Friday, March 28

Here Scooter!

Being, again, in the proximity of a TV, I am convinced that commercials are responsible for the invention of the remote control. Your program breaks for an advertisement . . . Click! Bam! Like a pair of ruby slippers, you are transcended to one of five other shows you’ve been monitoring. I don’t know anyone who hangs around for commercials—except, of course, for my friend Jimmi, but only during hockey games.

The other day, I clicked to a commercial. Even though I stayed with it, I have no idea what they were selling. Prominent point: a dog and a ten foot scoot—hind legs raised above his shoulders—across the carpet of a staged living room. A golden lab exploited over an ailment. You might as well just film it laying logs on the front lawn, for God’s sake. It’s not the dog’s fault it has an itch.

We would never see something as a result of, “Yes, Mr. Winston, can you give us another hearty cough? We know you are dying of emphysema, but we didn’t quite get that last shot.” That would be inhumane.

I can hear you now, even during the creation of this piece. You're probably grumbling, "The dog doesn’t know the degree of humiliation, if any." But I disagree. I have, unfortunately, been present during the manufacturing of dog waste. For the record, I almost always have the courtesy to avert my eyes. On the rare occasion I make eye contact during such event, the animal’s head and eye position are never that of invitation. It is more of a shy—I’m not looking at you because I don’t want to see you looking at me—expression.

As you can probably tell, I am not in the market for an inflicted dog. Nor, now, am I interested in whatever else those idiots were selling, unless, perhaps, they were offering a slice of their carpet. I would like to see if their Berber scratches better than I can!

Thursday, March 20

Tornados, Flooding, and Hail; Oh, My!

One thing you don’t want to bring with you to a wildland fire-fighting contract is vicious weather. Regardless of my agenda (saving the state of Arkansas from imminent danger), Mother Nature had plans of her own.

In the wee hours following my arrival, The Weather Channel reminds me that the Southeast brews some wild weather. Clips of tornados wreaking havoc on downtown Atlanta loop incessantly, emphasizing the imminent wrath. Tall, solid, block-letters forming the words “STORM WATCH” periodically fill the screen. No wonder I can’t sleep.

Warnings of flash floods turn into the probability of general flooding. Tornado watches turn to warnings. Severe thunderstorms promise hail stones exceeding one inch. Dogs and cats . . . Oops, wrong show. Our safety and the security of our aircraft become the primary concern; fighting fire will not transpire anytime soon.

It occurred to me—in one of those revolutionary moments—that, no matter what came this way, there was nothing we could do about it. If a tornado were to rip off the roof of my corner-unit condo or destroy our equipment or sacrifice any one of us to Oz, we were virtually helpless. Mother Nature was in no mood to negotiate, as demonstrated—a few hours earlier—in Atlanta.

During one of the heavier downpours, I stood outside under the protection of an overhang. The power of the storm was fierce; its stamina impressive. It had already pummeled several states; and according to the Weather Channel, we weren’t the last. Several inches of rain would eventually fall locally, and up to a foot just north. Fortunately, tornados spared Hot Springs, and the storm passed.

Humbled by her puissance, I patiently utilize the idle time. Perhaps the nature of things will afford some work. That, of course, will require several dry, warm, and—preferably—windy days.

Just as my optimism rises enough to meet the surface tension of the puddle below, something catches my attention. I hear a murmur from the TV in the other room, “And Sunday . . . expect a chance of rain.” Oh! Say it isn’t so.

Thursday, March 13

Faux Hare

Holiday paraphernalia can consume isles of your local grocery: plastic eggs; baskets; chocolate bunnies—solid and hollow; jelly beans; chocolate eggs; chicks—edible or not; candy carrots; Peeps; Cadbury eggs—regular and caramel; teddy bears in bunny suits; bunnies sans suits; and even edible grass. A recent bombardment of all things pastel, combined with my annual departure to Arkansas, catapulted me to an awkward Easter past.

During a fire fighting contract in Arkansas, I found myself shuffling through a shopping mall one rainy day in Hot Springs. The mall was that of a small town; the kind where only two of the twelve store fronts are recognizable, say, maybe Sears and a book store. Fewer stores offer less to look at—in the way of goods, as well as people. The saunter did nothing to alleviate my boredom. But just when all hope vanished, I found my entertainment.

This Easter bunny was the largest rabbit ever. Seven feet of faux fur—excluding ears—paced within a white-picket corral. The caliber of his habitat equaled that of Santa’s North Pole; the color scheme and idolized character differed, but it was an empire just the same. The employees stood their posts, cameras on the ready, and the basket grass—a saturated green. But where were the children?

The scene was a mirage of nostalgia—tangible but absent history; like clam chowder without the clams. I’ve posed with Santa numerous times with documented proof of each embarrassment—even as an adult once or twice. But never the Easter bunny. What, I wondered, could transpire on the lap of a giant, disproportionate rabbit?

“I sat on the Easter bunny’s lap yesterday,” I proclaimed to my adorable friend Kim. “The Easter bunny,” I repeat—as if she had not yet seen such a sight.

“He sounds like a pervert,” Kim said, shattering my innocence.

She had a point. Judging from the line of, well, none, Kim wasn’t the only skeptic. For what reason would you dress yourself in a human size bunny outfit? The Playboys have done it for years, but then again they aren’t really bunnies, hairless or otherwise. And there must be a clause that only other Playboys are allowed on their laps. But I digress.

I never did sit upon the legs of questionable intent. Instead, I stood with a fixed stare, too perplexed to move. During what seemed like eternity, the money in my pocket was the closest of any to the bunny throne. Had I been on the road a bit longer, feeling a little more sentimental, or less vulnerable, that cash might have changed hands. For a shy twenty dollars I could send a full color glossy to my loved ones, proving my unfaltering state of mind.

I hope to travel to unreachable lengths by August for “sneak a zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch” day. I know, Kim, I hear you. Those 5 x 7's will go for way more than twenty bucks.

Wednesday, March 5

The Mighty Neptune P2-V

Tanker 44, embarking upon a practice mission during recurrent training in Missoula, MT. I was not on this flight--hence the photo--but was able to fly the same P2-V the following day. Note the absence of snow on the tarmac, quite a luxury within the month of February.