep. While I may never understand the mindset of the thrill-seeker, I can certainly appreciate his unflagging courage in the face of the snapping, bloodthirsty maw of death. I would, however, probably die of a heart attack well before the predators got close enough to smell my dirty britches. This would be my final act of nose-thumbing, even as my ticker was seizing up, content in the knowledge that I was depriving these hungry sea creatures of a live meal.

That would show them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Note to the Fine Judges of "The Voice"

My daughter auditioned for "The Voice" in Chicago this weekend. I have never seen the show, but I admit I would invest my time should my daughter be a contestant. From what I understand, it is yet another show where young people try to out-sing each other - a novel concept. I assume piles of cash, fame and a lucrative recording contract await the lucky winner.

Logan didn't get accepted to the show and I am a curious soul - here is the note I am planning to send to the judges who made such an odd decision. As always, your suggestions are welcomed and appreciated....

Dear Sir or Madam,

First of all, I would like to thank all the folks at "The Voice" for giving my daughter the opportunity to audition in Chicago this past weekend for your show. I'm certain it was cold and windy there and your fortitude is commendable. I prefer to work in a warmer climate - I feel it adds to my overall good-naturedness to not have to trudge through, shovel or drive in snow. I have heard that cold temperatures can affect the mind and perhaps that would explain the text I received from my daughter Logan when I asked how the audition had gone. This was her reply: "Really bummed. The judge said she was confused by my song and stopped me before I got to the chorus."  No further explanations were given and apparently no one else from Logan's group of ten auditioners made the cut either. And Logan doesn't suck. Not at all - in fact, I think she's really good and that you did yourself a disservice by not allowing her to get to the chorus of the song, which is a delight.

So, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind taking a few minutes out of your judgemental day to explain how the song or performance was confusing, for future reference, if possible. I hate the idea of my daughter leaving an endless sea of confused listeners in her wake as she moves through her musical career - I feel it would be bad form and some of the confused might want to beat her up for it.

Before I go any further, if the weather and subsequent ear-infection or runny nose was indeed a factor in your confusion - or some other medical condition, such as seizure or stroke, I would like to wish you a full and speedy recovery. And if this is the case, please do not feel pressured to respond in a timely fashion - write when you can. After all, as the Six-Fingered Man once said, "If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything..." Truer words were never spoken.

I have never heard the word "confused" in reference to a song or performance before - maybe once, but it was Sinatra at the end, when he had to read off the teleprompter and often lost his place. We'll probably hear it a few more times in the coming days, since Glen Campbell is going on tour with Alzheimer's. That is a trainwreck waiting to happen.  And the term "confused" is used to describe the performer, not the judge.

But I digress.

The song Logan performed was "Always", by Panic! at the Disco and it is one of my favorite of her cover tunes. (Logan, performing "Always", by Panic! at the Disco) If your confusion stems from the fact that the band uses a seemingly pointless exclamation mark after the word panic, I am with you - I've never understood that particular naming convention. I can only imagine your confusion trying to pay attention to a young lady singing when you are running through all of the plausible pronunciation variables of the band name, given the odd exclamation mark - is it PANIC!!!!!... At the disco, or is it PANIC AT THE DISCO!? I personally do not have such issues, given my keen focus and ability to consider dozens of subtle readings of the band name during a performance, without even once losing time on my tapping-toe.

And I heard she wasn't permitted to play her ukulele while she sang. I get that - it's hard to pass unbiased judgement with tears of joy streaming down one's cheeks. I know, I've tried - practically impossible, given the goosebumps and all. Perhaps it was the lack of ukulele accompaniment that caused your confusion. The ukulele is a fine instrument and you certainly missed out on an opportunity for some top-notch entertainment - but you are welcome to click on the link above to hear the song in its full beauty.

We look forward to hearing from you. Logan will get over her disappointment. They always do. Eventually. On a side-note, her twin sister Allison will be auditioning at the end of the month in Los Angeles. Who knew, right?! I will tell her to leave her uke at home and stay away from that damned Panic! at the Disco. Along those lines, do you have anything against Korean pop music? If so, I would like to address her inevitable heartbreak in advance, if at all possible.

Until then, best regards and please do feel better.

Jerry Ford

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Kennishaw "Niblick" Taylor Looks back on 100 Years of Arizona Golf

"Call me 'Niblick'," the old man said, rising from the table to greet me. He was thin as a twig and looked as if he would be blown away by a decent gust of wind. Then again, he was a hundred and four years old.

Kennishaw "Niblick" Taylor was an Arizona golf legend who spent much of his life barnstorming around the state and playing exhibition matches and performing trick-shot demonstrations. He never golfed a PGA sanctioned tournament and has been mostly overlooked by history. This is his story.

Niblick Taylor (far right) caddying at the San Marcos -1913

When I was asked to do a story about a hundred years of Arizona golf for the state's Centennial, I began researching the topic and the name of Kennishaw Taylor caught my eye. I began to ask some old-timers about Taylor and learned that not only was he still alive, he still lived here in the desert he loved. After some fast-talking and palm-greasing, arrangements were made for me to meet the legend in a coffee shop in Apache Junction.

"You can only believe about half of what I say," the old man told me, a twinkle in his ancient eye. "The hard part is I don't remember which half is the truth..." So began our interview. I could find very little recorded history regarding Taylor, who at various parts of our interview claimed he was the founder of Taylor guitars, Taylor-Made golf clubs and the father of Andy Taylor, "the famous sheriff from the TV". Even the photograph Niblick Taylor showed me of himself as a boy caddying at the San Marcos golf course in 1913 didn't ring true. If the photo had indeed been taken in 1913 as he claimed, he would have been 5 years-old. The boy in the photograph looks a few years older than that. Could he have simply gotten his dates wrong, or was he pulling my leg?

"Where did you get the name 'Niblick'?" I asked. The old man leaned back and smiled. His cocoa was cooling - he said drinking it too hot made him anxious. "Well, before your time and all your fancy names for golf clubs - like '9-iron' and '8-iron' and '7-iron' and so-forth, we had a set of logical names for the clubs - each name was standard and all clubs conformed to this naming convention. We had 'Mashies' and of course 'Mid-Mashie' and 'Spade-Mashie', as well as the 'Mashie-Iron'. There was the 'Jigger' and the 'Brassie' and the 'Spoon'. We also had a 'Brassie-Spoon' and a 'Cleek', but I don't want to confuse you. The 'Niblick' was the equivalent of what you would call a '9-iron' in today's fancy terms. There was also a 'Mashie Niblick' and a 'Pitching Niblick'." Taylor sipped his cocoa. "That was back when things was simple... Anyhow, I once holed out a shot from behind a tree, in thick rough, standing in a puddle of water, with a horse and cart standing in front of the green. With my Niblick. They started calling me "Niblick" after my amazing shot and the name stuck. Of course, I practiced that shot all the time, so it was nothing new for me, but the rest of the gang thought it was pretty amazing."

I asked Niblick how golf had changed in Arizona over the last century, trying to keep the interview on course. "Well, for one thing, you don't have to run from Apaches," he said. He tore a square from his toast and dipped in into the cocoa. Then he let go of the square and it sank to the bottom of his cup. He didn't seem to mind. "Why, I remember once I was on the last hole of an amazing round - back then the fairways was dirt and the greens was oiled sand - I was on the verge of shooting a 54. I lined up my putt and was preparing to knock in an 8-footer for the record-setting score, when all of the sudden we heard this whooping and hollering - it was a small war party of Apache Indians coming over the rise to get our scalps! We ran to our horses and beat them back into town, but needless to say, I never finished the round and my 54... Well..." The old man stared at his cocoa.

"Who was the most famous person you ever golfed with?" I asked. Niblick smiled. "I took Bob Hope for six thousand dollars at the Phoenix Country Club in 1947... I beat the hell out of Chico Marx when he refused to pay up on his losses, once. He bet I couldn't hit a golf ball teed up on a four-foot pole from ahorseback 250 yards...Threw the little bastard around the clubhouse at the Biltmore and threatened to break his piano fingers with a Spade Mashie..." Niblick leaned in conspiratorially. "I had sex with Carole Lombard at the Biltmore, too - one night by the pool. Her husband was passed out drunk in a chair right next to us." "You mean Clark Gable?" I asked. Niblick thought for a moment. "That might have been his name..."

"What is your favorite memory of this last century of golf in Arizona?" I asked. The old man was tiring. His cocoa had gone cold and now he was simply dropping little torn squares of toast into the cup and watching them sink. He gazed wistfully at the toast-filled cup. "Carole Lombard..." "Besides Carole Lombard," I prodded.

"Well," he began, gesturing out the window at the ramshackle Apache Junction buildings lining the trail. "Before all this, a man really had to want to golf. There weren't golf courses on every corner, they certainly weren't green and beautiful - they were mostly dirt - and it was devilish-hot most of the year." We both looked at the cocoa - the toast had swelled up in the cup and now oozed over the rim like a muffin-top. "You had to ride in a hot coach or on the back of horse for twelve or fifteen miles through dust with barely a marked road just to get to a golf course." Niblick picked up a spoon and began to gently dig at the cocoa-toast. He spooned a bit into his mouth. He pointed the spoon and leveled his eyes at me. "Back then a man had to really want to golf."

He turned back to his cup and I rose to go. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Taylor."

"Call me Niblick," he said.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Raccoon - Satan's Little Minion

I saw in the news that a man who was attempting to shoot a caged raccoon was shot twice while trying to get this seemingly simple, mindless task accomplished. The story went on to say that the first shot ricocheted around the cage, came back and hit the shooter in the abdomen, causing him to drop the gun. Dropping the gun caused it to discharge again, the second shot also hitting the shooter in the abdomen. There was no information on whether the raccoon was still on-hand. Police are sticking to this story - I have my doubts.

I am of the firm and unshakable belief that when the man approached the cage with murderous intent, he was quickly disarmed by the wily critter and shot twice for his efforts - a kind of Raccoon-Ninja surprise attack that undoubtedly took the would-be assassin by surprise. The article did not say so, but I am guessing the little masked bandit rifled through the gunman's pockets, found keys to the cage and set himself free. He probably urinated on the man on his way out.

We have all seen the Disney footage of the cute, cuddly raccoons diligently washing their food in the gentle flowing stream, using their little raccoon-hands almost like little doggish, furry people. Well, I am here to tell you as a living human witness that these documentaries are balderdash. Perhaps back in the old days, before human settlers got lazy and slovenly, but the image of the raccoon as a cute little forager with nimble fingers is certainly no more than idle bunkum now.

Because somewhere along the line, the raccoon has become a cute little nimble-fingered minion of Satan.

Being a child of the desert, I had never had much occasion to deal with the raccoon. That changed dramatically when I moved to a suburb north of Chicago, near the railroad tracks, next to a forest preserve. We would see bands of the masked marauders emerging from the forest at the evening's gloaming, looking and moving like four-legged zombies, making their way toward neighborhood garbage cans set out for collection, with little or no fear of human repercussion. They had learned where the easy food was to be gotten.

"What the???" I asked my brother in law, Kelly. We were sitting on the second-story back porch of my apartment enjoying a cold beverage the first evening I witnessed the invasion of the Procyon. "Coons," Kelly said. "They're like the vulture of the animal kingdom..." He took a sip from his beer. "Or the carp - scumbag bottom-feeders... And mean..." I watched, mouth agape, as the animals surrounded a garbage can and began working the bungee cords that held the lid on with their little dexterous fingers.

"It's a good thing we tie the lids down," I observed. "I wondered why we did that..." "It won't stop them," Kelly said. "It will only slow them down..."

Soon, we had purchased pellet guns to defend our frontier from the furry scavengers. We would sit on the porch and peck away at them and watch them jump. "Their fur is so thick that it's like me shooting a rubber band at you... Especially in that coat..." He pointed at my lavender parka. Apparently, what I thought was dashing ski-wear was actually a ladies' coat that had been on the wrong rack at the T.J. MAX. "They barely feel it," he finished, shaking his head at the coat for the 9000th time. I frowned. "Then why are we bothering to shoot at them?" I asked. Kelly shrugged and sighted in a large coon trying to tip over my garbage can. "You got something better to do?" PLINK! The coon shrugged and backed away from the can, somehow associating the sting of the pellet to the action of tipping the can.

We soon became disenchanted with shooting at the invaders with BB guns - it was like "Night of the Living Dead" - they just kept coming and coming, in thick-skinned, ring-tailed waves - had we been under attack instead of our garbage, I am nearly certain we would have been devoured in our first days of inhabitation. We gave up shooting at the coons at dusk in favor of picking up the torn and ravaged garbage littering the alley at dawn. It was like a Filthy, Stinky Circle of Life.

One night that winter, after a snowfall, I made my way up the back stairs to the porch after work and was surprised by the sight of one of the sneaky critters staring at me from the corner of my porch, next to the garbage can I had set out in order to take down to the alley the next day, before collection. I shrieked and the thing stood on its hind legs, hissing at me, the agile little hands raised high, claws bared for attack. I dropped my keys into the knee-high snow that had gathered on my porch during the evening and glanced quickly at the raccoon, who was beginning to advance toward me.

I shrieked again and plunged my hand into the snow, blindly searching for the keys that I had dropped. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sudden movement as I fished the keyring out of the drift. The beast, which was the size of a small Labrador, brushed my leg as it rushed past me and trundled down the stairs, making its high, hissing sound as it loped away. I thought I heard it say "I'll be back for you, fat-boy - and I will pluck your eyes out with my spooky little fingers as I eat your face off...." Everyone know that the eyes are a special treat...

I made it in the house safely. The front of my pants were wet - I blamed it on digging in the snow for my keys. I never went up the stairs at night without a three-iron in my hands after that - I would be damned if any beast of the night was going to pluck my eyeballs out with its little raccoon-hands without a proper beating with a three-iron first. The rest of my time in Morton Grove was without incident - the coons still came to feed and my neighbors and I left our garbage for them and cleaned up afterward as our own kind of sacrifice to the furry nocturnal scavengers. It was an uneasy treaty, and both sides trod lightly.

When I read the story of the man who came to shoot the caged raccoon, I could certainly understand his rage against the animal - at the same time, I could only shake my head at his naivety in approaching the sneaky beast in such a brazen manner. The cage had given the gunman a false sense of security and he had grown careless. I have seen such a thing in movies hundreds of times and it was his downfall. And now there is one more little minion of Satan back on the loose. God help us all...