Category Archives: Holiday

A Christmas Villa In The Living Room MMXVII

My wife Dawn greenlit my enthusiastic wish to build a Christmas villa in the living room this year. Using several hundred pictures, 100+ boxes, innumerable lights, a couple hundred ornaments and bits of crazy, a universal remote to control it all, a Festivus pole (for the rest of us, of course), hidden gift compartments, a house cat who daily prays for a gift to fall from above, and a huge dose of yuletide spirit… we present the most unusually-decorated living room you can possibly see all year.

I shot this video with Dawn performing the role of director. I drank 17 cups of coffee prior to shooting and I now regret telling Dawn her version was too jittery.

P.S. I wrote this version of “Carol of The Bells” myself so that social media sites couldn’t claim copyright. I hope you like that part, too. Writing music is another one of my hobbies, one which requires a commitment of time.

My living room has a vaulted ceiling, so the drunken rectangle I created piece by piece is approximately 8′ high, 15′ wide, and 20′ long. It’s difficult to grasp the scale unless you walk through the front door.

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A gallon of my patented Elf Juice, one which grants the imbiber the ability to decorate one’s domicile in the manner of Buddy The Elf.

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A necessary part of the structure is a cat bed constructed into the base of one of the 8 9-foot vertical columns. (Our cat’s name is Güino, given that he was a shelter cat, one rescued from the Feline Witness Protection Program.)
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The green-and-yellow picture is a wanted poster for my stepson Ty. A list of mostly imaginary crimes is listed at the bottom. To the right, you’ll note our infamous family portrait, just us two monkeys posing for the camera. (Dawn is on the left in the portrait, by the way.)
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Anyone who thinks I don’t like pictures, please take a note at this point. Despite ordering several hundred before I started, I found myself needing more as I neared what I thought would be the final push to completion.
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The columns are all tall and each one is connected in a drunken rectangle around the entirety of the living room. Looking back, it was a lot of work but if Dawn didn’t lose her mind watching me meticulously create each box, each column, and apply every picture and detail, I will look back on this in years to come and ask, “Why didn’t anybody stop me?” 🙂

There are both visible and concealed Christmas-themed quotes from some of my favorite books and movies for the season, too.
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Don’t be distracted by the backward clock. It comes in handy when visitors foolishly try to determine what time it is. Note the handsome couple in the background of the clock. Anyone with a spider phobia needs to walk around carefully, as the million streamers often touch you unexpectedly in the neck as you pass.
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What’s not visible in this barrage of pictures and Christmas insanity is my appreciation for life, one given to me in daily wonder and amused amazement.

To have the time, energy and ability to creatively express myself is a luxury which I don’t take for granted.

I have to admit, though, that this is a spectacle.

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Almost everyone I know has at least one picture of honor in the celebration. Some of the pictures are irreverent, but none fail to make us think or laugh. Or think then laugh.
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You’d never know it, but there are several presents hidden in plain sight around the room. Several might require demolition to access them but as we all know, that is what Christmas is all about.
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Taken from the kitchen, looking over the counter, perhaps waiting for Santa Claus to come inside and demand a pint of eggnog and a slice of pepperoni pizza.
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The Festivus pole certainly adds a dazzle to the room, doesn’t it? In keeping with the original intent of Festivus, I don’t adorn the pole with anything to distract us from its beauty. I’m convinced Dawn wants to accidentally recycle it sometimes – or give it to someone building a fence. If this were to happen, however, I would have no choice but to replace it from Wagner Steel and add her transgression to the following year’s “Airing of the Grievances.”
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Note that my genuine Daisy BB gun sits next to our wiretap device, ready at a moment’s notice if some crazed Christmas-hating Grinch attempts to enter the house and steal Christmas from us. Hint: such a person is going to need a truck, a saw and a mean disposition.

Also, the Grinch will have to depart with it all, as I took great care to conceal hidden compartments for gifts. I kept a treasure map, but I’m not certain even I was diligent enough to note them all.

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If anyone looks at this and wonders, “Is that ME?” – the answer is probably “yes.” And, you are welcome. Several hundred pictures used in this project makes it likely that if I know you and have shared any levity in our lives that you are part of this.
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Christmas quotes, ornaments, pictures from my life, pictures of iconic Christmas scenes, vintage Christmas ads, crayons, bows, ribbons – if it is interesting or unusual, I tried to find a way to include it in this.
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The above picture is of the column containing the cat bed on the bottom. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one hidden gift in this column I forgot to take note of during the initial stages of building this.
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Here’s a link to a previous post I did, one describing the last time I did this on a really large scale: 2011 Christmas Craziness2011 Christmas Craziness
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The above was taken from the reverse side of the decorations. Note the dollar bills. Here’s a link to explain what the dollars mean: Christmas Dollars Each Year
I didn’t take as many closeup pictures of the tree this year, even though we added several fantastic ornaments. Some of them I ordered and had custom-made, some were whimsy from different stores and events from our lives this year. I’ve met many people who’ve adopted a motley approach to their Christmas tree ornaments but I’ll be ornament-to-ornament that none shares a breadth of diversity like the collection my wife and me have. People tend to look closely at our tree and shout, “THIS can be used an ornament?!” and laugh, filing away the idea for later use.
Now that it’s done, I can look at the pictures and lights, and wonder about my year and the future which follows. Another Christmas, another year.

Supermoon Superseason Superceding

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Advisory: Possibly NSFW, depending on whether you like the smell of weird cheese or enjoy trying to clog dance after your leg falls asleep…

Before being sidetracked by frivolous detail, the picture is a 3-D one I made of my wife. Her eyes are googly and her hair made from a few dozen strands of ribbon slivers. It is a thing of beauty, even more so than the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story.” I’m certain that Dawn will grow to love it, as it hangs from the living room heater vent on the ceiling.

This is a story about a walk, but not really. I didn’t sleep well last night. Dawn had experienced some excruciating muscle cramps in her lower leg, the kind of erupting pain so intense that she would have traded a baseball bat to the elbow to lessen them. I’m not the best sleeper to begin with but the anticipation of waking up in a sudden sweat as the person next to me screams in the dark is not one to be enjoyed. Being unable to help except perhaps to be a prop to lean against only worsens the situation. My problem is that I want to do something clever, such as sing the lyrics to “Lean on Me.” To her credit, Dawn still hasn’t shot me in justified irritation, although I think I’ve mentioned that she keeps hinting that she wants me to buy her a crossbow and only one arrow to accompany it.

(We usually only scream in pain like that as we accidentally watch the nightly news, a feeling many of you might find to be familiar.)

I glimpsed the ominous orange supermoon only for less than a minute this morning. It was hanging low on the western horizon, somehow dodging the unexpected cloud cover. Even though I knew it was a fruitless attempt, I took a picture of it. It might as well be an image taken from an endoscopy procedure.

As I stood in the middle of Don Tyson Parkway, admiring the moon’s brief beauty, in the background I watched as a white dually pickup attempted to navigate the circumference of the double roundabout at high speed. As the truck rocked and bounced over the edge of the sidewalk, I hoped the driver was holding a steaming cup of hot coffee and that as he hit the obstruction unexpectedly, that the coffee boiled his nuggets as it spilled into his lap. Nothing evokes the spirit of Christmas like the sound of a reckless driver screaming from the consequences of his poor driving. (The best part of waking up is hot liquid in your cup, so to speak.)

I greeted this morning, along with the unusual soft brightness the obscured moon brought with it. The night hours had reset the monstrosity of the early part of my day yesterday. We all have our own issues and sometimes even when we do the right thing to correct them, they worsen. The trolls and sociopaths seem to be vigilant along the periphery of our lives. They wait, knowing they will be able to spread the opposites of happiness and joy, like sad black and blue glitter – or hateful holiday cards, ones filled with profanity and pictures of war and destruction. In my case, I wait, because no matter how idiotically people might behave, I will still have my keyboard. History will be written in farce, cleverly disguised as fiction. No matter what happens, I tend to say, “It will make a great story.” So far, time has given me a buffer to be able to laugh at everything.

Yesterday was also supposed to be the kick-off of phase two of the 2018 IBLCC weight-loss challenge. For reasons related to the last paragraph, that too fell through. Trolls are like the Stephen King’s Langoliers, except instead of eating time, they eat other people’s joy. I lost 30 lbs during phase one. In the interim, while waiting for my competition to catch up, I regained some of the weight back. (Which should be no surprise, given my insatiable urge to eat an entire pizza as if it were a fruit roll-up.) Phase two was going to both excuse and impetus to finally get to 200 lbs, which is still way too high for someone of my advancing years and historically untrustworthy arteries. Whiskey, salt pork and lard flow through my veins, at least genetically. None of these has fared well in scientific studies of longevity.

(I had an uncle who once insisted that he’d stopped drinking alcohol and eating bacon when they stopped tasting good. I think he meant it as a challenge.)

Once away from the absurd pseudo-rules of commerce, I had a fantastic afternoon. While Dawn was frolicking in Eureka Springs with her sister, I was adding a million yuletide touches to my massive architectural Christmas display. For those of you who are worried about the weight, don’t be; our house is on a concrete foundation. If I had to describe what it looks like, I would say it is a hybrid between what Will Ferrell as Elf did in the department store scene and how Steve Martin might design a children’s room for the holiday season if he ate an entire bag of magic mushrooms after browsing Etsy for 16 hours.

Before leaving this note, I’d like to tell all of you who were worried about the roundabout driver’s nuggets that he escaped injury. I waved at him as he passed. I could see his silhouette inside the truck cab due to the streetlights. He waved back as he went about his day, hopefully without further attempt to set a land speed record. Also, duallys are just about the ugliest vehicles on the planet.

Finally, I leave you with a poem, one written in a thoughtless moment of profane hilarity. This poem is much more enjoyable if you stand in the middle of a crowded room and recite it in a loud, raucous falsetto. If you have a special someone in your life who reminds you of this poem, stare into his eyes as you read it. Some hints require a little more effort.
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Don’t Water the Asses

Attention is their nitrogen
strife, their air

Their fruit always bitter
their beds stony with despair

By the time you sniff them out,
your life, too, becomes a derriere
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Overcome by Thanks

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This is a thanksgiving story, but not a traditional one. There are no invading settlers in my story, no artificial reverence for the things we otherwise take for granted. It’s a repetition of my mantra that we only truly give thanks in the in-between moments that comprise the bulk of our lives.

November had granted me another strange morning to visit the world. The temperature was soaring toward heaven at almost 70 degrees. For 3 a.m. on a mid-November morning, it was a gift I didn’t want to squander. I walked the deserted roads without a jacket, cares, or burdens.

Exiting the car, I heard a methodical clang, rendered musical by the wind. I turned to see that it originated from a flag at half-mast across the street, in front of the convenience store at Goad Springs and Monroe. My intention was to walk down the long valley toward Puppy Creek, a beautiful place in the early hours. Instead, I turned north and followed Goad parallel to the distant interstate. I didn’t see a single car until I reached Oakwood, at which point two cars stopped at the 4-way there and seemed determined to wait each other out. Each car flashed its lights at least twice at the other driver before the car ahead of me finally succumbed and passed. Because of this, I turned right onto Oakwood. As I reached the apex of the road on the bridge above the interstate below, I stopped for a moment, as I always do, to admire the wide expanse of asphalt, concrete, commerce and daily lives on display. The wind seemed determined to rip my shirt off at that height, running both below and above the bridge. Below, everything moved faster than nature intended.

I stood atop the piece of the world there, thanking the universe for not infringing upon me with tragic circumstance and for not rendering any part of my body as traitorous. I’ve known too many great people who’ve suffered from accidents, unseen blocked arteries, and misfortune. Loneliness had not visited me, nor hunger or poorness of household or spirit. In my corner of the world, ideas and humor infect so much of my life that there’s little room for other things. Had I often forgotten to feel thanks? Of course, for it is human blood which sustains me. It is our curse to fail to see the whimsical roulette wheel in our lives. One moment, ecstasy – the next, sorrow. For those of us lucky enough, we spin the wheel without too much concern, knowing that the dark placeholder is there, waiting to cloud over us. May the wheel spin so quickly that I can’t discern what’s written there…

I thought back to yesterday when my trip to the craft store provided me with a few moments of hilarity. Most of the faces in the store were frenzied and focused on getting through the lines at maximum speed. Knowing that the universe conspires against those who would pressure it toward acceleration, I languidly waited my turn, listening to the complaints and frustrations of those who weren’t aware that the universe laughs at such concerns. When my turn at the register came, I was pleased to discover that the cashier was desperate for humor and nonsense. Little did she know that I had a buffet loaded with such mirth in my pocket. She asked questions about my purchases, laughing more strongly with each answer. It fascinated her that many of my small items were non-traditional Xmas tree ornaments, including spiders, jewelry broaches, colorful birds, and dragonflies. (Our tree is a testament to strangeness.) She held up a couple of items, asking if they were ½-price or not. I said “Yes,” but pointed out that the birds and a couple of the other items weren’t on sale. I then said, “But if not, you can always just give me the bird.” I laughed and when she looked up, she understood the context of my joke. “Oh, I’ll give you the bird, alright.” The lady behind me in line howled in appreciation. As the manager walked by, I pointed toward my pile of items and said, “The clerk here just gave me the bird.” He laughed and shook his head. At least a dozen people around us were staring, trying to discover how it was that we had unearthed a trove of humor in the middle of that consumerist nightmare.  I was thankful to have enjoyed the moment. The cashier was happy, too. She had also learned that there were so many things that one can use as adornment and decoration if she simply abandoned the idea of ‘normal.’ I’m convinced she left yesterday with the impulse to share this with other people.

Later in the afternoon, my wife and I spent time placing the ornaments I had bought, some in person and some I had created online. All of them were distinct, like the moments that preceded them. We placed lights in jars and glassware, watching the clear glass transform into prisms of color, and light the space. This too was another moment, one worthy of thanks. Behind us, our new Brady Bunch family portrait watched us. “Laugh,” it was saying, repeatedly. The house now approaches a reflection of who I am inside, where eyes don’t reach and where life tends to meet me with a raised hand as if to say “Pause.”

Yesterday, leaving that place which occupies too much of my life in the name of commerce and small pieces of green-tinted paper, I cut across Joyce to the connecting road that leads to Zion. High above, I watched as a hawk circled, dived, and pirouetted in the fast winds. As I approached, the hawk turned lazily toward the road and began a dive. It seemed as if it were heading directly toward me. Faster it came. Just as I was certain it was going to hit my car, it spread its wings wide to slow its descent and extended its talons. It flew so close that for a moment I thought I should put down the windows to permit it to pass through the interior.  The hawk passed in front of me and landed on the bank of the road on the passenger side. I wanted to know if it had trapped something in its talons but the car and road conspired to block it from my view.

This is my incomplete and imperfect thanksgiving message. Much like the holiday itself, it can be overdone and teeter on the edge of gluttony. We focus so much on the periphery of things that we fail to weave our way back to the in-between moments. Our grocery lists and to-do demands distract us from the promise of being around people we value, holding a cup of coffee, tea or soda, each one of us with raised cup and spirits. All the ‘things’ interrupt the regularly scheduled message of shared moments.

As I finished my walk, I looked back in surprise at how far I’d come. Even with my limited grasp of the invisible ties between people, places, and things, I could see the analogy floating in front of me. Anyone who measures their life by the distance traversed is missing out on the craziness and colors of a million successive moments, none of which in themselves are worthy of enshrinement, but if removed from one’s life, would leave a void. The in-between is where we find comfort.

Before going home, I drove and stopped near a creek, took my shoes and socks off and rolled up my pants. Despite being unable to see much of anything, I carefully made my way down into the creek, across slippery stones, and stood. The frigid water lapped at my calves. And so it was that at barely 5 a.m. on a mid-November morning, I was standing in a cold creek, looking up at the sky. It began to sprinkle. Had the creek swallowed me whole at that moment, it would have had to mask my laugh. I was in-between moments, amazed that no one had convinced me when I was young that such moments are more important than diving from airplanes, seeing a waterfall, or sensing the sublime undercurrent beneath things.

When I got back in the car, my feet like blocks of cold granite, and since the car was once again cool, I turned on the radio. “Overcome” by Live was playing. I listened to it for the first time, even though I had heard it a 1,000 times.  I drove home barefooted, absorbing the words. It was an absurd and delightful moment, too.

Arriving home, I stood in the driveway, finishing my bottle of water and experiencing the wind on my bare feet and legs.  As I stood there, two Springdale police cars quickly came around the curve, going fast. I was surprised when the second car braked suddenly, right in front of me. It turned into the driveway across from me and I thought, “Finally, he’s done something inescapable.” Instead of stopping though, the car reversed and headed back in the same direction. The lead police car continued around the large loop on the backside of my neighborhood. It seems as if the universe wanted me to have one more anecdote and one more question, even at 5:34 a.m.

Give thanks.

Live in the in-between and perhaps we will meet there, in laughter.

While my words are imperfectly written, the day itself is not.

The world can wait. It always does, patiently. If you lean in and listen attentively, you can hear the fingers clicking in unison.

 

We Are the Brady Bunch

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I love the holiday season. It gives me an excuse to celebrate the absurd, to make art, and to fill my life with color and memories. The 400+ pictures I used to decorate the living room for the yuletide season weren’t enough, apparently.

Today, something I made for my wife Dawn arrived: a canvas of us with the Brady Bunch. Dawn is the baby in the middle, her sister Darla is on the right, and my mother-in-law Julia is on the left. (She’s the retired boxer). I’m the weird dude on the right demonstrating what I might look like if someone surprised me and stapled my tongue to a board. PS: The scenario of getting my tongue stapled isn’t too far-fetched.

I’m hoping that Crystal Bridges doesn’t make Dawn an offer for this masterpiece. Like the infamous leg lamp from “A Christmas Story,” this canvas is a true work of art, designed in the mind of a singular genius.

 

 

Note: Snapfish made this canvas. It’s hard to beat them for quality and price.

I’m in no way being compensated for saying this, either. I’ve bought a massive number of items from them over the years.

A Quarter Past Halloween

A Halloween Story For My Friends:

I’m normally not one to attend parties, especially if drinking or dancing are expected. Or being awake past 9:01 p.m. There’s too much temptation for me to do an unannounced gravity check and meet Mr. Floor during these events. Especially Mr. Waxed Floor, whose most trusted friend, “Mrs. Lower Back Injury,” seems to be everywhere.

My wife Dawn insisted that I at least try to go and enjoy myself. A local club was sponsoring an event near Downtown Springdale last year, during the prolonged period in which Emma looked like year 2 of the Vietnam War.

Dawn wasn’t amused when I asked if it was an “either/or” proposition. In typical fashion, she replied, “It depends on whether there’s a scented candle to mask the smell of blunt force trauma.”

As is always the case, I spent an inordinate amount of time planning my costume. Attending a Halloween party without wearing a costume is akin to eating the label from a jar of pickles and discarding the contents: it’s amusing, but in the end, not very rewarding. I take these things very seriously, as older adults get fewer chances to mock other adults without the risk of a scuffle. The riskiest thing I had done all last year was cast my vote for president and it seemed like I was still doing time for that error.

As you would imagine, I got kicked out of the party. But not for a reason you would ever expect. These party people sure don’t have a sense of humor to match their drive to hold gatherings of strangers. I theorize that their thickening wallets cut off the blood supply to their cerebral cortex.

“Why are you dressed like a quarter, X?” Several people asked me this as I milled around the Halloween party near Emma Street.

To which I replied, “Well, Gandhi himself told us to “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.””

🙂

Don’t Hate Me Because You Missed Out on Wisteria Lane – Again

Dawn and I used a portion of our vacation time to spend some time of quiet reflection at some of the best cabins in the 4-state region:  Wisteria Lane Lodging. The owners don’t compensate for me being so laudatory, although PepsiCo does pay me to not talk about their products. I love the cabins at Wisteria. For someone who enjoys the internet, it is quite relaxing to have no phone, no internet, and no mundane concerns while being surrounded by deep woods.

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The above picture doesn’t do the porch justice. The porch overlooks the bottom of the valley as a creek winds below. It spans the entire valley-side of the cabin and is wide enough to keep the weather at bay. With a porch swing, it’s almost perfect. Unlike other places, you can use the grill during any weather, except perhaps a tornado.

For reasons of national security, Dawn wouldn’t let me participate in the next picture, citing “overwhelming historical untrustworthiness” and something else she mumbled as she pointed the camera at herself and the taser at me as I attempted an approach to be immortalized in her picture.

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P.S. I didn’t get many pictures of Dawn, both due to her subtle “no” and “you had better not” hand motions, very similar to the one people might use to indicate an impromptu throat slitting. In addition, she displayed an allergy to what I would call “clothes.” It’s not like she cavorted or pranced around sans clothing, but she insisted on wearing the clothes that no one except spouses and emergency medical technicians get to see us wearing. (Also known as “comfy clothes” in some circles.)

We were staying at Cabin #4, which is the definition of privacy and seclusion. We could have practiced yodeling at all hours and no one would have noticed.

The picture below is an example of several I took, after Dawn’s insistent editing skills of redaction imposed themselves on my beautiful pictures. She says this picture captures her essence like none other I’ve ever taken of her.

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The next picture is of me, wearing an ensemble from the 2016 Versace Collection. It looks like I am sniffing paint, which is ridiculous. Everyone knows the only way to sniff paint is to use a paper bag. (Although I’ve been told I look stupid because I put my entire head inside the bag and then spray the can directly into my face.)

Because Dawn and I wanted to do something different with our visitor’s stones, I maximized our effort by using a primer coat on each of the stones. It’s much easier than it looks and made a huge difference in the result.

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Note to all sane people and children under 30 years of age: I was only kidding about sniffing paint. If you’d still like to see me with my head shoved into a paper bag, however, send me $20 and I’ll make your dream a reality.

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Dawn loved the fact that I finally got around to doing our visitor stones differently. Instead of just doing one, we did 6. The last one is one I made, to be the head of the long snake of rocks. It’s several feet long. I cleaned them and primed them the day we arrived. We went out on the long porch the next morning as the mist rose from below, scattered our paints and brushes, and laughed as we drank coffee, the cool air enveloping us. The head stone says “Time flies” in Spanish, with the year in Roman numerals.

The only potential downside is that future visitors might be envious of the scope of our stones for this visit. If they attempt to surpass my effort though, they should be warned: I will return and do 100 the next time. Just kidding – I’d probably stop at 30 or 40.

Dawn snapped this next one of me as I prepared to work my magic in the culinary portion of the evening. She claims that I’m prone to “weird hands” in these poses, although she uses a more endearing moniker for the pose.

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Not to brag or anything, but Dawn was happy with all the meals I made, even when I made things that started with the warning, “I’m not sure if this will be edible or thrown at miscreants on the sidewalk.” We didn’t take any pictures of our prepared food, out of respect for the privacy of the food that perished for our survival. Dawn took pictures of the fridge, as she couldn’t believe the variety of food we bought.

We resembled religious fanatics at the SunFest grocery store on Holiday Island, preparing our larders for the end of the world. We were like Noah-Of-The-Grocery as we stuffed two of everything in inventory into our cart. I felt like a pack mule pushing around our spoils as we headed to the register.

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Saturday morning, I got out early and marched the roads around Wisteria Lane. Even the downhill portions of the road were, in fact, uphill. I know this sounds impossible, but when you get to be my age, the impossible supplants both the unlikely and improbable when it’s least convenient. I saw some interesting things and had some great thoughts running around in the middle of the wild. As the roads were dry and dusty, I also had the grace of good luck, as I met no one on the roads during my entire trek.

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The above picture is to prove that all roads were paradoxically uphill. The sunlight comes a little later to the deep valleys where the cabins at Wisteria Lane are situated. It was worth the hiking to see it from a few different angles.

As for the next picture, I apologize for the weird HDR-esque quality. I tried using the filters on my phone until a prompt popped up and asked, “Are you high?” It was actually much darker than is evidenced by this picture. I loved the accidental result so much that I couldn’t bring myself to edit it out. In the distance, someone is clearing an immense amount of brush and trees. It was so tempting to venture out through there and stand in the middle of it. It would have been easy to imagine I had traveled back in time had I done so. Except I couldn’t be certain that sound of shotguns wouldn’t chase me back out.

People in those parts don’t subscribe to “Tomfoolery Quarterly, so it seemed safer to admire the torn earth from a distance.

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For fun, one of the projects I finally completed was making the “Blair Witch” stick symbols and hanging them from the canopy of trees. I bought some twine in Eureka Springs. While at the cabin, I meandered around the basin amidst the invisible snakes and collected a nice pile of hearty tree falls and snapped off relatively straight portions of their limbs. I then used the twine to tie the sticks together in the infamous “stick man” pattern. Dawn was very much interested in how my project might turn out, but she, of course, wanted nothing to with the process, preferring to remain high above on the cabin-length covered porch of our cabin. Even I eagerly found new discoveries in the trees, Dawn only offered commentary, leaving all the progress to me.

Not that anyone who knows me is going to worry about my views about witchcraft, voodoo, or omens, but in case you do, don’t worry about it. Not only because all such beliefs are both stupid and entertaining, but because my efforts were geared toward a good laugh. The idea of making several of these and placing them around someone’s house was amusing to me, especially if they are prone to being supersticious.

When I finished, I placed them up in the trees, like so…

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I imagine that it would have been hilarious had I fallen and snapped my neck. Imagine the obituary and the endless possibilities of creativity for any headline writer tasked with summing up the cause of my stupidity and demise.

I left the stick figures hanging in the trees. I hope that whoever cleans the cabins doesn’t have a minor nervous breakdown from all of them – or that the next visitor to these great cabins doesn’t notice them until their first morning at the cabins. Mayhem might indeed ensue under either of those scenarios.

I apologize in advance if anyone falls off the porch or gets scared by my bucket list project with the sticks. I’ve been meaning to do this for the last dozen visits, even as I constantly joked about all the vampires roaming the woods near Wisteria Lane.

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Above, I stopped and took a selfie as I cleared the apex of the largest hill. Again, it’s darker than it looks.

Even as I type these words, I miss it already. Some places seem to exist exuberantly outside of time and Wisteria Lane is just such a place. For being so close to home, it is an appreciated privilege for there to be such a place available to me.

Dawn didn’t drown me in the hot tub, push me over the edge of the porch, or hand me the exposed wires of a toaster during this peaceful weekend. I guess I did okay. She’ll let me know, I presume.

If I awaken tomorrow to find a Blair Witch stick figure on my front doorstep, I’ll assume it is the owner of Wisteria Lane starting her own haunting, to repay my capriciousness.

The 4th Of Course

 

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I tried to take a long walk this morning, even as the intermittent rain came to say hello. It was foggy and misty and felt like an abandoned world. Most of the houses were quiet, shuttered against last night’s war-like barrage of amateur fireworks. I didn’t find any bloody fingers or stick-impaled eyeballs, which surprised me, given both the age and impaired decision-making from last night’s festivities. Some of the house sidewalks and streets were littered with the corpses of hundreds of dollars worth of explosives. When you live in certain neighborhoods, it is pointless to expect anyone to be sensible about such things. A few of the houses looked like a party had been mysteriously vacated, with all the attendees dropping their beverage cans on the ground, leaving their fireworks in the grass and scattered on the sidewalk.

Last night, I watched the children a few houses down. Though this is Arkansas, I was surprised by the level of shenanigans these kids were exhibiting. It’s hard to surprise me about anything firework-related, as I was one of those kids who had access to literally any fireworks being made. When I was young, we had bottle rocket and Roman candle wars and there was no dare or challenge which went unaccepted when the 4th rolled around.

I always overcome my old-age sensibilities about fireworks. If someone blows off a hand, I will rush out and help them but it is a losing battle to try to curtail fireworks in residential neighborhoods unless one’s house is set on fire. (PS: But I’ll keep the hand as a souvenir.) All things considered, the 4th of July is good for the ER business.

The noteworthy event this morning was the older car which drove by without any lights about 5 minutes into my walk. Whoever was driving didn’t understand the fundamentals of a clutch, either. I could hear both the horrible sounds of grinding metal and the circus-like beat of Norteño music, one of the few genres which holds no appeal for me. About 100 feet past me, the car ran up onto the curb and stalled. A man exited the car and stumbled around to the back as if looking to see how far up on the curb he had driven. He stumbled back and it seemed like his head bounced off the car door as he bent and dropped back into the driver’s seat. I laughed, which probably demonstrates something about my character. The car revved and the clutch screeched as the car jumped off the curb and back into the road. Just as I was about to cringe from observing an impending collision with a car on the wrong side of the wrong, the mysterious car veered back into the middle of the street and kept moving. Instead of succumbing to my curiosity, I turned and walked the other way. I’m assuming the driver made it to wherever he thought he might be going. For my part, I didn’t feel like being a reluctant witness to a property damage report this morning.

In so many ways, the early morning of the 4th is like New Years Day: most of the world is sleeping and momentarily ignorant of whatever bad decisions were made the night before.

One of these days, I’m going to buy several 1,000 or 10,000 pack firecrackers and light them in random places across the neighborhood at about 5 a.m. I’ll choose the houses which have piles of volcanic grenades and fireball launchers left on the public sidewalk or in the street. It’ll be hard for those hypocrites to complain as I laugh at them when they groggily open their doors or peer through their windows, cursing. I did this more than once when I was younger and as mean as it might sound, it never failed to elicit a laugh, even from the ‘victim,’ although the mirth on their part always came later. (“It’s hard to laugh when you’re wearing a bathrobe.”)

Being old has its advantages. I might not stay up to watch the fireworks (which coincidentally look like every preceding firework display ever made), but I will get up at my normal hour to conduct my own fireworks display in your front yard, should you choose to fire off enough explosives to launch a war in the Middle East.

PS: When I was young, I saw the national fireworks display and a few years later got to sit at the literal edge of an ill-advised display at Lake Atalanta, inside the launching perimeter. It’s hard for anything to ‘wow’ me after those.

A Small Story for Friday the 13th

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A small story for Friday the 13th and the full moon… (I made the picture to set the mood):

He didn’t relish the role foisted upon him. He didn’t shy away from it, either. His only concern was that each deserving soul met its end at dusk. Whether guilt or innocence played a role in each participant’s demise failed to register for him. Life hadn’t altered its casual disdain for the perceived importance each player brought to his or her small part in the universe. His tired muscles could feel the pull exerted by the thirst for endings, anticipating a busy nightfall. From off in the distance, he could hear the amassing footsteps of those unaware of the unfolding promise of the night. Each of them expected a demon or the angel of death; none expected a fatigued man with a full face of worry lines and eyes burning with purpose. He’d greet them all, while pushing them onward toward the great ‘next.’

The Hans Gruber Party Pooper Service – By X

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Tired of the same old Yuletide parties that turn out to be more boring than eating uncooked pasta? Want a low-cost and entertaining means to end a party that simply has no Christmas Charisma? My new company “The X Hans Gruber Party Pooper Service” is taking calls for emergencies this Xmas weekend. Just give us a call and we’ll burst in to your party dressed as the infamous Hans Gruber crew from “Die Hard” and disperse your guests. For an additional fee, we will exterminate any reluctant-to-depart guests with extreme prejudice, as featured in the timeless Xmas movie starring Bruce Willis.

(I already have several clients. One of them asked me to bring the detonators to help disperse his guests and I foresee they are going to need a truckload of screen doors if it plays out anything like it did in the movie.)