Monday, May 30, 2011

Worthy Reads

Jeff Gamso writes about victim's rights and includes a few links, one of which I listed below. This is a worthy read and brings up another important flaw in our legal system.

Because If the Victim Doesn't Say "Throw the Book at Him," Who Will?

The Untouchables

On May 5, 2011 around 9:00 AM the Pima County, Arizona Sheriff's SWAT team served a search warrant at the home of 26 year old ex-marine and Iraqi war veteran Jose Guerena. Police SWAT team members shot Jose 60 times while his wife and four year old son hid in a nearby closet. The SWAT team refused to give Jose medical treatment for over an hour, allowing him to bleed to death. Jose's four year old son walked out of the house past his father's body. If Pima County sounds familiar to anyone, here's why: Sheriff Dupnik's criticism of political 'vitriol' resonates with public

This looks like murder to me. Beat and Release has written an entire series on this shooting, and it's worth reading. Here are the links:

SWAT Audio Is Out

Various Guerena Links

Let's Talk About Pima County Again

Guerena Analysis - Part 1 - Sgt. Krygier

Guerena Analysis - Part 2 - Mrs. Guerena

Guerena Analysis - Part 3 - Mrs. Guerena

Guerena Analysis - Part 4 - Mrs. Guerena

Guerena Analysis - Final Analysis

Finally, at the end of the line we have Fred who writes about the plight of the American male.

A Polity of Castrati: Soprano Nation

Cirque du Soleil Alegria

Some months ago my brother Big Mike let it drop that Cirque du Soleil Alegria (def. as joy, cheer, happiness) was coming to Toledo and wondered if I'd like to go. Naturally, I accepted. I'd never seen Cirque but from what little I'd heard it was not a show to be missed without good reason, such as death or perhaps imminent death. As things turned out Main Lady did not share my enthusiasm and scheduled herself to be out of town that day. She, along with Flopsy and Cottontail, headed South to attend Mopsy's graduation. Mopsy is now a doctor and writes PhD after her name. That makes three doctors in the family; Main Lady, Mopsy and Cottontail. This is strong evidence that the familial environment has an impact on the educational achievements of an entire generation. Naturally I present evidence that refutes this theory, seeing that both my parents attained baccalaureate degrees as did my brothers Shotgun Bob, Big Mike and California Dave, and yet I am non-degreed. Big Mike has inferred that this is due to a distinct lack of intelligence on my part while my dear mother counters that Big Mike cannot outrun a load of rock salt as discharged from a twelve gauge double.

As usual, whenever Big Mike does anything he does it right. Nothing is left to chance, no obstacle remains intact and quality takes precedence over monetary considerations while remaining distinctly subservient to sound judgment. As a result of no small amount of social engineering coupled with a detailed knowledge of The Huntington Center, Big Mike obtained four tickets to the Saturday matinee show and reserved the best seats in the house - we were seated in the first row just off the floor and slightly stage right. Truly a magnificent accomplishment on his part.

Since Main Lady was out of town, I determined to take Mom along with me to Cirque. She'd enjoy the show and the four of us could have a nice dinner right afterward. Mike invited his own mother along, a handsome woman of saintly patience, benevolence and omnipresent fortitude whom I shall henceforth refer to as Mrs. Martini, and yes, it has everything to do with London Dry. All well and good, but as a belligerent tightwad once said, The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley, which can be rephrased as: There's no use cursing over spilled bourbon. Between the purchase of tickets and the rising of the curtain, I accepted a job in Memphis and moved into Shotgun Bob's house (at Bob's insistence) where I was slowly driven around the bend by The Girl, and where I finally came down with bronchitis that unsurprisingly developed into pneumonia. Desperate to suppress my own id1 in the face of a rapidly weakening super-ego, I collected my meager belongings and moved to a hotel in Memphis located about five minutes from my office, thus relieving myself of a one hour commute every morning and evening as well as the stress induced by living with someone (that would be The Girl) who would enjoy pushing me under a slowly moving freight train. I booked a flight home the week after I arrived in Memphis and I refused to cancel the festivities even if I had to attend Cirque in an oxygen tent.

The week of my trip home I'm still among the living, but only just. My lungs sound like the Franciscan All Boy's Junior High School Bagpipe Ensemble playing Nearer My God to Thee. The sawbones at the local ER wanted to stuff me in the hospital for 24 hours while he cured my breathing problems, but I declined and he mistrusted the look in my eye. Instead of complacently packing my hospital pajamas and checking in for a short stay, I obtain a nebulizer and the requisite medication to go along with it. The sawbones prescribes more steroids and another bottle of antibiotics before he kicks his most recent ingrateful habitué to the curb. The next day I pack three pounds of prescription drugs and one change of clothes before heading to the airport.

The airport in Memphis, Tennessee is a refreshing change from the norms of Detroit or Chicago. For one thing the people who work at Memphis International Airport (MEM) act like they are actually glad to see airline passengers, and they do this well enough to fool everyone passing through the gates, including a cynical curmudgeon like me. I get about half way through the official TSA security process before it occurs to me that I'm getting special treatment. The TSA agents help me with my carry-on luggage and point me to an area where I can sit and tie my shoes. It suddenly hits me that I'm an old person, or at least they believe I'm an old person. Possibly my illness has removed the spring from my step. More likely fifty years of clean living are beginning to catch up to me. Pardon me while I refresh my morning Manhattan. Having missed dinner, I stop for a sandwich after I locate the correct gate for my flight. The food is good and so is the service, which surprises me. Normally the culinary nightmares served up in a US airport would give Excellent Rachmaninoff a severe case of indigestion, but this is good stuff and the staff is nice. I'm flying Delta, and I make my flight without incident.

Big Mike both planned and handled logistics for our evening, which allowed everyone else to relax and enjoy themselves without worry. The four of us arrive at The Huntington Center in Mike's Chrysler 300, and since Mike has bothered to learn the area beforehand we don't have to search for parking. Our seats, as I may have mentioned earlier, are nothing short of stellar.

Cirque du Soleil is a circus for adults, although children will be absolutely enthralled by the performance as well. All the music is live and all the acts are very well rehearsed. We were treated to clowns that were actually funny as they supplemented their slapstick clown act with stand up comedy. The ringmaster spoke a few lines in French and was costumed as a potbellied, humpbacked gnome - he and his assistants strongly reminded me of the figures in The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch. We saw trapeze artists who worked without a net, acrobatic dancers and contortionists. The headliner consisted of a pair of oriental women contortionist-acrobats who were magnificent, and I should add that as a rule I do not enjoy watching contortionists. Another man performed a series of acrobatics on a set of pylons, finishing his act by balancing on one hand while he slowly rotated his body 360 degrees starting from a dead stop. I'd never seen this achieved before, and the amount of strength that it takes to hold yourself on one hand for several minutes is nothing short of phenomenal. The finale was a group of eight men who performed high bar gymnastics thirty feet off the ground and who were supplemented by two men on a trapeze about ten feet under the high bar performers. The gymnasts would perform standard dismounts and the trapeze artists would catch the gymnasts one at a time as they dismounted the high bars. All of these men were big fellows; I estimated their weight at over 175 pounds each, meaning that the catchers were handling a very significant amount of weight during the catch and subsequent swing. It's also worth noting that all the performers (I suspect all; certainly the majority) did double duty as stage hands, whether it was spotting other performers, changing sets or providing a distraction to the audience. All the performers worked all the time, which I find admirable. I would give Cirque du Soleil five stars out of five. It is truly a show that is not to be missed if at all possible.

We adjourned from the Hunting Center and had dinner at Manhattan's in downtown Toledo, which I will review separately (click here). One thing we could all agree on was that the show was truly magnificent.

I went home and after two sessions with my nebulizer was able to fall asleep. I finally got a decent night's sleep, the first in several days. Any of you out there who have had to deal with sleep deprivation know that it's a pain the royal venochie, and the only real cure is time in the sack.

The next day was Sunday, and for literary reasons I must confess that I've always wanted to win the lottery.  So a week or so ago when I was cleaning out my wallet I found a six months old lottery ticket that turned out to be a winner. One hundred and fifty dead presidents were now causing my mother's favorite son to develop a distinct list to starboard, so the only thing to do was lighten the load a bit. Now then, at our church is a nice couple who are very prolific, having some five daughters and two sons with the oldest son being recently engaged to a very nice lady, so for social purposes the family is ten in number. In spite of the fact that they are excellent people (they picked me up at DTW at 11:00 PM) they don't get invited out too often. For one thing, the kids eat. For another, there are a lot of them, so the cost tends to mount up a little. Since I have a free meal coming courtesy of the Ohio lottery and Divine Intervention, I take Mr. and Mrs. Prolific and the entire tribe out to lunch, and for fair measure and good value I invite the pastor and his wife to come with us. Mom comes along as well - you didn't think I'd leave her behind, did you?. We settle on  Shorty's True American Roadhouse for lunch, mainly because we all enjoy barbecue. I'll review Shorty's in a separate post (click here). Everyone enjoyed themselves and had a great lunch, and Sunday night the train wreck started.

I've been taking my medication like a good little boy, which is likely a huge part of the problem. The sawbones is feeding me steroids in tablet form labeled Prednisone. Check the side effects (my own comments in parenthesis):

Difficulty sleeping (yeah... check); feeling of a whirling motion (without benefit of liquor ingestion - I can deal with this); increased appetite (I am HUNGRY!); increased sweating (from all the exercise with my knife and fork); indigestion (over eating); mood changes (true - I am snappish and disagreeable, not that most people would notice); nervousness (I'm vibrating at high speed).
So no sleep for yours truly Sunday night or Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon finds me in Detroit Metro making my way past the TSA folks, all of whom are downtown Detroit natives and each and every one of whom hates whitey. If you're offended by this, rest assured that I am as well. That's why I wrote about it.

I board the plane and it's a sauna inside. The ground crew refuses to provide us with A/C and the plane develops a mechanical failure. We sit and sweat while the Captain calls AAA (or whatever the hell they call to fix the plane) and we finally disembark for a short time. We board again an hour later only to discover that while we've been sitting on the ground a storm system has moved in and we can't take off until it passes. We sit on the tarmac for three hours, then return to the dock. It seems we need a new captain, ours being unsuitable for some reason, and it will take three hours for our nice new captain to arrive. One of the passengers is a licensed commercial pilot, and I suggest that the airline slip him a few hundred to sit in the pilot's chair and get us to Memphis. I'm ignored. Delta offers us food vouchers so I organize a dinner among strangers in a nearby Mexican restaurant and three of us (me, Jill and Tim) have a nice time and interesting conversation. At 9:55 PM we board the plane and start taxing around DTW. I have a crazy idea we're actually going to taxi to Memphis, but I think that may be from lack of sleep. I start to ask the nice lady sitting next to me about the feasibility of taxiing to Memphis, and I catch myself. Do not ask goofy questions of people, Jack. The TSA loves smart asses like you - loves to hook them up to a Taser and make them do the funky chicken. I shut up, and pretty soon we're in the air. We touch down in Memphis sometime the next day. I don't look at the time until I hit my hotel room and discover it's two o'clock in the morning. I don't even remember if I went to work the next day.

And that's my trip. The sanity check I got from being at home among friends and family was worth every minute of misery at DTW, and if you don't believe me then you just try living in a house where one half of the adult population wants nothing more than to see you imitate the frog doing the backstroke in the pool. It tends to wear an old man down.

  1. The id provides the impulse to pound the snot out of some jerk who desperately needs it. The ego evaluates the situation and provides a workable plan to achieve the somewhat impulsive goals set by the id, while the super-ego will often override or modify the plan according to the learned dictates of personal ethics and society.

Restaurant Review: Manhattan's


1516 Adams Street; Toledo, Ohio
(419) 243-6675

Mon - Fri: Lunch 11:00 am; Mon - Sat: Dinner 5-10 pm
Sunday Brunch 10am - 2pm

After Cirque du Soleil the four of us repaired to Manhattan's for dinner. I'd never eaten there before, but judging from the menu we were all in for an excellent dinner. On arrival, I observed that the portents were somewhat spotty.

Martini at Manhattan's

For openers the hostess couldn't find our reservation and seemed somewhat reluctant to believe we actually had a reservation. After a lengthy consultation with Big Mike she reluctantly seated us on the left side of the restaurant, explaining that she would be our server. Not good, I thought, but I was still in high spirits from Cirque. We ordered drinks and I was pleased to note the martini was good. Mrs. Martini and I decided on the prime rib. I hadn't had steak in a while and prime rib is usually a good choice. Big Mike had the salmon and Mom had a salad. Then the waiting started. The waitress / hostess vanished, and 40 minutes later had not reappeared. I flagged down a bus boy who summoned the manager, a twenty something man dressed in Levi's and a black tee shirt. Now, I don't insist that the manager of an upscale restaurant dress in a tuxedo, but seeing the manager dressed in jeans and a tee shirt does not inspire confidence. I explained that we wanted our dinner, and in short order we were served.

The prime rib was a bust. The cut was thin, mine had about six ounces of fat attached to it and both were overcooked. I'd ordered medium, but it arrived very well done and was a poor cut of meat into the bargain. By way of contrast Big Mike's salmon was a real work of art and was cooked to perfection. Likewise, Mom's salad was excellent.

The service at Manhattan's is lousy. Our hostess / waitress didn't know how to wait tables and there were very few other options, the place being decidedly short staffed. The prices are high, which I don't mind. I enjoy fine dining and I'm willing to pay for it, but in my opinion Manhattan's is not fine dining. It might like to be, but it misses the mark by a wide margin both for the poor service and for the poor quality of the prime rib. However, note that the quality of the food varies widely. Mike's salmon was superb and mom's salad was very good. If they fixed the steak and the service, Manhattan's would be on my short list for fine dining.

  • Ambiance: 6 (pleasant, quiet - the manager should look dress the part)
  • Service: 2 (very, very poor)
  • Food: 5-9 (quality varies widely)

Total: 4

Restaurant Review: Shorty's True American Roadhouse

Shorty's on Monroe Street
Shorty's True American Roadhouse
5111 Monroe St; Toledo, OH 43623
(419) 841-9505
Sun - Thr: 11am - 10 pm
Fri - Sat: 11 am - 11 pm

I've been in Memphis for the last month or so, and am now an official Yankee conny-sewer of real Southern barbeque. That is to say, I'm something of an experienced gourmand of barbeque ribs in all three styles; wet, dry and muddy. So I'm here to tell you that while the barbeque at Shorty's True American Roadhouse doesn't suck pond scum, telling anyone in the Memphis area that Shorty's has good barbeque is a lot like telling the Toledo Blade's food critic that he ought to try reviewing Wendy's. That may be an unfortunate choice of words. A better explanation might be to say that while Shorty's is not the McDonald's of barbeque, it certainly qualifies as the Wendy's.

The good news about Shorty's is that they can accommodate a reservation for 14 for lunch on the outdoor patio. The bad news is the service (your mileage may vary) and the food. Shorty's menu touts barbeque ribs, pulled pork and brisket among other things, and they offer the pulled pork "Memphis Style" which translates into a pulled pork sandwich with cole-slaw on top. Now, I live in Memphis. I've been all over Memphis eating barbeque, and the only place in Memphis that serves pulled pork topped with cole-slaw is Tops Bar-B-Q which really is the McDonald's of barbeque. I ate at Tops once, and once was enough. What can I say? I was hungry and I didn't know any better.

Our server made the obligatory greetings and took our orders before vanishing into the back. The food arrived in fairly good time, and that's when the problems started. I ordered half a rack of ribs and the first thing I noticed was that my half rack was the same size as the one-third rack delivered to the person sitting next to me. When we pointed this out to the waiter and explained that my half-rack was a little short, the waiter started an argument. The silly SOB argued that I had half a rack in front of me, but that he'd exchange it for a different half rack. He vanished with my plate, only to return ten minutes later with the identical rack still on the plate and delivered it with a smart ass remark. Well, screw him. If I wanted an argument I could have phoned a neurotic ex-girlfriend. I decided to take it out of his gratuity. I'll give credit where it's due though; our waiter was quick to refill our drinks as needed. Then we waited forever for the check, and when the genius finally decided it was time to put in another appearance we were about to get up and walk out. A check was produced and given to me after three requests. The clown is not hard of hearing so much as he is dense. I noted that an 18% gratuity had been added, and was calculated on the total including tax. Since do I provide a tip on the government's gratuity? This is stable dressing. I used a pen to make an adjustment to the bill, crossing out the gratuity and applying some public school education to the final amount due. Then we waited for the waiter to show up and claim the bill. After 20 minutes he had failed to appear, so I took the bill up to the front desk where our waiter immediately hustled over to run the credit card. After a quick glance he complained about the lack of a gratuity, and I assured him I was leaving it in cash. Which is true. I got my credit card back and left the little bozo 10% in cash, which was about 5% more than he deserved.

I'm not impressed with Shorty's. The place has gone downhill, both with food quality, portions and service. I like the outdoor patio, but with the quality of the food being what it now is and the lousy service, I doubt I'll be back.

  • Ambiance: 7 (outdoor patio)
  • Service: 3 (don't argue with the customer; don't be slow with the check)
  • Food: 3 (Think Wendy's, not McDonald's)

Rating: 4

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Missing Cat

Missing Cat Alert

Dante in the Sun
Dante is missing.  Mom has concluded that he slipped out unnoticed and he refuses to come back home.  Not that I'm holding out a lot of hope here, but if anyone finds him we'd all be grateful.  The facts:

  • He was last seen in the area of Flanders Road just South of the Michigan State line.  The nearest intersection would be Flanders and Indian Ridge.

  • He is a neutered male with all his claws intact.

  • He has a full complement of jungle skills.  He was living off game he could catch when I adopted him in Florida, and he enjoys the out of doors.  He'd often disappear for a few days at a time in Florida, although he hasn't done so since he moved to Sylvania.

  • He's a bit cautious about making friends with strangers.  Fear keeps you alive, you see.

  • He is carrying a chip under his hide.

If anyone finds him, please send me some email and I'll be around to collect the little varmint as soon as possible.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Life: Stress, Seeking Relief

Tuesday, 5/10 I felt ill at work and so left a little early.  My throat and lungs have a nasty, tingly feeling that might indicate I've caught something.  I hope not, but the portents are not favorable to return to work the next morning as usual.

Wednesday, 5/11 I have a fever and general lack of energy.  I opt to remain home at chez Shotgun until such time as these annoying symptoms abate.  I begin taking ibuprofen sans whiskey, which means I must face the certain hell of three ill-behaved hounds, a 12 year old who is clearly in the wrong home and The Girl whose unbridled hatred of my mother's favorite son is becoming apparent to everyone, even Shotgun Bob, unanesthetized.

Thursday, 5/12 My fever switches on and off all day.  I'm too sick to work and not miserable enough to consult a witch doctor.  I remain in my personal quarters as much as possible, ignoring the hounds, Flounder and The Girl.

Friday, 5/13 My fever travels up and down all day, so I remain at home.  Pressure and stress from The Girl cause me to ignore my illness and move my residence from chez Shotgun to Extended Stay America.  My illness is becoming more severe and my energy level is at an all-time low.  In spite of my fever or perhaps because of it, I set up a moving day for Saturday.  If I remain, I'll eventually snap and say something honest and truthful to The Girl about graceful human behavior and not rummaging through her dinner salad like it was a sock drawer.  Around 1:00 PM I conclude I must seek professional help, and I'm not talking about a hit man.  I go to urgent care at Walgreen drugs to consult with a nursing practitioner.  I'm seen by an assistant and passed through triage to the nurse practitioner, a nice, polite Southern lady who prescribes a steroid, an antibiotic and a cough suppressant. In retrospect, I think the cough suppressant is the thing that gets me in trouble as I stop coughing and so fail to expel the disgusting fluid collecting in my lungs. This fluid prevents my asthma medication from reaching the lower part of my lungs, so any and all asthma attacks I suffer are now untreated.  Not good.  Then, as I attempt to pay for my medication I'm told that my health insurance has been cancelled as of 3/31/11.  I find this a little hard to believe, as my insurance is through COBRA and the company has been cashing my premium checks in a very consistent manner.  I get about four hours sleep due to illness and stress.  Without insurance, who will treat my condition should I get worse?

At 12:30 AM (one half hour after midnight) I'm awoken from a troubled sleep by Shotgun Bob and The Girl trying to get the dogs in from the pool area.  The lights are on and both idiots are taking turns yelling, trying to get Pork Chop and Big Blue to come inside.  Neither will go out and catch the thrice damned dog, but will alternate bellowing in a loud voice to get the dog to do what it won't: come inside.  When I first woke up I looked at the clock and concluded I'd overslept and that it was after 12 noon.  I fail to get back to sleep until after 5:00 AM.  I get a total of about four or five hours sleep and feel like five miles of bad road.

Saturday, 5/14  I move into Extended Stay America.  My fever comes and goes and my breathing is terrible.  I have chills and am disoriented from lack of sleep.  What I really need is a keeper.

In all the time I've stayed at chez Shotgun, The Girl has instigated a conversation with me exactly twice.  As I depart The Girl comes out to the driveway long enough to castigate me for not saying good-bye.  She says it's very irritating to her, and notes that I've done it before.  Being a gentleman, I offer an apology - which is neither acknowledged nor accepted.  Shotgun Bob is somewhat embarrassed, I think.

The noise of my own lungs keeps me awake.  My fever comes and goes.  I get about four hours sleep.

Sunday, 5/15  My fever is gone and I'm feeling better during the morning.  The stress of living at chez Shotgun has vanished, but is replace by the problem with my health insurance.  I unpack and take life easy.  As the day wears on I feel worse.  Again, 4 to 5 hours sleep due to breathing problems and stress.

Monday, 5/16  I'm still too sick to work.  I resolve my health insurance.  A helpful voice on the phone tracks down the error to an incompetent accounting department and sees that the error is fixed.  I feel better.  That night I'm kept awake by the idiot next door who is yakking away in some foreign language.  The entire hotel is as quiet as a graveyard at midnight except for this asshole, who either doesn't know that this is a shared space or doesn't care.  I pound on the wall and he shuts up as fast as if I'd thrown a light switch.  The noise of my own lungs keeps me awake, so at 11:30 PM I rouse myself and head for the ER.  I can't get a full breath and my lungs are making more noise than a pair of hot teenagers wrestling over a bra that won't come undone.

I go to St Francis Hospital (5959 Park Avenue; Memphis, TN 38119-5198) which is a big, big mistake.  I'm examined briefly by a nurse who fails to listen to my chest and then I'm told to wait in the waiting room for an indefinite time.  Only one treatment room is open and there are three people ahead of me.  I wait an hour and decide that this is bullshit.  For one thing, I see signs all over the place stating that this hospital is part of some kind of State funded public medical care program that makes everyone - regardless of race, color, religious beliefs, immigration status or sexual orientation - entitled to medical attention even if they can't pay for it.  Moreover, the hospital doesn't ask me about my health insurance or my ability to pay.  I leave, heading for Methodist LeBonheur Germantown Hospital (7691 Poplar Avenue, Germantown, TN 38138).  It's rather different.

The ER staff at the Methodist hospital is the opposite of St. Francis.  I'm greeted pleasantly by a nurse as soon as I walk in, and the medical staff seizes me before I complete my paperwork, explaining that "You can do that later; they really don't need it right now anyway."  I'm examined by two nurses and stuck with a single needle which is turned into a cute little faucet that they can use for deposits or withdrawals.  They say I'm sick, but they can fix that.  Maybe.

I stay until 10:30 AM the next day, have three nebulizer treatments (maximum number allowable), three chest x-rays along with an MRI on my lungs and extensive blood work.  I receive several shots and am eventually discharged with two prescriptions and the news that a spot on my lung is likely pneumonia.  I call in sick.

Tuesday, 5/17  Between getting some breakfast and picking up my prescriptions and calming mom down, I fall asleep about 3:00 in the afternoon.  Shotgun Bob thoughtfully wakes me up at 5:00 to see if I'm okay.  It turns out I am.  I go back to sleep at 9:00 PM and wake up naturally at 6:00 in the morning on Wednesday.  I'm disoriented, forgetting to do routine things.  For instance, I forgot to pack myself a lunch and I left my briefcase in the trunk of my car.

Wednesday, 5/18 I'm here at work.  I don't accomplish a damned thing, but I do get paid.

Welcome to America.

Everyone Into the Pool!

I don't know how many people will remember the good old first person shooter games Quake and Doom by Id software.  I loved 'em - nothing like chainsawing an imp or pinkie to perk up your day.   One thing you had to look out for was the ubiquitous toxic pool that was that nice, distinctive green color.  Kind of like the one below.

This is the pool at Chez Shotgun.  I'm told that this is not a toxic spill of some sort, nor is there a HAZ-MAT suit that I can borrow.  I was actually told nothing at all, Shotgun Bob having a notable lack of humor where the pool is concerned.  Directing my attention to the small portion of a mad scientist laboratory that I'm told is connected to the pool, I discretely inquired if the filter were working.  It wasn't.  Worse, no one seemed able to decipher the actual workings of the device.

Atomic Fulmination System
Clearly water from the pool enters via an underground pipe, but just what happens after that is uncertain.  The valve at the top of the ball is questionable, and the previous owner left no documentation behind.  Still and all, the local fauna are able to enjoy the pool even if the primary inhabitants are not.

Frog Doing Backstroke
This frog, for instance, is working on the backstroke.  An unusual choice for a frog, but I'm sure he has his reasons.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cons: Jehova's Witneses

Back in the bad old days when I was a young, virile stud muffin - (Mad Jack waits for the cacophony of catcalls, derisive howls and jejune cries of cough:BullShit!:cough to die down) – as I was saying, back in the bad old days I taught ballroom dancing.  Check out Dancing with the Stars or the Ohio Star Ball on PBS.  That was me many years ago.  I got out and found another line of work when I started getting old.  I knew when to leave the party, you see.
Of course most of the ballroom dance professionals that I knew from back then have all retired, moved on or been put in jail for fraud.  That's the other half of the ballroom dance business that you don't hear much about.  Old ladies, lifetime courses, trials and lawsuits, bad payroll checks and egotistical prima donnas aspiring to become the next USBC American Style Ten Dance Champion.  Few make it.  Those that aren't prima donnas are busy grabbing all the money they can before departing for an extended vacation in Florida.  Why Florida?  Check the civil law.  Basically any civil suite in any other State stops at the Florida border.

I reminisce about all this because the other day I was talking to Main Lady, who found an interesting flyer on her doorstep.

Down South Camp Meetin'
Location of the Main Tent - Alfredo's Dance Studio
You see, I used to know Alfredo.  He was busy pushing old ladies around the floor at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Toledo (now closed) while I was working for a competitor.  Al's a real charmer with a thick Spanish accent and an extroverted personality.  He's married they say, his second wife being an ex-student.  The first wife caught Al and the second wife practicing the horizontal bop in the back room at "Alfredo's Studio of Dance!" late one night and turned the whole session into the cat fight tango.  Although the first wife didn't promise to drop him with a deer rifle, she refused to give him one more chance so Al married the other woman.

I always kind of wondered whatever happened to Alfredo.  Now I know.  Well, I guess there's always room for a good confidence man in a cult, which is what the Jehovah's Witnesses are (and if I've offended anyone rest assured it's intentional).  The Witnesses took a hard run at my mother and ran into a solid wall – honesty.  You see, in order to cheat or deceive someone, the target or 'mark' must have a little larceny in their own heart.  Mom has none, and so could not be converted.  Impressed with mom's estate and nice home, the Witnesses tried again, bringing out the first string this time.  I ran them off, stopping short of a first hand look at the hereafter courtesy of Colonels Smith and Wesson.  I am, after all, not stupid.

I can kind of see Alfredo in the role of minister, especially in a cult like the Witnesses.  There's plenty of money floating around and as I remember it, Al tends to do well in front of a crowd.  He's got the right ethics for it, I'll tell you that.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

My mother was born in 1925 to a very wealthy family.  They had oil money, and plenty of it.  Mom's father was a chemist who knew how to crack petroleum.  The family had their own oil wells, refinery, gas stations and truck line.  Mom's grandfather owned four airplanes and taught himself to fly.  Then the great depression came along and wiped the family wealth away in a very short time.  Mom's father (my maternal grandfather) lost his job when the refinery closed, and discovered that the demand for industrial chemists was as low as the stock market.  Mom's family lost their home and were forced to move in with their maternal parents; my maternal great grandparents.  Mom's father was given a job by a relative who was the general manager at a local department store: dishwasher.  He could have made the chemist a clerk, but it's said that there might have been a little resentment there, coupled with a vindictive spirit.  Sadly the chemist had a weak heart from a childhood bout with rheumatic fever and his heart couldn't keep up with the physical labor required.  He worked that job until it killed him several years later.  My mother is about 12 years old when her father dies at home.

Mom's mother became the sole breadwinner for the family.  Her options were limited due to societal prejudice against women in the workplace.  She taught herself to play the piano (a job requirement back then) and became an elementary school teacher, like her mother before her.  My great grandmother taught nine students of various ages in a one room school house.  My grandmother taught third grade, and in 30 years of teaching she only had to paddle three students.  I had a chance to watch her teach once, and she worked hard at it.  The students were busy every single minute they were in her classroom.

In the middle of all this mom and her three sisters graduated high school and put themselves through college.  I'm devoting one sentence to four years of hard work and very frugal living, but all four managed to achieve a baccalaureate degree, and one continued to get her master's degree.  Mom graduated and eventually became a high school teacher, teaching business subjects at a local high school.  The school used to give mom the problem students because mom never had trouble with them.  I asked her about this once and she replied that she treated the students with respect and courtesy, and they responded to that.  Mom was also something of a holy terror.  On one occasion there was a fight in the hallway between two girls, and when one girl would not quit fighting mom tossed her to the floor and pinned her, then held her there until she settled down.

Eventually mom got married and a few years later a cute little baby arrived.  We'll skip most of the era immediately following this happy event, as the joys of raising a low maintenance, intellectually gifted and talented child will strain the willing suspension of disbelief to the point of spontaneous fracture, the backlash of which has been known to cause permanent injury to the cerebral cortex and is still the source of several ongoing liability cases.

I have a lot to thank my mother for, but today I'm going to thank her for teaching me to read.  Thanks to mom's time, effort and devotion I could read and write before I started elementary school, and in spite of the school's determination to make me conform I continued to learn to read, mainly through the efforts of my mother and my maternal grandmother.  Neither of these women were afraid to call a spade a spade, and when an egotistical pseudo-pedagogue employed by the public school system wrongfully criticized an essay I wrote, both women tactfully stated that the critic had delusions of mediocrity.

If it hadn't been for my mother I'd never have learned to read past the first grade level, and that's the truth.  Thanks mom.  You done real good.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Life: An amusing dinner

Last Thursday night we all assembled for supper around 6:45.  Normally we eat at 6:00 but The Girl was cooking and so dinner was a little late.  I was forewarned that we were having hamburgers with hash brown potatoes on the side.  I have no objection here, as I can skip the bun and the hash browns, me being on a low carb diet and all.

Flounder loaded her plate with two hamburgers, half a pound of hash brown potatoes and a side order of ketchup (an approved public school lunch vegetable).  My brother gave the prayer before supper and two tenths of a second after 'Amen' Flounder fell to with all the enthusiasm of a hungry bulldog on top of a full dish of Alpo - curbed only by recent instruction in table manners by The Girl, who is prone to eat her salad with her hands.  I studied the centerpiece, a random arrangement of three plastic flowers placed cunningly adjacent to the salt and pepper shakers.  I noted that the pepper shaker was almost full, while the salt shaker was three quarters empty and was resting on its side.  I idly speculated if my observance could be used to convict me of being a pessimist, and if so did it really matter.  I surmised my observation could be used in such a fashion but only if I admitted it in front of impeccable witnesses.  Otherwise I could go into denial.  I continued my wool gathering, speculating that the spilled salt would be certain to bring someone bad luck, and that I might be caught in the fall out.  The television in the living room blared away unheeded by three of the four people at the table, tuned in to some nameless reality show involving a dysfunctional extended family, one or more of whom were being removed from the family domicile by the local constabulary amidst a tirade that is best described as Tyrone Theater (credit to Beat and Release).  I winced inwardly - Shotgun Bob and The Girl are supposed to be setting a good example for this impressionable twelve year old, and they leave this kind of trash on TV?  Just as Tyrone was being cuffed and stuffed I was distracted by Flounder, and not because she was throwing food to the dogs.

"You know I like my potatoes." Flounder proclaimed around a mouthful of hash browns.  I noted that having food in her mouth mitigates her thick Southern accent.

"That's nice." The Girl responded, a bit absent-mindedly.

"My Momma is a good cook.  She has her own special spices for potatoes." Flounder continued.

"I see."  Said The Girl, beginning to pay attention.

"These came out of a bag, didn't they?"  Flounder asked.

The Girl starts doing a slow burn.  In fact, she is rendered speechless.  The Girl finally wrestles her temper to the floor and pins it.

"Yes, they did."  The Girl responded through clenched teeth.

"My Momma always does hers up fresh.  She's a real good cook."  Flounder continued unabated.

I successfully stopped myself from laughing out loud.  Shotgun Bob was barely successful.  I couldn't think of a thing to say to change the subject without starting up a nice chain reaction of some sort.  See what a good example I'm setting?  Note my self-control?  My generous, kind and goodhearted nature?  I could have something about some people being too lazy to cook, but I didn't.

Anyway, the meal ended a little early that night.  Just as well, I suppose.