Saturday, October 29, 2005

Rita's Last Trick Or Treat

My mother-in-law Rita's interests always tended towards the classical, whether it was art or music. She also indulged Broadway plays, old black and white movies, and other refinements of culture. Still, her family stood above all in her world so she always joined us at picnics, parties, holidays--even the occasional Halloween adventure.

Some years back, Rita joined our family and my in-laws in a road trip to Crossroads Village/Huckleberry Railroad near Flint, Michigan. This historical amusement venue changes a bit for Halloween, the air filled with the sounds of ghosts, while supernatural characters haunt the train as it rides a short circuit out of the park.

It's for kids. There was nothing too scary. Well, I did teasingly ask my nephew Bill if I could pick him up so he could peek inside a window high on this locked workshed. I asked him to see if there were any ghosts lurking inside. He steadfastly refused.

"Why not?" I asked.

"There might be," he replied.

As we visited each reproduction of a centuries old shop, house or building, a costumed host or hostess was there to answer questions. And to pass out treats. Wow! Of course, the four boys in our troupe, came to look forward to the treat instead of any history lesson. And I was a bit surprised to see Rita's hand extended as well.

At the end of the afternoon, we collected in a hall to be served each a cup of cider and a donut. The boys counted their loot. Rita had her own little stash as well. Whenever we remembered that outing in the years that followed, if my mother-in-law was present, she would mention how she had her hand out there with the others, collecting her own treats.

Rita passed away two years ago at the age of 80. She was probably close to 70 when she did her last trick or treat there in Flint. Sometimes I think, wouldn't it be wonderful if Halloween was both for the young and old? Instead of the question, "Aren't you a little old for this?" you might hear, "Aren't you a little young for this?" Maybe it would make it more of a treat to be older on Halloween.

For guys like my blogger buddy Hoss, it would give new meaning to his favorite pasttime--"making my pile."

Monday, October 24, 2005

For The Terror By Night

My topic heading comprises part of a longer Biblical passage. Psalms 91:5 begins "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night . . . " Psalms aside, however, I've always maintained a healthy fear of the dark. In my youth, I shut the door to my bedroom closet lest I catch a glimpse of some beast hidden in the blackness there. Nightlights were mandatory in my part of the house.

Watching the occasional scary movie was a guilty pleasure that stoked the fears of my imagination. After watching Night of the Living Dead, I lie in bed afterwards wondering perchance where the closest cemetery just might reside. That was the only night I recall sleeping with the light on. Not just a nightlight, but a 100-watt overhead reading light that burned brightly till dawn.

Even as a young man, I was startled by the gruesome cinematic reality of the original Friday the Thirteenth. Not long after that movie, I married Wendy. Our post-nuptial retreat just happened to be a lonely cabin on a lake. Late night there I lie in bed hoping that the empty cabins around us would soon fill with people. How many guys wish for crowds on their honeymoon?

My most terror-filled night was not filled with dread of the supernatural, but of something real and most deadly. My boys and I did a father-son canoe outing with my high school buddy Bob in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota some years back. The Boundary Waters is a primitive wilderness area that beckons the hearty sort of camper who doesn't mind carrying his canoe and backpack overland through swamps, over rock outcroppings, and around trees fallen into the rushing waters.

We were not that hearty sort. That's something we found out a little late. After an arduous day paddling and portaging, we found a small camping spot. Dehydrated, badly bitten by mosquitoes, and too tired to build a fire, we pitched our threadbare tents among a stand of large trees that had survived a "storm of the century" two weeks before. That blowdown felled tens of thousands of trees, weakened many others and stranded many wilderness trekkers. We were among the first to enter the Boundary Waters after this storm.

Out the window of our four-man tent, I saw a trio of lodgepole pine trees, leaning on eachother as they swayed in the wind. If the wind was right, they swayed in our direction. Each time that happened, my heart rose in my throat. I could imagine them falling domino style on us as we slept. Then it became worse. Night fell. I could hear the trees cracking and groaning in the wind but could not see them. Unable to sleep, I heard the rising wind and the distant rumble of an approaching storm.

Rain fell hard, slapping the tent with each drop. Lightning flashed on our tiny refuge in the woods. Only the crash of thunder drowned out the ominous rustle of the large trees. I'm not sure when or if I slept that night. But at some moment I felt a slight trembling of the ground, accompanied by a muffled snapping--roots breaking. A tree was falling, a large one, very close. I held my breath as I heard it slowly break free and topple earthward. Only when it struck the ground did I exhale again.

The dawn light finally began to illuminate my surroundings in dusky fashion. To my surprise, that tree landed less than ten feet from our tent. It had already been leaning the night before, and I pitched our tent away from where it might fall. The only damage occurred when one of its branches impaled Bob's backpack lying on the ground. My boys never even heard it fall. They slept through all of it.

Some people have no respect for the dark.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


As the oldest of four, I captivated my younger siblings with stories of the supernatural, culled from my late night watching of Theatre of Thrills on local TV. Ghosts, werewolves, vampires . . . all such good stuff. Once, my youngest brother was by himself in our cavernous old house while the rest of the family visited grandma down the street. The kitchen door to the the basement creaked open and a bat swooped in from the darkness below. Pandemonium! My brother fled the house. A neighbor reported, "If I hadn't grabbed him while he was screaming and running by, he would have kept on going." For some ungodly reason, I was blamed by my parents for the panic that had ensued. Moi?

Our cat one day discovered and dispatched three or four bats coming in through the floorboards of our living room. Mother fed the cat its favorite liver feast dinner that night. Good kitty.

In our present house, we were gathered in the family room when we heard the rhythmic flapping of wings in the dim light. Bat! We chased him around the house (okay, he chased us). Then he disappeared upstairs. My younger son and I armed ourselves with tennis rackets and climbed slowly up. At the upstairs landing, we took a deep breath. Nothing. Then the bat suddenly appeared from around a corner, heading straight for us. Scott stepped back into the bathroom and slammed the door behind, leaving his dear father alone to conquer the beast.

My sister and two co-workers were climbing an empty stairwell at a hospital where they worked when they came across the apparent lifeless form of a small bat. It lay face down and still before them. My sister leaned over and blew gently onto its fur. To their horror, the creature lifted its head and bared its fangs. They ran screaming into a hallway, their panicky flight joined by a patient awaiting a test. Poor fellow. Had no idea of the terror he was trying to escape.

Finally, my buddy Bob recounts his more recent enounter with a bat in an e-mail:

"I've been busier than normal around here killing hornets--they scare the hell out of all of us. So I'm checking out the kitchen window and what do I see but a freaking bat hanging upside down there between the screen and the storm window. So I try to think how to dislodge this winged rodent. Hit him with hornet spray--nothing. Garden hose, nothing. So I decide to outsmart it. I grab a bright light and one of those big silver fixtures. I figure he isn't going to like bright light.

I'm right on. But he just moves to the other side of the window. I move the lamp and we dance like this for several hours with a move every 15 minutes. Finally he's on the move and I'm chasing him all over the window with the lamp. I had tried to hide this from the kids but eventually they discovered the bat. Of course, my son, in all his Batman glory is fascinated and wants me to leave the bat alone. But I'm persistent. The bat eventually lifts his leg and pisses all over my window. The kids think this is the funniest thing ever and laugh themselves silly whenever they think about it."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Boo! Mike's Big Scare

There is a coffin in my closet. Painted black with "Do Not Open" in blood red lettering, it stands most of the year holding books downstairs next to my study. When Halloween comes, it joins several skulls, a disembodied arm, a couple dummy bodies, and an "Evil Bob" tombstone in my yard. All fake, all fun.

My boys have enjoyed my passion for Halloween all their lives. There have been home-made Halloween videos, spook houses in the basement and long nights trick-or-treating. This year, my older son twice has asked me when I was decorating our yard. His brother inquired as to what horror movie I was adding to my collection, another annual rite (The Grudge, I think).

This all has rubbed off on my nephew Mike. Last Halloween, he wanted to join me in "scaring the kids." I wasn't sure about adding a live ghost to my inanimate yardscape of horrors. But, what the heck. I dressed him like a couple of the other unholy evil ones lying about and sat him in a chair.

Not long after the trick-or-treaters began arriving, a curious kindergartener with mother in tow slowly approached my nephew. Rather than jump up and say "boo", Mike just moved his head a bit to get a better view through his rubber mask. That didn't bother the tyke, but his mother let out one long horrific ear-splitting shriek. If she were an actress on the set of one of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, I'm sure the master would have said, "Great, cut, print!"

That lady's mother, the kid's grandmother, was at the time on my porch, helping to collect treats for two other of their brood. The grandmother commented matter of factly, "I told her I thought there was somebody in that one."

After they left, Mike walked into the house. "That freaked me out," he said. Ditto here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Why I Need Viagra

I occasionally wonder about that hated spam I get. For example, I have several e-mail accounts—one for my blog, one for E-Bay, one for fantasy football, one for work, etc. On one of these e-mail accounts, I regularly receive e-mails from strange-looking addresses, like There is a one-word greeting like “Hello” or “Important”, and an attachment. The e-mails are always the same size, 31K. I’ve never opened the attachment because I know NEVER to open an attachment from someone you don’t know. I have been tempted, however. Curious.

All the usual pfishing scams show up in my e-mail eventually. For example, my Pen Pan account needs to be updated (I don’t have one). Somebody in Nigeria needs a helpful fellow here in the states to allow them to deposit beau coup bucks in his or her account. I won a bunch of money in an overseas lottery. The most voluminous are the endless pitches for pharmaceuticals, including the Viagra class of drugs.

There have been occasional spammers on my blog but lately I noticed a new twist. The spammers seem to be SEARCHING particular blogs to target their spam comment messages. I blogged months ago about a “surefire sleep aid.” Then last week I received a couple comments there asking me to visit a site on sleep aids. I had a similar experience with my “scrapbooking for men” blog.

So are spammers Google-searching now to find a particular blog? That way they can pitch a specific product they think I or someone else might actually be interested in? Well, I’m curious. Hence, the title of my blog. It’s an experiment. I’m pfishing for spammers. Sorry if the title teased that this might be something more salacious. I don’t do those kinds of blogs.

This may be a mistake. My wife, who proofreads all my blogs, says, “You’re asking for trouble.” Maybe. But I’m male, and my species can be stubborn and stupid at times. As Jimmy Stewart once said in a movie, “If we don't try, we don't do. And if we don't do, what are we on this Earth for?”

Guess that doesn’t make much sense here. But I’m going to do it anyway.

P.S. Word Whiz tagged me to track down the 5th sentence of my 23rd post. I really hadn’t thought I had written that many blogs. But the blog was about Peanut, my in-law’s gregarious, ball-playing mutt who loves to crash through our patio screen door head first. The particular sentence read, “No need to open the door. I just let myself in," I can imagine him saying.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blog, by B.D. Rowling

This week marks the climax of my year-long infatuation with Ticketmaster. After I discovered how easy it was to acquire sporting event tickets on-line, I booked two seats to the Paul McCartney concert at Auburn Hills this weekend. However, Ticketmaster doesn’t want the relationship to end. I’ve been receiving weekly e-mails from them with a list of upcoming events that they’re sure I don’t want to miss.

There’s a band called Lez Zeppelin. That’s not a typo. I guess they don’t mind if you confuse them with Led Zeppelin. Here’s another act: Australian Pink Floyd. And another: The Waylin’ Jennies. Hmmmmm, do I see a pattern here? How about the Glenn Miller Orchestra? Hea, I heard that Glenn could really kick out the jams. But he died 60 years ago. If this is the same band, I’m sure the musicians are a little past it. An eighty-plus trombone player just isn’t going to hit those high notes the same way. What next? Beethoven’s String Ensemble?

But wait! Why didn’t I think of this before? Why try to climb the ladder to literary success as Big Dave? Wouldn’t it be easier if I garnered a little name recognition first? Maybe I should change my name to Big Dave Hemingway. Or how about David Charles Dickens. Ah, I’ve got it. B.D. (Big Dave) Rowling.

I’m halfway to the New York Times best seller list.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Our first house sat within the glow of the Friday night lights. On delightully chilled fall Fridays, the glare of the football stadium radiated brightly, viewed with awe by our son Greg, then three. Of course, he wanted to go. I took him more than once.

To Greg, it was a circus with the cheers, the marching band, the concessions, and the young boys and girls running here and there. Then there was the show itself--two teams competing in a contest of strength and will.

Greg did somersaults in the grass, strained to climb the stairs of the wooden bleachers, then quietly watched the affairs on the field with reverence. He grew up loving football.

And I thought one day he would take his place on the line. Greg was athletic, loved to tackle his brother, and could throw a pretty spiral. Once, a player was injured and I teased Greg that he might have to substitute. Greg stood up, all forty pounds of him, ready to go.

When it did come time for Greg to put on pads and join the middle school football team, we found he didn't have the "fire in the belly" as described by fellow blogger Kenju. Greg eventually spent his Friday nights with the marching band. Ironically, his younger brother Scott took his place on the field, becoming a varsity starter.

Wendy and I spent warm nights, cold nights, rainy nights, even snowy nights on those wooden bleachers. It was dedication but it was fun too. Whether cheering on Scott and his team or clapping in cadence to the strains of the marching band, we wore our school colors proudly. Homecoming was the best. The parade of floats and musicians wound its way through our own subdivision.

This fall, the lights of the old football stadium are dark, the wooden bleachers empty. A splended new facility built of concrete and steel has taken its place miles away. I attended a game there recently.

Watching the little boys playing in the grassy outer reaches, I could almost imagine a three-year-old with a mop of blond hair doing somersaults. On the field, I felt as if I saw number 77 trotting to the sidelines. My sons weren't there, of course. One is at Michigan State and the other was working the late shift. And it was Homecoming too.

It just wasn't for me.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Lucky Shot

agawa 2

No matter how many photographs I take on any given occasion, when I get them back from processing, there are only one or two "keepers." The rest of my pictures suffer from shadows, darkness, brightness, lens flare, blurriness (if it isn't a word, it should be), spots, streaks, dust, lens caps, thumbs, fingers, bad hair, heads half missing, eyes half shut, eyes wide shut, incorrect aperture or incorrect shutter speed.

Once in a while, I'll get it right, as in the picture above. I think even fellow blogger and snapshot artist Gypsybobocowgirl would agree. This picture I took last week at Agawa Canyon, where Algoma Central stops on its rail trek up from Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.

I had to climb 321 steps to the overlook too. Many of the seniors aboard this color tour braved angina to get this glimpse of the gorge and park below. Although the view was worth it, I thought they should have relocated the first aid station to the top of the incline. Or at least supplied a defibrillator, oxygen, nurse or fresh beer for those of us who summited.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Mad Cows And Canadians

College of Bovine Studies, Michigan State University

Heh, heh. Just kidding. That's actually some farm out on St. Joseph Island in northern Ontario. My wife Wendy took this picture when we were in Canada for our Agawa Canyon Tour. A local TV news program carried a story about some states here in the U.S. lobbying for a renewed ban on Canadian beef. No wonder. That's a rough looking bunch of cows that has taken over this farmer's home. If they're not mad cows, they're pretty thuggish I'd say.

Here's a couple Canadian quandaries. Since I was royally hassled at the border last time I entered Canada, we were prepared this time with birth certificates and driver's licenses at the ready. Of course, this time the young lady didn't ask for anything like that. She did want to know the license plate number on our car. That we weren't prepared for. But we did find it for her in short order.

After telling her our destination, she asked if we were carrying anything into the country besides clothes. I off-handedly gestured to the bike that was mounted on a rack on the back of our vehicle.

"Are you going to leave the bike in Canada?" she asked.

What kind of question is that? Does she think I'm smuggling contraband used bikes into the country? Does she think I'm going to drop the bike off at a landfill, in retaliation for all that Canadian trash that is dumped in Michigan? Wendy wanted to reply, "Only if it's stolen," but I know that border guards do NOT have much of a sense of humor. So we just said, "No" with puzzled looks.

Quandary two: At Richards Landing on St. Joseph Island we stopped for breakfast at Ann's Cafe, a very small diner where I believe the owner (Ann, obviously) is also the cashier, hostess and sole waitress. On the menu there, they offered a senior citizen's discount for ages 60 and over. In bold, there was this comment: "Ladies may be asked to show picture identification as proof of age."

So, ladies must prove their age. But not men. Huh. I have heard stories that claim women will lie about their age, but I always thought they lied younger, not older. Wendy said that women around 60 probably look younger than men the same age. That logic confounds me too. So a 60-year-old man looks like a 60-year-old man, but a 60-year-old woman looks 55? C'mon, that can't be true. Is it?