Monday, July 31, 2006

A Dark And Stormy Night

My blogging buddy Bornfool asked me to contribute a chapter to a story being written by himself and another blogger. So I thought instead of writing a new blog (I don't have an idea for a new one right now anyway), I'd contribute.

The story starts with a woman on her lunchbreak noticing a crowd gathered. Ignoring a call on her cell phone, she approaches on foot and watches a street magician perform his sleight of hand. He entices her to be an assistant and magically makes a quarter appear in her hand. "The quarter is real but just what is reality?" the mysterious man asks. Afterwards, the woman checks her cell phone and plays back a voicemail left by her good friend Karen.

"This changes everything," I thought.

Chapter Three
by Big Dave

Karen’s rotweiler needed an emergency appendectomy. Or something like that. Poor Sluggo. I was the only friend Karen could trust to watch two-year-old Frenchie while she rushed Sluggo to the vet. A quick call to the tap room boss—thank goodness he was understanding—and I hopped aboard my Harley to play traffic dodge-em on Lakeshore Drive.

The lunchtime cafe au lait crowd was a bit more lethargic than usual, or did they just seem that way as I weaved side to side, looking for that clear path to let me throttle up to 50. The speed limit was 40, but I had to chance it.

Maybe it was instinct, or maybe my peripheral vision simply caught the man crossing the busy street at the corner ahead of me. I braked hard, hard enough to lay six feet of rubber and catch the attention of a parking enforcement officer writing a citation for a tour bus.

The pedestrian ignored me, continuing to cross directly in front of me.

"Hea, Mister Lalaland, the light is green," I yelled over the sound of my revving engine.

But when I looked up, I was shocked to find the traffic light was red. Only then did I recognize the pedestrian as the magician who performed the sleight of hand for me downtown.
He turned to me slowly, smiled as if he remembered me, then called out, "Just what is reality?" And he turned back and walked on.

Smart aleck, I thought. More frustrated than annoyed, I pulled that quarter he gave me from out of my pocket and threw it at him. Ordinarily, I throw like the proverbial girl, but this time I nailed the bozo right in the back of the head. I saw him flinch, then turn back towards me, his dark eyes now brimming with anger. No matter. He didn’t have hold of my wrist this time.

"Reality can be a knock in the head," I cried out. Sometimes my mood goes from mousey to witch in less time than he probably takes to saw a woman in half, but I didn’t mean it to sound as hurtful as it probably did. Well, my mood was for a good cause--my friends who were waiting anxiously for me.. I popped a wheelie on my Harley to show him I was a mad woman on a mission. Then I gunned it down Lakeshore Drive.

I had gone only another couple blocks when I realized something was wrong.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Old Hidden Letters

My blogging buddy Terri recently came into possession of an old trunk. The previous owner is deceased and the trunk probably contains bits, pieces and mementos of personal history. It inspired me to write today's blog--about some letters found in my boyhood home.

In the beginning, the letters started out chatty, impersonal--comparable to the banter you might read today in an on-line chat with a stranger.

But not even the ballpoint pen had been invented when these pages were written in fountain ink. In fact, they were over 40 years old when my father discovered them hidden in the rafters of an old house we bought when I was a first-grader.

There were about a dozen letters as I recall--all written around 1918 by a young lady from Jackson, Michigan to a young gentleman, a former occupant of our home in Bay City.

How the pair met wasn't clear. Jackson and Bay City are more than 100 miles apart and this was before the Model T had been invented. The young woman did mention meeting in person, probably more than once, but the letters didn't reveal how or where.

Through her words, one could glean life as it was almost 100 years ago. An influenza epidemic ravaged worldwide that year, claiming a half million lives in America alone. She wrote about neighbors dying from the plague. America had entered World War I and she described a mock battle which took place in her city.

As best as I can remember, since it's been many years since I've read the letters, she chatted about the goings-on at her job in a typing pool, working in the stifling upstairs of a two-story building long before air conditioning was common. Eventually, her letters became less about events and more personal. She never wrote of love, but you could sense the growing fondness in her correspondence. One letter included a picture of her on a swing. She also sent a postcard special delivery. I remember the stamp depicted a mailman aboard a bicycle.

Obviously, they had met more than once because her letters spoke of their face-to-face encounters--friendly yet platonic, with a hint of romance. She teased about where their relationship could lead. A young man approached her, trying to make conversation, she wrote. He asked her if she had a boyfriend. She passed along the question to him in a letter.

It was implied that the answer would come at their next rendezvous, The young woman wrote about his upcoming visit with eager anticipation. In reading, I could almost envision a heroine from a gothic romance awaiting the return of a suitor. Yet this real-life story was about to take an ill-fated turn.

For whatever reason, the young man's mother did not approve of the developing relationship. She had it within her power to forbid her son from seeing the girl. And she did. An emotionally written final letter from the young woman blamed not the mother but the young woman herself for not being deserving of him. It was her goodbye. There were no more no more letters from her.

But inside the cigar box, among the letters carefully folded and put back into their original envelopes, there was one final letter. It was from the mother of the heartbroken girl. Directed mostly towards to the young man's mother, the older woman said she believed that young people should be free to make their own decisions, to live their own lives.

If there was any response, we never knew. Elderly neighbors who recalled the family, and knew of the correspondence, said the pair went on with their separate lives. You wonder why the man even felt it necessary to collect and preserve the letters through all these years.

Some years ago, my mother discovered an older man on the sidewalk looking over our house. She inquired why and was told that he was a member of the family that had lived there decades prior. My mother invited him in to see how we had remodeled the interior. During the course of their visit, my mother gave him the cigar box with the letters.

So we lost a piece of interesting history. My guess is that the letters now would command a not too paltry sum on E-Bay. But my guess is also that their sentimental value would be greater. For someone anyway.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My Education In Ale

Well, my education in ale at the Michigan Beer Festival on Friday was successful of a sort. I learned that once you turn 50, your body doesn't appreciate the kind of gastronomic experimentation that comes with sampling various microbrews.

Wife Wendy fared fine, since she drinks the locally brewed Frog Island beer and has developed a taste for hops. (She was disappointed that Frog Island was a no-show this year). And the atmosphere was festive with a band that sounded like Santana and free goodies being given out. So it was fun, but I have to say that partly because Wendy says I will lose my blogging privileges if I don't.

There was some serious beer tasting going on there. You could tell it from the t-shirts worn. As in, "Beer, it's not just for breakfast anymore." And, "Beer, it's what's for dinner."

But myself? I did feel a little sickly after sampling beer after beer that when poured look like yesterday's coffee (never mind how I felt the morning after). Now I wanted to steer clear of the dark beer since I've never appreciated the popular European variety of ale. So I knew to back off from bock and stay away from stouts. But it seemed that no matter what I picked off a brewer's menu, it was darker than vanilla.

Scottish Ale, IPA (which stands for India Pale Ale but my sample looked like India ink), WIT, Porter, etc. I even tried a specialty brew with the odd-sounding name Dragon's Milk since I figured anything with "milk" on the label had to be bland enough for baby. But now I know why dragons breathe fire. It's in the beer they drink.

There was one dark microbrew that wasn't too bad. Called Kentucky Breakfast, it included chocolate and coffee in the recipe. Then it was further flavored by being aged in casks that originally held Jim Beam bourbon whiskey. It did taste like something you could sip while you waited for your ham and eggs to be served.

Here's from a review of this microbrew I found on-line . . . "Deepest ebon hue, an impenetrable blackness, above which nestles a modest ring of earthy brown . . . Aroma is chocolate first, followed by coffee, then molasses, brown sugar, and licorice . . . Taste: Full and thick as it boards the mouth, slipping rich, deliciousness everywhere... Further in, I can taste the charcoal, even."

Hmmmmm, I thought I recognized the charcoal flavor in the Dragon's Milk. That would make more sense.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Growler of Nitro, Please

Don't know the difference between a pilsner and a porter, nor a lager and a light. That may change tonight. Wife Wendy and I have tickets to the Ninth Annual Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti where we can sample from 200 microbrews served up by a few dozen assorted Michigan brewers.

I'm taking tonight as a learning experience. Maybe I'm inspired by my son Scott who is taking an on-line class at Michigan State University this summer. It is supposed to be a hot one today too, which will be conducive to my education in ale.

They just published a menu of available brews to sample. Hmmmmm, let's check this out. What would pique your interest here? Nitro, Final Absolution, When Monks Get Drunk, Beernormous, Bad Habit, Kiss My Scottish Ale, Blue Goat, Dragon's Milk, Terminator Dopplebock, Nicie Spicie, Ghettoblaster, Strange Stout, Devil Dancer, Earl Spit, Clockwork Orange, Prometheum Porter . . .

Gee, maybe I should have checked the list out before I shelled out $50 for two tickets.

Last week, in order to prepare for tonight's lesson, Wendy and I visited the recently opened Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. They serve fresh locally developed brews by the glass, mug and the growler. Yes, growler. This is a large glass jug which customers give to the barkeep to fill to the tippy top from the tap for the tippler. (Wonder if I’ll be able to say that three times really fast later tonight)

Before last week, I didn't even know what a growler was. Now I do. See how educational this all is?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Crossing Over

Since I'm a bit paranoid of what and who are out on the internet, I've kept my cyberlife and my normal life separate. I remain mostly semi-anonymous--I don't use last names nor print any recognizeable pictures here.

This past weekend I did "cross over", sort of. One of my blogging buddies, Vicki from Ann Arbor, was having a big moving sale as she's picking up stakes and heading to Chicago. I thought I would drop over.

After some effort, wife Wendy and I found Vicki's house in the maze-like subdivision where she lived. It was a busy sale. Somebody was hauling away a refrigerator as we arrived. There were several other items marked "sold" that just needed to be picked up.

In fact, I got the feeling that much of her stash had already been spoken for. I didn't see any tools as had been advertised, so I gravitated towards the used books as there were plenty of them.

There were a few books on chess. During my college days, I fancied myself to be a budding master though I hardly rose above the rank of patzer. One book there I recognized as one I had read way back then. Hea, maybe some day I'll make a comeback. So I picked it up, along with another book on true ghost stories since I have a small collection of "strange but true" books as well.

Not sure if Vicki was among the yard sale workers or not. My guess is that among the three or four ladies who appeared to be bargaining with customers and taking money, she was the one without a smile. Moving is stressful, for sure.

If I was correct in my assumption, then it was Vicki who asked to see the books I had bought after I had paid for them. "What did you get? I like to see what people got," she said. So I showed her the books.

"Good thing we didn't buy The Joy of Sex," Wendy said later. "It was there." Oh, well. I doubt Vicki knew I was one of her customers, though she occasionally visits my blog here so she knows Big Dave. I didn't introduce myself since both Wendy and I are shy to a fault.

Flipping through the pages of my true ghost stories later, I came across a chilling tale on "The Chicago Poltergeist." Oh, no! I'll bet Vicki doesn't even know about this and she plans on moving to the Windy City soon. Should I e-mail her?

Mmmmmmmmm, guess not. With all that's going on in her life right now, I don't need to put more worries on her plate. Besides, there has to be consequences for moving away from the hometown of the mighty University of Michigan Wolverines. A good haunting might be in order.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Perry Mason At Large

After taking a government class at Central Michigan University that had me doing research in a law library decades back, I found law to be a snap. Just research some case law, prepare a brief, and bingo. That's all there was to it.

So when my sister had a hearing pending before an administrative law judge here in Michigan, I volunteered my services. She accepted. I researched some case law, wrote up a little speech to give before the hearing officer and off we went.

Cue the Perry Mason theme.

But when the judge asked if it was true that I was representing my sister, and I said it was, he told me, "I expect you to abide by the court rules of 1963. Now call your first witness."

Uhhhhhh, NOT what I was expecting. Still, I'd watched Perry Mason on TV. How hard could it be? I called my sister as a witness. But it didn't go that well. You know how judges sometimes admonish lawyers and other trial participants? I was admonished a lot.

Couldn't use hearsay. Couldn't lead the witness. Heck, how was I supposed to get my sister to say what I wanted her to say unless I asked some leading questions? Sheesh, the moron. Finally, the judge relented, "I'll take your ignorance of the law into consideration."

All right! I was on a roll now. I finished my "case in chief" (didn't know what that meant until the judge explained it) and we adjourned. And . . . we won. Not because of any legal brilliance I exhibited before the judge. But because the other side didn't show up. We won by default.

Fast forward about 20 years. This past year my son Greg received a threatening letter from a collection agency for a bill he wasn't responsible for. Okay, maybe partially responsible for.

Cue the Perry Mason theme.

I researched case law and prepared a letter where I threatened all kinds of legal ramifications if any move was made upon my son's credit and reputation. I know that any lawyer worth his salt will advise a client to steer clear of a trial at any cost. And we never heard from that collection agency again.

After several months, however, Greg received another threatening letter from a second collection agency for the same debt. Ah, the ole one-two, eh. This time I would give them the legal equivalent of both barrels.

Cue the Perry---CUT!! No, Greg said. He didn't want me to write another letter and have his credit hang in limbo. He paid the bill instead. Guess that worked for him. He bought a car all by himself this past week and they commended him on his good credit at the dealer.

I still think I would have won in the end. Afterall, Perry never lost, did he?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Coleman Reports

Coleman reporting as ordered by the master. He is still occupied packing away the essentials of last week's holiday. That is "vay-cay-shun" to those of you in the colonies. I was in charge of the accommodations (tent) and the beverages (cooler).

Our latest sojourn into the *ahem* ferocious wilds of Silver Lake went much the same as in past years. That is, with the jeep ride in the sand dunes, the volleyball, miniature golf, a romp in the sand within the shadow of the Little Sable lighthouse, and of course, the beer. The master prefers to call it "Camper's cure-all." An example of his humor, I believe.

Since we were joined by two young ladies, girlfriends of two of our younger male campers, I was so hoping for more civility this year. On the contrary, conversation during the nightly board game became so loud that we were paid a visit by the campground ranger. Now, this was on the Fourth of July with loud explosions, both legal and not, filling the night air aroundabout. Speaks to something there. They should just let the master win. Then all would be well.

Oh, the joys I've seen in my many years harboring such fugitives from finishing school. I recall the master making reservations at a campground on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. The mosquitoes were so overjoyed at our arrival that they did a conga line as they entered my tent that evening.

Then there was the time the master, his brother the enforcer, their father and three members of the younger generation went camping on Manitou Island in upper Lake Michigan. Taking an eight-man tent to such an island was like driving an RV up Mt. Everest. A tad much perhaps.

When the boat from the mainland was unpacked and my tent was handed off, some wag remarked, "Who brought their golf clubs?" Then after hauling the tent several miles, the master and party neglected to secure the tent flies before departing to explore. Of course it rained. Of course there were puddles everywhere afterwards.

And, dear me, do not ask the enforcer how to safely unfasten a bungee cord that has been stretched taut and tied to a tree. Well, I suppose you could ask now. Experience can teach a very painful lesson.

Then there was the horrible outing in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota six years ago when my tent came within eight feet of being crushed by a falling tree during a storm one evening. How joyful it was to see the dawn the following morning.

So you have my report. As you can see, based on past circumstances, it was a successful holiday outing. I imagine my tent and cooler will be packed away for another year. Gracious, doing this more than once a year would leave a butler in tears.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I'm A Decent Guy, Really

Checking my sitemeter, I've discovered more foreign visitors hitting on my blog here just lately. Web surfers from Spain, Italy, France, even Malaysia all drawn to my tiny humble corner of cyberspace. Why? It appears that they Google-searched the word "Swinger" and came up with my "Meet the Swinger" blog where I published an old Poloroid Swinger photo a week or so ago.

I doubt my blog is what they were looking for. One visitor from Italy actually spent several minutes browsing various pages of my blog, according to the sitemeter report. Did he happen to get hooked on the fascinating trivia and creative prose I disseminate? Or, as I figure, he probably didn't understand English at all, but since I mentioned the word "swinger" seven times, he was looking for smutty pictures.

What really shocked me is that I tracked one web surfer back to a blog search he did. Surfing "swinger" on this blog search produced well over a hundred thousand hits. I pulled up the first page of his search. Re-printed below are capsule summaries for some of the the hits. By the way, much of the language I certainly can't re-print here.

  • ". . .get connected today with the most sizzling online swinger personals directory in the world and meet other married or committed couples who are ready to meet up with you." . . . in the world. Now I know why I'm getting those foreign visitors.
  • "Real Swingers Pictures - Real Swinger Videos At Swingertales you can expect to enjoy a total immersion into the world of swingers. Swinging is not a hobby, it’sa lifestyle! Swingers do not hide their sexual dreams and desires from their . . . "
  • "If it's the sexy, swinging lifestyle you want to go for but are intimidated because you think you're just an average Joe, seeing the content of All Swinger @#$%$#@ might just give you the impetus to be one."

Remember, I'm only re-printing the PG-rated portions. There was much worse. So when this guy searched "swinger', what did this blog search engine return as the best possible match out of a hundred thousand of these sick, sick, sick websites? Numero uno? BIG DAVE'S BLOG!

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I don't want that notoriety. Mine is a blog for the whole family, and not at all for those with a prurient interest. I can see I'm going to be shut out again by the censoring filter at the local library. It's happened before.

Of course, I dare not go up to the librarian and tell them that I've been "forbidden" to enter my own blog on their computer. They probably would have me take a seat somewhere. Then they'd call the pervert police faster than Superman could tie his shoe.

"That man over there, officer," the librarian would whisper. "He's trying to get into B-I-G D-A-V-E-S B-L-O-G."

"Big Dave's Blog!!," the investigator would retort. "That guy's the top-rated operator when the vice squad searches key words on the internet. Stay calm. I'm calling for back-up."

[Note: I am going camping for this week so will be out of cyber-touch for a while]