Saturday, May 28, 2005

Change spotting

Found a dime on the sidewalk today. Yesterday too. I am what you might call a change spotter. I like to look for lost coins. You can find them anywhere, but I like to check around outdoor vending machines, like where they sell newspapers. Near parking meters are good hunting spots too because people fumble for change to put in the meters.

Of course, if a greenback turns up, I won't look aside. I pick up those too. Though it might not make me rich, I might just turn up enough to put another nickel's worth of gas in the tank. It's just a hobby. But found money is fun.

I even go to our high school's football stadium after big games. Been doing that for I'll bet a decade. It's worth while. After homecoming, I'll always pick up close to ten dollars worth of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Mostly quarters. I sometimes collect double digits in quarters. That's ten or better. After last homecoming I found a ten dollar bill.

You have to get to the stadium early the next morning. I get there at the crack of dawn, even a little before. Still, there's a guy with a flashlight who collects returnable bottles at 10 cents a pop. He must come in the middle of the night. Claims to me that he makes over $100 a week. Maybe, but I don't collect cans or bottles. It's too dirty. There's a guy the locals call Weird Willie who collects pop cans too. Sometimes he comes to the stadium, but later in the morning. I've been tempted to tell him that the early bird gets the cans.

My big score was a $100 bill. I found that in a car wash once. Felt bad that somebody had to lose it. So I came back after a few hours to see if anybody posted a "Lost Money" sign there. Didn't see anything like that. So I treated the family to Red Lobster.

A Blog Slog

Tonight I decided to use the "Next Blog" feature on Blogspot and viewed 50 different blogs. Even commented on a few of them, the first time I've ever done that. Of the 50, 18 were some form of advertising or merely links to websites. Another 11 were written in a foreign language. Other than English, that is. One blog apparently had the same post in English and Spanish. They were griping about the Brachial Plexis Network.

That left 20 blogs to browse. Some were only pictures. One had only poems. There was one touching blog about a young girl with cancer. Stories about sick children sadden me. They are so brave, so deserving of life, yet so helpless. Many very personal blogs. I think it helps people to talk about their problems in life.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Places Where I've Slep

Womb, bassinet, crib, playpen, my mother's arms. A bunk bed, single bed, double bed, queen, king. Sleeper sofa, hospital bed, feather tick, cot, sleeping bag, lawn chair looking up at the stars, air mattress, the hard ground when the air leaked out inside my tent. The back seat of a station wagon at the drive-in movie when I was a kid. The water bed of a motel with my wife when we were younger.

Inside a leaky tent in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota while a fierce thunderstorm toppled a three-story tree five feet away. I slept all of two hours that night. On the floor of a cabin in front of a blazing fire. Slept much better that night but it got cold when the fire went out. In a tent under the northern lights on Isle Royale.

An AMTRAK "sleeper" car that shook and rattled as it rolled. A feather bed at Yellowstone Lodge to the sound of geysers erupting. At an old captain's house made a bed and breakfast along the coast of Maine. The sound of the waves mixed with a chorus of coyotes and seabirds there.

A high-rise Manhattan Hotel with a view of nearby Times Square and people roaming at any hour of the night. The Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, a glorious hostel so old it is mentioned by the early 1900 characters of The Music Man. A KOA camping cabin in the White Mountains prior to my climb of Mt. Washington when I turned 50.

A pop-up camper when I was a teen. I remember hugging my dog one night after he found his way back to the campground after becoming lost in a nearby town. A fifth wheel recreation vehicle near Superstition Mountain where the sound of generators at the trailer park ran till way past dark.

My mother-in-law's trailer in Key Largo where a falling coconut dropping on the roof sounded like a bomb going off. Dixie Landings Resort at Disneyworld. though not till after midnight since I had to find my teenage sons who became lost after returning late one night. Also Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disneyworld while zebras, giraffes and wildebeast roamed the grounds outside.

But I've never slept in a hammock. Or on a plane. Or a boat or ship or a barn. Or all night under the stars. Neither in a moviehouse, concert hall or at work. Also not on a bed leaves. Or off the beaten trail in the wilderness. Nor in a foreign land other than Canada. Not on silk or satin. Or on the sands of a beach.

So much time I've spent sleeping. So many places yet to go.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

My Dog Doog

It was almost twelve years ago that we bought Doog. He's what the pet store called a "Chin Poo", part Japanese Chin, part poodle. Actually chin-poo translates into expensive mutt. He's small, about 15 pounds, black with some white patches and whiskers. His distinguishing characteristic is a front canine tooth that hangs out over his lip. Sometimes all his teeth on one side of his mouth hang out over his lip, what my boys call "showing the row." It doesn't make him look fierce or anything. He's one laid back dog.

The only time he loses his temper is when the phone rings and somebody rushes to answer it. Then he attacks like a pit bull defending a bone. Otherwise, he just chills. Burglars could be attacking our home and engaging us in a hand-to-hand fight. Doog would sit and stare. Or go behind the couch if he thought he was in the way.

Doog is short for Doogie. Remember Doogie Howser from the TV show? Well Doogie is short for Doogie Bowser. I wanted to call him beggar since he's done that from the day we brought him home as a puppy. Must be in his genes. He wants whatever I'm having. Pizza is his favorite. If we phone out for pizza, he understands. He'll watch for the delivery guy out the front window and barks when he gets to our house.

But he's not a good watchdog. He barks for no reason at night. And if there is a noise inside our house, he'll go under our bed and bark there. Maybe he thinks that if it is a burglar, if barking doesn't scare him off, at least the burglar won't find him under the bed. My wife and I used to sleep with the bedroom door closed. Then one night Doogie jumped off our bed and scratched at the door. We thought he wanted to go downstairs to get a drink or something. But when I opened the door, he jumped back on the bed. He just wanted the bedroom door open, not shut. Maybe his hearing is going since he's pretty old and it's easier to hear house noises with the door open. Who knows?

All in all, Doog is a good dog. He doesn't bite. Even the squirrels seem to know that since they'll let him catch them. No respect he gets from the fauna in the neighborhood. And the only time Doogie will scatter the trash is when we put Kentucky Fried Chicken bones in the garbage. Doogie can't resist then, even though he knows getting into the trash is bad. It's like opening a box of chocolates in an office full of women. Most of them know that chocolates are fattening, but they can't resist anyhow.

My wife says she doesn't want any more dogs after Doogie. So he might be our one and only. I wouldn't mind a cat, but my wife doesn't like those either. And of course no hamsters, mice or gerbils. I guess that leaves fish. She hasn't ruled that out yet. But I don't want to get ahead of myself here. Doog is still king of the house for now.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

My Life Thus Far

So I was born almost 52 years ago in the mostly working class town of Bay City, along the Saginaw Bay in Michigan. Firstborn kid, firstborn son. Our family would eventually include one girl and two more boys. My father worked as a crane operator most of his life, while my mother stayed behind to tend us and our home.

Of course, I don't recall much of my toddler years. I remember hiding a pair of crappy underdrawers in the bathroom. Found my father's razor and tried to shave once. That wasn't too cool. I went to kindergarten and first grade at Bush elementary school in Essexville.

Then we moved about two miles down Nebobish Street which put us in Bay City. I went to Woodside Elementary School, but don't remember much there either. I think I won a spelling contest once. That was pretty cool. Then I went to Washington Junior High. Kinduva tough place. Our science class saw one student get into a shoving match with the teacher. I read later that this same student ended up going to prison for attempted murder or something like that. I was happy to leave that school.

High school was better but I didn't have the fun that kids do in high school on TV and the movies. I thought high school was boring mostly. Except when a race riot closed the school early one day during the turbulent 60s. I was never much of an athlete, so I didn't plays ports. I didn't have a girlfriend so I never went to dances or the prom. And I wasn't that smart either, so I didn't graduate with honors. But I did like to write and I was editor of the high school newspaper. That was kinda cool.

College was more fun. I went to Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, which is about an hour's drive from Bay City. I stayed in dormitories all four years. We got pretty wild. Once the police came to our room and said we were all under arrest because we were shooting fireworks at the girl's dorm. But they let us go after we gave them the leftover fireworks. I should mention that the drinking age was 18 back then.

So I graduated with a bachelor's of science degree, though my major was journalism and my minor was English. Anyway, I started work at The Alpena News for what was then minimum wage, $3 an hour I think. I lasted a little over two years there before I decided I didn't like reporting. Too stressful. I had to do things like try to talk to victims of violent crimeand their families. That wasn't fun. And it didn't pay too well either.

After quiting the paper, I went back to school at the University of Michigan to get a teacher'scertificate. And after three semesters, I was certified to teach. But I'd already decided I didn't want to teach either. That was too stressful also. There were some freshmen I student taught that I wanted to maim or something. They gave me a hard time. But I had a job at the University of Michigan, so I kept it. They even made me a supervisor. A fellow worker of mine was a lady named Wendy. She was funny and liked me a lot. She was pretty cool. A year after we went out for the first time we were married.

Marriage was hard the first year, but we eventually learned to get along. Proof of that was the birth of our first son Greg. I was 28. Three years after Greg was born, we had another son, Scott. Scott was more ornery as a baby. He cried and screamed a lot. We didn't have any more babies after Scott. Anyway, day care was too expensive.

We moved from apartment to apartment after we were first married. Then when Greg was born, we bought a home in the suburbs for $53,000. We could see the lights of the high school football stadium from our bedroom. Greg thought that was pretty cool. He fell out the window when he was three after he climbed on our bed to see the football lights. He was okay though.

Our boys did the usual sports when they were little: t-ball, soccer, baseball. They also did a lot of wrestling which was my idea. Wrestling was the only sport in gym that I didn't stink at. I wanted the boys to learn to wrestle. It's a character builder. They liked other sports better. Greg became a pretty good soccer player and Scott ended up winning a varsity letter for football. Watching them play was pretty neat for me and Wendy even when they didn't win.

We didn't have any major events raising our kids. They were a little better than average students. A couple times the principal or a teacher would call when they misbehaved. Mostly for Scott. Like when he tried to pass fake money in the school cafeteria. The boys both played in the marching band too. Greg played the saxophone, Scott the drums.

Eventually we moved into a bigger house, which had two bathrooms, not one like our old house. It was in the same school system, though. After graduating,Greg went on to Central Michigan University like I did, Scott to Michigan State in East Lansing. They're still in college. All this time, Wendy and I changed jobs a few times. Both of us were supervisors, me for longer. But eventually we took other jobs that were less stressful. (You see, I don't like stress) I've worked for the university for about 23 years, Wendy for 25. We can both retire in two years.

That pretty much brings me up to date.