What Happened?



To the last 5 years?

Well, the first thing was, I got mesmerized by Alaska.  I was happy, even serene, just sitting at the shore in Valdez and Seward and watching the waves roll in.  Kayaking up to the face of a glacier.  Watching the sun set behind the Augustine volcano at Ninilchik.  Visiting with some of the varied and mobile cast of "Neighbors - The Soap Opera".  But really, if I wanted gossip, all I had to do was tune in to  the gulls.  They never shut up.



They really have it in for eagles, you know.  But you can't believe a word they say.

I took up the quill again when I left the coast, but my heart wasn't in it.  My last post in Speed Bumps was about an Airstream I saw while coming down the left coast into California.  And from that day, I haven't blogged a bit.  It's a puzzlement.

I didn't quit writing entirely, letters and such, though I did slow down.  Adventures yet accumulated.  Ambition did not.  And now here I am, starting up again.  Not an ink-stained wretch, exactly.  Perhaps a pixellated one.

The following is for those who simply can't abide a grin-toothed gap in the middle of a story.  Random selections from "Bob: The Missing Years".

Coming soon to a laptop near you.

-------------------------------------------

IMAX Afternoon



15 February 2006
Winter Quarters
Georgetown TX


I am sometimes asked how I manage to face up to all the endless hours of my retirement.  Hovering over and behind this question, I suspect, is a smug assurance that I must be bored to death, or up to no good, or falling apart, my brain slowly thickening into oatmeal mush without the regular habit of respectable employment.


Woe is me, a vessel of sin with nothing but  time on my hands.

Not so.  I manage to muddle through this inappropriate leisure
quite happily.  And  more or less unharmed.  To calm the
incipient public hysteria, however, I present a sample:

On Valentine's day I went over to the University of Texas for a
lunch meeting.  Unexpectedly I found myself driving right up to
an open parking space in front of Whole Earth Provision, on San
Antonio.  A space emptying out right in front of me.

At a 2 hour meter.  A miracle of sorts.

I was almost scared to take it, for about ten seconds.  Then I
slid the pickup in there soberly, with due deference to Enigmatic
Fate.  I emptied my pockets into the meter and tiptoed away,
fearful of bursting the invisible shivering bubble of Gratuitous
Grace.

But hey, I take it where I find it.

I visited for an hour at Kismet with some good lamb gyros, and a
very good friend.  Afterwards I walked back out to the truck.  I
stood by the door, balanced on the curb for a moment, and
considered the unfolding afternoon.  There was almost an hour of
privileged and paid-for parking left.  More if I wanted to shell
out for it.  It seemed churlish to drive away.

So.   I emptied the car of quarters, stocked the meter to the
limit, and set off sauntering about campus, revisiting what was
left of my ancient haunts.

I spent nine years here, thirty five years ago.  1964-73.  I
should never have left this place.

A fresh-faced boy enjoined me to "save Palestine".   I promised I
would, given the opportunity.

I bought a cup of vanilla ice cream from a group strongly in
favor of something-or-other, and straddled a bench in front of
Parlin Hall, looking over the crowd and reading the Daily Texan.
On the back page there was a story about  a school for strippers
that had opened in Round Rock.  Set up as very private enterprise
in someone's double garage, complete with strobe lights and
slender poles that fold down from the ceiling.

Why not?  Is it ever too late to learn lap dancing?

That's something I haven't seen much of in the last 30 years.
Wonder if they'd take on a token geezer?  For old times sake?  If
only for atmosphere?  Hard to remember now, but it seems like
there were always one or two of us around in the shadows, gingerly
nursing their high dollar highballs.

A tubby professor tumbled down the front steps, trailing a pair
of importunate scholars.  He held a battered briefcase up to fend
them off.

That might have been me, if I'd stayed.  The tired eyes, the
small yellow smile, the waiting that was not quite patience,
while boys ran swiftly out of words in front of him.  An awkward
pause.  Wary nods.  A turning away.  And then the hooded look of
a man alone at last, in desperate need of a bottle of gin and a
book of poetry.

Am I the ghost here?  Or is he?

I threw the paper into a bin and strolled over to the Ransom
Center to see "The Image Wrought", an exhibit of cyanotypes and
daguerreotypes, and no doubt other types as well.  These photos
survive from the century before last, and are presented side by
side with modern renditions in the same media.

The old scenes are fading from exposure to light, and for
protection are covered by a flap of cloth.  You have to lift it
up to view them.  It's like peering furtively through a window
into a little room.  Into the Past.

A great reckoning may fit into a little room.  Into a camera
obscura.

It is difficult to avoid a voyeuristic thrill while doing this.
Lift and peek.  Lift and peek.   But in almost every pairing the
unhidden modern composition was more interesting to me.  Amazing,
what fresh things may yet be done with a pinhole camera.

Art is harder on us than history.  It is never past.  To remember
it well is to make it present.  To make it our own.

When I walked outside, it was past time to get back and pay the
meter.  Then, right in the middle of the driveway, a portly man
collapsed to the tarmac in front of me like a sack of potatoes.  
Perhaps another Professor.  He didn't seem to trip.  There was 
nothing to trip over.  He just fell forward on his face and lay there 
like a wad of loose clothes.  We turned him over.  He had scraped his 
cheek, and torn his shirt pocket.  


Papers fell out.  A driver's license. Folded notes.  Stamps.

He came to a half crouch, beside himself.

"I'm okay.  I'm okay."

"Can you get up?"

"No."

It was clear he was not okay.   It was also clear he didn't want
us there.  We stood him up.  He squinted vaguely, blinking.
Wondering where he was, I guess.   Someone handed him the stuff
from his pocket.

He didn't seem injured.  He was not yet obviously one of the
homeless and self-abandoned.  A middle-aged or older guy.  
But not so old as I.

"You want me to take you somewhere?"

"No, I was going.... somewhere.  I'm fine now.  I'm fine."

"You should get some help."

"I will, I will."

He pawed the air and spread his arms, like a man trying to tread
water, or climb over something that wasn't there.  Then he
stumbled off between what used to be the Education Building and
the Ransom Center.

I watched him for a while.  Shoulders shrugged.  The crowd
dispersed.  And that was that.

Time was up on the meter.  No ticket, by chance.  It was nearly 3
o'clock.  I drove down to M.L.King, to the Bullock State Museum.
Again, there was an empty place on the street beside it.  Just
the one, and without a meter.

Past wonder, I took it.

I've been wanting to see the IMAX Theater here for a couple of
years, but kept putting it off.  You know how it is.  When you're
home, you think there's no hurry.

They were showing "Roving Mars", a Disney production underwritten
by Lockheed.  A 40 minute documentary about the Mars Rover
mission.  It was good enough that I walked right out when it was
over and bought a ticket for the next item, a 3D presentation
called "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon."

I hadn't seen a 3D movie since the fifties.  It was remarkably
effective.  The first short film included jellyfish that seemed to float
right in front of my face, and a shark that turned toothily away
at the last moment.

And then on to the feature, which is a look back at the Apollo
missions, and the dozen human beings who have walked in moon
dust.

My.  Is it possible to feel nostalgia about the future?  Nine
years we had, from start to finish. 1963-72.  We went beyond
ourselves.  And now the future is in the past.

We might have gone to Mars in style, for the $300 billion we have
poured into Iraq.  Has that occurred to no one?  Can no one see that 
the way to vanquish our enemies is not to bomb them, or imprison
them, or try to rule them, but simply to awe them with our
accomplishments?  To render them pointless?

If they will not join us, let them rail and flounder and stew in
their own despair, rattling the dustbin of history, while we go on,
around them, over them, on and on, clear out of this world.

Before this film was over, something happened to me.  I started
bawling like a baby.  It came on suddenly, minutes from the end,
when they showed the lunar base that might have been.  Weeping 
over wasted decades, I guess.  


Now the future is in the past.


Thank God I was alone.  I couldn't do a thing about it.

I won't try to explain.  When you see this thing for yourself, perhaps 
you will understand.  And perhaps not.

Anyway, that's five hours of my retirement.  On to the next.  But if you've 
ever wondered what you might do with an endless reach of worrisome 
hours in front of you, worry not.

Something will turn up.

Bob



-------------------------------------------

Hot Stuff

February 28, 2006

We were talking about hot stuff, and later that day I remembered something from back
in the '70s.  Yes, I'm one of those who actually remembers the lessons of the '70s.  And 
when it comes to peppers, I've been the soul of discretion ever since.

My cousin once carried around a small bottle of what he said was pure
capsicum, just for people who said foolish things like "I never can
get it hot enough".  I didn't try it.  It was a black, oily, evil looking
paste, sort of what you'd see if you ground up a cockroach, and as I remember
it had a skull and crossbones on the label.


If it didn't, it should have.

The hottest thing I ever actually swallowed was purely by accident, and I
never did find out what it was.  I was visiting Lima, Peru, doing the usual 
Inca dinka doo, and decided to take a break and go down to the beach to 
wrestle with some waves.  After I lost the first round on points, we repaired 
to a small open-air cafe on the beach and ordered up some grilled fish and 
a couple of salads.

The salad was a mess of greens dribbled with vinaigrette, and right on the top 
there was a soft orangey-red looking thing about the size of the eraser on a
number two pencil.  It resembled that shapeless bit of pimiento you
get in stuffed olives.

If I thought about it at all, I guess that's what I thought it was.  I
was hungry, so I didn't fool around.  I just forked up a bunch
chewed a couple of times, and swallowed.  Big mistake.

I started to sense the outline of the disaster right away, when the mess 
arrived at the back of my mouth, but it was way too late by then.  It was going 
down.  By the time it got to the level of my adam's apple, my throat was paralyzed. 
couldn't even swallow to hurry it along.  


Gravity is a tedious thing, when you really need it.  I could
tell exactly where it was, allll the slooow walk down, in much the same way
you'd be able to tell where somebody was poking you with a white hot
nail.  I could measure it's exact dimensions.  There are nerves in there 
that seldom get a workout.

Have you ever almost drowned?  There is a moment when time slows appreciably.
Things get real simple.  You can't breathe.  And you KNOW, beyond doubt, 
that you are going to DIE if you don't DO SOMETHING RIGHT NOW.  


Call it an epiphany.  I grabbed my throat.  My chair turned over.  I fell to my knees.

There was no water on the table.  I tried to ask for some, but all
that came out was something like "unhhn, hunnh, huhhhnh".

Somehow consonants are easier than vowels during torture.  Remember that, 
it may come in handy.  Perhaps it's why the old Hebrews called God YHWH.  
Easier to pronounce when blinded by tears and terrified.  


You heard it here first, folks.

When it finally got down to the middle of my chest, I quit making noises.  
I also quit breathing.  By this time everything I could see - mostly my knees 
and the decking - was fading to a pale red wash.  The exact color of that damned thing.

Somebody handed me some water over my shoulder.  It was nasty and green
going down, and full of bits of leaves, but I didn't care.  Turns out my girlfriend
had plucked the flowers from that little vase in the middle of the table and
handed me that.  Probably saved my life.

Once the devil pepper had passed below my chest, I discovered I could swallow
again.  Sort of.  I croaked out the most important word in the world: "Mooore."

Finally it went all the way down, with the help of water.  I was shaky
and sweating and sitting on the floor.  But I was once again breathing.

By this time the proprietor had arrived in a sleet of angry spanish.
He handed me a full glass.  I drank it all.

"Whad WAS DAT?"

"No se, senor."

"THAT!  RIGHT THERE!"  My throat was swelling up.  I pointed a trembling
finger at my companion's salad, and the little pink bit of hell squatting
innocently on top of it.  Then dragged the tablecloth over to wipe my eyes.  
My cunning linguist of a girlfriend took over, and after some hurried blahblahblah
she turned back to me.

"He says that's just a garnish.  Nobody eats that."

But I did.  And that's all I ate the rest of that day.  I did have a
couple of beers.  Mostly I practiced breathing and walking around.

I swear there's not a bit of exaggeration in any of this.  I never
did find out what that thing was.  But if you're ever in Peru, eat slowly.  


You don't want to dig in like your life depended on it.  It may.

Bob




------------------------------------------------------------------


On Achieving Physical Perfection




April 17, 2006
Winter Quarters
Georgetown, TX


Perfection?  Okay, okay, maybe I haven't got there yet.  But at least I'm
working on it.

And if, like me, you tend to measure these things with a compass
instead of a measuring tape, then progress is being made.
Direction is the main thing, right?  What's the use of running, if
you're on the wrong road?

Right.  Let me explain.

Winter is a fine time for dealing with deferred maintenance.  So,
every January, like it or not, I slog through the rounds of the usual
doctors and dentists, daring any of them to find something wrong.


They are depressingly regular in their success.

Scheming bastards.  Anything to drive up my insurance.  But hey,
this was a good year.  All the old patches seemed to be holding.

Well, there was this one little thing.  When I lumbered onto the
scale for my annual involuntary weighing, the contraption
actually squealed at me.  I hate that.

"276 pounds."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Look.  There it is."

"But, but, but..."

Over the next two weeks I had a long talk with myself.  I'll let you
in on the highlights:

"Hey, I'm big-boned.  And I'm a handsome devil, ain't I?  They
call it a 'healthy' appetite, don't they?  What's up with that?"

"I carry it well.  I was 218 in high school.  The least I've
weighed since I was grown was 192, and that was right after basic
training and jump school.  I was a mere wraith.  Just skin and
bones.  A wraith, I tell you."

"I should've taken off my shoes.  These clodhoppers weigh at
least 10 pounds apiece.  I shouldn't have gone out for BBQ
beforehand.  I should've changed my underwear.  Haven't they got
a pill for this?"

"I was 240 when I retired.  Three years ago.  That's twelve more
pounds a year, every year, regular as clockwork.  Lessee, carry
the one.... My God!  I'm gonna weigh 336 pounds by the time I'm
65! "

"Whodathunk gallivanting was so goddamfattening anyway?"

You get the picture.  Some may call it denial.  I like to think
of it as foreplay.  And sure enough, pretty soon, I fell in love.


It happened at Sam's Club.  On the way to the wine bin, I saw a
Schwinn knockoff of a Bowflex.  Tried it out.  Last one, marked
down.  $325.  A little intense negotiation followed.  Whatta
deal, $250, just for me.

It's amazing how little it takes to make a big difference.  15
exercises, 10 reps, maybe 20 minutes a day.  A few pushups.  An
hour's brisk walk in the evening.  Not even enough to break a
sweat.  And suddenly I'm light on my feet.  I've got lots of
energy.  I've lost 2 inches in my waist.

Hey, I've GOT a waist.  Eat yer heart out.

It's the middle of March, though, and I'm still not losing any
weight to speak of.  I am getting stronger every day.  Fickle me,
I'm even beginning to wonder if 210 lbs of resistance is going to be enough.

Love is fleeting.  
I'm still wearing the fat suit.  I'm just standing up
straight in it.  I'd hang it in the back of the closet, but the
zipper seems to be stuck.

It's a little like suddenly having a new body inside my body.
Weird.  Maybe I've lost 5 lbs, real weight.  Sans shoes, sans
pants, sans souci, I'm down to 265.

And I'm falling asleep a lot in the middle of the day.  My back's
not bothering me as much in the morning.  But my shoulders are
sore instead.

So, I get to looking around.  You know.  What the heck.  I'm a
guy.  I get the roving eye.  Or the rowing eye.  At the Y in
Round Rock, I found I liked the rowing machines.

No bargains to be found this time, not even on Craig's list.  I
bought it anyway, direct from the factory.  Splurge alert.  It
arrived in a few days, and I set it up next to the Bow machine.

A Concept 2 Indoor Wind Rower.  How hard can it be?

I tried it out for 20 minutes.  It kicked my ass.  But, slowly,
over the next couple of weeks, I got up to 45 minutes, at 26
strokes a minute.  A heart monitor came with it, and my pulse
gets up around 130 beats a minute.  After a bit, it slowly
started falling.  Sean suggested doing more intense intervals,
around 30-32 strokes/minute, one minute fast, 4 minutes slow, and
that got it up there again.

I've started losing weight again.  256 pounds this morning.  I find 

I do better if I cut back on the Bow machine to every other day.  
I don't want to get injured at this point.  Some days I even ignore the rower.  I
just sort of nod at it, in a companionable way, on the way to the
bathroom.

But it's a routine by now.  I row while watching the News Hour. I
was going to waste that time on disembodied talking heads anyway.

Lucky I'm retired, and can devote my whole attention to this
painful sort of narcissistic indulgence.  It hurts so good, as
they say.  And even if I do fall asleep in the middle of the
afternoon, no one misses me.

But it still looks like it's going to take 6 months to get down
to 200 pounds again.  Or more.  And I'm probably going
gallivanting again in June.  Whenever it starts to get hot.  I
haven't got room for the rower in the truck.  What am I going to
do?

A small set of weights might sub for the Bow machine.  But what's
going to make me breathe hard?  I can't run, or my knees swell up
like grapefruit.  Too much abuse long ago on the ski slopes.  And then
there's the period when I used to jump out of perfectly good
airplanes.  You know, back when we thought we were immortal.

My God, I may actually have to go on a diet.  You know, will
power, character, all that stuff.

So far I haven't consciously cut back on how much I eat.  I am
eating differently.  Yogurt, fruit, and cereal for breakfast,
instead of fried eggs, potatoes, and a couple pounds of bacon.

Sometimes, lately, I even have breakfast for supper.  Exercise
just sort of naturally suppresses my appetite.

God, I hate dieting.  It's just entirely too responsible.  But I figger I've got 

one more chance to see 200 lbs.

And this is it.


Bob





-----------------------------------------------------------------


Mass Mailing!




Date: Sun, 07 May 2006
Subject: 24 Pounds down, 50 to go!

Wahoo!

I got somebody to take an interim picture this afternoon of the
current progress on my new journey, into a new body.

First, a picture of me doin' the Tom Turkey Dance back in September
in California.  Around 276 lbs.  About the same weight as when I
started my Grand  Project for Achieving Physical Perfection this
last February.  





Second, photo this afternoon of present provisional hunklitude.
Quick, take the picture, I can't hold this pose forever!  Weight
252.  









Okay, at some point I'll deal with that swelling in the noggin area.  One step at a time, one step at a time.  Next smart aleck photo at 240.  Perhaps some time in June.

Should hit 200..... O, somewhere just this side of the grave.

Maybe then I'll shut up crowing about it.  Can't wait, right?  :o)

Bob



----------------------------------------------------


Losing It




6/3/2006


"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that
year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no
matter.  Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms
farther ... And one fine morning --

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly
into the past."
               --------- Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby"



I clambered onto the scale again this morning.  245 pounds. Sigh.
Man, this is slow going.  Like losing weight by pulling teeth.
By Cuspid!  It hardly feels like progress.

Behold the sluggish journey, sans RV:

1/2/06  276 lb.
Scales squeal in protest, then fall from my eyes.  Time to hitch
up my size 42 pants and get serious.  Bought Rowing Ergometer and
Bowflex machine.

2/16    262 lb.
Piece of cake...er...make that carrot.  Bought dumbbells at
Wallyworld.  Don't say it.

3/12    265 lb.
Birthday.  Slippage.  Nonetheless sent out embarrassingly
self-congratulatory email to everyone I knew.

4/1     258 lb.
Back on track.  Then back went out.  Crippling around for a coupla weeks.

4/15    255 lb.
Wallet somewhat lighter due to government interference.  Bought 6
pair of size 40 jeans anyway.  Whoopee.

5/2     252 lb.
Row, row, row my boat, back through middle age.  Merrily,
merrily, merrily, merrily,....

6/3     245 lb.
Fit into new size 38 jeans.  First time in a
decade or more.


Thirty pounds in 5 months.  Six pounds a month.  Buh-bye.  At
this rate, though, I'll be singing Auld Lange Syne and slurping
Nog again before I see 200.

Chip, chip, chipping away.

How can I speed this up?  I tried a mass mailing in May, but
not much mass went with it.  Mostly I just flail around
with weights or resistance until I hurt myself, then sit and read
till I heal up again.  I read a lot.

Exercise does suppress the appetite, but I backslide.  I
must have consumed 2 pounds of BBQ brisket and sausage over
Memorial day, washed down by a six-pack of beer.

It was my patriotic duty, after all.  Somebody has to step up.

Sigh.  Maybe I should go on an actual diet.  You know, where one measures
calories instead of pounds?  All I've been doing is trying not to
eat until I'm really hungry.  But brother, this is sl-o-o-w.

You skinny folks must be getting a kick out of my travails.
Wonder how you'd taste, with fava beans and a nice Chianti?

All this would go faster if I could run.  Nothing burns up fat
like running, at least as I remember.  What?  O yeah.  Knees. Running 

also burns up knees.

That's the real trouble, working around my injuries.  And not
making new ones.  More and more, as I get older, I find that I
have to finesse myself into any success, mental or physical.  I
can't just bull on ahead like I used to.

There are some recent changes.  All those creaks and pops and snaps 

I used to wake up with every morning have abated.  I think the repetitive
bending of rowing keeps all the potentially sharp and knobby
arthritis worn down to a soft  lubricating powder.  Knees and
back work fairly smoothly.

Why, the other day I bent over and picked a dime up off the
floor, without squatting or holding on to something.  Imagine
that!

Small victories.  I lose the pain in my lower back, and it takes
up residence in my shoulders, and in those small pulled muscles
in my groin and stomach.

Easy does it.  Back up and start forward again.

My center of gravity seems to be moving higher, and it makes me

walk funny.  Hard to describe, but you get used to it.  Working out is like
that.  Days when you feel downright uncomfortable, like you're
turning into an orangutang.  Then you get used to it.

Sort of a serial re-centering.

And every five pounds I lose, I seem to be able to do five more
pushups.  Less to lift, I guess.

Here's another thing.  I distinctly remember the last time I wore
size 38 pants.  I was in my late 40s.  I weighed around 220.

Today I'm getting into them at 245.  What's up with that?

This ain't RVing, I know.  It ain't even travel.  
But there is a slight 
breeze sometimes, and a sense of movement.   So most
every evening I keep rowing, rowing, rowing, endlessly across the
empty  bedroom, with little apparent progress to report.

I'm 60 years old.  What have I got to lose?  I mean, I could be
just reading about exercise, instead of doing it.

Tomorrow is another day.  Another 5000 meters, perhaps, and then I may at last
emerge from the fog of sweat and ennui, and actually see the fabled green light 

at the end of the pier.

And perhaps the undiscovered country just beyond.


Bob



----------------------------------------------------


Farewell to Full-timing 



6/4/2006

I really knew it was over when I bought the lawn mower.

It's been a grand 4 years.  I've covered the West from San Diego
to Port Hardy, spent a month on Lake Superior, traveled Canada
from Montreal to Vancouver to Whitehorse.  I spent weeks on the
beach in Ninilchik, Alaska, waiting for the Augustine volcano to
blow.  (Turns out I was 6 months early.  Volcanoes are fickle
that way.)

And now I'm tired of it all.

When I got back from Alaska last November, all I wanted to do was
sit and read for months.  So I settled once more into the
driveway of my empty house, as I have done every winter since
2002-2003.  Not much different than camping anywhere.

A body at rest tends to remain at rest.  A body in motion tends
to remain in motion.  Yeah, yeah.  But who gives a fig for Newton, anyway?

Four years ago, when I emptied the place out and hit the road, if
someone had made me an offer for it I'd have sold.  But I wasn't
going to sit around waiting on them.  I thought I'd find another
place I liked better, in the mountains, or along the Pacific.

Even up in Canada.

But then there's this little thing called the Northern Winter.
Brrrrr.  Fun to visit, and even play with, but inconvenient as a
Significant Other.  So I kept coming back to the inconstant
Spring that is always Winter here in Texas.

I diddled around all through these last months, just lazing about
and enjoying myself.  Giving up the nomad life was not an easy
thing to do.  So I put it off.  The trailer still felt
comfortable.  I cooked in it, slept in it, had friends over to
sit under the elms in the front yard.  Just like I was on a trip.

Paid somebody to mow the yard.

It is going to cost money to move back into the house.  Probably
$20K or more.  Furniture is not the least part of it.  And other
stuff.  For instance, there's this privacy fence falling down in
the back yard.  I've rebuilt it twice over the years, but it came
to me as a sort of epiphany recently that I've probably dug my
last damn post hole.  So it looks like I'm going to pay somebody
$4300 to do it for me.

Then there's that redwood deck I put up all pink and shiny in
1983.  It's a wreck now.  Somebody will have to reinvent my roof
line above the back porch, and haul off all that weathered wood.
I'm thinking a brick paver patio would look nice.  And last
forever.

The Last Patio.  Sounds like a Clint Eastwood movie.

I'm not completely worthless.  The other day I put in all new
light fixtures, and replaced the disposal.  I'm about to set a
few brand new closet doors, and a steel one into the garage.  And
there's all these baseboards and window trim to repaint.  Not to
mention an entire kitchen.

It all adds up.  Here's a foolhardy notion: a bob-built fakeoak
laminate floor in the kitchen and hall.  I've been reading up on
that.  And new carpet will probably be needed, once I finish
slathering paint on the baseboards.

All this is apt to wipe out my traveling budget this year.  But
by next spring my nesting instinct will no doubt be satisfied,
and the trailer rarin' to go again.

Whoa!  Down, boy!  Easy, big fella.

Yeah, I'm keeping the trailer.  I'm still a traveler, one way or
another.  But I find myself wanting a place to come back to,
where I keep things.  I want furniture.  I want books.  I want
breathing room.  I want a few comforts.

I want a home.

The sea change was complete when I took the trailer for repairs,
and actually started sleeping in the house.  And started looking
around at all the work I need to do.

Did I mention the lawn mower?

Maybe in future I won't have such a huge trailer.  I won't need
to carry my whole life around with me everywhere.  Maybe I'll 

change into merely a sunshine camper and summer visitor.  
Sprinkle money about like a true tourist.  Sit somewhere by 
the side of the road and talk to the trout.  


Happy to know ya.  Lemme show you my skillet.

And when I'm done I'll turn around and come back home, lay back
in an easy chair, turn on the stereo, and read a book.

I may even write one.


Bob



----------------------------------------------------


Better Than I Deserve




6/5/2006



"'Deserves' got nuthin' to do with it."
               -- Clint Eastwood, in "Unforgiven"


I remember the first time I ran into Janet Wilder.  She and
Barrie stopped at an RV dealer in Buda, TX, and she called me up,
offering the rare incentive of a pot roast.  Since I am forever
at odds with my own cooking, I covered that 35 miles pretty darn
quick.  I was introduced formally to Valentine, the Medium Duty
Truck, and of course Kelly Poodle had to check me out.  After a
few sniffs, somehow I managed to pass muster.

I must still clean up okay.

Janet gave me a tour of her palatial fifth wheel.  She was perky
and proud of finding a "quality" manufacturer, and I allowed as
how it looked good to me.  It also looked expensive.

Not knowing when to shut up, I then went into my very own
self-congratulatory and  long-winded theory about how to get
ahead in this racket.

Call it the Low Road.  Go for the cheap and the new, and repair
as needed.

I had, at that time, only a couple of years on the Mallard, and
the $13000 I gave for it seemed to be paying off nicely.  I even
bragged that I expected to ride that gradually rising wave of
disintegration like the Silver Surfer himself, for at least 5
years, at which time I might be content to drag the silly thing
squealing to the locked gate of a public dump somewhere, strip
off the license plates, and anonymously vamoose into the night.

Janet fixed me sternly with a gimlet eye, and intoned with
something like the Voice of Doom:  "Your trailer won't last 5
years.  It'll shake itself to pieces long before that."  I swear
I heard echoes and other special effects.

Short assured women who look you right in the eye and make
Delphic utterances scare the hell out of me.  I've been looking
over my shoulder ever since.  Gulp.

Hoodoo Voodoo?  Vous do.

Five years are up now.  Ha!  Ha!  And again Ha!

I'm still escorting the Magnificent Mallard everywhere, and
Janet's rolling palace is long long gone.  Of course, that's not
a fair comparison, and I only gloat because I don't have to face
the diminutive Prophetess Herself in person.  Accidents never fit
neatly into the RV Doom computation.

She rolled hers.

I, on the other hand, have had to perpetually witness her
predictions come true, with the unfortunate passage of the years,
as pieces fail and fall off as though the Mallard were terminally
molting.

Blown tires, of course, one carrying a chunk of the undercover
with it.  A/C thermostats, water heater gas valves, a converter,
water pump filters (Twice, accompanied by flood.  Ask the good
people of Port Townshend if they still remember the Great Cursing
during the Rolling RV Flood of '03.)  Cracked brake pads.  A
cabinet door in flames.  Two frame members that fell out in the
middle of Hwy 1 north of Ft. Bragg, CA.  Three TV antennas ripped
untimely off because somebody forgot to lower them.  A cracked
tub.

I can't go on.

Each and every time I repaired the problem.  Grudgingly I kept my
side of the bargain.  And in fact the total cost has not been
that high.  Certainly not as high as the cost of a "Quality
Trailer".  Thanks to Quicken, I've got the figure right here:  to
date, I've spent $3710 on the fiver, beyond the original $13
grand.  That's not merely repairs, but radios, inverters, TVs,
macerators, flooring, all the renovations.  The works.

So in economic terms, my theory is vindicated.  So far.  In
economic terms.  Does anyone know why they call Economics "the
dismal science"?

Like a slow shape forming in a darkroom pan, the outline of my
unearned luck emerges.  BTID.  Better Than I Deserve.

Good Luck, I'm told, would be to have no troubles at all.  Bad
Luck would be.... well, it doesn't bear contemplating.  BTID Luck
is the sort where disasters strike, right on cue, but help
happens along right behind them.  In the nick of time.

Like in the movies.  You can't kill off the Star before the
credits  roll.  It's a Rule.  Hassles, of course, are readily
inflicted.  Discomfort abounds.  Suffering is strung out.  Life
is spared.

But never dignity.  Somehow Our Hero just manages to muddle
through.

Case in point.  Back in October, when I blew a trailer tire
outside of Indio, CA, I limped into town and found the last tire
that fit that rim "at least within 50 miles".  Late on a Saturday
afternoon.  On sale.

I can't make out whether someone's looking out for me, or  just
toying with me.  Or if it matters.

BTID.

Which brings us presently to Prescott, AZ.  29 Oct 2005.  A mild
mountain morning, birds twittering.  Exactly one week after I
blew that tire by the Salton Sea.  Rising late, perched on a
cliff at the side of the road, I bumbled on down into town from
the south, looking for a laundromat.  And after negotiating an
unexpected tangle where half the streets went one way, the wrong
way, and the rest were under construction, I found one.  Had a
nice breakfast three blocks away.

When traveling, I find that complete and utter happiness can be
founded on such simple things.  Well, of course there has to be
parking.  The Second Coming wouldn't draw an RV crowd, unless
there was ample parking.

Feeling my bacon and beans as I piled back into the truck, I saw
on Streets and Trips that there was a Walmart just a few blocks
away, and decided to fill up the fridge before proceeding on to
the Grand Canyon.  I pulled out on Sheldon, turned south on Mt.
Vernon, left on Moeller.... should be right down here some place.
Handy thing, these computer maps.  Can't hardly go wrong.

No Walmart.

I drove on a few blocks down 6th street, but still no Walmart.
Road narrowing.  Sigh.  I began to look for 40 acres to turn this
rig around.  Pretty town, but everything's uphill.  Finally I
settled on an empty parking lot off and up to the right, swung in
and around and back, and BUMP!

SCRIIIITCHHH...

I got out and looked at the damage.  Somehow the changing angle
had caused my bumper to contact the pavement.  Or rather the
bottom of my bicycle carrier, which hung down below the bumper.
The bumper itself was now bent into an inverted V, a foot high
frown matching my own.

What the hell.  How much could a bumper cost?  A couple of
hundred dollars?  My insurance is $500 deductible.  Drive on.

So I did.  North to the South Rim for a couple of days.  Then
down into Tuba City and up to Teec Nos Pos, 300 miles across the
vast, star-addled, endlessly parched caliche expanse of the
Navajo Nation, to Cortez, Colorado, and the McPhee Reservoir.

I stayed some weeks at the McPhee campground last year.  Met my
friend Lew, a retired newspaperman, who lived nearby with his
lovely wife.  But this time round it was November, Lew was off
RVing in Florida someplace, and most of the campground was locked
up, with just a few spaces left for hunters and such Late Fall
Fools as myself.

No one there.  No water.  No toilets.  No electricity.  The
upside was, it was only 5 bucks a night.  I decided to take them
up on their empty hospitality.  I backed downslope into one of
the few sites with a view of the coyote-colored hills off to the
east, unhooked, went back to chock the wheel.  It was then I
noticed the right side rear spring was hanging down like Buddha's
pointing finger.

Broke clean in half.  The rear axle was hanging on only by the
bolts clamping it to the front half of that spring, still
attached to the central swivel hanger.  The rear axle itself was
riding high,crammed up against the frame.

God knows how long it rode like that, all the weight shifted to
the front axle.  I checked the other side.  Not much better.  The
rear hanger had twisted, and was connected by half a weld.  And
somewhere back in Indian country, that brand new tire had got
half scalped.

How had I not felt this?  My double axle trailer had been single
axle for ... who knew how long?  Since Prescott?  Almost a week?
At 70 miles an hour?  Am I already dead, and just looking back
through that tunnel of light I heard about.?

I sat down at the picnic table, smoked up a shaky cigar, and
considered my options.  I only have one good jack.  Those bolts
look crusted up with dirt and rust.  Ain't nobody coming way up
here to help me.

In the end I decided to creep back into town, a long steady 15
mile descent.  At least.  No hurry.  Take your time.  Whistle a
happy tune.

I had to make several stops.  The guy at Big Texan Trailers said
he didn't work on travel trailers.  When I asked why, he told me
those trailers were heavy, his mechanic was 65 years old, and he
didn't bend that well any more.  Finally I landed at ACT
Detailing, where a fella said he could fix it, but it might take
several days to get the parts.  He gave me a list, and let me
sleep there on his lot.  The next day I took a long circle tour
south to Shiprock, Farmington, Aztec, and up through Durango back
to Cortez again, picking up the list.

Bought some whiskey in Farmington.  Figured I might need it.

He spent most of the next day working on it.  Had to cut the
bolts off, and re-weld the hangars.  By the middle of the
afternoon he was through, I was $400 lighter, and well on my way
back to McPhee, a smile on my face.

BTID.  Made it home to Texas on that scalped tire, too.


Flash forward a couple of months.

January.  I'm in Pflugerville, TX, talking to the folks at
Princess Craft about repairing the hole I made above my trailer
door in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, while trying to take the corner
off a Papa Murphy's Pizza place.  Just something I managed to do
while waiting for Alan Robinson to get off work.

While I was negotiating about that, I asked the Princess Craft
guy what it would cost to get me another bumper to replace the
bent one.  He took a look.

"You've got a lot more problems than the bumper."

"What?"

"Yeah.  Look here."  He pressed in on the Filon siding.  I could
see there was a bubble there.  "It's come unglued.  And it feels
soft behind it.  You've got some rot down here."

I followed him around like a puppy dog.  Sure enough.  Sigh. When
the bumper bent upwards, the flange that it was bolted to
contacted and buckled the Filon in a small area along the bottom
of the back wall.  Over the ensuing miles, this area had vibrated
and expanded.  Some water had gotten in along the lower trim and
wicked up to rot the wood behind at the right hand corner.

Water leaks Up!  Who knew?

"What's all this gonna cost?"

He got out his pencil, licked the tip and squinted, uhmmmed and
ahhhed a bit, felt around some more, and handed over the list of
damages.

$4353.

Mein Gott.  The entire trailer isn't worth more than that.  The
whole back end has to come off.  It's all one piece.  Labor is
$90 bucks an hour.  So much for a minor bumper replacement.

Arrrrrgh!

I got on the phone to RV Alliance.  After a few pointed
questions, they're going to pay up.  Minus the $500 deductible.
Thank God for insurance.  Otherwise this one incident would have
doubled my 5-year out of pocket costs on the Mallard, leaving the
Low Road Theory of RV Success in tatters.  Whew.

I can hear Janet giggling now.

Flash forward to the present.  June 5th, 2006.

It took me several months to find a time when both Princess Craft
and I could get together.  They've kept it 3 weeks now.  Delays
in getting parts.  Blah, blah, blah.  I went down and looked at
what they were doing a couple of weeks ago, and sure enough there
was rotted wood all along the bottom.  They even found some along
the top, which was not externally apparent, and not caused by the
accident, but easy to repair once the back came off.

A little bonus.

Looks like they are doing a good job.  I went back again last
Thursday, and the Filon was on, and the back end reassembled.
Very shiny.

They've been waiting on some guy who apparently goes around from
dealer to dealer, applying decals and striping.  Perhaps some
kind of Workamper character, trailer trash like me, who does what
he does well enough to wait for.

I expect to hear from them today or tomorrow.  I'm hoping the
estimate was high.  But not with any conviction.  I might have
been tempted to try and do this stuff myself, and pocket the
labor costs, but the clever devils at the insurance company made
the check out to both Princess Craft and me.

That's just not my kind of luck.

BTID.


Bob



----------------------------------------------------


What I Did For My Summer Vacation



11 Jul 2006

Hi folks,

Just a note to let you know what I have been up to in lieu of
travel this summer.  Basically it boils down to two projects:
getting back into good physical shape and moving back into the
house, with all the subplots both entail.

Good news on the first.  This morning I weighed in at 238 lbs.,
down from 276 in January.  From a 42 pant waist to a 38.

38 pounds down, 38 to go!  Five pounds a month.  Month after
month.  Sigh.  One thing I've figured out.  At the present rate
of weight loss, I won't disappear entirely until middle of June
2010.  Probably on a Wednesday.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

As for the house, I am currently camping out inside, making lists
of projects, from new floors to new paint to new furniture.  But
for some reason the thing I really got started on was the yard.

1.  I tore down the old 16 foot by 32 foot deck.  Salvaged 66
7-foot redwood 2x6s, without a clue what I might use them for.
Decided to do without a roof on the 25x8 foot concrete back
porch.


2.  Put up a new cedar privacy fence.  Or had it done, a major
expense.  Digging that many post holes would probably have done
me in.  3/4 inch pickets, three rails, schedule 20 metal poles -
quite a sturdy fence.



Good fences make good neighbors, they say.  I'm doing my part.

3. Planted some flower beds in the corners: vincas, pentas, plus
some monkey grass and a couple of crepe myrtles.  24 feet of Star
Jasmine on a trellis alongside the house.  Hard ground, lots of
roots.  Had to slay a stubborn Hackberry.  Saved a Wisteria
already over 25 years old, though it had to be cut back
considerably to accommodate the fence.  Old thing appears to be
doing well in spite of being half the size it was.




4.  Speaking of salvage, I redid a $65 bargain bench from Home
Depot by spray painting the wrought iron white and staining the
oak.  Turned out well, so I did two more.





5.  Had a visitor.  An enormous butterfly began flapping around
the yard like some Forrest Gump omen, and lighted on the fence
long enough for me to get a picture.  Big as your hand.  Pretty
thing.  But there's a persistent business-like nesting Robin
around here that may yet make a meal of her.





6.  Made an appointment with a mason to cover the spalled
concrete of the porch with Arizona sandstone, plus a small
sitting bench/ retaining wall at one end.  It'll be August before
he gets around to it.

7.  Put up a plastic storage building, with the help of my
brother.  It was over a hundred degrees that day, and we both got
so addled and dehydrated it took a lot longer than the 2 hours
promised in the instructions.  



We kept losing things by setting them down.  Hammers.  Screwdrivers.  
Instructions.  My ass.

Regarding that last item, I lost 5 lbs in 5 hours.  But it came
back around after I drank a gallon of Gator-ade and a six-pack of
Sam Adams.  Ahhhhh.


Came out okay, though.  The building, I mean.  I remain addled.

8.  Cobbled together an automatic watering system out of $200
worth of timers, hoses and fittings.  Now the watering takes
place in the middle of the night, instead of when I want to use
the lawn.  So far, so good.

9.  Planted a pool.  This really turned out well, I think, though
it took every loose rock I could find to finish the waterfall.
The ripple of water on stone is hypnotic.  I can tell this is
going to be a very pleasant time-waster come fall.  Like the Internet.





There's even room in front of the waterfall for someone to assume
the full lotus position.  Assuming anyone were foolish enough to
contemplate such a thing.

The little brass bodhisattva is something I picked up in Taos on
my way to Alaska last summer.  Soon after I put it out, a Toad
hopped up to keep it company.  Tried to get a picture of them as
the odd couple.  Om Mane Padme Cro-o-a-k-k-k.

But it seems Toads have better things to do than sit for
pictures.

Sans statuette, everything you see in the picture cost about
$150.  Of course the stone was found on premises.  So was the
addled labor.  Home Depot sells this number complete with pump as
a "Beckett Pond In A Box" for $89.  Haven't made up my mind about
the purslane hanging baskets, which is why they still have their
hooks curling above them.  They look good in the morning, but
close up their little faces after dark.

Well, that's it for now.  Tomorrow is Tilling Day.  Thursday the
grass is being cut.  Friday I expect to lay in two palettes all
by my lonesome.

Then I've got to get to work on repairing that roof line, and
deciding which awning to install.  Before it rains.  Yeah, right.

So there's my summer vacation, Chapter June.  On a good day, I
get two things done.  This letter was one of them.

I forget the other.


Bob



----------------------------------------------------


The Flying Dog


8/06/06
Georgetown, TX


I'm sitting here at the dining table looking down at some sort of
blondish miniature hound.  I wonder how big they get?  All loose
wrinkles and forming scabs right now, but with something of an
appetite.

That's a good sign.

My brother and I went over to Liberty Hill to lunch on fried
chicken livers at the Hobo Cafe, and discuss the state of the
world.  After getting all that sorted out, we came back up Hwy 29
towards Georgetown.

It's a busy four lane highway.  I guess we were doing about 60
mph  when something furry flew up in the air from a pickup truck
in the left lane in front of us and landed on the pavement.

And bounced.  Several times.  We missed it.

My first thought was that a squirrel had gotten trapped in the
back of that truck when it took off, and had now decided to do an
Evil Knievel.  If people can get away with that stuff, I guess
it's not too crazy a thing for a squirrel to try.

Then I saw it was a puppy.

It was jumping a couple of feet up in the air and yelping as we
rolled by.  I figured its back was broken, and all that leaping
around was some kind of sad reflex.  Part of its death throes. We
pulled off the highway, and went back to see if it was bad enough
to require that we find some way to put it out of its misery.

By the time we got there, though, it had quieted down, and even
managed to crawl off the highway.  And somehow a line of 5 or 6
cars roaring by had failed to flatten it.

Apparently it landed on its head.  It was bleeding from the
mouth.  It's face was scraped up.  It was missing small patches
of fur over the eyes, and the skull was a little misshapen.  It
came to a sort of lumpy point on the right side.  Still, it was
walking on it's own, both eyes seemed to be working, and nothing
seemed obviously broken.

Man, puppies are tough!

I still can't be sure what happened.  First time I saw it, it was
flying through the air at about window height beside the other
truck.  When I thought it was a squirrel, I figured it had leaped
off the tool box.  But this little puppy couldn't get up there by
itself.  And that truck never slowed down nor came back.

Defenestration.  I am forced to conclude there are people walking
around free on this green earth mean and worthless enough to
throw a puppy out the window of a speeding vehicle and never look
back.

Hell has a place for such.

You'd think these... whatever they are... creatures... would
carry some obvious sign of their perfidy, like the Mark of Cain.
That way you'd be able to pick them out of a crowd, and kick
their sorry asses on a regular basis.

But they don't.  They probably look just like you and me.

We took it to the Pound.  But this being Sunday, the building was
closed and the gate locked.  So I brought her home.  Sigh.  She
didn't fuss much when I dabbed peroxide on her wounds, but began
to yelp and struggle when I smeared antibiotic salve on her lips.
She hasn't got much in the way of teeth yet, but the few she does
have seem intact.  She doesn't suckle at my fingers.  I put a
towel in a cardboard box and set her down in front of it.  She
sniffed around a little, then crawled right in there and curled
up and closed her eyes.

So I went to the store and got some packets of soft Pedigree
puppy food and an eyedropper so I could force water down her
throat.  I thought with her mouth cut up like that she wouldn't
eat, but she surprised me.  Got right in the middle of that puppy
food.  And asked for more.  Then she crawled up on the towel
again and went back to sleep.

She's a conundrum to me.  A mystery.  How could she survive a
fall like that?  I'd probably break a leg just stepping off a
curb if I didn't see it coming.

It seems like she's only bunged up a little, though that lumpy
head is worrisome.  She hasn't swollen any in the 4 hours since,
and she is able to eat and move around okay.  If she's still
alive tomorrow morning, I guess she'll make it.





My God.  She's a quiet little thing, for the most part, but some
bluegrass just came on the radio, and she woke up enough to grunt
in time to it.  Like she wanted to howl, but couldn't quite
manage it.

What's next?  This is a scene right out of Hee Haw.

I'm not looking for a dog, and even if I was, having one flung at
me from a speeding truck is not a good way to start.  But
tomorrow I'll have to either take her to the pound or to the vet.
I haven't decided which.  Yet.  Mike can't keep her, 'cause his
big lab, Jack, has a tendency to chew up little dogs.

God help me.  Just what I need.  If I do keep her, I guess I'll
have to call her Conundrum.  Connie for short.

She whimpers in her sleep, and tries to run.  Why would a flying
dog need to run?


Bob



----------------------------------------------------




The Flying Dog Learns To Swim



8/9/06
Georgetown,TX

I got a lot of replies to the email I sent about the flying dog.
Thought ya'll might like an update, and I hope you won't mind if
I answer all of you at once.

Connie's been here three days now.  She whimpers and barks in her
sleep still.  My guess is nightmares.  But she is pretty quiet in
the moments when she's awake.   Mostly she just eats, sleeps, and
craps, 24/7.  Like any infant.

The Vet said she was a Shar-Pei, about 5 weeks old, and seems to
have survived intact being flung from a truck at 60 mph.  In good
shape, actually.  Whether she was tossed on purpose or by
accident... we'll never know.

The very first time I opened the back door for her, she walked
straight out to the pool and immediately plunged to the bottom.
Blub.  I fished her out and dried her off.

Then she did it again.  And again.

I think she wants to drink from it, but she's clumsy.  Why she
thinks that pond water tastes better than bowl water I can't tell
you.  She paddles pretty well, but can't seem to get up the slick
sides by herself.  Yesterday I stacked a couple of limestone
blocks in the bottom to give her something to stand on, at least
at that end.

Today she seemed to finally be getting the hang of leaning out
over the watery abyss, but she still fell in.  I tried to keep an
eye on her while I was mowing the lawn.  She was playing on the
woodpile, climbing up and down, talking to herself.  I looked
away for a moment.  Then I heard her behind me.







She was soaking wet.  Apparently she got in and out by herself this time.  Thank God.

Since she was already wet, I took her in the house and bathed her, which she took with ill grace.  Then I left her in her bed.  I can't work in the yard and watch her at the same time, so in future I'm not going to try.  At least until she is bigger.



That's about it.  She's an affectionate booger, and likes to chew on things.  She hasn't got a clue what the paper on the floor is for, so that's the next lesson.  Wish me luck.

O yeah.  Her eyes are fine.  She tracks everything around her.
But there may be a problem with her hearing.  She wasn't paying
attention to my voice, so I snuck up behind her and clapped my
hands LOUD.  No response.  So I went and got a shrill whistle out
of the kayak and blew that as LOUD as I could, from across the room.  

She blinked, but she did not look around.

Needless to say, it's going to be a trial training her if she
can't hear.  Let alone getting her back if she wanders off.  I'll
see what I can come up with.

Every day she's a little better.  A little more active.  Maybe
the hearing thing is temporary.  Or maybe she's just female, and
doesn't listen to men as a matter of principle.

I've seen that before.


Bob



---------------------------------------------------





No Bite


She looks at me in disbelief.
Her puppy muzzle, pink with scars
from answered questions, quivers.

Droopy ears flop forward, silkily attentive.
Abruptly she looks away, resting her chin
on my empty fist, and sighs.

As well that she require of me
I give up the use of my hands, demand
that never again I pick up a shell on the beach,
turning it over and over idly, as the ignorant waves do,
never try to puzzle out its presence in my own dry way,
without reference to taste.

For her the bright world is full
of things forever trying to get away.
They do not stop for paws, but might
if you bite them.  Still I say

No Bite.

She tries again to find and chew
my oddly opposable thumb.

No. No Bite.  



The bite becomes a yawn.
Worn into obedience, she falls
asleep in my lap, warm and snoring,
trusting I will be there when she wakes,
indifferent to what has escaped her.

----------------------------------------------------



The Invisible Flying Dog








I was reading on the porch and looked up to find that Connie had disappeared.  Lessee, she's not drowning in the pool.  Check.  She's not in the house, 'cause the door is shut.  Check.  






She can't get over the fence.... where is she?

Bob











----------------------------------------------------




Among the Pleasures of Staying Put


8/20/2006
Georgetown TX


"Mr. Rat, I have a writ here says you're to stop eating Chin
Lee's cornmeal forthwith.  Now it's a rat writ, writ for a rat,
and this is lawful service of the same."

                       -- Rooster Cogburn, in "True Grit"



Things have gotten a little squirrelly around here.  Today I
bought a gun.

A Crossman 760 Pumpmaster, to be exact.  That and the ammo set me
back $35.  Just so you know I'm serious.

I had a perfectly good plinker like this 4 years ago, but I gave
it away when I went gallivanting.  The notion of having territory
to defend didn't seem quite relevant to the nomadic lifestyle.
Besides, if someone challenged me, I figured I could just run
them over with my pickup truck.  I'm not sure how you'd classify
the caliber of an F250, but it seemed perfectly sufficient.

Alas.  I am back on Terra Firma.

Someone not long ago accused me of being something of a pacifist.
A "live and let live" kind of guy.  A weenie, in other words.
Perhaps.  But there's some black squirrels in the back yard that
have gotten on my bad side.

I try to get along with our little woodland friends.  Truly I do.
Why, haven't I parked the trailer in the driveway all summer
long, purely for the purpose of providing them shade?  These guys
certainly think so.  They flatten themselves out on the concrete
under there in twos and threes like dropped washrags, soaking up
the cool.

They stare back insolently when I squat down to look.  "What the hell 

does HE want?"  No respect at all.

Haven't I sweated to provide them a minor oasis?  Planted an
entire yard full of grass so they'll have a place to dig holes
and hide their swag?  Built a new fence to discourage the
neighborhood cats?  And just so they can party, party, party all
night long, haven't I put in a swell combination contemplation
pool and spa, presided over by a little brass Buddha just their
size?

You'd think I'd get a bit of deference.  But noooo.  They bring
their own brass.

So now I'm contemplating a little mayhem.

I don't ask much.  I just want to go out in the quiet of an early
morning and relax on the porch.  Drink some coffee.  Listen to
the fall of water in the fountain.  Admire the gloom receding
from the trees.  Review the life of Alexander, and compare it
with my own.  Meditate on my many shortcomings.

You know the drill.

Crunch.  Crunch.  Cruuunch.  Ah.  I notice the litter of
pecan parts scattered underfoot.  Not to mention twigs and bits
of leaf and whole green bobbing pecans floating in the pool.

To think I was going to put down some expensive sandstone to
dress up this slab.  Even got a couple of bids.  I can see now a
better plan is some kind of paint that will hide the color of
rotting pecans.

Something in a particularly unpleasant brown.

Maybe I could throw down a mixture of used motor oil and rusty
nuts soaking in brake fluid.  Let it bake in the summer sun. That
should do it.  Cheap, too.

It isn't even the trouble of sweeping off the porch.  Not really.
I could get used to that, if they would just pause while I'm
sitting there.  Or move over a little.  Give me some space.  I
don't notice a similar pile of debris out in the grass, where it
wouldn't matter.  But two or three of these little bastards
consistently plant themselves right above my chair and engineer a
constant rain of castoff pecan parts.  



Every morning, they litter cheerfully, without a care, like a bunch of Chinese
tourists with a found bag of oranges.  Like kids in a popcorn fight.

And that's not the worst.  Today something whitish and semi
liquid splatted down on the table not far from my coffee cup.
Apparently green pecans can give you the runs.

Okay.  Now it's personal.

Which is why I went down to Wal-Mart to stock up on some cheap
revenge.  And why I'm brushing up on my marksmanship.  Plink.
Contemplate that, you rascal.  One down, two hundred to go.

O, I haven't actually killed anything yet.  Winged a couple.  A
BB drops off considerable at 40 feet.  But I'm getting the drift
of it, and I've got their attention.  They've quit hanging round
the pool.  We're not buddies any more.  And I am not their 

friggin' servant.

If I do manage to dispatch one, I guess I ought to find a way to
suspend it by its tail up there.  To discourage the others.

No, wait.  That's barbaric.  Have I sunk so low?

Perhaps instead... I could take the high road.  That's it.  I
could bury it with honor, put up a little monument, invite a
minister, have a ceremony of sorts, play taps, maybe even roll a
tape of the Mournful Elvis singing:

"There'll be no sadness, no sorrow, no trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me."

Then, as the last somber notes ring out, me and a couple of dozen
squirrels will gather round in the hush, sobbing and contrite,
enemies no more, and begin the tedious and contentious process of
drawing up an armistice agreement.

Sure.

And when that doesn't work, there's always napalm.


Bob





----------------------------------------------------




Okay, that's enough.  About all I kept in electronic form from 2006, anyhow.  And lord knows this post has tried your patience.




2007?  


It's all a blur.  




2008? 


I quit writing.  Got involved in (shudder) politics.  Became a delegate to the State Democratic Convention.  Crossed my fingers and voted the Democratic Ticket.  God save us, every one.


Managed to get out of the stock market at the high.  Missed the crash.  Whew.  Won't matter much if it screws with my pension, though.




2009?


Then I missed the 50% comeback rally completely.  


Bought a high dollar stereo and a big screen TV.  Turned into a couch potato.


Bought a 22 foot 1992 Lazy Daze motor home.  Fixed it up some.  Okay, a lot.  


I know, I know.  Beginning to sound like a vaguely famous saying.  "What hath Bob bought?"




2010?


Why, here we are.  Sold the fifth wheel.  Got pathetically sedentary watching the world's most athletic game.  Bought a 2006 Kawasaki Vulcan 900, and a trailer to haul it in.  Zoom, zoom.  Took both and a brother up to the faux mountains of Arkansas.  Got rained on, hailed on, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Began blogging again.


The rest remains to be seen.


Bob









5 comments:

Juliana ("Julie") said...

I found your first web site a couple of years ago - read every word and enjoyed it tremendously. Glad to see that you're writing again (and that you're well).

Bob Giddings said...

Thanks, Julie. I'm glad you like it.

bob

Mark Dixon said...

I too found "speed bumps" and rather enjoyed it.
My wife and I are soon to be fulltimers.
Please continue!

RV Vagabonds said...

Squirrels. Ornery critters. My dad used to live trap them and take them down the road a half mile to the cemetery (lots of trees.) He swore they came back, Mom scoffed. So Dad trapped one, spray painted an orange stripe on its tail, set it loose in the cemetery. It was back in our yard the next morning. That's when the BB rifle came out.

Anonymous said...

speed bumps filled the slow hours I spent waiting for a patient to need xrays during my last 13 years of working night shift in st.davids E.R. downtown austin. corporation needed to save $, so they forced several of the higher paid, tentured highly experienced employees out the door to be replaced w/ the cheaper inexperienced kind. after a few days of looking to 'sue somebody', my kind wife told me to go play golf and buy another RV. I did! Wanderlust and dreaming, has replaced the dread of going to work, thanks for speedbumps. LJH austin,tx