Thursday, December 31, 2009

A few things I would become a "FAN" of in the New Year.

Facebook is always inviting me to become a "FAN" of something or other, so here are three groups I would join if they existed.


Derbe, "Skip" Eckhart is the idiot owner of Almost Heaven (But more like Hell) kennels who had several hundred animals seized from his property in 2008 during a raid, yet still claims he was only looking after their best interests. The legal battle still rages almost 15 months later. Here is hoping a judge sentences him to live in the same putrid conditions he thought those poor animals enjoyed. That likely won't happen, but I can hope.


Just turn off the TV, and refuse to read any rag that puts those two media whore train wrecks on the cover. If you really have to watch the boob tube, boycott any show that makes them the lead story by changing the channel. PBS is still decent, watch an episode of NOVA if you can. Hell, I would even watch project Runway or queer eye for the straight guy reruns if that was the only choice I had.


If you live in the Lehigh Valley, and have picked up a copy of the Tribune company's publication recently, you know exactly what I am talking about. Here are two recent headlines:

"Volunteer Firefighter sentenced for driving Trunk Drunk" and "Valley came into its down in the last decade."

It is a tragedy the way the owners of this conglomerate have gutted the local paper. All in the name of the bottom line. The daily misspellings and errors have become part of our local entertainment, as well as headlines concerning events that happened over a week before. Any day now I expect one informing us that we have a President who may not be white!

Okay, that is three things I would become a Fan of, what about yours?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The End of the year as it looks from my perch on Mount Trexlertown

I am one of those people who thinks it is absurd to use the last week of the calendar year as a reason to make a list of who died in the last 12 months and review it. It IS important to remember those no longer in our personal lives, but I did not see any celebrity as a particularly great loss.

In the Post "John and Kate" world, I think our culture has lost a piece of our collective soul by valuing such idiocy as relevant. I think we should be more concerned with improving the lives of those in our immediate community than following the lives of such starved for attention media whores like John and Kate and the balloon boys' parents.

We have truly become an ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) culture, we are unable to pay attention to the things we should for more than 5 seconds, before becoming distracted by news that some famous person was a) arrested, b) cheating on their spouse, c) trying to adopt a kid from a foreign country, or d) running for elected office, despite having nothing more than a pretty face.

Is it the End of the year, the end of civilization, or both?

What is really bothering me is that last Monday one of my relatives, Kenneth Casey died. We were both born at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Brighton Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. We were born eleven days apart, and like me, he just turned 48.

Last summer he was diagnosed with an inoperable Esophageal cancer. He went through the whole schedule of radiation treatments, and when he returned to the doctor in September, they told him he had a month left. In November they told him two weeks. He was in Hospice for the last month, and on Morphine during that time as well. He had slipped into a coma over the last weekend, and God in his mercy did not bring him out.
I didn't find out Kenneth was sick until my Uncle called me to tell me that he died, and make me aware of the service to be held on Saturday January ninth.

Kenneth Casey died at home with his daughter and grandchild nearby. Nothing makes you more aware of your mortality than the death of a family member close to your own age. He was the youngest of eleven children and the first of them to die.

I wept for him Tuesday night as I digested the news. Lately I have found reason to cry regularly. I find myself tearing up at the sight of military families as they stand beside the casket of their loved returning from overseas a final time. I cried as the vet gave Ethel an injection that ended her misery after a stroke.

I also cringe in anger as ideologues in government bicker over semantics as millions of Americans can't afford to both eat or pay for medicine that would improve the quality of their life or lengthen it. That doesn't make me cry, but it makes me angry.

It is absolutely mind boggling to me that I can take my terminally ill pet to a vet and end her misery. Yet for some reason a human being enduring horrific pain and near lethal levels of morphine to manage that pain is not allowed to ask for the same humane treatment. When we do it for a family pet, it is humane, but when we ask for it concerning a beloved family member, it is considered murder. Thank God that we are allowed to file DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders.

For the life of me, I can't understand why some ideologues insist on inflicting their religious beliefs on everybody else. One of the base tenets of all known religions is Mercy. Many of the so called great preachers of our time love to cite MERCY when it suits their purpose. Maybe in 2010 they will discover a new use for MERCY, but I doubt it. They have squandered their soul decrying the virtue less lives of those on reality TV, instead of addressing the real needs of those suffering in the real world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom, and thanks for the Christmas gifts.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the first full day of winter and every December 22 I think of my Mom, who was born on this day in 1916. Yes, my Mom would be 93 today if she were still alive.
My Mom was quite the story teller. As a woman who ran a foster home, she needed to have stories at the ready for every occasion.
When I was around twelve years old, we had a Christmas where the house was literally full of kids.
I had abandoned the whole Santa thing as early as first grade, but there were a couple staying with us who still counted on him.
That Christmas Eve we had a lot of snow, but at 6 PM Mom and Dad herded the half dozen staying with us the half block down East 6th Avenue to St. Thomas Church for the Christmas vigil mass.
I was an altar boy then, and I remember being on the altar, looking out at my parents and the unruly mob of orphans seated on the pew between them and smiling at them.
Today's blog is not about going to church on that Christmas Eve, it is about the story my Mom told the three kids under the age of seven to get them to go to sleep later that night. They had doubts that Santa would find them. They even argued that one of them should stay up to keep watch, and make sure he found them. So My Mom took a seat on one of the beds and called all of them over to it. Then she told them what she said was one of her tales from her own childhood.
The story was about how Santa got back to the North Pole just before dawn, and realized he had missed a stop at an orphanage. Despite being what my Mom described as "Bone Tired", he went into his shop, gathered up some toys, and headed back out. He delivered the toys as the sun was breaking the horizon, and the children in the orphanage rose just in time to wave to him as his sleigh lifted from the building's roof.
She told this story because one of the kids, I am not sure which one, asked her if Santa would be able to find him. He was worried because he had moved around so much and lived in so many different homes. This put doubt in the mind of a couple of the little girls, so my Mom decided to put that doubt at ease.
My Mom's point in telling that story was to reassure him and the other foster kids who were only staying with us on a temporary basis. She told them that Santa would always find them, no matter where they were.
In retrospect, I see it as the extraordinary act of kindness that it was. Every child in our home got a gift that Christmas, as they did every Christmas.
I feel very fortunate that I learned at a very early age that at Christmas time we don't always get the gift we want, but somehow we always end up with the gift we need.
Sometimes whether we want it or not.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I have had some bad weeks in my life. Last week was not the worst, but it was definitely not the best. So for tonight (Tuesday as I write this) I am going to focus on something I am happy about.

This year I finished a novel. Not 75%, n0t 90%, but 100%. I wrote it from start to finish over seven months. I based it on the outline I wrote seven years ago when my dog Fred died. This past Saturday Ethel joined him. In a way, I guess it symbolizes the cycle of life. I finished a book based on Fred, I have started one about Rags, the dog that preceded him, and now I wrote a brief history of Ethel to work from later.

I am happy that I had three such faithful furry friends around me, during my many good and bad times. I still have Lucy and Sally, and God willing, there will be more in the future.
But there is one distant memory I recalled, that in my all recent sorrow, managed to make me smile.

When I was growing up we had all kinds of animals around our home, not just cats and dogs, but rabbits, ducks, hamsters, and even a tortoise. And like all living things, eventually they would die, and my Dad would inter them in our personal family pet cemetery at the rear of our yard. In doing so, we would say an Our Father, a few words about our late pet, and then bow our heads. Dad would always close things up by telling the same old joke about an old Irishman and his dog. Dad would always change the name of the dog to the same as that of the pet we were burying, I think it was his way of reaching out to comfort whoever was mourning.

The joke went like this:

There was an old Irishman who had a faithful dog that went with him wherever he went. One day the dog died, and the Irishman wanted to give him a proper burial, so he went down the road to the nearest church, which happened to be Protestant. He walked up to the pastor and asked if he would have a service in memory of the dog, and let him bury the dog on the church's hallowed ground. "Lord, no," replied the pastor sternly. "We can't go burying a dog in the cemetery with people."
Disappointed, the old Irishman thanked him for his time, and went down the road to the next church, which happened to be Baptist.
Once again, the pastor was adamant there as well, that burying a dog in a cemetery with people just wasn't done.
So the Irishman went back on the road and continued along until he came to the local Catholic church.
From the Priest he got more of the same. "We just don't bury dogs in our cemetery," the priest shook his head sadly. "It isn't proper."

The old Irishman took a step back, and with a tear in his eye, bowed his head. "I would have thought there would be one church willing to bury my dog for $500 dollars."

The Priest's attitude immediately changed, and he let out a hearty laugh. "By God man, of course you can bury your dog here! Why didn't you tell me the dog was Catholic!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Missing Snuffy

I promise this will not turn into a "I miss my dog blog" but I have to get it out of me, this sense of loss I feel.
I thought I was getting past it, but this morning it really hit me. I got up for work at 4 AM, and when I opened the bathroom door after showering and shaving, she was not there waiting. I let my other two out into the yard, and I didn't have to go out and find her to get her in so I could leave. I knew where she was, to the left of the door, next to the Virgin Mary. I wouldn't have to mop the foyer from her contribution of muddy paws anymore.
But it really hit me as I went to leave, and I started to cry. I did what I have absently done so many times before, laying three treats out on the kitchen table, one for each dog. They always sit patiently as I handed them out. Because of her failing vision I would place it directly to her mouth, and she would take it gently.
I had three treats, but only two attentive dogs to give them to. I gave Sally and Lucy their treats, and went out the door, with the third treat in my hand. Instead of turning right to my car I turned left, walked into the grass and stopped at Snuffy's resting place. I did not toss it, I gently laid it on the ground. Then I went to work. I usually listen to the radio on the way, but today I couldn't even bear Christmas carols, I drove in silence.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ethel Mae Teresa Casey 6/26/96 - 12/12/09 Rest in Peace

On the left is Fred, and on the right is Ethel. My wife and I could not have been more blessed than to have the companionship of these two dogs in our lives.

Fred lived 16 years, I had his pain ended on May 9, 2002.

Ethel made Fred's last 4 years as his health gradually failed easier for all of us to cope with.

She didn't just rescue Fred, she rescued my wife and I as well.

We think she suffered a stroke last night as we were awakened by her crying around 3 AM. She was unable to get up and walk, her back legs kept falling out from under her and she kept falling down. My wife and I spent the early morning hours discussing options, but knowing in our hearts what we would eventually have to do.

My Wife had always promised Ethel she would not let her suffer and keep her alive for livings sake. As dawn came Ethel could not raise her head. She wouldn't eat or take any water, but the most important thing to us was she did not wag her tail. When we looked into her eyes, we could see that the dog we had loved for so long was not there anymore. She moaned, whimpered, and continually shuddered. She did not return our gaze, instead, she seemed to be distracted as if staring off into space.

I rose early and went out after 7 AM and started digging. I made the hole between our statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Anthony. It is right outside our picture window and the Morning sun shines brightly down on it and a Rosebush behind it. I called the Vet at 8 AM as soon as they opened, and explained the situation. They said to come at 9:15 AM. The Doctor who saw her was the same one who she has been seeing all her life. My Wife had to carry her into the Vet. The doctor calmly confirmed our observations, and my wife did me proud.

She followed through on her promise to her friend. She did not let her suffer.

We were back home by 9:45, and my wife spent a few minutes alone with her at my car's hatch/trunk wrapping her up in old blankets. When she was ready I carried Ethel to the rear of the yard and gently put her in her final resting place. We put two of her favorite balls in with her. It took me more than an hour to dig that hole, but less than ten to fill it in.

I cried the entire time, and I can't help crying now. It may sound ridiculous, but I was not going to leave her body at the Vet's office to be cremated along with a half dozen others. She was not just another dog, she was Ethel, and an Angel of God in her own way. This was her home, and she helped us make it a happy one. This is where she belongs, and she belongs here always.

Seven and a half years ago when Fred died, I wrote his story. Tonight I will write Ethel's. It is the least I can do for a Angel that didn't have wings, but had plenty of soft fur, and a very wet and sloppy tongue.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I am not ready for an AARP card, but I'm not bummed by it either.

I am not ready for it, but I have one in my wallet.

So another year has passed, and my downward march continues into oblivion. But there is hope!

Guess what my daily Horoscope in the paper says today?

Check this out:

If December 10 is your Birthday - Between now and mid-February, you might feel like that battery bunny that just keeps going and going. You possess initiative and business savvy, so you can make your fondest dreams come true. January is especially suitable for launching new business projects or working your way up the ladder of success. In May and June you may have the same urges to compete but could be misled and deluded into thinking you can win when the cards are stacked against you.

We believe what we want to believe, but more importantly, we always have hope. We always have a choice in the direction we take our lives. I don't plan my life around what I read in a horoscope. I hope most people don't but I understand there are some people that do.

Growing older is not something to fear. Getting an AARP card is not a statement about how far over the hill we are. It is more a statement of how far we have come, not har far we don't have left to go. And who is to say we don't have farther to go than we already have?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is this Your Neighbor? Bet you are glad you don't have their Electric Bill

It is Random Tuesday Thoughts time, and I have had a whole bunch of things running around inside my head the last few days.
Have any of you been into one of the Home Improvement stores lately? I think Lowes and Home Depot are having a contest to see who can sell the most stuff people can put on their lawn for any reason.
I really believe the Electric companies are behind this craziness to sell every power sucking idea they can come up with to the gullible consumer.
I don't mind the Christmas spirit, but really, some of these people are going too far. If the International Space Station can see your house without using a zoom lens, I think you have gone over the edge.
I appreciate the well done, attractive display as much as anybody, but some of these look like the participants are trying to push the Nuclear Reactor down near Pottstown to the limit. I can see the steam cloud from that baby from my house, and even at more than 30 miles, I think it is bigger than normal this time of year.
My real beef here is that some people leave their decorations on all night. There's nothing like having your neighbors 10,000 kilowatt flashing reindeer beaming from his roof through the drapes of your bedroom window all night, is there? The place for that stuff is Disney world, not your local neighborhood.
I hate being all Grinch like, but show some restraint people. It is a good thing Christmas doesn't happen in the summer when everybody has the AC on, we would probably have rolling blackouts at night from the drain on the power grid.
I personally don't want to get a quadruple digit electric bill in January, so whatever decorations I put up I put on a timer. They go on at dusk at shut off around ten. I don't believe I have an inalienable right to bother my neighbors with any possible glow of lights into their house while they are trying to sleep at night. But that's just me, Chris Casey, Mr. Considerate.
So here's my hope for a Merry Christmas. I like the lights, but please show some taste. And if you can't outdo your neighbors, do this: Buy stock in the Electric Company. It might be the only bright spot you can really appreciate.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bow Down, Bow Down, Before the power of Santa! And the Perfect Christmas gift? A bulk family casket package from Sam's club!

I love Christmas. At Chrismas time, there are people who act like assholes, and then immediately apologize!
I have noticed in recent days that many of them blog!
Because we all know, Santa is watching! and Reading Blogs. God knows he has nothing else to do.
Today's topic is how many American consumers have become victims of what I refer to as the the real Jolly Boots of doom, OUR CHRISTMAS CREDIT CARD DEBT.
Yep, the debts many Americans take on in December to feel good about themselves for about twelve minutes on Christmas day. Talk about having some body's boot on your neck? Well there it is. You buy your 8 year old nephew Timmy the Toy train set that was on his Christmas wish list his parents sent out to all 800 other family members, and your stomach turns as he picks up the box, takes a bite out of it, and sets it aside. He spends the day playing with the cardboard box his dad's new 54 inch TV came in, which is bigger than your apartment or house, and you sit in the corner crying. It wouldn't be so bad, but after buying your spouse/significant other a gift worth several grand, they have just informed you that they still aren't interested in sex right now or they appreciate the gift but think it best they move in a different direction.
I am lucky I have never been there, but God knows I have witnessed it. The Power of Santa is all consuming, if you don't realize how overpowering it can become. My wife will tell you, I have a very hard time getting money out of my pocket to spend it.
I don't bow down to the power of Santa, but I do double over in laughter at those of you who can't escape it. That's why I love Christmas. You always make me laugh. So Consider this a big thank you.
And if you really want to crack me up this year, take Grandma or Grandpa to Walmart online to pick out their casket or memorial earn. It's never too early to save a few bucks! I can't wait until Sam's Club starts selling the family pack in Bulk! Always low prices starting at 39.96. can you imagine if they had a display in the store?
Nothing say "Merry Christmas, I love you!" like a bulk casket purchase for the whole family.
Bow down before the power of Santa, and be happy he never tried to deliver caskets in his sleigh. That is one thing you wouldn't want to see under the old Christmas tree!

Monday, November 30, 2009

My version of Random Tuesday Blogging!

Hey everybody!

Welcome to my contribution to the Blogosphere's Random Tuesday extravaganza!

If you check out my Blogroll, you will see some wonderful, humorous bloggers who live all over the United States, Canada, and in one case, Australia.

I enjoy their contributions to Random Tuesday thoughts, so I decided I needed to share mine.

My chosen topic for today is all the useless brouhaha over the coming Apocalypse on December 21, 2012. The same group of doomsayers who warned us about Ronald Wilson Reagan (6 letters in each of his names that is 666!), and then warned us about Nostradamus and the year 2000 computer meltdown (Y2K Lookout!) are now pointing to the Mayan calendar as the messenger as doom, and this new movie should be taken as a warning!

Here is my explanation for why the Mayan calendar ends on that date:

Something happened to, or with the guy who was drawing it.

Who is to say he didn't go home that night and have a heart attack in his sleep, or trip and hit his head on a stone? My favorite possible explanation, and the one I feel most likely to be true, is that Mr Mayan Calendar maker didn't get paid. That's right, I would bet the Mayan civilization went bankrupt trying to bring about universal shaman care for all its citizens, and Mr Calendar maker stopped working on it because he wasn't going to take anymore I.O.U's from their Social security trust fund.

I would also like to point out that numbers are a creation of man. Numbers and days only mean what we want them to mean. Why do you think people read their Horoscopes? We don't have a clue, but we like the idea that we do, even when the truth is we don't.

Nostradamus had no clue, he was just writing down what the drugs were telling him. The same goes for the book of Revelation, it was one person's vision of the future, just like the Mayan calendar. I like the Classic Rock group Dire Straights, and in their song "Industrial disease" there is a line, "two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong."

Damn straight! Those guys had it right. With all these crazy doomsayers, I like to believe they are all wrong.

That's my random Tuesday thought. I hope to have them for many more years, but if you believe the Mayans, you only have Three more and three weeks to put up with any of it.

They say trouble comes in threes. Maybe I should post this at 9 pm, to add three hours to that.

Three years, Three weeks, and three hours until doomsday. Now I am part of the conspiracy! Boolyah!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Happy Thanksgiving.....without the Internet

Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year. It is always seems easy to me to point out everything that is wrong and gripe about it. I hope that everybody took a few minutes to reflect on the many things that people who happen to live in America take for granted and are a true blessing. (Insert what you are thankful for here.)

I traveled to Cape May Point New Jersey for Thanksgiving dinner, at the family beach house. It was a wonderful get together, made even more wonderful by the fact that the Internet was not working. How can this be, no Internet in America?Usually we have no problem with our wireless down there, but this time you no sooner got a connection than it failed.

I want to see Bill Curtis shoot his next "I just found the Internet" commercial there. We could find it, it just kept going into hiding. With Satellite transmissions being blocked by the aliens, it was a good thing that the cable TV still comes in the old fashioned way, by line on a telephone wire. Can you imagine if we would have had no TV? No Football?

I dare not to envision it.

These circumstances made for a nice Thanksgiving gathering, because no one could sneak away and bury themselves in their own little Internet world, reading email, browsing Facebook, or commenting on blogs.Instead we talked to each other face to face.

The women folk actually piled in the car and went shopping at Kmart after dinner. They couldn't go online in private, so they went out as a group. Later that night the family sat around the kitchen table playing board games, with much laughter involved.

There is something to be said about those rare family moments of shared experience. They are becoming few and far between. Those are the memories worth making, and that is another area where Americans are trailing the cultures of other parts of the world.

Technology has changed American culture in many ways, and not always for the better, because it has allowed us to become impersonal. We are more connected to others than ever, yet we are as distant than we have ever been.Thursday I caught a glimpse of a not so recent past that we are forgetting. I hope I get to see it again soon. I kind of liked it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some gifts are priceless, but the best one cost $6.89

James Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio on December 8, 1894, and attended Ohio State University.

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio. I attended The Ohio State University. I was born on December 10, 1961

James Thurber is one of my literary heroes. He is best well known for his cartoons and covers of The New Yorker magazine, but I know him for his wicked wit and view of life around him. To see his Wikipedia entry, click here.

I am always on the lookout in old bookstores for hard cover editions of James Thurber's books. In April of this year I was walking along downtown Main Street in Kutztown on a sunny Saturday, and saw that the small bookstore next to the stream was open.

It is called the Saucony Bookstore, and is located at 41 W. Main street. I went in and asked the proprietor if he had any Thurbers. He only had one, and I was ready to buy it, except....... I had no cash, and it was a cash only store. It was about to close at 4 PM, so I told him I would be back.

The book he had is a treasure, the one pictured above, The Thurber carnival. It was published and printed in 1945, and a stamp three pages in certifies that it was "manufactured in strict conformity with Government regulations for saving paper."

The book itself is a collection of his numerous short stories and written works between 1931 and 1945. Two of the more notable and known stories included are "There's an Owl in My Room," and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." The last twenty pages are reserved for excerpts from his what I feel was his most insightful book, "Men, Women, and Dogs"

Unfortunately for me, every time I had occasion to be in Kutztown, the bookstore was closed. I had mentioned to my wife how much I wanted that book, but as time passed, I had put it from my mind.

Then Saturday we were driving through Kutztown after running errands, and she spotted the large red, white and blue OPEN flag hanging at the door.
"Lets stop, I'll buy you that book, you always talk about," she proposed.

So we went in, and it took some searching, but the owner remembered me, and found where he had put it. So how much was this rare literary find, that I personally treasured?

It was six dollars and fifty cents, plus tax, for a grand total of $6.89.

Some people might think Thurber's Carnival must not be worth that much, and they would likely be right, because to most people James Thurber is a nobody. But to me James Thurber is a mentor, a writer who did it right, and followed his own path, like I try to.

My wife has given me many gifts in our years together, and while I treasure her love for me above any other, the present of a book that cost her less than $7.00 stands up there just below that as one of her best of them all. Thank you honey.

Some gifts, like love, can not be given a price tag, and this book was one of them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"The Best things happen while you're dancing"

Some of my readers might recognize the title of today's post as a song and dance number from the movie and current Irving Berlin Stage Play, "White Christmas." I saw it yesterday, and in a day or two I will give my review of the amazing show.

I'm using the title today though because it best represents how in my view many people like me dance our way through life. We leap, two step, and even pirouette our way our way across the dance floor from one side to the other, from the beginning to the end. When the music ends, we look back across the floor at points in our performance and look for spots where we can say, "yeah, I nailed it right there!"

Yesterday I had one of those moments, that if I get the chance in the final steps of my life, that I can look back on and say, "yeah, right there, that's what made life worth living, the dance worth doing."

Among the many things we did was visit Toys R' Us and the giant Ferris wheel inside the store, and we visited the Discovery Museum Titanic Exhibit. After lunch we saw "white Christmas before walking 8 blocks back to our bus, which was scheduled to leave at 5:15 PM.
We were on the bus heading home, my wife seated at the window, with her head on my shoulder. We had walked all over Manhattan and we were both tired. She sat up, leaned over, kissed me in the ear, and whispered: "Thank you honey for today, I love you."

Do I need to explain it any further. That is the kind of moment I want to never forget, a moment when all my doubts, mostly hidden, were erased by a few simple words from the woman I chose as my dance partner for life. I think I chose pretty well.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Fish, New beginnings

Yesterday Mrs C wanted to buy one new fish to keep our lone blue damsel company.

She ended up buying three, but on of them was a pink Goby. It looks identical to the one I found a picture of at Google images, which you see here.

We also got a new algae blennie, and some other multicolored rainbow looking fish, which I'm not waking her up at 1 AM to ask what it is again.

Most Importantly, we purchased a new heater for the aquarium. They are pretty simple things, and as of the last check, the tank was at 75 degrees and everybody was happy.

Except for our Blue Damsel. It seems our Pink Goby has taken over residence in the shipwreck and evicted her. Now she is hanging in the piece of blue pipe. It is kind of like being forced to move from a brick double on North 22nd street in Allentown to a illegal multifamily apartment row home conversion downtown near 6th and Linden.

So while Dory the Blue Damsel was moving around the tank, I was moving around on the Internet as well. I started compiling a list of agents to send possible queries to, and am asking friends to review my query letter for improvement. After every ending, there is a new beginning, and I am making mine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Endings, beginings, and whatever comes between

You know that saying about it is always darkest before the dawn? I hope dawn gets here soon.

So far this week, all but one of our fish died. I really don't know what happened to cause the heater to fail, but when I went into the family room early Sunday morning, our tropical tank was all fogged up, and the water temp had dropped to room temperature, 65 degrees. We had three floaters, and Bob the Algae Blennie died about four hours later. Only our Blue Damsel survived. As did all the crabs and snails. I guess they are more tolerant to the temperature drop than the fish were. As of tonight, our blue Damsel is actively swimming all over the place, looking for her friends. We think she is lonely.
I immediately started checking everything, and I reset the heater. Now the temperature is back where it belongs. I don't know if we had a power surge or what, but I am bummed. I found the fish soothing to look at when I was writing.

Sunday wasn't done with me with just the fish. I had to go to Redners for some vegetables, and when I came out, my right front tire was almost flat. I only live five minutes from Redners and sometimes I ride my bike there if I am only getting a couple of things. So I drove the car home the half mile on the back road, and changed the tire in my driveway. I rotated all of them while I was at it, and repaired the tire in my garage. The Army gave me many skills of which tire repair is one of them. I drove the 80 mile round trip to work today, and the tire held up, so I must have got that right.

But then I got home today, Monday, and opened my mailbox.

Two more rejection letters of my manuscript came.

This just further verifies for me what I originally believed, that a person acting as my editor was giving me B.S. Her interest only lay in eventually making money off me, whether I was published or not. I put a lot of heart and soul into that manuscript, and I didn't agree with some of the direction I was being urged to take.

I like to think the best of people and take them at their word, but I let this drag on too far. I haven't been this discouraged in a long time, but I will get over it. It isn't the result that makes life what it is, it is the journey we take along the way, and all the twists and turns that entails.
Just because you hit a dead end doesn't mean it is all over. I just have to back up, turn around and try another route, that's all.

So now I am working on a new query letter and assembling my own list of agents to approach.

Like the fish who ended up floating in the tank unexpectedly, I have to flush the past away and start anew. So off I go. Wish me luck?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thank God election day is over

I take great pride in being a "Super" voter. But voting in every election, while an exercise in civic duty, has a heavy price. You get robocalls and mail. Lots of both. And it is all spoon fed blather that either paints one candidate as a saint or the other as the Antichrist.

We have one of those phones that announces the name of the caller with a robot voice.

"Call from Unavailable was a constant echo in our home during daylight hours the last few weeks.

The best thing to do is to answer and immediately hang up. Then it doesn't call back 4,532 times until you answer. I cleared eight messages of the phone one afternoon when I got home from work.

Sometimes I wondered if our three dogs were bothered by some of the messages, which went on for several minutes. The dogs couldn't escape the blather, but at least they were informed, should they be allowed to vote. God knows they probably knew more about the candidates than most Allentown voters did.

Then there was the mailers.

Isn't there some irony that a candidate that preaches conservation of natural resources and protecting parks and green space would level a forest to get out that message? I looked at them, did a critique for later use over at the political blogs, and piled them by the door.

Now I have a lot of scrap paper. One candidate in particular has some of the weekly bills tallied across his face, but he was not the one in favor of recycling.

So now we have at least 6 months until the next cycle of primaries. Almost makes me pray for a black hole to suck the Earth in and bring time to a standstill.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A bad day for Rabbits Do you think that Roadkill has regrets right before it dies?

This is crazy Sally. We love Sally, but she does the damnedest things that makes me crazy and irritates the heck out of me.

We have invisible fence, but we still have to put Sally on a long leash because no matter how high we turn the shock up, she just ignores it.

So today I come home from work, and I let Sally, and our two other dogs, Lucy and Ethel, out in the yard. While they are out, I decided to sweep and mop our foyer and kitchen floors. When I finished that, I decided to sweep the porch. I finished up and called the dogs to come in.

Lucy and Ethel come right away, but Sally? She is out of sight, and her line runs towards the back deck. I go back there, and she is stuck. She has ran under the deck, jumped over some beams, and ran back out, wedging her line under there.
Do you know how much rain we have had? Do you know how muddy it was back there?
I had to get down and crawl under the deck to untangle her line. As I crawled under the deck, I thought I put my right hand in the mud. amongst the leaves.
I was wrong. Instead I put my hand into the corpse of a half eaten, freshly killed, headless rabbit.
Meanwhile, Lucy and Ethel have come off the porch to see what is going on. Lucy is watching from the walk, but Ethel has headed over to the bird feeders, and is now eating something.
I get Sally untangled, but now Ethel won't come. I get up, wipe my entrails soaked hand on the grass, and I head over to the bird feeder. Lo and behold, Ethel is enjoying a meal of fresh rabbit, also without a head.
You ever try to take meat from a dog? I am getting smarter, I picked her up from behind and took her from the meat. After I get the three dogs back in the house, I retrieved a shovel from the garage, and I bagged both bodies and deposited them in the big green bin for our garbage man. If I bury them in the swamp across the railroad behind the house, something will just dig them up.
I know in our community we have foxes, skunks, deer, and there have been BEAR sightings over on the mountain. I am not complaining about living so close too nature. But I do wonder sometimes, if nature ever complains about us living too close to it?
I think leaving half eaten rabbits in my yard are just nature's way of saying HI! So tell me, how has nature said HI! to you lately?
One more thing: I would rather nature say HI! with half eaten Squirrats, but after the Hawk left that squirrat on the deck with his head half eaten, I will take the headless rabbits over that any day. I hate seeing those dead looks on the creatures' faces after the food chain has been yanked.
There always seems to be a "Why Me?" expression on their face. Especially the roadkill, as if they are looking back at the car that hit them, and their last thought was, "Damn, I looked both ways, where did that one come from?"
So that's my rant for today.
I have a short story for Halloween I may or may not post. we will see how I feel Saturday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday morning Book review: The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

I love dogs, everybody who knows me knows that. Dogs are Central characters in just about everything I have ever written, and I am naturally drawn to books about dogs.

My first thought on hearing the title was that it was about 100 dogs. Well that was just some pretty unoriginal thinking on my part.
The story, according to the back cover, is this:

In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morissey was on the cusp of escaping Pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of one hundred dogs, dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body - with her memories intact.

Now she is a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica

I read this book yesterday afternoon, all 330 pages. Once I started, I couldn't put it down.

If you have ever read the Outlander books series by Diana Gabaldon, and you liked that, then you will enjoy this. As a guy of Irish descent, I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks of the main character to Oliver Cromwell's brutal genocidal war against the Irish in the 17th century. Because the main character has kept her memories over 350 years through two human lives and that of 100 dogs, relating the cruel events of her first life makes it easier to understand her cynicism of humanity in her second human incarnation. Throw in her casual observations from numerous dog life's at historical moments of note, ( i.e. one master was killed at Gettysburg) and you have a seasoned world wise mind in the body of a teenager, giving you an unexpected, and yes, enjoyable take on how humanity has evolved in 350 years. Or Not.

As I read this, I couldn't help thinking how civilization, for all the technological advances, keeps making the same mistakes over and over again, especially at the personal level. We still kill each other over the stupidest issues, and the authors occasional observations from a dogs point of view had me thinking that maybe dogs are smarter than us after all. A short interlude concerning two dogs named Spanky and Rico and a dogs view of homosexuality will give you something to think about.

I don't give away plot points or spoilers, but this was an enjoyable read that I would recommend for young adults on up. Hell, I am 47 and I am going to get another copy. I am going to ask the author to autograph so I can give it to my soon to be seventeen year old niece for her birthday. She has been on trips to the Island of St. Thomas, and sailed in the Caribbean with her Uncle, so I am sure she will appreciate it.

The author, Amy King, or A.S. King, was born and raised in nearby Berks County, and after living a decade in Ireland returned here a few years back and lives there now with her husband and children. They install kitchens and she does electrical work. Not all writers are millionaires, most of us have real jobs!

I always say we should support our local authors, and I give this book a big thumbs up.

The Dust of 100 Dogs is available on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble bookstores. The cost is $9.95 U.S. $11.95 Canadian. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Muppets on Pot!

You have got to see this to believe it. Muppets, a spoof of a famous Charlie Daniels band song, and Pot. Absolutely Priceless! You will not see this on Sesame Street!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lehigh Valley news is too crazy to believe

There is that old saying that "the Truth is Stranger than fiction"

How strange is the Truth in the Lehigh Valley?

Here are a few of my favorite news stories Locally:

This summer A local Volunteer Fireman was arrested and charged with DUI at the scene of a fire. His fellow Volunteers called police and turned him in. While that was hanging over his head, he was arrested and charged with breaking into a home over in Bethlehem and stealing a jar of change more than six months before that.

You can't make stuff this bizarre up.

Yesterday a local Post master was arrested after he drove around his area asking random women for sex. But things really hit the fan when he propositioned three girls, two who were under thirteen years of age. Police arrested him at the post office.
Residents were shocked, but he matched the description that a twelve year old girl gave of a man doing the same a month earlier.

Then there is the local high school coach who supplied cheerleaders alcohol and had a strip pole in his basement where they "Danced". I hear he has a plea worked out, and it may have already been adjudicated.

The TV show Law and Order could mine the Lehigh Valley for stories to last another 20 seasons.

Is there something in the water?

And finally.... a local High School student worked out a plea deal that kept him out of jail, after pleading guilty to photographing up the skirts of several dozen female school mates and posting the pictures to the Internet.

With all the adults acting bonkers, I am not surprised that kids are following suit.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Will America's long national nightmare ever end?

Just when you think The Gosselin Channel, er, I mean TLC, the Learning Channel is going to end our long national Nightmare and cancel all things John and Khate Gosselin, along comes the Heene family of Colorado.

What kind of dysfunctional family do you have to be to get a TV show these days? The Heenes were a one episode disaster on something called "Wife Swap."

I guess that one episode made them addicts of reality TV. Once is never enough, the saying goes. Nobody wants to be humiliated on TV just once. If you want to make the cover of People or be the lead story Entertainment tonight, having Septuplets ot Octuplets just won't do it in the 21st century.
Having a bizarre hair style straight out of trailer trash weekly or being a hen pecked loser who is sued by the network for breach of contract has been done.

So the Heene family of Colorado raised the bar to new heights, maybe pretending to have launched one of their children accidentally in their experimental weather balloon.

I was just wondering......... how many families have their own weather balloons? And while we are at it, if you look in your neighbors back yard and see a balloon shaped like a flying saucer, what would you say to your neighbor?

Hey, Mr. Heene, how is it going? want a beer?

Personally, if any of my neighbors from the Third world did something like that, I would call the police. But out west in Colorado, I guess everybody is doing their own science experiments, and having your kid possibly float off on board your weather balloon is an everyday occurrence.

So you know what is coming, a made for Television Movie, the countless interviews, and hopefully my personal favorite Mr. Heene will do an interview with Nancy Grace.

I just can't wait! It will never end. And the Octomom's show is coming in the spring. The Nightmare is just beginning.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

For an aspiring writer, reality sets in, and that is okay

Today I received something I have been expecting for quite awhile.

A rejection of my novel from an agent. I was not sold on the hype I was receiving from the person editing my manuscript. I had sold the agent on the concept, and she wrote me that she enjoyed my work after reading the manuscript over three days. She offered a candid critique, and some suggestions, but she also explained she felt the market wasn't ready for my topic at this time.

I am not going to be surprised if I get more of the same in the coming weeks. I am proud that I put the work out and finished what I did, but I have no delusions about what writing a novel for publication entails. I am going to keep writing stories because I enjoy doing it.

I am disappointed, but I am also relieved. Life goes on.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Skippy the Skunk visits Trexlertown

Last night about 7:30 I was sitting on my porch enjoying a cold Coors light with all three dogs, when I heard an animal scream. I think it was a cat, and it came from the swampy area behind our home. Then a powerful and unmistakable odor reached my nose. The two older dogs rose and headed to go into the house. But Crazy Sally, our Cocker/Springer mix, bounded off the porch to investigate. I jumped out of my chair and grabbed her, carrying her back into the house.
It is that time of year, when the natural wildlife gets more active. There were rabid skunks caught this year in nearby communities, and even though our girls are all licensed and up to date on shots, I am taking no chances. I am sure the foxes will be making their presence known soon, and there will be the mandatory bathing of a certain dog who loves to roll in deer scat.
Last year we had a Bear on Lower Mountain road over at the Maxatawny/Lower Macungie Township border. I hope we never get one around here. God knows what the dogs would do, but I have no doubt they would roll in the Bear poop. Now that I am not looking forward to.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October means one thing: Flaming Pumpkins!

Last year I was out doing yard work on a Sunday when a neighbor Mom chastised her son for hitting his little sister in the head with a flaming pumpkin. There were no reported serious injuries then, but I hope this year to ward off any more flaming pumpkin attacks before they happen.
I don't usually decorate for Halloween, and I am not leaning towards it, but Mrs C spotted a big pink flying pig at Lowes that she thinks we should have as a Christmas decoration.
Can somebody tell me how a big pink pig with wings has anything to do with Christmas?
Are they like the emergency back up crew for Santa if the Reindeer come down with Swine Flu? (Pun Intended)
Think about it and get back to me. In the meantime, I have the Fire department and the EMT's on standby. You never know when someone is going to get whacked with a flaming pumpkin in Trexlertown. God knows there are enough of them sitting on the porches around here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Send Lawyers Guns and Money

I love living in the bucolic settings of somewhat rural Lehigh County, near the Berks County border. I live in Trexlertown, which is located in the Southwest corner of Upper Macungie Township. You can walk from one end of Trexlertown to the other in about fifteen minutes.

But hey, we are going big time drug dealer out here! Check out this news story that shows we have our share of big city problems!

Upper Macungie man charged with growing marijuana in closet

Berks Lehigh Regional police say an Upper Macungie man was doing
a special kind of gardening, the kind that requires night vision goggles
and hydroponic lights.Joseph J. Fugazzotto, 28, of 5946 Daniel St., was
charged Friday with growing 52 marijuana plants in a hydroponic
growing operation in the closet of his Upper Macungie home, according
to court records.According to an arrest affudavit:A state parole agent
went to the home on July 23 after receiving information that Fugazzotto
was growing marijuana in his home.

The parole agent asked Fugazzotto
to submit to a urine test and it tested positive.Berks-Lehigh Regional police
took over, and along with the Lehigh County Drug Task Force,
found 52 plants, a large grow lamp, night vision goggles, a marijuana
horticulture book, marijuana seeds, smoking pipes and other items.
He was charged with possession with intent to deliver marijuana,
possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
He was arraigned before District Judge Rod Beck and sent to
Lehigh County Prison on $25,000 bail.

-- Reporting by Manuel Gamiz Jr., The Morning Call

You know, if I ever need the stuff for personal use, (Like medicinally, of course) and should the government wisely decide to legalize and tax it, it is good to know that I can get the stuff grown locally. I hope at the same Amish run family market that I get my eggplant and red or green bell peppers. Just think how that might help the cost of healthcare?

BTW, as far as I know, District Judge Rod Beck is not related to the deceased former Major League Pitcher Rod Beck, who died a few years ago of a suspected drug overdose. If it were one and the same, that would be true irony.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Goodbye RCN

Today after work, I made what I hope will be my last visit to RCN's office on Avenue C in Bethlehem PA.

I took the one dysfunctional converter box that I had and turned it on. We now have Direct TV, the 150 channel package at 34.99 a month, plus 3 additional converter boxes at $5 bucks a piece. My bill for Television will be $49.99 a month for one year, and then goes up to a total of $69.99 a month for the second year of the two year contract. We made out with substantial savings over what we were paying RCN for the same product, and all 4 TV's now have all the same channels.

Here is what was eye opening about my visit to RCN.

I was not the only dissatisfied customer. I waited in a line of more than thirty people to turn my box in at 4PM, and there were even more there when I left.

While standing in line, I heard several stories of the horror of dealing with RCN, many that I could commiserate with.

What it boiled down to was horrible customer service, and greed on RCN's part. I know I was not the only one fed up with trying to navigate their automated phone system. After wading through it, you were likely directed to a tech located somewhere in South east Asia for whom English was a second language.

RCN claims they did this whole upgrade thing to better serve the customer. I have no doubt they did it to better serve their profits.
Can you imagine how bad their Internet and phone service must be? Thank God for Verizon DSL.

I saw the U-tube video of the comcast tech sleeping on a customer's couch the other day, right after I saw a commercial for Comcast touting its superior service.
Maybe RCN was trying to catch up with them.

By the looks of the line of dissatisfied customers at the office in Bethlehem, I would say they are not that far behind.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I live about ten miles west of the third largest city in Pennsylvania, Allentown. Now you would think that a city with 120,000 residents and close to a total of a half million living in the metro area would have a newspaper presence of some distinction.

You would be wrong.

If you visit their website, here is one of today's Allentown Morning Call lead stories/headlines:

Kate says dogs will be back

I am friendly with several people who work there, and I know they cringe at some of what the paper has become, but after they published a PDF of Jon Gosselins speeding ticket for driving 78 MPH in a 55 MPH zone, I accepted that all semblance of real news was permanently lost.

Now unless you have been living in the caves of Afghanistan, you likely have been subjected to daily news stories about The Learning Channel's highest rated television show, Jon and Kate Plus Eight.

I will spare you the gory details, but this show is the train wreck of reality TV. Period

What happens on this show, and behind the scenes, is now deemed more newsworthy than say, important things like Health care, or all the crime in your neighborhood.

Really what do you think should be more important, more newsworthy, the fact that there is a gang operating in Allentown doing home invasions and armed robberies of private residences during daylight hours, or a story about Jon and Kate's dogs?

You guessed it, THE DOGS!

And you want to know how really fouled up this story shows the public to be?

People are leaving comments about how Kate made the right decision, sending the dogs to a place where they will get the attention and love they need.

Stop right there. Think about that for a minute.

Wouldn't it be a great idea if Jon and Kate were to do that for their eight kids, and not just the dogs?
How about giving the eight kids the love and attention they need, without faking it for the television audience?

(By the way, if you want to read the most outrageous hilarious blog ever conceived that deals with the first family of media dysfunction check out this one, titled Gosselins Without Pity.)

You know in twenty years we will be reading the tell all story, probably by the same publisher who came out with all those "growing up Brady" memoirs. If you think Barry (Greg) and Mrs Brady (Florence Henderson) had some fun, I am sure there are plenty of Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kentucky residents out there who can't wait to hear what these kids were witness too, if they can find someone to read it to them.

That's my rant for this month.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I hate our Cable provider.

We are one of those families who thanks to the wisdom of our Township Supervisors back in the late 1980s and early 1990s don't get a choice of cable provider. You see, back then RCN and Service Electric paid for exclusivity rights in new developments. (Our house was built in 1991)
The Supervisors eagerly gobbled up the rights fees into the public treasury, trading away the rights of future residents to have a choice. It wasn't just Upper Macungie, all of them in the Lehigh Valley and beyond did it when they could.
The worst part is that when new developments were built, all the utilities (Phone,Cable, Electric) that usually were supplied by above ground pole were put under ground.

That is aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood, but it also cost prohibitive to future competition. It is a lot cheaper to tun wires from pole to pole than it is to dig up stretches of a neighborhood and snake a cable in on already existing conduits.

WE asked about getting a different provider, but that will only happen if more than 50% of the residents sign up for it. That is the only way "competition" can afford to come in.

Which brings me to my disgust with RCN. We have lived in Trexlertown for more than 5 years.
During that time our digital cable box that enabled us to watch premium channels had "issues" more than a dozen times. We went extended periods of time (Weeks) where we couldn't watch TV in our family room. If you called RCN customer service, you ended up talking to someone with a decidedly South east Asian accent named "Bob" or "Mary" . Gotta love outsourcing.

They would send signals resetting the box through the lines, and it would start working again...... for a while. Three times I have had to make the twenty mile drive to their office and trade in the box. I did this as recently again as last month.

And that brings me to my latest rage against them.

We received Phone calls telling us to get ready for the big Hi-def upgrade coming Sept 8th.
They sent us a new channel layout to view. The Channels now go from two to over 1000, but there are only actually about a hundred that work. We got rid of all the premium HBO /Cinemax stuff because we rarely, if ever watched it.

Here is the rub. We have 4 TVs in our house. One in the kitchen, one in the Family Room, one in the office, and one in the Master bedroom.

The only one we can watch is in the Family room.

I was at their office, and asked specific questions, and the dimwit at the counter told me all would be well.

Well the dimwit was wrong.

We now need a box for each TV, at a charge of $3.99 a month per box. They also refuse to sell it to you, you HAVE to rent it from them. I checked around, No one is allowed to sell them retail.


RCN also claims that they have to come into your house and install each box on each TV.

This is where I really go nuts. WHY?

You see those boxes they have been trading me? The one I have works no matter what room I move it to. Why can't they just give me three more and let me hook them up?
My wife and I both work full time, and that means one of us has to stay home from work.
We have been through this, the RCN guy makes his own schedule, he shows up when it is convenient for him.

Instead, they want me to let their technician in my home. Did the Township government sign away my right to privacy as well?

Under the guise of improving service, RCN is only stealing from its customers. My wife and I cut back our options and thought we were substantially lowering our cable bill by getting rid of services we did not use or need. RCN found another way to gouge us.

Anybody else as mad as I am?

Thank God I have Bill Curtis approved Internet access, I would hate to see how much RCN would rob me for that.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I visit a Yard (Garage) Sale!

Saturday Morning I was up bright and early. By 8 AM I was over at Vallos bakery and picked up crullers and cookies. I also stopped at the Allentown Farmer’s market and purchased some fresh pork chops and soup bones to make for my three puppy girls.
(That sounds sort of gay, huh? Oh well.)

It rained torrentially the entire time, but despite that I made one last stop before returning home. I pulled in at a YARD SALE. But not just any YARD SALE, I parked in front of a notorious home in western Lehigh County. A home that was once the sight of a garage fire, but on Saturday was the sight of a now GARAGE SALE.
Yes, I visited the castle fortress of the renowned Morning Call columnist, BILL WHITE.

There was the usual collection of things to be sold by a family of empty nesters, but one thing that caught my eye was a huge stuffed Pig. I had ideas about purchasing him and naming him either Reichley or Angle, but someone beat me to it.
As it is, I purchased a big stuffed gray rhinoceros and one book. All for the outrageous price of ONE DOLLAR! Don’t ask about the Rhino, but for now I have named him “Ron.”

The book though, was actually three books in one. The author? DR. SEUSS!
The title was “Yertle the Turtle and other stories.” The two other stories were: “Gertrude McFuzz” and “The Big Brag.”

A few years back there was a wildly successful book that was that claimed all they ever needed to know the author learned in Kindergarten.

I like to think that I learned quite a few lessons before I ever went to kindergarten by reading books by Dr. Seuss.

Isn’t it amazing how picking up a children’s book and browsing through it, we adults can trigger long lost memories of lessons learned long ago, and yet somehow forgotten?
Lessons like tolerance and acceptance of others that are different?
Why pay thirty bucks for the latest mental blather from Dr. Phil when you can pick up a forty year old Dr. Seuss at a yard sale and get the same message?

That’s my brain fart for this week. I hope to take Mrs. C to the movies this weekend, and maybe see the new Jennifer Aniston/Aaron Eckhart Movie, “Love Happens.” If that happens, pop back Sunday for my review.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Come Saturday morning, the summer has ended.

It is a simple pleasure of life for me, sitting at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning. three dogs curled up on an over sized bed at my feet, while I read the news online and enjoy my omelet and coffee.

According to the calendar, summer does not end for at least another week, but the silence that hangs down from the gray skies this morning says that is over.

Pumpkins are already starting to appear on doorsteps around the neighborhood, and the leaves, sparse and few on the ground just days ago, are beginning to make their presence notable as the wind deposits them on my deck and porch.

There is work to be done yard wise. For the next couple of months it will be leaf raking, but then comes the heavier chore, snow shoveling.

The dogs, sleeping at my feet for now, will bounce around as I attempt to gather leaves, scattering them as I try and corral the mess to the curb for the Township pick up crew.

They will also frolic in the snow, and afford me more work, as I will have to towel off all three of them before allowing them back in the house.

Summer has ended, but the work is never done. and that makes me glad.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Reflections on the 13th Wedding anniversary.

(I have several posts I have composed on files in MS Word, but I am going to do something I rarely do, and post something directly from my personal journal)

Thirteen years ago today, as the sun was setting somewhere behind the cloud cover of Hurricane Fran, my wife and I shared our wedding vows under a tent during an incredible downpour.
We are going to be heading out to dinner later this afternoon, but a few minutes ago I put her hammock out in the yard so she could use it to read in later this evening.
I hung it, and then I lay down in it.

My eyes wandered into the nearby treeline hovering above, where I noticed a squirrel busily building a nest. I watched it traverse back and forth with small branches, and my patience was rewarded when I saw the other half of a happy couple scampering from along the railroad track and join in the building.

We have not had too many squirrels in the last year. All I have seen of them is their rotting carcasses after the reigning head of the local arboreal food chain, the Red Tail Hawk Family, has made them a dinner entree. That's how it goes in nature, somebody always ends up as someone else's dinner. The Hawk family regularly left whatever remained after dinner on the ground behind our deck. I kept it cleaned up because I did not want our dogs snacking on it.

Anyway, I wonder about these two squirrels, building their new home in such a perilous place.
Who knows when Mr. Hawk is going to come back and reclaim his old territory? They are building their home in the next tree over and under from the old Hawk nest.

I wonder who their realtor was?

And are they newlyweds? Are they as oblivious to the challenges they will face in nature as much as my wife and I were thirteen years ago on our wedding day?
We thought we were as ready as we could be, but life still threw us a few curve balls.

We have made it this far, because we faced our challenges together. Watching those squirrels build their home, and exerting so much effort, made me smile. I am not a big fan of squirrels, but I am a big fan of effort. I hope they make it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Three Pigs in a Blanket? No, Three Dogs on a bed

Wow, what a beautiful Monday evening. Around seven o'clock I spent about twenty minutes sitting out on my front porch watching the dogs amuse themselves chasing birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and anything else that dared trespass into our yard. Now they are tired, and I am sitting at the kitchen table writing on my laptop. That is where I took this picture.

I am outlining the story of my childhood buddy, Rags the dog, and trying to figure out where to start the story. The day we brought Rags home, or the day we left his predecessor, a dog named Blackie, at the Vet, because someone had fed Blackie ground meet with glass and he died in surgery.

People are cruel to one another, but not dogs. they establish their territories, and then they abide by them.

Dogs have the right idea. Let's all just get along.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sorry, I have been preoccupied

Sorry about the lack of new posts to my two dozen loyal readers, but I have been busy.

First I attended my H.S. 30 year reunion last weekend. I had to drive a round trip of over 1000 miles to see some old friends, but it was interesting.

Second I am working on a second book, while editing the first.

Throw in that I am still working full time Monday thru Friday, and you get my drift.

Election season is coming, but I hope to have my novel ready and all edits finished by October first. I love writing about politics, and the Pennsylvania state budget fiasco is a big honking target, but I just don't have as much time to opinionate as I would like.

Eventually I will get back to blogging regularly, but right now I am having too much fun elsewhere. Sorry!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saturday, in the park, I think it was the not the 4th of July

Saturday started out like it was not going to go so well. Mrs C and I headed to lunch at the Texas Roadhouse. We were in the mood for steak. We were seated. And for 15 minutes, while people were seated and served all around us, we were ignored.

So we left.

We went elsewhere for lunch.

That happens sometimes. We went to a local family owned Italian place, and had a great meal. Sometimes things work out for the best.

Last night we went to the baseball game at Coca-Cola park. Home team won, and Mrs C's favorite player, the one she claims has a cute tooshie (DH Mike Cervenak) , hit a home run. That was enough fireworks for us, we left as the game ended, and the rain started. good Timing!

Now what has been on my mind? see the next post Monday. I have put together a musical movie quiz in honor of the king of the Brat pack movies, John Hughes. He died last week, and I have compiled lyrics from the great soundtracks from his many movies.

As I was going through them I was amazed at how much great eighties music there was in his films. So check it out Monday night. I want to make sure they are all correct.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tell me why i don't Like Mondays, I want to Shoot the Whole Day Down!




Is there any other day of the week that we all want to avoid any more than Monday?

I think it would really help the economy if we went to a three day work week. Everybody should get a four day weekend! Can you imagine if you could pick your days off like that?

I would immediately choose a Tuesday through Thursday work week, with Friday through Monday off!

I am even willing to compromise, How about this?

What if Ages 16 to 35 have to work 5 days a week, 35 to 49 four days a week, and 50 + only three?

I am a frickin genius! I should be in government!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Had a "SlingBlade" moment.

I like to spend some solitary time on Sunday at Fairview Cemetery on South Lehigh Street in Allentown. Every week I mow and weed whack around markers in sections O, N, and P. Every other week I hit 5 specific graves in other sections. Three are Revolutionary War veterans, and one was a Battlefield Surgeon in the fifth PA Regiment during the Civil War at the Battle of the Wilderness. The Fifth grave is for a Sgt William Miller, who served in a PA Artillery regiment at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

Someday I will get around to doing some kind of virtual tour of the Fairview Cemeteries' more notable residents, but for now I want to share my "Karl" moment this past Sunday.
I was mowing away around Lt Saeger's grave (Rev War) when the mower started acting up.

I thought maybe it was overheating, so when I finished there I rolled it under some trees and into the shade while I weed whacked. I went over to Sgt Miller's grave and started cleaning up debris, and when I started the mower a few minutes later it fired right up. For about 30 seconds.
I would prime it, pull the starter, and it would run a few seconds before dying. I checked the oil, and it was fine.

Wait for it........ Yes, it was out of gas.I had 4 gallons of fuel with me, but forgot to fill it before leaving the house.

There is a scene in Slingblade where they bring Karl a mower that won't run, and he fixes it by putting fuel in it.

All together now: DUH!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Social Networking for Introverts: Fartbook!

Everybody is either "tweeting" or doing something on Facebook.

That's fine, if you have time for it, but I don't. However, because I enjoy going against the grain in all things, I have decided to look into starting my own social network.

I am going to call it "Fartbook!"

Instead of creating friends, this network will allow you to list the people you would like to FART on. Now you can list all the people you don't want to be friends with!

It doesn't necessarily mean that you don't like these people, it just means that you don't want to hang with them.

Sort of like High school, for people who haven't grown up.

What do you think? Does "Fartbook" have a future? Can I develop it and sell it to Google for a zillion dollars?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Questions I would like to ask

Okay gang, I have a lot on my mind, but here goes:

Do we really care if Michael Jackson was murdered or not? Should it be front page news? I kind of think Afghanistan is more important, but who knows.

My local paper is reporting that a local girl is dating John of "John and Kate plus eight."
That was their freaking lead headline. Is this what America's lowest denominator has evolved to? This is news?

And Finally, my dog Sally ate a loaf of fresh bread today. She is the only one of our three dogs with the ability to reach the counter. She is so damn cute though, and skinny, so I am glad it was probably her. The question is, why would she eat the bread, and not the fresh rotisserie chicken?
That she did not touch. Hmmm.

Anyway, today's big question is I have a co-worker who is cheating on his wife with another co-worker. The wife calls and asks me at work where he is. I tell the truth, that he left for lunch. I don't tell her that he went to lunch with his paramour. I don't know what they are doing, but she shows up and is waiting in the lot when he and other lady come back from lunch.
Comedy is not pretty. She threw his ass out.
I did not get involved. As long as the work gets done, I can't do anything. What would you do?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who the hell is following me on Tweeter? I am the "Anti-Twit!"

I Tweet.

Sometimes. I haven't tweeted in a couple of weeks, but I check in every few days to read what others are tweeting. I also get emails notifying me when people are following me.

Now if it is somebody I know, I am fine with it, but lately i keep getting tweeted by women I have never met. They have names like "sexyeliza" or "humpalina" (I am exagerating here), and when I curiously click on their profile, I will see they are following some ridiculous number like 4,891, but only have three followers.

I block these.

I have become a very discerning tweeter. I like reading the fun from Small Town Mommy, Cooking with Anne, crazy Kathy Frederick, or Wacky Bill White, but I am culling my tweeter herd. I am not doing an Ashton Kutcher and trying for a million followers.

I sorta don't mind if nobody follows me. I am like the "Anti-Twit"

So PA state rep Marc Cohen, stop twittering and get a state budget passed. Let John Micek of the Morning Call have a day off. And everybody pray for Kathy Frederick at the Blogher conference, where she will elaborate on the life of everyone's favorite Lehigh valley plastic bag in a tree, "Windy!"

I would rather fill my bird feeders than tweet, is that less than 140?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Guys! Manners matter to women!

I like to think of myself as a regular guy. When I was a kid, my Dad taught me many things. One thing he taught me that I still do to this day is to hold the door for a lady, or when approaching an automatic door, to step aside and always let a lady or ladies go first.

It makes me crazy these days, to see that most men have forgotten this social grace.

I find it ironic that I hear from younger men about their troubles in finding women, and getting women to give them a chance. I hear these stories of woe at work and at my gym especially.

So I am going to offer a bit of advice to you guys, seeing as tonight is Saturday night, and some of you have dates.
When you are going to the restaurant or theater, hold the door for her. When you are walking her to your car, get the door for her. I have been married since 1996, and I still do it for my wife. So I also want to stress that it needs to become a habit. Don't do it just to win the lady, do it to keep her, and should you have a future, do like my Dad and teach your sons to do it as well.

Guys, I also want to stress that you just don't do it for the object of your affection, you should do it for all women, no matter their age, physical attributes whatever.

Do it for the eighty year old lady, or the Mom struggling to push a stroller. Why, you ask?

Because other women will see you do that. They will see you performing that small act of kindness, and they will think, "Hey, what a nice guy."

I want you to think of it like creating a resume for women to read. When you are trying to get the job you want, you always put your best foot forward and try to broaden your skill set.
So why not do that when trying to find a quality lady?

Women want a guy who respects them. Grand gestures do make a big splash, but can be undone by one act of stupidity. Constant visible acts of kindness, such as holding a door, mean more in the long run. It says to the ladies that you know how to behave, and how to treat them right. You might still have some rough edges, but they will see potential, and that is important.

Okay, that is my tip/gripe for today. I am thinking that every Saturday I should offer my take on manners for guys. Maybe next week I will espouse on why I hate guys who blow their nose in their hand and wipe it on their pants., yeah, like I want to shake your hand.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fish Update!

My regular readers know that a few weeks ago I got some new fish for our tank and some crabs.

Yeah, I know how that sounds.

Anyways, my favorite purchase was Mr. Shy, the carnivore Shrimp. He replaced cranky the crab, who rolled over and played, "Bait."
A couple of weeks ago, Mr Shy disappeared. We thought maybe he had shed his skin and was hiding.

We were wrong. We believe the rest of the residents ate him. All I found when I was cleaning the tank was a single antennae.

I am bummed. So now I'm thinking I could be saving some bucks and just digging worms up out of the yard and throwing them in the tank.

Cut out the middleman, as it were. What do you guys think?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Finishing what I started

Back in May 2002, I had to put my best buddy, Fred the dog down. He had lived with me for over 16 years. That is pretty damn old for a dog. I had just turned forty years old, and he was truly the best and most loyal friend a guy could have had. (Spouse doesn't count here.)

I sat down at the desktop computer a couple of times during my journal writing and composed what ended up as a seventy three page story of our life together. It was a basic outline, with some events more detailed than others.

Last November at a writers guild meeting, I learned about a local publisher who was looking for new talent. So I went to the workshop, and for my sample I read my retelling of events at the Veterinarian's office the day I put him down.
When I was done, there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

I sorta knew then that maybe I had something, but I figured too many of them had read Marley and Me by John Grogan, and seen the movie, so I blew off the accolades.

I was not going to write this book. The Editor from Woodley Books, a very nice older woman, Ellen Roberts, called and emailed me repeatedly, trying to convince me to do it.

The problem for me was that to do Fred justice, I had to revisit the most painful and difficult times of my life. The years when I struggled with alcohol. A time when I dealt with stress by drinking myself numb. During that time, before I met my wife, I suffered the worst heartbreak I had ever thought possible, the death of good friends, and the death of my father.
In January, over the course of a weekend, I wrote a one hundred and seventy page hot draft outline covering what Fred and I went through together. It was painful, and I found myself in tears many times, but I pushed on.

Who really wants to go back there and look at that again? I didn't. But something inside me realized I was at a point in life where I could revisit it all, and put it to bed on my terms, not on the terms of my good friends Jimmy Beam, Jackie Daniels, and my old pal Coors light.

We still make conversation at times, those three and I, but we are not near as close as we once were. There were many nights in the first half of the book in the Spring where I put a few beers away and did a couple of shots to loosen up the inhibitions and write what I needed to.

That was the biggest thing, I was reluctant to write the story with me being the asshole I really was. So with encouragements from my editor, I wrote the story as fiction, using my life experience as a guideline.

That did the trick. I compressed the story of the struggle from 16 years to ten, and created an altar ego to play the narrator. I could disassociate myself from the character, so I had no problem attributing all the cruddy things he did to people to him. I changed all the names and places, to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.
The book is a work of fiction, loosely based on my life experiences, but the story of Fred that I tell within is pretty dead on, about a dog who acted as a guardian angel, a canine sponsor for a lost soul.

Tonight I finished the last chapter. And I cried when I was done. So sue me.

Do Dogs go to heaven? I sure hope so, because that is where they deserve to go.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Break time!

Tonight at seven o'clock I put the finishing touches on Chapter number 30 of my novel about a dog that rescues an alcoholic Army vet.
Only six more to rewrite and edit!

It will probably end up around 300 pages after the last edit by the "professional."

I expect to have my part done by around July the eighth. I would probably get it done next weekend, and I might, if it rains at the shore on the fourth, and I have nothing else to do.

I have been working on it since December and it has been a labor of love, based on a eulogy I wrote for a great dog back in May 2002. It has evolved into something so much more, and my editor and agent are eagerly awaiting the not quite finished project. My weekly meeting to report on my progress and go over the chapters I finished is tomorrow afternoon after work.
In late July I have a test group ready to read it and give input.

It is a work of fiction, but I drew from real life events to drive the story. I hope someday early next year it will be at the local bookstore. It is my dream, and I may not get it, but it will not be from lack of trying.

I will be back to regular three times a week blog posting sometime in July. After I finish this I will need a break. I still write daily in my journal, but between my full time job, my part time property management, and writing my novel, blogging regularly got put aside.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Marriage maintenance with Mrs. C!

My wife and I both work full time, and we also have separate interests that we like to indulge in.
For that reason, we keep Saturdays as OUR day.

Yesterday was one of the better ones. we left home about noon and headed over towards the Regal cinema on Route 378 on the south side of Bethlehem.
We had lunch at Starter's Pub, ($37.00 with tip) and then we went to the movies.

I purchased us tickets for "Night at the Museum 2" ($13.00) and up until the very moment the movie started, we were the only people in the theater. When the announcement played to please turn off all electronic devices, I stood up and announced to the empty theater: "You hear that? Don't make me come down there!" This made Mrs C laugh. The Regal Cinema has stadium seating, and Mrs C and I sat in th very back row, right in the middle.

It is always nice to be able to go to the theater and hold your sweetie against your shoulder during a movie. I hope I am never too old to do that.

The movie was very funny, and it is a great date movie. Ben Stiller is great at deadpan comedy, and delivering his lines as a straight man. The movie had a great message about doing the job that makes you happy, not the one that sucks your soul.

Hank Azaria was hilarious as the campy resurrected Egyptian King, but for my money, Amy Adams steals the movie in her role as Amelia Earnhart comes to life. I first saw her as the Princess in "Enchanted," and she also stole every scene in the movie "Doubt."
Amy Adams is HOT! Not as hot as Mrs C in my eyes, but close! LOL!

Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wilson as the leader of the miniatures reprise their roles. There contribute just the right amount to the story.
The Smithsonian blessed this movie, and I read about their cooperation in this month's edition of their magazine. One thing I learned in the mag was that film makers spent more than a month photographing the inside of the Smithsonian's facilities. For the movie, the stages were created to scale foe filming.
The action scenes in the Air and Space Museum are entertaining for their incredulity. Can you imagine the rocket in there actually blasting off? or the SR-71 blackbird hanging from the ceiling actually taking flight?

After the movie was over, I suggested that we start hitting the movies on Saturday more often. I have been far too busy with my work and my book, but now that Mrs C has her MBA and no more school work, I have no excuse for putting off these Saturday afternoon matinees.

That's my post for now. I worked on the book until after midnight Saturday, and decided I should write a journal entry and a blog post, so here you go. I will schdule it for 8 AM. Good morning then!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No Time to post!

I like getting emails from friendly people, especially folks who appreciate my look at life.

Some have noticed I barely post once a week lately.

What is going on is that I have been working on a book since January. I need to wrap it up in the next sixty days, so I am working on that more than blogging.

There is no money in blogging, but in a book, the possibilities are there. My editor and agent like what I have produced and are helping me get it right. So that's where I am at.

I hope to get back at blogging as a relaxing activity soon. Hopefully sometime in the future, I will be one of those lucky people who gets published. I'm not holding my breath, but it is definitely worth the effort!

In other news, all the dogs are getting groomed tomorrow. Mrs C is taking them while I am at work. We are trading cars so she can use mine. Pray for her. Three cocker spaniels and one Mrs C in a car. Think about it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

We have new fish!

Well, some fish, and lots of crabs.

That really sounds bad, doesn't it?

Yesterday we had lunch at Buca Di Beppo in Reading. I reserved the Kitchen Table for my sweetheart for her Birthday dinner. These are the things a good husband will do to ensure tranquility in the home.

Afterwards we ran several errands, including a visit to the Berkshire mall, but on the way home we had one final stop.

The Nursery with the really smart fish guy.

He sold us two Gobis (Now named "Go" and "Bee") a shrimp (Mr. Shy) and ten very small hemit crabs. (No names, yet)

I might get around to posting pictures eventually, but since Cranky the crab died, I'm not pushing my luck.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Today is Mrs C's Birthday!

Next to Christmas, this is a very important day for me, my wife's Birthday. In our 14 years together, I have never forgotten it. Though it isn't like I could, because she does sort of remind me all the time.
("Oh honey, are you going to celebrate D-day with any of your veteran friends? I'm just asking, you know, that is ONE DAY After my birthday!")
Anyway, my wife is an aficionado of fine shoes. We actually have a closet in our home full of shoes. JUST HER SHOES. If I have 5 pair, that would be overestimating it. So in honor of my lovely wife's appreciation of fine shoes, I purchased the following Birthday card

I think it is perfect, and inside it says this:

It made me laugh.

On Wednesday I hand delivered twelve hand cut roses to her office, so she could enjoy them more than one day.
Tomorrow I have reserved the kitchen table at Buca Di Beppo in Reading for our lunch, though I confess to having fifteen dollars worth of discounts I can use.

There may be a surprise or two in store yet, but I'm not giving away her age. I know better, though the fact that my 30th HS reunion is this year could get you pretty close, depending on whether you think she is older or younger, but we did graduate in different years.

I'll let you know what happened Sunday.

One more for the road:

Happy Birthday Honey!