Catch a Tagger by His Trail


Tagger 2Spray painted graffiti really bothers me.  I consider it to be vandalism, as I’m sure most people do.  I certainly don’t think of it as art, unless, maybe,  I were to commission it to be painted on my fence, which is highly unlikely.  KRQE in Albuquerque reported on March 22, 2016 that graffiti cleanup was increasing across the city, upwards of 20 cleanups per day.  The city has 15 crews searching for illegal tagging and an app where you can report incidents of tagging for cleanup.  The station reported that graffiti cleanup in Albuquerque costs the city an estimated $1.3 million per year.  WTF.

This story appeared on my old blog on Monday, September 22, 2008.  Thought I would post it again because it never appeared on “What the Fluffy.”  I was living in Reno, NV at the time…..

 A neighbor on the corner has a long, whitewashed, six-foot picket fence, which is a blank canvas too hard to pass up to a few wanna-be graffiti artists. The fact that we call them “artists” doesn’t sit well with me anyway, but I call them wanna-bees because they just aren’t up to the “standards” of a real graffiti artisan. What I don’t get is why the guy keeps painting over the graffiti fence, and then two to three days later, the tagger strikes again on a fresh canvas. I think I’d be sitting in wait for them with a shot-gun loaded with rock salt.

I remember Johnny Mayer got a full load of salt in his ass when he was trying to steal a watermelon from Mr. Beachum’s field. According to the story, it hurt like hell, and he never went into Beachum’s field again. The truth is, the only thing that probably happened to Johnny was Mr. Beachum scared the shit out of him. The barbed-wire fence where he left most of the seat of his pants hanging, probably did more damage then even a close-up load of rock salt. But I saw the scars when I was a kid, so I’ve always thought it might be a good non-lethal way to catch the little sons-a-bitches in the dark with their spray cans. Might just make them think twice next time…and you’ll probably get sued.

And another thing; I believe The Home Depot advertises that they can match any paint color exactly, so why do all these paint-overs look worse than the original graffiti? There is also a product I know of, called Graffiti-Melt. Once it’s applied to a surface, graffiti won’t stick. It’s sold as a sacrificial product that you can just use a hose to clean the graffiti off then reapply, or as a surface cleaner that quickly removes the graffiti with just a pressure washer, thus the “melt” part of the name. It’s low-odor, non-toxic, and biodegradable. Sounds like just the ticket to me. That would save a whole lot of trouble for that neighbor down the street.

I don’t sell Graffiti Melt, but I’ll bet they sell it around here somewhere, because we get our share of tagging. How they get on those big signs over the interstate, with no one seeing them, is beyond me though. It might be fun to pick them off with our salt-loaded shotguns as we’re driving by swillin’ our beers.

“I think I nicked that one, Jake.”

Tagger 1

I remember seeing a diagram of a tagger and how to spot them in the newspaper when I was living in Tucson. What to do about them after I spotted one, seemed to be the problem. That’s why I always thought lying in wait with a shotgun was a good idea. However, after discovering the actual effects of a salt-filled shell, I’m favoring the “melting” process. I mean, if you have a wall, and I’ve seen several around me, that seem to get hit on a regular basis, let’s look for some alternatives besides whatever paint is left over in the garage. Trust me, it looks worse than the graffiti art to have 50 feet of multi-colored fence on the street-side of your house.

In Arizona, and I’m sure most states now, you have to be 16 or 18 (I can’t remember) to buy spray paint. Although the law was probably put into effect so that the delinquents wouldn’t sniff the stuff, the intent was also to keep the main tool of the tagger off the street. Takes too long to use a brush and can, I guess. The law, as most, doesn’t work though, and it only aggravates those of us who need to buy a can of spray paint that is now in a locked case. You have to find the clerk, usually difficult if you’re not looking for one, and get them to open the case, stand there while you make a selection, and then lock it up again. And, of course, there are the stores, that, tired of the locking and unlocking, have taken to leaving it unlocked. Surprisingly you don’t have to answer a questionnaire about what you intend to do with the stuff.

I buy a lot of clear-coat spray paint, and I amuse myself by telling the clerk, and then the check-out person, that I am going to spray some graffiti on my neighbor’s fence with it. That never gets the laugh I’m expecting. Doesn’t it seem ridiculous to lock up clear spray paint? I guess it has the same hallucinogenic effects as the colored version though, but less likely to be in the backpack of a tagger in my mind.  I buy it on line from Amazon now and they ship it right to my house, no questions asked.

I heard somewhere that they actually had a graffiti art exhibit in New York or somewhere, in the 80s. I wonder how they got those walls, train cars, semi-trailers, street signs, and fences into the art gallery?

Although I’m sure you have seen some pretty impressive graffiti, the majority of it is marking territory and just plain vandalism. One of the things they discovered in Tucson was that if you had a mural painted on the side of a building the taggers would respect the art and not deface it. There are a lot of murals in South Tucson, and I never saw one that was sprayed over with the initials, nickname, or symbol of some idiot who wants to see his name in print on what amounts to a billboard.

My favorite graffiti was the large white letters on the highway, both directions, that I would see every day on my commute to and from work. Sprayed on the pavement, like a “stop ahead” or turn arrow, was:
“Slut
is a
Becky.
Jim
F—ed
Becky.”

Read properly from bottom to top as if you are driving across it. I imagine painstakingly painted, in the wee hours of the morning to avoid the oncoming cars, by the unfortunate x-boyfriend of Becky. Like I said, it was in both lanes, so you got the sentiment coming or going. It had to have taken some time to accomplish, especially in the dark.

My most recent exposure to the tagger’s art, was done by a young man by the name of Connor Burton, aged six going on seven. During his August visit to his grandfather’s fifth-wheel at the lake, in the pristine mountains of the Sierra Nevada, young Connor chose to leave his mark.

Tagger Rock

This is the actual rock prior to the tagging.

I didn’t discover it right away. It was on a big flat-faced rock at the base of the campsite. Seen easily from the road by passersby, but generally hidden to me standing at the top of the hill. Three or four weeks after the tagger left the area, I was walking up the path when I saw clearly the name “Connor Burton” emblazoned on the rock face. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Like I said, it had been there a few weeks and the biodegradable “paint” (I assume charcoal from the campfire.) was still holding up fine. Had I caught him in the act, I think a shot in the butt with some rock salt might have served him well. Maybe it’s harder to catch a tagger than I thought.

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The “Hamsterslaughter” of Speedy


Not “Speedy” but isn’t he cute?

The crime of manslaughter is when you kill another human being without malice aforethought, which is just a fancy way of saying you didn’t spend any time planning to do it.  If you spend any time at all planning to kill someone, then you’re up for a degree of murder, like first or second.  You will most likely be guilty of manslaughter, and likely convicted of it, if you kill someone, say, by running them over with your car.  If you kill a hamster, accidentally, you won’t be guilty of manslaughter, because there is no crime of “hamsterslaughter”.  Killing a hamster can have long-lasting and far-reaching effects though.

I can still hear the crack of the little rodent’s neck as it snapped under the full weight of my teenage foot.  He didn’t feel a thing.  My older sister, seventeen at the time, had been playing with the hamster in the doorway of the kitchen.  I had simply stepped over her leg blocking the entry, and came right down on the scurrying critter.  Death was instantaneous, as was hysterical screaming from the person sitting in the doorway that was entrusted to its care.  In her defense, she tried gallantly to grab Speedy before my foot landed on his head, but he was too fast for her, but not for my foot.  In my defense, I had no idea what the hell she was doing sitting across the doorway and was aggravated that I had to step over her to get into the kitchen in the first place.  I have no idea why I was going to the kitchen, but motive isn’t necessary for my defense in this case.

I can still hear her screaming at me, and then crying as she held the mangled hamster corpse up, hoping somehow my all too accurate step hadn’t been fatal.  I didn’t know what to say, so I berated her for playing with the damn thing in the middle of a doorway.  How stupid could she be?  How could his death be my fault?  I clearly had no intention of stepping on it, thus there was not a scintilla of malice aforethought.  The real problem was, the hamster belonged to my younger brother, and he was right fond of it.  He wasn’t anywhere around when it happened.  He was outside playing, I guess.  And to make matters worse, the sister in the doorway, didn’t exactly have permission to be playing with it.

The plan formed quickly.  Hamsters all look-alike don’t they?  We could run interference for a time, keep the kid busy, until we could run down to Woolworth’s and get a replacement hamster.  We stick him in the cage and no one, particularly little brother, is none the wiser.  Big sister was off and I headed out back to find Speedy’s owner.  The deceased was unceremoniously put in a shoe box, and I put him out in the garage for later burial.

Not Speedy either. Speedy is dead, but he looked like this I think.

Big sister returned in short order with a replacement hamster that looked to me like it could be Speedy’s twin brother.  Although it’s difficult to determine the sex of a fluffy dwarf hamster, the Woolworth’s clerk, who sold her the thing, said he was a boy.  Yeah, I know, check between his little legs but that’s not easy either, and this guy wouldn’t let us do it.  It was also a fluffy hamster so their equipment can be largely hidden.  She put him in the cage and we went back to our usual routines.  Little brother had no idea what had transpired.

When he went to get his hamster after dinner, we mulled around to see if he would notice anything.  He looked into the cage at the replacement hamster and didn’t seem to realize it wasn’t the same one he had left in there the day before.  He put his hand in the cage to get Speedy II, and the critter proceeded to try and snap off his finger.  The original Speedy did not bite or, at least, had never bitten him before.  Speedy II was a carnivore.

I don’t know to this day why we contrived to replace the stepped on Speedy with the new hamster.  Guilt maybe.  Maybe we didn’t want to upset my little brother for something we had not wanted to happen in the first place.  Maybe we just didn’t want to answer for the crime.

And why did this come up in my conscious mind again after 49 years?  Because I still feel bad about it.  My brother claimed over the years that he knew it wasn’t the same hamster right away, but he never said anything.  Needless to say, he didn’t have the same relationship with Speedy II that he had with Speedy, and I have no idea what ever happened to the little rodent; probably died.  They don’t have the longest of life spans; staying alive, without being stepped on, for maybe three years.  Little brother probably remembers.

Another more sinister  hamster death occurred in Tucson, Arizona, in the frigid closet of my youngest daughter.  She was clearly guilty of “Hamstercide.”  The little rodent had a habit of running in his hamster wheel in the middle of the night.  Hamsters are nocturnal animals.  They are awake in the dark, not so much during the day.  So running in his exercise wheel was a natural thing for him to be doing at 3 am, but the damn thing was noisy.

See, it’s night-time.

So when the daughter couldn’t sleep on a cold January night, she decided to put the hamster in her closet so she wouldn’t hear it.  That, in my mind, was malice aforethought.  When she was moving the cage in the dark, she spilled water out on wood chips in the bottom of the cage.  The hamster got wet, and in temperatures in the 20s, the little dude froze to death.  The closet didn’t get any heat when the door was closed.  Of course, we figured all of this out the next morning when she removed the hamster from the closet and noticed he wasn’t moving.  Like I always say, ignorance of the law is not a defense.  Good thing there are no laws against freezing hamsters to death.  I still call her a hamster murderer.  Takes one to know one.

 

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


christmas1In a meek attempt not to offend anyone, and if you know me at all, you know that attempting not to offend anyone is not high on my list, I thought I would take the time to wish my blog followers a Merry Christmas.  Yes, I said it, Merry CHRISTMAS.  I’ll say it again out loud, “Merry Christmas.”

As the year draws to a close, two of the many things that just  keep hanging around in my head are “political correctness” and “stupid people.”  Why is it politically correct to say “Holiday Party” instead of “Christmas Party?”  I miss company Christmas parties.  I got in a lot of memorable trouble at company Christmas parties, mainly because we could drink.  There aren’t many company Christmas parties anymore.  I’m probably one of the reasons.

We used to hold a “Christmas Eve Eve Party” every year.  It was held on the 23rd of December, thus the “eve eve” significance.  We held it on the 23rd because we thought more people would come, because they would have other plans on the 24th.  It would never fail that someone would come up to me at work on Christmas Eve and say something like, “I can hardly wait for your party tonight.”  I’d say something in my hung over state like, “It was last night.  Christmas Eve Eve.”  We don’t have a Christmas party at our house anymore.  We don’t want to be sued for over-serving a guest and we don’t have anyone to invite anymore.  In all honesty, they were always BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) parties, so technically we weren’t over-serving anyone anyway.

I enjoyed those parties, and I miss them, but they cost a lot of money I did and don’t have, and half the people I invited never showed up.  You know what it’s like to throw a party and no one shows up until an hour after the posted start?  It’s not a good feeling.  You can over-serve yourself in an hour feeling sorry for yourself that you don’t have any friends.

Stupid People are self-explanatory.  I read somewhere that we should take all the warning labels off of products and let the problem solve itself.   As my favorite comedienne,  Ron White, says, “You can’t fix stupid.  There’s not a pill you can take.  There’s not a class you can go to.  Stupid is forever.”  In my mind, no truer words have ever been spoken, and it still makes me laugh.

Like the guy who decided to trim his hedges with a power lawn mower.  He lost control of the mower, cut off his fingers and sued the manufacturer because there wasn’t a warning label on the mower detailing the danger of trimming hedges with it.  Like hedge trimming was even considered a use.  Well, it appears that this story from 1978 can’t be confirmed, but was used to show the abuse in the courts of product liability suits.  Of course, if there is no warning against a use for the product, the manufacturer could be held financially responsible, regardless of how stupid the use turns out to be.

christmas2But why stupid people are on my mind doesn’t have anything to do with mowing the lawn or trimming the hedge, it’s winter time after all. ( Although I wouldn’t put it past someone to try to trim the hedge with a snow blower.)  Stupid people are on my mind because of all the Facebook posts about how I started this blog.  People demanding that I say “Merry Christmas” in greeting and to hell with all the other people who want to take “Christ” out of Christmas, because they’re Jewish, or Afro-american,  or Muslim, or Chinese, or atheist, or just stupid.  I have a “Christmas Tree” in my living room.  I have “Christmas Decorations” in my house.  I have “Christmas Lights” in my yard.  I am far from religious, although not atheist, and I just believe that “Christmas Day” is Christmas Day.  It’s the 25th of December every year and it’s not called “Holiday.”   So when I wish you a “Merry Christmas” that’s what I mean.  Have a merry day on the 25th of December.  Let’s not be stupid about it. WTF. 

 christmas2

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A Date That Will Live In World History


pearl-planesToday is the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  As I’ve mentioned before in these pages, I’m kind of a World War II history buff, and I always stop and reflect on this day and remember the 2,403 Americans who died in the attack, and the 1,178 that were wounded.  ( I know those numbers from memory.)  It was the largest number of non-combatants killed in an attack until the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  Because we were not in a state of war at the time the Japanese raided Pearl Harbor, the dead are considered non-combatants, not military losses.  The military personnel had not even been issued dog tags yet, which made identifying many of them impossible.  There were  700 unidentified soldiers and sailors, and only one of those has been identified to this day.  Sixty-eight  of the 2,403 were civilians, and most of those casualties were the result of friendly fire. 

uss-arizona1,177 Sailors and Marines died on the USS Arizona alone.  It took four direct bomb hits, one which went through four decks and detonated in the powder magazine.  The ship sunk to the bottom in minutes.  The concussion from the blast threw men off the ship like match sticks, and some landed in the water where 4 inches of oil was burning.  Others were thrown clear from the ball of fire to adjacent ships. 

torpedoWhy did the US Navy think it was safe to dock all the battleships in a row off Ford Island?  It was because they felt they were impervious to torpedo attack since Pearl Harbor is only 30-35  feet deep, and they didn’t think the Japanese were capable of an attack from as far away as Hawaii.  The Japanese knew that attacking the fleet with torpedo planes would not work, and high level bombing was inaccurate.  They needed to figure out how to use torpedoes in shallow water.  Torpedoes dropped from low flying aircraft needed 60 feet or more of water to level out to the target.  What they came up with was a plywood fin that would break away upon impact with the water, and the torpedo would skip along just below the surface.   They had to dive bomb, release the torpedo, and then pull up quickly to avoid crashing into the conning tower on the ship.  They still only had limited success testing this modification so they were amazed by how effective it was.   The torpedoes in Pearl Harbor were described as dragon flies skimming on the surface of the water.

When Roosevelt heard of the attack, his first response was disbelief, and then it was full on anger.   He was fully convinced that Hitler was behind the attack, but there is sufficient historical evidence that Germany was just as surprised by the attack as our military in Pearl Harbor.  Not to say Hitler wasn’t pleased, but he had wanted Japan to attack Russia through China and redirect some of the Russian defense off the Eastern Front.  

 I was a full-on conspiracy theorist for a long time about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  I think Roosevelt was fairly certain that a direct attack on American interests in the Pacific would rally the isolationists to support the war, and he desperately wanted that to happen.  What better way to achieve that goal then by ignoring the Japanese threat to the Pacific Fleet?  It certainly had that effect, for only one member  of Congress, a female pacifist  from Montana, Jeanette Rankin, voted against the Declaration of War against Japan.   The vote in the House was 388-1, and the Senate unanimously approved the resolution 82-0.  In 1916, Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress.  She also voted “no” in 1917 to declare War on Germany in WW I.  In reality, it probably would have only taken one American casualty, anywhere in the world, by Japan or Germany, to elicit the same type of war fervor in this country at the time.  There is no historical evidence, however,  that Roosevelt had any prior knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but he did know that something was going to come about.  

The United States had cracked the Japanese diplomatic code in 1940, and was intercepting their diplomatic messages, receiving information before their embassy did.   Known as MAGIC, it was set up to combine the government’s cryptographic organizations into one agency.  The Japanese Foreign Office used a cipher machine known as PURPLE which was a modified ENIGMA machine that was given to the Japanese after they signed the Tripartite Pact.  The United States knew months ahead of time that the Japanese were going to end negotiations and were going to attack, but they were only able to intercept and cipher diplomatic traffic and not with complete accuracy.  The Japanese military used a completely different code.  The Japanese Foreign Office was not even aware of the imminent attack on Hawaii.  The military kept it completely secret.  The details were only known by a very few high-level military leaders in Japan.  The pilots on the carriers were not told of their target until December 6th.

The deciphered diplomatic traffic never specified where, or when, and one only needs to look at a map of the Pacific to see what a guessing game that would have been.   Should they have been more prepared in Oahu in December of 1941?  Absolutely.  But only Admiral Kimmel and General Short were charged with Dereliction of Duty and removed from command.  They did not have MAGIC information unless Washington saw fit to supply it.  During one of the eight Congressional hearings on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Kimmel made it clear that if he had all of the information from the ciphers he would  have formed an entirely different opinion.

yamamoto Isoroku Yamamoto, the mastermind of the attack on Pearl Harbor, known as “Operation Z,” had only one purpose in mind:  To cripple the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl and buy time for their expansionist plans in the South Pacific.  They were hoping for six months.  They got less than two.  All six Japanese carriers used in the attack on Pearl Harbor were sunk by US Forces by the end of 1943.  Admiral Yamamoto’s plane was shot down over the island of Bougainville in 1943 by US P-38s in” Operation Vengeance,” and he was killed.

Although celebrated as a great victory by Japan at the time, the attack on Pearl Harbor was not truly a success for the Japanese.  The American carriers were not in Pearl Harbor on that Sunday morning.  They had miraculously been out delivering material to islands the US Government felt the Japanese were more likely to attack.  And the problem they had solved with the shallow-water torpedoes meant that the US ships were only sunk in about 30 feet of water, not to the bottom of the ocean which would have happened in the open sea.  In the final tally, eight battleships were damaged and four were sunk.  All but the USS Arizona were raised, and the USS Oklahoma was considered too old to repair.  The other six battleships were returned to service and went on to fight the war.  

fdrThe words “A date that will live in world history,” were the first dictation of the famous speech, to his secretary, Grace Tulley.  FDR delivered the speech to Congress on December 8th, 1941.  He changed the words “world history” to “infamy” in his final draft.   Two days after the attack, Japan allied with Germany and Italy, declaring war on the United States.  On December 11, 1941 we reciprocated and declared war on Germany and Italy.  The Senate voted 88-0 and the House voted 393-0 on the declaration of war on Germany, and 90-0 and 399-0 for war against Italy.  Jeannette Rankin chose to vote a non-committal “present” on both resolutions.  If you’re wondering about the difference in the vote tallies, it’s because some members reached the floor too late to vote on the declaration against Germany.

The entire attack lasted an hour and 15 minutes, but has truly been a date that continues to live in infamy.  Seventy-five years later, the world is a totally different place than it would have been had a diplomatic solution been reached at the final hour.  The Japanese had never planned for it to be a surprise attack.  The intention was for the Japanese ambassador to deliver the warning 30 minutes before the start of the attack, and it all came down to a bunch of two-finger typists trying to translate the diplomatic message in time.  Interestingly, many of the Japanese pilots felt dishonored by the surprise attack.  They considered themselves Samurai, and believed you did not attack a sleeping enemy, you woke them up and gave them a sword before you attacked.

“Japanese planes attacking all ships.  This is no shit.”  Shouted over the public address system on the battleship Oklahoma.  Minutes before, at 7:49 am, Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, had issued the command “To, To, To,” (Attack).  He later transmitted “To Ra, To Ra, To Ra,” (Tiger), to confirm back to the carriers that they had obtained surprise. 

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The Kido Butai


japanese-fleetOn this date, December 6th, 1941, the Japanese Fleet was 250 miles north of Ohau.  Having traveled 11 days over 4000 miles, undetected, they prepared to attack the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.  All six of Japan’s first-line aircraft carriers, Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku and Zuikaku, were there.  With over 420 planes, the ships constituted the most powerful carrier task force ever assembled.  The Pearl Harbor Task Force also included fast battleships, cruisers and destroyers, with tankers to fuel the ships during their passage across the Pacific, a total of 30 capital ships.  How did the Kido Butai, which set sail on November 26th, 1941, get all the way to the Hawaiian Islands without being seen?

track-of-ijn-to-pearl

 

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The Christmas Spirit Will Blindside Me Any Day Now


christmas-spiritI’m desperately trying to get in the Christmas Spirit.  I know they wanted me to be into this as early as three weeks ago, but I can’t get anywhere close to feeling Christmassy until December anyway.  We bought a new tree a few weeks ago, but didn’t put it up until the day after Thanksgiving.  That sounded somewhat correct.  My parents used to put up the “real” tree a few days before the big event.  It would have been purchased from the tree lot a week or two before, but would be sitting in the garage in a bucket of water waiting for my father to decide it was time to string on the lights.  Yesterday I unpacked the train and put it underneath my new tree.  I hung a wreath on the front door.  That’s as far as I’ve gotten, and I didn’t “feel” anything remotely resembling Christmas Spirit.

Tomorrow, if it warms up some, and the wind doesn’t blow, I might start putting up the lights out front.  Since it’s not expected to warm up, and the wind always blows here, that probably won’t happen.  But I should, I guess, I just don’t know why.

I used to love putting up the Christmas lights on the house, often risking life and limb to string twinkle lights on the eves of two-story houses, but as I’ve grown older it seems like an awful waste of energy and, well, energy.  I’m still going to do it though.  I’m sure that the Christmas Spirit will blindside me any day now.

Our first Christmas in Reno, NV, I kind of went a little nuts on the house decorating.  It all started when the neighbor catty-corner from us put up his lights after I had finished mine.  He had more, so I went out and bought some more.  Then he went out and bought some more.  And then I went out and got some more stuff.  It went on like this for a couple of weeks.  A week before Christmas, the neighbor’s wife walked across the street towards me while I was stringing up yet another set of blinking colored lights.  “You’re house looks beautiful,” she said, “but would you please stop!  My husband is not going to give up, and we can’t afford to spend anymore on decorations.”  I couldn’t either, so I promised that this would be it.  We’ve lived on a cul-de-sac.   Nobody could see our fabulous Christmas displays anyway. 

Even the angel has her back to me.

Even the angel has her back to me.

That new tree I mentioned earlier cost over $400.  The only thing the purchase of that did was send me straight into Buyer’s Remorse.  We needed a new one, I guess.  We convinced ourselves that we did.  The old tree had been around for well over 15 years.  It still worked, but it only had white lights on it and the new tree has colored lights, white lights or both alternating.  I got tired of the white lights only, and wanted to get some colored ones.  That was my reasoning anyway.  The fact that it has both was an added bonus.

 Even though the old tree had been around for 15 years, you only use it once a year, but last year I had to spend hours getting the pre-lit branches to light.  One by one, I searched for the bulb that was causing me this grief and I didn’t want to have to do it again this year.  So I gave it to my oldest daughter (actually I sold it to her for fifty bucks…hey I needed to recoup some of my $400.) and she put it up last week too.  The lights were working fine, go figure.

Christmas Shopping isn’t fun anymore either.  Now that I think about, it never was “fun,” but there was a purpose in doing it at least.  When you get older and you don’t have any little ones around anymore, it just seems pointless.  When I want something during the year, I just get it, if I can.  If I can’t, I don’t have a Santa Claus I can ask for it, so I do without.

Christmas Shopping didn’t use to officially start until the day after Thanksgiving.  Downtown stores would unveil their fantastic window displays of toy trains, dolls, bicycles, scooters, and other kid Bacchanalia.  Kid drool and nose prints would be all over the window glass at differing heights.  Now we have this thing called “Black Friday,” where we subject our kids to their parents fighting over limited supplies of this or that video game in limited supply at unbeatable prices.  The stores start to put out the Christmas displays the day after Halloween.  I guess people needed more time to shop for Christmas, and I understand that the retail industry’s make or break season is the holidays, so they’re giving themselves more time to meet targets.  It’s all kind of screwed up holiday shopping for me though.   

Snow is important for the Christmas Spirit as well.   We probably won’t get any snow before December 25th, but there’s always a chance.  I don’t know how anyone in warm climates like California or Florida can do Christmas.  Christmas needs snow.  We lived in Arizona for 12 years and it never felt like Christmas.  No crackling fire.  No chestnuts roasting.  No sleigh rides, so no sleigh bells.  No “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  No chimneys or fireplaces.  Santa Claus comes through the front door in Arizona, probably driving that red Lexus from the “Lexus December to Remember” commercial.

Christmas music helps conjure up the Christmas Spirit some.  They started playing Christmas music on the station I listen to out in the garage two weeks before Thanksgiving.  That’s just too early for me and it wasn’t having any of the desired effect, so I changed the channel.  I guess I’ll change it back now that it’s December today.  It’ll be too cold to work out in the garage though, so it doesn’t really matter.

grinchI’ll just continue to wait for that cherished Christmas Spirit to sucker-punch me.  Right now I’m starting to see a lot of conformity with this guy.  I know for sure I look like this when I get up in the morning.  I’ve looked in the mirror. WTF.

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About the Mayflower, and Thanksgiving, and Things


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When the Mayflower left England in September of 1620 it was carrying 102 passengers and 26 crew.  As far as we know, 31 of these passengers were children.  The Mayflower actually set sail three times.  The first in July 1620, but they had to turn back twice.  July would have been a much more advantageous time to make the three-month voyage because of the weather in the new world.  They turned back both times because the ship they were sailing with, the Speedwell, was leaking.  They decided to leave the Speedwell behind and the Mayflower finally got underway on September 6, 1620.  I don’t know about you, but the fact that the sister ship kept springing a leak, might have made me think twice about even going.

They weren’t actually Pilgrims either.  That name didn’t stick until Daniel Webster called the settlers “Pilgrim Fathers” two hundred years later.  They were originally called “Old Comers.”  Later, a manuscript was found written by William Bradford, who was the Plymouth Colony governor.  In that manuscript he referred to his fellow settlers as “saints” and “pilgrimes.”  The Old Comers weren’t from England either, they were from Holland, and not all of the passengers on the Mayflower were members of the separatist sect.

One-hundred and two people were stuffed in living quarters that were 5.5 feet high, 80 feet long and 25 feet wide.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  For over three months these people were living in a tossing and heaving box designed to carry goods and supplies.  An area the size of a modern-day, double-wide, mobile home.

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The Mayflower had been used to trade with Norway in the past, and that cargo was fish.  You know they couldn’t get that smell out of the hold, but I’m sure that wasn’t the worst of the pungent odors.  What did you do for three months sitting in a box?  I can’t imagine doing anything like that for even a few days.  Tending to the sick, burying the dead at sea and birthing babies passed some of the time.  Peregrine White, son of William White, was born on the Mayflower in late November 1620.  He was the first Pilgrim born in America as the Mayflower was anchored in Cape Cod harbor at the time.

More than 35 million people are direct descendants of the Mayflower voyagers.  John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood are some of the more notable.  If your last name is Turner though, you can’t trace your ancestry to the Mayflower.  Thomas and his two sons died in the winter of 1620.  In fact, almost half of the settlers died on the voyage or during the first winter in America.  James Chilton and his wife; Moses Fletcher;  John Tilley and his wife, Joan; Degory Priest; and Thomas Rogers, were some of the Pilgrims who died in that first winter at Plymouth Plantation.

The original Mayflower, obviously, no longer exists.  Plimoth Plantation’s full-scale replica does.  (That’s not a misspelling of the word Plymouth either.  William Bradford who recorded the history of the Pilgrims, used the phonetic spelling of the word, as there were no rules for spelling English words in the 17th century.  Sometimes the same word could be spelled differently on the same page.)   It was built in Devon, England and crossed the Atlantic to America in 1957.  Christened the Mayflower II, you can visit the ship today.  The renovated Mayflower II returned to its home in Plymouth Harbor at 2 pm on June 6, 2016.  The Plantation is hoping to raise $8 million to finish the restoration in time for the 400th anniversary in 2020.  

220px-squantoteachingEver heard of Squanto?  Me neither.  He was the Patuxet Indian who spoke English and taught the Pilgrims to successfully plant corn.  He could speak English because he was taken hostage and kept in England for a time before he was returned to his homeland some time before the Pilgrims got there.   You might imagine how surprised the Pilgrims would have been to have one of the heathen Indians speak to them in English.  The Pilgrims used to bury their dead at night to hide from what they  considered hostile Indians.  The corn he taught them to plant was an important crop for the settlers, but they would have called it “Indian corn” or “turkey wheat” because, in the 17th century, the English word corn meant, rye, barley, oat or some other grain.

Remember that lie, one of many, that they told us in elementary school about how the Indians taught us how to make popcorn?  Total lie.  The type of corn grown would have been Northern Flint which does not pop at all well.

And while we’re on the subject of fact or fiction, has Thanksgiving ever been held on the last Thursday of November?  I always thought it was, and truth is President Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving in 1863.  (Do the math.  It took 242 years before anyone decided to make Thanksgiving a holiday.)  And it stayed that way until 1939.  President Franklin Roosevelt decided it should be the fourth Thursday in November, not the occasional fifth, because the National Retail Dry Goods Association didn’t want it cutting into their holiday shopping season.  Of course, the president’s decision sparked great controversy and wasn’t resolved until two years later when the House of Representatives and the Senate made the fourth Thursday in November a legal national holiday.  Now it doesn’t really matter, because the holiday shopping season starts before Halloween, doesn’t it?

My favorite thing about Thanksgiving, aside from the turkey and the pumpkin pie, is, of course, football.  The NFL didn’t start playing on Thanksgiving Day until 1934.  The Detroit Lions had just arrived in the city, (From where you ask?  Okay, you didn’t, but I’ll tell you anyway.) from Portsmouth, Ohio.  They were originally the Portsmouth Spartans and were bought in 1934 for a little over $7,500 and moved to Detroit.  So what better thing to do than to stuff 26,000 stuffed fans into the University of Detroit stadium to watch them lose to the Chicago Bears 19-16.  The Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day every year since, except during World War II (1939-1944).  College football started it though, back in 1876.

And finally, I can’t think about “turkey day” without remembering one of the funniest shows I ever saw on television.  To preface this, just so you know, turkeys, domestic turkeys, the kind you eat on Thanksgiving, CAN NOT FLY.  Wild turkeys which are much smaller, under eight pounds, can fly for small distances pretty fast.  Which is why there is such a thing as a turkey shoot.  It will take a lot more wild turkeys at around eight pounds each to feed the Pilgrims, say, so that wasn’t the main staple on their Thanksgiving table.  Another lie they told you in elementary school.

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October 30, 1978.  WKRP in Cincinnati, “Turkeys Away.”  Mr. Carlson, station manager, decides to organize a  free turkey giveaway promotion.  Twenty live turkeys.  His final words in the show: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

WKRP Turkey Giveaway

Happy Thanksgiving ( a little early) everyone.

 

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Keep That Up, You’re Going To Get In Some Real Trouble


kid-in-trouble-1000x750“You keep that up and you’re going to get into some real trouble.”  My mother used to say that all the time.  What kind of trouble was I in at the moment, if it wasn’t real trouble?

My mother used to run after me when I was little, flying down the steps of the back porch, slamming the screen door, grabbing a stick off the ground and chasing me as I ran circles around the yard.  She would say something like, “you stop right there.”  Yeah, I see a mad woman with a stick chasing me and telling me to stop.  That doesn’t sound like a good idea.  “You better stop or you’re going to get into some real trouble, mister.”  So I would stop.  Thankfully, by that time, she was pretty winded and couldn’t do much damage to my backside.

The wooden screen door would vibrate on its hinges and then slam  into the frame as the giant spring pulled it back.

We were always getting into trouble for slamming the screen door.  It was virtually impossible to not slam the screen door when you were exiting the house unless you held on to the screen door and slowly let it shut.  But you were going out the screen door and you weren’t thinking about holding on to it, and the spring would invariably pull it back towards the frame.  You would see it closing and you would try to grab it really quick, and bam.  “Stop slamming the screen door.” 

“I didn’t.”  Well, in reality, the screen door slammed itself.

“You keep it up, you’re going to get into some real trouble, mister.”

It seems like I was always in trouble when I was a kid, rapidly progressing into some real trouble.

My mother had other “motherisms” as well.  Although her favorite seemed to be the “real trouble” warning, she also used the “people are starving in China” a lot when you didn’t want to eat your peas, or liver, or carrots, or stuffed cabbage, or some other disgusting, non-kid friendly, food.  “EAT YOUR LIVER.  There are people starving in China” she would say.  “They would love to have that liver to eat.”  Once, and only once, I suggested that she could wrap it up and send it to them.  I didn’t progress to real trouble.  I was in real trouble from the get go.

I would sit at that table, by myself, well into the evening, the plate of cold congealed liver staring up at me.  No playing hide and seek with the kids I could hear having fun outside.  I mean, come on, warm liver wasn’t going to go down, what made her think cold liver was even going to be tried.  I was never sure how long I was going to be sitting there, but I knew I wasn’t eating whatever it was that was still on my plate.  Just before bedtime, she would grab the plate off the table and say, without hesitation, “You’re not getting any dessert.  Get on up to bed.”  If she had just given me the option of eating the liver or no dessert, we could have saved a lot time.

Needless to say, I never got any dessert on nights when we had liver, fish, peas, carrots, or stuffed cabbage.  Stuffed cabbage was known as “Galunkies” in our house.  I don’t know why, and I’m not sure if that’s how it’s spelled or if it’s even a word.  Certainly not an English word, maybe Hungarian.  (My grandmother on my mother’s side was from Hungary.)  It was hamburger and rice, with assorted seasonings, wrapped in a cabbage leaf and baked in the oven.  I watched her make it once because I wanted to know why it tasted so bad.  It was the cabbage.  Smelled up the whole house while it was baking.  That night I didn’t get any dessert.

Another favorite of my mother, was, “if you don’t stop making that face, it will freeze that way.”  The face was being made because something unpleasant was yet again being served for dinner.

My mother firmly believed that drinking coffee as a kid would stunt your growth.  I never risked it.  She also believed that sitting on the ground when it was cool outside would give you a cold.  That never stopped me.  I would get colds, so I’m not sure if that was the reason, because going barefoot would also lead, unmistakably, according to my mother, to a cold.  “You got that cold because you went outside barefoot.”  There were other medical warnings about where things might have been before you stuck them in your mouth.  Terrible things could transpire for sucking on a quarter.  And God help you if you picked something up you dropped on the ground or the floor, and ate it.  This would later be blamed for any number of ailments.

We were always being told to be quiet.  This was mainly because my father worked a swing-shift and would be asleep during most of the day.  Or at least trying to sleep.  “Quiet down, your father is trying to sleep.”  As a kid, and I don’t know about you, but it is virtually impossible to “play” and not make noise.  And how could you be held responsible for the level of noise from the neighborhood kids?  Taking that a step farther, how is yelling out the back door to be quiet, being quiet?  Anyway, we spent a lot of time trying to play quietly.  “Not so loud, my Dad is trying to sleep.”  To this day, I’m not really sure how much sleep my Dad got, when I was younger.    

Looking back, I think you can say that most of my youth revolved around a slamming screen door and not being very fond of the dinner menu. 

 

 

 

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Outright, Overt,Blatant, Shameless, Unmitigated Self Promotion…Again.


cooltext117841331049172It’s that time of year, well, almost.  Craft Show time.  I’ve been working all year making toys and wood crafts for the upcoming Holiday Season.  This year we’ve decided that we’re only going to do one show.   (Actually I’m the one who pretty much decided it.)   The one at the Rio Rancho Baptist Church.  Not because we’re lazy, and not because I’m really the only one of the “artisans” at LoBo Canyon that can do this full-time, and not because we don’t like doing craft shows, and not because we don’t have enough inventory to do a show,  and not because we’re Baptists (We’re not.), I guess, just because.

I remember the first time we did the show two years ago, my daughter was worried that Baptists, according to her, didn’t accept women in pants.  She was wearing jeans.  My first response was something like, “Where the hell did you hear that?”  She tried to convince me that it was common knowledge so I became concerned that we were going to be shunned and embarrassed,  and she was going to be sent home to change.  Of course, everyone there was wearing pants.  Crisis non-existent.

I can remember, and I really hope this doesn’t date me too much, that girls in my high school were not allowed to wear pants unless it was a snow day.  See, we didn’t close the schools in Wyoming in the 60s and early 70s when two feet of snow fell, drifted and temperatures dropped below freezing.  They get an inch of snow around here and the kids get a snow day.  No, we were expected to be there and not late.  But the girls were excited because they could wear pants.  Not jeans now, but dress slacks, if there is such a thing.  This was clearly to do with modesty I guess, however lame this might sound, but dresses and skirts had to be at the knee also.  How “tight” a pair of pants could be was not clearly demarcated.  Needless to say, the boys looked forward to snow days as well.

But this isn’t about pants.  This is about things we’ve made.  First up for bragging rights is this toy Freightliner Semi Truck.

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I made two of them,  but the other one sold on etsy.  Speaking of which, you can go to the online store here LoBo Canyon .  I also made this truck, which I call the Lowboy Hauler.

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This has a working bulldozer on the flatbed and I’m convinced it will get broken at the show because you just can’t not touch it, and that smoke stack you see on the top is not as strong as I should have made it.  It’s how you release the blade in the front.  I’ll have to display it up high, I guess, which kind of defeats it’s purpose.  It’s for kids to play with.

The landlord replaced the side gate on the house with a metal one, and all I saw was aged cedar that I had to use.  So I made Tommy Turkey.

Tommy Turkey Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Tommy Turkey Thanksgiving Centerpiece

 

And then I made some reclaimed wood crosses.

Copper, Turquoise, Tin Flower and Turquoise heart.

Copper, Turquoise, Tin Flower and Turquoise heart.

Three tier wood cross with Silver, Rose and Turquoise

Three tier wood cross with Silver, Rose and Turquoise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have some Christmas ornaments as well.  I had a lot of craft sticks and Popsicle sticks lying around that we had purchased for other projects that didn’t get done, so I tried to come up with some uses for them.

 

 

 

 

 

My daughter buys bags of costume jewelry from the local thrift store and we came up with these reclaimed-jewelry crosses.  The pictures don’t do them justice, as they say.

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve got birdhouses, and bubble gum machines. 

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I went through a pull-toy phase this summer, so we have pull toys like cyclists and grasshoppers.

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That’s only some of the stuff.  We have over 200 items for the show which runs November 4th and 5th from 9-3 both days.  If you can’t get to the Rio Rancho Baptist Church in November, go ahead and check out our etsy shop at LoBo Canyon  and see what else we have.  Follow us on etsy and see what else we come up with.  It makes us look successful .  All in-stock items ship in 1 to 2 days.  Everything is lovingly handcrafted in the USA. 

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I Have A Monet Hanging In My Bathroom


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Yes, it’s true, I have a Monet hanging on the bathroom wall.  The painting is titled “The Garden at Vétheui.”  If you look carefully, you can see the bathroom window and the photographer reflected in the glass.  Painted in 1880, or 81, depending on who you believe,  it was part of a project the artist started to paint things he enjoyed before he died.  His name is Claude-Oscar Monet, or Oscar-Claude Monet, again depending on whom you believe.  Something you might not know, neither Claude nor Oscar was his middle name.  Middle names were not used for hundreds of years and didn’t come back in to vogue until the nineteenth century.  In fact, only three of our first seventeen presidents had middle names.  Yeah, go ahead, think about it.  What was George Washington’s middle name?  Didn’t have one.  How about Abraham Lincoln?  Nope.  Thomas Jefferson?  I wish I didn’t have a middle name.  I hate mine.

Monet is considered the father of “impressionism.”  His first financially successful painting was titled “Impression – Sunrise.”  The title actually gave name to the movement, “Impressionism.” What is an impressionist?  Do you really think I know.  All I know is I suffered through “Art History” as a freshman in college because I had to, and because of that I know the term, and I can immediately recognize a Monet (even without the identifying label on the bottom of the painting in my bathroom), a Van Gogh, an El Greco, and a bronze by Frederick Remington.  I even know what an altar piece is.  I appreciate fine art, but mostly because it is something I could never afford to own, and I have to go to one of those stuffy art museums to see it.

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Monet Self Portrait with a Beret

Monet is credited with over 2,500 works of art in his 86 years of life, and another interesting little bit of trivia is that his paintings, especially his later ones, often appear out of focus, or soft focus.  Did you ever wonder why?  Of course you didn’t, but I discovered that it was because he suffered from cataracts.  You can use that little bit of information when you are at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC where the original of my Monet is displayed.  Stand in front of the painting, admiringly, and say to the stranger that walks up, “Did you know that Oscar-Claude Monet suffered from cataracts and that’s why his paintings are out of focus?”  Don’t go all redneck and call him “Mo-net” either.  His name is pronounced “mo-nay.”  And don’t say something like you know a guy that has that exact same painting hanging in his bathroom.

Just to give you an idea why the painting in my bathroom is not an original Monet, and probably retails for $24.95 including the gold frame, but I probably bought it at a yard sale for $5, is this:  in 2008 Christie’s sold “Le bassin aux nymphéas” (from the water lilies series) for $80,451,178 with fees.

In 1881 Monet launched himself into a painting project around Vétheuil. He concentrated primarily on his garden which stretched out in front of his house at a lower level than the road, down to the Seine. This way, he was able to capture on canvas the memory of the places he would soon be leaving. These works compete with each other in terms of luminosity. Monet suggests the downward slope of the ground using the canvas in vertical format and through the play of shadow and light on the ground, which gives the image a feeling of depth and perspective. The figures, Michel Monet and Jean-Pierre Hoschedé, liven up the composition and emphasize the sense of the garden’s vast size in relation to the human scale. But above all, Monet brings together his previous experiments in this work: the fragmented touches of colour illustrate his mastery of the optical mixing technique and make the vegetation shimmer even more vibrantly.

Here’s an oil painting reproduction of the painting so you can see it better.

One other thing about the Monet in my bathroom.  Obviously I see it every day as I walk past to shave and shower.  For the life of me, I always thought that was a little girl in the garden by the wagon in the foreground.  It’s not.  It’s Monet’s young son.  Back a ways in the painting is his wife and another child.  Oh, and he planted that garden at a rental house.  I guess I’m not the only one that landscapes the  yards of the houses I don’t own.

Enough with the art.  You know who William Faulkner was, right?  William Cuthbert Faulkner (Yep, he had a middle name and probably hated it too.) was a famous American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi.  President Kennedy, in 1962, invited Faulkner to the White House for dinner. The cantankerous author, then living in Charlottesville, Virginia, declined, explaining: “Why that’s a hundred miles away. That’s a long way to go just to eat.” Source: The New York Times.  You got to be somebody special to turn down dinner at the White House.  He died July 6 that same year.

 

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Here’s a self-portrait of me in a beret. Kinda scary in so many ways.

Well, that was what was on my mind this morning when I sat down to write this.  Two things, unrelated as usual, but maybe they’re both about middle names.  Maybe not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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