Monday, December 31
Thursday, December 27
Oh! You poor sap, you might say. How could you have gotten it so wrong? How do you survive the day-to-day monotony? Good questions, though, not one deserves an answer. I’m speaking of the quest and yet you mock my devotion. This journey has made me bitter, resentful, and easily bored—especially on Sundays.
I get the occasional glimpse of abundant joy, usually during an activity of choice; however, peaceful interludes are cooked by distasteful tasks like laundry-mat laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, visits to the dentist, paying bills, or fixing my car with improper tools. The taste of victory quickly turns sauerkraut.
Why do share this missery when we have our own to contend with? This is my point. We struggle too much. There's a better place. A place where the glossy matches reality. A place called Disneyland!
Oh! You scoff. Disneyland is for children, and retards. But who, I ask, is not a kid at heart. Who among us has not been gypped on their childhood? Who, by sibling standards, is not a little mentally challenged?
Not once—during the four days as a park guest—did I think about income, personal debt, taxes, world hunger or any other depressing topic. Instead, my greatest concern was the line length for Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, and Matterhorn. There were other entertainment options when the lines became intolerable. Watching Cruella De Vil be snarky to the children on Main Street was one of my favorite pastimes—often preceded by dragging my father from the Churro cart.
In Disneyland, people are always happy. And who wouldn't be? The smell of cotton candy and other sweet confections fill the air. Catchy little gingles reach every corner of the park. Parades and fireworks are scheduled daily. All five senses are constantly being tugged at, much like the pant-legs of countless parents toting small children. And the Christmas decorations, Oh! My God.
It is so cool that I wanted to stay. After all, I've spent years desiging my life arround these ideals. I could work there. Yeah! Given my temperament, suitable Disney personas dwindled rapidly. My options narrowed to Cruella, or a mouse—like Mickey but smaller, and more of a cousin-once-removed caliber. Since no one had ever heard of Mickey's cousin, it became my mission to educate.
I only wish someone would have mentioned the real, live cats that patrol at night.
Wednesday, December 26
Thursday, December 13
A midnight craving for milk and cookies won't cut it if you strive to fill the boots of a high-profile Mr. Claus. You can't just drive to the nearest strip mall, waltz through the white picket fence surrounding the North Pole, throw down a few territorial elves, and claim the throne. That's not how it works. If you do choose this route, however, a trailer park version of a Santa suit--complete with red long johns and black galoshes--will help. But more sophisticated options exist.
Westaff trains and supplies Santas throughout Australia. Perhaps they solve the many mysteries of Santahood. "Ho ho ho" is easy enough, but what about the rest? How do you handle the third soaking of your pant leg? How much glue must you apply to your face to make the beard look natural? How do you keep those enormous pants up? These tips are helpful, but Westaff had a little something extra stuffed down their stockings.
Management felt that 2007 was the year to censor Santa. They told their trainees, "No more 'ho ho ho.'" Apparently "ho ho ho" had frightened too many children. Of course the whole Santa ensemble wouldn't have contributed to the fear factor now would it? Thousands of pictures document terror but consider the lurking political correctness or lack there of? Don't you know that the word "ho" is offensive to women. Oh! the injustice. They offered instead "ha ha ha."
O.K. “'Ha ha ha,' you’re idiots.” I'm sorry, maybe that's a bit brash.
Come on. You can’t take away Santa’s Bam. Just think if they censored Emeril--claiming that the expression "Bam!" was offensive. Say instead "ha" and say it softly. It doesn’t, and won’t, work.
Let's take a quick glance at what preceded political correctness. "Ho ho ho," by definition, is an expression of laughter, and has been recorded since c1150. That's a lot of frightened children. In the derogatory sense, ho (still considered slang) evolved as an abreviation of whore. Whore wasn't recorded until the mid 1500s. The original Saint Nicholas lived around 300AD. The egg of "politically correct" didn't crack until the late 1900s. It seems only fair that Father Christmas be grandfathered into the whole "ho ho ho" deal.
So in honor of the fat man, a paganized holiday, and my hillbilly Santa suit . . . "'Ho, ho, ho,' bitches!"
Tuesday, November 27
Many thanks to:
1. Readers of the blog! You are the best. Free-time doesn't come cheap; thanks for sharing yours with me.
2. My unrelenting appetite for dark--the more cocoa the better--chocolate, without it, I would not experience euphoric delusions at the expense of just a few hundred calories.
3. The bounce of dog ears as seen from the opposing end of a taut leash. The distance traveled by the tip of the ear is proportionate to a shelter animal's happiness during a welcomed walk.
3. Duck butts . . . specifically when they submerge their heads below the surface to find algae--or whatever they eat. I wonder if Newton included ducks in his study of the Third Law? For every action (head down), there is a equal and opposite reaction(butt up).
4. Costa Rican pancakes served with fresh, sliced banana and molasses. Yum!
5. Great landings, especially in the Neptune P2-V (thank you tanker 05), detected only by the struts of the main gear and a zero-descent rate.
Know that my gratitude extends beyond such favors. The above mentioned are but Cool Whip on the pie!
Thursday, November 15
I’ve gotten use to the simple life while flying single engine air tankers. In simple, I mean, few options when/if something goes wrong during a mission. Low-level flight seldom affords the luxury of troubleshooting. In a perfect world, you’d hope for enough time to set it down gently. I’ll admit that my skills concerning more complicated procedures have acquired a few barnacles.
The Neptune P-2V and I are old friends; however, four years does considerable damage to the memory and I’ve forgotten exactly what's required for a desired outcome. Another notch of flaps will increase our descent rate by how much?
“Tanker niner, you are cleared for takeoff, left turn westbound approved.”
“Cleared for takeoff, left turn, tanker nine.”
Neurosis came over me while verifying the completion of our checklists. No matter how many times I repeated them, I always felt that something had been missed. Four engines climb to 6,500 feet a lot quicker than one engine will so it's a game of constant adjustments. Comfortably established at cruise altitude affords some relaxation and I release half of the muscles pinning my shoulders to the overhead panel.
“Do your fuel pressure gauges always read high?” I was genuinely curious.
“Only when the boost pumps are on,” the captain said without glancing at the position of the boost toggles.
Damn it! Those were on my cruise check list, that--supposedly--I completed ten minutes ago.
You may think this is comical. Three days after the fact, as I write this, it sort of is, and so I give you permission to giggle. But I will refrain because I am a perfectionist. Taunted by a fun pack of bite size mistakes, the challenge I have embraced promises eventual success. I knew that the hurried return to the heavies would not be an easy one.
“Wasn’t that call for us?” the captain asked.
The radio crackled, “Tanker nine, you are cleared to land runway three zero.” Yep, that previous transmission was for us.
Where was I . . . Oh! Yes, far from perfect. There’s no way in hell that I could pilot-in-command this aircraft with a measly two recent hours, yet I slightly expect it of myself. I thrive on challenge--sometimes in excess. But I don't think I'm alone. I'll bet that half the population wouldn't mind the occasional 4,000 piece puzzle--of clouds. Who doesn't want frustration at ad infinitum of irregularly shaped cardboard bits? It's a test of sanity.
Let's steer away from inflated examples for a minute. How many times have you paced yourself down Main street researching the precise speed required to avoid braking at the stop lights? I have, at least once--in each city lived. Or how many cars have you converted to nitrous so you won't have to worry about those pesky lights? Damn the exaggerations. I apologize. It won't happen again.
. . . Tell me, have you ever been awed by the beauty of glistening city lights--through a slight fog of nitrous?
Friday, November 2
Friday, September 21
With the fire season winding down, new folks visiting the blog, and whole shit-pot of ideas, I'm going to do something that goes against every living cell in my body. I am going to make a commitment. Ewww. Even the utterance of such act within the confines of this template makes me nauseous. However, I am going to commit to an entry every two weeks - on, or by, Thursday. More may evolve, but I will not set myself up for unquestionable failure.
I've also included an email address to my profile for those who feel the need for direct contact.
Thursday, August 30
Regardless of how you got here, I’d like to make you comfortable in a this-is-my-house-first-and-foremost kind of way. (Can you tell that I grew up as an only child?) After all, this is a literary blog and artistic expression doesn’t always depict a portrait of coziness. I can, however, offer you a place to sit, a quenching beverage, and an invitation to join me.
The Chocolate Dynamite project has been well hidden and very anonymous prior to the tanker article hitting the press. But now, not only is my name publicly tied to this blog but there are photographs to prove it. Needless to say . . . I’m feeling a wee bit vulnerable, actually a lot of bit. Writing anonymously provided a sort of freedom not experienced since adolescent rebellion. I could write what I pleased without consequence—good or bad. It’s like yelling at the bad guy on TV who you love to hate. It’s easy to tell him where to go and what to do with himself from the safety of your own overstuffed couch. But with recognition comes responsibility. Choc. D didn’t mind the blog's potential catastrophic failure, but Fawn does.
Your invite comes with an opportunity to get something off your chest—under an alias or not. Yes! That’s right. Lay it on. Post a comment about what you’d like to explore here or what you were hoping to find. If you find your answer a tad brash, make up a name for your alter ego and lay the blame elsewhere. Liken it to a trip to the restroom after some really bad Chinese food . . . it will only take a couple of minutes and, afterward, you’ll feel so much better.
Comments will be reviewed before they are posted. Some responses may not be published depending on content; after all, this is my house!
*click on comments below to read previously published thoughts and/or submit your own
Tuesday, August 28
Strawberry Lake, Malheur National Forest - 16 miles east of John Day, Oregon
Yes, it is a hike into the lake, but it's only 1.3 miles from the trailhead. To get there . . . Highway 26 will get you to Prairie City (about 15 miles east of John Day). Once you've made it to Prairie, get onto county road 60 southbound - toward Strawberry Mountain. Follow the signs. You'll come upon Slide Creek first; there is camping and several trailheads there. But if you are traveling to Strawberry Lake, keep driving. Another camping area rests at the trailhead for Strawberry Lake. Know that the campground sits at 5700 feet, if you plan to camp, dress accordingly. It's 1.3 miles to the lake and another 1 to 1.5 miles (depending on which side of the lake you choose to walk) to Strawberry Falls. And if you haven't had enough by then, there are several Springs you can hike to from the Falls.
Saturday, July 28
I can handle interactions with good fiends (in groups of one or less) perhaps because I know (or knew at one time) that they like, or have liked, me. New people though? Forget it. I’m not good at small talk. I’m a horrible liar. And I don’t drink. These skills, absent from my persona, are crucial for most social situations. So, either, I attend an event and tolerate an expected amount of uneasiness, or I don’t go and experience the same feelings to a lesser degree.
Within the confines of a fire contract, the people to eat with and places to dine are limited. Last night I sat amongst a table of five while we waited for dinner. These four characters are a few of my favorite here in John Day. Normally, the more I enjoy the company the smoother my interactions. Such facts should sooth my social awkwardness; but instead of feeling free, vocal and entertaining, I felt uncomfortable, distracted and boring. And the more I thought about it the quieter I became. Escaping to the solitude of my hotel room couldn’t occur soon enough.
Walking out of the restaurant after dinner presented another challenge as we met three more people who work at the fire base. We are all fire fighters--to some degree, but the only thing I have in common with them is the four square feet of concrete in which we stand. I shift my weight back and forth desperately wanting to be anywhere else. I navigate my way to the back of the pack where, hopefully, I go unnoticed. It was then that I spotted my savior tethered to a post out back. Those fuzzy ears poking up between giant paws, and a faint outline of a snout in the absent light of the night challenged my priorities.
My excitement to pet the pup overpowered the anxiety created by the humans. The thought of the inevitable interaction with the dog brought - to my lips - the first genuine smile of the evening. And I guess I’m not totally absent of tact because I waited for the/their conversation to end before abandoning proper etiquette. Next time, though, I’m going straight for the dog.
Out of a slumber, her eyes opened and her cropped tail began to shake her entire body. I leaned down to verify the softness of her ears. Yep. Puppy soft. She sprang up for more. Considering her sweet disposition and the dark lonely ally, I wanted to give her tons of attention. We traded love until I felt the awkward pull of people again. My hotel neighbor was waiting to walk with me. He said hello to the dog too, but not like I did. Nobody does.
I walked back to the hotel accompanying my neighbor and plotting my return to the dog. After a few minutes of wearing out the carpet in my room I'm reasonably convinced that others have settled into their own business. Moments later, the pup and I reunite. Received by an uncontrollable amount of energy, a bloated tummy, and hypodermic teeth made my return well worth it. Conversation was easy, my actions appropriate, and I was totally engaged. It isn't possible for me to have the same enthusiasm for my two legged brethren. I could have stayed there most of the night if it weren’t for watchful human eyes.
I'm sure there is a name for this sort of ailment. And if there isn't a name for it there most certainly is a drug for it. Oh yeah! It's called more animal interaction.
Tuesday, May 1
A slow fire season in Arkansas—sans motorcycle, the trill of flying on a fire, or the company of anyone tolerable beyond two and a half minutes—drags on like a root canal performed by an overzealous intern. There are limited ways in which to convince yourself that you are there for the greater good. The mind continually gnaws at its protective cranium, relentlessly conjuring up visions of more useful endeavors. In efforts to maintain my own sanity, I've stumbled upon a few inexpensive tactics that (sometimes) make a bad day better.
Lighten Your Load
* Write your "to do" list with your favorite color crayon. (Felt pen, chalk or paint will also do.)
* Turn off your cell phone, I dare you.
* Accomplish one thing that you’ve been meaning to do for at least a week. (Pull that weed by the door, drop off household donations, read the email that continues to get skipped, mail that package, etc.)
Ease the Pain
* Eat ice cream for breakfast. My favorite!
* Call a friend. The magnitude of the friendship will dictate the effectiveness of the call.
* Eat from the "good" dishware. For me this means "matching" silverware. Thanks Mom!
* Tune out - to some really great music
Get Silly with It
* Wear socks that don't match. Remember younger, freer days when you were—intentionally—different.
* Lie on the floor with your pet. They will dig it even more than you.
* Curse your source(s) of frustration with childhood name calling (smelly head, burrito farter, stupid pants, etc.). The sillier you make the insults the better.
* Do something nice for someone. Hold the door open for an extra person or two, bring home flowers, or just smile. “Someone” can also mean you.
* Participate in something you love that you rarely allow yourself. Take a walk in nature after work. Submerge yourself in the tub for a wrinkle-inducing soak. Nurture your adventurous side with a motorcycle ride. Crawl under the covers for a good read.
* Find success in the simple act of breathing.
Certain days may require more than one action to dismiss 24 hours of anguish. If these efforts don't modify your mood, even slightly, then you must really want to feel crummy . . . unless, of course, you're in Arkansas during a really slow fire season.
Saturday, April 21
At an estimated expense of one cent per mile it's cause to save your pennies, all 92,000 dollars worth. They've already sold out of the 2007 models, but you can reserve an '08.
Check 'em out at http://www.teslamotors.com
Saturday, April 7
A younger, more energetic, me was passionate about environmental issues. I never chained myself to a tree—destined for clear cut, or anything, but the impact of our actions lay heavily upon me. And then, I guess, it just became too depressing, too overwhelming, and I too insignificant. It was easier to just go with the flow.
I recently watched the movie An Inconvenient Truth. It inspired me to pay more attention to the issues surrounding global warming. It seems that my selective observations have sheltered me from truth for quite some time. Global warming is real; its wrath displayed daily. We are destroying our delicate habitat at an alarming rate. There are too many examples to list here, but I invite you to keep your eyes and ears open.
The polar bear, for example, has already been afflicted. Polar bears are magnificent swimmers; they've been observed swimming up to 60 miles. The decline of the glaciers has forced these bears to swim farther in search of food, and they can end up drowning in exhaustion. In 2004, four polar bears drown. Cub survival rates and populations plummet. The fate of the polar bear could affect the entire Artic ecosystem.
If innocent animals don’t encourage you to take action, think of something you care about dearly. Chances are good that it is—or will be—affected. We have the technology and the knowledge to lessen our impact.
Even before Animal Planet burned that horrific vision in my mind, I committed to make some adjustments. I changed almost every single light bulb in my new house to compact florescent bulbs, I'm waiting to buy a hybrid vehicle instead of a Mini Cooper, I recycle like crazy, and each of my fire drops this year will be dedicated to the polar bear—all in effort to reduce greenhouse gases.
If your sadness and determination in the matter begin to match mine, http://www.polarbearsinternational.org has some good information and tips on what you can do to help. A general web search on global warming prevention might be intimidating; you’ll find over a million results.
I certainly don’t want to be the one explaining our selfishness to successive generations.
Wednesday, March 28
All I wanted was a digital camera; one with endless manual options; one that would fit in my bag of which I call home 8 to 10 months out of the year; one that does not exist within a 200 mile radius of my current location. Meager selections in countless small towns have left me searching for, what I’d call, necessities. In such predicaments, I turn to the internet. This camera endeavor was the first pitfall of said process and thus justifies my hostility. Yellow Bee Photo has, single handedly, demolished the podium where hassle free spending once towered.
I won't even start at the beginning of this debacle because it's a long damn story; and outside of my tantrums surrounding the subject, it's quite boring. I will say that a simple matter of payment for services has never brought me such ill health—mind, body, or spirit. Like most, I've come to accept disappointment, but not on a professional level. Services were "agreed" upon over the phone. (Services meaning a specific digital camera with certain accessories were to be expedited to me for a particular sum of money.) An email confirming my order was promised.
Days go by. The only email I received was one requesting that the shipping address be added to my credit card. Done. The order still doesn’t ship. I wanted it – like – yesterday, and I paid for such service. Fast shipping is similar to fast food; there are reasons you make sacrifices for speed of service—you’re in a *_@-ing hurry. During this time of elevated blood pressure, I can view my INCORRECT invoice online. I frantically call, hoping to correct the contents before shipment.
Never – aside from boy infatuations as an adolescent – have I tried so desperately to contact someone. Several hundred minutes of cell phone time wasted in efforts to get through to a forgotten customer service line. Many brain cells sacrificed to compose visually vocal emails to every department listed on Yellow Bee’s web site—never to be returned. It takes a lot of energy to be angry. But I’ll entertain those bastards until I get tired. And then it’ll get ugly.
After 10 days of attempted reconciliation, I relinquished the battle to greater persuasion. I filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and my credit card company to dispute “services” provided by Yellow Belly, I mean Bee. We’ll see how they like that. I just can’t waste any more time on those ninnies. I need to get back to my delusions of convenience. There are birthday presents to buy and they can’t be found within a 200 mile radius.
. . . Due to the inefficiencies of my wireless internet access card (how ironic), it has taken some time to post this piece. In the meantime, Yellow Bee has sent a rapid battery charger as a condolence gift—ONE OF THE VERY THINGS MISSING FROM MY ORDER. They understand that I am dissatisfied with my shopping experience, so they sent me -one of three things still missing from my order . . . as a gift. Oh! I feel so much better.
Monday, January 8
There must still be opportunities for common folk to assist in our evolution. Look at all the great advancements in history, all the wonderful people who have left a mark on humanity: Einstein, da Vinci, the Wright brothers, and Dali to name a few obvious examples. The list goes on, more recent though a bit frightening: President Bush, Hitler, Hussein, and Bundy. Granted, they aren't as glamorous as the first list yet they too shape modern man's perspective. Things would be different had they not lived. (To clarify, the latter influences are not what I envision for myself.)
By now the more realistic reader is murmuring to themselves, "Changing the world doesn't have to happen in such a grand fashion." Those choosing this melancholy approach are correct. Changes don't have to take on the form of world domination. We affect each others lives everyday, often having more power than we take responsibility for. Our moods act as contagious viruses. My mail carrier, for example, is wonderful. She wears a smile everyday, and the packages that wont fit in my box are delivered directly to my door. I love that.
I like to submerge myself into a chosen activity. And I have a hard time keeping tasks manageable in size. Even though I haven't earned the local humanitarian award, somehow I smell rotting potential. I know you have to start small. I'll still recycle, buy low wattage bulbs, wash my dishes by hand, and leave the car parked when I can. But please, let me impact the world like a meteor rather than a loose canon--meandering the neighborhoods in red tights and a cape.
"Doesn't everyone want to make a grandiose contribution," You ask? I don't know. Maybe. Those that might, may not be in a position to allow full submersion into the delegated task. I, on the other hand, have been collecting diving gear for years. I just hope that when I do get to use it, it's not to do my laundry.
Saturday, January 6
They say that practice provokes progress; if you don't practice your craft you'll never get any better. I believe that--wholeheartedly. But what if you feel that your craft only exists within your mind, and no amount of practice will ever make you any better? Your mind convinces you that you suck and the absence of comments on your blog confirms this logic. Anyone who may have accidently stumbled upon your blog has promptly and involuntarily fallen asleep shortly after arriving there. I'd fall alseep too. The challenge of finishing an article before I tire of it is a task I have yet to master.
During the months of non-writing the tireless nagging has kept me company. I should be writing. I didn't write today. I don't have enough time to write. My mind has become very skilled at demolishing optimism and denying any success of putting words on paper. So practice does make a difference; I'm really good at shooting myself in the foot with an unloaded gun. Lets see you do that Annie Oakley.
The writing bug is here. I cannot ignore the impulse. Truth lies within and stories need to be told. Maybe I don't have to know everthing today or at least during this very minute. And if I don't have to know everything then I can express myself as it occurs trying to avoid boredom and eventual paralization of my organs.
This piece is an offering to the practiced negetivity of "I can't." Well... I did, for now.